Archive for May, 2009

  • Rob Spectre
  • 31
  • May
  • 09

Episode 3 of the Gonzo Podcast delivers a new piece in reaction to the slaying of Dr. George Tiller, a physician who performed abortions in Wichita, Kansas.  A lightning rod for this particular conflict in the culture wars, this piece recollects the “Summer of Mercy;” 46 days of protests that turned the center of the largest city in the state into a gridlock circus and the center of a national debate.

The Gonzo Podcast is available now thanks to (d)N0t friend Aaron Traffas on Zune Marketplace.

No Summer For Mercy

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
 

Just Press Play

  • Daniel Austin
  • 31
  • May
  • 09
This entry is part 11 of 40 in the series The (d)SP0T

The first thing that will blow your mind the first time you go to SE Asia, in my case Saigon, is the number of scooters on the streets and all that people do with them. Day or night, the streets are filled with scooters doing all sorts of things, from selling corn to hauling televisions to carrying entire families. Among these are pedestrians, bicycles, cars and trucks. Traffic laws reminiscent of the ones in the USA are absent except the fact that there are stop lights every once in a while. The end result is an amorphous flow of people that seems impossible to do successfully, but yet it works.

Hauling

Crossing the Street

Intersecting

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Rob Spectre
  • 30
  • May
  • 09

It’s like the menstrual cycle of every punk band in America synced up, forcing the angry crimson tide of new releases to hit in the same period. In addition to the hotly anticipated Green Day record and another coaster from NOFX, the list of bands putting out records in the +/- 3 month time frame is longer than their rap sheets.  Anti-Flag, Gallows, The Aggrolites, New Found Glory, The Offspring, Pennywise all have spit or are spitting out new releases in the rush before the summer touring season.

Available 2 June on Hellcat Records

Available 2 June on Hellcat Records

Joining this crowded field is the latest from East Bay original gangsters Rancid, breaking a five year dry spell with Let The Dominoes Fall. One of the marquee acts responsible for punk’s early 90’s resurrection, the record drops after a long hiatus and the loss of founding drummer Brett Reed. Let the Dominoes Fall inherits no small speculation with the rhythm section change and the often-delayed Indestructible leading many to wonder if this record would serve as comeback or coffin for the seminal act.

The radio single “Last One To Die” opens with the band acknowledging the pressure: “Everybody’s sayin’ we oughta take a chance / and tell them what the hell went wrong.” Over Rancid signature chord root riffs, the song is a defiant anthem intending to calm the concerns of long waiting diehard fans and flip a middle finger to the fairweathers about the band’s longevity.

Disappointingly, the anthem falls far short of representing the action.  From the record’s opener “East Bay Night,” it is clear this is just another paycheck for the band; a half-assed effort for which even “derivative” would be a charitable description.  While the sound is a return to the …And Out Come The Wolves classic form with a mix of frontman Tim Armstrong’s mastery of dub reggae, the songs themselves are easily the worst the band has released.

Lyrically, the album is an unmitigated disaster.  Tracks like “Damnation” kick off with the classic rock, Marshall stack driven flavor of punk Rancid listeners love, but by the chorus even the track’s 1:30 runtime seems a lifetime too long.  On the tunes where Armstrong leads in particular, inane rhymes shit all over the potential of their arrangments.  Couplets involving the word “wrong” appear with more nauseating frequency than the tag “also” in a Sarah Palin interview.

Even Dominoes pair of passable tracks – “Civilian Ways” and “The Bravest Kids” – feel very left field.  The former a rolling country ballad and the latter furious walking bass singalong, both are strangely patriotic anthems expressing support for US troops overseas.  Though the sentiment is surely shared, nationalism from this band executed this way feels like weird non sequitir.

As a whole, the effort will do little to satiate old fans and nothing to win new ones. Perhaps the worst followup record to a founding drummer’s departure since R.E.M.’s Up, the new Rancid simultaneously fails to fulfill the expectations from their early days or evolve a new sound or direction.

Let the Dominoes Fall may not be the final nail in the coffin, but for Rancid fans it will certainly feel like one foot in the grave.

Rancid’s Let the Dominoes Fall drops 2 June in stores everywhere supported by a summer stadium tour with Rise Against.

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Hala V. Furst
  • 29
  • May
  • 09

Oliver Wendell Holmes, widely regarded as one of the most brilliant jurists of our time, once wrote that “three generations of imbeciles are enough,” before upholding a law allowing forced sterilization of mildly mentally challenged individuals. He also wrote “mental defectives are to live in the world they should pay for the damage they do.”

I share these two chestnuts with you not to undermine Holmes’ place in the pantheon of legal juggernauts, but to demonstrate that even brilliant judges sometimes say stupid things, that, when read out of context, seem irrational. But Holmes was complex, and so, it seems, is Sonia Sotomayor.

The media has worked itself into a frenzy about her background and her ethnicity, her one-off comments about “policy” and race, her “third-woman-first-Hispanic” status referenced as though the Obama administration was playing Minority Bingo.  But little has been written about Sotomayor as a jurist.

So let’s take a step back from the hype, and really see what the woman has to say for herself.

First, let’s review her now infamous comments at a Duke Law School panel. “The Court of Appeals is where policy is made… I should never say that because we don’t make law… I’m not promoting it. I’m not advocating it.”  Her immediate equivocation was as honest as the initial statement. Judges aren’t supposed to make policy, but the brain trust that makes up our legislature often drafts laws that are so byzantine in grammatical structure, so asinine in purpose, that no one- including the legislature itself- knows what they say. So the job of interpretation falls at the feet of the judiciary, just like it says in Article III of the Constitution.  Some judges use “strict construction” to interpret statutes, some use “legislative intent,” and some throw a dart at a board. But the dirty little secret is that law is made on the bench as much, if not more, than it is made in the halls of Congress. You hear that laughter in the background of the clip? Everyone in the room understands what she’s saying.  Sotomayor was just telling the truth, a capital offense in a confirmation process.

Next, the oft-quoted “A Latina Judge’s Voice” lecture at UC Berkeley School of Law. Yes, it is true Sotomayor said, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” But it was one unfortunate sentence in a 5-page speech about her own experiences as a Puerto Rican-American woman, a judge, and a citizen. She could have chosen a more precise word than “better,” but the sentiment, when read in the context of the entire lecture, is that a diversity of experiences leads to a diversity of opinions and can help inform a reasoned debate.  Through clumsily, she was trying to articulate that a diverse nation is better served by a judiciary system that reflects that diversity.

A judge’s statements on her off time, however, aren’t nearly as informative as her opinions. She rejected a First Amendment claim by abortion rights groups on standing, but she found a right to sue the government for the negligent actions of a halfway house used to house parolees. She denied freelancers the right to recover against media outlets that reused their material for online publishing without the plaintiff’s permission, but she also upheld the free speech rights of an off-duty cop to send out anonymous, racist fliers without fear of repercussions from his job.  The one case that the media seems to be focusing on involving racially disparate test scores on a firefighters exam, Ricci v. DeStefano, was not actually authored by Sotomayor, but was drafted per curiam, meaning no one on the court wanted to admit to writing it.  There is no way of knowing, short of doping one of her clerks, whether or not she was the author, or merely an adherent.

After doing a cursory review, Sotomayor turns out to be pretty much what Souter was- moderate. Any personal liberalism is not betrayed in decisions that trend towards the left as much as the right.  Her opinions that have been reviewed by the Supreme Court tend to be agreed with by the four “liberals” on the court, and rejected by the four conservatives. So, if we judge her by the company she keeps, she will be a liberal only in relation to the extremity of the conservatives on the Court.

Ultimately, it was Holmes himself that said “the life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience.” For better or worse, our judges, while trying to maintain a detached, neutral perspective, are not crucibles into which fact and law can be placed, melding into the platonic ideal of an answer. They are human beings. So, would we rather have a an academic automaton who has no concept of how reality functions (a failure that has lead to both the above-mentioned words of Holmes regarding “mental defectives” and the recent school-boy antics of the current Court over the strip search of a 13-year-old girl), or a judge who has lived a full life with a variety of experiences, like the rest of us? She may not be the next Holmes, and she may not be the Liberal Lion I was hoping for, but she’s a competent jurist who at least makes the court slightly more reflective of American society as a whole. 

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Rob Spectre
  • 27
  • May
  • 09

In the twenty four hours Republicans have had to consider the US Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, it is already splintering into two camps.  The side of the GOP currently elected affirms that her nomination process will be rigorous, but concede it is a fight that is not worth scorching the earth over.  The side that outside the Hill seems quick to charge into full scale opposition.

Karl Rove likened Sotomayor to a “schoolmarm.”  Pat Buchanan called her an “affirmative action candidate.”  Mark Krikorian complained that just pronouncing her name accurately is demanding too much effort.  One expects this from the current caricatures manning the right’s talking head duties, but it was former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich that tossed the gas on the fire of Republican’s opposition to Sotomayor.

White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw.

Only a day after Barack Obama announced her nomination, Gingrich dropped the R-word and thus set the tenor for the entire confirmation process.  Gingrich’s comment comes from a speech Sotomayor made in 2001 saying, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Obviously, the statement is one of many that Sotomayor has made that would require clarification in the nomination process.  Folks on the right and the left are right to look at it for insight into the manner in which she would conduct herself as a Supreme Court justice.  And, fairly, it is one statement among many that have surfaced suggesting some level of racial motivation in Sotomayor’s jurisprudence.

But would it have killed Gingrich to wait a fucking week before calling Sotomayor a racist?  This move, endemic of the Republican party’s thrashing in the Age of Obama, lights a bonfire where a lantern is neccessary.  Just calling for a nominee to withdraw when the debate is only a day old exposes a position without leverage.  Calling the nominee a racist this soon smacks of rock bottom pants-on-head desperation.

And, unfortunately for Republicans, its typical.  The Republicans have been losing every fight they’ve picked with the new administration and shit like this is the cause.  They leave themselves no head room, no space to maneuver.  By going nuclear with every single conflict they have with Obama, they make contests zero sum games.   Contests that they could walk away from with some concession or compromise go turboaggro with these tactics resulting in all-or-nothing conflicts of ideology that, in this political environment, they will lose every goddamned time.

Obama’s first hundred days weren’t up before every Republican pundit was calling him a socialist and most even calling him a fascist.  Where left is there to go once you compare your more powerful opponent to Stalin?  What are they going to call Obama when he actually pulls off something permanent that they really hate, like health care reform?  The Antichrist?

These cartoon reactions are absolutely killing the party’s legitimacy and depriving themselves of the effective check they could be.  There is no amount of spin that will prevent a rich white man calling a hispanic woman from the Bronx from looking like Grade A Jackhole.

The longer the Republican foot floors the accelerator, the longer their wheels will spin – slinging most of the mud on themselves.

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati