An unvarnished insight into the mind of Sonny Rollins (Philip Clark, 3/17/24, the Spectator)

[A]s jazz was becoming increasingly conceptual, Rollins was concerned that too many musicians were neglecting the basics. His goal was not revolution — he was motivated to achieve complete technical “mastership.”

The extent to which Rollins obsessed over the tiniest of technical details on his saxophone runs through the book. One minuscule finger movement could be enough to alter the resonance of a particular note either radically or indeed so faintly you’d need the ears of a bat to perceive it — and Rollins was open to both. This extended to his pushing his instrument beyond where recognized technique could function, to a point where the instrument operated but only in theory. Experimenting with bouncing the same note between different octaves, he described “higher notes that I have not figured out yet,” then scheduled time to explore beyond where his instrument normally sounded. Perhaps he could locate those notes, perhaps he couldn’t, but it was the endeavor that mattered.

Early in the book another theme emerges: his regret at the lowly lot of the jazz musician. All these decades later, figures like Rollins and Coltrane have become icons, but back in the day “the working conditions of many great jazz musicians are very, very far… below par!” he mourns. Making transcendent art in nightclubs, which were operated largely by shady characters “closely associated with underworld elements,” created inescapable tensions between goals of artistic purity and the brutal economic truth that jazz clubs, for the mob, were all about making money, exercising control and selling drugs.

Rollins’s high ideals rubbed uncomfortably against reality. Jazz, he explains, is “the music of America created by Americans for the edification of all of mankind.” As with many musicians, including Duke Ellington and Miles Davis, the word “jazz” became a bugbear to him, a label used, often cynically, to hold the ambitions of black musicians at bay, to retain them as “entertainers” — to put clear boundaries between black culture and the great Western tradition of Bach and Beethoven.

Rollins is clear that “mustn’t we start speaking of MUSIC and not jazz.” This music was “All American.” And although it’s of black origin, care must be taken “not to synonymize Negro and Jazz and not depict Jazz as a Negro product.” As Rollins unpicks the techniques of Indian music, you realize how deeply he believed that jazz also needed to reach out beyond America itself.


This Is a “Solvable” Crisis: Denver’s Mayor on How the City Is Handling Migrant Arrivals (Isabela Dias, 3/18/24, MoJo)

Johnston spoke with Mother Jones about Denver’s approach to migrant arrivals, the bipartisan border deal blocked by Republicans, and why this is a “solvable” crisis:

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s political stunt of sending migrants to blue cities across the country had the effect of “interiorizing” the border, leading to responses like New York Gov. Eric Adams’ statement that the “migrant crisis” was going to destroy the city. What do you make of that?

That’s not our belief. We think this is a deeply solvable problem and we think the problem is not attributable to the people who are walking 3,000 miles to try to seek asylum from a country that’s persecuting them and making it impossible to survive.

We think Denver can not just survive but thrive with these newcomers arriving.

We just need a couple of key components. That’s what we pushed the federal government for. We need more work authorization. The biggest problem we have is folks who arrive in the city and tell me, “Mr. Mayor, I don’t want any help, I just want to work.” At the same time, CEOs will call me and say that they have open jobs every day that they can’t fill, and they want to be able to hire the migrants that are here. The only problem is we have the federal government standing in the way of hard-working employees who want to work and employers who want to hire them, and the government’s refusing to let them do that. We need federal resources to help us support people.

And we think there should be a coordinated plan for entry. We don’t think that the governor of Texas gets to decide where every person in America ends up. Whenever we’ve had other waves of asylum seekers, we’ve created a distribution plan that allows them to find cities that have resources. We looked at the examples from Ukrainian refugees or Afghanistan refugees and a coordinated federal response that provided work authorization and resources and connected to cities based on their capacity. We were trying to get at least one of those three things in place. Unfortunately, the bipartisan Senate bill that would have helped do that, President [Donald] Trump and the House Speaker came in to kill, which was an injustice for both our newcomers and for our cities. But we’ve found a path forward despite that and we think there’s still a way to help serve newcomers well and prevent the financial crisis in our city. We’re well on our way to resolving that now.


Chart of the Day: California surges beyond 100 pct renewables (Giles Parkinson, Mar 18, 2024, Renew Economy)

[C]alifornia, the world’s biggest sub-national economy, and the fifth biggest in the world if it were a country, is also setting new benchmarks for renewables, with its wind, solar and hydro resources more than matching demand over the past week.

According to Mark Jacobsen, the Stanford University academic who has outlined plans for wind, water and solar to provide the bulk, if not all, electricity needs in countries across the globe, California’s wind, water and solar resources have bested 100 per cent of local demand for varying periods in nine of the last 10 days.

On Sunday, California time, the peak was 115 per cent of demand and wind, water and solar beat demand for five solid hours.

Jacobsen says that wind, water and solar have accounted for more than 100 per cent of state demand for between one and six hours for nine out of the last 10 days. And that is one in the eye for all the naysayers.

“In 2009, when we first proposed 100% WWS, the utilities and naysayers claimed the grid would go unstable with more than 20 per cent renewable energy, with no evidence,” Jacobsen wrote on X.

“In 2017, they claimed, with no evidence, a limit of 80 per cent. In 2020, they claimed 90%, then 95% . Now 100% WWS is here to stay.”


A Comedy of Bureaucratic Errors : Slow Horses is a spy thriller worthy of Gordon Tullock. (g. patrick lynch, 3/15/24, Law & Liberty)

Until the 1960s, scholars modeled individuals in the public sector as public-spirited in their motivations and work. One of the founding fathers of public choice, the irascible Gordon Tullock worked in the US foreign service in China after completing law school. That experience, and his general skepticism about—well—everything, prompted him to turn his attention to the administrative state. Tullock and his Nobel prize-winning co-author James Buchanan built a model of politics that posited politicians and bureaucrats as self-interested rather than public-spirited and rational rather than angelic. They also included the idea that politics is an exchange process, much like a market. Using those two assumptions, they turned the world of political analysis upside down.

Tullock’s career was illustrious and varied. His work on bureaucracies included two important books studying the administrative state that provided fresh ways to analyze the government agencies that all of us caricature from time to time. We know that the public sector can be inefficient and sclerotic. Bureaucrats avoid responsibility and try to claim credit, and without market signals, the quality of their work is difficult to judge. Taking those institutional constraints and assuming individuals are not angels once they are hired by the government, Tullock argued that bureaucrats work for the same reasons all of us do: to make a living, be happy with our work, and gain the esteem and approbation of others. Because metrics to measure “good” work are hard to find in large non-market organizations, promotion is often more about flattery, popularity, and serving your superior’s wishes, which can lead to consensus views and uniformity of opinion, even incorrect ones.

Faulty opinions and unconstrained loyalty loom large in Herron’s world, and he balances realism with a dark humor that’s smart and frequently disarming. I doubt he is familiar with Tullock’s work, but they are kindred spirits in their pursuit of a more realistic way of understanding modern life within large institutions. The premise of the show illustrates another key insight of Tullock: it’s almost impossible to fire incompetent bureaucrats. Slow Horses is based on a fictitious place where MI5 sends those agents who have messed up. Rather than trying to fire them, the flawed agents are sent to a building called “Slough House” run by the aforementioned Jackson Lamb. Lamb is something to behold. He hilariously curses, ridicules, and mocks. But he is also gifted and revered even among the leadership of MI5. Under all of his bluster and cynicism, he helps guide the group in each season through the dangers of spying to endings that might not be “happy” but avoid as much carnage and chaos as possible.


Allegations UNRWA collaborated with Hamas are ‘flat-out lies’: Van Hollen (MIRANDA NAZZARO, 3/17/24, The Hill)

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) ripped into Israel’s allegations that the U.N.’s Palestinian refugee agency, commonly referred to as UNRWA, is a proxy for the Palestinian militant group Hamas, arguing the accusations are an attempt by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to eliminate the agency.

“There’s no doubt that the claim that Prime Minister Netanyahu and others are making, that somehow UNRWA is a proxy for Hamas, are just flat-out lies,” Van Hollen said Sunday in an interview on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.” “If you look at the person who’s in charge of operations on the ground for UNRWA, it’s about a 20-year U.S. Army veteran. You can be sure he’s not in cahoots with Hamas.”

Which was obvious from the beginning when Israel failed to offer any evidence.