Matt Bruenig – How Did Private Property Start?

Link to an article by Matt Bruenig:

“How Did Private Property Start?”


Bonus quotes:

“The first person who, having enclosed a plot of land, took it into his head to say this is mine and found people simple enough to believe him was the true founder of civil society. What crimes, wars, murders, what miseries and horrors would the human race have been spared, had some one pulled up the stakes or filled in the ditch and cried out to his fellow men: ‘Do not listen to this imposter. You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to all and the earth to no one!’”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men” (1755)

“The illegitimate violence by which law sustains itself must be concealed at any price, because this concealment is the positive condition of the functioning of law.  Law functions only insofar as its subjects are fooled, insofar as they experience the authority of law as ‘authentic and eternal’ and do not realize ‘the truth about the usurpation’.  That is why Kant is forced, in his Metaphysics of Morals, to forbid any question concerning the origins of legal power: it is by means of precisely such questioning that the stain of this illegitimate violence appears which always soils, like original sin, the purity of the reign of law.”

Slavoj Žižek, “The Limits of the Semiotic Approach to Psychoanalysis,” from Psychoanalysis and… (Feldstein and Sussman, eds., Routledge 1990).

Pat Metheny & Ornette Coleman – Song X

Song X

Pat Metheny / Ornette ColemanSong X Geffen GHS 24096 (1986)

Song X paired Ornette Coleman with the relatively popular guitarist Pat Metheny, augmented by the multifaceted drummer Jack DeJohnette and Coleman’s frequent collaborators Denardo Coleman and Charlie Haden.  Metheny’s music –primarily from his band the Pat Metheny Group — is sometimes derisively referred to as “fuzak”, meaning a kind of jazz/rock fusion that is so dull and unengaging that it resembles “Musak” brand piped-in background music.  But whatever might be said about his solo recordings, he really rises to the challenge of playing with Ornette here.  For his part, Ornette returns to a style of playing and writing that hadn’t been heard much since the 1960s.  These songs have clear melodic content, not just repeatable riffs like with his Prime Time band, and the guitar and saxophone play together in harmony.  DeJohnette is great.  It is somewhat a shame that this is the only recording of Ornette playing with him.  While the cliched 1980s production values are a bit unfortunate, they don’t detract too much from what are otherwise uniformly good performances. I think that is really the key to this album’s success.  It doesn’t devote its energies to inventing some kind of “new style” or musical theory.  It instead presents excellent new compositions that expand upon the old styles/theories and the musicians all play to the best of their abilities.  Anthony Braxton came up with a useful three-part taxonomy for musicians and their work, which was not meant to favor any particular category or categories: restructuralists (i.e., innovators and game-changers), stylists (i.e., expanding on an established framework with a uniquely identifiable perspective), and traditionalists (i.e., preserving and faithfully recreating the language and techniques of the past).  Song X represents these musicians performing as “stylists”, even as Ornette had elsewhere established himself as a “restructuralist”.  Metheny and Coleman supposedly butted heads when recording the album, in a friendly, constructive way.  It seems that friction prevented either of them from coasting on a past reputation, and works in favor of the resulting album.

This is probably my favorite of Ornette’s 1980s albums.  I can’t say I’m familiar enough with Metheny to offer a similar comparative view, though this is certainly much better than his prior solo effort Rejoicing (which featured Haden and Billy Higgins, both of whom played with Ornette in the past).  Most listeners will want to seek out the expanded Twentieth Anniversary Edition of the album, which adds some very decent bonus tracks.

Maura Ewing – Philadelphia’s New Top Prosecutor Is Rolling Out Wild, Unprecedented Criminal Justice Reforms

Link to an article by Maura Ewing:

“Philadelphia’s New Top Prosecutor Is Rolling Out Wild, Unprecedented Criminal Justice Reforms”


Bonus links: “Meet Larry Krasner” and …And the Poor Get Prison


No doubt about it, Krasner is one of the most heroic public servants in office in the U.S. today.  Nothing about Krasner’s policies is “wild” though, and it is quite sad that in this day and age they are “unprecedented” — his policies should probably be the norm not the exception.

The USPTO’s Predicament

The United States Patent & Trademark Office has made a big announcement that it expects to issue U.S. Patent Number 10,000,000 by the summer of 2018.  One (big) problem:  the USPTO already issued U.S. Patent No. 10,000,000 in 1936.

U.S. Pat. No. 10,000,000So, obviously, the original U.S. Patent No. 10,000,000 was a joke, issued to serve as the menu for a banquet in honor of the centennial anniversary of the modern patent office.  Presumably, patent office officials at the time thought that they would never reach ten million patents, or otherwise didn’t consider that in the future they would want to make a big deal out of the issuance of a patent with the same number.  So this raises a concern:  whatever unfortunate patentee is assigned a patent numbered “10,000,000” in 2018 (as the USPTO is announcing it plans to do) will probably face a legal challenge regarding the prior issuance of U.S. Pat. No. 10,000,000 in 1936. Suffice it to say, all this is poised to be an embarrassing mess for the USPTO.

Ornette Coleman – Sound Museum: Hidden Man

Sound Museum: Hidden Man

Ornette ColemanSound Museum: Hidden Man Harmolodic  314 531 914-2 (1996)

Sound Museum: Hidden Man (a companion album to Sound Museum: Three Women) is appropriately titled.  Like a museum, this is sort of a curated look back at what Ornette had accomplished in his career through the mid-1990s.  And yet it also offers a slightly different perspective on his past accomplishments.  He is recording with a pianist (Geri Allen) in the most substantial way since the late 1950s.  Bassist Charnett Moffett, son of Ornette’s former drummer Charles Moffett, adds understated yet substantial coloring.  But what strikes me most about this music is the way Ornette’s trumpet playing resembles that of Bill Dixon so much.  That aspect was detectable going back to The Empty Foxhole.  Here it is unmistakable — compare Dixon’s Son of Sisyphus (1990), for instance.  There is a lightness to this music, full of space, with a conversational tone to it much like the style Dixon pioneered.  While Hidden Man might not be the most immediately striking album Ornette released over his long career, it is perhaps better than anything he released until his death in 2015.