September 30, 2003


Posted by mbowen at 11:33 PM | TrackBack

Disney Sounds Good

I missed this story when it first appeared, but I'm glad to know it.

A long tuning process for the hall lies ahead, and the musicians will need time to learn to play there, but both the orchestra's music director, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and acoustician, Yasuhisa Toyota, acknowledged breathing huge sighs of relief over the initial results.

What was unmistakable about the orchestral sound at Monday's rehearsal was its plentiful bass, crystalline clarity and forceful immediacy.

Posted by mbowen at 10:45 PM | TrackBack

Inside the Castle

Posted by mbowen at 06:58 AM | TrackBack

September 29, 2003

Where I Stand

Fort Worth, right about now.

Having traveled today, like the good old days, I'm finding it fascinating how much the blogosphere has replaced magazines as a primary source of information.

Blog volume will be down this week as I negotiate a surfiet of options. The job situation has turned from famine to feast. Well almost. So I'm really in a tough bind, having to make a decision within 24 hours among several somewhat vaporous choices.

Quicksilver is brilliant and funny. Enjoying.

Still under 200 pounds.

Posted by mbowen at 11:25 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Define Stress

Posted by mbowen at 11:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Remaining B.O.D

Sgt. Stryker gives a paragraph that injects reasonable doubt into the illegality of the outing of Plame. That, however does not diminish the venality of the act.

But, was the CIA (and hence the United States) "taking affirmative measures to conceal" Valerie Plame's " intelligence relationship to the United States"? I submit to you that if the CIA is verifying her employment to Bob Novak and if Clifford May and Josh Marshall had no problem verifying it, then it's kinda hard to make the case that "affirmative measures" were taken. What you have to understand is this: if Valerie Plame was a covert agent, and if someone in the Bush Administration leaked that to Bob Novak, the real damage wasn't done until the CIA confirmed the relationship to Novak. If the CIA had denied or even given the old "we can neither confirm nor deny" spiel to Novak he wouldn't have had half the story he did. So, one could argure that by requesting a Justice Department review George Tennant is trying to deflect the fact that his agency is just as at fault.

Where's my Bush quote on Character? Somebody better fess up. Some head better roll.

There seem to be a lot of clever ways out of this mess, and I am inclined to believe that unless there is a straight-out battle between CIA and the White House, and maybe still if there is we may never get to the bottom. I think I'd be satisfied with a strong statement from the White House, but I doubt that I'm going to get one. Considering how long it took for GW to own up to the 16 words, what will last longer is the perception of cagey politics rather than smart policy. Since when has Karl Rove been a surprise.

Palace intrigue.

Posted by mbowen at 11:14 PM | TrackBack

Finding the Cure

Posted by mbowen at 12:22 AM | TrackBack

And We Thought Teller Was Dead

With any luck, Carl Collins and his scientist pals in Texas will be proven wrong. If not, then we are on our way to a new age of destruction which will have us looking back fondly to the Cold War.

Here's my advice. Sell all your biotech stocks and find out where you can drop some ducats on Hafnium. For this is the stuff of the atomic grenades of the future. You may as well hedge the bet by putting some chips down on Thorium and Niobium as well. Actually, that may not work because it will become nationalized, but you're a smart investor, you'll figure out how to corner the market.

Apparently, these elements have isotopes that are nuclear isomers. That means that they can be excited to certain states at which they release great amounts of energy as gamma rays. It's something like nuclear fission without the ugly byproducts. Sounds appetizing? You betcha.

According to the New Scientist:

Scientists have known for many years that the nuclei of some elements, such as hafnium, can exist in a high-energy state, or nuclear isomer, that slowly decays to a low-energy state by emitting gamma rays. For example, hafnium178m2, the excited, isomeric form of hafnium-178, has a half-life of 31 years.

The possibility that this process could be explosive was discovered when Carl Collins and colleagues at the University of Texas at Dallas demonstrated that they could artificially trigger the decay of the hafnium isomer by bombarding it with low-energy Xrays (New Scientist, 3 July 1999, p42). The experiment released 60 times as much energy as was put in, and in theory a much greater energy release could be achieved

The fine fellows at SRS are trying to find ways to manufacture mass quantities of this very rare element, which will be quite expensive. But dig this, there's no such thing as a critical mass. You can make really tiny weapons. Maybe you can flatten a block with a suitcase bomb. Exciting mad scientist stuff, that is if you can get it to explode. If it just fizzles, it will have the same ethical nastiness as neutron weapons do now, but if it goes boom, it's likely to get used.

Well, the controversy is just getting started.

"In my opinion, this matter is worse than cold fusion," said panel member Bill Herrmannsfeldt, referring to unconfirmed claims by scientists in the 1980s that they had generated nuclear fusion energy at low temperatures. Herrmannsfeldt, a physicist at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, is leading a revolt against hafnium-178 weapons work within HIPP itself.

Although Herrmannsfeldt regards claims for hafnium-178's super-energy powers as nonsense, he fears that other nations will take them seriously, triggering a new arms race. Recently, he successfully urged numerous top scientists to co-sign a letter to Washington officials citing experts' reservations about the scientific credibility of hafnium-178 claims and asking for a review of those claims by independent experts.

FAS has nothing on it yet. Keep your eyes open.

Posted by mbowen at 12:04 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 28, 2003


FYI, I am on a Fishbone mini-marathon. Fishbone is the greatest rock band that never made it big. They are so much better than the White Stripes. Loving Fishbone is like voting for John Anderson.

My favorites:

  • End the Reign
  • Servitude
  • Love & Hate
  • Sourpuss
  • One Day
  • Fight the Youth
  • Nuttmeg

And of course the ever popular Beergut and Alcoholic. If you don't know Fishbone, I'd have to say it would be relatively impossible to know how I could be a blackneck. Listening to old Fishbone reminds me of the days I used to smoke Camel Filter Hard Pack, and wear the first incarnation of the Homeboy Suit. Like all great rock music, it gets into your bones and allows you to transform yourself - to reach out without speaking, to get radical in your own bones and share just being an American young adult in the spirited rage that is the tooth cutting soul of rebellion and non-conformity.

1987. Al's Bar. Downtown Los Angeles. Black duster, black fingerless gloves, black Converse All Stars, gold chemical spill baggies (from Flip), black tanktop. I step out of my red BMW 2002 with the Yakima bike rack and the Gold BBS rims. I pull out the Kenwood stereo and put it in the trunk. I walk into the bar and grab an icy Bud longneck. Fishbone is on stage. I am 26 years old and on fire.

Youth wasn't so bad.

Posted by mbowen at 11:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 05:13 PM | TrackBack

RIP Althea Gibson

It's probably not fair to talk about myself, Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe in the same sentence. We don't have very much in common. But knowing that Gibson had done what she had done made it easier for me to believe I could do what I wanted.

There may have been a time that I thought I might like to play tennis, but it was strictly part of its snob appeal. There were courts in the neighborhood over by the public pool. The local pro was a fellow who went by the name of 'Bruzz' or 'Buzz'. So we knew that there were black tennis players around the way. We mostly cared about putting old tennis balls in the spokes of our bicycle wheels.

Tennis seemed incredibly rich. This was back in the days when a christmas bicycle costing $60 was worth waiting the entire year. So spending $2 or $3 for three white balls was unthinkable. Just looking at those huge baskets of balls spilling over in the corners of the courts made us delerious. In those days, all the balls were white and nobody thought the new yellow balls would last. So we kids who hung out on the periphery of the tennis courts waiting for a prize to fly over the fence most eagerly coveted a Slazenger. It had a black panther on it.

Not only did Gibson play tennis, she wore a short fro. She wasn't particularly glamorous, but she did what she did in spite of everyone's preconceptions. She was an incontestable fact and proof that we as a people could do anything at all, considering that nobody really wanted to do what she did.

Ashe changed all that of course. He was a man of action and intelligence. Whatever kind of glasses he wore were the kind I wanted to get on my next trip to the L.A. Eye Clinic on Vermont and Vernon. Big square tortoiseshells with photogrey? Thin rectangular gold rim? Ashe was king, a cool calm and collected King. Not for long, but long enough to underscore Gibson's point.

They are both dead and should have lived to see the Williams sisters finally dominate. But I have a feeling they had larger dreams than just tennis. I hope we are doing right by their memories.

Posted by mbowen at 01:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Voice of the People

Posted by mbowen at 12:51 PM | TrackBack

Issue Number Four: Steel Tariffs

Republicans need to start worrying about Michigan.

The tariffs, put in place to protect companies and workers in steel-producing states such as Pennsylvania, have cost jobs in steel-consuming states such as Michigan. While the administration expected that the tariffs would not be well-received in international markets, it did not fully anticipate the backlash at home.

Tindall and Chubb live on the Michigan side of the tariff divide, a boundary that looms large in the complicated terrain of the 2004 presidential election campaign. For Bush, who is expected to decide soon whether to continue the tariffs for another 18 months, the divide could prove treacherous.

Posted by mbowen at 12:47 PM | TrackBack

Omerta & Big Media

The old game of who knows and when did they know it has begun anew in the Plame case. I am annoyed that the Washington press corps is playing this game, because they already know what they know and have known for a while.

In the end it comes down to the privileges of position over the public's need to know. Everyone with something to gain by helping the public has something to lose by ratting out those sources, they are protecting. It's no different for White House staffers or newpaper journalists.

This is a game of one-upmanship that David Brooks could have predicted. Insufferable media jerks are going to keep their mouths clamped in defense of their 'integrity' in an attempt to stress their moral superiority to Washington politicians.

Subpeonas may or may not be able to cut through this conspiracy of silence. The blogospherians have nothing to lose - if we knew, everyone would know.

Posted by mbowen at 11:34 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 27, 2003


Posted by mbowen at 11:52 PM | TrackBack

Spittle and Shit

Since I am in the mood to be uncharitable, I call upon the demons of the dark to rise and fly away with the souls of Whittle and Schmidt, who have at long last spent the last of their credibility as well as their investor's last dimes.

Didn't I just tell y'all about this kind of crap?

So, what supposedly happens is, after years of pounding Happy Valley's tax dollars down this rat hole and getting nothing back but sullen 18-year-olds with pierced tongues and ambitions of someday owning their own Harley-Davidson Fat Boys, the Happy Valley Board of Education rises up in its righteous wrath and says, hey, let's get Edison Schools to turn this operation around (or words to that effect).

And in comes Whittle and his sidekicks -- turnaround plans at the ready. Out comes the new, get-smart-quick curriculum, the new computers for the teachers and every kid above the second grade, the new books and study aids and the new "facilities upgrades."

The IPO registration statement is overflowing with education bafflegab about "family and community partnerships" and that sort of thing. There's talk about "early learning" and "core values" and something called "norm-referenced tests" (beats me what that is). Yet in the entire 275-page document there's only a single paragraph purporting to show that the result of all the effort is really better educated, brighter kids.

The graph in question says that kids in Edison schools score better on certain unnamed state and national tests than do kids nationwide on other kinds of tests. But the graph goes on to say that the two kinds of tests are not "strictly comparable."

Heave Ho.

Posted by mbowen at 11:46 PM | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 11:40 PM | TrackBack

One Two Punch

Interestingly enough, I'm not much of a partisan. There was never a time in my life when I got much of a charge from 'being' a Republican or a Democrat. Instead, I like what I hear periodically and I say 'good'. Other times, I find something revolting and I say so.

Right about now, I think I'm suspect to a gathering sense of revulsion and nausea. This reminds me of two other occasions, vaguely. The first was when I learned that there were American subcontractors on the '10,000 foot runway' on Grenada that Reagan used to justify his silly little escapade. Of course it wasn't silly at the time, but it was little. The second time was Oliver North and that busta Poindexter. Today I have decided for a variety of reasons, not the least of which has to do with my impending exile to Texas and the sudden seriousness and giddy feelings I get when reading Neal Stephenson, that I have reached a yet another crisis of confidence in the Executive Branch.

It doesn't break my heart or my spirit. I'm simply disappointed in giving them the benefit of the doubt, which is what I generally accord my government. The irony of this is, that being a registered Republican, this kind of nonsense is precisely what I cynically guard against. So to restate things a bit, if there is a singular difference between the kind of Republican I am and the kind that seem to be responsible for this madness, it's that I actually believe in good government and responsible government policy. Whereas the people who are running government are playing devil's advocate against themselves and destroying government because they believe themselves to be ineffably corruptible as politicians. That is to say, I think they must be convinced that the only proper thing for successful intelligent people to do is become captains of industry, and that their inferiors go into government. So their selling out the government is inevitable - besides, they are outclassed. The best thing they can do dismantle it from the inside and sell off the pieces to their betters.

If it is fundamentally evil, in the church of the mad Republicans, to spend public money, then they will flog themselves every night for their continuing sins, endeavoring at every turn to supplicate those whose money they are spending. Yet they apparently have no such regard for the public trust.

I am exercised about this primarily because I have bothered to listen to Paul Krugman. Quite frankly I don't think he's lost his mind or wandered in over his head. While he speaks in terms of his own outrage, I'd imagine that he has enough evidence to justify that characterization. If the Bushies would lie about the economy, what else would they lie about? He's probably not the person to ask such a question, then again, who's answering that doesn't have a partisan axe to grind?

I am secondarily pushed towards the edge because of the Plame affair which immediately got under my skin back in July. Charles Schumer, whose instincts once again prove to be pretty damned good, is pushing this matter like a good partisan should. He's got my ascent to it.

In assuming the Republican position, I think it goes without saying that I consider myself one of the sharper tools in the shed - willing to pay the cost to be the boss. So my responsibility is to stay about the fray when the economy tanks. That doesn't mean, however, that I am willing to stand about mute when GWBush pisses away the budget surplus. Push may come to shove and many millions more may be living on cardboard when the other shoe of this deficit falls. I plan on being ready, but I could have been pursuing happiness, and GW is not forgiven for making me work like somebody from the second world. This is supposed to be America.

So there it is. Krugman & Plame.

Posted by mbowen at 10:13 PM | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 05:49 PM | TrackBack

Shame or Dissonance?

One of the difficulties of not having an Ivy League degree and sufficient facetime with intelligent, wealthy, powerful and connected people is that it's often very difficult to determine whom to take seriously. The other difficulty is not knowing what exactly to take seriously. Who's connected to whom and which of those people are actually thinking, responsible and in control of something worth noting? Such are the conundrums which bedevil those of us on the outside.

It doesn't take a genius to determine that our neocon friends in the White House have got eyes bigger than the American stomach. It's not that we have bitten off more in Iraq than we could chew, it just that George W. Bush was never quite capable of reading the menu and didn't come the the White House with enough cash in his pockets. OK enough with the analogies.

What I'm curious to figure out is how Republicans who jumped on the Bush bandwagon at the expense of John McCain must have felt on September 12, 2001 when it occured to them at long last that after the crash of the stock markets that they had backed the wrong man. Now in California, Republicans must be gnashing their teeth to think the Arnold S. is their best hope for victory.

But on the other hand, things may just not be that well-wrapped. Maybe these candidates are the people's choice and the party central committees aren't in as much control as we outsiders believe.

Perhaps only an ability to carry the rhetoric is what makes one electable. As few scandals as possible. Once a person arrives at a certain level of name recognition, other forces take over.

Hard to know if this is really important or connected, here on the outside.

Posted by mbowen at 04:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Shaking in His Boots

Finally, some internal investigations are happening to determine and punish whoever dropped a dime on Valerie Plame. The open secret was that it was Karl Rove who outed her to Novak. This is a crime of significant dimensions, certainly a bit worse that drunk driving or grand theft.

If I were Rove, I'd be shaking in my boots. But those spineless Democrats haven't got the guts to stand up and shout about it. I think it's because they think it is their partisan duty to be pacifist patriots and therefore have no elevated sensibilities when it comes to spycraft.

Hang 'em high.

UPDATE: Can the blogosphere PLEASE get over this 'gate nonsense? I am calling up volunteers to impale anyone who refers to this as Wilsongate.

Posted by mbowen at 04:22 PM | TrackBack


I don't know if Heckler & Koch is an American company. Well, of course there is a US corporation but the company originated in the ruins of the Mauser works in post WW2 Germany. They have apparently dominated the imagination of the US Military with their newest rifle, a sophisticated affair called the OICW.

OICW stands for Objective Individual Combat Weapon, and has gotten the designation M29. It's a rather massive thing for a machine gun and is chockablock with goodies like timed explosive rounds. If your enemy is behind a wall, you can use the rangefinder and program a bullet shot just over the wall to rain down deadly shards at the precise moment. The theory is that this capability will shorten standoffs against the enemy in 'dug-in' positions, not to mention save ammo.

This gun is going to cost about 15,000 apiece and weigh about three times as much as the standard M16, but such considerations mean nothing in videogame simulations. This is how I came to recognize the OICW. The Ghost Recon Island Thunder online game for the XBox allows you to select this weapon for your three member platoons as you carry out missions in a post-Castro Cuba. In gaming this is a great weapon, and your avatar doesn't seem to run any slower with it.

The Germans have come back in their characteristically precise way in helping us to understand the technical specifications of the OICW and other arms as represented in the Ubisoft game. At one can check out the Detallierte Waffenlisten.

RPGs seem to be doing a great deal of damage these days in Iraq. The deployment of the M29 may herald a new era in which every rifleman will have equivalent firepower on the go. H&K will definitely play a significant role in the future of urban warfare. With any luck, this expensive, heavy and deadly weapon will not be just a videogame fantasy.

Posted by mbowen at 09:42 AM | TrackBack

September 26, 2003

Sympathy Date

Posted by mbowen at 09:33 PM | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 09:31 PM | TrackBack

An Uncheesy Library

I just recently happened upon a rather cool site and concept in BookCrossing. It only took me a few minutes to sign up and register a book. It's a kind of 'Where's George' for books, but it's also a personal library. The novelty of tracking a book around the world wears off in about 30 seconds, but the appeal of having and ISBN lookup and instant categorization of your own books is massive. It's essentially a Gracenote database for books.

It's tough to say how long such a website will last, so I'm not going to archive my library there. I'd certainly pay the bucks to have my own library software, but everything I've seen is so cheesy. It reminds me of first generation windows programs for family trees. If you've found something that's not as cheesy as, well everything I've seen so far.

Right now, I'm leaning towards BookCat, but only because it's version 6, and I can export data. It could be a bit more pleasant to look at.

Posted by mbowen at 07:42 PM | TrackBack

Who Do You Think You Are?

Bryonn Bain thinks he's an intelligent civilized man. The System knows better.

I was interrogated about "terrorist activity"—whether I was involved with a terrorist group or knew anyone else who was—without an attorney present. My Legal Aid lawyer claimed she was also a medical professional and diagnosed me as mentally ill when I told her I teach poetry at New York University. After my bail was posted, I was held behind bars another night because central booking ran out of the receipts required for my release. On my third day in jail, accused of two misdemeanors and a felony I knew nothing about, I was finally found innocent, and allowed to go home.

What's ironic about this whole deal is that computer systems are the way out. People forget something about excellently done computer systems, the mistakes they make are minimal and the speed with which they do things right is phenomenal. Now there are certain to be exceptions, but I challenge anyone to suggest that Citibank's ATMs are routinely making mistakes that cost the bank or its customers any money. When Walter Wriston put his money where his mouth was on electronic banking, an entire new era in finance was begun. Investments in the billions paid off and changed the way we behave when it comes to getting a little cash for the weekend.

Until such time as there is such a trusted and reliable system for identity, we are going to be subject to travesties of justice which are far more consequential than bounced checks.

Today, I can go online, call on my cell phone, or use a magnetic stripe card and a pin and know what my bank balance is, 24/7/365.25 It's not a problem. That is because the infrastructure is right. Sooner or later there is going to be a trusted identity net, and we in the chatting and privileged classes are going to be the first beneficiaries. I'll be speaking about it here in Cobb as time goes by.

Who do you think you are? And who knows you well enough to prove it? Do not doubt that I consider my existence in the blogosphere and your recognition of it as insurance against dark days to come. I'm down with the Negrophile among others. What's your phile?

Posted by mbowen at 02:59 PM | TrackBack

Hard Times

Posted by mbowen at 09:35 AM | TrackBack

Fall Season

Many many years ago fall was a big deal. New cars, new football season, new grade in school, new TV shows.

Now is about the time for me to be watching Monday Night Football with my son. So this Monday we watched the Raiders get stomped for a quarter or so. It was an odd experience, since we are both gamers, to sit passively staring at the tube. Most of the time what goes on on the big screen in the living room is our doing, but having hands free to embrace was unusual. He likes football. Interesting.

Last night was interestingly weird. I was watching the new show 'Threat Matrix'. We watched it together until the spousal unit came in to rebraid his hair. I haven't watched a prime time show in a very long time and so I had to rely on my wife's reactions before I changed the channel. My boy is very good guys - bad guys oriented so I figured it was OK for him to watch what was essentially a cop show despite all the Hells and Damns peppering the doofus dialog. I told him that the bad guys were the ones selling drugs. But after a short time, the wife's nose got too screwy so I had to flip over to Survivor.

This week I watched the premiers of The West Wing and ER. They both seem so much slower than they used to be. Pumping up the emotion with slow speech and awkward silences. It doesn't quite work. Law and Order was excellent as usual. CSI was good but also full of gratuitous sexual snickering and innuendo.

These four, and probably others, are the verbal judo shows. But is the judo for its own sake or is it material to the subject? In ER, all the technical jargon and verbosity just so much nonsensical subtext for the drama. Notice the shots of the main characters with the patients out of frame. They mumble the jargon and eyeball the twisted bodies briefly, but all the emotion is in their looks towards each other. This formula is the same for The West Wing, but the jargon and fast talk a bit more integral, however it completely falls apart if you watch a re-run, as I have been doing recently on Bravo. With CSI, the integration is just right. There's not too much drama between the main characters and the technobabble serves to move the story along. It's a proper mystery show. With Law and Order, the dialog remains superb, there is no wasted effort and everything moves as it should, without a great deal of verbal frippery.

Even though I enjoy ripping it's 'desert of trust' formula, I look forward to this season's '24'. And I have been pleasantly surprised by the hilarity available on Spike TV. There is nothing so funny to me as the pratfalls of morons trying extreme street sports, or as on 'MXC' Japanese torture sports. The comics at Spike have overdubbed the Japanese language version of 'Almost Anything Goes' (which was based on an earlier Japanese stunt comedy / reality gameshow) and delivered a mix of American Gladiators, and Mystery Science Theatre 3000. Grab your gut and don't drink any milk. This stuff is sidesplittingly funny.

Posted by mbowen at 08:19 AM | TrackBack

September 25, 2003

He Looked Just Like You

Today has been one of those weird days of harmonic convergence. Every once in a while I have those days, and sometimes it goes on for a few days, in which I am the center of a lot of attention.

Last night, when I finally checked the mailbox, I found an unexpected gift. In fact, since I have humbled myself totally to a select group of folks, appropos my pathetic economic situation, I have been very very fortunate to have found people who have helped. It may not sound like much, but the fact that I can pay my October rent now has been the answer to the prayers of my family. I will be crafting thank you letters (as well as shareholder notices) this weekend. At any rate, I now have enough money to afford a $2 luxury and I tell you in all seriousness that I am taking my wife to McDonald's today. It will be a real celebration.

So I clean up and head over to deposit this check in the bank. As I am driving I get a phone call from my wife. One of my headhunters called. She's trying to get me a gig in Bethesda, MD. Well, that's good news. I spoke to her yesterday and she's already back with more information. Five minutes later I get another call. Sarah from the consulting firm I'm applying to called back, hopefully with news about my last interview. That's wild. Two calls in 10 minutes. So I make my deposit and am on my way from the teller window and the phone rings yet again. I answer my wife's special ringtone with 'You're kidding me.' A third guy is getting back to me about a resume I posted yesterday.

So I drive away with a little cash in my pocket and try to navigate my way back through the maze of parking structures that are Del Amo, formerly known as the world's largest shopping mall. There's a cop behind me. I make a left. There's a cop behind me. I turn into the parking structure. There's a cop behind me with lights on. I make a right turn down an aisle; the cop is out of the door before I can stop.

Hey what's going on? I say. He needs me to turn off the motor and step out of the car. Did I turn incorrectly? No, there is no traffic violation here, he says. It turns out that there is a bank robber in the vicinity who looks just like me. Let me guess, black male five foot eleven, 199 pounds (yess!), bald head, cool goatee. Yeah everybody looks like me, but I make it work. Nevertheless, I am calm and relieved. I sure as hell didn't rob a bank, although the thought had literally crossed my mind last week.

After he finishes patting me down and I unlock my fingers from behind my head, I am able to survey the area. An older black man 15 feet away has got my back. He is looking intently at the scene and probably sweating bullets on my behalf. The thought calms me further. No shit is going down here. Nevertheless, by the time the cop tells his partner that I am clean, there are four squad cars in the immediate area. The officer is about my height, pale blue eyes, short cropped blondish hair. Easy smile, stout but fit. He's with the Torrance PD. I'd say he's about 32 years old. He's calm and persistent with the questions. His partner is about 6 foot 3 dark longer hair, slim face rather resembling the Daily Show's Jon Stewart. Also young. I think I can take him, but not both of them, certainly not all of them.

The guy looks exactly like me, he says again except no glasses. And since I'm driving a car with out of state plates, he decided to pull me over, he says. I tell him that the car is new, I really don't know where the registration is because my wife drives it. When I opened the glove box, in the gloom of the parking structure, all I could see was a blue package of baby wipes. That's strange because we don't have a baby. We got a deal and bought it from Detroit and drove it here. It's smogged for 50 states, but I don't know where the registration is. Is there a gun in the car? No there's no gun in the car. He asks that about 3 more times.

The call comes in that the suspect is wearing a black blazer and a cowboy hat. He weaves that into the conversation. I let him look in the trunk. He asks if I have any paperwork that can connect me to the car. I don't know I don't drive it. He asks where I'm coming from (BofA), where I'm going (Barnes&Noble - to price Quicksilver, in hopes that the copy I pre-ordered weeks ago wasn't a waste of money). I told him that I'm in the parking structure because it's the first left turn I could make. He sees the beach chairs and animal blanket in the trunk. Yes three kids. When am I going to get my California plate? As soon as I get a job, the software industry stinks.

Poor sap. They lost the real perp. I don't know if they redispatched the other cars, but I was out of there in ten minutes. I called out to my man "Thanks citizen. Thanks for keeping your eyes on things." As I looked towards him, but before I spoke, he scowled and raised his arms in questioning frustration. I know exactly what he meant and I know exactly how he feels. I hope he's not too worried for me.

It turns out that the news from my headhunters was mixed. One of the gigs of two from one agent is far too junior for me to consider hauling the nuke out of California and relocating. The other gig still doesn't have budget approval, and somehow people don't understand that I know everything about this technology. I don't understand the dichotomy between DBA and development work because I do both all the time... Anyway. All in all it has been an eventful day.

Oh, and I'd say that makes it about the 35th time I've been detained by law enforcement without a citation. I'd say it would rank in the top 5 for civility in Southern California.

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

Jobless Recovery Explained

Posted by mbowen at 10:35 AM | TrackBack

Death of a Renaissance Man

Whenever I came across an essay by Edward Said, I prepared myself to have my world turned slightly on ear. I approached such articles with tinges of dread for the alienation it might cause me by knowing. Now that he's dead I find myself regretting that I hadn't done more to seek him out. For nobody represented to me the example of a Renaissance Man than Edward Said.

His writing and thinking were remarkably precise. In the days that I was an avid reader of The Nation, I would like the plucky punch of Cockburn, but when I read Said I always felt that I was getting an education. He knew music, he know politics. He knew America, he knew the Middle East. He knew the Episcopal Chruch, he knew Islam. There seemed to be nothing beyond his capacity for understanding, and yet he chose to involve himself, deeply, in the most controversial and basic of human problems, that of warring peoples. He was passionate, he was scholarly. He was a mighty man. He simply exemplified what a highly intelligent and civilized man should be in our modern world.

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Two Economies

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Matters of Race

My father was one of the men and women who helped get King Hospital built, but he missed half of the PBS documentary 'Matters of Race'. So did most of America, I suspect. It's the one reality program that nobody really wants to watch.

It was done well. You could smell the lefty bend of the Siler City episode, but it was unique in that it wasn't the same old thing. For once it came from four racial directions.

There were actually some extraordinary quotes that I wish I could get from a transcript. One of them had to do with the notion of wishing race away - that one could certainly be colorblind at the individual level but everybody in America inherits racial history whether or not we want to, and that doesn't go away. Wideman's comments apropos riots in Los Angeles, when people say 'Oh no, not again', they are decieving themselves, as if something stopped and then appeared once again as a total surprise.

Anyway, I hope to find somebody not particularly burned out to fill in some critical details. I think I'm headed to writer's blockland in a day or two.

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September 24, 2003

Bitchfest '03

I'd say that Cruz Bustamante got in the best barb, but that's only because I was reading. I had other things to do rather than watch a televised debate, if that's what you'd call it.

BUSTAMANTE: You're one to talk about photo ops, Arnold.

There's really not much to say here. I like that Bustamante condescended to AS, and I'm rather surprised that Arnold was only barely above literate on the issues. It might not have showed up on camera but when you read the transcript it's amazing how many time he says 'I don't know what you're talking about.'

Huffington proved herself to be little better than an excellent analyst and provocateur. I wouldn't follow her lead into a grocery store.

Camejo made a good showing, and a fine command of the issues and of himself. Too bad he really believes in the loony toons lefty reactionary stuff. I think he did an admirable job of not showing how much he hates capitalism. His words on taxation were the best of all of them.

Bustamante should have been talking down to everyone, and he could have portrayed himself as leadership material. Nobody pinned Gray Davis on him like they should have and he squeaked out of it, but he didn't really capitalize.

McClintock was entirely predictable but I think he did better than he deserved to do. So the Republicans are in a really big stew now, because Arnold stunk up the joint with his diversionary tactics.

All of them got bogged down on health insurance. Camejo won that one for clarity. Arnolds tangents were really sloppy and didn't succeed in print in bringing up new issues that the others couldn't reject. I'm for kids, just doesn't cut it.

I predict that Bustamante goes up, Camejo goes up, McClintock goes up, Huffington falls off, and Arnold loses points. Republicans tear out their hair, and the State of California slouches towards armageddon. Bill Simon must be kicking himself bigtime.

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A Literary Half Life

Following up on Huck Finn, I started writing and couldn't stop. Here's what happened next:

I recently have come to recognize that I read more Heinlein than I knew, and that his influence on me was deeper than I imagined, especially 'Starman Jones'. Somehow I had forgotten it all. If you asked me if I had ever read a Heinlein book called 'The Rolling Stones' I would have said no. But if you asked me about having read a science fiction book with twins named Castor and Pollux, I'd have answered enthusiastically. Somehow all of the Heinlein I've read as a youth got sublimated into my personality without a trace. I also read at least 7 Star Trek paperbacks, certainly every one I could get my hands on.

I think this explains why I so deeply rejected science fiction by the time I graduated from high school and didn't return to the genre until my 30s with Delaney. There was a book whose title I would love to remember (it could probably be a Heinlein, go figure) that involved astronauts getting stranded on a planet of triped animals. There was some fantastic creature which resembled nothing so much as a huge triangular bear with three legs. How to outsmart the three legged creature on a planet far away. Then there was another (the same?) story about astronauts who faced the difficulty of being stuck on a planet run by a race of people who had very puritanical attitudes about eating. The astronauts had to observe incredibly detailed table manners or be imprisoned and starved...

At some point I started reading Roots and other fictions about American life, and it struck me that I was ingratiating myself with trekkie geeks and people who really believed that new worlds would equal new opportunities - that somehow scientists were better than other people. So where were the black astronauts in the real world? I read the 'Martian Chronicles' and '2001' and finally came to the conclusion that science fiction writers were dreamers. They put their novels in space because they couldn't deal with the conflicts of the real world, and that the best of them considering Bradbury and Clarke were dealing with human drama. So I finally began to reject science fiction. I was told that I should read 'Rendezvous with Rama' as an excellent book, but I had had it with the genre.

You might have expected that I would have turned to black authors immediately, but most of those books were over my head, speaking of my father's library. It turned out that between 1978 and 1980 I did very little reading at all. I dropped out of college for financial reasons and just got a job and partied like all the rest of the union types I became one of.

When I started reading again I wanted it to be about reality and moral conflict. For me, in those days of malaise, nothing exemplified this like Stephen King's 'The Stand'. So I read all of Stephen King. I also read all of Robert Ludlum, Woody Allen and Neil Simon. I was a working stiff. I wanted to be a New Yorker like one of Neil Simon's New York characters or one of Woody Allen's characters, but that too was a million miles away from my reality. I was missing the college experience between 78 and 82 and so I imagined that's what people became on the other side of higher education - California Suite.

I can't think of any black fiction that was published between 1978 and 1989. Even when I returned to college, it was all Amiri Baraka, Lorraine Hansberry, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, Harlem Rennaisance, Negritude Poets, Slave Narratives. Distant, alienated. In college, I primarily read O'Neill, Baraka, Ayn Rand. Not much outside of the Computer Science curriculum. By the end of Sophomore year, I ditched fiction altogether, especially following a disasterous blowup I had with my drama teacher over her admonitions that we stay away from 'complicated' playwrights like Beckett. So I just concluded that the world was stupid. I read a lot of Henry Miller and came to view much of the American middle class as he did. Pompous fat idiot pricks.

So I went to non-fiction. There I revelled primarily in Hofstadter, Sowell's books and Malcolm X Speaks. And of course Tracy Kidder's 'Soul of the New Machine', plus 'Turing's Man'. The makings of a true afrofuturist.

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September 23, 2003

Freedom Vs Money

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Huck Finn & The Turds of Assimilation

In an interesting coincidence, Dean Esmay is blogging about the banning of 'Huckleberry Finn', the socialist agenda of Gramsci and the overmedication of boys. I think the three are related and they as indicators of a certain amount of flabby flatulence in our society, not to mention groupthink.

Over at the YMCA there's a very healthy girl's basketball league. Every weekend, the gym is chockablock with female adolescents whisking back and forth. They run their little plays and pass the ball as best they can in the gym under long banners with the words 'Respect', 'Citizenship', 'Fairness', 'Trustworthiness', 'Responsibility' and 'Caring' ak the six pillars of character. Or rather I should say The Six Pillars. As any parent in a modern suburb must know, the Six Pillars are the copyrighted brainchild of the Character Counts organization, one of those stupendous civic organizations deToqueville admired of Americans.

Over at our local elementary school, there are no such banners. You see, since they are members of Character Counts, they are prohibited from going to the local flag store and have such banners made up. Instead they must buy them from Character Counts at something like $300 a piece. I know this because my wife suggested that the PTA save money by going to the local flag store, and the principal rejected the idea. This demostrates a conflict between Fairness and Trustworthiness. Is it more important that children have banners or that Character Counts makes a buck for their monopoly on values?

I bring this up because Americans' affiliation with civic organizations and general do-gooderism is often in conflict with common sense. And there are few activities that require the use of common sense than parenting. (I shudder to say 'parenting' because it makes it sound like a skill that can be improved by a few night school classes and membership in a civic organization). But you get my drift. Tending the Nuke (nuclear family) is a very important job, but by definition, it is something that is best taught by other families. It takes one to grow one, and not necessarily a 'village'. Part of being Old School is the implicit understanding of Family First (and feel free to make your own banners, we're fair here.) Which means sometimes you do things out of respect for a family tradition and value which isn't necessarily codified into the mission statement of some 501(c)3.

So when it comes to raising boys and girls, a parent has to rely on their gut and their extended families and other parents in their communities. Moreover, society needs parents to do just that. Parents need to rely on each other to do right and exemplify doing right. So how can it be that we get to a point at which we need to spend $300 to have an organization sell a concept to a public school to reinforce something that families ought to know? Well, there are good and bad reasons.

The bad reasons have to do with a long history of being brutally oppressive to people because of their families. If your family is named Wong, chances are (ha, chances are..) you will have a loaf of turds put on your plate called 'assimilation'. You want to be an American? Eat this, it's good for you. Forget your family traditions, you in America now boy.

The good reasons have to do with our motivation, once we establish something of value and permanence, to share our success with others. To build an open and free society means to build a strong commons. It means retaining a foundation against the frailties of human beings. Because when peril is near, anyone, indeed everyone is vulnerable.

The problem is that these motivations metastacize when they are institutionalized. What is simple bigotry one old immigrant family against the new takes on a whole new sinister dimension when a union is the bigot. What begins as a pledge to uphold virtue and value from one family's largesse becomes something entirely different when pledges and credos become ritualized. But none of this is so scary as when one of those institutions for good or bad reasons begin to replace the thinking of the people it was designed to serve. An institution should serve a reminder, not serve a whole plate of thought. An institution should nudge us forward, not make us march in step.

So when specialized institutional knowledge starts to creep up on common sense, that's when my neck hairs stand up. And this is exactly what I see in the overmedication of boys, and the copyrighting of character values and the subordination of family honor to institutional fidelity.

I started this piece to go on about boyhood, and in particular the boyhood of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer and what it meant for them to buck the system and think for themselves. But I reason that if you understand what I've said up to this point, there's nothing I can say that Mark Twain hasn't. I just want to draw our attention to the conflicts inherent in trying to make the world safe.

The world will never be safe, so let our children develop their own wits. Let's try to keep our about us and employ them with honor without deferring so readily to those turds that are supposed to be good for us.

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Ec Phil

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Krav Maga

Krav Maga is one of those phrases that is very difficult for me to remember. If you, like me, use your blog as a giant factotum and nmemonic device, then you'll understand why I'm going to say "Israeli" and "Martial Arts" and "Savak" in this sentence. Those are the terms I always can remember but none of them are Krav Maga.

Krav Maga is real fighting. The eye-gouging, bone breaking, crotch crunching, knock you on the ground and step on your throat variety. There's nothing artistic about this martial skill. It's about delivering beatdowns and actually having your hands become lethal weapons, not about bowing to your opponent and getting nice colored belts and trophies.

So I don't like it. Just give me a gun.

Then again, I don't like guns, precisely because I realized in a particularly heart-rending moment, that I do possess a killer instinct. Actually, it's more of a protective instinct. I'd like to think of it as somewhat heroic, but in truth I much prefer being bourgie.

Either way, I prefer the martial arts to the martial skills. By the way, I've been going to the gym more regularly and I can say that for the first time in about 5 years (although it could be 7) I weigh less than 200 pounds. Basketball is like dancing, and cardio-kickboxing can be graceful (and painful), but getting back to grace has years of Aikido instruction written all over it.

At opposite ends of the spectrum Aikido and Krav Maga. I'm on the Aikido end.

Still, you know I'm a blackneck and a Dick Marcinko fan. So maybe one day I'll learn how to really use my CRKT M16-13Z.

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September 22, 2003

Spearhead & The Masses

There's nothing quite like a hiphop artist with deep musical sensibilities. Michael Franti's got 'em. But he's also got a case of the radical blues, which is what you must feel when you think the masses ought to be listening but everyone around you is wearing dreadlocks and Doc Martins. He seems to be wearing them rather well judging from the enthusiasm of the graphics at his website, but I think he's living in his own little nasty world. You see, Franti is one of those rare individuals who has succeeded in mixing hiphop aesthetics with radical politics. His politics happen to be left and they have merged nicely with his need to be some sort of outlaw. What I don't think Franti understands is how foolish a permanent state of outrage makes him.

You see, once Ice Cube said 'Fuck the police', there wasn't much room to go, despite the fact that one can reasonably argue Cube's right to say so. Franti on the other hand wasn't satisfied. On his 'Home' album, he said 'Fuck the Police/We can keep the peace' which is an admirable sentiment in the context of a loud party. However, 'Home' was the last Spearhead album anyone could dance to. I didn't bother with the next, and my brother let me know mine was the right decision. Like the cheesiest of gangsta, Franti is so busy penning shocking lyrics that the music doesn't matter any more. You just get a headache to a jamming beat. I checked out his website today, and he has gone the length. Now it's 'Fuck the Constitution'. Evidently, he couldn't resist.

Spearhead, once the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, represents the underground of rap. Franti makes a fetish of his music being listener supported, as if he were National Public Radio. Then again, what political hiphoper wouldn't want to be? But I think he has painted himself into the corner in which he belongs. The corner of irrelevence. Franti is so deep underground that he might as well be a fossil. What's sadder still is that this kind of agitprop is only useful for someone who can, in the words of Chuck D, "reach the bourgeois and rock the boulevard". Sadly, Spearhead does neither. His music is soothing, funky grooves with jazz appeal. His lyrics are those of a hermetic outsider, forever cursing the system. The center does not hold.

Anyway, I'm not going to waste much more breath on Franti. I used to like Spearhead, now I think he should cut his band loose before they starve with him. 'Home' will always be his last good work even though it foreshadowed the madness now manifest.

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Pounding the Virtual Pavement

Aluta Continua.

Now celebrating my second full month out of the labor market, I'm modifying my tactics. It's becoming clearer to me that the jobs that are right up my alley are slowing to a trickle of about 3 new ones per week. So now I'm going over toward a more generalist approach.

So these days, I am working my papers to reflect the fact that I've delivered some of the most complex of enterprise software systems. I've always been called in as a specialist to help build the hottest projects that companies do, which is generally a DW project with ERP integration. These are always high visibility with highly paid consultants. I've always been the highly paid consultant helping save the IT bacon by delivering. In the best of situations I help them understand the methodology and lifecycle by nudging them along. When they listen up, they succeed. When they buck, they almost always fail. Blame the consultants of course. But now I'm going for IT middle management. I'll see IT from both sides now..

The hardest thing about being a consultant is getting meetings. Within a couple weeks, you've got to figure out who does what, who's motivated, who's capable and who you can actually collaborate with to get the job done. That's an enormously difficult thing to do with people you just met who know you're getting paid more than they are. I get tired of being the perennial outsider because I do this so well, and I get to know and like working with whomever it is that I end up working with. Soon the work is finished and I have to split. It's like the heartache of summer camp all over again.

That's why I'm fed up with consulting with one exception. I'd really enjoy getting with one of the specialty firms that are sizeable practices. The only thing better than being the hotshot on your own is being the hotshot among hotshots. Still, that means traveling. What does Danny Glover keep saying in Lethal Weapon?

Anyway. Just blogging these dark days for the archives.

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Apres Nous, le Deluge

There's a new black Miss America. Yoiks and hazzah.

Always searching to make the three-hour show more relevant and exciting to counter a decline in viewership that's lasted at least 15 years, the pageant included "American Idol" star Clay Aiken singing "This Is the Night." Television viewers also saw "Bachelorette" sweethearts Trista Rehn and Ryan Sutter at a viewing party in Boulder, Colo., where guests offered their opinions of the competition. In an effort to make the contestants seem more "accessible," a new casual-wear competition was added, featuring the women in tank tops and jeans. Tom Bergeron, star of "America's Funniest Home Videos," hosted the show.

It's difficult to see another American institution hit the crapper, although I won't miss much sleep on this one. As one who did the beauty pageant circuit trolling for babeage in my early twenties, I can attest to the pure sexist shame of it all. However that depends entirely upon how seriously one takes such matters. I like Tom Bergeron (although I really didn't know his name, I just watch his show with the kids). So it can't be a total loss. I'm sure Miss America is just about as wholesome as the Newleywed Game, which is to say coyly full of double-entendre, but a credible distance away from porno. So there's my backhanded compliment.

Back in the day when it was Vanessa Williams, we were all pretty serious about the pageant weren't we? Also I say hear hear for pageat judge Greta Van Susteren, a born-again beauty who's not afraid to flaunt it. It makes the pleasant and humble midwesterner in all of us smile with delight.

Still, I couldn't resist the snarky title could I? BTW, does anybody watch the Boston Marathon any longer? When's the last time a non-Kenyan won that one?

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Intellectual Property & Hitler's House

Samizdata picks up on a very interesting issue. Their argument is fiscal. Mine is moral.

What if you had some copyrighted material that was patently offensive to contemporary sensibilities archived away someplace? Should you use intellectual property rights to suppress its publication under all circumstances? Should IP used to bury historical records?

I say no, of course. Are we going to have to require Truth & Reconciliation laws to do battle?

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Chip Tactics

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September 21, 2003

White Bucks Stop Here

For the longest time, I've been deferring to a number of abstracts when I wanted to point whitefolks in a direction I thought would be constructive in the neutralization of whiteness I believe is an existential necessity in anti-racism. There was Neil Ignatiev's Race Traitor. There was Five White Guys Talking. There were always static websites. Now I've found someone real and alive in the blogosphere. Take a peek:

i am painfully aware of my race and the race of other people when we come into contact (attempting, i think, to change the world through a conversation or two) until we have a strong personal connection. i assume, as well, that the other person is as aware of my race as i am of theirs. i shouldn't project my own insecurities on other people, and yet it happens, probably because i need to feel comfortable with my paranoia, even as i try to relate to people on an individual level.

Even as I recommend Ms Lauren, I recognize that there's going to be some dismissal because she is avowedly feminist which implies a number of negative connotations in people who are hardheaded and/or reactionary. As a hardhead myself, I want you all to note the decided lack of a guilt-trip in her writing. An acknowledgement of guilt, yes, but not a motivation to make progress based in guilt. This is the kind of white person Shelby Steele cannot manipulate. She is not a victim of society, she is a self-critical actor working on a personal perspective that works. Everybody isn't smart enough, or honest enough to deal with what bell hooks writes. I've found myself challenged enough times to avoid hooks' stuff, not only because of how it shocks me, but how it isolates me from people who can't hang with her implications. Ms Lauren is there already.

Anyway, enough gushing. Just read her.

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Tolerance and Disinterest

'I'd rather be strongly wrong than weakly right.'
--Tallulah Bankhead.

I suggested, a few days ago, that nobody who wants to be up on the latest turning over of Texas sodomy law should forget to drop by Andrew Sullivan. Sullivan, arguably sucks up the gay blog meme for those who don't know any better. I've got a couple gay bloggers with mutual links here, but ironically, I neither checked them nor bothered to purposefully when the decision was handed down.

Something I wrote smacked me around, but not until somebody else picked up on it. I wrote:

This is a strong test for me. For if I'm willing to stomach the paleocons in the Republican party, I'm going to have to stomach first generation college churchboys from the 'hood.

The problem is that I don't want to stomach all that.

Long ago, I recall meditating on the fact that I was a 'straight liberal'. I knew just enough about gay life to give it a stereotypical thumbs up, but not enough to be much more than lightly fluent in its argot. Believe me, I got the full and thorough lefty academic screen and test on my attitudes, not to mention in depth questions about whether or not my actual sexual preference was authentic. (Jeez the things 29 year olds talk about.) Some of this was more than a little bit annoying, but understandable in retrospect. My girl was under the spell of a particularly brilliant and sexy lesbian radical feminist.

These days, I prefer being proven wrong to being open minded. That's particularly because I'm doing curmudgeon work here at Cobb, and also because I'm fatly and flatly in the robust middle age of my life. It'll be proven in some medical journal some day, but I'll say it now. At middle age, there are chemicals in your brain that suppress excitement at novelty. In fact, you start cementing those neural pathways and start tweaking your nose a bit more. This makes evolutionary sense, and it is why old programmers and attorneys are such grumblefish. We know better, or at least we must believe that for the sake of our sanity.

Moreover, people want us old men to behave like old men. We are not, as they said in Lawrence of Arabia, to be daring and dashing. That crap is for those with something to prove. We older gents are satisfied to out connive each other without appearing to make much movement from our own staid positions. We paint the world in predictable colors and make large wagers about the predictability of those colors. Our fidelity to our own opinion makes for the tapestry of guesswork upon which youth depend to give their lives structure. What else is honor but fidelity to a code? It doesn't matter that the code is truth, it matters that we are fully invested. Remember nothingness? Yup. That's all there is. Tell Peggy Lee to stop moaning about it.

It is in this context that I must evaluate the failure of anti-racist politics and perhaps the failure of my own Old School movement. Not that they failed themselves, but that they will fail to propogate to the next generation intact.

The thing I'm going to comfort myself with is the notion that the reason young people can be so vapid, relatively speaking, is that our staid generation, our painting in black and white and our heavy investing has succeeded. Bustamante can be 'racist' only in the eyes of people too young to know what racism was. And I only have the nerve to tell whitefolks what they ought to be considering because my father succeeded in dealing with the crap he had to.

At some point, radicalization fails because tolerance has succeeded. Tolerance has succeeded because middle aged and old assholes have made it too damned difficult to budge on honor as it was painted. Tolerance is only a trial for the bigot; for the unbiased soul, the great difficulty is in caring enough to make a difference.

So that's where I am as a 'straight liberal' on homophobia and it's were I expect 'white liberals' are with racism. I don't have a problem in viewing the world and giving a prejudiced thumbs up to that whole gay thing I'm really not deeply interested in.

Which brings me to the question of myself (yet again dammit) as a black blogger and with Andrew Sullivan as a gay blogger. Do we get stentorian and remind people of the slings and arrows against the world they know so little about? Nah. We just spew out what's common sense to us and hope that others get it.

You see there is an inherent problem with liberalism and openmindedness. First, it fights a losing battle against middle age's neuronal cement. Secondly, the appropriated ideas of anti-racism and anti-homophobia cannot root themselves as deeply in people for whom there is no percieved self-interest. Andrew and I each have our respective thresholds over which offenders are going to catch a verbal beatdown. This is not a theoretical ethos. It's survival. It's about maintaining dignity and self-respect.

Disinterested people can get it, but they don't fight. Ultimately because they don't care enough. And for the first time in 20 years, I think Ayn Rand is absolutely right about something.

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Chip Count

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Daddy Man Strikes Again

This has been an especially pleasing weekend as we have had no obligations to any of our friends, relatives or other abstract committments. So it was, from the very beginning of the weekend Friday evening dedicated to the nuclear family aka the Nuke as I will further refer to the wifeandkids.

Starting Friday afternoon, the spousal unit went to get her do did. So it fell to me to grab the brats from school. I stuck around the playground for the second time this week and almost got drafted to QB against Ian the Parks & Rec guy who usually quarterbacks for both teams on the big green.

The first time I did that, our team 'the Raiders' got trounced. I was being equitable and not giving the ball to Ryan all the time, who was obviously the fastest and most talented on both teams. I did pass a buttonhook to my boy and he got his first touchdown, ever I think. Also Tatianna on the power sweep was a killer play. Ryan's bootleg double reverse was a total flop. But we all had fun that day. This time I faked a knee injury because I didn't want to spend so much time there. It worked out just as well because Ian got distracted and never formed up his team.

But I did have enough time to drill my boy on the finer points of running patterns. He now understand (and has probably already forgotten) a screen, a buttonhook, a down & out and a down & in. Next time are a flag and a post. That's about all I know.

Baby girl and I played catch. She's always inventing something. So we did a triangle number from 10 and one step back in a kind of egg-toss progression of catch. She's got a pretty powerful granny goose. Great for catch, bad for basketball. Good form will have to suffer because as a first grader who can make 9 foot hoops, what can I do to convince her that her dysfunctional fallaway is more aesthetically pleasing? Not much.

Girly girl and I played striker and tender against the chain link. She wore me out so that bad knee wasn't too far off from the truth. She is the bursty one. A sprinter and a diva's personality. I pity the fool who falls for her, even after he gets through me.

Saturday began at 6am. The boy and I hiked over to the donut shop and talked about life. Like most 9 year old boys, he's into fish stories that may or may not have happened. So I'm trying to get him to retweak his way of explaining things. He knows the difference between reality and imagination, but can't help exaggerating. I figure this is a problem for anyone who plays Yugioh cards. Action boys are invested in hyperbole, especially one who is naturally shy.

We had a mammoth breakfast at the crib and then headed over to the Y. New sessions begin this weekend. The boy is in volleyball, the girls in jazz dancing. The spouse and I walked the track and reviewed the week. Then we went for the wall. That's right, the rock climbing wall of despair. My boy chose the blue path, I chose the yellow path. Why did I choose the yellow path? The last time I successfully climbed a wall of any stature, I was 30 pounds lighter than I am today. At least I choose to remember that I was sometime back in 1996. Where did all that weight come from anyway? Whatever. It was on my fingertips halfway up that wall and my fingertips didn't like it. As my boy kept climbing, I called to my belayer 'falling', or more like 'quitting'. I knew I was licked. The spouse wisely chose the green path and got to blow the bicycle horn at the top. I got to make jokes.

We headed back towards the homestead and finally checked out the Wilderness Park which is on a hilltop in the middle of our comfortable beach burb. There are a couple of manmade but very natural looking ponds, complete with tall reeds, turtles, ducks and monstrous koi which can be barely made out in the murky green depths. We scoped out a couple of camping spots and hiked around amid loud unruly teen boy scouts. Of course all I needed to say was teens, as if any adjective (like boy scouts) could appropriately modify them. The spot is decent, and the kids finally got to smell a pepper tree up close. We'll be back.

We headed over to the library and I finally got to sit down. I read about the Iranian Siamese twins. I believe the proper term is 'conjoined'. I missed the news of them being or dying. It was an interesting tragedy. I have to say after reading that and the story of the one legged football player, I am becoming more steamed about what seems to be the direction of medicine. But I was very relaxed in the library. I tried the self check out with our basket of mixed media, but couldn't get the barcode scanner to beep properly, so we stood in line with the rest of our frugal non-blockbuster neighbors.

Once home we did our Saturday cleanup. My excuses about my sore fingers did not absolve me of vaccuum duty.

Today, it was my turn to pick the church and we headed over to St. John's. I haven't been in a while, so I didn't recognize the priest. He reminded us of the emnity of God which comes from friendship with the world. I think he gestures a bit much considering the tone of his voice, and since I presume he was the new gay priest I imagined him as a woman during the whole sermon. It didn't quite work, especially as his words started coming into their own during the last five minutes. The peace was especially friendly and lengthy as were the prayers of the people. There was definitely a different pace and focus to the liturgy this day. More reflective I think, and nicely so. Back at the parish hall, I got an extra piece of chicken and we grubbed quit a bit. A very good church day, and I needed it.

We headed down Figueroa expecting to get to Exposition Park, but evidently Hollywood paranoia got in the way. The Emmys are tonight at the Shrine Auditorium, which means that there were concrete barriers and half a million cops and emergency people in the vicinity under the hovering helicopters. We detoured around and paid six dollars for parking at Exposition Park.

The Rose Garden is the same as usual but there was no wedding party this time. They must have just cleaned the pennies out of the fountain and I never noticed how gorgeous a color of red are the Olympiad roses. The old space museum is missing its roof. In fact there's a whole lot of construction going on at the park and it's going to be even greater than it is now. That must be the explaination for the 9 dollar cover charge at the Natural History Museum. The Afro Am languishes. We didn't bother checking out its magnificent collection of movie posters, but I don't think the kids minded. We spent more time in the Transportation exhibit than we ever had. The new, more private section was a real blast for the kids, as was the live show on electricity.

We walked back through the Rose Garden and over to the playground for paletas. By this time, I was dead on my feet. But it was good to reflect, not having been to this place for many years, on how little I had to exercise that exhausting parental skill of keeping the locations of 3 pre-schoolers in mind at a playground.

We got back to Redondo and stopped by Albertson's for BBQ meats. I stayed in the car and listened to a new faith-based program on NPR. An octogenarian theologian was carrying on about creeds. I haven't heard the Apostle's Creed in quite some time. Much of it sounded familiar and foreign at once. As he was saying it, I kept thinking that he was improvising.

Back at the pad, I lit up a back of Kingsford and proceded to Q the hell out of 16 chicken legs and 4 country style ribs. It was a good fire, but the pecan didn't quite smoke as much as I would have liked. Plus I was distracted by some static I had to respond to over by Esmay's joint.

Dinner was a smash and the boy and I retired to the non-violent set of electronic entertainments we entertain on the sabbath. The women watched some VHS we got from the library as the weekend wound to a close.

It's been family-ful and great. As I type this, I wonder how many dozens of times I've spent with these very pursuits that have gone without their chronicle. Etched on my heart is as good a place as any, and I've got plenty of etchings. I just thought I might share a bit today.

Now I'm on my way to watch Blackadder the Second with an icy jug of moo juice some of the finest homemade oatmeal raisin cookies and scratch brownies on the planet. Life has it's moments.

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September 20, 2003

Middle Earth Mapquest


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A Few Democratic Words

There was going to be no Cobbian comment on the Democratic hopefuls because there are too damned many. But I may as well put in a few cents. According to Kos/Drum here are the numbers, and my comments.

Clark — 14%
I think Clark is the man to beat and it doesn't surprise me that a general would make for a good candidate in 2004. That Bush is relying on neocon ideologues and raising great ire at the Pentagon with Rummy the Implacable, this is a slam dunk angle. How well he can weather the political storm is interesting. But we also have an economy to deal with.

Dean — 12%
Whatever. I don't see vision here. I think he's a fake, not that I've listened.

Lieberman — 12%
Lieberman rubs me the wrong way. I think he's a self-important blowhard who will sell out the left at the drop of a hat. Besides, Congressmen don't make for good Presidents in my book.

Kerry — 10%
Kerry, in my estimation is the most respectable character out of the bunch. If he expends some energy, he may have a chance.

Gephardt — 8%
Gephardt embodies everything that I cannot stand about Democrats. He represent labor through inheritance rather than from work. He speaks at all the wrong times and has no bass in his voice. He has all the leadership qualities of a committee.

Sharpton — 7%
President Sharpton. That's just scary. Shouldn't he be a corrupt alderman first?

Edwards — 6%

Graham — 4%

Braun — 2%
Uhm. Past her prime.

Kucinich — 2%
A nobody who should stay that way. Anybody can deliver rhetoric.

Posted by mbowen at 04:06 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

So I've Been Told: On Heinlein

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
You belong in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. You
value freedom above all else. You would fight
and die for your family and your home.

Which Heinlein Book Should You Have Been A Character In?
brought to you by Quizilla

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September 19, 2003


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Fabulous Power

The t-Zero by AC Propulsion is the first electric vehicle to beat a Porsche 911 in the quarter mile. It runs on laptop batteries.

In this short video produced by the Babilonia-Wilner Foundation, David Wilner, who is first in line for a production tzero, pits his all-wheel drive Porsche Carrera 4 against the tzero in a drag race in the pouring rain at Calstart's Alameda test track.

AC Propulsion's traction control system effectively eliminates wheelspin and loss of traction while braking - even when suddenly transitioning between full accleration and full regenerative braking at 90 mph on a rain-slick runway

Posted by mbowen at 04:49 PM | TrackBack

Going Down

It has been two months since I have worked. I have been trying to stay distracted and blogging while working and working on my job search and boning up on new computer skills. But time is just about up and shit's going to start getting deep.

At the moment, I am considering the reasonableness of soliciting general welfare from my readership. I've got a bunch of payments coming due and I may end up quite literally on the street a month from today.

My instincts as a writer tell me that it will make captivating reading to chronicle my plight here. I've been dropping hints for a while, but on the whole the blog itself has sustained my spirits as I engage on public spirited topics. Turning it on me seems wrong somehow, somehow too personal. As I said, it's not all about me.

Nevertheless I am duty bound to maintain to the best of my ability, the welfare of my family to the highest standard possible. That implies that what I could do here that will help is my obligation as well, despite what I'd like to think about the themes and purposes of Cobb.

So I'll tell you now that I am about to go begging. You will probably hear more.


Arrr, shit!

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Hear Ye Hear Ye

Now if ye people didn't know, today be talk like a pirate day. So watch what I'm saying and try t' do as I do. Why? Because I said so ye scurvy mongrel. Don't you know who ye be dealin' with? Arrr! I be the original Dread Pirate BlackEye, son of Locutus of the House of Crenshaw-West-Blogistan, High Executioner of Horsewipe, and Scourge of ye olde World Wide Webe. I command ye t' be all piratey, ye landlubbin' squirrels.

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September 18, 2003

More Snobbery

Darryn 'Dutch' Martin, a participant in Project 21 sings the praises of John McWhorter and spikes his own little football in the endzone.

Losing the Race opened my eyes to the three cancerous aspects of black American cultural groupthink. It also re-ignited the love of learning that my mother instilled in me as a child. That love, as well as a faith in God, enabled this poor boy from Cleveland to become his high school valedictorian, become his family's first college graduate, earn a master's degree in public policy and management and ultimately become a U.S. Foreign Service Officer.
(italics mine)
It's people like this that made me hate the middle class, and I must certainly be feeling as I read this from my parapet, just what Marie Antoinette felt for the hungry peasants. I would love to invite this arriviste into the Old School, but I think he's mouthing off a bit too much.

This is a strong test for me. For if I'm willing to stomach the paleocons in the Republican party, I'm going to have to stomach first generation college churchboys from the 'hood. What does this no-op Negro know about black culture? How is some.. argh.

Let me be charitable, after all he's from a family of six, quotes from the Bible and talks about his mother and not his dear old dad. It's hard to imagine that he heard the sound of the drum in inner-city Cleveland. Neither, obviously did his knucklehead peers, and he was right to dismiss them and follow his own star. The boy was starved for soul from the source and so he sucked on whatever tit was available. John McWhorter, damn.

This is the special brand of withering contempt I have for poor misguided souls of my own racial caste. I'm going to have to get over it to become the man I should be. Maybe he likes Jack Daniels.

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Conservative Highbrow

I've been thinking about class. Not socioeconomic class, but cultural class, its icons & productions, its markers & indicators. In reviewing what I said about being a Republican, I considered the contra argument. Am I really? As you may know, I have a gripe against what I consider to being the populist pandering of the Republican to the Christian Right. I have lots of gripes with Republicans but I care about the future of the Republican Party, and I really don't care what happens to Democrats in a matter of speaking.

Nevertheless I thought I might spend a moment considering the social markers of 'liberals' and 'conservatives' in light of something I skimmed last week about why intellectuals tend to be liberal, or contrarian or anti-patriotic or something like that. I also thought about something else I recall in a similar discussion about class which is that highly educated people tend to cluster together. Ah cluster, that's it. It was David Brooks.

So now I am thinking, having referred some nominally white folks to contemplate Bill Benzon's cogitations as an entre into black culture, about what highbrow culture is to me. I want to know what it is to liberals and conservatives, to the pious and to the secular. How well does American Culture with a capital C, hold up? In particular, I wonder where intellectual righties and lefties meet in agreement on the best of American culture.

At this very moment, I am listening to "The Weary Ways of Mary Magdalene" by Delfayo Marsalis. Prior to that on the playlist was "Shango" by Angelique Kidjo. Next in the stack is some Sonny Rollins, then Nancy Wilson, Herbie Hancock, Kronos Quartet, Johann Strauss Jr, Rachmaninoff and oh, well Black Sheep and Nelly Furtado.

One's taste in music can give very deep insights to one's personality. But I'm not certain music inscribes itself on the strategic mind so much as it does the soul. So I would much rather entertain questions of dueling playwrites than banjos. Yet I'm eliding my deep belief that West African influences on European music and liturgy has given America its soul and is one of the primary reasons that America does a good job attracting and integrating foreigners, as contrasted to Sweden, but more on that much later. I know Benzon understands this and knocks out the detail with far more precision than I could muster, thus the deferral & referral.

Me, I have a taste for Jack Daniels and Jim Beam rye, because I'm a blackneck too. Nothing says America to me quite like roadhouse blues rock ala Eric Sardinas. In that vein, I find much to admire in the personality of James Carville despite the fact that I think he's some kind of megawhore (but I'll never prove that). He just smacks me as an authentic kind of asshole that I'd love to sit down and rap with. But after a while if I found that he were actually a Southern Baptist who has no taste for vegetables and wouldn't be caught dead at a Shakespeare play - if I found he was nothing but horseshoes, barbecue and football around the homestead, I think I'd get really tired of Carville really quickly. In fact, that stereotype is exactly what I think of Phil Gramm, and it wouldn't surprise me a bit if Tom DeLay read Reader's Digest in the john.

Yes I am talking about class snobbery which is different from class warfare. You know the French have a saying I'll slightly mangle (because my spell chequer n'est-ce pas Francaise). "Tout comprenner c'est tout pardonner". It means to know is to forgive, and it implies that the more you know, the more forgiving you are. I like it because it works for noblesse oblige, which I inherit from the Talented Tenth. And so I think that in a certain aspect we are all liberal in the classic sense of the word. We learn more we expand our world, we appropriate, integrate and move on to a higher plane, thus leaving forgiving spaces below us for the huddled masses yearning to learn what we already know. It's condescending, but it works. Snobs need elbow room, may as well go up. But what is at the top? Do Americans on the left and right agree?

I'm also implying that the stridency of much conservatism is rooted in ignorance, which is exactly what my cultural spidey senses tell me about the likes of the Freepers the majority of which appear to be devotees of redneck radio. Again, I love Jack as much as anyone, but there are limits to how much whittling sticks I can do on a Sunday afternoon. There are, after all, higher pursuits in this great nation of ours.

Bill Bennett has taken a drubbing at the hands of some bloggers recently. I forget the issue. He's also appeared more stridently partisan these days as I recall the last time I saw him bloviate on some talk show. But Bill B. was one of the highbrow cats that first got me interested in whatever it is I'm doing - way back in the "Closing of the American Mind" days. I also dug (who didn't) the dry wit (and occasional lip licking) of William F. Buckley.

So where in the porno stained world of television is the alternative? Where is conservative highbrow? Did that all go out of the window with the Contract with America? Where is the cultural conservative ball and what are they dancing to? Because if it's the Texas two step, as Eminem says "We're going to have a problem here."

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Anal Chip

Posted by mbowen at 05:32 PM | TrackBack

The New Democracy

I just stumbled across this student government website. This is awesome and very encouraging.

Posted by mbowen at 05:16 PM | TrackBack


Here's an ethical question posed in the form of an example. If you saw something patently offensive on another website like this Mexifornia thing, should you link to that website and send that person traffic or should you put the content on your own website and refuse to send people to the offending party's website?

Today I'm going to do the latter.

This is in reference, for those of you who don't know, to the recent signing by Governor in Exile Gray Davis of SB 60 which drops citizenship requirements for administering driving privileges to undocumented workers aka illegal aliens This privilege had been revoked several years ago and this law returns it. SB 60 has the support of the Los Angeles City Council as well as Mayor Hahn and Police Chief Bratton.

According to Bratton:

a. It reduces the hit & run rate.
b. It increases the possibility of getting insurance.
c. It assists in the war on terrorism.

Drivers Licenses are not sufficient to register voters.

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One M

Posted by mbowen at 04:04 PM | TrackBack

Bourgie Crime

I just turned in my Beetle to the local dealer. The lease is over. We are now back down to being a two car family. I took a last few digital pictures of it. This is actually its best side. [picture goes here] The front fender, where the fog lamps are has been twisted and disfigured and drags large pieces of plastic and bits of small wire on the ground. I periodically use bailing wire to put the mask of respectability back on the car.

It's a $200 piece of body work (I know because I'll be charged for it as extraodinary wear on the lease return inspection.) I always knew that but never really bothered to spend the money. But I cannot tell you the countless times that people have stopped me in traffic, pointing out the defect.

Some time ago, while hanging out with lefty academics, and some time before that while haning out with bean counters in Nordy shirts, I acquired the skill of speaking loudly about my salary. My buddy Ted and I used to joke about rising above the Southern California Poverty Line. In 1988 it was around $38,000. My girl Lisa said that to get people to talk about their 'price' was the first step in liberating them from the corporate plantation. Both Ted and Lisa were right of course, but for different reasons. For Ted it was about the ambition of rising through and beyond the middle class. For Lisa it was about empowering the masses to recognize their own value in non-material terms. Same thing really. Nobody wants to be a stooge.

My point is that sooner or later, I felt comfortably out of the middle class materialism and suddenly salaries just became salaries. Automobiles just became automobiles. It's easy for me to say so as I am momentarily on the high side. But what I'm laughing at is how it seems so urgent that my car is devoid of birdshits and other cosmetic imperfections. There is nothing so uppity, I reckon, as a cool car that is dirty. It's a crime against bourgie brotherhood.

As I walked back home from the dealer, I noticed one of those flyers on a telephone pole. You know the type, printed on a home laser printer, selling an old motorcycle or offering babysitting services with the phone number frilly edge that you tear off and forget what it was for. This particular flyer was looking for a digital camera that had been lost.

Right below the name and address of the victim of the crime was a small heartfelt note. It asked the person responsible that if they couldn't find it in their heart to return the whole camera, that they should at least return the memory card, as it held pictures of their little boy which were of sentimental value.

My take on this is that it illustrates both the civility and depravity of our culture. It shows civility in that there is, in the face of this material crime, an opportunity for healing. The victim is not hurt by the theft of money but of memories. Now another part of me wants to slap these parents. How precious could the picture be if you haven't already downloaded it? Yeah maybe it was his first steps, OK I understand. Sorta. But isn't it depraved if you think of the kind of people who might actually steal a digital camera and read this ad and actually send the chip back? They'd have to be grasping yuppie minions wouldn't they? A real thief doesn't care about sentimental baby pictures, and if he can get an extra 10 bucks at the pawn shop for the chip, he's gonna take it. Hell he might even photoshop it and sell it as kiddie porn. Bottom line is that I believe the yuppies who got their camera stolen had a reasonable expectation to think that other yuppies stole it from them.

I wish I would have had my digital camera in my cargo pants to take a picture of that flyer, but I left it at home next to the laptop.

Posted by mbowen at 02:24 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


For the past few weeks, I have been engaged in racial subjects more and more. It's interesting, tiring, frustrating and exciting all at once.

What brings me to write this little piece is the fact that 'Mystery of the Black Blogger' is clearly the most popular thing I've written about. I'm willing to accept that, grudgingly, but I'm rather glad it has eclipsed the other two which are almost too embarrassing to mention. (Dat Phan and Delores Umbridge). Nevertheless, I consider myself a fairly new blog, and with the exception of Instapundit, I have done no marketing. I am pleased to have the attention, which is what every writer wants, and I am satisfied that I am getting the kind of readers that I respect and several that I admire. They all have blogs of their own and so despite the fact that I am judging popularity on the number of comments and trackbacks, I think my good stuff is getting the attention it deserves.

On the subject of "Mystery", I think it's fascinating that there is actually no racial subject in it per se. It's not an argument about Affirmative Action (thank god) or Racism In America, but about how and why we listen and speak to each other in America when the subjects get dicey. I think that shows some maturity and progress.

On the other hand, it is a black and white thing and I remain rather frustrated and pissed that we have no asian or latino perspectives on the subject. As Dru Blood has brought some women and feminists into the fray through her linking, there is that additional spin. Good, but we could do better. As P6 bluntly stated "Atrios doesn't read my blog". Maybe he does but wouldn't get caught dead commenting. I don't know.

I am a bit annoyed that this particular tail is wagging the dog of Cobb, and I am very grateful that the Comic has its own loyal following. After all, I am not doing the Boohabian thing any longer. That project is complete. So I have mixed feelings about "Mystery" being the success that it is in bringing people to Cobb. My writing in the thread proves that I still retain the boohabian work ethic.

On the whole however, I'm not going to change what I write about in an attempt to attract readership. If that's what gets them in, fine. They'll stay for what I do, or not.

Posted by mbowen at 10:33 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

After the Warden

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Prophesy of the New Savanna

It has been eight years since the ineffable Cuda Lee Brown brought forth a new cyberspace haunt dedicated to jiveometrics. I was once a participant in that amazing thing, and it has remained in its static format. As I review it lo these many years I am finding incredible treasure that is in a word, prophetic.

Meanderings gave way to Gravity which was a content management system written from scratch on a Mac. It only goes to show the genius of Cuda.

I'll only give you a taste, but I'll tell you a few things you can find. You can find quotes like this from Newt Gingrich:

"The greatest leaders in fighting for an integrated America in the 20th century were in the Democratic Party. The fact is it was the liberal wing of the Democratic Party that ended segregation. The fact is that it was Franklin Delano Roosevelt who gave hope to a nation that was in despair and could have slid into dictatorship. And the fact is every Republican has much to learn from studying what the Democrats did right."

"I have seldom been more shaken than I was shortly after the election when I had breakfast with two members of the Black Caucus, and one of them said to me, 'Can you imagine what it's like to visit a first grade class and realize that every fourth or fifth young boy in that class may be dead or in jail within 15 years, and they're your constituents, and you're helpless to change it?'"

OK Not enough for you? How about ten essays on OJ Simpson?

Or how about this from Female Identity, Male Domination, and Black Power Movements:

We need to realize that none of us are free until all of us are free. (That also goes for classism in the black community, but that's a whole different story.) Which brings me to the reactionary nature of misogyny in black radical/revolutionary politics. If we want to enact a revolution, then we should be thoroughly revolutionary about it. We can't call ourselves true radicals or revolutionaries if we're operating as a carbon copy of white gender relations. Black men, if you continue to oppress black women in the name of revolution, then you're no better than the first Europeans to settle in this country. Supposedly, they came here looking for freedom from religious persecution and the tyranny of the monarchy. The only freedom they wanted was the freedom to tyrannize Native-Americans and enslave Africans in the name of capitalism. Let's not follow this example in fighting for black power. How much integrity can black power politics have if it is used to make black men feel more "manly," and authoritative? As a black woman, I have to doubt the integrity of any movement that doesn't allow me the full range of my identity and my humanity (that also goes for white feminism).

Do read as much as you can over at the New Savanna.

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September 17, 2003

The Believer

In one night my subscription to the Sundance Channel, which I usually ignore, has paid off.

I don't take film seriously because serious film almost always requires discussion, and discussion of film very much like the discussion of music requires language to do things that can't be done with language. That is why film is film and not text. So as a writer, I start trying to appropriate the language of film criticism and I find it taxing. Sometimes you just have to look.

But occasionally there are films that are expressive in a literary way because the ideas they present and dramatize can be written about. The Holocaust, its deniers and Jew haters in America are such a story. 'The Believer' nails it.

If I could remember the name of the protagonist in this film, and if enough people had seen it, I'm rather confident we could rid ourselves of the trite phrase 'self-hating Jew'. This man didn't hate Jews so much as he hated Judaism. He hated in the way the intellectual hates the void. There has not been, on film I think, such a comtemplative story on the meaning of faith and the conflicts of the nothingness to be found at the end of the search for God as 'The Believer' presents.

What I learned was that a serious Jew must accept that nothingness, which is something I didn't expect to find. The implications of a sky devoid of God is perfectly logical: a maniacal adherence to man made law down to the detail of knocking the phone off the hook with your elbow after the candles are lit. This is the Jew of 'The Believer' and it is a Jew spelled out more clearly than we could ever see.

This film explores the irony of Jew-hatred, that it feeds on nothing so much as itself. It is finally the illogic and inconsistency of its rootlessness of Jew hatred that destroys its feeding on nothing. Judaism itself feeds on nothing, but it is reconciled to that fact. The haters lose, the Jews win because the haters alway find the need to justify their ever changing excuses in cloaks of legitimacy. The Jew, ever illegitimate, has his own reasons cast in the finger of God. He repeats it, it sustains him.

We have this to learn from the Jews. Consistency is its own reward. A tradition wll-kept and well-respected needs only itself spidering to every act in life, and when the void is revealed, those following the plan will be rewarded with the confidence of therr intimacy with their tradition. The Jews also teach us that freedom from tradition and continuous rebellion is the price to be paid for orthodoxy, and none can be so dangerous to orthodoxy as the individual who finds himself liberated from it by choice.

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Operation K

Posted by mbowen at 07:53 AM | TrackBack

Porno on K Street

First things first. I like 'The West Wing' an order of magnitude better. I think.

There is something I cannot put a finger on that I really don't like about this television show. Since I know I'm going to talk about it again, I haven't read other blogger's critiques, although I did hear something on the radio yesterday and that's how I know what it is.

There's one thing that is attractive about the show, and it's the obvious intelligence and verisimilitude. But c'mon. This is nothing but 'Cops' for the chatting classes. It's dressed-up psuedo-reality based-on-a-true-story names have been changed bullshit for the camera. It's sexed up voyeurism without the curse words, without the real dirt and mistakes and smell. It's worse than Wag the Dog, it's dog meet dog, Hollywood meet Washington butt sniffing and humping. Hose these hosers down.

HBO god bless their smut peddling asses have created for politics what Arliss is for sports, and I hate the very idea. It is at once brilliant, condescending and pornographic. The brilliant part is that it's a great idea because who really reads Joe Klein. Its condescending part is that it assumes that the answer is nobody so television like this is meaningful and important. It porno because it comes from HBO, primarily, but also because if we were participating in this process in a rewarding fashion, we wouldn't care much for the pictures. It's a free country, now.

Do I think the line is blurred? Hell yes. I feel that something important has been violated, I'm just not exactly sure how to say it. Stay tuned. Jeez. Self-important bastards.

Posted by mbowen at 12:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 16, 2003

Pulling Out

Posted by mbowen at 11:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


I used to like Martin Sargent. I just didn't realize how deep that rabbit hole went. Consistent with my theory that 90% of television is porno, TechTV is becoming the Fox News of the tech world.

Sometimes I wonder what I did to be born at the wrong time. You see, all I had was Mad Magazine when I was in highschool. I mean sure I learned how to bang on the newspaper machines so I could get a free copy of the porno sheet, and everybody knew that Adrian had a trunk full of Oui magazines. But that was about it in 1977. Today everything is porno.

Sargent, when he was on the Screensavers used to push the double-entendres very nicely. But every once in a while you could see Leo Laporte giving him the eye, like "What are you going to say this time?". Well have no fear, it's all out there now. Sargent is now bathing in his own lewd froth as host of Unscrewed. There's nothing stopping him now. He hosts what appears to be a nightly show with a truly babelicious chick who ought to be pilloried by the Enemies of Foine Black Girls Who Hang Out With Ugly Doofus Whiteboys.

The first time I watched the show, she was scowling half the time, apparently as disgusted as I was. But she must have gotten a pay raise or an increased dosage of Zoloft, because last night she was rollicking along for the ride. Well, I say to hell with the both of them. Or to the 13-19 year old suburban male demographic. Same difference.

The economic collapse cannot come soon enough.

Posted by mbowen at 02:59 PM | TrackBack

Nappy Man

"It's rather pointless, I must say," remarked Philip Landau, a 38-year-old lawyer, watching Mr. Blaine lie down and then get up again. "There's not much to watch. It's like watching someone sitting in a box."

Stunt whore David Blaine is suspended in a plexiglass box over the Thames.

Posted by mbowen at 02:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Baldilocks Comes with the Hardline

All I can say is Damn! (with two syllables)

Posted by mbowen at 02:28 PM | TrackBack

Above and Beyond

Posted by mbowen at 09:19 AM | TrackBack

September 15, 2003

Blackneck Fantasies

I've lived in the South for about a total of 3 years give or take. That's long enough to understand what it's all about, especially if you have family from there with whom you're more than passively acquainted.

Some days when I get really tired of the runaround and superficiality of modern life, I long for the backwoods. The backwoods represents to me, the impenetrable thicket of nature in which tenderfoot yuppies fear to tread. I get a kick out of the reconstruction of reality the backwoods forces on city slickers. Having been a backpacker and member of the Sierra Club from my pre-teen days, I have a healthy appreciation for the outdoors. After a time, it's almost like good manners. It's a basic skill that changes who you are, and you can spot phonies a mile away. I like having been initiated into that circle.

It's certainly different as a West Coast phenomenon. Out here we don't shoot, dress and eat. We pack in and we pack out. Here it's more about climbing rocks than hiding in blinds, but the respect for the place and the orienteering skills are the same. If you ask me, I'll say the biggest difference is guns.

I don't own, have never owned and have never shot a gun. It's one of those things that I just never got around to. Whenever I had an extra 400 bucks burning a hole in my pocket, it never occured to me to head down to the Big 5, or Western Surplus and pick-up a nice weapon. But when I lived in Atlanta, it was one of the first things on my mind. But I'll get to the gun thing later (I just decided to speak about it at length separately)

My yeoman fantasy has more to do with the need to have a little chunk of the woods to myself. Private, remote, quiet and secure standing over a lake with an obscenely large fireplace. A place to sit out the nuclear holocaust or the economic collapse of society. Someplace for trucks and ducks, where it takes skill to be a neighbor because you just can't take a cab to get here.

I always liked wearing fatigues for their comfort and utility, and I like the opportunity to get grubby and not care. I like the idea of getting up at dawn and hearing the crunch of frosty gravel under my boots. A lot of people think rednecking is a lot of loudmouth inbred idiocy. I don't. I see the intelligence of rednecking. Maybe there's some streak of Virginia in me. I don't know. That's why I coined the term 'blackneck'. Being a blackneck is like a bit of hardscrabble, a lot of outdoors sense, and most importantly, zero tolerance for bullshit. It's the rural edge of the Old School. Imagine Booker T. Washington in Danner boots.

More to come for sure.

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The Big Move

I'm not sick of Essbase, but I'm no longer going to try to afford the luxury of ignoring Analysis Services. So I'm going to be doing some conversions and making a journal of it along the way.

The first step is getting all my ducks in order. I've got three machines. First is my laptop running Win2K Professional. I just have the standard Essbase Excel client here. The other is Mars. Mars is my big NT box. It's got about 512MB of RAM and a fairly big disk. On that I have DB2 Personal edition, an old Oracle footprint and Essbase 6.5. As well I have a newly installed version of SQL Server 2000 with AS running. The third box is an old Dell using RH 9. I'm primarily going to use that to generate fake data if I need to. I've got a bunch of cool scripts for that purpose.

On the laptop, I also have DB Designer 4, a Java equivalent of Erwin. Maybe I'll use it, probably not. We'll see.

I'm firstly going to cruise through an MDX tutorial. I found a good one here. I'm also going to get an eval copy of Temtec for my front-end. I may get a copy of ProClarity too.

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Mugabe Strikes Again

Totalitarianism is so very predictable.

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Thinking About It

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

Fair Use in the Blog Context

If I copy premium content from an online newspaper, say the NTY, and 'reprint' it whole cloth here at Cobb, am I abusing fair use?

I think not. That is because of several reasons.

1) I believe the following clause is always in effect and appropriate to the way I do things here: "This article reprinted in full without permission for the purposes of discussion and review, as permitted by Title 17 Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976. "

2) This blog gets very little volume as compared to the original publisher. I am literally sharing it with my friends - the small circle of people who read here.

But what if nobody reads it? What if only 10 people read it and I know them all personally? If my intent is to use the article in question for the express purpose of discussion with those people who come to my website and I have a reasonable unerstanding that number of people is small, how can this be considered an abuse of fair use?

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September 14, 2003

Tucker Says Fuck

It has been a long time since I watched TV news on a regular basis. Yet I still remember with some clarity the change of command on CNN's Crossfire. It was when Tucker Carlson got paired against James Carville. I felt sorry for Carlson because Carville just smashed him like the whelp he was.

It turns out that Carlson has grown some 'nads and a bit of the French, as in 'pardon my'. It may turn out that I like this guy after all. Do catch his Salon interview. I'd say it's a very clever way to pimp a book.

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That's What I'm Talking About

I knew that Tacitus would eventually say something that I would wholeheartedly agree with.

On the subject of taxation, I'm not so sure I share Ben Domenech's jubilation over the defeat of the Alabama tax plan (although I do agree with his assessment of Governor Riley's rhetorical excesses). Conservatism is not libertarianism: we concede the necessity of some taxation, so long as it's done justly and kept to the minimum necessary within the legitimate functions of government. I don't pretend to especial knowledge of the Alabama tax code, but from what I read it doesn't appear to meet those criteria:

Alabama has the nation's lowest state and local taxes per capita and ranks near the bottom in tests of public school performance. It also has more than 28,000 inmates in a prison system built for 12,000, and its state police force has only six troopers patrolling 67,500 miles of roadway after midnight. Riley's plan also aimed to shift the tax burden to the wealthiest Alabamians, who pay an effective tax rate of 3 percent, from the poorest, who pay 12 percent.

Now, if the parks system or the state arts council was underfunded, I'd say let 'em starve. But prisons and cops -- and yes, even public education -- are legitimate functions of government at that level, and so I have to ask whether underfunding them is really the conservative thing to do. Also, while I'm more or less a flat-taxer, I think it's pretty clear that a progressive tax code is more just than a regressive one; and that's something Riley's plan would have fixed. All in all, the whole episode and the anti-tax rejoicing in the aftermath points to an increasing cognitive dissonance in Republican circles. The notion of taxation as an evil in itself is useful as a tactical tool, but it's not useful as an analytic tool: you don't get good governance if you focus on cutting taxes in the absence of any consideration of legitimate budgetary needs or any effort to concurrently reduce spending. But that's exactly what's happening, in the Congress and in Alabama. It's worrisome and I daresay wrongheaded; and my saying so will forever bar me from winning a GOP primary in Loudon County, Virginia.

Perhaps we can write off Loudon County, but not the country.

Posted by mbowen at 08:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

DenBeste Debunks DU

This one is for the archives, just in case I find myself surrounded by a bunch of loony environmentalists or people otherwise hysterical about DU.

While it's reasonable to not want to be around any amount of battlefield debris, DU is no worse than any other.

The radon being emitted today from uranium in the soil comes from ex-uranium atoms which emitted their first alpha particles thousands of years ago. Before U-238 can reach radon, it has to pass through U-234 (half life 240 kiloyears) and Thorium 230 (77 kiloyears). U-235, which is vastly reduced in DU compared to naturally occurring uranium (it's the U-235 that's "depleted"), passes through protactinium 231 (33 kiloyears) before reaching radon. Therefore, refined DU does not emit radon in detectable quantities and will not do so during my lifetime (or a hundred times my lifetime).

It doesn't get much more clear than that.

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Music and I are co-dependent. Music infuses my memory of time and place. My house is always full of music, I cannot live in silence, even and especially when I'm intently studying something. So when I think of Johnny Cash, I think of a time and a place.

I made a promise to myself that every time I found myself in Denver, I would listen to country music. Of course when I drive across Texas, I basically have no choice, but Johnny Cash reminds me of an overpass just north of SFO. It was there that I heard him singing 'Amazing Grace' during an NPR retrospective on his life. Since that day in 2000 or 2001 (NPR's memory is different than mine, and I don't have the patience to listen again), I remembered something about soul music. At that moment, I recall looking towards the south and thinking of all those souls who come and go. Do they hear music with words that speak to the soul?

Bill Benzon knows how to express the magic of music. He's one of the smartest men I know and I often miss his company. In his lee, I don't bother to write much. I simply listen and DJ to myself and my friends. I burned some CDs and made sure that my kids hear "Folsom Prison Blues" and get the rhythms.

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Uncut Marcinko in the Post 9/11 World

Violence of Action
by Dick Marcinko

If you're like me, you are a terminal fan of spy thrillers and action flicks. So there is a long list of authors and directors whose works you don't miss. Add Marcinko without Weisman to the top of the list. I've just been reading Red Cell and Violence of Action simultaneously. What Weisman adds is clear and unnecessary at this point in the series. If like me, you dig the intrigue of a Littel or a Ludlum (OK early Ludlum), then you know where to get that flavor. What was so appealing about the Rogue Warrior series in the first place was the unabashed raw energy of it. Here, in Violence of Action is the rawest Marcinko yet. In this way it's a proper evolution to the series. He goes straight to the jugular.

Marcinko going solo doesn't dwell on the characters and scenarios as his collaborative work does. Here it's all Marcinko and one or two others. In Red Cell we were introduced to Pinky da Turd, Wynken, Blynken, Nod, Duck Foot, Manny Tanto and whole other galaxy of now forgettable characters. In VOA we get introduced to Leupold scopes, Emerson knives, H&K USP Compacts, the tools of the trade and their deadly effects. Marcinko's writing expresses the tunnel vision of a hunter. Self, Tools, Objective, with a little peripheral vision for allies.

There are three golden jewels in this book aside from the very engaging opening chapter. First, it's all post-September 11. You know and I know we've all been waiting to hear what Marcinko has to say about terrorism and our nation's response to it. It's all here. I'll only say one thing on that score. Marcinko gives new meaning to defending the Constitution against all foes, foreign and domestic.

Secondly, he goes for the throat in terms of drama. Three days, one suitcase nuke, assassinations, ambushes and in your face confrontation. This has blockbuster action flick written all over it, and it's really about time somebody put a Marcinko novel on film. There is raw action written all over this. (Who should play Marcinko, that's the question.)

Thirdly, Marcinko has invented the most memorable and deadly character of all. If you thought Manny Tanto was a monster, wait until you meet Demo Dick's new female squad member. She is completely devastating and the last person on earth you'd want to tangle with. Among other things, she is the, uhm 'interrogator'. This one scene in this book is unforgettable and I have to say, even for one who is jaded by decades of spy and action books and films, there is one place none of those fictions have never gone. Marcinko goes there. Talk about full-on sphincter pucker factor. In about 4 pages, Dick Marcinko delivers text that will make you wince, blink rapidly, hyperventilate and bite your lip in half if not puke up your guts. It's ghastly, thought provoking, shocking and pornographic all at once, and it gives a meaty example of what actually goes on in the cold cruel world, and what a lot of Americans would do considering their feelings about 9/11. Robert DeNiro saying "Don't get caught" has got nothing on this.

All in all, the book is a hard rock, fast food, adrenaline rush, with an old Rogue we have come to know and love. It's raw and fresh, and it's about time for a movie.

Posted by mbowen at 04:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Arnie's Illegal

Are our immigration laws retarded? That depends on what side you fall on the candidacy of Arnold Schwartzenegger. You see, he violated the terms of his visa, by accepting a salary of miniscule proportions some, 33 years ago.

In interviews over the years with major American newspapers, [Joe] Weider has said he paid the young bodybuilder between $100 and $200 a week to write brochures and columns for his bodybuilding magazines.

Yeah but did he pay taxes?

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September 13, 2003

The Mystery of the Black Blogger

What does it mean to be a black blogger?

I'll start with the number of black blogs I have on my blogroll. There is a discernable disproportion of black bloggers on my blogroll to the percentage of blacks in America and presumeably the blogosphere. That's 15.2% for me.

As far as I know, I am the only Republican black blogger and everybody who carries at least one link to a visibly black blogger goes after Oliver Willis (who needs no introduction or links from me). So the simple answer to the simple question is, you get more recognition from other black bloggers than from non-black bloggers, unless you are Oliver Willis. Since Willis is clearly a big liberal wonk there's a similar deal with liberal blogger recognition vs non-liberal recognition. What's it like to live in the shadow of Oliver Willis? I don't know because I don't read his blog.

There is a deeper question implied by the black blogger question. But that devolves back to the simple question: What does it mean to be black and stand up and say what you believe? I'll get to that after I dispatch with a few other things.

The Blogosphere Itself
There is certainly the matter of its own echo chamber effect but that is the nature of the beast. There are two things to note in that regard.

  • Power Law Distributions distort the importance of popular blogs. Since I know this, I have solicited a link from Glenn Reynolds. I still haven't done much link whoring at all, but on the other hand I have not really made that an issue or an effort.
  • Blog amplification introduces distortion. The purity of ideas get lost as they propagate. They may become more interesting, but they destroy consensus.

Real Black Issues
Am I satisfied that black opinion is sought and found in the blogosphere? Not really. That is a function of how much needs to be said that is considered 'black' and that differs widely depending on whether or not you are. You see everything I write comes from a black perspective, because it's my perspective is black and I'm 100% (like Dozer in The Matrix) born and bred straight from source. So when you come to Cobb and read my stuff, you are getting a black perspective whether or not you acknowledge it. The question is loaded because it depends entirely on the behavior of non-black folks.

I know that behind 'what does it mean to be a black blogger' are three important questions which are implied.

  1. Do whitefolks depend on their own preconcieved notions of what a black issue is or is not?
  2. Do whitefolks seek out authentic blackfolks views when informing their own opinions?
  3. Do blackfolks use the blogosphere the same way whitefolks do?
(this argument is in black & white like a hitchcockian clarity, don't get bent out of shape)

To the first two which may or may not be related. That is to say, the second question may be taken independently of the context of the first. In either case I believe that folks have to have some extraordinary motivation to figure in their choice of connections. The blogosphere will eventually expand and dumb down just like the rest of the internet and we will be talking about average people soon. Average folks will do in the blogosphere just what they do in real life, so the predictable answers will be yes and no. But for the moment, while the blogosphere consists of extraordinary folks, the egotistical nature of blog exposition seems to be the primary dynamic of most blogs who are not doing a joint authorship thing.

So from that perspective, if you're Oliver Willis, you can be a meme bandit and suck all the wind out of black diversity just the same way Glenn Reynolds and Atrios do in their perspective ideological solar systems within the blogosphere. The alternative is to create a joint authored portal like Volokh or Crooked Timber or OxBlog. I have Vision Circle and there is the ever excellent Negrophile. For the moment I'm not complaining. I do think, however there is a significant question on whether the blogosphere needs a joint blog of color. It begs a lot of other questions too.

In the meanwhile, If I want to write about something and I think it's important, I'm going to blog it and link around it until the meat of the subject matter is covered to the extent I think it deserves. So I don't think you'll often hear me complain that a black issue (from the supply side) is not being covered by the blogosphere. You're more likely to hear me piss and moan about my exasperation at the intransigence of idiot bloggers who don't heed wisdom from the source. That gets back to questions one and two, so what's so special about bloggers anyway?

On question three, I think that there is something of a disconnect on choice of media. I got into this question earlier this year with Art McGee and others notable in the black internet world. The consensus seems to be that a self-fulfilling prophesy may be working. The blogosphere status quo is arguably white and male. In the way that smoke filled rooms still smell of smoke long after the backroom dealings are done, the 'masters tools' have evolved to favor a kind of atmosphere which may not be appropriate for the types of communications people of color and women want or need.

I am 100% convinced of the value of the blogosphere in the sense that it is an operation of individualism that allows for greater expression than was possible in web based fora like Salon, Cafe Utne, Abuzz ect. We have extended the credo of The Well "You own your own words" to a much larger universe of people than The Well could ever accomodate. So in the blogosphere I see more possibilities for black expression than ever before. In light of Power Law, we need a different kind of critical mass however, and I don't think that is quite established. Negrophile is the place to watch.

Blackness Itself, Again
So to the big question about what does it mean to be black and stand up and say what you believe. That depends on whether or not the subject is racial. If the subject is racial then see Diminishment below. If it's not, then Americans will try to pretend that it doesn't matter that you're black. They co-opt the subject. This is not always a bad thing, but it can be very annoying.

Diminished Standing & Racial Subjects
Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, I rehashed this last week. So you basically have Bells Rules & Blogcritics. I covered that here and here. The long story is Cyberspace My Black Ass but that's the stuff I did as boohab and I'm not going to retrace my steps here.

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A Whiff of Grapeshot

Nothing makes some people so happy as to see American peasants in a revolt of political infighting. Nothing spells this out so clearly as the partisan cleansing suggested by this cat names Werther. I note the particular relish suggested by the following paragraph.

6. Appoint a special prosecutor. Armed with plenary powers of subpoena, this bulldog would comb the documents of the Defense Department, the White House, the Energy Task Force, and other agencies for any evidence that our elected public officials violated 18 U.S.C. 1001 (making false statements to Congress), 18 U.S.C. 371 (the broad anti-conspiracy statute that would apply in the case of provoking a war), or any other statute or Constitutional provision that may have been violated in prosecuting a pre-emptive war on false pretenses. Faced with prolonged hospitality at Allenwood, some of the Thors and Wotans who rule over us might be induced to practice a refreshing candor, for once.

Starr Chamber anyone?

What is remakable about this diatribe is how absolutely devoid it is of any geopolitical concern for allies, Iraqis or even the U.N. If the author didn't have to say 'Iraq' to contextualize his harangue, one hardly believes he would bother to mention it at all.

Most cheeky of all, Werther considers his 'modest' proposal constructive.

Posted by mbowen at 11:36 AM | TrackBack

Insecurity @ 3.75

Kevin Drum brings up the question of educational overachievment. I would definitely quibble with the mere 10%.

I can't explain it. Public schools, I hear incessantly, are failing, but aside from the 10% of schools in inner city hellholes, that really doesn't seem to be the case. My mother's high school — a very good one in Los Angeles in the 40s — didn't offer calculus. Everyone knew that was a college subject. By the 70s calculus, if not exactly universal, was commonly available to the brightest kids. Today, practically all suburban high schools have one or two full classes of calculus.

He's essentially right though. And today's Americans still don't use calculus for much other than resume padding. I (used to) earn 6 figures writing software systems that handled the budgeting and planning activities of America's Fortune 1000 companies. There's not even much statistics in use there, much less calculus. But the idea that we have rocket scientists doing things that doesn't require rocket science gives us a sense of comfort. The primary conceit of the overachiever is that the work offered them will be easy enough to cruise through. We don't overachieve for its own sake, we overachieve to make life's slings and arrows mere pinpricks. But we're also invested in the theory that ease makes for integrity. We live on the fallacy that the rich don't steal because they don't need to steal, that the suburban comfortable don't do crime because they're comfortable. Similarly we expect that the brains won't cut corners and cheat at work because they don't need to. Overachievement is not its own reward, overcompensation is the reward. Nowhere on earth does this happen as it does in America and that is the stuff of the new American Dream.

Cerritos is the home to Tiger Woods, overachiever par excellence. I have taken my kids on several occasions to the Cerritos Public Library. If this were my world, such places would replace malls and amusement parks. But then I'm being dad. Ours in Redondo is very nice by any standard, but Cerritos is a temple.

I think that ther reason for this inflation of studies has to do with two fundamental forces.

The first is the global economy. To my simple way of seeing things, there are real jobs and there are American jobs. American jobs have previously been like drill press operators at the Navy Shipyard that could convert a highschool education into a 2.1 kids, a mortgage & a color tv. But the global economy says 7 in a room families in South China can do that for an order of magnitude less. This means American jobs now have to be things like professional services (e.g. software programmers, insurance actuaries, project managers) which are harder for the second world to export. We need to out-brain the competition because we believe in meritocracy. There are also non-exportable jobs like ambulance drivers and x-ray technicians. For those you need not brains but union clout or inside connections. But even those kinds of jobs require more brains than they did 30 years ago. Honor and glory are not so easily achieved here. Any first generation immigrant could work on a skyscraper. Today building skycrapers is so.. so second world.

The second part of the education inflation is the effect of media on our culture which disrespects blue collar workers and families. A particular social premium is placed on white collar work, and I think if it weren't for 9/11, we would hear almost nothing about the honor of such folks outside of country music songs. A substantial segment of our society gets no respect. Two income families are necessary. The only sure way to fulfill society's view of freedom is overkill on the money side. Below a certain level, you are not going to get respect or safety.

Life is a shit sandwich, the more bread you have the less shit you need to eat.

We are acknowledging that the rich get away with it, whatever 'it' is and that average people don't get a fair shake. So parents encourage their children to get over an ever higher hump to the promised land of sinecures and golden parachutes. Everybody has to have a millionaire in the family.

It costs more to live in America than anywhere else on the planet. Nothing demonstrates this more than the fact that Target is more popular than BigLots (where they have all the same products but they're 'cheap foreign imports' without the benefit of expensive television advertising and glamorous packaging). You all know I look forward to the WalMart universe. It's coming. But today the standards of middle-class life is more lifestyle than life. Why on earth would anyone purchase a house in California?

It is a grasping meritocracy to be sure. If you don't believe me, watch MTV Cribs. But it's what we expect of ourselves. The American dream is about outsmarting your neighbor and capitalizing on the difference. Everyone tries to outsmart everyone else. Enron outsmarted California. Silicon Valley outsmarted Wall Street. I'm sure somebody is dying to prove me wrong.

Posted by mbowen at 10:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Brooks & The Establishment

While I know that Orwell had some sort of falling out with his public school bretheren back in his day, I never read the book. It would probably do someone like myself a bit of good to do so, because I am drawn to chivalry.

I am hoping that David Brooks knows exactly what he is talking about when he speaks of the moral low pressure system at the peaks of our society because it certainly is fun to hear him skewer Bush and Dean. Since the theme of the day seems to be schadenfreude, it is altogether fitting that he should note his NTY essay on Bush & Howard Dean.

If you were to pick a presidential candidate on the basis of social standing — and really, darling, who doesn't — you'd have to pick Howard Brush Dean III over George Walker Bush. The Bush lineage is fine. I'm not criticizing. But the Deans have been here practically since Mayflower days and in the Social Register for generations. It's true Bush's grandfather was a Wall Street financier, a senator and a Yale man, but Dean's family has Wall Street financiers going back to the Stone Age, and both his grandfathers were Yale men.

Nicely done. So I guess the question on the minds of such Establishment types is how they can manage to condescend most properly with the masses. Isn't that what public service is all about?

Posted by mbowen at 08:43 AM | TrackBack

When Capitalists Collide

"What do you give the man who has everthing? A little more rope."

It's easy to forget the forces that actually run things. Very rarely, I think, do we get an opportunity to see and hear the real scoop. If you stop and think about a job that would be excellent to have, there is probably none as choice as owning a seat on the NYSE. These are the marketmakers, the demiurges of capitalism itself. 1,366 masters of the universe who make money just by allowing people to try to make money. It doesn't get much sweeter than that.

The dynamic of such an organization would be fascinating to know, but for today a bit of schadenfreude is quite enough.

Posted by mbowen at 08:28 AM | TrackBack

September 12, 2003

See You in the Funny Papers

I'm pleased to announced that Cobb the Comic aka Cobb's Neighborhood was selected to be included in this weekend's upcoming BTD Comic Special. A special shout out goes to my peeps at BS for encouraging me, to Kaddar my ghost and to Sean-Paul Kelley, my blogfather.

in honor of this momentous occasion just after my one year anniversary, I have created a blogroll icon for my readers to show off their class, sophistication and gobs of intellectual leisure.

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The Breaking Point

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Not Gay

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Posted by mbowen at 10:23 AM | TrackBack

On Knowing When to Shutup

I'm going to post this graf from the Poor Man, and then a bunch of comics and then chill out for the day.

Fouad Ajami has this bit arguing that anti-Americanism (*stifled yawn*) predates the Bush doctrine of behaving stupidly on the international stage and making us look stupid. It's nothing terribly new, and I suppose I either agree with or have no frame of reference for its specific claims, but it's worth mentioning because A) it advocates the correct attitude of "who cares" towards international opinions about America, particularly those 90% whose opinions are completely decoupled from reality; and B) it poo-poo's the notion that the war in Iraq is a bad idea because a ot of foreigners think so, although it neglects to point out that the war in Iraq is a bad idea because it just is. It's amazing to me that otherwise smart people will point towards polls of global "man on the street" attitudes as evidence of something, as A) anyone who has ever taken a public bus or listened to a call-in radio show* should know that your fellow human beings, or at least those who are willing to share their opinions with strangers, are totally barking, and B) anyone who has ever looked at the Billboard top 50 chart must know that anything large numbers of people agree on is complete bullshit. However, having correctly said "who cares", effectively pointing out that this well-worn topic is not worth discussing yet again, this article goes ahead and exists anyway. I suggest that we move past the point of saying we don't care, and get on to the serious business of not caring, and focus perhaps on how much we've fucked up everything. Also, I'm afraid that it's a short trip from anguishing over this sort of thing to this sort of thing, which is so irresponsible it boggles even this already well-boggled mind.

Posted by mbowen at 10:16 AM | TrackBack

Lies and Socialism in California

Jill Stewart is right. She is almost always right. This time she's exceptionally right.

On Bustamante:

He well knows, or sure as hell ought to know by now, that an in-depth state audit showed only 19% of illegals bother to file taxes, and the best data on illegal immigrants, from the late 1990s National Academy of Sciences study, shows that each citizen-headed household in California pays out a net extra $1,178 to shore up 3 million mostly low-income illegal immigrants. Bustamante also knows that underground cash-for-work economy created by the 3 million illegal immigrants in California is one reason income taxes paid to California state coffers are so out of balance.

On Creeping Socialism

Senate Bill 2 comes closer to socialism than anything I've seen heading for approval in 20 years. It would force California's hard-hit small and medium-sized businesses, with 20 or more employees, to pay 80 percent of employees' health coverage. Companies with more than 200 employees would be forced to pay that for the whole family. Even part-timers get this big perk.

SB 2 will spawn layoffs as small businesses pare down to get below the 20-employee cutoff. Bigger struggling companies will close.

It is widely known among insiders that key details of SB 2, by state Sen. John Burton, were ghost-written by the Service Employees International Union. I am told Davis recently chatted with the SEIU about this dog. Then, miraculously, the SEIU handed Davis a check for $250,000 a few days ago.

On Davis' Mendacity

Davis says he'll sign SB 18, giving the obscure Native American Heritage Commission the power to stop development on anyone's land in California if tribes feel construction interferes with a sacred site anywhere in the region.

Initially, this turkey included a five-mile zone around each sacred site, meaning construction could be challenged five miles down the freeway from a burial grounds or other site.

SB 18 was idiotic, and opposition by cities was intense. But Sacramento is Backwards World. So its authors (Burton again, and also ditzy San Diego Democrat state Sen. Denise Ducheny) changed the law. Now, tribes can challenge development even further removed from sacred sites. Now, there's no five-mile limit at all.

Hmm.. this isn't really blogging is it? It's more like Glen Reynoldsing.

Posted by mbowen at 10:06 AM | TrackBack

September 11, 2003

The End of MEChA

Several days ago, I started to get into the debate on identity politics. I didn't want to and I wrote 'Stoopid' instead, got flamed for that. Today, I started trying to be fair and balanced and give it another shot, but I just don't think it's worth it to go the length. So I will fall back to material I've already written and leave logical conclusions as an exercise for the reader.
Invitations to White Citizenship

FWIW, here is the direction I was going vis a vis compare & contrast. Bottom line, whose identity politics are the worst? Whitefolks'.

(From the Archives 9/7/03)

I'm a bit disappointed that I am still talking about MEChA after a week. I'm sick of untyping the capital 'H' in the acronym, I'm sick of being bogged down in this racial traffic, and I'm tired of finding the same arguments all over the chatting, blogging and investor classes. If that's not bad enough, even the good news that Proposition 54 seems to be going down in flames hasn't lifted my spirits. I am stuck in an old pair of race man's shoes. Where there is no hero, you be the hero. Today I am concerned about the future of multiculturalism. I percieve a reluctance, in some backlash against MEChA, to get below the surface of the rage which fuels them in their identity politics. We should care, because whether we like it or not, the American mainstream must absorb Mechistas or destroy them. It was in reading an old essay of mine about black rage that this idea crystalized. That story was in black and white but the plot is the same.
I think the benchmark would be something to the effect that the race of a candidate would have no bearing on whether that individual was more or less likely to satisfy the black constituency. Furthermore, putting a dupe in with 'the right color skin' would also be unacceptable. The proper candidate should be able to articulate issues and resolve them in such a way that they serve the black constituency in direct response to their needs, without isolating them. But this is something, across many issues; mainstream politicians have been singularly unable to do. This forces blacks to seek more radical ways and means of achieving their political ends.
What do Mechistas want that politicians could deliver? Well, let us consider La Raza, as in Los Angeles' Plaza de La Raza.
The incorporation of Plaza de la Raza was a pivotal point in the cultural history of the Chicano community in Los Angeles. Based on the concept of the town plaza around which the economic, social, political, and cultural life of people in Hispanic communities revolved, Plaza de la Raza was conceived as a cultural-educational center, to serve the Chicano/Latino community in Los Angeles by promoting Hispanic forms of artistic and cultural expression. Also significant to development of the plaza were the leadership and involvement of Chicano/ Latino actors and actresses, business people, and others associated with film, communications, and miscellaneous other industries in Southern California. This is one of the identifiably ethnic endeavors the established Chicano/Latino middle and upper middle classes enthusiastically support and in which they have become intimately involved. In providing financial support and donating their talents and their time, members of the Chicano/Latino middle class are affirming and re-affirming their Chicano or Latino identity, which many had to deny or reject in order to achieve success in the racially discriminatory film and communications industries. Some of the people who have been central to the development and success of the plaza are members of NOSOTROS, the Chicano/Latino film actors organization.
But I'm certain it is more than just images and messages from the film industry that concern those people who would join the identity politics of the Mechistas.
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Moment of Silence

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September 10, 2003


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So I've Been Told: Social Theory

Distributive Justice has some interesting quizzes. I've been taking these so often recently, just to check my own head, that I might create a category 'So I've Been Told'.

Aside from the ahistorical wierdness of imposing a theory of society on people and the attendant violence implicit in the assumptions of revolution, it's an interesting idea that somebody might just decide on some rules for society. Nevertheless, the very name 'Distributive Justice' gives me the creeps. It makes me think of a horde of Wall Street Brokers and Socialists in an auction of the goods and services of the world. Did I mention crap table pit bosses? Yeah them too.

It comes as a pleasant surprise to me that I am in favor of (as much as can be determined) a Meritocracy and that I am a Right Libertarian. Seeing that Hayek, whom I have only recently discovered and Robert Nozick, whom I've admired for some time, are also Right Libertarians gives me a good deal of comfort as I explain myself.

My reservations against Hayek will come into focus over time, but there is something about the Pluralist theory that strikes me as correct as well. People do see themselves multidimensionally - they take comfort that if they're not so smart, at least they're pretty hot looking, and if neither of those, they can kick the ass of those who are. There are a million ways to get your own self-esteem, but it seems to me that they are only legitimated to the extent that there are no restrictions on the way people can be recognized and rewarded in society. That means that a pluralist architecture needs to reside within the individual not in the Department of Approved Esteems. This is already happening, but only in societies where the lot of these values are fungible via money. It's OK to want to be Brittany Spears, so long as she makes money. It's also OK to want to be Al Sharpton, so long as he gets money. We can be whatever and sustain ourselves in a free market economy of esteems. We can even experiment and want to be Marilyn Manson. The price of that desire is unsustainable.

Dworkin's theory just strikes me as twisted. It may be the way the summary was written, but I don't see how anyone can make sense of it.

Right Libertarianism is mostly perfect except that it doesn't account for the Commons. The role of government is to force a space in which individualism doesn't work and that the rules of the market don't apply. It is the seed space that anchors the entire system, it is the uncorruptible kernel and lynchpin of Libertarian freedom, it is the well of stuff that is free, the glue of society and the Goedelian exception that completes the system. The contract of the Libertarian society is to retain that civilizing force. This degrades the efforts of everyone, but recharges the system.

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Red Letter Day

This is what vindication sounds like:

• Iraqis are optimistic. Seven out of 10 say they expect their country and their personal lives will be better five years from now. On both fronts, 32% say things will become much better.

• The toughest part of reconstructing their nation, Iraqis say by 3 to 1, will be politics, not economics. They are nervous about democracy. Asked which is closer to their own view--"Democracy can work well in Iraq," or "Democracy is a Western way of doing things"--five out of 10 said democracy is Western and won't work in Iraq. One in 10 wasn't sure. And four out of 10 said democracy can work in Iraq. There were interesting divergences. Sunnis were negative on democracy by more than 2 to 1; but, critically, the majority Shiites were as likely to say democracy would work for Iraqis as not. People age 18-29 are much more rosy about democracy than other Iraqis, and women are significantly more positive than men.

• Asked to name one country they would most like Iraq to model its new government on from five possibilities--neighboring, Baathist Syria; neighbor and Islamic monarchy Saudi Arabia; neighbor and Islamist republic Iran; Arab lodestar Egypt; or the U.S.--the most popular model by far was the U.S. The U.S. was preferred as a model by 37% of Iraqis selecting from those five--more than Syria, Iran and Egypt put together. Saudi Arabia was in second place at 28%. Again, there were important demographic splits. Younger adults are especially favorable toward the U.S., and Shiites are more admiring than Sunnis. Interestingly, Iraqi Shiites, coreligionists with Iranians, do not admire Iran's Islamist government; the U.S. is six times as popular with them as a model for governance.

• Our interviewers inquired whether Iraq should have an Islamic government, or instead let all people practice their own religion. Only 33% want an Islamic government; a solid 60% say no. A vital detail: Shiites (whom Western reporters frequently portray as self-flagellating maniacs) are least receptive to the idea of an Islamic government, saying no by 66% to 27%. It is only among the minority Sunnis that there is interest in a religious state, and they are split evenly on the question.

• Perhaps the strongest indication that an Islamic government won't be part of Iraq's future: The nation is thoroughly secularized. We asked how often our respondents had attended the Friday prayer over the previous month. Fully 43% said "never." It's time to scratch "Khomeini II" from the list of morbid fears.

• You can also cross out "Osama II": 57% of Iraqis with an opinion have an unfavorable view of Osama bin Laden, with 41% of those saying it is a very unfavorable view. (Women are especially down on him.) Except in the Sunni triangle (where the limited support that exists for bin Laden is heavily concentrated), negative views of the al Qaeda supremo are actually quite lopsided in all parts of the country. And those opinions were collected before Iraqi police announced it was al Qaeda members who killed worshipers with a truck bomb in Najaf.

• And you can write off the possibility of a Baath revival. We asked "Should Baath Party leaders who committed crimes in the past be punished, or should past actions be put behind us?" A thoroughly unforgiving Iraqi public stated by 74% to 18% that Saddam's henchmen should be punished.

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September 09, 2003

Making Ends

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Political Multidimensionality

It has been a while since I've heard a good new idea. Here are some principles, fuzzily stated that are at the core of good thinking.

Imagine the standard Nolan Chart, but pretend at first that only economic liberties are at issue, that only that left-right spectrum counts. You can use the standard Downsian analysis to predict (under first-past-the-post, winner-take=all) a pair of dominant coalitions (parties) situated just far enough from the median to deter third party entrants. Call those points at which the parties form the consensus points. Now, drop that second axis, personal liberties, into play. Depending on the distribution of voter preferences in this new 2-D opinion-space, the consensus points shift, not only up and down, but also along the original left-right axis. You can drop a third line representing some other issue (foreign policy, abortion, etc.) and repeat the shift in 3-D space, and in principle on into N-dimensional space for N issues. (Each of "economic" and "personal" freedom are conflations of positions on a range of sub-dimensions, which could be represented as separate dimensions as they grew salient.)

My point exactly.

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Waiting For The One Day

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Fatigue and Ennui

Aside from the fact that I still don't have a job, the great paving over of Iraq and implanting of Wal-Marts has not come quickly enough. So I am less than enthused these days. This is the point at which amatuers like me show our true colors and leave the boring details of statecraft in ruins to the professionals.

Iraq seems to be a destitute pit of petty political conflict, like 20s era Chicago politics with AK47s and RPGs. This is not news worth listening to. The great purge has taken place and now the society is tattered and torn, not in ruins mind you, but stripped of its authoritarian hand, in undisciplined chaos. The great question of present day Iraq is whose law and order will triumph, and under what conditions. It's something of a boring question despite the fact that it is tremendously important.

The President has spoken at length Sunday night. I don't listen to him any longer. David Brooks, who is not wearing his partisanship well - and that's a good thing - says that the Bush administration tries desparately to remain blameless. I think at some point soon, those who fell in love with him as they fell in love for Ronald Reagan are going to have to start finding clever arguments to explain the contradictions of his performance. They needn't do so. They should just admit that he's mediocre, and Ashcroft is only marginally better than Ed Meese.

The California Zoo looks to have worked in spite of its idocy. Bustamante and Schwartzenegger are the leading candidates, as it should be. Paleos are out of the running and Prop 54 is going to be beat down by minority dollars. This will end well.

Who cares about one federal judgeship? Not me.

So that's all there is. The deficit is coming, Bush will lose in 2004, the Democrats are still losers and everybody is going to go all mushy and somber in a couple days. Trolling the blogosphere for exclamation points is less exciting this week, besides I've got more comics to write.

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September 08, 2003


yO dis be tha one N only Vicki a.k.a the illest azn babi! I'm from the yay area always laughin it up wid my gurl cutty bang(er) corina. She tha black N Korean one on the left. The one in tha middle is my lil filipina Daryl and of course I'm the one on the right wid the brown shirt! Anyway, I'm Chinese, Vietnamese, Nepali and I gotz sum Polynesian in me as well. I'm sure I'm da only person (besides my bRothEr) dat gotz my nationality N i'm sho damn proud ta be wut I am. Everybody always be askin me and coco wat we are and it gets so annoyin at times but its also kinda flatterin ya feel? I get a lot of different nationalities and its kinda fun ta be lookin like sumthin I ain't but deep inside I kno wat I am N dats all dat matters. I truly h8 dem perps who be tellin ppl dey somethin cuz dey too ahamed of wut dey really are. So fa all ya'll out dere who I'm talkin bOut.. think of yO "People" who made u who u are. So always take claim to what u are and don't complain bOut wat u ain't. God made you the way you are so theres nothing to be asahmed of. Anyway... i'm out! God Bless.

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That's My Boy

I don't live in Columbine. I live in Redondo Beach, CA 90277.

My boy and I went for a long walk this evening, and as is his habit, he tried to wrangle out of me some promises for his next birthday. He's 9 and will be 10 next February. The prospect of him being a decade old is fascinating and he has all kinds of big plans.

He wants a whole load of gadgets from the Edmund Scientific catalog. He already has the big ear, assorted magnets, a fairly beat up optics set, and gyroscope. Now he wants weather prediction gear. He wants Halo2 of course, and he wants a snowboarding trip.

We talked about his future more. He wants to make biomedical devices. OK I'm just saying that he does, but he described to me out of the blue wouldn't it be cool scenarios if you could put special chips in blind people's foreheads that would help them see, or maybe sensors in their hands 'that would send impulses through their nerves up to their brains so they wouldn't walk off a cliff'. He's got my streak of Wile E. Coyote in him, that's for sure.

He's very glad to be back in school, and he's finally reading Danny Dunn. I think every geek dad looks forward to the day that their kids start reading Danny Dunn. So I can tell you I'm proud and all that.

I raised a more somber note which I take as a sign that it's a good thing to live where I live in the company of young men like my son. I told him that September 11th was coming soon and if he thought we should do something special.

He thought about it for a while and finally announced, "We should go bodysurfing." Then asked me how big a seven foot wave is. "Pretty big and scary", I replied. "But I think you'll be able to handle it."

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Of course I'm out of my mind. I'm all blackified and getting all bent out of shape about MECHA and 54 and some stoopid catfight over at blogcritics. People are asking me wack questions about being a republican and I'm taking it much to seriously. Then I run over to and publish some stuff I wrote 7 years ago on Black Rage. Man I need a break from all this madness.

So these are the things I am doing to put my head back on straight and get that goddamned job and get all these boobears outta my head.

First, I'm re-geeking. I've got three nice computers right here at my desk. I'm going to install Teradata and crank up some fake data with my script...

(been doing it)

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Irony or Madness?

You decide.

From The Black Republican:

Fast forward a century plus change, and the image of the Republican Party has been molded by the Democrats into a caricature of a redneck Klansman's convention. That image ought not be so prevalent, not the least reason being it isn't true, but also because many of the greatest conservative thinkers of our day are blacks, including Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, Alan Keyes, Armstrong Williams, and Ward Connerly.

As a citizen representing the most despised demographic of today (white men), I thought there wasn't much I could do about it. Then one man changed all that. I've been reading blogs for a while, but I never had much of a desire to write one until Good 'Ol Boy Trent put every Republican's right leg in his mouth. I couldn't sit still any longer, and wanted to speak my mind. I thought to myself, "That old 'Black Republican' Lincoln would have a cow if he saw what we've become."

Remember 'Men on Film' from In Living Color? This guy doesn't get two snaps up, but one for balls. My advice to Mr. O'Conor? Read Cloudsplitter and recognize what a real steel skeleton abolitionist is all about. Lincoln was a wimp.

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Hang the Flag Properly

If you're going to be a blackneck, the least you can do is hang the flag properly.

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September 07, 2003

You're What?

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Ammonium What?

I am currently reading Dick Marcinko's 'Violence of Action', a literary action movie about some terrorist organization that threatens Portland with a suitcase nuke. It's a great guide for recognizing the tools of the trade, that is if you are a field operative in CT.

I've learned a lot about tactical goodies like H&K USP 45 Compacts and Leupold & Stevens Mark 4s. Having read Red Cell as well as several others in the Rogue Warrior series, I find Marcinko a credible and pleasant alternative to Littel and Ludlum. Marcinko is all first person expletive narrative instead third person geopolitical omnicient. He gets you inside the bones of a warrior who has to do the moderately impossible at the behest of Pentagon 'puss-nuts', which is much better for the suspension of disbelief than following a Jason Bourne around the globe. When 'Demo Dick' gets his hand on a weapon, or outfits his crew, you really get a feel for how important skills and alertness and exasperating, excruciating discipline is necessary in this, the most dangerous work you're glad you never have to do. So when he starts talking about suitcase nukes, SADMs, you really start to believe they exist in reality.

So let us consider the probability that suitcase nukes exist in reality in significant numbers. Let's imagine further that 3 are loose.

If Saddam Hussein had one, how would we know? How could we know? And what of Al Qaeda?

OK so now we've taken two steps away from proveable reality. Let's go all the way across the gap to Bali. This gap will never be bridged for the civilian public.

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September 06, 2003

How Gay is Gay?

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Oh You Mean That La Raza

A bit to my amazement on NPR this afternoon, I caught a snippet of conversation mentioning 'La Raza'. I hope those of more journalistic discipline explain patiently for those who need it, the connections between GWBush's gubernatorial campaign in Texas and The National Council of La Raza. What I was hearing from one of their spokesfolks was that the Republican Party in Texas had an outreach program to Hispanics that was second-to-none. At some point we should all recall in 2000, all arms were open and lips smiling when GWBush was butchering his Spanish even handedly with his English butchery. Chances are NCLR was more than just casually involved in his presidential campaign as well.

Surely some sharp eyed blogger will find nice links between that La Raza, Hispanic lip service and GWBush's interests in assuring rhetorical feet stay out of mouths vis a vis California. Somebody is watching very carefully what AS will or will not say.

Between California and Texas, Republicans need to get their Latino story straight.

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'Splaining To Do

The Fair Political Practices Commission has filed suit against Ward Connerly for not disclosing the contributors of nearly $2 million in campaign funds for Proposition 54.


UPDATE: Bustamante is diverting his multimillion dollar indian-gaming warchest in an all-out campaign against Prop 54.

Double Yay.

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Affirmative Action Metastasized

I've recently found a rather interesting website that doesn't deserve traffic. Its host is a big fan of the Fourth Turning theories. I recall when 4T first came online. I got involved as boohab. From those archives (June 1997) , these comments on Affirmative Action:

the creation of affirmative action was a political compromise born a generation ago. the idea was fundamentally that economic concessions to blacks in the form of highly visible jobs within lilly white institutions would avert conflicts in the street. this was the cynical rationale behind nixon's executive order as well as the peace-minded rationale behind james farmer's demands representing the congress of racial equality (especially in the context & form of cashier's jobs in southern supermarkets). the direct alternative to this integrative, cherry picking, appeasement was the strategy of malcolm x. to paraphrase 'no sell out'. when america had thousands of negroes marching in the streets demanding economic justice and the possibility existed for martin luther king to strike up deals with labor unions and call for national black strikes, the ground was set for the integrative balm of affirmative action. i find it most curious that this history is ignored especially in light of recent conservatives professed admiration of louis farrakhan's (crude) echoes of malcolm x call for black power, independent of affirmative action concessions of the white power structure.

affirmative action has metasticized in several primary directions.

  1. into the mushpot of 'diversity',
  2. into the hardball realpolitik of set-asides and quotas,
  3. into the earnest strivings against the glass cieling
  4. into the deception of race-norming.
  5. into several practical management methodologies such as the army's manpower planning method, and those affirmed by the business roundtable under bob dole such as balanced workforce
  6. into marketing and outreach into minority labor and education pools.

the bottom line is, however, that affirmative action is a political compromise born out of a white political fear of black independence as exhibited at its inception by thinkers such as malcolm x who rejected the token integrationism of affirmative action on the grounds of black power and integrity. and the reality of affirmative action is to date, that white women have benefitted more than any other group.

so, there are a lot of excuses given based on narrow interpretations of the scope of affirmative action programs which assert that it is a cause for racial conflict. i would say that the nature of racial conflict remains the same - white people upset that they must share working or schooling environments with people they consider inferior - and affirmative action is just a scapegoat.

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Gay Heaven

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One of these days, I'm going to take several things seriously. This information for example. I have a hard time getting around the fact that I don't take it seriously.

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The End of the Road[map]

People who think the current administration is completely doofus have some reason to pat themselves on the back over the dead bodies that will be piling up in Palestine & Israel soon. I'm just going to hang my head in embarrassment and shame.

Abbas is gone, Palestine reverts to the defense of Hamas. Pathetic.

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September 05, 2003

The Revolution

What were the ends of Black Nationalism? Have they been accomplished? Have they been partially accomplished? If so, for whom? If not, is Black Nationalism still useful? Who should be using it, to accomplish what, and how can it be considered complete? Is Black Nationalism a never ending story? Does it continue forever? How much attention does it require?

These questions, by and large, are settled for me. I bring them up because they go to the core of the African American Project, that is to say what is it that future historians will write about the African influence on America through the culture, presence and politics of its people? Who knows? Such questions are intimately bound up with questions of Republicanism and other expressions of black politics commensurate with our history. By asserting my own Republicanism I don't feel that I am doing anything particularly out of step with the standing, status or progress of my generation and class of African Americans. If only one out of 36 African Americans is Republican, that is more than enough good company. The question then is whether this represents progress, regession or denial.

Let's get a couple things straight. Whatever black politics is, it is not revolutionary. There is no revolution to be televised, so in that respect Gil was right.The Fire Next Time will be put out by next Wednesday. America has assimilated our worst and our best. We have changed the shape of its skeleton, but we have not transfigured the beast, nor will we leap from its body and clone a MiniMe of America, nor will we destroy it.

Revolution in America would look like revolution anywhere else. But there is no warfare going on. The Crips and Bloods are not revolutionaries. It's not because they are not too stupid or misguided to use terror tactics. Things simply are not bad enough for them. They needn't revolt. Their backs are up against ghetto walls, but there is too much ghetto heaven available to them.

I'm going to try an assertion here, which is that if blacks were an 'endangered species' and all the black men in jail constituted a real threat to the continuation of the people, black women would be standing for their men to fight an die in street battles against violent, systematic oppression. That is not where we are and it is not where we will be again.

The Army is too black and brown for America to return to the violent racial divisions of the 1968.

I don't believe that there is anything special about African Americans. What I mean by that is that we are neither extra strong nor extra punked for moving as we have through American society from slavery to freedom. If our slavery was worse, if our culture could not have survived it, we would have been eliminated. If our slavery was lighter we would have moved forward faster. If we were merely slaves and not pariahs in a racial caste, things would have been different as well.

We are where we are and that is in partial bourgie brotherhood with our fellow Americans. We all agree that formal education is key to our progress. That says everything about our status as a people. When you choose education over revolt, you are in bourgie brotherhood. Pick a socioeconomic class, aim, free your mind and your ass will follow.

This is a short introduction to a hell of a lot of things I don't have the patience to get in under 2000 words. That's because I'm trying to get Cygwin/XFree86 working with my headless RH 9. I'm punking out to geekdom, but since nobody's shooting I don't feel a moments remorse. Anyway this is to pick up on the provocation of black stances implied all over the place. I simply think we need to put thoughts of revolution to bed and then ask where the momentum of black nationalism ought to go.

I think if Malcolm were alive, he'd be Republican, as a necessary means to economic progress.

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Hard Work

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Animal Rights

Over at S. Buck, there is a great, but flawed, argument which gives credibility to that idea that animal rights are not inherent to the animals but are only in the eye of the beholder.

But if one believes that animals have intrinsic rights (even if they're not equal to ours) and it is the duty of society to protect these rights, then society is duty-bound to protect seals not only from hunters, but from polar bears and orcas! Because human beings have intrinsic rights, the police are obligated to come to my aid whether I'm being attacked by an assailant or an alligator. It doesn't matter who or what is interfering with my right to preservation, the police will help me because they protect my basic rights. If animals had similarly intrinsic rights, it wouldn't matter what was hurting them, man or animal, either. But while the police will stop a man from beating a chicken, they won't stop the fox with a chicken in its jaws (except to protect the property rights of a rancher that owns the chicken).

My suspicion is that libertarians think it's wrong for people to kill seals or beat dogs, but don't believe its wrong for an orca to bite off a seal's flipper or for a bear to maul a dog. No advocacy group is pressuring government to protect seals from bears, pheasants from foxes, or rabbits from hawks.

The author takes this syllogism into a weird direction about who is religious and who isn't, but it's very illustrative.

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That's My Daddy

This man is not actually my father, but he could play him on TV. This man is actually the actor Clifton Davis. He once played a far less sophisticated individual in a 1974 television show called 'That's My Momma'. A momma's boy is what he played. You cannot stare at this picture without recognizing that this is a scene from a television show that has never been made. Nor can I think of a movie.

Is he a law professor? A drama critic? A biomedical engineer?

UPDATE: He's not in any films in current release.

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All in a Day's Work

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The Flat Universe

(from the archives - april 2000)

85:382) 27-APR-2000 20:59 Michael D. C. Bowen (mbowen)

i'm tired. i just feel like writing something or talking somewhere. i wonder these days if my fatigue is a sign of chronic impatience. i don't want to spend the energy to get someplace that's supposed to be good for me, and so i claim to be tired. i make snap judgements in my mind and wait for the right miniseries to bear out my claim. i point to the artifact and say 'i thought of that'. when the artifact contradicts my reasoning, i shrug it off.

i have a cousin with a great big house in south pasadena. she's an attorney of some sort and never shows up to family gatherings. i imagine winning the silicon lottery and hiring an old shaggy man to pretend to be me, and cuss her out from a 1963 ford pickup across the street. she'll feel justified. i'll feel vindicated. i don't use capital letters, as you know. if you're interested in finding out what i think, you take the trouble to translate. if my cousin cared about her family, she'd make time to come to my daughter's 5th birthday party.

idealab is just around the corner from here. they've got mary meeker and jack welch. i don't want to move to silicon valley any more. i want to stay here in pasadena, but jobs at idealab are invitation only. of course i can do the work, but i was so interested in doing the work that i didn't bother getting an advanced degree from a fancy university. my resume is in lower case. feh. half of their incubated companies are boring anyway. i wonder if it's worth it to do something spectacular, like show up at the door in my hollywood suit. i look very cool and intelligent in my new half-height tortoise sheel eyeglasses and black ribbed t-shirt. somebody says goatees don't indicate genius any longer in the post-correction new economy. i wear mine for other reasons.

depression-era millionaires who live in seclusion will always be with us, according to today's los angeles times. they always give their money away to cancer research. fucking idiots. nobody ever cures cancer, you're supposed to die of cancer. give the money to kids who need to learn algebra. buy them machines that automatically capitalize their typing. old people get on my nerves, especially those who still reminisce about their property during the days of bautista. lots of old people need to die, lots of big properties behind gates need to be liberated, lots of gardeners need to rebel, lots of tv cameras need to go to different places - my internal arguments are not being brought to market quickly enough.

perhaps if i could get short subjects portrayed. you know, like mr. show. but something with a really hard edge, that you'd have to put on hbo. i mean cause when you really think about it, dennis miller is happy and so is chris rock. how the hell are they supposed to challenge us when they're so damn rich and happy? i want to air the vignette when elian gets shot in the head. not by janet reno, not by fidel castro, but by somebody's aunt mabel whose niece just got run over by a truck. she has been crying for 7 days in front of the television set while everybody tries to figure out how to calm the nerves of somebody who has an ap photographer on call. aunt mabel lives in south dakota. remember south dakota? she's a biafran refugee who walked to lagos and snuck onto a liberian flagged freighter bound for elizabeth, new jersey. she was raped by the crew and tossed overboard as they started unloading the containers, but she made it to america.

we've discovered that the universe is flat, but like cardboard. does that make us masters of the universe? they say that we can't experience the fourth dimension, but that it effects us nevertheless. what if the fourth dimension were knowledge and that knowledge is somehow linked to causation? how can you learn things and know things like the shape of the universe, a problem that's been a mystery since the dawn of man and there not be some profound physical manifestation of that knowledge? knowledge must have mass and propeties like chemical bonds and protien folding stuff. it can't just be arbitrarily created and destroyed. when you know something you get a burden; i certainly feel the burden of knowledge. maybe that's what i've been trying to do, navigate in the fouth dimension. my brain goes places that my body can't reach, and so i'm always tired. i have feelings of dislocation. yet somehow everything fits and relates back to everything else.

this morning i tried to throw a piece of trash out of my car. the sunroof blew it back in. the side window blew it back in. i wanted to prove a point, that litter helps the economy in a butterfly effect. a dirty street warrants more street cleaning, which requires longer work from the garbage union workers, which raises the tax burden, which motivates politicians to speak up against castro. maybe it's a good thing that it blew back. i'll save it for the next time we light the fireplace at my brother's house and sit back to drink coffee and baileys. i'll burn my own trash, fuck the economy. but i guess my rebellion against the economy is part of the economy too, especially the tax economy of the south coast air quality management district.

it's very hot here in southern california this week. i can't explain it. last year, they say, was the warmest winter ever. ever what? ever since they started counting. average temperatures were up by one degree. doesn't sound like much. my boss always tells me not to try and boil the ocean. maybe he can sense the mental thermodynamics of my brains' fourth dimensional navigations. bosses have that ability; they call your office from hundreds of miles away right when you have your laptop blasting chick corea. stupid me, i use the speakerphone. because i have my feet up, and i'm wearing my cool new eyeglasses.

i'm tired. i have a big status report to finish by next tuesday's conference call. there are eight subject headers, mostly having to do with sales and marketing. i was supposed to be an exalted programmer. ha, those were the ambitions of 1982, now it's all about the benjamins baby. somebody has got to change the way millionaires behave in this country. i'm just the man for the job. vote bowen for millionaire, i promise to hire poor people and pay them to cuss out rich people. there's a hella charity. i like that economy. i'll even videotape it. maybe even get an ap cameraman.

now i feel better. i must have made a connection out there in the fourth dimension. maybe i opened up a subspace channel between lagos, miami, south dakota, pasadena, silicon valley and everywhere else readers on the web come from.

it's very reassuring to know that the universe is a flat organization.

Posted by mbowen at 08:58 AM | TrackBack

Safety First

Posted by mbowen at 01:35 AM | TrackBack

The Tibbs Threshold

I have been called to clarify, and so I repost something from the archives: (June 1996)

...yes of course that's true, but in the absence of a wise and patient moderator, you get flamewars of immense dimensions. as we speak, one of the single most popular newsgroups in usenet is having its civility destroyed. it's one of the reasons i'm here more often despite the relatively low throughput of webchat. (props for motet though, it's my favorite).

however as regards the presence of non blacks in open discussions relating to black culture, experience always tells us that the fact that there are non-blacks present with the best intentions and qualities is not a sufficient condition for confidence. there are always mauraders and jokers who are capable of disrupting or destroying the environment necessary for intercultural communication. i don't know exactly why it happens, but when this occurs, there isn't often much that can be done to salvage the space. rather than risk that, many black folks look for 'members only' groups.

the interesting thing is that advocacy of free speech is a weak arguement which always tends to favor the marauders. in unmoderated fora in which an indeterminate number of participants have access to and competence with bozo tools, determined marauders can make mincemeat out of a cybersociety. with racial topics, it's easily accomplished. free speech arguments tend to privilege 'controversial' cyber 'actions' but not vengeful ones.

for example. let's say that jimrutt got on my last nerve. (personally, i find jim a good adversary most of the time and would never bozo him out) and that his opinion on a subject tangential to black culture, i found not only wrong but downright insulting. to my sophisticated sensibility as a black man, i might find that he has crossed a line at which i am justified in smacking him. that line for me might make no sense whatsoever to many non-blacks. i call it the 'tibbs threshold' after the fictional character played by sidney poitier. in their own environment, the idea that a black man might be so offended that he would strike a white man is something reserved for a short list of offenses. use of the n-word, perhaps. however for mr. tibbs, of elevated bearing and stern stuff, potential offenders have much less breathing room and rightfully so. however if i were to not only bozo him but mailbomb him or advocate his censure, i would be considered out of line. that divide between my supporters and my detractors is almost always racially polarized.

this kind of transaction manifests itself daily in cyberspace. white folks in black oriented fora, sometimes find themselves saying things which they may themselves think controversial but not offensive and wind up virtually smacked by a crowd of tibbs of whom they were not aware. they feel victimized by a racial conspiracy of 'groupthink' and 'self-segregation' unable to grasp the gravity of error. others go overboard, believing from day one that they are surrounded by a crowd of tibbs, and tiptoe quietly around any controversy to the point at which they lurk. white lurkers in black fora always give black folks the creeps.

does the principle of free speech invite marauders yet proscribe the black virtual smack? does the presumption of invalidity of 'ad hominum' attacks fly in the face of a culture imbued with the ritual of the dozens? in my experience, the answer to both of these questions is yes..

Posted by mbowen at 12:35 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 04, 2003

Mac Diva Dissed

Every once in a while, it's interesting to see the kind of bullshit intelligent black women have to put up with. If you have an occasion to enjoy racial archeology, there's a fresh dig over at Blogcritics.

Check it out before they start deleting stuff and issuing ass-backwards apologies.

UPDATE: Also read this thread on the meta fallout. Especially comment #104.

Posted by mbowen at 10:16 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The Demiurge

I really like the word 'demiurge'. Back in my 30s when I was reading Delaney's trilogy of Neveryon, I came across a feminist creation myth. It was amazing to hear. Around that time I was reading Robert Bly too, being fascinated by the power of myth and archetype, etc. So every once in a while I would hunt around for another creation myth - it was going to be my way of.. hmm. I don't even want to talk about it, but I had visions of being a great oral storyteller. I still might do so when I'm old enough. Telling creation myths seemed like a good start. So I found one from the Akan.

The Akan don't believe in life after death. They believe that the Supreme Being created both life and death. If the SB didn't respect its own creation, it couldn't be supreme. So it had to live and die. While the Supreme Being was alive, it created the Demiurge and the Demiurge subsequently created the Universe.

That's what demiurges do, they are all action. A demiurge is something you point and shoot. A demiurge gets things done; they are prodigious creators. A demiurge always has the indelible mark of its creator. Its actions are always exemplary of the mind of its supreme being. It is worth noting that no matter how grand the creations of a demiurge, the demiurge itself is not worthy of worship. A demiurge is not a god, rather like Bruce Almighty, it is an entity endowed with supernatural powers. A demiurge is reflexive, it is a sentient tool of fabrication, but it doesn't necessarily understand why it creates or the value of its creation.

I often think of human geniuses as those who approach demiurgic capacity. Since I am conservative, I do not expect to actually see God in people, rather the hand of God. Jesus is not coming back to the earth as a bum. There will be no further incarnation, but the demiurgic evidence of God's creation makes the work of God self-evident already. One needn't wait for a messiah among men. For the sake of brevity I'll simply say God's actual presence would destroy free will. God would not disrespect His own creation. So you can see that I think all messianics are deluded. So if I have a small gripe with the Nicene creed it might be that 'coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead'. I can't take it literally; I cannot see any particular generation of humans meriting the second coming. (On the other hand, this line of inquiry begs questions of our meriting a first coming, but I'll not go so deep. Let me just say that we may be the fifth instantiation of the Matrix). I would further argue that true genius is demiurgic. The prophets are demiurgic in their domain.

Posted by mbowen at 08:09 PM | TrackBack

Assassin Fashion

Posted by mbowen at 06:14 PM | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 06:05 PM | TrackBack

A Slim Shady Lurkin'

I laughed today. You should too. This will do it. I promise.

Posted by mbowen at 06:04 PM | TrackBack

The Scourge of Brevity

I am here.

That is bad.

I could be there but I am not. There is employment. It's going on six weeks and we're looking around the garage for things to sell.

This morning my wife and I were looking at her resume and putting together some cover letters. Also, I got a callback from one of the agents I spammed yesterday after hearing the bad news from a company that I have been dancing with for eight weeks only to get knocked out in the final seconds. That's a story that will not be told, but I will say this: ... never mind. I won't. I'm simply furious.

So looking at these sample cover letters I am rather shocked at how much time they take to say simple things that could be elided and understood by someone who knows. People who know things have shorthand ways of expressing volumes of knowledge. Such things fly miles over the heads of laypersons.

Having been in my particular niche going on 18 years, I have developed a way of speaking that I am probably not aware of, and there's the problem. I have become so good at what I do that it is nearly impossible for me to unpack what I know and explain it verbally to someone who doesn't. The interview process for those like me in the spot labor market is a series of twists and turns to get me in touch with someone who knows. At that point it's a binary switch. If I ever get that far, it's always a go. This last time it was a no-go; I spoke to someone who doesn't get it but he had the final say.

Abiola made some references recently to certain mathematical proofs over at Wolfram Research. (I can't remember precisely when I stopped being fascinated by ANKOS, but it was abrupt). I perused the Analytical Geometry section for my old favorites, Taylor Series. Funny, I really used to understand those things. In fact, I implicitly understood them when I was in highschool programming in FORTRAN and doing integration by parts or some such for thermodynamics equations. Now I'm not even sure that I am using the terms properly. Suffice it to say there was a time when I understood something like this expression, the soul of brevity:


It looks like gibberish to me today, a language long forgotten and unused. But there's something beautiful about the brevity and unambiguity of the language of mathematics.

I am missing that in my professional world. I spend weeks explaining for the opportunity to do. I wait around for the intermediaries and others to schedule appointments with people who know more so they can hear me out and know that I know.

Days like this I curse myself for not being a surgeon or attorney. I curse myself for not being in computer security. I've always been on the added value side, not the utility or the emergency side. My work depends on the desire for people to do better, to improve. In lean times, when people are willing to just survive, my value takes a nosedive.

I spent a rather miserable afternoon shopping with my wife at the 99 cent store. If I weren't feeling so shitty, that in itself could be quite a missive. But I am only in a mood to kick myself for not having shopped there for years instead of Target while entertaining fantasies like Lileks. It's all consumer junk anyway, at least 99 and Big Lots and Pic & Save and McFrugals have the honesty to price it at what it's worth, very little.

So today I am frustrated at the necessity of long blatherous explications.. like this. Getting through the fog of protocol cannot be done by someone like me. I need time to explain things that are complex. People who don't investigate well are useless to me because I am a completer, over years. Yet things that are simple for me, like multidimensional database design, I can't talk about out of school. I just do it.

My brother once said, all verbal musical criticism is moot. You need to hear something played right.

Eight weeks. Eight hours. Four appointments. Yes Yes Yes No. It's retarded. I never once saw the system. I never once talked to the people who designed it.

I'm still not over it.

Posted by mbowen at 12:25 PM | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 10:47 AM | TrackBack

African Multiculturalism

Africans are learning lessons in multiculturalism from an unlikly source, reality tv.

Nigerians howl at it. Botswanans scream at their screens. Ugandans watch it over cold Nile Beer, while some African politicians and clergy want the plug pulled on this continent-wide sensation.

It is "Big Brother Africa," the latest incarnation of the reality television show that started in Europe. An estimated 30 million Africans are watching, making it the most popular, and most controversial, show in Africa.

The show throws together strangers as housemates and then lets viewers watch their every move — and the sparks that fly. The African variety has plucked a dozen young professionals from countries all across this vast, diverse continent and moved them into a comfortable house in Johannesburg with an oversize Jacuzzi.

At the start of the show there was an amorous Ugandan law student. An argumentative Nigerian businessman. A saucy South African business consultant who flirted with a cocky Kenyan psychology student — and every other man in the house. The last one to survive 106 days in captivity wins $100,000.

Posted by mbowen at 10:29 AM | TrackBack

September 03, 2003

Personal and Political

Posted by mbowen at 07:37 PM | TrackBack

A Good Idea in Israel

The Head Heeb gives me pause, and reasons to turn my attention to Israel with something less than complete cynicism. There is an excellent post and discussion on the integration of Arabs into Israeli society.

Imshin has, as usual, some very eloquent thoughts about the commission's findings. Those findings should also come as no surprise to any of my regular readers, because I've been saying the same thing for the past nine months - that civil rights and Jewish-Arab reconciliation are as critical as the matsav to the long-term integrity of the Israeli state. I don't always agree with the Jerusalem Post's editorial positions, but today's editorial is one I could have written:

It now seems clear that Israeli Arabs will either be further integrated into society or will become increasingly hostile to it. The most practical, effective means of integration would be to share in some form of national service and, in some cases, like the Druse and Beduin do now, full participation in the military. In exchange, society would have to lift the glass ceiling imposed on its Arab members, who are not proportionately represented in many walks of life.

Posted by mbowen at 06:13 PM | TrackBack


The short answer to the question why I am a republican is rather like the same reason I live in an upper middle-class largely white suburban neighborhood. It fits my ambition, it is racially integrative and it's where the action is. I believe that the Republican party, despite its current distance from its principles, needs the kind of reform inherent in the political orientation of people like me. I find libertarian values appealing, but I think libertarians live in a political vacuum and I find that sort of ideological purity best suited to philosophy and theology. The Republican party is where the rubber meets the road in terms of practical political power.

As things stand I am mostly drawn to the geopolitics of the neocons and people like George P Schultz. I am drawn to what I understand of FA Hayek. I cannot stand self-indulgent anti-establishment rhetoric and I hold a grudge against hippies for their influence on the popular memory of the 60s. I hold a grudge against the labor movement for its racism and I think too many Democrats are romantic fools.

That's about as concise as I can put it. I'm not really sure what it means to be 'a democrat' or 'a republican' if you are not directly part of the party aparatus or making deals as a lobbyist or organizing a think tank or PAC to influence policy. You register, you vote once a year maybe. That's not politics to me, and I don't get much of a bang out of the identity politics of 'being' a republican. That said, it is important to me that other blackfolks who are Old School as I am make our presence known by enjoining those political activities above and beyond the annual vote, and as such 'being' a black republican is significant in that it represents change and reform. The movement to integrate and reform the party is more important for a number of reasons. I don't take today's black republican talking heads very seriously - they are not moving or changing things, rather they are excoriating Negroes which means they are facing in the wrong direction. If they see the Republican Party as the promised land, they must be deluded.

In the months since I have decided to out myself as a Republican I have found a lot to like about many conservative commentators that I would not have otherwise found. The critical distance I have gained from divesting myself of age-old arguments (which sound more like platitudes than policies) has been useful. Furthermore the stomach I have grown in finding the good needles in haystacks of paleoconservative rhetoric has made me more robust and given me a good amount of perspective on what is worth commenting on in the first place.

In the end I am finding that practically speaking, almost as Chomsky predicts, Democrats and Republicans are legislatively similar. That bipartisanship is more like collusion and both sides play wedge politics with a public more vested in the 'being' part of that Democrat and Republican membership. If that makes me cynical, sobeit. I am more comfortable therefore being with the party of cynicism, not least because I get hope from things other than politics. (See 'romantic fools' above.) This is how I can sleep with such matters as the Texas redistricting issue. The Republicans are not responsible for sustaining the hope of the Mexican Americans Democrats which they are purportedly disenfranchising. Should they be? I view party politics as a creature of self-interest, who is more effective in deed is the operant question.

What Republicans have done is reduce their philosophy to a very small kernel, one which I happen to think is seriously compromised by the mendacity of its recruitment of the Christian Right which has, by and large, poisoned Republican principle. But this simplification has made that thing which is Republicanism easily digestible, as Rush Limbaugh and others in redneck radio prove daily. This is a force to be reckoned with, and the Democrats are simply incapable of doing anything similar. The Democratic agenda is a complex mix of keeping multicultural hopes alive, each to their own desires. This requires complex thinking, which would be fine if they were commensurately right. But not only are they wrong, they cannot keep their faithful consistently wrong when it comes time for elections. The Democrats are losers and as romantics attempting majoritarianism their hands are tied. In the end, they compromise to meet Republicans halfway and sellout their constituencies. This is fundamentally dishonest and I can't abide it. Gray Davis is a perfect example of one held hostage to a thousand interests. As such he is no more competent to deal with California's problems than anyone Republicans can field, yet he has to do all that and keep hope alive for an aggregated middle + left majority as well. Sisyphus had a better deal.

If Republicans were as competent as they claim, and maintained fidelity to their righteous principles, they would be of necessity a minority party again. I think the Greens combined with the Reform Party have a halfway decent chance of creating a third way. This would push the Democrats to the be the party of the working poor and rabble Left. It could be a very good labor party. That would leave Christian Right out of the picture they have distorted beyond belief. In my romantic world, the Democrats would control legislatures, the Greens/Reformer/Civil Libertarians would control courts, the Republicans/Authoritarian Libertarians would control the executive and foreign policy.

I know 'authoritarian libertarian' sounds like a conflict of terms, but I studied computer, not political science. What I mean are those libertarians who have enough sense to leave their anarchist, laisez faire, Ayn Randian sensibilities at the curb and recognize the rule of law in creating and maintaining commons and properly regulated markets.

I'll say one last thing which is actually the latest idea that I am percolating and that is this. I think that the authoritarianism of Republicanism is necessary because there are limits to individual freedom that Hayek may not have recognized. Today, I believe most in the West assume of science and technology that which was thought of natural resources in the 19th century: that there is an unlimited supply whose exploitation is the basis of the wealth of nations and the progress of humanity towards civilization. But I believe we will better come to recognize the inherent limits of seeking truth. So I assert an arbitrary limit on the ability for human societies to discover, absorb, exploit, develop economies around, truths. This may be echoing 'regimes of truth' (is that Derrida or Lacan?). At some point accumulating capital in the hands of individuals no longer serves truths. There is a limited amount of truth that actually serves mankind, but there may be an infinite amount of virtual truth. At some point systems of truth will come into conflict with systems of virtual truth. Who should win? Markets will decide arbitrarily, its all equally true to the market whether or not the regimes serve humankind. In the end there has to be something decidedly conservative that reigns in the markets ability to empower virtual truth. Not to do this presumes romantically that humans are and should be infinitely flexible - which is another way of saying that the individual can always and should always maximize personal freedom.

There are a lot of problems with this and I'll flesh it out in formally understood terms over time. My bias says that so long as some can dictate the terms under which other's liberty should be approached or defended in the unregulated marketplace of ideas there will be ugly oppression. So I am worried about the idea that maximizing 'individual freedom' over time is a contradiction because there are not infinite amounts of liberating ideas. Rather there are a few things that actually work (or can work at the same time) and infinite ways to 'empower' individuals which are counterproductive and false. This central purpose of the republic is to reign in individual power, especially in today's age where science has mutated to mad science, and technology in the hands of individuals becomes proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Everything cannot be laissez-faire.

Posted by mbowen at 05:52 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Republicans Rampage, Democrats Hide

Something stinks in Texas. The more we pay attention to California, the more distracted we get from a phenomenal drama about that old subject, redistricting and race. The Texas Senators in Exile in New Mexico remain in a standoff against the quorum necessary for the Republican majority to force an unscheduled redistricting.

"Republicans are trying to have it both ways," says Zack Exley, MoveOn's organizing director. "They're trying to make this very strong appeal to Latinos to get some voters to switch over and vote for Spanish-speaker George W. Bush, but then at the same time they're blatantly trying to disenfranchise Hispanic voters in Texas to solidify the Republican grip on Congress.

Salon's Michelle Goldberg has all the details.

As a Republican, I find it fascinating how this party, with all the strategic moves is setting itself up for great clashes. If it is to maintain its status as the majority party, it will be forced to accomodate its new members. Unless they, like blacks who have heretofore joined, tried to change things, got frustrated and quit, latinos may have to force a series of showdowns within the party.

How borglike is Republican assimilation? This is part of the question Arnold will be answering.

Posted by mbowen at 09:13 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 02, 2003


Posted by mbowen at 09:09 PM | TrackBack

Math Joke

I simply couldn't resist this one:

Q: How many mathematicians does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: None. It's left to the reader as an exercise.
A': One. He gives it to six Californians, thereby reducing the
problem to an earlier joke.
A": One. He gives it to five Oregonians, thereby reducing the
problem to an earlier joke.
A'": In an earlier article, zeus!bobr writes:

Q: How many mathematicians does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: One. He gives it to six Californians, thereby reducing the
problem to an earlier joke...

In earlier work, Wiener [1] has shown that one mathematician
can change a light bulb.

If k mathematicians can change a light bulb, and if one more simply
watches them do it, then k+1 mathematicians will have changed the
light bulb.

Therefore, by induction, for all n in the positive integers,
n mathematicians can change a light bulb.


[1] Weiner, Matthew P., <11485@ucbvax>, "Re: YALBJ", 1986

Posted by mbowen at 08:29 PM | TrackBack

Freedom Isn't Free

..and democracy has a price.

All us Californians have been inundated with the factoid that D. Issa, the San Diego Republican spent over one and a half million dollars of his own money to finance the signature drive for the gubernatorial recall. We've also heard from the Secretary of State of California that this special election will cost about 36 million to actually hold.

36 million? I didn't know elections were that expensive. But apparently, Accenture did and that's why it bought the struggling Any time you want to nurse a big headache, think about how much elections actually cost.

Right now, is primarily handling stockholder proxy elections but I can see how the election business can become big business. And importantly how a pricing model for features and functions in an election system can bump up the price.

Posted by mbowen at 04:49 PM | TrackBack

Arnold's Turn on the Spit

I'll confess to being a bit cross about the recent flap over Mecha & Bustamante, but I was not prepared for a bit of a deeper look to land me where it did. In a twist of irony, I find that I need Arnold to answer some tough questions about his participation in US English.

The short version of this story is that Tagorda may have been prophetic in his warning to conservatives not to push Bustamante's buttons too harshly. Because of the fact that I would hardly expect a bodybuilder/movie star's sex life to pass any amount of scrutiny, I haven't paid attentions to scandals surrounding Arnold. As well, I have dismissed guilty by association accusations about him and Kurt Waldheim. What I cannot dismiss is his 12 year board membership with US English, founded as it was by a new creep I have just discovered by the name of John Tanton.

I take my lead from Body & Soul:

Put aside, for a moment, the fact that "English only" laws -- the focus of the group's work -- don't serve to encourage immigrants to learn English (ESL classes in most places are packed full), but rather to restrict the government's ability to communicate with and provide services to non-English-speaking residents. Beyond that, U.S. English is hardly a benign organization. Its co-founder, John Tanton, founded or helped fund at least 13 anti-immigration groups, three of which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as "hate groups," including this charming collection of vigilantes. Tanton's no longer associated with U.S. English, but one of their current spokesmen is James Lubinskas, a contributing editor to the neo-Confederate American Renaissance magazine.

These are not the antics of highschoolers and sophomores. This is a bit more serious. I've dealt with AmRen folks online before, and nothing describes them better than 'angry white male'. They are not the worst kind of bigots, but they try the patience of anyone without blood & soil sympathies.

Arnold Schwartzenegger has serious questions to answer and I'm more than a bit shocked that I want him to. I'm sure there will be a lot more to come on this matter.

By the way, Proposition 54 is showstopper anyway.

Posted by mbowen at 01:48 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 01, 2003


It's true! This stuff comes with its own MTV cliche, apparently owned by Nelly. That's progress. Ladies and gentlemen C. Dolores Tucker is about to have a hissy fit.

Brand Overview: Pimp Juice is a healthy, non-carbonated energy drink possessing a tropical berry flavor. Pimp Juice’s artificial coloring gives it a smooth neon green glow, while its 10 % apple juice content adds a natural sweetness to its taste. Providing 100% of the body’s needed vitamin C, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12, Pimp Juice works to increase the drinker’s energy supply. In addition, an 8 oz serving of pimp juice contains Taurine, a conditionally essential amino acid that aids the body in its absorption of nutrients needed for optimal mental and physical performance. Pimp Juice acquires its boost from Guarana, an all-natural tropical ingredient. When roasted, its seeds produce stimulating effects similar to caffeine. Pimp Juice also includes 250 mg of D-Ribose and approximately 140 calories per serving. Pimp Juice represents the new and improved energy drink for today’s active and health conscious consumer. The use of caffeine has allowed the competition to adequately address the energy needs of their consumers. However, Pimp Juice employs Guarana to match this feature and goes a step further to provide the nutrients needed to maintain this high level of function. Furthermore, Pimp Juice is non-carbonated which makes it ideal for demanding sports and intense workouts.
Posted by mbowen at 05:31 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

All Out War

Now that's more like it. Nothing like a little honesty.

It really is too bad that there cannot be two jewish states in the Middle East. That way we could abandon this one without appearing hostile to Jews we aided after WW2. What a pit.

I said it once, I'll say it again. International Protectorate.

Posted by mbowen at 05:23 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Busting Bustamante

Posted by mbowen at 02:47 PM | TrackBack

Remembering Charles Johnson

No, he's not dead. But I've been looking for my copy of 'The Sorceror's Apprentice' to read to my kids. And in doing so, I happened across this small paragraph that reminded me of his mythical Allmuseri:

I gripped the boy from below, slipping my right hand behind his back, my other under his thigh, so cool and soft, like the purple casing of a plum, that my ragged, unmanicured nails punctured the meat with a hiss as if I'd freed a pocket of air. A handful of rotting leg dropped into my hand . .. That bloody piece of him I held, dark and porous, with the first layers of liquefying tissue peeling back to reveal an orange underlayer, fell from my fingers onto the deck . . . My stained hand still tingled. Of a sudden, it no longer felt like my own. Something in me said it would never be clean again . . . .

This semester, I have tasked myself with instructing the children in recitations. So I am looking for poems for them to read aloud. There are precious few in my Norton Anthology which are appropriate to their ages, but I expect to find something somewhere which is.

Still reading a bit of James Weldon Johnson and Paul Laurence Dunbar has quieted my mind this morning, and remembering the days of my late 20s when it was so important for me to absorb both Johnsons as well as Jean Toomer and Moliere brings me to recollect myself. An old leaf of my tree, a branch of life forgotten or subsumed in the creature of economy I have become.

I will try again to reach out and communicate with Richard Y, whom I met briefly in the early days of those journeys.

Not long ago I was writing about essays of self and blackness. In one, I wrote of my well-wrapped universe which was part and pacel of my creating a cloak to encompass a virtual tribe, an Allmuseri of my own generation - a people within a people of shared experience and disciplined unity of mind. Those ideas are both within me and behind me. Today I remember.

Posted by mbowen at 12:48 PM | TrackBack

Spin or Die

Posted by mbowen at 12:50 AM | TrackBack


I'm not going to think this out completely but something someone wrote about the role of corporations and a bunch of other whinging about social safety made me think about the appeal of Tahiti.

In this vague mish mash of very large ideas, came the phrases 'small government' and 'corporate fuedalism', both attributable to neocons by some liberals. As well in this mix was some blather about California bleeding talent to other states and filling up with sustenance labor (yes you can read race into that).

So in a flash of inspiration or Jack Daniels I thought about Canada, especially with regards to its apparent oversupply of cheap generic drugs, smallish banks, wood, wheat and other goods and services we Americans restrict. Canada has a much, much smaller government than ours. Carpers from both sides of the aisle should find much to love about the place.

Maybe Americans wanting an unmortgaged future might take a flyer at Canada, Maybe their government isn't running such a huge deficit as ours. Maybe their military isn't so unilaterally adventurous. Maybe their corporations aren't so rapacious and dishonest. One thing you can say about Canada, they aren't the home to Halliburton, or Nike, or McDonalds, or the CIA or OJ Simpson or any of the other great evils we grow here in the United Snakes of Amerikkka, right?

And if you really can't stand the idea of America being so large and unaccountable, the best thing to do is take a serious look at the alternatives.

I'll be the last person to say America, love it or leave it. That could only apply to yuppies with enough scratch to do so. Most Americans aren't responsible for the mess, and couldn't afford to get out of it if they tried. Fortunately, a good number of us are upscaly and skilled enough to take a peek. I say we but I don't mean me. I got a mouth and a taste for the chatting class but I'm on the bottom margin of it. If it weren't for the computer revolutions I'd be little more than your average aerospace industry Dilbert. Well Dogbert. Point being, a lot of this whining is pointless. We're married to this country and we are willing to take this bad marriage to the grave no matter how abusive it gets.

BTW, let me take a break from my sarcasm to say in all honesty, that I really don't like rich immigrants. I mean Arianna Huffington irks me at a certain level, cruising over here from whereever she came from, marrying into ump-deump millions and having dinner parties with all the top dogs. I do have a problem with the Dinesh D'Souzas of the world who come here, misinterpret and misrepresent our culture and raise the price of real estate. OK enough of that.

Well, maybe not. See on the right side of the fence I recall a hell of a lot of pissing and moaning about a character named Mark Rich. Remember him? He's everything conservatives and libertarians secretly want to be. Absolutely rich and completely free of government control. He's a taxpayer exactly in the mold that every Reagan Democrat wishes they could be, which is to say the kind of taxpayer that doesn't pay taxes.

But we do pay taxes and we do have a big hunking military and we do have corporations of all sorts that don't heel and we do have environmental damage and big government and rich immigrants and all sorts of other things that give headaches.

So do we want to live here or Tahiti?

Posted by mbowen at 12:17 AM | TrackBack