Thursday, January 11, 2007

Dangerous Coins

The United States Department of Defense has issued a warning that Defense contracters in Canada have had coins that contain tiny radio transmitters placed among their pocket change. This is not just normal government paranoia, the DOD says the risk is genuine.
Even with the cold war long over, espionage technology continues to be a strong and lucrative field of research. It is unclear, from the information released, which country or entity is using this technology.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Call it what you will...

So Nancy Pelosi, the new Speaker of The House, and the first woman in the history of the United States to hold that position, hosts this party in which the entertainment includes former members of The Grateful Dead. I really wish I could have been there.
You see, even though I'm not a big fan of Pelosi, or any professional politician for that matter, I am a big fan of the Grateful Dead. Many of my happiest memories are from Grateful Dead Concerts. I've been to fourteen Dead concerts, plus several Dead spin-offs, such as Rat Dog and Phil Lesh and Friends, and also many Dead protégé concerts, like String Cheese Incident and Widespread Panic. I'm addicted to non-generic, eclectic, jam-based music. If a "Deadhead" is a fan who has heard more Grateful Dead music than what has been played on the radio, and one who has been to more than two or three Dead concerts, then I am one.
There is the stereotypical concept of the Deadhead held by the general public--the drugged out, spaced out old hippie type, who has no sense of reality--which is way off base. There really is no such thing as a Deadhead stereotype. Speaker Pelosi might not have a general sense of consensus reality, but that doesn't make her a Deadhead.
The genuine, hard core Deadheads were the twenty-to-thirty-thousand strong population of a traveling city which followed the Dead from concert to concert, city to city, country to country. They included. The Deadheads had their own law enforcement, doctors, lawyers, and venders of food and necessities. The population included artists, musicians, authors, journalists and actors--those who could work while on the road and make a living. There were also con-artists and drug dealers, gave strength to the Media's misrepresentation of the Deadhead stereotype. Mostly, the Deadheads were people to whom music was a form of prayer, and the Dead were the prayer leaders.
To this day, nobody plays music like the Dead did. They could cover any song that has ever been played by anyone, and make it their own. They never played the same song the same way twice, and one could get lost in their intricate, complex, avant-garde jams. Drugs were available at the concerts, but they were not necessary to the enjoyment of the music or the concert.
Perhaps the most famous Deadhead of all is Ken Kesey, the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion. His experiment in mass LSD tripping is well documented by Wolfe, Stone, and others. He financed the Grateful Dead when they were first beginning their public career, giving them equipment, and getting them their first big gigs.
Still, though he and his Merry Pranksters lent much to the stereotyping of the consumate Deadhead, he is an extraordinary exception, not the rule.
The Grateful Dead was probably the most apolitical band ever. They never endorsed any political party or candidate. Most Deadheads are apolitical with a few exceptions, such as political essayist and Libertarian activist JP Barlow. Barlow co-wrote many of the Grateful Dead's better known songs, including one of my personal favorites Estimated Prophet. Though a pundit and commentator, Barlow should not be considered a professional politician--he just writes about it, he doesn't do it.
Political or not, the typical Deadhead would be a Libertarian of one kind or another. While holding the general beliefs of "share and share alike" and "live and let live," the typical Deadhead respects the individual and individual rights. Capitalism is part of the Deadhead culture, as is the idea of the community, rather than the government, being the main source of public welfare. As a matter of survival, the typical Deadhead is pragmatic, over everything else. Deadheads are at the least Minimal Statists, and at the most, anarchists. The typical Deadhead is honest, and will tell it as he or she sees it, but is open-minded--traits that would be counter-productive to the career of a typical politician. If anyone could think outside the politics-as-usual box, it would be a Deadhead.
So Speaker Pelosi may be a great fan of the Grateful Dead and their music. If she says she is a Deadhead, I believe that she thinks of herself as a Deadhead, and I respect her for that. However, if her political rivals think that is a piece of ammunition to use against her, they are wrong. The politician may be a Deadhead, but the Deadhead can't be a politician. Pelosi is in denial of the fact that Ayman al Zawahirwi, the spokesman for Al Qaeda, often publishes statements and sentiments regarding and supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq, an organization she doesn't even acknowledge the existence of. She ignores statements by Usama Bin Laden that Iraq is the battleground for World War Three, and by al Masri that Al Qaeda will follow US forces wherever they go. She is hypocritical in that she speaks of transparency and honesty in Congress while pushing for committee leadership for some of the most corrupt unindicted politicians on the Hill. She speaks of bipartisanship while believing that anything the Republican faction does is wrong. This may be due to a change of the psyche from the acid she may have taken at a Dead concert, but that doesn't mean that being a Deadhead is why she thinks the way she does. She thinks the way she does because she is a politician, so, no matter what, please don't denigrate or insult the Deadheads by blaming Pelosi on the Grateful Dead.