August 31, 2003

Political Rhetoric

Posted by mbowen at 11:40 PM | TrackBack

Backhanded Bigotry

Over at Vision Circle, I tear into a few.

Requiring that Bustamante disown MEChA as a litmus test for his acceptability doesn't help anyone. It begs the question of MEChA's own racist culpability and influence on California politics. It lowers the ethical level of the debate. It offers Bustamante an easy way out - MEChA can instantly become Bustamante's 'Sistah Souljah'. It is a false accusation masquerading as racial concern.

Any moment now, I suspect we will be hearing from Ann Coulter.

It's also useful to see disrespect heaped on those who know MEChA to be something other than the conspiracy theorists would have the public believe. Tacitus provides the flamewar.

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The World Trade Address

Gerard at the American Digest wrote the following. I quote it here in full. I'd probably make a few changes but it is nothing short of brilliant, if somewhat unoriginal.

Two years ago our enemies brought to us on this continent a new war, conceived in hatred and dedicated to the proposition that all Americans are to be slaughtered because they are Americans.

Now we are engaged in a great global war, testing whether this nation or any nation so attacked can long find the courage to endure the duties and sacrifices necessary for victory.

We are met on our first mass grave of that war. We have come to remember it as a final resting-place for those who here were murdered in our airplanes, at their desks, or trying to save others. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.

Our fellow citizens, living and dead, who struggled here and in the war since that day have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.

The old world and those among us still weak and dedicated to appeasement will little note nor long remember what we say here, but we can never allow ourselves to forget what happened here.

It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the as yet unfinished war which by their deaths these victims and heroes have required of us.

It is rather for us to become more deeply dedicated to finishing the great task remaining before us--that from the ashes of our honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that all nations under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that governments of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

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Total Recall

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August 29, 2003

The Alien Big Tent

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So I've Been Told (2)

If I were a Springer-Verlag Graduate Text in Mathematics, I would be Frank Warner's Foundations of Differentiable Manifolds and Lie Groups.

I give a clear, detailed, and careful development of the basic facts on manifold theory and Lie Groups. I include differentiable manifolds, tensors and differentiable forms. Lie groups and homogenous spaces, integration on manifolds, and in addition provide a proof of the de Rham theorem via sheaf cohomology theory, and develop the local theory of elliptic operators culminating in a proof of the Hodge theorem. Those interested in any of the diverse areas of mathematics requiring the notion of a differentiable manifold will find me extremely useful.

Which Springer GTM would you be? The Springer GTM Test

I'd once been told that I should find a support group for child prodigies. I don't think I was a child prodigy, but I was really upset that I couldn't have piano lessons at the poor public school I attended. Further, I hated the fact that during the teacher's strike of 1969 when we went on a field trip to Hancock Park, that they wouldn't let me touch the Van de Graff generator.

I realize that I have spent an inordinate amount of time in my life avoiding being considered a geek. And so I never developed a great deal of resentment for the fact I have no idea about differentiable manifolds. But there are days when I feel as if I have been cheated...

This isn't so very important is it? Nevermind.

Posted by mbowen at 11:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

George Schultz on the Internal Empire

A great quote from a very interesting website:

George P. Shultz: The President has done a good job and in community after community there have been strong expressions that this is not about Islam, this is not about Muslims, this is not about Arabs--they're not our enemy. Our enemy are people who somehow have been caught up in this pattern of terrorism and violence--they are our enemy. And so in the spirit of what has made the United States a great nation, we are a diverse nation and we honor that diversity, and we think and people here are loyal Americans. And that's--I'll never forget, on July 4, 1986, we had the hundredth anniversary of the Statue of Liberty being put in New York harbor. It had been refurbished, and President Reagan--the lights went on, the torch was writ--lit, and President Reagan spoke. One of the things that he said was, you can go to France, you can never become French, you can go to Japan, you'll never become Japanese, you can go to China, you'll never become Chinese, you can go to Italy, you'll never become Italian, but anyone can come to America from anywhere and become an American. It was a thrilling--and a deep statement about the nature of America, and of our attitude. We're a diverse country. And when you attack America, you attack the world, because the world is here. And furthermore, in the World Trade Center, I'm told that nationals of some eighty countries are among the lost or missing. The Chinese representative called on me the other day, told me--I think he said a hundred and thirty one Chinese national's among them--just to take an example. And practically any country you name. So, the United States is the world. And we're in favor of the world, and these people are the enemies of the world.

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Visual Basic & .NET

Well, I'll say that my humiliation is just about complete. I'm going to take this job as soon as they offer it to me, but it is now abundantly clear that although I am hired as an architect, I will spend a significant percentage of my time babysitting an application built on Visual Basic, MS Access and Excel. That will be OK for a year, I suppose.

But the upshot of this is that now I have to take this kind of crap seriously. I'll be getting my OReilly book on VB and .NET and all that rot so I can work this puppy, but I must say that my enthusiasm is less than stellar. The only good thing is that I will get to play with the API to my favorite database with some depth.

Now J tells me that .NET is not bad at all, and that with the full Visual Studio license kit and all that, that it may be pleasurable to work with. That may be something to look forward to, sorta. But I still want to work with the Linux security guys. You can imagine the looks on their faces..

What is completely on the plus side is that the subject matter for this application is top notch. It's something most everybody has some conception of and is absolutely critical to the company I'll be working at: Film Revenues.

Just yesterday I spoke on the phone to the partner of the one of three folks I respect who are Microsoft Heads. All of them have written books on their subjects, one of which I own. So along with J, I'm not in such bad company. Still, this is going to suck on my resume.

Posted by mbowen at 01:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

An Essay on My Blackness

I am pleased to have been informed that the University of Michigan has done the common sense thing which is re-rig their admissions process to something a bit less automated. They have decided to use essay questions instead of a point system to evaluate the various flavors of students to admit into their diversity stew.

Inevitably, people will count noses, but all should be satisfied that what is ineffable about ethnicity will not be so mechanistically assigned points. The school will hire a score of additional readers to parse through the thousands of undergraduate applications.

The students only get 250 words to say something worthwhile vis a vis 'diversity' which seems to me to be a bit more demeaning than 20 points automatically assigned. I can understand the University's desire to use points. I suppose this is as good a compromise as can be expected.


Though it still asks openly about race, the new application is longer, seeking more essays from students and more information from high schools. Mr. Courant speculated that "we'll know more about these students than any other class."

Without points, though, some amount of personal bias is inevitable, educators said.

"In essence, it becomes a more subjective review," said Mabel G. Freeman, assistant vice president for undergraduate admissions at Ohio State University, in Columbus. Her office also used points until this summer. Doing away with that system will take "more staff, more readers and more money," Ms. Freeman said, though she is not sure how much more.

Opponents will now have to single out essays that will be leaked to them in order to show that Affirmative Action oppresses. Who knows, we may find another Paul Kelly Tripplehorn.

UPDATE: Real Essays on My Blackness
The Existential Qualification - 1993
Stone Temple Pilots & The End of My Blackness - 1995
Interview With the Boohab - 1998
The Opening Salvo - 2002

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Grapes by the Ton

A couple months ago, three of us went up to one of the many wine growing areas of California. There was a big luau complete with a live band playing Jimmy Buffet style music at a winery my sister is a member of. I had a good time, but I still drifted into one of my vague states trying to find out how the money is made.

I kept trying to guess how many bottles of wine one could get out of a vine plant, and then I started multiplying across all the plants I could see in front of me how much an operation like this little place could make. I found a few answers here, and on Kitty Felde's show yesterday. Here's another set of interesting tidbits.

It turns out that I was off by an order of magnitude about how many grapes you can get out of an acre of plants, and I find it a bit miraculous to think that you can get 4 to 8 tons out of an acre depending upon what kind of grape. These days yeilds are down and there is a glut of Sirah and Cabernet. Merlot is selling OK, but only because it was such a bad year for Merlot productivity.


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Folks You Should Know

It's interesting upon reflection to remember that we almost always think of black history in terms of people rather than of narrative. We know something of Denmark Vessey, but less actually of the context of his actions. Growing up in the days just before books about African Americans were prevalent in schools, many of us were lucky to hear names only.

This week, all you'll be hearing is about Martin Luther King, Jr., his one speech and the March on Washington. King himself called it the Poor People's March, so yet again context is missing in today's half reverence.

There are still people to know as well has historical events and movements in context. So I thought I'd bring to your attention, this site, with some standouts of the 20th Century.

Posted by mbowen at 07:51 AM | TrackBack

August 28, 2003

Minds on the Line

This afternoon I got a double-whammy on the radio. I listen with some regularity to NPR although I do tire of its partisanship. Nobody argues that NPR has a liberal bias, although it would be more correct to say that it has a white upper-middle class educated liberal bias. Since those are the people that educated me, for the most part, there will always be a soft spot in my brain for them.

But there are many things NPR does on a regular basis to earn my respect, not the least of which goes under the headings of Ira Flatoe, Car Talk, Tavis Smiley (yeah, yeah), Juan Williams, Larry Mantle & Garrison Keillor. If rightwing radio could something to raise its IQ level above the commonsense straight-talk it does so well, it could have a lot more support from people like me. Then again, I don't really need to hear another mattress commercial and now you know the rest of the story.

But it did take me a bit by surprise to hear on today's edition of Marketplace, that meatball, Armstrong Williams opine against the cultural divisions of American Reparations. What indeed is the sound of one hand clapping? It is Williams unanswered in his editorials. I have just a few sentences for Mr. Williams. Debt unforgiven is debt owed. Nobody doubts the debt. Nobody wants to pay. Compromise is in order. OK that's the topline, the rest of that story is practically settled for now as far as I'm concerned. Nevertheless, one of these days the umptee ump billion dollar war on terrorism will be over and downtown Bagdad will look better than downtown Compton, CA. Americans will be pissed at our pissing away money - for who? People who kill our soldiers. We need to clean up our own internal third world, by jingo.

In a more subtle controversy, one of the city councilmen of Boston is promising boycotts, marches and sit-ins if black contractors don't get their fair share of the work building the physical stage for the Democratic Convention coming up. The irony of such a position is astoundingly thick.

The major black contractors in Boston are non-union, open shop affairs. But in order to get major work you've got to be union, as they apparently control the market. Aside from all the free market blather we have an oversupply of, I am hard put to explain why the city government lets this situation be other than what is effectively a racist crony system. I wonder if the set-aside market has sufficed for the few non-whites in Boston all these years and now they are getting too big for their britches. I wonder what is stopping the browns and the blacks from creating their own union. I wonder what makes this councilman think ordinary blackfolks who aren't carpenters have nothing better to do that walk around in circles with picket signs for jobs they're not going to get.

Bodies on the picket line are not going to win minds. And although I don't expect much more from Marketplace, I do hope I can find some answers to my wondering.

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He Thinks He's Cool But He's Snot

Have you ever been to Aspen? Paul has, and he's better than you.

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Tattling Tags

The LATimes offers a clue to RIAA tactics against the defense of copying your own MP3s. ID3 tags.

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Election Progress

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August 27, 2003

SEAL Team Six

These days I am re-reading Dick Marcinko which is a hell of a lot of fun. The particular piece of airport fiction I am engrossed in is called 'Rogue Warrior: Red Cell'. As you can imagine, the frank verisimilitude of such narratives would be considered anathema these days, but I'm a spy fan going way back. So I am accustomed to hearing about how incompetent and superior we are all at once.

Now considering that it doesn't take a genius to realize that certain elite units work as cover for super secret units and individuals much of the dirty deeds we have been doing in Iraq to secure the top 52 are not surprising. What has me curious now are a couple of things.

1. How many of these special CT units have been reactivated and/or initiated since nine-eleven? (It was only last summer that BUDS training reality shows were airing on the Discovery Channel - there are no coincidences)

2. What kind of vulnerabilities are we really dealing with that we are certainly not being told?

Such matters are classified of course. So there isn't much we outsiders can know, either about the bone chilling vulnerabilities or the superhuman achievements. These are the elements in shaping the policies and language, and you can be sure for every soldier who is lost in Iraq a very detailed accounting of why is being made. Somebody is losing men, and somebody in the Pentagon will pay politically.

In the meantime, you may take comfort or worry your butt off in an episode of Marcinko's. I highly recommend it for an inside the head experience of the guys who are ready to die for our side, especially those who hate doing it for the wrong reason and the wrong people.

I'm sure Marcinko is muzzled on the politcal subjects of the day, but I'd sure like to hear what he'd have to say.

Posted by mbowen at 10:40 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Meat Music

I've got about 5500 MP3s on my disk. I'm about 1/3 way through ripping my entire CD collection. I've tried to write on this subject of digital properties and the more I think about it, the further I get from any sound conclusions. Which only means I have to break it up into small chunks of points. Let this be one.

The short lesson of this episode has to do with the price of tracks. As I said, I have spent many hours ripping MP3 tracks from CDs I own. The purpose is to sell the CDs not only to free up space in the living room but to engage in the meat market - that is buying, selling and trading of music in person rather than online. My original idea was to sell CDs online at eBay or I expected to get about 2 bucks apiece. Doing so would prove that an average CD with 8 tracks puts the price at about 25 cents per track.

There are three values I take in deciding to sell a CD.

1) What is the likelihood that I am going to play the whole thing through in my car or at a picnic on the box?

2) Is this one of the artists whose stuff I collect?

3) Is this CD significantly rare enough to be valuable just having it?

So after going through this several dozen times, I've got a crate of CDs I'm willing to part with. I've ripped them at 128kb or 192 if I especially like the musicality. I then surf over to to see what I can get. It turns out that by their price list I've got a pretty handsome collection. I easily tally up 116 bucks with just one third of the crate. So I pack them up and head over to their store in Santa Monica.

I approach the clerk with a big smile and tell him we're about to make each other's day. He snarks 'Maybe'. What is it about record store clerks that I can't stand? You know the type, undernourished, overpierced and with the look on his face which is saying, jeez I hope this asshole customer doesn't start screaming at me. He shakily assays my trove and scans them into his register warning me that the online prices only matter for the online store, his store's mileage may vary. Long story short, I got $38 lousy bucks and ended up taking more than half of my discs back home.

So I've got perfectly good CDs which have fattened my own personal stash of MP3s for which I can't get a nickel on the open market. Visual scratches which make no audible difference, missing liner notes, cracked cases. These are the retail excuses. Well, at least he didn't write me a check.

As an exercise in a home business, I assure you that it's not close to being profitable. I'm sure I spent a good 20 hours attending to the ripping of those disks. All that for 38 bucks minus one headache of a drive up and down the 405. The net value of the tracks ripped, off 15 disks that were accepted at an average of 8 per disc was about 31 cents each. Of the 33 I got prices for online that brings the price down to under 14.5. These are the real world economics of CD trading.

So my estimate of a quarter per track is about right. But navigating meat space and suffering the weary gaze of the GenX pincushion wasn't really worth it. More later.

Posted by mbowen at 03:25 PM | TrackBack

Or Just Hire from the Hood

Read in the local paper:

The Los Angeles Police Department needs to toughen hiring standards and revamp training to develop consistent policies for arrests and other procedures for an increasingly diverse population, according to a report to be released today by the RAND Corp.

The report on LAPD training procedures resulted in six primary recommendations. They included developing a program to share “lessons learned” in the field, standardizing requirements for training programs and instructor qualifications, and underscoring the importance of diversity awareness.

I used to assume that police were tougher and smarter than they are. I used to assume that they were generally fearless and honest. I also used to assume that in Los Angeles, they were mostly stupid whiteboys who were afraid of most blacks. According to my brother, a black cop in the LAPD, I've been only marginally correct. That is to say cops are not so tough, they are not so smart, they are not so fearless and they are not so honest. One of the white cops in my brother's class didn't even realize that black men with short hair actually used combs and brushes. They are strangers in a strange land.

Doc is partnered with a woman, and he has told me some anecdotal stuff that resonates with what I've heard. A woman with a badge and a gun who answers a domestic violence call can be hard as nails. A black man with a gun and a badge who pulls over a traffic violator who is also a black man is not so afraid. All told, cops are not so far off from ordinary people. Which brings us to the question of police training.

I am of the opinion that police training does not, and probably should not teach you how to respect people. It shouldn't tell you how to think about people. And it shouldn't be expected to modify the respect or disrespect you have for people. If community policing were done well, if recruiters could get trainees who lived in the areas they police before they become cops, we could spare ourselves a lot of psychobabble.

Posted by mbowen at 01:33 PM | TrackBack

Evil Dreams (In Color)

I've been thinking about creating a new category here at Cobb to include more creative stuff. For the moment, I think the comic is plenty.

Every once in a while I have one of those dreams that are profound and scary and weird all at once. An associate told me that he kept a diary of his dreams and that it helped him in all sorts of ways. Not that I need help other than financial, it's still probably a fairly decent idea. All that is a roundabout way of saying, I only wish the things I actually know a lot about made for more interesting and professional reading, but I think that audience is already spoken for. In the meantime I'll ramble.

The subject is the dark side of color. Yesterday I was at Legoland again and as I was standing in line at the Project X rollercoaster and this horrible droning whine kept assaulting my ears. It sounded orange. So it occured to me that every color has an evil side to it. I daydreamed about a series of evil themes characterized by colors.

Evil Blue is the disorientation of depression. In the blue prison you are robbed of your ability to shake off slights and annoyances. The slings and arrows stay embedded in your psyche. Your vision is blurred and sounds are slow motion. You are sluggish in a forced catatonia.

Evil White is little more than total deprivation of reality but with the added twist of recurring hope. This was captured perfectly by the prison of THX 1138. You wander in a nowhere land free of artifacts hoping to find a wall or escape which doesn't exist. All traces of your past are obliterated. You feel no pain, you feel no joy, you end up desecrating your own body to prove you exist. In the white prison there is only a muted echo of your own voice to be heard.

Evil Green is acid. It is caustic and subtle. It oozes all around you slowly corrupting everything. It is the destruction of trust and the triumph of pervasive rust. It causes your every effort to wither and fade prematurely.

Evil Yellow is panic. You are constantly screaming and shrieking. Small things are pricking you. You cannot stand still, you are kept off balance. You are exhausted and driven to paranoid distraction.

Evil Purple is delusion. The purple prison is a house of mirrors and cruel tricks that promises and disappoints at every turn. It is a psychedelic madhouse. You cannot believe the good in front of you, all of your values are eventually perverted. It is beyond Alice's Wonderland.

Evil Black is total darkness (of course). It is the prison of your own mind without any external clues. You are in fear of the unknown - everything is unknown. Every step can be your last, over an unseen cliff. It is suffering in silence being prodded and poked by creatures or things you cannot identify or prepare for. It is a full feeling world where all of your senses can only deliver you pain but your eyes cannot deliver you to safety.

Evil Orange is unending annoyance. It is loud and rowdy, overbearing and insipid. It is a bass-booming truck at your wedding. It is life at the DMV, forever. It is being held to account for beans and suffering migrane inducing micromanagement. It's maddening loud mouthed idiots everywhere you turn.

Evil Brown is foul putrefication. It is the shit-stink world of everything gone spoiled and maggotty. It is rot, nausea and the smell of death's breath. It's sickeningly humid and sticky.

Evil Red is blood and gore. (of course) It is constant battle and the wounds of war. It is your body dragged through electrified barbed-wire, bleeding eyeballs and severed limbs.

Evil Grey is the governor of California. (of course).

Posted by mbowen at 01:19 PM | TrackBack

Fifty Four

Posted by mbowen at 08:44 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Told Ya So

You would think that in these post-Enron days, people would come to understand that just because something is incorporated doesn't make it good. Sloppy management can be incorporated. In fact, the only way to keep sloppy management around long enough to cause major screwups is for it to be supported by a good sized corporation.

Anyway, like I said, the blackout wasn't a technical problem.

Posted by mbowen at 08:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


It's time to remember that MIT has Open Course Ware. Which means that if you really are interested in learning something online, you have every opportunity to do so. Ever since I got bored out of my mind at university, went broke and dropped out, I've been having nightmares about missed exams. Well, to be honest, the nightmares mutated right about the time my first child was born. Still, like all those who shoulda, coulda, woulda, I periodically lament my lack of degrees, especially when I have to explain things to the sort of people who barely achieved their own.

Nevertheless, I have determined that at this stage in my life, if I were suddenly to have enough money to stop working, I would go for an economics degree. That an network security are two things I only vaguely understand and feel guilty that I don't know more about. Well, those two and how to play Liszt on the piano; fat chance on the latter.

Meanwhile, I can structure up some of my free time ignoring my family and learning macroeconomics thanks to MIT. There's hope for the world after all.

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August 26, 2003


Posted by mbowen at 09:52 AM | TrackBack

My Peoples

I want to initiate a discussion about family, extended family, blackness and community following up on something J, just wrote in a comment on the Gnostic Gospels. Also these things are in my mind as I have just entered the 600th person into my family tree.

Firstly, I have a great deal of confidence in the prospects for African Americans. A lot of that stems from observations of my own extended family, demographic trends, and a fairly decent understanding of the directions of black nationalism. There has been no sector of life I have investigated with any seriousness and not found African Americans of notable achievement, and I think pessimism of any sort not directly the result of prejudice is a function of sloth. As the old saying goes, seek and ye shall find.

Something else I must say is that in the overwhelming majority of my academic and professional life, I have been one of the very few or the single black man in proximity. This has never been a significant problem for me despite the obvious frustrations. What I want to stress however is how few of my non-black associates have connected all the way to some great powerbase. I have always been the kind of person who asks somebody named Campbell how the soup business is going. Needless to say I am always disappointed to find they have no clue and look at me funny for asking. I am constantly looking for the hookup - I'm a strategic thinker. So if I know a friend of a friend who knows Condoleeza Rice, I'm sure to drop the name. Most of the time, however, I don't have the hookup and nobody around me does either. Nevertheless, I'm continually on the lookout, and this blog is a specie of the fact that I am cogitating on items which perhaps I 'have no business' considering. That is part and parcel of emergence. I bogard.

So being a black Republican (the noun being black, the adjective being Republican, as it should be for anybody who wasn't born yesterday) I understand and recognize the 'difficulty' one faces for bogarding. On the other hand, that's how the hookup gets created, or not at all. If you don't know any blackfolks who have escaped from the ghetto, whose fault is that? Yours, for not looking. If you feel lonely for being the only black Rhodes Scholar, whose fault is that? Yours for being lonely. If you find that you are the only black Buddhist you know, whose fault is that? Yours for not hooking yourself up. If your little black book is full of knuckleheads don't blame the world for producing knuckleheads, blame yourself for attracting them. But most importantly, if all the blackfolks you know are lame... well you get the picture.

Sooner or later, people will network themselves into something of interest, and if they have any skills to express, then it will be self-evident that they are a rarity anyway. It's awfully hard to find anyone who has 17 years experience in multidimensional database design. Why should I be mad because none of them, that I know, are black? Probably because I haven't made enough effort to find the kind of blackfolks I want to be around.

This finally is the heart of the matter. I continue to say that there are at least 30 million blackfolks here in America and another 600 million, at the very least, AIDS notwithstanding, in Africa. Who am I to lament their 'sorry state' when I don't know 10,000? This is the kind of whining I cannot tolerate, neither from blackfolks nor anyone else. What I hear is blackfolks immediately convinced by whitefolks that their prejudices are legitimate. But is that done by whitefolks with the hookup? No.

I recall (and here I go namedropping) some time ago on Martha's Vineyard when I was writing poetry near the East Chop Lighthouse in the early morning hours. I met a strikingly beautiful woman who was tall and lean. I was feeling rather lonely myself, having gotten my absolute fill of the sorry ass comedians on the Circuit the night before, and being sick to death of being elbowed aside by the groupie chicks stalking John Singleton. We struck up a casual convo and I found myself quite attracted. I tried to set up a date, but I struck out. Essentially, she wasn't allowed male company at her cottage. Her family was descended from the original servants of Commodore Vanderbilt, and she had her rules.

It just so happened that summer, Jill Nelson had finished penning 'Volunteer Slavery' and was doing the book tour thing. I missed her signing that evening; I found another date. So it wasn't until now that I realized:

her social life was nonexistent. Taking to drink, Nelson had a nervous breakdown and finally quit her job, telling the managing editor that she was ``more like the average African-American on the street than most people in the newsroom.'' Told with passion and honesty: a story as much about the African-American experience as about the corporate conformity of most big-city papers.

Here she was, at the top of her career in Corporate America and willing to chuck it all for her own peace of mind. It was all the talk at the time. I understood, and I admired her willingness to tell her story just the way she saw it and be true to herself and her principles. The bottom line is that she knew where she was most at home and decided to move there.

One of the most extraordinary people I know is a cat named Phil S. Right now I wish I could find him but it's not worth the ten bucks - he's one of the only folks I know who escaped the dot com bubble ahead of the curve. He used to work in the intelligence business. He told me that the first thing one should do is investigate ones own family. It took him about two years, but he was able to prove that he was at least 1/32nd Native American. That and some more research got him another small pile of money.

These three folks remind me, each in their own way, that you have to find your family, and that until you are comfortable and settled with them you are not likely to work out issues in the larger world. Out here in the world we don't care much about you, except for me of course - that's why I write. Most importantly that when you are settled with your own world, the big world can't hurt you. So finally you must find out how your world works with the big world.

I'm still working that, and still putting Friendster links and LinkedIn connections and all the other things I'm trying. This is from the bottom up. I have cynical reasons to believe this is the only way. More on that later.

Posted by mbowen at 09:35 AM | TrackBack

August 25, 2003


Over at Vision Circle, where I attempt to be a bit more serious, I wrote a tentatively optimistic note on Project 21.

It is at this point that I speculate about several different things. The first is why the writers at Project 21 are not as good as I am. The second is how much traffic do they get vis a vis recognition as a website & as a real project. The third is how do people get hooked up into this racket and who approaches whom.

It turns out that a virtual acquaintance of mine, who is absolutely the best ally to have in a flamewar with maurading white supremacists, had some choice words about the group.

In short, Project 21 seems to have crashed and burned before the subsequent founding by some of its members of Headway Magazine and, which have subsequently foundered and failed. This is an exercise in archeology.

UPDATE: More archeology - CD Ellison disses from the inside.

Posted by mbowen at 08:22 PM | TrackBack

Black Pearls

eric Sardinas has a new album coming out. It's called Black Pearls. Just a couple days ago I went searching for guitar solos, and wound up once again digging on Sardinas. I should be picking up this CD, but I'm so broke it's pathetic. Meanwhile, here's my old review of Treat Me Right written April 2000:

So I was listening to KLON's sunday blues show several months ago, and the dj is slobbering all over himself talking about the new Eric Sardinas album.
I listen to the title track and I am hooked, but I forget the name of the artist! So I'm rambling around in a daze for weeks and nobody knows who this guy is. I finally hear it again, and bam, it's that sound, that technique!

Sardinas is one of those rare artists who makes you sit up and wonder 'how'd he do that with a guitar?'. After listening to him, everybody elses' improvisations seem commercial and cliche. He puts serious tricks onto old hillbilly rhythms that really flipped my top. It's like stuff you've never heard.

I'm not much of a highbrow blues guy. I bought the John Lee Hooker with Santana on it several years ago like everybody else. And I bought an old Muddy Waters just to bone up. I really love Blues Rock that you get every once in a while in your dive bars, but all that commodity House of Blues stuff left me cold. So basically all I had was SRV, but nothing where the rhythm throws you a curve with an extra bar like that old Hooker stuff.

Now yesterday, I put Sardinas in my changer and rolled down the windows and cranked it on Sunset Boulevard. I don't think those people in their black t-shirts and sunglasses knew what hit 'em, but they couldn't resist it.

Most every track on this album ROCKS! It's definitely intelligent musicality that you can bang your head to, and it's hella funny....What else can be said?

I can't wait to catch this guy live.

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Sir Nose

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August 24, 2003

False Dichotomy

If, when you think of genes, you think of molecular martinets who bark orders but take none, you have the wrong idea. Genes do turn on and off in response to experience. Ridley also works hard to dispel the myth that environmental effects are reversible while genetic ones are not. In many cases the opposite is true.

A new book out stands a chance of revolutionizing our ideas about nature vs nurture. Unfortunately, a lot of good jokes will be rendered meaningless, but we will be able to poke fun at those mired in the old memes.

Like the author of the review, I am sick to death about those flamewars that pass for ethical arguments about genetics and IQ. I am furhter releived that the waters have been officially muddied by progress in genetic research. Many of my anti-racist adversaries doubtlessly will find themselves disappointingly short of the ammunition they believed was coming from the Human Genome Project's conclusions.

From my perspective, I have always elided the argument because of those declarations of equality stated as principles of the Constitution, but it will be interesting to see how I and others modify our arguments given this new knowledge that genes respond to the environment.

Posted by mbowen at 10:46 AM | TrackBack

Gnostic Gospels & The Sexuality of Christ

A long time ago, I read a nobel by John Updike entitled 'Roger's Version' about a divinity student who believes he can prove the existence of god. He is enveloped in virtual worlds whose rules he becomes aware of only through study. In his computer and in his spiritual life complexity is made manifest in strange and mysterious ways that study clarifies. Of course he is branded a heretic.

The boundaries between orthodoxy and heresy are very thin indeed, but they become ossified over time in static systems of thought. This is a fascinating subject for me, as black Republican and as a computer programmer who prefers writing business applications. 'Rogers Version' was a treat for me, treading as I do on these seamingly divergent paths.

Another of my lovely cousins has introduced me, damn her, to the first chapter of the 'Da Vinci Code'. This is so me. The last thick one that I was into was Eco's 'Baudolino', so I know I am going to be thrilled by this book if it is what it promises to be. Unfortunately, I am dead broke and it will be at least 3 weeks before I'll be able to indulge.

In the meantime, in these days of change and challenge to orthodoxy, I shall meditate on the meaning of Christ's asexuality as handed down through the current canon of non-heretical writings.

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August 23, 2003


Posted by mbowen at 05:59 PM | TrackBack

Digital Fakery

Just keeping this link for the archives. Keyword photoshopping.

Posted by mbowen at 05:39 PM | TrackBack

Fmaily Reunion

This weekend is my family reunion. I'm having a ball. I haven't been bodysurfing in what seems like years. I know it's been a year since I've had a good volleyball game, not that ours was very good, but it did the the juices flowing. I still hate to lose.

This evening I'm the DJ for the banquet. Should be a blast. Mo' later.

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August 22, 2003

A Matter of Trust

Posted by mbowen at 11:48 PM | TrackBack

End of an Era at King/Drew

I note what looks to be the passing into the great beyond of the medical training at King/Drew Medical Center in the Compton - Lynwood area. Pops used to work for the County's Health Department and as a Special Assistant to the Director, he helped many many blackfolks get work in the system back in the days when civil service jobs were just opening up to non-whites.

One of the things he played a role in that I was most proud of as a youngster was the opening of the Martin Luther King Jr, Hospital and the King/Drew Medical School. I can remember when there was little out there but the trailers that he worked in. My signature is in the cornerstone of the building.

More recently I learned that an old highschool chum was part of the black thorasic surgery club of Southern California. It's not a club per se, but one of the nation's top throat surgeons is a black man who has mentored a number of younger blacks here. I had the opportunity to meet some members of his 'club' back when I was dating a woman who made medical videos for a living, somewhere around 1988. Anyway, when I asked this chum about issues at MLK (also known in the 'hood as 'Killer King'), he was fairly close-mouthed about it. This was at my 20 year reunion, five years ago.

Since then, I'd bet he was among those who have fled the institution leaving it in the poor state it finds itself in today. Life is hard.

Posted by mbowen at 11:28 PM | TrackBack

SCO Smokes Crack

According to Linus Torvalds, SCO has problems with telling the truth. Not only that, they're boasting about code they don't even own.

Major vendors are kicking SCO to the curb. The publisher of the Linux Journal, Phil Hughes is daring SCO to sue them. The bell is tolling.

The code SCO showed represents an algorithm that can be used to manage a computer's memory...Not a very interesting piece of code in itself, this is very basic "allocate a smaller chunk of memory out of a list of bigger chunks." The function is described in a lot of places, and exists in original Unix code and is apparently written by Ken Thompson himself. It shows up in the Lion book (a commentary on the traditional Unix), and the code is described in [Maurice J.] Bach's "The Design of the Unix Operating System." In other words, it's not only 30 years old; it's actually been documented several times. It's also part of BSD Unix, which was shown to not be a derived work of the AT&T copyrights 10 years ago.

It's part of the "original Unix" archives that Dennis Ritchie has made available, and from a legal perspective (and also of ironic interest), it's also part of all the code that Caldera made freely available back when they still remembered that they were a Linux company and had made all their money on the Linux IPO. Ironically, the piece of code that [SCO demonstrated this week] had already been removed in [the Linux kernel] 2.6.x—and not because of copyright issues, but because developers complained about how "ugly" it was. So not only is the code available under the BSD copyright, it had been removed in new versions of Linux even before SCO made it public.

But what I find interesting is how it shows that the SCO people are having such a hard time with the truth. They've said several times that the code they have found is not "historic Unix" code and "not BSD" code (which they know you can't infringe, since BSD has been shown to be independent, and Caldera itself released the historic code in 2002). To counter the open-source peoples' contention that any shared code is likely of BSD or "ancient Unix" origin, [SCO's] claimed several times how it's "modern System V" code that they have clear ownership of. That's despite massive proof to the contrary, going back three decades.

Posted by mbowen at 02:25 PM | TrackBack

Vat I Meant To Szay

Arnold's people are not working the cue cards properly and his bloopers are getting caught on film. Except there is no friendly editor. There's trouble in Schwartzeneggerville as we witness the birth of the Schwartzenegger Shuffle.

Tsk. What a pity.

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Birds of a Feather, Not

Posted by mbowen at 12:44 PM | TrackBack

Wal-Mart Imperialism

I cite Matt Welch's post as more evidence that things are going as I planned. Bwah hahahahah!

Now if we can only get them over to West Africa.

Posted by mbowen at 12:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

This Means War

Earthstation Five in Jenin!

These guy have gnarls, n'est-ce pas? I don't trust that their software doesn't have backdoors to hack my system and I don't know enough to figure out if they do. Either way, movies on my laptop is not my idea of a good time. I'm not sure that eventually a soft library won't make sense for most people, but I'm not in a hurry.

Still, it's nice to know that there are still some revolutionaries who know how to pick a fight.

Posted by mbowen at 12:04 PM | TrackBack

Black Eye for the White Guy

OK. I'm not the only one with imagination. Help write the treatment.

Posted by mbowen at 11:57 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 21, 2003

But For Murphy

Posted by mbowen at 05:37 PM | TrackBack

A Great Parent's Resource

If you're like me, you cannot stand the idea that your kids might be innumerate. So, like me, you may have supplemented their normal education with Sylvan or Kumon or some such program. Like me you will have been pleasantly surprised with the simplicity and rigor of these programs, and like me you would have seen your children progress admirably.

If like me you have also lost your job and spent weeks on the internet finding a new one, and like me you have about 200 dollars left in the bank and are on the verge of panic, you probably will have despaired of re-entering your kids in those programs for the fall semester. And like me you would be searching for alternatives.

So here's the payoff. A math facts generator online. Because like me you will be sick of doing this stuff by hand.

Posted by mbowen at 04:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Treason and Taxation

Kudlow gets all mushy for Arthur Laffer's influence on the Schwartzenegger camp.

I wonder if anyone is at all concerned about the skills of Arnold himself. A man with his celebrity speaks a few phrases and gathers several eminences grey out of the national woodwork, and that makes him an appropriate leader?

It seems to me, beginning with George Schultz himself, that the Republican party has purchased fully into the idea of a shadow executive branch. Americans elect personalities and we wind up with a cadre of back-office manipulators who head in their own directions without coherent leadership. It's all up to spinners to make administrative policy appear consistent, and screwups can be shuffled off with plausible deniability.

This is the result of a party of strong ideologues and weak leaders. A party of the people cannot be lead by ideologues, and I believe they have sabotaged electoral politics.

If I were to observe this country from any reasonable distance, it would not surprise me to find the academy running witlessly left. Clearly the brains have left the public sphere and the Machiavellians are running the right.

I hope that some people come to realize that greatest problems that face our nation have little to do with taxation, and if Arnold comes to represent nothing more that the candidate for unending tax abatement, that California sends him back to his compound. There comes a point at which defunding government as a first priority is treasonous. Republicans on this track will be the first to trip that wire.

Posted by mbowen at 03:52 PM | TrackBack

Nigerian Scam

for the archives.
this is the hilarious response to the Nigerian Email bank bunco.

Posted by mbowen at 10:48 AM | TrackBack

Second Chance

Posted by mbowen at 12:21 AM | TrackBack

August 20, 2003

Clark on Radar

Way back in the beginning of my blogdays, SPK dropped some info bombs about the Pentagon's disgust with the arrogance of Donald Rumsfeld and his misplaced priorities on Iraq. The short end of the story was that Rumsfeld didn't really care and enjoyed making enemies. If what goes around comes around, we can expect a firestorm brewing in the candidacy of Wesley Clark.

Today I've learned the Donna Brazile is somewhere near the center of that maelstrom and has now dropped hints that the grassroots drafting of Clark is more than just a simple notion. Reciprocity may be forthcoming. It's about time I started looking at Clark more seriously, especially since the Poor Man likes him and I like the Poor Man.

Chances are that there will be no better chance of electing a general to the office of President than 2004, especially if we get hit again. But listen to the way people are talking about him:

He gets his hair cut every two weeks. He swims every day he can, even when he's on the road, and when he can't he runs. Indeed, from the general's head to the general's toes, there's no part of him absent the imprint of his overarching will: He's taut and springy, with wide and slightly hunched shoulders that flare from the constriction of his narrow waist. He is in the habit of sticking his hands in his pockets, especially when he's making a speech, but even his nonchalance is purposeful. People at his speeches can be heard to remark, "He's small" when he glides to the stump, but he's not really; he's around five ten and not so much diminutive as compressed, like a man who never exhales. His stride is at once jaunty and athletic and somewhat artificial, like the stride of a man who has devoted time to teaching himself how to walk . . . as, in fact, he has, after getting shot four times in Vietnam. Taught himself to walk again, without a limp, despite the fact that a quarter of his calf muscle was gone; taught himself to shake hands manfully, despite the loss of the muscle around his right thumb. He had to learn those things because, as his wife says, he was desperately afraid of being profiled out of the Army. Can't be a general if you're a gimp. The only thing he couldn't do was teach himself how to play basketball again, because no matter how many hours he spent alone in the gym practicing his foul shots, he couldn't stabilize the ball. . . .

It sounds like the voiceover on a trailer to a Mel Gibson movie. Be that as it may. From all I can see at, Cadidate Clark simply looks like a Democrat who is not an obvious idiot.

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Posted by mbowen at 09:12 AM | TrackBack

August 19, 2003

Bustamante Sets the Pace

"I know this is a tough proposal," Bustamante said during a press conference outside his suburban Sacramento home. "But we've tried all the easy ways. There aren't any left and we can't borrow any more money."

So who's going to step up next with a budget?

Posted by mbowen at 02:03 PM | TrackBack

On The Rocks

Posted by mbowen at 09:08 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 18, 2003

Everybody's a Critic

John McWhorter fights language with language and places himself squarely in the camp of postmodern deconstructionist mumbo jumbo. I have one word for McWhorter, and it is Economics.

Many writers and thinkers see a kind of informed political engagement, even a revolutionary potential, in rap and hip-hop. They couldn’t be more wrong. By reinforcing the stereotypes that long hindered blacks, and by teaching young blacks that a thuggish adversarial stance is the properly “authentic” response to a presumptively racist society, rap retards black success.

McWhorter wastes bits and breath in his diatribe against the most impoverished imaginations of rap, identifying them disgusting phrase by idiotic phrase. It's almost as if he gets a vicarious thrill in quoting the doggerel, like the stereotypical spinster that Airplane movie who says 'I speak jive'.

In this exercise McWhorter doesn't even bother to give the capitalist system a half-hearted kick in the shins. It's not airheaded rap stars who extended this gangsta madness to an embarrassment of international proportions, it's the businesses who bankrolled the production. If McWhorter would spend some of his considerable intellect doing a bit of research behind the cults of personality he demonizes, he'll find quite a few more people making quite a bit more money than Rush and Michael Dyson. Poor John has really swallowed more than he can chew, in his rather pathetic attempt to dismiss the entire hiphop nation in under 3500 words. That might have worked in the days of Schooly D, but why on earth would BMW use hiphop music to sell their automobiles? It is a mystery unfit for consideration in his black playa hatin' essay.

I find much to admire in McWhorter, although it's mostly his upitty attitude. I've more than five minutes of funk in my collection so I know how to separate the good stuff from the junk. McWhorter tries to slam multiple genres of rap into one hiphop whole and toss the whole schmere. Anyone who would lump Busta Rhymes and Lil Kim into the same bucket.. Well that's like putting Stanley Jordan into the same bucket as Stanley Clarke and saying all Jazz is worthless. Perhaps McWhorter wants to be in the same bucket as Stanley Crouch.

Ahh. He's just a fad.

I myself have got beef with pop music and pop culture. Most of it is porno anyway. But hey I'm Old School, I've got a right to be curmudeonly. But since I'm conservative, I also know what to conserve and there is plenty in hiphop that not only transcends the boundaries of pop, but lands squarely in the realm of art. Maybe not highbrow, but as good as film. Trainspotting, for example.

So what do I like in hiphop? I don't have the time nor the inclination to go into detail. I'll only leave you with some verbiage from one of my favorite raps from my favorite groups, recorded at least 5 years before today.

I'm sick of bitches shakin' asses
I'm sick of talkin' about blunts,
Sick of Versace glasses,
Sick of slang,
Sick of half-ass awards shows,
Sick of name brand clothes.
Sick of R&B bitches over bullshit tracks,
Cocaine and crack
Which brings sickness to blacks,
Sick of swoll' head rappers
With their sickening raps
Clappers and gats
Makin' the whole sick world collapse
The facts are gettin' sick
Even sicker perhaps
Stickabush to make a bundle to escape this synapse

I don't suspect that anyone can show, for every knuckhead with his knucklehead soundtrack of anti-social noize, there is another Ivy League graduate who swings to the flow of an inspirationanl hiphop track. It's probably more like 40 to 1. McWhorter and everyone else who would be a proper critic needs to decide on their focus.

Posted by mbowen at 11:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Canada: Land of the Free

I've been listening to Lessig's MP3 in which he chides his listeners to contribute to the EFF instead of watching pay per view or buying CDs. He is convinced that the proper political action can free up the commons which is being taken over by overreaching copyright activism.

He sounds as if he is tilting at windmills. That is until you see how Canada has done things.

"On March 19, 1998, Part VIII of the (Canadian) Copyright Act dealing with private copying came into force. Until that time, copying any sound recording for almost any purpose infringed copyright, although, in practice, the prohibition was largely unenforceable. The amendment to the Act legalized copying of sound recordings of musical works onto audio recording media for the private use of the person who makes the copy (referred to as "private copying"). In addition, the amendment made provision for the imposition of a levy on blank audio recording media to compensate authors, performers and makers who own copyright in eligible sound recordings being copied for private use."
-- Copyright Board of Canada: Fact Sheet: Private Copying 1999-2000 Decision

Posted by mbowen at 09:05 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Only So Much

Posted by mbowen at 07:30 PM | TrackBack

Don't Make a Federal Case

A change for the positive.

The University of Maryland's sexual-harassment policy, for example (which can be found here), bans "idle chatter of a sexual nature, sexual innuendoes, comments about a person's clothing, body, and/or sexual activities, comments of a sexual nature about weight, body shape, size or figure, and comments or questions about the sensuality of a person."

Posted by mbowen at 09:25 AM | TrackBack

August 17, 2003

Supply Side

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Net Net

Posted by mbowen at 09:01 PM | TrackBack

Just Checking

Posted by mbowen at 08:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Not So Sweet Home Alabama

"We've got a conservative, evangelical Christian,Republican governor," he said, enunciating each word as if to get his head around the details, "trying to get a massive turnout of black voters to pass a tax increase so he can raise taxes on Republican constituents." -- Marty Connors: Alabama Republican Party Chair: August 2003

Bob Riley is in trouble. This is delicious. He's got one thing going for him. He's right.

"We have a philosophical difference of opinion," Riley said of these one-time supporters. "I believe in a fair tax code. They don't. I believe we have to make investments in education that keep us from being tied for dead last. They don't. They have had special treatment at least for all of my adult life. And even after this modest increase, they'll still be paying less than in any of our surrounding sister states."

This can be the year Republicans face the music. Let's hope Arnold listens to Warren.

Posted by mbowen at 01:15 PM | TrackBack

Ethnic Africans

Abiola and his retaliator have got me thinking briefly about this idea: African nationalism owes its failure in part because of its inability to sustain a multicultural, pluralistic society. I wish Tim Burke would reply because I know him and trust his judgement.

Anyway, I'll stash it away on the plus side because I remember a particularly convincing article about the some white colonialists applying their own values to the Hutu and Tutsi. One of the ethnics were taller and more square jawed in appearance, qualities that Europeans associate with trustworthiness and leadership. Prior to their arrival, the tall ones were the out group, the Euros made them the administrators, they lorded over their formerly superior rivals and it intensified the rivalry. After the Euros split, 'graciously' leaving the tall guys in charge, they continued their own Jim Crow and the rest is bloody history.

I have some questions about Senegal, which never seems to have any of these more ugly problems. Nor does Ghana from my perch, but I could be wrong. Does the ethnic question hold true?

Also, there has certainly got to be some group for whom cooperative pluralism is not a completely alien concept.

Posted by mbowen at 02:45 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Second Guessing

This week I've been ripping CDs like a madman. I must have ripped about 75 discs. It has given me an opportunity to relive my musical past, some of it good. Then I realize how much money I have spent. As the country song says, I know what I was feeling, but what was I thinking?

I used to be a DJ in 1980. Naturally, I did receptions and church functions and otherwise upscale stuff appropriate for my sub $1000 setup. (Setton components, stacked Advents, Dual 880 Belt Drives, Sony TC-K5, Audio Technica mike, ADC cartridges, Sennheiser headphones.) I would have loved to have had the big JBL L212s and the Soundcraftsmen amps and a nice parametric equalizer and the Kenwood turntables with the marble base, but unlike some of my LA contemporaries, I didn't have quite enough nerve to sell cocaine to get me into the big equipment. Be that as it may, being a DJ is always a risky enterprise. Why, because you have to work the crowd. You have to know their tastes and second guess them as well. You have to know when to lead and know when to follow.

In a DJ's mind are thousands of songs and the moods they create. But there is an inner picture and an outer picture as well. What every DJ knows most intimately and what gives the DJ the bittersweet experience common to all artists, is the knowledge of the songs people ought to like, but don't. So as I've been ripping tracks from my compilations going back two decades, I get emotional about this or that cut. I am deep in the finding.

The one song that hurts me the most, of all of them (and now I know Google is God) is this one called 'Release the Beast' by a group called Breakwater. There is no question in my mind that this should have been the song that should have made Breakwater at least as big as Brick or the Dazz Band. I tried and tried. I played that song to death. It never happened for me or for Breakwater. I have it on casette somewhere.

Anyone who knows anything about the Old School mucisally, knows Philippe Wynne. He had to be R&B's greatest lyrical improvisor. If you don't know his name, you know his voice. He is the man you lipsynch whenever you hear any of the Spinners greatest songs. Your favorite is "Oh Sadie May, still loving us all in your special way". Or maybe it is "I was a fool, you were a fool. Now we got love, now we need huggin.. Can we just talk for a minute? You know uh, like I've always said, I'm not much of a rapper but.." Ha. He had the kind of rap none have heard before nor since.

So the very idea of Philippe Wynne collaborating with George Clinton curls the toes. When I heard him as the field sargeant on a cut called 'Uncle Jam's Army', I was flipping out. Was that not the funkiest song on the planet? Yes. Did people dance when I put it on the turntable? Hells no. But it almost doesn't matter because of his performance on the greatest funk song ever recorded.

Knee Deep.

Starting at nine minutes and fifty-two seconds into the song, just after one of the greatest guitar solos in the funk universe, Philippe Wynn chants "Ants in my pants and I need to dance." One minute later after scatting syllables most every funky soul on the universe knows how to sing but nobody on this planet knows how to spell, after asking the eternal question "Could this be me, immersed in funk so deep?", he says "Get on up" and you do. You get on up like the groove was the last oxygen you were ever going to taste. Even to this day it is hard to imagine how great a masterpiece this song is and how comforting it was for DJs to slip that onto the spindle and know the walls would empty and the floor would fill. But I've got to move on because I want to talk about Eddie Hazel.

It's not fair to me or to you that I am listening to a rare live performance of Eddie Hazel playing 'Maggot Brain'. That's because as soon as I wrote the words 'greatest guitar solo' I began to taste the maggots in the mind of the universe. And now that I'm thinking of 'greatest guitar solo' I am thinking of asking you all, and I know that somebody's going to say Jimi Hendrix playing Red House live at the Isle of Wight.

So I'm done writing, man. I've got some music to listen to. Sorry.

Posted by mbowen at 01:09 AM | TrackBack

August 16, 2003

Early Kudos to Gent

So far, in all the madness surround the blame game that is about to pick up steam in the wake of the Great Blackout of 2003, there is one calm, informed and rational head. It belongs to Michehl R. Gent, President and Chief Executive Officer of the North American Electric Reliability Council.

So far, I haven't heard him fudge or fake. He has suggested that there is some human error in this cascading failure and also that there are very complex rules of engagement which are negotiated between generators and transmitters of power. I expect to find that there was some laxness in following these rules and that stupid and/or lazy people are to blame, not equipment.

This failure was preventable. From what I can see, the Ohio grid didn't disengage when it should have. Gent promises to get to the bottom of it, and I believe he will.

Here is what he sounds like.

Posted by mbowen at 05:28 PM | TrackBack

August 15, 2003

Brooks' Bobos Again

One of the reasons I like David Brooks is because he is a student of demographics. Call it political / social geography, but there is an art and science of thinking about facts about where people live and why. One of the reasons I dislike David Brooks is because he is so focused on the chatting classes. In his latest piece, 'People Like Us', he suggests that our problems with racial and cultural segregation are largely ones of personal choice and human nature manifested into neighborhoods. No way.

Over at VisionCircle, I try to explain at length what is wrong with his analysis, but I'll summarize it here. Brooks' light treatment of Bobos as consumers of houses and neighborhoods and lifestyles underscores the flaccid logic of 'diversity' as something for whitefolks to consume. His analysis cannot stand the scrutiny of class or race. Americans without the mobility to buy new homes anywhere they like are not self-segregating, they are immobile and stuck in the same old neighborhoods with the same old racial segregation free markets do nothing to change.

Posted by mbowen at 09:44 PM | TrackBack

Ballot Confusion

Posted by mbowen at 08:11 PM | TrackBack

Getting Used to Arnold

I am beginning to believe that Arnold (I'm going to call him this in writing from now on) may be the future of the Republican party. I'm not sure if I'm happy with this but I am adjusting my expectations to deal with it.

I have an attraction / repulsion to the Republican Party because it knows, above all, how to make things happen. They are brazen, single-minded and fierce. They bulldog as soon as they have the opportunity. They are purposeful and resolute. These aspects of tenacity would be extraordinarily good for the country if the Republicans applied consistently on behalf of actually good ideas. Instead, Republicans are all about building momentum and weight in their express train, but they are less than choosy about what fills their baggage compartments and adds mass to their momentum.

The Religious Right and the vaguely dissatisfied middle therefore find the Republican Party to be the right way to take their various ideas and get somewhere. The Republican Party gets them to the station on time.

I have issues with the rabble in the Big Tent, but that's an ongoing war that doesn't frustrate. But I understand something about the Republican Party which is that despite what the staunchest paleos will say, they will carry the freight of Arnold. The Republican Party depends so much on mindless catchphrases and 'common sense' that doesn't really matter who is in the driver's seat. Dennis Hastert, George W. Bush, Tom Delay, George Pataki, William Bennett, Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, JC Watts. These people have nothing in common but the train they rode in on. Arnold only has to have the merest sliver of brains to understand what to do. Picture him in Reaganesque cowboy duds standing on the cab of a reigned locomotive. Ride 'em cowboy.

I'm taking Barnum's position here. It's not so important what Arnold's ideas are, the idea of Arnold is too big to lose. The signing on of Warren Buffet is a masterstroke. Understand that Arnold only has to express the rudiments of public speaking in order to carry credibility. So long as he has masterminds behind him, all will be well, right? We used to call that 'shadow government'. Now we call it the Bush administration. Its perils should be self-evident, but as an election strategy, it works.

Arnold can be elected to fix the budget crisis. If Buffet does his job, then Arnold will be able to boldly pronounce exactly what fudging California business cannot do. Buffet can and may even publicly masticate those Republicans who continue to pound their one note of a tax rebate in every pot. As an outsider with the clout Buffet carries, Arnold has a good shot at fixing the budget mess. Hopefully, he will do so with some style which will demonstrate how phlegmatic the California Legislature has been in its back and forth over car registration fees.

All of that optimism that doesn't stop me from worrying very much about other issues we know about, and those future crises we cannot predict. We more or less elected GWBush to be a compassionate conservative. Were it not for Ashcroft and Osama, it might have been exactly what the nation needed. I do not give Arnold the benefit of the doubt for doing anything good for California that he cannot predict. Buffet makes him, as well as his outsider status, the candidate for fiscal reform. If that were all California needed, we could all sleep soundly under Governor Arnold.

There may be something to what Novak said of Arnold. If he is inheriting Wilson staffers and coming out for 187, we may be back to the bad old days of ugly racial politics. That makes for a huge liability, given that Arnold himself is an immigrant. Beware his English chauvinism.

Whatever you may say about Arnold, he is not a tool of the Religious Right. He is a moderate Republican by litmus testing. He may have all the skills of a Pataki. It may not matter. He has got the money, he is on the right train, and he only has a small electoral hurdle to pass. I'm going to have a lot of fun watching the Republican Party heel to his leash.

The question remains. Is Riordan dead?

Posted by mbowen at 03:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


I hate to admit it, but as soon as the words 'modernize' came out of our President's mouth in regards to what needs to be done about the power grid, I wondered which energy companies he had been talking to this morning. This is not a technology problem. This is a process problem. We'll know more details in time.

Nevertheless my curiosity tends toward the infrastructural difference between power grids and peer networks. The internet works if you blow up any piece of it, but the power grid can have cascading failures. Why? I'm looking to find out soon.

What's clear is that the internet, which is more robust than the power grid can be hacked. Isn't the power grid then even more vulnerable to hacks? Probably so. It's not clear that they are as susceptible, however.

Meanwhile, here are some interesting links:

SCADA Hack One

To destroy a dam physically would require "tons of explosives," Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff said a year ago. To breach it from cyberspace is not out of the question. In 1998, a 12-year-old hacker, exploring on a lark, broke into the computer system that runs Arizona's Roosevelt Dam. He did not know or care, but federal authorities said he had complete command of the SCADA system controlling the dam's massive floodgates.

Roosevelt Dam holds back as much as 1.5 million acre-feet of water, or 489 trillion gallons. That volume could theoretically cover the city of Phoenix, down river, to a height of five feet. In practice, that could not happen. Before the water reached the Arizona capital, the rampant Salt River would spend most of itself in a flood plain encompassing the cities of Mesa and Tempe -- with a combined population of nearly a million.

SCADA Hack Two:

Paul Blomgren, manager of sales engineering at cyber-
security firm Rainbow Mykotronx in Torrance, Calif., measures control system vulnerabilities. Last year, his company assessed a large southwestern utility that serves about four million customers.

"Our people drove to a remote substation," he recalled. "Without leaving their vehicle, they noticed a wireless network antenna. They plugged in their wireless LAN cards, fired up their notebook computers, and connected to the system within five minutes because it wasn't using passwords.

"Within 10 minutes, they had mapped every piece of equipment in the facility," Blomgren said. "Within 15 minutes, they mapped every piece of equipment in the operational control network. Within 20 minutes, they were talking to the business network and had pulled off several business reports. They never even left the vehicle."

SCADA Hack Three

Posted by mbowen at 12:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Whale Farts

They do exist, you know.

Posted by mbowen at 11:55 AM | TrackBack

How I Write

(from the archives - august 2002)

somebody asked who were my idol writers...

that's hard. aside from amis and boyle, i'd say delillo because of the last paragraph in this posting and also umberto eco and borges because this paragraph was written last. finally i'd say jean toomer because i think he and i think about ourselves in the same way.

i would have to say my father probably influenced the beginning of the structure of what i *think* is poetic. he wrote poetry and i'm sure i copied his substance and some of his style. he has a thing for consonance that's constantly causing conniptions. he also gets wacky with deconstructing words which is sometimes pun-ishing. all that, i think is subconscious in my writing. when i finally, within the past 6 months, saw a videotape of amiri baraka performing, i saw where all of that came from in its distilled form.

so when i write, i believe that i start there. this is unconsiously what sounds to me like the beginnings of trying to be creative. so i move past what immediately comes into my head in that bowen/baraka vein and try to make it more subtle. so like duke ellington who says all music must be danceable, there is that poetic swing underneath everything i write. it has a rythmic sound. all my creative writing is spoken in my head, so i'm conscious of the meter of it.

i am also drawn to british english. i spent a great deal of time listening to upstairs downstairs on the radio, as well as the bertie wooster stuff. whomever wrote that was very clever in loading a very precise amount of meaning into an economy of words. when i heard it often enough, i found it changing how i spoke. there is something to that kind of english usage which *is* more universal, and i've found it helps a great deal when communicating with non-native speakers. there's a bit of 'hear me out gentle reader' in my prose.

h.l. mencken also directed my invective. i very much enjoy raspy wit and direct declarations. i studiously try to avoid the 'in my opinion'. i'm writing it, it's my opinion. argument as a statement of fact has weight in my writing.

when i believe that i am doing my best writing, i bring the reader inside my head when i am in a certain groove of thinking. i have become x (as above) for the sake of argument and i am making you x. i am putting words in your mouth and making you rant. but the rant will have a melodic combinatory essense to it. it will be like dancing with a partner, and when it is sweeping well around the ballroom and i am at full power, then i want it to flow as the words of toni morrison do. whenever morrison gets into a large paragraph, you get the feeling that it's like a saxophone solo - something that can't be broken up or disected. it just keeps going and pushing you further into itself and then it turns you uniquely. the process is more like ice dancing in an arc with intricate footsteps into a decreasing radius. there is a narrative force in it that propels you forward, the footsteps are the choices of words, and the arc is the theme of the paragraph and suddenly near the end of it you are swooped into a new dimension of conclusion, perhaps even facing backwards. you've navigated meaning, danced with it, and the words are the music. that's what morrison does. i try to do that.

Posted by mbowen at 11:08 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Are We Feeding Starving Africans Yet?

I'm getting a little bit tired of the media spin on humanitarian aid to Liberia. What do we need to do to get CNN to start talking about self-determination and the new government of the West Africans, sorta like those Shia Iraqis they pretend to respect so much.

Posted by mbowen at 10:47 AM | TrackBack

Flynt Says

Cure the budget deficits by legalizing slot machines.
Close the borders, give current residents amnesty.
Church doctrine is a significant factor in judicial nominations.
Fewer prisons, greater intervention.
He stays a candidate if he polls >10% and people differentiate his candidacy from his profession.

Posted by mbowen at 09:47 AM | TrackBack

Pop Tarts

Posted by mbowen at 09:18 AM | TrackBack

Belle Isle

(from the archives - august 2002)

lawrence otis graham. how did he become a sympathetic character? moreover, how did his world suddenly seem desireable? well, he admitted the silliness and the self-hating nature of the brownbag and ruler tests, and the capriciousness of the old money exclusions. if you didn't go to camp atwater you couldn't hang with the massachusetts links. he copped to it all. and he also said, hey we're still not getting invited to the junior league cotillions.

i was just in detroit last weekend, and my sister drove me through the various grosse pointes as we headed to belle isle with the kids. she was casually mentioning the junior league home renovation shows. "a lot of these big old houses", she remarked as we drove past streets named ford and wellington, "are really nasty inside". "you could tell", she continued, describing the results of the charity remodeling "that there were african american designers working on the ones they fix". "they don't make a big deal out of it". "i know one." as we were driving through i saw a huge stone episcopal church, and i just wanted to be *in* there.

so we arrived at belle isle and hung around the big fountain for a while, and then moved to the interior where there was a huge, huge number of blackfolks picnicing in the park. there had to be at least 3 family reunions going on, and several other large picnics where folks had brought their gas powered generators to power their dj stations. (not everybody was playing jah rule, though). over at one end was the giant slide. and i just took it all in for half an hour, as hundreds of black kids slid down squealing in delight, falling flipping... i could win a palm d'or just filming that with a sony. i went over and bought myself a strawberry shortcake from the ice cream man, er ice cream black girls at their truck. and i said to myself that this was a black working class paradise.

i walked around back near the reunion with the best smelling barbecue (and believe me that was no small task in discerning - a skill i hadn't used in a while) and crossed the street. the highly polished cars were slowly booming past, i got in between a new matrix and an escalade. i headed across a small bridge near the old zoo and away from the party, to a massive open space. 150 yards away there was a completely deserted soccer field, and a lone black man in a white cap hitting golfballs. over to the left there were a couple softball games going on. but the man, the games, and the picnics were all far enough away from me that their sounds were muted. in the distance was the canadian side and ore ships huffing through the channel.

i stood alone, only for a moment, and headed back towards the ruckus. it was time to go. my sister took us all the way round, past the pond where they used to fish, past the new chipping and driving range, past the other large pond where they 'never even thought to go out there on a boat - nobody did', past the old marina and yacht club, past the bath house and beach were 'we always used to come right here', past hundreds more picnics, and out through the portal.

what i find admirable about detroit is the old architecture. i like the stone of it. it has a grand and settled feel to it when you can see it through the abandoned and burned out places. my sister's house is a small brick 3 bedroom with a basement in a neighborhood full of sycamores. farren, her boyfriend, told me about the wall built at 8 mile drive. i think somebody here was asking me about that separation. after the riots, they built a brick wall.

i spent that entire weekend wondering to myself if it was really true that i didn't have a job to come back to, knowing that i would have to come back to houston and find out for sure. i spent that whole weekend with my family - kids reunited for the first time since my cousin's wedding at the end of june. the house i lease is in california, the apartment i lease is in houston, my family is in detroit - the blue collar paradise. exactly where do i belong today? where do i belong period?

i still remember the day that i walked out on my buppy friends at a pool party in torrance. i decided that i'd rather read 'beloved' than drink wine coolers and be chatty. it has been more than 10 years. right now, the only thing that seems to make sense is moving to atlanta and living in the same neighborhood as my friend charles. i haven't even seen the place.

all this week i've been living in my own private idaho. sending out resumes, writing and programming, and working logistics of how we get the family and things all back into southern california, so we don't have to break *that* lease.

i can remember when everybody said that the greatest album in the world was 'what's going on', and most everybody knew how to chacha and those that didn't were embarrassed about it. it was a small world, but it was my world. these days i've even heard snoop dogg referred to as 'old school'. what!? i've got to find my corner. somehow i think i've realized that have worked twice as hard, and yes i may have actually managed to only get half as far. it seems unbelievable but true. it's nobody's fault - i'm not trying to blame anyone. i'm the one who walked out of the big house, through the fields and out into the wilderness. getting back to the fields of detroit has made me homesick for the big house, and i'm sitting here on the perimiter on the edge of freedom's hostile wilderness thinking maybe that front porch is not so bad after all. maybe what goes on inside the black snotty class, the particular connecticut episcopaleans and new orleans catholics i come from is not so bad after all. and although it could be all about the money, it's really not. it's about supporting the ways and means, and that takes money because it requires a place. a place i ain't got.

so i tried to find boggs academy on a map. i put the words 'boule' into the google search bar. i scoured the net for "The Links Cotillion". i couldn't find much. i found a cloudy black and white picture of lake idlewild. i found out the tuition for hampton university. didn't it used to be called hampton institute? see, if i've got to be somewhere, it has got to be somewhere my children can be young gifted and black without being alone at it. i know that song's a generation old, but it's really the best i can imagine for them.

my problem is that i don't get tired. i get frustrated and angry, but i just change and go another direction. i never settle down. i just pick a different battle and if nobody offers, i fight with myself. but i haven't changed the fundements of who i am, and i'm still calling the same type of black women beautiful and i'm still calling the same kind of music inspiring and i'm still answering 'the lord be with you' with 'and also with you'. but i think that i have been migrating too fast and too far and too wide. i think that i've been flying over country which is not just fly-over country. i'm now angry at myself for not finding a place. i haven't managed to make open refrigerator door neighbors out of anybody, least of all our kind of people. today that is the failure that haunts me the most. oddly. i've been making too much money to be constrained into one place, but not enough to pick the be-all end-all. i have arrived with finality with a little bit of everything adding up to a whole lot of nothing. me. the one who used to laugh derisively at the social perks of home equity as such a bourgie trap.

was i a leftist? was i actually trying to be a leftist? i don't think so. is my father a leftist? he must be. he gets deleriously happy poking fun at his white colleagues at his little liberal arts college, but he has a big old house. i need a big old house too.

'if money makes a man strange, we gots to rearrange that, so what makes the world go round? if love is against the law, listen i don't know, gotta to change the way it's goin down', said the poet.

there's a woman who works at the company i am now prohibited from entering. she regularly shoots in the 70s. she has my copy of 'the emperor of ocean park'. i think i miss her most of all.

Posted by mbowen at 01:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


I have at least 154 Prince songs ripped on my computer, and I still haven't finished. There's still 2 disks of Crystal Ball, Chaos & Disorder, The Gold Experience and Emancipation.

Right now I am listening to a song that I cannot believe I never heard before. It's call 'Hide the Bone'. It's great. That man is astounding. The other song that's got me trippin' is 'Don't Play Me'. If you ask me, Prince is bigger than Motown, all by himself. Just wait until they start remaking his stuff in 15 or 20 years.

Posted by mbowen at 01:37 AM | TrackBack

Juice, Lack of

(from the archives - Feb, 1996)

Dad: "That's your people."
Mom: "I didn't raise 'em."

So I travel. Last week I was in Florida. I hate Florida. The first time I was in that state, I was travelling with my uncle's family to visit some relatives I had never known. We drove from Ohio straight down I-75 in the summer of 1971. My aunt was born and raised in the Florida panhandle and I recall how fearful she was that our car might break down somewhere in southern Georgia on the way there. She almost convinced my uncle not to drive at night. I was 10 and not afraid of no Klan, and despite the fact that the desk clerk at the Atlanta Holiday Inn was quite certain that my uncle could not possibly have been Dr. Bowen and therefore could not occupy the room he reserved by telephone, I could not understand what all the fear was about. Yet I do recall while visiting in Tallahassee that for some strange reason, my uncle told us that we were leaving, NOW! Did I look at that ugly white man wrong? I may never know. What I do know is that I hate okra and rice but lived on it for a week at my great grandmothers small house off the dirt road, in Florida.

So now I design computer applications and stay in nice hotels. That doesn't stop me from looking for the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in every city. Funny, how certain people quote him as if he were a god when talking about the proper ways political action should take place, but that street never goes through their communities. I know where King Boulevard goes, and a brother has got to get a haircut. 2 + 2. This King was in Tampa, East Tampa. I arrived in the quietest black barbershop I can remember. There have been quieter ones, I'm sure, but this one actually had several brothers inside and two chairs working. The only sounds came from the buzzing clippers and the Whoopi Goldberg video playing on the grey shelf. Sister Act. Or maybe it was Sister Act 2. Finally, somebody spoke up, and then somebody else. One man's accent was completely undecipherable to me, then again he did have his mouth full. Somebody laughed at a Whoopi joke - no not about her, from her. Now for some reason, when black men are quiet, in a black barbershop, and they laugh with Whoopi and not at her, for some reason I tend to think about the deep, Deep South. Like...Florida.

I decided to go see that movie; "Don't Be A Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood". One wonders if all the words of the title are properly capitalized. Well, it's a Wayans movie, so undoubtedly, somebody is capitalizing. It was playing at the Eastlake Mall. Hmmm. Sounds like Oakland. I announce that I am not familiar with the neighborhood, but I assume that it is the 'hood. The young brother next to me was probably too young to drive, knew the place, not the cross street. The man in the inside chair told me to take 56th Street to Hillsborough and then go east. Cool. The license plate on my rented Altima said Hillsborough, indicating the County. I was lodging over in Pinellas where everything, including one presumes a large number of arteries, closes down at 8 pm. It was good to see some black faces at ease. In the office, I saw no blacks at all until the mail came around, or the trash cans. It was that deep. Pinellas County had a bike path, Eastlake had high tension lines.

Driving through communities like this, I often wonder where people work. What keeps the average family alive? The barber said, Teco, the power company and GTE the phone company were the big employers. Damn. Phone bills, light bills and rent. Oh yeah, and the Post Office. The street-unwise kid who was sitting next to me was wearing a clean white shirt. He leaned forward to laugh with Whoopi. One of Whoopi's singing students was being sternly lectured by her mother that singing was not a dream worth pursuing. She had better hit those books and forget about that field trip to the Las Vegas competition. It was the voice of my aunt telling us not to stop the car at night. It was the voice of Pinellas County. The sins of commission and the sins of ommission. The barbershop was silent. Just before I burned rubber out of the small parkinglot, I had to turn up my sounds, loud. I was driving, I was moving, I was watching. I thought about that kid in the clean white shirt - trying to laugh and enjoy the movie in that depressing barbershop. I hope he finds another street.

Every time I go to a new 'hood where I have never been, I see something in teenage girls hair that seems to defy description, logic, and physics. This trip was no exception. I stood in line with my own clippings on my shoulders trying to find a precedent for this banged, peackock thing with pale blue streaks. Obviously, I haven't been watching enough Video Soul, because this was a shock. But the words and the movements were all familiar. Black kids, beat up mall, Saturday afternoon movie, loud conversations, some younger kids with their jackets open and sleeves over thier hands running weaves through clots of teens and directory kiosks. Way over on the West side, in Pinellas, there was an ice skating rink with rock & roll music. There wasn't even a boom box here. The girls in front of me counted out singles talking about how boring Waiting to Exhale was. An older woman struggled up the dirty red velvet crush steps with a baby carriage. She looked as if she was ready to curse somebody out, but she didn't. Everyone looked ugly, unhealthy and bored. It was nothing like Fulton Avenue in Brooklyn. Everything here was subdued and not even vaguely sinister. Even the security guard looked bored. Only one thing stood out. It was that hair.

The theatre had its lights on when the movie started. I accept the fact that young poor black kids scare most everyone when they loudmouth, but the idea that they couldn't be trusted in the dark of a movie theatre hit me hard. Halfway through the opening credits, the film ripped. Slides of popcorn and Denzel Washington's name scrambled appeared on the screen; the noise level remained the same, as if they are used to this. Finally the lights dim, and the credits continue. Maybe they were using the music of the credits for entertainment.

If you liked In Living Color during the first season, chances are you will laugh out loud in the theatre. Eastlake is the place to be for laughing out loud. And so I did. I look at the picture. Genre: Brooks/Wayans/Zucker. This was funnier than Spaceballs but not as funny as Airplane. Funnier than Friday but not as funny as Hollywood Shuffle. Funnier than real life.

I leave the joint, carrying my backpack with me and do a loop through the mall. It is truly tired; like Assembly Square in Boston, like Eastmont Mall in Oakland, like Albany Avenue in Hartford, like the City of Industry, like Lenox Avenue and 144th Street in Harlem, like Bankhead Highway in Atlanta. How do these places get like this? Where has all the energy gone? Where is the Juice?

I am tired and leave to go 'home' to Pinellas County. But I need to eat something. Maybe I'll have a beer somewhere they play Bob Marley on the juke. Maybe I can find a good BBQ joint. So I take Hillsborough west. A lot of cars I see here, I haven't seen since California. VW Bugs done desert style. Slammed rides in pastel colors. Old cars that would have rusted to junk anywhere it snows; a Ford Falcon with Centerlines. I'm driving fast, thinking that I am too large for this entire place. I have seen this Saturday night traffic many years ago on Sunset Boulevard, and I was past it then. I need to chill out. Where is the place to be? Then it whizzes by, a black beauty supply store. Somebody there has got to know.

I flip a U into the lot. The car next to me has small children waiting for moms. I remember that. I walk in. The proprietors are Asians of some sort. I am shocked. The shoppers are all subdued, but there is an ample supply of Kimi Oyl on the shelves. Strolling around nonchalantly, I pass by the Creme of Nature Shampoo; the woman at the cash register is in her 20s and shapely. Her straight black hair runs halfway down her back. She might know where the spot is. Maybe. She is the youngest person in the store, her accent is thick. I don't ask her, I don't ask anyone else. I am just struck with an awful sense of futility. There is no place to be. That means I'm going back to Pinellas County, home of... home of... Jerry Seinfeld's retired parents, Publix, Sustecal, my contractual employer and of course the Ice Rink.

Of course, Pinellas isn't all bad. When my wife and daughter flew in the previous weekend, we drove up to the world famous Spongeworld. I still have a little natural sponge in my bathroom that we bought from one of the many Greek ethnic shops along the docks. We ate lunch at a fine (and huge) famous family restaurant which featured a damn good chardonnay. The spaghetti left a bit to be desired, but the salads were excellent. As much as I appreciate a good meal, it doesn't stick to my ribs like that feeling of death sticks in my gut. Death is what it was out east. The death of a spirit, the death of a city. And sometimes, when I think about it, I wonder if East Tampa had ever been alive.

You see Pinellas doesn't look very naturally hospitable. I have a hard time imagining Seminoles farming the place. Despite a majestic stand of oaks just south of Main Street in Dunedin, nothing that would sustain any sizeable community of people seems to grow there. Even the waters of the bays look barren. The soil is sandy, the water table is crusty with lime, the constant wind blows palm trees into permanent contortions. The houses of the area are distinctly post-war, except for those which were clearly some carpetbagger's opulent winter getaway. Again, it's Southern California: a desert brought to life through constant intervention. And today it's all retirement 'burb and tourist village. Steady. On the west side of the Tampa River, most things haven't rusted to junk. But only travelling buppies seeking a few negro services seem to find reason to visit East Tampa, or so it seems to me. There are far fewer pretensions there to any hospitableness, natural or otherwise. No orange trees, no gated retirement communities, no Publix, no Sustecal and damn few employers.

Posted by mbowen at 01:31 AM | TrackBack

August 14, 2003

Blame Gray

Posted by mbowen at 07:05 PM | TrackBack

Thinking Man's Ku Klux Klan

Jared Taylor in the News:
On NPR, John Burnett reports on an old nemesis. I should have some background.

Posted by mbowen at 03:29 PM | TrackBack


By now you probably know that the East Coast is dark in a blackout. I've got everything working just fine here in California, and my little guy is fine back in Brooklyn.

This is the thing everybody worried about for Y2K. Remember when that used to scare the bejeesus out of everyone? I can recall the scares and preparedness tracts penned by Ed Yourdon, the man who predicted the end of the American software industry at the hands of the Japanese. He actually had me thinking that I didn't want to be in this industry after the year 2000. I also remember some huge catastrophe for the US and Canada which was fictionalized by a story in Wired. I can't seem to find either of them, but there is this one reassuring piece for those like me who momentarily worried that this might be the effect of the current Blaster worm attack on Microsoft Servers..

We are indeed more than simply a robust infrastructure, we are a robust people. On the other hand, if we were without power for a couple weeks like some other places we know, seething would not begin to describe the anger.

I'm just glad everyone is OK and that we have healthy paranoids in our great nation.

Posted by mbowen at 03:15 PM | TrackBack

The Candidate

Posted by mbowen at 02:22 PM | TrackBack

Simon Says

"..smaller government local in nature, accountable school systems that actually teach our kids quality of life.."

"Those are the messages that have resonated over the last couple of years as I've travelled the state talking to hundreds of thousands of our citizens."

"I don't think that Tom is going to have the resources to get his message out. He may surprise me and raise a bunch of money, but that has not been his track record historically."

Posted by mbowen at 01:56 PM | TrackBack

Novak & Real Bullets

Robert Novak is a problem.

The Republican establishment in Washington clearly hopes the Terminator can deflect those bullets. Schwarzenegger's posture as a pro-business social liberal is similar to what former Gov. Pete Wilson advocated as the last Republican elected to high office in California (in 1994). No genuine conservative has been elected in California since Ronald Reagan in 1970. Arnold Schwarzenegger may not be much of a Republican and not conservative at all, but George W. Bush welcomes anybody invigorating a comatose California GOP.

Here's a real horsetrader. I wonder if he minds a bit about what the real problems are for California. Nope. All we need is a 'genuine conservative'. Anyone who isn't, is only a 'nominal Republican'. Note to self, tick Novak down a notch.

Posted by mbowen at 12:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 12:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Once Bitten

Posted by mbowen at 11:03 AM | TrackBack

McClintock Watch

Checking out McClintock's campaign website, I find some respite from the ArnoldS juggernaut. McClintock has a three pronged approach. Lower the car tax, void energy contracts, reform workman's comp.

He looks like a lifer in politics, but not one who has any number of stellar achievements in his belt. At least he doesn't appear to be the blowhard that Bill Simon is. On the minus column, he was a leading proponent of Valley secession, which I opposed.

Posted by mbowen at 08:18 AM | TrackBack

Return to the Blogosphere

Posted by mbowen at 12:30 AM | TrackBack

August 13, 2003

The Return of Cobb's Neighborhood

Once again my potential employer has left me with too much time on my hands. And so I will now begin to update the blog with all of the cartooning that I did during the war. Also I'll be creating new ones as well. I think it will help me deal with the days in which I am just too snarky to write any essays worth thinking about. I owe a debt of gratitude to Chris Muir for reminding me how excellent the art form can be. Plus he actually draws his own stuff.

Posted by mbowen at 06:41 PM | TrackBack

The Veteran

The return of the Cobb Neighborhood. There's a lot of backstory here. But basically the guy in blue 'Blue' is a video game freak who learned how to pilot a Predator. He's neither liberal nor conservative, just techy. The guy in red is 'Red' is a liberal blogger. You'll meet his arch nemesis soon.

Posted by mbowen at 06:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

That African Thang

JCP writes:

We seemed to be engaged in a curious dance while in Africa. Every African speaker referred to the Americans as lost brothers and the Americans played the role of lost children come home to Africa. To my knowledge, the delicate subject of African complicity in the slave trade raised its ugly head one time and that was in Nigeria and only briefly. During one of the small discussion sessions on education, an American panelist, speaking about the contemporary life of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, made a reference to the sons and daughters of slaves. Later, an African gentleman stood up and took exception to the imagery. "Others are free to call my parents what they wish," he stressed. "However, I would never refer to my own parents as 'slaves.'"

I really like JC and I understand exactly where he's coming from even though I think his argument about the nature of the slave trade might be some of the same illness as those who find it ennobling.

An unsentimental view of West Africa will nonetheless leave one impressed with the place and its people for many reasons, some of which JC mentioned. I don't beleive that they are our brothers for any more or less reason than we are brothers with anyone. It is part of our humanity, once realized, generously shared. I can forge brotherhood anywhere.

Still, there is always something in me that goes back to Richard Pryor. There is a latent desire to live among Africans and see them as they are, not as corruptions of America society designates. Since Pryor delivered his monologue, we have all at one point or another wished to wake up in Africa and suddenly discover that we are not surround by niggers, but Africans. And yet if could even do so here wouldn't that be something. Moreover if we could do so anywhere and see people for who they really are, that would be a revolution. Yet in the end it is a revolution of self-discovery.

I know a lot of people have gotten there already, and some who have yet to get to that beloved place called home. This can happen with or without going to West Africa, but it's good to know that some who actually do, are keeping it right.

Posted by mbowen at 02:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Check Your Head on 54

Again, I find myself screaming into the wind. At least Yglesias sees things as I do.

I believe that many folks are stupefied by the distinctions between racial identification, racial discrimination and racist discrimination. For them, it is all of a piece and anyone who claims that it is not is a liar. So for them, the obvious solution is to eliminate race, to deracinate the law and the language and thereby deprive the world of the terms and tools it might use to do evil.

If I was a history student, or perhaps one of Orwell, I could succinctly describe by analogy precisely how fallacious such thinking is. But all I can do is speak directly to the subject.

One has to have faith that it is possible to be anti-racist. But I think these same confused people are those who believe that 'everybody is racist' as if race were original sin itself. They submit to the essentialist idea which is that people, given racial identity, will of necessity conflict. It is an expression of the belief that Races are naturally antagonistic. And it is this false idea that causes them to believe that any government of the [naturally racist and antagonistic] people, armed with tools of racial identification will inevitably degenerate into a racial spoils system. People are bad, disarm them.

The belief that one can be anti-racist inevitably forces one into figuring out how and looking for examples. This requires disciplined thought and study, which we can presume that the electorate will not do. But for thinking people to suggest that racial discrimination for the purposes of assistance is the same as racial discrminiation for the purposes of exclusion is tantamount to saying that arrest of a suspect is the same as kidnapping. Moreover they presume that every racially conscious law ever made or followed in the United States of America is indeed racist. Is this logical?

Colorblindness is an ethos appropriate to a great deal of American life, but it is not appropriate to the law so long as racial disparities exist which might be evidence of exclusion. When there are no longer claims of racial injustice, the law needn't deal with it.

Who can show that there are no racial hate crimes? Such is one burden of proof of those who would blind the law to racial distinctions. More importantly the burden of those who refuse to acknowledge race is that they are more fair and just than those who do. Both I think are burdens they are incapable of bearing.

Posted by mbowen at 02:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Day By Day

I just discovered a very cool comic site. Do check it. You can guess which character I like most, even if he is a bit young.

Posted by mbowen at 01:25 PM | TrackBack

Peter Camejo

I listened to this guy rant on Larry Mantle's show this morning. He's in command of some interesting facts if not his senses. Having grown up on the moral side of things, I was vaguely stirred by his rants on taxation. In fact, I rather like the way he dismissively suggests that California has all the tax base it needs to handle immigrant education. I believe he is right. It was quite interesting to hear him tell that we are ranked 33rd in the nation with regard to property tax and 20th in educational spending to quickly debunk the notion bandied about by others that California isn't good for business. He didn't say it but I would. If your business cannot see the value of doing business in California, maybe you ought to stay in Arkansas.(No offense to my friends in Conway).

But then Camejo made a sharp left turn that left him babbling. He suggested, rather cavalierly I might add, that he would have gotten 'the people' to force pension fund managers to toss out 'the criminal' corporate boards of directors of the energy companies. I'm rather certain that this doesn't happen in the real world. Not because it shouldn't but perhaps because men like Camejo don't understand or respect the laws governing such matters. Neither do I understand them, but then I'm not running for governor, but it seems to me that even if one were to decapitate boards, one would have to appoint new management to change the direction of a corporation. Since when do governors do that?

Camejo probably has reasons to believe that fund managers have untapped powers. But I think he would be much better served trying some of that slamdancing on the State Legislature. Maybe he could get his own self appointed.

Posted by mbowen at 12:38 PM | TrackBack

Love & Hell

Cette mémoire est un cri dehors à ma fille à Brooklyn. J'espère ceci suffit. .

The closest I have been to Hell was Sunday Nights at 9pm during the long dark days of being unleashed and single. Sunday night was the time when I would have excess energy and ask myself why I didn't have enough fun this weekend.

I used to play beach volleyball and cycle 70 miles a week. I was the picture of health, and my body was all twitchy with energy. I used to get upset with the lack of sexual energy of most of my babeage, but every once in a while things would work out two or three times and I could sleep soundly on Sunday night. Most of the time it didn't. I made a promise to myself which was never to date a woman who couldn't keep up with me on my $700 custom road bike. You know, the one on the roof rack of my BMW. Are you getting the picture of what kind of arrogant jackass I was?

I was a subscriber to The Threepenny Review and The Nation. I could dance, as in sometimes a woman would walk up to me and tell me how much she likes the way I dance. (Depending on the amount of spirits, I would dance by myself in the proper club). I was making upscale money, I had a two bedroom flat. In fact I always, during my single life had two bedroom flats. One for my office activities, one for my bedroom activities. I wasn't a great cook, but I was great conversation at great restaurants. OK good restaurants and dive bars.

But still I was in Hell.

I never wanted it to be but the central narrative in my life is the women. There is no Cretaceous, there is no Jurassic era. There were the days of Lisa, the days of Liana, the days of Ditra. Hell was the days in between.

The problem with being unleashed as a black man is simple. Nobody knows what to do with you. You are a puzzle. Black women are like airport inspectors, eyeing you warily, trying to figure out where all your baggage is and what dangerous objects lie within. But I was traveling light. Do I live with my mother? No, I have a nice two bedroom apartment in a coop on Prospect Place. Wanna come up? I got that new Arrested Development CD. What? Why are you looking at me like that? Black men are like disbelieving co-conspirators. Don't you hate working for the Man? No, I have a great job. I built the computer model that showed Philip Morris that they would have to discount the price of Marlboro. What? Why are you looking at me like that?

Boomerang. Boomerang was the movie.

Yes, I'm 30. No I don't have any kids. No I haven't been married. No I'm not gay, I'm from Los Angeles where people have style. (You moron)

Single life is the agony of being all that you can be, in front of everybody all the time. It is the self as advertising and perpetually defensive seduction. It is having an answer for everything you can think of. It's filtering and scrubbing and microscopic analysis of nuance. It is the subtle sending of clues and picking up the radar signatures of sexuality. It is the negotiation of superiority of relative desire. It is the reservation of heartspace real-estate for the ultimate buyer. But it is finally weary submission. It is the biding of time and the measurement of pain. It is self-fulfilling agony. It is being bombarded by unexpected happiness and being blindsided by treachery. It is acheivment of peace, a ceasefire in the battle of the sexes, giving in and saying what the hell, let it go, let it happen. Now look what you've gotten yourself into. That's why women are always talking to their girls and men are always talking to their boys. OK I let go, did I make a mistake? What do you think?

If you can't be with the one you love, then love the one you're with.

Love itself is impossible in such a situation. It is a biological deception. Nobody can honestly say that they are looking for love, they are looking for romance. I didn't realize it until my twitchy energy left my body leaving me with coldly rational eyes. It wasn't until all the reasons why had been debunked that I understood the meaning of the dance. It wasn't until I was feeding my loud, unruly, completely embarrassing babies that I figured it out. Love is entirely a gift.

Perhaps it's something that men don't understand for a long time; even the sensitive man is gaming. We are all gaming, we men. We know that women are impossible to understand because they don't understand themselves. But there is only one way to do it, which is to decide ahead of time that you are only there to give love, to open up your heart completely without hedging. Men don't believe their love can change things. We believe without question that we've got the magic stick, that is if we do. We give to get and we are ever mindful of the rules we are supposed to follow. We are trying to be good men so that we can get what we deserve, according to the rules. But we are not prepared to let love change the rules. We are not prepared to let our hearts lead us by giving love unconditionally and letting love change who we are. Are you kidding? For what?

This is a class thing, of course. You should not date outside of your class, because you'll end up kicking yourself on Sunday night. But that's another story.

A woman cannot walk up to a man in all honesty and say, "Look sweetie, of all the men in here you are the one that gets my juices flowing. You are my type and I'm ready to start working to figure out how I can have you, because as of this moment you have my heart. Maybe I can start by buying you a drink." If she were to do that, she'd be initiating the masculine plot. As men, we see, we know, we begin work.

Instead of saying I want to love you, we have to show them everything we are. Men and women both. The honesty of the desire to give love away is completely corrupted by the desire to be recognized and accepted. But the two have nothing in common, and that is the mistake of single romance. Everybody is trying to prove something. Everyone is trying to be somebody. The act of giving away love in insufficient for our egos. That is why when love fails, we feel unknown and rejected.

For the robust heart, love is an easy come easy go proposition. But our investment in our identities gets in the way. That's why black love is so damned complicated. We're trying to be who we be and hope to god that somebody will see. We are invested deeply in some seriously head tripping games. You're stuck with the urges you got in junior high school and worked so many years to try and achieve.

Who are you that I should love you? Don't you see who I am? Love me, dammit.

Forget it.

It's Sunday night. I know who I am. I keep letting my guard down so that somebody can understand. But I'm sick of it. I've got to be who I want to be, and that keeps me lonely and I hate it. It's Sunday night and I didn't find what I was looking for. Oh yeah I had all my activities and all my plans, but she's not where I am. This is Hell.

That's how it used to be for me, and I still think about it.

Posted by mbowen at 11:01 AM | TrackBack

August 12, 2003

Who You Callin' Hostile!?

So I take this idiotic test:

Cynicism Score: 8 • If your score is 0 to 3, your Cynicism level is very low. • If your score is 4 to 6, your Cynicism level is probably high enough to be of some concern. • If your score is 7 or more, your Cynicism level is very high.
Yeah right. They're just trying to get me to buy their stupid book.
Anger Score: 5 • If your score is 0 to 3, your Anger level is very low. • If your score is 4 to 6, your Anger level is probably high enough to deserve your attention. • If your score is 7 or higher, your Anger level is very high.
Shit like this really pisses me off.
Aggression Score: 9 • f your score is 0 to 3, your Aggression level is very low. • If your score is 4 to 6, your Aggression level is borderline, and you may want to consider ways to reduce it. • If your score is 7 or more, you probably need to take serious steps to reduce your Aggression level.

I oughta come over there and slap some sense into these monkeys.

Total Hostility Score: 22
If your Total Hostility score is 10 or less, some research suggests that your hostility level is below the range where it is likely to place you at risk of developing health problems. Any score higher than 10 may place you in the group whose hostility level is high enough to increase your risk of health problems.

Sez you, pinhead. You wanna make something out of it, huh? Bring it.

You can also use the test to rate other people close to you—a spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend, for instance — to see if their hostility levels may be too high.

tsk. Sowing the seeds of discontent. Things like this make me wonder what has gone wrong. I mean, do people who live well in Argentina really have as many shrinks per capita as we do in the States? We certainly have deep roots of violent aggression in America, but so do underprivileged people. Yet those people can be happy and peaceful without extensive mental health regimes. This level of introspection, mass marketed, is what's sick if you ask me.

Posted by mbowen at 01:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Last Nation-Builder Standing

The RAND executive summary, for your reference.

As Table S.1 summarizes, what principally distinguishes Germany, Japan, Bosnia, and Kosovo from Somalia, Haiti, and Afghanistan are not their levels of Western culture, economic development, or cultural homogeneity. Rather it is the level of effort the United States and the international community put into their democratic transformations. Nation-building, as this study illustrates, is a time- and resource-consuming effort. The United States and its allies have put 25 times more money and 50 times more troops, on a per capita basis, into postconflict Kosovo than into postconflict Afghanistan. This higher level of input accounts in significant measure for the higher level of output measured in the development of democratic institutions and economic growth.
Posted by mbowen at 12:51 PM | TrackBack

So I've Been Told

Fight Club!

What movie Do you Belong in?(many different outcomes!)
brought to you by Quizilla

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Posted by mbowen at 12:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Sucky, Quiet and Terrible

Of course I am an action film fan. For me, the whole point of going to the theatre is to be blown away by the sound and lights, to have your emotional response echoed by the crowd and to eat sour gummies, but mostly the blowing away part.

I went to watch SWAT and I fell asleep. This has got to be the lamest action film I've seen in a long time. Even the one with Chris Rock as a spy was better than this. My recommendation, even if you are a big fan of all the stars, is wait for HBO; it's not even worth PPV.

I kept waiting for the good stuff and I realized that all the good stuff was in another movie. If you want Sam Jackson as a kick ass, then you have to go see Basic. If you want to see Los Angeles as a treacherous place, then go see Swordfish. If you want to see interestingly different chase scenes, go do The Italian Job again.

There's one redeeming quality about this movie, well at least the part I was awake for. That is that they used Leo's Barbecue on Crenshaw in a scene. Other than that? Pht.

Posted by mbowen at 12:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mumbai Mumbling

I've been invited, for the second time in as many months, to apply for work in B'lore. I'm not going, of course, but the irony is a bit thick. As an American IT worker to be recruited to work for what I presume are peanuts in India is a role reversal. But it's just another sign that American jobs are going to India in high tech, and that's got a lot of people pretty mad.

Many folks I have not been paying attention to are up in arms over IBM's decision to outsource some sections of its workforce to India. For those of you just rubbing your eyes, Indians are the 'Asians' that black and white Americans have been bashed over the head with, what with our inferior math and study skills. Here is Affirmative Action backlash blowback. Is it racial? Yes. Is it economic? Yes. Is it ugly? Not as ugly as it can and probably will get.

There is a dirty little secret in the high tech industry. It's that Indian immigrants do a lot of the nitty gritty technical work and that whitefolks do a lot of the sales. So while you have Indians with PhDs doing work as members of technical staff earning a not-too-shabby 85-105k per year as developers, you have whites with BAs doing all the handshaking and collecting fat commissions as sales reps and business development managers. Lesson #1. Every successful piece of software is sold by somebody to somebody. It's very difficult to pierce the veil of geek-centric journalism and the internet's own communications channels of geeks themselves to get to this story. The fact of the matter is that the white guys are still making the business end happen. Of course I know exceptions to this rule and I'm exaggerating to make a point, but I'm not going to qualify this assertion. I'll leave it to somebody who would bother to do research, like those journalists who have not yet reported on this racial gap. Chances are that in a few months, the balanced story will come out. When it does, trackback to this blog.

In this downturn, lots of people are getting squeezed, myself included. My division got canned two years ago and I've been on the labor spot market ever since. I'm doing my damndest to land a full-time gig as my contract rates hit the toilet. Two years ago, I could ask for $100 an hour and people wouldn't bat an eye. Today, I'm lucky to get $60. An upper middle class complaint to be sure, but here in the upper middle class is where we really feel the volatility of economy in dramatic fashion. When I was a union guy and the stock market crashed, did I care? Hells no. But I sure do know how it feels to lose tens of thousands of dollars now.

Part of this phenomenon is the commodification of high tech skills, especially in the software industry. When the economy shrinks, not only is there less IT spending, but research and development stops as a practical matter. What I mean in this regard is that there have traditionally been young software companies who may or may not go public who nonetheless take the lessons of one era of software development and build better tools for the future. These new companies have traditionally kept larger, slower companies, like Oracle and Microsoft on their toes, and could be counted on to push the market forward even if their cumulative share was only 20%. People make jokes about the dot com bubble, but there was real product innovation going on we in the software industry recognized. You ask any software practitioner their biggest gripe 3 years ago and it was, there's always somebody around the corner with something better. Whatever your specialization to stay on top you had to learn another new technology every 2 or 3 years.

That is no more. There are no new companies, and people aren't looking for ways to innovate and build newer and better. Nobody talks about 'the next big thing.' Aside from all that, customers aren't buying anyway. Now is the time that IT departments are hedging their bets on the new and buying the old if they are buying anything at all.

This hits the contract labor market (where many Indians are employed) hard, because now it means that everyone can learn the same old technologies since no customers are buying new technologies. In practical terms this means that instead of American workers being ahead of the curve with new trends, all of us are jogging in place with the same tech, and younger, less experienced programmers can have as much experience with old technology as anyone else. Advanced experienced programmers now have to work with old boring stuff and get paid commodity rates which keep going lower all the time.

Under these conditions, there is a flight from quality and experience. Instead of going with the expensive parallel database server on Unix, Z Corp decides to go with Microsoft SQL server on NT. Instead of the highly paid 40 year old database programmer who can do parallel tuning, Z Corp pays 2/3rds of his rate to somebody younger. When this trend continues long enough, the effect is clear. More and more people learn the simple stuff,

Cringely understands the productivity trade-off, and he also understands that bodies are literally human capital when it comes to project management accounting and the way weight is thrown around in software and application development.

In many ways, IBM is a different company than it was back then, but revenue per employee has barely budged. But it is not just IBM. Every big IT company is the same way, especially if services are a large component of what they sell. IBM, EDS, Accenture, they are all the same. And the reason they are the same is that these companies tend to think of their business in terms of billable hours. Yes, IBM also makes computers, but recently, they have made more money from billable hours than from building boxes.

Big IT companies think in terms of billable hours, and the way to maximize billable hours is by having lots of workers. Headcount is everything. It not only determines potential revenue, it also determines political power. If my division is bigger (has more people) than your division, I am more powerful you, you worm.

All things being equal, Indian labor in India is cheaper. Here in the states, there is little animosity between Indians and others. We all make the same rates by and large. But when the tech stagnation hits, some Indians have the choice to follow the work back offshore. Of course there are new immigrants hitting these shores too, so there's competition and friction over that. Don't doubt that Indians retain their class consciousness here in America; they do. Add on top of that various levels of English speaking skills and you will understand that there is a great deal of competition between Indians themselves, hailing as they do from various states in India. That doesn't change the fact that ugly things are being said about Indian workers by Americans.

I am trying to get out of the contract labor market as soon as possible and attach myself to a robust IT organization. This stagnation in tech is not healthy and a good sized corporation is the best place to wait it out. As consultants drain from the field less contractual outsourcing will occur. That is going to hit domestic Indians hard. The only good news is that many IT shops are a great deal more sophisticated than they were not too long ago, partially because of the brain drain from small software companies and the contract market. But it's still a short term solution because the longer capable people stay in corporate IT, the more time enterprising independents will have to assimilate the stagnant technology and underprice.

The key will be to look at the most capable project managers. Where will they go? If they stay in the field, then outsourcing will eventually decimate corporate IT, but if they join the corporate cadre, it will slow the outsourcing movement.

UPDATE: BradDeLong's economic analysis.

Posted by mbowen at 12:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

More Dysfunctional Asians

This is Hong Kong, and Chinese people are not sensitive about Nazism. If you grab 10 young people from the street and ask them if they know what Nazism is, I bet you none of them would answer 'yes'. People should not be too sensitive. It is simply the creative work of a very politically ignorant and insensitive designer. We're not sure that this issue is so serious that we have to have the whole thing pulled. It would cost millions of dollars to replace the line. Most of the complaints are from foreigners, but our customer base is local Chinese. Even the local [Chinese-language] papers didn't make a big deal out of this. Chinese do not have such strong feelings about these issues as the Germans and Jews. -- Deborah Cheng, Marketing Manager: Izzue, August 2003

So much for the globalism.

Big White Guy has details from ground zero.

UPDATE: VDL seriously harshes their mellow.

Posted by mbowen at 10:12 AM | TrackBack

A Full Deck for Liberia

The case against Charles Taylor is made plain. I momentarily lost my mind yesterday in thinking much of Liberia's pain might not be at his foot, but are circumstantial. That doesn't change the fact, whether or not Taylor said so in his exit speech, that America will have to step up its committment to West Africa.

I have to admit that Rummy's idea for a deck of cards listing the top bad guys in Iraq was a stroke of PR genius. It goes to illustrate the necessity of communicating to the American public how important it is that we round them up. We know their names and we know what horrendous things they have done. So too, we should have a full deck any time we are involved in peacekeeping and regime change, even if it is nothing more than a Carterian audit of free and fair elections.

If there is a possibility that Charles Taylor Jr might have some hand in Liberia's future under Blah, then we will have failed their people, and indeed Taylor may be prophetic in his promise to be back. The international community needs to be able to reign in the thugs with equal efficiency as their bosses.

Posted by mbowen at 09:32 AM | TrackBack

August 11, 2003


Too many Friendsterfriends? Scale-free network
theory models generated an overabundance of
comrades? Try Introvertster:

Posted by mbowen at 06:06 PM | TrackBack

More on Nozick

The following from Richard Epstein on Nozick:

In writing Anarchy, State and Utopia, Nozick followed the pattern of inquiry adopted by many great legal and political writers from Hobbes to the present day. His exploration into the theories of private rights and duties was done in order to give us purchase on the grand question of why it was that any ordinary individual owed allegiance to the state. On this question, I think it's fair to say that Nozick was not quite able to close the circle. He ingeniously was able to show how individuals for security would become members of extended protective organizations. He was less successful in showing how these repeated voluntary maneuvers were able to generate a single protective association that would exercise the monopoly power over force that marks the distinctive role of the state. In my case, his influence was again profound, because it made it necessary to find the missing piece of the puzzle to explain why principles of justice in acquisition and transfer were not quite enough, even with their repeated application, to create the state. Nozick himself resisted the use of hypothetical or social contracts, claiming that these were not worth the paper they weren't written on. My own solution, put forward first in Takings in 1985 was to argue that we had to rely on these tricky strategies in order to explain why each person could be compelled to surrender his rights to liberty and receive in exchange the security that only a well-constructed state could provide. Forced exchanges, which he ruled categorically out of bound, were the key, so long as they worked for the benefit of those subject to the coercion.

I would argue simply that people will, of necessity have multiple loyalties. The question of whether or not a single well-constructed state has the imperative for monopoly in regulating exchanges depends almost singly on the viability of the exchange. Which is to say the breadth and depth of markets the state can market is a function of the material capacity of that state.

From this perspective, black markets are equally just. There is no less value in the pricing of goods and services in the voluntary exchange of contraband than there is in above-board markets. When a state determines to outlaw a particular set of transactions, it essentially refuses to provide protection for that market. Yet black markets thrive precisely because criminal enterprises take over that role.

Why would street kids express loyalty to their gangs? Because they are protected in their exchanges, outside of the interest of the state. Some such actors have no need for the state. There is a conflict of loyalties.

I believe that the material capacity for the state to enable exchanges are under pressure from the increasing capacities of corporations and individuals. But this is precisely why states must expand or be undermined. This is where the rubber of multiculturalism meets the road of politics. If previously excluded people find that their transactions are not protected, they will find few reasons to be loyal despite the ability of the state to provide protection. In that regard, the state may need to be affirmatively proactive.

Posted by mbowen at 04:33 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Rawls vs Nozick?

Somebody needs to give me a thumbnail sketch of this battle because it seems to be key to understanding the consistency of Michael Walzer the man who wrote the following:

But my critique of French and German policy doesn't have much to do with just war theory. It is a much more general moral/political critique, having to do with hypocrisy and irresponsibility rather than with injustice. France and Germany did not refuse to fight or wrongly resist a just war; they refused to provide what was in their power to provide: a serious alternative to an unjust war. I continue to believe, even at this late date, that had France and Germany (and Russia too) been willing to support, and had the UN Security Council been willing to authorise, a strongly coercive containment regime for Iraq, the war would have been, first, unnecessary, and second, politically impossible for the American government to fight. But this would have involved giving up the notion that force was a 'last resort,' as the French said, or morally impermissible, as the Germans said. For containment depended on force from the beginning: the no-fly zones and the embargo required forceful actions every day, and the restoration of the inspection regime depended on a credible American threat to use force. Now imagine the no-fly zones expanded to include the whole country; imagine the very porous embargo replaced by 'smart sanctions,' which actually shut down the import of military equipment (while permitting materials needed by the civilian population); imagine the inspectors strengthened by UN troops, who could patrol installations once they had been inspected, and by unannounced surveillance flights. Given all that, it would have been very difficult to make a case that Iraq was still a threat to its neighbours or to world peace. But the US did not want a regime of that sort, having settled on war early on; and France and Germany were not willing to support anything close to this: they had, in fact, decided that the appeasement of Saddam was the best policy.

Later he suggests that a 'multilateral empire' is best, admitting and understanding as he says above, that force is required to subdue brutal regimes. Yet he has serious reservations that the values of any single country, multicultural that it may be, can protect the world. Again this suggests that the internal empire is more likely than the external.

My gut tells me that Rawls is wrong (heh). We cannot reject our natural endowments in developing our moral philosophies. The planet is fine, but we need to take care of our needs. Computers will tell us about themselves quite completely, and we won't care that much. It will be the morality of humanity that matters most and if it comes to a fight between us and the machines, the humans should and will win.

Posted by mbowen at 04:08 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Factoid: California Power Plants

According to Art Torres, part of the reason for the current California budget deficit (somewhere around $38 Billion) is that in 17 years, no California governor built a single powerplant.

From a Democratic source in May of 2001:

By signing a bill by Sen. John Burton, D-San Francisco,
Davis created the California Consumer Power and Conservation
Financing Authority -- a new state agency that can
issue up to $5 billion in revenue bonds to build, purchase,
lease or operate power plants.

Plants financed b y the authority will provide cost-based
electricity to California consumers, Davis said, which will
help stabilize the state’s volatile energy market.

The power authority is modeled after one in New York,
which has 10 power plants, 1,400 miles of transmission lines
and produces about 25 percent of the state’s power. Nebraska
also has a power authority, which created a market in
which residents pay 22 percent less than the national average,
Burton said.

An increase in the number of power plants down for
repairs this year “is strong evidence that people are manipulating
the market by withholding power,” Davis said.

“The only way we can fight back against this type of price
gouging and manipulation is to build more plants,” he said
at the bill-signing ceremony in front of a Sacramento Municipal
Utility District power plant.

I'm taking the Democratic side of the power argument because in my estimation it was the power issue that turned the political tables against Davis. Davis is a moderate and he handily defeated Bill Simon in the last election. The California Republicans screwed themselves by letting Simon off the chain, and the Riordan clique is now suffering.

I specifically remember that there were no blackouts in Los Angeles, because the DWP owned its own power and therefore couldn't get snookered by the sharps who ran energy spot markets.

Let's see when Arnold starts talking about this.

BTW, Bill Simon should sue to get rid of these squatters.

Posted by mbowen at 02:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Between Doe and Blah

It seems only yesterday that Charles Taylor was near the top of the list of bad guys to be deposed. Call me an idiot, but I'm beginning to wonder if this was not circumstantial. I'm searching now for a complete text of his departure speech, but the little piece I heard today on NPR, completely absent as it was from the NYT's piece, made me consider the broader scenario.

Posted by mbowen at 02:08 PM | TrackBack

A Moral Dilemma in Retrospect

I once wrote in a missive against the war in Iraq:

two minutes ago, i got an email with a fuzzy focused picture of a puppy with the caption: i know god won't give me more than i can handle; i just wish he didn't trust me so much.

why i am against the war, this time, is because although i like gwbush like a puppy, i don't trust him that much.

part of the problem of coming from 90016 in the 70s is that there are palm trees and thugs. on one of the many occasions that moms sent me to the market for staples, i found, after the recent santa ana winds, some lengths of palm fronds with wicked thorns. i grabbed one, in the alley just west of crenshaw heading south to exposition. i ground off enough thorns to make a handle by using a pink cinderblock which had fallen off the wall which separated houses from the alley. in my hand it felt like an awesome sword, and suddenly i had the most evil weapon i could think of. i started to walk more slowly through this alley. i couldn't wait for somebody to try to jump me and take my money. i had a big stick.

skinny kids with glasses ought not to act like skinny kids with glasses, because they're more likely pick up weapons instead of going to the gym and getting lasik surgery. living well is a better revenge. likewise provincial rich kids ought not act out their stereotype because they'll eventually surround themselves with worldly types, like henry kissinger. and although this is an exercise in amateur psychology, let us not forget that this president ran his campaign on one word, and that word was 'character'.

I later amended my ways in consideration of the fact that the needs of the Iraqi people to be free of tyranny was greater than the sum total of blame that could be placed at the foot of GWBush. As that blame (and our federal deficit) grows, and his mendacious tactics are revealed, I feel a growing sense of regret. Not for America lending it's hand to the Iraqis, but for lending my hand to this man as emperor. He is singularly unworthy.

Often, many billions are discussed in the total cost of this war. I am reminded that the largest costs, that of the care and feeding of many tens of thousands of troops, are already sunken into our defense infrastructure. We did not go hire an entirely new army to fight in Iraq, we just deployed the one we already had. The cost of the war is incremental, ordnance, fuel and materiel. Still, there are hard figures to be reconciled with the freedom we have purchased for the Iraqis much of it in opportunity costs at home.

I understand that this is selfish. I want a safer, freer world, but I also want an America that functions properly. The worse things get over here, the more uncomfortable I get with our expenditures over there. Perhaps this malaise was predictable, but not because I feel bad about spending money on war, but because I feel bad about trusting GWBush to tell the straight truth.

As Yglesias puts it:

I think this is perfectly consistent with the case against the Bush administration. The whole point, in fact, is that the Bushies (and many of their supporters) never really cared about the case for war they outlined. They had decided for independent reasons that it was necessary to go to war, and in order to go to war it was necessary to build public support for war. In order to build public support, it was necessary to lie. The point of exposing the lies is twofold. One is to persuade the group of people — the small but electorally-crucial group of folks in the middle — who were swung by the case that they now ought to swing back. The other is to expose the fact that the administration is basically full of liars.

I will cop to supporting war for reasons independent of Bush's case and most others as well. I also believe that in the long run the prospects are as good for Iraq as they are for Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Northern Ireland. But that doesn't stop me from being angry with GWBush, again.

Posted by mbowen at 01:31 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Dat Phan & The New Dysfunctional Asian

Dat Phan is not funny, but he is Asian.

Anytime an Asian can get on stage and make fun of his parents' accents, you've got a winner. It's about time that Asians got comically bashed in mainstream society. These are the days of Affirmative Action Backlash Blowback. For the many years that stereotypes about Asians were used to beat up stereotypes of blacks and latinos, Asians must have been saying to themselves, one of these days the jig is going to be up. They certainly knew that they were not superhuman.

It has fallen to comics to break out the topic for public discussion. With AABB gaining momentum, Asians are going to have to brake the fall of their honorary whiteness. Margaret Cho will have to devastate the 'me so horny' idea by doing it her fat-assed self, as a bisexual. Dat Phan will have to deconstruct the 'kung fu nobility' idea by doing it himself and then saying WTF like a loser.

Americans, especially younger ones, are needing to see Asians express the same dysfunctions, social perversions and moral disintegration as the trashiest of their trailer park cousins. We're all headed for leaner times, and if Asians are not coming with us, they'll be in for real bashing at the hands of the positive stereotypes they cosigned at the beginning of the age of the Pacific Rim. So these young Americans who grew up on the porno that is television are needing to see their Asian buds portrayed in the contexts they find themselves in. Blacks and latinos are already there, hiphop has assured that the degenerate profile has institutional infrastructure.

Dat Phan will be the man to watch. He will not be able to be Eddie Murphy for another generation. He will have to be Richard Pryor, or even Redd Foxx for the time being. He cannot become outwardly rich and famous, he will have to air all the dirty laundry of his and his parents generation. America won't let him be Jet Li, he will have to be the anti-hero. His confidence in his delivery, his discipline will all be in service of a wack personna. If he doesn't, America will chew him up, spit him out and ignore him, just as we have done to his parents.

Dat Phan, as a Vietnamese, will have to take down Chinese and Japanese. He will have to combat Philipinos and bring the Hmong out of obscurity. If he is to be truly large, this will be his task. He will have to be as Vietnamese as Paul Rodriguez is Mexican, as John Leguizama is Puerto Rican. But in that, Dat Phan has a very large problem, which is that he doesn't appear nearly as talented. This is the crux of the issue.

I was surprised that he won the competition. I didn't think he was that funny. I was much more impressed with Ralphie May's schtick as well as that of the older professional comics. But it was one of those very comics, Vos, who uttered the key phrase. "I didn't know you could get over just by ragging on your mother for five minutes." That's exactly why, if you're Asian. It's what America needs and wants to hear.

This need may pose as a desire for colorblindness, but we are too much the pattern-making creatures for that lame figleaf. The need stems from the desire to pin other kinds of archtypes, stereotypes and associations on Asians. Other meaning, laugh at yourself kind of associations, rather than compete with the ethnic minority kind of associations. That is all good and I think it is honestly reflective of the desires of the young audiences drawn to such venal reality shows.

Let us see whether or not Dat Phan understands all this and holds up his end of the bargain.

UPDATE: Model Minority on Dat Phan.
Flamewars & deleted posts at DatPhan's Blog

Posted by mbowen at 11:52 AM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

What is Genius?

i think of genius as a frantic state of creativity. what genius is is a polyphonic kind of continual expression and combination of intelligences. an individual possesed of (by) genius has a desparate need to make something happen in a way that combines things that are not obvious to the outside observer. genius always draws on a big pool of knowledge but does so in a way that makes its expression appear spontaneous. a genius develops a cross-functional vocabulary through a galaxy of shortcuts. genius is about the energetic orchestration of rapidly assimilated concepts. genius reinvents a domain in its own idiom, and thus genius defies translations. intellect parses genius one step at a time trying to understand the modus operandi.

penn jillette.

as i say this i am trying to think of criminal genius and deviant genius, the controlled pathology. genius is not methodological, it is searching. perhaps genius that is pathological doesn't understand how others don't understand, and doesn't care. madness is genius that doesn't seek transforming public expression - only observation and assimilation.

henry kissinger.

a genius tries to do gravitate all meaning to his inventions. they interpret life through their twisted prisms. the genius is disabused when they try to explain too much, overloading their creation with meaning. they need another breakthrough. the genius destroys himself if he is unsuccessful.

richard pryor.

a genius must attain mastery. he perfects and re-perfects. he throws it all away and starts over. he spins off a million tangents and throws them away. a genius plays with large dangerous tools. a genius gambles using tells too subtle for the untrained eye. the genius throws himself in the garbage just to test his own genius. he pushes the limits and pretends to be immortal just to see if he can, and finally he achieves.

jackson pollack.

after the genius, if they are recognized in their own time, they change the paradigm. suddenly it all becomes obvious - the dots are connected. the elemental genius of the connection becomes commodified. the public overdoses. pretenders and hacks rip off. earlier works are scrutinized.

woody allen.

we expect that the genius knows about life. maybe they do, but they probably look at the world as if they were an alien race. ordinary comforts don't suffice. genius has no peace. thus they must simplify their own life, discipline it - or throw it into extremes. they reject the free life, they spend too much time attending to the demands of their talents.

billie holiday.

genius is hungry and predatory. its talent doesn't save until it is manifest universally. the genius aims for the globe


genius evokes a vast sense of loss and disintegration when it is suddenly missing. on the passing of genius it is always felt that it will take several generations to find and recover what genius has discovered. one wonders how the world would have been different were it not for the genius in our presence. we are contrite for not paying it the mind we should have, we wish we had another chance to appreciate it all over again. but it is too late.

gregory hines.

Posted by mbowen at 11:08 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 10, 2003


Gregory Hines is dead. A moment of silence.

Posted by mbowen at 12:46 PM | TrackBack

Head. Wall. Bang.

At this moment I feel as though I have to turn my whole blog into a diatribe about Black Republicans. It would be the only thing that would generate enough gravity to get people who appear to be so conflicted and confused to start recognizing that it's not suicide.

Take the following from Blunted on Reality:

Like I said, the concern is not that blacks will start voting Republican. All the J.C. Watts, Clarernce Thomases and Ward Connerlys in the world cannot convince the black electorate to join in the beliefs of Newt Gingrich, Strom Thurmond and George W. Bush... but enough indifference might convince them that the Democratic party isn't worth their time, effort, or vote either.

I am crouched in the middle of the street in Manhattan. I stand slowly, raise my hands to the sky and scream. My voice echoes supernaturally and the camera zooms backward so the entire city is visible. AAAAARRGHHH!

What kills me is that if Denzel Washington declared himself a Republican tomorrow, you'd get millions of blackfolks out of the closet and idiotic neutrality. Oh well.

P6 is right that black is the noun and Republican is the adjective, not the other way around. Republican is synonymous with effective and Democrat is its antonym.

Posted by mbowen at 11:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Sex & Sin

FMarsden writes:

The Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints, so anyone wrestling with sexual temptation but trying to live a holy life is welcome. The question is whether homosexual sex - or indeed heterosexual fornication or adultery - can ever be pleasing to God. The Scriptures and 3000 years of Judaeo-Christian tradition reveal that this is not possible. In St Paul's own words, those who indulge in these acts unrepentantly cannot inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. I am sorry to see the Anglican Church abandoning the teaching of Holy Scripture. At the so-called Reformation it criticised the Catholic Church for allegedly covering up the true meaning of the Scriptures. Now some Episcopalians are deserting Scripture as the guide for their lives and behaviour.

Point taken, halfway. Given that people have sex different ways and for different reasons, one should use some judgement. True, we have scripture as a guide, but we also have our our own minds. If we were only given scripture to follow in prescribing the paths of righteousness, then free will would be rather optional. Free will is not simply binary.

Secondly, I interpret the call to be Christlike one of maturity and learning. Which means it is not sufficient simply to sacrifice, but to understand why. God may say, take the cup, but are we to take the cup without knowing why? Does God require that our obedience be blind? I believe not. The trials and tribulations of life are not simple mindgames and tests God places before us in order for us to earn brownie points for Heaven's gate. Scripture is not a crib sheet. God expects us to grow and learn and take responsibilities. We are moral animals and we must exercise that facility.

So I ask, what is sinful about adultery or fornication or sodomy? If one says, they are wrong simply because scripture says so, that is not using our minds. I will simply offer my understanding.

Adultery is treacherous.
Fornication is foolish.
Sodomy is selfish and perverse.

But let us focus on the last item for this is the matter most of us associate with gay men. Let us, for the purposes of this discussion say that sodomy is the physical act of anal intercourse. A man puts his penis in someone elses anus, male or female. Is this sinful in and of itself? If a husband and wife do so and it is pleasing to both of them does that displease God? If the wife finds little pleasure in it but does so out of love for her husband is that sinful? If the wife does so but really does not like it at all but does so out of guilt is that sinful? It seems to me that God does not hate the act so much as the venal reasons for it in the cases where it is not an expression of mutual affection. One can provide Eros for another out of Agape.

When we think of the gay lifestyle, I think many find it offensive because it may often be exercised in defiance of all three sins. Cruising bath houses for sex in which there is no commitment is clearly fornication. I wouldn't expect that there is much kissing going on, so that this sex would much other than sodomy is probably out of the question. Gay men do indeed love each other and there's no question that adulterous treachery is a problem. Quite frankly, now that I think about it, the lack of consideration many gay men might have for their risk of STDs is foolish, perverse and selfish. I think that if we are called to judge, as Christians, the nature of the sins of gay men, then we must look at least this closely. Certainly our clergy must look closer.

I would add I am very much concerned with the role of the priest as a counselor and I do see a competition between that role and that of the modern day psychoanalyst. So I think that the Church should expect the clergy to understand as well as they can what the nature of the beast is. Is that being gay friendly? Yes. It is saying that a priest who condemns or ignores the human without close guidance, someone who merely throws the good book at them, is not fulfilling their role in maintaining the Body of Christ.

How is it that a gay man can lead as righeteous a life as a married man? Does it have to do with kind of sexual behavior they engage? Absolutely, but the devil is in the details. The Church has to go there even if most Christians are too skittish and disturbed by the prospects in the case of gay sex. But more importantly, does righteousness and repentance only have to do with what kind of sex they have? Not at all, and the sooner we can get this fixation out of our minds, the sooner we will be able to obey the commandment to love our brothers as ourselves.

Posted by mbowen at 10:06 AM | TrackBack

August 09, 2003

Dark Blue

If you live long enough, you see everything, but only if you are looking. If you were around during the Riot of 1992, you most certainly have seen plenty.

There will be many stories about Los Angeles, most of which won't be told to the masses. They will be told father to son, mother to daughter, piece by piece. Some will be told with cold, bitter tears, some with shudders of fear, some with hesitation. Dark Blue tells it as I've never imagined it would be told in a film.

I've long ago run out of steam talking about Los Angeles Riots. I have been healed, and I think the city has as well. I know people from my old neighborhood and their friends did some of their healing with hugs and acknowledgements. Brothers have graduated from slapping fives and complex dap to grips and embraces, and that has spread nationwide. The cures have been slower in coming, as usual, but rebuilding has happened. With Bratton as Chief and Parks leading the 10th District the institution of the LAPD has a good chance for completing its reforms. It may appear foolish to make much of films, but the perspective that Dark Blue has taken shows that maturity is real. It too should reflect the history of this city.

As a film, I would have liked to see a bit more departmental intrigue between Rhames' character and the brass. That third leg of the action, heightened by the approaching doom of the riot would have balanced the rogue cop's downfall streets and the corrupt boss' manipulations. I was expecting a great deal more risk and crusading by Rhames, but he seemed never to be on the screen at all.

Posted by mbowen at 10:40 PM | TrackBack

The Old School

One of the most impressive books I ever read was by Ernest J. Gaines entitled 'A Gathering of Old Men'. If somebody asked me what I was all about being Old School, I would say read that book.

I don't take politics for granted. I am conservative but not 'a Conservative'. I expect that as the man I am that my opinion counts informed as it is from life, refined as a writer. But I don't go to Conservative Central to check my ideology with the master pundits. They will change their minds because they have confused people to win over. I'm not confused. I'm not playing partisan one-upsmanship.

It is difficult for me to summarize 'what I am' other than intensely subjective as a writer. I'll just take things as they come.

Posted by mbowen at 07:40 PM | TrackBack

August 08, 2003

This Los Angeles

"Humankind still lives in prehistory everywhere, indeed everything awaits the creation of the world as a genuine one... if human beings have grasped themselves, and what is theirs, without depersonalization and alienation, founded in real democracy, then something comes into being in the world that shines into everyone's childhood and where no one has yet been -- home."

--Ernest Bloch

This afternoon's trek to the Getty was something indeed. It made me think a bit about this cosmopolis.

The Getty crowd is youngish yet variant, and not all chinoed and whitebread. A stern reddish blond women quickly stifles her grandchild. A young latino kid stares off into the distant Pacific with a twotone gold handheld device to his ear. A large swarthy man in a loud orange shirt waddles quickly over to his large framed wife and daughters perspiring and talking excitedly about 'urns and statues and stuff'. A short docent with an Italian accent and a slight grey stubble on his head compliments me about my haircut with a smile. A tall girl with large brown locks gestures descriptively to her boyfriend about the particular angle of an Eggleston picture. A mother wearing Stevie Wonder style braids stands in line for iced tea and hands a program guide to her daughter. A middle aged sandy haired dad and his son in identical polo shirts wearing aviator sunglasses and expensive sandals talk about software. A belly out girl smiles briefly at me as I make one of the few eye contacts of the day. A young boy who looks like the kid from The Princess Bride stares at Van Gogh's Irises as he listens to the prerecorded tour on blue headphones. Security guards on break laugh and joke.

So on to the art. The big attraction right now is supposed to be this Illuminating the Renaissance thing. How shall I say it? If you've seen one hugely ornate calligraphic sacred text, you've seen 'em all. I found them a lot less inspiring than I expected although they were certainly impressive. There was only one, in the four rooms dedicated to the exhibit that I found mildy inspiring and that was the rather thick one with the tiny script. I couldn't get the idea of monks scribbling away in Old French locked away in their monasteries on these books for months and years on end out of my head. For me personally, that is a very tired metaphor of computer programming. I've used it for almost 20 years now. So I was essentially looking at the equivalent of 15th century Flemish websites. Now that I'm restyling the blog a little bit, maybe I'll put some flourishes and blots on the archive template, but that's all. Perhaps I should have read all the captioning to catch the flavor of the dynamic of the period, but I was only interested in looking. But this was just the first exhibit. I was just getting the snarky city grime washed off me.

Looking was rewarded later as I ventured to the South building in which was housed a black and white photography exhibit from the American 60s. Although Arbus clearly stole the show, both Winogrand and Eggleston had fine points. Winogrand's portraiture has a spontaneous yet documentary style. He catches people in the middle of doing nothing in particular in settings that reveal as much about the period as they do about the subjects. Eggleston's Memphis work in contrast are more striking for their symmetries and complex compositions, yet they are stark, vacant and distant conveying dramatically a sense of alienation he surely saw characterizing Southern life.

Arbus gets her freaks on with striking intimacy. I've read much about her work and it doesn't disappoint. The cruel irony of her portraits are unavoidable and drew a great deal of murmuring from the assembled crowds.

I buzzed out of that joint and headed towards the marble sculptures. I continue to be endlessly fascinated by the ability of sculptors working with stone. Folds in dresses, the curly hair of Roman Emperors, the delicate fingers of nymphs, the kneecaps and navels showing through flowing robes, the separation of toes. Marvelous.

Finally, I headed up to see the Impressionists. Two paintings were the highlight of my day. The first was a portrait by a cat named Millet. The subject was a young girl with arms folded and left forward fingers split over her right forearm. Half of her face is in shadow and there is a perfect shaped symmetry in the shadow under her chin and above her slight breast. It was truly an amazing piece of work.

The other was by Monet. It was of a French Cathredral in Rouen in the foggy morning sun. I found it truly haunting. It held my attention for quite some time. As is my habit with Impressionists, I came up close to it after a period and viewed it from the side and let my jaw drop at its scabby patchwork surface.

The crowning moment of my visit came near the end, as I tired of the galleries and swooping through the light crowds. I took in the breathtaking panorama of this city, this Los Angeles from the Getty's hilltop. I could see all the peaks from Baldy to Wilson. I could count all the towers downtown, at the airport, in Santa Monica and Century City. I could not quite make out the Vincent Thomas Bridge and Catalina wasn't clear, but it was a magnificent vista ('magnificent vista'?). It was very cool.

Still I got the feeling that the city is strange and different. It is not my Los Angeles, so much as it is this vast world class city which has lost its intimacy for me. It took me an hour to reach the Getty from Redondo Beach, which is more like New York driving time. I found myself wishing for a subway train to the South Bay that I could take instead of the 405 and I realize that there is one. I've just never bothered to use it. Some time ago the buses turned red and started using CNG. The RTD is no more. Now the Gold Line goes to Pasadena and beyond. I used to live in the San Gabriel Valley only 20 months ago. It seems like a lifetime.

Here in the hills above the Westside, the richness of the foliage and greenery stand in stark contrast to the rusty brown hills under the dusky haze of Baldwin Hills and Westchester. The fine tiled roofs next door in Bel Air are more than two worlds away from the simple stuccos 5 miles southeast off Venice Boulevard. Far to the east are other worlds, behind me the Valley, like a recalcitrant Confederacy, unable to secede.

Who knows who runs this place? People with names like Ueberroth and Bustamante want to, but I wonder if they'll manage. Over to my right in the distance is the world's largest marina. Over to my left are tall triangular buildings full of entertainment lawyers, nearby is a cemetary full of soldier's headstones. Across the way a million people are all trying to get home or get away from home moving at 10 miles per hour. How does it ever happen? How do they hold this place together? Is Los Angeles even together at all?

The only thing that's clear is that up here, among the 16,000 tons roughly hewn travertine stones, Los Angeles can be viewed, if not comprehended, all at once. To a sensitive and thoughtful soul, it is overwhelming.

It is hard, on days like these when it is so inspiring to know the efforts put forth evident in this fine museum, to imagine that we are at war. And yet a moment's consideration at the broad variety of humanity and the complexity and idiosyncracies of their works, creations and desires makes one pause at the miracle we don't fly apart all at once. It is, in the end, the desire to reach out, to inspire others and to retain our ability to be inspired that draws us together in our endless fascination for each other. Our willingness to be surprised and find something good in the person and works of others binds us each to our common humanity. It may be a quirk of the human mind that makes patterns out of chaos, but for that quirk all we would know, and then only partially so, would be ourselves.

If we would not be at war without ourselves, this city, and maybe this world, might become our shared home and happy familiarity available to us all.

Posted by mbowen at 07:12 PM | TrackBack

Fudging P2P

Several weeks ago I had an excellent discussion about the principles of music sharing with an adversary who kept bringing me back to matters of theft. I wish he had done it in the blog. I think I was right in arguing that the pro RIAA side are bigger thieves, but I have changed my behavior.

I reconfigured off my file sharing mechanisms to avoid the subpoenas now being served by the legal henchmen of the recording industry. It was clear to me that they were going after suppliers of substance. I am no longer a supplier at all. If somebody hacks my system and takes what I have, I wonder if that makes me a supplier? I have mixed feelings about changing.

Yesterday, I did a bit of thinking about how the economics of distribution are factored into the creation of recorded content. I have satisfied myself that type of distribution not only affects the curve of the revenue stream and therefore the type of consumption patterns expected, but changes what kind of intellectual property it is. There is a material difference between a film which is created to be a summer blockbuster and one that is supposed to be an arthouse release. Certain kinds of content are to be consumed certain ways, which means that different kinds of controls can be applied to their use which are not unilaterally the same. What prompted this thinking was a Life & Times spot on Dianne Watson who is putting together a new legislative agenda.

A few years back, my boss sent me to Century City to cover the now defunct Webnoize Conference. My task was to meet up with the Digital Rights Management (DRM) guys at IBM and Bertelsmann and show them how analytical software could help them create realistic business models. You know, for that little thing called profit. I was so excited about a group of guys called Reciprocal that I almost made a dog's breakfast of everything else. Unfortunately, they were pretty broke at the time, but they are still alive. Note that they are intent on creating end-to-end control. This is what the industry wants.

If I get my new gig, I will be in a firsthand position to speak with some authority on how entertainment content revenue streams work based on calculations the industry calls 'ultimate valuation'. What the big content distributors hate and fear is 'superdistribution' which is essentially that area when their content hits the internet and peer networks, markets which are now completely beyond their control. They view superdistribution essentially as a bootleggers paradise. In some ways they are right.

The industry claims lost revenue due to all of the unauthorized use of their products, and they assert intellectual property claims on all superdistributed product. Part of the problem I see is that they have refused to come up with a model that prices appropriately for this market. They have had to contend with free, and this is what burns them up, causing them to go for their legal guns. There is clearly is a way the music industry to run a profitable business buy selling music digitally online as Apple and BuyMusic are proving. But the entertainment giants don't want a price war, they want a legal war. As far as we can tell, their business models tell them that a CD's content is worth $19, period, no matter where it goes. Which is why they seek to employ DRM technology to enforce control of distribution and set prices independently of superdistribution enablers like Kazaa, et al.

I believe most people would not mind indelible digital watermarks, for example, to guarantee that it was indeed a particular artist they were listening to. If the recording industry were not bent on control of superdistribution, such matters would not be controversial. It's all in the difference between building a music player that plays digitally certified music and one that does so only with the permission of the recording company. It's the difference between a passive player and one that reports the number of times you play a song to the recording company. In its search for control of superdistribution, the recording industry has shown that it is willing to flex its legal muscles to make any DRM enabled playing devices illegal if they do not report usage to the industry.

In film, this is probably more pronounced since it is the industry which grew up simply on theatrical release only. Today it is finding the subsequent releases in the home video and rental markets more profitable. But inherent in the way certain film titles are marketed and managed are the seeds for defeating the basis of their current legal battle. This is my point. There are movies that are created today with the express knowledge that they will bring in more revenue in certain distributions than in others. Finessing the timing of such things and determining how much to spend marketing to which distribution channel, I would imagine to be the genius of Hollywood.

The Hollywood argument is at its strongest now because all of the bootlegging that exists is at its peak. There are few offererings aside from eMusic, Apple and BuyMusic (does anyone use PressPlay?) that are not free. Free has the biggest superdistribution market share. Anything that cuts into that market is a revenue stream for the industry. The industry thus must offer, choice, quality, price. This is how they compete.

Posted by mbowen at 01:31 PM | TrackBack


I'm going to the Getty today. See ya later.

Posted by mbowen at 12:37 PM | TrackBack

AOL's Blogging, Ya Herd?

Yglesias [reports that Steve Dunn ]suggests that AOL's entry into the Blogosphere will death blows to the superior gravity of Instapundit and AndrewSullivan. I beg to differ, simply.

One. I never read either of them and I don't miss a trick. It has been a very rare occasion when the second-order blogs [like Matt] on my list have deferred totally to their style of writing. Instapundit and Sullivan are provocateurs only of reader's habit.

Two. The last thing AOL 'revolutionized' was the browser world. Before that, it was USENET. You can judge the results for yourself.

The AOL herd is of bovine proportions and intellectual substance. In general, they live on the feed lot. Every once in a while, AOL will add a new technology that gives them a bit more freedom to roam the open plains of the Internet. They stampede a pre-trailblazed path into minivan navigability. That's a good thing because AOL supplies enough heads to justify non-niche marketing and that validates keeping the Internet alive for unprincipled capitalists and others late to the cluetrain. But ain't no siren calls coming out of that herd.

We will see a whole lot of stuff that will look like the first generation of Blogger, but with shiny buttons. YKYMF

Ed. Thanks to ZM

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Going Local

I am 80% confident that I will take my next permanent job here in the LA area. I've been bouncing around quite a bit, but I am really looking forward to settling down. It is with my eye on that prospect that I am preparing to actually start caring a bit more about local politics and the goings on here in Los Angeles County. So here's the new category Local Deeds.

My doppleganger on Nemesis, the clone of Earth on the other side of the sun is not a database architect like me. He is an urban planner. We vibe every once in a while. So as implied in the category title, I will be looking at neighborhoods, and the geography of this place as well as the political activity.

Our first stop, posted without comment is NKLA.

Posted by mbowen at 11:17 AM | TrackBack

Go With The Party, Sometimes

Eugene Volokh has a suggested rule of thumb that I believe makes more and more sense to me in these days of circus elections. Vote mainstream when a race is not close and vote alternative when it is. This gives maximum leverage to the alternative party and makes it more influential at precisely the moment it should be, when the mainstream party cannot clearly demonstrate their superiority.

Without a doubt this is the moment in California. I find it an interesting matter that I am coming to respect Richard Riordan more and more. I say this because the last time I was deeply involved with pre-riot Los Angeles politics, I was far too polarized by Gates / King to give any Republican candidates a second look. At the time, my man was Mike Woo. But in the last mayoral election, there was one candidate who stood head and shoulders above the crowd in my estimation. That was Riordan's Parks & Rec man, Steve Soboroff. So it comes as a disappointment that Riordan got bamboozled by the Schwartzeneggar campaign in the current free-for-all.

This is the second time that Riordan's momentum and interests have been cut off at the pass. Anyone who can recall audacious campaign of Bill Simon should know that some folks don't seem to care about keeping promises to Riordan. Riordan keeps getting upset by upstarts. What's up with that?

Well, thanks to Volokh I have a logical excuse for my gut reaction of support for the campaign of Ariana Huffington. Until Riordan and fiscally responsible Republicans like Soberoff can get control of politics in California, my vote goes to the radical alternative.

UPDATE: P6 notes that the problem with young black would be Democrats is that they are all carrot and no stick. When their party disses them, they stay home instead of voting for the opposition. There's an opportunity here people.

Posted by mbowen at 11:11 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

So That's What Happened

It was during the spring of 1991 that I first saw the work of Adrian Piper. It was back in the days when Quarterdeck was a still a player in the PC software world. The offices of Quarterdeck were on Main Street in Santa Monica, CA. As I was walking by browsing antique stores, the new building caught my attention. Little did I know there was a museum there as well. On that particular day, Adrian Piper's work dominated the space. For a long time since, her anti-racist sensibility has dominated my mind.

Piper, among other things, is probably the most devastatingly concise investigator of the ethical dimensions on racial identity the world has ever known. If I had but one guide on such matters, she would be the one. She is probably one of the most capable African American philosophers since duBois, but she is virtually unknown. This self-portrait may explain.

Posted by mbowen at 04:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 07, 2003

Lynch Factor (non)Adjustment

It has come to my attention that there is a more precise number attributable to American lynchings of blacks in particular than I had previously supposed. I got my number from listening to a radio broadcast of Eric Foner last winter when I was working in Atlanta. According to Leon Litwack the correct number for blacks is 4,742 over an 86 year period ending in 1968. My previous assumption was roughly 3000 including whites over about the same period.

While mine is a significant underestimation of the body count, I still think it serves a useful purpose is guiding my radar level of geopolitical interest. FWIW.

Posted by mbowen at 11:29 AM | TrackBack

On My Tits

Yesterday was one of those days. I seemed to be getting a great deal of caca from all directions. The one thing that annoyed me the most, however, was the feedback I'm getting from my potential employer. I had forgotten how much rigamarole people seeking permanent employment must go through. I've already had four interviews and they want one more still. Over the past 7 years most of my engagements were settled by phone in a matter of hour if not days. I've been going through this process for almost 5 weeks now although it seems like longer. Still, things are looking very well. I'm simply impatient to get started.

That's doubly true these days. I've settled into an unhealthy sleep pattern. I've been getting about five hours a night. I'm not tired at all. That's part of the problem. I need some external imperative - something to wear me out so that I can get back into a normal rhythm.

My dad's sister in law died this Monday. She had been suffering from MS for several years but she was only 47. That's got everyone worried, walking slowly and searching their hearts. It brought some extra focus in my work of recovering old pictures for the upcoming family reunion.

Everywhere I go people are grumbling about the gay bishop that foretells brimstone and wormwood. That's particularly annoying, but not as annoying as Arnold for Governor. I won't have to listen to the bashers much longer, but I will have a hard time avoiding the Terminator.


Posted by mbowen at 08:53 AM | TrackBack

August 06, 2003

The Planet is Fine

George Carlin made the point that environmental activists have their priorities all wrong. Instead of worshiping the planet and suggesting that we should take better care of it, they should admit that the planet is fine.

The planet is fine, and its weather systems, bacteria, viruses, tectonic plates and other parts are all rather oblivious to us. The planet will survive our worst. We won't.

In the end, environmentalists ought to help us to understand what it is that we do wrong doesn't threaten snail darters and other biodiversity, but threatens human beings ourselves. The problem is of course that we have another 150 years or so until we're paved over, and people will notice.

But environmentalists have another enemy and that is the capitalist market. You see the market will inculcate upon us a consciousness of choice and price. We will either have high prices or limited choices and those will change so gradually that we will adjust. like frogs in the broth. I am thinking of this specifically because, after all these years, I have found that my favorite drinking water ever, Dasani, is manufactured, bottled and distributed by the CocaCola Company. I prefer drinking this to water out of the tap. You ask me about the environmental effects of water pollution and I don't care because I drink Dasani. When Dasani costs too much for someone with my income, like never, then I'll pay more attention to the lead levels of the Mississippi River. You see the problem.

There is a simple and clever solution to this problem, and it's something that even a politician as notoriously reviled as Cynthia McKinney has learned. Go local.

McKinney, who was and is a lightning rod for racial politics of the most contentious kind, nevertheless won re-election after her district was jerrymandered from overwhelmingly black to majority white several years ago. What saved her? Lead paint on children's playground toys and the failure to clean up toxic dumps in her district. Everybody got it. In fact, McKinney and similarly minded black activists have taken their show on the road to Durban, South Africa and added 'environmental racism' to the political lexicon. Obviously you can't fix the same problem twice, but the initial lesson stands. Show what individual polluters do to local communities.

Chaining oneself to a tree fifty miles from the nearest McDonalds only brands one a weirdo. Allowing McDonalds to take credit for using paper instead of plastic wrappers on its billion burgers is genius. Trying to cram scientific research about global warming down the throats of Joe SixPack is foolhardy if not suicidal. Lobbying to change how sixpacks are package, with cardboard instead of plastic, with aluminum instead of tin, with tabs that stay on instead of being tossed away, that's inspired.

People care about quality of life issues, they don't care about the planet. My suggestion is to eyeball your school yard, not the habitat of the spotted owl.

Update: Now take this ethics lesson and apply it to the question of vultures. I leave that as an exercise.

Posted by mbowen at 04:56 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Gene Robinson & The Body of Christ

As readers of Cobb should know, part of my Old School cred is that I was confirmed into the Episcopal Church during high school by the Archbishop of Los Angeles. I'm somewhat ashamed that I cannot remember his name, despite the fact that I shouldn't be. My confirmation was not about the man, it was about my spiritual journey into communion with the church, the Body of Christ.

It is this distinction that I think is confusing those who are making an issue of ordination of gay men. The Anglican church split from the Catholics precisely over such issues as papal infallibility and matters of a celibate priesthood. I won't belabor the point but I feel strongly that the Anglicans are more in touch with the true character of humanity than are the Catholics and are therefore better prepared and consequently equipped to minister in light of this understanding.

What nobody seems to be dealing with is the matter of whether or not gays are welcome in parishes, or whether or not hetrosexual sex offers divine insight not otherwise attainable. It is simply rational that gays are welcome into the body of Christ and are equally worthy of salvation by dint of the fact that they possess souls. All souls are equal in the eyes of God and it is by His grace, not by our deeds that we are saved. No one becomes a priest much less a bishop who does not understand such matters and these are the matters at the heart of the issue.

What does it mean when Kobe Bryant has more defenders than Gene Robinson? I defend his ordination on principle. He is no more sinner today than he was a year ago in obscurity. What has changed is the number of people who have elected themselves qualified to pass judgement on his legitimacy as a member and a leader of the Episcopal Church. Yet I remain confident that those who have supported his candidacy know very well and approve of his conduct in all manners pertaining to his duty and office.

The Episcopal Church has not turned Gene Robinson into a sex symbol. That shameless exercise lies with those who would suggest a necessary qualification on the souls of gay and lesbian individuals. That is not their prerogative.

Posted by mbowen at 11:18 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Souvlaki & Other Greek Beef

One of these days Cobb is going to be popular enough so that the comments sections will be full of lively discussion and even controversy. Right now I think 8 or 9 is the most I've gotten on a subject, one of the subjects being Harry Potter. Jeez.

But I did recieve this gem this morning.

I read your black frat cosmology and what I found missing was the part where the entire notion of black "Greeks" is another sad chapter in blacks emulating White Eurocentrism.

First off Brother MBowen, not only did I find your narrative completely indicative of the slave mentality fostered by years of white racist epistemological training, I must admit I've never found such blatant black self-hatred put forth with such pugnacious arrogance.

I'll cop to the pugnacious arrogance, but blatant black self-hatred? My brother has really only just touched the tip of my iceberg sunny side and has no clue how deep and cold I am. It's quite possible to read my humor and not recognize the deadpan. I offer a cluebat.

First off, the brother gets props because his question was one of the first ones I arrogantly spit out at the Alpha smoker back in 1984. A smoker is an open invitation by the frat to let folks on campus know what's up, to otherwise strut your stuff and show how cool, smart, etc the chapter is. The answer I got was basically this: 'Greek' is part of the tradition of things done in America, but materially the only thing greek about the organization are the letters.

During the pledge program we were to memorize the greek alphabet. that's about it.

Eurocentric is a more tricky charge to dodge. Aside from the fact that I am Old School and have no time for sentimental BS about any part of Africa, I'll answer it as straightly as I can. Black fraternities and sororities are part of a cultural network and support system which is completely and totally black owned, operated and controlled. Alpha, which was founded at Cornell (predominantly white ivy league school) nearly 100 years ago, has a rich and deep tradition of service to black communities. To the extent that it is a Eurocentric idea to build secular service instutitions, yeah frats are Eurocentric, but then so are HBCUs. As far as I know Asante himself attended a predominantly white college and teaches at Temple today. But to suggest that the greek system itself of through its programs intentionally or otherwise inculcates an additional layer of whiteness on its members is bullcrap. If black greeks are Eurocentric it's because they are already, not because pledge programs or frat activities make them.

What the frats encourage, without question, is an abiding brotherhood that owes not to symbols or ideas but to the people themselves. My brothers, D and B, are my brothers, for life. We lived together, worked together, shared good times and bad. We look after each other (when we're around) and stand up for each other and each other's families. That's where the unity and love comes from, not some theory.

But let's discuss the larger issue, which is the incremental improvement afrocentrics like Molefi Asante have given to African Americans in our emergence. We can do that in the comments section.

I haven't paid much attention to Asante since '91 when I first read his book. I will summarize my expectations in this way, I don't expect a significant percentage of African Americans to liberate their minds through afrocentrism. As a practical matter, I expect blackfolks to do like Arrested Development, and take it back to Tennessee. Much, if not most of the impact of Asante's work has already been commodified and accepted in a diluted form into the black mainstream. The external symbols of afrocentricity are sometimes all that's necessary for cred, which is a problem in and of itself. Still, everybody knows what it is supposed to mean - that wearing dreads is a symbol of organic black self-respect and all that good stuff.

I followed the big debate a bit back in bad old the days when everything was mailing lists. Mary Lefkowitz vs Bernal. In fact I still have in the Kwaku archive verbatims of most of the Athena Digest. (I knew they would come in handy some day).

My beef is with the hard afrocentrics. You know the kind, who reject everything American and treat all blackfolks like we're ignorant negroes who need a fifth grade education in self-respect. The guys who spell America with one or three 'k's. My beef is also with the multi-level marketing afrocentrics. People who scam buppies with their trips to slave castles and pyramids.

The fact of the matter is that most blackfolks don't need to do anything but acknowledge the truth of history and get their own lives right. I believe that ordinary Christianity, properly practiced, is more than enough to provide spiritual liberation from the crush of mindless Eurocentrism. But more important is mental liberation which must take place at the level of a collegiate education. I also think that rites of passage are very important for boys and girls and this is where afrocentrics could successfully organize, but it should still be led by people of collegiate stature.

Mind you, I'm not all about the basics. That job belongs to Monroe and all his folks, and to a certain extent to Asante himself. When reading his story, it was clear that he was just emergent himself. There are a goodly number of first-generation college students in African America and there are goodly number of lessons, including Afrocentricity that they ought to be hip to. As Chico used to say to the Man, "It's no my job man." I'm trying to work the leading edge.

Posted by mbowen at 09:18 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 05, 2003

Snake Eats Tail

So let me understand this. The Bush White House refuses to declassify the identity of Saudis that have been revealed have links to Al Qeada. How are we to determine whether this secrecy is to protect an ongoing investigation which, or a coverup of links between such Saudi money and American money?

All we know is that the Senate has asked for names of terrorist links and the Treasury Department is withholding information it knows to be true about terrorist funding operations. That sounds like some kind of violation of Ashcroftian proportions. Or is it that the Executive Branch is just being high handed with the rest of the government?

Somewhere, there is something deeply embarrassing about Saudi money and American money. I can't prove it. Nor can it be disproven at the moment. What kills me is that somebody knows and we can't. This is very frustrating for me.

We know who was funding Al Qaeda now. What are we doing about it? We knew when some poor slob in Cleveland who ran a check cashing agency got arrested, why can't we know this?

Posted by mbowen at 07:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Internet Guided Voting

What Eugene Volokh suggests in these 22 paragraphs are some interesting thoughts on online voting. I'll engage him for a moment.

I don't like the idea in that his system, as proposed, tightly aligns the automated process of guidance to the actual vote. I think the vote should be a pure expression of will. The idea that an automated system could actually capture every nuance of decision making is flawed. The entire thing can be spoofed, not to mention subverted. But the fundamental flaw is what happens to interest group standing and the consequent effect of omissions and conflicts in the system's likelihood of setting up limited choices.

Contrast Guided Voting (GV) to XRepublic. It is fair to view GV as a watered down version of an XRepublic, whose function is more oriented toward the more wonkish work of deliberation and crafting of resolutions. In XR the processes and outputs are dynamic, with GV the processes are deterministic. Linking them to voting makes the outputs deterministic as well.

It is this particular aspect that bothers me the most because at bottom there will always be a bottleneck in the capacity of the system. At issue is the mechanism used to determine which selection of interest groups merit inclusion in the weighting algorithm of GV. At the heart of the GV system are will be some affinity scoring algorithm that maps voter opinion through the lens of interest groups onto ballot choices. There are a couple places this gets dicey.

The first area for contention would be in weighting the scores. This is what I call the interest group conflict problem. Let's say a thumb (binary choice) is requested on 2nd Amendment question in the form of a gun control ballot initiative. On all the points of the language of a proposal behind the ballot initiative, the NRA scores .89 certainty for a NO. On all the points of the Gun Nuts of South Texas also scores an .89 certainty for NO. Some representative of the GNST, upon hearing this claims to be a .92. It is a matter of pride for their partisans to be stauncher supporters of gun rights than their rival organization, the NRA. Who arbitrates? How long? Where is the science? Who certifies it?

The second issue is that of omission. What incentive do maintaners of the system have to include 'redundant' or 'superfluous' interest groups? What standing is required to become legitimized as an interest group? This problem is rather obvious so I won't elaborate.

The third is an issue of horseracing tripwires. In this case, the system programmers, in programming the system's affinity matrix notice some interesting sets. By estimating the number of voters who have generally announced their affinities in other elections for the NRA and GNST interest groups, they will be able, by dint of their knowledge of the affinity matrices, to project with certainty the outcomes of elections. This knowledge will get into the hands of campaigners and can be used strategically to undercut democracy in a must cruel way. I can think of no clearer example of this than the current recall election in California. Who would have thought that for a mere $1.7 million dollars, approximately 1.02 per signature that a recall measure could force a vote of confidence (which incidently costs the State of California $32 million simply to launch). The point is not the expense but the increased determinacy of tripwires in elections that only require narrow activism to force public change.

It may be that within the scope of the decision space of any one election, a limited set of influencing interest groups will provide sufficient diversity to allow voters more than enough 'free will' as determined by the affinity algorithms. But this is something that needs to be watched very closely. I would strongly suggest that any such system be decoupled from actual voting and tried on the simple merits of guidance.

Posted by mbowen at 01:59 PM | TrackBack

MFK 2.0

Now that I've got my online house in order, across three domains, in multiple categories and varying degrees of seriousness, I am less inclined to hesitate airing my lighter, if not completely wackjob sensibilities. But still I feel the necessity to qualified my unqualified madness with self-serving paragraphs such as this. You can blame my parents. IDGAF.

The game is MFK, the candidates are multiple.

This is the toughest one, of course. It has to be someone I'd suicide bomb. I simply don't have the passion to gank someone out of personal spite, but perhaps I'd willingly martyr myself on principle. In this regard, and since it's entirely hypothetical, I would need to travel back in time and be the man responsible for the brutal slaying of one man. I think that man would be William Bradford Reynolds. You do the math.

Someone in this category would be an individual we would love to see suffer a fate worth than death. Someone for whom humiliation would be complete, and unending. This is the most appropriate punishment for cross-media asshats who hog precious space with their mindless bloviation - the human equivalents of the Macarena. The competition is tight, the winner: Dr. Laura. We would like to see her accused of child molestation by a vast media conspiracy. Every third caller to her radio broadcast would be 'What about the kid, Laura?' The runner up: Anne Coulter. We would like to see a skillet of scalding chicken grease leave a bright purple ameboid mark on her right cheek, and have one of her eyes permanently astigmatized 20 degrees off center.

I prefer the term, 'publically disappeared', as in Jimmy Hoffa. For this honorific, there are any number of well-deserving candidates. But I think public enemy number one should be, Kim Jong Il.

Posted by mbowen at 01:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

How High is Heaven?

Just about as high as the American relationship with the Saudis stinks. Will somebody please drop a daisy cutter on the White House obfuscation? We are not likely to hear explanations anytime soon from the horses mouth. The vast left-wing conspiracy is such a piker. Al Q, *is* Saudi. Let's start dealing with them on the ground.

When, by the way, is Ari Fleischer's last day? Sensible people like me are starving for new information that explains the standoffishness of this White House, and the sucker press. It's making me theorize and I don't like theorizing.

Posted by mbowen at 12:33 PM | TrackBack

Boswell Is That You?

Once upon a time, the one single place journalists and other decent writers on the internet hung out was the Well. There has been nothing like it before or since. One of the most brilliant and hilarious of luminaries was a a devasting wit named Gerard, who went by the psuedonym of 'Boswell'. I think I've stumbled upon his blog.

He doesn't seem to be quite the same person I recall. He seems to have gotten a case of the patriotic bombasto-pox. Fortunately, he can still be hilariously caustic. I'll not miss his new blog often.

So where's Vard?

Posted by mbowen at 05:01 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Hollings Reduced to a Soundbite

'Sharp Tongue'. You heard it here first, unless you heard it on NPR already.

Posted by mbowen at 03:40 AM | TrackBack

Hurricane DMX

Hurricane DMX got crunk and straight ganked Galveston, TX yesterday morning leaving a trail of devastation not seen since way back in the day.

In Galveston, hundreds of bustas were left homeless as DMX lost its mind up in there. Forecasters expected it to move quickly through Texas into Louisiana, but evidently it stopped, dropped 20 inches of rain, shut down businesses and opened up shop all over South Texas. It was a rough ride for many in Houston as well. As one resident of the Fifth Ward of Houston said when he saw the storm coming, "I thought my mind was playing tricks on me."

Just a week ago, DMX was considered a tropical depression. Most everyone slept on him. The Weather Service reported that DMX was slipping, falling and not getting up. Then he blew up to a tropical storm and was rollin' with the barometer in the dubs. By the time he hit the streets of Galveston, he was dropping hailstones the size of blunts. One forecaster simply remarked "We didn't know who he be."

Currently, there ain't no sunshine in the Gulf states. It's dark and hot as hell, and there is a great depression across the South.

While major population centers are currently in the eye of the storm, people are taking a break to holla to their peeps. But time is short as it appears that DMX is going to give it to you as it breaks north and crosses the border. Experts predict that it only has 24 hours to live, but will still be off the chain for the immediate future and is likely to smack the breakfast out of Louisiana.

Residents in the affected area codes are advised to knuckle up and guard their grills. Don't be skurred. For those most seriously affected by the storm, the Fed's has got their back with disaster aid so they might dust themselves off and try again. Government agents are asking 21 questions of local people.

Some people have expected this for a long time and are determined to stick it out. Says one local "I've lived here all my life, I'm stayin' right thurr. I don't really care what people say. I don't really watch what them wan' do." Others are not sticking around. Says one resident, "If it can hit once, it can hit twice."

Posted by mbowen at 01:52 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 04, 2003

Nigdriving & Nigchalking

pryor.jpgI just had a brilliant idea for folks with too much time on their hands. It's nigdriving! All you need is a Google Toolbar and a sense of humor, or a serious gripe.

Here's what you need, start here at Cobb. Head over to my blog maki in the orange bar on the left. Click on a link and follow it to a new blog. Then go to their blogrolls and pick a random target. (The first order bloggers may not payoff well.) Now that you are at your target blog, type 'nigger' into your Google Toolbar and Search Site. Ever faithful, the Google engine will provide you with all references. Eyeball the context of the hits and determine whether this blogger deserves recognition. Nigdriving!

Nigchalking is a bit more tricky. Now that we've identified the reprobate, what do we do? My suggestion is that we do nothing unless and until we are ready to apply some technology, but here is my idea for nigchalking. I've done it once before. It was inadvertant but it turned out to be very very effective. (Google up Niggers and Basketball)

We assemble a Bomb Squad of nigdrivers. A critical mass of about ten is all I guess that's required. Each of these bloggers create a category of Nigchalking in their blogs, and then trackback to the identified reprobate. The resulting web of links will spoof Google into making that entry the most popular part of the reprobate blog. Therefore when the blog is googled up, the most offensive post of the blogger will show up at the top of the list. There is an obvious problem with this, which is that it equally poisons the Bomb Squad blogs.

If a separate site were created, not enough independent links would be created to spoof Google, but at least it could be a central resource. I imagine a little trickery with blogrolling and/or RSS could balance things out a bit. I favor this solution which is rather similar to Hatewatch but could enlist parttime nigdrivers.

I for one think this is a fabulous idea but I'd hate to be famous for it.

Posted by mbowen at 11:32 AM | TrackBack

Not Stolen From Anil Dash

Intellectual Property 101, provided by Ten Reasons Why.

Give someone your blender. Let them take it home with them. Now sit in your house, and try to make a smoothie in your blender.

Now, give someone your idea. Let them take it home with them. Now sit in your house, and try to make use of your idea.

You can't do the former because physical property is "rivalrous." It is a limited resource and can't be owned or consumed concurrently. If I steal the Mona Lisa, you can't go to the museum and see it. If you take my blender, I can no longer use it. Intellectual property is a "non-rivalrous" resource. My consumption of it doesn't impact yours. If I take a photo of the Mona Lisa, the original is still hanging on the wall of the museum. You can take my idea, but I haven't lost it by you taking it.

Thank you very much for that idea.

Posted by mbowen at 10:32 AM | TrackBack

August 03, 2003

Gangsta Lovin'

There is a brilliant, world-rockin' piece in the NYT Magazine this weekend. It's about the Down Low. We're not talking about Creepin' like TLC was singing about a decade ago. We're talking about black man on black man action, bath houses, dance clubs, the whole nine.

The DL is alive and well, but don't call it gay. These men don't want to hear about anything feminized. So that makes two groups of homosexual and bisexual men who want to have nothing to do with Queer Eye. You learn something new every week.

I know a couple black men on the DL, and I may know even more that I don't know. For those who have confided in me, either intentionally or untintentionally, I understand and respect their reasons. This truly is stuff that the world doesn't want to hear.

Much is made about the HIV risk. It seems that there is no way to talk about black sex without making it sound like something that threatens the entire planet. But that's just background noise. The facts, whatever they may be, speak for themselves. Unsafe sex is not what's interesting about the DL. It's the poignancy of what lengths these young men go to get their satisfactions, and the risks they take in fulfilling their desires.

The DL world is not like the white gay world, and none of these men seem to be interested in Stonewall or the possible liberation openly gay life might afford. They are all too aware of what society holds in store; misunderstanding, shunning, denial and hatred. So it comes as no surprise that the thug motif is dominant in this underground. There's not even a whole HBO show about black gay men, and HBO is almost all porno anyway.

Out here in the Kwaku Network people may have forgotten or never knew Marlon Riggs but the popularity of E. Lynn Harris is all old news. I haven't bothered to read his romances, that's more the speed of the spouse who also enjoys HBO voyeurism with the millions. But I expect the reality of the DL to bring shocks of recognition in the months and years to come as tongues get untied. We haven't seen the last of this. Out here in the blogosphere, I'm awaiting reaction to the story.

Posted by mbowen at 10:03 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

James Baldwin on the Outsider

Back in the bad old days of SCAA, we had to deal with a number of problems and issues. In case I ever have to make some criticism of a certain type, you may hear me mention the 'Bulworth Theory'. I thought 'Bulworth' was one of the worst movies that ever got critical acclaim. There were worse but I don't want to go there.

Here's what I'm talking about:

"For several years it had been his fancy that he belonged in
those dark streets uptown precisely becuase the history written
in the color of his skin contested his right to be there. He
enjoyed this, his right to be being everywere contested;
uptown, his alienation had been made visible and therefore,
almost bearable. It had been his fancy that dangere there, was
more real, more open, than danger was downtown and that he,
having chosedn to run these dangers, was snatching his manhood
from the lukewarm waters of mediocrity and testing it in the
fire. He had felt more alive in Harlem, for he had moved in a
blaze of rage and self-congratualation and sexual excitement,
with danger, like a promise, waiting for him everywhere. And,
nevertheless, in spite of all this daring, this runing of risks,
the misadventures which had actually befallen him had been banal
indeed and might have befallen him anywhere. His dangerous,
overwhelming lust for life had failed to involve him in anything
deeper than perhaps half a dozen extremely casual
acquaintanceships in about as many bars. for memories, he had
one or two marijuana parties, one or two community debauches,
one or two girls whose names he had forgotten, one or two
addresses which he had lst. He knew that Harlem was a
battlefield and that a war was being waged there day and night
-- but of the war aims he knew nothing.

"And this was due not only to the silence of the warriors --
their silence being, anyway spectacular in that it rang so loud:
it was due to the fact that one knew of battles only what one
had accepted of one's own. He was forced, little by little,
against his will, to realize that in running the dangers of
Harlem he had not been testing his manhood or heightening his
sense of life. He had merely been taking refuge in the outward
adventure in order to avoid the clash and tension of the
adventure proceeding inexorably within. Perhaps this was why he
sometimes seemed to surprise in the dark faces which watched him
in a hint of amused and not entirely unkind contempt. He must be
poor indeed, they seemed to say, to have been driven here. They
knew that he was driven, in flight: the liberal, even
revolutionary sentiments of which he was so proud meant nothing
to them whatever. He was just a poor white boy in trouble and it
was not in the least original of him to come running to the niggers."

James Baldwin - Another Country - 1960

Incidently, this is exactly why I respect Eminem (as far as that goes) who is no tourist. He's keeping it as real as anyone.

Posted by mbowen at 03:13 PM | TrackBack

Mutual Admiration

As those of you who have been reading me lately know, I've gone deep into the shed with some blackified topics. It has been refreshing and rewarding in and of itself, but has gone beyond that in the direction of 'all good'.

Primarily I'm talking about a writer whose blogorific acquaintance I have only just recently met: Prometheus 6. Whether or not that 6 signifies anything relating to a little thing several cats from Ithaca formed that many years after the beginning of the 20th century, we are clearly brothers. And dig this, he's even hip to Sekou Sundiata. So I have added him to the unmarked yet distinct area of the blog maki for my existential partners as well as taking cues from what he's writing these days.

As he has already noted, the similarities between our webified presence is striking. He blogs in realtime on a wide variety of subjects and maintains a good deal of static material. His writing is unusually thorough and he doesn't shy away from the tough subjects. He appears to be hardheaded and unsentimental about Africa without being dismissive of its prospects. That's a very promising start. It's going to take me a while to digest significant portions of his extensive work, but I suspect I will find it very rewarding. P6 is all that.

Secondly, I am going to have to give much props to My Friend George who is building what may very well become the center of news and observations catalyzing substantial black thought, that is the Negrophile. While I find the front page uniquely styled, I must confess that I haven't quite decided to love it or hate it. But there is absolutely no question that the content is dead on. I would go as far as to say that Negrophile is to domestic affairs what the Agonist is on the geopolitical tip. It is truly a work of inspired, and damned disciplined genius.

What's special about Negrophile in particular is that its presence gives me that very unique sense that now that it exists, there is one less thing in the world that I must do. It has been done exactly as I would have, had I the skill, dedication and patience. I reserve that compliment for very few, notably Aaron McGruder.

As for the P6, he's only slightly misstepped by lumping me under the liberal heading on his blogroll, but he even thinks Volokh is liberatarian. I don't mind despite trying my best to represent Old School in a way that people squirting out of the sides of Democratic orthodoxy might recognize and grab on. On the other hand, I've been put in the same category as people who still give a damn about Mumia Abu Jamal and that smarts. All in all, I'm just proud to be read by such a fine mind. There's no doubt that between us all, most everything will be covered.

Days like these, I think that the Quad A is possible.

Posted by mbowen at 02:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Is Rush My Baby Daddy?

There's a lot of political blather out there in the world to find fault with. Here's an example of some that yanked my chain today. Let's leave aside the presumption that Russell Simmons is a 'black leader', but deal with the implications of the following para:

Russell Simmons, Inc. has reaped enormous profits from the new generation of Blacks through his position and salary as Chairman of Def Jam Records and Vice Chairman of GlobalHue Advertising Agency, Rush Communications, Phat Farm Fashions, Baby Phat, Rush Visa, Simmons- Latham Media and other capitalist ventures. He has aligned himself with the corporate class and works in their political and economic interest. More often than not, these interests are diametrically opposed to the interests of the majority of Black people.

Whatever one makes of Simmons as a cultural or political visionary, he clearly is a shrewd entrepreneur. He exemplifies, better than anyone I can think of at the moment, genuine black capitalism, as contrasted with blacface capitalism or ujamaa.

A Small Refresher
Blackface capitalism would be Revlon through their 'Dark & Lovely' product line. White owned and controlled but strictly for the benefit of black consumers. Ujamaa is small time, cooperative economics. It means going to the black owned barbershop instead of Supercuts. Black capitalism is best exemplified by some of the black owned and operated car dealerships in Atlanta that I hear on the black radio station with black voices using black vernacular to attract black customers.

My position is that they are all good but black capitalism is best. I would add that there is a fourth, which is 'invisiblack' capitalism in which black controlled corporations provide goods and services to the mainstream in which the race of the management team is black but unknown and materially irrelevant. American Express, Avis, AOL Time Warner are all run by black men, few people know, it makes no impact on their marketing.

Ajamu suggests that Simmons business survives in spite of, rather than because of black interests. The basis upon which such a suggestion depends is not given, but I have little doubt as to what would come next. It would be a litany of statistics showing the relative retardation of the majority of blackfolks against the majority of whitefolks. Man, that's tired.

Ajamu could do us all a service by redirecting his criticism to what it is that Simmons is producing and where its significance to black culture lays. In other words, start with 36 million African Americans, focus on the 5.32 million (or whatever figure he can prove) that buy from Simmons and then determine whether or not they are getting their money's worth. To suggest that Simmons is a black leader requires us to understand exactly which blacks he is leading, where he is leading them and how faithful they are to his leadership. Of course Russell Simmons is not necessarily working in the interests of black America, because that huge thing called black America isn't necessarily interested in Russell Simmons.

By suggesting that Simmons could be or would be a black leader that the majority of African America ought to pay attention is to put him up for inspection he doesn't deserve or seek. Sure he meets with Pataki or Cuomo. Sure he donates money to youth organizations, but one should not be surprised that he involves himself in politics or charity. This is what most famous multimillionaires do. His agenda is not a public agenda, rather it is the rather straightforward corporate agenda of building a brand and shaking money out of the pockets of consumers who have money to burn and delivering that money to those in his investment club, the shareholders of his various enterprises. Simmons knows how to make money for his people. His people are commercial artists and shareholders, not all of African America. I think he's doing an admirable job so far.

It's quite fine to advance a political agenda. We all have them and various reasons why. But there is no longer a unified, captive audience called Black America available to jump on a political bandwagon. Nor is it reasonable to expect prominent successful black individuals to father our political dreams.

Posted by mbowen at 10:39 AM | TrackBack

August 02, 2003

A Little Subversion

Every once in a while, mau mau pedagogy can be a lot of fun.

Posted by mbowen at 03:06 PM | TrackBack

Silver Rights is Wrong

J. at Silver Rights wrongly assumes that the 'new' Harvey Milk highschool is an affair of segregation. It is rather, an alternative school for gays who have been literally bashed out of the system. If it wasn't for Milk, these kids would not recieve an education. It's very existence is proof of the failure of assimilation for some, but not by choice, but because of the hostility of bashers.

Get it right.

Posted by mbowen at 11:00 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Connerly vs Wood

There is a split in the coalition that brought you Proposition 209. Thomas E. Wood has authored a very detailed accounting of the contradictions between himself and Ward Connerly vis a vis Connerly's latest efforts in California. The Racial Privacy Initiative designated Proposition 54 which will be on the October 7th ballot seeks to get rid of all racial checkboxes in the public and private sector. Wood, who was a co-author of 209 sees how getting rid of racial checkboxes undermines all racial discrimination law enforcement, not the least of which is Prop 209 itself. He has brought this up to Connerly, who would rather get rid of the checkboxes.

Colorblindness as a racial ideology has now begun to show the chinks in its armor within the California Republican Party. Wood's apt tracing of libertarian thought on the matter provides a good guide to how positions may be staked out in the future, but at the center of this entire matter is the personality and thinking of Ward Connerly himself. Connerly's racial identity has been problematic from the beginning. He may soon find himself to be a crusader without intellectual backing. Wood incisively observes:

However one might feel about libertarian or quasi-libertarian objections to racial data collection and private sector enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, intellectual clarity and honesty require a clear acknowledgment that the choice between these principles and meaningful enforcement of anti-discrimination laws is very stark. If one favors laws prohibiting discrimination based on race and ethnicity in the public sector, one must acknowledge that such data is needed to enforce those laws. Similarly, if one favors laws prohibiting racial discrimination in the private sector, one must acknowledge the need for racial data in the private sector to enforce those laws.

Wood is clearly against RPI in defense of 209. I gather that the majority of conservatives are unsatisfied with evasions of 209 and for this matter will support RPI. It will put them in a logical bind, and Wood may yet come to see how great a factor racial resentment was in the passing of his own bill. Though Wood gives a credible arugment in support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 he himself makes a damning distinction with regards to conservative and libertarian support. To take colorblindness to the extremes of Prop 54 will do so in direct contradiction to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

What I have been arguing in this paper is that the RPI is best seen as a move within the conservative movement to redefine the nation’s position on race. I have suggested that the bulk of the RPI’s support among conservatives comes from those who have strong libertarian leanings and also from those who do not self-identify with libertarians but who continue to believe, as Goldwaterites believed in the 1960s and 1970s, that government should not recognize race or be engaged in racial issues at all—except perhaps to the extent of having laws prohibiting racial discrimination that are nevertheless so weak as to be virtually unenforceable. If I am right about this, then it is surely a matter of concern, not so much for the opponents of the initiative, but for those Republicans who are concerned about the marginalization of the GOP in California politics. The GOP is already on the defensive in California on the issue of race. The last thing it needs is to be identified with a movement to overthrow the civil rights paradigm of the 1960s, as embodied above all in the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The gauntlet is thrown.

Posted by mbowen at 09:22 AM | TrackBack


The NYT reports:

National Security Council officials are leading an interagency delegation to Saudi Arabia this weekend to discuss with Saudi officials investigations into the financing of terrorism. The Americans may also ask Saudi permission to interview Mr. al-Bayoumi, who is reportedly now in Saudi Arabia, officials said,

What goes on in this meeting is of crucial import going forward. If the 46 Democrat senators are not going to get their way in having this document declassified, then the precise meaning of the Bush Administration's meeting must be figured out.

We should look to the frustrations of the FBI in regards to their knowledge about the cleric in San Diego.

Posted by mbowen at 08:58 AM | TrackBack

Lying In Ponds

I have been pleasantly surprised, while looking up an old Bob Herbert article, to have found Lying in Ponds. You'll find it a handy resource.

Lying in Ponds is an attempt to encourage vigorous, independent commentary in the American punditocracy by quantifying and analyzing partisanship. Lying in Ponds tries to draw a fundamental distinction between ordinary party preference and excessive partisanship. The presence of an excessive partisan bias transforms journalism into advertising, too distorted and unreliable to be useful in any serious political debate.

Lying in Ponds currently tracks the Democratic and Republican biases of a selection of regular political columnists from various sources, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal, and the Washington Post.

Posted by mbowen at 08:47 AM | TrackBack

Make the Sacrifice

Somebody needs to think very long and hard about what it would take for them to declassify the Twenty Eight Pages. Did I say declassify, I meant leak. Somebody needs to swallow the pill and get this out in the open. In my estimation, its a smoking gun bigger than all the WMDs Iraq ever had. My faith in Charles Schumer is fully restored as he ratchets up the pressure.

Whoever does so will be a hero.

Posted by mbowen at 01:11 AM | TrackBack

The Beginning of the End

Everybody speculates, but if this is true of the Saudi Royal Family:

SEN. BOB GRAHAM: I think there is very compelling evidence that at least some of the terrorists were assisted not just in financing -- although that was part of it -- by a sovereign foreign government and that we have been derelict in our duty to track that down, make the further case, or find the evidence that would indicate that that is not true and we can look for other reasons why the terrorists were able to function so effectively in the United States.

Then there will be hell to pay.

We do know that the Saudis are corrupt, and we do know that scenarios of ridding ourselves of them have gone around. We also know that the royal family does indeed send money to the Wahabis to deflect criticism from the rabble of religious fundamentalist Saudis. So there is a convincing case to be made that they are close to this.

In fact, its written all over the place, and somebody knows. I want to see those 28 pages.

This is the first real chunk of news of any significance since the fall of Bagdhad. I smell something very big, much bigger than 16 words.

Posted by mbowen at 12:42 AM | TrackBack

August 01, 2003


I started to write about sorority sisters, but I found that there were two different sections of my college career to speak of. In the first section, I was in complete awe of a few women and that led me to disrespect and stereotype all others. In the second section I was doing much better with women..

The sad fact is, that I cannot talk about women without getting autobiographical. Like most men, I suppose, I cannot get over the fact that all of the women I've known have been wrong for me, twisting me into different shapes I never expected to be. I cannot explain my thoughts and feelings about women simply. It's much simpler to ignore them. Women are subjective - far too subjective for my kind of essays. So I can't talk about Deltas or Sigma Gamma Rhos without talking about Dawn or Anita, and I can't talk about Dawn or Anita without talking about myself with and without them.

Still, I decided to go there. I got Sherman to turn the Wayback Machine back to that painful time when I was a 17 years old frosh. Young, dumb and you know the rest.

Rochelle was from North Las Vegas. She had fine features and very long straight hair that she kept in a single Pocahontas braid that went halfway down the sweet sway of her back. Basically, she dissed me for Rodney, a knucklehead kid from my own neighborhood who had grown impossibly large and played football.

It's kind of sad story with a happy ending, but I didn't write the happy ending. I can only tell you, that she wasn't a soror.

Posted by mbowen at 11:11 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Hostile. Ya Think?

Class Two Racism at Reuters

Berry, a product marketing director, alleges that a supervisor had sent him offensive and demeaning e-mails copied to several others and with subject lines that made the messages seem work-related. One contained a crude drawing depicting Berry's ID photo - doctored to include dreadlocks, buck teeth and a noose around his neck - pasted on top of a stick figure with large black genitalia and holding what's presumed to be a beer bottle.

Radianz said that although Berry had received the e-mails for more than a year, the company had no knowledge of them until hearing from Berry's attorneys in May, after which the firm investigated, firing the supervisor who sent the messages and disciplining three others. Berry's attorney, Douglas Wigdor, said his client kept quiet because he was fearful about what would happen to his job if he complained about his supervisors.

Posted by mbowen at 09:46 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Which Breed of Uncle Tom Are You?

I don't generally go out of my way to diss people, but sometimes they deserve it. There's this joke about the man who calls himself and inteleckshul and wonders why he gets no respect. Well, here's a website that could use a little work. OK a lot of work.

Tsk. And for a moment I thought 'unclet' was kinda cool. You know, like a small uncle? On reflection, I'm rather convinced it has three syllables. Oh well that's what I get for following links from SCAA.

Posted by mbowen at 12:23 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack