Steve's No Direction Home Page :
If he needs a third eye, he just grows it.
Updated: 10/23/2004; 11:38:08 AM.


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Saturday, July 27, 2002

Bob Dylan's Unswerving Road Back to Newport. Bob Dylan returns to the Newport Folk Festival 37 years after his earth-shaking 1965 concert, the first time he performed live with an electric band. By Tom Piazza. [New York Times: Arts]

 A sense of the importance of the individual voice and its possibilities has never left Dylan; if anything, it has gotten stronger as the popular music business has gotten bigger and more monolithic. "I always thought," he once said, "that one man, the lone balladeer with the guitar, could blow an entire army off the stage if he knew what he was doing." More and more, one recognizes that figure in Dylan and watches in wonder, and in gratitude.  

Looks like the old boy is coming back around Berkeley in October; if I go too long without seeing him live, I go through withdrawal. Luckily, he's played around here yearly, if not more, for the last 10 years or so. It's a real privilege to have seen him for so long.

8:58:50 PM  Permalink  comment []

Intelligent (?) Design

US News follows its very good report on evolution last week with a look at "intelligent design." This is just another way to get Creationism, really Christianity, into the schools. Go to Google, and search on "inelligent design," and have a look at some of the sites; it doesn't take very much work to find Creationism on any of them. Even if that weren't the case, what good is ID? What does it say about things? Is science, when it sees something like bacterial flagella supposed to shrug its shoulders, say, oh, that's designed, and then ignore it? And what about the plenty of examples of stupid design?

 At bottom, ID is a pretty simple concept. Somewhere, somehow, something intervened in evolution. Most proponents won't specify the designing force (at least, not publicly)–it could be God, aliens, or time travelers. There's no consensus on the rest. Some believe that evolution works up to a point. Behe doesn't doubt that humans and apes evolved from a common ancestor, but he thinks Darwin's mechanism can't account for the complex molecules that make life tick. Others advocate the notion of an invisible hand guiding all of life's history, from primordial soup to human beings.

But as we've already seen, since we're lving in a simulated universe, the truth is that anything is possible.

8:32:52 PM  Permalink  comment []

Dave Winer wants to raise $5 million to defeat two members of Congress who are doing some nasty stuff with P2P networks. Sign me up, I'll contribute whatever I can. Ernie the Attorney posts a good lesson in how to go about this sort of thing. Very interesting; it takes a lot of committment and a lot of work. Experience is necessary -- the guys on the other side have a lot of experience, a lot of paid lobbyists, and a lot of money.

I wonder if it doesn't make more sense to go work with someone who already as a lot of this infrastructure together. I'm thinking of groups like, and there are many others. "Winning" this battle is going to be tough: you can bet Valenti, RIAA, et al won't stop once this is over with, and neither can we.


7:50:33 PM  Permalink  comment []

Powell Should Bow Out Now

Good editorial by Cynthia Tucker in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about Bush's cavein to the righties about funding family planning overseas. It cut the legs out from under Colin Powell:

 The White House has just cut the legs out from under the secretary of state -- as well as millions of wretchedly poor women the world over -- with its decision not to contribute $34 million already set aside for the United Nations Population Fund, which gives aid to family-planning organizations around the world. The Bush administration claims that the U.N. fund supports the Chinese government's program of forced abortion.

But that's a baldfaced lie circulated for blatant political expediency. In May, the State Department issued a report that refutes right-wingers' claims about the U.N. fund, saying there was no evidence it "knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization." And Powell had praised the U.N. fund during his Senate confirmation hearings last year.

Well, we know about these right-wing extremists and the truth; they're not very acquainted.

 Unlike incurious George, Powell understands the global realities of crushing poverty, oppression of women and a related misery -- AIDS. Without family planning, countless women (often little girls, actually) will have babies they cannot feed, house or clothe. Constant childbearing will limit the mothers' opportunities for education and higher incomes. And because so many of the mothers are HIV-positive, many of their children will be born infected, as well.

And here's a truth the GOP's anti-abortion extremists will never admit: Family planning has led to fewer abortions. The State Department report determined that abortions have actually decreased in the Chinese counties where the U.N. Population Fund is active.

See, it's not about abortion at all; this administration and its rightist liars don't care whether family planning leads to fewer abortions or not.

But what is it about? Arrogance, power, and...

 many GOP ultraconservatives also oppose contraception, which suggests they are less interested in ending abortion and relieving the misery of women and children and more interested in keeping women barefoot and pregnant.

5:32:08 PM  Permalink  comment []

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid. Some social scientists and risk assessment experts say there is a point at which there is too much security. By Edward Wong. [New York Times: Politics]

 But some social scientists and risk assessment experts say there is a point at which there is too much security, too many well-intentioned men and women parading around with weapons in an effort to stave off an invisible danger. Many Americans certainly say there is a real need to increase protection around the country's airline system, perhaps more so than in any other facet of daily life. Still, a system designed to reassure people can actually strike fear in them.

"At some point, if an airport looks like an encampment, the balance will probably be tipped in the direction of increasing fear," said Barry Glassner, a professor of sociology at the University of Southern California and the author of "The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things." "In general, the more obvious the safety precautions in the environment, the more we think the place is unsafe. The question that has to be asked is: Can security be increased in a way that is beneficial without increasing levels of fear and anxiety that deter people from traveling?"

When people get scared, they stop acting rationally, and don't make decisions that are best for themselves or the country. I hear a lot of "well if it keeps us secure then it's worth it." Well, that kind of security is the kind that isn't security at all. Like the homeowner who is so worried about the possibility of robbery that he installs tons of locks and bars on the doors and becomes not safer, but a prisoner of his own fears.

Roosevelt told us "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." He was talking about the economy; that would be good advice for the stock market today. It would be even better advice for the climate of fear about "security." But there's a whole industry -- televesion, radio, many office holders -- that profits from keeping us scared and docile.

There's another related article in the Times today:

The Perilous Search for Security at Home. The plan to collapse 22 agencies and tens of thousands of employees into a new homeland security behemoth is nothing less than a project to transform American society. But into what? By Alison Mitchell. [New York Times: Politics]

  "Creating a new department of homeland security is not the end of our reform efforts," says Tom Ridge, the White House director of homeland security. "It is the beginning."

No one denies that the Sept. 11 attacks changed the balance that Americans had struck between security and civil liberties. And repeatedly throughout American history, safeguards on civil liberties have been lifted in times of war, only to return with peace.

A central challenge a free society faces in countering terrorism is in maintaining its own character, protecting its citizens while preserving what makes the society worth protecting in the first place.

What is different here, and what Americans are only now beginning to absorb, is the prospect of an open-ended war, without a decisive victory or clear end point.

This is scary, scary stuff. A few weeks ago I was walking some talking heads from the Wall Street Journal on TV, making fun of those who brought up Orwell in connection with this War on Whatever. But 1984 does have a chilling parallel to what's going on now: a nameless enemy and an unending war was used to help keep the populace in control, was an excuse for the repression that went on.

It's up to each and every one of us to make sure that we dont' get scared and allow us to lose what makes this society worth protecting in the first place: freedom of speech and movement, freedom to choose those who represent us, freedom to criticize those who govern us, freedom to live our lives knowing there isn't a hidden spy down the street from us.

4:56:53 PM  Permalink  comment []

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