By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
"Los Angeles Is Burning" was in fact written by Graffin's much better-known bandmate and co-songwriter Brett Gurewitz (the head of powerhouse Epitaph Records), who by his own admission has tended to pen the band's poppy hits for 24 years. Furthermore, if that guitar solo strikes Smith as being imitative of Mike Campbell, it's because it's played by Mike Campbell. I'm not sure if Campbell can imitate himself, but apparently Smith thinks so. Lastly, the photo you used includes ex-drummer Bobby Schayer, who has been out of the band for three years and two albums now, whereas bassist Jay Bentley totally fails to appear!
Is it too much to ask that prior to assigning a review about one of the inarguable godfathers of the '80s, '90s, and current punk rock scenes, The Village Voice find out if the writer actually respects such records and knows what the hell he's talking about? As well, does this sort of sorry fact-checking (and photo checking) characterize the rest of your music coverage?
George Smith replies: I don't have a copy of the album. I had a promotional copy, with no additional information. There were no songwriting credits on it, alas.
And, OK, I was wrong about the solo on "Los Angeles Is Burning." It is my shame. But it's also indicative of a good ear.
I honestly did not know Mike Campbell played the solo. There was no credit on the promotional copy. It was merely a CD in a nondescript red cardboard sleeve with the album and song titles. And no mention of this solo was on the band's website back when I received the album for review. Still, it is also my shame not to have gone to the store and bought a retail copy of the CD just to check.
However, good for Campbell. I thought "Los Angeles Is Burning" had an excellent guitar solo and still do, naturally in the finest Campbell-esque tradition. It adds much to this great song. Upon further listening, the rest of the tunes on The Empire Strikes First still bite it, no matter who wrote them or who played the guitar solos.
Hentoff writes that "if the Supreme Court is to be these prisoners' last resort for their reappearance from invisibility, the Court must mandate, if Congress doesn't, what Human Rights First" calls for: an official accounting to Congress. Here, Hentoff demonstrates what so many others have shown: a complete lack of understanding of the doctrine of separation of powers.
According to the Constitution the commander in chief's power is vested in only one person. Therefore, once Congress declares war, as it has done in empowering the president to invade Iraq or to invade Nazi Germany and Japan, the Congress and the Court have no further constitutional role to play.
And so it seems clear that Hentoff and his fellow sympathizers had better reread the Constitution before spouting off on what should be done about Abu Ghraib or anything else concerning the conduct of the war in Iraq, unless and until Congress un-declares that war.
Del Ray Beach, Florida
Nat Hentoff replies: Caplan has failed to read the Supreme Court's June opinions in the Hamdi and Guantánamo cases, which make clear that as commander in chief, the president is not above the Constitution, laws that Congress has passed, or the international treaties we have signed. By the way, the congressional resolution for the use of force after 9-11 was not an official declaration of war. Even if it had been, the president is not our king.