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Lowrying the bar

[ 229 ] September 24, 2016 |

The man who started the year by getting a bunch of Principled Conservatives to stand athwart Donald Trump yelling STOP! has made his lemons into Orangeade and mapped out Trump’s path to victory in the debate on Monday: Don’t be a complete and utter asshole.

Trump has a built-in advantage in that there is a lower standard for him — not because the media isn’t tough enough on him, as all the media mavens agree, but because he is the de facto challenger and candidate of change in a change election. Trump can win by clearing a bar of acceptability, whereas Clinton has to either clearly wound Trump or make a compellingly positive case for herself that has so far eluded her in both 2008 and 2016.

Jesus God is there anything the conservatives won’t grovel before if it gets powerful enough? Of course not.

Being a boorish, bullying, lying, ignorant, bigoted basket of shit whose hobbies are dicking people over and laughing about it is normally considered a negative. In fact, I’m pretty sure some of the Against Trumpers commented on these traits when discussing why Trump simply would not do as the Republican nominee. But the neo-cons have never been completely hostile to jerks and now that he’s gotten the nomination, Lowry has decided that the whole Trump the Trashbeing thing is great. Because now Trump can win if he just stops being utterly gross.

For the length of the debate.

Which is longer than 3 seconds.

I think I may have spotted a flaw in this plan.

To be sure, Trump will be on treacherous terrain. He can’t bully and mock Clinton. Without a teleprompter, message discipline still tends to elude him. The one-on-one format for an hour-and-a-half could make his thin knowledge painfully obvious. And any misstep or outburst that reinforces the idea that he lacks the qualities to be commander-in-chief would be devastating.

So he’s fucked, I guess Lowry is saying.

But Trump just needs to seem plausible and the very fact that he is on a presidential debate stage, the most rarified forum in American politics, will benefit him. During the Republican debates, the intangibles worked in his favor and they presumably will on Monday, too. Trump is a big personality with a dominant physical presence. His critics often sneeringly say he is a reality-TV star, but you don’t become one without charisma and a performative ability that are major political assets.

Perhaps he’s not screwed then. And I look forward to Lowry’s GOTV efforts for Kim Kardashian/Honey Boo-Boo in ’32.

Trump doesn’t need to mount a convincing, detailed defense of his tax or child-care plan or anything else to invalidate Clinton’s critique of him; he just needs to seem a reasonable person.

No never mind; he really is sincerely fucked.

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Music Notes

[ 34 ] September 24, 2016 |

milesdavis-electric

Here’s an interview with Laura Ballance, Superchunk bassist and CEO of Merge Records. Question for you. Is Merge the greatest label in rock history? I have to say that it is. In my view, it’s up with the greatest labels of all time like Atlantic and Motown. They’ve never put out a lot of albums and that’s because they make sure product is first rate. You can’t argue with the results.

Here’s a New York Review of Books essay on Miles Davis. I haven’t seen the Don Cheadle film, but the essay is pretty good, particularly as it focuses on his electric period. For me, that is far and away the greatest period of Miles’ career, a career that was unparalleled in American music history (outside of the 80s, which, well….). The period between In a Silent Way and his retirement is simply an incredible musical achievement, not only because it was great music but because with each album, he was moving music forward by leaps and bounds.

Bomba Estéreo’s new video has received a ton of buzz for its inclusive message and that’s awesome, but regardless, it’s worth noting what a great band this is.

Leonard Cohen turned 82 this week. To celebrate, he released the title track to his upcoming album. And yeah, it’s pretty awesome.

And now to the album reviews. Been lucky that most of the new albums I’ve listened to the last couple of weeks have been really good.

Andrew Norman and Boston Modern Orchestral Project, Play

This is an outstanding recording of a composer whose music hits you in the face. I’m not going to try and fool you all: although I enjoy orchestral music, I really suck at writing about it. So let me quote The New Yorker’s Alex Ross, from his own personal blog:

Will Robin has gone so far as to declare that Play “might be the best orchestral work that the 21st century has seen thus far” — an announcement that spurred a lively Twitter discussion of other candidates for that accolade, with emphasis on purely orchestral works more than half an hour long. I seconded Tim Rutherford-Johnson’s nomination of Adès’s Totentanz and Czernowin’s MAIM, but, having listened to Play at least a dozen times, I won’t dismiss Will’s suggestion out of hand.

A must purchase for me.

A

Dilly Dally, Sore

This is an excellent young rock band from Toronto with a vocalist named Katie Monks who has a great screamer voice. Will she be able to sing when she’s 40 with vocals like these? Don’t know. Doubt she cares. Good lyrics worth actually trying to understand are a bonus.

A-

Mount Moriah, Miracle Temple

My favorite album from this year so far is Mount Moriah’s How to Dance and I’m really excited to see them in November. It wasn’t on the first listen, but it’s become my go-to album recently, slightly over the Margo Price album. Heather McEntire just has an astounding voice. So I picked up Mount Moriah’s 2014 album Miracle Temple. This is a good album, but not as good as How to Dance because it lacks that one great song like “Baby Blue” or “Calavander.” What you have is a very solid set of tunes and great singing. And who is going to complain about that.

A-

James Vincent McMorrow, Post Tropical

At first I found this a little annoying. McMorrow sings not unlike quite a few indie singers these days with what feels to me like an affectation where prettiness is valued over expression, to the point where the voice almost disappears. He also sings in a very high falsetto that doesn’t quite work for me. But this 2014 release is more interesting than it first seems because despite this indie folk core, the album goes in places you don’t expect because he engages in his love of hip-hop and electronic music, both of which he integrates in unexpected ways in an album where he played every instrument. I don’t love this, but it is worth a listen.

B

Shye Ben Tzur, Jonny Greenwood, and the Rajasthan Express, Junun

In the spring of 2015, the Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur, Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead, and the Rajasthan Express, a 15-member Indian band all hung out togehter in India and made music. Paul Thomas Anderson filmed it and released it as a documentary. I have not seen the film. But I can say that the soundtrack is outstanding. The Rajastahn Express is the real star here, dominating the proceedings with this really great somewhat droning music that comes out of the Qawwali tradition. I believe Tzur wrote the tracks. Greenwood doesn’t really do much that stands out, not that this matters. He’s just part of the band. This is just fine music.

A

As always, this is an open thread about music.

Buckwheat Zydeco, RIP

[ 19 ] September 24, 2016 |

Another great musician is gone.

Gross Hypocrisy, Also Not a Firing Offense

[ 92 ] September 23, 2016 |

Glenn Reynolds is a terrible human being. He was a terrible human being to me personally when he and Michelle Malkin led a right-wing hate campaign against me in 2012. Technically Reynolds didn’t call for my firing, but he came right up to the edge of that and many of his readers called for it–even though I hadn’t done anything even moderately offensive to anyone with a brain. Nonetheless, as Henry points out, he does not deserved to be fired, even for his utterly loathsome and far from subtle call for drivers to run down protestors in Charlotte. Like Henry, I’m not sure this is exactly an academic freedom matter as Reynolds wasn’t representing the University of Tennessee. But it doesn’t matter too much either way because of the latter half of the last sentence. Does he deserved to be canned from USA Today? That’s a totally different question from a private entity. But he should not be fired from the University of Tennessee.

Also, when I was doing some student organizing work at UT back in the late 90s and early 00s, I went into the law school at night and taped a flyer about a labor event I was involved in on Reynolds’ office door. Even better, said labor event brought Richard Trumka to campus. I hope Reynolds threw a clot when he saw that.

Friday Night Open Thread/Revolution

[ 127 ] September 23, 2016 |

Sounds pretty good to me!

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Old Lefties, Scared of the Kids, News at 11

[ 249 ] September 23, 2016 |

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Them damn kids, they don’t hold the same set of principles as we true leftists of the 60s!

Nope — not in the topsy-turvy universe of identity politics. The festival immediately disavowed the address, though the organizers had approved the thrust of the talk in advance. A “Right of Reply” session was hastily organized. When, days later, The Guardian ran the speech, social media went ballistic. Mainstream articles followed suit. I plan on printing out The New Republic’s “Lionel Shriver Shouldn’t Write About Minorities” and taping it above my desk as a chiding reminder.

Viewing the world and the self through the prism of advantaged and disadvantaged groups, the identity-politics movement — in which behavior like huffing out of speeches and stirring up online mobs is par for the course — is an assertion of generational power. Among millennials and those coming of age behind them, the race is on to see who can be more righteous and aggrieved — who can replace the boring old civil rights generation with a spikier brand.

When I was growing up in the ’60s and early ’70s, conservatives were the enforcers of conformity. It was the right that was suspicious, sniffing out Communists and scrutinizing public figures for signs of sedition.

Now the role of oppressor has passed to the left. In Australia, where I spoke, Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to do or say anything likely to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate,” providing alarming latitude in the restriction of free speech. It is Australia’s conservatives arguing for the amendment of this law.

As a lifelong Democratic voter, I’m dismayed by the radical left’s ever-growing list of dos and don’ts — by its impulse to control, to instill self-censorship as well as to promote real censorship, and to deploy sensitivity as an excuse to be brutally insensitive to any perceived enemy. There are many people who see these frenzies about cultural appropriation, trigger warnings, micro-aggressions and safe spaces as overtly crazy. The shrill tyranny of the left helps to push them toward Donald Trump.

If I knew how to embed emoji, it would all the eyeroll emoji.

I mean, sure, one might argue if the left survived the narcissism of the 60s generation that so many of that generation seem to forget when they whine about millennials, but asking those who said they hoped they die before they got old to now understand now that they are old that, like themselves back in the day when THE LEFT WAS THE LEFT UNLIKE TODAY WHAT WITH THE IDENTITY POLITICS AND THE HIPPITY HOP AND THE LIKE, young people might not think in the same way as those 40 years older than they is evidently impossible. Unlike the GOOD OLD DAYS WHEN WE DROPPED ACID AND PLOTTED TO BLOW UP BUILDINGS AND FETISHIZED INCREASINGLY RADICAL REVOLUTIONARY GROUPS WHILE SHOWING HIPSTER DISDAIN FOR SELLOUT LIBERALS, the kids these days just don’t understand free speech and a real debate, right?

Ted Cruz, Real Man of Conscience

[ 49 ] September 23, 2016 |

Donald-Trump_Ted-Cruz

Having been criticized for not viewing Ted Cruz’s non-endorsement but also not-not-endorsement of Donald Trump at the RNC as being the clear repudiation of Trump it was generally interpreted as, I am exceedingly non-surprised that by “vote your conscience” he in fact meant “vote for Donald Trump”:

Senator Ted Cruz said on Friday that he would vote for Donald J. Trump for president, two months after Mr. Cruz pointedly declined to endorse his former rival in a speech at the Republican National Convention.

“After many months of careful consideration, of prayer and searching my own conscience, I have decided that on Election Day, I will vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump,” Mr. Cruz wrote in a statement on Facebook.

A real profile in courage is Ted Cruz.

The Golden Age of the Democratic Party, Cot’d

[ 35 ] September 23, 2016 |

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I long for the days when real liberals represented New York in the United States Senate:

But, hey, at least he was a valiant champion for health care reform!

Tactically, Moynihan faulted Clinton for tackling health reform rather than welfare first. Health care was simply terra incognita for Moynihan. A former aide says that “I think that Moynihan never understood the health care bill, never tried terribly hard. It was a subject he was totally overwhelmed by. There he was, chairman of Finance, facing an incredibly complicated bill. He decided he was too old and set in his ways to spend six months learning health care. It’s sort of a joke among Moynihan staff that the one part of the bill he engaged and got into was the protection of medical schools.”

Those sure were the days.

What Do Trump Advisors Think About the Civil War?

[ 133 ] September 23, 2016 |

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OK, this is like shooting fish in a barrel. But still….

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is planning to the restrict the display of Confederate flags by “amend[ing] our policy to make clear that Confederate flags will not be displayed from any permanently fixed flagpole in a national cemetery at any time.”

As expressed in a letter written by Roger Walters, interim undersecretary for memorial affairs, “We are aware of the concerns of those who wish to see Confederate flags removed from public venues because they are perceived by many as a symbol of racial intolerance.”

Great! But this might not fit Trumpism:

But a recent vote indicated a majority of House Republicans oppose the VA’s attempt to restrict where and when the Stars and Bars can be displayed. So does Sid Miller, the Texas Agriculture Commissioner who was recently tapped to be Donald Trump’s national co-chairman of his agriculture advisory team.

In a Facebook post published Thursday, Miller suggests the Civil War was first and foremost about protecting free speech — not slavery. He also strikes a skeptical note about whether Confederates who fought against the United States behaved treasonously.

Responding to a Washington Post column supportive of the VA’s move, Miller writes that the piece “makes my blood boil” and says the Post isn’t “entitled to… attempt to read the minds of my long-dead Confederate ancestors and determine that their actions and motivations during that awful war were treasonous.”

He also denounces “politically correct bureaucrats” pushing for the Stars and Bars to be banned.

“With all that is going on around our world and the serious threats that exist to our country and our constitiional [sic] freedoms by those who carry black flags with Arabic writing upon them, I would think that those in our national government would simply leave alone the flags marking the burial grounds of our Confederate dead,” Miller writes. “Unfortunately, I fear that is just wishful thinking on my part and highlights why the outcome of the upcoming election is so very,very important.”

Boy, I wonder how we could determine the thoughts of those who committed treason to defend slavery?

A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union

In the momentous step, which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

Truly, no one can read the minds of long-dead Confederates.

And hey, the Civil War was actually about free speech! That’s why conservatives should totally secede from the nation if those big government PC liberals dare to criticize them. After all, saying mean things when Sarah Palin or Donald Trump say something dumb is the ultimate restriction of free speech! And this is just outstanding.

In the lead up to the aforementioned House vote on Confederate flags, a staffer for Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) circulated an email making a case for preserving the Confederate flag that’s similar to Miller’s. The staffer, Pete Sanborn, wrote, “You know who else supports destroying history so that they can advance their own agenda? ISIL. Don’t be like ISIL. I urge you to vote NO.” He signed the email, “Yours in freedom from the PC police.”

Don’t be like ISIL, those liberals!

Trump, Clinton, and Rural America

[ 64 ] September 23, 2016 |

colorado_high_plains_dirt_road

I liked this piece on support for Trump in eastern Colorado, an area which relies on an extremely globalized world in farm products to have any economy at all. Trump of course claims (FWIW) that he opposes free trade. Of course, I have massive problems with the current trade system as well, including that it allows farmers like these people in eastern Colorado to flood the market in nations like Mexico, forcing millions of people off their farms and into dirty and dangerous jobs in the maquiladoras or to cross into the U.S. But leave that aside for a bit because the point that these are voters who should absolutely support aggressive free trade policies for their own self-interests is valid. Yet of course they hate Hillary and love Trump because nothing is about policy and everything is about racial and cultural identity. And you have to give it to Trump–he has completely stripped away any pretense that Americans care about policy and issues. They will absolutely act against their own concrete economic interests. not only in the relative abstract of tax policy and the safety net but in the sense of I will vote for someone who will cost me my livelihood because I believe in white pride.

Can Walmart and Nike Afford Apparel Workers Making $40 More a Month? (Spoiler: Yes)

[ 7 ] September 23, 2016 |

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While we are justifiably focused on the election, American corporations are still exploiting overseas workers and we aren’t paying any attention to that. Unlike those who claim that American apparel companies moving overseas are beneficient glorious job creators gifting work to the global poor, the workers themselves are real people with real demands. For example, Cambodian workers are demanding an increase in their nation’s minimum wage, from $140 a month to just under $180. That is not a lot of money. But the western apparel companies are making no statement affirming this demand except to say they like a transparent minimum wage. One can at least strongly suspect they actively are working behind the scenes to oppose it. Cole Stangler asks a bunch of experts on these issues, including myself, if these companies can afford the extra $40 a month. Um, yes.

Workers’ rights advocates believe that the U.S. and European brands should take a strong stance today.

“They should back labor unions’ proposed wages and they do have a responsibility,” said Irene Pietropaoli, a Myanmar-based consultant on business and human rights. “They are under no legal obligation to do so, but they clearly are key players in this debate and so have an ethical responsibility to show leadership, to influence the government when they can, to use their ‘leverage,’ to use the wording of the UN Guiding Principles (on Business and Human Rights).”

That landmark document, crafted and endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, calls on companies to use their “leverage” to prevent “an adverse human rights impact” from taking place.

From labor’s perspective, that’s precisely what’s at stake. The Asia Floor Wage Alliance, an international alliance of trade unions and labor rights advocates that focuses on the garment industry, has calculated Cambodia’s “living wage” to be $283 a month—far above what local unions are demanding.

However, economic interests get in the way of such a rate, explained Auret van Heerden, senior advisor with the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights and former president of the Fair Labor Association.

Suppliers are reluctant to hike wages because, for one, there’s no guarantee their buyers will absorb the higher labor costs. What’s more: garment factories typically operate on short-term contracts, lasting just a few months. If a factory owner decided to unilaterally raise pay, he risks losing future business. A buyer might react by sourcing elsewhere in Cambodia—or by simply finding cheaper labor abroad, in say, Bangladesh or Myanmar.

“A lot of the suppliers, privately, are accusing buyers, brands, of being really part of the problem because they’re cutting their prices on the one hand and they’re expecting them to absorb more costs on the other hand,” said van Heerden.

Of course, the brands themselves could simply sign longer-term contracts guaranteeing higher wages—but they don’t. And, at the moment, van Heerden explained, they’re likely reluctant to get involved in the minimum wage debate for fear of upsetting their business and political partners in Cambodia.

“If the brands do weigh in, they’re going to certainly antagonize government and the industry association, and they’re going to antagonize their own suppliers, frankly,” van Heerden says. “So they’re going to step on three sets of toes and not going to get any credit from the unions unless they want to sort of put themselves in bed with the unions, which is not a position they want to be in either. I can understand why they’d want to stay out of it.”

It is a complicated situation for the companies as they aren’t the only ones who don’t want to pay good wages. But the companies also have the ultimate power–it’s their product. They have the ability to commit to keeping a factory open in a nation that raises its wages or the ability to simply say that they are going to raise prices by $1 for a pair of shoes and that money goes to the workers. We should make them act to improve the lives of the workers making our clothing.

Precision

[ 15 ] September 23, 2016 |
Korean War bombing Wonsan.jpg

A-26 Strike on Wonsan, Korean War. By USAF (photo 306-PS-51(10303)) – ARC Identifier (National Archives Identifier) 541959. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=235495

I had the chance to speak with Matthew Rosenberg of  the New York Times about airstrikes, and why they sometimes go awry:

 

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