Drug prohibition is the elephant in the room of the racial profiling debate?the conflict wouldn't exist were cops not allowed to harass law-abiding drivers in the first place. That they are is a direct result of the Drug War's erosion of constitutional rights. Think this will come up when Alan Dershowitz leads a seminar on the racial profiling issue ("A Constitutional and Societal Dilemma") Monday at the 92nd St. Y? Probably not, since it's so much easier for Clinton liberals to blame powerless bigots like John Rocker than to actually take power away from those who have abused it. (1/31, 8 p.m., 1395 Lexington Ave. at 92nd St., 996-1100, $20.)
But if we take power away from limousine liberals, the conservatives will grab it! At least the GOP has its libertarian strain, as evidenced by the only decent speaker audible in the 2000 presidential campaign, Alan Keyes. Talk about your victims of racial profiling. Even Keyes, though, demonstrates what cracks me up about conservatives: they think this country is so frickin' great! I can't figure out how the same people who compare Cuba to Nazi Germany, insisting we mustn't send little Elian back there, also maintain that abortion is murder and homosexuality the scourge of civilization?which if true would make America much worse than Nazi Germany. At least in Cuba the kid won't play immoral video games and listen to soul-destroying music, right? Here he'd be free to make a lot of money, sure, but he'd still have to chip in for those dirty paintings funded by the NEA (which eats up considerably less tax money than federal drug propaganda, by the way), so isn't the grass even a tiny bit greener over there?
Personally, I wouldn't want to be stuck where I couldn't speak my mind?not Cuba, or an American public school, or Major League Baseball. But for a country that supposedly sees freedom as sacred, we sure do imprison a lot of harmless citizens. Similarly, for a long-oppressed people, Cubans evince tremendous liberation of spirit in their popular music. I notice that Shania Twain and DMX don't sound quite so free. Rhino's new Caravana Cubana: Late Night Sessions offers yet more evidence of Cuban achievement that Castro hasn't quashed. A document of recent L.A. performances that reunited great Cuban-American players with visiting Cuban stars, it's a hotter, more raucous album than the deservedly lauded Buena Vista Social Club.
American folk tradition takes center stage on Saturday, Feb. 5, when "This Land Is Your Land: The Life and Legacy of Woody Guthrie" opens at the Museum of the City of New York. (2/5-4/23, 1220 5th Ave. at 103rd St., 534-1672 $5, $4 st./s.c.) One might better learn about Guthrie by simply listening to Dust Bowl Ballads. I predict that not because the exhibition is underwritten by Nissan, nor because its "Honorary Committee" includes such mediocrities as Ani DiFranco, Billy Joel and Natalie Merchant, but because the Museum of the City of New York is simply not a very good museum. Its exhibitions are routinely bettered by those at the New-York Historical Society, where Tuesday, Feb. 1, brings "New York on the Brink: The Fiscal Crisis of the 1970s." A look at the "Ford To New York: Drop Dead" era, through the lens of the current boom, seems likely to tell us more about America than Guthrie through the lens of Nissan and Billy Joel. (2/1-5/7, 2 W. 77th St. at Central Park W., 873-3400, $5, $3 st./s.c.)
Of course any museum visit is better than none at all. Personally, I go to as many as possible. In fact, two weeks from now in this space I'll have for you a report on the new Hayden Planetarium?which opens on Feb. 19, and which everyone who's walked across W. 81st St. lately knows looks cool as all hell, at least from the outside?because on Feb. 1 I will wake up extremely early to attend?baked?the press preview. Other New York Press contributors scheduled to be their free-thinking selves at local museums include our three film critics, each of whom will introduce a favorite movie as part of the American Museum of the Moving Image's "The New York Film Critics Circle Looks at the 1990s" series. Godfrey Cheshire introduces Edward Yang's A Brighter Summer Day on Sunday, 1/30, 2 p.m. Matt Zoller Seitz introduces John Duigan's Flirting Saturday, 2/12, 4:15 p.m., and the next day at 2 p.m. Armond White introduces Walter Hill's Geronimo: An American Legend. This series will also feature panel discussions, which I don't recommend attending, baked or otherwise. (35th Ave. at 36th St., Astoria, 718-784-0077, $8.50, $5.50 st./s.c.)
Speaking of getting baked, it doesn't make one a bad citizen, but it might help a music fan focus on some challenging new sounds. Receive the Flame, the new album by Boyd Rice's band Non, is a perfect example. Like much of the work of the Swans, it could come across as either some inconsequential noise or an almost unbearably intense onslaught of exquisitely composed music, depending on how far you let it in. Buy this album and play it loud if you want to feel really weird and sort of bad. On a related note, Swans man M. Gira, who with Angels of Light and Body Lovers has been putting out stuff every bit as amazing as Non's lately, plays Tonic on Sunday, 1/30. (Tonic, for those who haven't yet been there, is the sort of great downtown space the Knitting Factory should have moved into instead of their current location in Tribeca, which feels cheap and collegiate by comparison. It's at 107 Norfolk St., betw. Delancey & Rivington Sts., 358-7501, 8 p.m., $12, $10 adv.)
Earlier in the week, Tonic hosts a three-night benefit for the Circuit Foundation, curated by drummer/composer Dougie Bowne. The Circuit Foundation is trying to set up Web resources for the disabled. Bowne, who two years ago came down with a rare neurological disorder, learned that despite all the recent talk of a "virtual community," little has been done online for the people who actually need one. Benefits for causes that are both worthy and within reach are rare. Performing at this one are Chris Whitley (Weds., 1/26, 8 p.m., $10), Cibo Matto's Yuka Honda with Sean Lennon and others, opening for Arto Lindsay (Thurs., 1/27, 8 p.m., $15) and the triple bill of Dougie Bowne's Peninsula, wine-sipping rock 'n' soul rebel Chocolate Genius (always puts on a good show) and Marc Ribot with members of Los Cubanos Postizos (Fri., 1/28, 8 p.m., $15.) (As always, if you ask to be on the guest list for a benefit performance, you're vile.)
That example of private effort in the public interest is inspiring, so here're two more: the 5th-annual "Odyssey of the Earth" pageant in support of New York's community gardens (the LES needs more housing like the tv networks need more public money) takes place Saturday evening around Tompkins Square Park. The bacchanal starts at 7 p.m. at 638 E. 6th St., betw. Aves. B & C; call 777-7969 to volunteer. And, as part of the Winter Restaurant Week canned-food drive, participating restaurants (list posted at nycvisit.com) will offer $20 prix-fixe lunches and collect nonperishable foodstuffs from Monday, 1/31, until Friday, 2/4. Contributing to the food drive enters you in a sweepstakes with prizes including two tickets to any domestic Continental Airlines destination and gift certificates for various NYC restaurants. Power to the people and pass the pate.