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Enough with “the deep state”

[ 80 ] February 20, 2017 |

I’ve been mildly confused and dismayed by the speed with which dark musings about “the deep state” have found their way into mainstream political conversation. I’ve been relieved of the need to write something about this by this excellent column by Rafael Khachaturian at Jacobin, which I heartily endorse. A few choice cuts, but read the whole thing, etc:

The deep state concept is harmful in two key ways.

First, invoking the deep state implies a misleading view of the state as a monolithic, unitary actor. While the deep state is usually said to be a network of individuals and agencies, it is assumed that these component parts are held together by a common will or mission (in this case, something like defending the “national interest” against Trumpism). This leads to a reification of the state as an autonomous and internally coherent force.

Yet modern capitalist states are more fragmented than they appear. First, they are composed of class fractions and coalitions that have frequently clashing interests and are motivated by short-term considerations. Often, these internal differences arise from the pressure exerted by various economic interests (such as the competition between the financial, manufacturing, and small business sectors).

In addition, these class forces are intersected by other factors, including the different social bases of support behind the major political parties (including voter cleavages based on urban versus rural interests, racial and gender attitudes, and “populist” appeal), the mass media’s role in shaping certain ideological narratives, and competing visions of foreign policy and geopolitical strategy.

….

The state–civil society binary is one of the fundamental bases of liberal political theory. But this distinction is largely a byproduct of the way that political power has represented itself, rather than a social fact.

Where the state ends and civil society begins has always been permeable and contested — in other words, subject to politics and political struggle. The state is not an entity standing over and above society, but instead one premised upon the social forces that bring it into being.

Loose talk of the “deep state” misses this crucial point, advancing instead a facile vision of institutionalized power that constitutes its own foundation, and is therefore opaque, mysterious, and beyond the reach of citizens.

This being Jacobin, the sociology of the state on offer here is a bit more singularly focused on class than I might have described it, but that doesn’t change the general picture here. Great piece, I wish I’d written it. More like this, please, Jacobin.

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THIS JUST IN: Flamboyantly Evil Dumpster Fire of a Person Loses Book Deal

[ 246 ] February 20, 2017 |

 

Milo has lost his book deal and been disinvited to CPAC. Apparently if you’re down for harassment campaigns and doxing and are rabidly misogynistic and transphobic you can still go quite far in this world, but advocating for pedophilia is a bridge too far. And, hey listen, I’m glad folks decided to draw the line somewhere. But this line shoulda been drawn as soon as this Bedazzled young Frankenstein-looking-motherfucker burst onto the scene.

Today in Texas

[ 108 ] February 20, 2017 |

So two hunters (not just hunters but hunting guides) shoot at each other, lie about it and blame undocumented immigrants “ambushing” them.

The punchline:

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller cited the shooting as “proof” that the border wall proposed by President Donald Trump was needed.

When confronted about previous inaccurate Facebook messages, Miller said his social media posts shouldn’t be held to the same standard as those of a news organization ― but then cited a news organization in defense of himself.

“It’s like Fox News,” Miller told KUT radio. “I report and you decide if it’s true or not.”

Trump Supporters Are Nice People

[ 248 ] February 20, 2017 |

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Jeb Lund on the type of person who comes out to a Trump rally.

“America was going down the tubes,” said Bill Moro, a raspy-voiced and stubbly 50-something who voted for the first time ever for Trump. “They said our constitution was unconstitutional. That’s what Obama said. And Clinton.”

“[Trump] needs to drain the swamp of judges, too,” he said. “I don’t care what he does. I’m behind him 100 percent. Put it this way: If he became a dictator, and they said, ‘We want him in forever,’ he’s my man. He’s in. I’ll never vote against him … I love his power … It’s the power that does something to me.”

By now, Trump supporters were trying to engineer the confrontation they were certain George Soros had funded. A man with a RESIST LIBERALISM sign held a small amp atop his head and played the world’s shittiest sample of a baby crying to somehow lampoon the leftists in front of him. A trio of college-aged boys not yet old enough to drink took in all the lulz of the moment. “I’m just here for the memes,” one said.

Traffic was still backed up as people passed by the scrum of protesters and supporters and walked off through the flickering lights. The young Muslim girl in hijab was still there. She was from Orlando and had protested circa Occupy, and she conceded she wasn’t prepared for the reception she’d gotten that afternoon, one that darkened as the day faded and made her want to withhold her name, for fear the night would stretch on forever online.

During the speech, she’d stood among the Trump supporters who watched on the big screen and listened through the loudspeaker. After, she’d moved together with the bloc of protesters who converged to greet the Trump supporters leaving the speech. Her head covering was noticeable, even in the crowd.

Later that night, she texted me a video of people walking in parallel to her, yelling, just a few blocks away outside Keiser University. She said they’d followed her from the rally, and their clothes and conversation suggest as much. The people looked familiar, in the same way that a composite does, in that way that all white people yelling racist things have a sneer that verges on archetype.

“Leave,” a woman shouted on the video, flipping her off. “You don’t like America, get the fuck out … You are a disgrace to America,” the man walking next to her said.

They mocked her camera. “You can jack off to that later, the man drawled. “I’ve got a big ol’ white American redneck dick.”

The woman in the hijab told him where to stick it.

“I can put it up your little tight ass,” he countered, “and I won’t be hittin’ that clit, ’cause it already got removed.”

I can’t wait for more media stories saying that liberals just need to be nice to these people.

“Comey sent a letter with no information about a trivial micro-scandal, and yadda yadda yadda President Trump.”

[ 164 ] February 20, 2017 |

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A recent editorial in the New York Times makes a convincing argument in favor of a special prosecutor to look into Trump’s ties to the Russia campaign — futile, but not wrong. In an epic moment of non-self-awareness, it contains this graf:

James Comey, the embattled F.B.I. director, can’t be trusted to be a neutral investigator, either — not after his one-sided interference in the 2016 election compromised the bureau’s integrity and damaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign in its final days. Anyway, Mr. Comey reports directly to the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who was not only Mr. Trump’s first and most ardent supporter in the Senate, but the chairman of the Trump campaign’s national security advisory committee.

This is, of course, accurate as far as it goes — Comey is a partisan hack who violated clear rules and norms to damage one candidate for president on the one hand while actively running interference for the other candidate who faced more serious allegations on the other, and it is extremely likely that these actions changed the outcome of the election.

The giant weasel in the room, however, is the question of how Comey was able to influence the election the way he did. I have the answer!

If [EMAILS!] sounds far too boring and unimportant to have conceivably dominated the 2016 presidential campaign, then it is difficult to disagree with you. And yet the facts are what they are. Indeed, by September 2015 — more than a year before the voting — Washington Post political writer Chris Cillizza had already written at least 50 items about the email controversy.

Email fever reached its peak on two separate major occasions. One was when Comey closed the investigation. Instead of simply saying “we looked into it and there was no crime,” Comey sought to immunize himself from Clinton critics by breaking with standard procedure to offer extended negative commentary on Clinton’s behavior. He said she was “extremely careless.”

Comey then brought the email story back to the center of the campaign in late October by writing a letter to Congress indicating that the email case had been reopened due to new discoveries on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. It turned out that the new discoveries were an awfully flimsy basis for a subpoena, and the subpoena turned up nothing.

This all still sounds unimportant, but it was not at the time:

Critically, one useful function of email-based criticism of Hillary Clinton was to pull together the Trumpian and establishment wings of the Republican Party. That’s why it served as the central theme of the 2016 Republican convention, allowing the likes of Scott Walker and Rick Perry to deliver on-message speeches rather than clashing with Trump’s message.

And it’s even worse than this — when the FBI wanted to insulate Trump from the serious questions about Russian attempts to influence the election, the Times was there to put out the FBI’s story on the front page.

The Times was far from the only offender, and probably not the most important one. But it’s pretty rich for the editors to straightforwardly observe that Comey is a hack with no credibility who put his foot on the electoral scale when it has at no point acknowledged its major role in laundering and amplifying Comey’s dirty work.

Needless to say, none of this is a defense of Comey, who horribly abused his office with literally world-historical consequences. But the utter failure of the media to reckon with its accountability for this silly trivia dominating electoral coverage is a serious problem going forward. If you think this can’t happen again to another Democratic candidate, or that there’s some magic trick Democrats can use to ensure that every presidential election is outside the potential ratfucking range, you’re as delusional as the country’s prominent editors are oblivious.

Uber’d

[ 133 ] February 20, 2017 |

Uber

Nobody could have anticipated that a company whose business model is predicated on breaking the law would have a dysfunctional and massively sexist corporate culture:

Uber was a pretty good-sized company at that time, and I had pretty standard expectations of how they would handle situations like this. I expected that I would report him to HR, they would handle the situation appropriately, and then life would go on – unfortunately, things played out quite a bit differently. When I reported the situation, I was told by both HR and upper management that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man’s first offense, and that they wouldn’t feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to. Upper management told me that he “was a high performer” (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn’t feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part.

I was then told that I had to make a choice: (i) I could either go and find another team and then never have to interact with this man again, or (ii) I could stay on the team, but I would have to understand that he would most likely give me a poor performance review when review time came around, and there was nothing they could do about that. I remarked that this didn’t seem like much of a choice, and that I wanted to stay on the team because I had significant expertise in the exact project that the team was struggling to complete (it was genuinely in the company’s best interest to have me on that team), but they told me the same thing again and again. One HR rep even explicitly told me that it wouldn’t be retaliation if I received a negative review later because I had been “given an option”. I tried to escalate the situation but got nowhere with either HR or with my own management chain (who continued to insist that they had given him a stern-talking to and didn’t want to ruin his career over his “first offense”).

So I left that team, and took quite a few weeks learning about other teams before landing anywhere (I desperately wanted to not have to interact with HR ever again). I ended up joining a brand-new SRE team that gave me a lot of autonomy, and I found ways to be happy and do amazing work. In fact, the work I did on this team turned into the production-readiness process which I wrote about in my bestselling (!!!) book Production-Ready Microservices. 

Over the next few months, I began to meet more women engineers in the company. As I got to know them, and heard their stories, I was surprised that some of them had stories similar to my own. Some of the women even had stories about reporting the exact same manager I had reported, and had reported inappropriate interactions with him long before I had even joined the company. It became obvious that both HR and management had been lying about this being “his first offense”, and it certainly wasn’t his last. Within a few months, he was reported once again for inappropriate behavior, and those who reported him were told it was still his “first offense”. The situation was escalated as far up the chain as it could be escalated, and still nothing was done.

[…]

When I joined Uber, the organization I was part of was over 25% women. By the time I was trying to transfer to another eng organization, this number had dropped down to less than 6%. Women were transferring out of the organization, and those who couldn’t transfer were quitting or preparing to quit. There were two major reasons for this: there was the organizational chaos, and there was also the sexism within the organization. When I asked our director at an org all-hands about what was being done about the dwindling numbers of women in the org compared to the rest of the company, his reply was, in a nutshell, that the women of Uber just needed to step up and be better engineers.

Things were beginning to get even more comically absurd with each passing day. Every time something ridiculous happened, every time a sexist email was sent, I’d sent a short report to HR just to keep a record going. Things came to a head with one particular email chain from the director of our engineering organization concerning leather jackets that had been ordered for all of the SREs. See, earlier in the year, the organization had promised leather jackets for everyone in organization, and had taken all of our sizes; we all tried them on and found our sizes, and placed our orders. One day, all of the women (there were, I believe, six of us left in the org) received an email saying that no leather jackets were being ordered for the women because there were not enough women in the organization to justify placing an order. I replied and said that I was sure Uber SRE could find room in their budget to buy leather jackets for the, what, six women if it could afford to buy them for over a hundred and twenty men. The director replied back, saying that if we women really wanted equality, then we should realize we were getting equality by not getting the leather jackets. He said that because there were so many men in the org, they had gotten a significant discount on the men’s jackets but not on the women’s jackets, and it wouldn’t be equal or fair, he argued, to give the women leather jackets that cost a little more than the men’s jackets. We were told that if we wanted leather jackets, we women needed to find jackets that were the same price as the bulk-order price of the men’s jackets.

Read the whole etc.

The Rugged Independence of Maverick Senator John “Maverick” McCain (R-Maverick)

[ 181 ] February 19, 2017 |

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A commenter observed recently that a “moderate Republican” in Congress is someone who talks about opposing some Republican bill before voting for it. (In a few cases, the scam is casting a meaningless nay vote once McConnell has counted the votes.) And since the media is already getting ready to crown John McCain a mavericky critic of Trump because he might grumble about Trump a bit before voting pretty much a straight party line, this is a useful preemptive corrective:

A more accurate way of phrasing “(ambivalently, agonizingly) taking on the president” might be “not actually taking on the president.” McCain has supported every one of Trump’s nominees besides one: budget director Mick Mulvaney, who lost McCain’s support because he has supported defense budget cuts. McCain’s sole inviolable principle is that we must spend an unlimited amount of money on war with everyone forever.

In 2008, the press mostly, finally fell out of love with McCain, in part because he was running against Barack Obama, but also because it became painfully clear that McCain was and always had been a mostly unremarkable party-line Republican, whose obvious discomfort with the far-right was not actually supported by the backbone necessary to challenge the far-right. Now, with a deranged Republican president and a wholly Republican Congress, McCain will once again try to paint himself as a voice of reason and a courageous truth-teller, while not actually doing anything.

And it’s not just McCain either. Anonymous quotes given to journalists are worth nothing. And during the 2016 campaign, as most of you remember I was driven to distraction by Republican politicians who tried to come up with various ways of pretending that their endorsements of Trump weren’t really endorsements. Even a lot of liberals seemed to take Ted Cruz’s non-non-endorsement of Trump at the convention as some sort of act of principle rather than the “I wash my hands of him if he loses but I will support him if he can win” having-it-all-ways it obviously was.

If you oppose Trump, you do something concrete to oppose him. If you would prefer president Pence but are willing to use President Trump as a vehicle to advance Coolidgenomics, you’re a Trump supporter, no matter how much you grumble or whether or not you can look your daughter in the eyes.

Life in Texas

[ 75 ] February 19, 2017 |

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Now that the entire nation is on the road to becoming Texas, let’s see what life is like in the Lone Star Republic.

Texans Carlos Santiago and Mary New, who both went from local schools to careers to partial retirement in Houston may as well live on separate planets when it comes to their lifestyles and financial realities.

While both remain residents of — and plan to end their days in — the nation’s fourth largest city, Santiago and New are on opposite sides of a wide income gap. Texas is home to more than 27 million people, including nearly 50 billionaires and more than 4.5 million people living in poverty.

“Texas is among the states with the highest income inequality,” says a December 2016 article posted on the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “Texas ranks 10th in the country, with its richest residents – the 5 percent of households – having average incomes 15 times as large as the bottom 20 percent of households and five times as large as the middle 20 percent of households.”

While Santiago and New are neither billionaires nor ranked at poverty level, Santiago’s once-steady work as a public relations consultant and photographer does not allow him to even maintain his high-crime north neighborhood apartment.

“I’m going to move in with my sister in Conroe (north of Houston). Temporarily, I hope,” said 43-year-old Santiago, adding that his sister had health issues, and asked him to come and help out.

Santiago’s general field of communications and information wasn’t even listed in the 2016 list of Texas Growth Opportunity jobs by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). Published by the TWC in 2015, projections for that industry anticipate a growth of 1,000 U.S. dollars, or average wages of 39,000 to 49,000 U.S. dollars annually, from 2014 to 2024. The statistics, however, do not include telecommunications, which is expected to grow from 79,000 to 89,000 U.S. dollars during the same 10-year period.

Santiago eats on a frugal diet at home, sometimes augmented by free bread, butter and jam set out for patrons after shelling out for a cup of coffee at some chain restaurants.

At the same time, New, a retired teacher, and her husband of 35 years, a project manager for one of the country’s top five oil and gas engineering companies, treat themselves to one of their favorite restaurants almost every night.

“I might cook a meal every two weeks,” said New, 68. “Both our parents left us a significant nest egg and they were cautious about their money. Between my retirement and my husband’s salary, I guess we have, in excess of or close to, 250,000 (U.S. dollars annually). We have stocks and bonds. I guess you’d say we’re reasonably affluent.”

The News enjoy traveling, especially on cruises, all over the world, and live in a paid-off, 3,700-square-foot house so filled with furniture, mementos, three dogs and three cats that she described it as qualifying for a reality TV show, “Hoarders: Buried Alive.”

New’s husband recently bought a new truck, but New said she is still driving her high-mileage car.

“He likes to shop for gadgets we don’t need, and I give to quite a few animal rescue groups,” New said.

She said a lot of their money was spent on medical care, and they sent their daughter to an expensive, private university, and gave her an expensive wedding.

“We have two little grandchildren and I went crazy for (buying) their Christmas stuff, and I set aside money every month in an account for them, just as we did for our daughter and just as my mother did for me,” New said.

As her husband approaches retirement, which will almost halve their income depending on how their stock investments fare, New is glad neither of them owes any credit card or personal debt.

New will still receive her own money from government-sponsored Social Security and from a pension from her 35-year teaching career.

Perfect! That it’s mostly people of color living in poverty is the feature, not a bug.

The Fed and Job Growth

[ 83 ] February 19, 2017 |

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Nothing excites the blood like the fed and monetary policy. So here’s a great piece by Dean Baker getting after the fed for raising interest rates and causing unemployment.

However, there is little basis for concern about sudden spikes in the inflation rate. We haven’t seen large jumps in inflation except in response to events like surging oil prices, which would not be much affected by Fed policy in any case. Most models show that inflation responds slowly to an overly tight labor market. This means that if the Fed were sleeping on the job and allowed the labor market to get tight enough to starting pushing up the inflation rate, we would be looking at price increases on the order of tenths of a percentage point a year, not a sudden surge to double digit territory.

On the other hand, there are enormous potential benefits from allowing the unemployment rate to continue to fall and for more people to get jobs. As a rule of thumb, the unemployment rate for African American workers is twice the unemployment rate for white workers, with the unemployment rate for African American teens roughly six times the unemployment rate for white workers. The unemployment rate for Hispanic workers tends to be roughly 1.5 times the unemployment rate for white workers, although this relationship is more variable. This means that people who most benefit from reduced unemployment are the most disadvantaged groups in society.

This shows up in patterns of wage growth as well. Workers at the middle and bottom of the wage distribution benefit most from a tight labor market. The only time in the last forty years when these workers saw sustained gains in real wages was the low unemployment years of the late 1990s. While this was a prosperous period for workers in general, workers at the bottom of the wage distribution saw the biggest wage gains.

Given the enormous benefits of lower unemployment, it might seem that it would be worth the risk of slightly higher inflation to press the labor market as far as we can. There are few if any social programs that would provide as much benefit to lower income populations as an increase in African American employment by two percentage points and an increase in the employment rate of African American teens of six percentage points, especially if the pay for these jobs rose by 12 percent, which happened between 1995 and 2000.

Someday, economists will realize that the 1970s are not necessarily that relevant for today and adjust accordingly. Someday.

No. No NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. Just Stop with This. Just Stop.

[ 487 ] February 19, 2017 |

If you remember, in the run-up to election day we were subjected to what felt like thousands of gauzy, rose-tinted portraits of Trump voters. I thought that once President Snowflake won I wouldn’t have to read any more. I was wrong. Thanks, New York Times!

 

Jeffrey Medford, a small-business owner in South Carolina, voted reluctantly for Donald Trump. As a conservative, he felt the need to choose the Republican. But some things are making him feel uncomfortable — parts of Mr. Trump’s travel ban, for example, and the recurring theme of his apparent affinity for Russia.

Mr. Medford should be a natural ally for liberals trying to convince the country that Mr. Trump was a bad choice. But it is not working out that way. Every time Mr. Medford dips into the political debate — either with strangers on Facebook or friends in New York and Los Angeles — he comes away feeling battered by contempt and an attitude of moral superiority.

That poor man. He voted for a fascist and some people acted in a way that was completely commensurate–they crudely expressed their displeasure!

“We’re backed into a corner,” said Mr. Medford, 46, whose business teaches people to be filmmakers. “There are at least some things about Trump I find to be defensible. But they are saying: ‘Agree with us 100 percent or you are morally bankrupt. You’re an idiot if you support any part of Trump.’ ”

He added: “I didn’t choose a side. They put me on one.”

Actually, no. You chose a side when you voted for Trump. You very much chose a side.

Liberals may feel energized by a surge in political activism, and a unified stance against a president they see as irresponsible and even dangerous. But that momentum is provoking an equal and opposite reaction on the right.

But their reaction is more righteous…how?

Protests and righteous indignation on social media and in Hollywood may seem to liberals to be about policy and persuasion.

It’s not. I won’t speak for other libs, but I am not out to persuade Trump voters. Leaving aside how condescending the notion is that Trump voters need to be persuaded, they are not persuadable, period. Secondly, it is not my aim to work with these people; it is my aim to work around them.

He came out a few days before the election. On election night, a friend posted on Facebook, “You are a disgusting human being.”

“They were making me want to support him more with how irrational they were being,” Mr. Youngquist said.

This is the exact reasoning 17-year-old Gamergaters are using for becoming Nazis. (And they are!) These people are not gettable.

Yet many seemingly persuadable conservatives say that liberals are burning bridges rather than building them.

And that’s unreasonable because only liberals have the proud strong backs and buttocks it takes to do the hard work of bridge-building!

“I love Meryl Streep, but you know, she robbed me of that wonderful feeling when I go to the movies to be entertained,” she said. “I told my husband, I said, ‘Ed, we have to be a little more flexible, or we’re going to run out of movies!’ ”

As for the country, she is worried.

“Change doesn’t occur until you hit rock bottom, like an alcoholic, on his knees, begging for help,” she said. “I think we still have farther to go.”

No, we don’t, thanks to voters like you YOU FUCKING IDIOT.

[Great job, vacuumslayer. Now she’s never going to vote for the Democrats she was never going to vote for anyway.]

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 71

[ 54 ] February 19, 2017 |

This is the grave of Edward Everett.

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Born in 1794 in Dorchester, Massachusetts, Everett quickly rose into the ranks of the Boston elite. He was admitted to Harvard at the age of 13 and graduated as valedictorian at 17. He became a Unitarian minister and had his own church by 1813. He became known for his florid speeches, which some loved and some hated. He only lasted a year though before taking a job as a professor Greek literature at Harvard, a job which included a 2-year stint traveling around Europe. Unfortunately, professor jobs don’t come with such perks today. He spent a lot of that time in Germany, becoming one of the first Americans to want to transform American education on German lines, a trend that would continue until World War I made Germans the greatest enemies to civilization in known human history about three seconds after they were the heroes of men like Theodore Roosevelt. Anyway, Everett returned to the U.S. in 1819 and taught at Harvard. He also went on a lot of public speaking tours. He became close friends with Daniel Webster and they shared similar class and political interests.

In 1824, Everett moved into politics. He was elected to Congress as a National Republican associated with John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay. Harvard fired him when they found out he was elected to Congress. He served in Congress until 1835, where he was involved in the formation of the Whig Party and worked on foreign affairs. He had the typical political beliefs of a man like this–supportive of the national bank and high tariffs, opposed to Indian removal. However, in 1826, he gave a three-hour speech that digressed into justifying slavery. Many would never forgive him.

Still, in 1835, he was elected to be governor of Massachusetts. There he founded the state board of education, worked on expanding railroads and other industry, and played an active role in settling the boundary dispute between Maine and New Brunswick. However, he lost reelection in 1838 due to a combination of the Liberty Party drawing third party votes away from the Whigs and throwing the election to the Democrats (gee, I wonder if third party advocates learned from this?) and new temperance bill angering the public. Everett was named Ambassador to Britain after William Henry Harrison won the presidency in 1840. He stayed in the job until Polk took the Oval Office in 1845.

Everett then briefly became president of Harvard, hated it, and jumped at the chance to take over as Secretary of State after Daniel Webster’s death in 1852. It was only the last months of the Fillmore administration, but it was still a feather in his cap. He then was elected to the Senate in 1853. When he missed a critical vote on the Kansas-Nebraska Act, antislavery forces in Massachusetts were disgusted and Everett resigned in 1854.

Everett spent the rest of his life traveling around the country, giving his long-winded speeches. He was named the vice-presidential candidate of Constitutional Union candidate John Bell in 1860, but he basically didn’t care and didn’t do anything to campaign. Remaining a conservative Whig, he was deeply involved in the attempt to create the Crittenden Compromise, which Lincoln completely rejected.

Of course, what Everett is really known for his going on like Texas in the ceremony to commemorate the Gettysburg battlefield. In a 2-hour speech, he made all sorts of comparisons to ancient history and called for reconciliation. Then Abraham Lincoln walked up and blew him off the stage in 2 minutes. Everett himself was not bitter about this, knowing the greatness of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and he served as an elector for Lincoln in 1864. Everett died in 1865 after catching a cold giving yet another speech, not resting, and then testifying for 3 hours in a lawsuit about his property.

Everett has been portrayed in movies and TV more than you would think. He was played by Gordon Hart in a 1939 short called Lincoln in the White House. José Ferrer portrayed him in the 1991 TV movie about the Gettysburg Address titled The Perfect Tribute. David Francis played him in a 1999 TV movie about P.T. Barnum. In Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, a 2012 work of transcendent art, he was played by David Alexander. And Ed Asner was the voice of Everett in a new documentary on the Gettysburg Address that appeared last year.

Edward Everett is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Music Notes

[ 37 ] February 18, 2017 |

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We need to talk about the amazing awesomeness of Drive-By Truckers live shows. I saw my 11th show in New York last weekend. It was supposed to be my 12th, but the Boston show the previous Thursday had to be rescheduled because of snow. For all their great albums (and some more just OK, but mostly they are great), the live show is really where to see them. They bring the Rock. Especially early in their career, they created signature guitar riffs for the best songs that are just awesome live. For a bunch of middle-aged guys, they bring tremendous energy. I’ve seen amazing shows and I’ve seen less amazing shows, but not only have I never seen a bad show, usually the less successful shows are for an external reason, either a bad venue (it’s remarkable how much this matters) or, in the case of the show I saw last spring in Providence, Patterson Hood’s voice was totally shot. And with Hood and Cooley switching songs the whole show, nothing ever becomes repetitive.

There two sorts of a shows for a constantly touring band like this. There are the shows where they are supporting a new album and shows a year after the last album when they are playing whatever they want. I prefer the latter because by then they’ve figured out what songs are better live and which can be dropped. But this was the former, supporting the excellent American Band album. One of the many great things about DBT is that you can follow them for a whole tour and still get at least 1 song they hadn’t performed before on the given tour by the end. They played 8 of the 10 new songs, leaving out “Baggage” and “Sun Don’t Shine,” which are my two least favorite songs on it. You know you are going to always get “Sink Hole,” “Zip City,” and “Hell No I Ain’t Happy.” You will probably get “Women Without Whiskey” and “Let There Be Rock.” And then there’s probably 50 back catalog songs they choose from in a given set. In this show, they were focused on the older albums. In fact, outside of the new album, they played no songs less than 10 years old. I was a bit concerned about this, but then looked at the set the night before, where they had played 6 or 7 songs from those albums. In this show, we got the first three great songs the band wrote: “Uncle Frank,” “The Company I Keep,” and “The Living Bubba,” about a musician Hood knew who was dying of AIDS but played until the end. All of these are treats. Also got “Gravity’s Gone,” “Shut Up and Get on the Plane,” and “Where The Devil Don’t Stay,” all Cooley classics. And speaking of great riffs, Hood played the always awesome “Lookout Mountain.” So that’s always fun, not knowing what you are going to hear.

And of course the songs off the new album were great. “Ever South” is epic, “What It Means” sadly gets more timely every day. I imagine that “Ramon Casiano” and “Surrender Under Protest” are going to be long-term staples of Cooley. And then they closed, as they have on most shows of the tour, with a medley of “Hell No I Ain’t Happy” with “Sign O’ The Times.” And then “Rockin’ in the Free World.” I saw them do that in a show in Dallas in I think 2008. Then, it was a cool old song that rocks pretty hard. Today, it was tremendously insistent, a necessary message. That’s a horrible thing. But it’s a great performance. Then Hood started leading the crowd in a chant of “R-E-S-I-S-T” and that was it. Just a great show from an amazing band. Really, you should take the time to go see them next time they are around. After all, the Big Rock Show can’t go on forever.

Here’s a whole show you can watch with pretty good sound.

In other news:

The great jazz pianist Matthew Shipp claims he is not going to record any more albums. I do not approve. I very strongly recommend any of the albums he has recorded for Thirsty Ear, especially Equilibrium and Pastoral Composure.

Aretha Franklin says she is retiring. I kind of thought she mostly was already. But anyway, she deserves it.

Al Jarreau died. It’s funny; after listening to music constantly for the last 20 years how there can be major musicians about whom I basically know nothing.

Some album reviews:

Rachid Taha, Zoom

This French-Algerian singer has made a career of making connetions with western rock and rollers, most famously covering The Clash in Arabic. This 2013 album builds on those connections, with Mick Jones and Brian Eno both appearing. Personally, I could not care less about famous collaborators, especially on albums of non-westerners, except to the extent that they get people more listeners. Singing both in French, Arabic, and English, Taha deserves your ears, even as this did not move me to purchasing it. He’s not a great singer, but the music is pretty excellent and the songs politically solid. There is a certain cliche here of “musician from the developing world who can sing in western languages fusing world music broadly defined and liberal lyrics together to make white people feel cosmopolitan” thing going on here that gives me some hesitation, a la Manu Chao. If it wasn’t so blatant, I wouldn’t mention it, but there is a genre of sorts here that I inherently distrust.

B

William Tyler, Modern Country

William Tyler’s album of instrumental guitar rock made me very skeptical, despite the good reviews. So often I find rock instrumentals utterly pointless; often less skilled or instrumentally creative than jazz musicians, they can end up being snoozefests or exercises in bloated pompacity. But I was pleasantly surprised. Not only is Tyler a fine guitarist, but these are excellent and evocative compositions that bare some resemblance to the work of Bill Frisell. This is atmospheric music that avoids boredom. Tyler is a huge Grateful Dead fan and it shows in both the experimentation and Americana touches. The latter is intentional as Tyler attempts to place his work within the geographical landscape of the United States. This means a very particular type of sound, another similarity to Frisell, with a mix of blues, jazz, rock, and folk, often played at a medium but propelling tempo. As per normal, Americana is never in the cities but rather part of a long drive on two-lane roads across rural America. So at some level, Tyler doesn’t escape the cliches that do limit self-conscious Americana, but this is a really successful and interesting album.

A-

Glitterbust, Glitterbust

People forget that before Kim Gordon because arguably the greatest New Yorker of the late 20th century, she was a stoner Deadhead kid from California. Of course she’s always loved her noise music. So now that Sonic Youth is no more, she is fully engaging in whatever projects she wants. That includes creating an album with another stoner kid from California, Alex Knost, a pro surfer and guitarist. This 2016 album is a kind of surfer noise album with just occasional vocals from Gordon. Mostly it works pretty well. I like the compositions and love the guitar work. The only thing this really could use is more vocals. Gordon just kind of makes vocal noises from time to time. I like her voice enough that I really wanted more of it. Plus, the 5 songs are pretty long and more vocals would add to them. But if you wanted to take surfing and place it in guitar noise in ways that are not surf music, this would be a good way to do it. Interesting stuff.

B

Tacocat, Lost Time

This is a good feminist band out of Seattle. This 2016 release, their third, continues their heavily political themes, including songs about how techdudes have ruined Seattle, a topic always close to my heart, as well as mansplaining and internet trolls. The music is sort of pop-punk. The attitude is both funny and irritated. I don’t know that this is a great album or anything. Reviewers seem to like their first two albums a little better, fwiw. But it’s a solid album and worth your time. I think I am seeing this band on Monday, so I will have more.

B

While not musically related, this is also a good time to note my deep gratitude for readers who occasionally buy me things off my Amazon wishlist. A reader recently purchased for me some nice tea accessories and the collected stories of the mid-century writer John O’Hara, which are really blowing me away. So I do appreciate it.

As always, this is an open thread on music or anything else unrelated to politics.

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