February 11, 2008

into that secret place where no one dares to go

Hervé Saint-Hélier, One Soul Studio, New York, 1997

* Mukasey's false fear. excerpt:

"Last year, the U.S. Sentencing Commission passed and Congress let stand new sentencing guidelines lowering the draconian penalties for crack cocaine. In December, without need of congressional approval, the commission made those changes retroactive. As a result, nearly 20,000 inmates behind bars for crack cocaine violations -- the majority of them African Americans -- will be eligible for early release over the next three decades. These are welcome and much-needed adjustments to a skewed system that imposes a five-year mandatory prison sentence on someone caught with five grams of crack; a defendant would have to be caught with 500 grams of powder cocaine to trigger the same sentence.

"Yet in an appearance last week before the House Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey asked lawmakers to undo the sentencing commission's retroactive application of the new guidelines. The commission's ruling takes effect March 3. And he did so with an appeal to fear. 'Unless Congress acts . . . nearly 1,600 convicted crack dealers, many of them violent gang members, will be eligible for immediate release into communities nationwide,' Mr. Mukasey testified. The early release 'at a time when violent crime is rising,' he claimed, 'will produce tragic but predictable results.'

"Lawmakers should reject Mr. Mukasey's appeal. The attorney general failed to mention that not a single prisoner will be released before a probation report is produced, a federal prosecutor has a chance to weigh in and a federal judge signs off on the reduced sentence. The judge may take into account a host of factors in making his determination, including a prisoner's criminal history, his conduct while in prison, and whether he has completed pre-release programs meant to help with assimilation into a community. Moreover, a prosecutor who objects to early release will probably be able to appeal a judge's decision to a federal appeals court, adding yet another layer of protection for society.

"Mr. Mukasey should be praised for being open to additional reforms to crack sentences; a Senate subcommittee is taking up the question today. Tackling future reforms is a worthy endeavor and a much better use of the attorney general's and lawmakers' efforts."

* Jack Nicholson looks back on 50 years in film. excerpt:

"Jack Nicholson likes a party but he has no plans for a knees-up to celebrate the biggest anniversary of his star-studded career.

"The 70-year-old Oscar-winning Hollywood star, who has just notched up his latest hit with The Bucket List, marks 50 years in the industry this year.
"He has made film history by receiving 12 Oscar nominations - more than any male actor - and has walked off with the coveted gold statue three times - for One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Terms Of Endearment and As Good As It Gets.

"He smiles as he recalls his 1958 big-screen debut, a long-forgotten, low-budget B-movie called The Cry Baby Killer
"But no one expected him to break into song on set.

"Then he hit the high notes in the film version of The Who's rock opera, Tommy, and his voice won him yet more plaudits.

"'Pete Townshend was great. He was very suspicious of actors singing his stuff when he heard me sing - the reason it sounds effortless is because of him. He rearranged it within my range,' said Jack.

"'One of my greatest birthdays was when I wandered into a hotel and Pete Townshend and Joe Walsh (of The Eagles) were sitting there with their guitars.'

"'The three of us sat there and they played and pretty soon I joined in. By the time we had had a few drinks I was rewriting their songs.'"

* Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is ten.

* "I went through a period, after Aeroplane, when a lot of the basic assumptions I held about reality started crumbling. I think that before then, I had an intuitive innocence that guided me and that was a very good thing to a certain point. But then I realized that, to a large degree, I had kept my rational mind at bay my whole life. I just accted on intuition in terms of how I related to life. At some point, my rational mind started creeping in, and it would not shut up. I finally had to address it and confront it. I think most intelligent people, at a younger age than I have, begin to question some of the fundamental assumptions our society promotes. But me, I rejected it without even considering it." --Jeff Magnum


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