Paradise Papers: Secrets of the Global Elite

Link to a report by The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists:

“Paradise Papers: Secrets of the Global Elite”


Bonus links: “Joe Ricketts Is a Walking Case for a $1 Million Maximum Income” (“A maximum income—and progressive taxation more generally—is less about redistributing income than about redistributing power, though the two aims go hand-in-hand.”; this article does make numerous contradictory statements, though, first stating by way of a quote the principles of Modern Monetary Theory, then immediately contradicting them with reference to “starving public coffers of funds”; an important distinction here is between state and local jurisdictions that cannot issue currency, and a sovereign federal government that can) and “How the Rich Stay Rich” (this interview makes a misleading reference to a book that actually also admits that revolutions can cause equalization of wealth, but the interviewee seems to follow a similar defeatist line of thinking rebutted in War and Revolution: Rethinking the 20th Century, for example)

Listen to This: A Guide to The Red Crayola/Red Krayola


The Red Crayola on Forty-FiveThis is a guide to the recorded music of The Red Crayola/Red Krayola — abbreviated as RC or RK.  Releases are arranged chronologically by recording date (not release date), broken up into rough “eras”.  The groupings correspond to major shifts in the geographic location of the band.  A legend is provided, as are recording credits, where available.

A Brief History

The Red Crayola (sometimes spelled “The Red Krayola”) are an exceptionally long-lived rock band.  Their origins were in the psychedelic mid-/late-1960s, formed in Texas by university students engaged with the burgeoning countercultural movement.  The band broke up and reformed, and then effectively dissolved by the end of the 1960s.  But Mayo Thompson, who worked in the visual arts (he was an assistant to Robert Rauschenberg) and also dabbled with a solo career, resurrected the band name in the mid-1970s.  For about fifty years Thompson continued the band in various incarnations across different continents.  In the later 70s and through all of the 80s, the band was based out of Europe, then returned to the United States permanently in the early 90s.  The always band fit into the musical “underground”, and was never about commercial success.  Mayo Thompson endorsed one critic’s description of the band’s music as “not practical”.  Actually, the band’s political outlook became explicitly leftist/communist.  But they tended to rely on wacky, dadaist humor and “performance art” techniques, eschewing virtuoso performance.  The band frequently emphasized equal sharing of credit, regardless of contributions, so many releases intentionally do not credit individual songwriters, or even which musicians appear on which songs playing which instruments (a practice that ended only with Introduction in 2006).  This was part of an over-arching inclusionist sensibility.

Continue reading “Listen to This: A Guide to The Red Crayola/Red Krayola”

Charlie Haden – Liberation Music Orchestra

Liberation Music Orchestra

Charlie HadenLiberation Music Orchestra Impulse! AS-9183 (1970)

Made as a kind of tribute to the Republican (anti-fascist) side of the Spanish Civil War, Liberation Music Orchestra is political music in the same spirit as Paul Robeson‘s Songs of Free Men or the poetry of Pablo Neruda, like España en el corazón [Spain in Our Hearts] (1938) — even if Haden sticks mostly to a tone of determined hopefulness rather than the harrowing sadness of, say, Neruda’s devastating “I’m Explaining a Few Things.”  The music itself falls on the line between folk-inspired composition and free jazz — reference points are The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, and, of course, efforts by orchestra members like Don Cherry‘s Symphony for Improvisers, Carla Bley‘s Escalator Over the Hill, and Gato Barbieri‘s “Chapter” albums.  Bley provides arrangements.

Some of this constitutes dissonant free-form improvisation.  Frankly, though, this hardly represents the finest efforts along those lines from this talented group of performers.  It is actually the composed songs with arrangements by Bley that impress the most.  There is always a looseness and warmth, with many of the group passages having a Salvation Army band quality (like Dylan‘s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”).  The use of “sampled” pre-recorded vocals and flamenco-style acoustic guitar are rather unique aspects of this music.

There is a reading of Hanns Eisler and Bertolt Brecht‘s “Einheitsfrontlied [Song of the United Front],” without Brecht’s lyrics.  Eisler was a student of Arnold Schönberg, but turned to popular music.  He and Brecht were German communists who wrote the song 1934 at the request of Erwin Piscator, to be used to rally the political left to fight back against Hitler and the Nazis.  The song later became associated with the Spanish Republicans.

The album is about more than just the Spanish Civil War.  Haden wrote “Song for Che” about the recently executed (as an injured, unarmed prisoner of war) Dr. Ernesto “Che” Guevara, whom Jean-Paul Sartre famously described as “not only an intellectual but also the most complete human being of our age.”  There is also a recording of Ornette Coleman‘s “War Orphans,” which fits the theme but is not specifically linked to the Spanish Civil War.

The Spanish Civil War was kind of a sensitive topic in the United States for a long time.  Americans volunteered to fight with the republicans, in what were called the Abraham Lincoln Brigades.  Composer Conlon Nancarrow was among them, but he later moved to Mexico because of domestic hostilities to Spanish Republican sympathizers.  Then there is the term “premature anti-fascist”, coined to demonize because the U.S. government and U.S. businesses tended to align themselves with fascists — though FDR later regretted his decision not to intervene on behalf of the Spanish Republicans.  But by the end of the 1960s, there was much hope that the tide was turning.  It never did, and prospects only grew dimmer in subsequent years.

“Circus ’68 ’69” is Haden’s own composition, inspired by an incident at the tumultuous 1968 Democratic National Convention, unfortunately typical of post-WWII Democratic Party politics.  As Haden described in the liner notes:

“After the minority plank on Vietnam was defeated in a vote taken on the convention floor, the California and New York delegations spontaneously began singing ‘We Shall Overcome’ in protest.  Unable to gain control of the floor, the rostrum instructed the convention orchestra to drown out the singing.  ‘You’re a Grand Old Flag’ and ‘Happy Days Are Here Again’ could then be heard trying to stifle ‘We Shall Overcome.’  To me, this told the story, in music, of what was happening in the country politically.”

Haden’s orchestra is split in two, somewhat like Charles Ives‘ Three Places in New England or Karlheinz Stockhausen‘s Gruppen & Carré, with each half operating separately from (and against) the other.  Though it says a lot about Haden’s own sympathies that “Circus ’68 ’69” is followed by a warm reading of “We Shall Overcome,” which concludes the album.

This is something very likable about Liberation Music Orchestra.  It serves its purpose of linking the political struggles of the late 1960s United States to the Spanish Civil War, and beyond.  Even if the freely improvised parts are less engaging, the best qualities of the music shine brightly through all the rest.  This is an album worth returning to often.

Ed Rooksby – Review of Domenico Losurdo’s Liberalism: A Counter-History

Link to a review by Ed Rooksby of Domenico Losurdo’s Liberalism: A Counter-History (2005; 2011 trans.).  Losurdo’s counterpart book War and Revolution: Rethinking the Twentieth Century (2015) should also be considered here, because it is arguably a better written (or better translated) book with a better exposition of its central argument.

“Liberalism: An Ideology of Exclusion? (Part 1)”


Selected quote:

“How do we make sense of this paradox at the heart of liberalism – the simultaneous invocation of liberty on the one hand and the justification and promulgation of severe forms of oppression on the other? The key to all of this, Losurdo argues, is to grasp that liberalism is founded on an implicit logic of exclusion. Only once we have understood this can we start to resolve the seeming inconsistencies. Liberalism has always pivoted, Losurdo argues, on drawing a dividing line between ‘us’ and ‘them’ – those who are worthy or capable (morally, intellectually, biologically/racially) of the gamut of rights and liberties we associate with liberalism and those who are not. Liberalism was always, of course, centrally concerned with the condemnation and limitation of despotic power and the corresponding assertion of rights to self-government, autonomy and so on – but this struggle was always waged by, and on behalf of, an exclusive section of humanity – what Losurdo terms ‘the community of the free’. The history of liberalism is thus in great part a history of how the particular specification and location of the boundary line between ‘the community of the free’ and the excluded has evolved and shifted.

“With this exclusionary logic in mind we can make sense of the paradoxes of liberal slavery, liberal empire and liberal authoritarianism towards wage labourers and the poor. In each of these three apparent paradoxes we are, in fact, confronting particular instances of the opposition between the justly free and the justly unfree. It is not that the brutal world of slavery, for example, represented a failure or negation of proclaimed liberal values, or revealed the hypocrisy of contemporary liberals, it is that the ‘community of the free’ in which the sphere of liberal rights and freedoms applied did not, and was not intended, to encompass black people. Liberalism, for Losurdo, was never a doctrine of moral universalism. We can see now, how racism and class contempt operated as necessary ideological supports for this system of exclusion. Slavery and colonial expropriation and domination was justified on the grounds that non-white peoples were by definition uncivilised, in a condition of ‘nonage’ (Mill), not fully human or even ‘savage beasts’ (Locke) and were thus rightly excluded from the ‘community of the free’. Similarly, workers and the poor in the metropolis were not intelligent, morally developed or, again, human enough to be admitted into the sacred space of the free community of liberals.

“It is not just that liberalism was long characterised by exclusion for Losurdo – it is also that, to a great extent, the liberty of the community of the free has depended on the exclusion and oppression of the unfree. That is, the relationship between the community of the free and the excluded has been one of exploitation in which the privileges of the former have been rooted in the expropriation and coercion of the unfree. It is here that class relations come into play.”


Bonus links: “Domenico Losurdo: Classical German Philosophy, a Critique of Liberalism and ‘Critical Marxism'” (“The political criticism that Losurdo directs towards liberalism is based upon a precise philosophical analysis: he exposes the lack of universalism in this train of thought: its inability to go beyond representing the special interests of the strongest classes.”) and The State and Revolution (“In capitalist society, providing it develops under the most favorable conditions, we have a more or less complete democracy in the democratic republic. But this democracy is always hemmed in by the narrow limits set by capitalist exploitation, and consequently always remains, in effect, a democracy for the minority, only for the propertied classes, only for the rich. Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in the ancient Greek republics: freedom for the slave-owners.”  “in capitalist society we have a democracy that is curtailed, wretched, false, a democracy only for the rich, for the minority.”) and Critical Moral Liberalism: Theory and Practice (“liberal theories often serve as ideological cover for oppression of one group by others.”) and “Soviet Power and the Status of Women” (“Bourgeois democracy is democracy of pompous phrases, solemn words, exuberant promises and the high-sounding slogans of freedom and equality. But, in fact, it screens the non-freedom and inferiority of women, the non-freedom and inferiority of the toilers and exploited.”) and “The Spectre of Ideology” in Mapping Ideology (“In order to combat these new forms of organicist populism effectively, one must turn the critical gaze back upon oneself and submit to critical scrutiny liberal-democratic universalism itself — what opens up the space for the organicist populism is the weak point, the ‘falsity’, of this very universalism.”) and “What Is the Left Without Identity Politics? – Walter Benn Michaels” (“identity politics is not an alternative to class politics but a form of it: It’s the politics of an upper class that has no problem with seeing people being left behind as long as they haven’t been left behind because of their race or sex.”) and “The Open Letter and the DNC” (“If fascists and / or racists are ‘born that way,’ then they can either be controlled or annihilated, because changing their circumstances won’t affect their nature (goes the theory).”) and Malcolm X on White Liberals and Free Jazz/Black Power and Against Liberalism and “François Furet, 20 ans après” and “Horizons Needed” and “When Liberal Democracy Means Plutocracy” and “Traditional and Critical Theory”