Monday, June 18, 2018

A dumpster, full of raw sewerage and gasoline, just waiting for it's match.

We have the rejection of the value of the individual, and aggrandizement of the nation to a point of hypernationalist primacy.

We have A cult of "traditionalism", (more imagined than true) based on history revision (Texas politicians deciding to remove Thomas Jefferson from their history text books comes to mind.)
There's a A rejection of modernism (cultural, as well as technological)
A cult of distrust of intellectualism.
A framing of disagreement as treasonous
A fear of difference.

There's the appeal to a frustrated middle class — blaming economic or political pressures from both above and below.

We see the classic obsession with alleged plots and machinations of the movement’s identified enemies.

The demonizing of former leaders...(Is anything on Earth not Obama's fault?)

We witness a requirement that said enemies be simultaneously seen as both omnipotent and weak, conniving, and cowardly.

Life is framed in terms of permanent warfare.

There's the contempt for weakness and false cartoon-ish authoritarianism.

A cult of "heroism" around a "fearless leader".

There's the pretentious hypermasculinity, with warfare functioning as “an ersatz phallic exercise”.

(military hardware parades, once laughable and strongly rejected in this nation are now scheduled.)

Populism...but a selective sort of populism, relying on crass misogynist definitions of “the people” that the movement claims to speak for.

There's the heavy usage of "New-speak" — impoverished vocabulary, elementary syntax, and a resistance to complex and critical reasoning.

What we have is a particular style of politics, with its identifying characteristics related to one’s relationship to the state or particularly some autocracy within the state, and to their fellow citizens, (particularly in-group/out-group divisive dynamics).

So...Fascist much?

We must understand the framing of Fascism as stylistic politics, rather than programmatic or policy related.

One of the most important elements of European fascism in the past was it's programmatic fluidity — by that, I mean its ability to conform to local particularisms and norms.

On the other side of the Atlantic, we witness the effective fusing of American neo-Nazis with the Neoconfederate movement.

This has been a cult just waiting for it's "charismatic leader".

A dumpster, full of raw sewerage and gasoline just waiting for it's match.

Those who condone, aid, or promote this dumpster fire will be on the wrong side of history. They will become ignominious. Humanity will only remember them ONLY as pariahs.

They will be remembered much the same as we recall leaders of the fascist periods of Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Croatia.

Enemies of decency...unmitigated evil.

Opposing Fascist movements would be so much easier, for us, if they actually appeared on the world scene with somebody saying, “I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Black Shirts to parade again in the Italian squares.” Life, is just not that simple.

And while fascism thrives on stupid, it; itself is not so stupid as to simply employ it's past adapts like viruses attempts to avoid recognition.

Fascism is no can come back under the most innocent of disguises.

It is our duty as members of the human race (the only "race" folks) is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances — every day, in every part of the world.

We have our work cut out for us.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Music For The Post Truth Era

Fantastic new double disk album from Ben New.
Enjoy a free listen here.
Great guitar work, well crafted songs and arrangements.

Learn more at

Saturday, November 25, 2017

In 2017, the topic of many conversations among reasonable people often includes wanting to know why.
Why Trump, why mass shootings, why massive student debt, why deny science, why any of this nonsense? And why does Republican Party policy enable and encourage the worst of humanity's traits and facilitate today’s catastrophes?
While there are no Oracles nor prophets to consult, we must discern for ourselves the shape of the society we inhabit.

Here are a few observations I've made.
Political analysts, you may recall, described Sarah Palin support as a deviation from the Republican Party’s attitudes rather than an accurate reflection of them. Traditional conservatives they claimed, valued small government, a balanced budget, and restrained conduct in public.
Yet Palin was impulsive, incoherent, and completely reactionary.
I disagree with that, I would say that Palin was no aberration at all. But a typical bellowing bloviator within the history of conservative beliefs. Palin, brought to the national spotlight opened the door for a Trump presidency though.
Conservative thought through history principally reacts against egalitarian demands; it is committed entirely to conserving a social order marked out by hierarchy. History shows that for instance, conservatives opposed the labor movement, the women's rights movement, the civil rights movement, and rights for LGBT citizens. Why? because each has threatened existing hierarchy—and conservatives’ grasp on the power to control society.
Palin and Trump's appeal demands some sort of unifying theory. How can it be that the party of Senator Ben Sasse—who enjoys a (mostly-unearned) reputation as a moderate—is also the party of Trump? The answer is less difficult to discern than it was back in 2011.
We reasonable people seem befuddled by Trump, unable to describe his actions as anything beyond “this is not normal.”
I suggest Trump makes sense as a truly quintessential conservative figure (as did Palin). His peculiarities do not place him outside the movement that propelled each of them to prominence. His populism is as about as substantive as his business acumen; his rhetoric is empty as intergalactic space. . He is an elitist, and he understands what it means to thoroughly embrace "the free market". Despite being a chronic liar, in many respects, he’s the most honest conservative in power, with no pretensions of concern for anyone or anything but himself.
Consider Burke’s conviction that the market, and the “monied men” who control it, should determine value. Burke scorned both the Levellers and the French Revolution, mostly for the same reason: They wanted to overthrow an order that he wanted to preserve. His theories of value were central to defining and defending that order. Burke argued both that value is “subjective,” and that there is an objective “hierarchy of value that divides and distinguishes rich from poor, capital from labor.”
Similarly, Nietzsche later feared that the demands of workers presented serious threats to his sense of order, writing that they would tear “down the walls of culture.” In this aspect, he articulates the ideals of the Austrian school in economics and contemporary conservatives, who frequently speak of the dignity of work and the glories of free enterprise as if both comprise an intrinsic cultural facet of American national identity. You hear them praise “liberty,” and laud America’s role in defending it. But what do they mean?

Conservatives may praise the worker when it is time to win Wisconsin’s electoral votes, but when they are in power we see who they really admire, and that is the CEO. If workers were able to determine their own value, they would not choose to occupy a low position. They would not choose to be subjugated nor have their wages compete in a race to the bottom.
At the core of the conservative tradition is the defense of the stratification of society into upper and lower classes. Conservatives do not all justify this stratification in the same way, or communicate it in the same terms. Some, like Palin, or the so called Christian Right conceive of it as a religious order. Others, like Paul Ryan prefer the purity of Ayn Randian narcissism. But they share a belief in hierarchy, the rights of a few to dominate the many... and an opposition to equality & egalitarianism.
This right to be a vested interest, this opposition to altruism, this vindictive justification of greed ironically is what they are calling liberty, and a few probably believe that they are telling the truth. Beneath this, "populism" is a marketing gimmick. It’s meant to lull you, to sell you something that in reality you don't need nor want.
And so we have Trump, the salesman-in-chief, a carnival barker, and a con man. He has “revised” the conservative script, but his most virulent qualities do not subvert it at all.
In his book, "The Reactionary Mind"; Political Science professor Corey Robin says:
“The racism of the Trumpist right is nastier than its most recent predecessors, but the weaponization of racism and nativism under Trump is an intensification of a well-established tradition on the right, as studies of American conservatism from the 1920s through the Tea Party have shown.”
Strom Thurmond and Lee Atwater might be dead, but their party certainly hasn’t turned away from white supremacy. The war on drugs, hardline immigration policies, the privatization of public schools, the weakening of organized labor...Republican policies continue to disproportionately target people of color and reinforce the injustices previously bestowed on them by slavery, Jim Crow, and violent, organized groups.
Trump’s racism is only a more open expression of older beliefs. As is the oafish manner in which he politicizes his own wealth.

Trump is not versed in the history of conservative ideas. His ascent shows that one need not be conversant with the conservative tradition in order to take an important place in it. His grotesque celebration of greed and wealth are not out of step with conservative norms.
Perhaps a bit more banal and gaudy...but greed has always been the guiding force behind conservatism.
As we witness some of the right's spokesmen & rhetors complaining about Trump, we observe it is because he puts forward competing visions of the market. In Trump's book "The Art of the Deal", he mounts a persistent question of the value of capitalism insisting “A lot of attention alone creates value.” Trump celebrates the market, and the position he has created for himself within it. It is a world, and he is its strongman Fuhrer.
This is a telling admission in the book... “The market is a moment of truth — and an eternity of lies. It reveals; it hides. It is everything; it is nothing. It shall be all; it is naught.”
Trump believes in the market. He believes in himself as an economic “warrior prince.”
He grasps the utter futility of it all. According to Trump, there is no truth. "It’s a show about nothing.” Trump takes literally the conservative slogan that government should be run like a business...his business.
Trump’s literalism may serve as a useful indicator of the conservative movement’s general health. For Republicans. Trump’s agenda, which is a Republican agenda, has stalled. His popularity is plummeting; recent polls suggest that most American voters currently want the Democratic party to recapture Congress. Trump hasn’t been able to channel resentment into governance, and his failures leave the conservative movement vulnerable.

So what do we need to do?
How do we counter religious fervor, and the mythology of the market’s liberatory potential? How do we counter Trump’s grotesque materialism without a competing, egalitarian economic vision?
If equality and fairness is to have a turn in the seat of power, We must take on the economic forces that keep it out of reach!
While Democrats have done a reasonable job of taking on racism, sexism, and homophobia. What is needed now is a competing economic plan that benefits all, instead of the few already doing well. Yes, seems like a no brainer...but where is this plan? It needs to be developed and must be capable of being explained in a sentence or two.
(This is where we fail to connect with "average voters" by and large...we have had good policies but have been unsuccessful in selling them largely because nuanced policy isn't easy to package into a short marketing slogan. I am not the guy for this obviously...I salute you for your attention span if you've read this far!
But folks like you and I, who maintain interest this long, are not the norm anymore. The left fails to understand the huge role marketing techniques play. We debunk some nonsense once and move on thinking the issue was resolved while conservative rhetors simply keep pounding away with their debunked assertion.
And the technique sadly works.

Economic Fairness.
In this effort, we will find no allies in the conservative movement. Moderate conservatives may be useful as a vote against the worst of Trump’s legislative agenda. But thinking if we moderate our agenda to court them is a pathological view.
It will condemn any and all resistance efforts to failure.
Conservatives will never work for you, not unless you are already truly filthy rich, pious in designated fashions, unduly Caucasian, old...(but not old enough for social security, which you don't care about, because it's chump change for you), and excessively male.
The problem is not particularly egregious conservative politicians like Trump or Palin, but conservative politics itself. Ours must be better. We can only respond to a show about nothing with something; with substance, and with political force.
This my friends is the reality.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Ignorance is Strength

"Ignorance is Strength."
-- George Orwell,  from "1984"
The memory of totalitarianism, with its demand for simplistic answers, intoxication with spectacles of vulgarity, and a desires for strong leaders, has faded in a society beset by a culture of immediacy, sensations and civic illiteracy.

Under such circumstances, it is difficult to underestimate the depth of tragedy that the collapse of civic culture and democratic public spheres has wrought.   The profound influences of a permanent war culture that trades in fear and loathing, along with the ever-present petty consumerism has bred  depoliticization and infantilism throughout the culture. Meanwhile the goose stepping actual fascists in the Trump cabinet (count 'em...there's 3. Bannon, Gorka, and Miller) continually assault the free press.  "The media is the opposition party" they declare.  News media must play a critical essential role in a democracy. We are beyond the very real threat of suppressing dissent, if not democracy itself. What is clear is that the dire times that haunt the current age no longer appear as merely an impending threat. Fascism isn't creeping. It has pounced and seized. Trump and his administration of extremists epitomize the dire dangers posed by those who longed to rule American society without resistance, dominate its major political parties, and secure uncontested control of its commanding political, cultural and economic institutions. The consolidation of power and wealth in the hands of the financial elite along with the savagery and misery that exemplifies their politics is no longer the stuff of Hollywood films, such as Wall Street and American Psycho. Trump's ascent to the highest office in America is already being normalized by numerous pundits and politicians who are asking the American public to give Trump a chance or are suggesting that the power and demands of the presidency will place some restraints on his unrestrained impetuousness and unpredictable behavior. Those members of Congress who railed against both Obama's alleged imperial use of executive orders and later, during the Republican primaries, denounced Trump as unfit for office now exhibit a level of passivity and lack of moral courage that testifies to their complicity with the darkness in the  shadow of authoritarianism.

A range of supine politicians, pundits and right wing talking heads are already tying themselves in apologetic knots while they desperately try to make any of this presidencies absurdities "normal". Trump is not ordinary and his politics are an American version of authoritarianism. This is not normal in any sense. And the second enough people accept that it is, democracy has died.

When news media reported the appointments of White House counselor Steve Bannon and attorney general Jeff Sessions, two men with serious racism in their pasts, as if they were ordinary appointments, democracy began to die.
Modern authoritarianism is based on terror management just as Orwell described,
and so modern authoritarians need terror attacks: real, simulated, or both.

It is just as James Madison noticed long ago, tyranny arises "on some favorable emergency."
The experience of the 21st century, as well as the experience of the 1930s, teaches that it takes about a year to engineer a regime change. The question now is to what, exactly? We cannot deduce, from the Trump administration's destructive chaos and ideological incoherence, what the post-democratic American regime will be. We can be sure, however, that we will miss being free. The prospect of children and grandchildren growing up under heavy tyranny is terrifyingly real.
History reminds us just how fragile fundaments of democracy actually are.

But what follows now is up to you!

It's up to us.

We resist in every way possible, and we must step up to the responsibility of guiding what happens next, after Trump. After the inevitable fall he is causing.
It needn't be a dystopian nightmare. But without your input...without us working together it will be.

Still hope springs eternal.
The future has never been quite in your hands the way it is right now.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Ever Wonder How Democracy Dies?

A new poll has been conducted  by Public Policy Polling has revealed some truly depressing data about voters in the U.S.
If we say that Trump voters are fact-deprived, it is an understatement. The poll was taken after Trump Jr. admitted publicly that he met with Russians to discuss "sensitive info that would help his father's presidential campaign",  & released e-mail exchanges regarding the meeting. Even though Donald Trump Sr. had tweeted that his son met with Russians, only 45% of Trump voters think Donald Trump Jr. met with Russians last year to discuss their offer to help his father win the election, 32% are certain there was no meeting at all.

This is how democracies die.
According to the poll,  even though Donald Trump Jr. has publicly admitted it,  only 26% of Trump voters think the Russian government wanted Trump to win. And 44% claim Putin wanted Hillary Clinton to win. (Putin HATED Hillary, and that’s a leading reason he got involved in the election to begin with.) Again, Donald Trump Jr. already tweeted out the emails he received from an intermediary for the Russians, acknowledging that they wanted Trump to win and wanted to help. Yet that admission by a Trump himself isn’t enough for Trump voters.
Also bizarre, only 13% of Trump voters think Trump’s team worked with Russians to help his campaign. Again, junior already admitted meeting with the Russians for this very purpose.
72% of Trump voters consider the Russia story overall to be 'fake news,' only 14% disagree.

Public Policy Polling refers to this as a certain amount of willful ignorance. But it's far worse than that. PPP polled how Trump voters would feel if he shot someone. (Trump had famously bragged during the campaign that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and his supporters wouldn’t care.) He was right.
Only 29% disapprove, while 45% approved — without even knowing who he shot or why.
Observing Trump’s incremental train wreck we can glean a view of how bad men rose to power in the past. It’s not just that they slowly, stealthily consolidate power to themselves when no one is looking. It is also the fault of a public who knowingly accepts, or shrugs off, what was previously unthinkable. (Fox News isn’t helping things, either... though this is no surprise, Rupert Mudoch is a friend of Trump)
The truth is the problem isn’t Trump, the problem is America. The Trump phenomenon goes much deeper than a shallow narcissist who never outgrew puberty and simply got lucky at the ballot box. Trump is in power because voters knew what he was, and voted for him anyway. Trump spewed sexism, racism, mocked people with disabilities and openly praised, and even embraced and defended, some of the world’s worst dictators, while repeatedly criticizing America.
And people voted for him anyway.

Though Trump lost the popular vote by a large margin; in the end, the American people didn’t actually choose him to be their president. But he still got far too many votes after everything we learned about him during the campaign. Trump received 63 million votes to Hillary Clinton’s 65.8 million, a veritable ass whooping.  But someone as vile, inept, corrupt and unqualified as Trump should have lost by double-digit margins regardless of who he ran against. But he didn’t.
Trump isn’t the only thing that’s broken and incompetent.  America is  broken too. And a large swath of the electorate is incompetent.  The question is whether there is still the will or time to save her. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


Three of my albums are on sale at drastically reduced prices to make room for the the new album.
Pick them up today for seriously little cash!
Enjoy the music!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Disgruntled Dictators And The Assholes Who Love Them

For decades experts have explained, over and over, that the science of climate change is incontrovertible, the consequences of blindly sticking with fossil fuels is catastrophic while the costs of inaction are far higher than switching to a low-emissions economy.
But these facts have had no impact on assholes, who cling to a worldview where they find “alternative facts”, where fossil fuels are erroneously believed to be the only path to prosperity. In this fantasy, the mounting environmental and economic evidence to the contrary is merely a kind of dastardly plot.

In Australia,  former PM, Tony Abbott’s economic adviser Maurice Newman believed climate change was invented by the United Nations to hook unsuspecting nations into some 'new world order' which would end  “capitalism and freedom”.
In the US, Donald Trump claims climate science is a “hoax” propagated by the Chinese to undermine the US while the rest of the world rolls around laughing. Trump's idiotic decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord is a major victory for assholes. If anything of a positive nature can be associated with this moronic event, it may just push the politicians, scientists, business leaders and economists; who have grown weary from all these years of talking to the hand to unite and double the efforts before a point of no return is reached. It may galvanize activists and voters to respond. Let's hope so, because now it is clearer than ever that the economic interests Trump claims to defend can only be served by acting on global warming. It is way past time to speak some more loud, blunt truth to arguments this stupid.

To make the ridiculous case that abandoning Paris was good for the US economy, Trump didn’t just have to ignore science, but also the pleading of the US business community he pretends to defend – the 630 business leaders who wrote to him in January demanding that he keep Barack Obama’s climate plan and stick with the Paris deal, and the long list of businesses and business leaders who have attacked his decision, including the chief executives of Tesla, Goldman Sachs and Disney and companies including Nike, BP, IBM, Apple, Google, Twitter, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Adobe, Morgan Stanley, Unilever and Mars. The sad truth is, he has clear evidence that renewable energy jobs in the US are booming and  his ill-considered campaign promises on coal industry jobs are absurd and impossible. The contentious job figures he advanced to make his case for abandoning Paris came from one study by NERA, an economic consulting firm ranked 37th which made some highly questionable assumptions to reach its conclusions, including that it admits it did “not take into account potential benefits from avoided emissions or economic gains from green energy industies”. This is like suggesting one shouldn't get an education because it costs money, while not revealing the economic benefit of having an education.

In the real-world, evidence is very different.  In the past 3 years alone, in the U.S. the increase in employment in solar energy companies is more than double the total jobs in the coal industry, which inevitably will decline even further as demand continues to diminish. Fewer and fewer communities condone coal burning power plants regardless of what Trump says or does. He may as well promise to get people jobs as steam train drivers...there's not realistically much demand, and if you ARE going to invest in trains, (actually a great idea) why wouldn't you utilize the most efficient modern designs that are available as opposed to designs from the 1800s? Why wouldn't you use the frictionless magnetic tracks? Why opt for a 35 mph inefficient engine over one that can travel 200 mph and uses little energy? Answer: No sane person would.  With this act, Trump absolutely cemented his place in history as the absolute worst president of the US ever. No one else even comes within miles of this chicanery.

If you searched for "asshole" on Twitter, @realDonaldTrump is the first thing that popped up. In fact, Donald Trump's account was the first thing that displayed when you searched the word fascist, bigot, racist, or asshole on Twitter until recently.  Those results were driven by a search algorithm. Twitter responded to complaints from the White House by manually removing those links. But face it, one would have to be a Grade-A Jumbo asshole if even a computer algorithm can see it.
All joking aside, you only have to watch Trump for a minute or so to understand he's a master A-hole. No surprise, as all totalitarians are masters of assholery. It's in the DNA of all autocrats.

But how does such a major-league asshole like Trump actually become president? There's only one answer, and it should worry all decent people. Nearly half the voting public are assholes too.This is the problem that truly vexes me and decent people everywhere. While it's unlikely Trump will finish his term, (but even if he does, he WILL be gone), the people who voted for him will not be.
Without exception, all of Trump’s hard-core supporters are real assholes because they admire a major asshole. Die-hard Trump supporters are almost all identity Republicans, who are assholes because intransigent adherence to a "philosophy" of government based on greed, selfishness, belligerence, and winning power at any cost is certainly something only an asshole would like.
That's about 35% of voters.
Those who made up the difference that got Trump to 47% of the vote—barely enough to win the electoral college on technicality—are also assholes. There is no way they could miss the fact that Trump was a flaming asshole throughout the election process—but they voted for him anyway.
It doesn't matter what the reason was—whether it was despair, misogyny, or anarchism that drove them to make the mark near Trump's name. The point is that they were willing to put the lives of their fellow citizens, and indeed the fate of the world in the hands of an unstable, vicious, ignoramus.
That is a complete asshole move, whatever the motive.
So the vexing question is: Can America survive with so many assholes among its citizens?
The short answer is No.

Asshole-Americans tend to be selfish, arrogant, devoid of introspection, belligerent, tyrannical, grievance-filled, bullying, self-justifying, boorish, angry, incapable of self criticism , vulgar, fearful, and ultimately delusional people.
Watch any film of a Trump campaign rally and you'll see them acting out these traits.
(If you voted for Trump and don’t see yourself as having those tendencies, look in the mirror more closely. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll find at least one.)
If you were to sum up that list of attributes in one word that relates to politics, it would be anti-social. Assholes hate government because they are anti-social. They don't care about anyone but themselves.
They have no desire to work together to solve problems.
They dislike anyone who isn't like them, and that's a death-wish for any civil society.

Is there any cause for hope to exist? I wish I could tell you yes, but the truth is it's only a "maybe".
It may not be possible to reach these assholes before they remove the last means of affecting public policy. How might we turn the horrendous situation we are now facing around?
This situation in which assholes, even though they are still a minority, hold all the reins of power?
Time is running out,  they are working to remove entirely civilization's last means of controlling them—the vote. Assholes have already made great strides in preventing decent and disadvantaged people from voting. They will go even further now that there is no force to stop them from closing polling places, passing extremely restrictive voting hurdles into law, and pumping money into disinformation campaigns.

The window is closing. The last remaining chance to escape from becoming a totalitarian neo-fascist state is the 2018 midterm elections. There were about 24 million young people who didn't vote in 2016. If only half of them would come out in 2018 to vote against assholes—especially those who live in red counties that went for Trump—their votes would swamp even the most robust Asshole-American turnout. Keep in mind, these assholes only got to 47% with the help of people who are not die-hard assholes—people who, for some reason, imagined that electing a major asshole wouldn't destroy us all. If some of them realize their error of judgment and vote like the decent citizens they probably are at heart, perhaps...maybe—despite all odds—we can put a stop to Trump's assholery by removing asshole control of the House of Representatives. Having one check on Trump's powers would be enough.
This is about the only hope there is for the US as we have known it. Maybe humankind itself.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Make America Covfefe Again

Trump is a moron.
Americans managed to elect a functionally illiterate president who knows very little about anything.
Case in point, having returned from his insult tour of Europe, at 12:03 5/31/17 -  barricaded in a room with several bags of McDonalds and self-pity in hand, Trump addresses his 31 million twitter followers with this...

As of this moment it's been posted for over 4 attempt made by the nitwit in chief, or the incompetent lying boneheads he surrounds himself with to remove or change the ominous tweet.

Sean Spicer later will no doubt tell beleaguered reporters "Not only is covfefe a word, it's the greatest word ever uttered."  While the White House spokeswomen will book themselves on cable news outlets claiming "Of course is real word. It was coined during the Bowling Green Massacre!"

While this administration may be a gift from the gods to comedy, it is testing the bounds of any reasonable human being's ability to survive with any semblance of functional cerebral cortex intact.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Understanding The Internal Cancer Of The Politics Of Cowardice

 The lamentable politics of cowardice have a stranglehold on western civilization and we must recognize that the end result is that not only do we destroy who we are, what we value, and what we aspire to become; but we promote terrorism by making it's acts absolutely successful. A small group of extremists can literally destroy a nation, or nations; by flying a hijacked plane into a building.
They can observe that nation literally self destruct in reactionary actions that ultimately strip it of it's identity, it's character, and it's freedoms. The knee jerk reactions may seem to be "prudent" or in the interest of security...but they are cowardly and "reptile brained" in the end. Security is always an illusion, and it's an illusion that can not be bought with the currency of  tyranny, authoritarianism, or submission to being dominated. The world needs to understand that it's tragic turn towards nativism, the relinquishing of hard won freedoms and rights, nor the embracing of  despotic anti-democratic autocracy will not make the world "safe. It is quite the contrary. The transformation of free & just societies into supremacist police states is literally a reward rather than a deterrent for extremists. It teaches them terrorism works very effectively. One brainwashed zealot randomly shooting up a public place can transform entire nations from bastions of fairness and freedom into hegemonic falangists and principled egalitarians into chaotic reactionaries willing to trash everything they claim to hold dear and value. This is the point of acts of terror. And largely people seem inclined to give them exactly what they want. The destruction of western democracy.

    It isn't just America, the rise of reactionary fascism is every bit as present in the Netherlands (once the most liberal open society on the planet), France, England, and many other places that were once beacons of social democracy. France's Marine Le Pen expelled her own dad from the National Front, a far right wing party whose policy is against immigration. Add to this Italy's recent embrace of  Beppe Grillo, a comedian turned far right politician.  They are on their own, mini versions of Trump.  AfG, (Alternative for Germany) is an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim far right wing fascist party led by Frauke Petry. Their stand is to be able to shoot migrants within German borders. They are gaining in influence, the direction in which France and Italy move could well influence the vote in Germany in that curious phenomenon which can be called competitive nationalism. The last time that happened in the Western Europe was in the 1930s. I won't say know what happened. These are fringe movements... but so was Hitler in 1928. Speaking of 1928, the last time the US went GOP for the White House, Senate and the House of Reps was 1928. They met with the Great Depression in 1929 and of course the rise of fascism.  Fast forward to 2016 and again the US has gone Republican in the White House, Senate and the House. Oops. If Trump bungles awfully, which is frankly very likely and US heads into a deep recession, it could impact world economics and it is here that the weakness of centrist parties would  crumble in Western Europe.
Even in Greece, Neofascism is on the rise.
What can we do? Nothing. Really... nothing would be a far better policy than knee jerk reactions. Look at what happened when for whatever purpose the US and some of it's allies invaded the wrong country...Iraq. As a result, aside from lives lost and treasury looted; the entire region was destabilized, extremists had a boom in recruiting, refugees flooding other nations led directly to Isis and the stressing of Europe's social safety nets. The flood of immigration led directly to the rise of radical right wing autocrats selling native supremacy. Not only did hucksters of long rejected bronze age ideas become "viable" candidates, but they were actually elected.  All these things happened because of the ill considered asinine reactionary response to a terror attack initiated by 20-100 people.  Looking at this with objectivity, if you want to change the world, what is the most effective way to do it? I for one do not like the answer. And neither should you.

We very well could see every influential EU member tilt far right depending on how Italy and France tilt. The Netherlands, Turkey, and India are already skewed on the right. Blaming all of this on racism/Islamophbia doesn’t make sense (though it is one part). In the U.S., the Rust Belt voted for Barrack Hussein Obama in 2008 and 2012. A black man with a Muslim name. It’s gone to Trump now. Perhaps you can attribute it to sexism. That doesn’t however explain it fully.
The Rust Belt’s economics was at play. 
In what was once the Manufacturing Hub of  the USA recession corroded jobs
and standards of living plummeted
. Detroit is quite literally in a state of decay.
Look at the wage ratio of CEOs to workers in USA. It’s $475,000 to $1.
Trump went to Hillary’s left in economics, said no to TPP and NAFTA.
While going ape shit right socially.
  He openly courted all racists/bigots/Islamophobes/misogynists/homophobes.
And he won.

It is largely because the Democrats failed to stand up for the working class.
And that is the trend across the globe.
The centrists who are supposed to be center of left; Democrats, Labour Party, Indian National Congress, etc. are all sold out to the corporates.
The middle class worker’s extended middle finger is what they voted with.
And this is the trend globally.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

America's Mango Mussolini

The similarities between the rise of fascism in the 1930s and the political wasteland of the US have much in common. Mussolini originally coined the term "fascism" (some say his speechwriter did, but that has no bearing here) and he defined it as the combination of state and corporate powers. Today, on the White House's official government website there is a plug for the current Mrs. Trump's brand of perfume. Need I say more?
He’s just a funny and quirky man who’s not afraid to speak his mind.  Nobody even took him serious as first.”  That’s what people have been saying about Donald Trump — but that’s also what people once said about Adolf Hitler. The similarities are and should be frightening.
America’s increasingly sick abnormal politics have surrendered to complete dystopia.
Donald Trump, a proven serial liar, utter narcissist, failed businessman turned reality show clown, con artist, adulterer, a braggart about being a grabber of women’s genitals without their permission, a man who does not read, a proud ignoramus, admirer and fan of despots and dictators, a cheerleader for vigilante violence against innocent people, actor in a porn video, person who stiffs his employees, member of the Vladimir Putin fan club, racist landlord, the preferred candidate of neo-Nazis and other fringe racists, professional wrestling villain, and candidate who incites violence against his political opponents, is now the 45th president of the United States of America. 
Donald Trump is also a fascist authoritarian controlling the world’s most powerful and influential “democracy.” No this isn't fake news and it isn't satire.
Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, the American news media desperately avoided using such language to describe the Mango Mussolini. They did this largely because the advertising revenues, as well as an inability to accept how Trump had gamed obsolete journalistic norms of “fairness,” “balance” and “objectivity.”
In doing so, the American news media facilitated Trump’s rise to power. They labeled Trump as a “populist” who was “unconventional.” The American news media kept suggesting that Trump would “pivot” for the general election in order to win more “mainstream” and “centrist” voters. There were some bold voices who said that Trump had “authoritarian tendencies.” But very few commentators had the courage to plainly state that Donald Trump was a fascist — even though the evidence was readily available, and now undeniable.
  • Donald Trump does not believe in or accept freedom of the press.
  • Donald Trump threatened his political enemies with violence and/or prison.
  • Donald Trump used ethnocentrism, bigotry, nativism and racism to mobilize his voters.
  • Donald Trump does not believe he should be held to the long standing norms of democratic governance or tradition.
  • Donald Trump is a misogynist.
  • Donald Trump is obsessed with “strength” and his own “virility.” Promising massive military buildup in an age where a 200 dollar drone can take out a military base...when a 200 million dollar stealth plane is absolutely useless against some asshole setting a shoe on fire in a plane.
  • Donald Trump promises to bring“law and order.”
  • Donald Trump is a militant nationalist.
  • Donald Trump traffics only in conspiracy theories and lies.
  • Donald Trump admires and praises authoritarians and political strongmen.
  • Donald Trump’s press conferences are conducted exactly like Putin's.
  • Donald Trump has surrounded himself with a cabal that consists of family members and self-interested Cabinet appointees, who — like him — stand to enrich themselves through the agencies they are supposed to administer in the public interest.
Ultimately, the American news media were and are like the troglodytes in Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” comforted by the dark because their eyes would be hurt by the light of the truth. Or, to borrow from a more contemporary example, the media did not want to face the situation Morpheus explains to Neo in “The Matrix”: “Standing there, facing the pure horrifying precision, I came to realize the obviousness of the truth.”
Political liberals and progressives belong to a centuries-long tradition with origins in the Enlightenment, they are unprepared to deal with the primitive thinking and irrationality that drives Donald Trump’s political movement and contemporary conservatism more generally. In reality, the Republican Party abandoned any semblance of normal politics beginning with their assaults on Bill Clinton in the 1990s. There has been a long decline which culminated with the absurdity of Republican reaction to Barack Obama and now the rise of Trump. Americans have become numb to the extremism and lack of truthfulness in politics due to constant bombardment with it..there are generations that know nothing else.
In New York magazine, Jonathan Chait  offers a classic example of how dangerous liberal reasoning has become to itself:
"It is impossible to know what course American democracy will take under Trump’s presidency. The fears of authoritarianism may prove overblown, and Trump may govern like a normal Republican."
This assumes there is a “normal Republican,” and that Trump is something else. Yet Trump won more votes than any Republican presidential candidate in history. Research shows that authoritarian attitudes have increased among the American public over the last 20 years, especially among Republicans. The Republican Party is the country’s largest white identity organization: It mobilizes anti-black and anti-brown animus for political gain. Since the 1960s at minimum, conservatism and racism have been functionally identical in this country. Trump leveraged those forces to maximum effect in order to defeat Hillary Clinton and win the White House.
In short, Donald Trump is a normal Republican. Pretending otherwise is what led the chattering classes to underestimate Trump’s appeal to angry, authoritarian-minded voters willing to pretend fascism is acceptable or even desirable.

What can be done?
What do good people who believe in fairness do now?
Protest marches are great. They are a cathartic release.
And they can, if sustained make a difference.
Run for office on the local and state level.
Practice political consumerism: Refuse to spend money at stores, banks, and other businesses that work with Trump, his administration or his enterprises.
Target Republican officials with phone calls and emails. Let them know that if they support Trump's fascist agenda there will be negative consequences at the ballot box.
Borrow from the obstructionist strategy that Republicans used against Barack Obama.
Turn the metaphorical map upside down and practice political Aikido.
Especially we must learn from those groups and individuals who have been actively fighting fascism.

Donald Trump and his movement are not normal. Do not make the mistake of treating them like they are. There is no room for negotiation or compromise. Nor burying your head in the sand if you didn't like Clinton either. That's over. All that matters if you want to see any sort of reasonable future is to band together with any and all anti-fascists. Whatever other squabbles one may have, and maybe one person's issues are not yours or vice versa; it doesn't matter. FDR & Churchill certainly weren't in agreement with Stalin on many matters...but I'm glad they opposed Hitler together.
I'd be writing this in German if they hadn't.

America is your country. Donald Trump and his supporters represent the tyranny of minority opinion. They are the worst example of  the "ugly American". And this movement is a real threat to the world.
Don't care about the world? History teaches us that it's a real threat to you personally.
Not a woman? Not on the list of people Trump hates?
You will be.
Want to equate all this with the usual left v right bickering over taxes?
It's not. There is absolutely nothing "usual" about this.
Want to write opposition to Trump's fascism off as partisan chicanery?
It's way beyond that.
America, quite likely the world actually; as you have known it... will not survive a full frontal fascist regime like this.

Now is the time to reclaim the United States’ fundamental character.
The will, spirit and character of this nation is NOT to be found in fascism.
 Shouting “Not in my name!” is a fine beginning, but not an ending. Resistance to Donald Trump and everything he represents must be the new normal.

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 - A Shit Year...Or The Shittiest Ever?

2016  definitely sucked
      As we bid a contemptible good riddance to 2016 with it's numerous absurd Terror attacks, Zikas, Brexits, police shootings, Syria, Trump, record-hot temperatures, the losses of  our musical heroes, cultural icons, artists, friends, and family...well this has been one unrelenting godawful turn around the sun hasn't it?  I see a fair amount of hoopla suggesting 2016 is actually the worst year ever.  As  terrifying events truly piled up on each other in 2016, is it in a way they have not done any other year in human history? Is it possible to judge the awfulness of a year while it’s still unfolding or very fresh in memory? Is it possible that we just notice negative happenings more these days because of  high levels of connectivity? And what does “worst year” even mean—“worst year” for New Yorkers, Americans, for humanity, for the planet? As a way of actually finding some sort perspective on these matters, lets look at some other godawful years that have occurred.

     72,000 B.C. -  there was a volcanic super-eruption on the island of Sumatra in present-day Indonesia. The explosion was massive. Where once there was once a mountain, there is now a lake.
It exploded with the force of 1.5 million Hiroshima-size bombs. Rock and magma were hurled continental distances. A layer of volcanic ash approximately 15 centimeters (about six inches) thick settled over the entire continent of Asia.  The skies darkened and global temperatures fell.
Yes, this was a pretty shitty year too. A“long night” descended, and something analogous to a nuclear winter began that year and lasted for many years afterward. The food sources died off, and the recent mapping of human genome indicates that the population of  human beings was reduced to between merely 3,000 and 10,000 people. From this tiny group of survivors,  all 7 billion people on Earth today are descended, making us one of the most numerous but genetically close species in nature.
This genetic "closeness" may account for the bad decisions and behaviors of 2016.

1348 - We talk about 2016 being a particularly disastrous year, but historically there’s nothing new about vicious detestable assholes fighting for power. Nothing new about  dreadful useless leaders with incorrigible bad ideas gathering widespread support. Consider for a moment 1348, when the Black Death took hold. Dogs tore at the bodies of the dead that lay about unburied in the streets.
The disease spread quickly all along the Silk Roads and then across the trade routes crisscrossing the Mediterranean. In the space of  a mere 18 months, it killed at least a third of the population of Europe.
Francesco Petrarch
“Our hopes for the future have been buried alongside our friends,”
wrote the great Italian scholar and poet Franseco Petrarch. It seemed like the end of the world was coming. Some advised avoiding “every fleshly lust with women,” others that marching barefoot while self-flagellating would help. One writer in Damascus recorded that plague “sat like a king on a throne and swayed with power,” killing thousands every day. Yes, on the bright side here in 2017, at least for the moment; dogs are not tearing at the bodies of the dead that lie unburied in the streets.
However there was a positive consequence of the Black Plague,  a consolation prize...a parting gift. The Black Death spurred one of the most golden of golden ages in history. Plague led to sharply reduced inequality, a spending boom, and a flowering of the arts. Storms do sometimes give way to sunshine. Maybe...maybe...

     So how does one measure the “worst year in human history”?
By some calculus of human suffering? By sheer number of deaths? By the geographical extent of misery? While any of these metrics provide ample and ready candidates, I suggest, however, that the worst year ought to be the beginning of a world-historical process that once started, offered no chance for reversal.
was such a year.
That year, the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella completed their conquest of Moorish Granada. Within a few years, the roughly half-million Muslim inhabitants of the territory would be killed, enslaved, or expelled. The kingdom also expelled its Jewish population, resident since Roman times, which provided the blueprint for similar persecutions and expulsions in the years to follow. Spanish actions helped create the idea of a geographically distinct “Christian Europe,” replacing the more than two millennia of political and religious identities that had connected different Mediterranean shores. The most significant event of that year, however, was the first American voyage of Christopher Columbus. Columbus wasn’t the first European to reach the western continents, but his voyages were the first to become widely known. As a result, Spain and its rival powers accelerated their overseas contest for trade and territory. Old World diseases made their inevitable drift to the Americas and by the early 16th century, a series of plagues ultimately caused the demographic collapse of  90 percent of the indigenous population.  And by the mid-19th century,  for many groups, the utter obliteration of their society itself. Worse still, as the indigenous labor force disintegrated, Europeans turned to Africa for new sources of enslaved labor.
Few years in human history are so freighted with catastrophic consequences.
Will the events of 2016 have such reverberations in history? Well maybe so...maybe not.
At any rate, the abominable events that unfolded have yet to enslave anyone...but don't hold your breath. The death of truth or the "post truth" era has yet to find a bottom.

Columbus burning natives in Hispaniola
1919 - This was a shitty year too. The allies had won the First World War but effectively lost the peace. An isolationist U.S. Senate refused to ratify the League of Nations treaty while President Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke. Meanwhile, as the government ended wartime spending and regulations, inflation skyrocketed and unemployment shot up to 20 percent. An influenza epidemic, one of the worst in history, killed a half-million Americans. The 18th Amendment introduced Prohibition and a decade of lawless dog eat dog power struggles. More immediately, the infamous “bloody summer of 1919” saw race riots in cities across the country: Chicago erupted in five days of brutal violence that left 500 wounded and 38 dead. Meanwhile, lynchings continued to rise, with 76 black Americans killed, including 10 war veterans.
The fall of 1919 featured massive labor strikes: 350,000 steelworkers in Indiana, 425,000 miners in coal country, most of the Boston police force, etc. America was poised for a revolution. Fear turned to panic with mail bombs sent to prominent Americans like Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and John D. Rockefeller. In November, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, himself the target of a bomb, launched the first Red Scare, a massive series of arrest raids against suspected radicals, anarchists, and communists that turned into the biggest violation of civil liberties in modern times. All told, 1919 was a year of political chaos, social unrest, economic disasters, deadly epidemics, bloody race riots, giant labor strikes, and brutal government overreach.
Definitely a shit year.
World War I

2003 - a prime candidate as measured by long-term consequences for democracy.
In February of that year, as the Bush administration and its allies geared up for war.
Protesters eager to speak out against the mobilizations swamped cities around the world in the largest global demonstration for peace in world history. In Manhattan, more than 100,000 protestors from all walks of life swamped the city, stopping traffic in the middle of the street, and assembling in a vast throng near the U.N. building. European cities saw even larger protests.
"So we create the conditions that lead directly to the rise of Isis, flood the European liberal nations with refugees collapsing their social programs, rob from the poor and give to the rich,...basically shoot humanity in the face and torture them for shits and giggles...and some black guy gets blamed...ha ha ha. What a plan!"
The U.S media, still dominated by major networks owned by only a handful of corporate overlords, barely covered the event. In New York, the nightly news showed images, instead, of a sympathy protest in Baghdad—a damning substitution. The failure of the occupied media to cover these protests (which set a precedent, followed ever since)—and, more broadly, to aggressively question the Bush administration on the absurd lies and half-truths used to rationalize the war—was catastrophic for the entire world.  The quiescence of political parties when confronted with the even-then very dubious link between 9/11 and the war in Iraq revealed the power of macho patriotism to sweep away partisan dissent and intelligent thinking, and to cow the news into submission, a power that has proved durable and dangerous. A power that has apparently turned most of the western world's brains into sand. The war went on as planned. And the terrible world we live in now, —jingoistic, bomb-scarred, drone-addled, armor-clad, morally bankrupt, spied on, and over-flooded with refugees creating the rise of nativism—is the consequence. Yes...I think 2003 in a historical sense was complete shit. Maybe the worst ever.   Alas my friends,  there is sadly no shortage of candidates.

I failed to point out 1876, A true toilet clogging stinker. There was a split presidential election which set the stage for the bargain that ended Reconstruction. While we might be tempted to nominate the highest casualty year of the Civil War as the worst, the failure to defend racial equality in the South after so many lives were sacrificed seems far more tragic since it continues to cause death and misery 130 years down the road . Also, in ’76 you have the Battle of the Little Bighorn and the inexplicable cruelty of bison-hunting equestrianism on the Great Plains. The fall of Reconstruction and the rise of Plains reservations are enough for a really bad year, and then you add race riots in South Carolina, and Princeton, Harvard, and Columbia...well let's say a courtesy flush was in order.
I neglected the years of the rise of fascism, the Holocaust, the age of the robber barons, the rise of the dark corporate overlords, etc. Well there's veritable feast of bad years we wish could be forgotten quickly.
With past years we have the vision afforded by historical perspective, which is something we lack in evaluating 2016.
One thing leads to another.
See you on the bottom.
Coming soon!  - How to get the most out of your bottomless pit.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Without Shoes inevitable Year End List

Year-end lists may seem tedious.They are easily perceived as the privilege of self proclaimed authorities & taste purveyors. Though this may be entirely wrong as humans of every age seem to have a passion for organizing things. In a sense, the end-of-year list-maker is adult version of the toddler who lines up his toy cars into neatly arranged rows for no reason other than that it is satisfying to make order out of chaos.  End-of-year lists illustrate our human tendency to order time by arbitrarily marking December 31st as the end of the year, and in doing so we like to order experience by forming a compendium of events we associate with this time frame. Ultimately, year-end lists are a manifestation of our deep urge to impose order on experience. And it's something of a mirror as well.
  The sorting out movies or albums does more than impose order on material goods; it also imposes order on the social world. By proclaiming which items are the year’s best or worst, we ultimately are categorizing ourselves. What do we value? Who are we? What concepts do we embrace and which ones do we reject? It reflects us both personally and as a society.
 Our world is an ever hastening fragmented place. At every turn, we are inundated with options: Television, movies and music crop up just long enough to be supplanted by new options only moments later. How do you make sense of the year when it’s always receding in the shadow of the next great thing? It's even harder when the most artistic or important bits can easily be subsumed by artless absurdity or populist claptrap. The junk food of human endeavor, while perhaps serving some function; creates very unhealthy conditions if consumed instead of actual nutrition.
  The New Year evokes visceral feelings, both positive and negative about time passing.
Year-end lists are if nothing else, a way to manage the psychology of the experience. Make your own list, it can be anything that merits your attention. Your list fills in the gap, completes the experience, expands horizons or organize pleasures. The listmaker offers a positive sense of control (real or perceived). And viewing the recommendations of others we respect facilitates a quick catch-up, an on-track feeling of moving forward with a sense of “done” and “will do!”

  List-making actually has a calming effect on the mind. The inner swirl of desires, goals, choices and concerns is an overwhelming experience. If nothing else list making evokes a sense of containment of the past and joyful anticipation of whatever comes next.  Also, when we read others lists, the recommendations allow us to feel protected with a bit of assurance that our time or money will not be ill-spent on unsatisfying goods or art. When someone does some thinking for you, you feel cared for somehow.
 Selection can be hard for people who are very open-minded, indecisive or too consumed by other obligations to stay abreast of culture. I would argue this is how we ended up with a demagogue overgrown toddler in the white house, there was no curator of any merit to actually evaluate political realities and signal got drowned out by the noise....but that's an entirely different post.  As human beings, we need art and culture to protect health. Studies indicate that personal self-expression or identification with an artist’s work boosts mood, decreases stress and seeds hopefulness.  Creativity has been defined as a combination of divergent and convergent thinking and list-makers employ this thought process. Your year end list is an offering of sorts and in a sense it can save  time and money and minimize disappointing experience. Also it is sort of a ritual, all cultures have rituals to deal with turning points. While New Year may be a cause for celebration, the somber awareness that we cannot turn back exists. Fear of regrets, letting go, loss or change can be unsettling. Year-end lists allow us to take stock, accept, evaluate, or  alter what we can do in what is forthcoming.
Here then is my list of musical journeys that I found fulfilling this year.
Maybe you've missed one of these.

Best Albums Of  2016 -

1.)  Blackstar, David Bowie
A wonderful parting gift, but much more than that. I listened to this astonishing 25th studio album on the Friday in January it was released, which also happened to be his 69th birthday. I spent that weekend working through the album's somber horns and avant-jazz experimentalism, the mystical, indecipherable allusions on tunes like "'Tis a Pity She's a Whore" and those multipart, Tony Visconti-aided arrangements such as the mind-blowing, challenging title track. Two days later, Bowie suddenly died and we were all were forced to re-examine/re-think the album's most curious, WTF lyrical moments like, "Look up here, I'm in heaven" (on "Lazarus") and "Where the f*** did Monday go?" (on "Girl Loves Me"). Re-hearing eccentric songs like "I Can't Give Everything Away" as existential commentary turned Blackstar into more than the final bit of punctuation on Bowie's multi-decade career.  This is a jazz-backed rock album with a melancholy ruminations on death, on identity boundaries, on fame, on the universe and astrology, on love, religion and on the limits of the popular culture. Blackstar also happens to be a richly musical offering, more sonically generous and full of boundary-exploding ideas than one might ever expect to hear from any terminally ill musician. The most endearing feature of Blackstar to me is that it refuses closure: It becomes something new every time you deeply listen. It's the most powerful parting gift a great artist could have ever given us. Whatever else one may say of Bowie's work, he was a creative genius, one of the most significant artistic forces in our lifetime. And this is an easy choice for best album of the year.

2.) - In Movement,  Jack DeJohnette / Matthew Garrison / Ravi ColtraneThis record is just enjoyable. Even without knowing any of the tunes, or the players, or their history it's solid on it's own merits. It's full of spacious slow numbers that eventually reveal gorgeous melodies. At other moments the energy is turned up, sometimes with raw abstraction, other times with dark funk grooves. Texturally and intellectually there's a little bit of an elusive and mysterious quality to the proceedings, a lot of coloring outside the beat. Ravi Coltrane (saxes) and Matthew Garrison (bass) are the sons of John Coltrane (saxes) and Jimmy Garrison (bass), and drummer Jack DeJohnette has known them since they were kids because he played with John Coltrane and Jimmy Garrison. Some of these tunes salute DeJohnette's heroes like Jimi Hendrix ("Two Jimmys"), Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire ("Serpentine Fire"), and bandmate Rashied Ali ("Rashied"); others were famously performed by John Coltrane ("Alabama," "Blue In Green"). The roots run deep, and you can read whatever interpretive intentions you wish from that. Or you could just enjoy the music.
Fantastic album.

3.) Stranger To Stranger, Paul Simon
Paul Simon may be our greatest living songwriter. His songs are portraits, thoughtful snapshots on the human condition and, more often than not, Skillful observations on Americans and American culture. His consistency as an artist is unparalleled, going back fifty solid years to those early Simon and Garfunkel records. From its opening track, his masterful 2016 album Stranger to Stranger explores our fears as a culture...fears of the future, of the unknown. Every instrument, every sound effect, every vocal is finely detailed and crafted to serve the song. And those songs are more often created not from the usual three chord acoustic guitar repertoire but from the feet of flamenco dancers and electronic beats, found sounds, etc. then sculpted and changed and polished beyond recognition into these memorable musical jewels, each one gem in it's own right. He mentions having been inspired by attending a Harry Partch recital in the liner notes. While I could not detect any of the micro-tonal sonority Partch pursued in this record, I do hear the willingness to use unexpected sounds as musical instruments in the texture. It's a great album. Paul says it's his last...and he certainly owes us nothing. But we'll see. I hope he enjoys a break, but comes to be inspired again.

4.) "let me tell you" - Barbara Hannigan/Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons
There is a synergy between music, words and performers that rarely rises to the extraordinary level as we find here in Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen's 35-minute song cycle, let me tell you, which features soprano Barbara Hannigan with Andris Nelsons conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. The text, by Paul Griffiths, adopts all the words (about 480 of them) Shakespeare allotted to Ophelia in Hamlet, shuffled about to create a fresh, confident character with cracks of fragility. Sung by the fearless Hannigan, Ophelia divides her story into past, present and future, speaking of a time without music, the inadequacy of language and a transformative love. When she sings "you have sun-blasted me," the orchestra shatters into twinkling shards of sound. The final scene finds Ophelia calmly walking out into the falling snow. Hannigan's high C, plucked direct from the frigid air, might be the most beautiful note you'll hear all year. Fantastic album.

5.) Beautiful Lies, Birdy
Beautiful Lies, is the third album from Birdy, and it's evolved. She began as an acoustic covers singer at the young age of 14 but she's truly a confident and powerful artist now...19 when the album was recorded. On the lush opener "Growing Pains," she incorporates East Asian-influenced melody into a swelling, powerful chorus that echoes Del Rey with a little Kate Bush sprinkled on top. That refreshing quirkiness is also present on the wistful "Silhouette," which includes a surprising flourish that wouldn't be out of place on a Joanna Newsom or Regina Spektor track. Beautiful Lies' there are powerful uplifting moments in "Keeping Your Head Up" and the urgent "Wild Horses". There are nods to her origins on the piano ballads "Lost It All," the soothing "Unbroken," and the closing title track, a sparse beauty that ends Beautiful Lies with a kiss goodbye. "Turn out the light, there are no more surprises to come," she sings, as the album drifts off into silence. This is a work full of life and texture. Arrangements are great and her singing is top notch. The entire album exudes an inspiring attitude. Beautiful Lies is Birdy's declaration that she is more than able to make her mark in the big leagues and join the ranks of the alternative pop pantheon.
There is something wonderful going on here.

6.) Still Come The Summer Rains,  Ben New
Ambitious wide and ranging collection of songs brilliantly executed and expertly arranged.
This is a rare amalgam of thoughtful lyricism, inspired composition, and virtuoso performance. Deeply committed to art, expression, and quality, Ben's music encompasses diverse influences and he dissects them to their irreducible minimum;  then reassembles them into new metaphysical entities.
This is an an LP in the classic sense, a weighty serious thing made by someone who transcends jingles and singles yet brings the finer elements of that world to the arty party. This is the real deal, music that can act as a key to doorways. Part wild-eyed Romanticism, part pragmatic observation. Compassionate at times and aloof at others, this is a reading of the historical moment into disconcertingly ambivalent songs, most of which grow on you... and like Bowie's last album, these pieces always seem to have something fresh to offer with each new listening. Still Come the Summer Rains is the right album at the right time. From the hope of "Calling Out" to the stark brooding of "House Of Fear" this album never disappoints! One of the year's very finest. You need this.

7.) A Moon Shaped Pool, Radiohead

While it's obvious this album doesn't have the brooding guitar noise of Radiohead's earlier records, or the vast conceptual scope and studio alchemy of the band's more recent work. What it does have is a tremendous amount of heartache,  It's quite a reflection on where the band finds itself after reaching middle age with 30 years of making music behind it. The songs are more restrained, more introspective and certainly among the most beautiful and deeply affecting of anything the band has ever recorded. A Moon Shaped Pool is a bit of an acquired taste I'd say but I'd also say it will likely, in time, be considered one of Radiohead's masterpieces.

8.) Good Times! The Monkees
Yes, it's miraculous enough that there even is an album released in 2016 of all new material from the Monkees. But the truly amazing thing is, it's actually one of the very best albums of the year.
The project was initiated by Rhino executives John Hughes and Mark Pinkus, who were excited about a 50th anniversary album for the band. Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne was hired to produce the album, with tracks by the three surviving Monkees, initially unreleased songs by the songwriters they used during their initial run including Neil Diamond, Carole King & Gerry Goffin, Harry Nilsson and Tommy Boyce with Bobby Hart and contemporary rock songwriters Schlesinger, Rivers Cuomo, Andy Partridge, Ben Gibbard, Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller.
The title track was written by Harry Nilsson and a surviving demo from the late 1960s was used incorporating Nilsson's vocals posthumously in a "duet" with Micky Dolenz. Davy Jones is heard on the album on one track despite being dead, he performs the Neil Diamond-penned song "Love to Love" which was actually recorded in 1967 for the Monkees' third album in a Don Kirshner-supervised session while the group was trying to gain musical independence from Kirshner.
Once Kirshner was removed, the song was discarded in favor of recording an album of songs written sung and played by the group itself. The resultant album was Headquarters. For its inclusion on Good Times!, Dolenz and Tork contributed new backing vocals.
The first single from the album was "She Makes Me Laugh". Penned by Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo, it was released on April 28 along with a lyric video. The second new track to be released was "You Bring the Summer" written by Andy Partridge, which was debuted by DJ and Monkee-fan Iain Lee on his radio show on May 2, followed by it being made available by Rhino.(Personally my favorite sounds like what it is, a cross between XTC and the Monkees.)
Musicians on the album include Fountains of Wayne members Adam Schlesinger (guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, percussion), Jody Porter (guitar) and Brian Young (drums, percussion), as well as Mike Viola (guitar, bass, background vocals), and band members Micky Dolenz (vocals, drums), Michael Nesmith (vocals, guitar) and Peter Tork (vocals, keyboards, banjo).
The album brings elements that we love about music from the 1960s but it also brings the element of fresh and current sounds to the table, it's inspired and the songwriting is simply top notch.
Truly a contemporary pop music masterpiece! Kudos to all involved.

8). Under The Sun, Not For Pussies
 From the opening strains of "Ice Queen" a tale of transformation, acceptance, and redemption to the closing track "The Code", an epitaph of sorts for the loss of empathy and the rise of inhumanity on the cusp of the new year, this album is full of thoughtful lyricism and inspired musicianship. Not For Pussies is a duo from Perth that has a remarkable catalog of quality music that never fails to engage.
There is a unique style that pervades this, as well as their past albums. It's rock, it's heir to a great progressive tradition, but it's also ethereal and otherworldly. What I like best about their music is that it's not only intelligent, and well arranged but sublime and very personal. Something about the vocals and harmonies chosen brings a bit of the great Scottish folk traditions to the table as well. And the vocals themselves are lush and superbly executed by Jan Kidd. The instrumental tracks are layered and arranged delicately and artfully. This is a work that brings together ideas about our humanity, our myths and our modernity in collectives and as individuals. A must have album.

9.) Invisible Din, ESP
Tony Lowe and Mark Brzezicki may have released the BEST new music in progressive rock in years. From the opening song  “Overture” to the closing “Almost Seen” every piece is simply superb.
 The work is sometimes specular and reflective while also sometimes just purely jubilant. the incredibly melodic aspect shines through at every turn and like all music that I personally enjoy, it bears new insights with repeated listeningObviously the work of consummate professionals who have spent many long hours perfecting their craft. This is frankly the type of music that is sorely needed and generally not found much in today's world. Make every effort to hear this. Great work!
The album is written and produced by Tony Lowe who recently co-produced the ‘Starless Starlight‘ album by David Cross and Robert Fripp. Notable contributors are violist David Cross (King Crimson), the impeccable saxophone of David Jackson (Van der Graaf Generator), the bass artistry of Phil Spalding (Steve Hackett, Mike Oldfield, Simon Townsend), Acoustic guitars from Steve Gee (Landmarq), keyboards from John Young (Lifesigns), Pat Orchard, Alison Fleming, the pure and outstanding vocal work of John Beagley and electric harp from Yumi Hari. One of the best albums of 2016 and maybe of the decade.

Emily's D+ Evolution, Esperanza Spalding
"Good Lava," is the first track and it's also a mission statement. A beautifully dissonant guitar riff,   and the lurching time signature make it sound a bit like a dare to stick around. These are exuberant, confrontational songs, amplified in a sort of rock/funk/jazz informed hybrid style.
After winning a Grammy she took two years off feeling commercial pressures beginning to stunt her growth. On this outing she lets her alter ego speak to her more extroverted, creative side. Spalding sings through a muse named Emily (her middle name). Emily wants you to buck the system, to fight for peace and tranquility. She wants you to reconnect with your spiritual center, to avoid facades.  Recorded in front of a small studio audience in Los Angeles, you can almost see Spalding act out these songs as the band—comprised of guitarist and Christian Scott collaborator Matthew Stevens, producer/drummer Karriem Riggins, and others—create thick textures that provide plenty of space for her. People will likely call this art-rock or performance art, but D+Evolution advocates an almost indescribable ethos. The harmonic language remains rooted in jazz, but there are folk elements, prog, rock and funk elements... but like "Emily" herself, the music doesn’t seem to be "from" anywhere: It seems most concerned with establishing a space, and creating room for possibility. Even the more conventional songs like "One," "Noble Nobles" and "Unconditional Love" are expansive and rich.
There are traces of Bitches Brew, Captain Beefheart, and King Crimson in here. But not in an overt way. The best aesthetics have no zip code. And if there is an underlying theme here, it's one of  personal freedom.  Spalding shrugs at societal constraints, urging you to "live your life" on the chorus of "Funk the Fear" and shed preconceived notions of who you're supposed to be. On "One," she embraces emotion with bravo but uncertainty. The lyrics are a bit elusive at first, sprinting about behind fast-moving songs, delivered in impressionistic conversational bursts that have some common bonds with the delivery of Joni Mitchell. Listening to this wonderful album one senses a fearless generosity behind the proceedings, the message is loud and clear. Spalding has defined an already singular career, dictating a vision entirely on her own terms. And I for one am certainly thankful she has! This is one great album! You need this.

Honorable Mention - -

Car Seat Headrest - Teens Of DenialAn interesting punk outing that is highly ambitious work if nothing else. Not only is this album compelling in scope, it is frankly executed brilliantly. Teens Of Denial is something of a masterpiece. Epic in its vision, each track mumbles and roars with life, building monumental guitar noise and intricate, multi-layered wordplay before receding again to more ruminative shadows. It sounds at times like the ramblings of a madman others it's pure genius as a song suddenly (and repeatedly) careens in multiple directions depending on whatever thought or observation is being processed in the labyrinth of melodic seas.  Teens Of Denial is the kind of album future 20-somethings will obsess about if there is a god...or not.