Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Merrick Garland Never Sexually Assaulted A 15-Year Old Girl (Just Sayin')

Brett Kavanaugh was hand-picked by the Federalist Society to provide a fifth vote on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and protect Big Business from regulation and accountability.  His confirmation would cement a right wing majority for a generation or more and transform the country's legal landscape.  As the New York Times summarized in a recent editorial: "That means, for starters, making it harder for minorities to vote, for workers to bargain for better wages and conditions, for consumers to stand up to big business and for women to control what happens to their bodies. It also means making it easier for people to buy and sell weapons of mass killing, for lawmakers to green-light discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender Americans, for industries to pollute the environment with impunity, and for the wealthy to purchase even more political influence than they already have."

Elections, however, have consequences. The fact that the Republicans control the presidency and the Senate means that absent extraordinary circumstances they should be able to choose a justice who aligns with their policy preferences -- and Kavanaugh is as aligned as any potential justice could be.  Without more, liberals and progressives would be entitled to strenuously object and make their case to the American people but, in the end, the Republicans would get their man.

But there is so much more.

There are the unanswered questions about Kavanaugh's spending habits, his debts, and who paid off his debts or financed his lavish lifestyle.  As a recent Mother Jones article noted "no other recent Supreme Court nominee has come before the Senate with so many unanswered questions regarding finances."

There are his false and misleading statements during his sworn confirmation testimony about his involvement while in the Bush Administration in the vetting of particularly controversial judicial nominees, his knowledge of and reliance on confidential strategy memos regarding judicial nominees that were stolen from Democratic Senators, and the extent of his role in such fraught Bush-Cheney policies as torture and illegal wiretapping.  When the model of decorum-to-a-fault, Senator Patrick Leahy, says Kavanaugh was "not truthful," it means Kavanaugh must have been lying his ass off.

There is the fact that the President and Senate Republicans have expedited the hearing and suppressed tens of thousands of documents that have thwarted Democrats' ability to shed further light on Kavanaugh's tenure in the Bush White House.  Given the damning information that has been leaked, what explosive shit are they still hiding? 

Most recently, there are credible, corroborated allegations that when he was a 17-year old prep school student he sexually assaulted a 15-year old girl who, not surprisingly, was deeply traumatized by the experience. And while there are some who may believe that what one does as a 17-year old is inconsequential when considering their qualities as an adult, the lies of a 53-year old about his conduct when he was 17 is sure as hell relevant.

And, of course, there's Merrick Garland.  There is always Merrick Garland.

If Kavanaugh's nomination is not withdrawn despite all of the alarming questions and concerns about his nomination it is because Trump knows he needs him:  Kavanaugh's views on executive power suggest he does not believe a sitting president can be investigated much less indicted for criminal conduct.  As the Times points out, if confirmed, Kavanaugh "will be in a position to rule on any case involving Mr. Trump or his associates, a disturbing scenario even before you consider his alarmingly permissive views on presidential power and authority."  And that is the reason that makes him most unfit.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Quintessential Met

Baseball is filled with heartbreaking stories about potential superstars who never reach the promise that seems within their grasp.  The Mets have had their share.  Dwight Gooden was a sensation when he burst onto the scene at age 19 as a once-in-a-generation talent, but  injuries and substance abuse tragically derailed his career.  His teammate, Darryl Strawberry, also never lived up to his limitless potential.  Then there was the trio of can't miss pitchers dubbed Generation K in the mid-1990s --Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson -- who all suffered major arm injuries before they even got started.  More recently, Matt Harvey, another dynamic pitcher, dubbed the Dark Knight, has had his path to almost-certain greatness stalled by injuries before being unceremoniously shipped out of town.

David Wright is not exactly in this category.  If he never plays another game, Wright, now 35, will still be one of the greatest Met players of all time.  He is the career leader in pretty much every offensive category (except home runs in which he is 10 behind Darryl Strawberry).  But a series of injuries over the last several years have taken their toll on what could have been a Hall of Fame career.  

An article by sportswriter Matt Snyder plausibly claims that at age 30, Wright looked like he was on his way to the Hall of Fame.  At age 27, after six full seasons (2005-2010), he was a five-time All Star, with two Gold Gloves.  He, rather than Jimmy Rollins, arguably should have won the National League MVP in 2008 (he came in fourth in the voting).  Wright had two other top-ten MVP finishes in that span.  His career at that point was comparable to George Brett, Chipper Jones and Ron Santo -- three Hall of Fame third basemen -- when they were that age.  The following year, 2011, Wright suffered a stress fracture to his back, and missed two months of the season.  He rebounded in 2012, with another MVP-caliber season (finishing sixth in the voting) but hasn't had a full healthy season since.  Wright couldn't play at all last year and the two years before then he appeared in a total of 75 games.

As Snyder points out, through 2013, his age 30 season, Wright had pretty much maintained the great numbers he had been putting up throughout his career, with totals that included a .301 batting average, over 1500 hits, almost 250 doubles, 222 homers, 876 RBIs and 853 runs scored.  According to Snyder, with a relatively healthy next six-to-eight years, Wright likely would have amassed somewhere between 2500-3000 hits, 550 doubles, 350-400 home runs and 1500 RBIs and runs -- in other words, Hall of Fame numbers. Sadly, since then, he has either played hurt or was too hurt to play.

David Wright could have gone elsewhere after 2012, but remained loyal to the Mets, and signed a 7-year contract extension.  As a result, he is one of the few Met stars to have played his entire career with the team -- actually, with all due respect to Ed Kranepool, he is the only Met star to have played his entire career with the team.  In 2013, he was named team captain, and has been a steadfast presence with a remarkably positive outlook despite relentless setbacks to his recovery and generally disappointing play by his teammates.

With remarkable determination, Wright continues to try to overcome the back, neck and shoulder injuries that have plagued him, and as another dismal season is nearing its end, he is hoping to take the field with the team either for a well-deserved swan song or perhaps as a stepping-stone to a more expansive comeback next year.  He played in some rehab games before the end of the minor league season and is playing in simulated games now, but it remains unclear whether he will be activated.  Management's reluctance to let him play is, as so many of their decisions, simply baffling.  Given the aging veterans with diminished skills that the Mets keep trotting out there, most  notably Wright's former co-star a decade ago, Jose Reyes, it makes no sense that they would not welcome Wright enthusiastically.  Cynical fans like me assume that the team's benefits from Wright's insurance policy are playing an oversized role in whether or not to activate him. 

Wright's career has spanned a period of hope and failure all too familiar to Met fans.  The devastating loss to the Cardinals in Game #7 of the 2006 playoffs, the two historic collapses to miss the playoffs the next two years (despite his stellar play), followed by six straight losing seasons and then a World Series appearance in 2015, which the team squandered, losing in 5 games.  Wright couldn't play at all these last two years and neither, it seemed, could the Mets.

So much of David Wrights' baseball career -- the injuries, the team's awful play and ownership's problematic decisions -- have been out of his control.  Here's hoping that he ends his career on his own terms.  He deserves it.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Democrats Apologize While Republicans Destroy Democracy

Senate Republicans are rushing ahead to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to be the next Supreme Court Justice without allowing Democrats -- or the American people -- to know the content of hundreds of thousands of documents from Kavanaugh's time as White House staff secretary in the Bush Administration.  These documents could shed light on any number of critical issues, including the extent of his involvement in crafting the Bush-Cheney policy on torture and whether he lied to Congress during his earlier confirmation hearing for appellate judge about how involved he really was.  The Republicans stole one Supreme Court seat by refusing to hold any hearing for President Obama's nominee Merrick Garland, and are about to snag another by refusing to hold a meaningful one.

What is almost equally outrageous is that Democrats are going to participate as if Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings will be anything but a charade.  They will earnestly ask their questions, make deeply felt pronouncements, and vote "no" while the Republicans secure another far right wing justice after again making a mockery of Congress' advise and consent role.  Just as when Garland was hung out to dry and Neil Gorsuch was subsequently nominated by Trump, Senate Democrats seem incapable of thinking creatively or acting aggressively to stop or at least resist the radical takeover of the judiciary.

In the run up to the hearings, when Democrats should have been using every procedural and rhetorical tool at their disposal to challenge the Republicans and throw sand in the gears of Senate business (e.g., withholding unanimous consent, quorum calls), they negotiated a deal to fast track judicial nominees so that they could get back on the campaign trail.  And they appeared on the Sunday TV news shows to apologize for doing away with the filibuster for lower court nominees when they were in the majority as if that would have deterred Republicans from doing away with the filibuster for the Supreme Court which now gives them the ability to confirm with a bare majority.

Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar actually expressed regret for her vote to end the filibuster.  Not that Democrats reluctantly voted to eliminate the filibuster only after the Republican's unprecedented obstruction culminated in stopping Obama's three nominations to the D.C. Circuit based on the specious argument that Obama was engaged in "court packing" when he was merely seeking to fill existing vacancies.  (See Using The Filibuster As A Weapon Of Mass Destruction)  Not that Republicans abused the "blue slip" tradition that allowed a home-state Senator to thwart Obama nominees by withholding consent, and then eliminated the blue slip tradition when they came into the majority.   (See Senator Leahy Can Go Fuck Himself) Not Merrick Fucking Garland.

A New York Times editorial cogently explained how Kavanaugh's fifth vote on the Court would transform the country's legal landscape:
That means, for starters, making it harder for minorities to vote, for workers to bargain for better wages and conditions, for consumers to stand up to big business and for women to control what happens to their bodies. It also means making it easier for people to buy and sell weapons of mass killing, for lawmakers to green-light discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender Americans, for industries to pollute the environment with impunity, and for the wealthy to purchase even more political influence than they already have.
And then there's the fact that a president has nominated a justice for the Supreme Court while under investigation -- while there is a cancer on the presidency -- and one who, as the Times points out "will be in a position to rule on any case involving Mr. Trump or his associates, a disturbing scenario even before you consider his alarmingly permissive views on presidential power and authority."

The weekend before Republicans are going to push through such a Supreme Court nominee without allowing him to be questioned on his record, the message from Democrats is that this is at least partially their own fault for not being nicer when they were in power.

Admittedly, Democrats don't have a whole lot of options at this point but for fuck's sake, they should not be conceding the "both sides do it" bullshit that Republicans have been using as a justification for shredding long-standing rules and traditional norms in order to take over the judicial branch since Robert Bork.

This is not the time for civility.  It is a time for resistance.  And Senate Democrats need to demonstrate that they are up for the fight.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

A Drumpf Lib

The malevolent orange __________ continues to degrade the office of the presidency.  Rather than reading his briefing memos and relying on the intelligence agencies at his disposal, he has tweeted a bogus conspiracy theory he heard about on Fox & Friends early this morning regarding __________.

Then in a series of rage-tweets during his Executive Time, he redoubled his efforts to undermine and obstruct the Special Counsel's Russia investigation by recklessly impugning the integrity of an FBI/DOJ employee named __________, disparaging the investigation as nothing more than a _________, demanding that the government instead investigate ___________ -- although that Fox-inspired nonsense has already been debunked -- and demanding prosecution of his political enemies, including __________, __________, and Hillary Clinton.

In a campaign rally/jamboree/cult gathering in __________, he once again decried the mainstream media as the enemy of the people for failing to uncritically praise him for doing __________, which it turns out was not at all what he actually did.  He lied about __________.  He claimed that liberals were _________ and that __________ was going to happen if they won the mid-terms, which sounded very much like a threat to end civil society.  And he spewed terms such as __________ and __________, which were dog whistles that racists understood loud and clear.  In the process, he roused the crowd into chanting __________. 

Meanwhile, new reports surfaced about __________, demonstrating again how Trump and his family continue to profit from the presidency and how his failure to disengage from his financial empire has created debilitating conflicts of interest. He still refuses to disclose his federal tax returns and Congress has declined to demand them.

Another cabinet member/administration official, __________, has been accused of  __________, a grossly unethical practice that should -- but won't -- result in his/her dismissal.  While another business associate/lackey, ___________, has reached a plea/immunity deal.

Remarkably, __________also happened today, which under any other administration would be a front page scandal but barely receives any attention now.

As developments with the Special Counsel investigation provide tantalizing new clues about __________, Trump reportedly contemplates shutting it down by firing __________.   Despite such reports, the Republicans still refuse to take any steps to shield Mueller from a Nixon-inspired Saturday Night Massacre.

Indeed, the GOP is nothing more than a craven bunch of Vichy Republicans who have willfully failed to be a check on the presidency, refusing to investigate __________, __________, __________,  much less criticize Trump over __________.

Meanwhile, the Democrats tepid response is dispiriting.

But the unprecedented corruption and abuse of power emanating from the White House every day, together with the new spate of bold, energized candidates, including __________ and __________ will hopefully stir everyone to the left of the deplorable right to work towards ensuring a Blue Wave in November.  Otherwise we're __________ed.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Only The Mid-Terms, Not Mueller, Will Save Us

What will happen if the Republicans retain the House and Senate in November -- if some combination of gerrymandering, voter suppression, race baiting, third-party malfeasance, media fail and voter apathy suppresses the Blue Wave?  It is unthinkable, but let's think about it anyway.  Trump would feel vindicated and emboldened to double or triple down on his authoritarian white nationalist agenda, punish his political enemies, pardon his friends, and continue to degrade the office of the presidency through corruption and abuse of power. 

The Senate would continue to confirm right wing, Trump-friendly judges at an unprecedented rate.  Meanwhile, the Special Counsel's investigation would be shut down or muzzled. Indeed, two key Senators -- Lindsay Graham and Charles Grassley -- have already strongly signaled that they would welcome Trump's firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  Sessions, of course, recused himself from the Russian investigation after it became clear he had lied during his Senate confirmation hearings about his own Russian contacts.  To his credit, it appears that he has not attempted to insulate the president from the investigation which was why he was appointed in the first place.  A new AG or an interim one would not be so constrained.

But even assuming Mueller survives unscathed and wraps up his investigation, a hostile AG and a supine Congress could keep the report bottled up, in whole or in part.  We may never see the evidence, findings or conclusions of the investigation.

In any event, there is already a consensus that a sitting president cannot be indicted and that a president's removal or other sanction can only come from Congress. So, if we are all waiting for Mueller to provide the explosive report that would lead to Trump's removal, it is not going to happen unless Democrats control Congress and do some work on their own. 

If the Democrats do take back at least the House -- and if they are willing to use their power to launch aggressive investigations of Trump's corruption and abuse of power (I know, that's a big "if"), then all bets are off.  And I'm not talking about impeachment -- yet -- which would require not just a majority of the House to impeach, but 2/3 of the Senate to convict.  First let's get the evidence and see what where it takes us.  Maybe, ultimately, impeachment.  Maybe the facts will be so damning and the liability to Trump, his family and his businesses so serious that he would resign -- take his ball and go home with some self-deluded justification that he and his cult could get behind.

Paul Waldman
provides a handy list of what a Democratic House could do:
  • Use their control of the Ways and Means Committee to obtain and release Trump’s tax returns so that we finally learn what he has been hiding.
  • Hold hearings on the ways Trump is personally profiting off the presidency and potentially violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause.
  • Mount a serious, comprehensive investigation into the Russian attack on the 2016 election and the Trump campaign’s cooperation with that attack.
  • Investigate accusations of wrongdoing that have been leveled at Cabinet officials such as Wilbur Ross and Ryan Zinke.
  • Demand answers from the administration on the decision-making process and effects of controversial administration policies, such as adding a citizenship question to the census, relaxing rules for power plant emissions, making it easier for private “universities” to scam students, and tearing children from their parents’ arms at the border.
And Frank Rich paints the picture of what it would look like:
Nonstop congressional investigations will attempt to illuminate every dark corner of an administration in which the kleptocracy extends from the Trump family to most Cabinet departments. Those close to Trump, both in his family and in his immediate circle, will fear for their futures, both legally and financially. The GOP and the Trump Organization alike will be on the ropes, and in full panic. This is evident from the wrongdoing already apparent — indeed, already the subject of indictments and guilty pleas.
But this can only happen if Democrats regain Congress.  So while we wait for more of Trump's former cronies to make immunity or plea deals, for more indictments and prosecutions, for the drip, drip, drip of tantalizing facts that hint at the depths of Trump's corruption and depravity, and for Mueller's next steps, we need to do what we can do -- work on ensuring the Democrats win in November.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Dear Democratic Senator: Slow It Down If You Can't Shut It Down


I sent the following letter to my Democratic Senators in California:

First, I want to thank you for taking such a strong, principled stand in opposing Judge Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court.  I appreciate that in addition to opposing him for his outside-the-mainstream views on abortion, civil rights, workers' rights, environmental regulation and health care, you have articulated why his views on executive power should disqualify him in light of the ongoing investigation of the president.  Indeed, it would be outrageous for the president to be permitted to choose a justice who could be a critical vote on issues relevant to his own liability and that of his family and his associates.  In addition, it is beyond comprehension that a meaningful confirmation hearing could be held without essential documents that could shed light on Kavanaugh's work while in the Bush Administration on such fraught issues as torture and wiretapping -- and on whether Kavanaugh was truthful when he minimized his involvement with these matters in sworn testimony during his prior confirmation hearing for the federal bench.  So thank you.  

I am also writing out of concern that Democratic leadership may cut a deal that would permit the quick confirmation of a number of federal judges in order allow Senators running for re-election in the midterms to hit the campaign trail.  Given the pending Russia investigation, Trump's alleged involvement in violating campaign finance laws that essentially make him an unindicted co-conspirator, and the almost daily revelations of scandal and corruption, Democrats must vigorously oppose all lifetime appointments until these matters are resolved.  The Republican rush to confirm a record number of federal judges before the midterms has already proven disastrous for the judiciary, and it is far past time that you and your Democratic colleagues use every possible procedural move to slow it down if you can’t shut it down.  At the very minimum, no deals should be struck with Republicans who -- from obstructing President Obama’s nominations (including, but not limited to, Merrick Garland) to ignoring time-honored blue slips in order to advance Trump’s nominations to rubber-stamping extreme right wing Federalist Society recommendations -- have been shredding Congressional norms and Constitutional checks that have previously ensured at least a modicum of integrity and fairness in our government. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Republican Reform

I have never voted Democrat in a Federal election in my life  ...  This year, for the first time, I will vote for a Democrat candidate in a Federal election ... I will do so for two reasons: First, I want to increase the nationwide total of Democratic votes. The greater the total, the greater the rebuke to the bankrupt Republican party and to the malignancy of Trumpism.  Second, and more importantly, the Nunes tape demonstrates clearly what most of us have all-too-sadly known for a long time. The Republicans in Congress have abdicated their role as a coordinate branch of government. They have forgone the responsibility of acting as a check on authoritarianism. They have sold their soul for policy success at the expense of the nation. Nunes is simply the most obvious, corrupt example thereof. They have no claim to any moral authority any longer.  They are only enablers of Trumpism and should be turned out of office. That's why, for the first time in my life, I will cast a Democratic vote this November. I urge all of my Republican friends who retain a view of country over party to do the same.
-- Paul Rosenzweig
I enthusiastically welcome my former high school classmate, the highly esteemed Paul Rosenzweig, and a growing number of other Republicans who have not lost, or are rebooting, their soul, and are strongly disavowing Trump and his craven Republican enablers in Congress.  Along with an energized progressive base, we need them, and should encourage them to urge other like-minded, non-deplorable Republicans to support Democrats in the mid-terms and beyond. So even those (not Paul) who are monetizing their revelatory change of heart by writing and selling books about what progressives have known all along, I say "welcome" with open arms.

And so it is in that spirit of good fellowship and common cause that I will not confront them with the fact that Republicans have been exploiting race, xenophobia and divisive social issues well before Trump.  (See, e.g., Nixon/Pat Buchanan's Southern Strategy; Reagan's Philadelphia, Mississippi/Welfare Queen Strategy; Bush I/Lee Atwater's Willie Horton Strategy; Sarah Palin's Tea Party Strategy)  They have been shredding the Constitution since Watergate.  (See also Reagan/Bush I Iran Contra Scandal; Bush II/Cheney Torture)  They have been lying about economic policy to justify tax cuts for the wealthy since Reagan (See, e.g., Laffer Curve).  I'm not going to talk about this uncomfortable history because there is no need to shame these well-meaning people who are truly showing great integrity by publicly coming forward when it would be easier to remain quiet.

But I do want to bring up one aspect of the Republican agenda that pre-dated the rise of Trump but on which he is eagerly capitalizing -- the outright theft of the Supreme Court (and the federal judiciary, more generally). I don't recall hearing any prominent Republicans speak out when Merrick Garland was denied even a hearing after President Obama nominated him to the Supreme Court?  Or when Neil Gorsuch was confirmed instead, after the Election and after the Republicans eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.  And now Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh who, if confirmed, will, thanks to the Gorsuch for Garland maneuver, cement a hard-right majority on the Supreme Court.  For the anti-Trump Republicans who are otherwise fine with an ultra-conservative court in principle, do the ends justify these means?  And what about the fact that Trump is choosing a justice who is likely to consider issues involving the Special Counsel's investigation of Trump, his Administration and/or his family?  And what about the push by the Republican-controlled Senate for a confirmation hearing without the release of records that could shed light on Judge Kavanaugh's role at the Bush White House -- particularly as it pertains to the internal debate over the use of torture?  (My friend Paul has penned a piece supporting Kavanaugh -- a former colleague from their Kenneth Starr days -- that elides these issues.)

I applaud and appreciate the embrace by formerly stalwart Republicans of "country over party," and their recognition that Democratic control of Congress is essential to checking Trump's authoritarianism.  If that is as far as you can go, that's OK.  We are truly happy to have you.  But I urge you to consider how Trump and his co-conspirators in the Senate are undermining the integrity of the judiciary.  That's worth fighting against too.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Whither The Deplorables

Let's assume that Michael Cohen will testify that Trump was aware of and approved ahead of time the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting where his son and other campaign officials met with a Russian operative to obtain dirt on Hillary Clinton.  Let's further assume that his testimony can credibly be corroborated by others.  This would mean that Trump conspired with a foreign government to win the presidency, lied about it and, as we already know, tried to cover it up by dictating an exculpatory but untrue statement about that meeting's purpose.  Game, set, match.  Or as a White House lawyer put it during Watergate after learning of a smoking gun-type revelation from a taped conversation in the Oval Office, "that's the ball game."  Right?

The problem, of course, is that almost half the country is watching a different ball game.  The one where the fans are not at all bothered by Trump's racism, authoritarianism, corruption or, as it turns out, his treasonous conduct.  They will either deny the truth or justify it or say it doesn't matter.  This includes the Republicans in Congress as well as the roughly 40% of the population that provide him with unconditional support -- roughly the same percentage, by the way, that doesn't believe in evolution.  Just sayin'.

Frank Rich wrote a compelling piece last year about "the remarkable staying power of the American voters" who support right wing demagogues and put people like Donald Trump in office.  He notes the many parallels between Trump's campaign and the racist, nationalist and populist appeal of George Wallace, and how Wallace, after a failed attempt as a third-party candidate in 1968, actually posed a serious challenge for the Democratic nomination in 1972, until he was shot while on the campaign trail.  As Rich points out, Wallace’s supporters (ultimately co-opted by Nixon) were driven “by their authoritarianism, feelings of political powerlessness, and racial prejudice.”  Sound familiar? 

Trump has given these people a voice.  And, in return, they have given him their undying loyalty.  So what happens when Mueller provides irrefutable evidence of corruption, abuse of power and conspiring with the enemy?  We already know the Republican Party will do nothing beyond a few  tweets expressing their concern -- they are so in the tank for Trump and have been so willing to put party over country that it is folly to think that anything Mueller finds will be enough for them to actually act. 

So, of course, Democrats must take back the House and maybe even the Senate to restore some semblance of democracy to at least one branch of the government.  And then perhaps, finally, an investigation with subpoena power, bolstered by Mueller's findings, can be undertaken that hopefully won't be thwarted by Trump-nominated judges. But then what?

Trump has thoroughly degraded our democracy with his constant lying, the commingling of his personal, family and business interests with those of the government, his relentless attacks on legitimate media, and his aggressive efforts to undermine the Russia investigation.  He has created a cult of personality for a wide enough swath of the country that his demise -- whether by being frog-marched out of the White House or by failing to win re-election -- will be seen as the product of a "witch hunt" or a "rigged" political process.  Or, worse, the work of the Clintons.  Will they accept it peacefully?  Or will they take to the streets with their guns and tiki torches? 

There has long been an assumption that our government, our democracy is strong enough to withstand bad electoral choices, that there is a pendulum that will swing back from the brink of disaster.  After all, we survived Nixon and Reagan and Bush II.  Will we survive Trump?

Thursday, June 28, 2018

No New Supreme Court Justice While There Remains A Cancer On The Presidency


There are plenty of compelling reasons why the Senate should refuse to act on whoever Trump nominates to replace Justice Kennedy on the Supreme Court.  Of course, there is the fact that the Republicans stole outright the last Supreme Court seat by refusing to even hold hearings for President Obama's nominee.  There is the need to confront their hypocrisy in using as a pretense for such obstruction that the confirmation process should not be held in an election year.   And there is the grave concern that anyone Trump  nominates will, based on the list he has already provided, cement a far right wing majority for a generation or more and send us hurtling back to the dark ages.

These issues have predominated the discourse since Kennedy announced his decision to pack it in.  What has mostly been missing from the various talking points, particularly those of the Democratic leadership, is how inappropriate it would be for a president to nominate a Supreme Court justice while under investigation for cooperating with a foreign power that helped get him elected. 

At the end of January 1973, a month into Richard Nixon's second term in office, two officials of his re-election committee (CREEP) were found guilty of conspiracy, burglary and bugging the Democratic Party’s headquarters at the Watergate office complex.  Others had already pleaded guilty.  A week later, in early February, the Senate established a Select Committee to investigate what had become a full-blown scandal. Nixon's top aides, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman resigned in April, and the Senate's televised hearings began in May.  The rest is history. 

There would not be a Supreme Court vacancy during Nixon's truncated second term and so the issue of confirming a Supreme Court justice during this constitutional crisis never came up.  But imagine if it had.  Do you think there is even the remotest possibility that the Senate would have simply gone ahead and held confirmation hearings as if there weren't "a cancer on the presidency," as Nixon's former counsel John Dean put it? 

Well the cancer has returned and under this presidency it has metastasized.  There have been Saturday night massacre-type firings, recusals, indictments, guilty pleas and Congressional hearings.  There is already enough evidence in the public sphere to establish Trump campaign officials' connections to Russian efforts to throw the election to Trump as well as Trump's own attempts to obstruct the investigation into those connections.

If it is true that Trump cooperated with Russia's election meddling or that Russia succeeded in obtaining some form of kompramat giving them some power over Trump, then everything he does as president is devoid of legitimacy.  And that certainly includes selecting a justice to serve a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. Shouldn't we at least wait to see the results of Special Counsel Mueller's investigation before moving forward on what may be a nominee from an illegitimate president?

But even more than this, the Supreme Court will likely soon have on its docket cases brought by Trump and members of his Administration that directly relate to the Mueller investigation.  Issues likely to appear before the Court include whether a sitting president can be indicted, whether a president can be forced to testify, whether a president can pardon himself.  Since whoever he picks to sit on the Court would play such a critical role in deciding these and other potential issues directly impacting his liability, Trump has a debilitating conflict of interest in choosing a nominee.

Democrats need to focus less on trying to shame Majority Leader McConnell for his hypocritical power plays because he can't be shamed.  And, in any event, this isn't merely about Senatorial gamesmanship but about fundamental democratic principles.

The sad reality, however, regardless of whether we are talking about the nomination in terms of abuse of power or Republican hypocrisy and obstruction, is that elections matter -- even those tainted by Russian interference and Trump collusion.  Republicans hold a 51-49 majority (with Pence as a tie-breaker), which means the Democrats need to not only keep their members unified but convince two Republicans to cross over and oppose a Trump nominee.  This means making sure those conservative Democrats running for re-election in red states understand that they will need the support of their base, and particularly Democratic women who support Roe v. Wade, and they will lose it if they play along with the Republicans on this nomination.  And it means pressuring Senators Collins and Murkowski, two women who purportedly support a woman's right to choose, to put their votes where their principles are.

We also must demand that Democrats throw sand in the gears of the Senate to hamper the Republican's rush to confirm a nomination before the mid-terms.  They must use whatever procedural and technical tools at their disposal to shut down or at least slow down Senate business, including refusing unanimous consent that typically expedites hearings and exploiting rules that encourage free and open debate.  It is far past time for the Democrats to abandon their crazy-making deference to civility and norms.  They need to emulate Maxine Waters, not shun her.

This Supreme Court vacancy presents a key opportunity to mobilize voters and frame the issues in advance of the midterms.  (You know Republicans will be doing the same with their anti-choice base.)  I can think of no better way to deflate the passion and energy of liberals and progressives than to witness another tepid response by establishment Democrats to the incessant and dire threats to our democracy.  Even if this is ultimately a losing battle, it is one badly worth fighting for.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

This Is Not Normal: Democrats Must #Shut It Down

The Democrats in Congress continue to go about the business of governing as a respectful minority party.  They express concern about the degradation of our politics, ask pointed questions at confirmation hearings of horrific nominees who are ultimately confirmed, mostly vote "no" when votes come up on awful legislative proposals that ultimately pass, and otherwise comport themselves with dignity.  In other words, business as usual.

But nothing about the current state of affairs is usual.  We have a president who has installed a veritable kleptocracy at the White House.  He is running the executive branch as if he were the head of a crime family -- which he is.  Failing to untangle himself from his many business entanglements, every policy decision is rife with conflicts or potential conflicts of interest.  Was his sudden decision to ease sanctions on Chinese telecommunications company ZTE payback for the Chinese government's $500 million investment in a Trump Organization venture in Indonesia or just another coincidence?  There are so many coincidences because, from Qatar to the Philippines, there are so many business deals or attempted deals between the Trump family and foreign governments -- deals that are not only enriching the Trumps but appear to be impacting foreign policy.   (See Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About The Emoluments Clause But Were Afraid To Ask)

Speaking of his businesses, The Washington Post recently published a report, "As the ‘King of Debt,’ Trump borrowed to build his empire. Then he began spending hundreds of millions in cash" which takes a deep dive into the Trump Organization's real estate holdings -- a business Trump remains involved in -- and strongly suggests they were funded not through borrowing but through money laundering.

And we still don't have his federal tax returns.

And then there's his consigliere, Michael Cohen.  The latest revelations detail various entities including Russian oligarchs and major U.S. companies making payments through a shell company set up by Cohen which was used to pay hush money to at least one adult film actress.  As The New Yorker's Amy Davidson Sorkin put it, "this all starts to sound pretty much like the textbook definition of a slush fund."  Such arrangements raise questions not only about legality but, more relevant to U.S. security concerns, whether Trump's unsavory conduct has opened him up to blackmail.

And how about the cascade of sleaze that has infiltrated just about every cabinet official and agency head.  Scott Pruitt, the EPA's Administrator, personifies the degradation that is well underway:  grossly unethical and scandal-driven while laser-focused on destroying our resources.

The level of corruption is unparalleled in modern American politics.  And we haven't even begun to talk about the myriad connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, including, of course, Donald Jr.'s fateful meeting with a Russian agent in which he expressed eagerness to obtain negative information about Hillary Clinton.  Or Trump's clumsy, but nevertheless inappropriate and likely illegal efforts to obstruct the investigation that he characterizes as "fighting back."

Meanwhile, the Senate is on the verge of confirming -- with Democratic votes -- a CIA director who engaged in torture and destroyed evidence of torture -- a vote Senate Republicans will allow to take place despite the absence of critical information about the nominee's role because it has been deemed classified.  After stealing a Supreme Court seat, the Senate continues to confirm in record numbers extreme right wing judges to lifetime appointments, rejecting Senatorial courtesy that Democrats (foolishly) afforded Republicans when they were in the majority.   (See Senator Leahy Can Go Fuck Himself)  And on and on.

The Democrats are the minority party in both Houses and so they have limited opportunities to directly thwart the Administration and its Republican enablers.  But that doesn't mean they should not take every opportunity to remind the public that THIS IS NOT NORMAL.

The media and mainstream pundits appear to be focused on whether it is prudent for Democrats to talk about impeachment as an electoral strategy going into the mid-terms -- and whether it would be better for Democrats to focus on economic issues that will resonate with a wider swath of voters.  But there is no reason why Democrats can't campaign on policy issues (which they have been doing) while also stressing how Trump's rampant corruption and unmitigated ignorance has undermined those policies -- from affordable health care to  immigration to the environment.

Brian Beutler is exactly right that while Democrats do not need to commit to impeachment, "[t]heir refusal to acknowledge Trump’s basic incompatibility with high office is instead normalizing the idea that corrupt businessmen can use the presidency to enrich themselves at the expense of the public."
It is completely reasonable for Democrats to weigh the political costs of acknowledging or dwelling on Trump’s obvious unfitness for office. But it’s also a mistake in both the near and long term to pretend the obvious doesn’t exist. It’s a dangerous thing—for people and for the institutions that make the country governable—that Trump is president. The fact that he won’t divest himself from his businesses, won’t stop mingling his public duties and his financial interests, and also won’t say whom he owes money to, or who could otherwise ruin him financially, is an affront to all citizens, and a national security emergency. Democrats will have the power to reduce these harms, and pressure the president to get his interests and the public interest aligned, if they control at least one chamber of Congress. Whether that leads to impeachment or not, it’s a better argument than the Republican appeal that Republicans must keep Congress so that Trump can continue to be historically corrupt and conflicted without oversight.
During a presidential debate in 1988, Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis was asked by moderator Bernard Shaw if his wife were to be been raped and murdered whether he would favor the death penalty for the killer.  It was an outrageous question that demanded a passionate response.  We all know what happened.  Dukakis calmly, rationally responded: "No, I don't, Bernard.  And I think you know that I've opposed the death penalty during all of my life."  And so he lost the debate and perhaps the presidency.

The Democrats' response to Trump and the GOP's utter disregard for ethics and norms of democratic governance remind me of a tepid, eminently reasonable Michael Dukakis -- calm, rational, policy-driven.  No sense of outrage.  No indication that the pillars of democracy are being dangerously whittled away.

Enough.

Between now and the mid-terms, the Democratic Party must eschew tradition and courtesy, and throw sand in the gears -- not as an electoral strategy but as a matter of principle.  They must use every technicality and procedural rule from objecting to unanimous consent requests to forcing roll call votes on every matter.  They must slow down government business to a crawl. They should take advantage of the Senate’s rules encouraging free and open debate to skewer Republicans for their refusal to hold their leader accountable, and flood the floor with speeches. They may not be able to shut it down completely, but they can't pretend that this is normal.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Passover And The Plague Of Trump

Three thousand years of beautiful tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax.  -- The Big Lebowski
Passover is a celebration of the liberation of the Jewish people from Egypt three thousand years ago. We've been telling and re-telling the story ever since -- and it continues to resonate with us because, as Jews do, we ask questions, and then struggle to answer them as we try to connect the ancient story to our lives, our experiences and the society we live in today. Critically, our story is a universal story of liberation that not only reminds us that Jews were not always free but challenges us to recognize that others here and throughout the world have also suffered from and continue to struggle against oppression in its many forms.  This is their story too.

Some like Schmuel Rosen, who wrote an op-ed in the New York Times last year, believe that the Passover Seder shouldn't be politicized -- that bringing contemporary politics into the mix of ritual and tradition trivializes this sacred festival.  But I don't see how we can meaningfully celebrate our story of freedom and redemption without reflecting on today's impediments to social justice. 

As Jonathan Chait pointed out, "this would not be such a problem if the sitting president did not bear such an uncanny resemblance to a villain from a traditional Jewish narrative. Like the Pharaoh, Trump is a builder fond of exploitative labor practices and an arch-nationalist, with a nasty habit of making deals then welching on his side of the bargain."   

Trump is a plague on this country and on the world.  He rose to political power by promoting a racist lie about President Obama and then scapegoating and demonizing Mexicans and Muslims.  He continues to exploit our Nation's darkest and most racist tendencies, inspiring and encouraging white nationalists and anti-Semites.  He has unleashed the Justice Department on undocumented immigrants, breaking up families and sweeping up hard-working, law-abiding, long-standing residents.  In short, he is pursuing policies that cause fear and hardship to the most marginalized and vulnerable in our society.

If Passover isn't a time for speaking out against injustice and calling out today's tyrants and their enablers, then, to paraphrase that great Jewish scholar Alvy Singer, "what's the point?"

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Great Orange

The Mets have made a lot of disastrous trades over their ignominious history.  Fans can cite the familiar litany that includes trading Nolan Ryan for a washed up Jim Fregosi; Amos Otis for a never-was Joe Foy and, of course, Tom Seaver for spite.  One of their worst trades that does not often get discussed is Rusty Staub for an over-the-hill Mickey Lolich in 1976.  Rusty was a beloved member of the Mets -- a key part of the 1973 World Series team despite a shoulder injury that forced him to pathetically flip the ball underhand from the outfield while hitting over .400 for the Series.  In 1974, he was the Mets' best hitter (admittedly, not saying much) and in 1975, Rusty became the first Met to knock in more than 100 RBIs.  He was only 31 years old when the Mets traded him to the Tigers.  Not sure what they were thinking.  In return, the Mets got Lolich, a star pitcher for the Tigers in 1968 but more recently had lost 18 games in 1975 -- and lost 21 the year before that.  And not  to fat-shame him or anything, but when Mickey came to the Mets he was shall we say, somewhat rotund.

After Lolich lost 13 games for the Mets in 1976, he returned to Detroit where he opened a donut shop.  (Not kidding.)  Meanwhile, Rusty had three great seasons with the Tigers, including an All Star appearance (his sixth trip to the All Star game) and he came in fifth in the MVP voting in 1978 (the aforementioned Amos Otis came in fourth).

Luckily Rusty came back to the Mets, signing as a free agent in 1981 and stayed until 1985.  Rusty continued to hit -- he could always hit, no matter how hurt he was or how old he got -- and in his last few seasons, became one of the best pinch hitters in baseball.  When he hit a home run in 1984, he became the second player in history (Ty Cobb was the other) to have hit a home run in his teens and in his forties (Gary Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez have since done the same and are now a part of this excellent trivia question)

Before the Mets acquired him in 1972, Rusty was an original Montreal Expo, their first star and huge fan favorite. He was given the moniker, Le Grande Orange because of the color of his hair.  (Before that he was a star with the Houston Astros.)

 Rusty was loved by fans and teammates wherever he went.  After he retired he opened a couple of pretty good restaurants in New York, called Rusty's.  More significant has been his charitable works, including raising millions for families of policemen and firefighters killed in the line of duty.

The vulgar talking yam in the White House has given orange a really bad connotation but here's to one who made it special.  RIP Rusty.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Time Begins On Opening Day

You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.  -- Jim Bouton
Thomas Boswell, the long-time sportswriter for the Washington Post, wrote a timeless piece collected in a book of the same name, Why Time Begins On Opening Day, published in 1984.  Boswell muses on the "resolute grasp" that baseball maintains for so many of us" and why our "affection for the game has held steady for decades, maybe even grown with age."  He asks what baseball is doing among our other "first-rate passions."  And, indeed, when one looks over the posts on this blog, it could seem incongruous to have baseball pieces interrupting the rants on politics and pleas for social justice. 

Boswell explains that "in contrast to the unwieldy world which we hold in common, baseball offers a kingdom built to human scale.  Its problems and questions are exactly our size.  Here we may come when we feel a need for a rooted point of reference."  It is not that baseball is an escape from reality, "it's merely one of our many refuges within the real where we try to create a sense of order on our own terms." 

This refuge has never seemed more urgent than this season. What Boswell wrote more than thirty years ago speaks volumes today:  "Born to an age where horror has become commonplace, where tragedy has, by its monotonous repetition, become a parody of sorrow, we need to fence off a few parks where humans try to be fair, where skill has some hope of reward, where absurdity has a harder time than usual getting a ticket."

As Boswell points out, baseball "offers us pleasure and insight at so many levels and in so many forms."  There is history -- an "annual chapter each year since 1869."  At the ballpark itself there is "living theater and physical poetry."  And perhaps, "baseball gives us more pleasure, more gentle unobtrusive sustenance, away from the park than it does inside it," pouring over box scores, crunching statistics, debating players and teams with our cohorts, and watching games and highlights on tv.  "The ways that baseball insinuates itself into the empty corner, cheering up the odd hour, are almost too ingrained to notice."

Opening day is just about here.  Play ball!

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Monday, March 26, 2018

Streamin' Jazz

(Originally posted 8/22/17; updated in italics on 3/26/18)

Being somewhat of a late adopter, a couple of weeks ago I finally signed up for a music streaming service that, lo and behold, gives me access to just about all the music I could ever hope to listen to.  What I've quickly learned is that I am more of an albums guy than a playlist guy.  Also, I don't like to shuffle songs but prefer to listen to an album in the order the artist/producer intended.  Most interesting, at least for me, is where I chose to go first -- the dozen musicians that form the core of my jazz listening pleasure. 

When I started this blog about seven years ago, I began profiling some of my favorite jazz albums from different artists that ultimately comprised an idiosyncratic Top 50.  It wasn't meant to be a definitive or comprehensive list; my choices often depended on what I was listening to that week.  It included some unsung musicians (so to speak) while omitting more seminal ones.  I also included only one album per artist even though there were often multiple albums in an artist's oeuvre that deserved greater attention.

Below, I've taken a different tack, having started from scratch with practically the entire universe of mainstream jazz recordings. These are the artists and albums I decided to save/download to build the foundation of my new virtual jazz library.  In some instances I've eschewed the more familiar, arguably superior, recordings of a given musician and gone instead with some of their less renown work -- sometimes this includes albums I've never heard before like Cannonball Adderley's Fiddler on the Roof -- how'd I miss that one?  Oh, and I've also included Frank Sinatra even though he isn't technically a jazz musician because, well, he's Frank Sinatra.

1)  John Coltrane.  The Atlantic Studio Recordings (including Bags & Trane (1959), Giant Steps (1960), Plays the Blues (1960), Ole Coltrane (1961), My Favorite Things (1961), Coltrane Jazz (1961), and Coltrane's Sound (1964)).  It is unfathomable how brilliant and prolific Coltrane was during this brief period, with many of these albums recorded at the same sessions in late 1960.  After that, I decided to go backwards, instead of forward, adding three gems, Blue Train (1957) and two from 1958, Lush Life and Soultrane.  And how could I not include Love Supreme (1965)And to make this an even dozen, there's the wonderful album he did with vocalist Johnny Hartman (1963).  I could quit now and have a pretty satisfying jazz library.

2)  Art Pepper.  Two classics from his first great period, Meet the Rhythm Section (1957) and Plus Eleven (1959), and The Complete Galaxy Recordings from his remarkably fruitful comeback that began in the 1970's after years of drug addiction and incarceration.  I added another album from his early years, Surf Ride (1956).

3)  Horace Silver.  Horace-Scope (1960), The Tokyo Blues (1962), The Cape Verdean Blues (1965).  A disclaimer:  These aren't my favorite Horace Silver albums; there are easily another half-dozen from 1955-1965 that I could (and probably will) add.  I decided to start with those recordings that I haven't played to near-death, including one (Tokyo Blues) I had never heard before.  Eventually, I had to add most of his other recordings from this period to the mix, including Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers (1955), 6 Pieces of Silver (1956), The Horace Silver Trio (1957), The Stylings of Silver (1957), Finger Poppin' with the Horace Silver Quintet (1959), Blowin' the Blues Away (1959) and Silver's Serenade (1963).  As you can tell, I can't get enough of Horace Silver.

4)  Bill Evans.  The obvious move would be to go with the incomparable Village Vanguard recordings from 1961 with his first great trio.  Instead I went for less trod ground:  Moonbeams (1962), At Shelly's Manne-Hole (1963), Trio (1964) and The Best of Bill Evans Live on Verve. There's nothing quite like hearing a Bill Evans album for the first time -- even some of his well worn classics sound different because he never plays them the same way twice.  Revelations for me include Bill Evans at Town Hall (1966) and, particularly, California Here I Come (1967).  And I had to eventually succumb and add The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings.

5)  Sonny Clark.  Sonny Clark Trio (1957), Cool Struttin' (1958) and Leapin' and Lopin' (1961).  One can't go wrong with Sonny Clark.  These three albums and all of the others he made in his way-too-short life (he died at the age of 31 in 1963) are absolutely stellar.  Indeed, so I've added Dial "S" for Sonny (1957) with Art Farmer on trumpet and Hank Mobley on tenor, Sonny's Crib (1957) with Coltrane (shortly before he recorded Blue Train), Donald Byrd on trumpet and Curtis Fuller on trombone, and My Conception (1959), with Byrd and Mobley.

6)  Miles Davis.  I'm particularly partial to Miles' first quintet (Coltrane on tenor, Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, Philly Joe Jones on drums) that recorded four remarkable albums in 1956:  Workin', Relaxin', Steamin' and Cookin'.  For a change of pace (pun intended), I also went with his recordings from 1961, with a band that included Wynton Kelly on piano, Hank Mobley on tenor, Chambers on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums:  Someday My Prince Will Come and In Person (Friday and Saturday Nights at the Blackhawk).  I added two favorites, Bag's Groove (1954) and Walking (1957) to the mix. 

7)  Sonny Rollins.  Sonny Rollins Plus Four (1956), with the four including the great Clifford Brown on trumpet and Max Roach on drums, Way Out West (1957), and The Sound of Sonny (1957) featuring another Sonny, Sonny Clark, on piano.  Added The Bridge (1962), recorded after a three-year lay off, and features guitarist Jim Hall, and two spectacular albums from 1956, Saxophone Colossus and Tenor Madness, in which Coltrane joins Sonny on the title track.

8)  Stan Getz.  I absolutely love his bossa nova albums.  Even though they are pretty well worn, they never sound tired to me:  Getz/Gilberto and Getz/Gilberto #2 (1964).  I also included a non-Latin Getz recording:  Stan Getz and The Oscar Peterson Trio (1957).  Treated myself to more Stan Getz:  Stan Getz and J.J. Johnson at the Opera House (1957) and Stan Getz with Cal Tjader (1958).

9)  Thelonious Monk.  Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall, recorded in 1957, but only recently discovered.  Also the Complete Prestige Recordings, the Complete Columbia Solo Studio Recordings and the Complete Columbia Live Recordings.  I should probably add the Complete Riverside Recordings and Complete Blue Note Recordings too. 

10)  Cannonball Adderley.  Somethin' Else (1958) with Miles Davis sitting in, is a true classic, as is Mercy, Mercy, Mercy at the It Club (1966).  So much other great stuff in between.  I chose Things Are Getting Better (1958) with Milt Jackson on vibes, and the aforementioned Fiddler on the Roof (1964).

11)  Chet Baker.  Chet Baker Sings (1956) and Chet Baker Plays and Sings (1964).  The world is divided into those who love Chet's voice and those who love his trumpet playing.  Nothing wrong with his blowing, but I'm partial to the singing.

12)   Yusef Lateef.  I didn't really discover this singular artist until his passing a couple of years ago.  Eastern Sounds (1961) and Live at Pep's Volumes I and II (1964).

13) Frank Sinatra.   Don't judge me.  In the Wee Small Hours (1955), A Swingin' Affair (1957) and Come Fly With Me (1958).

Where to go next?  I will need to add the big band sounds of Duke Ellington and Count Basie, and some swing from Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young.  Bebop from Charlie Parker and Bud Powell, and hard bop from Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, as well as from the Jazztet (formed by Art Farmer and Benny Golson).  And, I know, I inexcusably omitted the vocalists -- Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and Anita O'Day.  Other favorites include the great tenors, Hank Mobley and Dexter Gordon. Then there's Charles Mingus and Wayne Shorter and McCoy Tyner and . . . .

Here's where I did go -- mostly more late 1950s-early 1960s jazz of the hard bop variety, with  recordings by many who are just a degree or two of separation from Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. 

14) Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.  So many amazing incarnations with so many musicians that became legends in their own right -- and who are, not surprisingly, heavily represented throughout this list.  Moanin' (1958) with Bobby Timmons on piano, Benny Golson on tenor, Lee Morgan on trumpet; The Big Beat (1960), with Wayne Shorter replacing Golson on tenor; and Mosaic (1961) and Caravan (1962) with Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Shorter on tenor and Cedar Walton on piano. (And don't forget the earlier band with Horace Silver, Hank Mobley on tenor and Kenny Dorham on trumpet listed above).

15) Speaking of Hank Mobley, the great tenor saxophonist's most well known album is Soul Station (1960) (with Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Art Blakey on drums).  Other favorites:  Roll Call (1960) (Kelly, Chambers, Blakey and Freddie Hubbard on trumpet), Workout (1961)(Kelly,  Chambers, Philly Joe Jones on drums and Grant Green on guitar), and Dippin' (1965)(Lee Morgan on trumpet). Another gem that fits well here is one led by the great pianist Kenny Drew, Undercurrent (1960), which features Mobley on tenor and Hubbard on trumpet.

16)  Kenny Dorham, another Blakey alumnus, made some classic albums, including Quiet Kenny (1959) with Tommy Flanagan on piano, and Whistle Stop (1961) with Kenny Drew on piano, Mobley, Chambers and Philly Joe Jones.  I found another fantastic recording that I had somehow never heard before,  Afro-Cuban (1955), that includes Mobley and Blakey as well as Horace Silver on piano, J.J. Johnson on trombone and Cecil Payne on baritone sax.  Wow. And then an easy segue to the early recordings of the great saxophonist, Joe Henderson, because Dorham's trumpet was so instrumental, so to speak:  Page One (1963), which also included McCoy Tyner on piano and Our Thing (1963) with Andrew Hill on piano.

17)  Another former Jazz Messenger I love is Bobby Timmons, an incredibly soulful piano player whose compositions became standards made famous when he played with Blakey (Moanin') and Cannonball Adderley (This Here).  His first two albums as a leader are well worth listening to: This Here Is Bobby Timmons and Soul Time, both released in 1960.

18)  Lee Morgan, yet one more Jazz Messenger, was an absolutely brilliant trumpet player, probably most known for his funky cross-over hits like The Sidewinder and Cornbread but he could play anything, from hard bop to ballads to stuff that is a bit more out there, all of which he did with a stellar lineup of musicians.  The Sidewinder (1963) features Joe Henderson (see above) and Barry Harris (see below); Search for the New Land (1964) with Wayne Shorter on tenor, Herbie Hancock on piano and Grant Green on guitar; Cornbread (1965) with Mobley on tenor, Jackie McLean on alto and Hancock on piano; and The Gigolo (1965) with Shorter on sax and Harold Mabern on piano.

19)  Barry Harris has been playing bebop piano since the mid-1950s, and is still going.  Two of his finest are Newer Than New (1961) and Barry Harris Plays Tadd Dameron (1975).

20) Dexter Gordon deserves to be in the pantheon of all time great tenor saxophone players.  I particularly love his Blue Note recordings from the early 1960s.  He had an incredible run with Doin' Allright and Dexter Calling (1961), A Swingin' Affair and Go (1962), and Our Man in Paris (1963).

21) Hampton Hawes, considered a Bud Powell-influenced piano player (as is pretty much every post-1940s piano player), released some great albums in the 1950s, including Four! Hampton Hawes!!! and For Real, both from 1958.

22) Bud Powell.  Might as well add recordings from the master himself.  Time Waits (1958), from his later period is one of my favorites.  Also essential is The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. 1 (1951).

23) McCoy Tyner.  Can't get enough of McCoy's piano genius from the Coltrane sides and other albums listed above, so I've added Live at Newport (1963) and The Real McCoy (1967), and a compilation, The Impulse Story (2006).

24)  The Jazztet.  This was an incredible band let by Benny Golson on tenor and Art Farmer on trumpet or cornet, and initially included McCoy on piano and Curtis Fuller on trombone. Meet the Jazztet (1960) was their debut album and has their big hit "Killer Joe."  And The Portrait of Art Farmer (1958) with Hank Jones on piano  is a worthy addition too.  Speaking of Curtis Fuller (yes, another former Jazz Messenger), a couple of his great records are Blues-Ette (1959), with Golson, made right before the Jazztet session, and The Opener (1957) with Timmons and Mobley. 

25)  Wayne Shorter.  The great saxophonist and composer who played in one of the Jazz Messengers' greatest lineups and in Miles Davis's second great quintet.  Juju (1965) (with McCoy Tyner on piano), Adams Apple (1966)(with Herbie Hancock on piano) and last but certainly not least, Speak No Evil (1966)(with Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter on bass and Elvin Jones on drums) one of the greatest albums of all time.

26)  Oliver Nelson's The Blues and the Abstract Truth (1961) is another of the greatest jazz albums of all time, with an all time lineup: Bill Evans on piano, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Eric Dolphy on alto, Paul Chambers on bass and Roy Haynes on drums, along with Nelson on tenor. 

27)  Donald Byrd, another former Jazz Messenger well represented above, made some great albums with baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams, including Off the the Races (1958), which also features Jackie McLean on on alto and Wynton Kelly on piano, and Cat Walk (1961).

28)  Any serious jazz collection should have Charlie Parker.  For my virtual library, the Parker album I listen to the most is actually Charlie Parker with Strings, recorded in 1950 but released in expanded form in 1995.

29)  Same goes for Clifford Brown, the phenomenal trumpet player whose life was cut short at the age of 25 when he was killed in a car accident.  The Complete Paris Sessions from 1953, and Alone Together: The Best of the Mercury Years, which includes his great recordings with the Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet from the mid-50s.

30)  Three from the incomparable Charles Mingus: Pithecanthropus Erectus (1956), The Clown (1957) and Mingus Ah Um (1958).

31)  Another great saxophone player from the West Coast was Harold Land.  Harold in the Land of Jazz (1958) and The Fox (1959) which  features the great, unsung Elmo Hope on piano and includes several of Hope's compositions. Speaking of Hope:  Elmo Hope Trio and Quintet (1957) and The Elmo Hope Trio (1959).

32)  More West Coast jazz of the cool variety -- more melodic, more chill.  Dave Brubeck, Time Out (1959), which is more than just Take Five and never gets old; Paul Desmond, Take Ten (1963), which includes a worthy sequel to Take Five, and Bossa Antigua (1964); The Complete Gerry Mulligan Quarter with Chet Baker, and Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster (1959).

33)  The vocalists:  Dinah Washington, Dinah Jams (1954) with an extraordinary band, including Clifford Brown, Harold Land and Max Roach; Sarah Vaughan (1954), also featuring Clifford Brown and In the Land of HiFi (1955), featuring Cannonball Adderley; Ella Fitzgerald, Rogers and Hart Songbook (1957) and the Jerome Kern Songbook (1964); Anita O'Day, Anita Sings the Most with the Oscar Peterson Quartet (1957) and Pick Yourself Up (1957); Mel Torme Sings Fred Astaire 1956) and Mel Torme Swings Shubert Alley (1960); and Johnny Hartman, I Just Dropped By to Say Hello (1963), from the same year he recorded his classic album with John Coltrane, listed above -- this one includes Illinois Jacquet on sax and Hank Jones on piano. 


34)  The more traditional route:  Count Basie, The Complete Atomic Basie (1957). And a couple of Duke Ellington albums -- unfortunately Spotify doesn't have my favorite (And His Mother Called Him Bill) so I went with Ellington Uptown (1957) and Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins (1962). 

35)  And a few more classics:  We Three (1958)(Roy Haynes on drums, Phineas Newborn, Jr. on piano and Paul Chambers on bass); Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing (1958); Wynton Kelly and Wes Montgomery, Smokin' at the Half Note (1965).

To be continued.

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