Sunday, July 21, 2013

"We Have to Deal with this In an Honest and Open Manner": Non Leader John Boehner's Attempt at Standup Comedy

Just when you thought that the obstructionist Republican House could not sink any lower comes House Speaker John Boehner's over the top appearance on CBS' Face the Nation.  Apparently oblivious to the harm their policies are causing the economy, an economy that would well be on the way to a full recovery be it not for their intentional sabotage for party gain at the detriment of the nation, Boehner's full throated, primary endorsement speech to the Fox News crowd was devoid of any semblance of reality or rationality.

It was clear from Boehner's performance, for that's what it was a performance, a kabuki dance to keep the far right, the birthers, tea baggers and Paulites of his party off his back.  The way Boehner refused to answer any of Bob Schieffer's substantive questions, talked around and flat out refused to address the questions posed was reminiscent of Hubert Humphrey, but unlike Humphrey, often called the “Happy Warrior”, the ill intent  and malevolence for his fellow Americans came through loud and  clear.

If you have not already figured it out America, the choice is clear.  This country is headed in only one of two diametrically opposed directions.  We can either act like grown-ups, take politics for what it is, the art of compromise and concessions where everyone gives up their perfect ideal or we are headed for a right wing oligarchy headed by the ultra-rich and the fundamentalist branch of Christianity  that worships materialism and self-aggrandizement over charity and helping the less fortunate.  

Demographics are in favor of the Democrats, moderates and pragmatists.  The only question is how much damage are the majority of Americans willing to allow the right wing ideologues to inflict upon this country as part of their scorched earth policy on their way out.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

And the Winner Is: Steve Earle: The Warner Bros. Years

Several posts ago I wrote on how I had entered a contest to win a signed copy of  'Steve Earle: The Warner Bros. Years' box set courtesy of No Depression, the Americana, alt-country and roots music authority since 1995.  My entry was:

"Asking a Steve Earle fan to pick his favorite song is akin to asking a parent to pick their favorite child but what the hell here goes:   

I am partial to “I Feel Alright”. The opening verse of “…Now some of you would live through me Then lock me up and throw away the key Or just find a place to hide away And hope that I'll just go away Huh…” is autobiographical but also speaks to the generations of incarcerated  in this country for nothing more than a health problem aka drug addiction.  

I saw one of Steve’s last shows before he reported to prison (he warmed up for Los Lobos at First Ave in Mpls) and he was looking and sounding pretty rough and who could blame him.  Which is why Steve is an inspiration to me;  for taking control of his life, learning from his mistakes and for working for unpopular causes.  Truly a great  songwriter and musician but even a better man."

Truth be told, I had alot more to say, especially on the issue of the futility of controlled substance laws in the United States and the perversion and corruption of the criminal justice system by civil forfeiture laws.  For once, however, I listened to the little voice in my head that kept telling me to keep it concise.

Well they say a picture is worth a thousand words...

This is a beautiful box set consisting of 4 audio cds, a dvd of Steve and the Dukes performance at the Cold Creek Correctional Facility in 1996 as part of his probation on drug and weapons charges that sent him to prison for nearly a year.  The Shout Factory has done an excellent job in executing the final product and it is well worth its retail price, whether you are already a die-hard Steve Earle fan or as an excellent way of getting to know one of the most talented, provocative and intelligent singer songwriters of his generation.

The incredible liner notes by former Baltimore crime beat journalist and co-creator of "The Wire", David Simon,  made me glad I refrained from my standard epistle, as a criminal defense lawyer with 25 years experience in controlled substance defense, on this country's drug laws in my contest entry.  As someone who refuses to pay for cable television,  I became aware of Simon and his cable series first through print media reporting on the series, its excellent choice of soundtrack music (e.g. the Nighthawks, Steve Earle,  etc.) and later through his advocacy work on America's broken drug laws.  

Simon's wonderful liner notes gives you a real feel for Mr. Earle, not as some kind of American hero, but as a fallible human being, self taught intellectual and incongruously, a Texas-transplant Yankee fan.  Coming on the day that my Twins finally broke their 2013 losing streak versus the Yankees and the fact that Simon recalls the story of his attending a Twins-Orioles game at Camden Yards, a game the Twins won by the way, is sweet serendipity indeed.  Simon's liner notes, alone, are worth the price of admission.

Special thank you to Kyla at No Depression.

Travon Martin Verdict: Not Guilty, But Still Not Right

As a criminal defense attorney, the Travon Martin Case has a silver lining.  The jury system still works in this country.  From what I could follow from the media, the evidence was just not there.  There was reasonable doubt.   But this is a predictable outcome when you write a law that allows aggressors to execute their victims.

Whether you believe George Zimmerman was morally right in "standing his ground" and taking the life of an unarmed 17 year old young man or if you believe, like I do, that George Zimmerman was a cowardly, bigot of a punk ass loser who unnecessarily provoked a confrontation that did not have to happen, got his ass kicked by a kid who then used lethal force to extricate himself from the position he put himself into,  you have to respect the verdict, give appreciation to the six woman who honorably discharged their duty and question the wisdom of the Florida State Legislature.  This was a foreseeable outcome from an improvident, poorly crafted (by ALEC no doubt) rubber stamped piece of legislation.

Sadly it will take another latino or African American George Zimmerman and a white, middle or upper class version of  Travon Martin as a victim, to evoke sufficient empathy in the public, especially right wing Republicans, to howl like the cracker barrel bonobos they are and change the law.  Not because all of a sudden it became morally wrong, but because next time, and there will be a next time, it happened to one of their own.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Who Helped Bring Down the Berlin Wall: JFK, Lech Walesa, Pope John Paul II, Gorbachev, the German People and ...Springsteen!

Say What?  That's right all you Hip Hop Abs fans.  "Forget David Hasselhoff," says Erik Kirschbaum, author of Rocking the Wall, referring to the actor-singer whose single Looking for Freedom was No 1 in West Germany in the spring of 1989 – and who famously claimed he brought down the Berlin Wall. "Unlike Springsteen, Hasselhoff didn't go to East Berlin to perform...".   Despite what millions of Red State Americans have been spoon fed to believe, the role of a certain senile, but affable, Mommy fixated President has been grossly overestimated.  I mean, come on, do you really believe that Rotten Ronnie politely calling for the wall to come down a year before it happened was cause and effect:?  If so I have pieces of a certain bridge collapse er, I mean wall to sell to you.
"The highlight of Springsteen's four-hour concert, in which he played a total of 32 songs, was undoubtedly a passionate speech, delivered in a creaky but understandable German, that carried a subtle but clear political message. "I'm not here for any government. I've come to play rock'n'roll for you in the hope that one day all the barriers will be torn down," he said to a crowd that erupted, before he launched into Bob Dylan's Chimes of Freedom, whose lyrics – about the "city's melting furnace … with faces hidden while the walls were tightening" – could hardly have resonated more with his captive audience, many of whom the crowd waved homemade American flags."
To read more on the concert that helped change the world:

The night Bruce Springsteen played East Berlin – and the wall cracked

Friday, July 5, 2013

Bubba on the Big Ticket: Birthday Wishes to Bob Enos

July 4th is always a bittersweet holiday for me.  Sure I love the time of year, getting together with friends and family, music festivals, fireworks etc. However July 4th is also the birthday of Bob Enos, long time trumpet player in Roomful of Blues and countless sessions as a hired gun for the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughn, ZZ Top (unreleased), Pat Benatar, and Sugar Ray & the Bluetones just to name a few.

To be able to say "He Was a Friend of Mine" meant that you were indeed blessed; that your life was enriched not only musically but was made immensely more fun by the presence of Bubba.  Not that there wasn't a price to be paid:  your lungs were treated to the smoke of his constant cigar smoking and often you would have to witness the indignity of a good vodka being ruined by orange pop, but the balance sheet was always tipped in your favor to have had Bobby as your friend.

I have been blessed by the many friendships I have made over the years through Bob and I will always long for the magic that was one of their performances, the camaraderie that went on before during and after the shows and simply being able to hang with friends.  In an attempt to relive some of those moments I was cruising around the web today and came upon perhaps the best examples of one of music's best horn sections at their peak.  Backing Colin James, an under appreciated Canadian guitarist with impeccable taste in American music, as the Little Big Band is the Roomful Horns circa 1993 (Carl Querfurth, trombone; Rich Lataille, saxophone; Doug "Mr. Low" James, baritone, Greg Piccolo, tenor and Bob "Bubba" Enos) and Roomful's long time drummer, John Rossi.  To see the horn section that won so many W.C. Handy awards that they were retired from eligibility for the Blues most prestigious award, see the six part series:

Prt 2 - COLIN JAMES and THE LITTLE BIG BAND on 'The Big Ticket' - TV
Prt 3 - COLIN JAMES and THE LITTLE BIG BAND on 'The Big Ticket' - TV SPECIAL 1993
Prt 4 - COLIN JAMES and THE LITTLE BIG BAND on 'The Big Ticket' - TV 
Prt 5 - COLIN JAMES and THE LITTLE BIG BAND on 'The Big Ticket' - TV SPECIAL 1993
Prt 6 - COLIN JAMES and THE LITTLE BIG BAND on 'The Big Ticket' - TV SPECIAL 1993