Blog Entries [10 - 19]

Monday, March 18, 2024

Speaking of Which

Well, another week, with a few minor variations, but mostly the same old stories:

  • Israel is continuing its genocidal war on Gaza, with well over 30,000 direct kills, the destruction of most housing and infrastructure, and the imposition of mass starvation. This war is likely to escalate significantly next week, as Netanyahu has vowed to invade Rafah, which has until now been a relatively safe haven for over one million refugees from northern parts of the Gaza strip. Israel is also orchestrating increased violence in the occupied West Bank and along the Lebanon border, which risks drawing the US into the conflict (as has already happened in the Red Sea).

  • The United States remains supportive of and complicit in Israeli genocide, although we're beginning to see signs that the Biden administration is uncomfortable with such extremism. Public opinion favor an immediate cease-fire, which Israel and its fan club have been working frantically to dispel and deny.

  • Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine continues to be stalemated, with increasingly desperate and dangerous drone attacks. Putin is up for reelection this weekend, and is expected to win easily, against token opposition that also supports Russia's war, so any hopes for regime change there are very slim. On the other hand, the war is becoming increasingly unpopular in the US, where thus far Biden has been unable to pass his latest arms aid request. The only way out of this destructive and debilitating war is to open negotiations, where the obvious solution is some formalization of the status quo, but thus far Biden and Zelensky have refused to consider the need.

  • Biden's has secured the Democratic nomination for a second term, but he remains deeply unpopular, due to gross Republican slanders, his own peculiar personal weaknesses, and legitimate worry over wars he has shown little concern and/or competency at ending.

  • Meanwhile, Trump has secured the Republican nomination, but is mostly distracted by the numerous civil and criminal cases he has blundered into. He's lost two civil cases, bringing fines of over $500 million, but he has thus far managed to postpone trial in the four criminal cases, and he had several minor victories on that front last week. Meanwhile, the Republican Party is remaking itself in his image, defending crime and corruption, spreading hate, and aspiring to dictatorship. (At some point, I should go into more depth on how, while the Democrats remain pretty inept at defending democracy, the Republicans have gone way out of their way to impress on us what the destruction of democracy has in store for us.)

Due to various factors I don't want to go into, I got a late start on this, and lost essentially all of Saturday, so I expect the final Sunday wrap-up to be even more haphazard than usual.

Sorry I didn't mention this earlier, but we were saddened to hear of the recent death of Jim Lynch. He was one of the Wichita area's most steadfast peace supporters, and he will be missed.

Except, of course, that I didn't manage to wrap up on Sunday, so this picks up an extra day -- not thoroughly researched, but I am including some Monday pieces.

Initial count: 183 links, 9,145 words.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. Biden: Israelis like to talk about the "multi-front war" they're besieged with, but for all the talk of Iranian proxies, they rarely point out that their main struggle since Oct. 7 has been with world opinion, especially as it became obvious that they had both the intent and means to commit genocide. For a long time, Biden and virtually the entire American political establishment were completely subservient to Israeli dictates, but that seems to be shifting slightly -- maybe those taunts of "Genocide Joe" are registering? -- so much so that Israel can add the US to its array of threats. Not a done deal, but increasingly a subject of discussion.

  • Daniel Boguslaw: FBI warns Gaza War will stoke domestic radicalization "for years to come".

  • Connor Echols: [03-13] Bombs, guns, treasure: What Israel wants, the US gives.

  • Liz Goodwin: [03-14] Schumer calls for 'new election' in Israel in scathing speech on Netanyahu: I'd be among the first to point out that's none of his business, just as it's none of Netanyahu's business to weigh in on American elections -- as he's done both personally and through donors like the Abelsons and lobbying groups like AIPAC. On the other hand, if Schumer wanted to cut off military aid and diplomatic support for genocide, that would clearly be his right. More on Schumer:

    • Jonathan Chait: [03-16] Why Chuck Schumer's Israel speech marks a turning point: "He tried to escape the cycle of violence and hate between one-staters of the left and right." That's a very peculiar turn of phrase -- one designed to depict "two-staters" as innocent peace-seekers who have been pushed aside by extremists, each intent on dominating the other. But the very idea of "two states" was a British colonial construct, designed initially to divide-and-rule (as the British did everywhere they gained power), and when they inevitably failed, to foment civil wars in their wake. (Ireland and India/Pakistan are the other prime examples, although there are many others.) The "two-state solution" isn't some long deferred dream. It is the generator and actual state of the conflict. Sure, it doesn't look like the "two states" of American propaganda -- a fantasy Israelis sometimes give lip-service to but more often subvert -- due to the extreme asymmetry of power between the highly efficient and brutal Israeli state and the emaciated chaos of Palestinian leadership (to which the PA is mere window dressing, as was much earlier the British-appointed "Mufti of Jerusalem"). The only left solution is a state built on equal rights of all who live there.

      Borders may be abitrary, and one could designate one, two, or N states in the region, with various ethnic mixes, but for the left, and for peace and justice, each must offer equal rights to its inhabitants. It is true that some on the left were willing to entertain the two-state prospect, but that was only because we realized that Israel is dead set against equal rights, and saw their security requiring that most Palestinians be excluded. We expected that a Palestinian majority, left to its own devices, would organize a state of equal rights democratically. Meanwhile, an Israel more secure in its Jewish majority might moderate, as indeed Israel had done before the 1967 war, the revival of military rule, the settler movement, the debasement and destruction of the Labor Party, and the extreme right-wing drive of the Netanyahu regimes.

      That the actually-existing Zionist state has become an embarrassment to someone as devoted to Israel as Schumer may indeed be a turning point. But heaping scorn on "left one-staters" while trying to revive the "two-state solution," with its implied "separate but equal" air on top of vast differences in power, is less a step forward than a desperate attempt to salvage the past.

    • EJ Dionne Jr: [03-16] Schumer said out loud what many of Israel's friends are thinking.

    • Murtaza Hussain: Outrage at Chuck Schumer's speech: The pro-Israel right wants to eat its cake too.

    • Fred Kaplan: [03-14] Why Chuck Schumer's break with Netanyahu seems like a turning point in the US relationship with Israel.

    • Halie Soifer: [03-15] Schumer spoke for the majority of American Jews: "Only 31% of American Jewish voters have a favorable view of the Israeli prime minister."

  • Caitlin Johnstone: [03-15] If Israel wants to be an 'independent nation,' let it be: "Israel knows it's fully dependent on the US and cannot sustain its nonstop violence without the backing of the US war machine."

  • Fred Kaplan: [03-15] There's a cease-fire deal on the table. Hamas is the one rejecting it. Israel doesn't need to negotiate with Hamas for a cease-fire. They can do that by themselves. You say that wouldn't get the hostages back? Someone else -- say whoever wants to run food and supplies into Gaza? -- can deal with that. The hostages are relatively useless just to swap for other hostages. Their real value to Hamas is to the extent they inhibit Israel from the final, absolute destruction of Gaza and everyone stuck there. Admittedly, that hasn't worked out so well, but trading them for time only helps if the international community uses that time to get Israel to give up on their Final Solution. Meanwhile, what Israel likes about negotiating with Hamas is they never have to agree to anything, because the one thing Hamas wants is off the table. And because Israel is very skilled at shifting blame to Hamas. They even have Kaplan fooled. I mean, consider this:

    Netanyahu has rejected these conditions as "delusional." On this point, he is right. A complete withdrawal of troops and a committed end to the war would leave Israel without the means to enforce the release of hostages. It would also allow Hamas to rebuild its military and resume attacking Israel, whether with rocket fire or another attempted incursion.

    But isn't the point of negotiation to get both sides to do what they committed. Why does Israel need a residual force to "enforce the release of hostages"? If Hamas failed to honor its side of the deal, Israel could always attack again. Can't we admit that would be a sufficiently credible Plan B? And how the hell is Hamas going "to rebuild its military and resume attacking Israel"? They never had a real military, and Gaza never had the resources and tech to build serious arms, and what little they did have has been almost completely demolished. I could see Hamas worrying that Israel could use truce time to bulk up so they could hit Gaza even harder, but the opposite isn't even projection; it's just plain ridiculous.

  • Joshua Keating: [03-14] How Biden could dial up the pressure on Israel -- if he really wanted to.

  • Mitchell Plitnick: [03-15] It isn't Netanyahu who is acting against the will of his people, it's Biden.

  • Richard Silverstein:

  • Adam Taylor/Shira Rubin: [03-14] Biden administration imposes first sanctions on West Bank settler outposts.

  • Kelley Beaucar Vlahos:

  • Philip Weiss: [03-17] Weekly Briefing: Now everyone hates Israel: "The unbelievable onslaught on a captive people in Gaza has at last cracked the conscience of the American Jewish community and sent American Zionists into complete crisis." Picture of Schumer, followed by Jonathan Glazer at the Oscars.

Israel vs. world opinion:

  • Michael Arria: [03-14] The Shift: Jonathan Glazer smeared by pro-Israel voices over Oscar speech: The director of the film The Zone of Interest said this during his acceptance speech after winning the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film:

    All our choices we made to reflect and confront us in the present. Not to say 'look what they did then' -- rather, 'look what we do now.' Our film shows where dehumanization leads at its worst. It shaped all of our past and present.

    Right now, we stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation which has led to conflict for so many innocent people. Whether the victims of October 7 in Israel or the ongoing attack on Gaza -- all the victims of this dehumanization, how do we resist?


  • Khalil Barhoum: [03-09] The real reason 'from the river to the sea' has garnered so much condemnation: "The false labeling of Palestinian liberation slogans like 'from the river to the sea' as calls for the elimination of Jews reveals an Israeli anxiety over its dispossession of the Palestinians from their land."

  • Daniel Beaumont: [03-15] Smoke and mirrors: How Israeli agitprop lies become fact.

  • Jonathan Cook:

  • Feminist Solidarity Network for Palestine: [03-11] Here's what Pramila Patten's UN report on Oct 7 sexual violence actually said: "The UN report on sexual violence on October 7 has found no evidence of systematic rape by Hamas or any other Palestinian group, despite widespread media reporting to the contrary. But there are deeper problems with the report's credibility."

  • Luke Goldstein: [03-14] AIPAC talking points revealed: "Documents show that the powerful lobby is spreading its influence on Capitol Hill by calling for unconditional military aid to Israel and hyping up threats from Iran."

  • David Hearst: [03-14] All signs point to a strategic defeat for Israel.

  • Kathy Kelly: [03-15] When starvation is a weapon, the harvest is shame.

  • Tariq Kenney-Shawa: [03-14] Israel Partisans' use of disinformation.

  • Jonathan Ofir: [03-12] Human rights groups sue Denmark for weapons export to Israel.

  • Roy Peled: [03-08] Judith Butler is intentionally giving Hamas' terror legitimacy: "In recent comments, the American Jewish gender theorist labeled the Oct. 7 attack as 'armed resistance.'" This is where I entered a cluster of related articles:

    There's an element of talking past each other here, and especially of assuming X implies Y when it quite possibly doesn't. "Armed resistance" is not in inaccurate description of what Hamas is doing in Gaza. Especially when they're firing back at invading IDF soldiers, one could even say that they're engaged in "self defense" (to borrow a term that Israelis claim as exclusively theirs). The left has some history of celebrating "armed resistance," but that's mostly from times and places where no better option presented itself. But the struggle for equal rights (which is the very definition of what the left is about) has a natural preference for democracy, nudged on by occasional nonviolent civil resistance -- a realization that has been encouraged by occasional success, but also by the insight that some acts of violence are self-damaging and self-defeating.

    Oct. 7 is certainly an example of this. I think it's safe to say that most people who supported equal rights for Palestinians have condemned the Oct. 7 attackers, most often as immoral but also as bad political strategy. Why Hamas chose to launch that particular attack can be explained in various ways -- and please don't jump to the conclusion, which seems to be ordained in the Hasbara Handbook, that explaining = justifying = supporting = celebrating. The most likely is that Hamas felt that no other option was open, perhaps by long observation of other Palestinians pleading and protesting non-violently, only to find Israelis more recalcitrant than ever. Or one might argue that Hamas aren't a left group at all, but like the Zionists are dominating and reducing their enemies, and as such are enamored with violence, like the right-wing fascists of yore. Or you could imagine a conspiracy, where Hamas and Netanyahu have some kind of bizarre symbiotic relationship, where each uses the other as a wedge against their near enemies. (Even without an actual conspiracy, that does describe much of the dynamic.)

    Still, there is another way of looking at "armed resistance," which is that it is the inevitable result of armed occupation, oppression, and repression -- something which Israel is uniquely responsible for. And because it's inevitable, it doesn't matter who is doing it, nor does it do any good to chastise them. The only way to end resistance is to end the occupation that causes it. So while we shouldn't celebrate armed resistance, we also shouldn't flinch from recognizing it as such, because we have to in order to clearly see the force it is resisting.

  • Andrew Perez/Nikki McCann Ramirez: [03-14] Israel lobby pushes lie that people are not starving in Gaza.

  • Reuters: [03-17] UE's Von Der Leyen says Gaza facing famine, ceasefire needed rapidly.

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

War in Ukraine, an election in Russia:

Around the world:


TikTok: A bill to force, under threat of being banned, the Chinese owners of TikTok to sell the company has passed the House, with substantial bipartisan support. Despite the many links here, I have no personal interest in the issue, although I do worry about gratuitous China-bashing, and I'm not a big fan of any social media companies or their business models.

Other stories:

Andrea Long Chu: [03-11] Freedom of sex: The moral case for letting trans kids change their bodies. I'm in no mood to wade into this issue, but note the article, which makes an honest and serious point, and backs it up with considerable evidence and thought. Also note the response:

  • Jonathan Chait: [03-16] Freedom of sex: A liberal response. Oh great, another epithet: TARL (trans-agnostic reactionary liberal), which Chait seizes on, probably because he's the very model of a "reactionary liberal" -- a term he's encountered in many other contexts, and not undeservedly (need we mention Iraq again?).

TJ Coles: [03-08] The new atheism at 20: How an intellectual movement exploited rationalism to promote war: The Sam Harris book, The End of Faith, came out in 2004, soon to be grouped with Daniel Dennett (Breaking the Spell), Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), and Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great). While critical of all religions, they held a particular animus for Islam, at a time when doing so was most useful for promoting the American and Israeli wars on terror. Coles has a whole book on them: The New Atheism Hoax: Exposing the Politics of Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens. Coles is a British psychologist with a lot of recent books attacking media domination by special interests; e.g.:

  • President Trump, Inc.: How Big Business and Neoliberalism Empower Populism and the Far-Right (2017)
  • Real Fake News: Techniques of Propaganda and Deception-Based Mind Control, From Ancient Babylon to Internet Algorithms (2018)
  • Manufacturing Terrorism: When Governments Use Fear to Justify Foreign Wars and Control Society (2019)
  • Privatized Planet: Free Trade as a Weapon Against Democracy, Healthcare and the Environment (2019)
  • The War on You (2020)
  • We'll Tell You What to Think: Wikipedia, Propaganda and the Making of Liberal Consensus (2021)
  • Biofascism: The Tech-Pharma Complex and the End of Democracy (2022)
  • Militarizing Cancel Culture: How Censorship and Deplatforming Became a Weapon of the US Empire (2023)

Matt Kennard: [03-16] Last days of Julilan Assange in the United States: "The WikiLeaks publisher may soon be on the way to the US to face trial for revealing war crimes. What he would face there is terrifying beyond words."

Rick Perlstein: [03-13] Social distortion: "On the fourth anniversary of the pandemic, a look at how America pulled apart as the rest of the world pulled together." Reviews Eric Klinenberg: 2020: One City, Seven People, and the Year That Changed Everything.

Scott Remer: [03-15] Pessimism of the intellect, pessimism of the will: Title is an obvious play on Gramsci, who even facing death in prison preferred "optimism of the will." But no mention of Gramsci here. The subject is self-proclaimed progressivism, keyed to this quote from Robert LaFollette: "the Progressive Movement is the only political medium in our country today which can provide government in the interests of all classes of the people. We are unalterably opposed to any class government, whether it be the existing dictatorship of the plutocracy or the dictatorship of the proletariat." (Presumably that was from 1924, when the Soviet Union was newly established.) That leads to this:

All this should sound familiar. It describes bien-pensant liberals of the Obama-Clinton-Biden persuasion to a tee: their aestheticization of politics, their fetishization of entrepreneurialism and expertise; their studied avoidance of polarization, partisanship, and partiality; their distaste for class conflict; their elevation of technocracy and science as beacons of reason; their belief in the pretense that politics can be reduced to interest-group bargaining and consensus seeking; their desire to keep the labor movement at a distance; their continued fealty to American exceptionalism even when looking to European models would be exceptionally edifying; and their general attitude of deference towards big business. Neoliberals' demography -- disproportionately white, upper middle class, professional, and college-educated -- also parallels the original Progressives.

I like bien-pensant here, as it's open to translations ranging from "right-thinking" to "lackadaisically blissful," each a facet of the general mental construct. The easiest way to understand politics in America is to recognize that there are two classes: donors and voters. Voters decide who wins, but only after donors decide who can run -- which they can do because it takes lots of money to run, and they're the ones with that kind of money. Republicans have a big advantage in this system: they offer businesses pretty much everything they want, and ask little of them beyond acceding to their singular fetishes (mostly guns and religion).

Democrats have a much tougher problem: voters would flock to them because Republicans cause them harm, but the only Democrats who can run are those backed by donors, who severely limit what Democrats can do for their voters. The Clinton-Obama types tried to square this circle by appealing to more liberal-minded business segments, especially high-growth sectors like tech, finance and entertainment. They were fairly successful at raising money, and they won several elections, but ultimately failed to make much headway with the problems they campaigned on fixing.

At present, both parties have backed themselves into corners where they are bound to fail. With ever-increasing inequality, the donor class is ever more estranged from the voting public. Normally, you would expect that when the pendulum swings too far left or right, it would swing back toward the middle, but the nature of capitalism is such that donors can never be satisfied, so will always push for more and more. But the policies they want only exacerbate the problems that most people feel, sooner or later leading to disastrous breakdowns (for Republicans) or severe dissolution (for Democrats, who while incapable of fixing things are at least more adept at delaying and/or mitigating their disasters).

Nathan J Robinson:

  • [03-12] Overwhelmed by feelings of complicity and paralysis: "In a world filled with horrors, where our actions feel useless, it can be hard to muster the energy to press on." This paragraph hit close to home:

    As Americans see tens of thousands of Palestinians die, we know that our own government is responsible, through providing the weapons and blocking UN action to stop the war. But how can we actually affect government policy? Later this year, there will be an election, but the choices in that election will be between the intolerable status quo (Joe Biden) and a likely even more rabidly pro-Israel president (Donald Trump). I don't know how it felt to oppose the Vietnam war in 1967-68, but I suspect it must have felt similarly frustrating, with the Democratic incumbent responsible for the war and any Republican likely to escalate it further.

    I do remember 1967-68, which spans the period from when my next door neighbor came home from Vietnam in a box to the government's first efforts to send me to the same fate. I knew people who went quite literally crazy back then. (Fortunately, I was already crazy then, and the Army decided they'd be better off without me.) So one thing I learned was to be fairly tolerant of people I don't agree with. Nearly everything is out of our control, so the only real task most of us face is just coping with it.

    Also the section on critiquing political books ("I have never felt more ineffectual than at this moment"). Here's a bit:

    Today, our public discourse seems to have gone off the rails entirely, and this sometimes makes me question what my approach should be as a political writer. Look, for example, though the top-selling political commentary books. No.1 at the moment is a book by Abigail Shrier, whose terrible polemic about trans kids I reviewed a while back. This one is about how we're ruining children by coddling them and is a broadside against mainstream psychology. I suspect its claims are just as dubious as those in the last book. Should I bother to go through and refute them? Will anybody care if I do?

    What else do we have in the political commentary section? More stuff about how the left is crazy, from Jesse Watters, Christopher Rufo, Douglas Murray, Coleman Hughes, Alex Jones, Candace Owens, Ted Cruz, etc. Books about how there's a war on Christian America, a war on the West, and a battle to "cancel" the American mind. Most of the bestsellers are right-wing, and the ones that are liberal are mostly just attacks on Trump.

    That list is generated by sales, so it's likely changed a bit since Robinson linked to it. One new add is Alan Dershowitz: War Against the Jews: How to End Hamas Barbarism. Aside from Jonathan Karl's Tired of Winning, the top-rated Trump book is also by Dershowitz, but defending him. The only remotely liberal (never mind left) book is Heather Cox Richardson's Democracy Awakening, where she is astonishingly naïve and blasé about the real effects of Biden's foreign policy.

  • [03-08] Why we need "degrowth": Interview with Kohei Saito, author of Slow Down: The Degrowth Manifesto.

  • [03-01] Why factory farming is a moral atrocity: Interview with Lewis Bollard, of Open Philanthrophy's farm animal program.

  • [02-26] It's time to break up with capitalism: Interview with Malaika Jabali, author of It's Not You, It's Capitalism: Why It's Time to Break Up and How to Move On, "reviewed here by Matt McManus."

  • [02-02] Astra Taylor on what 'security' really means: I'm pretty sure I've linked to this before, but I've nearly finished reading the book -- which, not for the first time, is very good, especially the section on education and curiosity -- so could use a review.

Aja Romano:

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Music Week

March archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 41974 [41938] rated (+36), 27 [21] unrated (+6).

Another substantial Speaking of Which yesterday, plus some late additions today, bringing it up to 206 links, 9408 words. Otherwise, I have nothing much to show for the week, and I'm feeling as drained and hapless as I can recall, perhaps ever. Lots of tasks and projects piling up, unattended. At least I feel fairly well informed, and like I'm making sense when I drop into whatever topics come my way. Reflexes, and a substantial backlog of references I can still call up.

Meanwhile, I listened to the following bunch of records. I spent a lot more time with the R&B comp, eventually replaying all of it, which was enough for the promotion. Good tip from the redoubtable Clifford Ocheltree, so thanks again. The Hawkwind album tip came from a follower who goes by Cloudland Blue Quartet, who featured it in a #13at13 list. I didn't spend enough time on it -- certainly nothing like I would have had I encountered it at 13 (or 21, which I was when it came out; I certainly didn't have 13 albums at that age, and none to brag about). It seems like I must have heard more from them at the time than I have in the database, but not enough to really register (except as noted).

Three relatively mainstream jazz albums in the A-list this week. I feel a bit bad about not finding less obvious choices, but sometimes it breaks that way. The Potter album isn't actually in the 36 count, but I moved it in to wrap it up here. None scored high enough to be strong top-ten candidates at EOY (11, 13, 14 at the moment, or 6, 8, 9 among jazz), but they are likely to finish high in EOY polls.

Hurray for the Riff Raff is another pick with pretty broad support (86 on 21 reviews at AOTY; making it the year's highest-ranked album so far with that many reviews). It's taken over the number 2 slot in my 2024 list.

As for Old Music, the Gebru album I most recommend is still Éthiopiques 21: Ethiopia Song (1963-70 [2006], Buda Musique), attributed more precisely to Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou, but any of the recent Emahoy/Mississippi compilations could do the trick. For solo piano, I usually prefer something upbeat (Earl Hines), fanciful (Art Tatum), and/or abrasive (Cecil Taylor), but all rules seem to have exceptions, and this is definitely one.

PS: [03-19] I have it on good authority that my Laura Jane Grace review, below, is "archaically transphobic." I understand their arguments, and will consider them in the future. But I will let this review stand. I've spent considerable time considering how I might respond, but after one rash attempt, I doubt that further discussion will do anyone any good.

New records reviewed this week:

Albare: Beyond Belief (2023 [2024], AM): Guitarist Albert Dadon, born in Morocco, grew up in Israel and France, moved to Australia in 1983 and made a fortune in business. Albums start in 1992. B+(*) [cd]

Bob Anderson: Live! (2023 [2024], Jazz Hang): Standards crooner, also described as an impressionist, career dates back to 1973, "has performed in more Las Vegas show rooms than just about anyone." Wikipedia has a bio but doesn't list any albums. Discogs has him as "(18)," with two two albums and three singles, none dated. These recordings were "taken from live performances in New York City, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Hollywood, Boston, and the like," also undated. Not a great ballad singer, but on the right song he does a pretty decent Sinatra. B+(*) [cd] [03-29]

Jonas Cambien: Jonas Cambien's Maca Conu (2023 [2024], Clean Feed): Belgian pianist, based in Oslo, leads a quartet with Signe Emmeluth (alto/tenor sax), Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (bass), and Andreas Wildhagen (drums), plus guest Guuro Kvåle (trombone) on two tracks. B+(***) [sp]

Ian Carey & Wood Metal Plastic: Strange Arts (2019 [2024], Slow & Steady): Bay Area trumpet player, seventh album, leads a "new chamber jazz septet with strings." B+(**) [cd] [03-22]

Giuseppe Doronzo/Andy Moor/Frank Rosaly: Futuro Ancestrale (2022 [2024], Clean Feed): Baritone saxophonist, from Italy, has a couple previous albums, also credited with Iranian bagpipe here, in a trio with electric guitar -- English, but has long played in the Dutch punk band, the Ex -- and drums (from Chicago). B+(**) [sp]

Fire!: Testament (2022 [2024], Rune Grammofon): Trio of Mats Gustafsson (baritone sax), Johan Berthling (bass), and Andreas Werlin (drums), formed 2009, eighth album, plus another seven as the expanded Fire! Orchestra. B+(***) [sp]

Glitter Wizard: Kiss the Boot (2023, Kitten Robot, EP): Glam rock group from San Francisco, four albums 2011-19, adds this six song, 18:30 EP. Includes a cover of "Sufragette City," not that they need to be so explicit about their niche. B [sp]

Laura Jane Grace: Hole in My Head (2024, Polyvinyl): Originally Thomas Gabel, singer-guitarist leader in punk group Against Me!, third solo album, a short one (11 songs, 25:28). Still sounds male, so you can just bracket the trans angle. Songs open up a bit towards folk, partly to expound on politics, e.g.: "out in the country is where fascists roam." B+(***) [sp]

Dave Harrington/Max Jaffe/Patrick Shiroishi: Speak, Moment (2021 [2024], AKP): Los Angeles-based trio: guitar, drums, sax, with some electronics and extra percussion. B+(**) [sp]

Keyon Harrold: Foreverland (2023 [2024], Concord): Mainstream trumpet player, debut 2009, many credits but only a few albums since. Major effort here, with variable lineups, and a sticker noting special guests Common, Robert Glasper, PJ Morton, and Laura Mvula. B+(**) [sp]

Brittany Howard: What Now (2024, Island): Former Alabama Shakes leader, second solo album, always winds up confusing me, although this one kept my interest piqued longer than most. B+(**) [sp]

Hurray for the Riff Raff: The Past Is Still Alive (2024, Nonesuch): Band but mostly folkie singer-songwriter Alyndra Segarra, from the Bronx via New Orleans, shows no obvious links to either but rather seems totally assimilated into declassé Americana. Ninth studio album. Always seemed like someone I should like more than I did, but this album is the breakthrough, and not just in likability. I'm not good enough at words to recall much of the brilliance I heard, beyond the "Buffalo" lament and the "Ogallala" reference, but they come with great ease. A- [sp]

Idles: Tangk (2024, Partisan): British rock band, from Bristol, fifth album since 2017, formally post-punk, have a lot of critical and popular support. Sounds good, but ended before anything really registered. B+(**) [sp]

Vijay Iyer: Compassion (2022 [2024], ECM): Pianist, from upstate New York, parents Tamil, studied physics before deciding on music, many albums since 1995, has won virtually everything. Trio with Linda May Han Oh (bass) and Tyshawn Sorey (drums). Starts slow, develops into something I never quite grasp -- one is tempted to use "dazzling," but that belongs more to the drummer. B+(***) [sp]

The Last Dinner Party: Prelude to Ecstasy (2024, Island): British rock group, five women, Abigail Morris the lead singer, debut album frequently described as art rock and/or baroque pop. B+(*) [sp]

Little Simz: Drop 7 (2024, Forever Living Originals, EP): British rapper-singer Simbi Ajikawo, first mixtape 2010, four albums and a dozen EPs, including seven Drop titles, this one with seven titles, 14:52. B+(**) [sp]

Mike McGinnis + 9: Outing: Road Trip II (2023 [2024], Sunnyside): Clarinet player, albums since 2001, including his prior Road Trip from 2012. Tentet again, with three saxes, three brass (trumpet/trombone/French horn), Jacob Sacks on piano, bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]

Emile Parisien/Roberto Negro: Les Métanuits (2023, ACT): French soprano saxophonist, debut was a quintet in 2000, duo with the Italian pianist, one year older but albums only since 2015. "Inspired by György Ligeti's String Quartet No. 1." B+(**) [sp]

Emile Parisien Quartet: Let Them Cook (2024, ACT): French saxophonist (mostly soprano, but doesn't say, and sounds more like alto to me), debut was a quintet in 2000, info on this one is still very sketchy, but more names on cover: Julien Loutelier (drums), Ivan Gélugne (bass), Julien Touéry (piano). B+(***) [sp]

Chris Potter/Brad Mehldau/John Patitucci/Brian Blade: Eagle's Point (2024, Edition): The tenor saxophonist's album, his pieces, but all four surnames on the cover, fellow stars at piano, bass, and drums. Potter also plays soprano sax and bass clarinet. When he gets going, he can be quite astonishing. Mehldau is equally impressive, when he gets his opportunities, as here. A- [sp]

Joel Ross: Nublues (2023 [2024], Blue Note): Vibraphonist, fourth album since 2019, all on Blue Note, which instantly made him some kind of star. No doubt he is, as is his label mate and guest here, Immanuel Wilkins (alto sax). A- [sp]

Scheen Jazzorkester & Cortex: Frameworks: Music by Thomas Johansson (2022 [2024], Clean Feed): Norwegian large group, ninth album since 2013, teamed up with a quartet that's been active since 2011, both long associated with the trumpet player who composed these five pieces. B+(***) [sp]

Patrick Shiroishi: I Was Too Young to Hear Silence (2020 [2023], American Dreams): Japanese-American alto saxophonist, has produced a lot of records since 2014, mostly improv duos and trios, this a solo, starting in a deep listening vein, struggling to build something much more imposing (while maintaining that eery resonance). B+(***) [sp]

The Smile: Wall of Eyes (2024, XL): Band with ex-Radiohead leaders Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, plus Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner. Second album. Slow and plainly pretty, not the sort of thing I find appealing. B [sp]

Vera Sola: Peacemarker (2024, Spectraphonic/City Slang): Singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, parents famous actors, from which her alias provides some distance, started as a poet, second album, first was DIY but at least has a co-producer here, Kenneth Pattengale. B+(**) [sp]

John Surman: Words Unspoken (2022 [2024], ECM): British saxophonist (the whole family, but just soprano, baritone, and bass clarinet here), avant-garde into the 1970s but settled into ECM's ambient chill by 1979 and has been secure ever since. With Rob Luft (guitar), Rob Waring (vibes), and Thomas Strønen (drums). This one is exceptionally engaging. A- [sp]

Michael Thomas: The Illusion of Choice (2023 [2024], Criss Cross): Alto saxophonist, based in New York, three previous albums going back to 2011, not to be confused with trumpeter of same name (or any others: he's "(25)" at Discogs). Mainstream quartet with Manuel Valera (piano), Matt Brewer (bass), and Obed Calvaire (drums), playing eight originals plus "It Could Happen to You." B+(***) [sp]

Akiko Tsugura: Beyond Nostalgia (2023 [2024], SteepleChase): Japanese organ player, moved to New York in 2001 ten or more albums since 2004, this one with Joe Magnarelli (trumpet), Jerry Welcon (tenor sax), Byron Landham (drums), and Ed Cherry (guitar). B+(**) [sp]

The Umbrellas: Fairweather Friend (2024, Tough Love): San Francisco-based jangle pop band, second album. B+(*) [sp]

Yard Act: Where's My Utopia? (2024, Island): British group, from Leeds, second album, James Smith's vocals are most often spoken, with bits of skits cut up and scattered. B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Emahoy Tsegue Maryam Guebru: Souvenirs (1977-85 [2024], Mississippi): Ethiopian pianist (1923-2023), described as a nun, "Emahoy" being a religious honorific. Recorded her first album in 1963, until recently was known mostly for her Éthiopiques 21 compilation of solo piano. This collects eight pieces (36:11), solo piano with vocals as soothing as the music. B+(***) [sp]

Old music:

Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru: Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru (1963-70 [2016], Mississippi): Solo piano from the Ethiopian nun's early albums (although the last three cuts, sourced from a 1996 Best Of, could be later). Seems like simple patterns, but lives up to the hype: "some of the most moving piano music you will ever hear." A- [sp]

Emahoy Tsege-Mariam Gebru: Jerusalem (1972-2012 [2023], Mississippi): More solo piano (with a bit of vocal), three tracks from a 1972 album called The Hymn of Jerusalem: The Jordan River Song, six more from a much later album, by which time she had emigrated to Israel. Some biographical notes: she was of "a wealthy Amhara family," from Gondar, and learned music in a boarding school in Switzerland, from age six. She returned to Ethiopia in 1933, and became a "civil servant and singer to Emperor Haile Selassie." She became a nun when she was 21, and "spent a decade living in a hilltop monastery in Ethiopia." After that, she returned to playing music, and released her first album in 1967, in Germany. She emigrated to Israel in 1984, after Selassie fell, and "settled in an Ethiopian Orthodox convent in Jerusalem." B+(***) [sp]

Gigi W Material: Mesgana Ethiopia (2009 [2010], M.O.D. Technologies): Ethiopian singer Ejigayehu Shibabaw, recorded a couple albums 1997-98, then hooked up with Bill Laswell for a series of albums from Gigi in 2001 to this live album, but nothing since. (They were married for some period, but I haven't found dates.) Material was a band Laswell started in 1979, breaking up in 1985 but Laswell continued using the name for various projects through 1999, reviving it here. B+(**) [sp]

Hawkwind: Doremi Fasol Latido (1972, United Artists): British space-rock band, debut 1970, still extant (Dave Brock is the only original member left, and was probably always the main guy; Nik Turner left in 1976, and Huw Lloyd-Langton left in 1971 but returned for 1979-88), this their third album, with two otherwise notable musicians present: guitarist Lemmy Kilmister (later of Motorhead), and vocalist Robert Calvert (whose 1975 solo Lucky Leif and the Longships, produced by Eno, was a personal favorite, and who I credited most for the one Hawkwind album I did really love, 1977's Quark, Strangeness and Charm). Seems too dated to turn into a major research project at this point, but between the post-Pink Floyd and proto-Motorhead, familiar soundposts abound. B+(***) [sp]

Grade (or other) changes:

The R&B No. 1s of the '50s (1950-59 [2013], Acrobat, 6CD): I still haven't filed this set, which made it a convenient option, especially to start each day. Mostly that's meant disc 6, where the novelties not in Rhino's canonical The R&B Box are exceptionally catchy -- especially the Lloyd Price hits ("Personality," "I Wanna Get Married") that I already loved before I turned ten. But revisiting discs 1-3 clinched the deal. [was: A-] A [cd]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Neal Alger: Old Souls (Calligram) [03-01]
  • Sam Anning: Earthen (Earshift Music) [04-05]
  • Alex Beltran: Rift (Calligram) [03-01]
  • Julieta Eugenio: Stay (self-released) [03-29]
  • Julien Knowles: As Many, as One (Biophilia) [04-26]
  • Travis Reuter: Quintet Music (self-released) [04-19]
  • Claudio Scolari Project: Intermission (Principal) [03-25]
  • Dan Weiss: Even Odds (Cygnus) [03-29]
  • Hein Westergaard/Katt Hernandez/Raymond Strid: The Knapsack, the Hat, and the Horn (Gotta Let It Out) [02-25]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Speaking of Which

Once again, started early in the week, spent most of my time here, didn't get to everything I usually cover. Late Sunday night, figured I should go ahead and kick this out. Monday updates possible.

Indeed, I wasted most of Monday adding things, some of which, contrary to my usual update discipline, only appeared on Monday. The most interesting I'll go ahead and mention here:

  • Alexander Ward/Jonathan Lemire: [03-11] If Israel invades Rafah, Biden will consider conditioning military aid to Israel. There are several articles below suggesting that the Biden administration is starting to show some discomfort with its Israeli masters. I've generally made light of such signals, as they've never threatened consequences or even been unambiguously uttered in public. I've seen several more suggesting that the long promised invasion of Rafah -- the last corner of Gaza where some two million people have been driven into -- could cross some kind of "red line."

    I am willing to believe that "Genocide Joe" is a bit unfair: that while he's not willing to stand up to Netanyahu, he's not really comfortable with the unbounded slaughter and mass destruction Israel is inflicting. I characterize his pier project below as "passive-aggressive." I think he's somehow trying (but way too subtly) to make Israel's leaders realize that their dream of killing and/or expelling everyone from Gaza isn't going to be allowed, so at some point they're going to have to relent, and come up with some way of living with the survivors.

I don't recall where, but I think I've seen some constructive reaction from Biden to the "uncommitted" campaign that took 13% of Michigan and 18% of Minnesota votes. So it's possible that the message is getting through even if the raw numbers are still far short of overwhelming. The Israel Lobby has so warped political space in Washington that few politicians can as much as imagine how out of touch and tone-deaf they've become on this issue.

Still, Biden has a lot of fence-mending to do.

I'll try not to add more, but next week will surely come around, bringing more with it.

Initial count: 181 links, 7,582 words. Updated count [03-11]: 207 links, 9,444 words.

Top story threads:

Not sure where to put this, so how about here?

  • Jacob Bogage: [03-08] Government shutdown averted as Senate passes $459 billion funding bill: In other words, Republicans once again waited until the last possible moment, then decided not to pull the trigger in their Russian roulette game over the budget. It seems be an unwritten rule that in electing Mike Johnson as Speaker, the extreme-right gets support for everything except shutting down the government.


Israel vs. world opinion: Note that Biden's relief scheme for Gaza, announced in his State of the Union address, has been moved into its own sandbox, farther down, next to other Biden/SOTU pieces.

  • Kyle Anzalone: [03-07] South Africa urges ICJ for emergency order as famine looms over Gaza.

  • James Bamford: [03-06] Time is running out to stop the carnage in Gaza: "Given the toll from bombing and starvation, Gaza will soon become the world's largest unmarked grave." Actually, time ran out sometime in the first week after Oct. 7, when most Americans -- even many on the left who had become critical of Israeli apartheid -- were too busy competing in their denunciations of Hamas to notice how the Netanyahu government was clearly intent to commit genocide. At this point, the carnage is undeniable -- perhaps the only question is when the majority of the killing will shift (or has shifted) from arms to environmental factors (including starvation), because the latter are relatively hard to count (or are even more likely to be undercounted). Of course, stopping the killing is urgent, no matter how many days we fail.

  • Greer Fay Cashman: [03-07] President Herzog faces calls for arrest on upcoming Netherlands visit.

  • Jonathan Cook: [03-07] How the 'fight against antisemitism' became a shield for Israel's genocide.

  • Richard Falk: [02-25] In Gaza, the west is enabling the most transparent genocide in human history.

  • Noah Feldman: [03-05] How Oct. 7 is forcing Jews to reckon with Israel. Excerpt from his new book, To Be a Jew Today: A New Guide to God, Israel, and the Jewish People.

  • Daniel Finn: [03-07] Slaughter in Gaza has discredited Britain's political class.

  • Fred Kaplan: [03-06] Four things that will have to happen for the Israel-Hamas war to end: I have a lot of respect for Kaplan as an analyst of such matters, but the minimal solution he's created is impossible. His four things?

    1. The Hamas leadership has to surrender or go into exile. ("Qatar will have to crack down on Hamas, or perhaps provide its military leaders refuge in exchange for their departure from Gaza.")
    2. "Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other Sunni powers in the region will have to help rebuild Gaza and foster new, more moderate political leaders."
    3. "Israel will at least have to say that it favors the creation of a Palestinian state and to take at least a small movement in that direction." Why anyone should believe Israel in this isn't explained.
    4. "The United States will have to serve as some sort of guarantor to all of this -- and not only for Israel."

    In other words, every nation in the region has to bend to Israel's stubborn insistence that they have to maintain control over every inch of Gaza, even though they've made it clear they'd prefer for everyone living there to depart or die. In any such scenario, it is inevitable that resistance will resurface to again threaten Israel's security, no matter how many layers of proxies are inserted, and no matter how systematically Israel culls its "militants." Short of a major sea change in Israeli opinion -- which is a prospect impossible to take seriously, at least in the short term -- there is only one real solution possible, which is for Israel to disown Gaza. Israel can continue to maintain its borders, its Iron Walls and Iron Domes, and can threaten massive retaliation if anyone on the Gaza side of the border attacks them. (This can even include nuclear, if that's the kind of people they are.) But Israel no longer gets any say in how the people of Gaza live. From that point, Israel is out of the picture, and Gaza has no reason to risk self-destruction by making symbolic gestures.

    That still leaves Gaza with a big problem -- just not an Israel problem. That is because Israel has rendered Gaza uninhabitable, at least for the two million people still stuck there. Those people need massive aid, and even so many of them probably need to move elsewhere, at least temporarily. Without Israel to fight, Hamas instantly becomes useless. They will release their hostages, and disband. Some may go into exile. The rest may join in rebuilding, ultimately organized under a local democracy, which would have no desire let alone capability to threaten Israel. This is actually very simple, as long as outside powers don't try to corrupt the process by recruiting local cronies (a big problem in the region, with the US, its Sunni allies, Iran, its Shiite friends, Turkey, and possibly others serial offenders).

    Sure, this would leave Israel with a residual Palestinian problem elsewhere: both with its second- and lesser-class citizens and wards, and with its still numerous external refugees. But that problem has not yet turned genocidal (although it's getting close, and is clearly possible as long as Smotrich and Ben-Gvir are part of Israel's ruling coalition). But there is time to work on that, especially once Israel is freed from the burden and horror of genocide in Gaza. There are lots of ideas that could work as solutions, but they all ultimately to accepting that everyone, regardless of where they live, should enjoy equal rights and opportunities. That will be a tough pill for many Israelis to swallow, but is the only one that will ultimately free them from the internecine struggle Israelis and Palestinians have been stuck with for most of a century. There's scant evidence that most Israelis want that kind of security, so people elsewhere will need to continue with BDS-like strategies of persuasion. But failure to make progress will just expose Israelis to revolts like they experienced on Oct. 7, and Palestinians to the immiseration and gloom they've suffered so often over many decades decades.

  • Colbert I King: [03-08] The United States cannot afford to be complicit in Gaza's tragedy: True or not, isn't it a bit late to think of this?

  • Nicholas Kristof: [03-19] 'People are hoping that Israel nukes us so we get rid of this pain': Texts with a Gazan acquaintance named Esa Alshannat, not Hamas, but after Israeli soldiers left an area, found "dead, rotten and half eaten by wild dogs." Kristof explains: "Roughly 1 percent of Gaza's people today are Hamas fighters. To understand what the other 99 percent are enduring, as the United States supplies weapons for this war and vetoes cease-fire resolutions at the United Nations, think of Alshannat and multiply him by two million."

  • Debbie Nathan:

  • Vivian Nereim: [03-10] As Israel's ties to Arab countries fray, a stained lifeline remains: The United Arab Emirates is still on speaking terms with Israel, but doesn't have much to show for their solicitude.

  • Ilan Pappé: [02-01] It is dark before the dawn, but Israeli settler colonialism is at an end.

  • Mitchell Plitnick: [03-07] Replacing Netanyahu with Gantz won't fix the problem.

  • Rebecca Lee Sanchez: [03-06] Gaza's miracle of the manna: Aid and the American God complex.

  • Philip Weiss:

  • Brett Wilkins: [03-06] AIPAC's dark money arm unleashes $100 million: "Amid the Netanyahu government's assault on Gaza and intensifying repression in the West Bank, AIPAC is showing zero tolerance for even the mildest criticism of Israel during the 2024 US elections."

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire: I started this section to separate out stories on how the US was expanding its operations in the Middle East, ostensibly to deter regional adversaries from attacking Israel while Israel was busy with its genocide in Gaza. At the time, it seemed like Israel was actively trying to promote a broader war, partly to provide a distraction from its own focus (much as WWII served to shield the Holocaust), and partly to give the Americans something else to focus on. Israel tried selling this as a "seven-front war" -- a line that Thomas Friedman readily swallowed, quickly recovering from his initial shock at Israel's overreaction in Gaza -- but with neither Iran nor the US relishing what Israel imagined to be the main event, thus far only the Houthis in Yemen took the bait (where US/UK reprisals aren't much of a change from what the Saudis had been doing, with US help, for years). So this section has gradually been taken over by more general articles on America's imperial posture (with carve outs for the still-raging wars in Israel/Gaza and Ukraine/Russia.

  • Ramzy Baroud:

    • [03-04] To defend Israel's actions, the US is destroying the int'l legal system it once constructed: I'm not sure that the US ever supported any sort of international justice system. The post-WWII trials in Japan and Germany were rigged to impose "victor's justice." The UN started as a victors' club, with Germany and Japan excluded, and the Security Council was designed so small states couldn't gang up on the powers. And when Soviet vetoes precluded using the UN as a cold war tool, the US invented various "coalitions of the willing" to rubber-stamp policy. The US never recognized independent initiatives like the ICJ, although the US supports using the ICJ where it's convenient, like against Russia in Ukraine. The only "rules-based order" the US supports is its own, and even there its blind support for Israel arbitrary and capricious -- subject to no rules at all, only the whims of Netanyahu.

    • [03-08] On solidarity and Kushner's shame: How Gaza defeated US strategem, again.

  • Mac William Bishop: [02-23] American idiots kill the American century: "After decades of foreign-policy bungling and strategic defeats, the US has never seemed weaker -- and dictators around the world know it."

  • Christopher Caldwell: [03-09] This prophetic academic now foresees the West's defeat: On French historian/political essayist Emmanuel Todd, who claims to have been the first to predict the demise of the Soviet Union (see his The Final Fall: An Essay on the Decomposition of the Soviet Sphere, from 1976), has a new book called La Défaite de l'Occident. Caldwell, who has a book called The Age of Entitlement, seems to be an unconventional conservative, so even when he has seeming insights it's hard to trust them. Even harder to get a read on Todd. (The NYTimes' insistence on "Mr." at every turn has never been more annoying.) But their skepticism of Biden et al. on Ukraine/Russia is certainly warranted. By the way, here are some old Caldwell pieces:

  • Brian Concannon: [03-08] US should let Haiti reclaim its democracy.

  • Gregory Elich: [03-08] How Madeleine Albright got the war the US wanted: NATO goes on the warpath, initially in Yugoslavia, then . . . "the opportunity to expand Western domination over other nations."

  • Tom Engelhardt: [03-05] A big-time war on terror: Living on the wrong world: "A planetary cease fire is desperately needed."

  • Connor Freeman: [03-07] Biden's unpopular wars reap mass death and nuclear brinkmanship.

  • Marc Martorell Junyent: [03-07] Tempest in a teapot: British illusions and American hegemony from Iraq to Yemen. Review of Tom Stevenson's book, Someone Else's Empire: British Illusions and American Hegemony.

  • Joshua Keating: [03-09] The Houthis have the world's attention -- and they won't give it up: "What do Yemen's suddenly world-famous rebels really want, and what will make them stop?" One lesson here is that deterrence only works if it threatens a radical break from the status quo. The Saudis, with American support, have been bombing the Houthis for more than a decade now, causing great hardship for the Yemeni people, but hardly moving the needle on Houthi political power. So how much worse would it get if they picked a fight with Israel's proxy navy? Moreover, by standing up to Israel and its unwitting allies, they gain street cred and a claim to the moral high ground. For similar reasons, sanctions are more likely to threaten nations that aren't used to them. Once you're under sanctions, which with the US tends to be a life sentence, what difference does a few more make? It's too late for mere threats to change the behavior of Yemen, Iran, North Korea, and/or Russia -- though maybe not to affect powers whose misbehaviors have thus far escaped American sanctions, like Israel and Saudi Arabia. But for the rest, to effect change, you need to do something positive, to give them some motivation and opportunity to change. In many cases, that shouldn't even be hard. Just try to do the right thing. Respect the independence of others. Look for mutual benefits, like in trade. Help them help their own people. And stop defending genocide.

  • Nan Levinson: [03-07] The enticements of war (and peace).

  • Blaise Malley: [03-06] Opportunity calls as Cold War warriors exit the stage: "Will Mitch McConnell's replacement represent the old or new guard in his party's foreign policy?"

  • Paul R Pillar: [03-06] Why Netanyahu is laughing all the way to the bank: "David Petraeus said recently that US leverage on Israel to do the right thing in Gaza is 'overestimated' -- that's just not true."

  • Robert Wright: [03-08] The real problem with the Trump-Biden choice: This piece is far-reaching enough I could have slotted it anywhere, but it has the most bearing here: the problem is how much Trump and Biden have in common, especially where it comes to foreign affairs: "America First" may seem like a different approach from Biden's, but the latter is just a slightly more generous and less intemperate variation, as both start from the assumption that America is and must be the leader, and everyone else needs to follow in line. Trump thinks he can demand the other pay tribute; Biden possibly knows better, but his pursuit of arms deals makes me wonder. Wright cites a piece by Adam Tooze I can't afford or find, quoting it only up to the all-important "but" after which the Trump-Biden gap narrows. While I'm sure Tooze has interesting things to say, Wright's efforts to steer foreign policy thinking away from the zero-sum confrontations of the Metternich-to-Kissinger era are the points to consider.

  • Fareed Zakaria: [03-08] Amid the horror in Gaza, it's easy to miss that the Middle East has changed.

Election notes: Sixteen states and territories voted for president on Super Tuesday, mostly confirming what we already knew. Biden won everywhere (except American Samoa), even over "uncommitted" (which mostly got a push from those most seriously upset over his support for Israeli genocide). Trump won everywhere -- except in Vermont, narrowly to Nikki Haley, who nonetheless shuttered her campaign (but hasn't yet endorsed Trump). Dean Phillips dropped out of the Democratic race after getting 8% in his home state of Minnesota and 9% in Oklahoma. He endorsed Biden. I'm not very happy with any of the news summaries I've seen, but here are a few to skim through: 538; AP; Ballotpedia; CBS News; CNBC; CNN; Guardian; NBC News; New York Times; Politico; USA Today; Washington Post. One quote I noticed (from CNN) was from a "reluctant Democrat" in Arizona: "It's hard to vote for someone with multiple felony charges; and it's also very hard to vote for someone that is pro-genocide."

  • Michael C Bender: [03-06] How Trump's crushing primary triumph masked quiet weaknesses: "Even though he easily defeated Nikki Haley, the primary results suggested that he still has long-term problems with suburban voters, moderates, and independents."

  • Aaron Blake: [03-08] The Texas GOP purge and other below-the-radar Super Tuesday nuggets.

  • Nate Cohn: [03-07] Where Nikki Haley won and what it means: Inside the Beltway (61%), Home base and Mountain West cities (57%), Vermont (56%), University towns (56%), Resort towns (55%): In other words, the sorts of places that would automatically disqualify one as a Real Republican.

  • Antonia Hitchens: [03-06] Watching Super Tuesday returns at Mar-a-Lago.

  • Ro Khanna: [03-07] The message from Michigan couldn't be more clear: Actually, these figures (see Nichols below) are hardly enough for a bump in the road to Biden's reelection -- unlike, say, Eugene McCarthy's New Hampshire showing in 1968, where Lyndon Johnson got the message clearly enough to give up his campaign. What they do show is that the near-unanimity of Democratic politicians in support of Israel is not shared by the rank and file.

  • Adam Nagourney/Shane Goldmacher: [03-09] The Biden-Trump rerun: A nation craving change gets more of the same: I bypassed this first time around, but maybe we should offer some kind of reward for the week's most inane opinion piece. Wasn't Nagourney a finalist in one of those hack journalists playoffs? (If memory serves -- why the hell can't I just google this? -- he finished runner-up to Karen Tumulty.)

  • John Nichols: [03-05] Gaza is on the ballot all over America: "Inspired by Michigan's unexpectedly high 'uncommitted' vote, activists across the country are now mounting campaigns to send Biden a pro-cease-fire message." Uncommitted slate votes thus far (from NYTimes link, above): Minnesota: 18.9%; Michigan: 13.2%; North Carolina: 12.7%; Massachusetts: 9.4%; Colorado: 8.1%; Tennessee: 7.9%; Alabama: 6.0%; Iowa: 3.9%.

  • Alexander Sammon:

    • [03-09] Katie Porter said her Senate primary was "rigged." Let's discuss! "Her complaint was kind of MAGA-coded. But it wasn't entirely wrong." Adam Schiff had a huge fundraising advantage over Porter, as Porter did over the worthier still Barbara Lee. This is one of the few pieces I've found that looks into where that money came from (AIPAC chipped in $5 million; a crypto-backed PAC doubled that), and how it was used, explained in more depth in the following:

    • [03-05] Democrats have turned to odd, cynical tactics to beat one another in California's Senate race. Schiff wound up spending a lot of money not trying to win Democrats over from Porter and Lee -- something that might require explaining why he supported the Iraq War (which itself partly explains why he got all that AIPAC money) -- but instead spent millions raising Republican Steve Garvey's profile. In the end, Schiff was so successful he lost first place to Garvey (on one but not both of the contests: one to finish Feinstein's term, one for the six year term that follows), but at least he got past Porter and Lee, turning the open primary into a traditional R-D contest (almost certainly D in California).

  • Michael Scherer: [03-08] Inside No Labels decision to plow ahead with choosing presidential candidates: "The group announced on a call with supporters Friday plans to announce a selection process for their third-party presidential ticket on March 14 with a nomination by April." More No Labels:

  • Li Zhou: [03-06] Jason Palmer, the guy who beat Biden in American Samoa, briefly explained.

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden's band-aid folly: Unveiled in Biden's State of the Union address, q.v., but for this week, let's give it its own section:

  • Alex Horton: [03-08] How the US military will use a floating pier to deliver Gaza aid: "Construction will take up to two months and require 1,000 US troops who will remain off shore, officials say. Once complete, it will enable delivery of 2 million meals daily."

  • Jonathan Cook: [03-10] Biden's pier-for-Gaza is hollow gesture.

  • Kareem Fahim/Hazem Balousha: [03-08] Biden plan to build Gaza port, deliver aid by sea draws skepticism, ridicule. Sounds like they had a contest to come up with the most expensive, least efficient method possible to trickle life-sustaining aid into Gaza, without in any way inhibiting Israel's systematic slaughter.

  • Miriam Berger/Sufian Taha/Heidi Levine/Loveday Morris: [03-05] The improbable US plan for a revitalized Palestinian security force: Because the US did such a great job of training the Afghan security force?

  • Noga Tarnopolsky: [03-09] The Biden plan to ditch Netanyahu: "The 'come to Jesus moment' is already here, according to Israeli and US sources." I don't give this report much credit, but it stands to reason that eventually Biden will tire of Netanyahu jerking him around just so he can further embarrass both countries with what is both in intent and effect genocide. I do see ways in which Biden's initial subservience is evolving into some kind of passive-aggressive resistance. Rather than denounce Israel for making reasonable aid possible, Biden has challenged Israel to spell out what they would allow, and agreed even as these schemes are patently ridiculous. It's only a matter of time until Israel starts attacking American aid providers. For another piece:

  • Zack Beauchamp: [03-08] Are Biden and the Democrats finally turning on Israel? "Biden's new plan to build a pier on the Gaza coast seems to say yes. The continued military aid to Israel says otherwise."

Biden's State of the Union speech: A section for everything else related, including official and unofficial Republican responses:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Legal matters and other crimes:

  • Elie Honig: [03-08] Biden's looming nightmare pardons: Ever since this "former federal and state prosecutor" started writing for Intelligencer, his pieces have sounded like stealth briefs from the Trump legal team, even if not things they would actually want to own. This one at least assumes things not yet in evidence: that Trump is actually tried and convicted and sentenced to jail time -- the power may be to pardon, but all he's asking for is commutation of prison time, not full pardons. As that's increasingly unlikely before November, the assumption may also be that Biden wins then, so has some breathing room before having to consider the issue, which would leave plenty of time for this discussion, unlike now.

  • Josh Kovensky: [03-05] Feds slap 12 new counts on Bob 'Gold Bars' Menendez: Senator (D-NJ).

  • Ian Millhiser: [03-10] Do Americans still have a right to privacy? "With courts coming for abortion and IVF, it's hard not to wonder what the Supreme Court will go after next."

Climate, environment, and energy:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:

Other stories:

Michelle Alexander: [03-08] Only revolutionary love can save us now: "Martin Luther King Jr's 1967 speech condemning the Vietnam War offers a powerful moral compass as we face the challenges of our time."

Indivar Dutta-Gupta/Korian Warren: [03-04] The war on poverty wasn't enough: "While Lyndon B Johnson's effort made some lasting impacts, the United States still has some of the highest rates of nonelderly poverty among wealthy nations." As the article notes, Johnson's programs brought big improvements, but the Vietnam War hurt him politically, and his successors lost interest: e.g., Nixon's appointment of Donald Rumsfeld to run the Office of Economic Opportunity. And while Republicans deserve much of the blame, Democrats like Daniel Moynahan and Bill Clinton were often as bad, sometimes worse.

Henry Farrell: [02-27] Dr. Pangloss's Panopticon: A very thoughtful critique of Noah Smith's "quite negative review of a recent book by Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson, Power and Progress: Our 1000-Year Struggle Over Technology & Prosperity. There are complex issues at dispute here, many much more interesting than those that dominate this (and all recent) posts. Dr. Pangloss (from Voltaire) stands in for techno-optimism: the idea that unfettered innovation, accelerated as it is through modern venture capitalism, promises to deliver ever-improving worlds. Panopticon (from Jeremy Bentham) is an early form of mass surveillance, a capability that technology has done much to develop recently, with AI promising a breakthrough to the bottleneck problem (the time and people you need to surveil other people).

Luke Goldstein: [02-23] Crunch time for government spying: "Congress has a few weeks left until a key spying provision sunsets. Both reformers and intelligence hawks are plotting their strategies."

Oshan Jarow: [03-08] The world's mental health is in rough shape -- and not getting any better: "Guess where the US ranks?"

Sarah Kaplan: [03-06] Are we living in an 'Age of Humans'? Geologists say no. A recent proposal for delineating a stratigraphic boundary for the Anthropocene, based on "a plume of radioactive plutonium that circled around the world" in 1952, was proposed recently and, at least for now, voted down. More:

Alvaro Lopez: [03-08] The making of Frantz Fanon: Review of Adam Shatz's new book, The Rebel's Clinic: The Revolutionary Lives of Frantz Fanon. Also:

Rick Perlstein: [03-06] The spectacle of policing: "'Swatting' innocent people is the latest incarnation of the decades-long gestation of an infrastructure of fear."

Dave Phillipps: [03-06] Profound damage found in Maine gunman's brain, possibly from blasts: "A laboratory found a pattern of cell damage that has been seen in veterans exposed to weapons blasts, and said it probably played a role in symptoms the gunman displayed before the shooting." Robert Card was a grenade instructor in the Army Reserve for eight years. He went on to shoot and kill 18 people and himself. Something not yet factored into the "Costs of War" accounting. Another report:

Jeffrey St Clair: [03-08] Roaming Charges: Too obvious to be real.

I ran across a link to this David Brooks [02-08]: Trump came for their party but took over their souls. A normal person would have little trouble writing a column under that headline. Even Brooks hits some obvious points, like: "Democracy is for suckers"; "Entertainment over governance"; and "Lying is normal." But the one that really upsets Brooks is: "America would be better off in a post-American world." The other maxim that Brooks castigates Trump for is "Foreigners don't matter." This leads to his rant against "isolationism," which inevitably devolves into invoking the spectre of Neville Chamberlain.

Brooks celebrates the triumph of Eisenhower over Taft in 1952, when "the GOP became an internationalist party and largely remained that way for six decades" -- glorious years that spread capitalist exploitation to the far corners of the globe, transforming colonies into cronies ruled by debt penury, policed by "forever wars" and, wherever the occasion arose, ruthless counterrevolutions and civil wars.

Meanwhile, instead of enjoying the wealth this foreign policy generated, America's middle class -- the solid burghers and union workers who, as Harry Truman put it, "voted Democratic to live like Republicans" -- got ground down into their own penury. The Cold War was always as much about fighting democracy at home as it was about denying socialism abroad, much as the "war on terror" was mostly just an authoritarian tantrum directed against anyone who failed to submit to America's globe-spanning military colossus.

Sure, it is an irony that blows Brooks' mind that it now seems to be the Republicans -- the party that most celebrates rapacious capitalism, is most devoutly committed to authoritarian rule, and whose people are most callously indifferent to the cries of those harmed by their greed -- should be the first give up on the game.

Of course, they weren't. The left, or "premature antifascists" (as the OSS referred to us in the 1940s, before "communists and fellow travelers" proved to be a more effective slur), knew this all along, but that insight came from caring about what happens to others, and solidarity in what we sensed was a common struggle. It took Republicans much longer to realize that globalized capitalism, under the aegis of American military power, not only didn't work for them personally, but that it directly led to jobs moving overseas, and all kinds of foreigners flooding America. And since Republicans had put so much propaganda effort into stoking racism and reaction, not least by blaming Democrats (with their "open borders" and focus on wars as "humanitarian") for loving foreigners more than their own people.

I was pointed to Brooks' piece by a pair of tweets: Simon Schama linked, adding: "Heartfelt obituary by David Brooks for the expiring of last vestiges of the Republican Party. No longer has supporters but 'an audience.' Lying normalised. Total abandonment of internationalism." To which, Sam Hasselby added:

People have really memory-holed the whole Iraq catastrophe which is in fact what normalized a new scale of lying and impunity in American politics. It was also a lie which cost $7 trillion dollars, killed one million innocent Iraqis, and displaced 37 million people.

Yet Iraq War boosters like Brooks still have major mainstream media gigs, while Adam Schiff trounced Barbara Lee (the only member of Congress to vote against the whole War on Terror) in a Democratic primary, and Joe Biden became president -- finally giving up the 20-year disaster in Afghanistan, only to wholeheartedly embrace new, but already even more disastrous, wars in Ukraine and Gaza.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Music Week

March archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 41938 [41900] rated (+38), 21 [22] unrated (-1).

I'm having a rough time getting anything done, which is my best explanation for wasting most of last week on a still-unfinished Speaking of Which -- posted well after midnight last, with a few further adds flagged today. The most important add is the link to Pankaj Mishra's The Shoah after Gaza (also on YouTube).

I've neglected pretty much everything and everyone else. My apologies to anyone expecting a response from me. As I must have noted already, I gave myself a month to write a quick, very rough draft of my long gestating political book, with the promise that if I couldn't pull it off, I'd shelve the idea once and for all, and spend my waning days reading fiction -- forty years later, I still have a bookmark 300 pages into Gravity's Rainbow, and enough recollection I'm not sure I'll have to retrace -- while slipping in the occasional old movie and dawdling with jigsaw puzzles (ok, I'm already doing the latter). I certainly wouldn't have to plow through any nonfiction that might be construed as research -- e.g., a couple items currently on the proverbial night stand: Franklin Foer's book on Biden, or Judis/Teixeira on the missing Democrats.

That month was supposed to be January, but the Jazz Critics Poll and EOY lists lapped over without me starting, so I decided I'd give it February. I still have no more than a fragment of a letter stashed away in a notebook entry, so the obvious thing to do at this point is admit failure, and be done with it. Aside from easing my mind -- the last six months have been unbearably gloomy for my politics, my prognostications turning markedly dystopian -- ditching politics might be good news for those of you more interested in my writing on music.

Two small projects that I've also neglected are: a thorough review of the Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll website, which is missing some unknown quantity of historical material (hopefully Davis has it stashed away), and needs some modernization; I'm also behind on maintenance, not to mention the long-promised redesign, of the Robert Christgau website. It would also make sense to reorganize my own data along those same lines, as even now it's virtually impossible for even me to look up what I've written about any musician.

I also have neglected house projects: the most pressing of which is the imminent collapse of a chunk of ceiling in my wife's study room. I used to be pretty competent at carpentry and home improvement tasks. About all I can claim to have managed in the last month has been replacement of two light bulbs, which took me weeks (in my defense, both involved ladders and unconventional sockets).

Nothing special to say about this week's music. A copy of the year 2023 list has been frozen, but I am still adding occasional records to my tracking file, jazz and non-jazz EOY lists, and EOY aggregate, but mostly just my own belatedly graded items. But I'm not very focused on what I'm listening to, and often get stuck wondering what to play next. I can't say I've reached the point of not caring, but I'm getting there.

My most played record of the last couple weeks is The R&B No. 1s of the '50s, especially the final disc, which has left me with Lloyd Price's "I'm Gonna Get Married" as the ultimate earworm. I should probably bump the whole set up to full A. I played the last three discs while cooking on Saturday, and I'm satisfied with them. Then I started Sunday and Monday with disc 6. As this post lapsed into Tuesday, I was tempted again, but had unfinished Vijay Iyer queued up.

Found this in a Facebook comment: "I'm not sure keeping up with Tom Hull is possible. The very thought makes my synapses cry out, 'no mas, no mas.'" But from my view, they really just keep coming poco a poco. During the long delay from listing out this file to posting it -- mostly spent on the Speaking of Which intro -- I only managed to collect four more reviews for next week: two marginally A- jazz albums (Joel Ross, John Surman), and two more marginally below A- (Vijay Iyer, Emile Parisien).

New records reviewed this week:

Black Art Jazz Collective: Truth to Power (2024, HighNote): Fourth group album, 2016 debut started with six mostly prominent mainstreamers -- Wayne Escoffery (tenor sax), Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), James Burton (trombone), Xavier Davis (piano), and Johnathan Blake (drums) -- up to nine this time: still a sextet, but with Victor Gould, Rashaan Carter, and Mark Whitfield Jr. taking over at piano-bass-drums for four tracks. Rich harmonically, but still not much of interest happening here. B [sp]

The Choir Invisible [Charlotte Greve/Vinnie Sperazza/Chris Tordini]: Town of Two Faces (2022 [2024], Intakt): Brooklyn-based trio of German saxophonist Charlotte Greve, Chris Tordini (bass), and Vinnie Sperazza (drums), the group taking the title of their initial 2020 album. Greve is also credited with voice, but the real vocal here is Fay Victor's outstanding blues, "In Heaven." B+(***) [sp]

Djeli Moussa Condé: Africa Mama (2023, Accords Croises): Kora playing griot from Conakry, Guinea; at least two previous albums, more as Kondé. B+(***) [sp]

Gui Duvignau/Jacob Sacks/Nathan Ellman-Bell: Live in Red Hook (2022 [2024], Sunnyside): Bassist, fourth album since 2016, born in France, moved to Morocco as an infant, then grew up in Brazil, eventually winding up in New York, where he recorded this trio with piano and drums. B+(*) [sp]

Alon Farber Hagiga With Dave Douglas: The Magician: Live in Jerusalem (2023 [2024], Origin): Israeli saxophonist (soprano/alto), group name is Hebrew for "celebration," has used it to frame his quintet and sextet albums since 2005, up to seven here with their guest star, who brought two (of five) songs, and plays some of his hottest trumpet since he left Masada. A group this joyous deserves as better country. B+(***) [cd]

R.A.P. Ferreira & Fumitake Tamura: The First Fist to Make Contact When We Dap (2024, Ruby Yacht): Underground rapper from Chicago, initials for Rory Allen Philip, formerly did business as Milo, based in Nashville; producer has a handful of collaborations since 2014. Music very sketchy here, but finds an interesting groove. Twelve cuts, 32:16. B+(***) [sp]

David Friesen: This Light Has No Darkness (2023 [2024]], Origin): Bassist, one should add composer as that's been key to him leading fifty-some albums since 1975, and that's the focus here, with this 12-part work arranged and orchestrated by Kyle Gordon, using a 33-piece orchestra. Classically lush, way too much for my taste. B [cd]

The Fully Celebrated Orchestra: Sob Story (2023 [2024], Relative Pitch): Group led by alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs, first appeared as a trio in 1996, last heard on the terrific 2009 Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones, back here as a quintet, with Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet) and Ian Ayers (guitar) joining Luther Gray (drums) and original member Timo Sharko (bass). B+(**) [sp]

Vanisha Gould and Chris McCarthy: Life's a Gig (2022 [2024], Fresh Sound New Talent): Jazz singer, has a previous self-released duo album but I could see this as her debut, wrote one song plus lyrics to another, but the focus here is on seven standards, most with just McCarthy's piano accompaniment (guest viola on two: the original and "Jolene"). Given the right song, like "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," and she doesn't need more. B+(**) [sp]

Heems & Lapgan: Lafandar (2024, Veena Sounds): Rapper Himanshu Suri, formerly of Das Racist and Swet Shop Boys, third solo album (first since 2015). Lapgan is a producer with a couple recent albums, draws on Indo-Pak heritage, Lollywood dance beats, and transnational hip-hop. Beaucoup guests celebrate, and flaunt, diversity. I should dig up a lyric sheet, but the many word juxtapositions are exciting enough. A [sp]

Katy Kirby: Blue Raspberry (2024, Anti-): Folkie singer-songwriter, grew up in Texas, based in Nashville, second album. B+(**) [sp]

Lapgan: History (2023, Veena Sounds): Hip-hop producer, most likely Punjabi but no info as yet on how far removed (seems to be based in Chicago), breakthrough is with the new Heems album, which instantly validated this title. B+(*) [sp]

Lapgan: Duniya Kya Hai (2021, Veena Sounds): Earlier, beats "almost exclusively with sounds from India and Pakistan." B+(**)

Lapgan: Badmaash (2019, self-released): Digging deeper, I find his name is Gaurav Nagpal (last name reversed for Lapgan), his parents came from India (but where? samples are as likely to come from Kerala as Punjab), he was born in Queens, grew up near Chicago, and worked his way backwards into roots. B+(**) [sp]

Les Amazones d'Afrique: Musow Danse (2024, Real World): African supergroup, three brand-name Malian singers -- Mamani Keïta, Mariam Dumbia, Oumou Sangare -- plus 'French music-industry veteran" Valerie Malot. B+(***) [sp]

James Brandon Lewis Quartet: Transfiguration (2022 [2024], Intakt): Tenor saxophonist, brilliant on his 2014 major label debut, has continued to impress ever since, including landmark concept albums that won the Francis Davis Poll in 2021 and 2023. On the side, he's recorded a series of excellent working group albums for this Swiss label. Quartet with piano (Aruán Ortiz), bass (Brad Jones), and drums (Chad Taylor). A- [sp]

Cecilia Lopez & Ingrid Laubrock: Maromas (2022 [2023], Relative Pitch): Electronics musician, from Argentina, based in New York, more than a dozen releases since 2015, doesn't appear to be related to bassist Brandon Lopez, but they did a 2020 duo called LopezLopez. Duo here with the German saxophonist (soprano/tenor), also New York-based. Sketchy, but interesting. B+(**) [sp]

Corb Lund: El Viejo (2024, New West): Canadian country singer-songwriter, twelfth album since 1995. Has a good sound and good sense, but songs are a bit hit-and-miss (a tip might be that his best album so far was called Songs My Friends Wrote). B+(***) [sp]

Brady Lux: Ain't Gone So Far (2024, 6483357 DK, EP): Country singer-songwriter from Montana, reportedly "a genuine ranch hand cowboy who works his ass off every day, and at night he writes songs and saws a little fiddle when he can find the time." Sounds really western, albeit without horses. Seven songs, 23:05. B+(***) [sp]

Mali Obomsawin/Magdalena Abrego: Greatest Hits (2024, Out of Your Head): Singer-songwriter/bassist from Abenaki First Nation, started in the folk group Lula Wiles, released a jazz-powered solo debut in 2022 I liked a lot (Sweet Tooth), but title here made me wonder. Abrego is a guitarist based in Hudson, NY, with not much before this, but adds appreciable heft to the songs. Eight songs, 32:02. B+(**) [bc]

QOW Trio: The Hold Up (2024, Ubuntu Music): British trio -- Riley Stone-Longeran (tenor sax), Eddie Myer (bass), Spike Wells (drums) -- second album after an eponymous debut in 2020, basically a retro-bop band, name taken from a Dewey Redman song, Wells old enough to have played with Tubby Hayes. No complaints here if the saxophonist sounds a lot like Sonny Rollins. A- [sp]

Zach Rich: Solidarity (2021 [2024], OA2): Trombonist, originally from Wichita, teaches in Colorado, seems to be his first album. Postbop quintet with piano and guitar, bass and drums, plus string quartet, plus extra horns and voice on the second piece ("Broken Mirrors"). B+(*) [cd]

Dex Romweber: Good Thing Goin' (2023, Propeller Sound): Rockabilly/roots guitarist, singer-songwriter, surprised to hear that he died at age 56, leaving this album has his last -- ominously dedicated to his late sister and duo partner, Sara Romweber (1963-2019). A mix of originals and covers, the latter more often amusing (even if inadvertently so). B+(*) [sp]

Ignaz Schick/Oliver Steidle: Ilog3 (2021 [2023], Zarek): Germans, Schick started out as a saxophonist but credits here are "turntables, sampler, pitch shifter/looper," in a duo with the drummer ("percussion, sampler, live-electronics"). Third duo album, starting in 2015. Some splendid noise. B+(***) [bc]

Fie Schouten/Vincent Courtois/Guus Janssen: Vostok: Remote Islands (2023, Relative Pitch): A treat for Worldle devotees, improvised music "inspired by Judith Schalansky's book Atlas of Remote Islands: 50 Islands I Never Set Foot in and Never Will. Schouten plays "bass clarinet, clarinet in A, basset horn"; the others cello and keyboards, with Giuseppe Doronzo joining in on baritone sax (4 of 12 tracks). Eleven are named for islands (only a couple big enough to be Worldle answers), the other for a bird ("Inaccessible Island Rail"). B+(**) [sp]

Håkon Skogstad: 8 Concepts of Tango (2023 [2024], Øra Fonogram): Norwegian pianist, has taken tango as his art form, with previous albums called Visions of Tango and Two Hands to Tango. All original pieces here, played by a classical-sounding group of band (piano, two bandoneons, string quartet plus bass). B+(*) [cd] [03-15]

Sleater-Kinney: Little Rope (2024, Loma Vista): Portland-based rock group, now down to a duo of singer-songwriters Carrie Brownstein and Corrin Tucker, eleventh studio album since 1995. I've long respected their craft while finding one or both of the voices intensely grating. Still, repeated exposure finds me caring less than ever, although this has less than usual for me to complain about. B [sp]

Simon Spiess Quiet Tree: Euphorbia (2022 [2024], Intakt): Swiss tenor saxophonist, debut 2011, eighth album, group includes pianist Marc Méan (who wrote four pieces, same as Spiess), and drummer Jonas Ruther (writer of one piece). This sort of sneaks up on you. B+(**) [sp]

Albert Vila Trio: Reality Is Nuance (2022 [2023], Fresh Sound New Talent): Spanish guitarist, half-dozen albums since 2006, this a trio recorded in Brussels with Doug Weiss (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums). Nice, low-key feel, drummer excels. B+(**) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Roberto Magris: Love Is Passing Thru: Solo/Duo/Trio/Quartet (2005 [2024], JMood): Italian pianist, from Trieste, many albums since 1990, has been rifling through old tapes recently, and has come up with an exceptionally delightful one here. Recorded over two dates. This works out to five solo tracks (including two takes of "Lush Life"), plus two with drums and percussion (Enzo Carpentieri, some Balinese), three more with bass (Danilo Gallo), and finally three with tenor sax (Ettore Martin). A- [cd]

Jack Wood: The Gal That Got Away: The Best of Jack Wood, Featuring Guest Niehaud Fitzgibbon ([2024], Jazz Hang): A classic crooner, "long a favorite in Southern California." No dates given here, but "some of the Wood's finest recordings," with various groups, including Doug MacDonald and John Pisano on guitar, some sweetened by the Salt Lake City Jazz Orchestra. The featured guest is an Australian singer, who takes over for two tracks, and is as adept as her host. I must admit that I still have a soft spot for the style, especially on the songs that it made timeless. B+(***) [cd] [03-29]

Old music:

Gigi: Gigi (2001, Palm Pictures): Ethiopian singer Ejigayehu Shibabaw, third album, got a boost on Chris Blackwell's label, produced by Bill Laswell, with a roster of jazz greats (Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Pharoah Sanders, Henry Threadgill, Hamid Drake, Amina Claudine Myers) mixed in with Laswell regulars and many Ethiopians. Laswell and Gigi married, following this up with a dub remix, then Zion Roots, credited to Abyssinia Infinite, with Gigi's full name as "featuring." B+(***) [sp]

Gigi: Illuminated Audio (2003, Palm Pictures): Some sort of dub remix of Gigi, omitting most of the vocals, which was the Gigi part of the album. Also cuts out the jazz solos, so you wind up with a lot of Bill Laswell ambient groove -- not much, but pleasant enough. B+(*) [sp]

Gigi: Gold & Wax (2006, Palm Pictures): Her third, and final, album for Chris Blackwell's label, again with Bill Laswell producing. A wide range of musicians -- including Nils Petter Molvaer, Bernie Worrell, Aiyb Dieng, Foday Musa Suso, Ustad Sultan Khan, and Buckethead -- integrate seamlessly with the mesmerizing vocals. A- [sp]

Barney McAll: Precious Energy (2022, Extra Celestial Arts): Australian pianist, close to twenty albums since 1995, seems to have designed this to appeal to his featured guest, alto saxophonist Gary Bartz, although the more critical collaborator may be jazz-soul outfit Haitus Kayote. This starts with a Leon Thomas/Pharoah Sanders homage, and ends with Coltrane, while touching on planets Sun Ra and Stevie Wonder. That was Bartz's golden age, but barely registers here over the zonked out vocals. B [sp]

Pajama Party: Up All Night (1989, Atlantic): Dance-pop vocal trio, released two albums, this debut and another in 1991. B+(**) [sp]

QOW Trio: QOW Trio (2020, Ubuntu Music): English sax-bass-drums trio -- Riley Stone-Lonergan, Eddie Myer, Spike Wells -- title song/group/album name from Dewey Redman, also dok one from Joe Henderson, several standards (three from Cole Porter), and two originals not far removed from their inspirations ("Pound for Prez," "Qowfirmation"). B+(***) [sp]

Stacey Q: Greatest Hits (1982-95 [1995], Thump): Dance-pop artist, Stacey Swain, opens with five resplendent remixes of singles from her 1986 solo debut, then ignores two later albums, going back to her early work in Q -- a "minimal synth/new wave" group with Jon St. James and Ross Wood, and then SSQ (supposedly emphasizing the singer's initials). B+(***) [sp]

SSQ: Playback (1983, Enigma): Stacey S[wain]'s pre-solo group, produced by guitar/synth player (and sometime vocalist) Jon St. James, both previously in the band Q, first and only album until a 2010 return. B+(**) [sp]

SSQ: Jet Town Je T'Aime (2020, Synthicide): A return to form for Stacey Swain and Jon St. James, 37 years after their first (and hitherto only) album. B+(*) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Guillermo Gregorio: Two Trios (ESP-Disk) [2023-12-01]
  • Mercer Hassy Orchestra: Duke's Place (Mercer Hassy) [04-15)
  • Ellie Lee: Escape (self-released) [05-24]
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: New Concepts in Piano Trio Jazz (ESP-Disk) [04-05]
  • Ronny Smith: Struttin' (Pacific Coast Jazz) [04-19]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Speaking of Which

I started this early, on Wednesday, maybe even Tuesday, as I couldn't bring myself to work on anything else. There's a rhythm here: I have twenty-some tabs open to my usual sources, and just cycle through them, picking out stories, noting them, sometimes adding a comment, some potentially long. By Friday night, I had so much, I thought of posting early: leaving the date set for Sunday, when I could do a bit of update.

I didn't get the early post done. Sunday, my wife invited some friends over to watch a movie. I volunteered to make dinner, and that (plus the movie) killed the rest of the day. Nothing fancy: I keep all the fixings for pad thai on hand, so I can knock off a pretty decent one-dish meal in little more than an hour. And I had been thinking about making hot and sour soup since noticing a long-neglected package of dried lily buds, so I made that too. First actual cooking I had done in at least a month, so that felt nice and productive.

This, of course, feels totally scattered. I'm unsure of the groupings, and it's hard for me to keep track of the redundancies and contradictions. And once again, I didn't manage to finish my rounds. Perhaps I'll add a bit more after initially posting it late Sunday night. But at the moment, I'm exhausted.

My wife mentioned an article to me that I should have tracked down earlier, but can only mention here: Pankaj Mishra: [03-07] The Shoah after Gaza. Mishra grew up in a "family of upper-caste Hindu nationalists in India," deeply sympathetic to Israel, so his piece offers a slightly distant parallel to what many of us who started sympathetic only to become dismayed and ultimately appalled by what Israel has turned into. Beyond that, the piece is valuable as a history of how the Nazi Judeocide -- to borrow Arno Mayer's more plainly factual term in lieu of Holocaust or Shoah -- has been forged into a cudgel for beating down anyone who so much as questions let alone challenges the supremacy of Israeli power.

There is also a YouTube video of Mishra's piece.

On Facebook, I ran across this quote attributed to Carolina Landsmann in Haaretz:

We (Israelis) continue to approach the world from the position of victim, ignoring the 30,000 dead in Gaza, including 12,000 children, assuming that the world is still captive to its historic guilt toward Israel without understanding that this is over. The era of the Holocaust has ended. The Palestinians are now the wretched of the earth.

It's impossible to go back to the pre-Oct 7 world. To the blame economy between the Jews and the world, which gave the former moral immunity. Enough; it's over. Every era draws to a close. The time has come to grow up.

There was a time, and not that long ago, when I still thought that the experience of victimhood would still temper the exercise of Israeli power: sure, Israel was systematically oppressive, and Israeli society was riddled with the ethnocentrism we Americans understand as racism, but surely they still had enough of a grip on their humanity to stop short of genocide. That's all changed now, and it's coming as quite a shock -- no doubt to many Israelis as they look at their neighbors, but even more so to Americans (not just Jews but also many liberals who have long counted on Jews as allies).

It's hard to know what to do these days, beyond the call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, and the constant need to remind anyone who's still echoing the Israeli hasbara that it's genocide, and by not opposing it, they're complicit. It may be unfair to go so far as to make placards about "Genocide Joe" -- he's just in thrall, having fully adapted to the peculiar gravity of the Israel lobby when he arrived in Washington fifty years ago -- as there is still a difference (maybe not practical, but certainly in spirit) between him and the people in Israel (and some Republicans in Congress) who really are committed to genocide. But in times like this, nice sentiments don't count for much.

Another important piece I noticed but skipped over on Sunday: Aaron Gell: [03-03] Has Zionism lost the argument? "American Jews' long-standing consensus about Israel has fractured. There may be no going back." There is a lot to unpack here. It's worth your time to read the interview with Ruth Wisse, with her absolutist defense of Israel, then the digression where the author considers the charge that Jews who doubt Israel are becoming non-Jews, ending in a reference to the Mishnah, specifically "by far the hardest to answer: If I am only for myself, who am I? Many Zionists long justified their project as providing a haven from anti-semitism, but their exclusive focus on their own issues, turning into indifference or worse towards everyone else, has finally turned Israel into the world's leading generator of anti-semitism.

Wisse insists that "the creation of the state changes the entire picture, because now to be anti-Zionist is a genocidal concept. If you're an anti-Zionist, you're against the existence of Israel . . . the realized homeland of nine million people." But later on, Gell notes: "I've spoken to dozens of anti-Zionists over the past few months, and not a single one thought Israel should cease to exist." They have various ideas of how this could be done, in part because they've seen it work here:

American Jews are justifiably proud to live in a successful multiethnic democracy, imperfect though it is. As citizens of a nation in which Jews are a distinct minority, we owe our well-being, our prosperity, and, yes, perhaps our existence to the tolerance, openness, and egalitarianism of our system of government and our neighbors. No wonder we shudder at Israel's chauvinism, its exclusionary nationalism, its oppression. It's all too obvious how we'd fare if the United States followed Israel's lead in reserving power for an ethnic or religious majority. Seen in this light, what's surprising isn't that some American Jews are anti-Zionists; it's that many more aren't.

I've been reading Shlomo Avineri's 1981 book (paperback updated with a new preface and epilogue 2017), The Making of Modern Zionism: The Intellectual Origins of the Jewish State, which offers a highly sympathetic survey of most of the reasons people have come up with to justify and promote Zionism. I'm still in the last profile chapter, on David Ben Gurion, before the initial epilogue, "Zionism as a Permanent Revolution." Immediately previous were chapters on Jabotinsky (who built a cult of power based on fascist models and used it to flip the script on race, promoting Jews as the superior one) and Rabbi Kook (who reformulated Zionism as God's will).

Ben Gurion's major contribution was the doctrine of "Hebrew labor," where Jews would fill all economic niches in the economy, leaving native Palestinians excluded and powerless. This was a significant change from the usual practice of settler colonialism, which everywhere else depended on impoverished locals for labor. Ben Gurion's union bound Jews into a coherent, self-contained, mutual help society, including its own militia, well before it was possible to call itself a state. But in doing so, he excluded the Palestinians, and plotted their expulsion -- his endorsement of the 1937 Peel Commission plan, his campaign for the UN partition plan, and finally his "War of Independence," remembered by Palestinians as the Nakba.

Ben Gurion was an enormously talented political figure, and his establishment of Israel through the 1950 armistices, the citizenship act, and the law of return, was a remarkable achievement against very stiff odds. He might have gotten away with it, but he couldn't leave well enough alone. He always wanted more, and he cultivated that trait in his followers. And while he feared the 1967 war, his followers launched it anyway, and in the end -- even as his fears had proven well founded -- he delighted in it. Like Mao, he so loved his revolution he kept revitalizing it, oblivious to the tragedy it caused. I expect the book, with its "permanent revolution" epilogues, will end on that note.

There is a lot of wishful thinking in the early parts of Avineri's book -- most obviously, Herzl's fairy-tale liberalism, but also the socialism of Syrkin and Borochov, which could have been developed further in later years, but it's appropriate to end as it does, with the real Israeli state. Great as he was, Ben Gurion made mistakes, and in the end the most fateful was allowing Jabotinsky and Kook, or more precisely their followers, into the inner sanctumm, from which they eventually prevailed in shaping Israel into the genocidal juggernaut it has become. The path from Jabotinsky to Netanyahu is remarkably short, passing straight through the former's secretary, the same as the latter's father. The other intermediaries were Ben Gurion's rivals of 1948, Begin and Shamir, who became favored tools in driving the Palestinians into exile, and future prime ministers.

Less obvious was Ben Gurion's decision to invite the Kookists into government, but what politician doesn't want to be reassured that God is on his side? Rabbi Kook was succeeded by his son, Zvi Yehuda Kook, whose Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) was the driving force behind the West Bank settlements, leading directly to Smotrich and Ben Gvir. The first casualty in Ben Gurion's schemes was the socialism that unified the Yishuv in the first place. That was what gave Israel its foundational sense of justice, a reputation that is now nothing but ruins.

Initial count: 174 links, 8,842 words. Updated count [03-05]: 193 links, 10,883 words.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. world (including American) opinion: This week we lead off with a singular act of self-sacrifice, by an American, an active duty serviceman, Aaron Bushnell, in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington. I feel like I should add an opinion, but I don't really have one. My inclination is to view him as just another casualty of the more general madness, so not a hero or martyr or even a fool, but I'm also not so callous as to look the other way -- especially when so many people do have things to say.

Other stories:

  • Spencer Ackerman: [03-28] The anti-Palestinian origins of the War on Terror: Interview with Darryl Li, who wrote the report Anti-Palestinian at the core: The origins and growing dangers of US anti-terrorism law.

  • Ammiel Alcalay: [02-28] War on Gaza: How the US is buying time for Israel's genocide: "As the US ambassador to the UN recently made clear in a rare moment of honesty, Washington is fully committed to facilitating Israel's destruction of the Palestinians."

  • Kyle Anzalone: [03-01] US vetoes UN resolution condemning Israel for flour massacre.

  • Muhannad Ayyash: [02-26] Boycotting Israel could stop the genocide: At this point, this is probably just wishful thinking: "the world must ensure Tel Aviv's legal, economic and political isolation." The nice thing about BDS was that it provided a forum for grass-roots organizing against the apartheid regime in Israel: something that individuals could start and grow, and eventually recruit more powerful organizations, while ultimately appealing to the better consciences within Israel itself. That it worked with South Africa was encouraging.

    But it was always going to be a much more difficult reach in Israel -- I could insert a half-dozen reasons here -- and it never came close to gathering the collective moral, let alone financial, force it had with South Africa. Now, about all you can say for it is that it allowed people of good will to express their disapproval without promoting even more violence. I would even agree that it's still worth doing -- Israel deserves to be shamed and shunned for what it's doing, now more than ever. And, as we witness what Israel is doing, many more people, indeed whole nations, may join us.

    But will boycotting stop the genocide now? Maybe if the US and NATO banded together and put some serious teeth in their threats, some Israelis might reconsider. But sanctions usually just push countries deeper into corners, from which they're more likely to strike back than to fold. I'm not about to blame BDS for Israel's rampant right-wing -- their racism dates back further than any outsider noticed -- but they would claim their ascent as the way of fighting back against foreign moralizers. Even if we could count on eventually forcing some kind of reconciliation, the people in power in Israel right now are more likely to double down on genocide. It's not like anyone in the Nazi hierarchy saw the writing on the wall after Stalingrad and decided they should call the Judeocide off, lest they eventually put on trial. They simply sped up the extermination, figuring it would be their enduring contribution to Aryan civilization.

    • Jo-Ann Mort: [02-28] BDS is counter-productive. We need to crack down on Israeli settlements instead: "A future peace depends on drawing a line between Israel proper and the illegal settlements in Palestinian territory." This article is so silly I only linked to it after the Ayyash piece above. It does provide some explanation why BDS failed, but it doesn't come close to offering an alternative. Israel has been continuously blurring and outright erasing the Green Line ever since 1967. (It started with he demolition of the neighborhood next to the Al-Aqsa Mosque's western wall, just days after the 7-day war ended.) There is no way to force Israel to do much of anything, but few things are harder to imagine them acceding to is a return to what from 1950-67 were often decried as "Auschwitz borders."

  • Phyllis Bennis:

  • Amena ElAshkar: [02-28] Gaza ceasefire: Talk of an imminent deal is psychological warfare. I haven't bothered linking to numerous articles about an imminent ceasefire deal because, quite frankly, possible deals have never been more than temporarily expedient propaganda, mostly meant to humor the hostage relatives and the Americans. If Israel wanted peace, they could ceasefire unilaterally, and having satisfied themselves that they had inflicted sufficient damage to restore their Iron Wall deterrence, leave the rubble to others to deal with. The hostages would cease to be a bargaining chip, except inasmuch as not freeing them would keep much needed international aid away. So why is Netanyahu negotiating with Hamas? Mostly to squirrel the deal, while he continues implementing his plan to totally depopulate/destroy Gaza.

  • Paul Elle: [02-26] The Vatican and the war in Gaza: "A rhetorical dispute the Church and the Israeli government shows the limits -- and the possibilities -- of the Pope's role in times of conflict." On the other hand, if you look at the Pope's recent comments on "gender theory," you'll realize that he has very little to offer humanity, and that a Church that follows him could be very ominous. (For example, see [03-02] Pope says gender theory is 'ugly ideology' that threatens humanity.) Sometimes I'm tempted to take heart in that the Catholic Church is one of the few extant organizations to predate, and therefore remain somewhat free of, capitalism. But in it the spirit of Inquisition runs even deeper.

  • Madeline Hall: [02-28] Israeli genocide is a bad investment: For one thing, Norway has divested its holdings of Israeli bonds.

  • James North:

  • Peter Oborne: [02-27] These ruthless, bigoted Tories would have Enoch Powell smiling from his grave: "The recent spate of vile anti-Muslim rhetoric from the Tories shows they have decided that stoking hatred against minorities is their only way to avoid electoral annihilation." Also in UK:

  • Charles P Pierce: [02-29] The US has enabled Netanyahu long enough: "Two democracies, hijacked for alibis."

  • Vijay Prashad: [02-14] There is no place for the Palestinians of Gaza to go.

  • Barnett R Rubin: [03-02] Redemption through genocide: "The ICJ ruled that Israel's Gaza campaign poses a plausible and urgent threat of genocide. Future historians of Jewish messianism may recount how in 2024 "redemption through sin" became "redemption through genocide," with unconditional US support."

  • Sarang Shidore/Dan M Ford: [02-29] At the Hague, US more isolated than ever on Israel-Palestine.

  • Adam Taylor: [02-29] Democrats grew more divided on Israeli-Palestinian conflict, poll shows. Interesting that the Democratic split has always favored "take neither side," from a peak of 82% down to 74% before Gaza blew up -- the 12% drop since looks to be evenly split. Republicans, on the other hand, never had any sympathy for Palestinians, and became more pro-Israeli since (56% would "take Israel's side," vs. 19% for Democrats).

  • Philip Weiss: [02-28] PBS and NPR leave out key facts in their Israel stories: "Pundits and reporters in the mainstream media have a double standard when it comes to Israel and all but lie about apartheid, Jewish nationalism, and the role of the Israel lobby."

America's empire of bases and proxy conflicts, increasingly stressed by Israel's multifront war games:

  • Juan Cole: [03-03] How Washington's anti-Iranian campaign failed, big time.

  • Dave DeCamp: [02-29] US officials expect Israel to launch ground invasion of Lebanon: "Administration officials tell CNN they expect a ground incursion in late spring or early summer." The logic here is pretty ridiculous, and if it's believed in Washington, you have to wonder about them, too. Israel had a lot of fun bombing Lebanon in 2006, but their ground incursion was a pure disaster. There's no possible upside to trying it again. The argument that Netanyahu will, for political expediency, enlarge the war in order to keep it going "after Gaza," overlooks their obvious desire to "finish the job" by doing the same to Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank.

  • Sasha Filippova/Kristina Fried/Brian Concannon: [03-01] From coup to chaos: 20 years after the US ousted Haiti's president.

  • Jim Lobe: [03-01] Neocon Iraq war architects want a redo in Gaza: "Post-conflict plan would put Western mercenaries and Israel military into the mix, with handpicked countries in charge of a governing 'Trust.'" Pic is of Elliott Abrams, who was the one in charge of US Israel policy under Bush, and who pushed Sharon's unilateral withdrawal of settlements from Gaza, so that Gaza could be blockaded and bombed more effectively. That directly led to Hamas seizing power in Gaza, so one could argue that Abrams already had his "redo in Gaza."

The Michigan primaries: Of minor interest to both party frontrunners, so let's get them out of the way first. Trump won the Republican primary with 68.1% of the votes, vs. 26.6% for Nikki Haley, splitting the delegates 12-4 (39 more delegates will be decided later). Biden won the Democratic primary with 81.1% of the vote, vs. 13.2% for an uncommitted slate, which was promoted by Arab-Americans and others as a protest vote against Biden's support for Israel's genocide in Gaza. Marianne Williamson got 3%, and Dean Phillips 2.7%. Everyone's trying to spin the results as much as possible, but I doubt they mean much.

Next up is "Super Tuesday," so here's a bit of preview:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Mitch McConnell, 82, announced he will step down as Republican Leader in the Senate in November. This led to some, uh, appreciation?

  • Ryan Cooper: [02-29] Mitch McConnell, Senate arsonist.

  • Jack Hunter: [02-29] Sorry AP: Mitch McConnell is no Ronald Reagan: "The paper deploys the usual neoconservative trope that their foreign policies are the same. They are not." Still, I hate it when critics think they're being so clever in claiming that old Republicans were so sensible compared to the new ones. Reagan's "willingness to talk to America's enemies" didn't extend much beyond Russia, and that only after the door had been opened by Gorbachev. He left nothing but disasters all over Latin America and the Middle East through Iran and Afghanistan.

  • Ed Kilgore: [02-29] Mitch McConnell's power trip finally comes to an end.

  • Ian Millhiser: [02-29] How Mitch McConnell broke Congress.

  • John Nichols: [02-29] Good riddance to Mitch McConnell, an enemy of democracy: Sorry to have to break this to you, but he isn't going anywhere. He'll serve out the rest of his six-year term. He's not giving up his leadership post out of a sudden attack of conscience. He's doing it so some other Republican can take over, and possibly do even worse things than he would have done. By holding out until November, he's giving Trump the prerogative of hand-picking his successor -- assuming Trump wins, of course.

  • David A Graham: Mitch McConnell surrenders to Trump: That's more like it, but at least he's given himself some time. If Trump wins in November, there'll be no fighting him. And if Trump loses, why should he want to be the one stuck cleaning up the mess?

  • Andrew Prokop: [02-28] How Mitch McConnell lost by winning.

  • Jane Mayer: [2020-04-12] How Mitch McConnell became Trump's enabler-in-chief: Sometimes an old piece is the best reminder. Had McConnell a bit more foresight and backbone, he could have swung enough Republican votes to convict Trump over Jan. 6, and followed that with a resolution declaring Trump ineligible to run again, according to the 14th Amendment -- such a resolution was discussed at the time, and would undoubtedly be upheld. Sure, it would have been unpopular among Republicans at the time, but popular will has almost never entered into McConnell's political calculus.

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Zack Beauchamp: [02-27] Biden has been bad for Palestinians. Trump would be worse. "On Israel, the two are not the same." Probably true, but this really isn't much comfort. Biden is effectively an Israeli puppet, with no independent will, or even willingness to caution Netanyahu in public, and as such has had no effect on moderating Israel's vendetta -- and may reasonably be charged with not just supporting but accelerating it. For instance, Biden did not have to send aircraft carriers into the region, threatening Iran and provoking Yemen and Lebanon. Nor did he have to accelerate arms deliveries when a ceasefire was obviously called for. As for Trump, sure, he doesn't even know the meaning of "caution." He is largely responsible for Netanyahu believing that he can get away with anything.

    • Dave DeCamp: [03-03] Poll: Majority of Democrats want a presidential candidate who opposes military aid to Israel: With Marianne Williamson unsuspending her campaign, there actually is one, but will anyone find out?

    • Isaac Chotiner: [02-28] Does the Biden administration want a long-lasting ceasefire in Gaza? Interview with John Kirby, Biden's National Security Council spokesman, explaining that Biden only wants whatever Netanyahu tells him to want. It's like a form of hypnosis, where Hamas is the shiny object that so captures America's gaze that it will support Israel doing anything to it wants as long as it's saying it's meant to eliminate Hamas. Sure, Biden understands that Palestinians are suffering, and he implores Netanyahu to make them suffer less, but he can't question his orders.

      The key to this is that he buys the line that Hamas is a cancer that can be excised from the Palestinian body politic, allowing Israel to regain its security. I hesitate to call that the Israeli line: sure, they developed it with their targeted assassinations (they go back at least as far as Abu Jihad in 1988), but Israelis never claimed one strike would suffice -- they tended to use metaphors like "mowing the grass"). It was only the Americans, with their romantic conceits about their own goodness and the innate innocence of ignorant savages, that turned this systematic slaughter into magical thinking. Israelis don't think like that. They understand that Hamas (or some other form of militant backlash) is the inevitable result of their harsh occupation. And, their consciences hardened by constant struggle (including their carefully cultivated memory of the Holocaust), they're willing to live with that brutality.

      If they can't distinguish Hamas from the mass of people they've emerged from, they see no reason to discipline their killing. They figure if they destroy enough, the problem will subside. Even if it inevitably erupts again, that's later, and they'll remain eternally vigilant. There are no solutions, because they don't want to accept the only possible one, which is peaceful coexistence. But silly Americans, they need to be told stories, and it's amazing what they'll swallow.

    • Mitchell Plitnick: [03-01] Biden memos show Palestine advocacy is working: "Two recent presidential orders show the Biden administration is feeling the heat from months of protests against his support for Israel's genocide in Gaza."

    • Alexander Ward: [03-01] 'We look 100 percent weak': US airdrops in Gaza expose limit to Biden's Israel policy.

    • Fareed Zakaria: [03-01] Biden needs to tell Israel some difficult truths. Only he can do it.

    • Erica L Green: [03-03] Kamala Harris calls for an 'immediate cease-fire' in Gaza: Promising title, but fine print reveals it's only the "six-week cease-fire proposal currently on the table," and that she's calling on Hamas, not Israel, the ones who are actually doing all of the firing, and who have already broken off talks on that particular proposal. A cease fire, especially where the war is so one-sided, doesn't need to be negotiated: just do it (perhaps daring the other side to violate it, but the longer it lasts, the better). Sure, prisoner exchanges have to be negotiated, but not cease-fire, which is just common sense.

  • Frank Bruni: [03-03] How Democrats can win anywhere and everywhere.

  • Michelle Goldberg: [03-01] The Democrat showing Biden how it's done: Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan. This follows on recent columns by Goldberg:

  • Ezra Klein: [02-16] Democrats have a better option than Biden: Starts by heaping considerable praise on Biden and his accomplishments of the last three-plus years, then lowers the boom and insists that he should step aside, not so much because one reasonably doubts that he can do the job for more years, but that he's no longer competent as a candidate. (Never mind that Trump is far from competent, in any sense of the term. He's a Republican, and one of our many double standards, we don't expect competency from Republicans, or for that matter caring, or even much coherence.) He goes into how conventions work, and offers a bunch of plausible candidates. It's a long and thorough piece, and makes the case as credibly as I've seen (albeit much less critically of Biden than I might do myself).

    Klein's columns are styled as "The Ezra Klein Show," which are usually just interviews, but this one is monologue, with multiple references to other conversations. He's had a few other interviews recently with political operatives, a couple adding to his insight into Democratic prospects, plus a couple more I'll include here. (Also see the pieces I listed under Ukraine.)

  • Paul Musgrave: [03-03] An inside look at how Biden's team rebuilt foreign policy after Trump: Review of Alexander Ward: The Internationalists: The Fight to Restore American Foreign Policy After Trump.

  • Bill Scher: [02-29] "Nightmare in America": How Biden's ad team should attack Trump: "In 1984, Ronald Reagan's reelection campaign ran a series of ads that evoked how different life felt in America compared to under his opponent's administration four years prior. Today, Joe Biden should do the same." Sure, there's something to be said here, if you can figure out how to say it. But Trump's going to be pushing the opposite spin, in many cases on the same set of facts, all the while pointing out the extraordinary efforts his/your enemies took to hobnob his administration and persecute him since he was pushed out of office. He's just as likely to embrace the Left's notion of him as their worst nightmare. Note that page includes a link to a 2020 article, which also cites Reagan: Nancy LeTourneau: Are you better off than you were four years ago?

  • John E Schwarz: [03-01] Democratic presidents have better economic performances than Republican ones.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Ukraine War:

  • Connor Echols: [03-01] Diplomacy Watch: Russia could be invited to Ukraine-led peace talks. I don't really buy that "Ukraine's shift is a sign of just how dire the situation is becoming for its armed forces," but I do believe that Russia can more/less hold its position indefinitely, that it can continue to exact high (and eventually crippling) costs from Ukraine indefinitely, and that it can survive the sanctions regime (which the US is unlikely to loosen even in an armistice. All of this suggests to me that Zelensky needs to approach some realistic terms for ending the war, then sell them as hard to his "allies" as to Putin, and to the rest of the world.

  • Anatol Lieven/George Beebe: [02-28] Europeans' last ditch clutch at Ukrainian victory: "France's Macron raised the idea of Western troops entering the fray, others want to send longer range missiles."

  • Olena Melnyhk/Sera Koulabdara: [02-29] Ukraine's vaunted 'bread basket' soil is now toxic: "Two years of war has left roughly one-third of its territory polluted, with dire potential consequences for the world's food supply."

  • Will Porter: [02-28] Russia claims first Abrams tank kill in Ukraine.

  • Ted Snider: [03-01] How the West provoked an unprovoked war in Ukraine. The ironies in the title at least merit quotes around "unprovoked." The important part of the story is the relatively underreported period from March, 2021 when Biden added $125 million of "defensive lethal weapons" on top of $150 million previously allocated under Trump, up to the eve of the March 2022 invasion, when "Putin called Ukraine 'a knife to the throat of Russia' and worried that 'Ukraine will serve as an advanced bridgehead' for a pre-emptive US strike against Russia." It is unlikely the US would ever launch such a strike, but Ukraine had by then given up on the Minsk accords and was preparing to take back Donbas. Had they succeeded, Crimea would be next, and that (plus excessive confidence in his own military) was enough for Putin to launch his own pre-emptive attack.

  • Marcus Stanley: [02-28] Biden officials want Russian frozen assets to fund Ukraine war: "Not only will this prolong the conflict, but rock confidence in the Western-led world economic system."

  • Ishaan Tharoor: [02-28] Foreign troops in Ukraine? They're already there.

  • Ezra Klein:

  • [2022-03-01] Can the West stop Russia by strangling its economy? Transcript of an interview with Adam Tooze, doesn't really answer the title question but does provide a pretty deep survey of Russia's economy at the start of Putin's invasion of Ukraine. One minor note: I think Tooze said "Kremlinologists" where you read "the criminologists of the modern day have five, six, seven, eight different groups now that they see operating around Putin."

    PS: Unrelated to Russia, but for another Klein interview with Tooze, see: [2022-10-07] How the Fed is "shaking the entire system".

Around the world:

Other stories:

Lori Aratani: [03-01] Boeing in talks to reacquire key 737 Max supplier Spirit AeroSystems: Boeing spun the company off in 2005, including the Wichita factory my father and brother worked at for decades.

Marina Bolotnikova/Kenny Torrella: [02-26] 9 charts that show US factory farming is even bigger than you realize: "Factory farms are now so big that we need a new word for them." Related here:

Rosa Brooks: [02-20] One hundred years of dictatorship worship: A review of a new book by Jacob Heilbrunn: America Last: The Right's Century-Long Romance With Foreign Dictators [note: cover has it "America First" in large white type, then overprints "Last" in blockier red].

Daniel Denvir: [02-28] The libertarians who dream of a world without democracy: Interview with Quinn Slobodian, who wrote the 2018 book Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism, and most recently, Crack-Up Capitalism: Market Radicals and the Dream of a World Without Democracy.

Adam Gopnik: [02-19] Did the year 2020 change us forever? "The COVID-19 pandemic affected us in millions of ways. But it evades the meanings we want it to bear." A review, which I haven't finished (and may never) of the emerging, evolving literature on 2020.

Sean Illing: [03-03] Are we in the middle of an extinction panic? "How doomsday proclamations about AI echo existential anxieties of the past." Interview with Tyler Austin Harper, who wrote about this in the New York Times: The 100-year extinction panic is back, right on schedule. I could write a lot more on this, especially if I referred back to the extinction controversies paleontologists have been debating all along, but suffice it to say:

  • Short of the Sun exploding, there is zero chance of humans going extinct in the foreseeable future. People are too numerous, widespread, and flexible for anything to get all of us. (Side note: the effective altruist focus on preventing extinction events is misguided.)
  • Human population is, however, precariously balanced on a mix of technological, economic, political, and cultural factors which are increasingly fragile, and as such subject to sabotage and other disruptions (not least because they are often poorly understood). Any major breakdown could be catastrophic on a level that affects millions (though probably not billions) of people.
  • Catastrophes produce psychological shocks that can compound the damage. By far the greatest risk here is war, not just for its immediate destruction but because it makes recovery more difficult.
  • People are not very good at evaluating these risks, erring often both in exaggeration and denial.

The Times piece led to some others of interest here:

Chris Lehman: [03-01] Border hysteria is a bipartisan delusion: "Yesterday, both President Biden and Donald Trump visited Texas to promise harsher immigration policies."

Andrea Mazzarino: [02-27] War's cost is unfathomable. I mentioned this in an update last week, but it's worth mentioning again. She starts by referring to "The October 7th America has forgotten," which was 2001, when the US first bombed Afghanistan, following the Al-Qaeda attacks of that September 11. In 2010, Mazzarino founded the Cost of War Project, which, as economists are wont to do, started adding up whatever they could of the quantifiable costs of America's Global War on Terror and its spawn. Still, their figures (at least $8 trillion and counting, and with debt compounding) miss much of the real human (and environmental) costs, especially those that are primarily psychic.

For instance, would we have the gun problem that we have had we not been continuously at war for over two decades? Would our politics have turned so desperately war-like? Certainly, there would have been much less pressure to immigrate, given that war is the leading producer of refugees. Without constant jostling for military leverage, might we not have made more progress in dealing with problems like climate change? The list only grows from there.

One constant theme of every Speaking of Which is the need to put aside the pursuit of power over and against others and find mutual grounds that will allow us to work together cooperatively to deal with pressing problems. There are lots of reasons why this is true, starting with the basic fact that we could not exist in such numbers if not for a level of technology that is complex beyond most of our understandings and fragile, especially vulnerable to the people who feel most unjustly treated. Our very lives depend on experts who can be trusted, and their ability to work free of sabotage. You can derive all the politics you need from this insight.

Michelle Orange: [03-01] How the Village Voice met its moment: A review of Tricia Romano's The Freaks Came Out to Write, a new "oral history" (i.e., history presented in interview quotes). I rushed out and bought a copy, and should probably write my own review, even if only because she left me out. More:

Rick Perlstein: [02-28] Kissinger revisited: "The former secretary of state is responsible for virtually every American geopolitical disaster of the past half-century."

Deanne Stillman: [02-21] Mothers, sons, and guns: Author wrote a book about Lee Harvey Oswald and his mother, recounted here, in light of high school shooter Ethan Crumbley and his mother, Jennifer Crumbley, who was convicted for her role leading up to the shootings.

David Zipper: [03-01] Driving at ridiculous speeds should be physically impossible: As someone who grew up with a great love of auto racing, I'd argue that driving at ridiculous speeds has always been physically impossible, even as limits have expanded with better technology. Of course, "ridiculous" can mean many different things, but I'd say that's a reason not to try to legislate it. I've long thought that the 55 mph speed limit was the biggest political blunder the Democrats made, at least in my lifetime. (Aside from Vietnam.) Not only did it impose on personal freedom -- in a way that, say, European levels of gasoline taxes wouldn't have done -- but it induced some kind of brain rot in American auto engineering, from which Detroit may never have recovered. (I can't really say. After several bad experiences, I stopped buying their wares.)

Ironically, this political push for mandating "speed limiters" (even more euphemistically, "Intelligent Speed Assistance") on new cars is coming from tech businesses, who see surveillance of driving as a growth area for revenue. This fits in with much broader plans to increase surveillance -- mostly government, but it doesn't end there -- over every aspect of our lives. Supposedly, this will save lives, although the relationship between speeding and auto carnage has never been straightforward, and much more plausible arguments (e.g., on guns) go nowhere. My great fear here is that Democrats will rally to this as a public health and safety measure, inviting a backlash we can ill afford (as with the 55 mph speed limit, which helped elect Reagan).

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Music Week

February archive (finished).

Music: Current count 41900 [41864] rated (+36), 22 [20] unrated (+2).

Running late this week, but managed to get most things done that had to be done. Still, I'm a frazzled, nervous wreck as I try to wrap up this introduction, so don't expect much.

I didn't get done with Speaking of Which by bedtime Sunday, so (once again) posted what I had, with the promise of a Monday update. But I've made very little progress on that today, so I don't know where that leaves us. I still expect to post this by bedtime Monday evening, even if it's in a similar state of disarray. There is some chance of further updates on Tuesday, but right now I'm growing sick of all of it.

[PS: Updated Tuesday.]

I did wrap up the February Streamnotes file (except for the last Music Week, which I may still manage to add, and the indexing, which I certainly won't get done in time). At least the empty March Streamnotes file is opened.

I also managed to save off my frozen year 2023 list. Subsequent additions to the active one will be flagged in a distinctive color. It looks like I added 91 such post-freeze records to the year 2022 file.

I added a few more lists to the EOY aggregate, most notably the long Aquarium Drunkard list, which pointed me to a few items and suggested many more. I had trouble focusing on things last week, so rated count was down, but A-list exploded from 2 last week to 9 this week (plus two upgrades from revisits -- I've been meaning to return to Bryan and Crowell; also, but not yet, Brandy Clark and Tyler Childers. That helped the Non-Jazz A-list catch up with the Jazz, now 84-83.

New records reviewed this week:

Acceleration Due to Gravity: Jonesville: Music by and for Sam Jones (2023 [2024], Hot Cup, EP): Nonet led by bassist Moppa Elliott, best known for his "bebop terrorist" group Mostly Other People Do the Killing. Similar swagger here, ripping through seven pieces (22:01) by or for the esteemed bebop bassist (1924-81). B+(***) [cd]

Advancing on a Wild Pitch: Disasters, Vol. 2 (2023 [2024], Hot Cup): Bassist Moppa Elliott again, the highly recommended 2022 release of Disasters, Vol. 1 credited to his old band, Mostly Other People Do the Killing. Back to a quintet here, with Sam Kulik (trombone), Charles Evans (baritone sax), Danny Fox (piano), and Christian Coleman (drums). Title reflects on his heritage, with seven songs (36:01) each "named after towns in Pennsylvania that experienced historical disasters." Sounds like unfinished bebop from the 1950s, riffing over barely-controlled swing. [PS: Not clear why I got the PR sheet but no CD, as I did with Jonesville. Release so far seems limited to digital and LP.] A- [bc]

Tanner Adell: Buckle Bunny (2023, Columbia, EP): Debut mixtape, eight songs, 23:59, slotted country but hip-hop to the core, or maybe that should be vice versa? B+(***) [sp]

Eric Alexander: A New Beginning: Alto Saxophone With Strings (2021 [2023], HighNote): Mainstream saxophonist, always played tenor (as far as I recall), usually in conventional quartets (although he's done a lot of work on the side, including the larger One for All group), but tried his hand with strings in 2019, arranged this time by Bill Dobbins. Still, this seems much like his typical quartet outing, with his usual group: David Hazeltine (piano), John Webber (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Aunty Rayzor: Viral Wreckage (2023, Hakuna Kulala): Bisola Olungbenga, from Nigeria, first album, working with producers Titi Bakorta (from Congo), Ill Gee (Uganda), Scotch Rolex (Japan), DJ Chris Fontedofunk (Brazil), Debmaster (France), Slimcase (Nigeria), and Kabeaushe (Kenya), rapping in Yoruba (and some English) over razor-sharp electrobeats. Last cut (feat. Bakorta) adds a delightful bit of soukous guitar to the mix. B+(***) [sp]

Annie Chen: Guardians (2022-23 [2024], JZ Music): Jazz singer-songwriter, originally from Beijing, based in New York since 2013, third album since 2014, eight pieces, the latter four fashioned as "Guardians Suite." Backed by a sextet, including alto sax/flute/bass clarinet, guitar, drums, violin/viola, bass/meh, and accordion/piano. Way too operatic for me. B [cd]

Daggerboard: Escapement (2022 [2024], Wide Hive): Group led by Gregory Howe (percussion) and Erik Jekabson (trumpet), third album, previous group Throttle Elevator Music, Howe was the label founder in 1996. Cover also notes as "featuring" -- Henry Franklin (bass), Matt Clark (piano), and Mike Clark (drums) -- but eleven more musicians are pictured, including three violins, cello, and perhaps the most famous, Babatunde Lea (congos). B+(**) [cd] [03-08]

DJ Finale: Mille Morceau (2023, Nyege Nyege Tapes): From Kinshasa, Congo, solo debut from a member of Afrofuturist collective Fulu Miziki (Lingala for "music from garbage"), like them on Uganda's premier electroclash label, overruns you with beats that bang on metal, and are even more surprising when they don't. A- [sp]

Drain: Living Proof (2023, Epitaph): Hardcore punk band, second album, ten songs, 25:07. Short, but still a bit longer than the joke lasts. B+(*) [sp]

Emmeluth's Amoeba: Nonsense (2021 [2024], Moserobie): Danish alto saxophonist Signe Emmeluth, third group album, with guitar (Karl Bjorå), drums (Ole Mofjell), and piano (Christian Balvig). Free jazz with a lot of sharp edges and resonant ripples. A- [cd]

Christian Fabian Trio: Hip to the Skip (2022-23 [2024], Spicerack): Funk/fusion grooves, led by electric bassist with Matt King (keys) and Jason Marsalis (drums). B+(*) [cd]

Friends & Neighbors: Circles (2022 [2024], Clean Feed): Scandinavian freebop quintet, sixth album, with André Roligheten (tenor sax), Thomas Johansson (trumpet), Oscar Grönberg (piano), Jon Rune Strøm (bass), and Tollef Østvang (drums), each writing at least one song. B+(***) [sp]

Romulo Fróes and Tiago Rosas: Na Goela (2023, YB Music): Brazilian singer-songwriters, latter also plays guitar, former has ten albums since 2004. B+(**) [sp]

Glass Beach: Plastic Death (2024, Run for Cover): Indie rock band from Seattle, second album. Very complex, in ways I respect the craft for without taking any pleasure in the music, or whatever else they're trying to accomplish. B- [sp]

Gordon Grdina/Christian Lillinger: Duo Work (2023 [2024], Attaboygirl): Duo, guitar/midi-guitar and drums, both on top of their game, with some intriguing dissonance early. B+(***) [cd]

Gordon Grdina's the Marrow: With Fathieh Honari (2023 [2024], Attaboygirl): Grdina plays oud here, along with Mark Helias (bass), Hank Roberts (cello), and Hamin Honari (percussion), son of the Canada-based Persian singer. B+(***) [cd]

Enrique Heredia Trio: Plays Herbie Nichols (2019-22 [2024], Fresh Sound): Spanish drummer, has several previous records, including a 2016 Plays the Music of Bob Zieff, and a previous (but different) trio. This with Pere Soto (guitar) and Xavi Castillo (bass), playing nine pieces by the short-lived Nichols (1919-63, with most of his recordings 1955-57). B+(***) [sp]

Kabeaushé: The Coming of Gaze (2023, Hakuna Kulala): Singer-rapper from Kenya, first album. B+(*) [sp]

Kabeaushé: Hold on to Deer Life, There's a Blcak Boy Behind You! (2023, Monkeytown): Second album, goes psychedelic. B [sp]

Noah Kahan: Stick Season (2022, Mercury/Republic): Singer-songwriter, originally from Vermont, folkie with some pop appeal, third album -- the first of three iterations to date, as newer releases, cashing in on chart success and a Grammy nomination, pile on way beyond these original thirteen songs. I'm impressed, a little, anyways. B+(***) [sp]

Kaze: Unwritten (2023 [2024], Circum/Libra): Quartet of Satoko Fujii (piano), Natsuki Tamura (trumpet), Christian Pruvost (trumpet), and Peter Orins (drums), seventh group album since 2011, first one billed as "completely improvised," which may excuse some temporary regrouping as they explore. B+(***) [cd]

Anni Kiviniemi Trio: Eir (2023 [2024], We Jazz): Finnish pianist, reportedly US-based but recorded this debut album in Oslo with Eero Tikkanen (bass) and Hans Hulbaekmo (drums), all her compositions. B+(***) [sp]

Doug MacDonald: Sextet Session (2023 [2024], DMAC Music): Guitarist, goes back a ways but has been especially prolific since 2014. Mainstream, with a bit of swing, sextet includes trumpet (Aaron Janik), tenor sax (Doub Webb), piano (Josh Nelson, bass, and drums. B+(**) [cd] [03-01]

Eliza McLamb: Going Through It (2024, Royal Mountain): Singer-songwriter, described as "LA-based pop culture icon," which seems to mean she's had a song ("Porn Star Tits") that went viral on TikTok. Intimate songs have some depth. "16" goes: "We pretend that you're trying/ 'I Don't know what to do with you'/ You say it often/ Almost sounds like a good excuse/ For doing nothing." B+(***) [sp]

Chase Rice: I Hate Cowboys & All Dogs Go to Hell (2023, Broken Bow): Country singer-songwriter from Florida, sixth album since 2010, the one on Columbia (2014) a platinum hit, but three later albums on Broken Bow didn't come close. Title from two songs, both against the grain, as is most of the filler, where the down home is spiced with stratospheric guitar. A- [sp]

RVG: Brain Worms (2023, Ivy League/Fire): Initials for Romy Vager Group, for the singer-songwriter-lead guitarist, from Melbourne, Australia. B+(**) [sp]

Sunny Five [Tim Berne/David Torn/Ches Smith/Devin Hoff/Marc Ducret]: Candid (2022 [2024], Intakt): Alto sax, two guitars (Torn and Ducret), drums/electronics and electric bass. This lineup might once have suggested fusion, but I have no clear idea of with what? Maybe Berne et al. just see the hardcore/metal instrumentation as something loud to improv with. B+(***) [sp]

Kali Uchis: Orquídeas (2024, Geffen): Dance-pop singer-songwriter Karly Marina Loaiza, from the Virginia side of DC, father Colombian, returned there while she was in high school, fourth album, second mostly in Spanish. Ends with a piece ("Dame Beso/Muévete") that would jump out even on a Kenyan guitar paradise album. Multiple plays show it's not alone. A- [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Herb Geller: Fire in the West (1957 [2023], Jazz Workshop): Alto saxophonist (1928-2013), inspired by Benny Carter, played in big bands in the early 1950s, led his first session in 1954, released this classic sextet session on Jubilee in 1957, establishing himself as a superb arranger, with Kenny Dorham (trumpet), Harold Land (tenor sax), Lou Levy (piano), Ray Brown (bass), and Lawrence Marable (drums), turning the fire up on "West coast cool jazz." Original title and artwork for an album I know from the 2003 CD That Geller Feller. A- [sp]

Ghetto Brothers: Power-Fuerza (1972 [2024], Vampisoul): South Bronx Puerto Rican group, only album, reissue billed as "one of the best Latin funk albums ever recorded," eventually moves in that direction, but only after a number of efforts at Beatles-like harmonies don't quite hit the mark. B+(*) [sp]

If You Want to Make a Lover: Palm Wine, Akan Blues & Early Guitar Highlife, Pt. 1 (1920s-50s [2023], Death Is Not the End): Twenty-six oldies, dates lack precision but specify "late" both for 20s and 50s, from southern Ghana and environs, influence extending east to Nigeria and west to Liberia. B+(*) [sp]

If You Want to Make a Lover: Palm Wine, Akan Blues & Early Guitar Highlife, Pt. 2 (1920s-50s [2023], Death Is Not the End): Twenty-six more oldies, again nothing but a broad range of dates. B+(**) [sp]

Melba Liston: Melba Liston and Her 'Bones (1958 [2023], Jazz Workshop): Trombonist (1926-99), from Kansas City, started playing in all-female big bands during the war, then broke in with Gerald Wilson, then moved on to Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones, where she became most valued as an arranger. This is the only album she led -- well, aside from her Randy Weston co-credit, Volcano Blues (1993), still the first item showing up when you search her. This combines two sessions, one with Ray Bryant (piano), the other with Kenny Burrell (guitar), bass, drums, and three more trombonists each (Benny Green, Al Grey, and Benny Powell with Burrell; Jimmy Cleveland, Slide Hampton, and Frank Rehak with Bryant). A real delight. A- [yt]

Los Mohanes: La Tumbia (2017 [2023], Moli Del Tro): Colombian duo, Faunes Efe (bass/guitar) and Joseph Muñoz (field recording/sampler), first album, originally self-released, picked up on a Belgian label. Engaging electronica, falls down at the end. B+(*) [sp]

Don Menza & Sam Noto: Steppin': Quartet Live (1980 [2023], Fresh Sound): Tenor saxophonist, from Buffalo (b. 1936), played in big bands with Maynard Ferguson and Louie Bellson, with more than a dozen albums as leader, joined here by the trumpet player, also from Buffalo (b. 1930), who played with Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Count Basie, and others, headlining a handful of albums. A blistering live gig here from a club in Toronto, with Dave Young (bass) and Terry Clarke (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Old music:

Abyssinia Infinite Featuring Ejigayehu "Gigi" Shibabaw: Zion Roots (2003, Network): A one-shot album I only just noticed, looks like a vehicle for the featured Ethiopian singer (she wrote six songs, the other four trad.), engineered by Bill Laswell. Not rasta, but ethio-soul, subtle and beguiling. A- [yt]

Afrorack: The Afrorack (2022, Hakuna Kulala): Electronic music from Uganda, someone named Bamanya, who built "Africa's first DIY modular synthesizer, a huge wall of home-made modules and FX units. Recapitulates many of the sounds of the pioneers of electronic music, then finds layers of rhythm they never dreamed of. A- [sp]

Grade (or other) changes:

Zach Bryan: Zach Bryan (2023, Warner): Country singer-songwriter, though this second label album (after two self-releaseds) topped the rock charts as well as country and folk. Solid, unassuming, workman-like -- attributes that only deeepen with multiple replays. [Was: B+(***)] A- [sp]

Rodney Crowell: The Chicago Sessions (2023, New West): Country singer, emerged as a thoughtful songwriter with his 1978 debut, seems like his albums have only gotten easier over the years. This was recorded in Jeff Tweedy's Chicago studio, and came so easy they didn't even bother thinking up a title for it. Made it easy to underappreciate, too. [was: B+(**)] A- [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Albare: Beyond Belief (AM) [02-12]
  • Ian Carey & Wood Metal Plastic: Strange Arts (Slow & Steady) [03-22]
  • Stephan Crump: Slow Water (Papillon Sounds) [05-03]
  • Remy Le Boeuf's Assembly of Shadows: Heartland Radio (SoundSpore) [03-16]
  • David Leon: Bird's Eye (Pyroclastic) [03-08]
  • Queen Esther: Things Are Looking Up (EL) [04-09]
  • Ron Rieder: Latin Jazz Sessions (self-released) [03-04]
  • Jeremy Rose & the Earshift Orchestra: Discordia (Earshift Music) [03-01]
  • Jacob Shulman: High Firmament/Ferment Below (Endectomorph Music, 2CD) [03-01]
  • Julia Vari Feat. Negroni's Trio: Somos (Alternative Representa) [02-16]
  • Fay Victor/Herbie Nichols SUNG: Life Is Funny That Way (Tao Forms, 2CD) [04-05]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Speaking of Which

Once again, I failed to finish my rounds by end-of-Sunday, so I'm posting what I have, with the expectation that I'll add more on Monday (look for red right-border stripes). One thing I didn't get to but seems likely to be worthwhile adding is No More Mister Nice Blog. That's where I first ran into the Katie Glueck article, and I see relevant posts on many of this week's politics articles. Charles P Pierce also has worthwhile takes on most of this.

This appeared after my cutoff, but is a good overview of everything else that follows: Andrea Mazzarino: [02-27] War's cost is unfathomable, where she starts by referring to "The October 7th America has forgotten," which was 2001, when the US first bombed Afghanistan, following the Al-Qaeda attacks of that September 11. In 2010, Mazzarino founded the Cost of War Project, which, as economists are wont to do, started adding up whatever they could of the quantifiable costs of America's Global War on Terror and its spawn. Still, their figures (at least $8 trillion and counting, and with debt compounding) miss much of the real human (and environmental) costs, especially those that are primarily psychic.

For instance, would we have the gun problem that we have had we not been continuously at war for over two decades? Would our politics have turned so desperately war-like? Certainly, there would have been much less pressure to immigrate, given that war is the leading producer of refugees. Without constant jostling for military leverage, might we not have made more progress in dealing with problems like climate change? The list only grows from there.

One constant theme of every Speaking of Which is the need to put aside the pursuit of power over and against others and find mutual grounds that will allow us to work together cooperatively to deal with pressing problems. There are lots of reasons why this is true, starting with the basic fact that we could not exist in such numbers if not for a level of technology that is complex beyond most of our understandings and fragile, especially vulnerable to the people who feel most unjustly treated. Our very lives depend on experts who can be trusted, and their ability to work free of sabotage. You can derive all the politics you need from this insight.

Initial count: 154 links, 7,499 words. Updated count: 178 links, 8,813 words.

Top story threads:

Israel: The genocide continues.

Reported casualty figures, as of 2/23, show 1,147 Israelis killed on October 7, plus 576 Israelis killed since. Palestinian deaths -- certainly undercounted -- are 29,514 in Gaza + 380 elsewhere in Israel. Since Oct. 7, Israelis are killing more than 51 Palestinians in Gaza for every soldier lost. No breakdown between soldiers lost in invading Gaza vs. elsewhere, but the latter numbers are probably very small. The kill ratio increases to 65-to-1 using the 38,000 estimate "when accounting for those presumed dead."

Israel vs. world opinion:

  • Ben Armbruster: [02-22] US intel has 'low confidence' in Israel's UNRWA claims.

  • Michael Arria: [02-22] The Shift: US vetoes UN ceasefire resolution again: "Joe Biden has stepped up public criticisms of Israel to save his faltering electoral prospects in Michigan, but there remains an incredible disconnect between these words and his administration's ongoing support for Israel's genocidal attack on Gaza."

  • Moustafa Bayoumi: [02-17] As Biden ignores death in Gaza, the 'Dark Brandon' meme is unfunny and too real.

  • Miguel A Cruz-Díaz: [02-23] On the shame of living through times of genocide. The article, about "suicidal ideation," is not exactly what I imagined from the title, but I'm not wired to take other people's tragedies personally. (I was tempted to say "for empathy," but I can imagine even if I only rarely feel.) But the title is evocative. I don't advise you feeling shame for what other people -- and not just the perpetrators, but also those making excuses, or just shrugging their shoulders -- are doing, but they definitely should feel ashamed (and if not, should learn).

  • Emily Davies/Peter Hermann/Dan Lamothe: [02-27] Airman who set self on fire grew up on religious compound, had anarchist past: Aaron Bushnell, whose protest echoed that of Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc during the Vietnam War.

  • Yves Engler: [02-21] The reasons for Canada's 'unwavering' support for Israel: "Canada's remarkable fidelity to an apartheid state committing genocide is driven by imperial geopolitics, settler solidarity, Christian Zionism and the Israel lobby in Canada, and the weaponization of antisemitism."

  • Richard Falk: [02-25] In Gaza, the west is enabling the most transparent genocide in human history.

  • Jonathan Freedland: [02-23] Hamas and Netanyahu are a curse on their peoples. Yet amid the horror, there is a sliver of hope: The "sliver" seems to be [02-23] Gaza ceasefire talks underway in Paris, but this ignores the core fact of this "war," which is that you don't need to negotiate a ceasefire when only one side is shooting. Just do it. Israel can even declare that if Palestinians do keep shooting rockets at Israel, there will be reprisals (short in time, but severe). That would be understandable. But negotiations just does something Israel claims it doesn't want to do, which is to elevate Hamas as the representative of the people of Gaza.

    The headline suggests that both Netanyahu and Hamas are unfortunate political choices, but Netanyahu was a choice, at least of the limited electorate within Israel, and there's plenty of reason to believe he's doing exactly what those who voted for him want. Hamas was never elected, because Palestinians have never been free to choose their own leaders. The West Bank is, well, complicated, but Gaza should be simple: all Israel has to do is stop attacking and step away. They've more than punished Hamas. They've destroyed most of the region's infrastructure. For at least the next 20 years, the only way people will be able to live in Gaza is through foreign aid, which they will basically have to beg for. If Israel takes itself out of the picture, and lets the UN organize a proper democratic government there, Hamas will release the hostages, and quietly disappear. (Sure, Hamas may still survive in the West Bank, and among exiles, but that shouldn't be Gaza's fault. Hamas has no life except as resistance to Israeli power.)

    The idea that some people who got to power purely through the use of terror -- and that's every bit as true of Netanyahu as of Hamas (and only slightly less for the Saudis and Americans and other parties invovled) -- can settle something in Paris that will bring peace to Gaza is absurd. Freedland writes: "To grasp it, the Palestinians need to be free of Hamas and Israelis free of Netanyahu." Swap those and you start to enter the realm of the possible: Palestinians need to be free of Netanyahu, which for Gaza at least is easy to do. And that would also make Israelis free of Hamas (except, of course, in the areas where they're still determined to rule rough over Palestinians, because such rule always begets resistance -- if not by Hamas, then by the next bunch that bands together to stand up for freedom and against injustice).

  • Thomas L Friedman: [02-27] Israel is losing its greatest asset: acceptance: This is one of those "if even Thomas Friedman sees a problem . . ." pieces. Israelis have a handicap here: they're so conditioned to expecting that the whole world hates them, they can't imagine how much worse it can get, or how that might impact them. They figure as long as the US stays in line, no problem. And they figure the US is way too big to worry about its own diminishing acceptance.

  • Mehdi Hasan: [02-21] Biden can end the bombing of Gaza right now. Here's how.

  • Robert Inkalesh: [02-23] Why the US must enage Hamas politically: I don't agree with this now, but I do believe that I do believe that America's refusal to accept the results of the 2006 Palestinian Authority elections -- I believe Israel, which had always preferred Hamas to the secular-socialist PLO, was only following the American lead -- was largely responsible for pushing Hamas back into violent rebellion, including the desperate attacks of Oct. 7. There is, of course, much room for debate as to how to apportion blame for the continued repression and resistance. Israel's behavior is fully consistent as a white settler colony overseeing a rigidly racist system of control -- call it "Apartheid" if you like, but it differs in some from the disgraced South African system, and often for the worse. It reflects a demented and ultimately self-destructive worldview, but they are pretty clear on what they're doing, and why. As for Americans, they're much harder to explain. Having developed two (or maybe three) such rigidly racist systems, then dismantled them without ever owning up to their crimes, they're amazingly ingenious at lying to themselves and others -- hypocrisy is much too superficial a word -- for the way they so easily rationalize and romanticize Israeli brutality as high moral dudgeon.

  • Jake Johnson: [02-22] "I think we should kill 'em all," GOP Rep. Andy Ogles says of Palestinians in Gaza. Makes him exhbit A (but not the only one) in:

  • Robert Lipsyte: [02-22] I'm heartbroken by the war in Israel.

  • Mitchell Plitnick: [02-23] Biden won't let Israel's rejection of a Palestinian state interfere with his delusions.

  • Philip Weiss: [02-21] The context for October 7 is apartheid, not the Holocaust: "The Israel lobby is attempting to indoctrinate Americans that the context for the October 7 attack is the Holocaust. This is a misrepresentation. The Palestinians had nothing to do with the Holocaust."

America's expansion of Israel's world war:

Trump, and other Republicans: Well, South Carolina is done and dusted -- see [02-24] Trump defeats Haley in South Carolina primary, 60.1% to 39.2% (at the point with 92% counted). Also, if you care, How different groups voted in the South Carolina primary, according to exit polls. Nothing terribly surprising there, except perhaps that Trump had his best age split in 17-29 (66% vs. 63% for 65+). [PS: The final delegate split was 47 Trump, 3 Haley.]

CPAC: The erstwhile conservative (more like fascist) organization held their annual conference last week, headlined by Donald Trump, so we'll offer this as a Republicans overflow section. Before we get serious, probably the best introduction here is: [02-23] Jimmy Kimmel on CPAC: 'A who's who of who won't accept the results of the election'.

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Perry Bacon Jr: [02-26] Criticizing a president is always okay -- even one running against Trump: If you care about issues, you should say so, even when it's politically inexpedient. Otherwise, you lose your credibility, and any hope for eventual success. You reduce politics to a game, signifying nothing. If that's your view of it, you may already be a Republican -- although they've adopted some truly obnoxious issue stands, they're really just saying whatever they think gives them a slight advantage, because all they're really intererested in is power: seizing it, keeping it, cashing in on it.

  • Aaron Boxerman/Jonathan Weisman: [02-24] Biden caught in a political bind over Israel policy: "His steadfast support of the Gaza war effort is angering young people and Arab Americans in an election year. But any change risks alienating Jewish voters." Not really: recent polling has Jewish Americans favoring a ceasefire 50-34%. That's not as high as support for a ceasefire from Americans in general, but not enough to justify the NYT's antisemitic trope of painting "the Jews" as responsible for Biden's colossal blunder.

  • Jackie Calmes: [02-14] Biden's polls aren't great. How much is the media's fault?

  • Ben Davis: [02-21] Biden visited East Palestine a year after Trump. This doesn't bode well.

  • William Hartung: [01-31] Tone deaf? Admin brags about 55% hike in foreign arms sales: "Washington's sanitized view of unleashing $80.9 billion in weapons on the world, especially now, is a bit curious."

  • Eric Levitz: [02-23] Biden is weak -- and unstoppable: "It will be hard to convince the president that he isn't the best of his party's bad options."

  • Norman Solomon: [02-25] Joe Biden's moral collapse on Gaza could help Donald Trump win. I'm not going to not vote for Biden in November even though I regard him as not just naive and/or negligent but materially complicit in the most crime against humanity in recent decades, but only because I fully realize that Trump would even be worse (as, indeed, his four years as president amply demonstrated). Still, by all means, tank Biden's polls and trash his prospects, at least until he starts to reverse course. And also note that lots of people are not fully apprised of how awful Trump has been on Israel in particular and on world war in general -- indeed, he is campaigning, Wilson-like, on having "kept us out of war" and steering us away from the path to "world war" that Biden is heading (even though, sure one might even repeat Wilson-like, he's done more than anyone to pave that path). If Biden fails to get his war under control, enough people are likely to fall for Trump's line to tip the election. Also linked to by Solomon:

  • Robert Wright: [02-23] Biden's tough love deficit: Two years after Ukraine, and 20 weeks after Gaza, turned into massive wars:

    There are lots of differences between those two events and between the wars they've brought, but there's one important commonality: how President Biden has reacted. In both cases he has come to the aid of a friend in need and done so in a way that wasn't ultimately good for the friend. Biden is good at showing love and catastrophically bad at showing tough love.

    With both Ukraine and Israel, the US has massive leverage -- by virtue of being a critical weapons supplier and also in other ways. And in both cases Biden has refused to use the leverage to try to end wars that are now, at best, pointless exercises in carnage creation.

    I'll add that both of these wars were advertised long before they broke out, coming out of long-standing conflicts, and only surprising to the those in Washington who pretended that peace can be secured simply by buying American arms and covering them with clichés about deterrence and sanctions. Most of the fault belongs to presidents before Biden: to Bush and Trump for indulging Israel's most right-wing fantasies (and Obama for not resisting them, reinforcing the idea that American reservations are not things Israelis need to take seriously); to Obama's pivot toward a renascent Cold War (after Clinton and Bush expanded NATO to Russia's doorstep); and to Trump for his half-assed mishandling of Ukraine, Russia, China, and everything else. On the other hand, every president inherits the mistakes of his predecessors. Thanks to Trump, Biden wound up with more than usual, but it was his job to fix them. In some cases he tried, and has even had some success. In others, he failed, sometimes not even trying. But here, he's made bad situations worse, and seems incapable of even understanding why.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

  • Eric Levitz: [02-21] Why you probably shouldn't blow up a pipeline. Reaction to Andreas Malm's book, How to Blow Up a Pipeline, and the subsequent movie. My rejection of such notions is so deep-seated -- I'm still anti-Luddite, even after having developed some appreciation for the intractable problems they faced -- I've never had to wrestle with the issues, nor do I expect that I ever will. But I won't be surprised to see a rising tide of sabotage -- they've already coined the term "ecoterrorism" for this eventuality -- as climate distress worsens, especially if major powers are unwilling to reform and continue to set the standard for dealing with problems through repression and violence. [PS: Note, however, that in Kim Stanley Robinson, in his novel, The Ministry for the Future, expects to see a lot of "ecoterrorism," and sees it as promoting necessary changes.]

Economic matters:

  • Dean Baker: [02-21] The sham "The economy is awful" story: Per Baker's tweet: "Too bad they [New York Times] weren't allowed to run these when Donald Trump was in the White House." Next in my Twitter queue was Kevin Erdmann: "It's really crazy how interest rate casual stories get canonized without the slightest interest or curiosity in facts. EVERY story about housing will stipulate that the Fed's rate hikes slowed down sales." The chart shows that sales spiked after the worst of the pandemic in 2020, while interest rates were still low, and declined as interest rates increased, but since 2022 they're basically back to pre-pandemic levels, albeit with higher interest rates.

  • Farrah Hassen: [02-23] The rent's still too high! "A new Harvard study found that half of U.S. renter households now spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities. And rent increases continue to outpace their income gains. . . . Last year, homelessness hit an all-time national high of 653,100 people."

Ukraine War:

  • Responsible Statecraft: [02-22] The Ukraine War at two years: By the numbers.

  • Kyle Anzalone: [02-22] US officials see Ukraine as an active and bountiful military research opportunity.

  • Medea Benjamin/Nicolas JS Davies: [02-25] After two grueling years of bloodshed, it's time for peace in Ukraine.

  • Aaron Blake: [02-27] Zelensky's increasingly blunt comments about Trump: This isn't a good sign, but Trump has always wanted Zelensky to wade into the American political fray -- on his side, of course, but it's not like he can't play opposition just as well. Zelensky is careful to portay his interests as America's own, but Trump is unflappable in that regard.

  • Joe Buccino: [02-22] Ukraine can no longer win. This piece appeared in the Wichita Eagle right after the Doran piece, below. Added here after I wrote the Doran comment, but let's list it first.

  • Peter Doran: [02-24] Ukraine can win -- here's how: Author works for Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), one of our leading war tanks, out here to buck up the troops by, well, quoting Winston Churchill and Henry V. He's wrong on many levels, starting with the notion that anyone can win at war these days. Even when he has a point (that Russia's "manpower pool" isn't inexhaustible) he misses it (that it's still much deeper than Ukraine's). He points to the unpopularity of the war in Russia, the suggestion being that Putin will buckle if the West only shows we're firmly resolved to win, but hasn't Putin proven much more effective at stifling dissent than the democratic West has? Aside from greater resolve, he insists the keys to winning are faster deliveries of even more sophisticated weapons systems, and even tighter sanctions. How did the war planners miss that? He insists on "a clear and compelling definition of victory in Ukraine that advances our national interests." Note nothing here about the well-being of the Ukrainian people, who bear the primary costs of continued war. His definition? "The requirements of this victory include the Russian military ceasing to kill Ukrainians, departing Ukrainian territory and not threatening the existence of the country in the future." It should be obvious by now that the only way to achieve any way of this is through a negotiated settlement that leads not just to a ceasefire but to an enduring stable relationship between Russia, Ukraine, and the West. That may require lesser steps -- a ceasefire would be a good start -- but also means giving up impossible definitions of victory.

  • Steven Erlanger/David E Sanger: [02-24] Hard lessons make for hard choices 2 years into the war in Ukraine: "Western sanctions haven't worked. Weapons from allies are running low. Pressure may build on Kyiv to seek a settlement, even from a weakened position."

  • Ben Freeman: [02-22] The Ukraine lobby two years into war.

  • Joshua Keating: [02-22] Are Ukraine's defenses starting to crumble? "What Ukraine's biggest setback in months tells us about the future of the war."

  • Serhiy Morgunov/David L Stern: [02-25] Zelensky says 31,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed since invasion. His first public disclosure since Dec. 2022 ("up to 13,000"). He's also claiming 180,000 Russian troops have been killed. When the New York Times reported this story (31,000 Ukrainian soldiers killed in two years of war, Zelensky says, they also noted that Zelensky's number "differs sharply from that given by U.S. officials, who have said the number is closer to 70,000."

    A leaked Pentagon document had estimated deaths at 15,500-17,000 Ukrainian soldiers, and 35,000-42,500 Russian soldiers. That doesn't count at least 10,000 Ukrainian civilians killed. For more figures, some exaggerated, some minimized, see Wikipedia's Casualties of the Russo-Ukrainian War.

  • Marc Santora: [02-24] Ukraine's deepening fog of war: "Two years after Russia's full-scale invasion, Ukrainian leaders are seeking a path forward in teh face of ferocious assaults and daunting unknowns."

  • Paul Street: [02-22] 500,000 dead and maimed in Ukraine, enough already: It's been a long time since I've seen any figures for war in Ukraine, so this one caught me off guard.

  • Marc A Thiessen: [02-22] If Republicans want to help Trump, they should pass Ukraine aid now. I never cite him, mostly because he's pure evil (he got his start as Cheney's torture apologist), but my local paper loves his columns, so I run into him constantly, and occasionally read enough to reconfirm my judgment. But this one is especially twisted, so I offer it as an example of the mind games regular Republicans play to manipulate the deranged Trumpian psyches -- in effect, to keep them reliably evil. The pitch is that Republicans should keep the war going so Trump can fulfill his "I'll have that done in 24 hours" campaign promise once he's elected. Of course, if Trump does win, Thiessen will do his most to sabotage any peace moves, but in the meantime the war goes on and Biden gets the blame.

  • Katrina Vanden Heuvel/James Carden: [02-23] 10 years later: Maidan's missing history.

  • Walt Zlotow: [02-24] First 2 years of US proxy war against Russia finds both US and Ukraine in downward spiral.


  • The Observer: [02-17] The Observer view on Alexei Navalny's murder: Putin must be shown he can't kill with impunity: "Russia has been exposed as a rogue state that is a menace to the rest of the world." Isn't the Guardian supposed to be the flagship of Britain's left-leaning press? But I cringe any time I see an "Observer view" editorial, perhaps because so many of them are so full of spite yet so futile, combinations of hypocrisy and bluster. After fulminating for twelve paragraphs, they finally explode: "It's time to get real with Russia." So, like, no more patty-cakes? Like 74 years of "cold war" that actually started with US and UK troops fighting the revolution on Russian soil? That went on to using Afghan proxies to snipe at Russians in the 1980s? That after a brief respite when Yeltsin tried to adopt America's prescription of "shock treatment" nearly self-destructed Russia? That was followed by the relentless expansion of NATO combined with economic warfare including crippling sanctions?

    When they wail, "After Navalny, it's time to drop any lingering illusion that Putin's Russia is a normal country, that it may be reasoned with." If Russia is not "a normal country," and I'll grant that it isn't, perhaps that's because no one in the US/UK has tried to reason with it in dacades? Navalny is part of the price of this hostile rivalry, and unless he was some sort of spy, he wasn't even a price the US/UK paid. He was just collateral damage, like thousands of Ukrainians and Russians maimed and killed in Ukraine, the millions displaced, the many more who are denied food and fuel due to sanctions, and the millions of Russian subjects who are denied free political rights because they are living under a state whose security is constantly being attacked by the West.

  • Andrew Cockburn: [02-19] Tears for Navalny. Assange? Not so much.

  • Ellen Ioanes: [02-20] Where does the fight for a free Russia go now? "Yulia Navalnaya picks up her husband's battle against Putin."

  • Fred Kaplan: [02-21] Even if you hate Julian Assange, the US attempt to extradite him should worry you.

  • Margaret Sullivan: [02-20] The US justice department must drop spy charges against Julian Assange: 'You don't have to like him or WikiLeaks to recognize the damage these charges create."

  • Walt Zlotow: [02-22] Julian Assange is Biden's Navalny.

Other stories:

Mac William Bishop: [02-23] American idiots kill the American century: "After decades of foreign-policy bungling and strategic defeats, the US has never seemed weaker -- and dictators around the world know it." This is a pretty seriously wrong-headed article, its appeal to the liberal publisher based on the MAGA movement, prominent Republicans, Elon Musk and Tucker Carlson for making America weak, the effect simply to "advance Putin's agenda." The key to American influence around he world was always based on nothing more than the perception that we would treat the world fairly and generously -- unlike the old colonial empires of Europe, or the new militarism of the Axis, or the growing Soviet-aligned bloc. Sure, the US was never all that innocent, nor all that charitable, but in the late 1940s seemed to compare favorably to the others. The US squandered its moral standing and good will pretty rapidly, and as the article notes, is losing the last of it with Biden's wholehearted support for Israeli genocide.

Nick Estes: [02-19] America's origin story is a myth: Daniel Denvir interviews Estes, author of Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance.

David French: [02-25] What is Christian nationalism exactly? NY Times opinion columnist, self-described Never-Trump Conservative, professes as evangelical Christian, claiming the authority to explain his wayward brethren -- the flock Chris Hedges wrote about in his 2007 book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America -- or at least to make fine distinctions between his kind and the others, who he's more inclined to dub "Christian supremacists." That works almost as well as Hedges' "Fascists" to identify the dictatorial and vindictive powers they aspire to, without implicating Christians who practice tolerance and charity, and allowing new nationalists to express their love for American diversity (as opposed to the old ones, wallowing in xenophobia and racism).

By the way, one term I haven't seen, but seems more to the point, is Republican Christianists (or, I guess, Christianist Republicans): those who enbrace the Republicans' cynical pursuit of coercive power at all costs, while justifying their lust and avarice as a divine mission. This piece led me to some older ones:

Katie Glueck: [02-19] Anti-Trump burnout: The resistance says it's exhausted: "Bracing for yet another election against Donald Trump, America's liberals are feeling the fatigue. "We're kind of, like, crises-ed out," one Democrat said." Well, if one Democrat said it, that's exactly the sort of thing you can count on the New York Times to blow up into a page one issue. Genocide in Palestine? Not so much. Reading their own paper, they don't seem to understand that Trump is out of power, and has been for 3.5 years now. Sure, he still talks a lot, but that's all he is. Trying to shut him up, even if we wanted to, not only isn't worth the effort, but would make things even worse. For most of us, there's nothing much we can do except wait until November, then vote against him.

Sarah Jones: [02-22] The right to a private life is under attack: Starts with the Alabama ruling on IVF (see Cohen, Millhiser, and others, above), but of course the Trump-supporting Christian Nationalists want much more than that: they want to run nearly every aspect of your life:

Our private freedoms are linked to public notions of equal citizenship. Conservatives attack the former in order to undermine the latter. It's an unpopular strategy, but as the scholar Matthew Taylor told Politico, "These folks aren't as interested in democracy or working through democratic systems as in the old religious right because their theology is one of Christian warfare." This is total war, and not just on women. Anyone who fails to conform is at risk.

More, especially on the IVF backlash:

Taylor Lorenz: [02-24] How Libs of TikTok became a powerful presence in Oklahoma schools: "The owner [Chaya Raichik] of the far-right social media account, who sits on a state advisory panel, has drawn attention since the death of a nonbinary student near Tulsa." I could have filed this under Republicans (above), as that's her mob, but didn't want to bury it under the usual graft and bullshit. Related here:

Garrison Lovely: [01-22] Can humanity survive AI? Long piece I haven't spent much time with as yet, although the subhed "Capitalism makes it worse" is certainly true. I don't know how good and/or bad AI will be, but it's generating a lot more press than I can follow, including:

Kelly McClure: [02-23] Ex-NRA chief funneled millions of dollars into his own pockets, according to a NYC jury: "Wayne LaPierre and other NRA executives were found liable for financial misconduct."

Anna North: [02-23] Mascuzynity: How a nicotine pouch explains the new ethos of young conservative men: "Stimulants, hustle culture, and bodybuilding are shaping young men's drift to the right." Not obvious to me why this has become "a gateway to right-wing politics." Unless, that is, you're broadening the definition of right-wing from servants of hierarchy/oligarchy to plain old, all-around assholes.

Rick Perlstein: [02-21] The neglected history of the state of Israel: "The Revisionist faction of Zionism that ended up triumphing adhered to literal fascist doctrines and traditions." This is, of course, directly relevant to what's happening in the Israel section above. The relationship is not just temperamental and ideological: Netanyahu's father was Jabotinsky's secretary and confidant.

Alissa Quart: [02-21] US media is collapsing. Here's how to save it. She's director of something called Economic Hardship Reporting Project

Aja Romano: [02-18] An attempt to reckon with True Detective: Night Country's bonkers season finale: Noted in the breach, as a remarkably bad review of a season and series where I'm hard pressed to find any points to agree with, either in praise (mostly of seasons one and three, where the flaws are most obvious) or in panning (seasons two and four, where the messes swamp out the positives). But I will say that the "bonkers season finale" was much more satisfying than any I imagined to that point. I at least took the political point, which is that the power of the rich, and the hopelessness of the people they carelessly grind down and toss aside, are never as complete as they imagine.

At the same time, I was also watching A Murder at the End of the World, which was, if anything, even messier (though just a close second for bone-chilling cold), and again mostly acquitted itself with a politically-charged "bonkers finale": the murders were orchestrated by AI, but the context was corporate megalomania, as represented by a billionaire obsessed with control and life-extension. Speaking of which:

Jeffrey St Clair: [02-23] Roaming Charges: Somewhat immature: Title is Brig. Gen. Anthony Mastalir, commander of U.S. Space Forces Indo-Pacific, describing the "rules of engagement for orbital warfare," which is to say nobody agrees on any rules, or even knows what they are or should be. But who's that going to stop?

Ben Wray: [02-24] It's time to dismantle the US sanctions-industrial complex: "The US has built up an elaborate machinery for waging economic warfare on its rivals with little or no public debate. This sanctions-industrial complex is a disguised form of imperialism and a dangerous source of global instability."

Li Zhou: [02-23] America's first moon landing in 50 years, explained.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Music Week

February archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 41864 [41828] rated (+36), 20 [23] unrated (-3).

I posted a long Speaking of Which just before bedtime late Sunday night. I didn't quite get through my usual rounds, so added some more stuff today, which in turn pushed this out late, again. Still unclear how far I'll get Monday night.

Fortunately, I don't have much to say about music this week. The rated count is down, but I hit up several boxes, including the big Mingus one I saw little point in but enjoyed anyway, and yet another iteration of the Massey Hall Quintet/Trio. Also, another big r&b oldies box, again not ideal but quite thoroughly enjoyed.

Very little progress to report on EOY lists, websites, book projects, or anything else. The links, of course, are in the usual place.

New records reviewed this week:

Joe Alterman: Joe Alterman Plays Les McCann: Big Mo & Little Joe: (2023, Joe Alterman Music): Pianist, from Georgia, half-dozen albums since 2009, leads a trio with Kevin Smith (bass) and Justin Chesarek (drums), playing eleven Les McCann compositions, including one written with Alterman in 2021. This came out a few months before McCann (88) died in December. B+(**) [sp]

Carsie Blanton: Body of Work (2023, self-released): Singer-songwriter, originally from Virginia, based in New Jersey, seven albums 2005-21, decided to "undress" 15 songs catalog songs here, releasing them one-per-month digitally, finally compile them on vinyl. So, I gather, it's a bit like the Taylor's Version remakes, but on a much lower budget. B+(**) [sp]

Stix Bones/Bob Beamon: Olimpik Soul (2023 [2024], BONE Entertainment): Billed as a "jazz meets hip-hop EP," the leaders' credits are drums and percussion, respectively (the former aka Franklin Brown), the band adding trumpet, sax, guitar, keybs, bass, and vocalists Abiodun Oyewole and Khadejia Bass. Eight songs, 31:??, some fancy funk, but the mix could be sharper. B+(*) [cd]

Peter Bruun/Søren Kjærgaard/Josas Westergaard: Thēsaurós (2022, ILK): Danish drums-piano-bass trio, playing "an ambitious work" composed by Bruun, in seven parts (83:07). B+(*) [bc]

Mina Cho's Grace Beat Quartet: "Beat Mirage" (2023 [2024], International Gugak Jazz Institute): Korean pianist, based in Boston, fifth album, quartet with Max Ridley (bass), Yeongjin Kim (drums), and Insoo Kim (Korean traditional percussion). B+(**) [cd]

Commodore Trio: Communal - EP (2023 [2024], self-released, EP): Hype sheet credits Joel Tucker (guitar) first but neither cover nor spine mentions him. Joined here by Brandan Keller (tuberg bass) and Justin Clark (drums), for five tracks (20:24) of what they call "improvised art rock." B+(*) [cd]

Dogo Du Togo: Dogo Du Togo (2022, self-released): Massama Dogo, from Lome, in Togo, but now based in DC area. B+(*) [sp]

Jose Gobbo Trio: Current (2023 [2024], self-released): Brazilian guitarist-singer, lyrics here by Deuler Andrade, moved to Iowa in 2011 and on to Illinois, where he teaches. Appears to have some previous albums, but I can't find them in Discogs. With bass (Max Beckman) and drums (Jay Ferguson). Voice barely registers over the rhythm, which is all important. B+(**) [cd]

Mary Halvorson: Cloudward (2023 [2024], Nonesuch): Guitarist, Braxton student at Wesleyan, started with a trio album in 2008, and expanded in various directions, eventually winning a MacArthur genius grant, and topping the 2022 Francis Davis poll with a pair of albums (Amaryllis was the actual winner, but many voters wanted to include the more string-focused Belladonna). This one is a sextet, with trumpet (Adam O'Farrill), trombone (Jacob Garchik), bass (Nick Dunston), drums (Tomas Fujiwara), and vibes (Patricia Brennan), with no vocals and only a bit of violin (guest spot for Laurie Anderson). The state-of-the-art compositions are fashionably tricky, the horns add some weight, the vibes a bit of levity. Many critics seem to be impression, but still seems rather nebulous to me. B+(**) [sp]

Jon Irabagon: Survivalism (2024, Irabbagast): Saxophonist, based in Chicago, best known for "bebop terrorist" group MOPDTK but has a substantial, widely scattered discography on his own. Visited a "munitions bunker in South Dakota" to get the isolated ambiance for this album of solo soprillo sax -- at 33cm (13in), the smallest of all saxophones, pitched a fifth higher than sopranino, a full octave above soprano. Nonetheless, Irabagon spends a fair amount of time here finding more guttural sounds in lower registers, contrast to the high notes, which are never what you'd call flighty. B+(*) [bc]

Jon Irabagon's Outright!: Recharge the Blade (2021 [2024], Irabbagast): Group name refers back to a 2008 album of that name, followed by another (Unhinged) in 2012 -- neither especially successful, as I recall, so I don't really get the thinking behind giving this totally different group an old group name. Leader plays soprano sax here, with Ray Anderson (trombone), Matt Mitchell (piano/keyboards), Chris Lightcap (bass), and Dan Weiss (drums), plus a couple guest spots. B+(***) [bc]

Steven Kamperman: Maison Moderne (2023, Trytone): Dutch clarinetist, half-dozen album since 1999, describes this as "music inspired by the house, life, and passions of Theo van Doesburg," the artist and architect (1883-1931) who in 1917 founded the magazine De Stijl, which advanced abstract art and modernist style, effectively qualifying as a "school." The pieces are supported by piano (Albert van Veenendaal), electric guitar (Paul Jarret), and viola (Oene van Geel). Mostly chamber jazz befitting a museum, but this really sharpens up when Jarret takes the lead and Kamperman introduces some much-needed percussion. A- [cd]

Liquid Mike: Paul Bunyan's Slingshot (2024, self-released): Indie band from Marquette, Michigan, several albums since 2021. They run through 13 crisp songs in 25:31. B+(**) [sp]

Richard Nelson/Makrokosmos Orchestra: Dissolve (2023 [2024], Adhyâropa): Guitarist, member of Aardvark Jazz Orchestra since 1993, released his own Large Ensemble project in 2011, returns here with a 15-piece group. Three complex and lush pieces, 39:22. B+(**) [cd]

Nondi_: Flood City Trax (2023, Planet Mu): Electronics producer Tatiana Triplin, from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, looks to have two previous EPs, another self-released digital album, and some kind of mixtape/remix related to this. B+(*) [sp]

Angel Olsen: Forever Means (2023, Jagjaguwar, EP): American singer-songwriter, six generally well-regarded albums since 2012, released this four song, 16:02 EP. B [sp]

Public Image Ltd.: End of World (2023, PIL Official): Original Sex Pistol John Lydon, 67 when this came out, eleventh group album, eight years after previous. He's managed to keep a consistent sound since 1978, and occasionally to channel some rage against "liars, fakes, cheats and frauds." B+(*) [sp]

Zoe Rahman: Colour of Sound (2023, Manushi): British pianist, father Bengali, eighth album since 2001, brother Idris Rahman plays sax, with several other horn players, bass, and drums. Richly detailed, sometimes to excess. B+(*) [sp]

Andrew Rathbun: The Speed of Time (2022 [2023], SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, based in Brooklyn, more than a dozen albums since 1999, quartet with Gary Versace (piano), John Hébert (bass), and Tom Rainey (drums), all original pieces. B+(***) [sp]

Monika Roscher Bigband: Witchy Activities and the Maple Death (2023, Zenna): German guitarist, fourth Bigband album since 2011. Discogs lists genres as: dark jazz, jazz-rock, psychedelic rock. I was thinking prog rock as light opera -- Roscher sings throughout, in English (not that I followed much of it) -- although the big band was built to play jazz, which does a nice job of shading the straightforward beat. B+(**) [sp]

Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band: Vox Humana (2023, Jazzheads): Bronx-born drummer, graduated from Berklee, joined Mongo Santamaria in 1983, headlined a 1993 album with Tito Puente and Paquito D'Rivera, has led Latin jazz big bands at least since 2007, naming a 2012 album Multiverse. Runs through a lengthy songbook, starting with "Caravan," hitting "Let the Good Times Roll" and "I Love You Porgy," and perhaps most successfully, Steely Dan's "Do It Again." B+(***) [sp]

Adam Schroeder/Mark Masters: CT! Adam Schroeder & Mark Masters Celebrate Clark Terry (2023 [2024], Capri): Big band arrangements of thirteen Terry tunes, Schroeder playing baritone sax, Masters not in the band but with a long career as an arranger. You may recall that Terry played trumpet both for Duke Ellington and Count Basie before leading his own bands, offering plenty of hints for how this works -- largely splitting the difference. B+(***) [cd]

Matthew Shipp/Steve Swell: Space Cube Jazz (2021 [2024], RogueArt): Piano and trombone duets, improvised, first time recording together. A bit sparse, though both have plenty to say. B+(***) [cdr]

Rajna Swaminathan: Apertures (2021 [2023], Ropeadope): Indian percussionist, plays mrudangam, also sings (as does co-producer Ganavya), second album, with Utsav Lal (piano) and a raft of famous jazz musicians: Adam O'Farrill (trumpet), Anna Webber (tenor sax), Miles Okazaki (guitar), Stephan Crump (bass). B+(**) [sp]

Tucker Brothers: Live at Chatterbox (2023 [2024], Midwest Crush Music): Brothers Joe (guitar) and Nick (bass), with sax (Sean Imboden) and drums (Carrington Clinton) at a club in Indianapolis. No song credits, but I always recognize "Caravan." Groove band, nice set. B+(*) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

George Cartwright's GloryLand PonyCat: Black Ants Crawling ([2024], Mahakala Music): Alto/tenor saxophonist, best known for the group Curlew (1980-2003?), based in Minneapolis these days, no recording date given, but it's a live trio date from Clown Lounge, with Adam Linz (bass) and Alden Ikeda (drums) and is released (as have several previous Cartwright albums) in the label's "Reissue Series." B+(**) [bc]

Late Night Count Basie (2023, Primary Wave, EP): The "Count" is in small print, and tends to get overlooked. The songs mostly originate with Basie (well, not "St. Thomas"), and three are credited to his ghost band (Scotty Barnhart, director, with various featured guests), the others to others, as is obvious when Talib Kweli starts rapping over "Didn't You." And "One O'Clock Jump" gets an encore. All in 23:32, but it definitely swings, and jumps. B+(**) [sp]

Charles Mingus: Changes: The Complete 1970s Atlantic Studio Recordings (1973-78 [2023], Rhino, 7CD): I didn't feel much need for this -- and, needless to say, Rhino didn't gift me a copy, so no obligation there -- but looking for something to play while trying to get something else written, this seemed like a pretty nice way to spend 5 hours, 49 minutes. One pass [broken up, with a bit of rechecking, as it turned out], although I've heard most of this before. Starts off with a revitalizing young quartet -- featuring George Adams and Don Pullen, who continued on their own, including a fabulous 1986 album called Breakthrough -- but his health deteriorated fast, and he died of ALS at 56 in 1979. Mostly straight reissues, the breakdown:

  • Mingus Moves (1973, Atlantic; [1993], Rhino): Introduces great 1970s quartet with George Adams, Don Pullen, and Dannie Richmond, plus trumpet (Ronald Hampton), marred by a very unfortunate vocal track. [was: B-] B+(**)
  • Changes One (1974 [1975], Atlantic): Quintet session (with Jack Walrath on trumpet), produced masterpieces: "Remember Rockefeller at Attica," "Sue's Changes," "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love"; even one vocal, George Adams' gravel "Devil Blues." A
  • Changes Two (1974 [1975], Atlantic): Most pointed title: "Free Cell Block F, 'Tis Nazi U.S.A.'; includes a piece by Walrath, a reprise of "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love" with a Jackie Paris vocal; and another tribute, "For Harry Carney." A-
  • Three or Four Shades of Blues (1977, Atlantic): Five older pieces, starting with "Better Get Hit in Your Soul" and "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," with a raft of guest soloists. B+(*)
  • Cumbia & Jazz Fusion (1976-77 [1978]): Two side-long Latin extravaganzas with typical moves and layers. [was: B-] B+(*)
  • Me Myself an Eye (1978, Atlantic): At this point he no longer played, so this was done with a long list of studio musicians: the 30:20 "Three Worlds of Drums," and three older pieces, offering a taste of future legacy bands. B+(***)
  • Something Like a Bird (1978 [1980], Atlantic): Leftovers from the big band session, the sprawling, near-classic 31:24 title piece, and an elegiac "Farewell Farewell," issued posthumously. A-

Vinyl box has an 8th LP of outtakes, which are included inline in the CD and digital editions. B+(***) [sp]

Charlie Parker/Dizzy Gillespie/Bud Powell/Charles Mingus/Max Roach: Hot House: The Complete Jazz at Massey Hall Recordings (1953 [2023], Craft, 3CD): Mingus and Roach started their own label, Debut Records, in 1952, so they grabbed these tapes, redubbed the bass parts, and released them on three 10-inch records, two credited to "The Quintet" (with the saxophonist identified as Charlie Chan), the other a hornless Bud Powell Trio set, already hyped as "the greatest jazz concert ever." The Quintet eventually came out on an CD (OJC-44), with the trio as Jazz at Massey Hall, Volume Two (OJC-111), with sound, like most Parker bootlegs, pretty dicey. I've never been much impressed, even after a 2012 remaster answered most of the sound issue. The overdubs, too, were controversial, so when Jazz Factory released their 1-CD Complete Jazz at Massey Hall in 2003, they went back to the original tapes. This edition tries to have it both ways, again combining the original Quintet and Trio sets on one CD, but also providing the overdubs on a 2nd CD. (Vinyl splits the first CD into 2-LP, with the overdubs on a 3rd.) Sound is pretty decent here, but it's still more typical than exemplary. B+(***) [sp]

Sonny Rollins: Go West! The Contemporary Records Albums (1957-58 [2023], Craft, 3CD): The label exists primarily to produce luxury vinyl reissues of famous jazz albums, but they also release their remastered wares on CD and digital, so it's possible to stream them, and they get a lot of notice. This collects albums recorded for' Contemporary: Way Out West (1957) and Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders. The former, a trio with Ray Brown and Shelly Manne leading off with "I'm an Old Cowhand," is one of his best-known records, and has already been given the Craft treatment. The latter, adding extras (piano, guitar, vibes on one track), is less focused, except when Rollins plays, who continues to show uncanny skill for building on standards. The third disc collects the alternate takes, which were initially added to the OJC CDs. It may be the best of the bunch. A- [sp]

Pharoah Sanders: Festival de Jazz de Nice, Nice, France, July 18, 1971 (1971 [2024], Kipepeo Publishing): British label, banner says "A fundraising project to help Kenyans in need," Bandcamp page offers 46 bootlegs from various venues/dates. This is a quintet with the tenor saxophonist, piano (Lonnie Liston Smith), bass (Cecil McBee), drums (Jimmy Hopp), and percussion (Lawrence Killian). I picked this one out from the list, figuring it would be really nice to hear some vintage Sanders. It hit that spot from the start with a no-vocal 21:30 "The Creator Has a Master Plan." B+(***) [bc]

Old music:

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown: Sings Louis Jordan [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1973 [2019], Black & Blue): Blues singer-guitarist from Louisiana (1924-2005), played drums after WWII, and started recording singles for Peacock in the late 1940s. Album discography doesn't start until just before this one, a Paris session with jazz musicians, including Milt Buckner (organ), Jay McShann (piano), and Arnett Cobb (tenor sax). No new insights into either Brown or Jordan as blues, but the songs are hits, and Cobb is a real plus. B+(**) [sp]

Millie Jackson: On the Soul Country Side (1977-81 [2014], Kent): Hard-belting soul singer, debut 1972, found her concept with 1974's Caught Up, with a focus on cheating songs that suggested country music -- partly acknowledged on her 1981 album Just a Lil' Bit Country. This repeats six songs from that album (omitting four). The other songs include a couple duets with Isaac Hayes. Some songs are country enough for novelties, but most keep a respectful distance. Puzzling, as respect really isn't her thing. B+(***) [sp]

The R&B No. 1s of the '50s (1950-59 [2013], Acrobat, 6CD): Another decade's worth of hits, most justly famous, some as blues but more in the early development of rock and roll, with some novelties and other oddities in the mix. The syrupy strings of "Mona Lisa" is the first song that feels out of place (the first of only two Nat King Cole songs). Another surprise was Elvis Presley showing up, although "Hound Dog" sounds great after "Let the Good Times Roll." That kicked off a period where white artists, and we're not just talking ones who famously sounded black but others like the Everly Brothers, Jimmie Rodgers, Paul Anka, and David Seville --a sudden wave of integration that mirrored my own experience. It wouldn't be hard to edit this down to a solid-A set (probably 4-CD). And it would still be rewarding to stream through the rest. A- [cd]

Grade (or other) changes:

Sonny Rollins: Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders: Barney Kessel/Hampton Hawes/Leroy Vinnegar/Shelly Manne (1958, Contemporary): I thought I should recheck this. [was: B+] B+(***) [r]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Bob Anderson: Live! (Jazz Hang) [03-29]
  • Lynne Arriale Trio: Being Human (Challenge) [03-01]
  • The R&B No. 1s of the '50s (1950-59, Acrobat, 6CD) [2013]
  • Dave Rempis/Pandelis Karayorgis/Jakob Heinemann/Bill Harris: Truss (Aerophonic/Drift) [04-23]
  • Håkon Skogstad: 8 Concepts of Tango (Øra Fonogram) [03-15]
  • Jack Wood: The Gal That Got Away: The Best of Jack Wood, Featuring Guest Niehaud Fitzgibbon (Jazz Hang) [03-29]

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Sunday, February 18, 2024

Speaking of Which

Another week, dallying on work I should be doing, eventually finding a diversion in the world's calamities, reported below.

Note, however, that I didn't manage to finish my usual rounds by end-of-Sunday, so posted prematurely, and will try to follow up on Monday, the new pieces flagged like this one.

Initial counts: 151 links, 7,009 words. Updated: 171 links, 7,780 words.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. world opinion:

America's expansion of Israel's world war:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Gabriel Debenedetti: [02-17] Too old? Biden World thinks pundits just don't get Joe: "The president's friends and aides play media critic amid a political mess." They're probably right, but it's hard for outsiders to see, because Biden has never been a very good communicator, and that's never sunk in deep enough to save his latest gaffes from being attributed to obvious age. David Ogilvy advised: "develop your eccentricities while you are young. That way, when you get old, people won't think you're going gaga." But if they hadn't paid attention, that's what they'll think anyway, since that's the easiest answer. But people who have paid attention often come to a different appreciation of Biden. I was surprised when, as Biden was just sewing up the 2020 nomination, to see the "Pod Save America" guys appear on Colbert and profess not just support for Biden -- as any practical Democrat would -- but love. I take that to be the point of Franklin Foer's The Last Politician (on my nightstand but still unread as, well, I'm pretty upset with him since he sloppily endorsed Israeli genocide).

  • Elie Honig: [02-16] The real Biden documents scandal (it's not the old-man stuff).

  • Paul Krugman: [02-13] Why Biden should talk up economic success: I'm pretty skeptical here. Two big problems: one is that people experience the economy differently, so it's hard for most people to see how the big stats affect them personally, and the latter requires more personalized messaging; the other is that lots of people think the economy does wonderfully on its own, and that politicians can only muck it up. They're wrong, but telling people they're stupid or naive is a rather tough sell. What Biden should be doing is talk about case examples. He should identify problems, like high prices (drugs is a good one; gasoline is less good, but still affects people), low wages (minimums, unions, etc.), rent, debt, pollution, corruption, fraud, etc. -- the list is practically endless -- and talk about what he has done, and what he is still trying to do, to help with these problems. And also point out what businesses, often through corrupt Republicans, are doing to make these problems even worse. Every one of these stories should have a point, which is that the Democrats are trying hard but need more support to help Americans help themselves, and to keep Republicans from hurting us further. But just throwing a bunch of numbers up in the air doesn't make that point, at least in ways most people can understand, even if you're inclinled to believe Biden, which most people don't. And isn't that the rub? There are lots of good stories to be told, but Biden is such an inept communicator that he's never going to convince people.

  • Miles Mogulescu: [02-10] Biden's unqualified aid to Israel could hand Trump the presidency: I think this is true, even though anyone who knows anything knows that it was Trump who gave Israelis the idea that Washington would blindly support any crazy thing right-wing Israelis could dream up, and that was what increasingly pushed Hamas into the corner they tried to break out of on Oct. 7. However, Biden didn't so much as hint at any scruples over Israel, even after raging vengeance turned into full genocide. At this point, the war in Ukraine is slightly less of an embarrassment, but also shows the Biden administration's inability to think their way out of war. As I said last week, if Biden can't get his wars under control, he's toast.

  • John Nichols: [02-16] Michigan just became the first state in 6 decades to scrap an infamous anti-union law.

  • Ari Paul: [02-16] The media is cheering Dems' rightward turn on immigration.

  • Christian Paz: [02-12] Yes, Democrats, it's Biden or bust: "Even if voters or the establishment wanted to, there really isn't a viable process to replace Biden as the nominee." More "replacement theory":

  • Paul Rosenberg: This also led me to a couple of older articles also on tactics.

  • Dylan Saba: [02-15] Democrats are helping make the US border look more and more like Gaza.

  • Robert J Shapiro: [02-12] Based on incomes, Americans are a lot better off under Biden than under Trump.

  • Norman Solomon: [02-16] Dodging Biden's moral collapse is no way to defeat Trump.

  • Paul Starr: [02-15] It's the working class, stupid: Review of John Judis/Ruy Teixeira: Where Have All the Democrats Gone? The Story of the Party in the Age of Extremes. I've been thinking about the same problem, so picked up a copy of the book, but haven't rushed to get into it. After all, these guys aren't exactly known as geniuses. Their 2002 book, The Emerging Democratic Majority, tried to flip Kevin Phillips' 1969 book on how demographic trends favored Republicans, and didn't fare so well -- it's easier to be optimistic than to be self-critical. Starr lets them off easy, noting that he wrote a similar essay five years earlier (An Emerging Democratic Majority), so it's nice to have that reference.

  • Matt Stieb: [02-15] Biden picks up key Putin endorsement: Eliciting suspicion by Democrats that he's playing some kind of devious reverse psychology game, although his explanation ("[Biden] is a more experienced, predictable person") sounds eminently reasonable. Of course, it would have been more sensible to just dodge the questions, maybe even to admit that covert support for Trump in 2016 was a blunder. In their rush to demonize him -- which Navalny's death once again sends into overdrive -- people forget that he is the kind of guy, secure in his own power, that one can do business with, at least if you approach him with a measure of respect. Unfortunately, that seems to be a lost art in Washington, supplanted by a cult of power projection with no concern for doing right.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Valerie Hopkins/Andrew E Kramer: [02-16] Aleksei Navalny, Russian opposition leader, dies in prison at 47. I don't have any real opinions on Navalny, other than that his arrest and death reflects badly on Russia's political and justice systems, and therefore on their leader, Vladimir Putin. Like most people with any degree of knowledge about Russia, I don't have much respect let alone admiration for Putin. I could easily imagine that, if I were Russian, I would support whatever opposition seems most promising against Putin, and that may very well mean Navalny, but not being Russian, I also realize that it's none of my business, and I take a certain amount of alarm at how other Americans have come to fawn over him. I don't think that any nation should interfere in the internal political affairs of another, and I find it especially troubling when Americans in official positions do so -- not least because they tend to be repeat offenders, using America's eminence as a platform for running the world.

On the other hand, I don't believe that nations should have the right to torture their own people over political differences. There should be an international treaty providing a "right to exile" as an escape valve for individuals who can no longer live freely under their own government. Whether Navalny would have taken advantage of such a right isn't obvious: he did return to Russia after being treated for poisoning in Germany, and he was arrested immediately on return, so perhaps he expected to be martyred. That doesn't excuse Russia. If anything, that the story had such a predictable outcome furthers the indictment.

More on Navalny:

Speaking of prominent political prisoners, there's been a flurry of articles recently on Julian Assange:

Around the world:

Other stories:

Keith Bradsher: [02-12] How China built BYD, its Tesla killer.

Tim Fernholz: [02-15] How the US is preparing to fight -- and win -- a war in space: "Meet the startup trying to maintain American military dominance in space." Author previously wrote Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the New Space Race (2018). Few ideas are more misguided than the notion that anyone can militarily dominate space. Chalmers Johnson illustrated that much 20 years ago by imagining the result of some hostile actor launching "a dumptruck full of gravel" into orbit: it would indiscriminately destroy everyone's satellites, and everything dependent on them (including a big chunk of our communications infrastructure, and such common uses as GPS, as well as the ability to target missiles and drones).

Lydialyle Gibson: [02-12] We have treatments for opioid addiction that work. So why is the problem getting worse?

Umair Irfan: [02-14] Carmakers pumped the brakes on hybrid cars too soon.

Ben Jacobs: [02-13] The race to replace George Santos, explained: Written before Tuesday's vote, which gave the seat to Democrat Tom Suozzi, who was favored in polls by 3-4 points, and won by 8 (54-46).

Sarah Jones: [02-14] The anti-feminist backlash at the heart of the election.

Eric Levitz: [02-18] How NIMBYs are helping to turn the public against immigrants: "(In this house, we believe that high rents fuel nativist backlashes."

Charisma Madarang: [02-13] Jon Stewart skewers Biden and Trump in scathing 'Daily Show' return: I watched the opening monologue segment, and must say I didn't laugh once. It was about how much older Stewart is now than when he retired from the show 20 years ago, which was when Biden was the same age Stewart is now. And, yes, Trump's pretty old too. The most annoying bit was when Stewart, repeatedly, referred to being president as "the hardest job in the world." That it most certainly is not. As far as I can tell, it looks like a pretty cushy job, with lots (probably too many) people constantly at your beck and call, keeping track of everything and everyone, and preparing for every eventuality. It may be overscheduled, but Trump showed that doesn't have to be the case, and Biden doesn't seem to spend a lot of time in public, either. It may be dauntingly hard to fully comprehend, and the responsibility that comes with the power may be overwhelming, but Trump, and for that matter Biden, don't seem to be all that bothered. Maybe we should have presidents who know and care more, but history doesn't suggest that it makes much difference. Once they get their staffs in place, the bus pretty much drives itself. (Or, in Trump's case, wrecks itself, repeatedly.)

Later on, Stewart brought in his "team of reporters," tending to all-decisive diners in Michigan -- the sort of comedians who developed careers out of the old Daily Show, like Samantha Bee and John Oliver -- and sure, they were pretty funny, albeit in stereotypical ways (naïve/inept Democrats; vile/evil Republicans). More on Jon Stewart:

  • Jeet Heer: [02-16] Jon Stewart is not the enemy: "You don't defeat Trump by rejecting comedy." I agree with the subhed, but I'm still waiting for the comedy. For what it's worth, I think Messrs. Colbert, Myers, and Kimmel have done great public service over the last eight years in reminding us how vile, pompous, and utterly ridiculous Trump has always been, and I thank their audiences for robustly cheering them on. (It's nice to know you're not alone in thinking that.) Myers even does a pretty good job of reminding us that all Republicans are basically interchangeable with Trump, which is a message more people need to realize.

Ciara Moloney: [01-29] What peace in Northern Ireland teaches us about 'endless' conflicts: "If the international community can underwrite war, it can also underwrite peace and justice." Nathan J Robinson linked to this in a tweet, pace a quote from Isaac Herzog: "You cannot accept a peace process with neighbors who engage in terrorism."

Kevin Munger: [02-16] Nobody likes the present situation very much. Unclear where this is going, but it's something to think about:

I think that the pace of technological change is intolerable, that it denies humans the dignity of continuity, states the competence to govern, and social scientists a society about which to accumulate knowledge.

Dennis Overbye: [02-12] The Doomsday clock keeps ticking: The threat of nuclear weapons is real, but the metaphor is bullshit. The clock isn't ticking. It's just a visual prop, meant to worry people, to convey a sense of panic, but panic attenuates over time. So if 7 minutes haven't elapsed since the clock was set 77 years ago, why should we worry now? We clearly need a different system for risk assessment than the one behind the doomsday clock. We also need some much better method for communicating that risk, which is especially difficult, because there are actually dozens of different risks that have to be represented, each with their own distinct strategies for risk reduction. I'm not willing to enter that rabbit hole here, other than to offer a very rough swag that the odds of any kind of nuclear incident in the next 12 months are in the 1-2% range (which, by the way, I regard as alarmingly high, given the stakes, but far from likely; my greatest uncertainty has to do with Ukraine, where there are several serious possible scenarios, but the avoidance of them in 2023 and the likelihood of continued stalemate suggests they can continue to be avoided; by the way, I would count Chernobyl as an above-threshold incident, as it caused more damage, and more fallout, than a single isolated bomb; it should be understood that there is a lot more danger in nuclear power than just the doomsday scenario).

Jared Marcel Pollen: [02-14] Why billionaires are obsessed with the apocalypse: Review of Douglas Rushkoff's book, Surival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires.

Aja Romano: [02-15] Those evangelical Christian Super Bowl ads -- and the backlash to them -- explained. Also:

Brian Rosenwald: [02-14] The key to understanding the modern GOP? Its hatred of taxes. Review of Michael J Graetz: The Power to Destroy: How the Antitax Movement Hijacked America. The reviewer, by the way, had his own equally plausible idea, in his book: Talk Radio's America: How an Industry Took Over a Political Party That Took Over the United States.

Becca Rothfeld: [02-15] The Alternative is just the book economists should read -- and won't: "Journalist Nick Romeo lays out eight examples of what we gain when we think about morality alongside money." The book's subtitle: How to Build a Just Economy.

Matt Stieb: [02-13] The millionaire LimeWire founder behind RFK Jr.: "Mark Gorton has done his own research on JFK, LBJ, vaccines, and the 2024 election."

Li Zhou:

The New Yorker: [02-17] Our favorite bookstores in New York City: From the days after I turned 16, got a driver's license, and dropped out of high school, up until perhaps as late as 2011 (i.e., when Borders show down), I spent large parts of my life carousing around bookstores -- at least two, often more like four times a week. (Since then, I mostly just do this.) I fell out of the habit here in Wichita (which still has Watermark Books, and a Barnes & Noble), but what really got me was find most of the bookstores I regularly sought out when visiting New York City had been turned into banks (Colisseum Books was especially saddening). So I'm pleased to see this article, and also to note that the only store listed I've actually been in was the Barnes & Noble. Not that I'm actually likely to get back there any time soon -- most of the people I knew there have departed, and I haven't traveled since the pandemic hit -- but at least one can again entertain the thought.

Also, some notes found on ex-Twitter (many forwarded by @tillkan, so please do yourself a favor and follow her; my comments in brackets):

  • John Cassidy: When 2 headlines are worth 10,000 word[s]. [Image of Wall Street Journal page. Headlines: "Biden Presses Netanyahu to Accept Plan"; "U.S. Is Preparing to Send Bombs, Other Arms to Israel"]

  • Tony Karon: Judge Biden by what he does, not by what he says. Israel can't sustain its genocidal war without the US munitions Biden keeps sending, while offering the equivalent of "thoughts and prayers" for the Palestinian civilians they'll kill [link to: US to send weapons to Israel amid invasion threat in Gaza's Rafah]

  • Nathan J Robinson: The worst serial killer in history killed nearly 200 children. A true monster. Unfathomable evil.

    So far Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu have killed over 10,000 children. Their evil reaches a whole other level of depravity.

    [Commenters belittle the comparison by pointing to the usual list of political monsters -- Hitler, Stalin, Mao -- without realizing that they're only adding to the list (which should, by the way, also include Churchill, Nixon, and GW Bush). Where Netanyahu ranks on that list is open to debate, but that he is morally equivalent isn't. As for Biden, he's certainly complicit, a facilitator, but things he's directly responsible for are relatively minor even if undeniably real (e.g., strikes against Yemen, Iraq, Syria; general poisoning of relations with Iran and Russia). I'm less certain that Stalin and Mao belong, at least the mass starvation their policies caused: that result was probably not intended, although both did little to correct their errors once they became obvious. Churchill's relationship to starvation is more mixed: the Bengal famine was mostly incompetence and lack of care, much like Stalin and Mao, but his efforts to starve Germans were coldly considered and rigorous.]

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Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Music Week

February archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 41828 [41777] rated (+51), 23 [21] unrated (+2).

I did the weekly changeover at more or less the usual time -- late Sunday evening, or maybe early Monday, the last thing usually being unpacking, which I've been avoiding lately. I've gotten real tired of the bookkeeping that keeps me on top of what's coming and going, and never more so than at the present moment. I figured Monday should be a relatively open day for once, and remembered that I had skipped the indexing for January Streamnotes, so I thought I'd knock that out of the way and catch up. Problem was: I hadn't done December and November either. At the end of Monday, I was still stuck in December, having written nothing.

Hence the delay to Tuesday. When I got up, I felt up to trying to finish, but didn't get January done until 9PM, at which point I still had to write this introduction. The indexing consists of monthly lists organized by year: 2023 is complete now, and 2024 is a new file, with just January. Worse is the Artist Index, which lists all 23,272 records that I've written about in Streamnotes, since that fateful day in 2007 when Rhapsody gave me a subscription and I decided to be generous and write down notes on whatever I listened to. In 2014, I swept my other reviews (Jazz Prospecting and Recycled Goods) into a single Streamnotes archive, as the promos and purchases thinned out, and I filled my empty time with streaming.

It's never been clearer to me that my indexing scheme is too laborious and error-prone. What isn't clear is whether I'm up to the fairly substantial programming project that is clearly called for, especially given the probability that I won't be able to do this much longer. Given that I've reviewed and rated what I'm fairly certain is an all-time personal record of 1,711 albums released or discovered in 2023, I'm tempted to just bow out on top. And note that I just had to fix 4 errors in the source for that number, my 2023 tracking file. It's a never-ending struggle around here.

Actually, I did manage a small bit of writing on the side yesterday and today -- just not here. Monday I wrote a postscript to the weekend's Speaking of Which, where I point out that reputedly smart people (Matthew Yglesias was named but is far from alone) simply don't understand the Trump campaign. This postscript adds to what I previously identified as my "pull quote":

But if Biden can't get his wars under control by October, I fear he's toast -- and will be deserving of the loss, even if no one else deserves to beat him. After all, the ball is in his court.

My political writing scarcely gets noticed in my own house, so I'm under no illusions about my ability to influence the world. But I do insist, to anyone willing to listen, that our great fear isn't what might happen in November, but what's actually happening day-by-day here and now. My post starts each week with links to Mondoweiss's daily reports, which given the time gap are up each day before I am. That's as good a place to start as any, although you can also track Middle East Monitor, +972, Middle East Eye, AlJazeera,, Tikun Olam, Popular Resistance, and no doubt there are many others. The reporting in the Washington Post and New York Times is also pretty damning, even if their opinion writers remain under Israel's spell. The enormity of the atrocities Israel is committing is staggering, something that will redound to the long-term embarrassment of everyone not opposing not opposing it now. (Note: only three Democrats voted against the $95B military military aid bill; 19 Republicans opposed, with most objecting to the larger Ukraine component. Van Hollen gave a good speech declaring Israelis to be "war criminals," but voted for the aid anyway.)

I did manage to get my political book file reopened last week, but haven't managed to do any work on it. I've promised myself one solid month of focus on it, which hasn't started yet, but is still the plan. Meanwhile, I have another essay I need to wrap up this week. And, well, there are always distractions. I spent a good chunk of time today writing an obscure notebook entry -- something even I don't consider important enough to blog about, but wanted to keep as a thought experiment. It has to do with my Old Music review of the Paranoid Style, below, and a fracas over on Facebook that made me question what I had written. If you know what I'm talking about, and care, you can probably look it up. Most likely I will eventually turn it into a Q&A answer, since that's where it started.

Too late to try to say anything about the EOY Aggregate, but I'm essentially done with it. I factored in all of the albums that I had give grades to but hadn't previously picked up. I added in Christgau's Dean's List. I did a search for country music lists I had missed, and found quite a few. (A bunch of this week's records come from that work, including the Stephen Wilson Jr. pick. Diminishing returns from that work, as the other two albums pictured actually came from my demo queue. The Maison Moderne review came after the cutoff, but I figured I had the image space.) The legend is up to 612 lists now. Maybe I'll check to see what's missing, and find a few gaps, but it's pretty much all there.

Usual freeze date is end of February, so I'm not feeling much pressure to wind it up. Just the opposite: fatigue. As bookkeeping tasks go, it's at most an hour's work.

I'm very impressed with Greg Grandin's The End of the Myth, and should write some about it.

New records reviewed this week:

Colby Acuff: Western White Pines (2023, Sony Music Nashville): Country singer-songwriter, from Idaho, second album, claims he's "too Idaho for Texas, too Texas for Nashville." Good songs, and sings them hard. B+(***) [sp]

Jim Alfredson: Family Business (2021 [2023], Posi-Tone): Organ player, has a previous album from 2009, gets the red carpet treatment from his new mainstream label here, with headliners Alex Sipiagin (trumpet), Diego Rivera (tenor sax), Michael Dease (trombone), Will Bernard (guitar), and EJ Strickland (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Bill Anschell: Improbable Solutions (2020-23 [2024], Origin): Pianist, based in Seattle, debut 1995, adds electronics to the mix here, with guitarist Brian Monroney joining the trio on five (of nine) tracks, extra percussion on three, moving into fusion the the finale. B+(*) [cd]

Alex Anwandter: El Diablo En El Cuerpo (2023, 5 AM): Singer-songwriter from Chile, started as vocalist for Teleradio Donoso, based in Los Angeles, sixth album. Big beats carry the day. B+(**) [sp]

Atmosphere: Talk Talk EP (2023, Rhymesayers Entertainment): Hip-hop duo from Minneapolis, started out in 1997, still underground, despite the "EP" in the title this runs 10 songs, 40:20. Two guest spots for Bat Flower; one more shared by Buck 65 and Kool Keith. B+(**) [sp]

Bad Bunny: Nadie Sabe Lo Que Va a Pasar Manana (2023, Rimas Entertainment): Puerto Rican, major reggaeton star, fifth album, first album in 2018 rose to 11 on US pop chart (1 Latin), second album hit 2, this makes 3 straight number ones. I've played them all, and never really connected -- seems to be a case where my lack of Spanish hurts (or it could just be the record's lack of beats). I took my sweet time getting to this one, because, well, it doesn't seem to have generated much buzz (EOY lists: 7 Complex, 17 Billboard, 32 Rolling Stone, 53 Uproxx Critics Poll, very little else), and because it's really long (22 tracks, 81:18). Gave me time enough to wax and wane, with stretches making me think this could really work, only to be followed by doubts it will ever work for me. B+(**) [sp]

Barbie: The Album (2023, Atlantic): Original songs keyed to the Greta Gerwig-directed movie, produced by Mark Ronson, Kevin Weaver, and Brandon Weaver, with six singles (out of 17 songs), starting with Dua Lipa's "Dance the Night." The dance pop could be tuned up a bit, but some of the novelty songs (including the Billie Eilish, "Pink," and "I'm Just Ken") hit their mark. B+(***) [sp]

Berlioz: Jazz Is for Ordinary People (2023, self-released, EP): All Discogs has to say is "Bassist." But the album credits list two composers: Robin Edward Phillips (piano, keyboards) and Jasper Edward Attle (producer), along with Sam Miles (saxophone) and Jihad Darwish (sitar/bass). Five songs, 15:15, jazzy instrumentation but some other postmodernist feel. B+(*) [sp]

Jaap Blonk/Damon Smith/Ra Kalam Bob Moses: Rune Kitchen (2022 [2023], Balance Point Acoustics): Dutch "sound poet," voice and electronics here, backed with bass and drums. B+(*) [sp]

Brothers Osborne: Brothers Osborne (2023, EMI Nashville): Country duo, T.J (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) and John (lead guitar, background vocals), from Maryland, fourth studio album since 2016, debut went gold, commercially it's been downhill since there. Not to be confused with the Osborne Brothers, a bluegrass group that ran from 1953-2005, with Bobby dying last year, and Sonny in 2021. These youngsters are more country-rock, with a little something. B+(*) [sp]

Burial: Dreamfear/Boy Sent From Above (2024, XL, EP): British electronica producer William Bevan, has a couple albums from 2006-07, since then has mostly released two-sided singles, like this one (12:53 + 13:23). Seems more energetic than recent efforts. Also weirder. B+(*) [sp]

Tré Burt: Traffic Fiction (2023, Oh Boy): Singer-songwriter, from Sacramento, third album, slotted folk because he landed on John Prine's label, but not much resemblance, with tags on Bandcamp all over the map. B+(*) [sp]

Willi Carlisle: Critterland (2024, Signature Sounds): Folkie singer-songwriter, previous album (Peculiar, Missouri) seemed like a breakthrough, but struggles here, ending with a spoken word bit of Ozark folklore. B+(**) [sp]

Jordan Davis: Bluebird Days (2023, MCA Nashville): Country singer-songwriter, second album. B+(*) [sp]

John Dierker/Jeff Arnal: Astral Chronology (2022-23 [2023], Mahakala Music, EP): Bass clarinet/tenor sax with percussion, electronics, and field recordings. Both have spotty discographies, including a previous album together in 2002. This one is short (4 tracks, 21:48, but engaging and intense. B+(**) [bc]

Drake: For All the Dogs (2023, OVO Sound): Canadian rapper, middle name for Aubrey Graham, debut EP 2009, breakthrough album 2010, eighth studio album, all number ones, which he's parlayed into a substantial business empire, while losing virtually all of his critical cachet. I can't begin to explain either why he's so popular, or so disliked by critics: AOTY gives him a career rating of 68 over 311 reviews, with this album scoring 50 for 13. Other than pointing to the extreme length -- 23 songs (84:50), expanded in the Scary Hours Edition to 29 (108:46) -- during which very little stands out (a rare exception is a feature for Sexyy Red and SZA that goes: "shake that ass for Drake/ now shake that ass for me"; that segues into Lil Yachty chanting, "just another late night for my bitch"). Not awful, but not by much. B [sp]

Ana Frango Elétrico: Me Chama De Gato Que Eu Sou Sua (2023, Mr Bongo): Brazilian singer-songwriter, Ana Fainguelernt, third album. Some snappy dance moves. B+(**) [sp]

Andy Emler MegaOctet: No Rush! (2021 [2023], La Buissonne): French pianist, albums since 1982, initial Mega Octet in 1990, ten musicians credited here, including trumpet, tuba, three saxes, guitar (Nguyen Lê), bass, drums, percussion (including marimba, tabla). B+(**) [bc]

Ilhan Ersahin/Dave Harrington/Kenny Wollesen: Your Head You Know (2023, Nublu, EP): Saxophonist, Turkish roots but born in Sweden, based in New York, albums since 1996; Harrington plays guitar, bass, keyboards, and electronics, with Wollesen on drums. Three tracks (18:47). B+(*) [bc]

Peter Erskine and the Jam Music Lab All-Stars: Bernstein in Vienna (2021 [2024], Origin): Drummer, best known for Weather Report, but his best work is clearest in piano trios, and he's long had a thing for big bands. Pianist Danny Grissett is musical director here, leading a septet of sax, guitar, harmonica, violin, and bass through Leonard Bernstein's most popular show tunes. B+(**) [cd]

Greg Foat & Eero Koivistoinen: Feathers (2023, Jazzaggression): British pianist, all electric here (Rhodes, Roland, Prophet, Moogs), with the Finnish tenor saxophonist, and rhythm (bass, drums, extra percussion). Nice groove album, the sax a plus but not as dominant as you'd expect (or hope for). B+(*) [sp]

Hardy: The Mockingbird & the Crow (2023, Big Loud): Country singer-songwriter Michael Hardy, from Mississippi, based in Nashville, second album after several EPs and mixtapes (dubbed Hixtape). Has a rep as a hard rocker, which isn't especially in evidence here until the crow comes out. I prefer the "poor boy from Mississppi," but don't mind a little noise (although I am wary of the redneck chauvinism). I don't really approve of the effort to muscle up country music into arena rock, but this makes a case. [Docked a notch for the finale.] B+(**) [sp]

Ayumi Ishito: Ayumi Ishito & the Spacemen Vol. 2 (2020 [2023], 577): Japanese tenor saxophonist, graduated from Berklee, Vol. 1 came out in 2021, group includes synthesizer, theremin, guitar/bass, and drums, with voice scattered about, haunting (or mocking?) the spaciness. B+(*) [os]

Maria João & Carlos Bica Quartet: Close to You (2019-21 [2023], JACC): Portuguese singer, counted in the quartet with bassist Bica, keyboards (João Farinha), and guitar (Gonçalo Neto or André Santos). Leads with four covers, disconcertingly weaving Paul Simon into Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock," scatting around "Norwegian Wood," followed by the Bacharach-David title song, and Lennon/Ono's "Oh My Love," then three originals (one with a Yeats text), and "What a Wonderful World." I was tempted to write the openers off as merely eccentric, but the title song is especially striking, and the originals find a nice musical balance, which lets the finale end as it should. A- [bc]

Cody Johnson: Leather (2023, Warner Music Nashville): Country singer from Texas, ninth album since 2006, third on a major label. A voice and band as credible as most of his lot, but didn't write any of these twelve songs -- most conventional, "Jesus Loves You" should make you more than a little nervous. B [sp]

Ruston Kelly: The Weakness (2023, Rounder): Singer-songwriter, originally from South Carolina, briefly married to Kacey Musgraves, third album since 2018, slotted country but I don't particularly hear that. I do hear some songs. B+(*) [sp]

Knower: Knower Forever (2023, self-released): Duo of Genevieve Artadi (vocals) and Louis Cole (drums), albums since 2010 (at first under the artists' names), many more credits here, mostly electropop, when it peeks out from under the strings. B [sp]

Tony Kofi & Alina Bzhezhinska: Altera Vita (For Pharoah Sanders) (2023, BBE, EP): Tenor sax and harp duet, she also goes as AlinaHipHarp, actually just a 5:34 single, so I shouldn't have bothered, but it showed up in an album list, and is quite nice, as far as it goes. B [sp]

Ella Langley: Excuse the Mess (2023, Sawgod): Country singer-songwriter, from Alabama, follows up several singles with a solid eight-song, 25:09 album. B+(*) [sp]

Metric: Formentera II (2023, Metric Music International): Electropop band from Toronto, ninth studio album since 2001, sequel to their 2022 album; Emily Haines is the vocalist, who co-wrote the songs with guitarist James Shaw. Songs are catchy and engaging. B+(***) [sp]

Mokoomba: Tusona: Tracings in the Sand (2023, Out Here): Tonga group from Zimbabwe, third album (per Discogs) since 2012. Not far removed from the chimurenga popularized in the 1980s, but only picks up real groove power toward the end. B+(**) [sp]

Nickel Creek: Celebrants (2023, Thirty Tigers): Progressive bluegrass trio, released five albums 1993-2005, disbanded, regrouped for a 2014 album, then this one. I heard nothing notable here until "Where the Long Line Leads." Fades back into oblivion, and stays there a long time. Every now and then my ears prick up, suggesting something of interest, most soon souring. Maybe that's what they mean by "progressive"? B- [sp]

Old Crow Medicine Show: Jubilee (2023, ATO): Nashville-based country string band, eighth studio album since 2004. Some gospel flourishes this time. B [sp]

Dave Pietro: The Talisman (2023 [2024], SteepleChase): Alto saxophonist, half-dozen albums 1994-2008, only a couple since. Mainstream lineup with Scott Wendholt (trumpet), Gary Versace (piano), Jay Anderson (bass), and Billy Drummond (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Dougie Poole: The Rainbow Wheel of Death (2023, Wharf Cat): Country-ish singer-songwriter from Brooklyn, third album, some good songs, ends on a soft note. B+(*) [sp]

Noah Preminger/Kim Cass: The Dank (2023, Dry Bridge, EP): Duets, sax/clarinet/flute/synth and bass/guitar. Eight short pieces, 20:06. B+(**) [bc]

Nicky Schrire: Nowhere Girl (2023, Anzic): Jazz singer-songwriter, born in London, grew up in Cape Town, studied in New York, wound up in Toronto, debut album 2012. I'm not seeing song credits, but the only one I recognize is "Heart Like a Wheel," which focuses the remainder for McGarrigles fans. B+(*) [sp]

Laura Schuler Quartett: Sueños Paralelos (2021 [2023], Antidrò): Swiss violinist, debut 2018, with Tony Malaby (tenor sax), Hanspeler Pfammatter (synthesizer), and Lionel Friedli (drums), leaning free (last title is "Baby It's Freejazz"). B+(**) [sp]

Sparks Quartet [Eri Yamamoto/Chad Fowler/William Parker/Steve Hirsh]: Live at Vision Festival XXVI (2022 [2023], Mahakala Music): Piano, sax/flute, bass, drums; quartet released an album as Sparks in 2022, so are following it up with a live set here. B+(**) [bc]

Peter Stampfel/Eli Smith/Walker Shepard: Wildernauts (2024, Don Giovanni): Folk "supergroup" releases their eponymous debut, but I had to look the others up: Discogs shows side-credits for both, mostly playing banjo, including Have Moicy 2. The leader's voice remains instantly recognizable, even as tattered as it is, even as backup ("Picking Dandelions"). Some covers, like the opener "Crazy Arms," and "There Stands the Glass," register right away. Others will take more dedication. B+(**) [sp]

Tani Tabbal Quartet: Intentional (2022 [2023], Mahakala Music): Drummer, only a couple albums as leader but has side credits starting in 1981 with Roscoe Mitchell, later with David Murray, then was in James Carter's quartet during its prime period. Here with Joe McPhee (tenor sax/poetry), Adam Siegel (alto sax), and Michael Bisio (bass). B+(***) [bc]

Truth Cult: Walk the Wheel (2023, Pop Wig): Emo/hardcore band from Baltimore, second album after a 2018 EP, eleven songs, 27:22. Heavy enough I set the "metal" flag, but sharp enough I let them have their say. B+(*) [bc]

Turnpike Troubadours: A Cat in the Rain (2023, Bossier City): Country band from Oklahoma, sixth album since 2007, steady, pleasant performers, fiddle helps with the old timey feel, don't have much to say, but at least what they have to say isn't bad. B [sp]

Morgan Wallen: One Thing at a Time (2023, Big Loud): Country singer-songwriter, from Sneedville, Tennessee, third studio album since 2018, seems like much more, sprawling from 14-songs (45:11) to 30-songs (96:53) to 36-songs (111:36). Huge bestseller, Billboard's number one album for 2023. I've avoid this due to anticipated fatigue and poor reputation, but a very cursory stream does little credit to either excuse. He writes (with help) ordinary songs, gives them fashionably tradish arrangements, and has an agreeable voice. No one will ever mistake him for Merle Haggard (or, for that matter, Don Williams), but you can drink, or I can write, with him in the background, and never give him a serious thought, even if you happen to pay some attention. B+(*) [sp]

Stephen Wilson Jr.: Søn of Dad (2023, Big Loud): Country singer-songwriter, from Indiana, first album, about his father, got a little carried away (21 songs, 90 minutes). Still, the first three songs set the stage, showing an interest in social realism and demonstrating sonic tricks (including that "strong Southern drawl" but also booming guitar with a bit of fiddle) to sustain the effort. As for his daddy complex, I have my doubts -- what kind of father teaches his age-5 son to box? not mine, but but I can't say much more in his favor. I keep wondering whether I should revisit Zack Bryan, a good album, but one where the length ultimately wore me down. But even if it earns its reputation, I'd be very surprised if will hold up this well. A- [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Tubby Hayes: No Blues: The Complete Hopbine '65 (1965 [2023], Jazz in Britain): British tenor saxophonist, one of the few real bebop masters, lived fast and died young (1935-73). With Kenny Powell (piano), Ron Mathewson (bass), and Dick Brennan (drums), with Hopbine host and fellow tenor saxophonist Tommy Whittle joining for a couple of jousts. Burns intense and long (7 tracks, 95:39), though sometimes the mic seems to wander off. B+(***) [sp]

Jeffrey Lewis: Asides & B-Sides (2014-2018) (2014-18 [2023], self-released): Antifolk singer-songwriter, got started with a self-released cassette in 1998, has a couple albums suggesting career development, then reverts to DIY obscurity, like his recent series from 2019 Tapes through 2022 Tapes -- on Bandcamp but not enough to review. In 2022, he scraped together a 7-track EP called When That Really Old Cat Dies, which has since all but disappeared, even from Google, evidently supplanted by this miscellany, extending the EP to 10 songs, 31:12, finally showing up on Spotify (after I failed to find it just a week ago). Doesn't add much, but did get "The Guest List" a couple more spins. B+(***) [sp]

Lou Reed: Hudson River Wind Meditations (2007 [2024], Light in the Attic): An hour-plus of ambient electronica, as far off his beaten path as Metal Machine Music, and certainly more age-appropriate for what appears to have been his last album. And good enough that he could have had a decent career had he started in this vein decades earlier -- not that you or I would have heard of him. B+(**) [sp]

Taylor Swift: 1989 (Taylor's Version) (2023, Republic): Her fifth album in 2014, now the fourth to get the "Taylor's Version" treatment, which doesn't seem to be anything more than a scam to make more money off back catalogue while giving less of it to Big Machine. I'm not making judgments on that, although I'm also not arguing with anyone who wants to argue against on ethical and/or artistic grounds. I streamed the original, liked it enough for a B+(***), but don't remember a single song, and have no desire compare versions. It's as if I'm hearing a new album for the first time, although it seems unfair to the rest of the world not to list it among reissues. Original grade seems about right. B+(***) [sp]

Barbara Thompson: First Light (1971-72 [2023], Jazz in Britain): British saxophonist (1944-2022), had played with Howard Riley, Michael Gibbs, and Neil Ardley before this, also the rock band Colosseum (she married their drummer, Jon Hiseman), but became better known after 1978 with her Paraphernalia groups. This starts with two Group E pieces, with her on soprano sax and alto flute, and Peip Lemer singing (21:10). That's followed by a big band piece (26:38), then five tracks with her Jubiaba group (29:39; the group finally released an album in 1978). The vocals add to the mess of the first two sets. Jubiaba is also messy, but explodes in rhythm often enough to raise your hopes. B [bc]

Old music:

The Paranoid Style: The Power of Our Proven System (2013, Misra, EP): A reader sent me this YouTube playlist so I could "check it off my list," like this one (updated but not regularly maintained). This was evidently the first of three EPs later combined in unhelpful ways (like a 2013 Misra cassette), a five-song (21:59) digital release, each with its own video (which I've played through several times, but never managed to watch through). Straitlaced indie rock with copious smarts, a formula Elizabeth Nelson and Timothy Bracy have stuck doggedly with, even through full albums like 2016's Rolling Disclosure and the new one, The Interrogator -- both recommended. B+(***) [yt]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Alon Farber Hagiga With Dave Douglas: The Magician: Live in Jerusalem (Origin) [02-24]
  • David Friesen: This Light Has No Darkness (Origin) [02-24]
  • Roberto Magris: Love Is Passing Thru: Solo/Duo/Trio/Quartet (2004, JMood) [03-01]
  • Zach Rich: Solidarity (OA2) [02-23]

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