How Deadheads ruined the Grateful Dead — Marc Weingarten reviews Dead publicist and family member Dennis McNally’s A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead:

At first, it felt like a rear guard action — fighting for community in a socially fragmented era. But it curdled into the last refuge for musical conservatism and complacency, and it seemed to destroy the band’s work ethic. McNally glancingly makes reference to this dark side of the Deadhead phenomenon: “Like all fans … they could become tediously obsessed with the object of their joy,” he writes.

…What had begun as an inclusive rallying point for outcasts became a provincial closed society. Deadheads were supposed to represent enlightened musical inquiry, but instead, as McNally points out, they ignored adventurous opening acts and lifted lyrics out of context…

Thematic content hardly mattered to the loyalists any more; the band’s canon instead became a series of dramatic gestures, well-timed downshifts, and dance cues. Safe within the fuzzy bubble of Deadhead-land, the band coasted for years on end, but no matter how negligent or desultory the performance, they always had the Deadheads to fall back on. Of course the Dead loved the support — they never had to work hard to earn it.

With nothing to strive for and no musical goals to attain, the band lapsed into a creative torpor for the last 15 or so years of its career, even resurrecting itself this summer for another go-round without Garcia. If McNally’s book teaches us anything, it’s that, for a band with a prodigious drug and alcohol habit, the Deadheads’ unquestioning faith was perhaps its most dangerous narcotic. Slate

Exactly! This nails two of the painful core aspects of my experience as a fan, at times fanatic, of the Grateful Dead — how insufferable the fans were and unbearable the Dead show ‘scene’ became; and how inexorably the music turned from transcendent and ecstatic to plodding noodling, an imitation of its former genius — and shows exactly how they were causally linked.

Ironic. Non-Deadheads could never understand the appeal at all (“Either you’re on the bus or off the bus…”). Uncritically, vacuously, reverent Deadheads, on the other hand, could never understand how I could bring myself to stop going to the shows or why, as a tape trader with thousands of hours of the Dead’s music (listening to the best of which still brings me a visceral pleasure comparable only to the most brilliant improvisational jazz performances or passages of Mozart), I would turn my nose up at anything after, oh, 1977 or 1978 or so. Many never conceptualized the Dead as having a decline or downfall or, if they did, placed it more than a decade later and attributed it to Garcia’s health problems and/or his heroin addiction. Most never saw the decay of the ‘scene’.

Not Buddhists I guess… blind to the core lesson about the impermanence of all things, and the source of suffering in that impermanence. Nothing to that point had brought that home to me as my relationship with the Dead’s music and the bitterness of my struggle to give up my attachment, then watch the Dead and the scene plod on painfully, embarrassingly, for two more decades. And they’re still not finished — each of the surviving bandmembers’ bands, and their intermittent reunion attempts since Garcia’s death, are pitiful attempts to regain the glory and bask in the fans’ adulation without ever doing anything new musically.

Can These People be Saved from Themselves?

Poll shows free speech support down: “Support for the First Amendment has eroded significantly since Sept. 11 and nearly half of Americans now think the constitutional amendment on free speech goes too far in the rights it guarantees, says a poll released Thursday.

The sentiment that the First Amendment goes too far was already on the rise before the terrorist attacks a year ago, doubling to four in 10 between 2000 and 2001.” Sacramento Bee

"Always Vengeful Bureaucracy":

James Bamford, author of Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security

, writes:

Washington Bends the Rules ‘Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.” So begins “The Trial,” Franz Kafka’s story of an ordinary man caught in a legal web where the more he struggles to find out what he did wrong, the more trapped he becomes. “After all,” says Kafka’s narrator, “K. lived in a state governed by law, there was universal peace, all statutes were in force.”

With increasing speed, the Justice Department of Attorney General John Ashcroft is starting to resemble the “always vengeful bureaucracy” that crushed Josef K. Recently, in two federal cases, the Justice Department argued that it is within the president’s inherent power to indefinitely detain, without any charges, any person, including any United States citizen, whom the president (through the Justice Department) designates an “enemy combatant.” Further, the person can be locked away, held incommunicado and denied counsel. Finally, Mr. Ashcroft argues that such a decision is not subject to review by federal or state courts. This situation is beyond even Kafka, who in his parable of punishment and paranoia at least supplied Josef K. with an attorney.’ NY Times op-ed

Big Brother hiding inside cars

‘Called a Sensing Diagnostic Module, the electronic “brains” behind an airbag were developed by General Motors and are now manufactured by its spin-off company Delphi at an electronics plant in Kokomo, Ind. GM’s air bags are made in Vandalia at Delphi’s Interior & Lighting Systems plant and are later hooked up to the black boxes on assembly lines for GM and other auto companies.

Since 2000, it’s become possible with the right computer decoding software to retrieve and read information stored in the SDM’s electronic memory. Though GM designed the sensing modules to capture information about accidents that could be studied for ways to make cars safer, police and insurance investigators discovered that the data can also be used to help make a case about who caused the accident.’ Dayton Daily News

With all due respect:

William Safire on journalistic integrity and how Bloomberg caved to Lee Kuan Yew, the dictator of Singapore.

“… Autocratic regimes professing to be democracies have been known to use their judiciary systems to jail or bankrupt dissidents and intimidate resident reporters. Electronic media professing to practice journalism have been known to trade their integrity for global access. Where is the greater corruption?

I tried to reach the C.E.O. of Bloomberg, Lex Fenwick, but he dove under his desk. The founder, one Michael Bloomberg, is no longer with the firm and left no forwarding address. ” NY Times

Bhopal Update

Where’s Warren? Warren Anderson, that is, who ran Union Carbide in 1984 at the time of the Bhopal disaster in India and who has since disappeared from view. Protesters in India and worldwide seeking justice for victims are putting the heat on the Indian government, which is vacillating about whether it will bring murder charges against Anderson or let him slide with a misdemeanor negligence charge. It appears, naturally, that it is pressure from the US government (” How hard would it be to find Anderson if the US authorities really wanted to track him down? “) and Dow Chemicals (which has taken over the assets of Union Carbide) to preserve business arrangements that is leading to the Indian government’s ambivalence. Greenpeace