Saturday, October 23, 2004

This is the 25th Anniverssary of the release of LONDON CALLING by THE CLASH.

They are still the only band that matters and London Calling is still one of the greatest albums of all-time.

It bridged and fused punk, reggae, rock, jazz and pure CLASH soul. It made possible everything that came after it. Its lyrics, music and raw energy make it a seminal musical, poetic and cultural acheivement. Rest in Peace Joe Strummer. Long Live the Clash.


I spent some time strolling through the Borders Book Store on 2nd Avenue today. One title on a front table caught my eye, To Punish and Protect: A DA's Fight Against a System That Coddles Criminals by Jeanine Pirro. The distinguished Ms. Pirro is the Westchester County New York District Attorney.

A system that "coddles" criminals? The United States has the largest number of people in prison in the world, more than 2 MILLION. This is up from 1 million in 1990 and 500,000 in 1980. We also have more people per 100,000 either in prison or who have been through the system (paroled or on probation) than any nation on Earth.

We have the death penalty, the three strikes law that sends people to prison for life on third felony conviction, and some of the toughest and most inhumane drug laws in the world.

This is the system that coddles criminals? What are we lacking? Torture? Cutting off limbs? Exile? Perhaps we should send some fact finding missions to Saudi Arabia and China.

Our society suffers from an ethos and pathos of guns, violence, militarization and aggression. It has become dependent on and feeds into the criminal-prison-law enforcement complex.

Coddles criminals? Hardly. We suffer from so many social ills that lead to crime and so many behaviors that have been falsely criminalized that we have lost touch with what a civil society looks like. Its like being a progressive in America. Our most liberal democrats look like conservatives in the rest of the world.

Publishers Weekly had this to say about the book:

"This book serves several purposes: to stoke public consciousness of crime and contempt for criminals, to mobilize support for toughening the penal laws and to position the author as a remorselessly angry crusader. As she states, hers is an elected position, and a book such as this will serve the author well as campaign literature."

There it is. Modern America in a nutshell. Shallow (always looking for the punishment rather than fixing the root causes of any problem) vindictive, mean spirited, egotistical, heavy on agenda and lacking in conscience, devoid of nuance and endlessly self-promoting.

I suppose none of his should be surprising in a country that has tuned into a modern day facsimile of the Old Testament, complete with its intolerance, war, racism, and angry vengeful people and God.

I am going into the living room to meditate.