This week’s New Yorker cover

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“President Trump’s weak pushback to hate groups—as if he was trying not to alienate them as voters—compelled me to take up my pen,” David Plunkert, the artist behind next week’s issue, said. Plunkert seldom takes on political subject matter, but felt moved to do so in light of Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville. “A picture does a better job showing my thoughts than words do; it can have a light touch on a subject that’s extremely scary.”

How cartoons are mocking the president’s Trump Tower press conference

  The Washington Post
“I’M NOT putting anybody on a moral plane,” President Trump said Tuesdayduring his heated news conference from the lobby of Trump Tower, as The Washington Post reported, while speaking to last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville. “There was a group on this side, you can call them the left — you’ve just called them the left — that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that’s the way it is.”Here is “the way it is” through the lens of some American cartoonists, who viewed events a bit differently:

 

by David Fitzsimmons / Arizona Daily Star (CagleCartoons.com) 2017

 

TAYLOR JONES (Cagle Cartoons):

JEFF DANZIGER (Rutland Herald):

CLAY BENNETT (Chattanooga Times Free Press):

SIGNE WILKINSON (Philly.com):

Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, and One Night in New York City ~ The New Yorker

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Since the nineteen-sixties, there have not been jazz musicians as artistically significant and generally popular as Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, or Bill Evans. Today, jazz music is a miscellaneous collection of wide-ranging and disputed genres that stands to the side of American culture. How did the train go off the tracks? A listen to Ellington and Evans both playing an Ellington standard, “In a Sentimental Mood,” on the same hot Thursday night in New York City—August 17, 1967—offers a few clues. Here is Ellington’s version at the Rainbow Grill, with the tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves, along with John Lamb on bass and Steve Little on drums. And here is Evans’s version at the Village Vanguard, with Eddie Gomez on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums.

Ellington, in the twilight of his career, had several long residencies at the Rainbow Grill, a restaurant and ballroom on the sixty-fifth floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Ellington would work on new music during the day (with the passing of his collaborator Billy Strayhorn, in May, 1967, Ellington’s final decade would see a much higher percentage of original music solely from his pen) and, in the evening, would play for dinner, dancing, and listening. This functional gig was a different experience than the glamorous concert tours that the full band made during the year. Yet each night at the Rainbow Grill high society, music fans, and hangers-on came together to see Ellington. You never knew who would drop by: Judy Garland, Tony Bennett, a Rockefeller.

For the summer of 1967, Ellington brought in an octet with the legendary veteran Ellingtonians Cat Anderson, Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, Lawrence Brown, and Harry Carney, accompanied by a young, mainstream rhythm section. They played the hits and a few minor new pieces. (A bootleg of a complete set came out recently on the Gambit label—an imprint for collectors who don’t mind potential illegalities). Everything is enjoyable, but the highlight is the Gonsalves quartet and “In a Sentimental Mood.”

Ellington packs a whole history of composition into only two and a half choruses. The first chorus is piano in D minor/F major, the “old style,” fairly close to the first 1935 recording. After the “old-style” chorus, Duke modulates to Bb minor/Db major for Gonsalves’s entrance, the same key used for the “new-style” version of “In a Sentimental Mood” tracked with John Coltrane, in 1962. Gonsalves’s greatest fame was authoring twenty-six choruses of shouting blues on “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” at the Newport Jazz Festival, in 1956, a moment that many credit with revitalizing Ellington’s career. However, Gonsalves was also one of the greatest ballad players, and his silky, furry, almost murky legato here is pure delight.

Gonsalves’s mastery is only to be expected, but the sixty-eight-year-old Ellington is still full of surprises. Playing with Coltrane, Ellington’s “new-style” arrangement had a mournful raindrop piano part that was dramatic and distinctive. At the Rainbow Grill, Ellington doesn’t play many of the raindrops but goes all out in rhapsodic style: heavy block chords, cascades, even a long left-hand trill underneath pointillistic right-hand stabs. It would be hard to find ballad accompaniment this busy anywhere else.

Downtown, the vastly influential keyboard artist Bill Evans was enjoying another run at the Village Vanguard. He was a regular at the club, with his 1961 LP “Sunday at the Village Vanguard” well on its way to canonization. When he was in residence, Evans would put a table from the front by the back stairs, come early, and drink coffee while reading the racing news.

In 1967, you could still get a hamburger or a turkey club sandwich at the Vanguard, but there certainly was no dancing. It was a nice, quiet audience for Evans that night. This recording of “In a Sentimental Mood,” which was released on the Verve double LP “California, Here I Come,” has less audience noise than “Sunday at the Village Vanguard.”

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Van Morrison Rides Back Into The Mystic With ‘Transformation’

As with the best Van Morrison songs, “Transformation” billows out from its oft-repeated refrain. The lead single off Morrison’s upcoming Roll With The Punches (out Sept. 22) consists largely of the 71-year-old Irish singer belting “gonna be a transformation” over a triumphant soul progression. But if there’s been a transformation in Morrison over his long career, it isn’t evident here. This is a soaring bit of classic Morrison roots-soul — and his best outing in recent years.

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This song has some of the wily, indulgent excess of Morrison’s most influential work, with more organic production than much of his modern output that’s far better suited to his loose vocal style.

Morrison is an artist who’s never been afraid of risking the ridiculous in pursuit of the transcendent. For proof, see: the line “Yeah when there’s no more words to say about love I go, NNGEEEEEEEEEE” at the end of “You Know What They’re Writing About,” the various growls on the 11-minute “Listen To The Lion,” the barn-burning cover of “Bein’ Green” live at the Rainbow and various album covers including — but not limited to — Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart and A Sense of Wonder.

Here, that tendency takes the form of a moving climax, complete with some vintage scatting. The moments that simultaneously elicit a laugh at his excess and a swell of feeling at his conviction — these are his specialty. “Transformation” brings us there once again. This is yet another testament to the transportive power of music and the changing force of a righteous love. That’s a note he’s sounded before, often over and over again at the end of a song, until the words loose their meaning and the inarticulate meaning comes clear.

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Trump must go … The Washington Post Op/ED

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Donald Trump on Tuesday afternoon gave the most disgusting public performance in the history of the American presidency. Framed by the vulgar excess of the lobby of Trump Tower, the president of the United States shook loose the constraints of his more decent-minded advisers and, speaking from his heart, defended white supremacists and by extension, their credos of hatred. He equated with those thugs the courageous Americans who had gathered to stand up to the racism, anti-Semitism and doctrine of violence that won the cheers and Nazi salutes of the alt-right hordes to whom Trump felt such loyalty.

After several days in which Trump and his advisers wrestled with what should have been a straightforward task — condemning the instigators of the unrest that rocked Charlottesville, Va., this past weekend — Trump revealed the reason that finding those words was such a struggle. He, too, is an extremist.

No one who values the best of what the United States has stood for could watch without feeling revulsion, anger or heartbreak. No one who comes from a past such as mine, which includes similar mobs rising up and ultimately collaborating in the murder of dozens of my family members in Hitler’s Europe, could view Trump’s performance without a degree of fear as well. Certainly, the same must be true for African Americans who have watched such mobs lynch their family members and seek to deny them the most basic rights.

That is why condemnation of what happened in Charlottesville came so quickly and naturally from leaders of conscience worldwide. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has stepped up to fill the void as leader of the West created by Trump’s moral bankruptcy and incompetence, immediately called the actions of the white supremacists in Virginia “horrifying” and “evil” and stated, “It is racist, far-right violence and clear, forceful action must be taken against it, regardless of where in the world it happens.” She also swiftly displayed humanity and sensitivity by expressing sympathy to the family of Heather Heyer, killed by an extreme right-wing act of terrorism in the streets of Charlottesville. Trump has yet to speak to Heyer’s family directly or visit the site of the attack, steps he took, for example, following an incident at Ohio State, when the attacker was Muslim.

From the United Kingdom to Italy to the Vatican to China, the violence in the United States and the racism of the extremists were decried by leaders who seemed to grasp the values for which the United States has fought throughout the past century. This tracks with a broader trend in which foreign leaders, some once seen as the United States’ closest allies, have found themselves having to distance themselves from the inflammatory language and actions of the American president.

Some of us have long been urging people to see that the Trump presidency was “not normal.” But we are past such discussions now. There is only one conclusion that any American patriot of either party can draw. Trump must go.

It has been perfectly natural during the first few months of this presidency for commentators and political leaders to treat Trump, his statements and actions like those of his predecessors. But in the past week, the dangers of his reflexive behavior have become even more crystal clear. In a matter of days, the president’s reckless remarks have triggered fears of nuclear war with North Korea, he threatened military action against Venezuela, he continued his quiet war against the environment and the U.S. public health system and then, in response to Charlottesville, he revealed his true colors and that he is not preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution as his oath requires. Rather, he is at war with it and its values — from a free press, to an independent judiciary, to equal protection for all under the law.

Since the Team of Sycophants will never invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him, the responsibility lies with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to reveal his wrongdoing. A great task is upon whistle-blowers in the government to challenge Trump’s attacks on American institutions, upon Congress to investigate not only his ties to Russia but also his possible corruption, and ultimately, upon the American people to vote out Trump supporters and enablers on Capitol Hill, and then, ensure a suitable replacement for him in 2020.

Every day Trump remains in office is a victory for the extremists. But in that same moment on Tuesday, Trump made it clear that to defeat the champions of hatred in the United States, he must go. That he also must go to preserve the United States’ standing in the world, to ensure the safety of our people and our way of life has also been made clear in the past week. It is now time that we follow his dangerous words with our own actions. It is why Heather Heyer was on that street in Charlottesville. We owe it to her and to ourselves to remove him from office as soon as the law permits. Trump himself has demonstrated the price of each day of delay.

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Is America Headed for a New Kind of Civil War?

By Robin Wright ~ The New Yorker

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A day after the brawling and racist brutality and deaths in Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe asked, “How did we get to this place?” The more relevant question after Charlottesville—and other deadly episodes in Ferguson, Charleston, Dallas, Saint Paul, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, and Alexandria—is where the United States is headed. How fragile is the Union, our republic, and a country that has long been considered the world’s most stable democracy? The dangers are now bigger than the collective episodes of violence. “The radical right was more successful in entering the political mainstream last year than in half a century,” the Southern Poverty Law Center reported in February. The organization documents more than nine hundred active (and growing) hate groups in the United States.

America’s stability is increasingly an undercurrent in political discourse. Earlier this year, I began a conversation with Keith Mines about America’s turmoil. Mines has spent his career—in the U.S. Army Special Forces, the United Nations, and now the State Department—navigating civil wars in other countries, including Afghanistan, Colombia, El Salvador, Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan. He returned to Washington after sixteen years to find conditions that he had seen nurture conflict abroad now visible at home. It haunts him. In March, Mines was one of several national-security experts whom Foreign Policy askedto evaluate the risks of a second civil war—with percentages. Mines concluded that the United States faces a sixty-per-cent chance of civil war over the next ten to fifteen years. Other experts’ predictions ranged from five per cent to ninety-five per cent. The sobering consensus was thirty-five per cent. And that was five months before Charlottesville.

“We keep saying, ‘It can’t happen here,’ but then, holy smokes, it can,” Mines told me after we talked, on Sunday, about Charlottesville. The pattern of civil strife has evolved worldwide over the past sixty years. Today, few civil wars involve pitched battles from trenches along neat geographic front lines. Many are low-intensity conflicts with episodic violence in constantly moving locales. Mines’s definition of a civil war is large-scale violence that includes a rejection of traditional political authority and requires the National Guard to deal with it. On Saturday, McAuliffe put the National Guard on alert and declared a state of emergency.

Based on his experience in civil wars on three continents, Mines cited five conditions that support his prediction: entrenched national polarization, with no obvious meeting place for resolution; increasingly divisive press coverage and information flows; weakened institutions, notably Congress and the judiciary; a sellout or abandonment of responsibility by political leadership; and the legitimization of violence as the “in” way to either conduct discourse or solve disputes.

President Trump “modeled violence as a way to advance politically and validated bullying during and after the campaign,” Mines wrote in Foreign Policy. “Judging from recent events the left is now fully on board with this,” he continued, citing anarchists in anti-globalization riots as one of several flashpoints. “It is like 1859, everyone is mad about something and everyone has a gun.”

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