Latest Notebook Entries


Sunday, March 17, 2019

Expanded blog post, March archive (so far).

Music: current count 31275 [31246] rated (+29), 251 [252] unrated (-1).

Rated count down, probably by a lot mid-week, but I spent a lot of time on the computer hacking out Book Roundup then Weekend Roundup, and made up ground late. I checked and found that this was the third week in the last two months with exactly 29 records. Would have been more except that this has been another banner A-list week.

Two came out of my jazz queue -- David Berkman, not out until April 5, and Tomeka Reid/Filippo Monico -- and they qualify as news. Three were tipped off by Phil Overeem (Little Simz, Dave, and Robert Forster -- although the first two took a revisit before I became convinced). One (Todd Snider) was written up by Robert Christgau (along with Leyla McCalls's Capitalist Blues and Our Native Daughters' Songs of Our Native Daughters, both A- here in previous weeks). I was tipped off to the final one (Matt Brewer) by a Chris Monsen tweet. Various other sources led me to lower-rated records, but somehow the best tips keep coming from friends.

I've put off my office/computer reorganization, but should buckle down and get it done this week (tomorrow I hope, after I get this post up and get some fresh light to work with. Still some things unclear about how it's all going to get put back together.

Getting some decent weather after several rough months. (The "bomb cyclone" was kind of a dud here, although it lived up to its billing a hundred miles north of here, even more so between there and Denver.) Maybe I'll take some time and work on the yard and/or my nephew's house. Also still stuck with a lot of stress over myriad health issues -- but generally looks like a lazy week coming up.

New records reviewed this week:

  • 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League (2019, Gamebread/Def Jam): [r]: B+(**)
  • Abhi the Nomad: Marbled (2018, Tommy Boy): [r]: B+(***)
  • Allison Au Quartet: Wander Wonder (2018 [2019], self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • The David Berkman Sextet: Six of One (2018 [2019], Palmetto): [cd]: A-
  • Matt Brewer: Ganymede (2018 [2019], Criss Cross): [r]: A-
  • Chai: Punk (2019, Burger): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Coathangers: The Devil You Know (2019, Suicide Squeeze): [r]: B+(***)
  • Theon Cross: Fyah (2017-18 [2019], Gearbox): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dave: Psychodrama (2019, Neighbourhood): [r]: A-
  • Joey DeFrancesco: In the Key of the Universe (2019, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(**)
  • Carolyun Fitzhugh: Living in Peace (2018 [2019], Iyouwe): [cd]: B
  • Robert Forster: Inferno (2019, Tapete): [r]: A-
  • Girlpool: What Chaos Is Imaginary (2019, Anti-): [r]: B
  • Larry Grenadier: The Gleaners (2016 [2019], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Vijay Iyer/Craig Taborn: The Transitory Poems (2018 [2019], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Julian Lage: Love Hurts (2018 [2019], Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(***)
  • 4WD [Nils Landgren/Michael Wollny/Lars Danielsson/Wolfgang Haffner]: 4 Wheel Drive (2018 [2019], ACT): [r]: B-
  • Little Simz: Grey Area (2019, Age 101): [r]: A-
  • Nivhek: After Its Own Death/Walking in a Spiral Towards the House (2019, Yellow Electric): [r]: B+(*)
  • Tomeka Reid/Filippo Monico: The Mouser (2018 [2019], Relative Pitch): [cd]: A-
  • Sigrid: Sucker Punch (2019, Island): [r]: B+(**)
  • Todd Snider: Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3 (2019, Aimless): [r]: A-
  • Carol Sudhalter Quartet: Live at Saint Peter's Church (2018 [2019], Alfa Projects): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Paul Tynan: Quartet (2016 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Claudia Villela: Encantada Live (2018 [2019], Taina Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Sheck Wes: Mudboy (2018, Cactus Jack/GOOD Music/Interscope): [r]: B+(***)
  • Nate Wooley: Columbia Icefield (2017 [2019], Northern Spy): [r]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • James Booker: Vol. 1: At Onkel Po's Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976 (1976 [2019], Jazzline): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kid Creole & the Coconuts: Live in Paris 1985 (1985 [2019], Rainman): [r]: B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Laura Antonioli: The Constant Passage of Time (Origin): April 12
  • Chord Four: California Avant Garde (self-released): May 3
  • Levon Mikaelian Trio: Untainted (self-released): March 26
  • Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Nate Wooley: Strings 3 (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Nate Wooley/Matthew Shipp: Strings 4 (Leo)

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Stories that caught folks' interest this week included an airplane that aims to crash, mass slaughter of Muslims in New Zealand, and the revelation that some rich people got caught trying to cheat their way into getting their kids enrolled by elite colleges (as opposed to the proper way, which is to give the colleges extra money). On the latter, I'd like to quote Elias Vlanton (on Facebook):

Missing the Forest for the Trees: A few rich people bribed their kids into elite colleges. So what? The real scandal is an educational system that favors rich students over poorer ones (regardless of color) from the first day of pre-K through crossing the graduation stage, diploma in hand. If every bribing parent is jailed, the real injustice of social inequality will remain. Ending it is the real task.

The post was accompanied by a photo of some of Elias's students, who look markedly different from the students caught up in this scandal. This seems to be one of the few crimes in America with a means test limiting it to the pretty rich. Actually, I feel a little sorry for the parents and children caught up in this fraud -- not so much for being victimized (although they were) as for the horrible pressures they put upon themselves to succeed in a world that is so rigorously rigged by the extreme inequality they nominally benefit from. I got a taste of their world when I transferred to Washington University back in 1973. That was the first time I met student who had spent years prepping for SATs that would assure entrance to one of the nation's top pre-med schools. It was also where I knew students who tried (and sometimes managed) to hire others to write papers and to take graduate school tests -- so I suppose you could say that was my first encounter with the criminal rich. I always thought it was kind of pathetic, but it really just reflects the desperation of a pseudo-meritocracy. And true as that was then, I'm sure it's much more desperate and vicious today.

One more thing I want to mention here: I saw a meme on Facebook forwarded by one of my right-wing relatives. It read:


I suppose the intent was to complain about news coverage of the mass shooting in New Zealand, where a "white nationalist" slaughtered 50 Muslims, implying that the "fake news" media is playing favorites again, acting like Muslim lives are more valuable than Christian lives. I thought I should at least check that claim out. Google offered no evidence of such an attack, at least yesterday. However, I did find that two bombs had been set off on January 27, 2019, at a Catholic Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu, in the Philippines, killing 20 people. There's a pretty detailed Wikipedia page on the attack, so that could be the event the meme author is referring to. I've also found an article in the New York Times, although the emphasis there is more on the growth of ISIS within the long-running Islamic separatist revolt -- which started immediately after he US occupied the Philippines in 1898, and has flared up repeatedly ever since, most recently in response to Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte (one of Trump's favorite strongmen). (Also another article in CNN.) The context stripped from the meme doesn't excuse the atrocity, but it does help explain American media's limited interest. I have several links on the New Zealand shooting below, and they too reflect our rather parochial interest in the subject. Although pretty much everyone deplores the loss of life in all terrorist atrocities, the New Zealand one hit closer to home (for reasons that will be obvious below -- see, e.g., Patrick Strickland).

Some scattered links this week:

Friday, March 15, 2019

Book Roundup

I've fallen way behind here. The last Book Roundup appeared way back on April 21, 2018, eight months after the previous one on August 18, 2017 (full list and archive is here, but it's one long file). The way this works is I pick 40 books per post, and write a few words on each, mostly based on descriptions and comments at Amazon, plus whatever else I happen to know or find. (Given the long delays, I've actually read thirteen books from this batch,[1] and bought several more.) I've been known to do multiple posts in quick succession when I catch up from far behind, and will likely follow this one up with another (or two or maybe three) in pretty quick order.

In addition to the chosen 40, I list many more books in uncommented lists, either under selected books where they seem to be related, or at the end. I've included related book lists all along, especially when I would find a cluster of related titles and didn't find reason to comment on them individually. More recently I started appending a generic list of books without comment, and since they're easy, I've turned them into a time-saving measure (which also makes the list more comprehensive). Again, due to the long lead time here, you'll find more below than ever before.

In the past, I've added extra lists of paperback reissues of books I've previously noted -- especially books I had since read and wanted to write more about. None of them this time, but perhaps in the future. As far as domain, the chose books are primarily on politics, history, and the social sciences (especially economics), although I'll make an exception here and there, whatever strikes my fancy. My main reason for doing this is to familiarize myself with what people are writing about issues I care about.

[1]: Read: Gregg Carlstrom: How Long Will Israel Survive?; John Dower: The Violent American Century; Ben Fountain: Beautiful Country Burn Again; Thomas Frank: Rendezvous With Oblivion; Robert Gerwarth: The Vanquished; Masha Gessen: The Future Is History; David Satter: The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep; Jill Lepore: These Truths; Kevin Peraino: A Force So Swift; Michael Ruhlman: Grocery; Quinn Slobodan: Globalists; Sarah Smarsh: Heartland; Timothy Snyder: The Road to Unfreedom. Waiting on the shelf: Tom Engelhardt: A Nation Unmade by War; Steve Fraser: Class Matters; Michael Tomasky: If We Can Keep It.

Alan I Abramowitz: The Great Alignment: Race, Party Transformation, and the Rise of Donald Trump (2018, Yale University Press): One of several recent books that try to make sense of recent changes in partisan alignment, especially as right and left have become more stuck with their limited party options. This one focuses on "an unprecedented alignment of many different divides: racial and ethnic, religious, ideological, and geographic." OK, with Trump, mostly racial. Other recent books:

  • Avidit Acharya/Matthew Blackwell/Maya Sen: Deep Roots: How Slavery Still Shapes Southern Politics (2018, Princeton University Press).
  • Kwame Anthony Appiah: The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity (2018, Liveright).
  • Morris P Fiorina: Unstable Majorities: Polarization, Party Sorting, and Political Stalemate (paperback, 2017, Hoover Institution Press).
  • Bernard L Fraga: The Turnout Gap: Race, Ethnicity, and Political Inequality in a Diversifying America (paperback, 2018, Cambridge University Press).
  • Francis Fukuyama: Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment (2018, Farrar Straus and Giroux).
  • Matt Grossman/David A Hopkins: Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats (paperback, 2016, Oxford University Press).
  • Asad Haider: Mistaken Identity: Race and Class in the Age of Trump (paperback, 2018, Verso).
  • Marc Hetherington/Jonathan Weiler: Prius or Pickup? How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America's Great Divide (2018, Houghton Mifflin).
  • David A Hopkins: Red Fighting Blue: How Geography and Electoral Rules Polarize American Politics (paperback, 2017, Cambridge University Press).
  • Daniel J Hopkins: The Increasingly United States: How and Why American Political Behavior Nationalized (paperback, 2018, University of Chicago Press).
  • Ashley Jardina: White Identity Politics (paperback, 2019, Cambridge University Press).
  • Donald R Kinder/Nathan P Kalmoe: Neither Liberal nor Conservative: Ideological Innocence in the American Public (paperback, 2017, University of Chicago Press).
  • Steve Kornacki: The Red and the Blue: The 1990s and the Birth of Political Tribalism (2018, Ecco Books).
  • Amanda Marcotte: Troll Nation: How the Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set on Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself (2018, Hot Books).
  • Michele F Margolis: From Politics to the Pews: How Partisanship and the Political Environment Shape Religious Identity (paperback, 2018, University of Chicago Press).
  • Lilliana Mason: Uncivil Agreeement: How Politics Became Our Identity (paperback, 2018, University of Chicago Press).
  • David Neiwert: Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump (2017, Verso).
  • Benjamin L Page/Martin Gilens: Democracy in America? What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do About It? (2017, University of Chicago Press).
  • Greg Sargent: An Uncivil War: Taking Back Our Democracy in an Age of Trumpian Disinformation and Thunderdome Politics (2018, Custom House).
  • Kay Lehman Schlozman/Henry E Brady/Sidney Verba; Unequal and Unrepresented: Political Inequality and the People's Voice in the New Gilded Age (2018, Princeton University Press).
  • Bill Schneider: Standoff: How America Became Ungovernable (2018, Simon & Schuster).
  • John Sides/Michael Tesler/Lynn Vavreck: Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America (2018, Princeton University Press).
  • Salena Zito/Brad Todd: The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics (2018, Crown).

Andrew J Bacevich: Twilight of the American Century (2018, University of Notre Dame Press): A collection of essays since 9/11/2001, 480 pages. He's a conservative anti-war, anti-intervention, soldier-turned-scholar, has written a bunch of books in the meantime, including: The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (2005); The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (2008); Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War (2010); Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country (2013); and America's War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History (2016). Entitled to a lot of "I told you so's."

Becky Bond/Zack Exley: Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything (paperback, 2016, Chelsea Green): A primer for grass roots political change, written by two "digital iconoclasts" who have worked for the Bernie Sanders campaign. Title probably a nod to Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. There are actually quite a few activist primers out recently, such as:

  • Andrew Boyd, ed: Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution (paperback, 2016, OR Books).
  • Adrienne Maree Brown: Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds (paperback, 2017, AK Press).
  • Charlene A Carruthers: Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements (2018, Beacon Press).
  • Mark Engler/Paul Engler: This Is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century (2016, Nation Books).
  • Laura Grattan: Populism's Power: Radical Grassroots Democracy in America (paperback, 2016, Oxford University Press).
  • Sarah Jaffe: Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt (2016, Nation Books).
  • LA Kauffman: Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism (paperback, 2017, Verso Books).
  • LA Kauffman: How to Read a Protest: The Art of Organizing and Resistance (2018, University of California Press).
  • George Lakey: How We Win: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning (2018, paperback, Melville House).
  • Amanda Litman: Don't Just March, Run for Something: A Real-Talk Guide to Fixing the System Yourself (paperback, 2017, Atria Books).
  • Jane F McAlevey: No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age (2016, Oxford University Press).
  • Sroja Popovic: Blueprint for Revolution: How to Use Rice Pudding, Lego Men, and Other Nonviolent Techniques to Galvanize Communities, Overthrow Dictators, or Simply Change the World (paperback, 2015, Spiegal & Grau).
  • Jonathan Matthew Smucker: Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals (paperback, 2017, AK Press).
  • Micah White: The End of Protest: A New Playbook for Revolution (paperback, 2016, Knopf Canada).

Bryan Caplan: The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money (2018, Princeton University Press): As a high school dropout, I should sympathize with the argument that our education system is inefficient and ineffective, that much of what is taught there is of little value, and that people can learn essential life skills otherwise. And that should be even more true now than it was when I was in school, as the system since then has evolved into more of a credentials mill than a source for widespread knowledge development. Elements of Caplan's critique are certainly correct, but his proposal -- spend less on general education and more on vocational training -- misses some key points. In particular, in an increasingly complex technological civilization people need more knowledge just to function as responsible citizens. Just as important, they need to be able to reason independently, and to continue to learn for the rest of their lives. I managed to do that, for the most part in spite of my formal education, but rather than throwing everyone else into the deep end to see who swims, wouldn't more people be better off if we changed the educational system to help people learn and develop -- rather than just train people for the jobs we think we need now?

Gregg Carlstrom: How Long Will Israel Survive? The Threat From Within (2017, Oxford University Press): A decade ago, Richard Ben Cramer wrote what I thought the best single book on the intractable problem of the Zionist State's continuing domination over the Palestinian people in Greater Israel. His simple thesis was that Jewish Israel was divided into a half-dozen very distinct tribes that were being held together by their common enemy: the people they displaced in settling Israel. Thus, they had to keep feeding the conflict, lest they lose themselves as a people. That's what they've done since then, ever more intransigently, to the point where it's rotting the nation from within. We got our first really good picture of how pervasive this is in Max Blumenthal's 2013 book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel (not that close readers couldn't recognize the problem much earlier, even before the 1948 War of Independence). Carlstrom adds a few more years onto Blumenthal's story. Not pretty, although I suspect that had he waited a year or two into the Trump era, where the US has totally given up any pretense of independence, the story would be even grimmer.

Elizabeth Catte: What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia (paperback, 2018, Belt Publishing): Examines the history of Appalachia (especially West Virginia) and various stereotypes that have been popularized, especially by J.D. Vance: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of Family and Culture in Crisis (2016), a book that journalists discovered looking for explanations of why Trump was so successful there.

Amy Chua: Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations (2018, Penguin Press): Stresses the role of group identity in elections both in the US and abroad. Chua has in the past been especially sensitive (maybe a bit chauvinistic too) to how the Chinese diaspora rose to economic prominence and political antipathy all around southeast Asia -- cf. World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability -- so I imagine she builds on that here, a much broader (though not necessarily deeper) foundation than our recent carping about identity politics.

Tom Engelhardt: A Nation Unmade by War (paperback, 2018, Haymarket): Another collection of essays from the author's TomDispatch website, where he and a few dozen regular contributors have meticulously chronicled the frustrations and failures of the post-9/11 "global war on terror" -- a vain and desperate defense of the worldwide empire American neocons claimed as its triumph over communism. Actually, that empire had always been based on more than a little self-delusion, and its costs and contradictions had already become evident when one of Engelhardt's writers, Chalmers Johnson, wrote The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (2004). Engelhardt follows up, recounting the attendant chaos and confusion. Also, by other Engelhardt writers:

  • John Dower: The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II (paperback, 2017, Haymarket Books).
  • John Feffer: Splinterlands: A Novel (paperback, 2016, Haymarket Books): a novel.
  • John Feffer: Frostlands: Book Two of the Splinterlands Series (paperbck, 2018, Haymarket Books).
  • Greg Grandin: The End of Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America (2019, Metropolitan Books).
  • Alfred W McCoy: In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power (paperback, 2017, Haymarket Books).
  • Nomi Prins: Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World (2018, Nation Books).
  • Daniel A Sjursen: Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge (2015, ForeEdge).
  • Rebecca Solnit: Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays) (paperback, 2017, Haymarket Books).
  • Nick Turse: Next Time They'll Come to Count the Dead: War and Surival in South Sudan (paperback, 2016, Haymarket Books).

Ronan Farrow: War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence (2018, WW Norton): Based on interviews with Secretaries of State from Henry Kissinger to Rex Tillerson, this reports on the decline of the US State Department. There is certainly an interesting book to be written on this, but it needs to be paired with the increasing power of military and intelligence sectors, and how both reflect a shift as Washington politicians have lost faith in international institutions and law, preferring to act unilaterally (at most giving lip service to an ad hoc "coalition of the willing"). In the "sole superpower" view of neocons like John Bolton, diplomacy is disparaged not just as ineffective but as an admission of weakness. The curious thing is that there is absolutely no evidence that the US acting on its own is anyway near as effective as diplomacy. Such a book would also note that the shift to the now dominant neocon view has mostly been driven by a blind, unthinking "alliance" with Israel, such that the more Israel defies international law and censure, the more isolated, bitter, and ineffective the US becomes.

Ben Fountain: Beautiful Country Burn Again: Democracy, Rebellion, and Revolution (2018, Ecco Books): Author of a well-regarded novel, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, sees America has stuck in some sort of eighty-year cycle, leading to crises -- the first two were the Civil War and the Great Depression -- requiring major upheavals to put the nation back on track. Much of the book is election reporting, which sounds like old (and much too rehashed) news, but none of the books I've seen so far really makes sense of 2016's nonsense, so maybe we should give continuously referring back to history a chance. One thing that's a pretty safe bet is that Fountain's not going to argue that Trump is the answer to the present crisis, unlike Lincoln and Roosevelt. Still, even as Fountain writes about 2016 and the bad feelings evident there from all sides, his real subject is the coming crisis -- 2020, maybe even 2024, surely not much further out. But even there, don't expect history to repeat itself. Buchanan and Hoover were procrastinators, not least because they didn't see any way out of their dilemmas, but Trump is a man of action, corroding and breaking everything he touches. It's only a matter of time before his damage can no longer be shrugged away as fake news.

Thomas Frank: Rendezvous With Oblivion: Reports From a Sinking Society (2018, Metropolitan Books): Collection of scattered essays, which makes this seem less coherent than Frank's recent string of books -- Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? (2016), Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right (2012), The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Ruined Government, Enriched Themselves, and Beggared the Nation (2008) -- although the net effect does much to prove how prescient The Wrecking Crew's analysis was.

Steve Fraser: Class Matters: The Strange Career of an American Delusion (2018, Yale University Press): The story of how the subject of class has repeatedly been expunged from American history and consciousness, taking a half-dozen case moments from the Mayflower to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech as examples. Fraser wrote about this same subject more broadly in The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power (2015), noting that with Occupy Wall Street the pendulum was suddenly flipping back.

Robert Gerwarth: The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End (2016; paperback, 2017, Farrar Straus and Giroux): On November 11, 1918, Germany surrendered, signing an armistice ending the war they launched in 1914 by invading Belgium and France. For Western Europe (and America), that ended what was then called the Great War, but by then the Russian Tsar had been overthrown, replaced by a revolutionary Soviet, and multi-ethnic empires in Austria-Hungary and Turkey (the Ottoman Empire) had also collapsed. For several years after, war, revolution, and reaction continued in Eastern Europe, at least up to 1923 when the Communists consolidated power in Russia and a nationalist government in Turkey had driven both foreign and native Greeks from Asia Minor. In the longer term, the Treaty of Versailles, dictated by the victorious imperialist powers of Britain and France, was widely viewed as unjust, an insult that festered and grew into a second, even more deadly World War. Another recent book that covers this territory is Prit Buttar: The Splintered Empires: The Eastern Front 1917-21 (2017; paperback, 2018, Osprey), the fourth volume in Buttar's history of the Eastern front, following: Collision of Empires: The War on the Eastern Front in 1914 (2014; paperback, 2016, Osprey); Germany Ascendant: The Eastern Front 1915 (2015; paperback, 2017, Osprey); and Russia's Last Gasp: The Eastern Front 1916-17 (2016; paperback, 2017, Osprey).

Masha Gessen: The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia (2017; paperback, 2018, Riverhead): Chronicles the failure of Russia to develop a liberal democracy after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the discrediting of Soviet Communism, by tracking a small number of individuals -- mostly intellectuals, descendents of Soviet-era elite families who tended to become liberal opponents of Yeltsin and Putin. Tends to view the willingness to submit to an authoritarian state as rooted in psychology rather than as the sort of ideological belief system Timothy Snyder claims. Other books by Gessen and/or on Putin and Russia:

  • Masha Gessen: The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin (2012; paperback, 2013, Riverhead).
  • Masha Gessen: Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot (paperback, 2014, Riverhead).
  • Masha Gessen: Where the Jews Aren't: The Sad and Absurd Story of Birobidzhan, Russia's Jewish Autonomous Region (2016, Schocken).

  • Masha Gessen: Never Remember: Searching for Stalin's Gulags in Putin's Russia (2018, Columbia Global Reports).
  • Stephen F Cohen: War With Russia? From Putin & Ukraine to Trump & Russiagate (paperback, 2019, Hot Books).
  • Mark Galeotti: We Need to Talk About Putin: How the West Gets Him Wrong (paperback, 2019, Penguin Random House).
  • Nina Krushcheva/Jeffrey Tayler: In Putin's Footsteps: Searching for the Soul of an Empire Across Russia's Eleven Time Zones (2019, St Martin's Press).
  • Michael McFaul: From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin's Russia (2018, Houghton Mifflin).
  • Arkady Ostrovsky: The Invention of Russia: The Rise of Putin and the Age of Fake News (2016; paperback, 2017, Penguin Books).
  • Peter Pomerantsev: Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia (paperback, 2015, PublicAffairs).
  • David Satter: The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep: Russia's Road to Terror and Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin (2016; paperback, 2017, Yale University Press).
  • Angela Stent: Putin's World: Russia Against the West and With the Rest (2019, Twelve).
  • Shaun Walker: The Long Hangover: Putin's New Russia and the Ghosts of the Past (2018, Oxford University Press).
  • Tony Wood: Russia Without Putin: Money, Power and the Myths of the New Cold War (2018, Verso).
  • Mikhail Zygar: All the Kremlin's Men: Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin (2016; paperback, 2017, PublicAffairs).

Steven M Gillon: Separate and Unequal: The Kerner Commission and the Unraveling of American Liberalism (2018, Basic Books): Officially, the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, chaired by governor Otto Kerner (D-IL), a group appointed by President Lyndon Johnson following riots in Newark and Detroit. They took a fairly hard look at racism and poverty, and recommended bold new programs to end both. You'd think that was the right in line with Johnson's "Great Society" agenda, but Johnson rejected the report, and Nixon built his campaign -- especially in his 1972 bid to pick up Wallace voters -- on race baiting. Gillon regards the failure to follow up on the report as a failing of liberalism, but what really damaged Johnson and Humphrey was their leading role in the Vietnam War, followed by the crippling loss to Nixon, and later to Reagan.

Anand Giridharadas: Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World (2018, Knopf): As more and more of the world's wealth sinks into the clutches of the very rich, a few of them are stepping up with offers of philanthropic aid, offering to somehow turn the world they're sucking dry into a better place -- without, of course, undermining their exalted place in it. Related:

  • David Callahan: The Givers: Money, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age (2017, Knopf; paperback, 2018, Vintage Books).
  • Daniel Raventós/Julie Wark: Against Charity (paperback, 2018, Counterpunch).
  • Rob Reich: Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better (2018, Princeton University Press).

Jeff Goodell: The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World (2017; paperback, 2018, Back Bay Books): Makes sense: Earth climate warms, ice melts, flows into sea, which rises, flooding coastlines, where many of the world's largest cities are. Goodell has written several books related to climate change, like Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future (2007), and How to Cool the Planet: Geoengineering and the Audacious Quest to Fix Earth's Climate (2010). Every Roundup the shelves of climate change books grows ever more imposing:

  • Jeffrey Bennett: A Global Warming Primer: Answering Your Questions About the Science, the Consequences, and the Solutions (paperback, 2016, Big Kid Science).
  • Peter Brannen: The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past Mass Extinctions (2017; paperback, 2018, Ecco).
  • Ashley Dawson: Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change (2017, Verso).
  • Barbara Finamore: Will China Save the Planet? (paperback, 2018, Polity).
  • Joshua S Goldstein/Staffan A Qvist: A Bright Future: How Some Countries Have Solved Climate Change and the Rest Can Follow (2019, PublicAffairs).
  • Hal Harvey: Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy (paperback, 2018, Island Press).
  • Paul Hawken, ed: Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming (paperback, 2017, Penguin Books).
  • Robert Henson: The Thinking Person's Guide to Climate Change (2nd edition, paperback, 2019, American Meteorological Society).
  • Albert C Hine/Don P Chambers/Tonya D Clayton/Mark R Hafen/Gary T Mitchum: Sea Level Rise in Florida: Science, Impacts, and Options (2016, University Press of Florida).
  • Dhar Jamail: The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption (2019, New Press).
  • Lucy Jones: The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do About Them) (2018, Doubleday).
  • Thomas E Lovejoy/Lee Hannah, eds: Biodiversity and Climate Change: Transforming the Biosphere (paperback, 2019, Yale University Press).
  • Michael E Mann/Lee R Kump: Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change: The Visual Guide to the Findings of the IPCC (2nd edition, paperback, 2015, DK).
  • Michael E Mann/Tom Toles: The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy (paperback, 2018, Columbia University Press).
  • Todd Miller: Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration and Homeland Security (paperback, 2017, City Lights).
  • Robert Muir-Wood: The Cure for Catastrophe: How We Can Stop Manufacturing Natural Disasters (2016, Basic Books).
  • Dustin Mulvaney: Solar Power: Innovation, Sustainability, and Environmental Justice (paperback, 2019, University of California Press).
  • Jeff Nesbit: This Is the Way the World Ends: How Droughts and Die-offs, Heat Waves and Hurricanes Are Converging on America (2018, Thomas Dunne Books).
  • Orrin H Pilkey/Linda Pilkey-Jarvis/Keith C Pilkey: Retreat From a Rising Sea: Hard Choices in an Age of Climate Change (2016; paperback, 2017, Columbia University Press).
  • Kim Stanley Robinson: New York 2140 (2017; paperback, 2018, Orbit): a novel, sure, but illustrates Goodell's point, exactly.
  • Mary Robinson: Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the Fight for a Sustainable Future (2018, Bloomsbury).
  • Joseph Romm: Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know (2nd edition, paperback, 2018, Oxford University Press).
  • Elizabeth Rush: Rising: Dispatches From the New American Shore (2018, Milkweed Editions).
  • Roy Scranton: We're Doomed. Now What? Essays on War and Climate Change (paperback, 2018, Soho Press).
  • Mark C Serreze: Brave New Arctic: The Untold Story of the Melting Arctic (2018, Princeton University Press).
  • Varun Sivaram: Taming the Sun: Innovations to Harness Solar Energy and Power the Planet (2018, MIT Press).
  • Jeffrey St Clair/Joshua Frank: The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink (paperback, 2018, Counterpunch).

  • Peter Wadhams: A Farewell to Ice: A Report From the Arctic (2016, Allen Lane; paperback, 2017, Oxford University Press).
  • Joel Wainwright/Geoff Mann: Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future (2018, Verso).
  • David Wallace-Wells: The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming (2019, Tim Duggan Books).

Chris Hedges: America: The Farewell Tour (2018, Simon & Schuster): Author has become increasingly gloomy about the state of the nation -- one might trace this through such books as American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America (2007), Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of the Spectacle (2009), The Death of the Liberal Class (2010), The World as It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress, and Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt (2015), winding up with this combination of high moral outrage and down-and-out journalism. Seems to mostly be reissued columns, which makes for a relatively scattershot book.

Michael Isikoff/David Corn: Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump (2018, Twelve): With the Mueller investigation not even done rounding up even the usual suspects, this is probably just a quickie trying to sum up what little is known about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. What is pretty clear is that Russia-backed hackers weighed in forcefully for Donald Trump, although it seems like sheer scapegoatism to credit the Russians with more influence than the Kochs and Mercers and other quasi-independent Trump backers. I'd be especially surprised if they have any "inside story" on why Putin would wager such a risky bet. Most of the speculation I've seen seems to be little more than projection. Isikoff and Corn wrote a decent book on the Iraq War (Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War), which recommends this over most competing books, like:

  • Seth Abramson: Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018, Simon & Schuster).
  • Luke Harding: Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win (paperback, 2017, Vintage Books).
  • Seth Hettena: Trump/Russia: A Definitive History (2018, Melville House).
  • Greg Miller: The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy (2018, Custom House).
  • Malcolm Nance: The Plot to Hack America: How Putin's Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election (paperback, 2016, Skyhorse).
  • Malcoln Nance: The Plot to Destroy Democracy: How Putin's Spies Are Winning Control of America and Dismantling the West (2018, Hachette).
  • Greg Olear: Dirty Rubles: An Introduction to Trump/Russia (paperback, 2018, Four Sticks Press).
  • Roger Stone: The Myth of Russian Collusion: The Inside Story of How Donald Trump Really Won (paperback, 2019, Skyhorse).
  • Craig Unger: House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia (2018, Dutton.
  • Clint Watts: Messing With the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians, and Fake News (2018, Harper).

Kathleen Hall Jamieson: Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President: What We Don't, Can't, and Do Know (2018, Oxford University Press): A subject sure to be much written about, especially as the Mueller investigation sorts through and eventually discloses (or leaks) its evidence, but for now this is probably the most comprehensive, detailed analysis we have of what Russian hackers did in 2016 and what the effect was (see Jane Mayer's article in The New Yorker). Jamieson has written/contributed to a bunch of books analyzing elections, going back to Everything You Think You Know About Politics . . . and Why You're Wrong (2000, Basic Books).

Jill Lepore: These Truths: A History of the United States (2018, WW Norton): House historian for The New Yorker, her less popular early work includes The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity (1998), and New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan (2005), which prepared her well to write a book about the use and abuse of history by the Tea Party Movement (The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle Over American History). This is, as advertised, a single-volume history of American political life and ideals, at once huge (960 pp) and schematic, with an eye for telling details (many I never knew).

Daniel J Levitin: Weaponized Lies: How to Think Critically in the Post-Truth Era (paperback, 2017, Dutton): Interesting case example of what happens when Donald Trump gets elected president. Levitin is a neuroscientist who's written books like The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, and A Field Guide to Lies and Statistics: A Neuroscientist on How to Make Sense of a Complex World (which in a saner world would just be a basic update of Darrell Huff's 1954 classic How to Lie With Statistics). So he started with a recognition that human brains are fighting a losing battle against complexity, "information overload," and the flood of calculated misinformation, then panics when he sees where the nonsense he had tried to reason with has gotten us. This new title is actually just a revision of his Field Guide, where circumstances actually seem to call for a fresh review. I expect more books along these lines will appear. For now, I also note:

  • Julian Baggini: A Short History of Truth: Consolations for a Post-Truth World (2017, Quercus).
  • Bruce Bartlett: The Truth Matters: A Citizen's Guide to Separating Facts From Lies and Stopping Fake News in Its Tracks (paperback, 2017, Ten Speed Press).
  • Matthew D'Ancona: Post Truth: The New War on Truth and How to Fight Back (paperback, 2017, Ebury Press).
  • Brooke Gladstone: The Trouble With Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time (paperback, 2017, Workman).
  • Michiko Kakutani: The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump (2018, Tim Duggan Books).
  • Hector Macdonald: Truth: How the Many Sides to Every Story Shape Our Reality (2018, Little Brown).
  • Lee McIntyre: Post-Truth (paperback, 2018, MIT Press).
  • Cailin O'Connor/James Owen Weatherall: The Misinformation Age: How False Beliefs Spread (2018, Yale University Press).
  • Sophia Rosenfeld: Democracy and Truth: A Short History (2018, University of Pennsylvania Press).
  • Ryan Skinnell, ed: Faking the News: What Rhetoric Can Teach Us About Donald J Trump (paperback, 2018, Societas).

Michael Lewis: The Fifth Risk (2018, WW Norton): Journalist, has written a stack of very readable books, nominally on finance and business but mostly about interesting people. This one goes into three government bureaucracies -- the Departments of Energy, Agriculture, and Commerce -- and finds people who for years now have been doing useful, important work there, and takes a look at what Trump and his minions are doing to those people and all that work. Mostly they are shredding data, and purging the departments of the workers with the expertise to collect and analyze that data. It seems that facts and data have become troublesome for profit seekers in industries that have Trump's ear. This is refreshing compared to the reporters who get all the muck they can rake from twitter feeds, the Washington gossip mill, and playing "gotcha" watching talk shows. Sure, those things are symptomatic of the rot in Washington, but the real stink you're going to have a hard time escaping will be coming from out-of-the-way places, like Lewis' chosen departments.

John Meacham: The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels (2018, Random House): Biographer, has written books on Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Franklin Roosevelt, and GHW Bush, takes a sweeping look at American history, specifically the struggles for expanding rights and greater economic opportunity -- a legacy that we (as opposed to certain conservatives) take pride in when we think of American history (as opposed to numerous other threads that we increasingly find shameful).

Yascha Mounk: The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger & How to Save It (2018, Harvard University Press): The election of Donald Trump has produced a tidal wave of books on how the ignorant masses are rising up to turn to fascism against liberal democracy, as if the effete corruption of the Clintons actually represented the latter. To the extent that Trump gives off the stink of authoritarianism, such books may be warranted, but the bigger problem is how the center-left parties have turned their backs on their natural supporters. Not sure what Mounk's proposal is, but the way to save democracy is to make it pay off. More books along these lines:

  • Yascha Mounk: The Age of Responsibility: Luck, Choice, and the Welfare State (2017, Harvard University Press).
  • Madeleine Albright: Fascism: A Warning (2018, Harper).
  • Wendy Brown/Peter S Gordon/Max Pensky: Authoritarianism: Three Inquiries in Critical Theory (paperback, 2018, University of Chicago Press).
  • William Davies: Nervous States: Democracy and the Decline of Reason (2019, WW Norton).
  • Barry Eichengreen: The Populist Temptation: Economic Grievance and Political Reaction in the Modern Era (2018, Oxford University Press).
  • Erica Frantz: Authoritarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know (paperback, 2018, Oxford University Press).
  • William S Galston: Anti Pluralism: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy (2018, Yale University Press).
  • Henry A Giroux: American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism (paperback, 2018, City Lights).
  • Benjamin Carter Hett: The Death of Democracy: Hitler's Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic (2018, Henry Holt).
  • John B Judis: The Nationalist Revival: Trade, Immigration, and the Revolt Against Globalization (paperback, 2018, Columbia Global Reports).
  • Brian Klaas: The Despot's Apprentice: Donald Trump's Attack on Democracy (2017, Hot Books).
  • Steven Levitsky/Daniel Ziblatt: How Democracies Die (2018, Crown).
  • David Neiwert: Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump (2017, Verso).
  • Pippa Norris/Ronald Ingelhart: Cultural Backlash: Trump, Brexit, and Authoritarian Populism (paperback, 2019, Cambridge University Press).
  • David Runciman: How Democracy Ends (2018, Basic Books).
  • Timothy Snyder: On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century (paperback, 2017, Tim Duggan Books).
  • Cass R. Sunstein: Can It Happen Here? Authoritarianism in America (paperback, 2018, Dey Street Books).

Lawrence O'Donnell: Playing With Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics (2017, Penguin Press): Broadcast journalist, something I assume moves him to the shallow end of the pool, but this is not a bad time to take another look at the 1968 election: like 2016, a time when a very unpopular and untrustworthy Republican managed to eke out a victory because many people trusted the establishment Democrat even less, most of all because the latter was associated with the longest and bleakest war(s) in American history.

Kevin Peraino: A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China, 1949 (2017, Crown; paperback, 2018, Broadway Books): Chronicles a single turning-point year as Mao's revolutionary forces swept through the major cities of eastern China, while Chiang Kai-Shek's nationalists retreated to Taiwan, and Madame Chiang -- a major figure in her own right -- was frustrated in her lobbying efforts in New York and Washington. Some more context would have been useful -- fortunately I had previously read James Bradley's The China Mirage: The hidden History of American Disaster in Asia, which laid out the romantic relationship between missionary-minded Americans and the Soong family (most notably Mme. Chiang). Still, I don't know much about Mao's gains up to 1949, or American thinking on China until the blame game of "who lost China?" took over, after the fact. Some more recent historical books on China:

  • Richard Bernstein: China 1945: Mao's Revolution and America's Fateful Choice (2014, Knopf; paperback, 2015, Vintage).
  • Wang Hui: China's Twentieth Century: Revolution, Retreat and the Road to Equality (paperback, 2016, Verso).
  • Daniel Kurtz-Phelan: The China Mission: George Marshall's Unfinished War, 1945-1947 (2018, WW Norton).
  • Rana Mitter: Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937-1945 (2013, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; paperback, 2014, Mariner).
  • Stephen R Platt: Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War (2012, Knopf; paperback, 2012, Vintage).
  • Stephen R Platt: Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China's Last Golden Age (2018, Knopf)
  • David J Silbey: The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in China: A History (2012; paperback, 2013, Hill and Wang).
  • Helen Zia: Last Boat out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao's Revolution (2019, Ballantine Books).

Michael Ruhlman: Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America (2017, Henry N Abrams): Food writer, first noticed (by me at least) for his memoirs on studying to become a chef -- The Making of a Chef (1997) and The Soul of a Chef (2000) although I also have his tip books The Elements of Cooking (2007) and Ratio (2009) but only one of his cookbooks -- Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing (2005) -- rarely if ever used (although it sure seems like a good idea). This is a history of grocery stores, bound to be interesting -- as one reviewer put it, "a lot of memoir, a smattering of rants, endless lists."

Quinn Slobodan: Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism (2018, Harvard University Press): A history of neoliberal thinkers starting with Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, their roots in the old Hapsburg Empire, their Geneva School in the 1920s-30s, moving in to the Mount Pelerin Society up to the World Trade Organization. Focus is mostly on Europeans, with some political support from the US right but neither author nor subject seems to have much respect for American economists like Milton Friedman. One thing that is striking is that while the degree of overt racism varied, all were concerned with replacing crumbling colonial regimes with private ownership, in effect ensuring that imperialism would survive by privatizing it.

Sarah Smarsh: Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth (2018, Scribner): Author "was born a fifth generation Kansas wheat farmer on her paternal side and the product of generations of teen mothers on her maternal side." Grew up on a farm thirty miles west of Wichita (also in Wichita), and seems to have kicked the fates of her mother and grandmother, while still remembering enough to write movingly about people like herself.

Timothy Snyder: The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America (2018, Tim Duggan Books): Historian, has written a couple of major books on the especially bloody and cruel war between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia for eastern Europe. I've long been bothered by his tendency to treat Hitler and Stalin as political equivalents, a sloppiness broad enough to let him slip Putin into the same mold. His key here is the obscure Vladimir Ilyin, offered here as the architect of a "politics of eternity" which binds Putin to the totalitarians of yore. Snyder does his best to chronicle Putin's offenses against liberal democracy, up to and including his shadow war with Ukraine, but his focus on ideology (and demonizing Putin) slights other possible factors, like the economy. Despite the subtitle, Europe and America are scarcely mentioned.

Jason Stanley: How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them (2018, Random House): Philosophy professor at Yale, previously wrote How Propaganda Works (2015). Focuses on actual politics in the US here, which means you can count him among the minority who believe that certain common political ideas and strategies fit the F-word framework. One obvious point makes it into his subtitle: the rallying of a self-considered nationalist core into a political movement defined in opposition to all sorts of others that diverge from the model. Republican propaganda has increasingly been build around that focus from Nixon to Reagan to Bush to Trump. The second obvious point is the willingness of the fascist leaders to run roughshod over democratic processes, to reduce law to a tool of power, and to use violence as a means for asserting their power. The Republicans aren't yet as vicious and brutal as fascists under Musolini and Hitler, but they lean that way, and their followers respond emotionally (if rarely phsyically) to their taunts.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (2018, Random House): Fourth in a series of books that seek to approximate a logic of how the world works -- Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan started off by looking at statistics and its exceptions. One point here is that the world is run by determined minorities imposing their will. Other points: "For social justice, focus on symmetry and risk sharing"; "Ethical rules aren't universal"; "Beware of complicated solutions (that someone was paid to find)." The title -- a phrase I've always found suspicious -- is also given unconventional examination: "Never trust anyone who doesn't have skin in the game. Without it, fools and crooks will benefit, and their mistakes will never come back to haunt them." Maybe, but I also don't trust people who want you to put more of your skin in their game. They're looking to make you pay for their mistakes.

Sandy Tolan: Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land (2015, Bloomsbury USA): Author of one of the best books ever on the Israel/Palestine conflict -- The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East (2007) -- returns with another very specific, concrete story of Palestinian and Israeli musicians transcending the conflict through "the power of music," but also "determination and vision."

Michael Tomasky: If We Can Keep It: How the Republic Collapsed and How It Might Be Saed (2019, Liveright): Political analyst, writes for Daily Beat and New York Review of Books, a resolute centrist adrift in a world where the center hasn't held. Starts with a "chronology of polarization" that almost exactly matches the four era division I've been threatening to write about. His command of history is strong, even if I'd nitpick a bit. Ends with a "fourteen-point agenda to reduce polarization" that strikes me as mostly crap, some specific ("reduce college to three years and make year four a service year"), some vague ("vastly expand civics education"). And like most centrists, he's much more bothered by the left than the right ("insist on a left that doesn't contribute to the fracture"). I probably need to read this, but I'm not likely to be happy with it.

Lawrence Tribe/Joshua Matz: To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment (2018, Basic Books): For some people, it's impossible to think of the colossal mistake American voters made in November 2016 without thinking of rectifying it through given constitutional means: impeachment -- a feeling which goes deeper with each scandal or other embarrassment (i.e., almost daily). The rest of us don't deny the requisite "high crimes and misdemeanors" the constitution calls for, but recognize that impeachment has been a purely political matter since it was first contemplated as a way to get rid of the almost universally loathed John Tyler. Tyler dodged impeachment; Andrew Johnson was impeached but not removed from office; Richard Nixon wound up resigning before the House voted. Bill Clinton was impeached in the most cynical of all such affairs, but Republicans in the Senate never had a prayer of mustering the two-thirds majority. As long as Republicans hold power in Congress Trump is safe, not least because Trump has done very little that offends them. Still, if you want to read about impeachment (or the 25th amendment, which allows the cabinet to stage a political coup with mere consent of Congress), there are plenty of books to choose from. Tribe is probably first choice because of his long practice writing about the Supreme Court -- most recently Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution (paperback, 2015, Picador). Also recent:

  • Jeffrey A Engel/Jon Meacham/Timothy Naftali/Peter Baker: Impeachment: An American History (2018, Modern Library).
  • Alan Dershowitz: The Case Against Impeaching Trump (2018, Hot Books).
  • Elizabeth Holtzman: The Case for Impeaching Trump (2019, Hot Books).
  • Allan J Lichtman: The Case for Impeachment (2017; paperback, 2018, Dey Street Books).
  • Barbara A Radnofsky: A Citizen's Guide to Impeachment (paperback, 2017, Melville House).
  • Cass R Sunstein: Impeachment: A Citizen's Guide (paperback, 2017, Harvard University Press).

Siva Vaidhyanathan: Anti-Social Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy (2018, Oxford University Press): Author of an eye-opening book on Google -- The Googlization of Everything (and Why We Should Worry) (2011), with previous books on Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Proprety and How It Threatens Creativity (2003), and The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash Between Freedom and Control Is Hacking the Real World and Crashing the System (2004). Not a technophobe or luddite, but casts a wary on the business manipulations of your formerly private life. Some other recent books on web society:

  • Ken Auletta: Frenemies: The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business (and Everything Else) (2018, Penguin Press).
  • Yochai Benkler/Robert Faris/Hal Roberts: Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics (paperback, 2018, Oxford University Press).
  • James Bridle: New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future (2018, Verso).
  • Talina Bucher: If . . . Then: Algorithmic Power and Politics (paperback, 2018, Oxford University Press).
  • Virginia Eubanks: Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor (2018, St Martin's Press).
  • Franklin Foer: World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech (2017; paperback, 2018, Penguin Press).
  • Donna Freitas: The Happiness Effect: How Social Media Is Driving a Generation to Appear Perfect at Any Cost (2017, Oxford University Press).
  • Scott Galloway: The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google (2017; paperback, 2018, Portfolio).
  • Tarleton Gillespie: Custodians of the Internet: Platform, Content Moderation, and the Hidden Decisions That Shape Social Media (2018, Yale University Press).
  • Alexander Halavais: Search Engine Society (2nd edition, paperback, 2017, Polity).
  • Matthew Hindman: The Internet Trap: How the Digital Economy Builds Monopolies and Undermines Democracy (2018, Princeton University Press).
  • Tera Karppi: Disconnect: Facebook's Affective Bonds (paperback, 2018, University of Minnesota Press).
  • Jaron Lanier: Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now (2018, Henry Holt).
  • Roger McNamee: Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe (2019, Penguin Press).
  • Martin Moore: Democracy Hacked: How Technology Is Destabilising Global Politics (2018, Oneworld).
  • Safiya Umdia Noble: Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (paperback, 2018, NYU Press).
  • Corey Pein: Live Work Work Work Die: A Journey Into the Savage Heart of Silicon Valley (2018, Metropolitan Books).
  • Bruce Schneier: Click Here to Kill Everybody: Security and Survival in a Hyper-connected World (2018, WW Norton).
  • PW Singer/Emerson T Brooking: Like War: The Weaponization of Social Media (2018, Eamon Dolan).
  • Jamie Suskind: Future Politics: Living Together in a World Transformed by Tech (2018, Oxford University Press).
  • Zeynep Tufekci: Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragiity of Networked Protest (2017; paperback, 2018, Yale University Press).
  • Tim Wu: The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age (paperback, 2018, Columbia Global Reports).

Sean Wilentz: No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation's Founding (2018, Harvard University Press): Wide-ranging American historian -- his masterpiece is The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln, but he's also written (much less reliably) The Age of Reagan: A History 1974-2008 (2008). Here he expands on a theme that Jill Lepore emphasizes in These Truths: A History of the United States: that many of the founders of the American Republic were conscious of the problem of slavery, especially as it contradicted their revolutionary appeals to liberty and equality.

Bob Woodward: Fear: Trump in the White House (2018, Simon & Schuster): I suppose every time I do one of these I should pick out a recent Trump book and hang a list under it. This one is probably the best-selling, with its usual load of insider dirt. Some others:

  • Amanda Carpenter: Gaslighting America: Why We Love It When Trump Lies to Us (2018, Broadside Books).
  • Stormy Daniels: Full Disclosure (2018, St Martin's Press).
  • Justin A Frank: Trump on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President (2018, Avery).
  • Major Garrett: Mr. Trump's Wild Ride: The Thrills, Chills, Screams, and Occasional Blackouts of an Extraordinary Presidency (2018, All Points Books).
  • Marvin Kalb: Enemy of the People: Trump's War on the Press, the New McCarthyism, and the Threat to American Democracy (2018, Brookings Institution Press).
  • Laurence Leamer: Mar-A-Lago: Inside the Gaes of Power at Donald Trump's Presidential Palace (2019, Flatiron).
  • Omarosa Manigault Newman: Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House (2018, Gallery Books).
  • John Nichols: Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse: A Field Guide to the Most Dangerous People in America (paperback, 2017, Nation Books).
  • Bill Press: Trump Must Go: The Top 100 Reasons to Dump Donald Trump (and One to Keep Him) (2018, Thomas Dunne Books).
  • April Ryan: Under Fire: Reporting From the Front Lines of the Trump White House (2018, Rowman & Littlefield).
  • Cliff Sims: Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House (2019, Thomas Dunne Books).
  • Sean Spicer: The Briefing: Politics, the Press, and the President (2018, Regnery).
  • GB Trudeau: #SAD!: Doonesbury in the Time of Trump (paperback, 2018, Andrews McMeel).
  • Rick Wilson: Everything Trump Touches Dies: A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever (2018, Free Press).

Robert Wuthnow: The Left Behind: Decline and Rage in Rural America (2018, Princeton University Press): I get why farmers and small town dwellers find the federal government distant and aloof, but what makes them think they're so different from other people in America? Part of this is that they're more invested in a cult of self-sufficiency: they feed themselves, fend for themselves, and don't see why others shouldn't do so as well. Such views have made them easy pickings for the cynical political manipulators on the right, but they are probably justified in their suspicion that the changes in what Hillary Clinton calls "the more dynamic parts of the nation" is at the root of their relative decline. Wuthnow previously wrote Small Town America: Finding Community, Shaping the Future (paperback, 2016, Princeton University Press).

Also noted:

Anne Applebaum: Red Famin: Stalin's War on Ukraine (2018, Doubleday).

Michael Beschloss: Presidents of War: The Epic Story, From 1807 to Modern Times (2018, Crown).

Max Boot: The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right (2018, Liveright).

Preet Bharara: Doing Justice: A Prosecutor's Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law (2019, Alfred A Knopf).

Timothy Caulfield: Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: How the Famous Sell Us Elixirs of Health, Beauty & Happiness (2015; paperback, 2016, Beacon Press).

Amy Chozick: Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling (2018, Harper).

Chris Christie: Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics (2019, Hachette).

James R Clapper: Facts and Fears: Hard Truths From a Life in Intelligence (2018, Viking).

Mike Davis: Old Gods, New Enigmas: Marx's Lost Theory (2018, Verso).

Michael Eric Dyson: What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America (2018, St Martin's Press).

Daniel Ellsberg: The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner (2017, Bloomsbury).

Norman G Finkelstein: Gaza: An Inquest Into Its Martyrdom (2018, University of California Press).

Doris Kearns Goodwin: Leadership: In Turbulent Times (2018, Simon & Schuster).

Alan Greenspan/Adrian Wooldridge: Capitalism in America: A History (2018, Penguin Press).

David Harvey: Marx, Capital, and the Madness of Economic Reason (2017, Oxford University Press).

Seymour M Hersh: Reporter: A Memoir (2018, Knopf).

Eric Holt-Giménez: A Foodie's Gide to Capitalism (paperback, 2017, Monthly Review Press).

Robert Kagan: The Jungle Grows Back: America and Our Imperiled World (2018, Knopf).

Robert D Kaplan: Earning the Rockies: How Geography Shapes America's Role in the World (2018, Random House).

Naomi Klein: The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists (paperback, 2018, Haymarket Books).

Stephen Kotkin: Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941 (2017; paperback, 2018, Penguin Press).

Andrew G McCabe: The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump (2019, St Martin's Press).

Ralph Nader: To the Ramparts: How Bush and Obama Paved the Way for the Trump Presidency, and Why It Isn't Too Late to Reverse Course (2018, Seven Stories Press).

Catherine Nixey: The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World (2018, Houghton Mifflin).

Michelle Obama: Becoming (2018, Crown).

David Quammen: The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life (2018, self-published).

Alissa Quart: Squeezed: Why Our Families Can't Afford America (2018, Ecco).

Ben Rhodes: The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House (2018, Random House).

Dani Rodrik: Straight Talk on Trade: Ideas for a Sane World Economy (2017, Princeton University Press).

Helena Rosenblatt: The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient Rome to the Twenty-First Century (2018, Princeton University Press).

Arundhati Roy/John Cusack: Things That Can and Cannot Be Said: Essays and Conversations (paperback, 2016, Haymarket Books).

Bernie Sanders: Where We Go From Here (2018, Thomas Dunne Books).

Neil Sheehan/Hedrick Smith/EW Kenworthy/Fox Butterfield/James L Greenfield: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam War (paperback, 2017, Racehorse Publishing).

Robert Skidelsky: Money and Government: The Past and Future of Economics (2018, Yale University Press).

Neil deGrasse Tyson/Avis Lang: Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military (2018, WW Norton).

Yanis Varoufakis: Adults in the Room: My Battle With the European and American Deep Establishment (2017, Farrar Straus and Giroux).

Alex Von Tunzelmann: Blood and Sand: Suez, Hungary, and Eisenhower's Campaign for Peace (2016; paperback, 2017, Harper).

Vicky Ward: Kushner, Inc. Greed. Ambition. Corruption. The Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump (2019, St Martin's Press).

Thomas Weber: Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi (2017, Basic Books).

Gordon S Wood: Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (2017; paperback, 2018, Penguin Books).

Lawrence Wright: God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State (2018, Knopf).

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Daily Log

Saving this because it's on the fleeting medium of Twitter, although I'm not sure it deserves much better. Final four in Neoliberal Shill of the Year bracket (started with 64): Tyler Cowen, Scott lincicome, Alan Cole, Matthew Yglesias. That lead Yglesias to tweet this thread:

  • As we enter the Final Four, I'd like to address a major criticism of my candidacy -- the perception that "Yglesias isn't a neoliberal at all, just some kind of zoning guy."

    For starters, false!

  • I'm out here shilling for the merits of carbon pricing, for congestion pricing, for optimism about the trajectory of global living standards over the past two generations, etc.

    But the housing issue is supremely important to the cause of neoliberal globalism!

  • There are plenty of regulations here and there that one can criticizing, but if you want to seriously make a difference to middle class living standards through regulatory reform housing is the only area that's big enough to move the needle.

  • Immigrants, of course, are going to need a place to live.

    Absent a policy framework for abundant housingthen immigration becomes a zero-sum scramble for scarce resources in you end up with Brexit.

  • And of course there's trade -- sustaining "manly" blue collar jobs has been neoliberal globalism's Achilles heel.

    But you know what's not getting outsourced to China? Construction jobs! But we need to make sure those investments can happen in productive areas.

  • In short, a heavy emphasis on land use issues is the cornerstone of any successful neoliberal shill agenda.

    Vote Yglesias to maintain the open society!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, March archive.

Music: current count 31246 [31207] rated (+39), 252 [257] unrated (-5).

Surprised the rated count is so high, as the week went by in a daze -- often literally, as the latest correction for my failing eyesight disorts my rectangular view of the world into a slightly tilted trapezoid. I feel lucky not to have fallen down, but have had numerous mishaps where I reach for something (say, an elevator button) and miss. Not sure whether I should go back and complain, or count my blessings that details have gotten a lot sharper. Still, one bummer is that the eyes and/or glasses have contributed to a reading slump.

Also, I had a moment of terror mid-week, when my computer screen went black. Problem seems to be a relatively new LG monitor lost power, but I haven't fully checked that out. I swapped in an older Samsung monitor, which worked, but isn't quite a sharp. I went out and bought a new HP 25-inch monitor, but don't have it plugged in yet. I've had a plan for some time now to rearrange my work area, so this disruption complicated things -- and in my dazed mental state slowed me down even further. I keep letting little things get in the way. For instance, I decided that it would be better to cut a hole in the side of the desk to route wires through, then couldn't find my hole saws. After spending a couple days looking everywhere, I broke down and bought a new set -- but haven't gotten around to using them yet. I seriously intend to do so after I get this posted.

One thing the new arrangement will let me do is use two computers again. I'll use the second computer for some much procrastinated website development. One thing I need to do for the Christgau and other websites is convert the character set from ISO-8859-1 (Latin-1) to UTF-8. It's hard to work with two different character sets on the same computer. And I don't want to commit myself to changing everything over at once, so this seems like a sensible migration path. I have everything I need to do this now. Still not looking forward to painful crawling around the floor to get it all hooked up. More details on the tech advisory mail list as I get it all working.

As for this week's music, I worked my way down to the bottom of Phil Overeem's end-of-February 2019 list, leaving four records unheard: three I couldn't find (DKV/Joe McPhee, All the Young Droogs, and the Clifford Thornton Memorial Quartet) plus the Bob Mould record I have yet to look for). Meanwhile, Overeem has moved on with a March list I haven't gotten to (although two records there -- by James Brandon Lewis and Rosie Flores -- are listed below, having gotten to them on my own).

This week's regrades were Robert Christgau's EW picks this week. I had played them previously, liked the music, didn't get much out of the words, so I thought they merited an extra listen. Like the music even more, still didn't get much out of the words (Malibu Ken is reportedly funny, which I usually get even if I don't get it all; I'd say Serengeti is funnier). Also caught up with Christgau's previous week alt-rap picks, which I liked a bit less. Maybe too avant, the exact opposite of the old school People Under the Stairs, easily my favorite hip-hop album this week.

Only B+(***) record below I might have cut short is the Branford Marsalis, which sounds a lot like his good ones -- easily his best since 2012's Four MFs Playin' Tunes, which was more pointedly titled. Old music by Chick Corea and Stanley Turrentine was suggested by Napster -- evidently a couple of those are new digital reissues.

Trying my hand at stuffed peppers (with lamb, currants, pine nuts, and feta cheese), a dish I've never done before. It never seemed suitably fancy for a main course, yet too big for a side dish, especially in a typical feast with so many sides no one would want a whole pepper. On the other hand, might be perfect for a single-dish dinner for two.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Bali Baby: Resurrection (2018, Twin, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bali Baby: Bubbles Bali (2019, Billmania Media): [r]: B+(**)
  • Better Oblivion Community Center: Better Oblivion Community Center (2019, Dead Oceans): [r]: B+(*)
  • Randy Brecker & NDR Bigband: Rocks (2017 [2019], Piloo): [cd]: B
  • Czarface/Ghostface Killah: Czarface Meets Ghostface (2019, Silver Age): [r]: B+(**)
  • Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle (2019, International Anthem): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Dreezy: Big Dreez (2019, Interscope): [r]: B+(**)
  • FAVX: Welfare (2018, Miel de Moscas/Burger, EP): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Michael Foster/Katherine Young/Michael Zerang: Bind the Hand(s) That Feed (2018, Relative Pitch): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Guillermo Gregorio & Brandon Lopez: 12 Episodes (2017 [2019], Relative Pitch): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Hama: Houmeissa (2019, Sahel Sounds): [r]: B+(*)
  • Izumi Kimura/Barry Guy/Gerry Hemingway: Illuminated Silence (2018 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Brian Krock: Liddle (2018 [2019], Outside In Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Lapis Trio: The Travelers (2017 [2019], Shifting Paradigm): [cd]: B+(*)
  • James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto (2018 [2019], Relative Pitch): [cd]: A-
  • David Liebman/Jeff Coffin/Victor Wooten/Chester Thompson/Chris Walters/James DaSilva: On the Corner Live! The Music of Miles Davis (2015 [2019], Ear Up): [r]: B+(**)
  • Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul (2018 [2019], Okeh): [r]: B+(***)
  • Mdou Moctar: Blue Stage Sessions (2018 [2019], Third Man): [r]: A-
  • Jessica Pavone: In the Action (2018 [2019], Relative Pitch): [cd]: B+(**)
  • People Under the Stairs: Sincerely, the P (2019, Piecelock 70): [r]: A-
  • Powder: Powder in Space (DJ Mix) (2019, Beats in Space): [r]: B+(**)
  • Psymun: All Killer No Filler (2018, self-released, EP): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Idris Rahman/Leon Brichard/Tom Skinner: Wildflower (2017, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Alfredo Rodriguez/Pedrito Martinez: Duologue (2019, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(***)
  • Rüfüs Du Sol: Solace (2018, Reprise): [r]: B+(*)
  • Catherine Russell: Alone Together (2019, Dot Time): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dua Saleh: Nur (2019, Against Giants, EP): [bc]: B+(**)
  • The Specials: Encore (2019, Island): [r]: B+(*)
  • Lyn Stanley: London Calling: A Toast to Julie London (2018 [2019], A.T. Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Tallawit Timbouctou: Hali Diallo (2011 [2018], Sahel Sounds): [bc]: B+(***)
  • David Torn/Tim Berne/Ches Smith: Sun of Goldfinger (2015-18 [2019], ECM): [r]; B+(***)
  • Typical Sisters: Hungry Ghost (2017 [2019], Outside In Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Trevor Watts/Stephen Grew: Let It Be: Live in Liverpool (2018 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Travailler, C'est Trop Dur: The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent ([2018], Swallow, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)

Old music:

  • Chick Corea: The Complete "Is" Sessions (1969 [2002], Blue Note, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chick Corea: The Song of Singing (1970 [1989], Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Chick Corea: Verve Jazz Masters 3 (1972-78 [1993], Verve): [r]: B+(*)
  • Joe McPhee & Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: Bricktop (2015 [2016], Trost): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Stanley Turrentine: Comin' Your Way (1961 [1987], Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)

Grade (or other) changes:

  • Aesop Rock and Tobacco: Malibu Ken (2019, Rhymesayers): [r]: [was: B+(**)] B+(***)
  • Serengeti: Dennis 6e (2018, People): [r]: [was B+(**)] B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Dan McCarthy: Epoch (Origin)
  • Paul Tynan: Quartet (Origin)
  • Claudia Villela: Encantada Live (Taina Music): April 12

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Weekend Roundup

No introduction, other than to note that I hadn't planned on including anything on the Ilhan Omar controversy, mostly because I still haven't bothered to track down what she said and/or apologized for. I'm pretty careful to make sure that nothing I say that's critical of Israel can be misconstrued as anti-semitic, but that canard is used so often (and so indiscriminately) by Israel's hasbarists that it feels like a waste of time to even credit the complaints.

One more note is that I expected to find more on the record-setting 2018 trade deficit, but all I came up with was the Paul Krugman post below, where the main point is that Trump is stupid, specifically on trade and tariffs but actually on pretty much everything. Krugman's explanation that trade deficits reflect a savings shortfall doesn't really tell me much. As best I can understand it, deficits are a means by which wealth transfers from consumers to the rich -- primarily the foreign rich, but much of that money comes back to domestic rich for investments and sales of inflated assets. I remember some years ago William Greider proposed a blanket, across-the-board tax on imports aimed at restoring a trade balance -- evidently such a thing is OK under WTO rules, and it would get around the balloon problem Krugman refers to -- but I've never heard about it since. Strikes me as a good idea (although I'm not sure how it would interact with exchange rates).

Also thought a bit about writing an op-ed on Trump and Korea. Specifically, I wanted to pose a rhetorical question to Trump, to ask him why he lets people like John Bolton undermine his chances for forging a signature world peace deal, and securing a legacy as something other than, well, you know, a demagogue and a crook.

Some scattered links this week:

Monday, March 04, 2019

Daily Log

Scraped from a twitter image: Neoliberal Shill Bracket:

The Neolib Podcast Region:
 1. @economeager - Rachael Meager               + +
       Asst Prof LSEEcon STICERD_LSE development & econometrics
16. @secretarycarson
 8. @mnolangray                                 +
 9. @neeratanden
 5. @ModeledBehavior - Adam Ozimek              +
12. @jneeley78
 4. @tylercowen - Tyler Cowen                   + + + +
13. @ZacharyCraves
 6. @DKThomp
11. @karlbykarlsmith - Karl  Smith              +
      "do you even FRED bro?"
 3. @willwilkinson - Will Wilkinson             + + +
      Niskanen Center VP for Research, NY Times, Vox
14. @CathyReisenwitz
 7. @senatorshoshana - Shoshana Weissmann       + +
      RSI digital media manager
10. @ianbremmer
 2. @calebwatney                                +
15. @Timodc

The Sticker Club Region:
 1. @s8mb - Sam Bowman                          + +
      used to run ASI; "I invented neoliberalism"
16. @nihilistspicer -
      "antifa DSA who happens to know Econ 101"
 8. @titonka
 9. @erikbryn                                   +
 5. @jbarro                                     +
12. @ebwhamilton
 4. @scottlincicome - Scott Lincicome           + + + +
      trade lawyer, Cato Institute
13. @ernietedeschi
 6. @lymanstoneky
11. @NKaeding                                   + +
 3. @glenweyt                                   +
14. @BillKristol
 7. @AlexNowrasteh - Alex Nowrasteh             + + +
      Cato Institute analyst of immigration policy
10. @svaneksmith
 2. @hamandcheese - Samuel Hammond
      Director of Poverty and Welfare Policy, Niskanen Center
15. @ahardtospell - Alex Muresianu              +
      Economic policy and memes; LoConservative, AmConMag, dcexaminer, ArcDigi

The Reviving Neoliberalism Region:
 1. @BetoORourke
16. @ComfortablySmug                            +
 8. @salonium                                   + +
 9. @clark_packard
 5. @AlanMCole - Alan Cole                      + + + +
      Business economics and public policy Wharton, tax policy guy, high
      priest emeritus of DBCFT
12. @CardiffGarcia
 4. @patrickc                                   +
13. @bkavoussl
 6. @dylanmatt - Dylan Matthews
      "my tweet portal is whack"
11. @asymmetricinfo - Megan  McArdle            + + +
      DC blogger, "Live From the WTC"
 3. @ossoff
14. @sonyaellenmann                             +
 7. @Austen                                     + +
10. @kylebrussell
 2. @jaredpolis                                 +
15. @qjurecic

The Meetup Region:
 1. @Noahpinion - Noah Smith                    + + +
      Bloomberg opinion writer, chief neoliberal shill 2018
16. @NeeraJKA
 8. @KarlMuth
 9. @jodiecongirl                               +
 5. @Austan_Goolsbee                            + +
12. @TheStalwart
 4. @delong - Brad DeLong                       +
13. @byrdinator
 6. @_TamaraWinter                              + +
11. @MarcGoldwein
 3. @MarkLutter
14. @JosephMajkut                               +
 7. @willmacaskill
10. @jaketapper                                 +
 2. @mattyglesias - Matthew Yglesias            + + + +
15. @zck

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31207 [31174] rated (+33), 257 [252] unrated (+5).

Lots of good records this week, mostly early 2019 releases that I checked out after Phil Overeem posted his Best Rekkids of '19 - End of Febru-weary Edition, with "30 pretty damn decent releases." I had previously heard N:

  1. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty (Sunnyside -18) [B+(*)]
  2. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions (Flat Langston's Arkeyes) [A]
  3. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet (Resonance -3CD) [A-]
  4. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature (ESP-Disk) [B+(***)]
  5. Bad Bunny: X 100PRE (Rimas Entertainment -18) [B+(*)]

I sampled 11 more below, coming up with 5 A-, 3 B+(***), 1 B+(**), 1 B-, 1 C. I looked up but didn't find 4 more (DKV, All the Young Droogs, M'dou Moctar, and the Clifford Thornton Memorial Quartet -- a 2018 release I've looked for several times) -- basically only got down to 14, but Michael Tatum recommended Our Native Daughters, so I prioritized that, as well as the jazz releases (Ward, Ill Considered).

The DKV (Ken Vandermark sax trio with Kent Kessler and Hamid Drake) is a 6-CD box on the Catalytic Bandcamp, but they only have 3 tracks available -- far short of anything I can review in good conscience. Until they stopped providing full albums a little over a year ago, I tried to review everything they released (missing only a few monster sets), but gave up after that, finishing 2018 with 8 unreviewed Ken Vandermark titles in my music tracking file (plus various of his cohort, including Overeem's favorite, Joe McPhee) -- certainly one reason why my 2018 Best Jazz list came up shorter than recent years.

I also took a fairly deep dive into Ill Considered, a British jazz quartet (sax, bass, drums, extra percussion), made possible by their Bandcamp page -- only skipped An Ill Considered Christmas (see Phil Freeman's review). Rhythmically, they remind me of Nik Bärtsch's Ronin, but rawer, with a lot more sax appeal.

Missing from this week's A-list is James Brandon Lewis' An Unruly Manifesto. I was all ready to write it up based on a download when an actual CD showed up in a package from Relative Pitch, but when that happened I decided I wanted to listen some more. When I stopped writing Jazz Consumer Guide for the Village Voice, I stopped requesting review copies. But only some publicists stopped sending records, so I kept writing up what I got, filling in obvious holes by streaming. For the last 3-4 years, the one US label I most regretted not getting service from (and not being able to find on a streaming service) was Relative Pitch. (Well, Tzadik was competition, after they pulled their releases from Rhapsody.) So this package was the week's most pleasant surprise. Will get to them soon (with Lewis first).

I decided I was done with the EOY Aggregate mid-week, but today I figured I'd add in the albums I graded but hadn't shown up in any other list. I got tired of that pretty quickly -- last one I added was Chrome Hill's The Explorer (Clean Feed) -- so decided not to hold this post up for closure. The late adds to the file moved it back a bit toward the consensus of aggregators like Acclaimed Music; e.g., Pusha T reclaimed 4th from Cardi B, and in the biggest shift, Low rose to 8 over Noname and Parquet Courts. Also, the Arctic Monkeys (which I dislike even more than Double Negative) is back to up a tie at 16 (with Kali Uchis).

Expect an XgauSez later tonight. I keep postponing my website redesign work, mostly because everything sucks here. But I did decide that one thing I need to do is to move my computer back to the old desk, making it possible to use a second (presently inaccessible) computer for development work. To that end, I ordered another UPS, which is here waiting to be plugged in, ready for the move. (Has been for a week, but any day now.) When I get going, I'll explain why this matters to my "tech advisory" mail list. If you'd like to join in on that discussion (or just lurk), let me know and I'll sign you up. I expect to have plenty of questions, and could use the help.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Aesop Rock & Tobacco: Malibu Ken (2019, Rhymesayers): [r]: B+(**)
  • Atomic: Pet Variations (2018 [2019], Odin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Marcia Ball: Shine Bright (2018, Alligator): [r]: B+(*)
  • Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium (2019, IOT): [r]: A-
  • R.L. Boyce: Rattlesnake Boogie (2018, Waxploitation): [r]: B+(*)
  • Robert Ellis: Texas Piano Man (2019, New West): [r]: B
  • Rosie Flores: Simple Case of the Blues (2019, The Last Music Company): [r]: B+(**)
  • Fidel Fourneyron: ¿Que Vola? (2019, No Format): [r]: B+(***)
  • Mimi Fox: This Bird Still Flies (1985-2018 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Ill Considered: Ill Considered (2017, Ill Considered Music): [bc]: A
  • Ill Considered: Live at the Crypt (2017, Ill Considered Music): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Ill Considered: Ill Considered 3 (2018, Ill Considered Music): [bc]: A-
  • Ill Considered: Live at Total Refreshment Centre (2018, Ill Considered Music): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Ill Considered: Live in Camden Town (2018, Ill Considered Music): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Ill Considered: Live in Nantes (2018, Ill Considered Music): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Ill Considered: Ill Considered 5 (2018 [2019], Ill Considered Music): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Ill Considered: Ill Considered 6 (2018 [2019], Ill Considered Music): [bc]: A-
  • Kel Assouf: Black Tenere (2019, Glitterbeat): [r]: A-
  • Rebecca Kilgore/Bernd Lhotzky: This or That (2017, Arbors): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri (2019, OutHere): [r]: A-
  • Doug MacDonald Quartet: Organisms (2018 [2019], self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Pat Martino: Formidable (2017, High Note): [r]: B+(*)
  • Marilyn Mazur: Marilyn Mazur's Shamania (2017 [2019], RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Joe McPhee/John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee (2019, Trost): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters (2019, Smithsonian Folkways): [r]: A-
  • Kassa Overall: Go Get Ice Cream and Listen to Jazz (2018 [2019], self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • RGG/Verneri Pohjola/Samuel Blaser: City of Gardens (2017 [2018], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Ustad Saami: God Is Not a Terrorist (2019, Glitterbeat): [r]: C
  • Nick Sanders Trio: Playtime 2050 (2017-18 [2019], Sunnyside): [cd]: B+(**) [03-15]
  • Greg Ward Presents Rogue Parade: Stomping Off From Greenwood (2017 [2019], Greenleaf Music): [r]: B-
  • Anna Webber: Clockwise (2017 [2019], Pi): [cd]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Sir Shina Peters & His International Stars: Sewele (1986 [2019], Strut): [r]: A-

Old music:

  • Atomic: There's a Hole in the Mountain (2012 [2013], Jazzland): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Rosie Flores: Girl of the Century (2009, Bloodshot): [r]: B+(*)
  • Rebecca Kilgore/The Harry Allen Quartet: Live at Feinstein's at Loews Regency: Celebrating "Lady Day" and "Prez" (2011, Arbors): [r]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • The David Berkman Sextet: Six of One (Palmetto): April 5
  • Chat Noir: Hyperuranion (RareNoise): cdr, March 29
  • Carolyun Fitzhugh: Living in Peace (Iyouwe): March 15
  • Michael Foster/Katherine Young/Michael Zerang: Bind the Hand(s) That Feed (Relative Pitch)
  • Guillermo Gregorio & Brandon Lopez: 12 Episodes (Relative Pitch)
  • Brian Krock: Liddle (Outside In Music): April 26
  • Lapis Trio: The Travelers (Shifting Paradigm)
  • James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto (Relative Pitch)
  • Sean Noonan: Tan Man's Hat (RareNoise): cdr, March 29
  • Jessica Pavone: In the Action (Relative Pitch)
  • Tomeka Reid/Filippo Monico: The Mouser (Relative Pitch)
  • Typical Sisters: Hungry Ghost (Outside In Music): March 22

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Three fairly major stories dominated the news this past week: Trump walking away from his summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un without even making a serious proposal or showing any interest in long-range peace; Michael Cohen's congressional testimony, where he made a case that his own crimes were directed by Trump; and Trump's "free-form" speech at CPAC's annual convention. We'll take these in order, then conclude with the leftovers, including some stories that are actually bigger and more ominous than the headline grabbers: a dangerous border skirmish between nuclear powers India and Pakistan, US escalation against Venezuela, the impending indictment of Israeli PM Netanyahu, the usual gamut of Washington scandals, and some hopeful legislation that Democrats are introducing (and campaigning on).

Some links on Korea and the summit failure:

Some links on Cohen and this week in the "witchhunt":

Monday, February 25, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31174 [31145] rated (+29), 252 [249] unrated (+3).

So-so week, rated count actually a good deal more than I expected, given all the distractions. Since I went to weekly review dumps, I guess that means that the last Monday of the month is the closing date for the archive Streamnotes (February 2019) -- posted at the same time as this Music Week. February's record total of 123 (91 new) is quite a bit less than January's 201 (153 new).

Still listening more to 2018 than 2019 records (15-4 below), even a couple hitherto unnoticed 2017 releases. Should probably write a longer intro, but not feeling it at the moment.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Jakob Anderskov: Mysteries (2017 [2018], ILK): [r]: B+(**)
  • Julian Argüelles: Tonadas (2017 [2018], Edition): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rafiq Bhatia: Breaking English (2018, Anti-): [r]: B+(**)
  • Carsie Blanton: Buck Up (2019, So Ferocious): [r]: A-
  • Martin Blume/Wilbert De Joode/John Butcher: Low Yellow (2016 [2018], Jazzwerkstatt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dinosaur: Wonder Trail (2018, Edition): [r]: B
  • Endangered Blood: Don't Freak Out (2018, Skirl): [r]: A-
  • Hot 8 Brass Band: On the Spot (2017, Tru Thoughts): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Hot 8 Brass Band: Take Cover (2019, Tru Thoughts, EP): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Ohmme: Parts (2018, Joyful Noise): [r]: B+(**)
  • On the Levee Jazz Band: Swinging New Orleans Jazz (2018, Big Al): [bc]: A-
  • Pilgrims [John Wolf Brennan/Tony Majdalani/Marco Jencarelli]: Oriental Orbit (2017, Leo): [r]: B+(*)
  • Chris Potter: Circuits (2019, Edition): [r]: B-
  • RAM: RAM 7: August 1791 (2018, Willibelle): [r]: B
  • Dave Rempis/Brandon Lopez/Ryan Packard: The Early Bird Gets (2018 [2019], Aerophonic): [cd]: A-
  • Valee: GOOD Job, You Found Me (2018, GOOD Music, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kate Vargas: For the Wolfish & Wandering (2018, self-released): [r]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Gboyega Adelaja: Colourful Environment (1979 [2018], Odion Livingstone): [r]: B+(**)
  • African Scream Contest 2 (1970s [2018], Analog Africa): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Dur Dur of Somalia: Volume 1, Volume 2, & Previously Unreleased Tracks (1986-87 [2018], Analog Africa, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Orhestre Abass: De Bassari Togo (1972 [2018], Analog Africa, EP): [r]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • African Scream Contest: Raw & Psychedelic Afro Sounds From Benin & Togo 70s (1970s [2008], Analog Africa): [r]: A-
  • Carsie Blanton: Ain't So Green (2005, self-released): [r]: B+(***)
  • Carsie Blanton: Idiot Heart (2012, self-released): [r]: B+(*)
  • Carsie Blanton: Not Old, Not New (2014, So Ferocious): [r]: B+(**)
  • Carsie Blanton: So Ferocious (2016, So Ferocious): [r]: B+(*)
  • Andrew D'Angelo Trio: Skadra Degis (2007 [2008], Skirl): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Andrew D'Angelo Trio: Norman (2015, self-released): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Endangered Blood: Work Your Magic (2012 [2013], Skirl): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kitchen Orchestra/Alexander Von Schlippenbach: Kitchen Orchestra With Alexander Von Schlippenbach (2013, Whats Cooking): [r]: B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Atomic: Pet Variations (Odin)
  • Lyn Stanley: London Calling: A Toast to Julie London (A.T. Music)
  • Carol Sudhalter Quartet: Live at Saint Peter's Church (Alfa Projects)
  • Assif Tsahar/William Parker/Hamid Drake: In Between the Tumbling a Stillness (Hopscotch) [A-]

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Weekend Roundup

When I started this exercise, I reassured myself that I would just go through the motions, collecting a few notes that I may wish to refer back to after the 2020 election. While I've written very little on it, I've thought a lot more about my four-era synopsis of American history, and I'm more convinced than ever that the fourth -- the one that started in 1980 with Ronald Reagan -- ends definitively with Donald Trump in 2020. I doubt I'll ever manage to write that book, but it's coming together pretty clearly in my mind. I'll resist the temptation to explain how and why. But I will offer a couple of comments on how this affects the Democratic presidential field. For starters, it is very important that the Democrats nominate someone who is not closely tied to Reagan-era Democratic politics, which means the Clintons, Obama, and Joe Biden. Those politicians based their success on their ability to work with Reagan-era constraint and tropes, and those have become liabilities.

It's time for a break, which could mean an older candidate with clear history of resisting Clinton-Obama compromises (like Bernie Sanders) or a younger candidate who's simply less compromised. Second point is that Republicans have become so monolithically tied to Trump, while Trump has become so polarizing, that no amount of "moderation" is likely to gain votes in the "middle" of the electorate. On the other hand, these days "moderation" is likely to be seen as lack of principles and/or character. In this primary season I don't see any reason not to go with whichever Democrat who comes up with the best platform. Still, there is one trait I might prefer over a better platform, which is dedication to advancing the whole party, and not just one candidate or faction.

I don't intend to spend much time or space on candidates, but I did note Bernie Sanders' joining the race below, a piece on his foreign policy stance (which has more to do with the shortcomings of other Democrats), as well as a couple of policy initiatives from Elizabeth Warren -- who's been working hard to establish her edge there. I've been running into a lot of incoherent spite and resentment against Sanders, both before and since his announcement, often from otherwise principled leftists, especially directed against hypothetical "purists" who disdain other "progressives" as not good enough. I'm far enough to the left that no one's ever good enough, but you make do with what you can get. I sympathize with Steve M.'s tweet:

Everyone, pro and anti Bernie: Just grow the fuck up. He's in the race. Vote for him, don't vote for him, let the process play out, then fight like hell to enact whoever wins the nomination. STOP DOING 2016 BATTLE REENACTMENTS.

Of course, if Hillary throws her hat in, all bets are off.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias:

  • Jamelle Bouie: Sanders has an advantage, and it's not about economics: "He has put forward a foreign policy vision that pits democratic peoples everywhere against illiberalism at home and abroad." I wish he was better still -- Laura blew up about some comments he made the other day on Venezuela, but he's not as kneejerk reflexive as most Democrats, or as gullible when someone pitches a war as humanitarian -- but he's closer to having a framework for thinking about America's imperial posture than almost anyone with a chance to do something about it. By far the biggest risk Democrats are running is the chance they may (as Hillary was) be tarred as the war party.

  • Ted Galen Carpenter: How NATO pushed the US Into the Libya fiasco: I think this was pretty obvious at the time, although once the US intervened, as it did, the war quickly became something all sides could blame on America -- particularly as the US had a long history that had only grown more intense under Bush and Obama of absent-minded intervention in Islamic nations. Obama later said that he regretted not the intervention per se but not planning better for the aftermath -- an indication of lack of desire or interest, not that Bush's occupation of Iraq turned out any better. (Of course, the fiasco in Iraq was also excused as poorly planned, but no one doubted the interest and excitement of the Bremer period as Americans tried to refashion Iraq in the image of, well, Texas.) One point that could be better explained is that Europe (especially France and Italy) had long-standing commercial ties to Libya, which America's anti-Qaddafi tantrums (at once high-handed, capricious, arbitrary, and indifferent to consequences) had repeatedly undermined. After NATO fell in line behind the US in Afghanistan and (for the most part) Iraq, Europeans felt America owed them something, and that turned out to be Libya. That all these cases proved disappointing should prove that NATO itself was never the right vehicle for dealing with world or regional problems.

  • Ben Freeman: US foreign policy is for sale: "Washington think tanks receive millions of dollars from authoritarian governments to shape foreign policy in their favor." Not just authoritarian governments, although you could argue that the most obvious exception, Israel, qualifies. For that matter it seems likely that many other nations (democracies as well as dictatorships) are every bit as active in buying American foreign policy favors -- so much so that singling out the "authoritarians" is just a rhetorical ploy. Original link to TomDispatch. By the way, in the latter, Tom Engelhardt quotes from Stephen Walt's new book, The Hell of Good Intentions: America's Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of US Primacy:

    [T]he contemporary foreign policy community has been characterized less by competence and accountability and more by a set of pathologies that have undermined its ability to set realistic goals and pursue them effectively. To put it in the bluntest terms, instead of being a disciplined body of professionals constrained by a well-informed public and forced by necessity to set priorities and hold themselves accountable, today's foreign policy elite is a dysfunctional caste of privileged insiders who are frequently disdainful of alternative perspectives and insulated both professionally and personally from the consequences of the policies they promote.

    Although "good intentions" often fail, Walt is being overly generous in accepting them at face value. Up to WWII, US foreign policy was almost exclusively dictated by private interests -- mostly traders and financiers, with an auxiliary of missionaries. WWII convinced American leaders that they had a calling to lead and manage the world, so they came up with a great myth of "good intentions," although those were soon shattered as they embraced slogans like "better dead than red."

  • Greg Grandin: How the failure of our foreign wars fueled nativist fanaticism: "For nearly two centuries, US politicians have channeled extremism outward. But the frontier is gone, the empire is faltering, and the chickens are coming home to roost." Adapted from Grandin's new book, The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border in the Mind of America.

    Had the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq not gone so wrong, perhaps George W. Bush might have been able to contain the growing racism within his party's rank and file[1] by channeling it into his Middle East crusade, the way Ronald Reagan broke up the most militant nativist vigilantes in the 1980s by focusing their attention on Central America. For nearly two centuries, from Andrew Jackson forward, the country's political leaders enjoyed the benefit of being able to throw its restless and angry citizens -- of the kind who had begun mustering on the border in the year before 9/11 -- outward, into campaigns against Mexicans, Native Americans, Filipinos, and Nicaraguans, among other enemies.

    But the occupations did go wrong. Bush and his neoconservative advisers had launched what has now become the most costly war in the nation's history, on the heels of pushing through one of the largest tax cuts in the nation's history. They were following the precedent set by Reagan, who in the 1980s slashed taxes even as he increased the military budget until deficits went sky-high. Yet the news coming in from Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere began to suggest that Bush had created an epic disaster. Politicians and policy intellectuals began to debate what is and isn't torture and to insist that, whatever "enhanced interrogation" was, the United States had a right to do it. Photographs from Abu Ghraib prison showing US personnel cheerfully taunting and torturing Iraqis circulated widely, followed by reports of other forms of cruelty inflicted on prisoners by US troops. Many people were coming to realize that the war was not just illegal in its conception but deceptive in its justification, immoral in its execution, and corrupt in its administration.

    Every president from Reagan onward has raised the ethical stakes, insisting that what they called "internationalism" -- be it murderous wars in impoverished Third World countries or corporate trade treaties -- was a moral necessity. But the disillusionment generated by Bush's war on terrorism, the velocity with which events revealed the whole operation to be a sham, was extraordinary -- as was the dissonance. The war, especially that portion of it allegedly intended to bring democracy to Iraq, was said to mark a new era of national purpose. And yet a coordinated campaign of deceit, carried out with the complicity of reporters working for the country's most respected news sources, had to be waged to ensure public support. The toppling of Saddam Hussein was predicted to be a "cakewalk," and US soldiers, according to Vice President Dick Cheney, would "be greeted as liberators." But Cheney still insisted that he needed to put in place a global network of secret torture sites in order to win the War on Terror.

    As thousands died and billions went missing, the vanities behind not just the war but the entire post-Cold War expansionist project came to a crashing end. . . .

    War revanchism usually takes place after conflicts end -- the Ku Klux Klan after World War I, for example, or the radicalization of white supremacism after Vietnam.[2] Now, though, it took shape while the war was still going on.[3] And border paramilitarism began to pull in not only soldiers who had returned from the war but the veterans of older conflicts.

    Notes: [1] Of course, "channeling" racism wasn't something Bush II worried about, after Nixon, Reagan, and Bush I had built their winning presidential campaigns by cultivating it. It was by then part of the Republican brand. [2] What about the Red Scares following both World Wars? Even wars that were definitely won seem to have left a hunger for more, starting with the search for scapegoats. [3] Or should we say, the war abroad dragged on even after most Americans lost interest in or commitment to it?

  • Alex Isenstadt: Trump rolls out massive corporate-style campaign structure for 2020.

  • Sarah Kliff: Elizabeth Warren's universal child care plan, extended: More evidence that Warren is running away from the pack in producing serious thinking about and proposals for policy. For another, see: German Lopez: Elizabeth Warren's ambitious plan to fight the opioid epidemic, explained.

  • Natasha Korecki: 'Sustain and ongoing' disinformation assault targets Dem presidential candidates: "A coordinated barrage of social media attacks suggests the involvement of foreign state actors." I bet not just those scary foreign state names but PACs and slush funds all over the world, any outfit with a cross to bear or an interest to push.

  • Anna North: The Trump administration is finalizing plans to strip funding from Planned Parenthood.

  • John Pilger: The war on Venezuela is built on lies. Also related: Timothy M Gill: Why is the Venezuelan government rejecting US food supplies?

    We can surely debate the cruelty of Maduro's domestic policies and his inability and unwillingness to seriously combat the economic crisis, perhaps in an effort to benefit his cronies. Yet, Maduro is not incorrect about the U.S.'s disingenuous behavior.

    At the same time that the U.S. is portraying itself as a literary protagonist with its supplies situated on the Colombia-Venezuela border, its policies are intensifying hardships for Venezuelan citizens. If it truly wanted to help Venezuelans, it could work through international and multilateral institutions to send aid to Venezuela, push for dialogue, and take some options off the table, namely military intervention.

    Above all, the U.S. is currently damaging the Venezuelan economy with its sanctions, and its supplies on the border will do very little to solve the crisis writ large. If sanctions haven't felled governments in Iran or Syria, to name just two examples, it doesn't seem likely that they will fall the Maduro government any time soon. They'll only perpetuate suffering and ultimately generate acrimony towards the country.

    The US has put this kind of pressure on nations before, imposing huge popular hardships as punishment for the government's failure to surrender to American interests. Crippling sanctions failed to break North Korea and Cuba. Iraq held out until the US invaded, then resisted until American troops withdrew. Syria descended into a brutal civil war. The US is on a path of goading Maduro into becoming the sort of brutal dictator that Assad became. One might cite Nicaragua as the exception, where the Sandinista regime relinquished power to US cronies, for what little good it did them.

  • Aaron Rupar:

  • Stephanie Savell: US counterterrorism missions across the planet: "Now in 80 countries, it couldn't be more global." See the map.

  • Tim Shorrock: Why are Democrats trying to torpedo the Korea peace talks? That's a good question. You'd think that Democrats would realize by now that the conflicts created and exacerbated by America's global military posture undermine both our own security and any prospects for achieving any of their domestic political goals.

    "Democrats should support diplomacy, and remember the most important president in this process is Moon Jae-in, not Donald Trump," Martin said. "Moon's persistent leadership toward reconciliation and diplomacy with North Korea represents the fervent desire of the Korean and Korean-American people for peace. Members of Congress from both parties should understand that and support it, skepticism about Trump and Kim notwithstanding."

  • Amanda Sperber: Inside the secretive US air campaign in Somalia: "Since Trump took office, figuring out whom the US is killing and why has become nearly impossible."

  • Emily Stewart:

  • Matt Taibbi:

    • Thomas Friedman is right: Pie doesn't grow on trees. Taibbi is the reigning champ of parsing Friedman's blabber, but instead of translating his pie metaphors into English, Taibbi is so overwhelmed by the moment he just transcribes them into page-straddling German nouns. The Friedman piece in question: Is America becoming a four-party state? I would start by sketching this out as a 2x2 chart, labeling the vertical columns Republicans and Democrats. The top row for leaders of both parties who think that all you need is growth (which mostly means pandering to big business); the bottom row for the resentful masses who feel they haven't been getting their fair share of all that growth. I imagine this less as four squares than as a capital-A. The top row is narrowed, the partisan differences marginal, while the bottom row diverges as to who to blame. Friedman pines for the good old days when all elites of both parties had to do was compete with each other to better serve the rich, when no one on either side stooped to pandering to the masses.

    • Bernie enters the 2020 race with defiant anti-Trump rhetoric.

    • Does Washington know the difference between dissent and disinformation?

  • Margaret Talbot: Revisiting the American Nazi supporters of "A Night at the Garden": A seven-minute documentary film nominated for an Oscar, based on a 1939 pro-Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden, and its relevance today.

  • Jeffrey Toobin: Roger Stone's and Jerome Corsi's time in the barrel: "Why the mismatched operatives matter to Trump -- and to the Mueller investigation."

  • Alex Ward:

  • Sean Wilentz: Presumed Guilty: A book review of Ken Starr: Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation, a reminder of the days when so-called Independent Investigators really knew how to run a witch hunt. Perhaps the new piece of information here is the extreme contempt that Starr and his minions, including Brett Kavanaugh, held for Hillary Clinton.

  • Li Zhou: The House will vote Tuesday on blocking Trump's national emergency.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31145 [31103] rated (+42), 249 [251] unrated (-2).

Still killing time fiddling with the Pazz & Jop ballots and my EOY Aggregate list. As I'm only selectively adding P&J voters' ballots to the count, I've been perturbing the standings a bit, nudging Cardi B (which I like more) into 4th over Pusha T and Low (which I don't like, although it's far from their worst) down to 10th, under Noname and Parquet Courts (which I do like). Reminds me of something I used to do in my late teens, when I could create my own book lists by mixing real bestseller with other books I was drawn to, including a lot of titles from Pantheon, Grove Press, and Monthly Review Books. The EOY Aggregate remains more rooted in reality, but factoring in my own grades and lists from favored critics and fellow travelers does add a (useful, I think) bias to the thing.

Jazz and Non-Jazz EOY lists have evened out a bit, 63-58, with one late-discovered A- in each this week. Also found my first 2019 non-jazz A-, against 12 jazz A/A- records (although Leyla McCalla's Capitalist Blues could be called non-jazz, and two more of that dozen feature spoken-word poetry).

I pulled a couple old unrated CDs off the shelf this week, now in "old music" below. I should note that French blues collection is part of a series. I also own The Prewar Vocal Jazz Story (1923-45, released 1996), which is in my database as a full A. I gave it a spin last week, and it would be hard to improve on. Had I spent more time with The Prewar Blues Story, I might have concluded it's every bit as authoritative. There are more volumes in the series, all long out of print, but likely to be worthwhile if you stumble upon one. Booklets are pretty good.

After Christgau's Expert Witness, I spent some more time with Alex Chilton reissues -- although I was actually primed with last week's review of Big Star's Live at Lafayette's Music Room. I had reviewed Ocean Club '77 back when it came out, but gave it another shot, and a better grade.

Last week I started replacing my rated albums lists with my review notes. Working methodology is to collect the list in a scratch file and retain it in the notebook, while only swapping the reviews in for the blog post. Still a bit awkward for me, but I trust more timely reviews in smaller than monthly chunks will be more useful.

New records rated this week:

  • Asleep at the Wheel: New Routes (2018, Bismeaux): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bad Bunny: X 100PRE (2018, Rimas Entertainment): [r]: B+(*)
  • J Balvin: Vibras (2018, Universal Latino): [r]: B+(**)
  • Blueprint: Two-Headed Monster (2018, Weightless): [r]: A-
  • Moses Boyd Exodus: Displaced Diaspora (2018, Exodus): [r]: B+(***)
  • BTS: Love Yourself: Tear (2018, Big Hit): [r]: B
  • Mariah Carey: Caution (2018, Epic): [r]: B
  • Hayes Carll: What It Is (2019, Dualtone): [r]: A-
  • Cypress Hill: Elephants on Acid (2018, BMG): [r]: B+(**)
  • Michael Dease: Reaching Out (2017 [2018], Posi-Tone): [r]: B
  • Michael Dease: Bonafide (2018, Posi-Tone): [r]: B+(**)
  • Michael Dessen Trio: Somewhere in the Upstream (2016 [2018], Clean Feed): [s]: B+(***)
  • José Dias: After Silence, Vol. 1 (2017 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Erin Rae: Putting on Airs (2018, Single Lock): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kinky Friedman: Circus of Life (2018, Echo Hill): [r]: B+(*)
  • Joshua Hedley: Mr. Jukebox (2018, Third Man): [r]: B
  • Muncie Girls: Fixed Ideals (2018, Buzz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Murs: A Strange Journey Into the Unimaginable (2018, Strange Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Thiago Nassif: Três (2015 [2018], Foom): [r]: A-
  • Larry Ochs/Nels Cline/Gerald Cleaver: What Is to Be Done (2016 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Carly Pearce: Every Little Thing (2017, Big Machine): [r]: B-
  • Rich Pellegrin: Down (2014 [2019], OA2): [cd]: B
  • Scott Robinson: Tenormore (2018 [2019], Arbors Jazz): [cd]: A-
  • Shad: A Short Story About a War (2018, Secret City): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature (2018 [2019], ESP-Disk): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jorja Smith: Lost & Found (2018, FAMM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ricardo Toscano: Quartet (2018, Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jeff Tweedy: Warm (2018, dBpm): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jack White: Boarding House Reach (2018, Third Man/Columbia): [r]: B-
  • Kelly Willis: Back Being Blue (2018, Premium): [r]: B+(*)
  • Luke Winslow-King: Blue Mesa (2018, Bloodshot): [r]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Big Star: Live on WLIR (1974 [2019], Omnivore): [r]: B+(**)
  • Alex Chilton: From Memphis to New Orleans (1985-89 [2019], Bar/None): [r]: A-
  • Fred Hersch Trio: Heartsongs (1989 [2018], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • King of the Road: A Tribute to Roger Miller (2018, BMG, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • 1930s Jazz: The Singers (1930-38 [1987], Columbia): [cd]: B+(**)
  • 1930s Jazz: The Small Combos (1930-39 [1987], Columbia): [cd]: B+(***)
  • 1940s Jazz: The Singers (1940-49 [1987], Columbia): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Best of Blues Records Presents: The Prewar Blues Story [La Grande Époque du Blues 1926-1943] (1926-43 [1994], Best of Blues, 2CD): [cd]: A-
  • Alex Chilton: Bach's Bottom (1975 [1993], Razor & Tie): [r]: B+(*)
  • Alex Chilton: Like Flies on Sherbert (1979 [1996], Last Call): [r]: B

Grade (or other) changes:

  • Alex Chilton: Ocean Club '77 (1977 [2015], Norton): [r]: [was: B+(**)] A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Randy Brecker & NDR Bigband: Rocks (Piloo): February 22
  • Doug MacDonald Quartet: Organisms (self-released)
  • Nick Sanders Trio: Playtime 2050 (Sunnyside): March 15
  • Urbanity: Urbanity (Alfi) **

Daily Log

The Wichita Eagle dropped Non Sequitur from its comics page, responding to the fake news "outrage" over a largely invisible "Fuck Trump" buried in a "coloring book" comic. I wrote this to the Eagle:

Please reconsider your hasty decision to drop Non Sequitur from the comics page. For that matter, please consider bring Doonesbury back -- it's always been much more than political commentary. Your efforts to impose your sense of political correctness on something that's first and foremost entertainment diminishes the value of your sadly declining product. It would also save us from having to reconsider whether your paper is worth what we pay for it.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Another weekly batch of links and comments. At some point I started shunting pieces on Trump's "state of emergency" declaration to the end, but a few are scattered in the main list. Also wound up adding more "related" links under first-found stories. More time might let me sort out a better pecking order. But at this point I'm mostly going through the motions, to establish a record for possible later review. Book idea is still germinating. Last couple weeks have been especially trying for me, and this coming one looks likely to be worse.

Some scattered links this week:

Some more links on the "emergency" declaration:

Friday, February 15, 2019

Daily Log

Monday, February 11, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31103 [30062] rated (+41), 251 [253] unrated (-2).

Last week I speculated about possibly changing the Music Week format to offer my reviews in weekly doses, so you get information sooner and in what should be more digestible doses (20-40 records per week instead of 100-200 records at the end of the month). As I thought about it, I realized that I could still archive the reviews in monthly chunks, and announce that file when it becomes public. So, I'm trying that approach this week. Actually, there is a bit of surplus here: a few records that appeared in last week's Music Week that I got to after posting January 2019 Streamnotes.

I haven't really figured the workflow out yet. What I'm thinking is that I'll collect Music Week in the notebook as usual, then swap in the reviews when I create the blog post file. Still some room for sloppy errors here, even with all the redundancy. Rated count report this week is slightly higher than actual because I came up short and found a half-dozen unregistered grades -- probably over the last 3-4 weeks, as that's about when I last checked the ungraded list.

The Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll came out last week. I didn't vote, as I wasn't invited (for the first time since when? 2002?). Relevant links:

They only listed the top 100 albums, and didn't include vote counts (just points). I scraped a copy of the ballot data but haven't yet done anything to clean up the data to make it more useful. I added the top-100 rank and a few dozen select voter ballots to my EOY Aggregate, but haven't done the one thing that would be most useful: make sure all of the records that got votes but didn't crack the top 100 get recognized in the EOY Aggregate. In recent years somewhere between 1400 and 2000 records got votes (from 400+ voters). This year should be pretty close to those numbers. My EOY Aggregate currently lists 3216 new records (plus 367 reissues/compilations/etc.). I'd guess that there are at least 100 records in the ballot fine print that I've missed. Whether it's worth pursuing this any further is hard to say.

The P&J winner this year was Kacey Musgraves' Golden Hour, but my EOY Aggregate favors Janelle Monáe's Dirty Computer, by a pretty solid margin. Musgraves also won Uproxx's slapdash critics poll, although by a closer margin. I've had Monáe in the lead since the second week of counting, and for most of this time Musgraves was in 3rd, behind Mitski's Be the Cowboy. Musgraves did lead Metacritic's aggregate (98.5 to 97 points), but Monáe led at Album of the Year, with Mitski second and Musgraves a fairly distant third (364-353-295 points). Acclaimed Music Forums has had Monáe ahead from the start, with Musgraves down at 7th as of February 6 (including P&J), after Monáe, Low, Idles, Pusha T, Mitski, and Robyn). I'm not able to access the latter's spreadsheets, but they break lists down by US, UK, and other, and include a lot of the latter. I think it's fair to say that Musgraves benefits from US bias, not so much because American critics prefer her to Monáe as because non-Americans don't. Idles seems to be the band with the greatest UK bias (3 at AMF, 35 P&J, followed by Arctic Monkeys (11 at AMF, 43 P&J).

I keep putting off trying to write up some commentary on the EOY lists, and will have to punt again this week. I will note that Wayne Shorter's Emanon, which won top album in our Jazz Critics Poll, finally appeared on Napster last week. I played it and while I suspected that it was overrated, I was really surprised at how painful it was to listen to. The orchestra side was one of the worst I've heard, but the live quartet sides were little better (despite momentary exceptions).

By the way, I posted a new edition of Robert Christgau's Xgau Sez questions and answers. I was struck by this line:

you don't review an album properly by listening once and jotting down your thoughts but by immersing over time and then spending hours finding words to convey your response, all hours in which you can't listen to anything else.

Actually, I do the exact opposite of this. Most of the notes below are based on a single play of an album, often while I was distracted trying to write something about a completely different topic. Worse still, sometimes I didn't even manage to jot down my thoughts: I found myself at the end of an album with a proximate grade impression but no details and no self-analysis as to why I felt the way I did -- and most importantly, no desire to correct my lapse by listening to the record again. At this point I don't even feel like trying to justify the way I work.

On the other hand, I will note that it increasingly seems like I'm working under a cloud of doubts about my ability to express myself clearly -- even in matters of much greater import than which underground rapper might be worth your while. (There are several this week, and the odds that I got the pecking order right aren't especially good.) Maybe that's why I'm having so much trouble moving on from this EOY list nonsense?

New records rated this week:

  • Ace of Cups: Ace of Cups (2018, High Moon): [r]: B+(*)
  • Aceyalone & DJ Fatjack: 43rd & Excellence (2018, That Kind of Music): [r]: A-
  • Ralph Alessi: Imaginary Friends (2018 [2019], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ehud Asherie Trio: Wild Man Blues (2018 [2019], Capri): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Dem Atlas: Bad Actress (2018, Rhymesayers): [r]: B
  • August Greene: August Greene (2018, Fat Beats): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chuck D as Mistachuck: Celebration of Ignorance (2018, SpitSLAM): [r]: B+(***)
  • Double Dee & Steinski: Lesson 4: The Beat (2018, self-released, EP): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Mats Eilertsen: And Then Comes the Night (2018 [2019], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sue Foley: The Ice Queen (2018, Stony Plain): [r]: B+(***)
  • Nick Grinder: Farallon (2018 [2019], self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • G Herbo: Humble Beast (2017, Machine): [r]: B+(*)
  • G Herbo & Southside: Swervo (Machine/Epic/Cinematic/150 Dream Team/808 Mafia): [r]: B+(*)
  • Charlotte Hug & Lucas Niggli: Fulguratio: Live at Ad Libitum 2016 (2016 [2018], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Mick Jenkins: Pieces of a Man (2018, Cinematic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Cody Jinks: Lifers (2018, Rounder): [r]: B+(*)
  • Darren Johnston/Tim Daisy: Crossing Belmont (2017, Relay): [bc]: B+(***)
  • K.A.A.N.: Subtle Meditation (2018, Redefinition): [bc]: A-
  • José Lencastre Nau Quartet: Fragments of Always (2016 [2017], FMR): [bc]: B+(***)
  • José Lencastre Nau Quartet: Eudaimonia (2018, FMR): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Marlowe: Marlowe (2018, Mello Music Group): [r]: B+(***)
  • Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues (2019, Jazz Village): [r]: A-
  • Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom: Glitter Wolf (2019, The Royal Potato Family): [r]: A-
  • Ulysses Owens Jr.: Songs of Freedom (2018 [2019], Resilience Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Phonte: No News Is Good News (2018, Foreign Exchange): [r]: B+(**)
  • Verneri Pohjola/Maciej Garbowski/Krzysztof Gradziuk: Gemstones (2017 [2018], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Javier Santiago: Phoenix (2016 [2018], Ropeadope): [r]: B
  • Shannon Shaw: Shannon in Nashville (2018, Easy Eye Sound/Nonesuch): [r]: B+(***)
  • Wayne Shorter: Emanon (2015-16 [2018], Blue Note, 3CD): [r]: B-
  • Vestbo Trio: Gentlemen . . . (2019, Dog Hound): [bc]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Big Star: Live at Lafayette's Music Room (1973 [2018], Omnivore): [r]: B+(*)
  • A Certain Ratio: acr:set (1980-94 [2018], Mute): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Louvin Brothers: Love and Wealth: The Lost Recordings (1952-55 [2018], Modern Harmonic, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Make Mine Mondo! (1958-69 [2018], Ace): [r]: B
  • Neil Young: Songs for Judy (1976 [2018], Reprise): [r]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Jeb Bishop & Tim Daisy: Old Shoulders (2012, Relay): [bc]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Mimi Fox: This Bird Still Flies (Origin): February 15
  • Marilyn Mazur: Marilyn Mazur's Shamania (RareNoise): advance, February 22
  • Liebman Rudolph & Drake: Chi (RareNoise): advance, February 22
  • Rich Pellegrin: Down (OA2): February 15
  • Scott Robinson: Tenormore (Arbors Jazz): April 5


A Certain Ratio: ACR:Set (1980-94 [2018], Mute): B+(*)

Make Mine Mondo! ([2018], Ace): B+(*)

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Nothing much on Korea this week, other than Trump announces second Kim summit will be in Hanoi, Vietnam, a few weeks out (Feb. 27-28). The Wichita Peace Center was pleased to host a couple of events last week when Professor Nan Kim from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, author of Memory, Reconciliation, and Reunions in South Korea: Crossing the Divide (2016), an activist in Women Cross DMZ (here on Twitter). I expect we'll be seeing a lot of speculation and spin on Korea over the next few weeks, especially from neocons so enamored with perpetual war -- but also from Democrats hoping to score cheap points against Trump. I've written a fair amount about Korea over the years. I won't try to recapitulate here, but here's a bit from a letter I wrote last year, with links to various key writings:

I wrote up some further comments on the Korea situation in the intro to my August 26, 2018 Weekend Roundup blog post.

I was born in October, 1950, the same week as the Chinese entry, a date which marked the maximal US advance in the peninsula. I wrote several pages about this in a memoir. I've written a fair amount about Korea over the years -- mostly when US presidents threatened to blow it up. For instance:

Many lesser references, including virtually every month since March 2017. I've also been known to make a pretty decent kimchi, and a couple dozen other Korean dishes.

On nuclear weapons, I wrote a fairly substantial post on Aug. 6, 2005, another on Aug. 21, 2015.

I've read Rhodes' four books on nuclear weapons, plus quite a bit more. I believe that Kurlansky's 2nd point is generally correct ["Nations that build military forces as deterrents will eventually use them"], but nuclear weapons are something of an exception: most politicians, even ones as ill-disposed toward peace as Kennedy and Krushchev, seem to have drawn a line there, so I tend not to worry as much as most of us about proliferation.

One thing I hadn't thought much about until Saturday was the economic problem of unifying Korea. I was aware of the German "model" -- and thought at the time that people were following a lot of bad ideas (e.g., totally shuttering the East German auto industry because their cars weren't good enough to sell in the West). But I didn't follow it much later -- I do know more about the economic failures in Russia, especially in the 1990s, when as David Satter put it, "[Russia's reformers] assumed that the initial accumulation of capital in a market economy is almost always criminal, and, as they were resolutely procapitalist, they found it difficult to be strongly anticrime. . . . The combination of social darwinism, economic determinism, and a tolerant attitude toward crime prepared the young reformers to carry out a frontal attack on the structures of the Soviet system without public support or a framework of law." (Quote in my 17/04 notebook, referring back to 07/09.)

Anyhow, I now think the utter impossibility of unifying the two Korean economies is an important point -- one of several that Americans don't seem to have a clue about.

I'll add one comment here. One thing I was struck by in Trump's State of the Union address was this:

On Friday, it was announced that we added another 304,000 jobs last month alone -- almost double what was expected. An economic miracle is taking place in the United States -- and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations.

If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn't work that way!

My bold. Of course, the point everyone noticed was his plea that for the good of the country (i.e., Trump) Democrats must give up their efforts to investigate (e.g., Trump, for possible crimes or other embarrassments). Of course, he had no hope of getting his way there, even if his intent was truly threatening -- e.g., that if the Democrats investigated him, he might start a "wag the dog" war as a diversion, hoping the people would blame the Democrats. Still, I think the quote does show that when his personal financial interests aren't slanted otherwise, Trump is inclined to favor peace. The saber-rattling over Iran is clearly a case where the corrupt money (from Israel and the Saudis) is able to make Trump more belligerent. Venezuela is another case where Trump's corrupt influences may lead to war. But Korea is one case where the major influencers -- even if you discount Russia and China -- are pushing Trump toward war, so it offers a rare opportunity to claim success at achieving peace. Granted, the neocons and the defense industry don't like it, but they may be just as happy to pivot to higher budget, lower risk "threats" like Russia and China. That's one of several reason to be cautiously optimistic that Trump might be able to deliver a peaceful outcome. On the other hand, I think that Democrats need to be very cautious, lest Trump be able to make them out to be dangerous, war-thirsty provocateurs. I still believe that a major reason Trump beat Clinton in 2016 was that she came off as the more belligerent (e.g., her claims to superiority in "the commander-in-chief test").

Some scattered links this week:

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Daily Log

Tweeted this:

Someone should write an opinion piece arguing that Democrats shouldn't quit at the first hint of scandal, or demand that other Democrats quit. Be aware, acknowledge mistakes, learn, make amends, but stick with it and continue to serve.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31062 [30033] rated (+29), 253 [251] unrated (+2).

Rated count down from 40+ in recent weeks, mostly because I finally took the time to plow through Anthony Braxton's 11-CD Sextet (Parker) 1993 (on Bandcamp). Only gave it one pass (spread over three days), but loved nearly every minute of it. I pulled the original 1995 2-CD release out, Charlie Parker Project 1993, thinking it might be time to bump it up from A-, and played the live disc in the car today, but couldn't hear enough to make much difference. There is more super-long Braxton on his Bandcamp, if I ever find time to dig into it.

January 2019 Streamnotes appeared last week, with 201 record reviews. That is up from 138 in December, 186 in August (the most of any 2018 month). I looked back through 2013 and didn't find a month/column with more records (185 in November 2013 was the highest 2013-17 total). As I noted back on August 30, 2018, my single column record was 206 records on November 8, 2009, but that was before I settled on monthly posts, so covered 41 days.

I've thought a bit about going back to posting weekly, which would basically mean 20-40 records per post. I could still collect them in monthly files for archival purposes. Doing it weekly would be timelier, and involve more easily digested chunks. It's also been suggested that I should hold back reviews until release dates. Readers noted that of the 8 2019 A/A- releases I touted in January, only 3 had actually been released when my column came out. No commitment yet, but I'll think about that.

I decided that for album tracking purposes, 2018 ended on January 31, 2019 -- the date of my frozen album list. I'll keep adding records to the working album list until January 31, 2020 (a month later than my usual deadline, as I noticed this year that I was finding out about late 2017 releases only when I saw 2018 EOY lists). These are marked in a distinct color, which helps me keep track of some stats. I'm still adding records to the 2018 Jazz and Non-Jazz best-of lists, and will probably do that well into next fall. I'm also still adding to the Music Tracking 2018 file, but the rate has slowed down as I've largely stopped adding to the 2018 EOY Aggregate (and its reissues/old music edition). The Music Tracking file is the easiest way I have of counting how many 2018 releases I've heard/graded: 1091. This also shows that the jazz share was 735 (67.3%). Some other genre totals: hip-hop (88), electronica (38), country (33), world (32), metal (3). Some other genres have switches, but I don't have data for them to use.

I figured out a solution to the database update character set problem I mentioned last week. Importing an ISO-8859-1 mysqldump file using PhpMyAdmin somehow corrupts the file, even with explicit character set flags. But the command line interface read the file correctly, and once stored in the database the PHP code was able to handle it correctly. I was also able to fix a problem with the RSS feed, where the HTTP header and XML header were reporting different character sets. I'm still confused by Firefox, where the "Page Info" dialog still claims "text encoding: windows-1252." I hate it when diagnostic tools lie to you -- in part because you have to prove that no other explanation is possible, and that's a lot more work than finding a workaround -- but that seems to be the case here.

I did finally manage to port the RSS code I wrote for Christgau back to my own website. Same basic problem in that I have to manually edit the description file. I've never used RSS, and was surprised to find that built-in support for it was recently dropped by Firefox. In principle, it should be very useful for me -- especially when compiling Weekend Roundup posts. If you can recommend a reader, let me know. Also let me know if you're having any problems with these RSS feeds. I still intend to port the Q&A system. Shouldn't be much work, especially now that I seem to be working my way past some of the technical problems I've been plagued with recently. Next priority issue for me is to be able to reboot my main machine cleanly. At the moment, I have a batch of software updates waiting reboot. Would be good to post this update before I risk that.

New records rated this week:

  • Armand Hammer: Paraffin (2018, Backwoodz Studioz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bhad Bhabie: 15 (2018, BHAD Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jon Cleary: Dyna-Mite (2018, FHQ): [r]: B+(*)
  • Elvis Costello & the Imposters: Look Now (2018, Concord): [r]: B-
  • Marilyn Crispell/Tanya Kalmanovitch/Richard Teitelbaum: Dream Libretto (2018, Leo): [r]: B+(*)
  • Stephan Crump's Rosetta Trio: Outliers (2017 [2019], Papillon): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Dessa: Chime (2018, Doomtree): [r]: A-
  • Yelena Eckemoff/Manu Katché: Colors (2017 [2019], L&H Production): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Scott Hamilton Trio: Live at Pyatt Hall (2017 [2018], Cellar Live): [r]: B+(**)
  • Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions (2014-15 [2019], Flat Langston's Arkeyes): [cd]: A
  • Julia Holter: Aviary (2018, Domino): [r]: B
  • Sarathy Korwar and Upaj Collective: My East Is Your West (2018, Gearbox): [r]: B+(**)
  • Joe Lovano: Trio Tapestry (2018 [2019], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ahmoudou Madassane: Zerzura (2018, Sahel Sounds): [r]: B+(**)
  • Metric: Art of Doubt (2018, Metric/BMG): [r]: B+(***)
  • Van Morrison: The Prophet Speaks (2018, Exile): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jim Piela: Out of Orbit (2018 [2019], Orenda): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Popcaan: Forever (2018, Mixpak): [r]: B+(**)
  • Protoje: A Matter of Time (2018, Easy Star): [r]: B+(*)
  • Zhenya Strigalev: Blues for Maggie (2017 [2018], Whirlwind): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Tony Tixier: Life of Sensitive Creatures (2016 [2017], Whirlwind): [bc]: B+(**)
  • The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: Global Reach (2018 [2019], self-released): [cd]: C
  • Nate Wooley & Torben Snekkestad: Of Echoing Bronze (2015 [2018], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Anthony Braxton: Sextet (Parker) 1993 (1993 [2018], New Braxton House, 11CD): [bc]: A-
  • Asnake Gebreyes: Ahadu (1988 [2018], Buda Musique): [r]: B+(***)
  • Oneness of Juju: African Rhythms (1975 [2018], Strut): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Paranoid Style: Rock & Roll Just Can't Recall + 3 (2015 [2018], Bar/None, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Cecil Taylor: Conversations With Tony Oxley (2008 [2018], Jazzwerkstatt): [r]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ehud Asherie Trio: Wild Man Blues (Capri): March 15
  • Nick Grinder: Farallon (self-released)
  • Jim Piela: Out of Orbit (Orenda)
  • Anna Webber: Clockwise (Pi): February 22

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Weekend Roundup

We watched Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 11/9 last night. Here's a review by Owen Gleiberman, which hits most of the key points. Seems to me he should have cut it into two separate movies: one on Trump (with more coverage of what he did after taking office), the other on the Flint water crisis (rather than just using his home town as his pet way of contextualizing world events). The Flint story winds up turning Obama into the goat (if not the villain, still Rick Snyder), which would have been more effective without Trump all over the map.

The Trump parts are more interesting. Moore treats Trump's presidential run as a publicity stunt -- as he's done before, but this time he went through with it only because NBC fired him for racist comments, only to find his fan's adoration in his early rallies. His decimation of his Republican opponents, then of Hillary Clinton, is a piece of story that Moore could open some eyes on, in large part because Moore doesn't flinch when Trump's absurdity and cruelty come simultaneously into focus. Indeed, his whole sequence of Trump and Ivanka is extremely creepy. However, after the election, instead of delving into the profound corruption and malign neglect that has been so evident, he settles for a long lament on the end of democracy and the rise of fascism. He can be creepy there, too, as with the Trump voiceover of stock Hitler/Third Reich newsreel footage, with side glances at Putin and Duterte and commentary by Timothy Snyder. I don't see that as necessarily unfair -- in fact, when I first noticed the Nazi rallies I expected a segue to Fred Trump in the 1930s at Madison Square Garden -- but it's far from the most important or enlightening thing a filmmaker like Moore could come up with.

One story I don't delve into below is the flap over Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, something involving racist photos in his college yearbook, which has elicited howls of indignation and calls for his resignation from many Democrats and leftists -- Elizabeth Warren and Barbara Ehrenreich are two names that popped up in my twitter feed (full disclosure: I follow Ehrenreich but not Warren or any other office-holders). I suppose if I knew more details I might think differently, but my first reaction is that I find these calls deeply troubling, both on practical grounds and because they display an arrogant self-righteousness I find unbecoming. Sooner or later, Democrats need to learn to forgive themselves -- especially those who show some capacity to learn from their mistakes. I understand that Northam is no great shakes as a Democrat, but I'd rather see him become a better one (if that's possible).

On the other hand, I don't want to turn this into a diatribe against "purism" -- if real leftists (like Ehrenreich) insist on holding folks to higher standards, God bless them.

Some scattered links this week:

Monday, January 29, 2018

Daily Log

Enough stuff going on I feel like writing somewhere I can fid it again, doubtful that anyone else will bother.

Eyes have gotten little better since I was diagnosed with posterior vitreous detachment (left eye) a month ago. I have an appointment to see optometrist again on Feb. 5. Bigger problem has been with my nose. Hard to describe, but it is very annoying, somewhat painful, and very frustrating, as it seems like no combination of picking and snorting and blowing or anything else can clear it. I've resumed steroid nasal spray, which never did much good for sinus allergies and tended to irritate after awhile. Gets worse during the night, under the CPAP mask, which tends to cut my sleep short. Pain/weakness in hips seems somewhat under control, but always threatening. I should manage to pick out a new doctor for things like that, but that's a depressing task. I've had severe allergies since the 1980s, and my nose has been a big part of the problem, but despite perennial complaints no doctor has ever come close to helping. The hip problem dates back more than a decade, although it has come and (until now) gone.

Laura has a more acute problem that she doesn't want me to "blab" about. She saw doctor today and prognosis seems not too bad. Will be a problem for next couple of months, but probably not much longer.

Tried to do an update to Christgau website last night. I have a local database/website, and update the public one through a two-step process: a tarball of changed files, followed by a MySQL database dump. I've been fighting software updates for years to keep using Latin-1 8-bit characters, while the world is moving toward UTF-8 (multibyte, covering all languages, whereas Latin-1 just takes care of Western European languages). The problem seems to be that while my copy of the database is happy with Latin-1, and the dump file I get from the mysqldump command is Latin-1, when I import that dump on the server using PhpMyAdmin (a web-based management program -- with CPanel on the server, I've stopped using shell commands) takes and/or stores the file as UTF-8, despite me setting every switch I can find to Latin-1. (One clue is that when I used PhpMyAdmin on the local machine to create a dump, it came out as UTF-8 -- again, with all the switches set to Latin-1.)

I've been procrastinating working on that all day (8:42 PM as I write this), but need to give it another shot. The simplest thing would be to just import the dump file and see what happens: I'd at least get my updates, and the accent characters wouldn't be any worse than what's on the server already. Still, my goal has long been to fix this problem when I next dealt with it. I still have several blind spots (e.g., what's really in the database?) and other sources of confusion (e.g., why is the text encoding from the HTTP headers set to "windows-1252"?).

I did the file update last night, without a hitch. The database changes include about three months of recent EW reviews, plus I've added stubs for the Dean's List records that Christgau hasn't reviewed yet. Those stubs are broken links until I get the database updated. Also, Christgau is hoping to link to those reviews from an article he is writing for the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop poll (out next week?), so I have a commitment there.

I did make one small change to the RSS feed, fixing a HTTP header problem. Possibly the first time I've written PHP code to modify HTTP headers, so something I'm long overdue learning. That might be the way to fix the "windows-1252" coding error, although presumably the source lies deeper in Apache configuration (but I've looked for it there many times, to no avail). I've been meaning to port the RSS feed and the Q&A system from Christgau's website to mine. Should take little more than a couple of hours in each case, but the task has dragged on for more than a month now. Just hard to get optional work done under the recent conditions of my life.

   Mar 2001