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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Music Week

Expanded blog post, May archive (final).

Tweet: Music Week: 28 albums, 5 A-list

Music: Current count 42377 [42349] rated (+28), 31 [27] unrated (+4).


New records reviewed this week:

  • Yaya Bey: Ten Fold (2024, Big Dada): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Borderlands Trio [Stephan Crump/Kris Davis/Eric McPherson]: Rewilder (2023 [2024], Intakt): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Britti: Hello, I'm Britti (2024, Easy Eye Sound): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Isrea Butler: Congo Lament (2023 [2024], Vegas): [cd]: B+(***) [06-01]
  • Rachel Chinouriri: What a Devastating Turn of Events (2024, Elektra): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Cindy Lee: Diamond Jubilee (2024, Realistik Studios): [sp]: B+(*)
  • A.G. Cook: Britpop (2024, New Alias): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Charley Crockett: $10 Cowboy (2024, Son of Davy): [sp]: B+(**)
  • DIIV: Frog in Boiling Water (2024, Fantasy): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Billie Eilish: Hit Me Hard and Soft (2024, Interscope): [sp]: A-
  • English Teacher: This Could Be Texas (2024, Island): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Beth Gibbons: Lives Outgrown (2024, Domino): [sp]: A-
  • Jon Gordon: 7th Ave South (2023 [2024], ArtistShare): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Hawkwind: Stories From Time and Space (2024, Cherry Red): [sp]: B
  • Julia Holter: Something in the Room She Moves (2024, Domino): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Kelly Moran: Moves in the Field (2024, Warp): [sp]: B+(***)
  • David Murray Quartet: Francesca (2023 [2024], Intakt): [sp]: A-
  • Rosali: Bite Down (2024, Merge): [sp]: B
  • Wadada Leo Smith & Amina Claudine Myers: Central Park's Mosaics of Reservoir, Lake, Paths and Gardens (2021 [2024], Red Hook): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Sprints: Letter to Self (2024, City Slang): [sp]: A-
  • St. Vincent: All Born Screaming (2024, Virgin): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Taylor Swift: The Tortured Poets Department (2024, Republic): [sp]: A-
  • Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties: In Lieu of Flowers (2024, Hopeless): [sp]: B-
  • Conchúr White: Swirling Violets (2024, Bella Union): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Kathryn Williams & Withered Hand: Willson Williams (2024, One Little Independent): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Chelsea Wolfe: She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She (2004, Loma Vista): [sp]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Cannonball Adderley Quintet: Berliner Jazztage, November 2nd 72 (1972 [2023], Lantower): [sp]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Jacques Greene: ANTH01 (2010-13 [2021], LuckyMe): [sp]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Anthony Branker & Imagine: Songs My Mom Liked (Origin) [06-21]
  • Gilbert Holmström: Peak (Moserobie) [05-24]
  • Alex Kautz: Where We Begin (Sunnyside) [07-05]
  • Izumi Kimura/Barry Guy/Gerry Hemingway: Six Hands Open as One (Fundacja Sluchaj) [04-01]
  • Rob Parton's Ensemble 9+: Relentless (Calligram) [06-07]
  • Kenny Reichert: Switch (Calligram) [06-07]

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

[Updated 2024-05-28. New sections and major edits flagged, like this.]

I woke up one morning last week flooded by what felt like deep thoughts. Of course, I never got around to writing them down, and most have proven fleeting, but one stuck with me as important enough to use an an introduction here. It's that, in negotiations, one should always try to do the right thing. In games, that means seeking out the maximum positive sum (or, if you are starting in deep trouble, as is often the case, the minimum negative sum).

You may have trouble quantizing, but any mutual gain will do, as would a mutual loss that doesn't seem disparate. They key is that both sides should feel some satisfaction, even if it's only relative to where one entered negotiations. This matters because not only does one have to solve a current problem, but one hopes to prevent a future recurrence. Any negotiation that ends with one side feeling aggrieved is likely to be rejoined later, when prospects become more favorable.

The simplest model I can think of here is what we might call the social contract. In unequal situations, one side may be able to dominate and take from the other, who being demeaned will be resentful and seek to redress the situation, possibly flipping roles only to be targeted again. Humans do not readily submit to other humans, so it takes extra effort not just to obtain but to maintain unequal ranks, while the rewards for doing so diminish. Hegel understood this well enough in theory, but he also had the real world example of American slavery to draw on.

Yet many people, especially in positions of power, still think they can use their power to force the submission of others, thereby preserving their advantages. They may get away with it for a fairly long time, but never without cost, and sometimes at great risk of revolt and revolution. This desire to dominate was long thought to be as essentially human as rebellion, but it can be tempered by reason if one is willing to think things through. Unfortunately, the sort of people who start and fight wars are sadly deficient in that respect.

Real world cases can be tricky. You need to sort out what really matters, and understand how various options will play out. On the other hand, you need to steer away from positions that will cause future resentment. A good rule of thumb here is that anything that exploits a power advantage or intends to preserve or develop one is likely to backfire. Unfortunately, most thinking by US and other powers is based on the assumption that power provides leverage for imposing unequal settlements. This delays negotiations, and leads to bad agreements.

Specifics vary from case to case. I write about Ukraine most weeks. The battleground is deadlocked, with both sides capable of extending the war indefinitely. Ukraine's maximalist goal of retaking all of its pre-2014 territory is unrealistic. Russia's goals and minimum requirements are less clear, in part because the US is fixated on weakening and degrading Russia on the theory (groundless as far as I can tell) that Putin is obsessed with expanding Russian territory and/or hegemony. I think it's more likely that Putin is concerned to halt or limit US/EU threats to Russia's security and economy, which have been manifested in NATO expansion, EU expansion, and sanctions against Russian business interests. If that's the case, there are opportunities to trade various chits for favors in Ukraine, especially ones that longer-term will reduce US-Russia tensions.

That doesn't mean that Putin will be willing to give up all of Ukraine. Crimea and Donbas had Russian ethnic majorities before the broke away in 2014, and given the chance would almost certainly have voted to join Russia. As a nationalist, Putin is concerned with the fate of Russian ethnic minorities beyond his borders -- such people had been secure in the Soviet Union, but became vulnerable when the SSRs broke away and themselves became more nationalist. Besides, having made the move into Ukraine, and having conquered and held additional territory (which is now also heavily Russian), he's very unlikely to walk away empty-handed.

All this suggests to me that a deal would be possible -- perhaps not win-win but one that lose-loses a lot less than continuing the war -- if we start looking for a more equal settlement, as opposed to the current strategy of hoping the next offensive adds some leverage while nearing the other side to exhaustion. Not only has that thinking failed both sides utterly, the prospect of an inequitable settlement would only serve to encourage future conflicts.

Same principles should apply elsewhere, and will inform my comments when I get to them.


I'm getting to where I really hate website redesigns, all of which are immediately disruptive, making it harder to find things. While you expect to get past that after a bit of learning curve, it often turns out to be a permanent condition. The Wichita Eagle changed to a more "web friendly" design recently, as opposed to their previous newspaper page scans (which they still have now, but buried in the back, behind lots of spurious junk). I suppose regular articles are a bit easier to read, and flipping past them is a bit faster, but still, I'm almost ready to quit them -- which would be a loss for Dion Leffler, and various restaurant and road openings and closings, but not much more.

One of my regular stops is Vox, and their redesign is so disruptive I'm bothering to mention it here. (They explain some of this here, but they merely assert that the "sleek, updated design [makes] it easier for you to discover and find all of the journalism you love." It doesn't.)


Posting this end-of-Sunday, not really complete, but there's quite a bit here. I'll add some more on Monday.

Initial count: 185 links, 11,242 words. Updated count [03-28]: 217 links, 14,446 words.

Local tags (these can be linked to directly): Louis Allday; Fred Kaplan; Sarah Jones; on music.


Top story threads:

Israel:

  • Mondoweiss:

  • Middle East Monitor: Live Updates: Famine imminent in northern Gaza amid Israel's closure of crossings, media office warns: Plus numerous other stories.

  • Wafa Aludaini: [05-25] The slaughter of Palestinian scholars in Gaza is a deliberate Israeli tactic.

  • Ruwaida Kamal Amer: [05-21] Cementing its military footprint, Israel is transforming Gaza's geography: "As Israel expands a buffer zone and erects army bases in the Strip, Palestinians fear the permanent loss of their homes and land."

  • Kavitha Chekuru: Hundreds of Palestinian doctors disappeared into Israeli detention.

  • Emma Graham-Harrison: [05-28] Tanks reach centre of Rafah as attacks mount and Israel's isolation grows.

  • Ryan Grim:

  • Tareq S Hajjaj: [05-27] Rafah massacre: how Israel bombs displaced Gazans in their tents: "The Israeli army bombed Gazans in their tents in the 'safe zone' where it told them to go. Eyewitnesses told Mondoweiss most of the dead were burned alive or decapitated and dismembered. Many of them were children." I don't want to pile on a late-breaking story, but:

  • Shatha Hanaysha: [05-23] Jenin resistance defiant as Israeli army kills 12 Palestinians in raid. I'm not much into celebrating resistance against a force as overwhelmingly powerful, insensitive and cruel as the IDF, but it is human nature to resist such force, by whatever means are available ("necessary," the term one first thinks of here, implies hope and purpose that aren't always easy to see).

  • Fred Kaplan: I included these links, meaning to write more about them, but ran out of time on Sunday, leaving them as stubs. Again growing weary on Tuesday, I'll add a couple brief notes, but there is much more I'd like to say. (Maybe you can find it elsewhere in this or previous weeks' posts? [PS: Ok, I wound up writing quite a bit anyway.])

    • [05-13] Why Israel and Hamas still do not have a cease-fire: "There are only three ways out of the war." Nothing very deep here. His three ways are universal rules for all wars: one side wins; both sides give up and settle; some more powerful third party gets fed up and threatens to knock heads, forcing a settlement. You can provide an easy list of examples, as long as you're willing to count lots of costs as some kind of win. The problem is that these scenarios assume you have war between two relatively autonomous sides, and that if victory is not possible, both sides are willing to accept the continued existence of the other.

      Those assumptions are simply wrong. There is no Hamas army, or Palestinian army. It is not even clear that Hamas exists, at least beyond some public figures outside of Gaza, their assertion that they hold a small number of Israelis, and occasional bursts of small arms fire and the occasional rocket, which are no threat, and evidently no inhibition, to Israel. That Hamas only exists to give Israel an excuse -- one that at least its still-gullible allies in the US and elsewhere will cling to -- for its systematic demolition and depopulation of Gaza. In other words, this isn't a war. It just looks like one because Israel is fighting it with advanced weapons of war, none of which Hamas or any other Palestinians possess: planes, missiles, drones, heavy artillery, tanks, ships, surveillance, AI-based targeting, a huge number of trained fighters, an advanced military-industrial complex, and a steady stream of billions of dollars of reinforcements from the US, and if all that fails they still have a nuclear arsenal.

      If Hamas had those things, you could legitimately call this a war, and you'd find that Israel suddenly has reasons for wanting it to end. That's when the risks to both sides are high enough that they start negotiating. However, when it's just Israel shooting fish in a barrel, why should Israel negotiate? Worst case scenario is you run out of fish, but that's not something Israelis have ever had to worry about. And no matter how much we decry their intents and practices as genocidal, Israelis are very different from the Nazis who set the standard for genocide. Israelis may think they were chosen by God -- some do, some don't, the difference scarcely matters -- they don't see themselves as a master race, and don't seek to drive others into slavery. They see themselves as eternal victims, so the best they can hope for isn't a Final Solution -- it's simply to drive the others away, to push them back and out from their safe fortress (their Iron Wall, Iron Dome, etc.). Nor do they worry that they are training others to hate them, to come back and seek revenge, because they know deep down that others will hate them anyway, that this condition is eternal, as is their struggle to defend themselves.

      We can kick around various hypotheticals, but the bottom line is that this war only ends when Israel decides to stop prosecuting it, either because the costs exceed what they're willing to pay, or because they grow sick and tired, and ashamed, of the slaughter. Neither of those are likely to happen as long as the US is willing to foot the bills and run diplomatic interference. If the US and Europe were to seriously threaten to flip against Israel, they might decide that the conflict isn't worth the trouble, and start to make amends. That's probably the best-case scenario: nothing less will get Israel's attention. Nothing more is practically possible -- no nation, regardless of how powerful they think they are, is going to overthrow Israel by arms. (The US tried that with Afghanistan and Iraq, and failed. Russia tried that with Ukraine, and failed. China tried that with Vietnam, and failed. Every case is slightly different, but none of those had the nuclear weapons Israel has. And while the US has pushed sanctions to their limit against North Korea, they've thought better than starting a major war.)

      Israelis may not mind being sanctioned back into a shell, like North Korea has endured. They're certainly psychologically prepared for it. But they've also been living la dolce vita for many decades, largely on the American taxpayer's dime, so may be they will see that they have real choices to make, and being ostensibly a democracy, they may even be able to make their own.

    • [05-21] Why Netanyahu's war cabinet is existentially divided: "The Israeli prime minister refuses to plan for life after the war in Gaza."

    • The simplest explanation is that he doesn't want the war to end, ever. Israel has fought continuously since 1948 (or really since 1937), along the way building up a military, a police and spy system, courts, and a civil society that knows how to do nothing else. They've cultivated a psyche that is hardened by fear and hate, one that only experiences pleasure in inflicting pain on others. They need those others. If they didn't exist, they'd have to hate them -- and in many case they have. If they didn't have those others, they'd turn their hate on each other, because that's what the psyche demands. If Hamas still exists today, that's because Israel needs Hamas as its pretext for fighting Palestinians in Gaza. And if Israel is slow-rolling the genocide in Gaza, it's because it gives them cover for ethnic cleaning in the West Bank. Hitler set an impossible standard in thinking he could reach a Final Solution. Netanyahu wants something far deadlier, which is Permanent Revolution. But we still call it genocide, because to the victims it looks much the same.

  • Ken Klippenstein/Daniel Boguslaw: [04-20] Israel attack on Iran is what World War III looks like: "Like countless other hostilities, the stealthy Israeli missile and drone strike on Iran doesn't risk war. It is war."

  • Akela Lacy: The AIPAC donor funnels millions to an IDF unit accused of violating human rights: "The battalion has a dedicated US nonprofit to support its operations -- whose president is supporting AIPAC's political agenda."

  • Haggai Matar: [05-20] Israeli military censor bans highest number of articles in over a decade: "The sharp rise in media censorship in 2023 comes as the Israeli government further undermines press freedoms, especially amid the Gaza war."

  • Loveday Morris: [05-26] Far-right Israeli settlers step up attacks on aid trucks bound for Gaza.

  • Orly Noy: [05-23] Why Israel is more divided than ever. I wish, but I doubt it. Author is chair of B'Tselem, a group that has done heroic work in documenting the human rights abuses of the occupation.

  • Jonathan Ofir: [05-27] Netanyahu's response to the ICC invokes another genocidal biblical reference: "Netanyahu's rant against the ICC quoted a biblical verse that warns against the dangers of not completely wiping out your enemy's society. It doesn't take much to figure out what this means for Israel's genocidal war on Gaza."

  • Prem Thakker: The State Department says Israel isn't blocking aid. Videos show the opposite.

America's Israel (and Israel's America): The Biden administration, despite occasional misgivings, is fully complicit in Israel's genocide. Republicans only wish to intensify it -- after all, they figure racism and militarism are their things.

Israel vs. world opinion: From demonstrations to ICC indictments, and backlash again.

  • Nasser Abourarme: [05-25] The student uprising is fighting for all of us: "Palestine has ignited our planetary consciousness once again, and it is the student movement that refuses to let genocide become our new normal.".

  • Louis Allday: [05-24] Four points on solidarity after the Gaza genocide: I don't agree with this, and I'm rather disappointed that Mondoweiss would print it. Allday writes: "We must support the struggle of the Palestinian people to abolish Zionism, no matter the means they choose to do it." I'm inclined to be cautious about articulating what other people think and feel, but I object to every clause in that sentence, and to each of the four points the author goes on to make -- "Palestinians have a right to armed resistance"; "Zionism is irredeemable"; "we will not police our slogans"; and "'Israel' must come to an end." The problems here are grammatical, logical, moral, and political. I hate to trot out Lenin, not least because I never actually read his book, but this reminds me of a style of thought he dismissed as "an infantile disorder."

    To go back to the sentence: "the Palestinian people" assumes a unity that does not exist and therefore cannot be supported without contradiction; "abolish Zionism" is a category disorder (you can do lots of things to Zionism, like reform or reject or ridicule it, but you cannot abolish it); and it always matters what means you use, because your means define you as much as your ends. As for the points:

    1. "Palestinians have a right to armed resistance": I believe that people should have both negative ("freedom from") and positive ("freedom to") rights, but armed resistance is neither. The best you can say for it is that it's a bad habit humans have picked up over the ages, made only worse by advanced technology. I can see why some people may feel they have no better option than to resort to it, and I can see why some Palestinians think that, and I see little point in condemning them when they have no better options, and I can't see that Israel has closed or frustrated all other options. So I see little point in blaming Hamas for their violent uprising, as it mostly reflects Israel's responsibility for the conditions. But I refuse to dignify it by calling it a right. For the same reasons, I deny that Israel has a "right to defend itself" -- if anything, Israel's claim is worse, because they do have other less destructive options. Self-defense may get you an acquittal or pardon in court, but we don't have to pretend it's some kind of right to justify that. It could just be grounds for mercy. No one has a right to mercy, but some powers, especially when concerned with their own legitimacy, grant it anyway. By the way, it's fine with me if you reject armed resistance on purely moral grounds. My view here is a bit more nuanced, but in some book I read a pretty emphatic "thou shalt not kill," and that sounds to me like a pretty sound rule to live by.
    2. "Zionism is irredeemable": I'm pretty well convinced that the way Israelis are behaving today flows quite logically from the way Zionism was originally articulated by Pinsker and Herzl and rendered into political form by Ben-Gurion, Jabotinsky, and Kook (each of those, plus a dozen lesser known figures, has a chapter in Shlomo Avineri's The Making of Modern Zionism. So I would be inclined to chuck the whole conceptual legacy out, but that doesn't mean that it cannot be reformed. While I have no personal investment in Zionism, there are other isms I can imagine recovering from their tarnished pasts. And in any case I'd never say that any group of people, including fascists and white supremacists (mentioned here because they appear in the text), who are absolutely irredeemable.
    3. "We will not police our slogans": This one is probably what got me thinking of Lenin. If you can't police yourself, you certainly don't deserve to police anyone else.
    4. "'Israel' must come to an end": I don't technically disagree with "the Zionist entity commonly known as Israel is a settler colonial project sustained by U.S. imperialism for its own purposes," but I would never put it in those terms, because I don't want people to take me for a moron. I hardly know where to start here, but in any case I'll wind up with a political point, which is that this isn't going to happen, not even close, isn't even desirable, and any efforts to bring it about will only make you look stupid and cruel, reflecting adversely on any decent thing you might reasonably aim at.

    I suppose I've known all along that this kind of "thinking" exists, but so far I've only run across rough sketches of it in obvious Israeli propaganda, so I've been reluctant to credit it at all. (Could this be a plant? That's always been a suspicion with "Palestinian" resistance literature, because "false flag" operations run as deep in Israeli history as tactical hasbara.) I've occasionally thought of writing a piece on "Why I've never identified as pro-Palestinian (but don't care if you do)," which would review the checkered history of Palestinian nationalism, including the oft-repeated arguments that Jews can and should be expatriated from Israel, and explain why I find them every bit as reprehensible as Israel's not-merely-rhetorical efforts to control, incarcerate, expel, and/or kill Palestinians. One could include charts to show how much of each both sides have done, and how they stack up. (Palestinians aren't innocents in this regard, but the ratios are pretty sobering.) It's quite possible to describe yourself as pro-Palestinian and not buy into all of the dead baggage of the nationalists, so I don't assume that identifying yourself as that implies that you're simply out to flip the tables. But that's not a linkage I make for myself.

    What I'd like to see is everyone live wherever they want, with equal rights, law, and order for all within whatever state they live in (one, two, many?). Also, as a safety valve, with a right to exile, both for Israelis and Palestinians (and ideally for everyone else). I imagine that if given the chance most Palestinians (though maybe not the leaders of Hamas or Fatah) would welcome such a world, but most Israelis are still wedded to their dreams of self-rule achieved through forever war against the antisemitic hordes, so they will reject it as long as they can. And no one can force Israel to change, so the best we can do is negotiate a bit, appeal to what's left of their humanity, shame them for their obvious crimes, negotiate a bit more, find "do the right thing" compromises that give and take a little but in the right direction. They're not crazy, and they're not stupid. (Although I'm not so sure about some of the Americans.) They have some legitimate concerns, which deserve respect, but we also have to be firm that we will not let them con us (as they try to do incessantly, and have often gotten away with). This is a noble task that will require diligence and sensitivity and skill -- traits the author here, and anyone anywhere near his wavelength, manifestly lacks.

    One more point: "solidarity" doesn't mean you should follow the other lemmings into the abyss. It means you should look for common themes between your complaints and the complaints of others, to see if you can join forces in ways that help you both. Chances are, you share opponents who are already at work keeping you divided and conquered, and you can improve your tactics based on your shared experiences.

    "Empathy" is a much rawer emotion, where you experience some other's plight as impacting yourself. While it's good to be able to imagine how other people feel, the emotion can sometimes overwhelm, leading you to sympathize with counterproductive rhetoric and tactics. Empathy can motivate commitment, which is one reason movement put so much effort into garnering it, but solidarity requires thinking, analysis, deliberation, and calculated action. Empathy can lash out, and temporarily make you feel good, but it rarely works, especially against opponents who are practiced in dealing with it. On the other hand, solidarity can work.

  • Linah Alsaafin: [05-23] Why students everywhere have been jolted awake by Israel's brutality.

  • Michael Arria:

  • Ramzy Baroud: [05-23] With Biden's bear hug of Israeli atrocities, world's view of American democracy craters.

  • M Reza Benham: [05-24] Lifting the veil: Demystifying Israel: Recalls a movie, The Truman Show, where the lead character was trapped and filmed in a stage set he took to be the real world, until he discovered otherwise.

  • Ghousoon Bisharat: [05-24] 'The international legal order needs repair -- and Gaza is a part of this': "Al Mezan director Issam Younis explains the obstacles and opportunities for Palestinians following major interventions from the world's top courts."

  • Juan Cole:

  • Jonathan Cook: [05-24] The message of Israel's torture chambers is directed at all of us, not just Palestinians: "'Black sites' are about reminding those who have been colonised and enslaved of a simple lesson: resistance is futile."

  • Owen Dahlkamp: [05-24] Inside the latest congressional hearing on campus antisemitism: "Students for Justice in Palestine called the hearing 'a manufactured attack on higher education' as Republicans criticized universities for negotiating with protesters."

  • Harry Davies/Bethan McKiernan/Yuval Abraham/Meron Rapoport: [05-28] Spying, hacking and intimidation: Israel's nine-year 'war' on the ICC exposed. This is a major article. Should be a big story. Davies also wrote:

  • Moira Donegan: [05-24] Congress's latest 'antisemitism' hearing was an ugly attack on Palestinian rights: "The real purpose of this nasty political farce is to pressure US universities to crack down on criticism of Israel."

  • Richard Falk: [05-22] Why ICC bid for arrest warrants is a bold and historic move: "Unsurprisingly, the announcement has fuelled a misplaced rhetoric of outrage from Israel and its allies."

  • Michael Gasser: [05-22] A tale of two commencements: How Gaza solidarity encampments are changing the way we see university education: "Indiana University's 'Liberation Commencement' was a celebration of the students' brave commitment to fighting powerful institutions and their involvement in challenging Zionism and the Palestinian genocide."

  • Amos Goldberg/Alon Confino: [05-21] How Israel twists antisemitism claims to project its own crimes onto Palestinians: "What Israel and its supporters accuse Palestinians of inciting, Israeli officials are openly declaring, and the Israeli army is prosecuting."

  • Murtaza Hussain: Can a US ally actually be held accountable for war crimes in the ICC?

  • Ellen Ioanes/Nicole Narea: [05-21] Why ICC arrest warrants matter, even if Israel and Hamas leaders evade them: "The role of the International Criminal Court and the limits to its authority, explained."

  • David Kattenburg: [05-24] UN expert: 'Very little hope' of Israel abiding by ICJ order to stop Rafah invasion.

  • Nichlas Kristof:

    • [05-24] Biden's chance to do the right thing in Gaza: "In a speech in Warsaw two years ago, President Biden declared that 'the great battle for freedom' is one 'between a rules-based order and one governed by brute force.' Now we'll see whether he meant it." No evidence of that yet. Previously wrote:

    • [05-18] Invading Rafah doesn't help Israel.

    • [04-19] What happened to the Joe Biden I knew? "During the Darfur genocide and humanitarian crisis two decades ago, then-Senator Joe Biden passionately denounced then-President George W Bush for failing to act decisively to ease suffering. Biden expressed outrage at China for selling weapons used to kill and maim civilians, and he urged me to write columns demanding the White House end needless wretchedness." As you may recall, "genocide in Darfur" was a big Israeli talking point at the time, as the Israelis never missed an opportunity to portray Arabs as mass killers, and Sudan counted as an enemy of Israel. Silly Kristof for thinking that Biden actually cared about humanity, when he was, as always, simply doing Israel's bidding.

    • [03-16] President Biden, you have leverage that can save lives in Gaza. Please use it.

  • Akela Lacy: October 7 survivors sue campus protesters, say students are "Hamas's propaganda division": Say what?

  • Natasha Lennard: University professors are losing their jobs over "New McCarthyism" on Gaza.

  • Eldar Mamedov: [05-22] More European countries recognize Palestine: "The moves by Ireland, Norway, and Spain point to a Europe-wide frustration with futility of the current process." It's hard to recognize a "nation" that doesn't legitimately exist, but these moves to at least Israel has lost all credibility to millions of people it has effectively rendered stateless and homeless.

  • Paul Rogers: [05-28] These inhumane attacks on Rafah are no accident. They're central to the IDF's brutal, losing strategy.

  • Imad Sabi: [05-22] In memory of an Israeli lawyer who never lost her moral purpose: "Tamar Pelleg-Sryck worked tirelessly to defend Palestinian detainees like me in a profoundly unjust system."

  • Bernie Sanders: [05-23] The ICC is doing its job.

  • Tali Shapiro: [05-20] Israel's extortion leaflets and NameCheap: How to do corporate accountability during a genocide: "Arizona-based internet domain company NameCheap ended all service to Russia over the invasion of Ukraine but has now registered an Israeli website targeting Palestinian children. Activists are calling out the company's complicity in war crimes." Psychological warfare has been around at least since WWII, but is rarely commented on. For instance, did you know this?

    On Friday Israel dropped another set of leaflets on Gaza. Israel's use of leaflets for its psychological torture of the besieged Palestinian population is well known in these genocidal days.

    Ominous, gloating, taunting, and sadistic messaging is the lingua franca of these leaflets, which Israel claims is a humanitarian effort to evacuate the civilian population. Some of the most common leaflet content are calls to contact Israel's secret service with information on Hamas or the Israeli hostages. The purpose of these particular leaflets is twofold: the coercion of protected civilians to obtain information (which is a violation of the law of armed conflict); but most of all, to undermine the trust and cohesion of a community under siege and annihilation.

    Friday's leaflets took the intel-gathering genre to another level, when the army included messaging of extortion and a list of children, among them toddlers as targets, with the threat to reveal personal information such as criminal records, extramarital affairs, and queer identities.

  • Abba Solomon/Norman Solomon: [05-26] The dead end of liberal American Zionism: "In 2024, the meaning of 'pro-Israel, pro-peace' is macabre: J Street supports US military aid to Israel as it carries out a genocide. Liberal American Zionism has revealed itself to only be a tool for the subjugation of the Palestinian people." The authors refer back to a 2014 article they wrote -- The blind alley of J Street and liberal American Zionism -- and they seem entitled to an "I told you so" today. Just as I've never described myself as pro-Palestinian, I've also never claimed to be pro-Israeli, but I can see where other people might wish to combine their pro-peace and pro-nationalist sentiments. The problem is that they have to make a complete break not just with the Netanyahu gang -- as undoubted pro-Israelis like Schumer and Pelosi have done -- but with the entire apartheid/militarist regime. I can imagine some people coming to that view purely from their sympathy and concern for Israel, because it's obvious to me that not just the genocide but the entire history of occupation is something that Israelis should be ashamed of and shunned for. Anyone like that, even with zero regard for suffering of Palestinians, wouldn't deserve to be called a "tool for the subjection of Palestinians." But if you see J Street as some kind of AIPAC-Lite, meant to promote a sanitized Israel for squeamish American liberals, its mission is dead now, because the fantasy Israel it tried to present has been irreversibly exposed.

  • Christopher Sprigman: [05-23] Why universities have started arresting student protesters. "Over the past couple of months, more than 2,000 students have been arrested at colleges and universities around the US for protesting Israel's bombardment of Gaza." For starters, "It isn't because today's pro-Palestinian students are particularly violent or disruptive." This article kicks around several theories, but the obvious one is that Israel doesn't have a rational defense of genocide, so they hope to bury the charges under a bogus story of antisemitism and stir up a bit of violence then can easily blame on Palestinians. Why university administrators would go along with this is a story that probably has a money trail.

  • Ishaan Tharoor:

  • Simon Tisdall: [05-25] Call to prosecute Benjamin Netanyahu for war crimes exposes the west's moral doublethink: Someone at the Guardian needs remedial help in writing headlines: the article criticizes Biden, Sunak, and others for their attempts to undermine and impugn the ICC, not the Court for doing its job (finally).

  • Marc Tracy: [05-23] Ari Emanuel condemns Netanyahu, drawing boos at Jewish group's gala.

Election notes:

The Libertarian Party: Not normally worth my attention, but they had a convention last week, and some ringers showed up (originally I filed these under Trump):

Trump, and other Republicans: Let's start off with another quote from Richard Slotkin's A Great Disorder: National Myth and the Battle for America (pp. 385-386):

MAGA-constituencies have therefore embraced extreme measures of voter suppression, gerrymandering, and legislative control of election certification. In this regard, MAGA is building on values and practices already rooted in the conservative movement. As political scientists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have argue, since the 1990s the GOP has been "ideologically extreme, scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition." Its agenda has been formulated as a canon, most tenets of which predate Trump: Grover Norquist's No-Tax Pledge, the Kochs' No Climate Change Pledge, the NRA's absolute rejection of gun safety, Right to Life's rejection of abortion under any circumstances, the anti-immigration bloc's No Amnesty Pledge. Its "Southern Strategy" dealt in dog-whistle racism to rouse resistance to social welfare programs. It has generally opposed the extension of social welfare programs and voting rights.

Trump exaggerated those tendencies by an order of magnitude, and his cult of personality gave them shape, color, and the aura of insurgent populist heroism. Government was not just a problem to be minimized, but an administrative state to be deconstructed. Dog-whistle racism became explicit in the defamation of Mexican and Black people, and in the display of sympathy for White Power vigilantes. Climate change was not just a hoax, but a "Chinese hoax." Faced with global pandemic, inescapable evidence of dangerous climate change, a public outcry for racial and social justice, and defeat at the polls, Trump chose repression over recognition.

But Trump also shifted the focus of conservative politics from the neoliberal economic policies of Reagan and the two Bushes to the culture war policies of Pat Buchanan.

That paragraph goes on with Christopher Rufo and Ron DeSantis and the war against woke. One should note that Trump is no less neoliberal than Reagan or the Bushes: he'd just prefer to saddle Clinton, Obama, and Biden with blame for the side-effects of policies Republicans have consistently supported since Nixon. Granted, Trump is a bit heretical with the odd tariff, but the economic effects are trivial, the targets are jingoist, and the beneficiaries dovetail nicely with his graft.

By the way, I meant to include more from the end of Slotkin's book, but that will have to wait until next week.

Actual trial news is skimpy: the defense rested quickly (without Trump testifying), and the judge took the rest of the week off to prepare for final arguments and jury instructions on Monday. Still leads off here, followed by other articles:

  • Nia Prater: [05-21] What happened in the Trump trial today: The defense rests: I've been using this "running recap of the news" for much of the trial, but it's fallen off Intelligencer's front page for lack of an update. [PS: updated 4:57PM 05-28, now "Closing time."] Presumably it will get one when final arguments are given. Meanwhile, it's still a good backgrounder. Also (again, thin this week):

  • Eric Alterman: [05-17] How can this country possibly be electing Trump again? "How the media has failed, and what the Democrats need to do."

  • Jamelle Bouie: [05-24] Trump's taste for tyranny finds a target:

    Trump's signature promise, during the 2016 presidential election, was that he would build a wall on the US border with Mexico. His signature promise, this time around, is that he'll use his power as president to deport as many as 20 million people from the United States.

    "Following the Eisenhower model," he told a crowd in Iowa last September, "we will carry out the largest domestic deportation operation in American history."

    It cannot be overstated how Trump's deportation plan would surely rank as one of the worst crimes perpetrated by the federal government on the people of this country. Most of the millions of unauthorized and undocumented immigrants in the United States are essentially permanent residents. They raise families, own homes and businesses, pay taxes and contribute to their communities. For the most part, they are as embedded in the fabric of this nation as native-born and naturalized American citizens are.

    What Trump and his aide Stephen Miller hope to do is to tear those lives apart, rip those communities to shreds and fracture the entire country in the process.

  • Jonathan Chait: [05-23] Karl Rove frets RFK Jr. is stealing 'wacko' voters from Trump: Isn't that rather like Willie Sutton's rationale for robbing banks? Not much substance here, mostly just a chuckle as Chait is firmly Team Biden. But it occurs to me that if RFK Jr. really wanted to do some damage to Biden, what he has to do is flip 180° on Israel, and wrap that up with his anti-empire, anti-militarist views into a serious critique of the mostly-shared Biden/Trump geopolitics. The one thing a third-party candidate most needs is an urgent issue where the two major parties are joined at the hip, and that issue right now is genocide. (And sure, that won't help him with Trump voters, but he still has crazy for them.)

  • Callum Jones: [05-28] Vivek Ramaswamyu uses Buzzfeed stake to demand staff cuts, conservative hires.

  • Juliette Kayyem: [05-23] Trump's assassination fantasy has a darker purpose: "The ex-president's stories of his own victimization make violence by his supporters far more likely."

  • Ed Kilgore: [05-24] Trump guilty verdict would feed election-denial claims. Well, so would an acquittal, or a hung jury. That die was set when he was indicted. Trump certainly thinks that the indictments are proof of a vast conspiracy to get him, and millions of people are happy to believe whatever he says, which guarantees that charging him with anything will get turned into a political circus and raise all sorts of questions about impartial juries and free speech and the political inclinations and entanglements of judges, all of which are certain to be played to the hilt for Trump's political purposes. I could imagine prosecutors with good political instincts deciding that it's not worth all that much trouble to go after Trump, especially on the specific cases they have here.

    That they waited nearly three years after he left office before moving certainly suggests that they were reluctant to take on this fight. They didn't go after Nixon after he resigned -- Ford's peremptory pardon gave them a convenient excuse, but wasn't binding on state prosecutors, and could have been challenged in court. But Nixon never so much as hinted at running again, while Trump is. So, sure, the optics do suggest that he's being prosecuted to derail his campaign, but so is his defense designed to promote his campaign. I have no idea who's winning, or will win, this very strange game. From a purely political standpoint, I've never been sure it was good strategy. (I am pretty certain that the Ukraine impeachment was a bad move, but the Jan. 6 one was well-founded, and that McConnell missed an opportunity there to get Trump disqualified under the 14th amendment, precluding a 2024 run, and probably sparing Trump the indictments -- which all in all would have been a good deal for everyone.)

    Still, I understand that prosecutors like to (no, live to) prosecute, and I have no doubt that they have very strong legal cases. And I do like that in the courtroom, Trump has to come down from his high horse and show some submission to the court. It is one thing to say "nobody's above the law," but that Trump has to show up and shut up, even if he nods off and farts a lot, gives us a graphic illustration of the point. But as for Kilgore's point, the only thing that would stop feeding election-denial claims would be for media like himself to stop airing them.

  • Nicholas Liu: [05-23] Louisiana Republicans declare abortion pills a "dangerous substance," threaten prison and hard labor: "Under the proposed law, people found in possession of the pills could face up to five years behind bars."

  • Clarence Lusane: [05-19] Black MAGA is still MAGA: "Trump's racism and authoritarianism should be disqualifying."

  • Amanda Marcotte: [05-24] Trump's "Biden the assassin" fantasy is pure projection.

  • John Nichols: [05-24] The soulless hypocrisy of Nikki Haley: "Haley has abandoned her opposition to Trump for political expediency." Seriously, did you ever think for a minute that she would "never Trump"? Still, doesn't (yet) strike me as much of an endorsement. Sort of like me sheepishly admitting I'll vote for Biden, despite some really serious issues I have with him. Also see:

  • Timothy Noah: [05-23] Here's what Trump and the GOP really think about the working class.

  • Andrew Prokop: [05-21] Why Trump's running mate could be the most important VP pick of our time: I don't really buy this, but it would take another article to explain all the reasons why. VPs matter very little unless one gets promoted, in which case they're usually mediocre (Coolidge, Truman) to disastrous (Tyler, Andrew Johnson), the exceptions being Teddy Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson (who, like Coolidge and Truman, won a term in their own right). True that Trump's odds of finishing a second term are below-average, but he'd be hard pressed to pick a VP even worse than he is, or one much better.

  • Matthew Stevenson: [05-24] Trump's three penny media opera: The machinations of TMTG, the Trump Media shell corporation.

  • Robert Wright: [05-24] Why Trump is worse than Biden on Gaza (and maybe much worse).

  • The New Republic: What American Fascism would look like: "It can happen here. And if it does, here is what might become of the country." A weighty topic for a special issue, but how seriously can we take a publisher when all the art department could come up with is a bronze-tone Donald Trump head with a somewhat more tastefully clipped Hitler mustache? The articles:

    The first piece in this batch I read was the one by Brooks, partly because I found the title confusing -- do liberals really fantasize about the military? I mean, aside from herself? -- but she's actually pretty clear, if not especially satisfactory, in the article: the military won't rise up to hand Trump power, or otherwise instigate a coup, but if Trump does gain power more or less legitimately and issues clear orders, there is no reason to doubt that they will act on his behalf. The notion that they might act independently to stop Trump is what she dismisses as "liberal fantasy."

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Christopher Cadelago/Sallyl Goldenberg/Elena Schneider: [05-28] Dems in full-blown 'freakout' over Biden. Mostly seems to mean party operatives and fundraisers. I don't know if these reports are credible, but the writers are certainly freaking out:

    "The most diplomatic thing I hear from Democrats is, 'Oh my God, are these the choices we have for president?'"

  • Kate Conger/Ryan Mac: [05-24] Elon Musk ramps up anti-Biden posts on X. One of the authors also contributed to:

  • David Dayen: [05-21] Pelosi may back industry-friendly House crypto bill: "The industry has become a major spender in political campaigns, and the most prodigious fundraiser among Democrats is taking notice." I hate crypto, and this is one of the reasons. Democrats have to raise money just like Republicans do, but when they do they manage to look extra dirty, and nothing's dirtier than crypto.

  • Gabriel Debenedetti: [05-25] When Joe Biden plays pundit: "A close reading of what the president really thinks about 2024 -- at least what he's telling his donors." There's an old joke that Minnesota has two seasons: winter and road repair (which is really just recovering from and preparing for winter). Politicians also have two seasons: one, which never really ends, where they appeal to donors, and another, for several weeks leading up to an election, when they try to appeal to voters. Then, as soon as the votes are counted, it's back to the donors. Successful politicians may try to juggle both, but donors are more critical -- they basically decide who can run and be taken seriously, plus they're always in touch, whereas voters only get one shot, and even then can only choose among donor-approved candidates -- so they get most of the attention. Having wrapped up the nomination early, Biden has time to focus on the donors, raising his war chest. His anemic polls can wait until September, when the voters finally get their season.

  • Ed Kilgore:

    • [05-21] The Biden campaign has a Trump-fatigue problem. Don't we all have a Trump-fagigue problem? Come November, the big question on voters' minds should be what can I actually accomplish with my vote? In 2016, middle-of-the-road voters seized the opportunity to get rid of Hillary Clinton. This time, they have to seriously ask themselves whether they want to finally rid themselves of Donald Trump? Sure, lots of people love him, but they've never been close to a majority. Some people prefer him, but do they really want all the attention and scandal and agita and strife? And while he's sure to claim yet another election was stolen, how many times can he whine before people shrug and leave him to the wolf? Sure, he could threaten to run again, but even William Jennings Bryan was done after losing thrice. Plus he still has those indictments. He has to fight them in order to keep running, but if he gives up the run, it's almost certain he could plea bargain them for no jail time -- and really, how bad would house arrest, which is probably his worst-case scenario, at Mar-a-Lago be?

    • [05-24] Is Biden gambling everything on an early-debate bounce? My read is that the June debate is meant to show Democrats that he can still mount a credible campaign against Trump. If he can -- and a bounce would be nice but not necessary -- it will go a long way to quelling pressure to drop out and open the convention. If he can't, then sure, he'll have gambled and lost, and pressure will build. But at least it will give him a reference point that he has some actual control over -- unlike the polls, which still seem to have a lot of trouble taking him seriously.

  • Joan Walsh: [05-20] Biden fared well as Morehouse. So you didn't hear about it. The upshot seems to have been that the administrators as well as the protesters were on best behavior, and that Biden (unlike some politicians in recent memory) didn't make matters worse.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Economic matters:

  • Luke Goldstein: [05-22] The raiding of Red Lobster: "The bankrupt casual restaurant chain didn't fail because of Endless Shrimp. Its problems date back to monopolist seafood conglomerates and a private equity play." Isn't this always the case? Cue link to:

  • John Herrmann: [05-24] How Microsoft plans to squeeze cash out of AI: "The same way it always has with most everything else -- by leveraging our PCs."

  • Michael Hudson: [05-24] Some myths regarding the genesis of enterprise. Author has a series of books on economic development in antiquity, most recently The Collapse of Antiquity, as well as the forthcoming The Destiny of Civilization: Finance Capitalism, Industrial Capitalism or Socialism. Two pull quotes from the latter:

    The decline of the West is not necessary or historically inevitable. It is the result of choosing policies dictated by its rentier interests. . . . The threat posed to society by rentier interests is the great challenge of every nation today: whether its government can restrict the dynamics of finance capitalism and prevent an oligarchy from dominating the state and enriching itself by imposing austerity on labor and industry. So far, the West has not risen to this challenge.

    There are essentially two types of society: mixed economies with public checks and balances, and oligarchies that dismantle and privatize the state, taking over its monetary and credit system, the land and basic infrastructure to enrich themselves but choking the economy, not helping it grow.

Ukraine War and Russia:

  • Connor Echols: [05-24] Diplomacy Watch: Ukraine pushes for direct NATO involvement in war: "As Kyiv's battlefield position worsens, the West faces a dangerous choice." As I understand it, they're talking about providing trained NATO personnel to run defensive anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, which would counter the long-range bombing threat and stabilize the current stalemate. That doesn't sound like such a bad idea, as long as it is used to support a reasonable negotiation process. This war was always going to be resolved through negotiations, and has lasted so long only because both sides have unrealistic goals and are afraid of compromise. On the other hand, without a negotiation process, this would just be another hopeless escalation, threatening a wider and even more severe war.

  • Jonathan Chait: [05-23] Trump tells Putin to keep Wall Street Journal reporter hostage through election: "Putin 'will do that for me, but not for anyone else.'" As Chait notes, "by openly signaling to Putin that he does not want Gershkovich to be freed before the election, [Trump] is destroying whatever chances may exist to secure his release before then." As Robert Wright noted (op cit), Republican presidential candidates have a track record of back-channel diplomatic sabotage (Nixon in 1968, Reagan in 1980), but few have ever been so upfront and personal about it. One might even say "nonchalant": like his assertion that he alone could end the Ukraine war "in a day," this seems more like evidence of his own narcissism than political calculation. (Even if he were to placate Putin, Zelensky and his European fan base wouldn't fold immediately.) This got me looking for more pieces on Trump, Russia, and Ukraine:

    • Isaac Arnsdorf/Josh Dawsey/Michael Birnbaum: [04-07] Inside Donald Trump's secret, long-shot plan to end the war in Ukraine. For what it's worth, I think the land division is pretty much a given -- the notion that "to cede land would reward Putin" is just a rhetorical ploy to fight on endlessly, while the ruined, depopulated land is as much a burden as a reward -- but there is still much more that needs to be carefully negotiated, including refugee status, trade, sanctions, arms reduction, and future conflict resolution. I would like to see plebiscites to confirm the disposition of land, preferably 3-5 years down the line (well after refugees have returned or resettled; probably after Ukraine has joined the EU, allowing open migration there; allowing both sides to show what they can do to rebuild; but probably just confirming the present division -- as anything else would make both leaders look bad). Needless to say, Trump has no skills or vision to negotiate any such thing, as his "one day" boasts simply proves. Unfortunately, Biden hasn't shown any aptitude for negotiation, either.

    • Veronika Melkozerova: [04-18] Why Donald Trump 'hates Ukraine': "The once and possibly future president blames the country for his political woes."

    • Lynn Berry/Didi Tang/Jill Colvin/Ellen Knickmeyer: [05-09] Trump-affiliated group releases new national security book outlining possible second-term approach. The group calls itself the America First Policy Institute:

      The book blames Democratic President Joe Biden for the war and repeats Trump's claim that Putin never would have invaded if Trump had been in office. Its main argument in defense of that claim is that Putin saw Trump as strong and decisive. In fact, Trump cozied up to the Russian leader and was reluctant to challenge him.

      I wouldn't read too much into this. The group appears to be about 90% Blob, the rest just a waft of smoke to be blown up Trump's ass. Trump would probably approve of Teddy Roosevelt's foreign policy motto ("speak softly but carry a big stick"), but like everything else, his own personal twist -- a mix of sweet talk and bluster -- is much more peurile, and unaffected by reason and understanding, or even interests beyond his personal and political finances. North Korea is the perfect example, with Trump's full, ungrounded range of emotions accomplishing nothing at all, which was the Blob position all along. Same, really, for Ukraine. Regardless of his rants and raves, when pressed Trump will tow the line, as in [04-18] Donald Trump says Ukraine's survival is important to US.

    • Jeet Heer: Will Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu bless Donald Trump with an October Surprise? "Unlike Joe Biden, the former president benefits from international turmoil."

  • Joshua Keating: [05-22] How worried should we be about Russia putting a nuke in space? About as worried as we should be if the US or any other country did it.

America's empire and the world: I changed the heading here, combining two previous sections (with major cutouts above for Israel and Ukraine), as it's often difficult to separate world news from America's imagininary empire and its actual machinations.


Other stories:

Daniel Falcone: [05-24] In Memoriam: H Bruce Franklin (1934-2024): Historian (1934-2024), see Wikipedia for an overview of his work and life, including political activism starting with opposition to the Vietnam War. His books started with one on Melville, with others on science fiction, prison, fish, and most of all, war. His most recent book, Crash Course: From the Good War to the Forever War (2018; paperback 2024), looks especially interesting, as much as memoir as history. This reprints an interview from 2018. I also found for following by Franklin (several adapted from Crash Course):

  • H Bruce Franklin: [As are the following uncredited pieces.] [2022-08-31] Why talk about loans? Let's quote some of this:

    Vice President Agnew (not yet indicted for his own criminal activities) was even more explicit. Speaking at an Iowa Republican fund-raising dinner in April 1970, Agnew argued that there was too high a percentage of Black students in college and condemned "the violence emanating from Black student militancy." Declaring that "College, at one time considered a privilege, is considered to be a right today," he singled out open admissions as one of the main ways "by which unqualified students are being swept into college on the wave of the new socialism."

    Later in 1970, Roger Freeman -- a key educational adviser to Nixon then working for the reelection of California Governor Ronald Reagan -- spelled out quite precisely what the conservative counterattack was aimed at preventing:

    We are in danger of producing an educated proletariat. That's dynamite! We have to be selective on who we allow to go through higher education. If not, we will have a large number of highly trained and unemployed people.

    The two most menacing institutional sources of the danger described by Freeman were obviously those two great public university systems charging no tuition: the University of California and the City University of New York. Governor Reagan was able to wipe out free tuition at the University of California in 1970, but that left CUNY to menace American society. The vital task of crippling CUNY was to go on for six more years, outlasting the Nixon administration and falling to his appointed successor, Gerald Ford.

  • [2022-01-19] Ready for another game of Russian roulette?

  • [2021-12-03] Ocean winds: Bringing us renewable fish with renewable energy. One of his many books was The Most Important Fish in the Sea: Menhaden and America (2007).

  • [2020-08-14] August 12-22, 1945: Washington starts the Korean and Vietnam Wars. After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Japan's surrender, "allied" troops (including British and French) entered and started their occupation.

  • [2020-08-06] How the Fascists won World War II.

  • [2019-09-20] How we launched our forever war in the Middle East: In July 1958 Eisenhower sent B-52s into Lebanon.

  • [2014-08-03] Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and American militarism: A review of Paul Ham: Hiroshima Nagasaki.

  • [2014-07-16] America's memory of the Vietnam War in the epoch of the forever war.

  • [2003-01-16] Our man in Saigon: A review of the film The Quiet American, based on the Graham Greene novel.

  • [2000] Vietnam: The antiwar movement we are supposed to forget.

  • [1991] The Vietnam War as American science fiction and fantasy.

  • [2022-09-01] H Bruce Franklin's most important books: Interview of Franklin with Doug Storm. When asked about "the Second World War as a good war," Franklin replied:

    No, unfortunately, we lost that war. We thought we were fighting against militarism, fascism, and imperialism. If so, we lost. We lost partly because of how we fought that war, using air attacks on civilian populations as a main strategy. This strategy climaxed with us exploding nuclear bombs on the civilian population of two Japanese cities. That is how we lost the good war.

Connor Freeman: [05-21] The passing of a Republican anti-war, anti-AIPAC fighter: "A veteran himself, Rep. Pete McCoskey railed against the Vietnam War, and continued to question US interventions until his death on May 8."

Sarah Jones:

Max Moran: [05-19] I don't think Jonathan Chait read the book on 'Solidarity' he reviewed: "The New York Magazine pundit spent 2,900 words criticizing a book with no resemblance to the one which prompted his piece." I previously wrote about the Chait piece here.

Virtually none of [Solidarity] is about how liberals need to pipe down and praise leftists more. I don't think intra-elite discursive norms come up at all, except in passing. As far as I can tell, Chait only got the idea that the book's "core tenet" is liberal-policing from one-half of one paragraph of a Washington Post feature about the book, in which Hunt-Hendrix mentions Chait and his contemporary Matt Yglesias as examples of public figures whom she hopes read the book's fourth chapter on conservatives' "divide-and-conquer strategy." That chapter mostly discusses organized right-wing efforts like the Southern Strategy, not the topic preferences of contemporary pundits.

This may come as a shock to Chait, but I don't think that Hunt-Hendrix or Taylor think about him -- or figures like him -- very much at all. Their book's actual argument is that individuals, and even groups of individuals cohered around a common identity, are not the protagonists of history. To Hunt-Hendrix and Taylor, it's only when dedicated groups of people stand up, sacrifice, and risk blood and teeth for other dedicated groups of people, who then return the favor, that society advances and complex problems can be solved. The point is mutual interdependence, in all its messiness and beauty. By contrast, Chait's singular focus on the nobility of liberals standing up to leftists not only has nothing to do with the book's argument, it's self-centered in a way directly opposed to the real thesis of Solidarity. Chait doesn't seem to realize this.

By the way, Jonathan Chait has a new piece that is even more at odds with reality and common sense: [05-28] Anti-Israel protesters want to elect Trump, who promises to crush protesters: "Why Rashida Tlaib is joining the one-state horseshoe alliance." I'm not up for debunking or even debugging this concoction, where even the facts that aren't wrong -- very clearly Trump would be even worse for peace than Biden; most likely if Tlaib "called for the voters to punish Joe Biden at the ballot box" she meant in Democratic primaries, not by voting for Trump, which would be self-punishment -- they are assembled in ways that are utterly disingenuous. I did try looking up "one-state horseshoe alliance," but all I found was a theory, which looks rather like an EKG of Chait's brain.

Anna North: [05-24] Birth control is good, actually.

Christian Paz: [05-24] 3 theories for America's anti-immigrant shift: "A recent poll suggests a reversal in a decades-long trend of the public warming to immigrants. What's causing the shift?" The theories are:

  1. It's the politicians
  2. It's the economy
  3. It's the "law-and-order" mindset

In other words, it's the politicians, who sometimes try to deflect attention to the other bullshit points. And it's only certain politicians, although they have relatively a free run, because it's an issue without a strong countervailing lobby. A lot of us aren't bothered by immigration, but wouldn't mind slowing it down, especially if that shut up the Republicans. Of course, nothing will, because the split is precisely the kind Republicans can exploit, and thereby put less committed Democrats on the defensive. Needless to add, but Republicans couldn't get away with this if the media wasn't helping them at every step.

Rick Perlstein: [05-22] Influencers against influencers: "The TikTok generation finds its voice."

Jeffrey St Clair:

Liz Theoharis/Shailly Gupta Barnes: [05-21] Don't grind the faces of the poor: "The moral response to homelessness."

Also, some writing on music:

Dan Weiss:

  • [05-20] What was it made for? The problem with Billie Eilish's Hit Me Hard and Soft: "She's overwrought and over you."

  • [05-26] Take my money, wreck my Sundays: The 30 best albums of 2024 so far (#30-21): First sign I've seen of "so far" season, with two sets of allegedly better albums coming later in the week: 3 here I haven't heard yet, 1 of those still unreleased; Lafandar (22) currently my number 1 non-jazz, but only 1 more album on my A-list (Maggie Rogers), and some well below (Still House Plants at B-), but 3 more on Christgau's A-list that I shortchanged (Rosie Tucker, Yard Act, Vampire Weekend). I hope the author here ("RIOTRIOT," aka Iris Demento, aka Dan Ex Machina, not to be confused with either of the same-named drummers) won't charge me with deadnaming again.


Phil Freeman posted this on Facebook:

Was interviewing an artist roughly my own age yesterday and at one point one of us said to the other, "If you think America is the most divided it's ever been right now, all that tells me is that you weren't alive in the Seventies, when you had all the chaos of the Sixties but none of the hope."

Several interesting comments followed, including:

  • Chuck Eddy: I was born in 1960, and I definitely can. I guess I'm mainly going with my gut here -- the '70s definitely didn't *feel* anywhere near as verging on Civil War to me as current times do. Could be that's just a byproduct of being much older now, combined with where I was then vs now, but I don't think so. (As for Reagan, I mainly associate him with the '80s, but then again I never lived in California. That terrorist acts seemed to largely come from the Left then rather than the Right might play into my gut feelings as well.)

  • James Keepnews: And yet, how quickly Nixon's support evaporated when it became clear he would be impeached, whereupon he resigned in advance of that happening (the House still voted to impeach him after he left office). Two impeachments in and some criminal convictions to come, and Trump's supporters are only more rabidly supportive of him, and at least poll as a majority of American voters -- that's extremely different from anything that occurred during the 60's/70's in the US.

  • Sean Sonderegger: Nixon was terrible but he also created the EPA. Reagan was much worse but doesn't really come close to Trump.

  • Jeff Tamarkin: I was in my 20s throughout most of the '70s and I despised Nixon, as most people my age did. I despised the right-wingers who voted for him and what they stood for. But never once did I think of Nixon as the leader of a gigantic cult or of his voters as cult members who would support him regardless of what he did or said. I never thought Nixon could destroy democracy and the United States itself, with the blind support of millions. Trump is the most dangerous president we've ever had and the greatest threat to our future. The way he's stuffed the Supreme Court with radical maniacs alone is threatening as hell as hell. I'll take a breath of relief the day he finally keels over from stuffing too many cheeseburgers down his orange face.

I finally wrote my own comment:

I don't remember the '70s as being devoid of hope. I thought we won most of the big issues -- if not all the elections, at least most of the hearts and minds. Nixon signed the EPA not because he wanted to but because he realized that fighting it was a losing proposition, and Nixon would do almost anything to not lose. The conservative movement that gained ground in the '80s was mostly clandestine in the '70s. The late '60s, on the other hand, felt more desperate. Of course, it was easier to be hopeful (or desperate) in your 20s than in your 70s. Objectively, Trump may be worse than his antecedents, but they're the ones that prepared the ground he thrives on -- such direct links as Roger Stone and Roy Cohn not only tie Trump to their history but to the very worst characteristics in that history. But those characters have always existed, and done as much harm as they were allowed to do. The nation has been perilously divided before -- you know about the 1850s, but divides were as sharp in the 1930s, 1890s, and 1790s as in the 1960-70s. You can make a case that the right is more ominous now then ever -- the secession of 1861 was more militarized, but was essentially defensive, while the right today seeks total domination everywhere -- but I can still counter with reasoned hope. The future isn't done yet.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Daily Log

Laura posted a pic of Coronado Heights. I commented:

Steve commented:

We didn't look for the farm. I'll try to go there next time. Might be hard to find.

I replied:

Steven Hull I have very little idea how to get to the farm. I remember it was 2-3 miles southeast of Little River, which was 8-10 miles west of Marquette. I recall going from the farm to Marquette once, but have no idea of the roads (one bridge, road sign may be why I remember Little River). After they moved in 1960, I'm not sure I ever went with Dad to the farm. I remember the two-story house, the hand pump in the kitchen, the outhouse, the corral with windmill and water tank, maybe a barn?, a pear tree (maybe one more), and the pond away from the house. Thanks to FDR, it did have electricity, but otherwise was very primitive.

I'll post pictures of Marquette house and cemetery separately. The other place I wanted to find was New Gotland, which I recall was near McPherson, on a road parallel to US-81, close enough you could see it from the highway. I can't find it from I-135 (which has moved several miles east of old US-81). As I recall, there was a Lutheran church, a cemetery, and 2-3 houses. A relative lived in one: I think it was Dad's uncle (Grandma's brother), I think his name was Carl Lundberg. Another early '60s memory. We had an encounter with a Lindsborg cop. I asked him about New Gotland, but he couldn't place it. Suggested maybe Elyria? (Southeast of McPherson. Turns out New Gotland is just north, closer to Lindsborg.)

Looking at map now, New Gotland is one mile east of I-135, off the Pawnee Road exit, with the New Gotland Lutheran Church about 2/3-mile south of Pawnee Road. Pawnee Road is second exit north from McPherson (US-56), after Mohawk Road (2.3 miles south of the church). Should be easy to get to and find. I added this:

Looking at maps now, I see New Gotland is easy to get to: 2nd exit (Pawnee Rd) north of McPherson, east one mile, south 2/3-mile to New Gotland Lutheran Church. I also see that Little River is much more south than I recalled. Just north of US-56 west of McPherson. I believe the farm was well to the north, almost to K-4, but I may be confusing the roads north from US-56 to the farm with the one to Marquette, which was dead straight but very up-and-down.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Music Week

Expanded blog post, May archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 37 albums, 6 A-list

Music: Current count 42349 [42312] rated (+37), 27 [22] unrated (+5).


New records reviewed this week:

  • John Ambrosini: Songs for You (2024, self-released): [cd]: B [06-01]
  • Bruno Berle: No Reino Dos Afetos 2 (2024, Psychic Hotline): [sp]: B+(***)
  • The Bobby Broom Organi-sation: Jamalot Live (2014-19 [2024], Steele): [cd]: B+(*) [05-24]
  • Carl Clements: A Different Light (2023 [2024], Greydisc): [cd]: B+(***) [05-23]
  • Amalie Dahl's Dafnie: Står Op Med Solen (2023 [2024], Sonic Transmissions/Aguirre): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Adam Forkelid: Turning Point (2023 [2024], Prophone): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Mikko Innanen Autonomous: Hietsu (2021 [2024], Fiasko): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Abbey Masonbrink: Rising (2024, self-released): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Modney: Ascending Primes (2023 [2024], Pyroclastic, 2CD): [cd]: B+(*)
  • John Moreland: Visitor (2024, Thirty Tigers): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Bill Orcutt Guitar Quartet: Four Guitars Live (2023 [2024], Palilalia): [sp]: A-
  • Katie Pruitt: Mantras (2024, Rounder): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Ren: Sick Boi (2023, The Other Songs): [sp]: A-
  • Maggie Rogers: Don't Forget Me (2024, Capitol): [sp]: A-
  • Ann Savoy: Another Heart (2024, Smithsonian Folkways): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Serengeti: KDIV (2024, Othar): [sp]: A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Congo Funk: Sound Madness From the Shores of the Mighty Congo River: Kinshasa/Brazzaville 1969-1982 (1969-82 [2024], Analog Africa): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Grupo Irakere: Grupo Irakere (1976 [2024], Mr. Bongo): [sp]: A-
  • Todd Snider: Songs for the Daily Planet (Purple Version) (2020 [2024], Aimless): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Todd Snider: Step Right Up (Purple Version) (2020 [2024], Aimless): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Todd Snider: Viva Satellite (Purple Version) ([2024], Aimless): [sp]: B+(*)

Old music:

  • Jackson Blues, 1928-1938 (1928-38 [1991], Yazoo): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Ville Lähteenmäki Trio: Introducing (2022, Ultraääni): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Ville Lähteenmäki Utopia: Russian Body Language (2020, Art First): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Mississippi Moaners: 1927-1942 (1927-42 [1991], Yazoo): [sp]: B+(**)
  • The Rough Guide to Delta Blues [Reborn and Remastered] (1928-40 [2016], World Music Network): [sp]: A-
  • The Rough Guide to Delta Blues (Vol. 2) (1928-40 [2022], World Music Network): [sp]: B+(***)
  • The Rough Guide to Ragtime Blues [Reborn and Remastermed] (1928-38 [2017], World Music Network): [sp]: B+(***)
  • The Rough Guide to Barrelhouse Blues [Reborn and Remastered] (1928-48 [2018], World Music Network): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Serengeti: The Glennon EP (2020, self-released, EP): [sp]: B-
  • Serengeti: Kaleidoscope III (2022, Audio Recon, EP): [sp]: B
  • Serengeti: We Saw Mad Turtles (2022, self-released, EP): [sp]: B
  • Serengeti: Ajai II (2023, self-released): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Todd Snider: Step Right Up (1996, MCA): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Todd Snider: Viva Satellite (1998, MCA): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Todd Snider: Happy to Be Here (2000, Oh Boy): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Todd Snider: New Connection (2002, Oh Boy): [sp]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Altus: Mythos (Biophilia) * [06-07]
  • Etienne Charles: Creole Orchestra (Culture Shock) [06-14]
  • Fox Green: Holy Souls (self-released '22)
  • Fox Green: Light Darkness (self-released) * [06-12]
  • Jon Gordon: 7th Ave South (ArtistShare) [05-03]
  • Mike Holober & the Gotham Jazz Orchestra: This Rock We're On: Imaginary Letters (Palmetto) [06-14]
  • Janel & Anthony: New Moon in the Evil Age (Cuneiform) * [06-28]
  • Janel Leppin: Ensemble Volcanic Ash: To March Is to Love (Cuneiform) * [06-28]
  • Flavio Silva: Eko (Break Free) [06-07]
  • Ryan Truesdell: Synthesis: The String Quartet Sessions (ArtistShare) [0l6-21]
  • Juanma Trujillo: Howl (Endectomorph Music) * [07-12]

Monday, May 20, 2024

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Music Week

Expanded blog post, May archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 63 albums, 5 A-list

Music: Current count 42312 [42249] rated (+63), 22 [29] unrated (-7).


New records reviewed this week:

  • Matt Andersen: The Big Bottle of Joy (2023, Sonic): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Anitta: Funk Generation (2024, Republic): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Nia Archives: Silence Is Loud (2024, Hijinxx/Island): [sp]: A-
  • Duane Betts: Wild & Precious Life (2023, Royal Potato Family) **
  • Pat Bianchi: Three (2023 [2024], 21H): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Muireann Bradley: I Kept These Old Blues (2023, Tompkins Square): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Edmar Castañeda World Ensemble: Viento Sur (2023, self-released): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Layale Chaker & Sarafand: Radio Afloat (2023 [2024], In a Circle): [cd]: A- [05-17]
  • Gary Clark Jr.: JPEG RAW (2024, Warner): [sp]: B-
  • Chris Duarte: Ain't Giving Up (2023, Provogue): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Tinsley Ellis: Naked Truth (2024, Alligator): [sp]: B+(**)
  • William Lee Ellis: Ghost Hymns (2023, Yellow Dog): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Empirical: Wonder Is the Beginning (2022 [2024], Whirlwind): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Ethel & Layale Chaker: Vigil (2022 [2024], In a Circle): [cd]: B+(***) [05-17]
  • Robert Connelly Farr: Pandora Sessions (2023, self-released): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Lawrence Fields: To the Surface (2023 [2024], Rhythm 'N' Flow): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Samantha Fish & Jesse Dayton: Death Wish Blues (2023, Rounder): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Sue Foley: One Guitar Woman: A Tribute to the Female Pioneers of Guitar (2024, Stony Plain): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Roberto Fonseca: La Gran Diversión (2023, 3ème Bureau/Wagram): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Amaro Freitas: Y'Y (2024, Psychic Hotline): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Gov't Mule: Peace . . . Like a River (2023, Concord): [sp]: B-
  • Makiko Hirabayashi Trio: Meteora (2022 [2023], Enja): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Hiromi's Sonicwonder: Sonicwonderland (2023, Telarc): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Munir Hossn/Ganavya: Sister, Idea (2023, Ropeadope): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Hovvdy: Hovvdy (2024, Arts & Crafts): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Ibibio Sound Machine: Pull the Rope (2024, Merge): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Christone "Kingfish" Ingram: Live in London (2023, Alligator, 2CD): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Eric Johanson: The Deep and the Dirty (2023, Ruf): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Rickie Lee Jones: Pieces of Treasure (2022 [2023], BMG/Modern): [sp]: B-
  • Live Edge Trio With Steve Nelson: Closing Time (2023 [2024], OA2): [cd]: B+(**) [05-17]
  • John Lurie: Painting With John (2021-23 [2024], Royal Potato Family): [sp]: B+(***)
  • The Taj Mahal Sextet: Swingin' Live at the Church in Tulsa (2023 [2024], Lightning Rod): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Dom Martin: Buried in the Hail (2023, Forty Below): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Dave McMurray: Grateful Deadication 2 (2023, Blue Note): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Coco Montoya: Writing on the Wall (2023, Alligator): [sp]: B
  • Simon Moullier: Inception (2022 [2023], Fresh Sound New Talent): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Nat Myers: Yellow Peril (2023, Easy Eye Sound): [sp]: A-
  • Parchman Prison Prayer: Some Mississippi Sunday Morning (2023, Glitterbeat): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Ben Patterson Jazz Orchestra: Groove Junkies (2023 [2024], Origin): [cd]: B+(**) [05-17]
  • Nicholas Payton: Drip (2023, PayTone): [sp]: B
  • Jessica Pratt: Here in the Pitch (2024, Mexican Summer): [sp]: B
  • John Primer & Bob Corritore: Crawlin' Kingsnake (2024, VizzTone): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Jason Robinson: Ancestral Numbers (2023 [2024], Playscape): [cd]: A- [05-14]
  • Still House Plants: If I Don't Make It, I Love U (2023 [2024], Bison): [sp]: B-
  • Natsuki Tamura/Jim Black: NatJim (2023 [2024], Libra): [cd]: B+(***) [05-17]
  • Ralph Towner: At First Light (2022 [2023], ECM): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Angela Verbrugge: Somewhere (2017-18 [2024], OA2): [cd]: B+(**) [05-17]
  • Bill Warfield and the Hell's Kitchen Funk Orchestra: Time Capsule (2023, Planet Arts): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Randy Weinstein: Harmonimonk (2023 [2024], Random Chance): [cd]: B+(**) [05-15]
  • Dan Wilson: Things Eternal (2023, Brother Mister/Mack Avenue): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Mark Winkler: The Rules Don't Apply (2024, Cafe Pacific): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Warren Wolf: Chano Pozo: Origins (2023, self-released): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Xaviersobased: Keep It Goin Xav (2024, 34Ent): [sp]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Terri Lyne Carrington: TLC & Friends (1981 [2023], Candid): [sp]: A-
  • Jimi Hendrix Experience: Hollywood Bowl, August 18, 1967 (1967 [2023], Experience Hendrix/Legacy): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Keith Jarrett: Solo-Concerts Bremen/Lausanne (1973 [2023], ECM): [sp]: B+(***)
  • A Moi La Liberté: Early Electronic Raï, Algerie 1983-90 (1983-90 [2023], Serendip Lab): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Wes Montgomery: The Complete Full House Recordings (1962 [2023], Craft, 2CD): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Tell Everybody! 21st Century Juke Joint Blues From Easy Eye Sound (2017-23 [2023], Easy Eye Sound): [sp]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Jimmy "Duck" Holmes: Cypress Grove (2019, Easy Eye Sound): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Rickie Lee Jones: Rickie Lee Jones (1979, Warner Bros.): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Rickie Lee Jones: Pirates (1981, Warner Bros.): [sp]: B


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Adam Forkelid: Turning Point (Prophone) [03-05]
  • Dave Rempis/Tashi Dorji Duo: Gnash (Aerophonic) [06-25]

Monday, May 13, 2024

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

Friday, May 10, 2024

Daily Log

Phil Freeman posted on Facebook the 1979 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll top 26 albums, and said: "Feeling almost Nate Patrin levels of alienation-from-putative-peers looking at this. At least a third of this list, beginning at #1, is stuff you couldn't get me to shove into my ears on a dare." I, well, disagreed:

Probably the last P&J Poll I voted in before the 2000s, so I guess I bear some responsibility, especially given that when I check my database for grades, I find: 2 A+ (Young, Morrison); 13 A (Clash, Costello, B-52s, Pere Ubu, Summer, Edmunds, Lowe, Faithfull, Jackson, Buzzcocks, Cooder, Lovich, Johnson); 5 A- (Parker, Talking Heads, Roches, Verlaine, Blondie); 4 B+ (Petty, Fleetwood Mac, Live Rust, Johansen); 1 B (Pop); 1 U (Jones). Probably helped to have been there (NYC) and then (I was 29). Next year I stopped writing, moved to NJ, and my consumption went way down, and when it went back up again, I never spent so much time on anything in particular, so it's very unlikely I've ever recognized 15 A/A+ albums in a year again, let alone saw them place in top 26 P&J.

Initial check put Summer at A-, but I bumped a later reissue up to A, which is how I remember Bad Girls. I also have two grades for Tusk: a B+ for the original, and a B for a reissue. I went with the B+, as I have little recollection of the album (other than the vague rattling of the single). While I never bought Jones' album, I can still conjure up echoes of her single.

I've probably played half of these albums (or some variation thereof) in recent memory. I was much less into the Parker album than his first pair (Howlin' Wind and Heat Treatment), and he never again returned to form (the second disc of his Rhino 2-CD sunk it to B).

Other high-rated 1979 albums:

  • Eric Agyeman: Highlife Safari (1979 [1992], Sterns) [A-]
  • Air: Lore (1979, Novus) [A]
  • Terry Allen: Lubbock (On Everything) (1979, Sugar Hill) [A-]
  • Big Youth: Progress (1979, Negusa Nagast) [A-]
  • Arthur Blythe: Lenox Avenue Breakdown (1979 [1998], Koch)
  • Arthur Blythe: In the Tradition (1979, Columbia)
  • Chic: Risque (1979, Atlantic) [A-]
  • The Clash|||London Calling|1979|1979|0|Epic|36328|*****|||A+|A+|rock-70s|0 Culture|||Cumbolo|1979|1979|1989|Shanachie|44005|****(*)|||A-|A|reggae|0 Fashion|||Product Perfect|1979|1979|0|IRS|2|****|||A-|A-|rock-70s|0 Gang of Four|||Entertainment!|1979|1979|0|Warner Brothers|3446|*****|||A|A|rock-70s|0 Mick Goodrick|||In Pas(s)ing|1978|1978|1979|ECM||****(*)||||A-|jazz-60s|0 Eddy Grant|||Walking on Sunshine|1979|1979|0|Epic|36244|***|||B-|A-|carib|0 Merle Haggard|||Serving 190 Proof|1979|1979|0|MCA|1645|****|||B+|A-|country|0 Tom T. Hall|||Ol' T's in Town|1979|1979|0|RCA Victor||||||A-|country|0 The Heartbreakers|||Live at Max's Kansas City|1979|1979|0|Max's Kansas City|9|****(*)|||A-|A-|rock-70s|0 Joe Henderson|||Relaxin' at Camarillo|1979|1979|1993|Contemporary/OJC|776|***||***(*)||A-|jazz-60s|0 John Hiatt|||Slug Line|1979|1979|0|MCA|31358|***|||B+|A-|rock-70s|0 Abdullah Ibrahim|||African Marketplace|1979|1979|0|Discovery|71016|****(*)||***(*)|A-|A-|jazz-60s|0 Irakere|||Irakere|1978|1978|1979|Columbia|35655|****(*)|||A-|A-|jazz-latin|0 Millie Jackson|||Live and Uncensored|1979|1979|0|Southbound|38|****|||A-|A-|rock-70s|0 Joy Division|||Unknown Pleasures|1979|1979|0|Qwest|25840|*****|||A-|A-|rock-70s|0 Roy Loney|||Out After Dark|1979|1979|0|Solid Smoke|9001|****(*)|||B-|A-|rock-70s|0 Bill Nelson|||Sound-on-Sound|1979|1979|0|Capitol|73384|****(*)||||A-|rock-70s|0 Gary Numan|||Replicas|1979|1979|0|Beggars Banquet|80007|****|||B+|A-|rock-70s|0 Annette Peacock|||X-Dreams|1978|1978|1979|1996), See For Miles|451|****(*)||||A-|vocal-50|0 Annette Peacock|||The Perfect Release|1979|1979|0|See for Miles|360|****(*)||||A-|vocal-50|0 Cedar Walton|||Second Set|1977|1977|1979|Steeplechase|31113|***||***(*)||A-|jazz-60s|0 ZZ Top|||Deguello|1979|1979|0|Warner Brothers|3361|****(*)|||A-|A|rock-70s|0 Bunny Wailer|||Struggle|1979|1979|0|Solomonic||||||A-|reggae|0 The Slits|||Cut|1979|1979|0|Antilles|7072|****(*)|||B+|A-|rock-70s|0

Thursday, May 09, 2024

Daily Log

Gretchen Eick asked me to write a 50-word biography for the second edition of The Death Project: An Anthology for These Times, which will include my "Reading Obits" piece. Here goes nothing:

Tom Hull is the child of Arkansas and Kansas farmers, displaced by depression and enticed by the booming war factories of Wichita. Tom was troubled, dropped out of high school but read and taught himself software engineering. He has blogged since 2001 (tomhull.com), and is known as a jazz critic.

Laura took what I wrote and edited it:

Tom Hull is a child of Arkansas and Kansas farmers, displaced by depression and drawn to the booming war factories of Wichita. Tom was troubled, dropped out of high school but read a lot and taught himself software engineering. He is known as a jazz critic and has blogged since 2001 (tomhull.com),

I made a further edit:

Tom Hull is a child of Arkansas and Kansas farmers, displaced by depression and drawn to the booming war factories of Wichita. He was troubled and dropped out of high school, but read a lot and taught himself software engineering. He is known as a jazz critic and has blogged since 2001 (tomhull.com).

Monday, May 06, 2024

Music Week

Expanded blog post, May archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 49 albums, 6 A-list

Music: Current count 42249 [42200] rated (+49), 29 [31] unrated (-2).


New records reviewed this week:

  • Melissa Aldana: Echoes of the Inner Prophet (2024, Blue Note): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Karrin Allyson: A Kiss for Brazil (2023 [2024], Origin): [cd]: B+(**) [05-17]
  • Roxana Amed: Becoming Human (2024, Sony Music Latin): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Byron Asher's Skrontch Music: Lord, When You Send the Rain (2022 [2024], Sinking City): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Black Lives: People of Earth (2024, Jammin' Colors): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Carsie Blanton: After the Revolution (2024, self-released): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Carsie Blanton: The Red Album Vol. 1 (2024, self-released, EP): [yt]: B+(***)
  • Cedric Burnside: Hill Country Love (2024, Provogue): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Nicola Caminiti: Vivid Tales of a Blurry Self-Portrait (2022 [2024], self-released): [cd]: B+(***) [05-10]
  • James Carter: Un (Unaccompanied Baritone Saxophone) (2023 [2024], J.M.I.): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Yelena Eckemoff: Romance of the Moon (2023 [2024], L&H Production): [cd]: B+(***) [05-10]
  • Nicole Glover: Plays (2024, Savant): [sp]: A-
  • Aaron Yale Heisler: Zoot's Soprano EP [Alternate Takes and Remixes From the Bechet Century] (2022-23 [2024], Bathurst Manor, EP): [sp]: B
  • Aaron Yale Heisler: Guitar Sketches (Toronto 2008-24) (2008-24 [2024], Bathurst Manor): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Jazz at the Ballroom: Flying High: Big Band Canaries Who Soared (2024, Jazz at the Ballroom): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Dawn Landes: The Liberated Woman's Songbook (2024, Fun Machine Music): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Lauren Alaina: Unlocked (2023, Big Loud, EP): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Li'l Andy: The Complete Recordings of Hezekiah Procter (1925-1930) (2022, Back-to-Wax): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Dua Lipa: Radical Optimism (2024, Warner): [sp]: A-
  • Lloyiso: Seasons (2023, Universal, EP): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Leyla McCalla: Sun Without the Heat (2024, Anti-): [sp]: A-
  • Charles McPherson: Reverence (2023 [2024], Smoke Sessions): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Mdou Moctar: Funeral for Justice (2024, Matador): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Mike Monford: The Cloth I'm Cut From (2021 [2024], self-released): [cd]: A-
  • Mute: After You've Gone (2021 [2024], Endectomorph Music): [cdr]: B+(***) [05-13]
  • Pierrick Pédron/Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Pedron Rubalcaba (2022 [2023], Gazebo): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Jeremy Pelt: Tomorrow's Another Day (2024, HighNote): [sp]: B+(*)
  • People of Earth: People of Earth (2023, Truth Revolution Recording Collective): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Pet Shop Boys: Nonetheless (2024, Parlophone): [sp]: A-
  • Jeanfrançois Prins: Blue Note Mode (2024, GAM): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Tutu Puoane: Wrapped in Rhythm, Vol. 1 (2023 [2024], SoulFactory): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Xavier Richardeau: A Caribbean Thing (2023, Continuo Jazz): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Luke Stewart Silt Trio: Unknown Rivers (2022-23 [2024],Pi): [cd]: A-
  • Rosie Tucker: Utopia Now! (2024, Sentimental): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Christopher Zuar Orchestra: Exuberance (2021 [2024], self-released): [cd]: B+(**) [05-11]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Afrika Muye Muye! Tanzanian Rumba & Muziki Wa Dansi 1968-1970 (1968-70 [2023], Recordiana): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Les Belgicains: Na Tango Ya Covadia 1964-70 (1964-70 [2024], Covadia): [bc]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Carmen Bradford: Home With You (2004, Azica): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Dicks: These People/Peace? (1984-85 [2012], Alternative Tentacles): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Dicks: 1980-1986 (1980-86 [2010], Alternative Tentacles): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Nicole Glover & Nic Cacioppo: Literature (2020, self-released?): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Nicole Glover: Strange Lands (2020 [2021], Savant): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Grand Kallé & African Jazz: Joseph Kabaselle and the Creation of Surboum African Jazz (1960-1963) (1960-63 [2021], Planet Ilunga): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Li'l Andy & Karaoke Cowboy: Home in Landfill Acres (2008, self-released): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Li'l Andy: All Who Thirst Come to the Waters (2010, self-released): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Li'l Andy: While the Engines Burn (2014, self-released): [sp]: B
  • Li'l Andy: All the Love Songs Lied to Us (2019, self-released): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Mike Monford: Perseverance (2012, self-released): [sp]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • The Bobby Broom Organi-sation: Jamalot Live (Steele) [05-24]
  • Live Edge Trio With Steve Nelson: Closing Time (OA2) [05-17]
  • William Parker/Cooper-Moore/Hamid Drake: Heart Trio (AUM Fidelity) [06-21]
  • William Parker & Ellen Christi: Cereal Music (AUM Fidelity) [06-21]
  • Ben Patterson Jazz Orchestra: Groove Junkies (Origin) [05-17]
  • Angela Verbrugge: Somewhere (OA2) [05-17]
  • Alan Walker: A Little Too Late (Aunt Mimi's) [06-28]
  • Matt Wilson: Matt Wilson's Good Trouble (Palmetto) [06-14]
  • Mark Winkler: The Rules Don't Apply (Cafe Pacific) [01-12]

Sunday, May 05, 2024

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

Opened draft file on Thursday. First thing I thought I'd note was some weather stats here in Wichita, KS. High Wednesday was 89°F, which was 17° above "normal" but still 2° below the record high (from 1959; wild temperature swings from year to year are common here). Should be cooler on Thursday, but above average for the rest of the forecast.

Year-to-date precipitation is 5.48 in (well below 7.50 normal; average annual is 34.31, with May and June accounting for 10.10, so almost a third of that; last year was 3.29 at this point, finishing at 30.8). Year totals seem to vary widely: from 2010, the low was 25.0 (2012), the high 50.6 (2016), where the median is closer to 30 than to 35.

Growing degree days currently stands at 435, which is way up from "normal" of 190. That's a pretty good measure of how warm spring has been here. As I recall, last year was way up too, but the summer didn't get real hot until August. The global warming scenario predicts hotter and dryer. I figure every year we dodge that, we just got lucky. The more significant effect so far is that winters have gotten reliably milder (although we still seem to have at least one real cold snap), and that we're less likely to have tornados (which seem to have moved east and maybe south -- Oklahoma still gets quite a few).

I started to write up some thoughts about global warming, but got sidetracked on nuclear war: my initial stimulus was George Marshall's 2014 book, Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change, but when I groped for a title, all I came up with was Herman Kahn's "Thinking About the Unthinkable," so I did. I got eight pretty decent paragraphs in, without finding a way to approach my point.

The next thing I thought I'd do was construct a list of the books I had read on climate change, going over how each contributed to the evolution of my thought. But that proved harder than expected, and worse still, I found my thinking changing yet again. So I took a break. I went out back and planted some pole beans. My parents were displaced farmers, so they always kept a garden, and I remember their Kentucky Wonders as much better than any grocery store green beans. So I've had the model idea forever, but never acted on it before. No real idea what I'm doing, but when it's 89° on May 1, I'm certainly not planting too early.

I should have felt like I accomplished something, but I came back in feeling tired, frustrated, and depressed. I decided to give up on the global warming piece, and spent most of the rest of the day with the jigsaw puzzle and TV. Hearing that Congress passed a law banning criticism of Israel as antisemitic added to my gloom, as I contemplated having to take my blog down, as I can't imagine anything as trivial as publishing my thoughts being worth going to jail over.

But for the moment, I guess I can still publish the one new thought I did have about global warming, or more specifically about how people think about global warming. I've always meant to have a section on it in the political book -- it would be one of 5-8 topics I would examine as real problems. I'm constantly juggling the list, but it usually starts with technological change, which is the principal driver of change independent of politics, then on to macroeconomics, inequality, market failures (health care, education, monopolies), externalities (waste byproducts, not just climate change), something about justice issues (fraud, crime, freedom), and war (of course).

The purpose of the book isn't to solve all the world's problems. It's simply to help people think about one very limited problem, which is how to vote in a system where Democrats alone are held responsible for policy failures, and therefore need to deliver positive results. (Republicans seem to be exempt because they believe that government can only increase harm, whereas Democrats claim that government can and should do things to help people. Earlier parts of the book should explain this and other asymmetries between the parties.)

Anyhow, my new insight, which Marshall's book provides considerable support for without fully arriving at, is that climate change is not just a "wicked issue" (Marshall's term) but one that is impossible to campaign on. That's largely because the "hair suit" solutions are so broadly unappealing, but also because they are so inadequate it's hard to see how they can make any real difference. Rather, what Democrats have to run on is realism, care, respect, and trust.

Which, as should be obvious by now, is the exact opposite of what Republicans think and say and do. Showing that Republicans are acting in bad faith should be easy. What's difficult is offering alternatives that are effective but that don't generate resistance that makes their advocacy counterproductive -- especially given that the people who know and care most about this issue are the ones most into moralizing and doomsaying, while other Democrats are so locked into being pro-business that they'll fall for any promising business plan.

Obviously, there is a lot more to say on this subject -- probably much more than I can squeeze into a single chapter, let alone hint at here.

PS: Well after I wrote the above, but before posting Sunday evening, I find this: 40 million at risk of severe storms, "intense" tornadoes possible Monday. The red bullseye is just southwest of here, which is the direction tornadoes almost invariably come from. I'm not much worried about a tornado right here, but it's pretty certain there will be some somewhere, and that we'll get hit by a storm front with some serious wind and hail.

I'm also seeing this in the latest news feed: Wide gaps put Israel-Hamas hostage deal talks at risk of collapse, which is no big surprise since Netanyahu is making a deal as difficult as possible. Little doubt that he still rues that Israel didn't kill all the hostages before Hamas could sweep them away, as they've never been the slightest concern for him, despite the agitation of the families and media.


I saw a meme that a Facebook friend posted: "If you object to occupying buildings as a form of protest, it's because you disagree with the substance of the protest." He added the comment: "No, you don't have some rock-solid principle that setting up tents on grass is unacceptably disruptive to academic life. You just want people to continue giving money to Israel." I added this comment:

Not necessarily, but it does suggest that you do not appreciate the urgency and enormity of the problem, or that university administrators, who have a small but real power to add their voices to the calls for ceasefire, have resisted or at least ignored all less-disruptive efforts to impress on them the importance of opposing genocide and apartheid. This has, in its current red-hot phase, been going on for six months, during which many of us have been protesting as gently and respectfully as possible, as the situation has only grown ever more dire.

I was surprised to see the following response from the "friend":

Wait, what? It sounds like we're on the same side of this one. My post just points out that people critiquing the protest methods don't actually care about that and just oppose the actual goals of the protests.

To which I, well, had to add:

Sounds like we do, which shouldn't have come as a surprise had you read any of the thousands of words I've written on this in every weekly Speaking of Which I've posted since Oct. 7, on top of much more volume going back to my first blogging in 2001. I've never thought of myself as an activist, but I took part in antiwar protests in the 1960s and later, and have long been sympathetic to the dissents and protests of people struggling against injustice, even ones that run astray of the law -- going back to the Boston Tea Party, and sometimes even sympathizing with activists whose tactics I can't quite approve of, like John Brown (a distant relative, I've heard). While it would be nice to think of law as a system to ensure justice, it has often been a tool for oppression. Israel, for instance, adopted the whole of British colonial law so they could continue to use it to control Palestinians, while cloaking themselves in its supposed legitimacy (something that few other former British colonies, including the US, recognized). Now their lobbyists and cronies, as well as our homegrown authoritarians, are demanding that Americans suppress dissent as Israel has done since the intifada (or really since the first collective punishment raids into Gaza and the West Bank in 1951). Hopefully, Americans will retain a sufficient sense of decency to resist those demands. A first step would be to accept that the protesters are right, then forgive them for being right first. I'm always amused by the designation of leftist Americans in the 1930s as "premature antifascists." We should celebrate them, as we now celebrate revolutionary patriots, abolitionists, and suffragists, for showing us the way.

In another Facebook post, I see the quote: "Professional, external actors are involved in these protests and demonstrations. These individuals are not university students, and they are working to escalate the situation." This is NYPD commissioner Edward Caban, and is accurate as long as we understand he is describing the police. The posts pairs this quote with one from Gov. Jim Rhodes in 1970: "These people move from one campus to the other, and terrorize a community. They're the worst type of people that we harbor in America. These people causing the trouble are not all students of Kent State University." As I recall, the ones with guns, shooting people, were Ohio National Guard, sent into action by Gov. Rhodes.

More on Twitter:

  • Tony Karon: Israel's ban of Al Jazeera is 2nd time I've been part of a media organization banned by an apartheid regime. (1st was SA '88) I'm so proud of that! It's a sign of panic by those regimes at the their crimes being exposed, a whiff of the rot at the heart of their systems . . .

  • Jodi Jacobson: [Replying to a tweet that quotes Netanyahu: "if we don't protect ourselves, no one will . . . we cannot trust the promises of gentiles."] For the 1,000th time: Netanyahu Does. Not. Care. About. The. Hostages.
    He never did. They said so at the outset.
    He wants to continue this genocide and continue the war because without it, he will be out on his ass, and (hopefully) tried for war crimes.

  • Joshua Landis: Blinken and Romney explain that Congress's banning of TikTok was spurred by the desire to protect #Israel from the horrifying Gaza photos reaching America's youth that has been "changing the narrative."
    [Reply to a tweet with video and quote: "Why has the PR been so awful? . . . typically the Israelis are good at PR -- what's happened here, how have they and we been so ineffective at communicating the realities and our POV? . . . some wonder why there was such overwhelming support for us to shut down potentially TikTok."]

  • Nathan J Robinson: [Also reacting to the same Romney quote}: In this conversation, Romney also expresses puzzlement that people are directing calls for a cease-fire toward Israel rather than Hamas. He says people don't realize Hamas is rejecting deals. In fact, it's because people know full well that Israel refuses to agree to end the war.

    There's an incredibly unpersuasive effort to portray Hamas as "rejecting a ceasefire." When you read the actual articles, inevitably they say Hamas is rejecting deals that wouldn't end the war, and Israel refuses to budge on its determination to continue the war and destroy Hamas

    What Romney is really wondering, then, is how come Americans aren't stupid enough to swallow government propaganda. He thinks the public is supposed to believe whatever they're told to believe and is mystified that they are aware of reality.

  • Jarad Yates Sexton: [Reposted by Robinson, citing same Romney/Blinken confab]: This is an absolutely incredible, must-watch, all-timer of a clip.
    The Secretary of State admits social media has made it almost impossible to hide atrocities and a sitting senator agrees by saying outloud that was a factor in leveraging the power of the state against TikTok.

  • Yanis Varoufakis: Israel's banning of Al Jazeera is one aspect of its War On Truth. It aims at preventing Israelis from knowing that what goes on in Gaza, in their name, which is no self defence but an all out massacre. An industrial strength pogrom. Genocide. The West's determination to aid & abet Israel is a clear and present danger to freedoms and rights in our own communities. We need to rise up to defend them. In Israel, in our countries, everywhere!

    [PS: Varoufakis also pinned this tweet promoting his recent book, Technofeudalism, with a 17:20 video.]


Initial count: 192 links, 11,072 words. Updated count [05-06]: 208 links, 12,085 words.


Top story threads:

Israel: Before last October 7, a date hardly in need of identification here, I often had a section of links on Israel, usually after Ukraine/Russia and before the World catchall. Perhaps not every week, but most had several stories on Israel that seemed noteworthy, and the case is rather unique: intimately related to American foreign policy, but independent, and in many ways the dog wagging the American tail.

Oct. 7 pushed the section to the top of the list, where it has not only remained but metastasized. When South Africa filed its genocide charges, that produced a flurry of articles that needed their own section. It was clear by then that Israel is waging a worldwide propaganda war, mostly aimed at keeping the US in line, and that there was a major disconnect between what was happening in Gaza/Israel and what was being said in the UN, US, and Europe, so I started putting the latter stories into a section I called Israel vs. World Opinion (at first, it was probably just Genocide -- Robert Wright notes in a piece linked below that he is still reluctant to use the word, but I adopted it almost immediately, possibly because I had seriously considered the question twenty-or-so years ago, and while I had rejected it then, I had some idea of what changes might meet the definition).

I then added a section on America and the Middle East, which dealt with Israel's other "fronts" -- Iran and what were alleged to be Iranian proxies -- in what seemed to be an attempt to lure the US into broader military action in the Middle East, the ultimate goal of which might be a Persian Gulf war between the US and Iran, which would be great cover for Israel's primary objective, which is to kill or expel Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. (Israel's enmity with Iran has always had much more to do with manipulating American foreign policy than with their own direct concerns -- Trita Parsi's book, Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States explained this quite adequately in 2007. The only development since then is that the Saudis have joined the game of using America's Iran-phobia for leverage on America.) As threats there waxed and waned, I wound up renaming the section America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire, adding more stories on military misdeeds from elsewhere that would previously have fallen under Ukraine or World.

Now campus demonstrations have their own section, a spin-off but more properly a subset of genocide/world opinion. Needless to say, it's hard for me to keep these bins straight, especially when we have writers dropping one piece here, another there. So expect pieces to be scattered, especially where I've tried to keep together multiple pieces by the same author.

Also note that TomDispatch just dusted off a piece from 2010: Noam Chomsky: Eyeless in Gaza.

Anti-genocide demonstrations: in the US (and elsewhere), and how Israel's cronies and flaks are reacting:

Israel vs. world opinion:

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:

  • Stan Cox: [04-28] Eco-collapse hasn't happened yet, but you can see it coming: "Degrowth is the only sane survival plan." Author of a couple books: The Green New Deal and Beyond: Ending the Climate Emergency While We Still Can (2020, pictured, foreword by Noam Chomsky), and The Path to a Livable Future: A New Politics to Fight Climate Change, Racism, and the Next Pandemic (2021). I'm sympathetic to degrowth arguments, but liberals/progressives have long taken as axiomatic that the only path to equality is through focusing on growth, so the mental shift required is massive. Still, as Cox points out, there is a lot of thinking on degrowth. I'll also add isn't necessarily a conscious decision: every disaster is a dose of degrowth, and there are going to be plenty of those. What we need is a cultural shift that looks to rebuild smarter (smaller, less wasteful, more robust). Growth has been the political tonic for quite a while now, it's always produced discontents, which we can and should learn from.

  • Jan Dutkiewicz: [05-02] How rioting farmers unraveled Europe's ambitious climate plan: "Road-clogging, manure-dumping farmers reveal the paradox at the heart of EU agriculture."

  • Umair Irfan: [05-01] How La Niña will shape heat and hurricanes this year: "The current El Niño is among the strongest humans have ever experienced," leading to its counterpart, which while generally less hot can generate even more Atlantic hurricanes. To recap, 2023 experienced record-high ocean temperatures, and an above-average number of hurricanes, but fewer impacts, as most of the storms steered well out into the Atlantic. The one storm that did rise up in the Gulf of Mexico was Idalia, which actually started in the Pacific, crossed Central America, reorganized, then developed rapidly into a Category 4 storm before landing north of Tampa. The oceans are even hotter this year.

  • Mike Soraghan: [05-05] 'Everything's on fire': Inside the nation's failure to safeguard toxic pipelines.

Economic matters:

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 out time."

Maria Farrell/Robin Berjon: [04-16] We need to rewild the internet: "The internet has become an extractive and fragile monoculture. But we can revitalize it using lessons learned by ecologists." Further discussion:

Steven Hahn: [05-04] The deep, tangled roots of American illiberalism: An introduction or synopsis of the author's new book, Illiberal America: A History. (I noted the book in my latest Book Roundup, and thought it important enough to order a copy, but haven't gotten to it yet.) Alfred Soto wrote about the book here and here (Soto also mentions Manisha Sinha: The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic: Reconstruction, 1860-1920, and Tom Schaller/Paul Waldman: Whire Rural Rage: The Threat to American Democracy). Also see:

John Herrman: [05-05] Google is staring down its first serious threats in years: "The search giant now faces three simultaneous challenges: government regulators, real competition, and itself."

Sean Illing: [04-28] Everything's a cult now: Interview with Derek Thompson "on what the end of monoculture could mean for American democracy." This strikes me as a pretty lousy definition:

I think of a cult as a nascent movement outside the mainstream that often criticizes the mainstream and organizes itself around the idea that the mainstream is bad or broken in some way. So I suppose when I think about a cult, I'm not just thinking about a small movement with a lot of people who believe something fiercely. I'm also interested in the modern idea of cults being oriented against the mainstream. They form as a criticism of what the people in that cult understand to be the mainstream.

Given that "cult" starts as a term with implied approbation, this view amounts to nostalgia for conformism and deprecation of dissent, which was the dominant ("mainstream") view back during the 1950s, when most Americans were subject to a mass culture ("monoculture," like a single-crop farm field, as opposed to he diversity of nature). Thompson goes on to castigate cults as "extreme" and "radical" before he hits on a point that finally gets somewhere: they "tend to have really high social costs to belonging to them."

I'd try to define cults as more like: a distinct social group that follows a closed, self-referential system of thought, which may or may not be instantiated in a charismatic leader. One might differentiate between cults based on ideas or leaders, but they work much the same way -- cults based on leaders are easier, as they require less thinking, but even cults based on ideas are usually represented by proxy-leaders, like priests.

By my definition, most religions start out as cults, although over time they may turn into more tolerant communities. Marxism, on the other hand, is not a cult, because it offers a system of thought that is open, critical, and anti-authoritarian, although some ideas associated with it may be developed as cults (like "dictatorship of the proletariat"), and all leaders should be suspect (Lenin, Stalin, and Mao providing obvious examples). Nor is liberalism fertile ground for cults, nor should conservatism be, except for the latter's Führersprinzip complex.

Since the 1950s mass monoculture has fragmented into thousands of niche interests that may be as obscure as cults but are rarely as rigid and self-isolating, and even then are rarely threats to democracy. The latter should be recognized as such, and opposed on principles that directly address the threats. But as for the conformism nostalgia, I'd say "good riddance." One may still wish for the slightly more egalitarian and community-minded feelings of that era, but not at the price of such thought control.

Whizy Kim: [05-03] Boeing's problems were as bad as you thought: I've posted this before, but it's been updated to reflect the death of a second whistleblower.

  • Annika Merrilees/Jacob Barker: [05-05] Why Boeing had to buy back a Missouri supplier it sold off in 2001: So, Spirit wasn't the only deal where Boeing outsmarted themselves? "Meanwhile, President Joe Biden's administration is pushing an $18 billion deal with Israel for up to 50 F-15EX fighter jets, one of the largest arms deals with the country in years." (And guess who's paying Israel to pay Boeing to clean up one of their messes?)

Rick Perlstein: [05-01] A republic, if we can keep it.

Nathan J Robinson: Catching up with his articles and interviews, plus some extra from his Current Events:

  • [04-09] Gated knowledge is making research harder than it needs to be: "Tracking down facts requires navigating a labyrinth of paywalls and broken links." Tell me about it. Specific examples come from Robinson writing an afterword to a forthcoming Noam Chomsky book, The Myth of American Idealism: How U.S. Foreign Policy Endangers the World. He also cites an earlier article of his own: [2020-08-02] The truth is paywalled but the lies are free: "The political economy of bullshit." Actually, lots of lies are paywalled too. Few clichés are more readily disprove than "you get what you pay for."

  • [04-11] Can philosophy be justified in a time of crisis? "It is morally acceptable to be apolitical? Is there something wrong with the pursuit of 'knowledge for knowledge's sake'?" Talks about Bertrand Russell and Noam Chomsky, as distinguished academics who in their later years -- which given their longevity turned out to be most of their lives -- increasingly devoted themselves to antiwar work, and to Aaron Bushnell, who took the same question so seriously he didn't live long at all.

  • [04-16] What everyone should know about the 'security dilemma':

    The security dilemma makes aspects of the Cold War look absurd and tragic in retrospect. From the historical record, we know that after World War II, the Soviet Union did not intend to attack the United States, and the United States did not intend to attack the Soviet Union. But both ended up pointing thousands of nuclear weapons at each other, on hair-trigger alert, and coming terrifyingly close to outright civilization-ending armageddon, because each perceived the other as a threat.

    Some people still think that deterrence was what kept the Cold War cold, but it wasn't fear that prevented war. It was not wanting war in the first place, a default setting that was if anything sorely tried by threat and fear. If either country actually wants war, deterrence is more likely to provoke and enable.

  • [04-18] The victories of the 20th century feminist movement are under constant threat: Interview with Josie Cox, author of Women Money Power: The Rise and Fall of Economic Equality.

  • [04-19] Palestine protests are a test of whether this is a free country.

  • [04-23] You don't have to publish every point of view: "It's indefensible for the New York Times to publish an argument against women's basic human rights." Which is what they did when they published an op-ed by Mike Pence.

  • [04-26] We live in the age of "vulture capitalism": Interview with Grace Blakely, author of Vulture Capitalism: Corporate Crimes, Backdoor Bailouts, and the Death of Freedom. Evidently Boeing figures significantly in the book.

  • [05-02] The Nicholas Kristof theory of social change: "The New York Times columnist encourages protesters to stop atrocities by, uh, studying abroad." This is pretty scathing, admitting that Kristof seems to recognize that what's happening in Gaza is horrific, but with no clue of how it got this way or how to stop it. Robinson writes:

    Actually, I'm giving him too much credit here by suggesting he actually has a theory of change. For the most part, he doesn't even offer a theory for how his proposed actions are supposed to make a difference in policy, even as he patronizingly chides protesters for their ineffectiveness. He doesn't even try to formulate a hypothetical link between studying abroad in the West Bank and the end of Israel's occupation, even as he says university divestment from Israel will do nothing. (He seems to demonstrate no appreciation of how a plan to try to isolate Israel economically resembles the strategy of boycotts and sanctions against South Africa, which was important in the struggle against that regime's apartheid. But divestment from Israel will only, he warns, "mean lower returns for endowments.") He pretends to offer them more pragmatic and effective avenues, while in fact offering them absolutely nothing of any use. (The words "pragmatism" and "realism" are often used in American politics to mean "changing nothing.")

    Also worth reiterating this:

    In fact, far from being un-pragmatic, the student Gaza protesters have a pretty good theory of power. If you can disrupt university activity, the university administration will have an interest in negotiating with you to get you to stop. (Brown University administrators did, although I suspect they actually got the protesters to accept a meaningless concession.) If you can trigger repressive responses that show the public clearly who the fascists are, you can arouse public sympathy for your cause. (The civil rights movement, by getting the Southern sheriffs to bring out hoses and dogs, exposed the hideous nature of the Jim Crow state and in doing so won public sympathy.) It's also the case that if protesters can make it politically difficult for Joe Biden to continue his pro-genocide policies without losing support in an election year, he may have to modify those policies. Politicians respond to pressure far more than appeals to principle. . . .

    The protesters are doing a noble and moral thing by demonstrating solidarity with Gaza and putting themselves at risk. Because Israel is currently threatening to invade the Gazan city of Rafah, where well over a million Palestinians are sheltering, it's crucially important that protesters keep up the pressure on the U.S. government to stop Israel from carrying out its plans. Given the Palestinian lives at stake, I would argue that one of the most virtuous things anyone, especially in the United States, can do right now is engage in civil disobedience in support of the Gaza solidarity movement. And correspondingly, I would argue that one of the worst things one can do right now is to do what Nicholas Kristof is doing, which is to undermine that movement by lying about it and trying to convince people that the activists are foolish and misguided.

  • [05-03] The ban on "lab-grown" meat is both reprehensible and stupid: I must have skipped over previous reports on the bill that DeSantis signed in a fit of performative culture warring, and only mention it here thanks to Robinson, even though I dislike his article, disagree with his assertion that "factory farming is a moral atrocity," and generally deplore the politically moralized veganism he seems to subscribe to. (Should-be unnecessary disclaimer here: I don't care that he thinks that, but think it's bad politics to try to impose those ideas on others, even if just by shaming -- and I'm not totally against shaming, but would prefer to reserve it for cases that really matter, like people who support genocide.) But sure, the law is "both reprehensible and stupid." [PS: Steve M has a post on John Fetterman (D-PA) endorsing the DeSantis stunt. I've noticed, but paid little heed to, a lot of criticism directed at Fetterman recently. This also notes Tulsi Gabbard's new book. I'm not so bothered by her abandoning the Democratic Party, but getting her book published by Regnery crosses a red line. Steve M also has a post on Marco Rubio's VP prospects. I've always been very skeptical that Trump would pick a woman, as most of the media handicappers would have him do, nor do I see him opting for Tim Scott. I don't see Rubio either, but no need to go into that.]

  • Alex Skopic/Lily Sánchez/Nathan J Robinson: [04-24] The bourgeois morality of 'The Ethicist': "The New York Times advice column, where snitching liberal busybodies come to seek absolution, is more than a mere annoyance. In limiting our ethical considerations to tricky personal situations and dilemmas, it directs our thinking away from the larger structural injustices of our time." I'm sure there's a serious point in here somewhere, but it's pretty obvious how much fun the authors had making fun of everyone involved here.

Jeffrey St Clair: [05-03] Roaming Charges: Tin cops and Biden coming . . . "As America's liberal elites declare open warfare on their own kids, it's easy to see why they've shown no empathy at all for the murdered, maimed and orphaned children of Gaza. Back-of-the-head shots to 8-year-olds seem like a legitimate thing to protest in about the most vociferous way possible . . . But, as Dylan once sang, maybe I'm too sensitive or else I'm getting soft." I personally have a more nuanced view of Biden, but I'm not going to go crosswise and let myself get distracted when people who are basically right in their hearts let their rhetoric get a bit out of hand.

After citing Biden's tweet -- "Destroying property is not a peaceful protest. It is against the law. Vandalism, trespassing, breaking windows, shutting down campuses, forcing the cancellation of classes and graduations, none of this is a peaceful protest." -- he quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter From a Birmingham Jail.":

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season."

I think it's safe to say that no protester wants to break the law, to be arrested, to go to jail, to sacrifice their lives for others. What protesters do want is to be heard, to have their points taken seriously, for the authorities to take corrective action. Protest implies faith and hope that the system may still reform and redeem itself. Otherwise, you're just risking martyrdom, and the chance that the system will turn even more vindictive (as Israel's has shown to a near-absolute degree). We all struggle with the variables in this equation, but the one we have least control over is what the powers choose to do. As such, whether protests are legal or deemed not, whether they turn destructive, whether they involve violence, is almost exclusively the choice of the governing party. And in that choice, they show us their true nature.

Some more samples:

  • Columbia University has an endowment of $13.6 billion and still charges students $60-70,000 a year to attend what has become an academic panopticon and debt trap, where every political statement is monitored, every threat to the ever-swelling endowment punished.

  • Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich: "We must obliterate Rafah, Deir al-Balah, and Nuseirat. The memory of the Amalekites must be erased. No partial destruction will suffice; only absolute and complete devastation." While chastizing college students for calling their campaign an "intifada," Biden is shipping Israel the weapons to carry out Smotrich's putsch into Rafah . . .

  • The pro-Israel fanatics who attacked UCLA students Tuesday night with clubs and bottle rockets, as campus security cowered inside a building like deputies of the Ulvade police force, shouted out it's time for a "Second Nakba!" Don't wait for Biden or CNN to condemn this eliminationist rhetoric and violence.

  • In the last 10 years, the number of people shot in road rage incidents quadrupled. Two of the three cities with the highest [number] of incidents are in Texas, Houston and San Antonio.

This week's books:

Michael Tatum: [05-04] Books read (and not read): Looks like more fiction this time.

David Zipper: [04-28] The reckless policies that helped fill our streets with ridiculously large cars: "Dangerous, polluting SUVs and pickups took over America. Lawmakers are partly to blame."

Li Zhou: [05-01] Marijuana could be classified as a lower-risk drug. Here's what that means.


Apr 2024