February 18, 2006

Hedrick v Davis

Just when you thought it was safe to talk about the Winter Olympics, Shay at Booker Rising drops a bomb.

I was trippin' this morning at Olympics coverage. When asked by NBC if Shani Davis was the clear favorite to win the race, Chad Hedrick - who only skated the 1000-meter event five times in his life, prior to the Olympics - touted Joey Cheeks (who just got the silver medal; Mr. Hedrick was in 6th place). Excuse me, but when someone is the world recordholder in an event, has dominated the event in your sport's World Cup series, and hasn't lost a race this season at the distance, he is clear favorite and own up to it.

When asked after the 1,000-meter event if he was happy for Mr. Davis (a rival off the ice), Mr. Hedrick replied:"I'm happy for Joey." Foul. This is white folks not wanting to give a brother due props for his merit in something (note: Mr. Davis got racially charged messages to his personal Web site, "people saying they hoped I would fall, break my leg, using the n-word" after he declined to join the team pursuit event). Or rather, white Americans because apparently the mostly Dutch crowd packed into the arena (Mr. Davis is famous in Holland, where speedskating is very popular) went crazy.

It is in fact true that I do remember the name of Eric Heiden and as a cyclist I still envy speed skaters their thighs. But this smells something like the mess my boy Moe Greene had to deal with. Yike. How much does anybody want to bet that Davis ends up on Bryant Gumbel's show. Won't that be a hoot.

Tim Dahlberg takes Hedrick to task.

Davis spent 17 years as an outcast in a primarily white sport, hoping the whole time that someday he would be able to hold an Olympic gold medal. He did, and was joined on the podium by a guy whose idea of glory is being able to help kids who can't help themselves.

The Olympics don't get any better than this.

There was no reason for Chad Hedrick to try and spoil the whole party.

Hedrick, if you haven't heard, doesn't think much of Davis. Thinks even less of him now because Davis declined an invitation to skate in the team pursuit earlier this week and may have cost Hedrick — who already has one gold medal of his own — another medal by doing so.

So while Davis and Cheek were still celebrating, Hedrick was beneath the stands griping. Not about his own sixth-place finish, because the 1,000 wasn't his best race, anyway. He was griping about people who don't do everything they can to be a part of a team and help the United States win more medals.

He didn't call Davis out by name. He didn't have to.

Now that's drama.

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February 09, 2006

We Have A Spying Problem

OK so I was wrong. It only shows I don't quite understand the law. Apparently, if you have a warrantless search, anything you find from that appears to be completely inadmissible, even for the purposes of obtaining proper warrants. I was under the impression that was not the case. According to the WaPo

Twice in the past four years, a top Justice Department lawyer warned the presiding judge of a secret surveillance court that information overheard in President Bush's eavesdropping program may have been improperly used to obtain wiretap warrants in the court, according to two sources with knowledge of those events.

The revelations infuriated U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly -- who, like her predecessor, Royce C. Lamberth, had expressed serious doubts about whether the warrantless monitoring of phone calls and e-mails ordered by Bush was legal. Both judges had insisted that no information obtained this way be used to gain warrants from their court, according to government sources, and both had been assured by administration officials it would never happen.

So there's a conceptual difference that needs a great deal of explaining with regard to wartime powers and 'the battlefield' when such things are mixed in with the infrastructure of peacetime civilians. I mean, I know that we are in a state of war against certain elements of various worldwide organizations, but I don't feel like I am at war personally.

I worry we may not be able to resolve this without some kind of reform. I don't want to see our system crash. Not that on this particular matter of warrantless wiretaps is more than a minor tactic in a major offensive. Everybody knows this, which is why no injuctions have been sought, but lets see what we see.

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February 07, 2006

Spying on You and Me

When I was a California teenager, I used to roller disco. In fact I was about as good in that as in most things I do - the lower upper middle class. Which means that I was good enough to be an extra in a first rate deal. Always mindful of such matters at the ridiculous age of 19, I often made it a habit to hang out at Venice Beach and Hollywood Blvd. As a measure of my own vanity and success at roller disco, I would perform and get people to take pictures of me. These would be tourists of course, locals would recognize me, and I would always be welcome to hang out with the cool guys and girls as we skated our way into that particularly Californish oblivion. Somehow I am reminded of this by the Cameo song 'Shake Your Pants' as well as 'Gloria' by Laura Branigan.

But I was also reminded of this by my trip to Hollywood the other night as I found myself in the viewfinder of half a dozen folks with digital cameras. And I wasn't even showing off. Everybody has got digital cameras it seems. Outside of your home, it's the big bad public boys and girls. Be prepared for reality TV. I'm quite adjusted to this reality because I recognize my ability, abetted by Google and you lovely trackbackers and readers, to create a self-portrait which is better than the average Joe. That is to say while it would take a bunch of you a while to figure out what my zipcode was in 1993, it's actually published somewhere in mdcbowen.org. And because mdcbowen.org has been growing steadily for over a decade, it would take quite a bit of disinformation to destroy the public record I have created about myself. I'm not saying that it would be impossible, but that it would have to be a professionally done job, a contract of non-trivial figures would be required to undo what I have done in public.

Since I am a member of the Bear Flag League and the Conservative Brotherhood, for example, it would be particularly difficult to make the case against my character as a domestic terrorist. Hell, people believe that I follow and defend George W. Bush blindly.

But what if? What would I have to do in order to be the target of the kinds of extra-FISA spying that is going on these days? What kind of finger has to point me out? It would certainly be more than a random happenstance. What keeps me safe from the prying eyes of the government? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I understand this. I know that every code I know everything I am could be put under a microscope. You might say that I am paranoid about it, but I think it would be more appropriate to say that I am Jewish about it. I understand that there is an almighty power that certainly capable and willing to judge everything I have ever done in my life. Whether it is God or the Government makes little difference to the extent that I discipline myself to be exactly what I intend to be. That is to say, my belief that I will ultimately be called into account for my life is a self-directed kind of thing.

It's facile to say that only terrorists should be afraid. We should all be mindful of whether our laws are just and whether they are followed whether or not our own personal privacy is at risk. I'm all for the disclosure that Congress is forcing upon the Administration. It's about time that they do their job, and while they're posing and being shrill, they are doing a decent job in giving us all something more to chew on. Nevertheless what is at the bottom of all this war on terrorism is a matter of character. Some people who believe they are only accountable to God and not to their neighbors have decided to hide their character and intent. They are, not like young American teens, shameless and wanting to be seen and admired by everyone. No they carry secret burdens and secret shames and are trying to conduct their business in secret. But we're all watching and listening and trying to ferret out those who would destroy our society and peace. Everybody has a camera. Everybody is being watched. What if the enemy is us?

In the end there's only one way to find out. Follow your suspicions and clues and expose the motives and intents of your suspects. It means everyone may be called into account. There's no better case for improving one's character than that.

Posted by mbowen at 08:22 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 06, 2006

EO 12333 & The Meaning of Death

I try not to go through life with my jaw dropped, but I have to admit there are some awesome things to marvel at. Today I have marvelled at the pretense of objectivity by Nina Totenberg and the whole NPR staff that pre-empted Terri Gross with their idiotic 'Special Report' on the Intelligence Hearings. I marvelled at the arrogance of those Congresscritters who do nothing all day but suck up to lobbyists and their wacko constituents instead of really bothering to get into the guts of understanding how the President is actually approaching FISA. The nerve of their speculation!

Not too many people are blogging about E0 12333 (in plain sight), but I hope some (like Bloggledygook) get into the thick of it. Because if Leahy isn't going to moderate his mouthing off about the NSA professionals and Administration lawyers blindly breaking the law, and if NPR isn't going to be reasonable in their coverage we're going to have to do some fisking. The way they were pushing Gonzales all over the map like W had gone apeshit was really embarassing.

But there are astonishingly good things to marvel at as well. Today I found this essay which I hope people all over the 'sphere gang-tackle. It's great! O would it I were Instapundit. Hmm.


The only point to death is a point you make yourself. You make your death have meaning by giving your life meaning. You give your life meaning by choosing a project to accomplish, or by accepting as your own a project given to you by others or by God. That's it; but that's everything. The young marines who have died in Iraq did not die pointless deaths or meaningless deaths.

Definitely read the entire piece and find a way to spit once again in the face of Joel Whatshisname. You see we live in a country where there is a huge population of loud people with access to mass communications who are mentally and morally incapable of understanding the honor due soldiers who fight in defense of our liberty. So you can hardly expect them to see the value in electronic surveillance. If there is a sliver of a law they could use to decapitate executive leadership, they'll use it.

I wonder if they would dedicate their lives to it.

Posted by mbowen at 10:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 03, 2006

Lynn Swann

It's almost freaky that two of my all-time favorite footballers have turned out to be conservatives. When I was a kid, it wasn't enough just to play sports, you had to play with style. And when it came to football, the coolest thing possible was to catch the long bomb. In my own pantheon of football heros there wete three giants who were all wide recievers, they were Jack Snow, Gene Washington and Lynn Swann. I also have to give props to Billy White Shoes Johnson, but Washington and Swann were just IT. Lynn Swann even had a sweet name.

Swann is now making another name for himself in Pennsylvania politics. If you didn't know, he's leading the race for Governor as a Republican. Support him if you can.

Posted by mbowen at 08:06 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

February 01, 2006

State of the Union - Open Thread

Here's an open thread - first time at this egotistic blog. Now, my mellow is on you, what you gonna do?

Posted by mbowen at 08:15 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

January 31, 2006

BDS Memes

I was explaining to Pops the other night what the problem with the Left is. The biggest problem is that they have no brainpower. Not that Leftist ideas are fundamentally stupid, I think that there are any number of people who could have made Socialism work in Russia better than Stalin. But that the American Left has suffered a mighty brain-drain which is not about to be reversed any time soon.

The greatest symptom of this is the Idiotarian Liberal, many of which display the classic symptoms of Bush Derangement Syndrome. They have become a mockery of themselves, and I think that's a bad thing for the nation that the opposition has just gone silly. Every other week, it seems, the grab onto a headline and launch a rabid attack meme that flies for a while and then dies. Everything in the news is a reaction to these attacks, and a great waste of political energy.

I'm going to watch this litany closely. They represent the opportunities wasted by the left that would make our democracy a bit more robust. This week, the extended BDS meme is all about 'Too Much Executive Privilege' which is basically a gripe about the domestic spying. You will note a couple things here. The first is that this has not risen to the level of a lawsuit. So nobody is actually seeking an injunction against the president's actions. Secondly, I think it has become abundantly clear (or at least I respect the arguments) that FISA, written in 1978, simply cannot deal with current technologies and the statute must be updated. Thirdly, while I have weighed in against the illegality as overreach, it is clear that action is better than inaction.

The spillover from this has been a failed attempt to convince the Senate that Alito's greatest failing is that he would accede to such executive overreach. Sorry. Better luck next time.

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January 26, 2006

Tom Holsinger: The Last Word on FISA

Basically, it's outmoded and requires an overhaul.

My father was the adminstrative assistant to a Congressman on the House Intelligence Committee at the time FISA was enacted in 1978. I was and am familiar with the public and Congressional debate on FISA at that time. I was engaged in the private practice of law at that time and so able to follow the details.

My brief conversations with my father and his boss about FISA taught me that Congress was determined to head off future domestic abuses of what was then perceived as the NSA's rapidly growing eavesdropping ability. They didn't care at all about "foreign communications" - those into or out of the U.S. The Executive Branch was adamant about Congress not touching the NSA's surveillance of foreign communications, and Congress didn't care at all about that so the Executive Branch got its way there.

He has more at Volokh.

As Drezner suggests, the administration should throw this back to the Congress and get an updated statute. There's no way the President should be breaking the law, and this one is broken.

Posted by mbowen at 01:44 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 24, 2006

Overloading Black Politics

I'm shutting down Vision Circle after a good run and there have been a thousand lessons learned. One of the most important is what's on my mind right now, and had a lot to do with my conclusion in converting Cobb to the new format:

I will however be less likely to get caught up in the struggle at the blogospheric level as I am convinced there is no political forum of substance, depth and popularity here which is capable of changing the dynamic of what goes on in the greater public. I have seen the black blogosphere and it is what it is. But it is hardly the catalyst for change I might have imagined, nor is there any indication to me that may be in the offing. Practically speaking that means I will spend a whole lot less effort making writing things 'for posterity'.

The blogosphere is about aggregation, not about change. It's about fleshing out ideas, but people still go where they go. And very few people wander out of their own comfort zones. The blogosphere is passive. Transformative politics needs to be active. The surprise of Vision Circle comes from Ed Brown, the last pundit standing. As a late-comer to the game, he was constantly reminding all sides that we were taking our arguments a bit to far - that mischaracterization of left and right dominated discussions, truces were more likely than synergies and blackfolks persist anyway.

It is that last note that strikes me today in consideration of my first viewing of The Delany Sisters: Having Our Say. I watched it with my 10 year old daughter this morning and what I found that the film's great strength was it's simplicity. It was all about people just living their lives in hard times and the hard times were defined by a society that motivated individual whitefolks towards injustice. Like a hundred bee stings and several roundhouse kicks to the dome, a lifetime suffering from white racism could rip up anyone's character. But not those Delanys. They had an inner strength. But that inner strength was not based on politics. There was nothing in their politics that was extraordinary, and quite frankly nothing in their lives was against the standards I would hold for my daughters, or of similar people at the time. Yet they stand as a shining example, simply because out of all we consume from media, their story is exceptional. That says more about our media diet than anything.

I am hesitant to say so, but I've known it to be a fact that people who tend to expect the most from politics often have the least from family. This is a common sense observation and it informs some of the Conservative criticism of the Welfare State. We should not, I reiterate for the boringeth time, depend upon politics or the government to give us personal gratification or bolster our self-esteem. We seem to have lost, in reaching out with identity politics, a grasp of the essence of citizenship which primarily involves sacrifice for the common good. Instead we have invoked a sort of Hobbesean deal from those who have for the benefits of the have-nots. That's fundamentally a decent idea, but not when the have-nots are getting a state-sponsored identity out of the deal. That kind of care and feeding requires family. Family is what's going to save you from the slings and arrows.

So going back just a few months to the most recent and glaring example, our friend of great distinction Kanye West banged the needy drum once more with his observation that 'President Bush doesn't care about black people'. Is politics supposed to care? Politics is supposed to be a negotiated settlement, but there is not an active negotiation for black politics of West's sort going on. That's why it's episodic. When Jesse Jackson shows up to say the same thing at every photo op, this is a symptom of the kind of demand created for the politics of caring. But the basic contradiction is that politics is not an avenue for showing love. I think a bit too much of that thing which is popular black politics is looking for love in all the wrong places.

I am a Republican because I expect my politics to reflect my class interests, and I am not like a limousine liberal. I recall a poster in an episode of the Simpsons that showed a man putting a necklace around a woman's neck. The caption read "Diamonds: Because money equals love". I'm not on either side of that false equation.

Posted by mbowen at 01:38 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 21, 2006

Being Blunt

Roy Blunt tries a Jedi Mind Trick and it pisses off Dale Franks to the height of pisstivity. It pisses me off too. I've seen this kind of behavior before and I wonder how widespread it is. It's basically the 'we're all dogs here and I'm the lead dog' attitude. I don't know how it is that some people get it in their heads that America is a country of butt sniffers.

Rich Lowry understands that Blunt has this arrogant attitude because he's already got the votes, or so it appears. What is going unstated here is that there are more than a few Republicans who are not going to be appeased by a simple flick of an A-B switch. Some of us, including me, are thinking about changes just shy of Gingrichian proportions.

As somebody who has been sick and tired of Tom DeLay from day one, I can't hear enough nervousness and trepidation in the complacent Congress. These guys have had a six year holiday from building real consensus and listening to constituencies with addresses outside of the Beltway. Why? Because DeLay would hardball everything to the get the slimmest majority and GW Bush never showed any cajones to make Compassionate Conservatism work domestically - except when he had bully pulpits to grace. All well, but not good.

Roy Blunt better show some other colors because from this angle he looks like more of the same.

Posted by mbowen at 04:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 18, 2006

Dyson's Next Rampage

Here follows a paragraph from Michael Eric Dyson's upcoming book on Katrina, 'Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina And the Color of Disaster'. Even the title is annoying, but dig this:

The black-white racial paradigm was also pressured by an enduring question among social analysts that was revived in the face of Katrina: is it race or class that determines the fate of poor blacks? Critics came down on either side during the crisis, but in this case, that might equate to six in one hand, half a dozen in the other. It is true that class is often overlooked to explain social reality. Ironically, it is often a subject broached by the acid conservatives who want to avoid confronting race, and who become raging parodies of Marxists in the bargain. They are only concerned about class to deflect race; they have little interest in unpacking the dynamics of class or engaging its deforming influence in the social scene. In this instance, race becomes a marker for class, a proxy, blurring and bending the boundaries that segregate them.

Aside from being a strawman argument, it's also insulting to black conservatives, and shows the basic flaw in Dyson's approach - that we're all crazy and in denial. I'm sure I'm going to have to track through a painful reading if the book blows up, but I'm trying not to. I have to admit that I haven't been by P6 to see the reaction (if any) to this colorizing of the disaster, but I'm very interested to see how new or relevant the complaint might be other than you generic 'America catches cold, blacks get the flu' argument. That is because the de-blackification that is happening to New Orleans (and evidently out of Nagin's hide - more on that later) is happening precisely because the social difference and distance between displaced blacks from NO and their recieving communities is minimal.

So to state the obvious, it is both race and class that determines the fate of poor blacks. But poor blacks are more like poor whites than they are like middle-class blacks, which is why Cosby is so electrifying at all. America is really catching on to this because of the reality of middle class black social capital. Dyson will continue to rant that the rest of the world isn't paying enough attention to color, his problem is that we actually have a better perspective.

Posted by mbowen at 10:42 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 16, 2006

Lou The Rapper

Bring that dynamite and a crane,
blow it up, start all over again.

-- Lou Rawls

If you're lucky, in these days after the death of Lou Rawls, you'll get to hear some of his raps.

One of the coolest tapes I had in college was one in which Lou Rawls does this monologuing between songs. I'm never going to find that tape but what I remember about it was that he was a very smooth fast-talker. It's safe to say that he was a kind of rapper of his day... Well it turns out that I just found the cut. It's called Hustler's Blues / World of Trouble.

Also, you'll probably hear Tobacco Road, which is, I imagine, the first 'bomb the ghetto' song I've heard from an Old School perspective. Hmm. You learn something new every day.

BTW, Here's a nicely done writeup.

Posted by mbowen at 03:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 11, 2006

Obligatory Seriousness on Alito & CAP

I don't even want to write this because, no I don't think Alito has anything to hide. The whole line of question reeks of conspiracy. Is there anyone who has a direct question on 'women and minorities'? Hardly.

So it came to Orrin Hatch this morning to read off a litany of cases in which Alito ruled in favor of women and minorities. He weighed in against racial profiling as a 4th Amendment violation. Sounds reasonable to me. He ruled in favor of a disabled woman who had an obsolete, but real job. Sounds reasonable to me.

You know, Disney is never going to release 'Song of the South' on DVD because Uncle Remus is offensive. Is American history so replete with such offensive stuff that it is completely suppressed? Is Princeton involved in a conspiracy to suppress the history of its organizations? So where's the beef on CAP? You know I defended MEChA when conservatives were calling it a blood and soil racist organization. Specifically, I defended it at CSUN where I attended, who knows what they did at other campuses at other times in their history? But at least the blogosphere was able to come up with some founding documents they found to be incriminating. I hope to see the same here.

As a terminal joiner, which I suspect Alito was, I can sympathize with his testimony. I have joined elevnty dozen clubs and organizations in my life and had at least that many versions of my resume, not all of which I was personally involved in writing. Resumes are spun, period. Sometimes you try the shotgun method. Matter of fact, lets see what I have here...ahh nothing I can access at work. But I guarantee you that any real professional has a difference CV every couple years, that is if they ever accomplish anything. In high school, there were 40 people who took a picture with the Computer Club, but there were only 5 of us who actually touched the school's computers. So was CAP resume fluff? I think so. But let's see exactly how hostile CAP was.

But beyond that, this is just another example of the incredible leaps the PC crowd must take in order to make a case for hostility to 'women and minorities'. If Alito were hostile to the aspirations of blackfolks, how is it that he's managed to escape the racial dragnet of the likes of Sharpton and Jackson all these years? And when did CAP unseat Bob Jones University, or the John Birch Society or the CCC as the root of all evil. Come on guys. This is a reach of embarrassing dimensions. It only goes to show the failure of anti-racism is complete.

Posted by mbowen at 11:49 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 09, 2006

Black Sunshine

When I was a kid there were about 12 black people on television. Among them were Ivan Dixon from Hogan's Heroes and Dihanne Carroll from Julia and the dude on Mission Impossible. I think Mannix had a black buddy too, and there was always Bill Cosby doing his I Spy thing with Robert Culp. But among those dozen characters (and nobody had more than one acting job) was hardly a scratch beneath the surface of the real black America. Naturally, we wanted more. And that complaint has grown into a predictable and multigenerational chorus. Positive Images! Right about now, that job is pretty much done, or at least it is to my satisfaction. But I'm not sure that the chorus is ready for the consequences.

What happens when black cultural production succeeds? Last night's episode of the Boondocks is probably a good example. In case you hadn't seen it, Riley Freeman cuts a videotape and sends it to Xibit and that construction guy with the bad haircut. They win and their ride gets pimped and their house gets one half of an Extreme Makeover. This episode, taken with the sum of the others illustrates the failings of the Freeman clan. Huey's radical leftist paranoia, Riley's vulgar gangsterism and Grandpa's shallow materialism. The episode was funny and entertaining, it contains just the right amount of truth about blackfolks to show the writer's grasp on reality is firm, not phony. But what about the positive images?

It is said that sunshine is the best disinfectant. Airing dirty laundry, therefore should be a good thing. But should blackfolks be embarrassed about it? That all depends on how close to home it hits. I don't live in the 'hood any longer. It has been about 7 years since I was even close, and those two years were exceptional. So it doesn't hit home for me, nor does it bring up painful memories. I've got some critical distance. But would it be embarrassing because it's true? I think that the answer is yes, and that's what successful black cultural production does.

Let's talk about the O word. Oppression. Why is oppression bad, Virginia? It's bad because it limits people, smashes down their future, crushes their ambition. Oppressed people are dirty and unhappy. They are not happy darkies, they are beat down. So to the extent that there is real, honest intelligent black cultural production out there, then we will percieve the truth about what oppression does to blackfolks. That is to say if blackfolks are truly oppressed. And Huey, Riley and Grandad talk about niggas and bitches because they are close to the hood in spirit. Niggas and bitches aren't a figment of Hollywood's imagination. They're real blackfolks, dirty and unhappy. But they are dirty and unhappy in a uniquely funny and accurate parody, which is the genius of McGruder, when he's not too far off the deep end. The Boondocks did that right last night, they aired some dirt.

When it's all said and done, blackfolks are going to have to look back on the Boondocks and say, yeah that was me, a little. Or maybe a lot. It depends. So here's where it gets deep. What if a white person calls bitches bitches or niggas niggas? Well that's because we do, and if the point of black cultural production is being truthful, than the truth is going to go out to everyone who pays attention.

Now us snobs over here aren't oppressed. When we keep it real, it's not about niggas and bitches. We don't read the booty books and we don't care about what R. Kelly is singing about, nor whose leg Marcus Vick is stepping on. We may suck our teeth because Obie Trice got shot, but we can't name his songs, because it's not about us. It's about niggas and bitches, and we don't really associate. African America is way too big for all of it to fit on the TV tube, no matter how wide the screen is. And as black cultural production advances more of us get included, warts and all. At some point it won't be necessary to call it black, because it will achieve the transcendent and speak to all people. In the meantime, so long as blackfolks are actually oppressed and suffer for it, the truth will be ugly.

Can you handle the truth?

Posted by mbowen at 09:43 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 05, 2006

Black 2005: The Year in Review - Part One

I thought I'd do something a little different this year and do a black year in review. Let's see what happens. I cover all of these stories and issues in Cobb. Just click on the month in the Archives section in the right column.

January 2005
Eyes on the Prize was briefly put up on the web for free downloads. Three episodes were made available by a group called Downhill. Hotel Rwanda made everyone cry, cheer and recognize the acting genius of Don Cheadle, finally. DeLa Soul drops 'The Grind Date'. It's pretty slammin' but. Faye Anderson starts blogging. Norman Kelley's new book blows up. Randy Moss proves that he does what he wants to do.

February 2005
There may have been something different about this years Black Summit. There were several reasons. Firstly, it reminded all of us that we can't remember the last time there was a 'black summit' outside of the various sub-million marches. The second was that it wasn't all preachers and academics, but a few businessmen too. Tavis Smiley brought the spotlight. Louis Farrakhan introduced 'testicular fortitude' into the argot of inspirational oratory.

Devin Brown, juvenile car thief, was gunned down by the LAPD at the end of a car chase at 3 in the morning. This sparked the usual hand wringing and thus began my naming the Coalition of the Damned, those Americans whose primary form of politics involves dogging cops and definding crooks.

Ossie Davis, the legend of film and theatre, died at the age of. He too, was a black shining prince. Some black people win Oscars. Morgan Freeman, I think.

March 2005
Harold Cruse died, passing the torch of the last black organic intellectual of world stature t.. nobody in particular. His Crisis of the Black Intellectual and Plural But Equal stand pretty much unchallenged and even unparalleled.

Then within the same month, Johnnie Cochran died of brain cancer. Plenty of haters, incuding Ira Reiner, get their digs in over his dead body, but his legend is undeniable.

April 2005
Ted Hayes gets profiled in the WSJ proving once and for all that black Republicans can indeed wear dreadlocks and be down for their communities.

I visit (antediluvian) New Orleans and take some pictures, meet some relatives and eat some food. It's a big deal. I write a huge diary of my experiences. I haven't reviewed it much, even in the aftermath of the flood, but I think it would make for some interesting reading of the experiences of a black man of my type in New Orleans.

Martin Kilson throws down a two part essay on the black elite over at the[Marxist] Black Commentator. He raises very good points. I have mixed opinins about Kilson's conclusions. I agree that there are Talented Tenth aspirations among us, but that Progressivism and race raising is nowhere near as important as it once was - that the relative amount of time elite blacks need to consider and dedicate themselves to their inferiors is less. Furthermore, I would argue that the social capital with which blacks are endowed allow their elites broad responsibilities in mainstream organizations which far outweigh those that can be accomplished via progressivism and aggregation. This sets up a paradox that Kilson seems to ignore. There are more things that black elites can do, but it's not entirely clear that they need to or want to.

Tiger Woods wins the Masters, again. His birdie chip on the 16th hole is the most incredible shot in the year of golf. Byron Allen buys PAX for 2.2Billion dollars. Who knew?

May 2005
Claude Steele's theory of Stereotype Threat is validated. Professor Kim recounts with some excruciatingly painful detail bombing of MOVE and the birth by fire of crusader Mumia Abu Jamal. What she doesn't do is give me a reason to let my heart bleed. Maybe I'm just not charitable, or maybe I am authentically pride of my blackness for orthogonal reasons.

Now you would think that when a black man is dragged from an automobile and gets decapitated, that there would be some outcry, some noise, something. But there's a very particular reason why there wasn't in this case. That's because that black man was Tommy Edward Scott, a police officer.

Emmitt Louis Till died about 50 years ago, but it has been decided that his body should be exhumed in order to discover new forensic evidence which might lead to others who might have participated in his killing. A conviction is gotten.

Malcolm Gladwell's
book 'Blink' is a huge success. Michael Eric Dyson fast talks his way into oblivion trying to dis Bill Cosby.


June 2005

Michael Jackson is found not guilty. Everybody knows that something weird is going on. Nobody riots. What I've been hearing is basically another species of "you're not guilty, but you're guilty". Having stayed away from the back and forth that generally surrounds these kinds of trials, I'm pretty safe in saying that I'm prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. He may be a weirdo, but as far as the law is concerned, he's cleaner than Martha Stewart.

Terry McMillan gets what's coming to her. Life is stranger than even her fiction. Krump hits the airwaves as the movie Rize makes a critical and popular smash.

The Reparations issue gets another public rehash.

Mike Tyson goes down for the last time.

Harvard economist and wunderkind Roland Fryer is hot news all year. This time out he publishes findings on 'Acting White' in which he demonstrates "that there are large racial differences in the relationship between popularity and academic achievement; our (albeit narrow) definition of ‘acting white.’ The effect is intensified among high achievers and in schools with more interracial contact, but non-existent among students in predominantly black schools or private schools."

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December 27, 2005

Have Yourself a Divisive Little Kwanzaa

All married couples should learn the art of battle as they should learn the art of making love. Good battle is objective and honest - never vicious or cruel. Good battle is healthy and constructive, and brings to a marriage the principle of equal partnership.
-- Ann Landers

I'm not married to LaShawn Barber, but we used to be league mates in The Conservative Brotherhood. LaShawn, however has outgrown our smallish coterie and has become a blogging superstar on her way to media stardom. It is therefore with a bit of sadness that I fnd myself having to battle her over a matter of personal concern, which is the integrity of Kwanzaa. I've had to deal with Malkin on this before as well as some stuff written years ago by Mulshin. Now Ambra's got troops on the wrong side of this too. (sigh)

Although I didn’t ask to be, I am probably the foremost authority currently writing on the origins and meaning of Kwanzaa on the web today. That’s because I was there at the beginning. Any of you who care to get a nuanced understanding of these origins are welcome to check out my blog which has plenty of references, some serious, some lighthearted. Right now, I need to be serious.

The most important thing that I would like to stress in this post is that Kwanzaa is not anti-Christian. It has transcended its roots and has become something different than what it started as. I think what it has become depends entirely on the spirit of the people who celebrate it. Which is to say that somewhere there is someone just as evil, wicked, mean and nasty as LaShawn states who celebrates Kwanzaa just to spite people like LaShawn. I’m not sure it’s very charitable to consider them as the poster children for Kwanzaa. If anyone, I am the poster child for Kwanzaa. As I said, we started it.

When I say we, let's get one thing clear. Ron Karenga didn't go from house to house burning down Christmas trees and demanding that blackfolks substitute Kwanzaa. The people of the time, including my parents, the Ligons, brother Damu and other families took the celebration into their homes and spread love and started the tradition. So if you learn one thing from your 'What is Kwanzaa' question, keep in mind that Karenga is not the celebration, but the spark. His Kawaida philosophy made a big book and everybody didn't live their life from it like a bible, Kwanzaa was simple and good. Think of Karenga as you might think of Jefferson or Franklin, but understand that among the founders were my family. If you want to hate, know who you're hating. You're hating me and my family, and I don't appreciate being lied about.

I’m sure many of you have heard the old saw ‘religion is the opiate of the masses’, and there is no Christian of any experience who doesn’t know some fakers who are the reason the other expression ‘God helps those who help themselves’ is in existence. Just as there are fools who call themselves Christians and attend service for the wrong reasons, there are fools who celebrate Kwanzaa for the wrong reasons. That’s not who we are here to talk about.

The reason Kwanzaa was created lies fairly parallel to why the Afro was created, why ‘black is beautiful’ was created and why James Brown sang ‘Say it Loud: I’m Black and I’m Proud’. It was about evolving a mindset towards independence and liberation. It was about black people doing something for themselves for a change - not demanding that the government, or Jesus, do things for them that they ought to be doing for themselves.

Today we take it for granted that there is a level of independent mindedness among African Americans that nobody ever expected of the Negro. And in creation of that omlette, a lot of eggs needed to be broken, a lot of militant posturing, angry rhetoric and loud protests were made. That’s called mental revolution and it doesn’t come easy. Sometimes people are crucified for radical ideas. That’s the way of the world. But I think anyone with half a brain recognizes that militant posturing, angry rhetoric and loud protests are associated with Kwanzaa. It’s in Wal-Mart already - the place that can’t handle gangsta rap.

To the extent that the Negro Church was considered the only legitimate expression of African American culture in the 60s, the founders of Kwanzaa and like-minded people fought bitterly for attention. Anyone who has watched television to see the most ignorant blacks ‘represent the community’ knows exactly how intolerable that can be. Imagine that in the days where the very idea of a black journalist working on a white newspaper was unheard of. This is the proper context for understanding the antipathy between kwanzaa’s founders and the black church.

Such antipathy is no longer necessary or encouraged. Anybody who says different is just shouting to be shouting. There is plenty of room for Kwanzaa and Christmas. I celebrate both and I think I do so in the proper spirit without contradiction. But every year ignorant people come out of the woodwork the spit on Kwanzaa as racist, separatist, militant and anti-Christian. Why? Why is Osama bin Laden? Why ask why? I just have to deal with that nasty fact, and every year it gets me more and more steamed, even though I try not to be. The insults are intolerable.

I understand that there must be some orthodoxy in Christian sects which forbid the celebration of Kwanzaa or any number of other events not on the official calendar. I don’t have any problems with Jehovah’s Witnesses who find birthday cakes to be blasphemous or Southern Baptists who find Harry Potter sacreligious. That’s them, but that’s not all Christianity. But I would hardly expect to take a Jehovah’s Witness’ word on what goes on in the minds of people who celebrate birthdays. So I don’t expect that reasonable people should give anti-Kwanzaans a great deal of credibility as to what goes on in my mind when I celebrate Kwanzaa.

So here's my message to all you Christians who think they are doing the world a favor by spreading ugly ideas about who celebrates Kwanzaa and why. Stop burning your crosses on our lawns. Your ignorance and hatred is nauseating.

Posted by mbowen at 01:56 PM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

December 23, 2005

Fake ID

I am pleased with the ruling in Kitzmiller vs Dover.

To preserve the separation of church and state mandated by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Art. I, § 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, we will enter an order permanently enjoining Defendants from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID.

First of all I am a stong believer in the concept of Emergent Behavior. Emergent behavior is basically the acknowledgement that there are objectively useful and complex behaviors that emerge out of very simple interactions which are not directly explicable by simple interactions. We have a sense of this when we say that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Also when we think of an ant colony as doing something in service to the queen, even though we know that the queen doesn't have a cell phone to every soldier. These are complex behaviors that emerge out of simple interactions. Ants don't think "hey let's make a long line", they're just sniffing the butt of the ant in front of them. Think of it as the positive side of unintended consequences. Sometimes very complex systems do things that make sense even though they are comprised of random and/or very simple interactions. Think of the calming effect of watching the sun's reflection off ripples on the ocean. It's absolutely impossible to 'program' the ocean's ripples and yet we percieve a pattern of beauty in it. The ocean's ripples are random and so is the angle of the sun, and who can say with any accuracy what exact color each will be on any ocean or any time of day. Yet we understand this thing and call it lovely.

The logic in the religiousity of Intelligent Design is to posit a god, i.e. some supernatural being or force, as a Creator of this beauty. If it is beautiful, says the logic, then there must have been some intelligent designer behind it otherwise how could we percieve it as beautiful? There are problems with this logic is twofold and related to the matter of teaching the scientific method.

The first problem is found in the the variant fungibility of attribution. Perception of things such as beauty or the appropriateness of the size of human eyeballs is abstracted to have some human value only through human agency. So one could conceivably construct a worldview (or a religion for that matter) that dictates that sunshine on the water is hideous and ugly. What Intelligent Designers would attribute to God is just as easily attributed to the Devil, or natural forces of decay or chaos. Simply because some group of people see the face of the Buddha in some pattern of dirt on a street in Karachi doesn't prove or disprove the idea of God. But the fundamental impetus to direct and control that attribution and interpretation is contrary to the scientific method. That is what makes ID value laden.

The attitude of scientific inquiry is 'it is what it is' and while it attempts to explain whatever is perceptible, it encourages and incorporates skepticism and contingency. The second problem with ID is that the it goes backwards and says the answer is always an Intelligent Designer. ID is what it needs to be.

I think that it is also notable that ID proponents are trying to reverse-engineer the educational system to suit their purposes. They pretend to want to be a credible scientific theory, yet they start with public schools for children instead of research universities where their ideas would be subjected to closer scrutiny. If it were to compete as a serious theory it would have the attention of top researchers in evolutionary biology but they reject it out of hand because it simply isn't science. The only people it fools are people who aren't true scientists - they can be bamboozled.

I've heard Intelligent Designers suggest that they're not necessarily religious, after all it might have been aliens who designed us in their super-fantastic laboratories. Ok, supposing that's true, what evidence do they present? Nothing approximating that presented by a logical presentation of the fossil record vis a vis evolutionary biology.

This is a war over methodology, and the ID Fakirs are are trying the public primary and secondary schools to interject an overbroad interpretation of the scientific method. I think it's very useful for courts to give some strong, persuasive and accurate descriptions of the scientific method in order to keep what's science clear legally, because it is vitally important to the the integrity of the American system that the divide between church and state be maintained. The public school system has a hard enough time teaching real science to be burdened with the activist agenda of teaching religion as pseudo-science, or belief in aliens.

Posted by mbowen at 09:35 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 19, 2005

The Dark Crusade

Let's imagine that Dave Chappelle isn't crazy. Let's imagine that he is a brilliant satirist and that a great number of Americans think so. Let's imagine that he has come up with stuff that is so controversial and funny that it became a staple of comedy and because of this he has made millions of dollars. Now let's imagine that somebody somewhere said that he was doing so at the expense of the image of black people. In fact, let's imagine that that somebody was ohh, say Bill Cosby or Oprah Winfrey. What do you think would happen to Dave Chappelle?

I think that's what happened. Why? Because of this, The Chappelle Theory. This is the biggest bombshell, or the most outrageous conspiracy ever to hit pop culture. It's huge. Here's the thumbnail sketch. Sharpton, Farrahkan, Cosby, Winfrey, Jackson, the five greatest oxygen suckers in all of black America formed a joint task force to derail Chappelles Show. Why? Because of his negative portrayals of black people. It came to threats and intimidation on his family.

Now if you read the whole thing, it might seem a little outrageous, but let me give you some personal perspective as a black Republican. Do not doubt the willingness of blackfolks to destroy someone they feel is a traitor to the race. It doesn't take much to convince some people that someone is a sellout, that they hate blackness and black people and that they essentially live for the comfort of whitefolks. It's the atom bomb of blackness and it has been dropped on a lot of black heads, including this writer's head. Today, I don't have any powerful enemies, but I've stepped on enough toes to know what enemies would do if they could. Cosby can if he wants, and dirt has been done to him. So I don't doubt for a minute, given his track record with Eddie Murphy, that Chappelle has been on the bad end of Cosby's ire. You know he still thinks he's America's Dad, and dad has a bad attitude.

But if you're still not convinced, think of it this way. Chappelle is 'gangsta comedy' and like gangsta rap, it is consumed and made prosperous by millions of young white suburban males. In other words, whitefolks are making Chappelle rich and all Chappelle is doing is mocking black culture. So what's up with that?

I think Chappelle is hilarious, and I think that he's so close to black popular culture that his skewering of it is more on target than anyone else's. He has gone there, and he's paid the price. The question is whether or not black culture, or rather we should say the Dark Crusaders against Chappelle have the stomach to handle a little ribbing. Apparently not. So long as they can see Chappelle as the target of white money and he embarrasses them, he's in trouble.

This is going to get a whole lot uglier before it gets better. I'm watching closely.

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December 15, 2005

Schneier's Mortality Table

schneier_mortality.jpg

For reference, this keeps me from overly sympathizing with those who happen to be morally outraged at various transient issues of death and destruction.

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December 12, 2005

Richard Pryor

About a year ago when I was rounding out my CD ripping in time for Christmas, I was fairly content that I had all of the best of the Old School music in my collection. And so as I listened to songs that would remind me of other songs, I suddenly thought about Richard Pryor. For the longest time, I had been wondering when his stuff would come out on CD. It never had. But now it's out there. For 75 bucks you get the whole thing, at least 6 albums worth. So that's on my Christmas list, if I can find it.

Today kids memorize the lyrics to rap music. Yesterday we memorized Richard Pryor routines. Every kid I knew was a Pryor impsersonator. We were all different degrees of funny depending on our ability to imitate Mudbone, from Tupelo Mis'sippi. (Right next to Threepelo). And yet there were things that only Richard Pryor could say and make them funny. Since his departure from the scene, there has been exactly only one good joke about white people vs black people. That was delivered by Martin Lawrence in talking about how people care for their dogs. The rest is all derivative.

He was a phenomenon. It doesn't even seem right to call him Richard or Pryor because he was always that same surprised, vulnerable man, completely honest and able to share himself with his audience. Richard Pryor. You have to say the whole name.

We've lived with Richard Pryor for a long time - through a lot of his life. He was one of the last symbols of blackfolks that young and old both appreciated. Today, blackfolks are as pop as anyone else. Even Michael Jackson doesn't get to represent any longer. So looking back at his comedy and film career is a look back at the man who said stuff everybody used to think and never say. He got to play the joke that was only funny in one neighborhood, and by doing so made it funny everywhere.

If you ask anybody in my generation what Richard Pryor's greatest moment was, there will be no question. It will be the concert when he said he would never use the word 'nigger' again. For him, like for Malcolm, it took a trip to Africa to see people more for who they are than by the color of their skin. But he was able to make us laugh at 'a crazy nigger' because he was willing to be all that - to go all those places and still remain humble. To know success and failure and to be straight up about it. He, like no black comic before him, revealed an inner dialog of insecurity and irreverance. Not just to prove something, but to be something. And by watching him be those things, he let everybody off the hook.

And still, he was a genius, because nobody else could do it. Nobody.

I'm going to be hooking up Richard Pryor on the Tivo and talking about him more this week. First stop is Silver Streak with Gene Wilder, his alter-ego.

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Sleep Tookie Sleep

Ding Dong, Tookie's a dead man walking. Which old Tookie? The wicked Tookie.

I never really had any serious doubts that Arnold would do the right thing. It's all over but the eternal sleeping. So our governor has tossed a cold bucket of water on the hopes of those who would try to make this character into some sort of role-model. As if anybody needed one. Oh what a world, what a world.

Now that the inevitable is inevitable, what do you say? I say thanks to Arnold for keeping it real, and a hearty HA to those who thumb their noses at justice. Every case isn't a capital case, and every capital case isn't clear-cut. But this one was. So says the Governor and the Federal Appellate Court in San Francisco.

In the case of the People vs Stanley Williams, the people won, finally. The arc of justice is long, but it bends towards the people.

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December 09, 2005

Schwartzenegger vs NAACP: Who is Dumber?

I'm finding my anti-Tookie stuff all over the net. You never know how your writing is going to affect people.

I'm really not stuck on Tookie so much as I am astounded at the twists in logic people put together in his defense. The NAACP head is the latest. I wonder if he might have the organization known as the National Association for Assinine Crip Protection. Or perhaps the Negroes Aiding Assassins, Crackheads & Perverts. Chief pervert would be R. Kelly, of course. I can't think of any crackheads the NAACP has assisted, can you?

Needless to say, Joe Hicks' indignation is shared among most of us in the Old School.

Mr. Hicks sees the NAACP's push for clemency for Williams as a recognition of its history — the organization has long opposed the death penalty — but also as an attempt to regain relevance." The NAACP is graying," he said, pointing to its declining membership, "and I can only think this is a very misguided attempt to connect with black youths in an urban culture attracted to hip-hop and a gangster element that finds Tookie Williams oddly appealing." According to a state NAACP official, the average age of a member is now more than 50. Mr. Gordon said that more than 100,000 people from around the world have signed an NAACP clemency petition, with many — including gang members from as far away as Ireland — writing about how Williams has influenced their lives.

I wonder if I should be particularly shocked at all. I mean 9/11 taught us that anything is possible. Hell, Aldridge Ames was supposed to be recruiting double agents from the USSR and he turned out to be a double agent himself. In the course of human events, anything is possible. Most of the time they have simple explanations, but they almost always have bizarre and complex results.

And so we are witnessing simple stupidity and pigheadedness in the defense of Tookie that will put the NAACP in a bizarre place when he dies. Yes, that's my prediction, or else I don't know Arnold Schwartzenegger. He's a man who wants a political future, so he'll get Tookie the needle he deserves. Arnold has already reaped the political benefit of appearing thoughtful and ethical in this matter, but it goes completely against his character to have mercy on a man who killed a young person. If AS can't read the public on this one, he deserves the political equivalent of lethal injection.

Even before he decides whether Stanley "Tookie" Williams shall live or die, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is scoring badly needed gravitas points for giving clemency a hard think. It's unlikely that Schwarzenegger possesses any doubt as to whether Williams, who admits to having co-founded the Crips, is a coldblooded killer; if he stays Williams' execution, it will surely be an act of mercy rather than forgiveness.

I'm not exactly clear on what contingencies can be made for a stay of execution, but I like Ted Hayes' idea that Tookie's, if granted, should be contingent on the disbanding and pacification of Crip gangs in LA County. First shot from the 'hood, stay recinded.

That said, Arnold has a lot more to lose than any titular head of the rank & file National NAACP. You basically go there when you've decided that being electable isn't a goal any longer. Just ask Julian Bond and Kwesi Mfume.

Posted by mbowen at 02:25 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

December 01, 2005

50 Cent Republicans

First of all I want to ask a question. Is the rap star 50 Cent a Republican? True or False?

I mean the urban myth is pretty well baked. Some black rap star throws a thousand bucks to a GOP fundraiser, like so many dollars to hoes. Except he does it anonymously with his real name that nobody knows. They then show up and proceed to freak out the whitebreads in the house, like Huey Freeman at a garden party. You can imagine Dres Titus or Eddie Griffin doing this, but is it true about Fiddy, and if so, what's the rest of the story?

Inquiring minds want to know.

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November 29, 2005

Deuce Four

Bruce Willis is my favorite actor. It's really touch to choose between him and Denzel Washington, but really, it's Bruce well, it's Bruce now that he has chosen to make a movie from Michael Yon's reporing on the Deuce Four. And by the way, I'll have to say that Clint Eastwood is my favorite director. So it goes like this. There's really nothing that can beat 'The Siege' in terms of a blockbuster action film about domestic terrorism, and it came years ahead of its time. Denzel was the man, and Annett Bening was by far one of the most convincing and creepy CIA spooks in film history. Plus, Bruce Willis was in it too. However, when it comes to pure military action and heartrending drama, Tears of the Sun is singular, and there was no better man to portray the squad leader than the mighty Bruce.

Jarhead really bit, and the situation dramedy that was 'Over There' with its sappy ending credits theme was cancelled. So as far as I'm concerned Hollywood has only made one halfway decent movie about the Middle East, and that was Three Kings. We'll see what Syriana has in store, but we really have yet to make one for the GIs.

Like you, I'm sick of doctors, lawyers and cops getting all the drama. Clearly all the employed screenwriters are biting off the lives of their more gainfully employed brothers and sisters. The chatting class can do better. We know, we watched Rome on HBO, and we witnessed the screenplay for Million Dollar Baby. So I say get Paul Haggis or David Frankel or Lasker and Cirilo again and belt out the right story. Of course Yon has to have the final say, and probably gets top billing, but with Willis in it, it's already a hit. I also say that we should get Ray Stevenson, the guy who played Titus Pullo in Rome, to be one of the troops. Anyway, I'm sounding too Hollywood for my own good. Just Don't Screw Up. Get Denzel in it too... If you get Eastwood to direct it, you will have done the impossible and the everlasting.

Posted by mbowen at 08:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 26, 2005

Back to Old New Orleans

Yes Virginia, people still believe all kinds of lies about poor black people. One of them is that their success needs to be institutionally programmed but that's another rant for another time. Today we are simply revisiting more of the mythology surrounding the ordinary catastrophe of a hurricane. One of the myths which is associated with people in general is that, given an extraordinary situation, people panic. People don't panic, they play to their strengths.

One of Cobb's Rues is that people don't have weaknesses, they just overplay their strengths. Given a crisis, legislators legislate, terrorists terrorize, pedants lecture, whiners whine, liar lie, conspiracy theorists connect more unconnected dots. The only thing that changes is the volume. Few people jump out of their routines and do something completely different and they tend to be young anyway. So the question one should have asked in light of the stories of sniping in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is how many sniper incidents do we usually have in New Orleans?

The Captain's Quarters gives us food for thought:

Yesterday's Los Angeles Times reports that another myth of the Katrina hurrican and its aftermath has been exposed. The infamous "snipers on the bridge" incident that supposedly kept relief contractors from rescuing helpless victims turns out to have been a media-fueled urban legend, according to witnesses. The "five or six" snipers taken out by the police department turns out to be two, and one of those was a mentally-handicapped man whose only venture out of his house in years apparently came out of desperation for food:

Is that stunning? Are you shocked? Don't be.

Growing up amongst good hearted people who desparately seek to improve the lives of the less fortunate of us, it came as no surprise when Pops told me that he had no idea whatsoever about the condition of trade and traffic on the Mississippi River. And why should he, or anyone so liberally-minded care about commerce? It's all about what we can do for the poor, isn't it? So questions of economics are outside the realm of thought and recourse when it comes to assessing America's response to the Katrina crisis for him. His mind naturally goes towards the ethical angle. Why can't we do this? When we don't, we are morally suspect and this moral suspicion casts a shadow over those who do recover. It is the victim of the moral lapse that his politics identifies as well as the moral rationale. Fixing the Mississippi River trade before building low cost housing is a moral failing of business according to this logic. Why? Because black people don't work at the docks?

The poor don't work. That's the point. The socially indigent can't figure it out, and nobody (or not enough for liberal tastes) is there to help them. And yet somehow a balance is achieved. It takes a crisis to change the terms of that balance, and in this case it took a hurricane.

Now people who have left New Orleans are finding new lives elsewhere. They have discovered that schools work elsewhere, that people are friendlier elsewhere, that jobs are more plentiful elsewhere. The symbol that New Orleans was a black city is now in jeopardy because so many blackfolks were just barely hanging on there economically. They had lives in New Orleans but it wasn't their own life, it was the life that New Orleans would have them live. The control belonged to the city and the culture and the paths that the town had laid down for them rather than the paths they would themselves design. Now their accents and their cooking and their dress mark them as alien rather than homefolk in their new homes. Wherever they are now, many are not quite home. And so they will return, some with the fire of conviction that New Orleans can be better than it was. I suspect most with a complicated sense of homesickness.

I sit and wonder these months away with updates from my aunt, what it takes to move for those who don't. I move. I can live just about anywhere and I've been a whole lot of places in these United States, but I am the rare exception. What would it take for those in the Bottom of the 9th Ward to gather up the gumption to move to high ground in Metarie? I'm sure class and racial barriers make it harder to move from one part of New Orleans to another than it is to move across the country. But schools and jobs and churches don't move. Emergency services and hospitals and dentists and mechanics don't move. If you want and need these things, you have to go to where they are. Nobody outsources pizza delivery, and if Dominoes doesn't deliver to your neighborhood, maybe , just maybe you are living in a bad neighborhood. Nobody's neighborhood has natural gas nowadays in New Orleans. People can't cook at home and wait for the Red Cross mobile to deliver beans and biscuits. But after a while, the people won't be coming around to help any longer. And neighborhoods will be what they be. Or will the 9th ward just be a 'hood, where nobody is neighborly? Or will it become a ghost town? It depends upon who moves back and why.

New Orleans was not full of snipers. Now the city of 470,000 is down to about 70,000. It's not full at all. Dillard University may not recover. The students are getting over elsewhere. There are a bunch of newbies in the previously black-run kitchens all over town and the food's no good. The cooks are elsewhere. Who will remain gone and who will return will mark the new balance of New Orleans? I think maybe it will go back to the old. I imagine that will depend upon whether people saw life in New Orleans as their strength.

Posted by mbowen at 12:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 25, 2005

Son of Tookie

Steve Cooley has a rotten job. I wouldn't want it. He had to write up a large document detailing the reasons why Tookie Williams should be denied clemency. Check out the whole thing, but note what I've italicised in his summary:

In addition to committing the above described crimes, Stanley Williams has left his mark forever on our society by co-founding one of the most vicious, brutal gangs in existence, the Crips. Since Williams co-founded the Crips, Crip gang warfare has been responsible for literally thousands of murders in Los Angeles County alone. This warfare resulted in the murder of many innocent men, women and children. For example in 1994 my office prosecuted Stanley 46 Williams’ son, Stanley “Little Tookie” William, Jr., a “Neighborhood Crip” for shooting a twenty year old girl to death in an alley off of Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood in a gang retaliation shooting. “Little Tookie” was convicted by a jury of murder. Stanley Williams was sentenced to death in 1981 following his conviction by jury. The appeal process has taken twenty four years to complete. The Los Angeles County Superior Court has set an execution date of December 13, 2005. Governor, I respectfully request that you deny Williams’ petition for clemency. It is time that the penalty imposed so many years ago now be carried out.

Now this revelation is just a real stunning gem. I couldn't invent it. Here's a guy who is supposed to be spared because he writes children's books, but his own son is a convicted murderer.

Aaron has Tshirts

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Diversity Salad

I'm looking up some of my writings on the death penalty and I ran across this diversity metaphor..

(from the archives, July 1997)


america is, in my new sense, neither a melting pot, nor a salad, but a
grocery section. it takes effort to make a good salad, and depending
on your skill you can make any type of salad you desire - all the
ingredients are there. you can even boil everything down to stock if
you like. but salads are not going to leap into your basket fully
prepared. you've got to make it.

some people come into the store and complain about all the nuts or try
to compare apples to oranges. everybody wants to be top banana, but a
whole lot of people are just vegged out. of course you can make a big
deal out of it or do something. (but you can't rearrange the shelves
or the store owners will have security throw you out). all you can do
is creatively take a selection and make something out of it, or you
can be lazy and take the pre-bagged mixes.

i think we have been obsessed with trying to make the perfect salad
too long. people keep arguing that unless every tomato is usda fancy,
it undermines the idea of salad. but nobody pays attention to the
underpaid labor, sweat, time, care, fertilizer and pesticides that go
into growing any tomato. they just want to make an effortless
selection...

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November 22, 2005

I Expect You To Die, Mr. Murtha

Much has been made of John Murtha's recent advocation of some kind of pullout of troops from Iraq. I have a couple of gut reactions and a thought.

The first gut reaction came when I saw that he is something like a 16 term congressman. Who the hell gets to be an incumbent for 16 terms? I'm not kidding. Check this out from his website:

He had a long and distinguished 37-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps, retiring from the Marine Corps Reserve as a colonel in 1990; and he has been serving the people of the 12th Congressional District since 1974, one of only 131 people in the nation's history to have served more than 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and one of only 224 Members of Congress who have served 30 or more years.

Where's Newt Gingrich when you need him? Now clearly the guy must be loved in rural Western Pennsylvania and nothing short of a cardiac arrest is going to unseat him, but damn! My gut reaction is that you cannot be somebody so anonymous for 30 years unless you are a study in mediocrity. In other words, this outburst is probably the most controversial thing he's ever done in his career, which takes me to my second gut reaction.

It turns out that Murtha advocated a pullout from Mogadishu back in the day. So he's a Marine Colonel and no doubt he 'supports the troops' and is probably operating, given the above, from a non-aggressive standpoint. In other words, there's nothing he sees in this mission worth another soldier dying. That is rightly called a conservative attitude, or hedging. Now I'd say there's a huge difference between being a master at congressional pork wrangling & defense appropriations and being a military strategist. My gut tells me that this is the kind of congressman who'd rather invest in armored troop transports for the GIs than more Blackhawk helos. In other words, this guy is Defense, not Offense.

It is not without a sense of irony that I recognize that somebody who is bent on saving lives rather than expending them in combat wants to abandon Iraqis and leave them defenseless. Anything that is fatiguing and killing our GIs in Iraq is going to rock the world of the Iraqis without us.

Murtha's an old coot who has gotten a bit too plump. Thirty years inside the beltway getting pork for defense spending in Western Pennsylvania does not, a military strategist make. I think he's lost his edge, if he ever had it. Soldiers die. They live to fight and die if necessary, and it's something I think Murtha has forgotten. They do so others who can't defend themselves don't have to. That's their job. I don't buy his patriotic, ex-military cred on this one. Sparing the military the light pain it is suffering in Iraq is ignoble at best.

Hey old soldier, please fade away.

Posted by mbowen at 05:45 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 16, 2005

This is the Answer, What Was the Question?

I found this as something I wrote last month, and I can't remember the context or whom I was writing to, but as you see the responses, you can guess the questions.
(from the recent archives)

I think the Christian Right will be a permanent feature in the Republican Party because they are so villified right now by the Hollywood Left. I don't believe, however that they are the heart and soul of the party - the very idea that Alabama is the intellectual capitol of the GOP is unthinkable, and if Jeb Bush were president instead of George, nobody would be saying it aloud. Karl Rove and Grover Norquist are much closer to the mark. But if you ask me, the person who best understands the existentials of the current GOP is David Brooks. And if you follow the exchanges between Brooks and Thomas Friedman, I think you'll see the intellectual divide clearly. Having said so, I wonder whose interest is serves to suggest otherwise, vis a vis black participation.

With respect to conserving x or y for the economic development of blackfolk, I am trying to conserve the common sense notion that a radical politics is not part of the equation of economic development. I am trying to point out the fact that there is a black man on the Board of Governors for the Federal Reserve and he didn't get there suggesting that there is a separate economic destiny for African Americans. But I am also saying that by definition, there are going to be some class differences between blackfolks that we are going to have to accept and recognize that political priorities are going to differ. I am suggesting very strongly that the politics of social power are very different from the politics of human rights or of civil rights and that people who believe greater power will accrue to blackfolks using the politics of civil rights are gravely mistaken, and that many blackfolks recognize this and are sitting on the sidelines waiting for a new paradigm shift. Some people hope for a second coming of Tupac, I'm saying it's going to be a Tiger Woods of Wall Street, or Michael Steele.

The economic path followed by black Americans will be the American path or it will not be. The mass of blackfolks will do what masses of people do, assimilate or die. There is no separate destiny - what's separate now is as separate as it gets, because in the new information age everybody is communicating.

The utility of 'henchmen' like Armstrong Williams will diminish over time, primarily because it will not be considered unusual for a majority of African Americans to belong to the majority party. What the assimilated future will be is very much predictable, there will be hiphop soundtracks to BMW commercials, just like there are today, a mundane fact considered unthinkable in the 80s. The ghetto will be even more ghetto, because crossover will go beyond black and white to asian and latino and muslim and east european and west african etc. The black republican movement faces a crisis of unity now, but it is a non-crisis because the fight is not among black republicans (who are just happy to be on the right side) but between blacks and black republicans. Again, I emphasize that this is just like the integration of 'predominately white' colleges and universities. It's as if the president of Morehouse said to all non-HBCU grads that they suddenly have no business talking about the future of blackfolks. That's today. Tomorrow it will be a non-issue, another mundane fact of American life. And just like when Kool & the Gang's song 'Celebration' was first played at the Super Bowl halftime show, black naysayers will say that it can't be Real when the Other Man shakes his rump to the Funk. Go 'head and storm off, but the party's over here.

I believe that the relevance of party plank writing committees (and thus the power of ideologues like Schafly) is declining sharply. So the whole funding apparat is going to change radically. Internet tech is going to disintermediate a whole host of power groups in the next decade.

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November 14, 2005

The African American Problem with Democracy

The African American Problem with Democracy has several components, but the abstract is that we don't know what it looks like. Blackfolks have spent half a century chasing the basic rights which enable the pursuit of happiness. What's happiness?

As I continue to pontificate, African American politics is in the limbo between the politics of civil rights and those of social power. Conservatives, (not black conservatives so much) have been trying to tear down the 'Civil Rights Establishment' as part of their battle against the Welfare State. What they haven't done is build up black communities - not that they're supposed to. But in that void, black communities have not been kicked back any graft. So Republicans have done little for black communities because black communities have done little for themselves. Where is the black business network in Detroit? Who knows? Where is the black equivalent of Greektown? My guess is that it doesn't exist. There is no Blacktown. Because there is no Blacktown, there is no identifyable black business community that is known to get patronage from political machines. It simply doesn't show up on the radar of power politics. And instead of a black voter constituency that might be an engine for economic progress, it is a constituency at war with state and local government. There are no black palms to grease because there are no black hands in that game, and that is the whole shame.

This comes as something of a shock and then again, not much. Black populist politics in the post-civil rights era has always had this need to lift more boats than politics was ever designed to lift. So more middle class and successful blacks have bowed out of politics rather than sit around listening to Marxist pontification, and all other kinds of idle talk. What remains are widely shared sentiments around the onerousness of racism (dog vomit), but little else that anything short of the Second Coming will solve.

The irony of a choice for Republicanism is the ire it draws from the same people who reserve none for progressives. There are few progressives who are satisfied by either party, and almost none who engage in partisanship. I see them as not invested, rather like the football widow who sits in the living room during the big game and complains about how stupid football is. And yet, I percieve that Democrats are not hard on Independents at all, with the outstanding exception being the grief recieved by supporters of Ralph Nader. Still, I would call that a manifestation of BDS.

The bottom line is that black Progressives get away with a non-contribution to the democratic process, whereas black Republicans get bashed for participating. I don't want to sound whiney about it, but it is one of those ironies that makes me dismissive of so much criticism I get. Republicans are abused for not fielding black candidates in reputable numbers, but black Republicans *do* win elections. Black progressive ideas appear to be widespread but progressive officeholders? Near nil, if not zero.

I am weighing the price of the exit ticket. While I intend to remain Republican, much in the way that I remain a fan of the BMW automobile, I'm not going to spend a lot of time evangelizing the basic theory. I'm just going to drive the vehicle in the direction I want to go. I've come to regard much of blogospheric partisanship like the flamewars of Microsoft vs Linux. Moreover the extent to which we in the chatting classes focus on politics over which we have marginal influence begins to annoy me. I don't see it as productively focused, but rather a specie of the notion that everyone has opinions and pieholes. More is not necessarily better.

What I don't want is to become like Faye Anderson, not that she is an objectionable person, but one not particular invested in any party. She started doing the black Republican thing and was completely disenchanted. Yet it is where I may end up if I retain my current distance from the partisan machinery. At this end of the political process, I fear not being a part of any solution; that tastes like copout to me.

And so what is the price of being of and on the Right but actually persuing more individual happiness than being part of the Struggle? Time will tell. For the time being, it can be said that I am in the process of selling out to myself. As I do so, I wonder how many folks have done so and where they are today.

Posted by mbowen at 08:48 AM | TrackBack

October 30, 2005

Shelby Steele & The Rejection of Economics

There are plenty of interpretations going around regarding Shelby Steele's recent op-ed in the WSJ.

Shelby Steele impressed me once. A long time ago basically with his one article in Harper's "The Content of our Character" - long before the book was published. Since then, not. I haven't reviewed his work and probably won't. Interestingly enough, I dismissed him much in the same way some liberals have attempted to dismiss me, through a rationale that said he had 'problems' with being black. Then again, I was a Progressive myself at the time, and I had not yet started to play fast and loose with black identity.

I happen to know that Shelby's twin brother is Claude Steele, the originator of the theory of 'Stereotype Threat' and that colleagues of mine in the academy rapped with him. It was through this part of the Kwaku Network that I discovered that Shelby... well he got slapped on the back of the head for having a name like Shelby. Of course, this is entirely unfair, but that's how identity politics works - first determine that 'authenticity' of the messenger...

In the end, I tended to dismiss him on the basis of his comparitively lame academic career as an associate prof at a state school, and thus headed into the long and troublesome romances with Cornel West and Bell Hooks (er excuse me) bell hooks.

Steele's mojo is, of course, assuaging white guilt. I would bet that he's halfway right. But since I don't like his style, I pay him little mind. He's too squishy anyway. If it aint hardball politics and economics, I'm not particularly interested.

Steele writes:

The broad white acknowledgment of racism meant that whites would be responsible both for overcoming their racism and for ending black poverty because, after all, their racism had so obviously caused that poverty.

This is a perfect thumbnail description of white liberalism of the sort that is like thumbnails on the chalkboard to me. And it is because Shelby Steele attacks this obvious (to me) fallacy almost exclusively, he is relatively worthless.

One of the places I start is with Glenn Loury's thesis, which is that colorblindness is insufficient to correct the legacy of white supremacy. The (to borrow a term) STRUCTURAL RACISM of the construction of ghetto plantations, puts many blacks in a hole. Just because nobody is digging new holes doesn't mean the playing field is level. There are still lots of blacks in the hole. Colorblindness doesn't fill the hole.

Steele's dialect fails to acknowledge that there are better reasons to fill the holes in the ghetto. It doesn't matter who lives or lived in New Orleans, the dikes should be repaired, the neighborhoods rebuilt, the holes filled up. But continuing the trope of white guilt and black responsibility begs questions of black economies and white economies, as if it were America's business to keep two separate balance sheets.

Steele concludes somewhere strange and unusual:

And our open acknowledgment of our underdevelopment will clearly give whites a power of witness over us. It will mean that whites can hold us accountable for overcoming inferiority as we hold them to accountable for overcoming racism. They will be able to openly shame us when we are not fully at war with our underdevelopment, just as Bill Bennett was shamed for no more than giving a false impression of racism. If this prospect feels terrifying to many blacks, we have to remember that whites witness and judge us anyway, just as we have witnessed and judged their shame for so long. Mutual witness will go on no matter what balances of power we strike. It is best to be open, and allow the "other's" witness to inspire rather than shame.

This is an argument that obviously has some currency in the annals of 'race relations' but what it is supposed to mean is completely alien to me. What blacks owe themselves is the willingness to understand their capacities under the premise of liberty that citizenship grants. How much of this effort is wasted in matters of exorcising ghosts of whitefolks' assessments can only be testament to internal demons best explained by psychiatrists. That any of this touchy feely accounting translates into political influence is testament to all the things that are wrong with identity politics be they white or black. So no prescriptions or adjustments to such psychic ledgers are going to get us any closer to the nation needs. We need people with houses not made of the strawmen of racial identity politics, but of the bricks of bankable skills bound by the mortar of our educational and economic infrastructure.

Methinks Shelby Steele doth huff and puff too much.

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October 28, 2005

Two Falls, Two Swords

It appears as though the Whitehouse has managed to avoid getting beaned by any of the three curveballs that were pitched last week.

Harriet Miers has taken herself out, and now Scooter Libby has resigned under a cloud of indictment. What is most fascinating about this turn of events is that it has been pressure from within the Republican Party that made these things happen. No amount of Democrat carrying-on has made a dent in the ironclad partisanship of the Bush Whitehouse, but conservative calls for blood have produced results.

From my perspective the failure of Miers is not so good as the resignation of Libby. I would have liked to have seen somebody from outside of the beltway get onto the Supreme Court, and at the outset, this is the single most attractive thing about Miers. But there's no way I would like to see someone without the legal fire to bring some substantial gumption to the bench, and this is what I percieve Miers to have lacked. If she couldn't handle the introductions to Senators...

Libby's demise is, on the other hand, relatively good news. Something has always stunk about this whole Plame game, and it has always been worth a high level head. Even if Libby is taking the heat to save Cheney, this result is better than endless fudging and stonewalling. Scott McClellan must be relieved, because his babbling had gotten completely obscene.

Posted by mbowen at 12:20 PM | TrackBack

October 25, 2005

My Bit for Sister Rosa

I added a bit of (hopefully) clarifying information about the flexible nature of the colored section of buses in Montgomery this evening over at Wikipedia. It is a fact I recall vividly, but not quite as vividly as where I learned it.

Posted by mbowen at 07:07 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 23, 2005

Harriett Miers: Certifyable Lightweight

This headline is too juicy to pass up. Unfortunately, the lawyers over at Volokh are too circumspect to back this up and I don't have time to go chasing all over the 'sphere for evidence to back me up. But Deet was able to find a slam in the LAT the other day which documented an elephant-sized goof in her understanding of the Equal Protection Clause.

As part of this curveball, it appears that there are three camps. The Hewitt camp, loyal to the end; the Buchanan camp, ideological spoilers; and those without much of a position dodging the flying dishes. But with the news of doom and gloom from the Senate as reported by Byron York, I am becoming convinced that perhaps the diehards should die hard. It isn't Miers so much as her being part of a triple threat to the Bush Whitehouse, that's pushing me over a tipping point towards a real dislike for the way W's running things I haven't felt since before his entry into Iraq.

Yes it's Plame, no it's not 2,000 dead soldiers, yes it's my lack of confidence in his administrative abilities. But boy oh boy is it ever Lawrence Wilkerson. More on him later. It's clear that I'm boxing the Christian Right through Karl Rove and blaming Rove for things that clearly Cheney and Rumsfeld were masterminding. But the matter of secrecy and loyalty oaths simply don't belong in the presidency of this republican, and this Republican is just about fed up.

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October 22, 2005

Curveballs for Bush

Here come three.

  • Miers supports Affirmative Action.
  • Syria was behind the Hariri assassination.
  • Powell's man drops bombs on the White House.

    It's going to be an interesting week.

    On the first item, it's going to be another straw on the camel's back. I think Bush will keep careening the nomination into a brick wall. I'll watch the fragments like a particle physicist watches the results of an atom smasher, hoping to get some clue as to the inner workings of the Bush ethos. We already know what to expect from his brain, but his soul is more interesting.

    On the second item, wouldn't it be interesting if some US planes just happened to accidently bomb a Syrian embassy. Well, the old maps excues has already been used. I'll use the opportunity to rub peaceniks noses in the dirt. See if they care about this revelation as much as they cared about the Downing Street Memo.

    On the third item, the most hay to make is here, because it strikes to the heart of GWBush's control of the party itself. I've said it was a good thing that the Neocons overproduced in the Bush Administration, but I know that as a general rule it could be said that Bush brokered no dissent. Probably because he was outgunned in the brains department. I think the man has enforcers and that Karl Rove is gun number one. But hopefully Rove's star descends as the 'can-do' people emerge. The question is whether the right can-do people are battling the wrong ones and it's decided that fewer can-do people are necessary in the White House.

    I wonder if the GOP has the capacity to field the right team for 08. There are many years to figure that out, but it looks like this may be the beginning of the end.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:36 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
  • October 18, 2005

    Who are the Real RINOs?

    “During the 18 years I served in the Senate, Republicans often disagreed with each other. But there was much that held us together. We believed in limited government, in keeping light the burden of taxation and regulation. We encouraged the private sector, so that a free economy might thrive. We believed that judges should interpret the law, not legislate. We were internationalists who supported an engaged foreign policy, a strong national defense and free trade. These were principles shared by virtually all Republicans. But in recent times, we Republicans have allowed this shared agenda to become secondary to the agenda of Christian conservatives. As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around.” — John Danforth, moderate Republican and former U.S. Senator and ambassador.

    Is this the turning of the tide? Is this the comment that finally strikes at the heart of the evangelical Christian camels who have infiltrated the Big Tent?

    I've long placed the blame on Karl Rove for his master strategems and his overplaying of niche manipulation. He's the one whose campaign tricks have made the Christian Right feel that it is more central to Republicanism than it actually is. But I have not been willing up to this point to place blame on the President, primarily because of his righteousness on Iraq and the War on Terror. But I think I'm coming around to a more concrete sense that his agenda is less secular than it seems and that his steadfast refusal to veto any appropriations from Congress is a serious problem.

    It's not so important that Republicans get their way as it is that the nation is run properly, and now is the time for all good Republicans to look to the health of the nation. Bush's domestic agenda has been crippled since birth with a singular inability to manage sprawling bureacracies with vision or discipline, and while neocons like myself have been searching the horizon for signs of progress, few things seem to have been going well domestically.

    Since I fundamentally believe that life is like a crap sandwich (the more bread you have, the easier the crap goes down), I haven't sweated the domestic agenda. But I'm trying to think hard about what it is that GWBush has done for the country, as opposed to the national interest on the world stage, and I'm coming up blank. So I think that I am returning back to the kind of skepticism I had back in '03. The little things are starting to add up, starting with Plame.

    GWBush may be the president that proves that if you don't mind bankrupting the country, there's little that America can't accomplish. Is that going to be the cost of putting AQ down? It better not be, and I see dark economic clouds on the horizon.

    And while these economic worries are at the front of my concerns, I'm starting to think that perhaps this Miers nomination is more than it appears to be. The word today is that she's against all sorts of abortions. Whether or not it should be, it's going to be the handle on which her nomination swings and I can clearly see GWB running this nomination train straight into a brick wall.

    So the question is whether this Bush understands where the soul of America is, and what kind of Christianity is the Christianity of this Christian nation. It's the Christianity of Christmas. The Christianity of Norman Rockwell and a moment of silence. It's the Christianity of the 'C' in YMCA. It's not the Evangelical Christianity of those awaiting the Rapture or those of the Chick tracts. It's not the Christianity of Operation Rescue, and like it or not, it is not the Christianity of political opportunity. So I have to ask very seriously if this president sees himself as the leader of the Republican Party or of a Born Again Nation, because a lot of us are not ready to blur the line between Church and State. Not for anyone under any circumstances. If it is faith that's calling the shots in the White House, then maybe we have to go back to pre-Kennedy skepticism.

    I understand and respect that George W. Bush has a good heart. That's not enough. I understand and respect that he has his priorities in the right place, but he clearly is not managing effectively, and the shortcuts and favors he seems to be cutting for people is starting to smell to me like something other than incompetence. Bush has done everything I have needed him to do as President except resolve the Plame mystery. Now he's got to be on the defensive with me as regards the economy, his responsibility in pandering to a loud minority Christian sect, and the effectiveness of his domestic agencies.

    Here's the score:

    EPA: C
    Homeland Security: D
    Interior: C
    Defense: B
    Health & Human Services: Fail
    Federal Reserve & Treasury: B+
    Energy: C-
    Transporation: Who?
    State: B+
    HUD: Who?
    Education: C
    Commerce: Who?
    Iraq: B+
    Trade Deficit: D
    Veteran's Affairs: B
    Agriculture: B

    That's not good. It's adequate. But my priorities have not been domestic. Now I'm turning that way and it doesn't look good for this crop of Republicans. The more happy evangelicals are with their influence on the GOP, the less happy I am.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:56 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    October 17, 2005

    A Little Smacking of Cornel West

    Cornel West wrote 'Unmasking the Black Conservatives' in 1986. In looking for online literature, I came across it. Interesting.

    The importance of this quest for middle-class respectability based on merit rather than politics cannot be overestimated in the new black conservatism. The need of black conservatives to gain the respect of their white peers deeply shapes certain elements of their conservatism. In this regard, they simply want what most Americans want -- to be judged by the quality of their skills, not the color of their skin. But surprisingly, the black conservatives overlook the fact that affirmative action policies were political responses to the pervasive refusal of most white Americans to judge black Americans on that basis.

    Firstly, I think that those folks I call 'Carbon Copy Conservatives', although I can't say that I know any personally, are doing exactly what West says they don't - which is seeking acceptance with white peers strictly on the bases of party affiliation. This is exactly what Condi Rice was accused of. Liberal critics of Rice suggested that she was a parrot and that it didn't matter what her skills were that she was in the White House to do the bidding of GWBush because her politics which were indistinguishable from that of white Republicans.

    I think that there is an honest contingent of black Conservatives who are conservative in ways indistinguishable from their white colleagues who rightly take pride in party partisanship.

    Nobody overlooks that fact that Affirmative Action helped lots of blackfolks, it's simply discounted. Even though West's article is 19 years old, it's fascinating in how centrally it locates the matter of Affirmative Action as a point of contention.

    The new black conservatives assume that without affirmative action programs, white Americans will make choices on merit rather than on race. Yet they have adduced absolutely no evidence for this: Hence, they are either politically naïve or simply unconcerned about black mobility. Most Americans realize that job-hiring choices are made both on reasons of merit and on personal grounds. And it is this personal dimension that is often influenced by racist perceptions. Therefore the pertinent debate regarding black hiring is never "merit vs. race" but whether hiring decisions will be based on merit, influenced by race-bias against blacks, or on merit, influenced by race-bias, but with special consideration for minorities as mandated by law. In light of actual employment practices, the black conservative rhetoric about race-free hiring criteria (usually coupled with a call for dismantling affirmative action mechanisms) does no more than justify actual practices of racial discrimination. Their claims about self-respect should not obscure this fact, nor should they be regarded as different from the normal self-doubts and insecurities of new arrivals in the American middle class. It is worth noting that most of the new black conservatives are first-generation middleclass persons, who offer themselves as examples of how well the system works for those willing to sacrifice and work hard. Yet, in familiar American fashion, genuine white peer acceptance still seems to escape them. In this regard, they are still influenced by white racism.

    This is so loaded that it's difficult to know where to start. I'd simply suggest that West's entire article be examined with the benefit of almost 20 years of hindsight. What's astounding to me is the extent to which he's correct about the failures of black liberal politics to deal with the change in the global economy, and how much that global economy, especially in my field of IT has pretty much demolished the white racist middleclass barriers to entry.

    I would be quite happy to see some study which might tell us what effect a regime of Affirmative Action has had on the attitudes within the targetted industry on black employment. I would suspect that the overall effect would be positive. What needs to be disambiguated however, is the effect of actual black success vs the ethos of equal opportunity. That is to say, in the US Armed Forces, how much of the relative ease with which black are accepted into the ranks is due to black power established within the organization (presumeably from Affirmative Action but not necessarily) vs white liberal guilt (for lack of a better term) vs pure colorblind merit?

    My gut tells me that black power and personality is the greatest influence. Moreover, I am convinced that once established the question of Affirmative Action stigma becomes moot. There is an interesting kind of tokenism at work that is not necessarily bad. Just as Michelle Wie gets a shot at being 'the next Tiger Woods', a sterling example of minority breakthrough can be positively influential on expectations of succeeding generations. The important thing to note is that Affirmative Action is not necessary to accomplish this, but black excellence is. Once black excellence has been established it is it's own 'affirmative action', one completely devoid of the political backlash actual Affirmative Action created.

    In the end I think how you fall out on this depends upon what proclivities you assign to whitefolks. To suggest that might be a fixed relationship or dominated by some hegemony is a grave error. It is the error West makes and it is why his focus on white racism has done little to address the economic problems facing blackfolks.


    West goes on to say this:

    My aim is not to provide excuses for black behavior or to absolve blacks of personal responsibility. But when the new black conservatives accent black behavior and responsibility in such a way that the cultural realities of black people are ignored, they are playing ‘a deceptive and dangerous intellectual game with the lives and fortunes of disadvantaged people. We indeed must criticize and condemn immoral acts of black people, but we must do so cognizant of the circumstances into which people are born and under which they live. By overlooking this, the new black conservatives fall into the trap of blaming black poor people for their predicament.

    What's the first thing that pops into mind? Cosby. Black Conservatives are saying that Cosby is right, and moreover that Moynihan was right. What are the 'circumstances into which people are born and under which they live' which tells them Marriage is not a reasonable choice? This takes us back through Bennett to the rather uncontested assertions of Stephen J. Levitt:

    Race is not an important part of the abortion-crime argument that John Donohue and I have made in academic papers and that Dubner and I discuss in Freakonomics. It is true that, on average, crime involvement in the U.S. is higher among blacks than whites. Importantly, however, once you control for income, the likelihood of growing up in a female-headed household, having a teenage mother, and how urban the environment is, the importance of race disappears for all crimes except homicide. (The homicide gap is partly explained by crack markets). In other words, for most crimes a white person and a black person who grow up next door to each other with similar incomes and the same family structure would be predicted to have the same crime involvement. Empirically, what matters is the fact that abortions are disproportionately used on unwanted pregnancies, and disproportionately by teenage women and single women.

    (emphasis mine)

    In other words, outside of crack and murder Moynihan was right, and Black Conservatives are right to criticize this moral failure not just in black communities but as a general principle that applies equally to whites.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    No Black Conservatism: What the Wiki?

    It turns out that until today, there was no entry in Wikipedia for 'Black Conservatism'. Imagine that. So I've gone ahead and started it. Hold on to your hats.

    I'm sending out a blast today to get everybody jumping on it. I'm interested to hear all kinds of reasonable and some unreasonable reactions to what Black Conservatism is all about. Partially to reckon with the perceptions of other conservatives with black conservatives as well as those of blacks who are not conservative themselves. Start here.

    How do you define Black Conservatism?

    I'm also going to put in a lot of food for thought in this exercise:

  • Walter Williams - Capitalism & The Common Man
  • Walter Williams at Wikipedia
  • Lee Walker's Definition
  • Emanuel McLittle - from 2003
  • Mumia Abu Jamal says
  • Project 21


    (more later)

    Posted by mbowen at 10:23 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
  • October 15, 2005

    A Black Conservative Response to James Thindwa

    Somebody I don't know, named James Thindwa is talking about 'black conservatives', that monolithic poltical boogie man. So, departing from my usual dismissal of all things written in The Black Commentator, I respond briefly. He doesn't know me, so we're equal.

    First off he starts with dealing with Star Parker's attitude towards welfare. I think he does so without even knowing that Star Parker was on welfare, and everything she says about it comes from her personal experience and repulsion by it. I think Star Parker is at least as credible on the evils of welfare as any ex-convict is about the evils of the criminal justice system. But I've also met her personally and I know she has class. So I tend to defend her as a matter of principle, just, I suppose as some people defend Mumia Abu Jamal.

    Thindwa says:

    Minimum Wage and Living Wage: Black conservative opposition to raising the minimum wage and rejection of living wage proposals across the country puts them squarely at odds with the vast majority of black people who are stuck in low-wage jobs.

    This is an old species of argument I call using the black race as a rhetorical human sheild. You bring in the spectre of a 'vast majority' of African Americans and suggest that their political interest is singular, and any opposition to that interest is not just wrong but anti-black. You therefore evade the fundamental economic argument. This black conservative says that the minimum wage is a species of wage inflation that works against employment. Thomas Sowell made the argument 20 years ago and the economics are still the same. You can have more low skill jobs with no minimum wage or you can have fewer low skill jobs with minimum wage. There's no two ways around it. Given a preference, I say the culture of work is better served by eliminating the minimum wage. Wal-Mart aint bad. I know, I've had worse jobs myself.

    Thindwa says:

    Speaking out against racism: Black conservatives seem unable to instinctively convey revulsion over racism or its vivid manifestations. When a James Byrd is dragged behind a pickup truck, crosses are burned in front of black homes, or a Trent Lott or William Bennett utters racially offensive rants, black conservatives need to be as resolute as Jesse Jackson in criticizing it.

    Thindwa is just not informed. 'Instinctive revulsion' makes me think about dog vomit, not a policy against racism. But instintive revulsion is not a bad idea when it comes to reaction to racist incidents. The question is whether or not we sit around in dog vomit all year round. People have better things to do. The man who killed James Byrd was the first white man to be sentenced to death for lynching. Justice was swift and appropriate, so why is Thindwa using that example? As for acting like Jesse Jackson... puhlease. That was another generation.

    This black conservative has gone to great lengths to differentiate degrees of racism and appropriate responses to them. It is not a binary matter and one shouldn't simply flip the racism switch that sounds the siren at full blast. Anyway. This site is replete with examples. Search for yourself if you're not lazy.

    Thindwa says:

    African Americans respect intellectual and political independence: Right or wrong, black conservatives are often seen as defenders of, and apologists for white racism.

    Would somebody give me a nice Latin phrase for this kind of logical fallacy? You know, that 'right or wrong there is this perception that..'. Aside from all that, Thindwa is back into the dog vomit.

    This black conservative has no tolerance for white racism, and I've never met one who had it. What I have seen, however, is a stunning lack of props for those white conservatives who stand against white supremacy. Then again, I don't often go there. Here's the reference, you tell me if you've seen it before or if you're still tripping off Chuck D's "..the KKK wears three piece suits." What a brother know? As for Mr. Bennett, really. Get over it.

    Thindwa writes:

    Affirmative action matters to black people. The knee-jerk references to “merit” and “qualification” made by conservatives every time affirmative action is debated lack credibility, especially now when the Bush administration is stacking government bureaucracies such as FEMA with incompetent friends. In light of such obvious cronyism, opposition to affirmative action is seen merely as a conservative strategy for maintaining white privilege.

    Huh, what? FEMA? Malcolm X found fault with affirmative action, and this black conservative does for the same reasons. But I'm really not going to do battle over this tired little point. It would be nice for Bositis or somebody to give us all a little statistic about what difference in unemployment continuing Affirmative Action makes. Then we could all say it's ump-de-ump jobs and be done with it. My guess? 10k per year total. Which might be something like a tenth of a percent in overall narrowing of the unemployment gap between black and white. An economic drop in the bucket. Affirmative Action isn't black power, it's integration.

    This black conservative defends Affirmative Action weakly
    . With nuance and skill, I might add. But most importantly with an eye on reality and not cosmic justice.

    Thindwa pontificates:

    The environment and workplace safety matters: Environmental racism is a reality. As long as black conservatives are seen as defenders of an unfettered free enterprise system that disregards the environment and public safety, no one in the black community will take them seriously.

    Remember that old joke when the patient comes to the doctor and says, "It hurts when I do this?" C'mon, you remember. The doctor says, all together now "Don't do that." Is there anybody on the planet who doesn't know that it hurts to live in the ghetto?

    Leave.

    This black conservative is a defender of social mobility and the freedom for blackfolks to move anywhere in the country. If blackfolks are unwilling to vote with their feet, I'm not going to load them up in boxcars and send them someplace I think is appropriate for them. If there were no toxic waste anyplace in the state of Utah, would Thindwa advocate that blackfolks move? Moving to the burbs is cheaper than cleaning up the hood. This is basic economics.

    Thindwa has the unmitigated gall to say:

    Katrina has deepened black opposition to the Iraq War: Regardless of its merits, the failure of the government to respond to Katrina’s victims has deepened black opposition to the Iraq War and exacerbated an already palpable backlash.

    Conservative rule number one: DONT RELY ON THE GOVERNMENT. Hello?

    Black conservatives were here before Katrina and will be here afterwards. There's really not a cogent response to be made to this rather incoherent argument. But if you have to go through New Orleans to get to Iraq, then I say go through General Honore. This black conservative and son of a US Marine says, quit whining. And while we're at it, I'm looking forward to the liberal whining about Jamie Foxx's upcoming role as a sargeant in Iraq. I hope he brings back memories of Lou Gossett Jr. We can hope.

    Thindwa writes a couple piddly sentences about health care that don't bear repeating. Everybody knows that the American health care system is broken.

    Thindwa completely ignores Glenn Loury, probably the most reputable black conservative around by scribbling:

    Historical racism: Any analysis of the present black condition that denies its link to historical racism, seeks to locate the “black problem” wholly within the individual and denies the presence of structural barriers to social and economic mobility will not be taken seriously.

    Even if you start with Massey and Denton, a great place to start, you realize that the greatest structural component of racism is residential segregation. IE, living in the all-black ghetto, is the most dangerous component of the legacy of slavery. The legacy of slavery and Jim Crow is written in the walls of the buildings that were there since those days. Let's make that clear and accept that premise.

    If you leave the ghetto and live in communities that don't have a history of segregation, because they were built after the Civil Rights Movement, then you have elminated the very tallest walls that hold blackfolks back. There is no legacy of slavery in Cerritos, CA, the home of Tiger Woods. It was built after Jim Crow was defeated. If you refuse to leave the ghetto, then it's your fault.

    So the proposition I continually pose to progressives and liberals who claim that Afrocentrism and other cultural tools are effective in countering the legacy of slavery is this. If it works, then the failure of the ghetto is the failure of the appropriate sirens of healing blackness to reach their own experimental subjects people. If it doesn't work, then the failure of the ghetto is economic. Your choice. Don't blame black conservatives. We didn't create the plantation, we escaped. Come on over, the water's fine.

    Thindwa continues:

    Foreign policy for the people: Black conservatives’ uncritical support for trade deals such as NAFTA and CAFTA that have played a role in the de-industrialization of American cities will win them no allies in black communities. And black people view with suspicion conservative attacks on leaders such as Hugo Chavez of Venezuela that do not acknowledge the source of his popularity: the largest share of the county’s oil revenue goes to fight poverty.

    I have a hard time believing that the black masses are putting 17 and 34 together and coming up with a prime number which is the key to foreign policy. Blackfolks know about Hugo Chavez because he's a loudmouth pseudo-socialist, and as such he resonates with a goodly number of other loudmouth pseudo-socialists who spend a lot of time condescending to black people in a ghetto near you. When America is ready to elect a socialist president or even a socialist city council member, I'll pay attention. Meanwhile, I say whatever to this argument. Sheesh. Hugo Chavez.

    Thindwa crunches out the following massive conspiratorial sentence:

    Racial discrimination is a reality: The wave of successful class-action suits in recent years (against the FBI, Denny’s, Wal-Mart, and so on), funding inequities in education, disparities in the criminal justice system (17 black inmates have been released from death row in Illinois, vindicated by DNA evidence), discrimination in employment (ironically, with the exception of Fox News Sunday, Sunday morning TV news programming in the “liberal media” is now off-limits to black commentators and opinion makers), all conspire to undermine black progress.

    Back to the dog vomit, this time with overtones of hegemony. All pretty heavy stuff considering the fourth word after the colon. One of these days we'll actually hear about the caseload from the EEOC and talk about the disposition of cases. Until we get to that detail, I'm really not going to trouble myself with the 6 thousand blackfolks who have been walloped by racism serious enough to merit a civil lawsuit.

    Thindwa accuses:

    Attacks on black leaders: No matter what they think of Jackson, Sharpton, Representatives Maxine Waters, John Lewis and others, black conservatives’ vitriolic attacks on the black civil rights leadership will never work. Whatever the merits, when Star Parker, Armstrong Williams, Larry Elder and other conservatives attack black leaders in a personal way (as opposed to reasoned, honest and constructive engagement), they are seen by many black people simply as attack dogs for the white Republican establishment.

    To this I say stuff it. You simply have to take it as a given that black people disagree. Vehemently. To the death. In politics as in life, anger, frustration and denial are reality. That's what it's all about. We don't like you and you don't like us. Get over it. Fight an honorable battle, but don't complain that you have to fight. God what a wuss. You want to call us dogs for the white Republican establishment, go have a field day. Here, I'll even give you some better names.

    How about this: "a graduate of the Amos 'n Andy Institute of Tomcoonery and Porch Monkeyology".

    Whatever. Jesse Jackson is dismissable. Say it, believe it and be liberated.

    Thindwa ends on a hopeful note:

    I have offered these views in the hope that black conservatives who are truly interested in changing the lives of black people for the better take another look at why their ideology has not taken root in the black community. It might comfort some to blame the “liberal media” for ignoring them. But let me suggest that black people have heard the black conservative message. They just don’t like what is being said and how it is being said.

    Thindwa is welcome to correct his misrepresentations and step out of the dog vomit. Somewhere somehow, he has come to the conclusion that black conservatives are a pure product of white Republican propaganda, and his message to black people reinforces whatever ignorance is out there that believes the same thing.

    My suggestion to Thindwa and anyone who buys his argument is twofold. The first is to ingest a healthy dose of Cobb on the regular. The second is to attempt, seriously, to understand the history of black conservatism. Not in the light of Katrina, or Bill Bennett or any of the reactionary stuff that was news in the past three months, but in terms of black history itself. Black conservatism is real and multivariate and here to stay. It exists on its own, and independent of Sean Hannity and whomever else everybody watches on television. Most clearly and importantly it exists here in the blogosphere and is being expounded by real people with real names living in the real world - not the false fantasy world of self-loathing, ass-kissing and ignorance he paints for the poor souls over at The Black Commentator ghetto.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:32 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    October 14, 2005

    A New Orleans Footnote

    The ever wonderful Negrophile reminds us about the old paper bag tests and the complexity of African American cultures.

    According to the AP article which has made it's way to MSNBC too, Nagin isn't actually part of the Creole culture. I say he could pass for it if he wanted to at a certain level.

    This is the kind of revelation that generally goes under the heading of 'dirty laundry', which means that it is a well-reasoned critique of some blackfolks and some of their traditions. For a number of reasons, none of them particularly good, blackfolks seem to be particularly brittle to such criticisms these days. Surely it's Bennett and Katrina according to traffic I'm seeing on the Kwaku Network. (This morning it was something purportedly from Maya Angelou)

    There is some concern that jazz is endangered because of the destruction, but we out here in the Creole diaspora know better.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:00 AM | TrackBack

    October 11, 2005

    Woolworths Then & Now


    On my way to the first day of the ConvergeSouth conference, I snapped a couple photos of this interesting joint. It turns out that this is one of the living monuments to one part of the Civil Rights Movement. The plaque bears the names of the college freshmen who had the nerve to do what others said blacks shouldn't do. So this is the Woolworths of legend. Plans are in progress to make it a museum.

    According to Wikipedia:

    In 1960, four black college students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College sat down at an all-white Woolworth's lunch counter, and refused to leave when they were denied service. Hundreds of others soon joined in this first sit-in, which lasted for several months. Such protests quickly spread across the South, ultimately leading to the desegregation of Woolworth's and other chains. The original Woolworth's counter and stools now sit in the Smithsonian Museum, but a Sit-In Museum is being planned for the old Woolworth's building where the event actually occurred.

    When I reflect upon the many of the various discussions I've had about Affirmative Action, it is Woolworth's that comes to mind. And specifically, I recall Malcolm's objection to the concession of retail jobs in exchange for calling off the street demonstrations. Today, blackfolks reject the economic infrastruction of a whole super Wal-Mart on the grounds that there simply isn't enough money in it for them. But perhaps the greatest irony is that Woolworth's has disappeared from the scene in its former shape and now exists as one of the most blackified employers in the country, Foot Locker.

    And now you know, the rest of the story.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:26 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    October 10, 2005

    Post-Mortem on the Drug Wars

    Nobody had the cojones to come straight out and say so in direct language, but I have read between the lines and divined the true anger at the back of the conspiratorial mind over recent comments by Bill Bennett.

    For those of you not blessed with this sort of precognition, I think I have picked it up virally by reading too many of the crystal ball interpretations of Bennett's comments. It's contagious. While I still have this dubious gift, I'll relate the vision it has implanted in my third eye.

    Bill Bennett was the sinister architect, in his role as Republican Drug Czar, of the War on Black Men. He was responsible for that genocide that went under the guise of the 'War on Drugs'. Since black men are born and bred to do just the opposite of what Whitey says, when Nancy Reagan said 'just say no' we even ignored De La Soul's 'say no go' and all took crack and angel dust. So we were suckers and ate up all the crack that the CIA strategically dropped from their cargo planes into every black neighborhood in America. And because of this, under Bennett's master plan we were all carted off to jail. Millions upon millions of us. So successful was this genocide that there are now fewer blackfolks living in America than ever before, according to the US Census.

    But wait! I'm being sarcastic.

    Sooner or later, intelligent people are going to recognize that there is not going to be a reversal of the way things work in America. There are too many millions if not billions of people around the world who wish it might be so, and they have been powerless to change America. I'm sure every Soviet Premier has wanted to. I'm sure every leftist dictator in Central America wanted to. I'm sure that the most successful Communist in world history, Fidel Castro wants to. I'm sure every half-witted Imam on the wrong side of Islam wants to. But none of them have, none of them can and none of them will. So what makes anyone think that the kind of politics that makes illiegal drug users into representatives of some great African American political revolt is going to be successful in changing the ways and means by which blackfolks will attain power and success in America?

    Write them off.

    Everyone who has served jailtime for illegal drug use in America, whether or not their sentence was overly harsh or their arrest was done by the books or not has first and foremost has made a choice that put themselves and their family at risk. Anyone too ignorant to know that weed or crack is illegal has no business representing anything as important and precious as the fate of African America. If indeed anyone is going to use the argument that the individual choices of the individual drug user 'is not hurting anyone', then why should their incarceration be seen as a drag on African America? Either they are a part of the solution to black ills, or they are not. You can't have it both ways. If they are not (and I say hell no they ain't), then we can only feel for them as [poor, idiot] victims, but not as leaders, and not as part of a positive political base.

    So I shed no tears for the man who gives up his vote for a toke. I shed no tears for the man who loses his family because he got arrested for possession. I have no political sympathy for them whatsoever. I recognize that if that's up to 20% of the black nation, then it most clearly has to be the 20% that does us no good, considering what good they've done themselves and their family thus far.

    If. If only it happened to me, maybe I wouldn't feel the same way. But it didn't and I don't. Even if it had, eventually I would think the same way. A bad man knows he's bad. He doesn't get out of jail and then try to run for president. He tries to get his life back in order, and if he has truly learned anything he tries to keep others from making the same mistake. That is if he can help himself from making the same mistake.

    I'm not here to defend the criminal justice system's sense of proportionality. I'm here to question the wisdom of making the fate of drug users the source of our political values. I'm here to suggest that any ammo spent on Bill Bennett because of his zeal in the War on Drugs (which I have yet to quantify) is ammo wasted. I'm here to remind everyone, who seems to have forgotten, that there are some people we cannot afford to deify and others who don't merit demonization. I don't know why some folks can't get it through their heads that the strong black family persists. Let the devil take the hindmost. We can afford it. What we cannot afford are voices in support of folks not worthy of our respect.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:29 PM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

    October 04, 2005

    Lining Up on Miers

    Already, people seem to know so much. That's always disturbing to me.

    I honestly don't care one way or the other who is nominated to the Supreme Court much like I don't care who is the lead programming architect at Microsoft. That job is so complicated that I don't want to engage in the conciet that I know anything substantial about it. Nor are my interests so particular or strong that they must in some way be validated by concurrence.

    Miers strikes me as emminently qualified, and qualified in a unique and different way. I like that she's not a judge and that she breaks the mold. I like what Kay Bailey Hutchinson said about her on the radio yesterday. I like that Bush's antagonists can't stand her because she is close to him, and the thin pretense of that. I like that she's a she, for what it's worth, and I like that she's a Texan.

    As you can see, I'm basing this generally positive assessment without knowing, or much caring 'where she stands on the issues'. I don't have any issues so I don't have to care. But this is a different species of not caring than apathy. It is the species of not caring related to not giving oneself a headache over something inevitable. In that regard, I am looking to Boyd who says that in order to be free one must be rich or reduce one's needs to zero. What do I need from the Supreme Court? Just about zero.

    But I am not free of the Supreme Court any more than I am free of the price of gasoline. Still, I can walk between the redrawn lines of the law whatever they may be, just as I may conserve gasoline.

    I'll be a happy spectator on this one, watching the reactions of the fans rather than the strategies and tactics of the player herself.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:19 AM | TrackBack

    October 03, 2005

    Stats and Morals

    A long time ago, I used to deal with the Angry White Male phonomenon in a confrontational manner. Today I saw some statistics that reminded me of those bad old days:

    6. Black Men Are Disproportionately Incarcerated 5 million: Number of men of any race who have ever served time in state or federal prison in 2001 1.9 million: Number of black men who have ever served time in state or federal prison as of 2001 704,000: Number in 1979 630,700: Number of white men in prison or jail 818,900: Number of black men in prison or jail 195,500: Number of black men ages 18-24 in prison or jail 17: Percentage of black men who have ever served time in prison

    But before I deal with any puny fractions here, I want to make a note of the difference between a statistical concern and a moral concern. As followers of the Bennett controversy should know by now, what is rational in utilitarian terms is not always rational in moral terms. The reverse is true as well. What is dismissible in utilitarian terms is not always dismissible in moral terms.

    Still, I'm going to stress the stats.

    As we have long known, those of us who follow Ellis Cose, blackfolks who have nothing to do with crime or criminality are always being unfairly asked to be accountable for the legendary disproportionality. Whenever I hear that argument I say that in order to be consistent, black should be disproportionately commended for the good. It usually it doesn't work, but it depends upon the aim of the interlocutor. Just as this 17% figure tends to show up when the subject is crime, I like to shoot back the 30% figure with regards to black enlistment in the armed forces. 'We' may be overrepresented in jail, but our overreprentation in patriotic duty is way more impressive, statistically speaking. Of course it never seems to have the moral sway it should with the sorts of folks who bring up the 17%. I wonder why.

    Even so, it should be a cursory bit of knowledge that there are about 36 million or so blackfolks in this country now, roughly half of which are men. So while it's fun to toss around the idea that 17% of prisoners are black, those 17% are only (given the figures above) about 4.5% of black American males. In other words, 95.5% of us aren't. So when has 4.5% of a population become the responsibility of the rest, or justified some characterization of the rest?

    Let me put it this way, let's take a similar statistic about gay men.

    Only 6 percent of men in the NCHS study reported engaging in oral or anal sex with another man during their lifetimes, while the percentage of men reporting same-sex sexual behavior in the CUNY-Queens College study fluctuated over the years between 3.5 and 5.5 percent.

    So imagine that I as a man asked for advice about my marriage, and you know that since about 4.5% of men are homosexual, you start talking about what gay men do. It's something I think very few people would suggest, but the relative statistics are the same. This is why I tend to get incensed when matters of African American politics and culture touch the waters of jail and crime stats. Let's see if this rhetorical device works for me in the future.

    In the meantime note that while the statistical percentages suggest that this problem be pushed off to the side, there is a larger moral issue at hand - which is the issue of crime and punishment itself. Surely only a few of any society are criminal, but they will continue to get a disporportionate amount of our political attention, and rightly so.

    So the next time I say bah and humbug to any discussion about black crime, understand where I'm coming from. I don't even *know* any black men in jail.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:11 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

    October 01, 2005

    Bennett's Glorious Example

    I'm through being mad about Bill Bennett. In fact, the way I see it, he has gone from being a hapless victim to a stellar hero. But that only depends on how long and hard you are willing to think about what he said. I'll give you a shortcut to understanding.

    Imagine you were a radio talk show host and you wanted to make a point about the value of morals vs the value of economics. The subject is abortion and your position is that abortion is wrong and there can be no economic justification for it. You'd be right where Bennett was just recently.

    So you search your brain for an example of this logic that is so compelling that as soon as you say it, you'll have millions of people understanding that the value of morality is much greater than the value of economics.

    "Abort all black babies to lower crime".

    Bennett is a genius. He was able, with just a few short sentences to bring a level of uproar so powerful, so resonant with the American psyche that people still can't get the idea out of their heads. The concept encapsulated in those seven small words is so powerful, so earthshatteringly dangerous that it has turned our world upside down. It is so morally contemptuous that people have come out of their homes screaming in the streets. By simply naming it, he has brought the public to attention to a concept which is universally reviled.

    And we will do everything possible to see that such a thing never happens in America.

    Why? Because Bill Bennett is right. There can be no economic justification, no matter how large, to induce people to favor abortion. Americans will stand together toe to toe to see that there is no lost generation. Everyone who has rushed to have an opinion and the moral outrage of those seven words has proven that money doesn't matter when it comes to questions of unborn babies. Economics can't trump morality and we won't stand for it. There are certain things that you just don't do, no matter what the economic benefits might be.

    Go ahead and tell me that's not the point.

    Sista Toljah got it right.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:25 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

    September 30, 2005

    Truth Insurance

    Judith Miller apparently didn't crack. Instead, Scooter Libby has decided to face the music for better or worse and has released her from her oath of confidentiality.

    It's hard to imagine that with all the lawyers involved and the complicated scheming nature it must require to become someone as well-placed as Mr. Libby that some kind of backdoors have been engineered to leave various players involved some breathing room. But if anyone has done the due dilligence, as it were, for dealing with the implications of truths to be told it is the intrepid NYT reporter who has just emerged from 90 days in jail.

    She is seen marching triumphantly with the publisher of the NYT on today's front page. So it occurs to me that some folks have had to be prepared for this, and if they weren't that they certainly should be now. If we are going to have a contentuous relationship between the press and powers that be, it seems wise to have reporters who are willing to go the distance. My call is for some insurance and some courage.

    Unlike most folks, perhaps, I am not particularly impressed with that which has passed as 'investigative journalism' over the past couple of years. I am somewhat resigned to the hope that historians will get the job done in retrospect. The pose of men and women in suits marching in slow motion has surely been an overused cliche of 'Eyewitness News' over the past two decades, and plenty of on-air personalities have made their fortunes in being bold 'investigators', none more (in)famous than Geraldo Rivera. Yet there remains a type of journalist that stick to their guns and go beyond the ordinary to capture the full breadth of a story. These are the men and women to whom much is owed. I think of Woodward (of course) but also Gary Webb, who went the distance on the CIA-Crack Cocaine story against all odds. Most of all, I suppose, I am impressed with people who have the discipline to write a book and dedicate themselves to the big picture and not merely the film at eleven.

    The question remains whether or not the big media with all the money are truly interested in giving worthwhile stories legs, and if they can maintain the integrity it takes not to milk a story in progress with worthless details. Who wouldn't rather have a 3 hour exhaustive documentary and a companion 300 page book on the matter of Chandra Levy, rather than 6 months of 2 minute updates?

    Believe me, we out here in the blogosphere would much rather have the former. Timeliness has its drawbacks, and so long as we are here, we're going to be better at processing the unfiltered, unedited up to the minute stuff. All we need is an AP bulletin and bloggers on the ground and we'll be on top of it. But what we'll never have are the resources to bankroll a dedicated and courageous professional to the arcane matters attending that which is worthy of national attention.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:58 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Conspiracy Theories & Crocodile Tears

    It didn't take long for the reaction to DeLay's indictment to stir up emotions. Last night on the news the defensive offensive onslaught was ferocious. An indictment, we were hotly told by DeLay supporters, was exactly the thing needed to get DeLay out of his position. It was as though that and an act of God were the only two things and they were sooner expecting the Rapture.

    Color me naive, but I believe that in America, you can have pretty wreckless prosecution, but Grand Juries are something else entirely. Serving on a Grand Jury is something I hope I have an opportunity to do before I leave this place. One day in Providence, RI some guy rambled on about it for an hour as I sat in rapt attention. I seem to recall that in Rhode Island, a Grand Jury consisted of 23 citizens, and that large number meant you were much more likely to bring some intellectual probity into the indictment process. In all, this gent made something generally considered loathesome to be a very special thing indeed. I found myself marvelling at the very structure. And so it is with that in mind that I find it difficult to believe a Grand Jury could be railroaded.

    But stranger things have happened.

    DeLay's indictment came as a surprise to me, although I'm not particularly sorry to see it come. It is true that Democrats have been sniffing around his toilet for months and that NPR has been particularly shameless in their guilt-by-association tactics. I've defended DeLay on the grounds that if somebody had something on him they should put up or shutup. You can hate somebody for having name-dropping groupies who peddle influence, but you can't blame them and you certainly can't prosecute them. But as I read the indictment, I see a completely different angle and nothing to do with Jack Abramoff.

    Tom DeLay is no hero. As Congresscritters go, he is singularly focused on strongarm tactics. As such it would be a good bet that he has presided over more votes split by party than any previous house leader. If there is any word that describes DeLay's leadership, bipartisan is at the bottom of the pack. His actions have even generated theories that the Republican strategy has changed to get a 51% majority and quit arguing their case. The very idea of doing the absolute minimum required to pass sticks in my craw and it is part of my beef with DeLay. He is a man whose ruthless efficiency is reminescent of Harvey Keitel's character in Pulp Fiction, Winston Wolfe. Powerful? Yes. Effective? Yes. Admirable? Nahh.

    Is there any legislation this Congress can be proud of? No. Not since McCain Feingold and Sarbanes Oxley has there issued anything from Congress that makes me proud. Instead this has been a Congress that has done nothing inspired. It sits totally in the background while the President takes everything in the face. Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rice and even Scooter Libby have had higher profiles than this Congress. The world has little noted nor long remembered any acts of this practically anonymous body - this Congress of shadows. That is except for DeLay's hammering of opposition into submission, squishing them mercilessly like so many household pests. Where is the sweet reason and light? Dare I say that Congress has been stripped of its representational nature and reduced to a machine of manufactured consent? This is DeLay's doing, and the void is welcome.

    As the days roll forward, we will see every type of charge and countercharge, every spin and slanted deconstruction. It's disgraceful already. Will this be the new trial of the century? You bet.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:30 AM | TrackBack

    September 28, 2005

    Political Death Warrant

    delay.jpg


    Looks like it's curtains for Tom DeLay. I will be taking this opporutnity to expand the influence of Republicans such as myself in the party, who have always sought a higher standard of leadership that that embodied by 'The Hammer'.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:09 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Superdome Mythbusters

    What will you believe to be true about poor black people and why? This is the meaty question at the heart of a new storm brewing over what people purportedly knew about the situation on the ground in New Orleans. It comes as no surprise.

    I have often been asked if I think America is a racist nation. I suppose the answer has to be yes, otherwise nobody would ask such a patently offensive question. But determining the degree of racism and what exactly that means is a science that by and large the public has abandoned. So just as the majority of Americans can't tell whether the circumference of the globe is closer to to 25,000 miles or 250,000 miles, a lot of us don't know crap about racism. All we know is "I'm not racist, yes racism does exist, but not as much as Jesse Jackson says". Bloody brilliant.

    I think that the blogosphere, spearheaded by Dean Esmay whose righteous indignation I find admirable, can nail down some of the perpetrators. We want to know who participated in arguing based upon the stories of anarchy that surrounded the Superdome. I think that would be relatively easy to do - follow the trail of wags who were knocking Nagin. That would be my strategy. After all, we do have search engines for this type of thing.

    Since I've already picked a nemesis for what it's worth, I refer you to Junkyard Blog, who thought it would be more appropriate to call New Orleans 'Mogadishu'.

    I've already said:

    America has, unwillingly to be sure, looked at black poverty and squalor dead in the face, longer than anybody ever wanted to - for weeks on end. This isn't the OJ Simpson trial, this isn't about Rodney King, it's about destitute black faces on the air 24/7. Enough so that just about everybody freaked out and said something stupid. From Barbara Bush, to Kanye West to Wolf Blitzer to Randall Robinson, the gaffes just gushed. Why? Because nobody knew how to handle a black catastrophe - which is poor black people taking center stage in America's living room.


    And right at the onset
    :

    But let's not mince words. New Orleans is a black vs white town. I was there this spring and all over the news was how clubs in the Quarter were getting sued for racial profiling. In addition to that, there is the kind of black poverty in New Orleans that defies cvility. It's very easy to take a wrong turn off the avenue and wind up in the third world, and everybody knows it. I'm talking dirt streets and standing water in the middle of the summer. There is a not-insignificant portion of New Orleans that a lot of people are glad to see washed into oblivion. But the people who lived there are now souls to be saved. Not everybody is willing to be charitable. Considering that disaster tends to bring out the best in people, what we haven't seen is the daily ugliness of racial New Orleans.

    Outside of the human catastrophe, there are people whose interests it serves to highlight and exaggerate any situation that dehumanizes blackfolks. That's Class Three racism to be sure, but in this situation it is particularly ugly.

    I say go get 'em Dean.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:43 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    September 24, 2005

    Integration by Income

    Simply brilliant.


    Over the last decade, black and Hispanic students here in Wake County have made such dramatic strides in standardized reading and math tests that it has caught the attention of education experts around the country.

    The main reason for the students' dramatic improvement, say officials and parents in the county, which includes Raleigh and its sprawling suburbs, is that the district has made a concerted effort to integrate the schools economically.

    Since 2000, school officials have used income as a prime factor in assigning students to schools, with the goal of limiting the proportion of low-income students in any school to no more than 40 percent.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:13 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

    Calling All Jews, Reject Your So-Called Leaders

    A thoughtful individual passed a note on to me this afternoon. It was written by a Rabbi Spero of the Caucus of America. It begins:

    In New Orleans, beginning Tuesday morning, August 30, I saw men in helicopters risking their lives to save stranded flood victims from rooftops The rescuers were White, the stranded Black. I saw Caucasians navigating their small, private boats in violent, swirling, toxic floodwaters to find fellow citizens trapped in their houses. Those they saved were Black.

    I saw Brotherhood. New York Congressman Charlie Rangel saw Racism.

    Yes, there are Two Americas. One is the real America, where virtually every White person I know sends money, food or clothes to those in need -- now and in other crises -- regardless of color. This America is colorblind.

    The other is the America fantasized and manufactured by Charlie Rangel, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who constantly cry racism! even in situations where it does not exist, even when undeniable images illustrate love, compassion and concern. These three men, together with todays NAACP, want to continue the notion of Racist America. It is their Mantra, their calling card. Their power, money, and continued media appearances depend on it.

    I think that the first time I heard an argument like this, I was still in high school. And so it goes. So I responded:

    America needn't be colorblind to be right. This rabbi who wrote this is not working within a framework to adequately understand the problems of race, class and religion to offer any useful solution. He no more represents the truth than he represents Judaism. If I disagree with him, it's not because he's Jewish, but I could spin it that way. It's my responsibility to recognize the difference between Caucus for America and the Lubavitchers. It makes me smarter with regard to my ability to distinguish jews. But I cannot simply say Spero is an idiot and all good jews should disavow him. It's my failure to recognize that all jews don't know, respect or follow him. Likewise we've been hearing commentator after commentator beat down Jesse Jackson in print making him more than he is and blinding America to the fact of the diversity of political views, class orientations and religious faiths between African Americans.

    --

    I've been here for about three years and I've had the good fortune to be invited to a couple speaking engagements. But I can only do so much. Yet so many Americans seem to suffer such impoverished imaginations that they find inspiration in beating down The Fungibles. When will it end? It will end when people start thinking for themselves and realize that blackfolks do too. When that day comes, as it has for most of us around here, then we'll have the good fortune not to be reminded of the obvious by people who obviously consider us clueless.

    Besides. When I looked at New Orleans, I saw a mayor who risked his political career by shouting and cursing on the air to get assistance by any means necessary. Furthermore I saw a John Wayne dude who took command of the situation on the ground to universal praise of everyone who bothered to pay attention. He was commanding those helicopters. Both of those men were black. So maybe it's not so simple as black and white.

    Duh.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    September 23, 2005

    Word of Bond

    I haven't been so quick to call blackfolks d dysfunctionally dependent on government largess (and scraps) as some Conservative bretheren. But nothing quite demonstrates the orientation of entitlement as the following mission statement:

    We, the undersigned, vow to step up in the aftermath of Katrina, to ensure that no one is left behind again.

    We commit to doing our part to ensure that all people are regarded as full humans, not as second-class citizens, and that our government is responsive to their needs. We commit to helping those who have been continually ignored gain a powerful political voice.

    We will insist that those who have been pushed to the margins become a priority in this country, and that the federal government take responsibility for people in crisis. We will hold the government, and ourselves, accountable.

    Together, we will be a powerful force for change.

    I'm not going to deconstruct this at length. I think it speaks for itself. If there is going to be a race and class discussion about Katrina then let us use Julian Bond's declaration stand in (for the sake of argument) for the cause of liberal, poor blacks. The fact that this will be popular and considered by its signers to be unassailable IS the 'unbridgeable' difference between them and the cause of conservative, rich whites, for whom Bush purportedly singularly loves. If and when I find such a manifesto on the other side of the fence, I'll plop it in here.

    In the meantime here are some dichotomous talking points, personalized for the sake of Socratic dialog with the Kanye asslicks who are bound to follow.

  • I: Heard the news and got out of dodge when the mayor announced. You: Don't watch the news.

  • I: Don't expect the President or other Government officials to care because they have no incentive to do better and they are largely incompetent bureaucrats.
    You: Don't expect the President or other Government officials to care, because they are heartless, racist criminals who enjoy watching people suffer.

  • I: Look at 60 Billion dollars in aid from the government as a boondoggle and an incredible opportunity to stimulate the entire economy of the region for blacks and whites alike.
    You: Believe it's all going to Halliburton anyway, if it's even true.

  • I: Am heartened by the generosity of Americans all over the country who have opened their arms, wallets and communities to displaced blackfolks who now have a chance to start over.
    You: Are still looking for more dead bodies to amp up the volume of your complaints.

  • I: Understand that nobody can be prepared for the inevitable slings and arrows and unpredictability of life.
    You: Want safety and security at any cost to insure that 'this sort of thing never happens again'.

  • I: Am satisfied that the overwhelming majority of people survived this ordeal and that valuable lessons have been learned.
    You: Will continue to focus on those worst cases and use them to typify an inplacable and ongoing 'institutional bias' that will never change.

  • I: Believe Kanye West is out of his depth, and is probably dumber than Tupac who wasn't too bright himself.
    You: Believe that Kanye West inherits the mantle of Malcolm X, and that I should be shot for dissing 'Pac.

  • I: Believe that most of the people who died in New Orleans were the elderly and infirm, and that this is similar in many ways to the people who die from heat exhaustion in Chicago, despite warnings by the mayor that they should drink plenty of water and stay by A/C.
    You: Think that the Superdome was just a Nazi concentration camp or a slave ship in disguise.

  • I: Am hoping that the displaced people can find the courage and assitance to move on with their lives.
    You: Are hoping to build another MoveOn.com to make political points out of suffering by placing blame at the foot of GWBush.

  • I: Am saying all this in anticipation of a provocative yet nuanced debate about the real political differences between Americans in matters of class and race.
    You: Can't wait to call me names.
  • So this should be fun.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:19 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

    September 19, 2005

    Grass Roots Technology Projects Supporting Hurricane Katrina Relief

    From my good buddy Y, an interesting review:

    Here's a quick update on the various grass roots technology projects that are providing resources to Hurricane Katrina Relief efforts. These projects are delivering telecommunication and data communication and infrastructure services to NOLA and the Gulf Coast.

    As one self-confessed "geek" wrote in his blog today:

    "I may be biased, but it is apparent that technology has played a
    tremendous role in the recovery from this disaster. Every site I go to
    has donation links for recovery organizations. Millions of dollars are
    being donated in such a way. ...The missing persons databases have
    reunited thousands with families and loved ones, reunited guardians
    with pets....I am personally not qualified for search and rescue,
    caring for the sick, pulling people out of flood-ridden houses or
    policing the streets.. But I am still very proud to be a part of the
    recovery effort in my own little way. I may be a tattooed computer
    nerd, a geek if you will, but I still would like to think that my
    presence here is making some kind of difference, if only to alert other
    geeks, like yourself, that New Orleans needs your support. I just hope
    we are able to bring an awareness to those who may not read the
    mainstream papers, watch the news."

    I am once again encouraging all of you to clean your closets and
    garages of used/obsolete computer equipment and peripherals and donate
    to the cause. And for those of with corporate jobs, please find out how
    your employer recycles or disposes of obsolete equipment.

    /index.php?title=Main_Page

    Grass Root Projects

    1) CU Wireless - Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network: Community
    Wireless Networking experts from throughout the United States are
    heading to the New Orleans/LA region to help rebuild their
    telecommunications infrastructure.
    http://cuwireless.net/

    The CU Wireless effort in the Katrina/Gulf Coast area is being blogged
    by Joel Johnson, Jacob Appelbaum, and others.

    Joel Johnson's Blog
    http://joeljohnson.com/

    Jacob Appelbaum's Blog
    http://jacob.wordpress.com/

    2) Operation Flashlight: A coalition of neighborly Americans hatched
    RebuildTheSouth.com on September 3. They have sponsorship/support from
    the NAACP. Their mission is to organize structures of the evacuees, by
    the evacuees, and for the evacuees. I had sent an e-mail about this
    project a few days ago -- now the official web site is up.
    http://www.operationflashlight.com/

    3)Radio Response: RadioResponse.org is a group of IT professionals,
    mostly from the wireless networking community, that focuses on
    relieving the communication blackouts that result from widespread
    catastrophe. The scope of their operation is currently limited to the
    Bay Saint Louis area, with the exception of the shelters that have been
    connected in northern Luisiana. However, plans are being made to extend
    both ways along the Gulf coast
    http://www.radioresponse.org/

    4) Project Interdictor/Outpost Crystal: Originally established by
    DrecNic to maintain continual data/telecomm connectivity to NOLA
    throughout the devastation left by the Hurricane, that phase of the
    project has reached end-of-life with great success. DirecNic is now
    focusing efforts on re-building is NOC and which was severely damaged
    by wind and water; DirecNIC is also working aggressively to restore
    business services to it's customers. The volunteer project is adapting
    to provide data and web services to other grass roots projects, and
    well as providing raw, uncensored reports "direct from the front
    lines". Future projects include: recorded audio/transcribed of
    emergency scanner feeds (available now), a comprehensive log of news
    articles related to the hurricane, and podcasts.
    http://mgno.com
    http://wiki.nola-intel.org

    Posted by mbowen at 06:52 PM | TrackBack

    September 18, 2005

    Caring about the Rich

    In this thread of the discussion I would attempt to derail an argument which is that President Bush needs to meet some arbitrarily high standard of 'caring about black people' which we can take as caring for poor people. It seems to me that you cannot get to be President of the US without a cursory understanding that no amount of 'caring' is going to change the plight of the poor. However a campaign that is all about 'caring' can get you elected whether or not you do. In either case it is the health of the nation which determines the relative destitution of the poor. Our poor may digust us so that we turn away from the tube or make disparaging remarks, but it doesn't change the fundamental fact that we haven't discovered as many dead in this catastrophe as befalls the truly indigent in the third world. In other words, indigence is relative.

    The literacy rate in America is something on the order of 98%. And we find reasons to find it pathetic that some Americans have no cars of their own or legions of buses and drivers at the ready. Some people in America don't eat for four days and we are stunned, shocked and scandalized. Some loony shoots dogs in an abandoned neighborhood and we get to know this and cluck our tongues in dismay. This and 3 dollar gas is the worst of our problems. Within two weeks, 60 billion is appropriated, millions of people contribute hundreds millions of dollars, and some of the greatest disgust is expressed at government officials who don't let every volunteer actually volunteer. That is nothing more or less than the definition of a great, powerful and privileged society.

    I've said before that the American Negro Problem is not a problem any longer. So when I hear people gnash their teeth and heave vituperous remarks at the man in the Oval Office, I wonder if they are thinking with any sense of perspective whatsoever, or are they too so absolutely spoiled that they have no idea what this event means against the scope of human tragedy. But let me be specific and defend what so many consider indefensible - that the President does for the rich and ignores the poor.

    The Internet works because it was based upon a communications protocol designed to survive nuclear attack. The Federal Reserve Bank works uniquely in the world. The interstate highway system in America is designed to handle truck and tank traffic. Wall Street exists for investors. If there weren't people who were extraordinarily demanding these things would not exist, and life would be tougher for you and me, and more intolerable than ever for the poor. We all have credit cards and electronic fuel injection and breakfast cereal because rich people have made those things possible. They didn't take all their money and run away to Las Vegas to blow it on the tables. It's working. There's orange juice in the ghetto because somebody decided to take millions of dollars and build trucks with refrigerators in them and drive them from California and Florida to every ghetto in America. Nobody in any ghetto knows how to farm oranges, but they drink orange juice. And they buy gasoline and electricity and natural gas. They can put their life savings in banks and the banks will never steal from them and all of us are guaranteed up to 100,000 by the FDIC - something you can't get in other nations. There was no cholera outbreak in New Orleans. There was no dysentery, no malaria, no dengue. Why? Because the economy of the US keeps extraordinary infrastructure working. They do it with lots and lots of money and lots of lots of rich people. Those rich people are as dependable as your bank and your electricity and your car insurance because there is no such thing as a poor person who ever ran a bank, utility or insurance company, and yet all Americans have equal access to all of those things, by law. Funny how that works.

    America is not broken. The better off the economy is the better off we all are. You try building your own house some time. Try sewing your own clothes. Try financing your own car. Try processing your own sewage or generating your own heating. Try refining your own crude oil or God forbid, writing your own paycheck. You might learn what it's like to be a wealthy American. On the other hand, you already are.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:12 PM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

    September 17, 2005

    Tell Me It Means Nothing

    Somebody had the nerve to ask me today, what are we doing in Iraq. I replied something on the order of 'providing stability in the region' and helping the people build a nation in the community of nations.

    I always find it interesting to hear people who don't argue often jump into a political discussion. Well actually I find it annoying, but since I happen to love these particular naifs, I could shrug about it. There's a kind of hit and run disgust with the lack of acceptance of their conventional wisdom. Like the woman who said that she doesn't even know anybody who voted for Bush. And so a couple of my good friends had the nerve to suggest it was about oil.

    Of course I was the only one in the discussion that could name an oilfield in Iraq: Majnoon. And I was the only one in the discussion who knew that France and Russia had contracts with the Iraqi government for substantial portions of Iraqi oil. I was the only one in the discussion who knew that it will take many years and many billions to get them up to reasonable production levels.

    I was the only one in the discussion that read the Iraqi Constitution. One of my interlocutors does in fact believe that Iraqis are building their new Republic at the point of a gun.

    So I realize that I am in the company of people who are just not going to see anything my way. I only have one bomb to drop. So I ask them to tell me it means nothing that Iraqi women have voted for the first time.

    For that I get a stammer and a moment of silence. It was the best I could do.

    I have other very simplistic arguments at the ready, but we started in New Orleans. We had to go all the way to Iraq to prove Bush is a 'moron' so that I could be assured that he's lying about the 60 Billion, which he will never spend - or so I've been told. So I had to go to Iraq.

    So I ask. Let's say you have two choices. The US Army or the Israeli Army in charge of the Middle East. Whom to you choose? I even threw in a CIA assassination of Saddam as the third choice. The answer? Neither, of course. We shouldn't be over there, they say.

    Osama bin Laden, they say. What about him. How come they can't find him. The same reason they couldn't find Eric Rudolph or DB Cooper. Locals hid him. I didn't have the presence of mind to snark their presumed cooperation. So here's one for you of like minds. If a liberal asks you about finding bin Laden, ask them if they would hide him from George W. Bush. The answer I gave left nobody breathless. We found Saddam because we had thousands of troops looking for him. Where do you want to send the next 20,000? It would be too logical for them to admit.

    (sigh)

    Posted by mbowen at 10:57 PM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

    September 16, 2005

    Black Catholics

    I went to Catholic school. Twice. My mother was raised Catholic in New Orleans. You don't often hear much about African Americans in the Catholic Church. Then again you don't often hear much about blackfolks outside of the main media scripts anyway. George handed me a URL this week from The Tidings which reminds me again, that we are not alone.

    Currently, I am an Episcopalian, but have considered moving towards either the Catholic Church or Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Much depends upon my future endeavors as Lucifer Jones, possible reforms to the sacrament of Matrimony and sense I make of the Gospel of Thomas.

    In the meantime, I found the Tidings article a pleasant read:

    African American Angelenos have a historical bond to the black families seen waving on rooftops, crowds of desperate blacks packed together outside the Superdome and the bloated black bodies floating face down in the flood waters that inundated New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities and communities.

    Ties run deep to Louisiana, starting with a migration in the late 1800s. Black Pullman porters on the Southern Pacific Railroad, who talked about a golden land out west, sparked a mass movement of southern African Americans who were desperate to leave behind the South's apartheid enforced by Jim Crow laws.

    Following World War II, many more blacks fled Louisiana and Mississippi to Southern California, looking for work in federally funded industries like aircraft manufacturing that promised good pay and benefits and, most important, the elimination of racial discrimination.

    Many of these African Americans --- especially from New Orleans --- brought with them their rich Catholic tradition. Mostly they settled in South Los Angeles and quickly enriched parishes, including Holy Name of Jesus, Transfiguration and St. Lawrence of Brindisi.

    My sister and I both attended Holy Name of Jesus School on Jefferson Blvd in LA. These days, Holy Name is one of the biggest mixed brown congregations in the city. They could use a larger sanctuary if you ask me.

    On occasions such as this, I wonder whatever has become of Bishop Stallings, but not too much because I am admittedly not particularly focused on ecumenical concerns. But maybe it's about time I started turning that corner.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    September 15, 2005

    Say Thank You, Dammit

    Now is the time for all good Reparationists to thank God for Katrina and thank George W. Bush for 60 Billion dollars.

    Over at Booker Rising, an interesting angle cropped up on the matter of Reparations and Republicans. But my angle is this: Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana are basically the heart of Dixie. Anybody and everybody knows that most of the blackfolks who live there represent those too unfortunate to migrate. I'll state it plainly. If you didn't get out in the Civil War and you didn't get out after the failure of Reconstruction, and you didn't get out during the Great Migration of the 1920s and you didn't get out in the Civil Rights Movement and you are still stuck in the South and poor and black...DAMN!

    Now let's say you didn't get out in Katrina either. Symbolically, is there anyone more oppressed and downtrodden and left behind than poor blackfolks who have, since Slavery, missed five generational opportunities to leave Dixie? I mean, DAMN!

    Now I'm going to jump on the rhetorical bandwagon of one of my idiot commenters for a moment to make a point:


    70 percent of New Orleans is African American. I don't know the stats, but I'm willing to bet that's more than any other city in this country, where the colored is the majority. I've been there once and despite the distractions of drunk women, packed bars, and loud music; I glimpsed the iron hot tin roof history of segregation being perpetuated in the old city. It was simple too, I simply noticed who was working where. At my hotel- the mariot in the French quarter- The receptionists, cashiers, and information clerks were all white. But the maintanence workers, all of them were black! I read in our local paper today that there are no hotel's in New Orlean's owned by African Americans and If you want proof of this fact ask me and I'll post another reply with the link.

    These are the people who are going to reap the benefits of SIXTY BILLION DOLLARS OF FEDERAL AID, FREE!. Those blackfolks from New Orleans typify the beneficiaries of those dollars that America just can't seem to give away fast enough. Unless Osama bin Laden drops a nuke on Harlem there is never going to be another opportunity for poor black people to get free Federal Aid on this scale for 100 years. THIS is Reparations. The more you have been saying that blackfolks are getting the short end of the deal, the more on the hook you are for recognizing what goods are coming. If Katrina was a hurricane of race, then blacks have to be said to be reaping the whirlwind windfall of Federal largess. There's no way around it.

    America has, unwillingly to be sure, looked at black poverty and squalor dead in the face, longer than anybody ever wanted to - for weeks on end. This isn't the OJ Simpson trial, this isn't about Rodney King, it's about destitute black faces on the air 24/7. Enough so that just about everybody freaked out and said something stupid. From Barbara Bush, to Kanye West to Wolf Blitzer to Randall Robinson, the gaffes just gushed. Why? Because nobody knew how to handle a black catastrophe - which is poor black people taking center stage in America's living room.

    Now it's done. And the President of the United States has said unequivicably that New Orleans is too important to abandon. He's giving away money. Let me repeat that. He's giving away money. You don't have a job? Here's $5000 for training. You don't have a house? Here's free government land so you can build a new one. You need a place to stay in the mean time? Here's $600 a month for 6 months. All that on top of unemployment insurance, Social Security and all the other entitlements. This, ladies and gentlemen is field day, and don't think that Conservatives aren't bitching under their breath.

    The same people who couldn't stand the idea of victims of September 11th getting government money, can't stand the idea of Katrina victims getting government money. I know that some Lefty blacks from the Coalition of the Damned can't take any pride unless they feel that their successes are costing whitefolks a pound of flesh. I assure you that teeth are gnashing. But that changes nothing. Step up to the trough ladies and gentlemen. It's feeding time.

    When I was in New Orleans this spring, I looked at the gorgeous old homes on Esplanade just south of City Park and I said, man I could live here. But I talked to my Uncle Clyde and he told me about the school shootings and the ugly side. And I thought what a pity.. if only.. Well, if only has happened and I'm thinking about it again. I know I won't go because I couldn't stand myself taking advantage of this blatant opportunity. But anybody who lives in New Orleans (not that you have your ID or anything) should be taking huge advantage. Git while the gittin' is good. This is shameless time.

    Anyway, this is what I'm thinking. Reparations is now. As they used to say around the way, if you're slow, you blow. You better recognize. And say thank you to your president, the Compassionate Conservative who cares about 60 Billion dollars worth.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:39 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

    Bush's Second Line

    This morning I thought about a situation in which some poor resident of New Orleans would return to Derbigny only to find some complete stranger getting paid 30 bucks and hour to build up what's left of his neighborhood. How could it happen that where there were no jobs, suddenly there is 60 billion dollars worth of government aided jobs? So then I hear:

    And to help lower-income citizens in the hurricane region build new and better lives, I also propose that Congress pass an Urban Homesteading Act.

    Under this approach, we will identify property in the region owned by the federal government and provide building sites to low-income citizens free of charge, through a lottery. In return, they would pledge to build on the lot, with either a mortgage or help from a charitable organization like Habitat for Humanity.

    It really doesn't get much more compassionate than that. Of course it won't satisfy the critics, but it satisfies me.


    Sir, Yes Sir!
    Since I'm a bit wrapped up in some partisanship here, I don't hesitate to comment about two things people have been shouting about. The first is high gasoline prices demanding price fixing and limits, and the other is a God Almighty response from the Feds. I won't belabor the first point which requires a little less snark than I am about to deliver. When the president said the following, I burst out laughing:


    Many of the men and women of the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the United States military, the National Guard, Homeland Security, and state and local governments performed skillfully under the worst conditions. Yet the system, at every level of government, was not well-coordinated and was overwhelmed in the first few days.

    It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces, the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice.

    I laugh because I know very well the axis of federal dependency. Sure Honore is a hero, but it's because he's military. If you want somebody to kick ass and take names at all times, to protect the innocent at all times to "make sure that this kind of thing never happens again", it means military control. That's the only way to live free of danger. And every liberal who has whined and complained about how much they wanted Bush to be there in New Orleans, is now going to have him, in the form of the above mentioned military and paramilitary forces dictating to state and local officials how to get with the New Discipline.

    So take this as a clue of turning the corner from "you're on your own" to "don't eyeball me soldier". You want Federal protection? You get Federal boots. Simple. Plain.

    Bomb the Ghetto
    'Bomb the Ghetto' has always been my solution since I confronted the facts as laid down by Glenn Loury. I haven't had much time to think about Loury lately, but again he is appropriate. There are only a few ways out of the ghetto, but the Bomb is the most effective. Katrina has bombed the ghetto, and there won't be another one built in its place. People don't have time for that and they shouldn't.

    Doc tells me that he's waiting to hear the stories about the poor blacks who left New Orleans and discovered themselves. I'm sure many will sink back into the same swamp of poverty and despair, but many will take this second chance for real. They will experience death and rebirth in a new city among new people, finding new warmth from Americans they never knew up close and personally. It's going to turn a lot of heads around. Here's to hoping we find those stories in due time.

    Haters
    Meanwhile, I'd say the President struck the right chord, even though I certainly heard the most emotional part of the evening's speech. But that's fine. He can be depended upon to do the right thing, it's only too bad people hate him for it.

    Speaking of which, we'll probably hear a million empty words trying to search for ways to undermine the simple truth of the President's obvious paragraphs of the night:

    Within the Gulf region are some of the most beautiful and historic places in America. As all of us saw on television, there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region as well.

    That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action.

    So let us restore all that we have cherished from yesterday, and let us rise above the legacy of inequality.

    I simply let those simple, honest words speak for themselves, and let those who make a career out of twisting them, twist in the wind.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:04 PM | TrackBack

    September 14, 2005

    Katrina Cleanup Jobs

    I have the following new information. I'll only leave the numbers on the website for a couple days as my experience tells me that people move quick and in volume:

    If you know any young men age 18 and up who are looking for work, Bishop Eddie Long, Pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA is offering $32.00 per hour for a team of men willing to go to New Orleans to help with the disaster and damage done by Hurricane Katrina. You can call the church at 770-696-9600 for sign up and more information.

    Also...

    A Construction company is looking to hire 1000 people to help with
    hurricane clean up. $10/hr, 80-90 hrs weekly, food, lodging,
    transportation to area.

    Start immediately, could go on for 1-2 yrs. Anyone interested can call directly to LVI Svcs, 713-991-0480, 10500 Telephone Rd , Houston, Texas.

    Check them out yourself. I'm just passing on the information and have not checked it out.

    UPDATE: Here are some more links to resources.

  • Serve Alabama
  • Thingamajob Relief Jobs
  • Posted by mbowen at 10:32 AM | Comments (131) | TrackBack

    September 12, 2005

    Eyewitness Nutshell

    Tubbs was there:

    No one (the state police, the army guys) knew anything. Buses came and left, half of them empty. No one could tell us where to wait for them or when they would come. So we stood in the trash where the buses had come for a while, then moved over near the medical tent because it was (a little) cleaner. Everywhere just smelled like sweet rotting and piss.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:53 AM | TrackBack

    September 09, 2005

    A Conservative Defense of Ray Nagin

    250px-Hurricane_Katrina_President_Bush_with_New_Orleans_Mayor.jpg I like Ray Nagin and I won't apologize for it. Somebody is going to have to do an awfully good job of convincing me that he's as wrong as many claim. I think he's a scapegoat of blind partisans and is not getting the credit he deserves.

    The problem with having an analytical mind and not a general dispensation towards advocacy is that this blog is not as popular as it might be. But as thoughtful readers have reminded me, that's a good thing. And so I'm going to be analytical again. The interesting thing is that I feel that I must advocate for Nagin because my analysis raises point I haven't seen discussed. Furthermore, it's because I like the guy and I see knees jerking all over the joint.

    In my opinion, Nagin is the target of convenience for a lot of people who are shouting because shouting is what they do best, but any thoughtful and nuanced accounting will show that he acted selflessly in defense of his police force & staff, and most importantly the people of New Orleans. Furthermore, I contend that he did so with an unvarnished sense of realism without unrealistic expectations about the ability for government agencies to handle a crisis.

    I am getting as my primary sources of information:

  • Wikipedia
  • Rightwing Nuthouse Timeline
  • City of New Orleans Emergency Preparedness Website
  • I'd like to bust up a couple myths:

    Myth #1 - Ray Nagin is a typical liberal black Democrat, and that his 'failure' stems from fundamental ideological problems.

    Junkyard Blog says:

    If we let Ray Nagin, Jesse Jackson, RFK Jr and the rest of the leftist mob define Katrina and tell us what went wrong, the coming big bang will be dangerous. These are dangerous people. They taste the air and sense blood. They feed on misery. They must be answered, they must be pushed back, or they will win.

    First thing's first. Who is Ray Nagin? Well if you listened to Hannity or Limbaugh today and yesterday you would have heard him lumped in with the 'Democrats' and/or 'black leaders'. This is just appalling to me because the first thing I noticed about the guy was that he is not a career politician. He was a business executive at Cox Communications and a Republican in his life before becoming mayor of New Orleans. This seems to have escaped everyone's notice but mine in the tirades against him.

    Furthermore as a Democrat, he campaigned for a Republican candidate for Governor, Bobby Jindal, whom I like for the some of the same reasons I like Nagin. The new professional face of the Republican Party these two could be, if people would stop and think for a minute.

    Indeed much of the criticism of Democrats and of New Orleans talks about black mayors and cronyism. Yet Nagin campaigned on a reform platform. He came out swinging:

    Mayor C Ray Nagin has defied the conventional wisdom from the beginning of his political life. His surprise victory in the New Orleans mayoral election in May 2002, proved that New Orleanians were looking for the city’s leadership to take bold new steps to protect their future. He became the first New Orleans Mayor to rise to the post in nearly 60 years without holding a previous elected office. Ray Nagin put his career in business on hold to lead the city where he was born.

    Shortly after he was elected, Mayor Nagin revealed that he would not tolerate the atmosphere of political corruption that had pervaded city government. He instituted a criminal and administrative probe with the help of the New Orleans Police Department and the Metropolitan Crime Commission – an area watchdog group - that resulted in the arrest of 84 city workers and the restructuring of the New Orleans utilities department. Mayor Nagin is resolved to erase the image of New Orleans as a place where graft is part of the old-world charm.

    Myth #2 - Nagin Didn't Follow the Plan
    This is a kind of tail wagging the dog and rather typical of internet nonsense. First somebody finds dramatic pictures of buses underwater and then decides that this is a problem. Then they went to find out where it had to be part of a plan that the buses were to be used. Given that buses could be identified as part of a plan, somebody must be to blame, Nagin has become the goat. The biggest promoter of this reversal of logic is the Junkyard Blog in an attempt to lay blame on Democrats and deflect criticism of the Bush Administration.

    I have three rebuttals, the first of which is what I see as the backwards logic of finding a picture on the internet and then a clause somewhere that justifies the importance of that picture. This is clearly a meme gone awry.

    The second rebuttal makes use of the nature of the plan. The evacuation plan clearly places the overwhelming majority of the responsibility for evacuation on the citizens themselves. One cannot logically parse the volume of information presented by Nagin's office and conclude that any government entity, city, county, state or Federal would bear significant responsibility for getting people out of harm's way. In statement after statement Nagin has explained clearly that the Superdome was a 'shelter of last resort'.

    Junkyard Blog attempts to cite chapter and verse from the Emergency Plan:

    They just didn't follow it. So they were planning to fail. By "they," I mean pretty much every government official in Louisiana, and by "plan," I mean a signed-off set of procedures they were supposed to follow in the event of a catastrophic hurricane. You know, like the one that just hit. And by "fail" I mean complete catastrophic failure.

    Here's the southeast Louisiana evac plan supplement, most recently revised in 2000. Go to page 13, read paragraph 5. It states:

    5. The primary means of hurricane evacuation will be personal vehicles. School and municipal buses, government-owned vehicles and vehicles provided by volunteer agencies may be used to provide transportation for individuals who lack transportation and require assistance in evacuating.

    I've bolded that first sentence in paragraph five. What part of that is ambiguous? Most people were to be responsible for their own evacuation and that is exactly what most people did. The Red Cross (see below) has tracked a maximum of less than 100k out of a city of 500k, which means at least 80% of New Orleans evacuated, at the order of the Mayor, under their own power. This is what was expected and this is what happened, according to plan.

    We know however, that there were a maximum of about 30,000 individuals at the Superdome, but not how many thousands refused evacuation until the approval of the use of forced evacuation. But nobody was as clear on the shortfall of evacuation as the Mayor, when he went on the air and called for assistance.

    Thirdly, no plan survives contact with the enemy. I see nowhere in any of the documented evacuation plans that people would be rescued by boat. In fact, thousands of people were rescued by boats manned by the New Orleans Police and obviously deputized volunteers. This is clearly the rescue operation that saved the most lives and yet Nagin has been given no credit or even benefit of the doubt for the sake of this bus story.

    Myth #3 - Nagin's Unused 'Motor Pool' Would Have Saved Lives
    This is actually not a myth. It's a fact, but the significance of this criticism depends entirely upon the number of lives lost because of a failed evaucation of navigable roads. The precise number of lives it could have saved would be all of those people who died within access to roads that school buses could use. Right now since the New Orleans death toll stands under 200, the deaths that could have been prevented maxes out at about 2 buses. But I'm willing to bet that only a couple dozen of those died on the side of the road. And considering the number of police vehicles available, buses weren't necessary to save lives.

    The Red Cross has registered about 94,000 survivors from Louisiana. As of today they providing shelter for about 55,000 in over 200 locations. Assuming that the New Orleans death toll goes to 1,000 (and today there are only 118 confirmed by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals as of September 9th.) the most plausible explanation will be drowning because of the levee flooding, in which case the buses would have been of no use vis a vis evacuation.

    It is more correct to assert that use of buses could have made the relocation process more expedient and greatly contributed to the comfort of evacuees at the Superdome.

    I want to make some other points very clear here about the use and availability of buses that have could have been used to ease congestion and overcrowding at the Superdome.

    1. Nobody could have predicted which of the levees would burst or how badly. Their bursting was not inevitable, nor was the combination catastrophe of multiple failures and failures of pumping stations. The severity of the need to evacuate after the passing of the storm was caused by this flooding, which is the same factor that disabled the buses. I will show below that this resulted in the loss of only relatively few lives anyway.

    2. Nobody could have predicted that Highway 10 would have failed aross to Slidell. With that route closed, evacuation from the East became impossible. No buses could help from that direction.

    3. If you haven't read it already, read The Anchoress on the first 100 hours.

    The following negative and positive points are those I have considered in defending Nagin. You may assign different weights to them. In the end, I say Nagin ends up in the plus column or breaking even depending upon how many lives are lost. Considering that this was the greatest catastrophe to befall any American city since the Civil War, that kind of context must be maintained.

    Minus Points (Goat Factor)

    GF #1 - Nagin's Cops Quit
    Nagin's police force bugged out on him, and as many as 200 have reportedly abandoned their posts and gone AWOL. The responsibility for the morale of the PD falls squarely on Nagin's Administration. With a force of 1500, that is a huge failure. This may have been the best way to get rid of the marginal cops and weed out the losers, but it's a huge divot. Nagin's leadership of his police force was not what it could have been.

    GF #2 - Nagin Sent Cops to Vegas
    This should have been kept on the QT. One week of pure hell duty and fungus infections on the feet merit time off in anybody's book, but such matters should have been kept quiet if possible. This was a pure press disaster.

    GF #3 - Nagin Failed to Cooperate with Blanco
    Nagin's antipathy to Blanco evidenced itself in his ignorance of what Blanco's plans were to engage the National Guard and other disaster plans. It can't be determined whether Blanco was refusing to communicate with Nagin or vice-versa which mitigates this factor.

    Plus Points (Hero Factor)

    HF #1 - Nagin Blew the Whistle at Great Political Risk to Himself
    Whatever you think about Nagin's November 1 radio broadcast - love it or hate it, there is one thing that is perfectly clear: Nagin sounded the alarm in an emotional way that is risky for a politician. Depending upon your point of view, you either love this kind of demeanor or you hate it in a politician but there was no doubt that he was willing to take that risk in order to bring attention to the crisis he faced. He wasn't afraid to say he needed help, and he did it in an unselfish way.

    Nagin gave credit where credit was due to George Bush for sending in General Honore to oversee the developing crisis. He called for centralized authority, but didn't demand it for himself. From the first we heard of Honore, Nagin was perfectly willing to give the general full control.

    HF #2 - Nagin Upheld Civil Liberty

    Whatever you think about the looters or what it may signify, one thing you have not heard is any charges of police brutality. Nobody was shot by accident. No great numbers of innocent people were arrested.

    HF #3 - Nagin Redirected All Police Efforts towards Safety.
    When it became apparent that shooting was taking place in the city and gangs of junkies (as far as we can tell there was only one sniper, however) and thugs, Nagin took the risky move and redirected his entire police force from rescue to safety. Nagin clearly understood that no rescue could take place if rescue workers had to fear for their own safety. This was a smart move and the right thing to do. He didn't hesitate, he didn't half step.

    Non Points (No Factor)

    The following points I don't think merit serious consideration in regards to an evaluation of Nagin. Either they are trifling and petty or they are things beyond the reasonable control of any human being or bureacracy during a catastrophe.

    NF #1 - Squallor at the Superdome
    Long before the Superdome situation degenerated into typical refugee camp status, Nagin called for resources to help move people out. It is this context that gives whatever credibility could be assigned to the weight of the lost buses. Nagin also directed evacuees toward other refuges such as area hospitals and the airports. There were no such reports of squallor. At no time can it be said that people were safer on the streets than in the Superdome. Americans may be squeamish about the way it is in refugee camps, but that's the way it is. If the Red Cross gives any weight to the suggestion that conditions at the Superdome ran below what they typically see, then this moves to the negative column. Remember that according to the plan, the Superdome was the refuge of last resort, it being the only building certified to withstand Category 3 in New Orleans.

    NF #2 - Nagin's Use of Profanity
    That's a weak ass argument. Dismissed. But seriously, you cannot support General Honore and diss Mayor Nagin on the question of cursing.

    NF #3 - Nagin Overreacted & Exaggerated the Number of Potential Dead
    I say this one balances out to zero. While it's true that lots of people may have panicked at the news, most unfortunately the cowards on his own police force, it's better on the whole to say that the sky is falling than it is to say everything's under control.

    Add all these things to what I've said prior and I think Nagin comes off as well as anyone could expect under the circumstances. I certainly welcome retorts, corrections, and broadsided criticisms. I'm willing to admit where I am biased, but I think an objective view of the situation leaves Nagin less damaged than some people have wrongly tried to make him.

    I say he breaks even. He made some tough calls and they were all correct and timely. He may have lost his temper, but I say that's a good thing when lives are involved, so long as it's not counterproductive. There are some plusses and minuses to be considered, but at the end of the day Nagin is the man who called for and oversaw the most complicated and largest evacuation of a major American city in history, a city of 500,000, while only losing 118. That's commendable. He did his job.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:26 PM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

    The Crisis is Over, But

    The search and rescue mission in New Orleans is over and Michael Brown is out on his keister. My fellow Americans, pat yourselves on the back. The storm is finally passed.

    In my schema, we are on to the second R from Rescue to Relief. The last R of Recovery is going to be the long term deal, and there's going to be 60 billion plus dollars in that. Since I understand the liberal impulse, we are going to find out all of the contractors who win bids that have any connection whatsoever to any of the Bush team. Hold your noses, it's just a couple weeks away.

    Meanwhile I'll be focusing on the displaced in their new places and praying that I find one of them blogging, because if I see another TV broadcast with stray dogs I'm going to vomit. Not that dogs ain't cute, it's just that they're always misinterpreted and we really never get the straight story from them. I think we will hear a more useful and gratifying response from bloggers.

    The political consequences of this great displacement will very much be like that of 9/11. For me personally, it has been much more emotional. I'm at a high point today, which feels almost like normal, but over the past 10 days I've been operating with one emotional wheel in the sand. I have a couple predictions about political repercussions.

  • Libertarians are going to have a harder time everywhere.
  • The FEMA conspiracy theorists of the days of Waco are finally going to get the fisking they deserve.
  • Moderate Conservative Republicans like myself are going to gain. Think Giuliani & Whitman.
  • The death toll & the actual consequences of the watered down buses will be substantially lower than screamers have asserted.
  • Nagin breaks even. Blanco loses, and obviously Brown goes down in flames.
  • Katrina bloggers will emerge.

    Add these two fragments:
    Quote of the Day:
    "There are no atheists in foxholes, and no Libertarians in Louisiana."
    -- Prometheus 6

    A Purity Test for Limousine Liberals.

    That's all for now. I gotta get back to work.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:30 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack
  • September 08, 2005

    More Independent Charities

    I've got another set of information passed to me through the Kwaku Network. I can't vouch for all of the organizations and since I got some wrong info on the Dream Center, I've hesitated in posting. But I trust Cobb readers ain't fools. I post it whole cloth with no edits.

    BlackAmericaWeb.com Relief Fund
    PO Box 803209
    Dallas, TX 75240
    OR you can make an online donation by going to
    www.blackamericaweb.com/relief
    This fund has been set up by nationally syndicated radio
    personality TOM JOYNER

    NAACP Disaster Relief Efforts

    The NAACP is setting up command centers in Louisiana,
    Mississippi, and Alabama as part of its disaster relief
    efforts. NAACP units across the nation have begun
    collecting resources that will be placed on trucks and
    sent directly into the disaster areas. Also, the NAACP has
    established a disaster relief fund to accept monetary
    donations to aid in the relief effort.

    Checks can be sent to the NAACP payable to NAACP Hurricane
    Katrina Relief Fund
    4805 Mt. Hope Drive
    Baltimore, MD 21215

    Donations can also be made online at:
    www.naacp.org/disaster/contribute.php

    FYI, the NAACP, founded in 1909, is America's oldest civil
    rights organization

    www.teamrescueone.com Set up by native New Orleans rapper Master P and his wife Sonya Miller

    You can mail or ship non-perishable items to these
    following locations, which we have confirmed are REALLY
    delivering services to folks in need....

    Center for LIFE Outreach Center
    121 Saint Landry Street
    Lafayette, LA 70506
    atten.: Minister Pamela Robinson
    337-504-5374

    Mohammad Mosque 65
    2600 Plank Road
    Baton Rouge, LA 70805
    atten.: Minister Andrew Muhammad
    225-923-1400
    225-357-3079

    Lewis Temple CME Church
    272 Medgar Evers Street
    Grambling, LA 71245
    atten.: Rev. Dr. Ricky Helton
    318-247-3793

    St. Luke Community United Methodist Church
    c/o Hurricane Katrina Victims
    5710 East R.L. Thornton Freeway
    Dallas, TX 75223
    atten.: Pastor Tom Waitschies
    214-821-2970

    S.H.A.P.E. Community Center
    3815 Live Oak
    Houston, Texas 77004
    atten.: Deloyd Parker
    713-521-0641

    Five things you can do to help immediately:

    1. Duplicate what we are doing elsewhere in New York City,
    in your city or town, on your college campus, at your
    church, synagogue, mosque, or other religious institution,
    via your fraternity or sorority, or via your local civic
    or social organization.

    2. Cut and paste the information in this eblast about

    Items needed by survivors of the New Orleans catastrophe:
    ? Monetary donations
    ? Where you can ship non-perishable items
    ? Alternative media outlets
    ? Five things you can do to help immediately

    and share this information, as a ONE SHEET, with folks
    near and far, via email, or as a hand out at your event,
    religious institution, and with your civic or social
    organization.

    3. Voice your opinion to local and national media, and to
    elected officials, via letter, email, op ed article, or
    phonecall, regarding the coverage of the New Orleans
    catastrophe, as well as to the federal government's
    ongoing handling of the situation.

    4. Ask the hotel you frequent, such as the Marriott or
    Holiday Inn, to give your hotel points to an individual or
    family in need of a stay for a night, a few nights, or
    longer, depending on how many points you have. Be sure to
    get confirmation that your points have been applied in
    that way. Encourage others to do the same. Also inquire if
    your airline Frequent Flyer mileage can be used for hotel
    stays as well.

    Finally, either offer to pay for hotel rooms, or encourage
    others to do so, including your place of employment or
    worship or your organization.

    5. Dare to care about other human beings, no matter their
    race, gender, class, sexual orientation, religion,
    geography, culture, clothing, hairstyle, or accent or
    language. Like September 11th, the New Orleans catastrophe
    is a harsh reminder that all life is precious, as is each
    day we have on this earth.

    AND REMEMBER that our attention and response to the New
    Orleans catastrophe needs to happen in three
    stages...DISASTER, RECOVERY, and REBUILDING. We need you
    for all three stages.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:01 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    September 07, 2005

    Freak Accidents & Municipal Budgets

    It's almost an axiom that wherever you find tornados, you find trailer parks. And every time we see that poor white woman tell us in her twang that "it sounded like a train coming" we secretly laugh at her foolishness just for living there. Some of us laugh more openly, but the same harsh question persists.

  • Why do people in Malibu live on the edge of the mountain if they know there are mudslides?

  • Why do people in the Oklahoma panhandle live there if they know that tornados are going to hit?

  • Why do people on the Florida coast put up with hurricanes year after year.

  • Why do people live in California at all, much less in high rise buildings when they know that the Big One is going to come?

  • Hell, why are any of us living outside of Alaska when we know global warming is coming? That's a question I ask of all tree huggers, and sometimes I wish I could buy them the plane ticket.

    We've seen this before. You and I still remember the movie, now out on DVD called 'The Day After Tomorrow'. There is nothing quite so arrogant as a lone scientist who bets his career on a once in a lifetime event. That's the whole Michael Moorian point dramatized via the swell-headed actor who gets to blame the Administration for not paying attention to science.

    Last night I heard the most hate-filled screed against the 'Bush Crime Family' on the radio. This jerk wanted nothing more than the full wrath of a hurricane to land directly on the head of Michael Chertoff. It was an astoundingly furious tirade. You could just imagine that if he could control the weather, he'd order a Category Five to order. Except it can't be done. And we all know it.

    Ask yourself right now, how much money are you spending on insurance. Do you have flood insurance? Earthquake insurance? Tornado insurance? People are rational aren't they? Then how is it that people who have no health insurance spend money on a car and car insurance when a car is more likely to kill them than anything else they own?

    People take risks.

    Furthermore taxpayers make priorities. And the priority is clear. We Americans don't save money for a rainy day. We don't take our municipal budgets and spend them on infrastructure. We don't think that the work of the Army Corps of Engineers is glamorous or deserving of our political attention.

    I don't have to tell you that there are people who would like to conjure up genies and spend money in retrospect. It's not going to happen. The people have voted with their feet.


    Posted by mbowen at 12:54 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    September 06, 2005

    Derbigny

    One of these days, who knows when and not that I pay much attention, some news organization is going to bring you a story from a street called Derbigny. I'm not going to do you a favor by pronouncing it for you.

    One of the marvelous tools that has arisen from the creativity of the geniuses that be is the Google Maps overlay at Scipionus. I've been checking it regularly in order to get information about the water level in my aunt's neighborhood. Generally speaking, I've been able to make a decent determination. But there's a problem with this technology, which is that only a certain class of people are going to benefit from it. Period.

    I wrote, during my trip to New Orleans this spring:

    Poverty is the same where ever you go in America. It's instantly recognizeable. You get off the grid and suddenly people are hanging off stoops where the houses have no A/C. The day after rain, the curbs are still flooded where the pavement turns to dirt.

    I took Canal up to Rampart Street and took it out to where it splits off with St. Bernard. By there I was in the heart of somebody's hood. So I took Elysian Fields north to Claiborne and flipped some circles around there and hit ghetto. It was around Derbigny that I dropped off the precipice into that 5th Ward Houston look and feel, three classes below the middle where the streets ain't paved. Sure enough the horse cart clops by.

    So as I was checking out the Scipionus map I wondered if anybody had used it to update the status, or even post the basic status, of some houses in the 'hood, the ghetto or the projects. No such luck. In fact, there's a huge empty space on the grid, much larger than I've indicated here, right smack in the middle of poor black New Orleans, where there are no markers.

    Of course there are thousands of people who know these neighborhoods very well, and they know exactly what's going on there. But they are not showing up on our radar. The Lafitte Projects are definitely underwater. Derbigny is underwater. But Derbigny was underwater long before the storm. Those were the faces at the bottom of the well.

    It's uncomfortable for people to look at this stuff in the face, especially when it's not usually seen. But in America, right now, in your city, you know where the poor blackfolks in the projects live. And you know that place hasn't changed in three generations. It was poor and black when MLK was marching and it probably still is today.

    I've rather had my fill of people second guessing the state and local officials in this matter. I'm sure we'll all have our long knives and lawyers at the ready when investigation season opens. If I watched TV, I could probably tell you by now which CNN reporter is going to make a Greta Von Susteren-style career out of the Tragedy of the Century. But I simply bring up this entire point of Derbigny to bring it home to you. Where is the Derbigny Street in your town and how many tax dollars are you ready to get off of in order to save them from a once in a century freak accident?

    I thought so.

    I'm going set a calendar date in my Palm to remind me to bring this post up again 6 months from today. And I want to ask again where is our commitment in tax dollars to the least of our brothers. It's not a generally 'conservative' thing to do, but I know it's a Christian thing to ask, especially of the scribes and pharisees of the Katrina timeline - those of us who rub out hands in anticipation of dragging somebody in front of a committee and asking pointless but pointed questions about 167 buses approximately 1.2 miles from the Convention Center sitting in .76 meters of water. And what would you say if the bus drivers demanded to be in a union? What would you say then, oh compassionate one?

    Ask yourself, for New Orleans, how much moral outrage and finger-pointing would we be spared if we gave enough tax appropriations to the Commission for the Prevention of Levee Failure, The Emergency Bus Driving Authority and the Bureau of Satellite Phones. Sure we'll pay the 100 billion now. And somehow somebody is going to have to figure out how, in 2005, to build houses so cheap that people will spend the kind of rents they spent on 80 year old clapboard shotgun shacks on Derbigny. Wait. Isn't that called Affordable Housing? Eew!

    It's the bullet we all hate to bite because it goes straight to principles. There is no moral high ground to be had when it comes to the bottom line of "you're on your own". That, as they say of police who are supposed to do their jobe, is the way it's supposed to be. You get no praise for just telling it like it is. You get praise for the uncommon gesture, for going above and beyond the call of duty, for walking the extra mile. And as much as right ideologues hate it, it means expanding government services and providing some ironclad guarantees.

    I know a lot of people are going to make hay over the backhanded effects of government dependency. But somewhere between laissez-faire and 100 billion dollars in relief is a smart compromise. Moreover, when anyone, Republican or Democrat takes office, they damned well better be able to demonstrate some competence. It's the least we can expect from Americans. That means guarantees. In my industry we call it SLA for 'Service Level Agreements'. You don't get paid unless you can guarantee a certain level of service, and a contract is a contract. There was a time when Republicans weren't afraid to make contracts with America.

    I think it's about time again. You can start in your own backyard, but this time I don't mean old socks in your garage. I mean your state and local government. You have looked at the face of your fellow Americans in their time of need and know deep in your heart that we could have done better by them. Admit it. Now make it an issue in your next local election. Make a promise to your fellow Americans, and by God keep it. We must do better.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:48 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    Tuesday Fragments

    I'm completely stressed out but I am hearing good news from my compadres. Light blogging this afternoon as I am at a new customer site, but I'll catch up tonight.

  • Without a link, I'm shocked to find out about Blanco's 24 hours to think about it delay. Checkout Whizbang for that news. Nagin finked on her. Somebody needs to make them kiss and make up, on the other hand, Nagin is a stealth Republican...

  • One pal of mine has airlifted somebody with his private plane. Way to go Tim. You're the man.

  • The response to the Dream Center pickup has been overwhelmingly great. Christine thanks everyone who has called and asks for a break. So I've pulled her phone number. Don't call, she's swamped.

  • I have word that the Van Nuys Airport has something of a private airlift going on as well. There is an Air National Guard center there as many of us know. So if you contact them, there's a good chance that your garage goods can get to Houston for delivery to evacuees there.

  • Much love and thanks to all of you putting forth the effort. Everybody wants to know, including folks on the plane and at the airport for my biz travels today. I'm exasperated about the politics, although still engaged, but much bouyed by the private efforts trickling through to those who need it.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:42 PM | TrackBack

    September 05, 2005

    Moynihan

    I haven't really looked at my break from Liberalism from the perspective of accepting Moynihan as having been right all along, but I have accepted that the ghetto paradigm is ignoble and needs to be beat down by Old School values.

    I know that we're supposed to hate Moynihan. We blackfolks are supposed to believe that if only the jobs could be imported into the ghetto then family life would be restored to normal. When Moynihan said that the black family was broken we're supposed to say "Stop blaming the victim." But I haven't said any of those things in a long time. I believe that the ghetto is caustic and there's no reason to stay - that if there are no good jobs there then the priority is to go where the jobs are. I say if you can't give your 'African Queen' a wedding ring, then you're no better than the slave trader. I say family first, and where would I be without one?

    Like a lot of folks, I migrated to Atlanta as the 'Black Mecca'. My two daughters were both born there at Northside Hospital. I was somewhat disappointed in that Mecca partially based on my experience in New York and Los Angeles. Atlanta was perfectly suitable for family life, but for the sophisticated life I and the wife preferred, it still felt like a small town. The surprise of Atlanta was the clarity with which African Americans distinguished themselves by class. Out on the coasts, there was lots of support for the revelry and sometimey hooliganism of the infamous 'Freaknic' spring break. But in Atlanta proper, middle class families like ours simply spit. It definitely matters which end of Cascade Road you lived on and black Atlantans had no problem splitting the difference. The effect on me personally was that instead of feeling like a bigger part of a black Mecca, I felt more like a somewhat embattled minority within a minority.

    It was this notion of home that dominated my thinking about family and community in the South. It was all about getting into the same neighborhood as Gladys Knight, Evander Holyfield and the pro sports players - the outcrop of tract mansions on the southeast corner of town. Everybody else was po' folk and you had to beware of your rich hiphop star neighbors' bad habits.

    Contrast this with the situation in Brooklyn which is a huge mass of fairly working class blackfolks. Brooklyn is much more cohesive and well-adjusted to itself. It has a sort of gritty pride and is ready for anything. Brooklyn cannot feel put upon, but it is decidedly blue collar and while not entirely antagonistic towards the upwardly and downwardly mobile African American, it refuses to budge from its primary orientation. Brooklyn is the home to a million around the way girls and flyboys. You don't get the impression that will ever change. It's OK to live on the high side in Ft. Greene or on the bottom side in Brownsville, but Brooklyn is still what it is. They call it 'The Planet', and Brooklynites feel they encompass the scope of black life. Boastful but wrong. As I was trying to find my crowd in Brooklyn I asked numerous times, where is the upscale black community? The answer was consistent: on Long Island. Which implies, as is the case with Los Angeles, that more upscale blacks are geographically discontiguous with others.

    I bring up these two examples, (and I would talk about Los Angeles, but won't for brevity's sake) in order to review the sentiments in various African American communities which could lead into political distinctions between blacks. I think it depends upon the particular black community. And notably I think geography, ie physical separation between the various classes of African Americans is a strong indicator of political diversity.

    The roads in and out of Moynihan's arguments have been well-paved and reinforced during the Culture Wars of the 80s. But I think now is a good time to rip up some of that asphalt and reroute the discussion. In particular, as a representative of the Old School and black Republicanism, I find his arguments more compelling over time. This is not only particular to Moynihan, but to other criticisms and alternatives to the nuclear family. Not only are unwed mothers and fathers objects of criticism, but same sex couples. However there is an important caveat which is central to this discussion, and that is the mobility of economics.

    I used to say that God makes no mistakes in the design of the human body, and if teenage pregnancy is so awful how is it that teenage girls can biologically get pregnant? The biology isn't wrong, it's our economy which is wrong. We're going to have a great deal more success changing our economy than we are the human reproductive system.

    I similarly hold a great deal of respect for the ways that humans have evolved to organize themselves. As I recently wrote of poor blacks in Louisiana:

    There's a reason that police cannot disband gangs overnight. There's a reason that churches survive for generations, that's because human teamwork is non-trivial. Even if people are poor and destitute, and perhaps moreso, they are going to organize some kind of way. Illegal immigrants from Mexico find a way to get here against all odds and border patrols. So people are expressing their will and organization at all levels of society. Looking at welfare and Medicaid and all that from an economic point of view, as well as the dynamics of extended and single parent families is a great study. The question isn't whether Moynihan is right or wrong per se, the question is whether the families we sustain are compatible with the economies we sustain. The reason it's so easy to point at the dysfunction is because the mainstream middleclass standard is so clear, but dual income families are more the norm now than in Moynihan's time. What would he have made of soccer moms who work? My point is that whatever ugly socioeconomic niche the poor black survivors inhabited, it can't be undone simply and it's wrong to suggest that it could be. Nobody knows this like rich cousins of poor cousins.

    Especially here in immigrant inundated Southern California, we have to pay close attention to how our system does or does not accomodate the deep values of people who live here. In other words, whether the issue is Welfare Reform or any kind of government economic incentive, we need to take responsibility for the outcomes. Is the baseline mainstream American economic model tailored for the dual-income family? If so, what does that imply for family values? If not, what has gone wrong with the economy, since that's what it takes to make ends meet? One needs to ask very seriously and rethink Moynihan with regard to what is economically feasible. What comes first, family or economy? If economy comes first, the trend for middle class stability might have us all living like Vietnamese where not only two parents work, but a couple of teens too.

    When it comes to the black family, the choice is clear, but the results are not. Two parent families are a must and intra-family support is critical. Without both, the path to stability is one of profound risk. However the context of labor has changed drastically since Moynihan's day. Corporations do not employ people for life, they outsource rather than train. The global economy is real, the virtual corporation works. Telecommuting is a fact of life and pensions are, by and large, a thing of the past. Many of the benefits of middle class life require a financial sophistication heretofore unnecessary, and the job market for people without college education is much more restricted than before. African Americans have integrated into a society that delivers things other than what was promised when the quest for integration began.

    Moynihan was right, but he is nowhere near enough.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:39 AM | TrackBack

    Evacuees to Arrive at LA's Dream Center

    From Christine Price & Joel Bronson

    As some of you might know already and some might not know, 300 New Orleans/Mississippi evacuees are on their way here to Los Angeles and should arrive here sometime today. They will be housed at the Dream Center (which has been converted into a homeless shelter). Besides the evacuees, I also have a friend whose family has lost everything in Mississippi and they are also on their way here as well.

    The organization that is taking in the New Orleans/Mississippi refugees is called the Dream Center. (Not Good Samaritan hospital)

    The dream Center is run out of the Old "Queen of Angeles Hospital".
    2301 Bellevue Ave. Los Angeles Ca. 90026

    What I am asking from my fellow coworkers and friends are donations. I am asking that we donate clothes (men's, women's and children), toys, toiletries and etc. I will personally come and pick up the donations from you and I will personally deliver the donations to the hospital as well. I will keep doing this as long as the donations come in. I would like to start taking stuff over this week.

    For people local to Los Angeles: You can either contact me at (christine.pryce@fox.com)

    Regardless of our political views or feelings. Lets band together and show that we Californians do care and welcome these people to our city.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:07 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    September 04, 2005

    A New Way to Help NOLA

    I just found the perfect way for people who are far away from the crisis but want to use some computer skills to help, can help.

    Some enterprising folks have found a way to broadcast the FEMA radio transmissions over the web. They need people to listen in and transcribe them. Check out this website (which is good for a dozen other reasons) to get the details. You can learn the radio codes and be a part of the effort to communicate what's going on. Awesome.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:15 AM | TrackBack

    September 03, 2005

    Again, with New Orleans

    My aunt made it to my cousin's house, a thousand miles away from the chaos. But she's beat, and probably more depressed than ever just listening to the radio all those miles.

    What we're going to find out which will be particularly disheartening will be the news about how the truly weak have suffered. The mentally ill, the disabled - people who need daily meds.

    Right about now I think we should be prepared to hear stories of cholera, gangrene and dysentery. I wouldn't be surprised to hear about stray dogs and gators munching on corpses. Yet at this moment, it appears that everybody who needs to be on the ground is there or in close proximity.

    I am growing fatigued from following all this news. But here's my first broad thought. Firstly, nobody should doubt American's resolve to help each other. I interpret even the most bitter complaint as a sentiment to help. We're all out here saying how we might do it better. We're minding each other's business. It is at this moment that I think the overwhelming majority of Americans would want us to have national IDs with RFID tags and a panoptical network of videocameras tied into all of our home PCs. Hundreds of people have been following the struggle of one ISP to keep his feed alive. Without a doubt, internet service is a utility, and Americans are finding more and more ways to make it useful in emergencies. Scipionus is a perfect example of that. We've got block level information on how high water is in various neighborhoods in New Orleans.

    Secondly, I've been thinking how much this tragedy mirrors the initial situation on the ground in Iraq. And because of that, I know that the National Guard ought to be in very good shape to handle the situation. This isn't Najaf, and people won't be using RPGs or mortars. They'll be trying to get food and a hot shower. All of the chaos will be over in a week. Let me also add that anybody who thinks we needed troops from Iraq is muddleheaded. This is what the National Guard is supposed to do, and so they've been learning lessons from Iraq, this is going to be small potatoes relatively speaking.

    As for Ray Nagin, I'm with him on this. If I had any criticism of Nagin, it was that his early quote of 'death in the thousands' was a bit alarmist. But his decision the demand a complete evacuation when the dikes burst was the right thing. I find it very interesting that he was originally a Republican when he was a corporate exec but changed to be a Democrat in order to get elected mayor, and I'm glad that he got his meeting with GWBush. Since they're cool with each other, I'm cool with the both of them. Again, I'm just not in an emotional place to start political criticism, and I probably won't be, but any politician who says to hell with press conferences, we've got a disaster on our hands is alright with me.

    As for the racial angle, what a surprise. All of the refugees were people who couldn't get out of Dodge when the word came down. Any and everybody I talked to in New Orleans this spring knew that the Superdome was going to be filled with people from the projects and people who take the bus. America might not be ready to look black poverty squarely in the eye, it's overloaded with symbolism. And it sure is uncomfortable looking at it day after day on the news. It's nothing new, give us a break with the wide-eyed astonishment.

    Tangentially, it comes as no surprise that Kanye West flipped the script. I really don't know why the mainstream media is so determined to stay away from the raw truth of emotion and pain. Their attempts to marginalize plain speakers will be their death. Not that West has anything deep to say.

    New Orleans, like South Central Los Angeles, will not survive it's bursting into the national consciousness in its true form. It will have been spun into new proportions by people who have never been there and don't know any of the people. There are only a few ways to reconcile that and I hope local bloggers do their share. Unfortunately, I don't know that there are any bloggers from the 9th Ward of New Orleans, nor that if there are, that they will be online anytime soon. I'll be looking out.

    UPDATE ON DOERS:

    As we watch the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we sit idly by wondering what we can do to have some impact on this situation. I am excited about the compassion National Society of Black Engineers members have exhibited concerning our assistance to our fellow NSBE members who have been devastated by this disaster. Many of you have called and emailed me asking what NSBE is going to do? At the very least, I am encouraging every member of NSBE to do the one thing that takes no money or energy. Pray.

    On September 5, 2005, use your Labor Day holiday as a time to reflect, focus, and do something to help someone else. Not to infringe on anyone's faith, your participation is voluntary. Specifically, remember the members of Regions 3 and 5 in your thoughts. Our New Orleans chapters are simply no longer existent as many students attempt to enroll in other universities. Pray that God comforts all of those who have lost loved ones and for the safe return on those who are missing in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Many of us have family in the affected areas.

    In addition to your prayers, I am asking that every go to NSBE Online and donate to the NSBE Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund. This fund is set up under the donations section. If you are not a NSBE member, you can click the button which says Make A Donation. We will be collecting these donations and disseminating to our members who were affected by this tragedy. Eligibility and requirements to receive funds will be posted on the website and sent via email shortly. While your contribution is voluntary, I hope that you are compelled to give. Offer your time by volunteering with many of the national organizations who need people to assist. Give blood volunteer at the shelters. Be Creative! If there is more that you can do, it would be greatly appreciated. So let us go out and show that we are committed to assisting our NSBE family! Be strong and keep the faith.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:47 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    September 02, 2005

    Midday Friday

    I've been hearing tell of the mayor's valiant efforts to do right by his city. But it wasn't until I read his transcript over at Wonkette that I realized how fiercly he's pissed. I haven't watched any TV news in two days, and I usually don't nor do I need to. But I did see the press conference with the young blonde woman (whom I assumed was the mayor) and then the Governor of the state.

    The young woman just had fear and sadness in her eyes, and you could just tell how she was looking up to the Governor. But neither of them had the kick ass tone that spoke of the depth of seriousness of the situation. It was, however, from their tone that I took the first tact on the priority being towards rescue. I can see how their attitude may have affected the priorities and gave weight to the idea that the 'dome could just be packed to the gills with no further attention.

    Anyway, this mayor Ray Nagin is throwing down the gauntlet. The question now is how long will it be before we get some verbal overproduction. Me, I'm not going there. I'm even restraining the cartoon, because I've been thinking of some real zingers. Still, while I don't think time is right for finger-pointing, here's the man who was told that the cupboard was bare when he tried to be proactive on the matter of levee infrastructure. Nobody likes to think long-term, and now the cost is in life.

    Back on the homefront, Blackweekly LA has set up a portal to keep up with some input and commentary from our folks. I expect that this will be the beginnings of the benefit network which is sure to crop up. Everybody knows what the right thing to do is, now it's just a matter of coordination of us out here.

    Pops is coordinating donations with coworkers at his office in Marina Del Rey, and is planning to spend some of his spring sabbatical in New Orleans as a volunteer.

    I've also heard, for what it's worth, that there is a working payphone at Shiro's at the corner of Royal and St Roch.

    From Tom Joyner:

    The Hurricane Katrina disaster has displaced families across the Gulf Coast region. In cooperation with Reach Media Inc., The Tom Joyner Morning Show and BlackAmericaWeb.com, the BlackAmericaWeb.com Relief Fund will accept donations to provide resources to support families who are assisting those displaced by Hurricane Katrina. These funds will go to individual families who have opened their homes to families displaced by Hurricane Katrina, to supplement their personal households as the recovery efforts continue.

    When you make your donation, you can be confident that your contribution will go to families that are in need of assistance.
    You can make an online donation by going to www.blackamericaweb.com/relief, by mail at:

    BlackAmericaWeb.com Relief Fund
    PO Box 803209
    Dallas, TX 75240

    The BlackAmericaWeb.com Relief Fund is working cooperatively with churches in states neighboring affected areas to identify households in need of assistance.


    Posted by mbowen at 02:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    New Orleans As It Was

    I've gone back into my archives to bring back some photos of New Orleans as it was this past spring. One of the reasons I am drawn to this tragedy aside from the obvious is that I just spent a week there this past April. I wrote several entries here in the blog.

  • NO Diary - Day One
  • NO Diary - Day Two
  • NO Diary - Day Three
  • NO Diary - Day Four
  • NO Diary - Day Five
  • I am reminded as I re-read those, of how New Orleans has been a city of great revelry and extraordinary food. How it's blinding poverty and harsh racial lines are permanently etched in its shape. How it is a city of salty water and odd gentility. The music, the architecture - even the cemetaries are uniquely American.

    These are the things people are going to think about when the time comes to return. After the carpenters and electricians and waste disposers all make their loot, they'll want their old flavor back. So I thought I'd remind myself of all that.

    Photo_041305_009.jpg Clearly, these guys are up to their ears in work. I got lost somewhere near the Industrial Channel and I found this place. Somewhere around there is my late grandfather's house on Urquart Street.

    Photo_041205_011.jpg This house is burned into my mind about New Orleans, a beautiful color and a very shaky foundation. The color distracts you from the fact that it is too small and sitting in a ghetto.

    Photo_041305_021.jpg This is the church my mother's family grew up in. Who knows what shape it's in today.
    Photo_041305_033.jpg An uncle's house. Notice how high the porch is. Hopefully it's high enough to spare him a lot of damage...

    Photo_041305_035.jpg Same thing for my Aunt's house. Fingers crossed.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:58 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    September 01, 2005

    It's All About Do

    Yesterday, I was in a daze and a stupor over New Orleans and the damage done by . Today I have some purpose.

    Just about all of our folks and friends are accounted for, but that's just the beginning. There are friend and relatives of friends and relatives that are starting to come together in various ways and everybody's mind is on what we can do to help.

    So as plans come together today, consider this blog a New Orleans Relief station of sorts. I listened to Hugh Hewitt for the first time yesterday, and I have to say that he and his radio show are what I would do given the chance. So whatever bloglinking he's doing, I'm doing including links to Instapundit and paying attention to whatever is being said about to victims. Also NZBear is keeping track for us.

    This morning I got a phone call from another friend of the family who is now homeless. She was in better spirits than I was, and that's because up until that point I have been feeling relatively helpless to DO. Now that I can see some ways to contribute, I'm gaining focus, and I would suggest that is the only cure for whatever malaise and griping you might have. I tried to drown it in sake last night, but that didn't work. It has to be about resolution of the problem. Not speculation about what the implications might be, not complaints about what other people may or may not be doing wrong, but resolution of the problem.

    Here's my own idea, because my brother works for FedEx and I'm fairly certain that they are going to provide some airlift. Clean out your garage. All that stuff in there, those winter clothes, those old suitcases, that extra power drill. Box it. Send it.

    Here's to the New New Orleans. It's all about do, and we can do. If you want to send cash, do it here:

    If you contribute to the ERD, then log your contribution here and tell them Cobb sent you.

    I'll be updating this post all day when I hear tell of DOERS. Promises count.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:22 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

    August 31, 2005

    What's Broke Stays Broke

    Here's the scoop. Since we've all been watching the MSM for video images and photos and breaking news, we've all been subject to a deluge of cliches. And in America, what could be more cliche'd than age old racial stereotypes? In case you haven't felt the tug at the primative heartstrings, looters have made the video clips. The looters are black. Survivors have made the video clips. Surviors are white.

    But here's a particularly poignant observation straight from the blogosphere:

    Our biggest adventure today was raiding the Walgreens on Canal under police escort. The pharmacy was dark and full of water. We basically scooped the entire drug sets into garbage bags and removed them. All under police excort. The looters had to be held back at gunpoint. After a dose of prophylactic Cipro I hope to be fine.

    In all we are faring well. We have set up a hospital in the the French Qarter bar in the hotel, and will start admitting patients today. Many will be from the hotel, but many will not. We are anticipating dealing with multiple medical problems, medications and and acute injuries. Infection and perhaps even cholera are anticipated major problems. Food and water shortages are imminent.

    The biggest question to all of us is where is the National Guard. We hear jet fignters and helicopters, but no real armed presence, and hence the rampant looting. There is no Red Cross and no Salvation Army.

    If somebody steals a crate of DVDs from WalMart in the wake of a hurricane, not only are they stupid but they are unambitious. If somebody steals a baker's rack of groceries, that's not stealing, that's forethought. If somebody steals a syringe of insulin, that's not stealing, that's self-reliance.

    So the question arises, forgetting race for a moment, as to how one goes about getting a police escort for your particular needs during an emergency. Obviously, if you are a doctor, as the author appears to be, you might get lucky and convince a cop to help you fetch some drugs from the local Walgreens under armed guard. Everybody doesn't have it goin' on like that, and clearly the expectations of what heroics might be acceptable from the lower classes hasn't changed in this emergency. At least, that's what the pictures on Channel 4 suggest.

    But let's not mince words. New Orleans is a black vs white town. I was there this spring and all over the news was how clubs in the Quarter were getting sued for racial profiling. In addition to that, there is the kind of black poverty in New Orleans that defies cvility. It's very easy to take a wrong turn off the avenue and wind up in the third world, and everybody knows it. I'm talking dirt streets and standing water in the middle of the summer. There is a not-insignificant portion of New Orleans that a lot of people are glad to see washed into oblivion. But the people who lived there are now souls to be saved. Not everybody is willing to be charitable. Considering that disaster tends to bring out the best in people, what we haven't seen is the daily ugliness of racial New Orleans.

    I'm not one to whine or complain about the daily abuses of Class Three Racism that dogs blackfolks and others across our nation, but I am particularly attuned to what goes on when there are soldiers with automatic weapons in the streets. For shame!

    People are talking:

  • Superdome of Shame
  • Looting or Survival
  • White Liberation
  • Racism & Looting
  • Only A Matter of Time

    Posted by mbowen at 11:54 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
  • Keep Moving

    024.jpg

    Posted by mbowen at 08:41 AM | TrackBack

    August 30, 2005

    Surekote Breaches

    Here are a couple of overhead visuals of the neighborhood that looks like it has been sunken due to two breaches of the levee in the Industrial Canal. It's being reported as the Florida Street levee, but on Google Earth the road is marked as Surekote. It sounds like name of an industrial company, and that surely is the Industrial Canal that goes up to Ponchartrain from the Mississippi.

    sk.jpg

    In this first picture looking south towards the Mississippi, you can clearly see how the levee has been broken in two places. The closest one looks to have about a 250 feet gap. Further south near the bridge the gap has got to be at least 350 feet long.

    br.jpg

    Now here's the reverse angle looking north from south of the bridge over to the gaps on the east.

    surekote.jpg

    Here, you can see that everything to the right of the channel is threatened. That's a pretty large area, and it looks like it will be underwater for a long time.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:33 PM | TrackBack

    Aerial View

    It's difficult to imagine how bad the flooding is in New Orleans until you see some of the aerial photos. Yesterday, I was pretty confident that the people I know there were OK. Today I'm not so sure, but I know more.

    The levee that broke, from what I can tell, is on the north side of the city right on Lake Pontchartrain where you see the yellow arrow. This break is causing the lake to drain into the city.
    ggog.jpg


    My understanding is that the flood has moved all the way down south towards downtown from the lake and it has flowed east over to City Park which is bordered on the West by another canal whose levees have held up.

    Police officers, firefighters and private citizens, hampered by a lack of even rudimentary communication capabilities, continued a desperate and impromptu boat-borne rescue operation across Lakeview well after dark. Coast Guard helicopters with searchlights criss-crossed the skies. Officers working on the scene said virtually every home and business between the 17th Street Canal and the Marconi Canal, and between Robert E. Lee Boulevard and City Park Avenue, had water in it. Nobody had confirmed any fatalities as a result of the levee breach, but they conceded that hundreds of homes had not been checked.

    That's a huge area. By my calculations 3.6 square miles. 2300 acres underwater. For you football fans, 1 acre = 1 football field.

    I have an uncle's house on Dumain, just below and to the right of the orange zone off City Park Avenue, but that's just an artificial barrier. I know he went and holed up with an aunt of mine just south east of City Park off Esplanade. I can't recall how big the berms are on that canal that you can clearly see at the bottom right of the park, but that's where a number of historic homes are located.

    Either way that's a hell of a lot of people underwater because of a failure indirectly related to the storm itself. I can't tell if it was the surge from the lake that broke the levee or if the wind did it, but the results are catastrophic. When I hear more, I'll post more.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:34 PM | TrackBack

    Eyes on First

    In what has come to be a classic example of intellectual property rights vs the public's right to know, there's good news and bad news.

    The good news is that some thoughtful and resourceful people have put up some of the cash necessary to chop through the warren of proprietary fetters on the Eyes on the Prize documentary series. According to this story, The Ford Foundation and Richard Gilder have come to the rescue.

    The bad news is that none other than the music industry is tying up this process with their expensive products.

    When the controvery over the Downhill distribution arose, I first sided with the free distributors. Shortly thereafter, I changed my mind. Apparently the right words were whispered in the right ears and those who can, did. Or at least it seems that they have. Who knows what the ultimate price tag on this matter may be? But it's clear that at the moment the day has been saved.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:26 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    August 28, 2005

    Open Katrina Call

    The chances that any of my relatives in New Orleans are thinking about reading my blog today is very, very slim. However, on that slim possibility, they just might.

    Let us know you're OK. OK?

    Posted by mbowen at 11:35 AM | TrackBack

    August 27, 2005

    Yon vs Bochco

    I don't really need any new information about the War in Iraq. As I've said any number of times, we're in it to win it and I'm not panicky over how long we stay. It's basically US bases in Iraq keeping a lid on the Middle East, or nuts like Netanyahu, who by the way is nuclear in case anybody forgot. So while it's really pitiful how GWBush has completely botched the opportunity to create War TV, I have to depend on Hollywood and blogs. Blogs may have a much higher reality ratio, but the TV is damned convenient.

    I watch Bochco's version, sometimes with a bit of nausea, on the regular and have realized that it's the closest thing I have to any verisimilitude on Iraq. I put up with its melodrama in order to place my head into the context of the skirmishes units are probably engaged in. There are no photojournalists worth a damn in America any longer. If Dan Rather was the best we had, it's because of the whole culture of the punk kids we send to J-School.

    Standing in stark contradiction to the puff-blonde tradition of American news is Michael Yon. Remember his name and blog about him yourself. His blog, which I catch maybe once every two weeks, is by far the most down and dirty, grit eyeball view of troop actions. It's simply True. It's easy to say that Hollywood is Hollywood, but until you read Yon, you have no idea how bogus it might be.

    Yon is getting his props in the 'sphere, but I wonder how long we have to accept that his name is not household knowledge like that of Cindy Sheehan. I'm not satisfied that we have to cynically take this problem with truth as just another bit of evidence of the dance of the MSM swirling around the drain. I feel shame, plain and simple. We can do better, and we need to.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:33 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Open Invitation

    I am dragging myself kicking and screaming into the next generation of online publishing with the VisionCircleWiki. The idea is to develop, organically via all the black people on the web who care, a collaborative statement about who we are and where we stand on the issues.

    I've been complaining a lot about P6's format in that it's very difficult to navigate and get a sense of where people stand concisely on the issues. I've always seen the blogosphere as a good place to rant, but it's not good at summarization. I think it would be more useful at this point in time to get a kind of full encyclopedia of our political and cultural landscape than to carry out 100 battles and trackbacks. Once I get the flavor of the Wiki, I can go do the portal thing - plus the RSS aggregation and then we are off, boyeee.

    So for now consider this an open invitation, left right and center, Old School, New Jacks and yo' momanem, to get jiggy in coming up with some general agreement on the terminology of our age over at the VisionCircleWiki.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    August 19, 2005

    3 x 4 x 5

    Over time I have been looking at the few generations of African American as, well a few generations of African Americans. But I've also referred to them as 'blackfolks'. This is primarily to distinguish them from whitefolks based on some online stuff I was doing related to the politics of race and American identity. I think the term has been usefull for what it's worth, but I certainly hope that it hasn't been interpreted as some kind of essentialist or permanent state of consciousness for Africans.

    In fact, much of what I do at Cobb is to explain what I think is an important aspect of African American politics from the perspective of the Old School. No matter what the Old School is, it is distinct from what goes under the broad header of 'black'. It is part of my aim to distinguish various parts of the African American populus and electorate, in other words to speak to the diversity of these 36 millions.

    In the first regard, I have identified three streams of political orientation: Liberal, Progressive and Conservative. Towards the ends of giving some historical accuracy to these terms, I'm reading 'WEB Dubois and American Poltical Thought: Fabianism and the Color Line' by Adolph Reed. What I believe is that currently the largest number of African Americans in our history are recieving the same education, jobs and housing as their white peers. Because of this, it is perfectly logical that their political ambitions will be very similar to that of their contemporaries. However there will be notable differences in rationale as well as different priorities based upon the politics they have inherited. I intend to come correct, basically.

    Existentially, props go to Nelson George for his spot-on characterization of the 'post-soul' generation. Buppies, B-Boys, BAPS and Bohos. The five-way split goes across class. For those, my terms are based on residential profiles. Hill, Burbs, Hood, Ghetto & Projects.

    This gives me 60 profiles which I would say are largely attitundinal. I think they may not be predictive, but they go a good ways in getting us to understand some real diversity in African America.

    Now what we have to do is start with these simple breakdowns and relate that back to an historical understanding of various ideas. When we talk about a subject like Black Nationalism, I ask, what did it do? Who benefitted? Who tried to sell it to whom? Who was left in and who was left out?

    Posted by mbowen at 03:08 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    August 16, 2005

    Watts & Militant Posers

    "The fire next time will be put out next week."
    -- Albert Murray

    I have to confess that I have not read James Baldwin's "The Fire Next Time". But if there is one book that captures the spirit of the desire to see America burn from black rage, my guess is that Baldwin's book is the intellectual ground zero. I also haven't read Eldridge Cleaver's "Soul on Ice", but something tells me that every black prison pseudo-intellectual is derivative. So when Ed Brown asks, what good has come of black militancy, the answer is only a mindset. There may be some usefulness in the idea of black militancy, but no actual black militants have had any military success. Nobody took on the National Guard, much less the Army and won. Nobody made any tactical moves that resulted in any significant infrastructural damage to the enemy, and nobody set up any militant organization that lasted. Sure there were some riots, sure there are plenty of dainty people who are still afraid of traveling south of the Santa Monica Freeway but there has been no land gained. When it comes to speaking of the legacy of the Watts Riots, that insurgency has been squashed.

    It should be enough to say that nobody can name any single figure who led the Watts Riots or the Riot after Rodney King. It was a bunch of dissatisfied people going berserk, some for good reason, many for no good reason at all. I've always held that Black Rage is just a substitute for effective politics.

    There is a small contingent of people who have attempted to elevate some OG Crips and Bloods to the status of revolutionary leaders. But even if a dozen leaders of the Crips or Bloods were absolutely on that moral and political program, there's nobody anywhere who could say they have been effective to any degree. They're just street gangs, and that's about as militant as 20th century African Americans got with one exception, the Black Panthers, also defunct. Most people agree that the Panther's greatest success, aside from cool-looking blacklight posters, and jumpstarting gun control in California, was their breakfast program and their newsletter. Hardly the legacy of a successful gang of militants. Most of black militancy has basically been nothing but a militant pose.

    This militant pose has worked miracles in the academy where a great deal of black success has taken place. I needn't tell you how ridiculous it sounds in the context of world history to recount the sieges of undergraduate dorms and administration buildings, but somehow this has become legend. What an embarrassment.

    But let's not forget the power of the militant mindset. Understand that a significant number of African Americans are under the influence of a pseudo-democratic confusion masquerading as radical politics. The problem is that it is not effectively organized and people have to keep going back to the books. It's always the ghost of Malcolm X who is more effective than the real person standing in front of the black crowd. It's always the idea of James Baldwin's Fire Next Time that's more compelling than the actual plan under consideration. There isn't a politics that has any consistent success in delivering requisite patronage to blacks who would be militants. Legitimate black lefties always have to look over their shoulders because one of their followers might be a real knucklehead or gangbanger who thinks that there is some role for them as a violent henchman. There's always a crowd of rowdies looking for an excuse to do damage haunting black Democrats. This is why politicians like Maxine Waters are put on the spot when the street gets hectic. They're not really her people, but they claim her nonetheless, and naturally since she's a politician, she figures out a way to give them rhetorical satisfaction while not actually doing a damned thing that could ever be close to indictable. This is the state of black militancy today.

    Anybody with a lick of common sense knows that there's no future in this frontin'. There is no way to win through militant conflict, and there's really no black leaders capable of mounting a rebellion. Well, there are, but they're the good guys in the US Armed Forces, and there is no racial politics compelling enough for them to bolt.

    And yet people continue to be seduced by the potential amplification of black rage into black militancy. I say it's not going to happen and woe to those who hope it does. Maybe you need to rent a copy of 'Dead Presidents' then smoke a joint and forget about it. Better yet, rent 'Black Ceasar' and play some Public Enemy. Then wake up and recognize that Steve Cokely and Khalid Muhammed and all other such pretenders don't even merit a trip to Club Gitmo. That's how pathetic their threat is. Your local neighborhood cops are plenty, and if not them then the local branch of the FBI. But the National Guard? Hardly. The Army? Puhlease. The reason is simple and plain. Blacks don't rebel because blacks don't have anything worth rebelling for that rises to the level of militancy. Not unemployment, not poor health care, not police abuse, not racism, not Reparations, not nothing. All that is handled, for better or worse, by a coast to coast network of Leftists, and what African Americans get by way of those legitimate political activities is good enough. The rest are welcome to go to jail like idiot sheep with bad attitudes.

    I know there is a sentiment among many blackfolks, myself included, that wishes that there was something more to the legacy of the militant mindset than PE's 'Fight the Power' video. There is a great deal of dissatisfaction out there in African America, and all responsible political thinkers want to convert that black rage into constructive politics. But all wishful thinking aside, we have to admit that black rage is self-destructive. It won't yeild anything but another excuse for knuckleheads to attach themselves to legitimate desires for reform. But from my perspective in the Old School, black liberals and Democrats have not done enough to make clear the distinction between rebellion and reform. So the seduction and double-talk continues and the idea of black militancy hasn't been properly buried with Malcolm - not that he was half the military leader people like to imagine he might have been. So my message to wannabe militants? I quote Sargeant Waters from 'A Soldier's Story': "The black race can't afford you no more."

    References:

    Booker Rising

    Posted by mbowen at 06:01 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

    August 15, 2005

    Put a Figure On It

    In the movie Trading Places starring Eddie Murphy, we find two old codgers betting a dollar between them that they could manipulate the lives of two young men. One of them is something of a pansy associate, the other a streetwise stranger. It was a pretty popular movie in those days.

    Our TCB associate has brought up the question of the value of human life and asks us to put a figure on it. It's absolutely impossible, and yet it's done every day. The extraordinary thing about economics is that it shows how people vote with their feet. It's not just about what people say they will do, but what they actually do. People collectively put a value on everything, including human life. A market economy tries with varying successes to put the price that everyone puts on everything into currency controlled by the government. And so in America, we can count gains and losses in terms of dollars. What a country!

    The important thing to remember is that people have short attention spans sometimes. Other times they are obsessive. So the girl that you paid no mind yesterday can suddenly become a goddess at the center of the universe. You discover she has bad breath... well, you get the picture.

    I think that when it comes to a good portion of those things associated with quality of life, we Americans have a fairly efficient market. What is the cost of pollution? Find a neighborhood that's polluted and check the property values. It's almost second nature for us to understand that rich people don't live on toxic waste dumps. But most of us don't either. How much toxicity will we stand? These are economic arguments.

    When it comes to healthcare, we Americans have a very inefficient market. There are a lot of interests who resist the very idea of having prices available to the public. How much does it cost to set a broken leg? 'That depends' is about the best answer anyone can give. Last year, my mother underwent surgery to remove a liver cancer. According to a number of doctors, liver cancer is the best cancer to have - the success rate is pretty good. My understanding is that her procedures and treatment were worth about $750,000 and it was completely covered by Medicare. There all kinds of experts and all kinds of quacks and all kinds of suggestions when it came to how and when, and we could not have made any real decision based on cost. It was too complex, not to mention emotional. But all emotions aside, somebody knew how to get paid and what they wanted to charge.

    So no matter what people think, despite the fact that we are blind to the complexities of the system, there are price tags associated with human life.

    I'm in the business of Business Intelligence. I make systems that help businesses keep track of all their money and help them make rational decisions. I can tell you from experience that the Insurance business is way ahead of the Healthcare business when it comes to using this technology. I also have a very strong feeling that the government's ability to adjust is way outmaneuvered by the healthcare and insurance. So from my perspective, it is very difficult for any entrepreneurial doctors to find a way to help consumers of healthcare, because most of the money is tied up in slow government rules and quick insurance hedges. By the time government figures out a way to arrange public benefits, insurers will have squeezed all the profit out of it and healthcare providers are left holding the bag. We consumers take what we can get, and feel lucky if we get anything at all.

    This is obviously, obviously wrong, and it's an enormous problem, because it requires cooperation and coordination across insureres, doctors, governments, consumers and a million lawyers. In that regard, I think the only way to fix it is by government decree, but we are a long way from securing bipartisanship.

    There are going to have to be some consumer advocates and some healthcare providers who are going to have to advertise a new way of getting our attention. When it comes to benefits election time, once a year, we hear from the insurers, but never from the hospitals in our community. I'd like to see a range of hospitals in LA tell me how I could go COBRA and save based on a lower granularity of a mix of services and benefit than just picking co-pay and deductibles. I'd like my employer to allow me to decide how to spend my fringe benefits with a bit more control.

    Until such time as there is smarter public pricing, more comsumer choice and more flexibility with fringe benefit spending, the same people are going to dictate the price of life. And we won't be able to do a damned thing about it.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:24 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    The Sins of the Associate

    I sometimes wonder why, given the amount of intellectual crack many liberals smoke, nobody has come out to be the anti-DeLay. Perhaps they are so convinced of DeLay's turpitude that they feel it's redundant. Nevertheless, it is astonishing to see how many tangents have been tagged to DeLay as the investigations of Jack Abramhoff have finally netted a real indictment.

    I listened to NPR this morning whilst driving down the wrong freeway, and I swear in the same report I heard at least 4 qualifications on how nothing in the indictment is connected to Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay. What a backhanded smear.

    I can't stand DeLay myself. I think his ascent has marked the the end of bipartisanship and the ushered in the tyranny of the thinnest majority (which is the defacto worst of the best ideas), but beat him down for what he's done, not for who he hangs out with.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:11 AM | TrackBack

    August 12, 2005

    Google Pushes Publisher's Buttons

    In today's NYT it is reported that Google is suspending some of its ambitious operations to digitize several libraries. Apparently, its efforts have rubbed some publishers the wrong way.

    ''We think most publishers and authors will choose to participate in the publisher program in order (to) introduce their work to countless readers around the world,'' Smith wrote. ''But we know that not everyone agrees, and we want to do our best to respect their views too.''

    Google wants publishers to notify the company which copyrighted books they don't want scanned, effectively requiring the industry to opt out of the program instead of opting in.

    That approach rankled the Association of American Publishers.

    There's nothing that annoys me so much as the behavior of selfish children. You know how it happens. One kid refuses to share their new stupid toy and the other kid gets bored and goes off to look for something to do. The bored kid find an old toy that hasn't been seen in years and the selfish kid claims that it was his. This is an intellectual property issue of course.

    As I mentioned in Las Vegas, this kind of demand for restraint by publishers and other IP holders will inevitably result in their self-marginalization. Because unlike with real estate, there's always another way of saying the same thing - always another pass through the mountains. The value of ideas does not work on the same principles of scarcity, so creating artificial scarcity through IP restraints, will not necessarily result in an economically favorable position.

    Imagine that you were my great-granddaughter and the sole owner of the Cobbian Archives. In order for this material to be valuable, you would have to be able to demonstrate that way back in 2005, there were actually black Republicans being challenged by the public. But since nobody remembers such a fact (since in the future 90% of blacks will be Republican), you would have to somehow establish that public recollection. You would do so by engaging in selling to colleges and universities some edited-down version of the Archives (which probably would not include the rude language of my 'Thats Settled' comic). But having made that nice little deal with some universities and settling the academic question, how much further should you milk the deal? I'm saying there is a point of diminishing returns at which the value of public literacy outweighs the value of private gain. Remarketing ad-infinitum seems to me to be a bad idea.

    I'd only add one more example, since I'm spiting liberals these days. That would be the example of the Bible. Would it help the Church to restrain the trade in Bibles? For a great number of ideas, their true to society value is found in their free distribution.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:11 PM | TrackBack

    August 10, 2005

    Ebony & Jet

    The last time I read Ebony was when one of the Johnson granddaughters had the most fabulous wedding in Chicago. I can't remember how long ago it was, but it had to be at least 15 years. It was probably around the same time that I started taking black literary fiction seriously, in the days just before Toni Morrison took over the American literary scene. But a long time before then I poo-poohed, but never missed, the maganize's annual list of the 100 most influential black Americans. Whenever I would see 'Grand Polemarch' of some fraternal order among the Ebony faces, I would suck my teeth in shame. Whenever I would see the ever-increasly grizzled old mug of the Hon. Elijah Muhammed, I would roll my eyes. These were the old guard, keepers of the flame. They were the leaders of the world that had failed to impress my generation. If they had power and influence, who was it over? Nothing quite got under my skin like the success of the Bronner Brothers, a couple of Jheri Curl twins in powder blue tracksuits who seemed, according to the editors of Ebony Magazine to be the embodiment of young, gifted and black. Their claim to fame? Jheri curl juice hair care products for African Americans.

    Jet, on the other hand, managed to keep my attention longer. In their Speaking of People section, I could always count on seeing somebody who reminded me of the black detective on the Barney Miller Show. Respectable, smooth, solidly middle class, no nonsense. In this inverted sense, I always saw the future of the black nation as yet to become. The middle class had more class than the 'best' and the brightest on the top. Even figures like John H. Johnson himself never seemed to have the edge that seemed to be required in my America.

    What ever can be said for the lack of depth of Ebony, it could never be faulted for being vulgar, cynical or pretentious. It was just the kind of magazine a rich dad would want his daughters to read. People forget, certainly I must have - or never knew, that Johnson also published Negro Digest. Negro Digest pulled from the ranks of the most thoughtful and provocative writers on the edge of black intellectual ferment in the 60s. Notables among them included LeRoi Jones, A. Phillip Randolph, Richard Wright and Ron Karenga. When it was time, Johnson clearly went there.

    I've posted some of the Negro Digest covers from my father's library, and they show evidence of a consistent and clear concern and debate about serious issues. There are a lot of people who could learn from that. I'm convinced that Johnson himself understood very well the diversity of African America and in the end chose to highlight the bright side, not because he was afraid or ashamed but because he understood where the bulk of black America's hopes and dreams lay. Ebony and Jet were magazines for working class and lower middle class blackfolks and it reinforced their optimistic view of a middle class black America. Johnson did the right thing.

    I suspect that upon his passing, Johnson might be remembered as the man who put too happy a face on black life. Let's not forget he was thoughtful too.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:48 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    August 01, 2005

    A Gentleman's 'C'

    Apparently, John Bolton is 'qualified'.

    I like the theory explained somewhere I forgot to link last week, that the Republicans will do all that is necessary to win, but not one iota more. I'm starting to adhere to this idea - and it explains George W. Bush's political capital very well. Bush is the 51% president, and all he cares about, via Rove, is getting to the magic of majority. So Bolton's recess appointment as Ambassador to the UN comes as no surprise.

    Keep this in mind. It is better to be deemed satisfactory by the powers that be, than to be hailed as outstanding by the coalition of the damned. Tsk.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:45 PM | TrackBack

    July 28, 2005

    Steele & The GOP

    So now it has happened and the venom is flying. The bigwigs in the GOP have gotten their money and interest behind Michael Steele and that hate is just flying. Mark down the names of these guys because they sound like jilted lovers. How dare the Republicans back a black candidate!

    It's almost as if the RNC and I were reading the same page. Just yesterday in the other thread I was saying how much of a no-brainer it is for the right African American candidates to walk into the open arms of the Republican Party. Of course it's no walk in the park for anyone, including Steele, but there is not, contrary to urban myth and Liberal lie, a color bar in the Republican Party. But that's hardly what Steele's ascendancy proves. What it proves is that the class of blackfolks who are Old School, and having met Steele I can attest, are natural candidates for filling in the gaps in the GOP. Steele is neither ideologue nor puppet. He's my kind of people, and I think once again, as with the debut of the Cosby Show, America is in for a pleasant surprise.

    I'm going to step out on a limb and stick a big thumb in the face of all the whiners who have been saying, for as long as I've been right-blogging, that black Republicanism was both an impossibility and an oxymoron. The Party is stepping up to the [$1,000] plate and putting some energy behind a serious black candidate. This could very well be the watershed event we've been waiting for. I am very curious to see how far Steele is going to echo the 'Cosby Republican' (which is much of what we've been all about over here) rhetoric to capitalize on the buzz still surrounding that. I don't think that's much like Steele's style, but if he's got Rove behind him, you can be certain that the opportunity won't be missed.

    I expect that I'm going to have to suppress a lot of 'monkey' comments that will inevitably issue from haters and idiots. Let's not forget what has been said (and drawn) about our Secretary of State when she ascended to that post. So let the flames begin.

    References:

  • Oliver Willis pays no attention to the man himself at all, and dismisses him in a skinny paragraph.

  • The Ascent Blog doesn't give as much as the benefit of the doubt but doesn't condemn. Faint praise indeed.

  • That Colored Fella dismisses Steele as well.
  • So all in all, there doesn't seem to be many folks who are willing to take Steele seriously, despite the fact that I see him as the genuine article, and right smack in the middle of the Old School. From my point of view, he is precisely the kind of candidate who can speak up for both the aggressive business blacks on the right (for lack of a better term) and blacks of the Christian Right. He is too much of neither but comfy with both.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:36 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    July 26, 2005

    The Economics of Racial Profiling

    Several years ago I built a simple model of racial profiling to see where it might lead. My original question was basically, if you were a shopkeeper and implemented a racial profiling security strategy, would it work? Specifically, if you alienated your black customers, who were profiled because of black criminals, could you remain profitable. The answer was yes. I've updated the model just a touch since then, but the basics are all the same. Here's the spreadsheet:


    In month zero, you observe the first scenario in your store. You are setting up an experiment to determine whether or not to set up a racial profiling system for your new security guard. Your cameras roll and you don't bother any of your patrons. If they steal, they steal. You let them all walk. You have 1000 whites patronize your store. They spend an average of 12 dollars per trip and steal about 72 dollars worth of merchandise. Blacks spend less on average, are a much smaller percentage of the gross income of your store, but according to your observations, steal at double the white ratio. Others spend about on par with whites but less overall than blacks. One of the others rips you off big time, but per capita by racial group this is below both the black and white crime rate.

    So on the basis of the rate of crimes committed by race, you decide to profile only the blacks. The results are twofold. The first is that you alienate half of your black customers, still one black gets away with lifting about $5 worth of merchandise. The second is that you reduce overall crime by 40%, and normalize the rate of crimes between blacks and whites. In the end your bottom line is that you have lost only about $65 in revenue, and maintained better than 93% of your customers.

    Is that an acceptable loss?

    Part of the problem here is that by identifying crime rates by race and observing the difference, you set up a standard by which some crime is justified, in this case, 'white' crime. by such a standard some race is bound to be overly persecuted in this case, 'blacks'. the very act of initiating a crackdown on criminals *by race* even if the statistics 'justify' it, is to set up a differing standard by which individuals are judged in the justice system. this is racist even if this the actions are restricted to the class of known and observed criminals. You end up treating one race of criminals worse than another race of criminals.

    In fact, racial profiling is not restricted to a population of criminals. The effects are felt against the general population. In this case you alienate the innocent black general population as well as the criminals. By profiling the black population you are in fact treating all blacks as if they were black criminals, which we have already established are getting a worse deal than white criminals.

    However, if you are only concerned with profit, it's clear that you can maintain such a racist policy with a minimal impact on your bottom line.

    There are a number of variables which I think should be added to the analysis. Today, I'm not so interested in Korean groceries, which prompted this study, but the War on Terror. It's clear that if we were to apply racial profiling to Arabs boarding airplanes, the situation would be worse in terms of effect on innocents. Firstly, it is a whole lot less likely that an Arab would be hijacking a plane than shoplifting from a store. So the crime ratios would be a lot lower. Similarly, Arab passengers would not have so many convenient alternatives as black shoppers. So the second observation would not be too far different from the first.

    Just a little food for thought.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    July 25, 2005

    Dem Ebonics Agin

    1n 1997, I sold my Altima for a minivan, packed the kids and a half ton of supplies into it and drove across the country from Atlanta to Los Angeles. Somewhere in Texas, having become bored out of our gourds of the radio, we purchased some old black comedy tapes at a truck stop. One of the performers was Pigmeat Markham. We put in the tape and laughed at three quarters of the jokes. The rest were incomprehensible not because there was anything wrong with the tape, but because it was spoken in a brand of English that only our African American grandparents understand.

    Is Ebonics a language? Yes. Is Ebonics a dialect? Yes.
    Is Ebonics worth learning? Yes. Is Ebonics worth teaching? Yes.

    These are upper class intellectual sentiments. And since it is my aim to be both, they are what I believe, but they are not what I recommend in the context of public elementary school education. This is for altruistic reasons. For all the sophisticated reasons Ebonics ought to be taught, write a book and teach it to graduate students. I, for one would love to hear Pigmeat Markham translated into something I can understand. English majors, have at it. But for public school kids? Forget it.

    I am not entirely opposed to a bit of culture warring or class warring. Furthermore I do not like to forget that it is ever the case that within western democracies, the surest way into the middle class is via the armed services. I hold a good deal of stock in the meritocracy of soldiering. In my hardball reasoning, there is no reason to teach Ebonics or teach via Ebonics in the military, which functions very well, and there is no reason to teach Ebonics or via Ebonics in the public schools.

    If you love Mexican food, you don't ask for one of those foldy things with meat in the bottom, you ask for a taco, and you learn how to pronounce it right. If you want the blessing of God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, you can pray in any language you like and he will hear you, but don't expect the mercy and forbearance of middle class Americans like me to reach anywhere near that level of grace. I'm not interested in hearing you out, and neither is anybody who actually struggled in high school cranking out double spaced essays. Nobody said English was easy. So if there is some massively significant concession to be had in the teaching in the Ebonic dialect it's not coming from over here. Of course, I can think of an exception. Show me the great Ebonic contribution to American literature and then show me how you are teaching students to write in that style, with the precision of an editor of a major publisher. Otherwise drop it.

    I am making the distinction between the written and the spoken word. Quite frankly I don't ever expect people's social expectations of diction to change. The beauty of linquistic precision is it's own reward - every two bit crab rapper knows that. But that's not what public education is in place to provide - rather it is the common stuff of what all of us Americans ought to know at base. You shouldn't establish a second track for anything other than remedial ed or honors ed. The idea that teaching Ebonics is anything but remedial is, I suspect only something that can be believed by the most liberal minds. But hey, if you can teach honors Ebonics, go 'head.

    The only thing that's got me considering this with any seriousness is wondering whether or not native Ebonic speakers are teaching English to college prep standards. If the question implies anything but that, then it is a pointless exercise. I mean are we going to have Molly from Providence take a graduate course in Ebonics at Brown so she can teach in the dialeck down in the Derty South? Is she going to have an extra credential? Am I the only one who sees what a circuitous edification of vulgar rot this is? I mean, sure, do it, but don't call it progress, and keep it out of *my* public school district.

    All the native Ebonic speakers will speak the way they do and be disrepected just like the rest of the Texas twangers, Alabama drawlers, and nasally nor'easterners. So what? So long as you can drive a truck, plumb a bob, or do what's necessary in the blue collar world, I don't care if you speak Pig-Farsi. Just understand enough so that we can make an unambiguous deal. But also don't pretend that your Ebonic track at Dukakis High School gives you license to be a writer or editor, not even at King Magazine.

    TCB Weighs In:

  • DC Thornton
  • La Shawn
  • Avery

    Interestingly enough, I didn't realize this controversy had anything to do with the reality in San Berdoo or Whizbang, I just thought it was a topic of the week. For the record, San Berdoo is off the chizain and ought to be leashed back up, and David is just being overly sensitive again.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:29 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack
  • Breakfast with Ward

    I have not had breakfast with Ward Connorly, but the idea crossed my mind this morning in reference to the discussion at Vision Circle and a note Pops sent my way. It was about an article in the LA Times about how the GOP is gradually coming around to being successful in using demographic data to pick off new converts, some of whom are African American.

    So what if it happens? My goal was to see about 15-20% of blackfolks join the GOP by 2010, or something like that. It looks to me like a fait accompli. So suddenly a rush of images spilled forth, of all the 'non-black' blacks that I have played a part in alienating over the years. The first person that comes to mind is LeVar Burton.

    When I have been talking about 'blackfolks' in the context of race, I have generally meant African Americans who grew up in a black neighborhood. There are plenty who haven't - Tiger Woods, for example, grew up in Cerritos, in the multicultural burbs. Neither Woods nor Burton qualifies for a kind of rebellious macho which is supposedly one of the key core elements in the archtype of the 'Strong Black Man'. Some would go as far as to say they are not black or that they are 'gay'. Not gay as in homosexual, but gay as in punk. (If this is confusing to you, ask somebody who grew up in a black neighborhood - it's a black thing, I'm too pressed for time to explain).

    There was a kid who was an econ major at UCLA whose name I forget. Rumor was that he was all of those things, a punk, not really black. What was undeniable was that he was preternaturally bright. He was frat, but had managed to alienate himself from the fraternity through a combination of character flaws that I had not been able to detect. Not having been at UCLA, I had to take people's word for it. Ultimately, my aim to ensnare his mind into my black political roundup failed. He opted out. I was disappointed but cool with it. A lot of other brothers were a lot less charitable - some didn't want him associated with the frat. I am thinking of that brother today and I wish I could remember his name so I could bring up the matter with some old frat. I imagine him to be a Republican today.

    I wonder what folks will do with 20% of African Americans openly declared in the GOP. The day is coming soon.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:28 AM | Comments (33) | TrackBack

    July 21, 2005

    A Tap on the Shoulder

    My policy at Cobb is to talk about race when the subject presents itself, but not to aggressively pursue the agenda. I have been known to frustrate well-meaning people in search of insights I have tired of presenting, and so I endeavor to speak up when called. Today I got an interesting email from a Cal State prof who teaches a multicultural class of sorts. He graciously introduced himself and inquired into my background having come across some oddments of mdcbowen.org (and probably not the blog).

    I am always in motion and looking in several directions at once, but sometimes when I stop to explain myself (a never-ending and somewhat frustrating existential task given the necessary mobility of black identity) I say something that makes sense transcendently. Today's inquiry helps to explain my arc and why the conservative angle appeals to me:


    I spent several years, out of a sort of necessity I felt at the time, creating an online personna named 'Boohab'. As Boohab, I persued much of the traditional race man's work in a wide variety of online spaces. At mdcbowen.org, a great deal of material generated during that time is available.

    As part of a reference for the interactive work of Boohab, I created the Race Man's Home Companion, the aim of which was to become something of a reference for more than just me. Much of the inspiration and theory behind the RMHC comes from the work of Anthony Appiah, Glenn Loury, Noel Ignatiev, Cornel West and Theodore Cross.

    Some other of my inspiration for pursuing race man's work in the first place had to do with a percieved lack of any coherent political interest shared among African Americans and my longstanding recognition of cultural and class diversity within African America. Anti-racism was the single issue shared among all groups, and I was determined to see how such an agenda might be communicated online, on a subject that doesn't lend itself well to lengthy or productive face to face discussions.

    I am satisfied that a general anti-racist agenda is a low priority among the overwhelming majority of Americans. Those for whom it is a high priority are mostly incapable of disambiguating themselves from the 'Civil Rights Establishment' or advancing a generally acceptable or coherent agenda. I am not particularly disturbed by the racial attitudes of the average American considering the strengths of those who have survived more brutal days. I am convinced that such strengths and values, many from the Black Nationalist and Black Consciousness movements among others, which I call 'Old School' remain valuable though racism's threat to liberty is much attenuated.

    I suspect, depending on the arc of several developments including my book in progress and prospects for building XRepublic, that Cobb should come to a close somewhere between Christmas of this year and next Spring. It will have been a good run. And yet I suspect that Cobbian subjects will tap me on the shoulder from time to time. I will respond.

    Nevertheless as I get a bit more shrill in my frustrations with the ways and means that political ideas are communicated and developed in our democracy, I will hope to answer in the new format - through a virtual parliament.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:43 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    July 18, 2005

    The Deadly Question

    George W. Bush is really not a hardass, and his Compassionate Conservatism is real, but like everything else about this Administration, it is overshadowed by larger questions. Still there are small questions that became very important in his election and the top of those small questions was something to the effect 'Do you expect George W. Bush to restore dignity to the office of the President?'

    It is a small question for me in the end I must admit. I found nothing particularly appalling about Bill Clinton except, upon retrospect, his smarmy way of being a bad boy in all our faces. It wasn't the content, it was the attitude. But I know for a lot of Republicans, the question wasn't quite so small. I think it is now fair to call all of those die-hards hypocrites. I don't think anyone can honestly ask the question about the dignity of the office of the President and see the person of Karl Rove as anything but a liability.

    Boot Rove.

    We know that Rove has mastered the art of deniability. He is the master of clean handed dirty tricks. He makes sure that the butterfly flaps its wings just so his enemy may reap the whirlwind. In the world of politics, he is untouchable. But that's the kind of person I would expect a Bill Clinton to hire for his campaign. GWBush is my War President. I don't really give a rat's ass about his political capital, now in his second term. Losing Rove does not stray us from the course in Iraq. As far as I'm concerned Rove is expendable.

    Since Rove's fingerprints are all over this Plame scandal, I have no doubt that he has calculated well enough to be exonerated from crime. That's beside the point. I see no honor in this dodgeball; it may be political genius, but that's not what I'm looking for. I'm looking for somebody to take one for the team, and I mean the United States Intelligence Services, or whatever they are called under the reorg. You don't out spies. Simple. Not for political capital, not for expedience, not for loyalty to the guy in the office. This is the issue that draws the line between partisans and patriots. Which side are you on?

    By raising the bar to a legal presumption, Bush has made this entirely a matter of politics and no longer one of honor, and in this he has demonstrated to me that he wants to play by the same rules as his immediate predecessor in the White House. That's OK by hardcore partisans, but I think I'm a bit more of a patriot than that.

    Ask the deadly question. Is Karl Rove worth it?

    Posted by mbowen at 11:05 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    July 15, 2005

    Serial Monogamy

    Clearly my wife has been driving the Chevy, because this morning the radio was on Star 97, and I never listen to that station. Nevertheless, the conversation was interesting.

    I didn't realize that the guy on the phone was Michael Clarke Duncan. But he had all kinds of excuses of why he shouldn't marry his girlfriend. The hostess of the radio show was beating him down about it. A woman should know whether or not she should be married within two years. They guys in the studio where hemming and hawing about why a woman should try to nail them down to it, and finally Michael asks, what's the point of marriage anyway? If you're exclusive and you're in love, what difference does a ring make. He knows the difference, it's the legality of sharing your loot. Cobb's #1 rule of love, there is Marriage and there is everything else.

    My limit was 18 months of serial monogamy. I discovered this habit in retrospect somewhere along my 28th birthday. I had a girlfriend for 18 months it became clear that we wouldn't get married, we split up. For 6 months I juggle several chicks, I get sick of it, then I look for a good woman again.

    The only thing the radio babe could think of was, something to the effect that she was over 30 and the clock was ticking for babymaking. It sounded kinda weak to all the guys involved in the conversation, and it sounded weak to me as well. I mean I've always considered any relationship that lasted more than 3 years that didn't end up in marriage as dysfunctionally co-dependent anyway. So I was rather shocked that this wasn't perfectly obvious to everyone concerned. A discussion with the spousal unit gave me the insight that everybody doesn't really know themself well enough to make that kind of decision in 3 years, especially people in their early 20s. OK I'll buy that, especially regarding upper middle class standards. Fine, people in their early twenties aren't really grownups, I see that all the time.

    So that takes us back to the fundaments of the babymaking argument. Indeed, if you're not going to make babies, what is the point of going the extra step? I leave this as a question to the audience...

    Posted by mbowen at 01:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    The Backhand of Merit

    My new colleague Nelson Taylor writes in my new colleague Nathan Tabor's Conservative Voice:

    There are two kinds of white republicans that are going to destroy the GOP if we let them. They are the so called “Country Club” republicans and the “fascists” or “Right Wing Socialists” who hide among us.

    I am a proud capitalist pig and advocate the use of Country Clubs (even the ones not open to black folk – it’s a freedom of association thing). The problem is that, the republican cats that would frequent a Country Club which, openly rejected qualified black applicants on the basis of race tend to bring that snobbery into the political game and our economy. The hard leftists sometimes find their political rhetoric about my GOP being validated by Country Club republicans actions and they tout this validation at every opportunity while of course, ignoring the rampant bigotry of the left.

    The right wing socialists on the other hand are far more serious. They would legislate from the bench just as quickly as an ACLU democrat would so long as; the ruling was something they wanted. Right wing socialism is simply “authoritarianism” that like its leftwing cousin it too assumes that we the individual are too stupid to handle freedom responsibly.

    I've always said that Affirmative Action puts black first basemen on first base. The corollary to that is that we shouldn't have to wait for the Jackie Robinsons among us to play the great sport of baseball. But sometimes parts of American life are late to integrate and nothing approaching a gracious invitation is forthcoming. So the best of us have to beat the door down.

    This is not a demand for a handout or Affirmative Action, this is a recognition of what inevitably happens when people have to be forced to do something through competition that good manners should have led them to do before. Good manners says you invite neighbors into your home and if they're nice you invite them back. Shallow meritocracy says you only let better people into your home, so should you be surprised that they remark loudly about your lack of taste?

    I suspect this is what is going to happen to the Republican Party, although it's a bit early to tell. Those whitefolks who think their membership and standing in the party is something of an entitlement may come to find themselves shoved aside by up and coming blacks. You can imagine who will be the first to go. If you can't, see above.

    On any day, any Republican activist will make excuses about the subject of inclusion - the good mannered version, by saying that Republicans will do for blacks when blacks do for Republicans. It's going to take votes and money. Surely there are some smug country club Republicans (think Randolph & Mortimer Duke in Eddie Murphy's 'Trading Places), who think of their standing in the party as some sort of entitlement. Surely there are some bigots as well who think their snide jabs will insulate them from black masses. These are the sort who bet for Fuzzy Zoeller against Tiger Woods. And where's Fuzzy today? Outclassed and outcast.

    My daughter likes to remind me of her favorite line from Episode One of Star Wars "There's always a bigger fish." Problem is, when the big fish is black, a lot of people wind up with hurt feelings, surprise, shock and resentment. It's a special kind of hell for some whitefolks to be beat down and realize they have been beat down by a superior. This is the kind of shock and awe some sections of the Republican Party are sure to find on the road to the future, just has been the case in just about every other aspect of American life where black ability brings white hostility.

    I don't believe that the GOP will be mired in racial conflict any time soon or that conflict will be the dominant vibe as more blackfolks join ranks. But the dynamic will not be absent, and every day that the Republican powers that be make excuses surrounding the meritocracy of votes and money just makes the beatdown that much more severe. There was a time, not long ago when a great number of people looked askance at the chances for Condi Rice to land a big job inside the White House in the shadow of Colin Powell. She hasn't been stopped. They thought perhaps an academic from the old South wouldn't know jack about $1000 a plate fundraisers.

    I'm going to lay a superfluous jab here, just to make a point. Yesterday, Colin Powell joined Kleiner Perkins, and Bernie Ebbers got a 25 year prison sentence. There's no excuse not to make the right partnership proactively. You can never have too many of the right kinds of friends.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    July 03, 2005

    Empty Protest

    Once again I am compelled to speak up on the Memin Pinguin controversy. I am finding myself annoyed at African American demands for changes in Mexican policy over their exposure to a cartoon. I expect blackfolks to get upset at characters like Mugabe, not fictional ones.

    Not that I have been paying close attention to the international scene, but right about now there is a full-blown humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe.


    According to the United Nations, the destruction of shanty towns has left at least 200,000 people homeless.

    The statement from the bishops was unequivocal: "We have on our hands a complete recipe for genocide; we're witnessing a tragedy of unprecedented enormity."

    It's one of the strongest statements yet from church leaders in the region on the human rights situation in Zimbabwe.

    There is nothing remotely approaching this situation in Mexico, and yet pundit after pundit is yelping for apology and soothing statements. In fact, there is no crisis in Mexico. Listen to Ofari:

    Many Mexicans refer to dark skinned persons, both Mexican, and non-Mexican, as negritos or little black people. This is not seen as racially offensive, but rather as a term of affection even endearment. A popular afternoon telenovela has a comedian in blackface chasing madly after light-complexioned actresses in skimpy outfits. Ads have featured blacks in Afros, blackface, and distorted features. The most popular screen stars in film and on TV, and the models featured on magazines and billboards, are white or fair-skinned with sandy or blond hair. That's the standard of beauty, culture, and sophistication that's held up as the penultimate standard to emulate, and that standard is unabashedly commercialized, and peddled as top commodities in Mexico and other Latin American countries.

    Memin signifies that there are no black video hos television spokesmodels in Mexico. Awww.

    This is a situation which is generated out of a politics that has no sense of priority or perspective. It is a reaction machine working on autopilot, mindlessly looking for offense, assuming evil and lodging complaint after useless complaint. It is nothing more than the continuously operating principle of bad faith, and I urge sensible people to break from its cycle of despair and cynicism.

    Step away from the cartoon.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:52 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    July 02, 2005

    Goodbye Luther

    This time it's true, Luther Vandross is dead.

    More than anyone outside of Prince and Michael Jackson, Luther's career was studded with rumors and innuendo. His talent was just too large to ignore and his battles for health are almost as legendary as his songs were fabulous.

    I am probably one of the few for whom a Luther Vandross song means little personally. My favorite from him was his version of Stevie Wonder's 'Creepin', but unlike most folks I've talked to, there was no Vandross in my memories of love and romance. Maybe it's because I was just a dog, and Luther's music wasn't seductive enough - you just can't get a mack on talking about a chair just being a chair. 'Here and Now' is probably the most overused wedding song in African America. How many times have I known the groom for whom that song only resonates on that one day? But I'm being crass and cynical.

    Luther was one of the good guys. He was unpretentious, and acknowledged, like few others, that his was a gift from God. Oftimes he seemed not to want to be burdened with it. Like Oprah, he was blessed with a curse of talent and still was little old me, wrestling with the demons of fame. He was too sweet to have the growling masculinity of Teddy Pendergrass or the soaring sensuality of Marvin Gaye. But he was much more genuine than characters like Freddy Jackson who seemed to work the stage purely for the opportunity to catch thrown panties from the audience. Nor was Vandross a hawker like Lou Rawls who always seemed to me to be on the make.

    In this way, Vandross, no matter what was said about him, was always a class act. His example will be missed.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:26 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    July 01, 2005

    The Other Side of Memin


    Here and there are some references to a stamp to which some African Americans took offense. Since I'm not particularly enamored with the politics of protest I've decided to take another angle. Much of that has to do with the fact that I've got a little bit of Juneteenth on my mind, but more on that later. The other has to do with my old friend Tony Gleaton.

    It is a little known fact that Mexico banned slavery before the United States. It's fairly easy to dog Vicente Fox these days, and he certainly deserves a lot of criticism, but the Mexico of old deserves a lot of recognition too. It was the first post-colonial nation, and to the extent that progressives ought to mark that with some positive regard, a postage stamp is but a drop in the bucket. Then again, that may be the only bucket some folks are holding. I've been finding it odd that there are those who would say that Texans weren't racist in holding back news that slaves should be free, when just across the Rio Grande, it was already the case. Wouldn't it be interesting to have found an underground railroad that went South from Texas? Isn't it interesting that there's one today going North to Texas?

    There was a time, in my progressive days, that I looked to Latin America for inspiration. I was an avid reader of Fuentes and Borges, although Marquez does nothing for me and my jury is out on Cortazar. Yet nothing quite brought home the affinity as hanging out with Tony Gleaton in his old studio on North Figueroa on the border of Pasadena.

    Tony's black and white photographs were stunning and still are. But these were more than just testimony, they were a bridge. Knowing Tony made the difference. He was a Vietnam vet, and for him it was all about being in the territory. So we parted ways when he decided to take another long journey south of the border to capture more of his and our heritage - that of Africans in the New World.

    It's not enough to know there are blacks in Mexico. They are not black in the way we are and there is no simple way to explain our kinship, but our willingness to do so is the first step to brotherhood and respect. It is a step most of us have not taken. It is the step I think we should take as we take this opportunity to complain about the lack of respect we get from people who have no clue about who we are and what we're like. For the truth is, almost none of us know who Afro-Mexicans are or what they are like, and without the photos of Gleaton, we'd know even less. After all, the complaint isn't so much of what Mexicans think of themselves, but of us African Americans. This isn't part of our politics.

    I'm not prepared to suggest that none of us Anglos have what it takes to put Memin in context. It is what it is whatever we think. But I wonder if we are thinking long and hard enough about our international brotherhood to make such a big issue out of such a small item. If I can have my way, let Gleaton's images of real people be to reason to think of Mexico, not a postage stamp of a fictional character.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:31 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    June 30, 2005

    Kelo: Strategic Holdouts vs Subjective Value

    All I need to know about the recent Kelo decision starts here:

    This "holdout" power potentially becomes a problem in a case such as Kelo, where the buyer needs to assemble several pieces of land to build a building. Any individual may decide to hold out to try to extract a larger share of the surplus associated with the higher economic value from the transaction.

    The problem is that in theory, in any given situation when someone refuses to sell we can't tell whether it is because of strategic holdout or subjective value. If we knew this, then we could get rid of market transactions in general, and move to a system of central planning where the planning czar just assigned various goods to their highest valued user. But that obviously won't work. But there are better, and worse, ways of dealing with this problem. The overall facts of Kelo illustrate one of the worse ways of dealing with it, and why we need to have a real "public use" doctrine that doesn't permit taking from A to give to B.

    There's got to be a t-shirt.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    June 28, 2005

    No You Didn't

    You know you're ghetto if you've ever been to more than one play with the word 'momma' in the title.
    -- Anonymous

    Several years ago a little cartoon book made the rounds after Jeff Foxworthy had come and gone as a comic sensation. This book was entitled 'How to Tell if You're Ghetto'. I'm sure I'd seen some of the one-liners somewhere on the internet before the publishing contract, but that's the way it goes with those things.

    Well, there's a new entry in the sweepstakes which will have you bustin' a gut with recognition. It's called 'HotGhettoMess.com' and is a nice testimony to the sanctimony of us upper middle class jerks. And like the billons of dollars of potato chips factoid, it offers evidence that we blackfolks ought to do better, dammit. We do of course, just not all of us.

    Not so long ago when I was acting particularly sanctimonious, I decided to scrap with a fellow black Republican and conservative. It was strictly a class thing and now I'm rather embarrassed about it. But there are a whole set of American attitudes and behaviors that are relatively predictable; we're all nouveau something. You just have to pick the right set to hang with and the right set to look down on. The real trick is handling downward mobility. I raise my hand, now being an official part of the lower upper-middle class (high income, high education, high status, zero wealth).

    I say this to give Hot Ghetto Mess a boost because I find it insightful and hilarious, (even though the layout is tacky as hell). Plus, I want a link in the Not Ghetto Mess section, because I am the embodiment of class, without being seditty.

    One of the interesting things I will be writing about African Americans at this juncture in our history is what might do with the lessons learned from the bad old days of forced and legacy segregation. 90% of my black friends grew up in black neighborhoods - which meant when it came to homebuying in their parents' day, there was almost no choice. You couldn't pick a range of regions, cities, suburbs and subdivisions. You basically lived with the rest of the blackfolks. In that soup we had to make peace with neighbors from a broad variety of class and regional backgrounds. Especially during the black consciousness movement we found ways to call that triflin' negro up the block 'brother'. I don't think my kids are going to have that skill close to their existential kernels. We're out here in the land of Brownies, and it's all about petty meritocracy, and making 'good choices'. I wonder if Hot Ghetto Mess will be amusing or truly shocking to them. (No I don't.)

    So here I am a Conservative, who wouldn't touch any of those people with a ten foot pole trying to preach a bit of amused tolerance. I'm playing my class role of noblesse oblige - to whom much is given, much is expected. And yet I must moderate that impulse lest I start sounding like a condescending liberal micromanager saying things like "What can we do to to alleviate the vitamin deficiencies in black women that make them fall victim to the evil hair weave industry?"

    Anyway, now you know. Enjoy, but don't forget to come back to Cobb. Wash your hands before you read my blog again.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:49 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    June 27, 2005

    African American History vs Afrocentric Curriculum

    I probably don't have as much to say about the issue of the curriculum changes in Philadelphia as my colleagues. My opinion on the matter pretty much hinges on one question which is unlikely to be answered to anyone's satisfaction.

    African American history is a critical dialog on American history, and in the hands of a capable instructor can give students an opportunity to learn a great deal about this country. Or it could be used to boost the self-esteem of 'inner-city at-risk youth'. It is the presumption of the latter that disables a sensible discussion in most places because when it comes down to it, there is no reason not to study African American history. It's history, therefore it should be studied, period end of discussion.

    So weighing in on this early, I'm going to pull a lamer and say there is no hope when issues like this get political, as they are bound to. However this can be properly interpreted as a Conservative argument, because I am one who believes that there is no need to saddle the educational system with courseware that caters to the epistemological health and well-being of the students. People who flunk, flunk.

    The other day on NPR, I flunked yet another of the BBC World's Geo Quizzes. Every day, they describe some remote point on the globe and delve into some current event going on there. This day, it was one of the centers of Mediterrenean culture, a great city on Sicily that shared a name with a city in upstate NY. Troy? Nah. It was Syracuse. And we're supposed to know Greek and Roman history right? But the fact of the matter is, we use Greek and Roman history less than we use Algebra. So understand from jump street that I am not buying any arguments about African American history not being 'practical'. There is no practical use for history at all in this world, because the very nature of information is undergoing a revolution. If we were Civil War surgeons, we might as well be talking about the value of teaching the history of leeching.

    Which brings me to my final point, if I have one to make at all. The only value in teaching history is to get people to think critically about the value of material presented to them as truth. Considering the controversy surrounding African American history, that makes it probably the most valuable historical subject of all.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:57 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    June 25, 2005

    I Know My People

    Just went back several weeks of the photos of the week over at Time.com and voted 5 times. Each time my vote for the photo of the week was the same as the majority. In this ever changing world, it's good to know your people.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    June 21, 2005

    TCB: On Reparations

    The last thing I was thinking about before September 11th 2001 was reparations. I came up with a brilliant solution in fact. Even people who were staunchly against the concept thought it was a pretty good idea. But I'll get to that later. Right now I want to describe my position on Reparations in the first of what will be many Conservative Brotherhood cross-posts.

    I always speak of justice in terms of healing and curing. There is no question that a great injustice was done to us blackfolks through the institutions of and supporting slavery. It is an injustice that can never be repaid. We African Americans have healed ourselves, but the cure will remain unachieved.

    Three Parts
    The United States should repair. The moral case is clear. The United States will not repair. The politics are clear. African Americans should not worry about it. Our strength is clear.

    There are plenty of legitimate aruguments for reparation and I suspect that our legal system cannot really bear their burden. Charles Ogletree of Harvard is the man on point and I'm sure that he can make a case. But like everyone else, he'll have to come at it sideways, because at root, ours is an indictment of America itself, and of nations. We were a conquered people. We were exploited. We were left politically, for dead. And the interest of the Union superceded our dignity as a people - Reconstruction, which would have been the proper repair, was abandoned.

    Nobody can argue that whitefolks never had the sense God gave them to recognize and do something about our horrid condition. There were many who saw us as brothers. I think that John Brown was one of this nation's greatest heroes. In the end, they failed. But we have not failed ourselves and our American journey only proves the indomitability of the human spirit - which we can never ourselves forget. We have become what we are primarily through our own efforts and nothing can take that away.

    The strength of African America is what keeps this nation together, for we could clearly rip it to its foundations. This nation is always in debt to an idea that probably will never die, the idea that a black underclass can and will revolt. The idea is a bit colored, but only great injustice can bring it to fruition. Any such great injustice will itself be causus belli, it needn't be specifically racist persecution of blacks. If this economy fails, if some civil war breaks out for other reasons, if we become a dictatorship. As a conservative, I break with my colleagues in that they believe such events are imminent or already at hand. They seek revolution; they seek a purging by fire next time. They seek to collect that debt in blood and chaos. I am for stability and growth.

    I believe that African Americans have it good enough and that our progress in marked by our quick study of this nation's infrastructures and institutions. And so when it comes to the question of Reparation, I believe that our system is not morally capable of repairing. I also believe that the relative condition of the African American nation is not nearly agitated enough to demand reparations. In other words, it would require an extraordinary effort to extract the payment due and African Americans by and large are letting the nation slide.

    So I suppose the more reasonable question is whether or not blackfolks are cancelling the debt. The answer is no. That elephant is too big to ignore - even if we hanged every living Klansman. We're just holding it in our pocket while we shake your hand and smile. We are healed, our smile is genuine. But we are not cured and we both know it.

    Now the idea: The Slave Dollar
    (from the archives November 2000)

    As a matter of apology and reparation, I propose the minting of a coin. This coin, preferably gold in color, would be distributed directly to [African] Americans through the US Post Office. What is important is that a sufficient number of these coins be minted such that their circulation through this country and the world such that their very presence indicate the breadth of the impact of any market orignially directed at the labor of African Americans..

    The amount minted might be, instead of reflecting an interest bearing debt on 40 acres and a mule, representative of some fraction of todays economy as expressed in proportion to that of the slave economy in its day. For practical reasons, it is not likely to be a 1:1 ratio. But if the slave economy was estimated to be 1/3 of that time, it might be reasonable to mint 1/3 of all dollar coins as the "slave dollar".

    There are other practical considerations, such as the success of the coin itself, but I have little doubt that it would circulate widely among African Americans. There are currently many popular theories of 'recycling black dollars'.

    The presence of these coins in the national circulation would show, over time, how pervasive the effects of money generated by the slave economy would be. One of the great excuses often given in resistance to reparation and apology is that no one living was directly responsible or directly victimized. But a coin minted and circulated specifically as the currency of apology ultimately reaches everyone, just as the money generated specifically by the institution of slavery.

    In retrospect and in consideration of the Sacagewea Dollar, the 'disappearance' of the coin from circulation could cause bigger headaches than the gesture might relieve. But I still think it's a good idea.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:59 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    June 18, 2005

    Epitaph for Mike Tyson

    12tyson650.jpg
    Mike Tyson started off as a twisted kid with talent and potential. He morphed into a fierce fighter with no class. Today Tyson is a loser with no class and no potential. This picture now goes down in history as the dictionary reference for 'washed up'.

    When Tyson finally got served by the British champion Lenox Lewis it was clear that he was over many rounds before it happened. I distinctly remember one of the commentators saying how that fight seemed like the one fight that showed us all to be suckers. As it proceded you thought how was it that we ever thought this guy in the ring was a heavyweight champion boxer? He was too short, he couldn't get inside the jab, his punches didn't hurt his opponent. Suddenly, everything wrong with Mike Tyson as a fighter became obvious. Regardless of his history and problems, I just momentarily felt sorry for the outmatched loser in the ring who was desparately trying to live up to the reputation of Iron Mike Tyson. And then I simply wanted Lenox Lewis to crush him and end it for good.

    Lewis lacked the killer instinct to deal the death blow to Tyson's career. That ended up being a great misfortune for Tyson who screwed up the courage to return to the ring instead of learning a lesson with some finality. And today he will enter the zone of ignomy reserved for the mighty who have fallen, Skilling, Simpson, Koslowski, Ebbers, Tyson. Beat down, knocked out, bled dry. No chance for redemption.

    The place for Mike Tyson is some retreat in New Zealand. If he can afford the ticket, he should flee, learn to appreciate music and find some trees to chop in his spare time. At least there he might find somebody to appreciate his tats.

    Stanley Crouch said of Tyson that he was a hiphop boxer, and that's probably true. There were moments when his punches ripped opponents heads so quickly and viciously it was like something nobody had ever seen. The moments were edited and spliced into montages of awesome destruction. You would think, looking at these merciless seconds, that Tyson was a supernatural force, an embodiment of a jackhammer jack move. But like the great moments of a breakdance, these were but unsustainable backspins. If you put a breakdancer on a pommel horse they fall off. Tyson didn't have what it took to do the entire routine and the camera cut away before his energy faded.

    Tyson had to destroy his opponents utterly. Those he could not destroy in rapid fashion, he bit just like a crab rapper. And that's how he went out, like a sucker. He could freestyle, but he couldn't write. In the end, he couldn't box. He didn't have the heart.

    That said, Tyson delivered what was necessary. I don't particularly care about an professional sporto's off-field demeanor. That's probably why I am more of a gamer than a true sports fan. I just dig the action, the person creating it doesn't even have to be a real person, much less a respectable one. So you're not going to hear from me what a tragedy Tyson's life circumstances were. Whatever. We paid to see him knock out opponents in the ring, and with any luck we'll always have those video clips, the literal hooks that we can sample. That's all we'll ever need from Tyson.

    Here lies Mike Tyson: Action Snack.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:41 PM | TrackBack

    June 15, 2005

    A Separate Piece

    I've been asking and answering questions in my head in advance of several interviews and panels I've been invited to. The toughest question I imagined being asked was "What's the hardest thing about being a black man?" My answer was convoluted and still is, but I found in it an interesting argument.

    The basis of my response to this question was rooted in the fact that I don't second-guess black people any longer. I began this pledge back in 1992 after having read Gwaltney. I don't unconditionally love or suspect them. I simply pay attention, which is evidently too much to ask. Why? Because there's nothing hard about being a black man except answering such questions. I am what I am and comfortable in my skin, so the very question presumes that I can't be, that I need something extra. I don't.

    So I presume that nobody needs anything extra. Nobody black that is. But since we deal with the question, we have to have answers, and that continually needling question makes black people think that perhaps (other) black people do need something extra. Sounds like double-talk I know, bear with me.

    Now take this question:

    Why is that that "Black conservatives" and conservatives in general, in denouncing "Black leadership", never promote the people and organizations like those listed here, as being "Black leaders" or being representative of the Black community or the strengths of the Black community?

    Here's my black conservative answer:
    If you take it as a given that the Civil Rights Movement was a success, then you must consequently believe that the only leaders black people need are those they elect in the context of democracy. There are no political leaders, there are only political representatives. They are either doing the right thing with your tax dollars, or not. Pay no attention to anyone else.

    What other direction are blackfolks to go except in the direction of the mainstream of America? Do we require a separate national agenda? A separate nation? Is assimilation wrong? What do blackfolks lose by ceasing to oppose the mainstream of America, and if that something is real, is it really black? In short, are we looking to take a separate piece of America, or the share the wealth?

    I have as a Republican, embraced the politics of social power with every expectation that the battles for human rights and civil rights have already been won and are unlikely ever to become necessary again in my lifetime. I don't think it is a particularly big gamble either. But certainly others must feel differently. I am taking an affirmative stance on the future, and this is not based on unseen evidence but of the facts of American life and black progress in it. It's a bet I don't hedge, because it's my future and my children's future.

    I feel the hedge in a lot of begged questions about black politics and presumptions about the existentials. It annoys me. I think it should annoy you to.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:51 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

    June 10, 2005

    An Oily Fiction

    I have finally gathered the courage to erase from my Tivo, the faux documentary 'Oil Storm' having decided that it is not worth more than a couple hundred words of discussion.

    I was very pleased to watch the FX production with my 11 year old boy. The news montages were very reminescent of those that we watch in Tom Clancy videogames. As soon as I showed him that the dates were in the future, just like with Splinter Cell, he immediately got it.

    More than the actual content of narrative which seemed very quickly to be hinged too tightly around scenarios all too closely spaced, I was eager to eyeball the footage for clues of fakery. I mean when you photoshop an entire documentary, there have got to be some non-ideological clues.

    The best one that I could come up with, on a hunch, was that the hurricane that started the first domino was spinning in the wrong direction in the satellite photos, or that it was heading in the absolutely wrong direction. As long as I can remember, hurricanes move from southwest to northeast. I could be wrong, being from California, but there was something distinctly whacky about that storm.

    It turns out that there is a LOOP pipeline and the Fourchon Station is a real place. But I'm sure that I've seen some of the 'oil' riots footage from WTO protests in Seattle.

    Overall, however, I know there are some very strict rules employed by serious documentarians that were bent and broken here. I probably could have gotten better lessons by helping line Michael Moore's pockets. But the interviews with the experts were a bit too pat, and the experts themselves were too well-behaved. Of course the thing that killed the entire flick was putting the 'typical' family in the middle of the drama.

    This is the world I expect to raise my children into. They are going to have to have some extremely sharp critical skills, because this kind of propaganda will continue to draw ratings. The political potential for full-length scenario spinning is a temptation which will not be easily avoided. Given how it has made Moore a zillionaire, who can doubt that there is much more to come?

    Posted by mbowen at 08:08 AM | TrackBack

    June 09, 2005

    Microsoft vs Google

    The way to understand how Google competes with Microsoft is to understand how Google's business model is the direct opposite of IBM while Microsoft's is not.

    Back in the days when people believed that computers were evil, they were mostly right. That was because computers forced people to reduce their ideas to the small kinds of symbols that then primative computers could manipulate. The reason your check has an ABA routing number that reads 16-66 is because in 1966, it was too expensive to just enter 'Bank of America' into a computer.

    An entire generation of programmers and consequently people, learned to think in the way that reduces complex meanings and media to simple codes.

    The IBM computing paradigm was to squeeze the most performance out of their machines, and in those days it meant disciplining everyone and everything to use simple short codes. Nobody had the luxury to support strings, much less complex data structures or objects as we do today. So it was hierarchical and a great deal of effort was made to make the use of the computer's memory and processing power as efficient as possible. IBMs operating systems are still unmatched in managing queues of instructions. The paradigm: You translate your thoughts into computer code. You wait in line to have your simple codes processed. The computer is master, you are slave.

    The invention of the personal computer greatly altered that paradigm. It shifted it, but I would argue that it didn't reverse it. Instead, it redistributed it.

    You see Bill Gates' business model isn't really much different from IBM's. IBM charged you for the privilege to have time on their computer. You couldn't own the software because you would clog up their precious computers with your idiot code which couldn't possibly be as efficient and secure as IBM's own code. They were masters of the algorithms and queue management. The upside, guaranteed reliability. The IBM data center never got a virus.

    Gates made people feel free by allowing you to own your own little computer - the PC. IBM scoffed. Gates made people feel free by letting them run whatever kind of software they wanted on their own computer. Moore's law saw to it that these little computers became powerful enough for it to seem that they are waiting on you. Software can now handle more complex and abstract data structures. But the business model is still the same. You pay to use the computer.

    Gates doesn't let you really own the software. It's licensed. Most software run on PCs is licensed, not owned. In that way, its not very different from IBM's rules about the software. You can use it, but you can't remove the cover and service it yourself. You can't, having 'purchased' it, take it apart and sell off parts to your friends, like you could if it were your car. Software is essentially as inviolate in the PC world as it was in the mainframe world, and you still have to pay to use it.

    Now let's look at Google.

    Google does not charge the user. All of Google's software and hardware is at Google, behind locked doors, just like the IBM data center. To Google, you are a user, not an owner. You couldn't own the Google software because you would clog up Google's precious computers with your idiot code which couldn't possibly be as efficient and secure as Google's own code. They are masters of the algorithms and queue management. Google releases no product that doesn't scale to infinity. Google never gets a virus. Google is a free IBM datacenter. Google is the opposite of IBM despite all these similarities because its business model does not involve charging the user. Microsoft and IBM are the same because they charge the user. Microsoft makes you configure your machine and calls it freedom.

    Furthermore, Google deals in human scale media. Google does not deliver compacted abstracted codes. Google delivers whole books, whole libraries of books. Google delivers satellite images of the whole planet. You are incapable of asking too much of Google, and their orientation is to deliver that all to you for free. Plus they take away all of the headaches that Gates delivered, the world of limitations of PCs. Clunky, insecure software written by anybody.

    Google is one of the only computing products that hasn't bloated. Even Linux is running into controversy over kernel bloat. Pigs aren't flying, they're recompiling RPMs on their anti-Microsoft boxes. Same paradigm, same headaches. Free software approaches perfection, but there is no guarantee. Google guarantees, and that is why Google is rich and there are only two or three Linuxes left worth mentioning, all equally user poor.

    Google and Microsoft are in the same business only in the broadest sense, but if they are Google is far superior. If you think of them as being service providers, they are similar. Microsoft's delivery vehicle is an operating system that the end user must install, configure and outfit with a ragtag collection of software. Microsoft, in order to retain its OS value must be backwards compatible. If they were transportation companies, Microsoft would be selling personal locomotives to which you can attach any kind of rail car you like - stuck on narrow guage. Google would be selling you passage to your destination in a customized seat. It could be on a train today, a jet tomorrow, a quantum transporter next week. You don't know or care, you just get there.

    Invention in the computer industry is going to continue, but it has reached a plateau of penetration. The mass market has been established, the networks have been built, the infrastructure is there. Now is the time that the real future can come. But the way to think of all of the businesses is en masse. How does IBM deliver its services, how does Google deliver its services, how does Microsoft deliver its services?

    Google is a service bureau, an ASP, a utility. Microsoft is a tools peddler. Microsoft will be a force to be reckoned with so long as people continue to like configuring PCs. That generation is aging. Microsoft understands this failing. That is why XBox Live is such a huge success. I'm not sure that it is as profitable as it should be, but it is a step in the right direction (even though it's not free). The XBox is a commodity item. You don't configure it, you don't tweak its software. You plug it in and you have scaled gaming services. The service paradigm will win out after we stop giggling about the technology.

    This leaves us with certain questions about the PC industry itself. If all computing is a service industry, what of the hardware? It's either going to be built to consumer or industrial specs, just like other durable goods. The trick is to insure that the high quality highly branded players we have now stick around while commodity knockoffs flood the market. It's something of a tough differentiator since everything is getting cheaper, but I think we may be in for a crisis in quality. At that point of inflection, Apple could make money making high end wintel hardware, just like Sony - not that they have to, but they could and maintain their profit margins.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    June 04, 2005

    Karenga, Elijah Muhammed and Bill Cosby

    Americans seem to have lost the belly for creating the new man. Anytime we try to determine the value of Emmitt Till's remains or the integrity of a story leaked a generation ago, it means we are more conservative than progressive. It's not a bad idea this conservatism, but it's also not exciting.

    What was exciting was the creation of the Black Man and the Black Woman, beyond the age of the Negro and out of the Negro Problem. It shouldn't be surprising that at the base of the radicalism that help create that consciousness is the root of a new vision for African America. What is surprising is the direction it is coming from.

    Elijah Muhammed, founder and high priest of the Nation of Islam asked in his 'Message to the Blackman' one fundamental, disturbing and radical question. It boils down to this. What has Christianity done for Africans in America? He provoked every Negro to ask himself whether or not Christianity was truly liberating or did it stand in the way of the Negro's freedom. It upset the status quo by begging a question. If you want to get from here to there, you need to analyze the value of your current position with the Christian Church.

    Elijah wasn't the only one pulling back the covers of Negro identity in search of a new existential model. Atheist, communist and socialist intellectuals were all about that too. Somewhere in that bucket fell the founder of United Slaves, Ron Karenga. As far as his group was concerned religion itself was in the way, not just the Christian Church, but all churches, mosques and synagogues. Culture had to rule with a capital C. African culture goosed along with celebrations gleaned, improvised, recast and refined for the Negro was to be the vehicle. Was American bougie culture liberating? Evaluate your current position, said Karenga.

    If these can be seen as two legs of a stool, clearly what's left is politics. I say today's black conservatives are the only ones who are boldly and fundamentally challenging the status quo of the majority of today's African Americans.

    It might seem odd to suggest that conservatives are radical. After all, conservatism means perservering against chaos, instability and wishful thinking. But Islam and West African culture weren't invented by Elijah Muhammed or Ron Karenga. They were merely appropriated and tweaked to be oriented to the lives of African Americans in order to move them out of their positions of comfort into a vision of a new order.

    Whether or not anyone wants it to be, Bill Cosby is the lightning rod of this new provocation. What he has started, like John the Baptist, is now a permanent part of our history. All the debate for the future of African American politics and identity starts with Cosby. This is something I perceived even before his fateful comments, and it is why early on in my quest to sharpen the focus of black conservative politics, I reached out to Joseph C. Phillips. It is why I very seriously considered calling what I refer to as the 'Old School Republicans' the 'Cosby Show Republicans'.

    The die is cast. It is not a simple matter of 'black' any longer. You must decidedly speak to culture, class and politics. Cosby is henceforth embedded as a talking point, someone on whose attitude and opinion credible thinkers must give the thumbs up or down. His opinion is not new, nor groundbreaking, but it is seminal and it is exposed. The exposure is new and it must be reckoned with in all public discussions from here foreward. We owe something of that to Michael Eric Dyson, but from here on out he has sealed the fate that black liberals and progressives cannot and will not have the last word.

    Cosby is Old School. He is conservative and traditional. He exemplifies our own paleoconservatism with regard to his dubious escapades with women. The dirty laundry on Cos is that there is something irresistable about knockout women. That is why he is alleged to have used a lot of knockout drops on them in the past. Be all that as it may, he drops the hammer on his political foes with regard to this one undeniable set of values. He updates our sense of the integrity of the politics and ideology of racial integration. Cosby is taking the high bourgie road. More power to him.

    When Cosby excoriates on the matter of self-respect and what it is that the unwashed Forty Percent do to bring themselves down, he is not being irresponsible. He is personifying the very thing that blacks with middle class values all claim, which is the value of higher education and the character of the collegian.

    Today, what most (middle class) Americans respect about blackfolks is the degree to which we share (middle class) values. These issues and values are undeniably central because whether you are a black liberal, black progressive or black conservative, you still talk about the same issues. Education, Work, Family, Crime, Health Care. Cosby put his money where his mouth is, and sent many millions to the traditional black colleges in Atlanta. Nobody on any side of the debate expects those 'who weren't holding up their end of the bargain' to waltz into college. Cosby represents the sentinel at the gateway to the American college educated middle class. No foul mouths. No teenage parents. No drug addicts. No thugs. No thieves. No dropouts. No slackers. No exceptions. Everyone, black, white, foreign and domestic knows those rules and very few question them. It's no more assimilationist than any foreign exchange student's visa. It's Old School and it's right.

    At some point in the future, there may be a Michele Wallace to put the undeniable mojo on the fatal flaws of Karenga, Muhammend and Cosby. Somebody has to have the last academic word on the effects these clear shortcomings have on the acceptability of their respective messages. But that will not the center of gravity of their legacies, but what they provoked us all to consider.

    As one on the progressive end of the Old School, I have my differences with Cosby, but I consider him fundamentally right. His ideological attitude will be found in greater and louder numbers in the future as conservative blacks come out of the closet. All the laundry is out folks. Have at it.

    Note to Dyson: The black middle class hasn't lost its mind. The black liberal elite has simply lost its monopoly.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:09 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

    June 01, 2005

    Felt: Fiction Stranger than Truth

    Deep Throat is revealed, the country yawns.

    It turns out, very simply, that the insider who finked on Nixon was a simple, straight guy just doing something a little bit extraordinary. He wasn't particularly heroic, he just did what we commonly refer to as a 'CLM', a career limiting move. Except he did it on the sly, with a little bit of spycraft, and he helped take down a giant.

    The legend has grown larger than the man, W. Mark Felt, and that is as it should be. There's nothing really dramatic about doing the right thing, because most everyone knows what that is. But the very idea of a secret crusader hiding amongst us is exciting.

    I'm glad that Felt appears in every way to be less than extraordinary. It should inspire us to know that just being the good guy and taking a chance which might hurt our chances at promotion within a bureacracy can be a very good thing. An anonymous good deed can be the stuff of legends.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:54 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    May 27, 2005

    Don't Eyeball Me Boy

    Once upon a time in the good old days, a man named Louis Gossett Jr, became an American hero. He did so by beating the crap out of Richard Gere.

    Gossett played the character Sargeant Foley in the award winning film 'An Officer and a Gentleman' back in 1982. Like all drill sargeants before him and after his job was to break men and remake them in the image of a soldier.

    I would challenge those who waste all of our time with their whinging over the excesses of Abu Ghraib to review the film and challenge their positive feelings about it. I think it would be a suitable exercise for those Americans who have an inner dainty voice on the hotline to the ACLU. Because it was a rare American who didn't cheer the movie or sing the song 'Love Lift Us Up'. It was a rare American who didn't think Lou Gossett should be a role model for us. But today it seems that those who are hogging the podium would have Gossett hanged in effigy. (Metaphorically of course)

    You see Sargeant Foley used (oh horror of horrors) sleep deprivation. He had his recruits in boot camp stand out in the rain holding their rifles above their heads running in place. This is I believe what they call a 'stress position'. Good heavens.

    Could it be that the US Military tortures all of its own recruits in boot camp so much that when they do similar things to foreign combattants and POWs that we don't even recognize our inhumanity? What are we to make of G.I. Jane? What about Men of Honor? What about the very concept of killing? It's all so confusing! Yeah right.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:51 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    May 26, 2005

    Redskins

    It's not very often that I disagree with Frank DeFord, but having heard him pontificate on the matter of the naming of our sports teams, I have to wonder where his head is at. You can count DeFord as one of the many who have sided with those who suggest that naming a sports team after 'Indians' is cruel. I think not.

    I could split the difference over a team born yesterday, but not over the Cleveland Indians or Washington Redskins or the Florida Seminoles for that matter. The difficulty has everything to do with intent, an issue with which most crusaders cannot bother to give the benefit of the doubt. You see, I associate the Cleveland Indians only with the Cleveland Indians. I would be more upset if they moved the team to Miami and still tried to call them the Indians. You will find, however, that most of the folks behind the movement to change these team names insist that the names are nothing but denigrating to Native Americans.

    DeFord notes this and swallows it. He argues that, yes, he has heard arguments to the contrary - that such a named team or mascot brings pride to Native Americans. I say that the very fact that they are stereotypes proves that they have nothing whatsoever to do with Native Americans, and that Native Americans should pay the names no mind, unless of course they decide to root for the team in the context of sport.

    I've been asked what I would think of the New Jersey Negroes or the Pittsburgh Pickaninnies. I would think 'whatever'. It is difficult for me to believe that any modern interpretation of Native American culture is near enough to actual appropriation to be anything more than an empty stereotype. But there are those who would like to fill it up, and there's the problem. But let's go there.

    Coming back from the 2000 Games in Sydney, my plane made a stop in Aukland. I decided to pick up some souvenirs in the very nice and modern airport. As I grabbed a good 5 foor digideroo, what do I see to my surprise but a huge rack of sportswear for the All Blacks. It turns out to be the very popular rugby team, and the gear is very sharp. Better looking than the Raiders. I thought about it for a minute. All Black. How radical is that? I could see very well appropriating the gear and making it into an American Black Thing (tm), but to what end? No Americans know about the All Blacks, they would only know what I would try to make it out to be. It's the same as the case with the Negro Leagues. It's not about the team, it's about black pride.

    So I think that people are fooling themselves if they believe that changing the name of a sports team has anything to do with Native American pride or their real culture. It's just another empty bleeding heart gesture which in no way affects the material circumstances or Native Americans.

    I suspect we're going to hear more about it. I hope so.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:48 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

    May 20, 2005

    Black Rage Revisited

    Part of the reason I am attracted to the Republican party is because it is not the party of rage. It's not always the party of reason, but you cannot generally expect that any street protests are going to be Republican.

    When I first posted about Black Rage last week, a commenter asked where do we go from here? The answer is, as always, found in integrative strategies which leverage black power. This speaks to something central in my reasoning which is that I believe that the works of a black elite who are nationalist and raise the American flag reflects well on the race. This elite must be independently powerful. With regard to the politics on the street, there must be some sense of the Hookup with that black elite, and I must say that the Hookup is in danger as African American express their class distinctions. Nevertheless, a continuing successful politics that does not depend on dissent from the mainstream and is integrative is the best hope against the nihilist non-politics of rage.

    (from the archives, April 1999)

    Preface: My thesis, going way back, is that black rage is nothing but rage, but that it has come to be accepted as political currency. it should not be, but that requires that some real democratic politics replace it. if whites cannot enjoin in this real politics which is ultimately more effective than rage, then this democracy is doomed to failure.

    in other words, black rage should be co-opted by the mainstream in such a way that the causes of that rage are eliminated. this will make america civilized.

    Q: Boohab, what does "co-opted by the mainstream" mean? Can you give specific examples of what you'd like to see happen? Has anyone read the essay "Mau-mauing the flak-catchers" by Tom Wolfe? He discusses how the social-reform bureaucracies in the seventies encouraged a really warped system which required that a minority group "organize" and dress and act like militants, and march on the government offices and demand jobs, which would then be dispensed according to how effectively the "militants" scared the sh*t out of the white people in the offices... of course, Tom Wolfe describes it MUCH better than I do, so I encourage you to read HIS essay, and not trust my summary.

    A: "co-opted by the mainstream" in this context means that there would be no question that mainstream politics effectively deals with black issues so well that blacks are not better served by radical politics.

    for example, if effectively dealing with the issue of police brutality and racial profiling did not require blacks to do anything out of the ordinary, then this could be counted as a success.

    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.

    does anyone doubt that police forces have become *less* racist over the past 20 years? yet TODAY there is overwhelming evidence that they are still *too* racist. every opportunity mainstream politicians have had to bridge the gap (when they even bother to pay attention) they have failed. from the politics surrounding mark fuhrman to diallo, to gammage, to luima, to tyisha miller to rodney king the result is failure failure failure. we cannot name one white politician in power today who has given blacks any satisfaction on those matters. not even rhetorical satisfaction.

    the result is that this gives more credibility to radicals who consistently *address* the issue, even if they have no solutions and no chance of attaining the power to implement any solutions. this is a classic case of whitefolks making themselves whiter than they need to be. in the end, the intransigent status quo remains in force, and blacks must resort to higher and higher pitched volumes to get america to wake up.

    it is at this point where mau-mauing becomes more effective than ordinary franchise. but the mau-mauing does not take place in a vaccuum - the underlying tragedy continues. then whites excuse their unwillingness to listen from the tenor of the discussion. blacks excuse their hyperbole from white sangfroid. then somebody gets killed. suddenly whites realize there is some reality to the claim, but they can't figure out what black rhetoric is real - they blame the process. blacks say i told you so, but they can't figure out what white sympathy is real - they blame the process. blue ribbon bandaids are put in place, to keep 'the natives from getting restless', the issue gets incredible press, and then it goes away. the process is still broken.

    the responsibility to fix the process lies with the people who *have* the power. why does it have to be considered 'reform' to get cops to stop killing black people? why does a white politician ever have to feel that he's stepping out on a limb to address this fundamental issue of personal safety? it is obvious that blacks and latinos are not receiving equal protection under the law when it comes to policing.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    May 19, 2005

    US Citizen

    I was in Seattle this Monday speiling up my consulting group's ability to solve a particularly nasty problem in government procurement pricing for a large aerospace manufacturer. (Hmm who could that be?). We met in a very nicely lit and carpeted secure facility and showed our drivers licenses at the reception. But I use the term 'we' loosely, because I whipped out the passport.

    My passport expires next year and I will have to renew it without having filled all the pages with visas from around the globe. That's ok I suppose, because I do a fair bit of domestic travel now, and I just love using it.

    In all the foofoorah about the 'Real ID', there's something that frequent flyers and our attendants understand. The passport is a superior piece of identification. It takes longer to get, it's harder to forge and generally a class of more serious people use it. The idea that some new database or registration process at the DMVs of this nation are going to make us marginally more secure is a dead issue as far as I'm concerned. It's a half step. Simply said, a passport is harder to get, fewer people have them. It's a more important document and it's a better form of ID.

    It should be common sense that if you want more security, then you should add a more stringent requirement for identification purposes. But giving that same ability to everyone defeats the notion. It simply raises the bar for everyone, including forgers.

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

    May 18, 2005

    John Bolton & The Discovery Channel

    The Discovery Channel is not a part of the liberal media conspiracy. In fact, the more I watch it, the more I like it.

    I've been a fan of Monster Garage from the very beginning. Jesse James is the real man originator of this kind of reality show. The Discovery Channel has been doing a bit of this before, and I've always encouraged my kids to watch the emergency room documentaries. None of us are strangers to blood and guts.

    But now there is a whole franchise of mainstream 'reality' programming, very little of which is documenting anything interesting except the perversities of annoying people. The problem is that in the mainstream reality shows, nobody is building anything interesting except for dysfunctional relationships, whereas on the Discovery Channel, they're doing engineering. I've gained a real appreciation for what serious mechanics do, and now this week, today in fact, I'm going to check in once again with 'Deadliest Catch' about the reality of crab fishing.

    Unlike many of my professional peers, I have a hacker's respect for the gripping and grunting of handiwork. I've had to look at my own disfigured thumbnail for months as the bloodclot grew out. Working with certain tools can leave marks. Yes I did curse out loud. Sometimes cursing out loud is an integral part of hard work. Sometimes when a part is a piece of shit, that's exactly what you have to call it. I give a lot of respect to the Discovery Channel for airing (though bleeping) the grit. A hard work ethic isn't dainty, and a lot of times it is only the ego of a leader that gets work done. You need carrot and you need stick, and chewing somebody's ass out is a pretty good stick. This is something the editors at the Discovery Channel leave in. That's educational television.

    It's been said that the best sign of intelligence is the ability to get to the heart of a problem. It's knowing what to focus on and what to ignore. Even though I haven't followed the Bolton nomination, I think a valid point can be made about the suitability of an abrasive personality. A good leader can be abrasive, and sometimes intransigence demands that. The bottom line is the bottom line.

    I just wanted my liberal friends to understand that everyone isn't ideological all the time, unless the Discovery Channel is.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:08 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    May 17, 2005

    Osage Avenue, Our very own Waco

    Professor Kim recounts with some excruciatingly painful detail bombing of MOVE and the birth by fire of crusader Mumia Abu Jamal. What she doesn't do is give me a reason to let my heart bleed. Maybe I'm just not charitable, or maybe I am authentically pride of my blackness for orthogonal reasons.

    I happen to be one of those individuals who, pretty much from day one, thought Mumia was a dumbass. There are some people who think that to be truly free as the white man, you have to be as free as the white man has been to take life. And so their appreciation of Western culture has something to do with the awesome power of demolition - they are fascinated by Hitler's genocide, for example. So for anyone who picks up a little red book and is ready to quote Mao against the evils of the West, why should the life of a miserable pig matter? I have always marvelled at the balls of hardheads who felt like they were proving something by pontificating the idea of shooting back at cops. Invariably, 99% of these guys are nutjobs. What's worse is that they are intellectually incapable of pulling off anything spectacular. I mean, when it comes to anarchic sociopaths, you've got to hand it to Colin Ferguson. He killed what 6? And the Beltway Sniper, man he had the whole country on alert. But unfortunately these guys were a little bit too transparently loony for any crusading journalists like Mumia to pick up their cause as symbolic of Black Liberation Struggle. The kings of this sort of madness were, of course, David Koresh and Tim McVeigh. Honorable mention goes to Randy Weaver (Ruby Ridge), Ted Kaczinsky (the Unabomber) and Eric Rudolph (Centennial Park). Yes we hear them go boom, but are they really saying something?

    Now I know that there's a Radio Raheem out there who feels put out by the idea that blackfolks don't have our own extremely dangerous killah. And certainly there have got to be some passive aggressive radical black vegans out there who desparately need to hear some news of a revolutionary vanguard based on some Afrikan values. (Please don't forget the use of the 'k', as in AmeriKKKa). So I offer MOVE as a combination of the two, even though, they apparently couldn't shoot straight. Add to the domestic discontents Hall of Fame, the showdown at .

    Anyone who has done any little bit of traveling in this nation understands one thing. This place is big, and there are a hell of a lot of awfully remote places. It's a bit odd that Chappelle had to go clear over to Durban, he could have gone to the Olympic Peninsula and been more isolated from the types of people that cause headaches. And so I ask the rhetorical question why is it that these fake revolutionaries who complain so much about their desire to be truly free of the Man don't head straight out to the boondocks. Because they are codependent asshats. The person who complains loudest about the amount of MSG in their diet is the same person who can't cook and always spends their last 3 dollars at the cheap Chinese joint. In otherwords, MOVE should have moved it's lame ass to the the woods and survived on their own. Perhaps they didn't have bus fare or strong enough legs to walk the distance. So like the rest of the subculture of complaint, they squatted. How refreshingly original.

    The American Dream dies hard. I don't know exactly how we started the concept of 'community' as in the cliche 'give back to the community', but it sure as hell is established. We may not be glued together in the beloved community, but we sure as hell don't like the bum who doesn't mow his lawn. So it comes as no surprise that characters like John Africa ended up on his neighbor's most wanted list.

    There's a place for misfits, anarchists and cults here in this country. It's somewhere between way out in left field, the sticks, the boonies and the hinterlands. So long as they stay far away from the reach of the System, then they can minimize their beef with the System. I don't quite understand why anyone should believe that people who are incapable of learning this basic lesson have anything to teach us at all. Except perhaps what it looks like to be stupid and in jail and less free than when they started making all their idiotic noise.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Not Even Blacks

    Once upon a time in America, in order to be someone of note and substance to be quoted in major newspapers on issues which might be of concern to blackfolks, you had to be a labor leader like A. Phillip Randolph. Today I have come to a realization why that isn't necessary. Mexican President Vicente Fox provides an example.

    You see what everybody realizes is that African Americans have made dramatic progress over the past generation. People change slowly, but blackfolks have changed quickly. Just like it's hard to believe that most everybody now has a cell phone, whereas 20 years ago only the wealthiest among us did; it's hard to believe that blackfolks go whereever they please and do whatever they want. Just like your mother, despite the ubiquity if Linux, still can't manage to upgrade from Windows 95, lots of people here and around the world cannot manage to upgrade their racial programming. This doesn't provide a real barrier to blacks of substance and ability so much as it provides a permanent sense of dumbfounded astonishment in the American media, and therefore the minds of the world.

    Imagine that you are your old bigoted parents. You would look at a black man like me - six figure salary, $600 cellphone (Treo 650), black Hollywood suit, shaved head and crisp diction - like some kind of amazing phenomenon. I'm sitting in first class on the plane talking to my business partner how we just blew their minds at Boeing. This to you, in your parents' mindset, would generate an incredible sense of jaw drop. I meet your eyes with no sense of the ethics which used to dominate American social life. I am as oblivious to your ignorance as a Sony PSP is to a phone booth with a dial phone.

    And so it is with a good number of journalists and observers who have decided to be more comfortable with their own old racial programming. They say that they don't need to be up on the latest version, unaware of what they are missing. Even when you hand them an update, they fumble with the options and end up confused and frustrated. They admit that their life and worldview doesn't need all the new features. They don't see themselves as broken, just a little old-fashioned. Besides, everyone is backwards compatible with old racial programming. We all can pulse dial. We can still believe that a blackface charicature is a horrific insult worthy of national attention. We can still believe that some anonymous black criminal who gets shot by white cops ought to be national news. We can still believe that it's a goddam shame that black men work on trash trucks, just like the same old stereotype that Sammy Davis put up with in the original Ocean's Eleven.

    So when Vicente Fox said: "There's no doubt that the Mexican men and women _ full of dignity, willpower and a capacity for work _ are doing the work that not even blacks want to do in the United States," we in the blogosphere are forced to remember that one four letter word in this context must surely insult black progress.

    Boo hoo.

    Multiculturalism is supposed to awake us to the understanding of where ethnic traditions come from. Yet many liberal takes on it try to make it modernist and anti-modernist at the same time. On the one hand, they would have us respect the great traditions of an ancient culture, say the ability to use blowdarts to catch eels in the Amazon rainforest. On the other hand they would have us feel some great loss if children of that tribe were to wear sweatshirts from USC or Nike track shoes. It is this same contradiction that would have us worry that Shanequa can't get a job as a legal secretary on K Street. Sooner or later people, we're going to have to decide whether or not to upgrade our racial programming. We're either going to be modern and have the same standards of judgement for everyone, or we're going to be anti-modern and assert nonsense like "It's a Shi'ite thing, you can't understand."

    When it comes to African Americans, we live with this racially essentialist dualism, and of course as you might expect, I grumble about how some of y'all manage to live like that. Still I understand what must be going through those heads, the astonishment that so many upgrades have taken place even though the old ideas still work.

    I'll only add one more dimension to the analogy. It has to do with a kid from a small town, or since this is Star Wars week, a small planet. A lot of Americans skip the bonds of small town gravity and migrate successfully up the ladder of mobility. Sometimes they go back to that small town to find that their old running buddies are taking pride that they are a shift manager in the ball point pen factory. We all have to be reminded, especially those of us elites, that there's dignity in all kinds of work we would never condescend to perform. You couldn't pay me enough to retrain my mind to have the kind of focus that the short Mexican woman has at LAX as she takes her pole and erases the scuff marks off the marble floors. Only four year scholarships for my three kids would get me back in housepainting gear. My point is that all of us are from somewhere but half of us have gone elsewhere. The rich don't all stay rich and the poor don't all stay poor. Mexicans and blacks are no exception.

    I don't like the fact that some folks have refused to upgrade their racial programming and still think that the majority of blacks' ambition is to compete for the same jobs as non-English speaking immigrants to America. I don't like the fact that some folks can't divest themselves of the stereotype that blacks ought to be the ones to take downscale labor. But neither of those facts get me all bent out of shape. It's also true, that blacks have had those historical struggles in our own past. There was a time when A. Phillip Randolph was our own Ceasar Chavez, and the railroad stations were for blacks what today's airports are for many Mexicans. So even with our proper modernist sensibilities, we need to recognize that some things, like the building of economic, intellectual, social and political capital, take time.

    African Americans are still moving forward, many of us at different paces, as are Mexican Americans. Here in Los Angeles, I bear happy witness to that progress. Whether or not observers of these matters want to upgrade their racial software and screw their jaws shut, people from both groups are going to pursue their ambitions. Depsite the difficulties for the straight stories to emerge, the people will. Maybe some journalists ought to think about who's willing to do their jobs for less.

    Others Observe:
    Unions-Firms-Markets

    His comments however have opened the door, slightly, to discussing illegal immigration and how it affects African-Americans. This is a taboo subject mostly because in the United States real class analysis has been absent among the left with many viewing societal issues through a lens of 'politically correct' notions about race. It also doesn't help that those most affected by illegal immigration are those with the least amount of voice in our society.

    Dead right. But that's why I emphasize the Old School black opinion from an elitist position and never neglect class over here at Cobb. I'm willing to say and always have, that our reaction to racist insult needn't be ignorant of class. I think everybody should be aware of the fact that Jackson isn't truly a labor leader. Perhaps he ought to be, why is he not?

    David Card via Tyler Cowen

    On the question of assimilation, the success of the U.S.-born children of immigrants is a key yardstick. By this metric, post-1965 immigrants are doing reasonably well: second generation sons and daughters have higher education and wages than the children of natives. Even children of the least educated immigrant origin groups have closed most of the education gap with the children of natives.

    I've been talking about the internal Second World. I'm willing to suggest that Mexican immigrants have a bit more entrepreneurial in the cities precisely because of a lack of integrational social capital. Whereas many blacks took the path of civil service in the post Civil-Rights era, the doors open here in Los Angeles are notably in the construction trades. Lots of pickup trucks and overalls, and even though it goes down to the day labor at the Home Depot, maybe the reasons blacks aren't getting picked up is because Mexican shift bosses are doing a lot of the picking up. If you're not bilingual on building sites and in kitchens in California, you're not skilled.

    Bomani Jones says
    :

    But some people just have to do it. It's gotta be done, and rent has to be paid, which draws a lot of people into work that could easily be called dehumanizing...save for the fact that little is as dehumanizing as homelessness. Mexicans are just disproportionately chosen to do those gigs. Maybe black folks are unwilling to do those things--and history has shown black folks have a need for sustinence that has made us willing to do a lot of subhuman shit--and I wouldn't blame anyone for being unwilling to do a lot of jobs if they're able to find some other way to eat.

    Yeah here in the Southwest, but not so much in the South. Blacks were still running kitchens in New Orleans when I was there this spring. We'll see how well Mexicans do in other states. So far, so so.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:09 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    May 12, 2005

    Black Stuff

    I'm going to spend a bit of time blogging at Vision Circle as we bend the discussion towards black paradigms of organization and leadership. My focus for followup will be there, but I'll post both places in case everybody doesn't get there.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:55 AM | TrackBack

    May 11, 2005

    Get It Right

    Sometimes you can read the words and still not get the point. Here, Scott Johnson thinks the Northerners were wrong and the Southerners were right vis a vis the 3/5s Compromise.

    It should be obvious to anyone concerned that the African slaves were denied the right to vote. Therefore the basis upon which Southern politicians sought to increase their own enfranchisement had nothing to do with the purer democratic motive. So to give them any credit over the Northern politicians, who opposed counting slaves, is ridiculous.

    Scott Johnson, I fart in your general direction.

    If one is particular persnickety and on a mission to vindicate the Southern way, one might make the assertion that the Southern politicians at the time of the Compromise had manumission and enfranchisement directly in mind under this scheme. One might go as far as to say that the failure of Reconstruction was contrary to the will of the South and that Southerners of goodwill had always intended for the African slaves to be their political equals. After the War. Yeah right.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    May 09, 2005

    Ten Questions Answered

    In which I answer ten questions posed by a guest blogger over at Drezner with snark, insight and aplomb. Says me:

    1. Does the rise in anti-Americanism concern you? If so, do you link it to the Bush Administration's policies? Even if you don't think it's a major issue that should be guiding policy choices, do you think it matters at the margins and can make it tougher to build support for U.S. goals?

    It matters at the margins and I have no problem assigning blame the GWBush. However, I think most anti-Americanism is practically, by definition, less than rational and noisy. It's actually very simple, there is really a stark short list of real offenses for which that the Bush administration is responsible all originating in the Iraqi conflict, and the divisions in this country amplifies the cascade of bitterness. We are too close to this history to know what the real effect will be.

    2. Do you really think we can make the UN further U.S. interests by criticizing and beating down the organization? Do you believe that John Bolton's style will enable him to actually accomplish things, or is it more a matter of his standing in the way of the UN doing wrong?

    I have no opinion on Bolton's style or substance. I don't know where the liberal defenders of Andrew Young are. After all, he made a Nixonian gesture to Arafat in the days before Arafat refused his Best Offer. This UN Ambassador will be forgotten too. The UN simply doesn't move things geopolitically. Hell, they can't even stop Nike sweatshops. The UN ought to simply be a clearinghouse for NGO activities. When Amnesty Internatational subjects its pronouncements to UN approval, then the US can too. Until then, UNICEF cards are cute, and Annan strikes a stunning profile. BFD.

    3. Do you believe that in order to effectively promote goals like democratization and human rights around the world, the U.S. must itself be seen as an exemplar of these values? Do you believe that our status as a standard-bearer of justice and liberty is so well-entrenched that revelations like the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo won't negatively affect it?

    We're at least as good as the French. On the other hand, Canada has never done anything, so far as we know, like Abu Ghraib. But when Liberians suffer at the hands of their dictators, they don't call out for help from Canada. I don't hear any stories of Sudanese sending messages of thanks to the Canadian government for their shining example. The Roadmap to peace between Israel and Palestine is not coming from the model written up by Finland. The world depends upon the US because of our strength, not because they like the way we hold elections. Hell, even Mexicans get a holiday to vote. That wasn't our idea.

    4. What do you really think of the failure to find WMD in Iraq? Do you believe that the Administration was genuinely as surprised as the American people were? Does this make you question intelligence assessments on other matters like North Korea and Iran; why or why not?

    I think it was an honest mistake, and not an unpreventable one, nor one that mitigates the threat of Saddam. Hussein was the same kind of menace as DeKlerk. I don't think that many citizens, myself included, are in a position to assess the capacity or the proper deployment of our intelligence services. I haven't plowed through the subcommittee reports and I'm not going to. Congress has been a herd of cows through this whole matter, and largely irresponsible. I'm sick of hearing all the blame tossed at the Executive.

    5. Do you believe that an international criminal court would be likely to indict U.S. servicemembers for war crimes, notwithstanding the provision that when countries are capable of investigating and prosecuting crimes in their own court systems, an international court will not have jurisdiction? Is this a real fear, or a stand-in for a broader concern over the impact of an international criminal justice system?

    I believe that no nation on this planet, save those who are powerless, have any great hopes or respect for an international criminal court. America is a nation that won the Cold War and assisted in the destruction of the Soviet Union. An international tribunal's worst damage are mere pinpricks and all nations will inevitably subvert it according to their interests. There is no international anything, save currency exchanges and trading blocks. Wait until cell phones work like Babelfish, then we'll all talk.

    6. Do you believe that development aid is important in its own right, or do you see it more as something the U.S is compelled to do for image reasons, much of which winds up being wasteful? How important is the Millennium Challenge Account, in your view?

    It seems aimed in the right direction. I subscribe to the view that some authoritarianism is necessary for the safety of international investment. So long as investors are willing to try and governments are willing to assure some stability, good things can happen. I'm all for a new and improved Imperium. I'm not sure the US can pull it off though.

    7. How important is intelligence reform? Is this a real priority, or more a political exigency driven by the 9/11 and Silberman-Robb reports? As the profile of those reports fades, is intelligence reform likely to recede as an issue?

    Tenet was the longest serving DCI in a generation. There is something radically wrong with an organization as huge and powerful as the CIA that goes through so many management shakeups. Let's not forget that Aldrige Ames was the equivalent of an Enron at CIA. Reorganization for its own sake will not improve the organization because there will always be egos involved trying to take the credit. Only a crisis will bring focus, selflessness and the willingness to slash bureacracy. Quite frankly, I don't think Al Qaeda actually poses a big enough threat of crisis to reform the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community. We need doodoo much deeper than the sort on our shoes now, otherwise nobody anywhere would be making such a fuss while our silly airports do what El Al did decades ago.

    8. How worried are you about China? What about in the long-term?

    The question of China depends primarily on America's willingness to be a better trading partner. Which is to say that as America and China compete for the resources driving their respective consumer economies, supplier countries will have to decide whom they like better. I think that the future favors us because we allow our trading partners to put their money in our very safe banks and domestic investments. The Chinese don't have open markets in that way, and so until they develop them all of the traders they make rich will feel more like high paid flunkies instead of sharers in the wealth of China. China will in that regard seem domnineering. Besides, they compare themeselves more to India, and I think the world likes Indians more than Chinese too. China is a great place to be Chinese. The rest of us may wind up annoyed.

    9. How worried are you about the sagging dollar and yawning balance of payments deficit?

    About as worried as I am that the Pope can't prove God exists. Nobody's going to quit over such imponderables. America will pull another economy out of its hat, and the Chinese will not let the Yuan float. Even if worse comes to worse, could it possibly be worse than the failure of LTCM or the Savings & Loans? The most powerful country on the planet has infinite credit, by definition.

    10. What to you is most problematic about the Bush Administration's foreign policy? If there's one thing you don't like, what is it?

    I don't like that GWBush cannot talk a good game like Tony Blair, but there's not much that can be done about that, neh? More seriously however, he has wasted Colin Powell and overspent Rumsfeld. There's a lot of patching up to be done at the Pentagon for the sake of the Neocon picnic. I happen to love the menu at the neocon picnic, but GWBush seems incapable of finessing the situation which proves that he depends a great deal more on Carl Rove than he should. The very fact that liberals believe that the Christian Right is in control of anything in this nation only proves that Rove is a genius. If I had it my way, it would have been Cheney-Bush.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Standing Your Ground

    "Guns, we don' like to use 'em
    Unless our enemies choose 'em.
    We prefer to fight you on like a man
    And beat you down with our hands."

    -- Mohandas Dewese

    I've been hearing people talking about new laws that change the burden of proof slightly in favor of people defending their lives outside of their homes. It used to be that if you were not in your home and someone was using violent force against your person, you had a duty to run away. Passage of this law means you are not obligated to run. I'm for it, but.

    I'm street smart. Before drug gangs and the Crack Wars, nobody used guns or even knives where I grew up. I lived in a knuckle-up neighborhood where kids slapboxed on the regular. We weren't afraid to go anywhere, day or night. But that wasn't because there was no danger at all, but because we had a good sense of how much danger is danger.

    Today we live in an era of zero tolerance for roughhousing and martial skill. At least it seems so to me. And so it is with great skepticism that I consider any law that makes people feel that it's more OK to use a gun. This is not an argument for or against gun control, it's about people control, and I'm not sure the average person is in enough control to understand and recognize the subtleties of danger.

    As I read, for this piece, my slapboxing essay, I realized that I could apply that subtle kind of logic to other dimensions of danger as well. There was a great scene in the recent movie 'Sahara' in which the hero, sidekick and femme drive up to a pass. The hero immediately reconizes the signs of ambush and gets everybody to drop their weapons and move slowly. The femme, a doctor, is completely perplexed by the situation. She's the one who squeezed the trigger and then threw away her AK-47 like it was infected with Ebola. She's the one who now lives under the new rules of Standing Ground. But she needs more than a law, a permit, a gun and some training. She, and a whole lot of Americans need Rules of Engagement.

    Lots of black men like me have The Voice. Not everybody can say 'motherfucker' and make people shiver. You know it. Sam Jackson has it. Avery Brooks has it big time and he doesn't even have to shout. I understand that some people are never going to get it but should they go straight to guns?

    The Rules of Engagement should assist people in saying what they need to say when danger comes their way. Anybody who watches cop shows has a passing familiarity with how people are urged with The Voice to drop their weapons and move slowly. Ordinary folks should be able to understand some verbal judo which is close to legally binding. Remember 'I warn you, my hands are registered as lethal weapons'? How about 'I am in fear for my life and if you take one step closer, I can shoot'. Well, that's what one would expect from a Standing Ground training. But there's a great deal more street smarts that can be drilled in.

    Perhaps today's self-defense classes in the strip mall karate studio is perfectly adequate for providing a layer of graded sensibilities about danger. I further hope that there are sensible roughnecks out there like me who can lend a hand when it goes palm to palm. But I'll tell you what, when bullets start flying, I'm out. There's the problem. A citizen who is ready to shoot a gun abdicates the possibility of assistance from others who might be within screaming distance. Who knows how often that's going to be, but there's a lot of distance between pulling the trigger and finding an alternative - and I wonder if it's not also a matter of character.

    That's right I'm going there. Bernard Goetz is a wimp, and I don't like laws that give wimps courage. What we need is a little less anger management and a lot more fear management. Nevertheless this entails some public spiritedness that perhaps we are not quite ready to give. But if this law and the rhetoric and ideas behind it are heading in a direction that puts personal safety above public safety, I'm not sure I like that at all.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:36 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    May 05, 2005

    Torture? What Torture?

    When I was a kid, we used to play a game called Cowboys & Indians. It worked basically like this. If you were a cowboy, you had a gun. If you were an indian, you had a tomahawk. You both had horses. The cowboys would come around to where he thought the indians were and if they could find them first, they'd use their guns. Bang Bang You're Dead. The indians on the other hand had to sneak up on the cowboys. If they were successful they got to tie the cowboy to a tree, dance around and then scalp him. It was much more fun to be the indian, because we got to tie all the knots and make the cowboy struggle. Sometimes new kids would join the game in the middle and turn things around.

    Today, American children are not encouraged to play such games. Chances are that you're not going to see any kids in your neighborhood riding a bicycle and trying to lasso another kid.

    I don't think there is anything particularly redeeming about learning how to hogtie a 'cowboy', but it sure was fun. Times change as do a lot of sensibilities about what is supposed to be good for children, what is supposed to be useful knowledge, what is the line between roughhousing and danger. It was not long ago when knowing how to tie a knot was considred more important than mousing skills. But there are still a lot of roughnecks among us.

    I've made a literal rut in cyberspace repeating the idea that the atrocities at Abu Grhaib were not particularly atrocious to American sensibilities. I believe the soundbite was directed towards 'Fear Factor'. Basically, there are conventions on the definition of torture, because people's sensitivities vary widely. Yesterday, the judge in the Lynndie England trial agreed with me by declaring a mistrial. He says he doesn't believe that England thought she was torturing prisoners and thus her guilty plea is not legitimate.

    The judge, Col. James L. Pohl, ordered the mistrial after Pvt. Charles A. Graner Jr., testifying on behalf of Private England, his former lover, portrayed their handling of a leashed prisoner as legitimate, contradicting her sworn admission of guilt and said she had acted at his request in helping to remove an obstructive prisoner from his cell.

    "I was asking her as the senior person at that extraction," Private Graner said.

    Clearly taken aback, Colonel Pohl broke in, lecturing the defense lawyers. "If you don't want to plead guilty, don't," he said. "But you can't plead guilty and then say you're not. Am I missing something here?"

    There are all kinds of slippery slope arguments to be made here but I won't defend them. The fact of the matter is that what any international conventional definition of cruelty states, one cannot expect anyone to naturally understand that convention. Under a justice system that requires that people understand that they are in violation of a law or treaty, one could hardly expect irregulars like England to be strictly guilty, especially if she's an American who grew up watching cartoons like 'Tom & Jerry'.

    This argues for prosecution at a higher level which is probably a dead end. What may be due for public review is the strict policies of interrogation. There are two problems with this. In the first place, it's water under the bridge. Abu Ghraib was extraordinary and the need for it has passed. Secondly, the cries of the outraged will not be satisfied by a policy review, and I am speaking specifically about the noise raised over the candidacy of our current Attorney General.

    So where does it leave us? It leaves us in the unfortunate position of being the nation that enslaved one race of people and exterminated another. Which is exactly what we were before Abu Ghraib, and no amount of trials, mistrials or policy wonk sessions is going to change that history. Own up. We bad.

    Around the Blogsophere there are other modalities of questioning torture. Tyler Cohen implies that there doesn't seem to be any way out of torture no matter what you do.

    If this is the case, one must ask of torture as a weapon in war why is it more effective now than before? Well I ask that question. If you ask me whether it is morally preferable to have tortured 500 prisoners to death or to have firebombed the city of Dresden during WW2, I think I would have had to say bomb Dresden. After all that was WW2 and Dresden was the manufacturing center of the German's warmaking machine. But these tactics don't make sense in today's world. In order to avoid the firebombing of Dresden, I think you could get 500 volunteers who would fight to the death.

    If fighting to the death is worse than torture then the only other question is which is worse, the killing of an innocent or the torture of an innocent? Or as Volokh has suggested, the marginal cost & value of torture when death is certain.

    But I'm going down the wrong slope, because ultimately what is most important is whether or not torture can be an effective weapon. And I think that the inevitable answer is that it is a more important weapon in the context of the current American War on Terror than it has ever been before. Whether or not that weapon is used on innocents is besides the point, rather is it actually a valuable weapon. If you accept that it can be, then we owe it to ourselves and everyone concerned to see that it is used properly, and that is the scope of the moral dimension of Abu Ghraib.

    There we put the weapon in the hands of amateurs and we shouldn't have. It was abused and its use was of no discernable benefit in the war effort. There's the crime.

    Some will argue that there is no proper way to manage the weapon of torturous interrogation. I tend to doubt that argument. There must be many ways to get to the truth, just as there are many ways to kill the enemy. I think we must carefully weigh the forces brought to bear on the enemy and ruling out torturous interrogation is premature.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:45 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    May 03, 2005

    Michael Eric Dyson on NPR

    Dyson is flippin' off the wall on NPR. Do yourself a favor or not.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:24 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    April 29, 2005

    What Good is Thomas Sowell?

    Well that depend on who you are comparing him too. When it comes to thought leaders in the African American diaspora, it's a fair question. So I'd like to compare him to Booker T. Washington or Manning Marable. I'm not the scholarly type so I'm not going to have a definitive answer, but I think this is the right question to ask considering the kinds of answers I've seen over at Vision Circle.

    So let me couch the question in the direction I would like to see discussion focused. Does Thomas Sowell give sound economic advice? I think the answer is yes, however the gripe I hear is that he is a big time basher of black culture. So the other question is what kind of economist continually belts out the same notes against poor little old black culture? Now before your knee jerks in the direction of 'Uncle Tom' rhetoric, remember this about Thomas Sowell, when half the country went berserk over that masterpiece of political propaganda known as 'The Bell Curve', Sowell was on the right side of history. Yet and still, like our friend McWhorter, Sowell seems to have it in for The Forty Percent, those African Americans on the ugly side of Cosby's verbal lickin' stick.

    What I got from Sowell, way back in 82 when I first read him, was a sense of the different paths different ethnic groups took as they began their long hard slog from straight off whatever boat they came over on, to their indistinguishability from the Brady Bunch. Irish went one way, Jews went another. Sowell has made a career (well, essentially tenure) in the thesis that African Americans ought to de-emphasize the power of politics in their path to emergence. It's not really all that controversial a position, but plenty of folks have been lashed by Sowell's sharp tongue, as he has interminably flicked it on that subject for dang near 30 years now. My infatuation with him is long faded and I think he's made his point. I haven't bothered to check up on any of his new ones, but the publication of his latest book has got folks up in arms, basically I think about the same old question. Is he helpful?

    The gut of the question over at Baldilocks (Fellow Conservative Brotherhood member) is whether or not race or culture is more deterministic of one's success or failure in America. Well the answer is somewhat of a no-brainer in the post Civil Rights Era, and likely a no-brainer in the post-colonial age in general. Culture is more deterministic, as much as anything can be deterministic of 'success'. But even with that non-thought in operation, clearly race has more to do with success in America than most anywhere else in the world. After all the South African Nationalists modeled Apartheid off of the Jim Crow South. So it's still a question that goes round and round in this country, despite the fact that Wilson made 'The Declining Significance of Race' point three decades ago. So long as people debate the point, Sowell's got work, which suits him and his publishers just fine, and why not?

    But what I suspect is at the bottom of the hateration on Sowell is the fact that he, like so many other black academics, is not putting forth solutions for questions facing the Black Power Struggle. This remains deeply problematic for Progressives and Leftists, with whom Sowell is in an ideological battle with anyway. So this is why I bring up the question of Marable and why I said over at Vision Circle the following:

    This is a self-defeating protest. Why? Because America is not a second-world nation, and socialism and left politics do not have and will not have the upper hand domestically. You can be existential partners with Nader and Fred Hampton all you like, but unless you do like Stokely and hie your ass to West Africa, you will always be in the political minority and thus relegated to the margin. The whole economic structure of the world would have to be inverted for this not to be the case, and yet those who hate on Sowell pray for that occurance.

    What's ironic and indeed stupid about that hateration is that it has no better chance of attracting African American talent in the rising tide or even in a falling economic tide, nor does it have a mandate (or capability) of building economic independence from the American mainstream. So you have people who, like West, continue to rebuild blackness improvisationally, generation over generation on a premise of rebellion and resistence to the American mainstream economy who never build anything of substance capable of providing any baseline alternative, not even an all black national credit union.

    Sowell dispenses economic advice at the express expense of the Black Cultural Nationalist position and therefore compromises his standing among those invested in 'The Struggle'. But his advice is not poor advice, it just doesn't have the right flavor. But to ask Sowell to be a real economist is to raise the question of who is the alternative, and this is the question Sowell's critics haven't answered.

    I would appreciate somebody who argued that Sowell is bogus because Stokely Carmichael left black Americans with a far superior economic plan than does Sowell, but Stokely did not. Nor did King, X, Marable, or any dozen Hoteps you could name, especially not the Afrocentrics. So do the critics of Sowell simply not want to hear about economics or are they selling wolf tickets too?

    Posted by mbowen at 07:08 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    April 28, 2005

    A Quick Note on Ted Hayes

    Ted Hayes' website is getting slashdotted today since he's been written up in the Wall Street Journal.

    I met Ted at Ofari's a couple months ago on the day that Renford Reese was the speaker. Ted is straight as advertised. Like me and a great number of other blackfolks who have been around, he has no patience for the okey-doke end of liberal agendas. What most people don't seem to understand is what black conservatives look like nor how we think. This is why a man like Ted will continue to perplex shallow people for years to come. But we clicked within minutes.

    Ted's running the marathon and he's way out in front of the crowd. His is the face of black compassionate conservatism. Remember that.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    April 18, 2005

    Civil Rights Lefties Left Behind

    Brent Staples fires a warning shot across the bow of the 'Civil Rights Establishment', insisting that they are not entirely logical in their sideline position. He gets no argument from me, especially since I've been advocating for more black engagement with the GOP. But in the following three, he nails something that I alluded to when speaking about Kilson's demography:

    The most complex and deep-seated objections to No Child Left Behind
    are clearly emanating from teachers and school administrators, who
    have come under increasing pressure to improve student performance.
    They have always wielded an outsized influence in the black community,
    especially in the days of segregation, when they made up that
    community's largest, most visible and most respected professional
    group. Members of the teacher corps have historically played powerful
    roles in civic organizations, including churches, while forming the
    backbone of civil rights groups like the N.A.A.C.P.

    Thanks in part to the civil rights movement, which expanded job
    opportunities, the teacher corps in the black community is not what it
    used to be. Many black children now attend school in educational dead
    zones, where teachers are two or three times more likely to be
    uncredentialed or unqualified than in the suburbs. It should come as
    no surprise that minority children lag behind.

    The educational dead zones have become part of a vicious cycle. As
    experienced teachers retire, they are replaced by people who were
    themselves educated in dismal public schools and sent on to teachers'
    colleges that are often little more than diploma mills. The federal
    government tried to fix this problem in the late 1990's when it
    encouraged teachers' colleges to beef up curriculum and student
    performance in exchange for the federal dollars they get in subsidies
    and student loans. This effort failed, but it spawned No Child Left
    Behind, which requires the states to place highly qualified teachers
    in every classroom.

    It has long been my position that the ghetto needs to be bombed and that some hard slogging towards residential integration of the suburbs get under way. In cruising through New Orleans, and given my knowledge of the (rusting) industrial Northeast, that's a lot harder to do than say, and probably unlikely to happen. And yet as David Brooks astutely observed in 'Patio Man', this is why people are moving to South by Southwest. It happens quite a bit out here on the West Coast. In fact, California's Inland Empire is probably the best place to be in the nation for families on the rise towards a relatively affordable suburbia. It's certainly growing.

    But what Staples says here is very interesting because it underscores the changing profile of the 'Talented Tenth'. Know that I'm with the engineers and scientists and a cadre of professionals which are the largest in the history of African America. We are new to the ranks of the leadership of black Americans. That's one of the things that puts me on the progressive edge of the Old School rather than the traditional edge.

    So when it comes to matters like public education policy one needs to seriously ask whether change is more likely to come from successful political agitation from just one party or engagement with both. I tend to be cynical about a Democratic solution and dubious about a bipartisan one. So foot dragging on whatever educational reform is offered at the Federal level has very little support from me. What works - even at the simplistic black-white level of analysis is to get black kids into white schools. The politics paving that road is already done. So it boils down to a matter of money and mobility. I wonder if we are at a point of equilibrium - if all those stuck in the ghetto and the projects are permanently stuck. If so, NCLB is probably going to be the only widely supported initiative with any juice in the nation that trickles down to institutions accessible to those classes of African Americans. To the extent that education is the only way out of the ghetto and the projects, everybody better jump on board, even if it means ignoring those traditional civil rights folks from the old middle class.

    I'm going to move quickly beyond the politics of this because I just read Kilson's second article on Black Elites and I want to move quickly in that direction. Still I will mention briefly that he confirms much of what I've been saying about black mobility, and in fact uses that very term.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:36 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    April 17, 2005

    On the League's Brief

    "Freedom of the press, or, to be more precise, the benefit of freedom of the press, belongs to everyone - to the citizen as well as the publisher.. The crux is not the publisher's 'freedom to print;' it is, rather, the citizen's 'right to know'"

    I am encouraged and proud of the brief filed by our Bear Flag attorneys on our behalf. Although I don't report the news on the regular, there have been several occasions which I do specifically go places to report news. The knowledge that I could be shielded from legal actions like those filed against the Apple leakers is of great import to me and I strongly believe that our folks have the case exactly right.

    The fact of the matter is that every writer, every blogger is up to snuff in the particular way we have looked at journalism traditionally. But we are learning new ways of communicating, there are new values given by new content. In many ways, it can be said that blogs are the shape they are, partially owing to the shape of the rest of news reporting. In that spectrum they have unique value and so they generate different expectations from their readers. But the principle of getting news to the public is exactly the same as with any other journalistic endeavor. Blogs are journals. Thus bloggers are entitled to the same legal protections as any other professional journalist. Although the Apple case is not an example, one could clearly see that investigative actions themselves, shared by journalists and bloggers alike, generate the vulnerability which without shield protection would stifle presentation of crucial information to the public.

    I've always felt a little twingy about reporting certain things, and yet I've also felt that the blogosphere would be an excellent source for more serious communications. When Sean-Paul over at the Agonist published his PGP key and began taking interviews from senior officers in Iraq during the ramp-up, I was sure I was seeing something new and exciting. The Agonist has continued to be an excellent source of news and Sean-Paul's excellent reputation is well-deserved.

    Clearly the California powers that be can step up in this matter and codify blogs as 'periodicals'. I believe that should be sufficient to show that when we decide to report news, that we bloggers will have all the protections of other journalists. The public deserves it.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:35 AM | TrackBack

    April 08, 2005

    Another One Bites the Dust

    And not a moment too soon, Eric Rudolph gets four life sentences. He joins fellow white supremacist Matt Hale. In jail.

    Now would be a good time to turn back the internet clock and find defenders of these two scumbags. They can't be too far away. Hmm. There's dad of course. Then here are some folks who say he's a poltical prisoner, although that group has been a bit infliltrated by some wiseacres. Clearly the World Church of the Creator is in mourning, and a bit defensive with good reason.

    That's All.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:16 PM | TrackBack

    April 02, 2005

    Integrated Inequality

    Some discussion is going on at Balkin and Volokh about the numbers of blacks who are failing to pass bar exams and flunking out of law schools. I'm going to take a tangent, because the tone of the discusion (as I suppose could be expected) seems to hinge on the numbers and what non-African Americans think is best for African Americans.

    The purpose of Affirmative Action is to put black first basemen on first base, as opposed to waiting for Jackie Robinson to overcome presumptions of racial inferiority. It is done for the purposes of racial integration, not only for stellar individuals, but for the whole of society. One must presume that whatever the situation, Jackie Robinson will make his own way since real merit does have its merits. The real failure of society to be integrative comes not only at the expense of the best of the oppressed, but for the moderately skilled. For a racist society is a closed society, which defeats democracy. Therefore the success of Affirmative Action is not only a remedy for past discrimination, but a pathway towards openness. If we didn't care about openness, the case for Reparation would be stronger than the case of Integration. Affirmative Action is more Healing than Cure, and therefore it is most effective when aimed at the general population rather than at the most talented.

    There are some differences however when it comes to credentialed professionals. Although I personally find it rather difficult to see how it is that excellently skilled and highly proficient attorneys are much more than hyper-powered avatars for the avarice of those who can afford them, I expect that there is some reasonable presumption that diminishment of the technical qualifications of lawyers does indeed damage the nation. At any rate that seems to be the aegis of this discussion - who scores the highest on tests, who graduates from professionals schools. So I have been of the opinion for some time now, that Affirmative Action needn't apply for credentialed professions. It is for this reason that I felt that the U of Michigan got its priorities backwards.

    I happen to believe that in the context of American society, specifically for blacks, that Tokenism has real value. So I don't mind Affirmative Action which creates tokens. But if it only created tokens, I think it would be more harmful than good. There are many people who believe just that; I think they are misinformed. The matter of my support in Affirmative Action at the professional level hinges primarily thus, on the value of black tokens in the particular profession. I think we are at a point of relative equilibrium in the legal field - that the idea of a black attorney is not so preposterous, and the presumption that racism severely stifles the aspirations of blacks seeking the bar is not very strong. And so I believe that we do not particularly need token black lawyers in the way we need token black architects, museum curators, newspaper publishers or professors of oceanography.

    There is the matter of instruction vs education which cuts very deeply into this controversy. Simultaneously there is the question of prophylaxis. Both of these bring to mind what exactly law school is good for. If the purpose of law school is instruction, one can judge the quality of the law school by the number of its graduates who successfully pass the bar. If you fail to pass the bar, then you are a failure, period. But I consistently raise the question of whether or not law school educates blacks. Because if they do, then blacks who fail at law school are still better off than those who never attend. Assuming that then, do failing black law students effectively act as a prophylaxis against white students who do not? In other words what is the cost of admitting students who fail to students who do not? While it clearly slows down the whole process of graduating successful, bar-passing attorneys, I believe it is a small cost and that cost is very measureable. I further believe that the law profession is not in any crisis of supply, wheras the medical profession is.

    If on the other hand, the benefit of law school is strictly limited to instruction then it is a stricter meritocracy. Then that brings up the value of low ranking law schools and their contribution to society, but I don't want to go there right now.

    My argument is that within the context of successful graduation and the numbers game, the effects of the inefficiencies introduced by a zero-sum Affirmative Actions at American law schools is minimal and has a negligible effect on the operation of the profession. This argument cuts two ways. The numbers of blacks Affirmative Action passes as a ratio to those it accepts and the total number of blacks who attend law school must similarly be considered. I believe, but I am perfectly willing to be proven wrong, that the number of black graudates of law school who are indeed Affirmative Action beneficiaries at least doubles their number, so Affirmative Action with respect to African Americans is indeed a success, in spite of the dropout rate. But again, the overall effect on the profession is small (or basically twice the negligible figure I asserted earlier depending on the ratio of beneficiary to non-beneficiary blacks).

    So it seems to me that those most affected by Affirmative Action is the beneficiary class itself. Their interests are clear, and while they may exist on the periphery of the profession, their continued existence has a much larger political interest behind it. I think rightfully so, because Affirmative Action of this nature has become the sole practical instrument of racial justice in America.

    The result is exactly what I think Harold Cruse, in his dissent against the Brown Decision would have predicted, a state of integration that makes black and white together but unequal rather than separate but equal.

    What remains is the question of prophylaxis and 'fair play', and what we have seen consistently is that tiny number of whites who are excluded and might not pass the bar have powerful advocates. In fact, we know her name and it is Hopwood. She plays in the same margin as failing blacks, with regard to the integrity of the profession.

    So we are left with the compelling irony that failing whites are more important than failing blacks with regard to the prospects for Affirmative Action in law schools. And I think it will remain that way until nobody cares whether lawyers are black or white. Ain't that something?

    References:

  • Spoons
  • Holsclaw

    Posted by mbowen at 03:38 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
  • Dump DeLay

    Count me among the Republicans who feels that Tom DeLay is more a liability than an asset to the party. End of statement.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:29 AM | TrackBack

    March 29, 2005

    Social Security Litmus

    Once you start to see the numbers explained on social security it becomes fairly obvious that there are lots of options and combinations. I can see why GWB isn't interested in putting a plan out there, but I don't see why the critters haven't got six or seven ideas tossing around yet. This seems to be yet another example of our no-op Congress. I'm going to start taking them to task, because I'm tending to believe that the only significant thing they've done in the past 10 years are McCain-Feingold and Sarbanes-Oxley.

    Firstly, I think means-testing is a very good idea, and I would do it with today's retirees whether they like it or not. I know we don't have many critters with the testicular fortitude to pass such hardball legislations, not given the AARP's spare cycles. But really this is all about them, and I for one am sick of them - them being people with brand new Lexus convertibles with the blue handicapped stickers. I'm sorry, but old rich people deserve nobody's sympathy. Not while Americans die with their boots on. One would expect of old rich Americans, senators for example, some decisive action worthy of bullheadedness and having nothing to prove. But that's hoping for too much, I gather. On with it.

    Means Testing
    In the Cobb plan, benefits are means-tested. That means that people with a certain amount of assets and income are excluded from recieving full benefits. Period. If you're getting top tax bracket retirement income, you get reduced benefits.

    Retirement Age
    Lift it with a catch. Make it flexible like tax brackets which is to say that depending on how many are in the beneficiary class, indexed to life expectancy the earliest you are eligible changes. In other words, make it such that the number of people eligible changes in response to the demographics that got us into this mess.

    Salary Cap
    No. Don't raise it, leave it at 90k. I think you can't raise the salary cap and have means-testing too. We can inconvenience the rich and not coddle them, but we can't soak them as well.

    Tax Increase
    Yes. A one time fee. Charge everyone an extra 3% then 2% then 1% over the next three years while we've got everyone's attention. Put this someplace where Congress doesn't play with it and bump up the surplus a little. It's a crisis, so call it a crisis tax.

    Private Accounts
    No. As appealing as this sounds, I don't trust the government to tell me what my choices are. Expand what already exists for IRAs, 401ks and all the other tax-exempt savings plans. We need to encourage savings for all the right reasons, let those remain the reasons, not because Social Security is broke.

    Entitlement
    Scale the whole program back a wedge. Let that in and of itself be a greater incentive for people to stop depending on government.

    Maximum Payout
    Nobody gets more than 20 years of benefits. Period.

    Other Reforms
    Allow benefits to be transferrable to family members. IE work them a bit more like real assets and less like insurance. Make it a hybrid, rather like Term Life. IE throw a little bit of a death benefit into it which scales towards zero as retirees eat up their 20 years.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    March 27, 2005

    I am Mark Cuban

    Mark Cuban, I dub thee digital Spartacus.

    Cuban has made the stand that has needed to be made for a long time. He stands with Grokster against MGM in the case which pits the big media distribution oligarchs against software that enables competition. Cuban gets bits, the bigs do not, and they are trying to outlaw all types of distribution mechanisms that they don't own. Cuban is fighting the good fight on behalf of all of us who want content the way we want it, with good technology at a fair price. The Bigs are looking to tear down the Betamax Shield.

    Were behind you.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:01 AM | TrackBack

    March 26, 2005

    GM: The Next Generation

    I heard the other day that GM is thinking of dropping one of its brands. Oldsmobile is already dead, so it doesn't take much thought to consider that Buick is the next dead car driving. They must surely be thinking, those GM heads, that some new brands are due right about now. Toyota's new line, Scion is a big success out here in California. Ford bought everything else, so maybe some invention is in order. Here are some ideas I think could work.

    Eco
    It's practically a no-brainer to suggest that an entire car company devoted to energy efficient, alternate hybrid, green vehicles would be a big hit here in US. There's a segment of the American market that has been screaming for this for years, and there's plenty of evidence that such vehicles could sell. Give a company this charter for fleet vehicles, trucks, passenger cars, you name it. The business models will appear and this company will do nothing but grow. An IPO for Eco would suck San Francisco dry.

    Zero
    I think Zero is a very cool name for a sports car company. GM ought to just create a balls-out performance car company. Imagine that NASCAR gets boring in 5 years, what to do? Ford was brilliant to decide to compete head to head against Ferrari, but it left us with the GT that got recalled, the dumbed down but still very cool Mustang, and a Cobra that has yet to see the street. It's time that somebody in America built a pure sports car company with a full line, like Porsche, like Ferrari. It's just astounding that after all these years that we don't have one. Aftermarket is cool, and I understand all that, but man just once, could we get a pure uncut. Shelby? Saleen? Vector? No. A real car company with good production lines. You see the possibilities?

    Wabash
    Wabash is the upscale family car company. This is probably the toughest market to crack because everybody is already there. But it seems to me that the only way that it can be done well is by a car company with no ties to traditions. I mean the Chrysler Pacifica was a brilliant idea, but if I see that grill again I think I'm going to puke. Same with Pontiac. I'm sick of looking at them. OK the P6 is really sweet, but it's the exception. We need an American car company that could do something like the Honda Element, or the Infiniti M.

    Dodge is really the hottest American car company at the moment. The new Charger is hoppin' and they are bringing back the Daytona.

    Xenon
    Xenon is clearly the answer to Scion. It has to be done. Low priced, sporty first cars for youth. Simple.

    Argosy
    On the other end of the spectrum are autos for the generation that just won't die. Baby Boomers are going to get what they want, yet again. Somebody ought to bet on it. Large print speedometers, orthopedic seating. You name it. I think finally all of those blue parking spaces are going to get filled up. May as well get the excess cash from selling of the family house..

    Posted by mbowen at 04:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    March 25, 2005

    Dowd with the Smackdown

    You may not believe this, but I don't know Maureen Dowd. I mean I know she's a popular columnist with the NYT and that she gets on a lot of people's nerves, but I couldn't tell you anything about her views or disposition. I just know that today, she's right.

    The more dogma-driven activists, self-perpetuating pols and ratings-crazed broadcast media prattle about "faith," the less we honor the credo that a person's relationship with God should remain a private matter.

    As the Bush White House desperately maneuvers in Iraq to prevent the new government from being run according to the dictates of religious fundamentalists, it desperately maneuvers here to pander to religious fundamentalists who want to dictate how the government should be run.

    I think I'll use this argument to throw some parting shots at the Schindlers, even though I might not know what I'm talking about. That's one of the fascinating things about these 'emotional' stories, the news media wants to be shy with the facts.

    For example, I have come to learn that there have been 26 court cases associated with this woman, 11 of them appeals. How is it that the Schindlers can afford this? Are they rich or not? Nobody says. I think they are rich and think they can buy as much legal muscle as America can offer their dear little rich, brain damaged daughter.

    A great deal has been made about the fact that Mrs. Schiavo is not on life-support per se. She can breathe on her own, but needs to be fed and hydrated. And yet she has been in a hospital for 15 years. Why isn't she at the Schindler's home if she's not that sick? And exactly what kind of people can afford a fifteen year hospital stay? Out here in California we are closing hospitals, there's not enough to go around. We have a nursing shortage of 17,000! And this little rich girl gets a bed for 15 years?

    Clearly I don't care, because I've already made up my mind, and I'm so full of disgust for the situation that I am not kind. But this situation is just like the situation of the NY firefighters who got involved in the matter of the statue. Some things just shouldn't rise above a certain level of symbolism and myth making. I never wanted to get involved in this controversy and said so when the story first broke in October 2003. Alas, but here we all are.

    At least Dowd has brought the ball back up into the right playing field. Yes, I admit it. I have sunk to the depths of Schiavo depravity, scuttling around in the scuttlebutt like a lowly cuttlefish with my venomous ink. Now I'm disgusted with myself. Argh!

    I'm not so certain as Dowd that it is axiomatic that Republicans are led around by the nose by moral posturing, but it's true that they're in a rut of success. One hopes that this tack backfires nicely but I see that the spin is already out of control onto the vector of Federalism. At least Christopher Shays has his head on straight.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:56 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    March 20, 2005

    The Return of Conservation

    I've been hearing that word again, and not just from the usual suspects. Conservation is what is on my mind. It is only conservative to conserve, and what chastens us all is a brush with defeat. I wonder what it will take for the word to become deed.

    It has been said enough times: ANWR isn't the answer. And yet the very idea that we can pull a billion acres out of our hat suggests that there is a huge amount that conservation could give us. The problem with conservation is that I'm not certain that we can be priced into it. I wish an economist could help me out a little, but I think the term is elasticity. Europeans are chugging along only slightly less extravagantly than we, and yet they are paying $5 a gallon for gasoline. If Americans were to put up with the same, and I have no doubt that we would, what is going to change the nature of the business model of oil companies? They'll be laughing all the way to the bank for another decade. Will that be necessary to bankroll investment in energy diversification? Duke Power may be looking at next generation nuclear, but who will actually make the guarantees?

    Somewhere hidden is an energy budget for the United States. I know it's out there because several years ago, I built a database for a big northeastern power company. They had 20 year oil price hedges. Enron wasn't the only company trading in energy futures. There is money to be followed, and things we might consider to be outrageous have most certainly already been planned around. The trick is not to let the very phrase 'peak oil' mislead us into believing that these same energy companies will go broke and suddenly become insignificant.

    Michael Powell likes to talk about his son's XBox which is '17,000 times more powerful than the mission computer that went to the moon. And we paid $140 for it.' I think Powell plays the game himself, although he won't admit it. If the world's oil supply can be cut in half in 30 years and the world's supply of digital broadband and computing power can be increased 1000-fold in the same period of time, how can the collapse of our economies be imminent? All we need is a dislocation. There is a massive capacity for us to pull economies out of our digital hat, we simply need to price the bits right.

    There are so many efficiencies we already know. It's just a matter of changing priorities. Sadly, Americans will need a wake up call, but once we wake up it will be easy. Just open up the conversation, and stop talking about a 'carbon tax'. Environmental architects are talking about using mirrors and fiber optics to cut down the daytime energy costs of electric lighting in buildings. I like that, but even if we just focused on transportation we could make strides.

    We could dump the second car and make videoconferencing real. We could stop delivering pizza. We could lighten packaging in order to increase fuel efficiency in the shipping business. What about 55 gallon steel drums? If they were plastic instead, how much oil could be saved, given the extra spent making plastic? Has there been an energy efficient lighter weight advance in rail car design in the past 30 years? I know car rental agencies have no compunction whatsoever in charging you double the retail pump price for gasoline when you return the tank empty. You could really whomp them on energy inefficient fleets. Frequent fliers will pay the premiums, for a while.

    Speaking of premiums. I'd bet that any offroader or watersporto would pay 10 bucks a gallon for two stroke mix, if they had to. Cheap gas is not necessary at the docks. Or, going the other way, make 'em run gasohol. OK, I'm sounding rather Hobbesian, I know, but I think I'm right on that elasticity thing.

    As much as I hate the Prius and can't stand the self-congratulatory air of people who hate Hummers, I do believe that thinking our way forward is the way to go. Good ideas, efficient ideas are the way to go, yes. But at some point certain habits are going to have to die, and if it comes down to it, maybe the second car is one of them. But we're going to have to endure a crisis of the sort we had here in California four years ago. We're going to have to see the lights go out and told we don't have a choice. Because as long as we do, we're going to take the easy way out.

    How can I be so sure? Because Americans have a choice to eat more tasty fatty food at the expense of our very lives, and we choose poorly. We've had Segways on the market for years, and nobody is buying. There will always be another diet, another dip in the price of gas, another wildlife preserve to sacrifice.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:56 AM | TrackBack

    March 14, 2005

    Harvard Admission: Do Not Open Until Christmas

    Like most folks in the news-junkie class, I found out in the past week or so that Harvard busted some 'hackers' who apparently broke into an Admissions database. The story was somewhat beneath my radar for caring and I only made a mental note in passing that it sounds like another blow against the ethics of certain of our future leaders. There was some quibbling somewhere and then the story came out. All 119 students accused were summarily rejected by the University. Then I found out more.

    Over the past week I have been literally obsessing about security (I'll explain that later) and have set up a dozen or so new RSS feeds from security blogs. I have learned so much! The latest of these informs me that the 'hack' was accomplished by twiddling with the URL at the website. In other words the security was so stupid as to be inconsistent with the very idea of secured information.

    It turns out that all applicants to the Harvard Business School were given accounts on a website:

    HBS interacts with applicants via a third-party site called ApplyYourself. Harvard had planned to notify applicants whether they had been admitted, on March 30. Somebody discovered last week that some applicants' admit/reject letters were already available on the ApplyYourself website. There were no hyperlinks to the letters, but a student who was logged in to the site could access his/her letter by constructing a special URL. Instructions for doing this were posted in an online forum frequented by HBS applicants. (The instructions, which no longer work due to changes in the ApplyYourself site, are reproduced here.) Students who did this saw either a rejection letter or a blank page. (Presumably the blank page meant either that HBS would admit the student, or that the admissions decision hadn't been made yet.) 119 HBS applicants used the instructions.

    This reminds me of an old Bill Cosby story about his mean Uncle Charles. All year long Uncle Charles promises little Bill that if he's good, he's going to get a bicycle for Christmas. As the holiday season rolls around, little Bill asks if he has been good enough. Uncle Charles plays coy, saying nothing, but the twinkle in his eye suggests that Bill will be riding happily on Christmas Day. As the day gets closer, Bill pesters his uncle more and more, until one day he does so and upsets Uncle Charles' drink. Uncle Charles, in a fit of rage says "Yes I was going to get you a bicycle, but now you just ruined it." Bill is crushed.

    This is clearly cruelty and it is essentially no different from what HBS has done to its applicants. It had made a decision upon the basis of what the students had already accomplished, and then arbitrarily extended a new 'ethics' criteria based. I don't see a way that HBS can wiggle their way out of this. If the decision to admit or reject had already been made, the application of additional contingencies represents a breach of good faith and draws suspicion on the integrity of the decision process.

    That admissions status was available to website members when it should not have been is a technical problem, but it also represents a flaw in the admissions process. Clearly there were significant reasons why the ApplyYourself website was built and populated with student's personal information. It's reasonable to assume that chief among those reasons were transparency of the admissions process and speed of delivery of information. Two steps forward. But too much speed and transparency costs a decision reversal? After all, whose information is it anyway?

    Harvard hid the status of these applicants in plain sight. It invited students into a private room with their name on the door ostensibly for the purposes of giving and taking pertinent information. In one corner of this room is their acceptance/rejection letter, addressed to the applicant with the implied warning, 'Do not open until Christmas'. That's cruel.

    Understand that it is a non-trivial process to get information from Harvard's Admissions Committee, whomever they may be, onto a third-party website. Whatever that process may be, it is certainly more complicated than stuffing envelopes, stamping them and holding them to be mailed. Nevertheless, by sending this information to the third-party who is doing the work of adding content to the website, Harvard was waving it under the nose of the applicants. I grant that using reasonable security would have solved the technical problem, but that doesn't alter the fact that withholding the information due to applicants is an irresponsible injection of drama and punishing those previously accepted is harshly cruel. Harvard clearly was not administratively ready to modify its admissions process to include this sort of website. The ironic result is that aspects of its process have become embarassingly transparent.

    Harvard should reinstate the students who were previously accepted on a deferred admit basis, fire ApplyYourself and keep all further admission information on paper, on campus & under lock and key.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    March 10, 2005

    My Party Too

    Christine Todd Whitman is my new hero. I think she's got the right idea, and I wouldn't be surprised if she becomes the Republican Party nominee in 2008. I'm saying it now, McCain-Whitman.

    Her new website, MyPartyToo.com is going to be the focus of a lot of attention if I can have my way. I'm also going to start using her term 'social fundamentalists' to describe my rivals within the party. Listen to what some of my fellow Republicans are saying:

    I was as upset as any other Republican when President Bush violated his campaign promise and raised taxes. I strongly supported Newt Gingrich as he tried and eventually succeeded taking control of the House of Representatives. I strongly believed in the Contract With American and the direction our party was going in. Lower taxes, reduced spending, a balanced budget, a populist message, and little regard for the social agenda of the social fundamentalists. Though I am pro-life (with exceptions) that is about as much as I have in common with them. Now it's 10 years later and this is what Republicans are fighting for: - Intelligent Design being taught in science classes - health classes teaching AIDS can be caught from sweat and tears - health classes teaching that pregnancy can result from intimate touching - dismissing the overwhelming evidence of global warming - the destruction of our environment - discriminating against gays and lesbians - big government control over our personal lives - nation building in a country that doesn't pose a threat to America - massive deficits and a larger national debt - almost $8 trillion.

    Now that guy is slightly to the left of me, if left means anything as a direction; he's jumping ship. But he's correct. I pick him because he has a laundry list of things that Republicans should be looking at. There is indeed a battle for the soul of the GOP, and it's time for us moderates and progressives to take up the banner.

    Like Whitman, I think there is room for social fundamentalists in the party. They've got to be represented somewhere. But the way they are working with their convictions is inappropriate and destructive. It's the social fundamentalists who are saying you cannot be a pro-choice Republican. How can we be a majority party in defiance of 80% of America and the well-tested law?

    There is a difference between a social conservative and a social fundamentalist. The social conservative says, I don't support gay marriage. The social fundamentalist says I don't tolerate it, nor people who do. Gay marriage isn't slavery, and Republicans who think they are going to abolish gay life are on the wrong side of history. The agenda of social fundamentalists has entered the realms of fear and punishment, and that is stepping over the line in a pluralist society. I do not deny any American the morality of their convictions, but I cannot abide an agenda of persecution born out of cynical fears.

    Whitman has stood up clearly and drawn a clear line. By doing so, she has helped me to realize how long we have been simmering in the pot of intolerance. As I look back at a number of the discussions I've had here about what kind of Republican Party I'm talking about, it has always been clear in my mind that organizations like the Main Street Republicans or the Manhattan Institute were more to my liking. In fact, when you look at the organizational partnerships at Whitman's site, I am more than a little bit jealous. I've been hoping, but not working diligently to get our Old School in gear.

    Nevertheless it is clear that the party is contested. America will win when we moderates prevail.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    March 09, 2005

    Brazile Warns Democrats

    Donna Brazile:

    It won’t take much for the GOP to garner 12 to 15 percent of the black vote in future elections, as some blacks are starting to believe the community is not well-served when one party takes their votes for granted and the other party doesn’t work to earn them.

    It looks like my first goals were a little short-sighted. But what I think is becoming clearer is that African American Republicans are going to come in ideological varieties, and not strictly on the Old School ticket as I envisioned.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:57 AM | TrackBack

    March 07, 2005

    Black Contract With America: Call for Participation

    Conservative Brotherhood mate Scott Wickham has begun a collaborative Wiki for the Black Contract with America. It's at BlackContract.com and has just begun. I think this has a great deal of potential. On the heels of the Black Bloggers Association, there's a mini wave of collab going on at the nodes of color.

    Get on board little children, there's room (and need) for many a more.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    March 06, 2005

    Antisubordination

    Balkin notes:

    Speaking of liberals, at least Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Souter have a principle that distinguishes this case from Grutter. It is the antisubordination principle-- racial classifications are suspect because they help perpetuate the subordination of racial groups. Where the majority acts to undo the effects of past subordination, courts can apply somewhat less scrutiny (although not minimal scrutiny) because what the state is doing is not inconsistent with the goal of antisubordination. That explains the Court's deferential attitude toward admissions committees in Grutter. However, when the state uses racial classifications for mere administrative convenience, as in this case, its goals are orthogonal to alleviating social subordination, and the usual rule of strict scrutiny should apply. Obviously, one could object to this line of argument at several places, but on the whole it seems somewhat more principled than what the other Justices are doing.

    This is the case of the black prisoner who felt that he was being discriminated against because he was segregated by race during his first 60 days in prison. Apparently, this practice was initiated by the California prison system because, it had determined that a history of racial antagonism might subject the prisoners to abuse. So it presumed due to this history that the class of Americans who end up in prison are more likely to be racially antagonistic and start fights if they were bunked with mates of a different racial background. So until prisoners could be individuated, they would be racially segregated.

    Anecdotally, there are white supremacist and all other sorts of ethnic gangs in prison. So the chance that you might be bunked with a member of a racial gang sounds like a very real possibility. Johnson objected to the separation by race and against the prejudice applied to him. To my ears it sounded like complaining about the color of your fatigues in a war zone, but since our courts obviously have plenty of time for such matters, there would sooner or later have to be a decision.

    The case went to the US Supreme Court which decided in the favor of California. Balkin traces the reasoning. Thomas and Scalia say that a prison's gotta do what a prison's gotta do. Ginsberg, Breyer and Souter say the prison isn't segregating for the purpose of subordination so a strict scrutiny isn't required. I agree with both angles. What surprises me is that Balkin, giving the nod to the principle of antisubordination, would compare this case to Grutter, the Michigan Affirmative Action decision case.

    He seems to be suggesting that there might be a singular principle regarding race against which all sorts of segregation matters might be judged whether they involve convicts or college students. I'm not sure there is or that there should be with regards to the law. I don't have a legal theory for this, but it makes me uncomfortable in a way I can't quite describe.

    I think the reason for this might actually be dangerously biased, and yet I still believe it to be right. The simple answer to the stupid question of 'What do black people want?' is 'Anything worth having.' But the full answer goes a little bit more like this from the SCAA FAQ (of which I used to be the keeper):

  • Black people want everything worth having, and the other things too. We want to have it as black people, but only when we say so. We will do anything it takes to get it, and anything else we feel like doing whether or not that's useful. You can't figure out our reasons unless we tell you, and if we don't feel like telling you, so what? And if you guess, so what?

  • Black people want to be invisible, except when we don't.

  • Black people want to be called African Americans, so forget everything you've heard about 'black people'.

  • African Americans want to be black, except on those occasions we feel like that's not necessary.

  • Black people want to be treated, most of the time, as follows.

    All of the above is subject to change without notice, some restrictions apply, participating blacks only, your mileage may vary, see individual blacks for details and specifics, void where prohibited, you must be 18 or older to play.


  • In other words, it's a very squishy human thing, but you can generally expect to get the gist of it if you pay enough attention. Legally, the above makes no sense whatsoever, but it makes perfect sense when you think about it and talk to enough blackfolks about it.

    For what it's worth, no matter how we individuate ourselves as Americans, we are always tied to American history. And it seems to me that there has not yet transpired any period of time long enough for what the African American experience symbolizes other than antisubordination. For at least 3 more generations, blackfolks are going to be bogarding. We will be grasping on to our claim on this place and all the respect we can muster. For a long time, our individual meaning will be subordinated to this historical theme. Even the universal disclaimer shouts it.

    Apparently, even the black convict is chasing after equality with white convicts, and his case goes to the Supreme Court. Damn!

    Posted by mbowen at 02:45 PM | TrackBack

    March 04, 2005

    Municipal WiFi

    If I had a 'politician of the month' award, it would go to Michael Copps who said the following:

    "I think we do a grave injustice in trying to hobble municipalities. That's an entrepreneurial approach, that's an innovative approach. Why don't we encourage that instead of having bills introduced--'Oh, you can't do this because it's interfering with somebody's idea of the functioning of the marketplace...a municipality is a democratically run institution. They can make their own decisions. They don't need the Bells. They don't need the Administration, and they don't need me telling them what kind of decision they should be making.'"

    Me like.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:55 PM | TrackBack

    March 03, 2005

    The Problem with the Christian Right

    As I've said before, the Christian Right is full of itself and thinks it is a lot more influential than it really is. Simply because it is capable of getting in a catfight with leftist Hollywood scum, the battle gets lots of press and airtime. Meanwhile the rest of us are either alarmed or non-plussed. In the middle of that is somebody like me who believes that the religious have a point and that the Republican Party needs to be careful and clever.

    Evangelistic Christianity is a caustic influence in contemporary political activism. The ability of men like Carl Rove to drop the right rhetoric into campaigns, something whose origins are in the reverse psychology of Richard Viguery does not make a campaign righteous. I think the Christian Right is going to be very disappointed when the Christian Left gets rolling and they discover themselves agitating on secular platforms in the upcoming elections. Sooner or later Howard Dean is going to find a Jimmy Carter with brass balls, and that's going to be the end of it. Still in all, its a distraction from the real issues that our government must deal with. Think about it. The country is already 90% Christian, any so-called 'Christian' activism in politics is stupidly redundant or actually very narrow. It's the latter.

    So it's a very important to understand not only what the consensus of the Christian Right is, but what particular constituencies within it want, and who exactly they are. I think a lot of me-too-ism is getting exposure based upon the momentum of the Bush win, but when all the confetti has hit the floor, people are going to have to stand on their own.

    I know there are a lot of conscientious Christians out there who are identifying as Christians first because of this sound and fury, but who are not Fundamentalists and do believe in the separation between Church and State. But this is a detail which is not often talked about in the simplistic Red vs Blue.

    I actually don't want to beat this horse to death again, my essential point is this: The real problem has to do with the legitimation of religious evangelism as a form of political activism. It's a line that shouldn't be crossed in a Western democracy.

    And I think anyone who actually goes to church knows that simply having laws written in books is not what keeps people on the straight and narrow, but loving fellowship in a community that is rooted in those laws. You can't just pitch the Bible at sinners across the street and expect that the good in it is going to sink into their heads with a thud. You have to invite them to fellowship and discover what they want and need in their lives. All this moral posturing and bombast doesn't work with Americans. Did you forget who we are? We're Americans! Nobody bosses us around, especially not you.

    The problem with the Christian Right is that 'Christian Right' is not a Christian term, but a demographic term employed by political consultants (and bloggers). It's a large amorphous collection of suckers to be seduced by expert con artists like Karl Rove, and rah-rah'd in the Blogosphere. But as soon as Christians start seeing themselves as the 'Christian Right', which master do you think they're serving? Go to you church and ask your pastor, is this the church of the Christian Right? I don't think the answer will be yes.

    So I think we have a very basic ethical dilemma here. It has to do with the question of how Christians, whether conservative or not, engage the public. And I think we need to get to the bottom of the current revisionist history which suggests this is a righteous Christian Nation that needs to get back to its Christian roots as if 'Under God' were in the National Anthem. There's a very important reason that our flag doesn't have faces or words on it and I'd hate to have the legitimate beefs of Christians discredited because their tactics would have us burning crosses into everyone's minds.

    You see I cannot get over the fact that for 200 years, all the Christians in this country were unable to do what Abraham Lincoln did with the stroke of a pen, and all the Christians in the South found that it took 100 years and Federal Troops to force them to obey the New Covenant. So while I am certainly convinced of the reality of Christian morals, being a son of Ham, I am not particularly impressed with the effectiveness of Christian politics on the law of the land.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:33 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    March 01, 2005

    Ours to Take Back?

    Essence magazine and several others notable have come with the hardline to 'Take Back Our Music'. I find this an admirable exercise of common sense, morality and courage, but mostly common sense.

    I've been excoriating hiphop from time to time, remembering what it used to be in the days of the New Jack Swing, when the Beastie Boys were as crazy as the genre got. Some of you can probably remember Kid & Play, and others, before just about every rapper bent forward with a mic in his face and made wild gyrations with the off-mic hand. You know, when rappers used to actually dance dances with difficult steps.

    I remember living in Brooklyn when the rumor came out that some racist Afrikaaner was behind the new mysogyny and violence in rap characterized by the rise of groups like Onyx, whom in retrospect hardly did as much damage to the reputation of women as today's decendents of the worst side of Sir Mix-A-Lot. 'Nuff said, the crap has gone downhill to the point at which it is barely tolerated by many who used to live it. Like a neighborhood infested by roaches and crack, it's just not home any more.

    It wasn't the Boers who made funded the crookedness of hiphop, but the supply-siders were fundamentally right. It isn't consumption that makes hiphop what it is, it's production. The art of hiphop became a pseudo-science of marketing, but none of that would have happened without money and direction. Arguments about what dysfunctional suburban white boys wanted from hiphop was, is and always will be a cop-out. Suburban white boys don't spend any more on CDs than anyone else - they consume just like everyone. They do just what (good) rapper Rob Base said: "Take it off the rack, if it's wack, put it back." That's called shopping. It takes a fifth grade education to buy something from a store - the convenience built into the system of distribution makes it simple to get whatever is on the rack.

    I'm not going to dismiss the demand side of the equation, because I sure as hell don't when it comes to all the things that ghetto residents get into their corner stores from the far corners of the globe, including bananas, orange juice in winter and crack. I do think people should be free to buy straight porno, and that's what I consider most of hiphop to be these days. But broadcast porno? No. No. No.

    So when it comes to the question of taking the music back, what we are going to need to hear more of are people like Regina Robertson playing their part. People who make the choices about what to produce for mass consumption have a grave responsibility to the public, and people who produce entertainment products have more than just a passing responsibility to standards of decency. These are the thinking people who plan with the millions. When then sell out their values, the marketplace is poisoned.

    So we have to ask, how much of this campaign is actually going to affect those people who sit atop the production dollars? We didn't name 'Murder Inc.', nor did we rename it 'Tha Inc.' That's got to be a top-down move. It's going to take pushing the envelope in a new direction.

    The bottom line falls on moguls like P. Diddy and Jay-Z at Viacom. They are The Man. They can make or break an act in the business. They direct the dollars, and the investment dollars flow on their say so. If it wasn't that way, we wouldn't hear rappers constantly timestamping their records with lyrics verbalizing who their producers are.

    Back when Latifah only rapped, she and Chuck D did their thing called 'Self-Destruction'. They did that when there was only 1/5 of the black power in hiphop production that there is today. If the music is 'ours' to take back, then P Diddy and Jay-Z are 'ours' and they'll do the taking. Otherwise all we have is common sense.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:15 PM | TrackBack

    February 28, 2005

    A Black Summit

    Something important happened this weekend. It wasn't the Oscars though, it was something called the State of the Black Union. It was moderated by Tavis Smiley, whom I thought would disappear after leaving his NPR show. It starred George Fraser, Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Lee Petersen, Jesse Jackson, Michael Eric Dyson and a host of others.

    I missed it entirely.

    But Deet, my brother, says there's going to be a DVD. That's good. I wonder if the bootleg of that will get around to as many black barbershops as the rest of the Hollywood hits. We'll see.

    What the LA Times says of this event is that the participants seem to be split on ideological lines. This is to me, a surprise. When I had retired from the top ranks of national black campus leadership in the late 80s, our dilemma was one of class. We saw black unity failing because, although many of us were pretty much aligned on ideological grounds, we had serious problems with reconciling the needs and desires of those further ahead on the road to destiny with those straggling behind. Who could be authentically black suckling on the proper corporate, educational or government teat? Was it the Cosby kid or the Boyz from the Hood?

    The idea that we would be choosing between Democrats and Republicans never occurred to us in 1988. We were still trying to get Jesse into the White House. This year Jesse Jackson sealed his own doom by saying that blacks have an agenda, precisely the one that Martin Luther King left us. Martin Luther King is dead.

    Sooner or later, some explicit criticism will careen around the 'sphere on these matters. I'm a bit disappointed to take it all in second-hand. But if anything great was said, we'll see it on DVD.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:11 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    February 23, 2005

    When Cosby Becomes Farrakhan

    I think if I hear another word about Bill Cosby, I'm going to projectile vomit green spew like some animated monster on Aqua Teen Hunger Force. He has become encrusted into the Fungibles like the curls of George Washington's Rushmore rock locks. Everywhere you go, you cannot talk about black anything without the interminable conflict raising it's ugly empty head: Cosby vs 'Real'.

    What has happened here? The same thing that always happens. Americans have locked on to a proxy exactly in tune with the Isbell Theory. There are no black leaders, so we invent them so as to better understand those faceless nameless masses, and place them into the appropriate compartment.

    We Americans are so good at doing this because too much of our culture is pop culture, and hardly anyone recognizes the power of organic traditions any longer. We think that there's a spokesmodel for our every value. So that's what Cosby has become over the past year, the Bill Bennett of his day, a pop representation of a set of values. The problem is that it becomes all about Cosby and whether he's a worthy character, rather than whether what he is contributing to the ongoing dialog will stand the test of time.

    It's still to early to tell if Cosby will continue to respond and engage in such a way that minimizes the damage. The more he talks, the more he's going to distinguish himself from others who address the subjects. However if he goes on tour and its his new version of the Cosby Show, then he will be no different than Farrakhan. Cosby must share the stage and take his knocks. We've got to see Cosby vs Michael Eric Dyson and Cosby vs Abagail Thernstrom and Cosby vs JC Watts and Cosby vs Oprah for him to merit the oxygen he's sucking out of the atmosphere.

    It's not a bad thing that Cosby is too large to ignore, but can we have some context please?

    Posted by mbowen at 09:40 AM | TrackBack

    February 20, 2005

    Back v Reeves

    "The ability for a straw to break a camel's back always depends upon how much baggage that camel is already carrying."
    -- Michael Bowen

    Ed Brown has raised an interesting question over at Vision Circle. It arises over the question of Michael Steele's ability and willingness to deal with a controversy that arose several years ago in the California Republican Party. Apparently one cat named Bill Back offended a cat named Shannon Reeves. Back's white, Reeves is black. Back was provocative, Reeves was offended. Therefore the legitimacy of black Republicans is suspect.

    I have a problem with this controversy for a number of reasons, primarily over the proxy given one white voice to speak for whitefolks and one black voice for blackfolks. If the controversy is to be believed, the disagreement between Back and Reeves is and should set the tone for blacks and whites over the fate of the Republican Party. I think this is exactly what leftists say when they say 'the personal is political', it is the hearty investment in identity politics. The fact is, there is no issue.

    I have come to discover that Reeves and Back were bucking for the same office in the party, and I am content to leave the spitting match at that level. But I remain a bit upset for such boogabears to disrupt the ambitions of others. In otherwords, this is nasty campaigning and infighting masquerading as racial politics. Or maybe that's all racial politics is. Who knows? All I can see is a wiffle bat war that makes a lot of noise and slander. You'd think something was actually at stake.

    When I asked for the document over at Vision Circle, I had no idea that such a tiny bit of empty-headed speculation would support such a vitriolic hodload of innuendo, but let me allow you to be the judge. Here is the original and opening paragraph of 'What if the South Won the Civil War?' by William S. Lind, the document quoted by Bill Back.

    If the South had won the Civil War, where might our two countries be today? It is of course impossible to know, and as someone who proudly wears his great-grandfather's G.A.R. ring-he served in the 88th and 177th Ohio Volunteers, and his diary records the monitors bombarding Fort Fisher as he watched from a Union transport-I'm not entirely comfortable asking the question. But given how bad things have gotten in the old U.S.A., it's not hard to believe that history might have taken a better turn. Slavery of course would be long gone, for economic reasons. Race relations today in the Old South, in rural areas and cities such as Charleston, South Carolina, are generally better than they are in northern cities, so we might have done all right on that score. When southerners say they have a special relationship with blacks based on many generations of living together at close quarters, they have a point. The real damage to race relations in the south came not from slavery, but from Reconstruction, which would not have occurred if the South had won. And since the North would have been a separate nation, the vast black migration to northern cities that took place during World War II might not have happened.

    Now here is the opening paragraph of Shannon Reeves' open letter to the California Republicans:

    Dear Colleagues: As many of us have learned in recent media reports, Vice Chairman Bill Back distributed an article entitled, ''What if the South had Won the Civil War?'' -- an article that concludes that problems with race relations in America are the result of slaves being freed through Reconstruction, and black migration out of the south as a result of desegregation. This article trivialized slavery and it trivialized the impacts of slavery on my ancestors and people of African decent. The notion that this country would be better off if my ancestors had remained enslaved, and considered less than whole people, is personally offensive, abhorrent, and vile.

    It may be clear to Reeves that Lind and Back are both neo-confederates, but this is not clear to me. Whereas Reeves goes on in his letter specifically to the heart of race-relations and its attendant symbols, Lind goes on to talk about Federalism, WW2, "Western culture, Christianity and an appreciation of the differences between ladies and gentlemen." which is a hell of a lot of speculation for 525 words in 5 paragraphs.

    I don't really have any questions. Somebody might link Lind's paltry speculation to some more thoughtful expression which reflect honest to goodness Neo-Confederate thought. Somebody might show how Back really only wanted the racial aspect of Lind's writing to be his message - the upshot of which is that the most threatening aspect of Reconstruction - black economic independence and political enfranchisement is what Back hates. But I doubt anybody cares that much. If they do, then they should go a few yards further than I do here. But my conclusion was that both players played a race card.

    Who won? Well, that really depends on whose sensitivities are shared the widest. But this was assymetrical war to begin with. I mean Back could have done a whole lot better if he wanted to use racial code words - it could have been somebody black people have heard about, but who the hell is William S. Lind? That's why I tend to believe that Reeves played himself. Nevertheless, if Back was trying to be as subtle as possible in goading Reeves to explode, he's a cunning master of the new racism..

    I've been a Republican in California for almost two years, and while I've met a few party officials and activists, I've not met either Reeves nor Back. I'm not that deeply connected. Who knows how deep this emnity goes? Certainly not me. What I do know is that this war of words is a distraction. I'm inclined to give both parties in this dispute the benefit of the doubt with one important understanding. If it is true that Back v Reeves is all about the party's real feelings about race then what's true of one is true of the other: both Reeves and Back are window dressing.

    My advice to Michael Steele? Don't ever utter their names.

    UPDATE:

    Shannon Reeves is a man. Shows what I know. (Corrections made to prior text).

    See Also:

  • Baldilocks

    Posted by mbowen at 12:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
  • The American BBC

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

    The big crack is too large to pass over and small ones are appearing all over. Major media are approaching a crisis. Michael Kinsley may be the next casualty, not that I'm quite sure he'd bother to fight back, Check out Slates'

    And before I go, I'd like to second Susan Estrich, who has attacked Michael Kinsley on the charges of sexual discrimination, which he feebly attempts to repel. In his long, miserable chauvinist career, Kinsley has done more to block women, their views, and their professional aspirations than any journalist I know. Just ask Dorothy Wickenden, Ann Hulbert, Jamie Baylis, Emily Yoffe, Helen Rogan, Suzanne Lessard, Jodie Allen, Judith Shulevitz, Jodi Kantor, Margaret Carlson, Dahlia Lithwick, Kathleen Kincaid, Lakshmi Gopalkrishnan, June Thomas, and others. They'll fill you in. Send e-mail to pressbox@hotmail.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

    My speculation about where this might end could have a happy ending in my book, and here's the idea I'd like to percolate. Let's move the American press in the direction of Brian Lamb and have journalists in the major organizations become anonymous voices of restraint. Part of the reason that so much of mainstream punditry is under attack from the blogosphere is because there are far too many columnists who, in the final analysis, are hardly worthy of the level of influence they possess.

    Let's take a peak at the group who I think is going to get axed by bloggers. Ironically, you'll find them listed prominently at the site of one of the first iconoclasts of this war: Matt Drudge. From the 3 AM Girls through Harry Knowles down to Bill Zwecker. These opinion-makers are soon to face the question of interactivity. If they don't face audiences with the same bravery and skill as top bloggers, they'll find themselves increasingly marginalized.

    But there is a big qualification on this, which is even more significant, and incidently something I've been concerned about for quite some time. There is a question of whether those people who come to replace them will in actuality be subject matter experts or just good writers. All of the Drudge-Era columnists are good writers whom I think could survive a good long time based on common sense and style alone. (Not incidentally why I think Cobb can survive). But at the level of the national spotlight, they'll have to be more than that. This means essentially that academics are going to have to speak out of school. It will be the nuance and insight of experts that will rule the day.


    This opinion comes to you from a big fan of CSI. I expect that my love of geeks mirrors that of the public's. We want the straight dope, unadulterated from the source made sensible. We like the Michael Crightons of the world. Such are the demands of literacy in a democratic society, our curiosity will not be ever placated by the pandering of the artful. Sooner or later we need the authentic facts, and time is running out for the Drudge-Era columnists precisely because we now know that we can get to the real experts.

    The Blogosphere is bringing us closer to that reality. I regularly consult the blogs of Jack Balkin, Larry Lessig and Dan Drezner and Bruce Schneier. I am not likely to go back to anchormen as authorities.

    America wants savants. We'd much rather listen to experts we don't quite understand than people who are as ignorant as we are, but are 'presentable' and 'credible'. Given the choice between hearing Geraldo Rivera talk about science, we'd take Ira Flatow. And given the choice between Ira Flatow and the late Dick Feynman, the man who actually brought physics forward, we'd take Feynman in a heartbeat. My bet says that Feynman's books will ever be more popular, even after his death, than Flatow's, if he's written one.

    Part of the appeal of finding these folks in the 'sphere is that each of them have personalities and are interesting in their own right. The facts of news are boring and should be told that way. The people who truly understand and make the news are interesting and should be discovered that way. The current paradigm of broadcast news has perpetrated a cruel inversion in which the storytellers become more interesting than the storymakers. This is what has allowed them to make non-stories into news. This is what has allowed them to make such media creatures as 'The Trial of the Century' or elevate the tribulations of Chandra Levy to national proportions. This is what has to stop.

    If internet technologies motivate large groups of people to form such arenas as the blogosphere going forward, the opportunity for media conglomerates to take advantage will decrease over time. We will find home.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:57 AM | TrackBack

    February 17, 2005

    I Repeat, There is No Crisis, But

    The thing I didn't quite understand the first time around was that there is no cash in the social security trust fund. My current understanding is that in 15 years, demographics will force it to go into deficit spending. That's somewhat scary, but not that scary.

    I have also recently happened upon the opinion which is swaying me a bit. Don't be opportunistic. See, Social Security was voted into being by another generation, and to the extent that it being broken forces my generation to do an expensive fix for the sake a generation too young to vote is like a shot in the dark. I don't particularly like the idea of locking down any legislation that manages trillions over generations. I didn't ask for it, and it's those damned Boomers who are swelling it into deficit spending.

    Smart people who consider themselves part of the investor class have already discounted the value of Social Security. It's just a little bit of supplement, and nobody should have been so dependent on the Government's ability to provide retirement cash. So why should we depend on them to overhaul the program and make it more profitable? That's the core irony of this whole deal. Who could possibly win? Only people who depend on Social Security a lot more than real investors.

    Now here's the rub. Like anybody, I'd much rather not pay the 6 odd percent of my gross paycheck to FICA. And there have been plenty of times when I beat the 90K cap so that I maxed out my annual contribution. So right around Halloween or Thanksgiving I get an extra 6% in my paycheck. Whoo hoo! But Bush's proposal is to raise that cap. So he's actually sucking wealthier people into paying more, therefore making us more interested to see that the FICA funds are earning us more. Isn't that called government dependency?

    So basically I'm taking the conservative position that Bush is being wreckless, and I'll my position is to leave Social Security alone. This potato is too hot, and just like Gay Marriage, the sooner you try to deal with it, the more mess you make. Privatizing Social Security is like a constitutional amendment, it's big big. I don't trust anybody Bush has hired in the financial department, and we all know that Cato is behind much of this.

    Now that I'm griping about domestic affairs rather that geopolitics, I'm thinking that this whole thing is about accounting tricks and not real reform. You want to talk about crisis, talk about health care. It's already getting outsourced.

    We've already had quite enough ideological fervor here Mr. President. Cool your jets. You are not a great bureacratic reformer, so just leave it alone. We'll try again next election.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:46 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    February 16, 2005

    Who is Reggie Fowler?

    Reggie Fowler is nobody that I ever heard of in my entire life until 30 minutes ago, but he is someone I expected has been around for a while. Well, of course he has. How else could he come up with $600 million to buy the Minnesota Vikings? People are going to make a big deal out of his becoming the first black owner in the NFL, but really. Didn't we know that this was inevitable?

    I've only got one snarky thing to say. His business is in Arizona, the state without an MLK holiday. Saints preserve us! How could that be!?

    Yay capitalism!

    Posted by mbowen at 05:12 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    February 15, 2005

    Liberal Spirit

    Right about now, everything is copacetic. I don't have any complaints. Part of that is because the tenor or reportage on Iraq has shifted significantly. Part of that is because I've been thinking about too many other things.

    But I have been thinking about spirituality, and yesterday I heard a name spoken which up until then I had only read. It is the name of Reinhold Neibuhr.

    I've forgotten most of what I learned about Neibuhr reading about him in the writings of Cornel West. But I seem to recall that his influence as a social leader in America was pretty much unsurpassed. That we don't have people like Neibuhr in our contemporary society goes without saying. At times I think that boomers have killed off the very ideas they used to cherish when they spoke of individuals like Neibuhr, and Dag Hammarskjold. The closest we've come to someone so universally well regarded might be Nelson Mandela. But what strikes me particularly is how Neigbuhr struck a balance between ethics, politics and religion in ways that seem almost impossible today. What have we done to stop the rise of such people to prominence?

    I think of this in light of the appointment of Howard Dean to the chairmanship of his party. In every reflection, it just seems to be so mundane, so corporate, such a shadow of the energy he seemed to be able to generate in his poor followers a year ago. And thinking of Howard Dean in that light made me know what it is the Democrats have lost completely, which is the spirituality of liberalism.

    Today's Liberal Spirit is secular. In fact it is for all intents and purposes, agnostic. This is the great foolishness the left has swallowed somehow. Because GWBush has claimed God, the Democrats have disclaimed God, and thus they have lost their claim on the American electorate. In their reactionary zeal, they have mislabeled all American Christians as fundamentalists and alienated the sensible, practical middle. But the worse thing is that they have lost their soul.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:56 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    February 08, 2005

    John Yoo: The Unnamed

    This is the interview that people who have decided to hate Judge Gonzales don't want to hear. It is by John Yoo, the man who is unnamed because of the political pressure Democrats seek to bring to bear in the cause of besmirching George W. Bush, and throw yet another monkey wrench at the idea that Bush is not racist.

    John Yoo is a former deputy assistant attorney general in the office of legal counsel of the Dept. of Justice. He wrote some of the memos in the new book The Torture Papers, including some pertaining to the Geneva Conventions and the definition of torture. He signed off on the memo denying prisoner-of-war status under the Geneva Conventions to al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. Yoo is currently a professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley.

    The basic fact to overcome that our liberal friends can't seem to wrap their heads around is that the Geneva Convention is a treaty. You don't treat people who are not signers to the treaty the same as you do with signers of the treaty.

    Yoo says:

    It is also worth asking whether the strict limitations of Geneva make sense in a war against terrorists. Al Qaeda operates by launching surprise attacks on civilian targets with the goal of massive casualties. Our only means for preventing future attacks, which could use WMDs, is by acquiring information that allows for pre-emptive action. Once the attacks occur, as we learned on Sept. 11, it is too late. It makes little sense to deprive ourselves of an important, and legal, means to detect and prevent terrorist attacks while we are still in the middle of a fight to the death with al Qaeda. Applying different standards to al Qaeda does not abandon Geneva, but only recognizes that the U.S. faces a stateless enemy never contemplated by the Conventions.

    At this point in time, I'm a little bit behind in what Gonzales has done specifically with Yoo's start. If I remember correctly, he did begin by assenting to such a premise as that above (made by Yoo last May) back in 2002 when GWBush was just beginning to look at what the law said. The 'quaint' and 'provincial' adjectives in his comments about the Geneva Convention where then blown completely out of proportion, and then he magically became the Torture Guy.

    Reference:

  • Marty Lederman
    Details the differences between the two OLC memoranda on the Federal torture statute and why laywers like one more than the other. A revised version has been released by a cat named Levin just this week.

  • Volokh
    Should Yoo resign for 'aiding and abetting' war crimes?

  • Vision Circle
    The racial angle. Is Bush exploiting racial sentiments to further an agenda to torture?


    Keywords:
    Hanes, Yoo, Delahunty

    Posted by mbowen at 06:30 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack
  • February 06, 2005

    RIP: Ossie Davis

    Ossie Davis was the man a lot of people think Morgan Freeman is. Ossie Davis is the old man of black acting and activism, a man with a soul two miles deep. A couple weeks ago I was helping Moms with one of her many computer problems, and so being in her bedroom I had to bear up under the weight of the Gospel Channel, whichever one that is. As part and parcel of this was a family drama about a middle aged woman who began to lose her mind from Alzheimers. It had the distinct feel of an episode of 'Touched by an Angel' except for the fact that it ran feature length. As hokey and soapy as it was, there were many truly tender moments in dramatization of things we think we see on television but actually don't. What happens when mom gets Alzheimers. In this drama, which I'm pretty sure was funded by Dobson's group. Davis played the magic negro. He came with the appropriate bibical hardline in a soft reassuring drawl, every time the husband in the story felt as though it were time to give up some virtue.

    I've never been a huge fan nor a great critic of Ossie Davis. He and Ruby Dee have always represented a pedestrian kind of morality which became intimately familiar over the years. Together, the were like soft pokes in the shoulder, never too bossy but always in the same spot. Whenever you thought of a role for Ossie Davis, you knew exactly what you were going to get. A wise old black man coming out of a tradition of love and respect who was going to show you, one way or another, the right thing to do.

    This familiarity was something our generation rebelled against. Davis aptly represented everything dusty about the Old School. Twice in Spike Lee's films, Davis represented an old authority being challenged by youth's vision. As 'Da Mayor' in 'Do the Right Thing', he was called a drunk and ridiculed. That very black tradition of having 'an elder' in every neighborhood was called into question. I believe that to me, and to many others Davis himself became permanently associated with a powerless generation of African Americans whose moral vision was more appropriate to 'Negroes' rather than contemporary blacks dealing with new social issues. On the other hand, in 'Get on the Bus', Lee's film about the Million Man March, Davis represented the disgust an older generation with its well-wrapped universe of culture and respect had for a younger generation often confused and adrift in a world of freedoms they never sacrificed to earn. In either aspect, Lee perceptively cast Ossie Davis, a man you can hardly look at without calling 'Pops'.

    Davis and Dee were producers for a long time in their careers and I will be setting the Tivo to absorb more of them. Ruby Dee must be crying relentlessly now. That they could be apart is a greater tragedy than his death.

    The passing of such actors, pioneers breaking barriers, will be a long season. We will be looking at Poitier and others one day. Buy their DVDs now, if you can get 'em.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:09 AM | TrackBack

    February 04, 2005

    Eye on Ford

    Submandave makes a prediction that I think passes muster.

    Democrat Congressman Harold Ford Jr. from Tennessee will "cross the aisle" and support President Bush in establishing private Social Security accounts. He will end up one of Bush's major bipartisan partners and be invited to the signing of the final Bill.

    Ford has always struck me as the kind of individual who smells like a Republican, in the good way of course. But he's got too much sense to abandon what has been handed to him, so he's a Democrat. He doesn't strike me as the kind of individual who might get his dander up like a Zell Miller, but I don't think he has much other company in the Democratic South, such as it is.

    Ford has instant BAP credibility. Let's see how quickly it gets impugned if the prediction comes true.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:11 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    February 02, 2005

    State of the Union - Live Blogging

    18:08 Even Kerry is clapping.

    ... (missed a few minutes)

    :11 - An active force for good in the world. Confident and strong.
    Quite true.

    :12
    Well, he's jumping straight into it. The legacy. Prosecuted corporate criminals. That's not Ashcroft's doing so much as Spitzer's. Nobody punished Microsoft.

    :13
    The left side doesn't like making tax cuts permanent. 150 government programs that 'don't fulfill essential priorities'. But I do like 'wisely or not at all'.

    :15
    Yay for community colleges. Yay for increasing Pell Grants.

    :17
    Every time he says 'small business' people just yell. Boom boom boom, he's just ripping through this stuff. It sounds like the British Parliament with all the Hear Hears.

    Environmentally responsible forms of energy. Conservation, and Nukes. I knew the nukes were coming. Good on that. Hydrogen fuels, yeah whatever to that. Clean Coal will make a bigger difference. More secure, less dependent on foreign energy.

    :20
    Uh Oh Immigration.
    Rejects amnesty? What's that all about. Hmm. A reversal?

    Social Security. Honor its great purposes. Strengthen and save Social Security. Do I smell triangulation?

    55 years and older. No changes. AARP gets what they want.

    2042? Don't tell me about 2042.

    It should not be a small matter for the US Congress. The left side of the aisle wants to punt.

    Smart move now in citing a whole bunch of ideas. They're all on the table.

    :27
    He sets out the ground rules. Sounds good to me. OK it's not worth all that much clapping. Now this is starting to get boring. It sounds like he's got the whole thing laid out.

    :31
    Does everybody like this Thrift Savings Plan? Well he's pitching it you young people.

    :32
    Government should not undermine the values..OK Constitutional amendment? I thought that was dead. This is all for applause.

    Human life never bought or sold as a commodity. Not bad. CSspan can only focus on one side of the aisle here it seems.

    OK now the activist judge thing. Energize the base. OK

    :35
    We continue to support faith-based...OK.
    Young men an ideal of manhood that respects women and rejects violence. That sounds like Compassionate Conservatism. Parents & Pastors, Coaches and Community leaders. Good one. So now Laura Bush takes the stage. Deft move W.

    :36
    Reauthorize Ryan White Act. Hey the left side stood up. 'Everybody has AIDS'. Oops there got the brothers standing up quick.

    :38
    DNA evidence. Barry Scheck is smiling. Yay. Special training in capital cases? Good.

    :41
    I didn't realize that Dennis Hastert was that fat.

    :42
    NATO is training Iraqi troops? I didn't know that. Maybe they are good for something after all these years.

    :43
    The conditions that feed the ideology of terror. Yeah right, we're going to change the conditions of the world? The only force powerful enough.. is the force of human freedom. Is that so hard to believe? Did Zarqawi say that?

    :44
    Our aim is to build and preserve a community of free nations. Because democracies respect their own citizens and their neighbors. Very good stuff. Ukraine, Palestine. Nicely.

    :46
    Secretary of State Rice. I like the sound of that. 350 million aint much. We can afford that. Is peace within reach? Hmm. I sorta doubt it. But let's give it six months.

    Oooh. Call out the Saudis. Call out Egypt. That's what I'm talking about. Confront Syria. Well the Syrians have a weak government, what can they really do?

    :48
    Iran must give up its Uranium enrichment program. As you stand for your own libery, America stands with you. We have a nice example of this now don't we?

    Aren't people getting tired of standing up and then sitting down again? Well about the Iraqi elections they really do have to. Nice story about the woman who got her parents out of bed. Hey Sofia. This his your night. Brilliant. Is her finger still blue? No matter. This is the highlight of the evening.

    A small group of extremists will not overturn the will of the Iraqi people.

    :55
    An effective command structure for the Iraqis. Iraqis must be able to secure their own country. W, knows that he cannot afford to abandon Iraqis. Anybody who saw the movie 'Three Kings' knows that story. We will not set an artificial timetable. Good.

    :59
    Paen to the troops. Injured troops. Right on target. This is shaping up to be a pretty damned good speech. Bryon Norwood. Hugs. Oh man I'm about to cry.

    :01
    Confidence in freedom's power to change the world. We live in the country where the biggest dreams are born. Good stuff.

    --
    OK it's over. Whew. Somebody give me a tissue.
    Thank God for CSPAN, I couldn't stand to hear the spin coming in right away. Good Night.

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

    Compacts & Contracts

    I am optimistic but have mixed feelings about the new overtures that Republicans and Newt Gingrich are making towards African Americans. The new 'Mayflower Compact for Black America' from the Gingrich camp and Bishop Harry Jackson's 'Contract with Black America on Moral Values' both strike me as mixed blessings.

    These days, it is taken as an article of faith by just about everyone that American Evangelical Christians belong to the Republican Party. To the extent that these initiatives are generated out of that particular sentiment, problems will arise. Were I one of those Evangelicals, I would wonder exactly how closely the direction from the Party is meeting the aspirations of the grass roots. From where I stand it looks like a match made in Heaven, but working out the details will keep everyone in Purgatory for a time. Those details are that everyone in the Party is not genuinely evangelical though they may be looking at the Black Vote that way. Conversely everyone in the black right is not evangelical and they may percieve the Republican effort to be too narrow.

    But even where expectations meet in the middle, I see two important caveats. The first is that one should understand that this is all about votes and the broad appeals are going to be used primarily for marginal purposes. The Republican Party is not going to spend proportional amounts of money to go after all Evangelicals, but as many as possible especially in battleground states. Every candidate that gets generated out of this effort is not going to be dipped in the Holy Spirit. In the end, what matters to Republicans is beating down Democrats and if you can beat down the Devil doing so, that's a bonus, but not a necessity. People who think this is an opportunity to glorify His Holy Name are going to be dissappointed in the end. It's going to come down to money, just you wait and see. Living in California as I do I cannot imagine this initiative being as successful as it will be in the Black South. Then again, I might be surprised.

    The second and more particular point is that it can be assumed that this effort for the Black Vote will be considered a subset of the Evangelical Christian vote, in otherwords a subset with a twist rather than a whole new constituency. These will be people who are looking for blacks who sing Amazing Grace with rhythm, but they won't know who Kirk Franklin is. This represents a bold opportunity in the meet and greet department, and I'm going to cash in on the new openness too. I'm not evangelical by a longshot, so watch my elbows.

    Aside from those gotchas, there is a lot of good afoot. To the extent that getting black votes is a self-fulfilling prophesy and in the end my goals are all about diversifying the heretofore monolithic black vote, this is all good news.

    One particularly bright spot in the news is this meeting as described by the LA Times:

    Last week, about two dozen black civic and religious leaders who agree with Bush on moral issues visited the White House, where they received the president's thanks and were urged to support his plan to revamp Social Security.

    One who attended the meeting, the Rev. Eugene F. Rivers of Boston, said the post-election period marked the beginning of a "significant transformation" among African Americans, a clear move toward the GOP.

    Rivers had been hosted in the White House by Bill and Hillary Clinton, who heralded his work with gangs in Boston. He also has conferred with Police Chief William J. Bratton about Los Angeles' gang problem. Lately, Rivers has been embraced by Bush, whom he supported last year.

    I am critical but not skeptical. I have seen the synergy between white Republicans and conservative blacks up close and personal. It is genuine and real. I've seen the freckle-faced call for moral clarity and patriotic respect, and I've heard the dark-complected 'Amen!'. Yet anyone who thinks this marriage is going to be easy is not paying close enough attention. To my eyes, the kind of fire and brimstone preachers who are down for a moral crusade in terms of anti-gay activism are a far cry from the Thomas Sowells of the world and strangers to the world of Republican fundraising.

    Further, I'm saying it loud and clear right here, that there are going to be struggles for attention in this initiative. The old Talented Tenth contingent, speaking for myself and my existential partners, who are well integrated and upscale are going to seethe a bit while Republican operatives attend to the Moral Minority. But the fact is that ministers do deliver votes whereas all we can deliver is talent and legitimacy. This takes place during a time when moderate Republicans such as myself, McCain, Whitman, Giuliani & Schwartzeneggar are having serious beefs with social conservatives.

    I recognized this dynamic a while back, and I was bit surprised to see that my neocon, pro-business angle on Republican politics was not the dominant position from the black perspective. I expected to see more Walter Williams types in the room, instead we were more than offset by the Jesse Lee Petersens. But that's my own activist gripe; the ordinary black voter is going to be well served by this friction and jousting. The point is that there is attention and attraction.

    In the end, geting below the surface of the skin game is what the Republicans need to do, and they are about to do so. I hope people are smart enough at this juncture to hold tight to their core beliefs and wrangle out some real horsetrading patronage out of these initiatives. Republicans are going to have to be patient and recognize that diversity in the African American electorate is real - that this one size is not going to fit all. Black voters and political activists are going to have to recognize that they don't get to co-opt the entire racial demographic.

    I understand clearly that the advantage in this game at this time lies with black evangelicals. My partner in this struggle of the Conservative Brotherhood, LaShawn Barber, exemplifies where the nexus of the larger American Right and Black Conservatives are meeting right now. Her popularity is self-evident and on the rise. But just like the Brotherhood, black moderates and conservatives are not in ideological lockstep. But all of us are hoping that intiatives of this sort will generate a breakthrough in the national dialog and will energize a diversity of interests in the real diversity of the black electorate.

    The bottom line is that both political parties are going to have to work harder to get and keep the attention, votes and money of African Americans. These initiatives, particular and peculiar as they may be across the broad spectrum of political initiatives to increase the black vote, are welcome and indeed encouraged. Here's to hoping that people are smart about it.

    Check It:

  • VisionCircle
  • Prometheus 6

    Posted by mbowen at 08:03 AM | TrackBack
  • February 01, 2005

    Beyond Bombs

    Thanks to Kevin McCullough, I discovered an interesting tie in Condi's history. It's an interesting time, now Black History Month, to draw connections. It turns out that Rice knew one of the Four Little Girls of Birmbingham Alabama. She says:

    I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, before the Civil Rights movement--a place that was once described, with no exaggeration, as the most thoroughly segregated city in the country. I know what it means to hold dreams and aspirations when half your neighbors think you are incapable of, or uninterested in, anything better.

    I know what it's like to live with segregation in an atmosphere of hostility, and contempt, and cold stares, and the ever-present threat of violence, a threat that sometimes erupted into the real thing.

    I remembered the bombing of that Sunday school at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963. I did not see it happen, but I heard it happen and I felt it happen, just a few blocks away at my father's church. It is a sound that I will never forget, that will forever reverberate in my ears. That bomb took the lives of four young girls, including my friend and playmate Denise McNair. The crime was calculated, not random. It was meant to suck the hope out of young lives, bury their aspirations, and ensure that old fears would be propelled forward into the next generation.


    I've long said that history belongs to the survivors, and there's a huge part of American history that few people want to admit to - the wrong side of the Civil Rights Movement. When you watch Eyes on the Prize, you won't find people pointing with pride to their uncles in the white mob. So there's much moral history written in courage that overwrites the despicable acts, and blackfolks have an upper hand in inheriting that. Doing the right thing in Alabama wasn't easy, but for many it was necessary. We are extarodinarily fortunate that Dr. Rice will never forget.

    Today, after Iraqis have voted after a long dark period in their history, it is perhaps overly simplistic to draw parallels between the unpopularity of presidential orders to send troops to 'interfere' in affairs of self-governance. But there are many of us who hold certain Constitutional constants to be universal. If we are to be called 'outside instigators', sobeit.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:26 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    January 28, 2005

    Eyes Only

    I still haven't made up my mind completely on what to think about the burgeoning controversy over Downhill and Eyes on the Prize, but I'm going to keep the topic alive as long as I can. So if I contradict myself here, sobeit.

    Having watched three episodes of the series, I am bowled over by the nuance of the documentary. It's an astounding revelation to see this material again, and it is becoming clear how quickly our contemporary correctness has diminished and even twisted the details of what made these hundreds of acts of courage part of America's greatest legacy.

    Even as I applauded the boldness of Downhill's move, I hedged my bet. I have been thinking this afternoon that I might want to be the one who gets this stuff distributed in China. In fact, I watched episode one thinking how a Chinese audience (and government) might respond to these stories. As I looked at Mose Wright I thought a poor peasant in China would probably relate to him very strongly. Then how would I stand up in the future and take credit as the African American who spread the word, as a bootlegger? Hell no. And it is the matter of that particular reputation that gives me pause.

    It is strong enough, especially in light of Zimmerman's argument and comment on this blog, for me to recommend against anyone being a distributor of this material. But I wouldn't go as far as I did in the case of the Nick Berg video and urge people not to download or watch it. But I can see that Blackside lawyers have already made their point and the spigot has been cut off.

    What I know however is that I, among with many untold millions would still pay $100 for the box set whenever it comes out. It's just one of those items, that I cannot see an Old School family library without, right next the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, Encyclopedia Africana and other critical materials. So I am very hopeful that whomever has been sitting on a large enough pile to get this thing done has been energized enough by this little blowup to place a bet.

    Please, make this publicity count.

    I would also disobey my own rule of not second guessing blackfolks and call on John Singleton, who just ran into a windfall at Sundance with his new pimp movie 'Hustle & Flow', to invest some of that studio cash into this effort. On the other hand, let Singleton go. Oprah could do this in a heartbeat. Somebody get her on the phone.

    Part of the way I see this has everything to do with the fact that there doesn't seem to be anybody with the wherewithal to get the appropriate people in line. And as time goes by it will become clear whether or not Downhill's action was justified. I say if the whole series isn't available on DVD by Christmas, then we will have shown a small-mindedness that justifies all the rebellion Downhill and their ilk can muster.

    I also disagree that Downhill's choice of 'Eyes on the Prize' shows a lack of respect for the Civil Rights Movement, or that the evocation is wrong. It's a brilliant choice to make the point, just as Rosa Parks was a brilliant choice for the bus boycott. We know that's how test cases are made, you pick just the right set of circumstances and press your point. This point could never be made with a Janet Jackson video. This is the right case.

    Just as Apple has proven that there are real business models that can make huge money with superdistribution, something Hollywood idiots could not muster, I have a gut feeling that there is some group of people who can make this happen.

    And while I don't think any amount of distribution is going to diminish the demand for the DVD boxed set (and no we don't need more voiceover commentary, just ship it as is, and then use the profits to get your bonus DVD or Collectors Edition later), I still recommend against Downhills flashmob distribution on February 8th. So I'll photoshop the icon to reflect that I'm against the distribution. It's clear to me that Zimmerman, Blackside and company are lighting a fire to raise the money. If they prove impotent however...

    The right money will make everybody happy. So let's see it.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:26 PM | TrackBack

    There Is No Crisis, But

    I am one of those who believes that Social Security is not in trouble and that it might be more trouble than it's worth to fix it. But I am not so sure that I am against the fundamental change in perception it would create if it were radically modified or even eliminated.

    As a backgrounder for my personal perspective, I believe that American should accomodate itself to a broader cross-section of citizens. I think there is a certain strength that America loses for not having dealt with Third World conditions within its borders. Therefore I am a proponent of liberalizing immigration and a host of other reforms I call the Internal Empire. America's ego likes to say 'We are the World', but we're not, actually. We need to get more like it and prove the robustness of our multiethnic, multicultural, pluralism. That means American shantytowns, no minimum wage and a large internal Second World. The alternative, it seems to me is dissonance - which always feels like opposition...but let's not go there right now. My point, I think, is made in posts like this called Your Competition. I am very concerned about the strength of our character, we cannot afford to bourgie our way into oblivion which is what I take the rise of Paris Hilton and Nelly to mean.

    As part and parcel of the kind of vigor I am wanting in the American psyche, is that discipline of saving one's own money. If I recall correctly, we were severly admonished during the Reagan administration that our personal savings rates were abyssmal, especially as compared to the Japanese, who were creating lovely curved cars like the Celica while we were still making crap like the Dodge Diplomat. I'm pretty clear on how increased personal savings can be a hedge against inflation, but I'm not exactly sure how it affects the bond market. And somewhere there is a link between the amount of money we owe other governments, deficit spending and trade balance and the amount of money we dole out as part of the government sponsored pension program that is Social Security.

    I intend to find out what increased personal savings outside of a government controlled pension fund means with regard to our overall national economic health. I give this idea the benefit of the doubt, and I'll be checking out with cats like Kudlow & Luskin have to say at Social Security Choice.

    So while I don't believe that we are headed for a cataclysm, and I don't necessarily believe that kicking Joe Sixpack to Wall Street's curb is a good idea, I do believe that there is some balance that can be struck that gives ordinary citizens more flexibility in planning their own retirement which leaves them economically smarter and richer.

    Now I understand that this is part of a longstanding fight by Republicans against government entitlements, much of which is visionary and some of which is actually practical. You won't hear anyone say so, but it's true. If we rid the Feds of the responsibility for Social Security, that's one way to keep Congress from phony accounting with the SS Trust Fund. But it also does something rather excitingly dangerous, which is deplete the number of deductions the government takes out of our paychecks. The effect is that it makes whatever tax increase we may need somewhere in the future look that more horrendous. And what we know here in California is that the legislature will twist itself into knots and starve every agency and break the bank twice over before voting for a tax increase. It's tax anorexia, and we're losing muscle.

    To the extent that there is a temptation to do funny accounting with Social Security funds, and I am a skeptic given the history of what we've done with Savings & Loans and other state funds (specifically Orange County), we need to thin that puppy down. To the extent that a reasonable reform, say putting 50% into the hands of the individual for investment, we need to check that possibility out.

    It's fraught with danger, but there is no crisis.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:08 PM | TrackBack

    January 26, 2005

    Eyes On the Prize

    The prize is the documentary itself. It's available here. If you never downloaded anything in your life, this is the thing to download.

    At 8pm on February 8th we will celebrate the struggle and triumph of the civil rights movement with screenings of Eyes on the Prize Part 1: Awakenings. Eyes on the Prize is the most renowned civil rights documentary of all time; for many people, it is how they first learned about the Civil Rights Movement (more about the film). But this film has not been available on video or television for the past 10 years simply because of expired copyright licenses. We cannot allow copyright red tape to keep this film from the public any longer. So today we are making digital versions of the film available for download. Join us in building a new mass audience for this film: organize or attend a screening in your city, town, school or home on February 8th.

    I'm simply going to add to the chorus of right-minded people who agree that 'Eyes on the Prize' is worth taking. While I really wanted to reserve judgement and hear what Juan Williams had to say, I think that we're simply not going to hear from him. It's probably something he can't say, given his association with NPR. But I've made my decision.

    I am hoping this will be a watershed event. I expect that it will be. And you know what else? Somebody is going to put together a deal and put this out on DVD anyway. In some ways it will be too late, but I think it points to the sad fact that there's not enough of the well-heeled part of the Old School hooked into the issue. I'm glad for the initiative of the Downhillers, but I think the right entity with the right money could have done this. There's no argument about the value of the material. None whatsoever.

    So this is a ribbon I'll proudly wear, as I shuffle things around a little bit at Cobb.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Cashing In On Division

    The new website, Retro vs Metro strikes a tone absent from the origination of MoveOn.org, which is common sense.

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

    January 24, 2005

    Spongebob: Who's Your Daddy?

    Dobson is the target and there's not much he can do about that. He wants to be more people's daddy than he deserves.

    First of all, let me say for the record that of all the characters I've exposed my kids to, Spongebob is one of the most benign and uplifting. If there is any danger in SpongeBob Squarepants, it's that his sunny optimism, guileless demeanor and ready trustworthiness are too disarming in a world of sharks and monsters. But darn it, he's funny and I like him. If I had the wherewithal, I'd be licensing the recipe from Nickelodeon and opening Krusty Krab Restaurants to dot the landscape. In some ways, the world cannot get enough Spongebob. He radiates innocent goodness like no other character in an American child's mediasphere. Only Steve, from Blues Clues, comes close.

    For Dobson to [mis]interpret Spongebob for some perverted purpose is one of two errors. The first is the direct error, the more innocent of the two. It's just a simply misinterpretation - like foreign journalists taking a story in The Onion seriously. But it's more likely the second type of error, which is that of overreach.

    There is are several reasons, I think, for Dobson's overreach. The first, which should never be disregarded, is that he's greedy. He wants more influence and he will compete with everyone to get it. He's found the answers in his own life and he's convinced that everyone should be happy just like him. Groupthink, and he's the leader of the group.

    The second is the Dobson does have real enemies behind the moral decline of pop culture. There's no denying all the porno out there, and there's no evading the fact that somebody has got to fight it. There are a lot of people in the 'arts' who are simply there for the money, and I think the death of Johnny Carson gives us the kind of contrast which is necessary at times like this. There are more late night TV shows in his mold than ever, and I'm sure they make more money than ever. But none of them have the genuine decency that Carson possessed, and there is no way today's system could nurture another like Carson. Instead we have a cigar chomping insult sock pupped dog named Triumph. The triumph of what?

    The third reason is the one that concerns me the most, and that is the abdication of critical reasoning by the millions who focus on Focus on the Family and all other fonts of correctness. Of all the basic things on the planet we humans do, one would think that we would need no assistance in raising our own children. This whole industry of second-guessing parents 'for the sake of the children' has infantalized our entire society. Everybody wants to be family in the narrow mold, everybody wants their lover to be a Married Spouse, even if that person is of one gender in the daytime and another at night. Everybody is looking for a new Daddy to approve of their studied indecision. Understand that Nile Rodgers and the tolerance crew are playing the same game. Why do we need institutions (that pop up out of nowhere every damned week) to tell us the right way to think about each other? Because people won't make up their own minds and be responsible for their own choices. There's a lot of blame to go around here, and the result is social confusion. Enter Dobson, and see reason number one.

    Dobson's Focus on the Family is a necessary part of a complete and balanced society. But like Cheerios, you don't eat it for every meal. Just because it's good for you doesn't mean that too much isn't bad for you. This is too much.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:51 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    January 23, 2005

    The Five Greatest Americans

    Now here's a blog meme that I'm somewhat embarassed by. The reason is that I have never considered that America could be qualified so succinctly except by someone with an agenda. But I'll give it a shot.


    5. Muhammad Ali
    Muhammad Ali was the first American to make people with no reason to love America, love America. He did so by defying the part of America that thought this nation of people belonged to them for all time, and therefore became the kind of American champion people didn't think could arise here. A true hero, a man against all odds, full of love, a fighter who wouldn't kill.

    4. Mark Twain
    Samuel L. Clemons is our greatest storyteller and the originator of the wit we use to puncture our egos when we become full of hot air. American literature stands in the shadow of Mark Twain as does the love of country that calls for sharp political commentary. With his 'Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court' he has fueled the reveries of generations. Of him Hemingway said "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. ... all American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since."

    3. John Brown
    John Brown stands head and shoulders over any other figure in the Civil War, aside from Lincoln. What he represents to me has come entirely from my reading of his life in Cloudsplitter, which had a fairly profound effect on me personally. First and foremost, Brown exemplifies the rough hewn pioneering spirit of America. Here is a man who has well nigh a dozen children, who lives off the sweat of his brow, the discipline of his family and a transcendant faith in his fellow man as commanded by his devotion to the Christian commandment that one love one's neighbor as himself. Even before his crusade as one of the first militants presaging the Civil War, he served for many years as an engineer of the Underground Railroad. His willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of his fellows and his carrying out that to death exemplifies our American belief that the work of the few in service of the many is noble.

    2. Benjamin Franklin
    Benjamin Franklin is a ceaseless inventor, a homiletic individual with a wry sense of humor. He was self-deprecating. Just for writing Poor Richard's Almanac he deserves a place. But more than that he was America's first Renaissance Man. It was the life of Franklin that invited invention and improvisation as core to the American character. He did so as an everyman, not like Jefferson, as a patrician or erudite noble. He is the godfather of every middle class engineer, scientist, and tinkerer. He embodied the public spiritedness of this country and goosed along through his Masonry, the idea that ordinary men can become learned and do well for their nation at the highest levels.

    1. Abraham Lincoln
    Lincoln went the whole nine yards for the nation. Without him holding things together we would have certainly been three nations instead of one. If not three, then Canada would have been larger. His triumph truly represents the creation of the modern America. I never believed that he toed the line all the way for Africans, but as president, he had his priorities in line. He worked tirelessly at great personal cost to keep his administration together, despite great internal strife and generals who kept losing on the battlefield. A remarkable leader, without whom... well.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:38 PM | TrackBack

    What Klan?

    As I travel back down memory lane in my own archives, I find some editorial written by Pops in June of 1998 and realize that it has been that long since the KKK has been on the front page. The incident was the death of James Byrd in Jasper, TX.

    I only bring this up to be provocative in two ways. The first to repeat Pops' own provocation: Where are black gangs when you need them?

    I want to be clearly understood on this point. I am talking about more than an eye for an eye. That, oh shocked reader, would be justice. What I am calling for here is SVV: Stiff Viagra Vengeance...without explanation, apology or guilt. It has been said over the ages that there is no honor among thieves. Well, there is no shame among klansmen or white supremacists. They are the abject scum of this country's more blatant racists. And America has tolerated them and their absolute madness for entirely too long. It is both amazing and ridiculous that there is a fact-gathering Klan Watch and yet not a full fledged Klan Bomb Squad. As I write this DOWN FRONT! and eventually as you read the same, there are klansmen and their associated ilk who are drinking beer or piss (I suspect they hardly care much about the difference) in abject celebration of James Byrd's beating, death and dismemberment. They are of such a warped mentality that the blatant abuse or misuse of Black people is really no big deal. There is historical precedence for what happened in Jasper. The word describing it has gone out of favor, but not the practice itself. During more honest times, the word "lynching" was used. As noted in an earlier DOWN FRONT!, a Black man from Virginia was recently burned and then beheaded. (By the way, one of the white men accused of that crime came to court in a wheel chair and was considered to be much too sick to be tried. He was rearrested just this week after being spotted playing golf!) We're talking about 1998 not 1798 or 1898.

    The second is to note in passing that the Klan hasn't killed any black men or women since then. So who cares or talks about the Klan any more? Not me.

    Nowadays we hear more stuff like this. I think it only goes to prove my point. We are, as African Americans in the main, not all about the politics of Human Rights or Civil Rights, but of Social Power. I think it should go without saying that the advantage currently lies with the Republican Party. What's absolutely hilarious is that in 1998, nobody thought that Henry Kissinger would be asked to comment about his view of the new black female Secretary of State. We're not in Kansas anymore.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:46 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    January 19, 2005

    You Go Girl

    I listened to a teeny tiny bit of the hearings yesterday - actually just the nasty bits excerpted for the NPR radio news. Boxer was really off her game, and is making Democratic opposition look very reactionary. In fact, I think that is basically the state of Democrat opposition these days. There's not much thought behind it. It doesn't even resemble Lefty Liberalism so much as 'Bush is Poison'.

    The Republicans can have a brilliant strategy for winning over marginal minority votes, and that is to tactically appoint blacks and latinos into positions that Leftist activists don't pay attention to. I don't believe Republican strategists are averse to dropping in an ideologue or two, or even a mediocre performer. But there is no doubt that they will continue to flummox the Dems, who have for too long been dominated by a cloying white liberal benefit of doubt when it comes to approving black & latinos. My guess is that there are dozens of significant positions that administer agencies and functions never mentioned in Democrat minority outreach.

    So, not that I have been listening very carefully, I don't expect to hear many comparitive questions about the strategies and tactics of Secretaries of State. What did Madeleine Albright do that Dems did or didn't like and are they applying even a boneheaded litmus to Rice on that basis? No they are not. It's all about FUD against Bush, and the disrespectful subordination of Rice's will to that of 'Evil Massa' Bush.

    Sad, really.

    I can't say that I am way out ahead of most folks on this matter. If anything, I think Rice was a bit more quiet as National Security Advisor than I would have liked. But as I came to understand that is mostly a coordinating activity, I understood the reasons. But during the first term, except for when she handled that other big public hearing, I didn't see Rice as a pivotal individual and therefore hadn't looked to champion or deeply understand her positions. Nevertheless, I am somewhat concerned that Richard Armitage, someone I admired, has not signed on to work under Rice. He was Powell's man.

    As Secy of State, Rice will be out front and get a lot more press. It's going to be lovely, and I am expecting a great deal of interesting press conferences to come.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:40 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    January 14, 2005

    On Kelley's Black Hole

    I got a a wake up call this morning on Norman Kelley's new HNIC book. Although it has been talked about at Vision Circle, I haven't seen nor heard much about the book.

    I like his broadside:

    Black America has no future-oriented vision of itself within the context of American reality. Its politics of the past 40 years has come to a halt, and the leaders of those years have offered nothing of programmatic substance. And in the face of the New Right, for the past 25 years, nothing but symbolic posturing has been offered as leadership. If professional and working middle-class African-Americans yearn for solutions to problems and a reasonable level of economic well-being, they are going to have to cast down their own buckets in the clear waters of organizational efficiency, political accountability and self-generated economic mobilization. As of this moment, there seems to be no other way.

    But I wonder how real is his view of white nationalism in the below:

    At this point in time and history, on the 76th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth, African-Americans have no viable political agenda and economic program or platform to withstand the resurgent phenomenon of white nationalism, an aspect of the conservative movement that has been developing in the country in plain sight for the past four decades. This is due to the decline of effective black political leadership.

    While it's true that most blackfolks live in virtual segregation, I'm not sure that it is not an expression of their will. In other words, I'm starting to buy into the 'self-segregation' argument. (Note my stuff on 'selling out' for life expectancy). Because what is black politics other than a refusal of non-racial politics? (Ooh, that stings!) There is no left, nor right issue blacks might want to support that isn't already discussed in non-black settings. Remember that even the left brainwashed Black Commentator said that Howard Dean's talk about race was the most substantial progress in 40 years. But who black is talking to Howard Dean today? Nobody. There is nothing constructive going on in the old mold.

    White nationalism may be an instructive force in America as surely as black nationalism is. But a clear understanding of the economic forces in this country are not racialized. Wall Street doesn't bank on race. It may take some doing to deal with that because the bank on Main Street is more likely to. But America is going to Wall Street, not Main Street, and Wall Street is going towards the global marketplace. This may be the political leadership blackfolks need to hear: a way to get past the spectre of white nationalism, a new mountaintop to point their children towards routed in the kind of 'clear waters of organizational efficiency, political accountability and self-generated economic mobilization' Kelley speaks of.

    Let me tell you what I believe. American blacks are better off than Albanians and twenty dozen other ethnic groups around the world, and until such time as our plight raises the eyebrows of the Marxists at the UN and the humanitarian NGOs of the world, the level of political activism we need will remain at levels far below those of the Civil Rights Movement. The devolution of black leadership is a direct consequence of the fact of its earlier success, and everyone has moved on. At some point even those skeptics like Kelley are going to have to admit that the reason there is no Bayard Rustin today is because we don't need a Bayard Rustin today.

    Furthermore we'll all have to admit that King and all his associates did not collectively have any sophisticated ideas about what we should be doing in 2005 way back in 1965. If King was working on a Poor People's Campaign, and organizing strikes of service workers, he'd be right on target today in dealing with Mexican immigrants, but not the black mainstream. The Black Power movement crested by 1974: by the time the Symbionese Liberation Army (on the ass end of the late freight) recieved their smackdown, every sensible black thinker had realized that the revolution would not be televised because there would be no revolution. There would only be progress, reform, and evolution, none of it radical.

    Black America has, by and large, arrived at the middle and there is no extraordinary white political agenda to keep them from that, therefore there is no call for an extraordinary black political agenda to counter that. We may long for the days when the Ebony 100 Most Influential Blacks list was an inspiring parade of stars, but that was then. This is now.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:17 AM | TrackBack

    January 11, 2005

    Harold Ford Off Script

    Harold Ford is making lefies wince and moan by refusing to be yet another lockstep hater. Check out the invective:

    The black body politic has been invaded by corporate money, which seeks through its media arms to select a "new" black leadership from among a small group of compliant and corrupt Democrats. Memphis Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. is a principal vector of the disease, an eager acolyte of the corporate-funded Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), and now the point man among black Democrats in the Republican mission to destroy Social Security.

    Some days I despair of being on some mailing lists.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:25 AM | TrackBack

    January 03, 2005

    Magnitudes

    The latest number dead is just about 1350.

    This is the cost in American soldiers lives for the liberation of Iraq. Not long ago, I said this was a small number. Since my comments don't work very well, I can't tell how many people wanted to call me an insenstive so and so, but I imagine it would be a significant fraction.

    This week, we Americans have been struggling with another number of dead. It is somewhere in the tens of thousands. The last time I checked, it was around 144,000 human lives. This is a tragedy of immense proportions.

    The difference is that nobody is responsible. There is no evildoer named 'Sue Nami' that we can hunt down and bring to justice, despite all the jokers who say so. It's just nature.

    It's odd that even though nobody has any precise numbers, a very clear set does arise. Every major newspaper on the planet is within 5% of the others as they do their jobs, presumeably as responsibly as possible. Somehow, despite the lack of sophisticated communications in what are putatively very primative places, the death toll is reliably reported. I bring this up for a number of reasons, none of which is particularly jolly this New Year's Eve. But it strikes me that when it has come to putting a figure on the number of civilian casualties, a particular number which the anti-war crowd finds singularly important. But there are no reliable figures.

    As readers of Michael Crighton know, this particular disaster, a huge tsunami, is precisely the kind of event that environmental terrorist had indeed planned to kick off - at least in fiction. The coincidence between the publication of this book and the actual event is one of those freak occurances that people's minds try to makes sense of. We are pattern-recognizing machines, we humans. Speaking of which, there is a real conspiracy theory out there about this tsunami being man-made. So don't doubt that people are willing to take great leaps of faith into the unknown and say there are definite answers when there are not.

    Anyway, I know this is a sloppy post. But I just wanted to smack people around a little bit, who think Rumsfeld is so bloody evil.

    BTW, here's another decent comparison.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    December 28, 2004

    When To Worry

    I just got off the phone with DP, the only guy I know who likes to talk economics and politics with me. Now that I don't owe him any money we'll probably talk more.

    He seems convinced that the US economy is going to implode and maybe take the rest of the world with it. Why? Because we don't educate our people and everybody else is. I could buy it, but I think the problem is one with which Americans will live comfortably. How do I know? Because we don't make BMWs here. Daimler Chrysler notwithstanding, the overwhelming majority of Americans are quite capable of dealing with the fact that other nations are more capable at things we previously boasted about.

    I had a bet with an intellectual associate. He guested that the price of gas would hit 6 bucks a gallon this past summer. I probably would have bet him that oil would not hit 60 bucks a barrel and he would have won, but tripling the price at the pump was inconcievable. But if there are inevitable shocks to the domination of the American economy on the world stage and millions of poor and middle class folks feel the big hurt, I say that they'll adjust. Sure there are millions of pampered poodles among us who will squeal and keel over in a squeeze, but the rest of us will get our hands dirty, tighten our belts and be happy to be middle class citizens of a second-class world power.

    But none of this calamity will hit without warning. We'll have plenty of time to get used to it and, like boiling frogs, we won't notice it so much. Unlike boiling frogs, we won't become lunch. Even if 20% of the American economy is a bubble, it will pop in slow motion. What will we hear?

    I think we'll see the Olympic gold medal count drop. People will stop going to football games. Marinas around the country will have slip rental rates drop and docks go empty. Lobster dinners will start costing even more. But here's the key. When McDonalds shrinks its menu and the 99 cent cheeseburger becomes a thing of the past, then it's time to worry. When people's light bill doubles, then it's time to worry.

    When more sitcoms and romantic comedies start looking completely fantastic, we can worry. When small towns start filling up with ex-city slickers learning to hunt deer for food. When Americans really start to hate rich people. When street gangs overwhelm cops because cops don't get paid enough because tax revenues are too small because businesses are failing, in Chicago. When city people start buying cars that they can learn to repair themselves. When people stop putting swimming pools in their homes and buying aftermarket accessories in a variety of industries. When the two car family becomes a rarity.

    These things are over the horizon of predictability. > 50 years.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:10 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    December 16, 2004

    The Old Vig

    It's true that sunshine is the best policy. Terri Gross had a difficult time, often sounding incredulous, as she interviewed Richard Viguerie on her NPR radio show.

    She tried to zing the old codger several times, even though he didn't come off very sophisticated, I would grant that he knows the difference between a homosexual and activists for the gay rights agenda. It's difficult to suspend the disbelief that most Americans don't particularly like gays or gay politics when you're talking in the today's mainstream media. But you can't really credit Vigurie for being sophisticated *and* candid. He's candid, and for that one can be grateful, but he's not a face for tv or a voice for radio. This is understandable - let Ralph Reed do that kind of stuff.

    Then again, I think the dodges that Reed and some others have taken are too clever by half. You really need to drag out the rednecks and tell Blue-Americans in plain language that they have reasonable opposition.

    I think Vig's problem, which gives me problems, is that he overstates the influence of his brand of conservatism. So it's a little difficult, given the lack of specifics he could reasonably state int he course of the interview whether he fits firmly into a Paleoconservative suit, although that seems clear. Whereas I am a neoconservative, vis a vis Wilsonian foreign power, actively engaged in the creation of stable global free markets and evangelical libertarianism with big government (military + diplomatic + commercial) backbone, Vig clearly longs for mythical good old days when everyone was a 'Judeo-Christian' and bread cost a nickel. I think it is patently true that most moderates and liberals are unable to disaggregate Viguerie's brand of conservatism from mine, nor make sense of our common bonds.

    Viguerie didn't get deeply technical into the mechanics of his grass roots revolution of which Rove is clearly the full heir. Nor do I believe that listeners to the interview would grasp how important it is to understand how marginal / critical is the evangelical edge the Republican Party has gained. But what he said was clear. Over 20 odd years, 'conservatives' went from getting 45% to about 53%. What was new were the evangelical Christians - people who were always in our backyard, just not so actively enfranchised.

    That Viguerie is not whole-heartedly behind W. demonstrates the discombobulation between conservatives and Republicans. It was CIA Bush who straightened up Reagan's budget deficit mess while trying to be as Teflon. He couldn't swing the deception but nobody cared because the smart money was happy that the deficits were getting cleaned up. Just as there were a lot of happy Wall Streeters during Clinton's career.

    I'm the kind of marketeer who aims to profit no matter what the tax burden. There will always be winners under every regime. So it's odd that Vig is still playing to the middle class who like the *ideology* of tax reduction and small government but are not as likely to materially benefit as us crafty bastards at the top of the capitalist food chain. 'My tax attorney can beat up your (lack of a) tax attorney' is the name of the game no matter who occupies the Oval. It not yet clear that Republicans are carrying the torch for Vig's brand of conservatives and this is patently obvious when you look at budgets passed by Republican vs Democrat congresses. It's basically a tie.

    But Vig was right on target in confirming the conspiracy of manufactured consent. If you are a liberal and have a difficult time understanding what the righties are saying when they say 'liberal media' all you have to know is that they are asserting the same thing that Chomsky is asserting about America's ecology of thought. And the discomfort of finding out the realness of cats like Viguerie is exactly the price we pay for having a more porous and decentralized mediasphere. Just as the audience of "Will and Grace" can't bear the thought that some Americans use phrases like 'homosexual agenda', discomfort with the realness of your heretofore unknown neighbors is the name of the game. Clearly those against gay marriage are uncomfortable with Will and Grace.

    Vig's take on the Culture War is totally Paleo, and I think he's off his nut on this matter, not in substance but in tactics. Elected office is not a cultural bully pulpit. Everything that is wrong with the 'government sponsored political correctness' is precisely wrong with his activism to put enough fundamentalist friendly public servants into office. If you want the Church to be more central in the lives of Americans, you do it in Church, not in the Courts, the Congress, nor the White House. This is the basic error of Viguerie's brand of populism. The ends may be laudable, but the means poke a hole in the Constitution. I happen to believe that such efforts will be futile - this country is already too pluralist and multicultural to ever 'return to Judeo-Christian values'. But what Paleos like Vig don't understand like Neos like GWBush and I do understand is that despite a world dotted with AQ Jihadists, most of the non-'Judeo Christians' and totally in synch with freedom, democracy and free markets. That's why they keep coming here. But it's not the kind of experience a man Vig's age would know. I'm confident that he can't pronounce half the names in the American white collar workforce - he doesn't know what it's like to live like I do - in a truly global education & labor market.

    It's absolutely true that this is what happened today at work. We had a potluck. For lunch I had pizza, spanish rice, eggrolls, taro cake, and a bowl of chili. Somebody had set up a karaoke machine and on it was playing Adam Sandler's take on a Hanukka song. The guy in front of me was Korean, next to him was Chinese. To my right were two Indians, on my left was a latino and an Irish looking cat. A black woman and a blonde woman were organizing folks to wrap Christmas presents (donated Wal-Mart) for local kids. I missed the Thai glass noodles and the vegetarian lasagna, they came after I finished. The Chinese guy and the Indian woman were making jokes to each other about leaving food on their plates, because people in the other's country were starving. This kind of thing happens every day in my America.

    What Viguerie does understand is the power of alternative media and the opening up of many channels of news and communications. Mike Krempasky can be proud that his campaign in the blogosphere has influenced Vig enough to mention it many times in the interview. Even though I'm not one to advertise, its that kind of grass roots exchange that makes the difference and I've seen blogads for Vig's book several places.

    On the whole, I think Vig's lessons are simple but that those who are not conservative take the margins for the center. Viguerie is caught up in Republican success but clearly wants more from his corner of the conservosphere. I expect and hope that he won't get his way in the Culture Wars, which should not be waged through the law, but his brand of populism may bring such matters standing as a matter of course. Interesting resolutions lie ahead.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:36 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    December 15, 2004

    Damn! It Still Hurts

    I went and did it again. I tried to watch the Blood of Heroes site without crying. Still can't do it. I didn't make it past the fifth picture.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:14 PM | TrackBack

    December 13, 2004

    Scott Peterson: Dead

    Good.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Bernard Kerik: Dead

    I'm not clear on the concept here. How does it come about that nominees for public office are outed for their extra-marital affairs? Who finks? I imagine that the skill required to get this information is part and parcel of the investigative journalist's toolkit, but who are the asshats responsible for saying 'go'?

    Is it just me or is this information rather difficult to find? I mean are women willfully blind? Was Kerik very sloppy? Or does national media attention literally have the ability to get the dirt on anyone? It's an ugly situation, I imagine. I wonder if anyone knows who knows what about whom, and what daggers lie waiting to be inserted into backs - if only there's a reporter to tell.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:17 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    December 08, 2004

    Spence on the NAACP

    My man Spence has put together an amazingly concise breakdown of the structural problems of the NAACP.

    In my experience, I have noticed symptoms of the problems with the organization, especially in my dealings in Boston in the early 90s. I had not, in my dismissals understood that they were structural, rather I assumed that they were the result of failed leadership. Having some history with black organizations, I was very aware with the kinds of folks most attracted to the kinds of platform an NAACP position offered. So my interpretation of 'incapable' as a description of the organization always presumed a political and philosophical roadblock. Now I see the kinds of things the organization can never address as they are constituted. Smells like opportunity.

    Nevertheless, anyone who would have any expectations of the NAACP should read Spence's analysis in order to better understand its limits.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:21 AM | TrackBack

    December 02, 2004

    NAACP: Do or Die

    Following up on the NAACP, Booker Rising takes issue with my position:

    The moderate-conservative Republican argues that Kweisi Mfume, the outgoing head of the NAACP, didn't do the job that might save the NAACP from obsolescence. He argues that to remain relevant, the NAACP must become a multicultural organization: "That the NAACP is black and not Asian and Latino is a problem. It is a problem that the NAACP must resolve or face increased marginalization. Its byline is that it is the oldest Civil Rights organization. That's like saying the Communist Party is the oldest party in Russia. That means it's more about the past than the present. Problem."

    We vociferously disagree. After all, no one is calling for the National Council of La Raza to include (non-Hispanic) blacks. And this strategy erroneously assumes that the interests of blacks, Latinos, and Asians are similar. How does one explain illegal immigration? It's in Latinos' interest for there to be lax enforcement. Strict border enforcement is in black folks' interest, as we bear the brunt of illegal immigration's effects. However, we agree that the NAACP must focus its priorities on today's pressing issues - not those of the 1960s.


    There is almost no significant civil rights issue on which MALDEF, Asian groups and the NAACP disagree. This was a point I tried to drive home inthe wake of the LA Riots. The media was making the country believe that it was blacks against all asians, when the problem was specific to certain korean merchants. Blacks and Japanese, especially in Crenshaw, never had beef. Nor did blacks and Chinese or Vietnamese. But the very divisiveness that puff journalists were able to highlight could have been squashed by an NAACP under somebody other than Chavis. I thought that somebody was Mfume.

    Now today MALDEF, La Raza, and all the rest are doing the same thing they were doing 20 years ago with no greater integration with the NAACP as before. That's a political fact. But on Civil Rights issues like California's prop 187, they were all on the same side against it. Meanwhile no real multicultural coalition organizations have arisen, as each group has taken their political and social capital and run their own way. Fine. but.

    Civil Rights is Civil Rights. I don't think there is much work to be done. For American citizens the bar is the same, and it's reasonable to say that the Congressional Black Caucus has done all that needs to be done with regards to providing leadership, which is to say not a whole lot. I don't see what little meat on the bones is worth splitting amongst those few organizations if their concern is truly Civil Rights. Which illustrates my point, it's not. They are ethnic poltical organzations. To the extent that is true, I think it is a failure of the legacy of the NAACP, and if the IRS thinks so too, good.

    So make it one civil rights organzation for everyone, or drop the pretense and be the Black Left Coalition.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:40 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    November 29, 2004

    The Real Oracle

    It turns out that the W brothers aren't quite the storytelling geniuses they were cranked up to be. Somebody named Sophia Stewart has won her day in court charging that the Ws ripped off her ideas big time.

    Monday, October 4th 2004 ended a six-year dispute involving
    Sophia Stewart, the Wachowski Brothers, Joel Silver and Warner
    Brothers. Stewart's allegations, involving copyright infringement
    and racketeering, were received and acknowledged by the
    Central District of California, Judge Margaret Morrow residing.

    Stewart, a New Yorker who has resided in Salt Lake City for the
    past five years, will recover damages from the films, The Matrix I,
    II and III, as well as The Terminator and its sequels. She will
    soon receive one of the biggest payoffs in the history of
    Hollywood, as the gross receipts of both films and their sequels
    total over 2.5 billion dollars.

    Stewart filed her case in 1999, after viewing the Matrix, which she
    felt had been based on her manuscript, "The Third Eye,"
    copyrighted in 1981. In the mid-eighties Stewart had submitted
    her manuscript to an ad placed by the Wachowski Brothers,
    requesting new sci-fi works.

    Ahh the woes of intellectual property. Her side of the story is all here.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:49 PM | TrackBack

    Conservatism and The Black Image

    Ed Brown has been jabbing me in the ribs every week about why the Black Right hasn't defended Earl Graves when he did right, or why the Black Right didn't defend Kwesi Mfume when he did right. I don't have specific answers to that, just a general one. Black Conservatives don't play the 'Positive Black Images Game'.

    My theory is fairly simple. Once you step outside the homestead of black liberal politics, you're on your own. And one of the first notions that goes out the door is cosmic justice. You see, you will realize very quickly as a black conservative, that a sizeable majority of blackfolks don't have your back. Black conservatives haven't lost their minds, they've only lost the benefit of the doubt. It is that benefit of the doubt (which is more or less the confirmation of an archtype / stereotype) you suddenly cannot be a 'black leader' as they are popularly understood to be. You lose the right to publicly call yourself poltically black without a measure of controversy. And to the point of this essay, you lose the credibility accorded those who might protect the image of the black man and the black woman. That's a job that black conservatives are not allowed to have, despite the upper middle class desire latent in all Americans to have black conservatives represent. The positive black image is a conservative cultural fact that is denied by liberal politics.

    This afternoon I considered the possibility that there is a class of black entrepreurs in the rap industry who are more influential than anybody dares say. I just hear tell of some producer who is under indictment for money laundering to the tune of 1 million dollars. Now we can all pretend not to be impressed with such a figure, but not many people get their hands on that kind of cash. Obviously it's drug money we're talking about; half of gangsta rap is an open source biography of ex-drug dealers and hustlers. So who represents black businessmen? Well, if you count what goes on television, and who gets documentaries made about their life stories, the answer is clear. Big ballers. They control the image. It's their surly lifestyles who make up the public knowledge of our rich and famous.

    For me, becoming a Republican, as an expression of black conservatism has been difficult. But becoming Republican for its own sake was easy. The difficulty of being a Black Republican has everything to do with fighting every perception about blackfolks that doesn't fit with every perception about Republicans. Most of my conservative black cronies get over this hump, but most blackfolks, including many conservatives I know personally, have a hard time with this reconciliation. So they are 'independent'. I understand that most folks of this sort have nothing to prove politically, and so it's not so critically important that they make something of their political identity. Nor is it so important that I make something of it. But for those who take political activism and politics more seriously, the identity issue with black Republicanism is real.

    The battles are fairly shallow and interminable. They go on and on about the same idiot things. It's a trap that liberals never seem to tire of baiting. Black Republicans take a measure of false pride in their embattled status and do a good deal of sniping back. But in the end, the existentials of Black Republicanism are acheivable in short order. You get over it, you're in, and the world keeps turning. But if there is one real lesson that black Republicans learn quickly, it is that they have very little control over their image. It is just another species of racism. No matter what black Republicans do, we can't seem to get enough credit for it to outweigh the stereotypes.

    Out of this experience it is clear to me that the manipulation of the images of blackfolks continues to have significant payoffs to certain political interests which are aligned with the interests of racist and the non-thinking of the ignorant. This is a consistent fact whether one is conservative and liberal. Somebody is always challenging with ignorance or with lies, the image of the African American you have in mind. The significant difference between conservatives and liberals on this matter is that liberals fight for absolute control over that image and conservatives inevitably relent. The liberals have won.

    The maintenance and construction of the image of the African American is a perennial liberal project. They're all putting in work. It's a task they win whether or not positive images are maintained, because there is a liberal interest in portraying blacks as oppressed. There is also a liberal 'responsibility' for black success too. The only image that disconcerts black liberals and presumeably most whites (liberal whites + racist whites) is that of the independent self-made black, aka 'uppity negro'. Ironically, many rappers fit that mold perfectly.

    We in the Old School are happy enough with our own well-understood image to overcome existential burdens faced by the multitudes who fret and sweat over media images. That doesn't make the lies more digestible, but underscores the value we place on self-understanding (starting with Woodson). But whether we opt out of the uphill battle of correcting popular stereotypes, or ignore the whole game with some self-satisfaction, it's clearly not our bag. While the occasional Cosby is quite welcome, ultimately we have to say that we knew who we really were all along. But I believe that even when we say what we are all about and try to exemplify, we're never going to win the images battle. Nevertheless, we have the reality of individuality and truth on our side. That's good enough for me.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:05 AM | TrackBack

    November 25, 2004

    Artest & Race

    Maybe I ought to pick a theme a week and beat it to death. I'm still not finished with Abortion, but I've been having too much fun planning my Thanksgiving and being disgusted with David Stern.

    Is there a racial component to this discussion? That depends on how large it is. I think people who consider this matter as an extremely horrible situation for the NBA are influenced by race. I think most sound minded people see it as a brawl and little more.

    Race plays into this at this level only because of the world historical hype that has put an exclamation point behind every adjective. As soon as you start talking 'image of the NBA' then you are talking race. It is inevitable and unaviodable to deal with race if you desire to manage that public perception of a national sports league. Scale it down, and it's a big fistfight between assholes that got nationally televised and talked to death. Scale it up and race is just as legitimate an issue as anything else.

    Before this incident, most people never heard of Ron Artest. So how suddenly is he the face of the NBA? Only because he fits a racial stereotype. Nobody has asked Artest to conform to the behavior of anyone other than black role models. He's not Robert Parrish and he has nothing to prove to America, he's just another pro athlete.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:31 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    November 23, 2004

    Why Conservatives Should Defend Ron Artest

    David Stern's banishment of Ron Artest from the NBA amounts to the establishment of a nanny state.

    A guy walks into a bar. He gets drunk and insults another patron. The offended party takes a swing at the drunk and connects, knocking the drunk on his butt. The drunk stumbles towards the door. On his way out the door, a trial lawyer who just happened to be in the same bar informs the drunk that the man who hit him is rich, and offers his services to sue. The drunk takes him up on his offer and wins 2.5 million in civil court. The bar patron declares bankruptcy and lays off 15% of his employees.

    Justice?

    When I first moved to NYC and was tutoring kids in a program at Columbia, an Italian guy asked me why Americans are so arrogant. I told him it's because we are always within a few degrees of separation from somebody rich. We don't have to work as hard as other people to reach a level of material success. The secret? OPM. Other People's Money. There's an entire class of Americans who reach affluence and leisure just managing OPM. Since this Italian kid was a grad student, I reasoned that he was surrounded by just such Americans. He suddenly understood.

    There is also another class of Americans who prefer to be the movers and the shakers, rather than their attendants and toadies. These are truly remarkable people who are easily distinguished from the idle, decadent and otherwise Paris Hiltonesque rich. We're arrogant because we're a few degrees away from them too.

    Anybody who thinks there are any atheletes who didn't work their asses off to get to the top of professional sports is really living in a dreamworld. People like Ron Artest are the go-getters, and people like David Stern are the estate administrators. When the attendants and toadies can transfer wealth to appease the whinings of drunk fans and the morally outraged, it is an inversion of the values that make this America a great place.

    It's class warfare. It's soaking the rich. It's wrong.

    The Indiana Pacers have just been destroyed by the collective actions of drunk Detroit fans and their head commissar, David Stern. Be afraid.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:34 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

    Stern, Ashcroft & Saturated Awareness

    I thought I might get away with only talking peripherally about the Detroit melee, but I have actually found interesting in the matter worth talking about directly.

    First of all, my opinion. No punch in the face is worth 5 million bucks. There is absolutely no way in hell it is acceptable for Artest to be suspended for a season. This is nothing more than a pure excess in moral outrage. The punishment is outsized. In the ideal situation I would have done this as Artest; have the culprit identified and setup a special legal situation. On the condition that I don't sue your family into starvation, you will drop your gaurd and I will deliver a crisp combination to your face. I will then spit in your face. The beating will be videotaped and delivered to the internet. OR I will sue you into bankruptcy. That's justice.

    But there is no justice being dealt in this matter. Almost immediately I've noticed how quickly folks have fallen into a pattern which is almost identical to that of the immediate wake of nine-eleven.

    The thing to keep in mind is that something changes when you get media saturation of this sort. It happens fairly often in America. At least three or four times a year there is an event that is so prominent that you get the effect of 100 million minds thinking about the same thing at the same time. This is what I'm calling Saturated Awareness. It is a powerful force that is not being appropriately considered.

    The standard sets of analyses about who knows what and when is certainly appropriate, but the problem is that very little use is made of the strength of public ethics. In November of 2001, all of us found 'anthrax' somewhere, and we tested the ability of our phone systems and police departments to respond to our concerns. They couldn't of course. Our new diligence overwhelmed authorities, and it always will. In these situations, there are winning and losing leaders. The winning leaders, like Rudy Giuliani are the ones who respond by the reassurance of directing our concern into actions we can take. The losing leaders like John Ashcroft are the ones who respond by promising to lead a regime of change so we don't have to do anything. In other words those who promise to take care of us fail. Those who show us how to take care of ourselves win.

    In the meantime a portion of the new elevated consciousness should rightly fuel greater scrutiny on whomever was asleep at the switch. It's enough that a few heads should roll, but generally there is already somebody who already knows what should have done, but simply didn't have the focus or resources to do their job. Common sense dictates that some security guards doing their jobs could have maintained a bright line between fans and players and avoided the conflict at the Palace. Now that everyone knows it, it would be trivial for 100 million of us to pitch in a penny each to fund such an organization. Instead, the Commissioner is out to make an example of Artest. Why? To attempt to satisfy our needs and do something for us. But that something cannot be done for us. We have to do it ourselves, we need to be better fans, and the Commish needs to show us how. If he did so, we'd immediately see the difference.

    Americans are like that. It's why we like singing God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch. It's our part. It's a fairly useless and almost ridiculous part, but it was what we were asked to do and we always want to do our part. That says a lot about the quality of our leadership doesn't it? You bet.

    What is mind-bending is that so much of this is Saturated Awareness is forgotten. Only the experts retain the kind of institutional memory required. That's why leadership is still as important as ever. The last time something like this happened, it involved none other than Latrell Sprewell choking his coach. In my opinion this was a much more egregious act by a player than going after some drunk who hit you in the face with a thrown beer. And yet I heard nobody draw the parallel between last Friday's brawl and that incident, or to Roberto Alomar's spitting incident in baseball. If they did, then they'd have to confess how stupid million dollar fines would seem, now that the public outrage has died down. Most of us would still be breaking our necks to pay for that gob of slob or glancing punch both of which happened over 6 years ago.

    It comes down to the acts of individuals but when they are so deeply analyzed and so broadly covered, it is human nature to try and draw parallels. When the act is shocking and despicable it's our instinct to punish severely and then try to set up a zero-tolerance policy. It's almost like clockwork, we can expect somebody to demand some change 'so that this will never happen again'. This is the beginning of error.

    But things like this do happen, it's just that we're not paying attention. So it wasn't surprising to find that within a few days a similar incident was reported. The reality hasn't changed, we've just been made painfully aware of it. That painful awareness gives insightful leaders an opportunity to treat us like the adults we are and assist us in making intelligent contributions to society. Instead the temptation to make outsized gestures and overwroght proclamations seizes leaders by the throat and chokes the brains out of them. So it has been in Basketball and Justice.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:34 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    November 20, 2004

    Goodbye Sears

    Wall Street (investors) cheered the sale of Sears & Roebuck to KMart this week. Ordinary Joe should look forward to seeing the Craftsman Tools being sold at Home Depot. This is a money deal and everybody seems to understand that perfectly.

    When I was a kid, I believed that American Corporations were these giant, permanent immovable objects. I have learned that they are a great deal more dynamic than I ever imagined. In fact, they come and they go. This particular move is something of a surprise. While my stock market predictions are just about right (Dow 11,000; NASDAQ 2,100) for the year, predicting what will happen to businesses is literally anybody's guess.

    Well I don't care what anybody says, Sears is going down. The guys at Kudlow & Cramer were just salivating over the deal. US News says:

    At the Manhattan meeting, hedge-fund manager and self-proclaimed Warren Buffett fan Edward Lampert, who owns 15 percent of Sears and will serve as chairman of the combo, conceded that the deal was an "enormous undertaking." But he also expressed confidence that a strategy of cutting costs, mixing the pair's most successful product lines--Martha Stewart Everyday from Kmart, Kenmore and Craftsman from Sears--and converting several hundred Kmarts situated in more upscale demographic areas into Sears stores would work.

    I don't buy it. They saliva was over real estate. That's right. And I think we're just about at that point where the American people have gotten so silly that we need to understand the value of land again. Too much high falutin' going around for my taste, and so we need a little bit of interest rate creep and to see the price of gold break 500 bucks. I say Lampert is valuable as Sears' very own Carl Ichan. He doesn't know snot about retail and will not in a million years beat Wal-Mart prices or Target savvy. So he'll do a bunch of real estate transactions, change what malls look like, and carve up Sears into little pieces with KMart's cash.

    Marketing people are seing the light of a new day. People don't care about brands as much any longer. We don't care if it's a Kenmore washer, we care that the damn thing doesn't shake the whole house in the spin cycle. Quality is divorced from brands, and people buy 50 dollar DVD players, and throwaway 'burner' cell phones. Comprende? We don't 'Trust Sears' we just shop there.

    Mark my words, KMart is going bye-bye and Sears is next. Only shareholders will be happy. The rest of us will be at Wal-Mart & Target.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:08 PM | TrackBack

    Da Brawl

    Elections are not enough. We need fistfights.

    I haven't said anything about fuckthesouth.com and various snide backbiting about red states and blue states, but I've had it about up to here and I'm ready to smack somebody. But I'll admit to it. Over at Baldilocks, she found and remarked upon a classified ad that some Dem put out as an open invitation to a fistfight. He wanted to find somebody who actually voted for Bush so he could kick his red ass. I'd pay for ringside seats, and really couldn't wait for somebody to throw a beer.

    I grew up in a fistfight neighborhood, the oldest of four boys. So I know just where this comes from, how far it goes, and how long you can put it off before it gets too crazy. But human beings have a visceral need to push and shove, to smack each other in the face when logic doesn't suffice. There is a superceding logic of violence that we need to satiate - man does not adjudicate by words alone.

    I've been in enough fights and seen enough fights to know the good ones from the blood feuds. You don't let a man who wants his wife back to fight the man who took her. That kind of squabble can't be squashed mano a mano. But a debate about an election? Yep? The man who kidnapped your kid? Nope - that goes to the death, but the man who cut you off in traffic, or called your president a fucking idiot warmonger. This is the kind of talk that can be shutup by a left hook to the schnoz. The problem is that most of the weenies who can't figure out how to get their life back on track in the wake of GW's double are those most in need and least likely to get the crap beat out of them. So they remain full of crap; vile, vindictive, uber bitchy, trifling, backbiting snitty crap.

    I can't think of anything more stupid and poofy than all this mouthing off about what the 'blue states' ought to do to the 'red states'. As if they would. All written by metrosexual journalist pricks who couldn't catch a football much less run their own country. The very idea that these guys could go their separate ways and lease the US Military is the height of condescension. Do I sound as if I were sick of hearing it? And don't let me forget Arianna Huffington, who is just the kind of shrill instigator that keeps this fever up. Man what I wouldn't pay to see that one smacked into silence. And Rush Limbaugh puking every 10 seconds during GWBush's dedication of the Clinton Library? Oh my god beat his lard ass down.

    What's this? Violence to cow dissenters into silence? Yes, because the opposition isn't loyal enough to take one on the chin from and for their brothers. That's just the kind of fight that needs to take place, where the combattants realize that their differences are enough to bring the conflict to blows, but that they still must live together as brothers. That's how the dynamic works - and suddenly there's a new kind of respect shared. The aggrevating harping stops when you know the retort can be physical, and when both parties have exhausted themselves physically in the ring, they have to get up and have that bloody embrace. But unless that happens all the nasty, snarky, snide spitting continues.

    I have no idea how we as a nation are going to get this done. Maybe it will happen the way it happened in Detroit this weekend. Sports hooliganism. If it were possible to get the Dallas Cowboys into the Superbowl representing the red states and the New England Patriots representing the blue states, that would do it for us. Then all over the country we could have some nice bar brawling. But if talk radio and blog bitching continues as it has, I remain convinced that we're not going to be right until some of us eat some knuckle sandwiches.

    Any liberal blogger who wants to duke it out with me, I'd be happy to put on some boxing gloves and go a round with you. I promise to raise your hand in victory at the end, after I smack the crap out of you.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    November 19, 2004

    The Biography of a Parrot

    condibyoli.jpg
    Dr. Condoleezza Rice became the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, commonly referred to as the National Security Advisor, on January 22, 2001.

    In June 1999, she completed a six year tenure as Stanford University 's Provost, during which she was the institution's chief budget and academic officer. As Provost she was responsible for a $1.5 billion annual budget and the academic program involving 1,400 faculty members and 14,000 students.

    As professor of political science, Dr. Rice has been on the Stanford faculty since 1981 and has won two of the highest teaching honors -- the 1984 Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching and the 1993 School of Humanities and Sciences Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching.

    At Stanford, she has been a member of the Center for International Security and Arms Control, a Senior Fellow of the Institute for International Studies, and a Fellow (by courtesy) of the Hoover Institution. Her books include Germany Unified and Europe Transformed (1995) with Philip Zelikow, The Gorbachev Era (1986) with Alexander Dallin, and Uncertain Allegiance: The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army (1984). She also has written numerous articles on Soviet and East European foreign and defense policy, and has addressed audiences in settings ranging from the U.S. Ambassador's Residence in Moscow to the Commonwealth Club to the 1992 and 2000 Republican National Conventions.

    From 1989 through March 1991, the period of German reunification and the final days of the Soviet Union, she served in the Bush Administration as Director, and then Senior Director, of Soviet and East European Affairs in the National Security Council, and a Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. In 1986, while an international affairs fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, she served as Special Assistant to the Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In 1997, she served on the Federal Advisory Committee on Gender -- Integrated Training in the Military.

    She was a member of the boards of directors for the Chevron Corporation, the Charles Schwab Corporation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the University of Notre Dame, the International Advisory Council of J.P. Morgan and the San Francisco Symphony Board of Governors. She was a Founding Board member of the Center for a New Generation, an educational support fund for schools in East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park, California and was Vice President of the Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula . In addition, her past board service has encompassed such organizations as Transamerica Corporation, Hewlett Packard, the Carnegie Corporation, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, The Rand Corporation, the National Council for Soviet and East European Studies, the Mid-Peninsula Urban Coalition and KQED, public broadcasting for San Francisco.

    Born November 14, 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama, she earned her bachelor's degree in political science, cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Denver in 1974; her master's from the University of Notre Dame in 1975; and her Ph.D. from the Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Denver in 1981. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has been awarded honorary doctorates from Morehouse College in 1991, the University of Alabama in 1994, the University of Notre Dame in 1995, the National Defense University in 2002, the Mississippi College School of Law in 2003, the University of Louisville and Michigan State University in 2004. She resides in Washington, D.C.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:12 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

    November 16, 2004

    Rats

    GWBush has dropped a few bombs in the past week. He has been gracious in victory but probably won few hearts in maganimity. He has done what fundamentally needed to be done in Falluja which is crush the rebellion, or at least crush the rebels. He has lost some of the most prominent folks in his administration. His underlings have pissed off senior CIA pros to the limit.

    What the heck is going on here? This is a lot of change for a couple weeks. Where's the keel on this ship, and what is the nature of this exodus? I'm waiting to hear a speech, or has it been made when I wasn't paying attention.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    November 10, 2004

    Another Confession

    This time from Barlow, whose diatribes, I've recently missed. I guess it's safe to go back out into the blogosphere again.

    I have a terrible admission to make. I've been so fanatically opposed to this administration that I have taken dark satisfaction in their failures, even though they were American failures as well. I welcomed growing indications that the situation in Iraq was deteriorating into a sump-hole of back-alley insurgency. Good economic news was bad economic news as far as I was concerned, and vice versa. I was tickled to death with Al Qaqaa and its terrorist-purloined WMDs, and not just because the name was so great. Surely all these bad tidings would eventually add up to an indictment that would convict Bush in the eyes of the American people and they would rouse themselves from Fox-hypnosis and 'possum sleep and vote for change.

    But it didn't turn out that way. While I still believe that half of America is hallucinating on hot religion and bad TV, I can't say I have been any too sane, having been delivered into a condition where I took comfort in the successes of our enemies and frowned at news of economic recovery. Despite my own financial anxieties, and those of all around me, I have been so zealous that my own well-being was secondary in importance to the political damage bad times might do the Bush administration. Now that's hallucination. And I'm sorry.

    I wonder if I've been an unusually hard-blowing blowhard. I don't think so...

    Posted by mbowen at 04:29 PM | TrackBack

    November 08, 2004

    Rafe Gets Real

    Rafe Coburn has been an annoying git for several months. He got so political that I forgot that I liked him. It's not that I mind people being political, it's that I mind intelligent people that I respect being so totally wrong that they sound brainwashed.

    I haven't read him in a while but I think that he describes exactly why I didn't.


    So in the process of dealing with last Tuesday, I came to an important realization, and it actually made me feel a lot better. It's pretty obvious, but I think a lot of people are having trouble getting there. I know I was. Here it is: I'm not responsible for getting Democrats elected. There are paid professionals who are in charge of that. They have to figure out which candidates can win. They have to come up with a message that will appeal to the majority in any electorate. They have to raise the money to run the ads and pay the campaign workers and buy the bumper stickers. None of that is my job.

    More importantly, there's no reason for me to try to pretend to be something I'm not in order to help Democrats get elected. That means that when I'm talking to people, I don't have to moderate my views to make it seem like I'm more "reasonable" than I really am. Those of you who read this might be confused, because I don't really bother with moderation when I'm writing for this site. But believe me, when I talk to actual human beings face to face, I generally strike the pose that many liberals do, which is that I'm a moderate who agrees with them on most things and is still going to vote for a Democrat. I have no idea whether that persuades anyone to vote for the candidates I support, but it certainly isn't any fun for me. Going along to get along sucks.

    I see him coming back to life in his final stages of acceptance. Too bad more people don't stop pretending to be great purveyors of logic and reasonableness. Good.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:00 PM | TrackBack

    November 07, 2004

    Whose Enlightenment?

    I would like to invite my liberal and atheist pals not to spit, because the wind isn't blowing the way you think it is.

    I want to think of a concise way of saying it. I like this confession:

    Karl Rove kicked our ass. There is no other way to slice it. We got an old-fashion whupping and it hurts. I, and a whole lot of people like me, just found out that we are seriously out of synch with our country. America, my beloved America come what may, is a conservative nation. I am anything but conservative. I am in the minority. The other guys are in the majority. They won. We lost. I lost. It's their country to run as they will. That's the law and it's the America way. I will honor it. I do not have to like it. Goddamn all Ghost-worshippers!

    but I dig a touch deeper and I get this:
    The nation's racial heterogeneity also partly explains its conservatism. U.S. heterogeneity sharply contrasts with the much greater homogeneity in Canada, Britain and continental Europe. People are much less likely to support income redistribution to people who are members of different racial or ethnic groups. Ethnic divisions make it easier for the enemies of welfare to vilify the poor, by making them seem like parasites who could be rich but prefer to live on the public dollar. The pro-redistribution populists were defeated in the South in the 1890s by politicians who stressed that populism would help blacks (which was true) and that blacks were dangerous criminals (which was not.) The enemies of Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society also employed racial messages that conveyed the idea that welfare recipients were dangerous outsiders who should not be helped. The sharp racial division that runs through American society makes it possible to castigate poor people in a way that would be impossible in a homogeneous nation like Sweden, where the poor look the same as everyone else.

    Although I think this is a good argument, I want to disagree. Why? Primarily because I think America's integrative xenophobia strikes a very good balance. We've created the Hispanics and we've created Diversity out of necessity, but it is a lesson we've learned well. The alternative to this is the liberal and Christian conciet of Enlightenment.

    Simply stated, if we are to defend pluralism and democratically open societies, we cannot do so while spitting on Christians in our conservative nation. Because it invites Christians to take ownership of the Enlightenment values, which are certainly a Christian legacy, but not entirely owned by Christians. We simply don't know enought Turks to say otherwise in our popular culture.

    So if atheists and liberals punt American democracy to Christians and religious conservatives, then those two groups will certainly take as much credit for it as possible and liberals and atheists will have marginalized themselves further into their own private Idahos.

    Yes we are a conservative nation but if you cannot respect the proper reasons why without glib cynicism, you doom yourself to oblivion marginalizing both yourselves and the reasonable citizens you have no idea existed in harmony with the devil you think you know.

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

    Kerryism Doesn't Exist

    The word from one of the managing editors from Newsweek was that inside the Kerry Campaign was absolute chaos - that Bob Shrum had the Kerry message bouncing from pillar to post. It showed.

    I've got the November 4th episode of Charlie Rose still on the DVR and I wish that I could broadcast it to all my readers. The clearest evidence of pure vacuum is the meaninglessness of 'Kerryism'. What is it, and which Democrats will need to be responsible to it come 2008? It's nothing and Democrats can do whatever they want next time around. They are starting from below ground zero.

    Clinton was the biggest thing to hit the Democrats in a generation, but he's gone and there's nothing new on the horizon. He couldn't help Gore; he couldn't help Kerry. Daschle is dead.

    The editors on Charlie Rose said that Kerry was trying to appease the center, the moderate left and the far left. Where Kerry himself was a deficit hawk, he could never make the case. All that ever came of that idea was Pat Buchanan's dissent. Kerry couldn't even lead his campaign better than Pat Buchanan shouting from the sidelines as regards Bush's profligacy. Kerry was advised to come out against gay marriage. He's not for it, but he couldn't say it. He failed the global test within his own party, and so did nothing. Captures him perfectly.

    Kerry has left his party squirming. It is both spaghetti and a void writhing in pain and disbelief. The first thing they're going to have to admit was that Kerry was a total failure, and what is it ... MoveOn. I'm still waiting for a candidate for president who wears a beard. Here's your chance, Dems.

    Meanwhile, I'll continue the Old School mission and work on the pregnant opportunities to bring the Republicans around to heel. It's difficult to tell whether we'll have better luck with Giuliani or McCain. But my eye is on Colin Powell, again.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:18 AM | TrackBack

    Private Idaho

    I've been doing a modicum of thinking about the permanence of the Alternative scene in America and what it says about zero-sum social progress. Today in the aftermath of the re-election of GWBush there's a whole different twist.

    It is surprising to me how the spin of the losers has taken over. They have characterized the average Bush voter as an evangelical hick with no sense of intellectual vigor. I get the feeling that these people were more hurt by November Second than by September Eleventh. Here's an excerpt from somebody now forced to retreat back into his own private Idaho:

    Who ARE those 53%? What happened to MY America--the America that would
    see through such a vapid fool to the truly dangerous handlers behind him,
    and cast them all out like demons; the America that had a respect for a
    freer press in 1972-4, and thus brought down a far less corrupt and stupid
    President, before we became a one-channel state; the America that would
    see the "Patriot Act" for the Fascist framework it is, and tear it down;
    the America that had the respect and goodwill of most of the world, even
    past September 11th; the America that preached tolerance (we can argue
    whether it ever PRACTICED it to the fullest extent possible, or even
    3/5ths of the way) and was, just a few years ago, beginning to see gay and
    lesbian rights as closer to "mainstream"; the America with a Supreme Court
    that ratified women's control of their bodies; the America that thought
    Senator Roman Hruska was a little addled and eccentric when he proposed,
    in support of the truly mediocre Nixon Supreme Court nominee J. Harold
    Carswell, that "mediocre people need representation, too"; the America
    that had black leaders like Martin and Malcolm and Stokely and Huey,
    rather than Chief Justice Clarence Thomas, and Prime Minister Condoleeza
    Rice, and Media Czar Michael Powell..

    It goes on and on. You get the drift.

    It boils down to a single fallacious phrase 'my America'. Your America, anybody's America is just a tiny corner of it. It's not yours until you own some of it and control some of it, and for most of us that's a house, maybe with a front yard. This is the ownership society, and if you ain't owning, you're renting. You live in a rented blue house, not because the landlord agrees with you, but because he knows your type is attracted to blue. But he can paint it red, you can't. The smart landlord keeps the house blue, the smart tenant understands and respects this.

    "Rights are the gifts of the strong." This is a phrase we need to keep in mind because today's strong Americans are committed to it. But it's their committment that we should honor, not the abstract principle. The man who is cursed for doing good may decide to take a holiday. But that's what a lot of folks are doing today.

    I am recognizing the pain that people must feel in recognizing that they are not as connected as their love of songs like 'We Are The World' suggests. This is a contradiction. You cannot be 'alternative' and zero-sum at the same time.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:17 AM | TrackBack

    November 05, 2004

    Abortion

    My job hasn't changed this week. Nothing has changed this week except that we have proven that America finds GWBush more or less acceptable as President, and that Democrats have proved themselves incapable of convincing anyone but themselves of their wisdom.

    I'm a little piqued at the backbiting, so I've decided to say the 'A' word. Somehow, folks have decided that the next thing that the great boogeyman is going to do is rip Roe v Wade to shreds, and that he's just wringing his hands and twisting his moustache with sniggering delight. Why? Because George W. Bush is a right-wing religious fanatic in the hands of the evangelical lunatics who want to turn America into a Christian Republic - sorta like an Islamic Republic except with chicken fried steak.

    The latest blather into this fracas, aside from Teri Gross who is dignifying the paranoia, is the rumor being circulated that Senator Arlen Spector has warned President Bush against nominating a pro-life judge. Somehow it always comes down to abortion.

    Not that I care, but let's try to take this matter seriously and find out exactly why abortions themselves are so important and how much people are actually willing to do to change things. My take on it is this. There's not going to be any significant motion on this issue. The only people who are fired up about it are marginal to the political process and most of us are shouting at shadows. I suspect that this will be as controversial as gay marriage, but that's never stopped me before.

    I think America could actually survive a great number of restrictions on abortion and may have to, but that the government will always be too slow. I also think that privacy advocates will win in the end and that Americans will reserve the right to keep sex private, whether or not that actually makes sense. Finally I expect that my thinking, which probably seems blurry at the moment, will get sharp enough to become arrogant.

    So the first piece of evidence that I want to throw into the stew is that of Mifepristone. Sound familiar? How about if I call it RU 486? How about if I call it the Abortion Pill? Of course there was a huge controversy about this pill in the pre-9/11 era. But it was approved by the FDA and apparently, you can get it if you need it. You don't have a right to it, it is a method.

    I contend that regulating the methods of abortion are a different matter than restricting the right to abortion. In general, I believe that human beings have the right to make life and death decisions - despite the fact that many of us punt to the state. I would argue that by the same authority that adults have to choose whom they sex, and have authority over their progeny, they have authority to determine the reasons - the logic and the yes and no of it. Yes I want a child and I get authority over that. No I don't want a child and I get authority over that.

    But just like people have a right to drive cars down hills, they forfeit some of that if they don't have brakes. A pregnancy is like a car rolling down a hill, the further it goes the harder it is to stop. The question is where on that hill do we draw the line over which the state's interest in avoiding ugly crashes supercede that of the (co)-driver's interest in personal control.

    Today I'll say birth. As soon as you are born, you become a citizen, not before.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:14 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

    November 02, 2004

    Ohio + New Mexico = 4 More Years

    That's my call.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:32 PM | TrackBack

    A Reward and a Promise

    Slate gets Black and Republican in the same headline. Wow! But wait... it's a sideways attack.

    It's probably true that the Republicans are not targeting heavily black precincts because they're heavily black; they are targeting them because they're heavily Democratic. But let's not be naive: They are also targeting black precincts because they expect to find voters and polling officials who are relatively poor and socially powerless and hence easier to bully and intimidate. This may not be racism in its purest formanimus based on nothing other than racebut it's close enough to make decent people want to take a shower. Note to Karl Rove: If the GOP wants to shake its image as the home of modern racism, this is not the way to go about it.

    Considering that for Ford, the full-time black man who wrote this stuff, Carl Rove is the only Republican he thinks worthy of his 'advice', I'll go him one better.


    As a black republican I hereby offer a $500 reward for any photograph of an identifyable Republican operative at a polling place who is harassing African American voters.

    You have until Friday to produce the evidence.

    I will deliver it to the Chairman of the California Republican Party and I will find out the names of the people involved and I will publish them here.

    I find it hard to believe that the same Republicans I know, who don't have time or experience to get off their backsides and get out the black vote are more motivated to go into those same neighborhoods and pester blackfolks. It simply doesn't make sense to me. So show me the money, and I'll show you the money.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:57 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    A Nation of a Million Hoodies

    I haven't hooked up my own music today at the office, so I've been forced to listen to Eminem twice already this morning. I hear that he's been getting a bit of press for his political vehemence which is clearly anti-something. I think it's a safe bet to say that he's anti-Bush but I really didn't pay that much attention to the video. On the other hand I know what he said last time around in 'Square Dance' so it wouldn't surprise me at all.

    The image from the video which sticks out is that of the little cartoon Boriqua getting all pissed and putting on her hoodie. It's a great image that hasn't been done enough in animation. The only folks that have come close are the animators of that Disney flick Voyage to Atlantis. I know it's a Disney flick because it hasn't yet come out of DVD, and well Disney are the masters of artificial scarcity. (It's going to bite them in the ass within 4 years, take my word for it.)

    But what really strikes me off-balance is the notion of people reflecting 8 years hence that it was an Eminem video that got them off their duffs to vote, which is a lot more than you can say for Public Enemy. Of course all us grownup know that Kerry won't stand up for Em, and only a kid would swing lefty for Kerry, but they're all part of the equation. (Only my part of the equation is correct.) I would expect rather that the hoodie kids would rather toss eggs at the next WTO or maybe spraypaint somebody's fur coat, but what do I know? Bottom line: I give PE more credibility.

    I like the excitement generated and a big turnout is a nice but what will Em be rapping about this time next year. Not politics I'll bet. Good marketing though. We'll see what MTV is playing next week this time.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:05 PM | TrackBack

    October 29, 2004

    Ca Ca

    I remain astounded at how cockeyed are some of our observers. Krugman is literally freaking out when he's calling 380 tons 'real substance' in spite of the hundreds of kilotons our forces have alreade dispatched.

    QaQaa was one of over 500 sites to be handled. By the terms of the Army itself, this was of 'Medium' importance. When the chorus was the more simplistic (and honest) chant of 'Bush Lied', we could be sure that nothing less than a bona fide weapon of mass destruction would matter. Instead, our forces found masses of destructive weapons and nobody cared. That is until Kerry discovered that a rounding error molehill could be blown up into a campaign altering mountain. That he has continued to sound this alarm is yet another indication to me that he dare not speak about the greater purposes and aims of the American mission in Iraq - only its mistakes. To give voice to the greater truth would be to endorse Bush's intent. He cannot afford that.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:01 AM | TrackBack

    Shrinkage

    I haven't flown anywhere in over a year. In fact, I can't remember the last time I boarded an airplane. This is strange for me, because not 3 years ago I racked up about 10k miles a month, and was at the top of the frequent flyer food chain on United.

    Today several airlines stand on the brink of dissolution. Can we stand it? Yep. I am coming to believe that the industry is permanently shrinking. You would think that airports, in the new future might be less crowded. That would be a good thing for those passengers remaining - security will be a bit easier with fewer flights, but where will all the workers go?

    Oil is starting to shock again. Time for new nukes.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:13 AM | TrackBack

    October 26, 2004

    Leo Terrell

    When I met Leo Terrell he was over at Lucy Florence for one of Ofari's meetings in the spring of this year. One of the subjects for discussion was the recent flap over the failed prosecution of an Inglewood police officer in a hood slamming incident. You may recall the collective gasp heard around the mediasphere when millions of mindless negroes didn't riot after the not guilty verdict.

    Leo was nonplussed. He used to have a very large civil rights practice. Now he has scaled down and taken few cases. He told me that there are a lot of hacks in the civil rights game, it's more complicated than it ever was and there weren't very many attorneys who really knew what they were doing.

    These are interesting comments in retrospect, having found this from the WSJ

    The NAACP claims to be a champion of diversity, but its tolerance apparently doesn't extend to its own members who think for themselves. Attorney Leo Terrell learned that recently when he spoke out in support of Carolyn Kuhl, one of President Bush's beleaguered nominees for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The head of the NAACP's Washington office called and ordered him to cease and desist, so yesterday Mr. Terrell resigned from the "civil-rights" group rather than be muzzled.

    Mr. Terrell is a California attorney who has donated many hours of work to the NAACP, representing litigants and participating in seminars on discrimination. Mr. Terrell, who is black, has been outspoken in his support of Judge Kuhl, who sits on the California Superior Court in Los Angeles and before whom he appeared in 1999.

    "I found that Judge Kuhl was fair, impartial, competent and at all times extremely professional," he wrote in a May 23, 2001, letter to fellow Californian and fellow Democrat, Senator Barbara Boxer. Mr. Terrell repeated those points to us yesterday, adding that the NAACP is buying in to "phony allegations that she is hostile to civil rights."

    We'd add that the once great civil-rights group is also playing political enforcer for a hyper-partisan Senate minority. Nominated two years ago, Judge Kuhl is widely expected to soon join Miguel Estrada, Priscilla Owen and William Pryor on the Democrats' filibuster list of judges denied a Senate vote

    I never got into the battles over judgeships and I think the President and Republicans are over-reacting toward 'judicial activism' for the simple political expedient of placating the right to life right. But this is an interesting blip.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:54 AM | TrackBack

    October 21, 2004

    After The Bubble

    I've been thinking about extraordinary phenomenon of the American Middle Class vis a vis its ability to generate billions of dollars, millions of votes, and thousands of theories.

    Most of those theories today, or at least half, are centered around a number of objections to our involvement in Iraq which are sustainable only in an atmosphere of domestic tranquility. It brings to mind the parallels between this time and that of the internet stock bubble.

    In those days, a pearl of wisdom I kept in my shirt pocket was this: When even your shoeshine boy is telling you which stocks to pick, it's time to get out of the market. As a fairly newly minted member of the investor class, and a devotee to thestreet.com, I was one of the fortunate ones, for a time. I had the advantage of actually working in Silicon Valley and a career in the software business. So I knew a good product when I saw one, and in those days, that was enough. I made a fortune for my broker and many of his wealthy clients by famously picking Inktomi and Akamai. I also picked a smashingly great loser in General Magic, but on the whole I made a nice pile for myself.

    At the time I was working for a solid software company that was not benefitting from the high falutin' language and hype. We actually made products that the Fortune 500 purchased, although not in multi-million dollar orders. There were several clues that we were in a period of irrational exuberance, among which was an unusual encounter I had with a cat named Bernstein who was in the investment biz. It turns out that he has a rather reputable firm named after him. We were on a small plane heading to Vail and he was deep inside of a thick history book. Everything about him spoke 'long view'. I mentioned that our company was traded on the NASDAQ. A shadow of disappointment crossed his face. Simply stated, there's business and then there's real business. Mr. Bernstein goosed me along the road to understanding why the NYSE is called the Big Board.

    One of the most annoying things about working in Silicon Valley, indeed in the software industry, is that if you are a conservative as I am, you tire quickly of working for people who are only 4 or 5 years your senior. One of the most seasoned managers I ever worked for was probably 15 years older. Everyone seemed short-sighted; everyone seemed hell-bent on reinventing the wheel, but this time in java, or this time 'on-demand', or this time via 'n-tier architecture'. The software industry was like a pop music chart.

    Today, people who continue to parse the daily pronouncements of the candidates appear to me to be the political equivalents of day traders. A motley bunch of foolish prognosticators if there ever was one. I would like to have the historical perspective of Mr. Bernstein these days. Indeed I am really not spending much time looking at the races. But it is not only this daily minutia that annoys, it is the blindness that attention implies, and I think that too many Americans are being blind to what our new reality will be, just as many day traders were blind to the inevitability of a bursting bubble.

    Just like day traders, people who have decided to be bullish on Kerry have, like day traders, micromanaged every little small bit of bad news that comes through their televisions and sold the President short. It is a risk, as I said, that can be maintained only in these days of relative calm. One of these days, some terrorist is going to drop a bomb on this nice dream. On that day, the bubble will be burst.

    I believe that like day traders, those who are now making so much political noise will leave the market as quickly as they came in. A quarter of the blogosphere will go dark, and the daily volume of piecemeal kibbitzing will die down. I wish there were some other way to accomplish that, but I don't believe there is. Whether it is Kerry or Bush in the White House on that fateful day, the yammering will cease, and the long term thinkers will once again have a say.

    The death of Paul Nitze the other day reminds us of how difficult it is to actually accomplish great things in geopolitical terms, and what level of complexity the big boys play. While we amateurs in the blogosphere have our turn in the spotlight, our run on the political NASDAQ, surely our betters watch in astonishment at our irrational exuberence. The very idea that the blogosphere will replace CBS sounds exactly like those Silicon Valley predictions that Brick & Mortar was a thing of the past. And when every blogger is a political pundit, like every programmer was a stock picker, it's time to get out of the overheated market.

    So I hope I don't disappoint too many folks as I shift focus in the blog to other matters than the daily political spin, but I've had enough of it, and I don't think it's helping anyone to parse this stuff too closely. Especially since:

    • Nobody is thinking about a solution to our southern immigration problem.
    • The War on Global Narcoterrorism has taken a back seat.
    • There is money to be made in China (for me).
    I think it was finally the sexuality of Cheney's daughter and the lack of flu vaccine that convinced me that there is too much hot air in these balloons.
    Posted by mbowen at 10:39 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    October 15, 2004

    In Case You Haven't Heard

    This is coming around in email so you may have seen it before. I just wanted to get it up on the blog.

    "One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to
    develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them.
    That is our bottom line."
    - President Clinton, Feb. 4, 1998

    "If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is
    clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons
    of mass destruction program."
    - President Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998

    "Iraq is a long way from [here], but what happens there matters a great
    deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use
    nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the
    greatest security threat we face."
    - Madeline Albright, Feb 18, 1998

    "He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten
    times since 1983."
    - Sandy Berger, Clinton National Security Adviser, Feb, 18, 1998


    "We urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the
    U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if
    appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond
    effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of
    mass destruction programs."
    - Letter to President Clinton, signed by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI), Tom
    Daschle (D-SD), John Kerry ( D - MA), and others Oct. 9, 1998

    "Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass
    destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and
    he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process."
    - Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), Dec. 16, 1998

    "Hussein has ... chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass
    destruction and palaces for his cronies."
    - Madeline Albright, Clinton Secretary of State, Nov. 10, 1999

    "There is no doubt that ... Saddam Hussein has invigorated his weapons
    programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear
    programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf War status. In
    addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless
    using the cover of an illicit missile program to develop longer-range
    missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies."
    - Letter to President Bush, Signed by Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL,) and
    others, December 5, 2001

    "We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and
    threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the
    mandate of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass
    destruction and the means of delivering them."
    - Sen. Carl Levin (D, MI), Sept. 19, 2002

    "We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical
    weapons throughout his country."
    - Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002


    "Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to
    deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam
    is in power."
    - Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002

    "We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and
    developing weapons of mass destruction."
    - Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002

    "The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are
    confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and
    biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to
    build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities. Intelligence
    reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons..."
    - Sen. Robert Byrd (D, WV), Oct. 3, 2002

    "I will be voting to give the President of the United States the
    authority to use force-- if necessary-- to disarm Saddam Hussein because
    I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his
    hands is a real and grave threat to our security."
    - Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9, 2002

    "There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working
    aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear
    weapons within the next five years .... We also should remember we have
    always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of
    weapons of mass destruction."
    - Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D, WV), Oct 10, 2002

    "He has systematically violated, over the course of the past 11 years,
    every significant UN resolution that has demanded that he disarm and
    destroy his chemical and biological weapons, and any nuclear capacity.
    This he has refused to do."
    - Rep. Henry Waxman (D, CA), Oct. 10, 2002

    "In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show
    that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological
    weapon stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program.
    He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including
    al Qaeda members. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked Saddam
    Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and
    chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons."
    - Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct 10, 2002

    "We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that
    Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing
    capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction."

    - Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL), Dec. 8, 2002

    "Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal,
    murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime ... He presents a
    particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to
    miscalculation .. And now he is miscalculating America's response to his
    continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass
    destruction... So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass
    destruction is real."
    - Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Jan. 23. 2003

    Posted by mbowen at 11:50 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    Just Makes You Wince

    I've been introducing the little Bs to the lighthearted morality of Slick Rick's rap, specifically 'Children's Story' and 'Hey Young World'. There's nothing like some good old school rap to make you feel good. But as usual, just when you find some peace with your affection for the fickle woman that is hiphop, she reminds you why she redefined the pronounciation of 'bitch'.

    Intemoleckshual rapper KRS-One recently confirmed his solidarity with the imaginary class of the permanently oppressed American - the All-Purpose Nigger. The APN cannot overcome, cannot rise, cannot succeed and is permamently under the thumb of 'history' and is incapable of any emotions other than alienation, paranoia and fantasies of revenge.

    The atrocity of 9-11 "doesn't affect us the hip-hop community," he said. "9-11 happened to them, not us," he added, explaining that by "them" he meant "the rich ... those who are oppressing us. RCA or BMG, Universal, the radio stations."

    Parker also sneered at efforts by other rappers to get young people to vote.

    "Voting in a corrupt society adds more corruption," he added. "America has to commit suicide if the world is to be a better place."

    But I see what the problem is here. We're taking entertainers a little bit too seriously, and so they take themselves a little bit too seriously. This is to be expected in a nation of millions. If there are 365 million Americans, there has got to be at least one with a million who watch who is wrong, stupid and popular.

    It's not so important that KRS isn't thinking outside of his box. I understand him to be a good-hearted fellow. And I'm really not concerned that young kids may be listening and get the wrong perspective, because attitudes such as that are self-destructive. Nobody with any real stake in America is going to give him props, so America is not at risk. There is a certain level of power you simply can't get thinking like that.

    A man who is oppressed by a radio station needs several books, quick.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:42 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    October 14, 2004

    Keep Kerry Away From My Daughter

    I'd heard quite enough from Kerry the other evening, but when he started mumbling about Cheney's daughter, it was really the last straw. I'm embarrassed for the people who support him, that was really a disaster.

    Candidate Kerry jumped deep into the negative frame with this last performance. It's really a shame. Bush had lost my confidence several weeks ago, but now ironically enough I think that Kerry has an issue of character, and quite frankly I think he's intellectually dishonest. I don't know how else to put it, he's a real disappointment as a contender. The way I see it, this is no longer a fair fight. People who support Kerry have their choices, but I think they are being decieved. What he is asserting is no longer credible, and I agree with Dick Cheney, that his perceptions are not only flawed, his strategy not only weak, but the man is dangerous. He's living in his own universe and trying to suck everyone else in.

    It's sad, really. We'll all see why by next summer.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:43 PM | TrackBack

    October 13, 2004

    How to Bury Kerry

    How many times have I written in these pages 'Swift Boat Veterans for Truth'? None. I've paid little attention. But I am paying attention to this interview over at Dean's World.

    Sure I've known that Kerry has made some considerably dodgy left turns in contradistinction to his service in Vietnam, but I've also been very hesitant to judge homey for what happened 30 plus years ago. I'm tired of the Vietnam war in particular standing in as litmus for the suitability for holding down the Oval Office. But when the man's CO says he's unsuitable, I've got to take that seriously. And it's true that good Senators (if he's that) don't necessarily make good presidents.

    This is not the final nail in Kerry's coffin for me. This is six feet of dirt and a concrete slab on top.

    I think George Elliott makes a good point about the mainstream media. They've really injured themselves in all this. It seems like every journalist wants to write a book and report on the 'trial of the century' or some such - and all that happens in the world isn't like that. Sooner or later folks are going to realize that it's not a good idea to be Sean Hannity (to name one particularly egregious and unlettered celebrity newsie). We're going to turn to peer networks on the ground and disembowel the entire process unless news organizations do a better job in several dimensions.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    October 12, 2004

    The Right Framework

    David Brooks nails it again:

    Seen in these terms, this election is not just a conflict of two men, but is a comprehensive conflict of visions. Both these visions have been bloodied of late. Still, they do address the central issue confronting us: How do we conceive of an international order in the post-9/11 world? Bush, the conservative, conceives of a flexible, organic, spontaneous order. Kerry, the liberal, conceives of a more rationalist, planned and managed order.

    Read the whole thing.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:19 AM | TrackBack

    October 09, 2004

    Move On

    I didn't watch the debate. I'm getting sick of the monotony.

    The blogworld seems to be full of 'our guy won' this morning. It's rather annoying, if not pathetic, that the opposition just keeps insisting that Bush is so wrong on the question of war. And now folks are harping on the fact that Bush himself doesn't bolster their arguments. What I'm hearing rhetorically is, why don't you just admit to the American people and the world that you were wrong, that you made a huge mistake? At this point more discussion is only ridiculous.

    If I were Rove, I'd start talking about everything else. People who are against Bush's decision are hardheaded and wrong. Dismiss them and their smallmindedness and move on.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:35 AM | TrackBack

    October 08, 2004

    The Perversity of Democratic Opposition

    But if I don't have enemies I'm not doing my job.
    I might throw out a curveball but I'll never throw a lob.
    And people criticize me but I know it's not the end.
    I try to kick truth not just to make friends.

    -- Michael Franti

    One of the reasons that Democrats annoy me to death is because a goodly number of them are oppositionalists. They feel that it's their patriotic duty to 'comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable'. In other words, to be a constant pain in the ass to successful people. Such creatures can only exist within a particular realm of comfort themselves, but they will buy stressed clothing and affect a certain studied shabby chic and bohemian mannerisms to cloak that comfort. And most of all they will distrust shiny, happy people. It's an interesting perversion that is often useful when done by people who are actually brilliant scholars, but most of the time it makes otherwise reasonable people look like complete idiots. At least it does to me. They're not making friends, nor are they speaking the truth.


    So this 'Fight the Power' attitude has manifest itself in most of the partisan attacks on GWBush's initiative in Iraq. As usual, the perversion against a good idea has rejected every rationale for armed conflict. Isn't it interesting that such oppositionists were silent in regard to their president's ideas.

    One thing that you can say about Bill Clinton was that he was never at a loss for words. So just in case people have been baffled by Bush's speech impediments, here's what he means, courtesy of Bill Clinton (and Q&O)

    • ...we will pursue a long-term strategy to contain Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction

    • Other countries possess weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. With Saddam, there is one big difference: He has used them. Not once, but repeatedly.

    • I have no doubt today, that left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will use these terrible weapons again.

    • Eight Arab nations -- Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman -- warned that Iraq alone would bear responsibility for the consequences of defying the UN.

    • ...without a strong inspection system, Iraq would be free to retain and begin to rebuild its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs in months, not years.
    • ...if Saddam can crippled the weapons inspection system and get away with it, he would conclude that the international community -- led by the United States -- has simply lost its will. He will surmise that he has free rein to rebuild his arsenal of destruction, and someday -- make no mistake -- he will use it again as he has in the past.

    • They are designed to degrade Saddam’s capacity to develop and deliver weapons of mass destruction, and to degrade his ability to threaten his neighbors.

    • If we had delayed for even a matter of days from Chairman Butler’s report, we would have given Saddam more time to disperse his forces and protect his weapons. [...] That is something we wanted very much to avoid without giving Iraq a month’s head start to prepare for potential action against it.

    • The credible threat to use force, and when necessary, the actual use of force, is the surest way to contain Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction program, curtail his aggression and prevent another Gulf War.

    • ...without the sanctions, we would see the oil-for-food program become oil-for-tanks, resulting in a greater threat to Iraq’s neighbors and less food for its people.

    • The best way to end that threat once and for all is with a new Iraqi government -- a government ready to live in peace with its neighbors, a government that respects the rights of its people.

    • Heavy as they are, the costs of action must be weighed against the price of inaction. If Saddam defies the world and we fail to respond, we will face a far greater threat in the future. Saddam will strike again at his neighbors. He will make war on his own people.

      And mark my words, he will develop weapons of mass destruction. He will deploy them, and he will use them.

    Now add AQ on top of that assessment and what do you get? According to the perverse, you get just another reason to delay and hope the Axis of Weasels helps out. That's perverse.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:30 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    October 07, 2004

    X

    When I made my predictions for this year I didn't think Tiger's grand slam would be marriage, but I was pretty sure Microsoft would do more hardware. The XBox is a big success but Scaled Composites was a total surprise. It seems that Paul Allen is getting pretty shrewd with his investments, and as the wags say - finally Microsoft has something that doesn't crash.

    Rutan and McCready have always been heroes for me, to the extent that I engage in fandom. I should add Dan Bricklin in there as well. But this is Rutan's finest hour. WTG!

    Posted by mbowen at 10:25 AM | TrackBack

    October 06, 2004

    AQ Talking Point

    Cheney, as expected, was pointed and sharp. This was actually an interesting debate, mostly focused on the past. I think Kerry's 'international credibility' position took another lump. But here's the point I think that Kerry Edwards keeps denying really makes them look stupid. Here's the way I think Cheney should have handled it.

    Edwards: There is no link between AQ and Saddam.

    Cheney: We have killed & captured AQ fighters globally. We knew then that AQ was in 60 countries. We knew then that Iraq was a sponsor of terrorists. Given those two simple facts would you have taken the chance that there was simply no Al Qaeda in Iraq?

    Edwards: If we let the inpsectors do their jobs we could have avoided war.

    Cheney: The inspectors were unable to do their jobs for 12 years. It wasn't until they had the assistance of American forces on the ground that they were able to uncover every rock. What we know today could not have been known without American troops on the ground. The inspectors and everyone in the UN was. Saddam was in material breach of his obligation to disarm and he had been warned over and over. We weren't going to delay, and we were right not to delay.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:40 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    October 02, 2004

    The Speech John Kerry Will Never Make

    There is a clear choice for Americans in November. War or Peace. President Bush is the choice for War and I am the choice for Peace.

    It is a rare occasion when the American people have an opportunity to, with one vote, decide the fate of millions who are currently suffering the ravages of war. But now is that opportunity. This conflict in Iraq is the wrong war at the wrong time. We made a mistake going there and I am the man to correct that mistake. All the possible good that could possibly come from this war has already been accomplished and every minute we remain, we lose the advantage of those gains. There is nothing left to win in Iraq that America is capable of winning. Therefore, I pledge that if I am elected President, I will order the immediate and unconditional withdrawl of all American troops in Iraq.

    My fellow Americans there can be no clearer choice before you. There may be a million reasons for going to war and we can debate those forever. There are equally a million reasons for ending war and those too can be debated forever. But when it comes down to it, for you the American voter, you only have one choice - War or Peace. I am here to make that choice crystal clear. Whatever your reasons, if you believe that we belong in Iraq, then cast your vote this election for George W. Bush. But, if you believe as I do that it is time for peace, then your choice is clear.

    Vote for me. I will end the war.

    Kerry cannot and will never make this speech, because he'd seal his fate as a loser. Americans feel that we belong in Iraq, that we have a right and proper mission, and that is the mission of liberation. This is the strategy of George W. Bush and it is why he has my vote, along with the majority of right thinking Americans.

    Period.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:13 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

    October 01, 2004

    The Debate

    I bought a Tivo yesterday but it was still talking to Tivo Central when the debate aired, so I didn't get a chance to record it or watch, pause and analyze. Instead, when I got bored, which was a number of times, I went into the other room to watch the spinning dials on the Tivo download screen.

    So this morning I am checking out other blogs in search of the kind of rapt fascination and borderline obsession required to pull significant rabbits of analysis out of the empty hat of this particular debate. So far, there doesn't seem to be anyone who says that victory was decisive.

    From my perspective it seemed to go well. Bush made a number of faces as Kerry droned on, but never seemed to be able to zing Kerry except on the North Korea bilateralism thing. Kerry brought up a lot of nice geopolitical points that the President had adequate responses to and kept Bush on the defensive. Bush beat his drum on Kerry's flipflopiness and putative inability to stay on message, as if the Bully Pulpit had telekinetic powers. Hmm, perhaps a little Karl Rove speaking through his puppet? Kerry gave a 7 year old 'Am not!' with his "I've never wavered in my life" response. Today he'll regret that one.

    I can say that I've heard more about Sudan from this debate than in all the news. I can say with some certainty that we know where that's going. As for Iraq, it remains as muddy as ever.

    Kerry began to remind me of the Kerry he started out to be a long time ago. A reasonably smart guy who has a shot. What I saw him do last night was behave like somebody who is not winning and smiling and taking photographs. In other words, he was a grownup for once. I think he's completely out to lunch in his desire to placate every possible ally and stretch diplomacy beyond its capacity, which is especially damning considering his gaffe on kicking China to the curb in dealing with the DPRK, but at least he appears to give everything considerable thought. He still smells like a Senator but he could step up.

    The President seemed very much to be his same old self. But unlike many presidents at the four year mark, the gravitas grey hair just doesn't seem to be working for him. It's true that by the end, he gave me the impression of a man solidly and confidently in control. But he also gave me the impression that he just wishes he could curse Kerry out and show him what for. Part of this impression comes from a debating style analysis I heard the other night from James Fallows and I think it's quite accurate now. Bush bites his tongue and that's why he mangles, and he does it because he is somewhat overawed by the power of his words. So he has a trunk of stock phrases that he uses consistently lest he be misinterpreted. He can't be glib around the edges.

    That doesn't change the fact that he has lousy rejoinders, and his inability to verbally pimpslap his challenger works against him. By being graceful GWBush has elevated his opponent slightly. Kerry is no upstart to be put in his place and he is the best hope the Democrats have. Still Kerry cannot outrun his rhetorical excess and record. There is little in the unknown quantity box for either of them.

    By the way, Bush's story about telling the wife of the downed soldier that it was worth it, just grabbed all the emotion in the room. There was nothing else even close, and despite the fact that Kerry scored a cookie for suggesting that the reason wasn't as noble as the act, it was too little too late, and actually felt like a cheap shot.

    So I'll continue my reading, and get back to this.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:47 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

    September 30, 2004

    Maya Who?

    It turns out that Maya Keyes, if photos are to be believed is a hottie for girls. Her dad is that famous Republican always a candidate never an officeholder Alan Keyes. So what? Exactly. I will note this however, it's a lot easier to be against the evils of abortion when you know your daughter can't get pregnant.

    I saw that episode of 'Rescue Me', and I understand.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:20 PM | TrackBack

    September 29, 2004

    More Dirt on DeLay

    I could almost be sympathetic to people who call us Repugnicans after hearing today's interview with the new biography of Tom DeLay. On Fresh Air, author Lou Dubose lays it flat. DeLay is an ugly character whose strongarm tactics have materially degraded the democratic function of Congress.

    It's worth noting loudly that a cowering, bootlicking House Ethics Committee is partially responsible for letting DeLay get away with parliamentary murder. It is also worth noting that Newt Gingrich, whom I've had plenty time to re-evaluate much to the positive, got snookered by DeLay. Had Gingrich's man won against DeLay, we'd have a more robust Congress today. Ironically, it was Gingrich's insistence on Committee Chair term limits that paved the road for money to do things in Washington pretty much the way it does things in Las Vegas.

    I am somwhat astonished at the revelations but not completely surprised. I've been wondering where all the backbone of Congress has gone in these post-911 days. Now I'm starting to question with a jaundiced eye, rather than simply a skeptical one, the non-activities of the Congress. I'll put it this way; if a character like Kerry is what you get after n-terms we ought to know that something is radically wrong. The effect of the polarization is clear and the blame falls on the party leadership. Our Congress seems to have lost its capacity for rational debate, and the freshman Republicans beholden to DeLay have served as an example of dogs showing their bellies. So the next time I hear somebody use the phrase 'activist judge' I'm throwing a pie.

    This opens a new chapter for me with regard to my views of Republican politics. I was quite correct to take Armey's side before, but with the news of the new Indian Gaming scandal with Abramoff and Scanlon, I'm more determined than ever to see this ass put down.

    I don't know if he's got his trackback working, but I suspect that Richard Morrison is about to get launched. I hope so anyway.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:26 PM | TrackBack

    September 21, 2004

    Ashcroft

    It struck me suddenly that John Ashcroft has not been a political liability to GWBush at all. I had considered for a moment that John Kerry, if he had any sense, would make hay of the political liability of John Ashcroft. But there is none.

    It absolutely floors me that nobody has made Ashcroft into the ball and chain he could have been. Has he done no wrong?

    Posted by mbowen at 11:22 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    September 15, 2004

    Four More Years!

    It occurred to me that if John Kerry wins this election, he'll have to appoint Michael Moore Minister of Truth. Or as Orwell would say, Minitrue. As I leaned out of my abstention a few weeks ago, I've been hearing more things about Iraq that raise its importance over domestic concerns.

    One can still get, here in Los Angeles, a 650k loan with no points at 5.89%APR. Well, you can, I can't and I'm not trying. But since we still get our gas cheaper than the Europeans, things can't be all that bad - except for the least of our brothers as usual. But Christopher Dickey and Samantha Power have emerged on my radar and they make me want to look at Iraq again and again. I hear that 18 Billion earmarked for reconstruction hasn't gone anywhere (you can't have it spent and complain about KBR too). There are lots of reasons to remain focused on Iraq, not to mention Iran and North Korea.

    I really, really want to see GWBush re-elected, because that's the only way that the opposition is going to prove they have a better idea. Kerry hasn't shown his, and the Congress is absolutely silent. If this election is to be the most important test of our democracy, then let it be a test of the whole of the democracy and not just the presidential horse race. Let's see the other branches of government start flexing their muscles. Let's the the people do more than go out to the movies and say "Yeah what he said".

    There is only one way to make GWBush accountable for what he has begun in Iraq. That's to force him to do the right thing, not to kick him to the curb. I don't want any tit for tat. I don't want to see democratic complacency. I don't want to wait another 18 months to get a grip on who the new head of the Pentagon is. I want to see somebody force the president to fire somebody.

    That's what I'm talking about.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:35 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Sy Hersh's Fear

    I think I understand Sy Hersh's point based on hearing him speak (and stutter) to Terri Gross this evening.

    Hersh has to be a permanent thorn in the side of any non-pacifist administration. When he discovered that war was nothing like John Wayne movies it must have shocked him into a permanent state of apoplexy. He says America didn't know. It was just him. My people knew what ugly was.

    It's a good thing that we don't have to depend on people of his sensibility to define victory in war. He thinks all war is hell and that no good can come of it. This son of immigrants who went to school for free thinks no good can come of war. But he has to be who he has to be. I think he is a very reasonable person, for a journalist, but I also think he exhibits exactly the kinds of traits that David Brooks predicted. That when suddenly his inside Washington 'friends' kick him to the curb and he realizes what power is and what it is not, and it hurts to know he doesn't have it. Thus the stuttering. Hersh understands that there are lines he cannot cross, names he cannot divulge, that his compact - his code of secrecy, his journalistic shield - is the only thing that keeps him in the loop. He is the agent of dissent. He is the link between power and consent.

    To undo the role of sensitive journalists in the American system is something that would be a jarring shock to the systems of checks and balances. But that journalists are involved is a striking indictment of the system itself. Nobody speaks out like Benedict Arnold any longer. Nobody speaks out like Thomas Paine any longer. That job has been outsourced. You see we cannot depend on the integrity of individuals within the system to stop, resign, tell the truth and be done with it. We're team players, and when the team heads in the wrong direction we're captive. What if these 'highly placed administration officials' blogged their own confessions and put Sy Hersh out of business? Fat chance.

    That's not an option. So all journalists have to be rats. Fortunately, Hersh has the exact sensibility. He is a man shocked by dog bites, as he must be for those of us in this vast land who are. How would anyone know anything if journalists weren't overly sensitive? You can't depend on the team to break ranks. Where else are they going to work? I mean 99.8% of Americans could not answer the question, who is Scooter Libby and what does he do? But we have sensitive journalists to raise alarums on Scooter's pals when and if they behave badly and Scooter can't stand up and say so. That's why the immigrant son and the guy named Scooter are linked. That's why we depend on Hersh and his peers.

    Someday when my eyes get too weak to correct and my fingers too frail to type, I'll have to depend on people right in front of my face. And depending on how much fear that generates in me, I will pray to God to save me from it. Whatever 'it' is. I'll be too old to fight it and I will wish for a world where 'it' didn't exist. And I'll think back on the days of my youth and vigor when we didn't have to worry about 'it' and 'it' didn't harden and coursen all the men who deal with it. And the fight the youth will fight will frighten me, because I'll be an old man closer to death, closer to the end of my powers on earth. Because there will be nothing I can do about 'it'. I don't know what that thing will be for me, but I think for Sy Hersh 'it' is terrorism. He is afraid of what it has done to his old pal Rumsfeld. It has turned Rumsfeld into a man who doesn't care much about the care and feeding of prisoners.

    Sometime soon I'm going to read up on Samantha Power. She suggests that there are some crimes that are unpunishable. I truly want to understand that, because having contemplated Putin's fate these days, I lost my mind. I know the burden falls to the strong and to the wise, but to my eye the King must always kill the Assassin. Even when the Assassin's rationale makes the King wiser. In the meantime, I must deal with the fact that I'm bloodied by this war, and no matter how righteous my cause the blood on my hands is just as thick.

    I don't believe it was Hersh's job to weigh the costs of Abu Ghraib, secret operations or any of Bush's initiatives and reactions. It's his job to report the costs. That he is incapable of weighing them doesn't make his job any less important. In fact, the more spirited our team is, the more necessary Hersh's position. Too bad. Because we know Colin Powell ain't Benedict Arnold. None of the President's men has the stomach. But in the end Hersh is just a link, and the final judgement lies with us citizens. As much as I appreciate the candor he forces through his professional craft, I'm not convinced that all of this wasn't worth it. I may be wrong about that, but at least I'm telling you straight.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:29 AM | TrackBack

    September 14, 2004

    Fear Factor: Torture?

    Yesterday I heard that Seymour Hersch, the New Yorker columnist who made his fame breaking the My Lai Massacre has now published a book which indicts the Bush Administration for Abu Ghraib tortures.

    I've said before that the elements of torture revealed to me were not surprising, or particularly horrific and that most of them appeared to fall into two categories. One: Going over a known line in the usual course of interrogations. Two: Amaturish pranks by weekend warriors. Most attention has been focused on the second category. Of them I have said that the reason they are not surprising is because of the content of American vulgar pop culture as exemplified by our jocularity about prison rape ("Don't drop the soap" - Martha Stewart's bunkmates, etc) and television and movies, particularly 'Fear Factor'.

    I watched Fear Factor again the other night. There were three stunts. On the other side of these stunts were $50,000 of prize money.

    1. Climbing to a height of 110 feet over concrete pavement, leap 8 feet to a cargo net. (Subject is tethered).

    2. Eat after thorough chewing 5 live earthworms & 1 live centipede.

    3. Crawl 200 yards through a sewage pipe in pitch darkness.

    Is this torture? If we made prisoners of war do this, would we be cited by human rights organizations? Does the $50,000 make a difference? Does volunteering make a difference?

    Somebody please explain to me exactly how this qualifies as entertainment.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:42 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

    September 13, 2004

    Suppress This!

    If you catch me gaming online, especially in racing games, you might hear me say with competitive contempt "Out of my way, peasant!". Sometimes that is followed with "I am your king!" accent on the second word, following the Monty Python skit. Like Moe Greene at Sydney, I am letting people know that they are about to get served.

    But even on more serious occasions, though I am often likely to dress like an underachiever in various homeboy suits, incognegro, I still retain a certain amount of arrogance. Maybe I'm just like my father, too bold. I think it's necessary for a kid who grew up in the 'hood to understand the people and institutions that build the marvels of this civilization. Who would dare take your money and promise to cure cancer? Who would dare build a skyscraper over the ruins of Ground Zero? Who would dare build jets that fly 3 times the speed of sound? Who would dare build networks that could send the digital content of a DVD halfway around the world in four seconds? Americans, that's who. The nerve of these people. But I understand.

    When it comes to the title of leader of the free world, and it takes even a greater amount of nerve to invent, much less assume such a title, arrogance has got to be the order of the day. Imagine what it takes to back that up. Well, all of us have to. It's our duty as citizens, and as nervy as we are we choose one to stand above us all.

    So it is from the perspective of an uppity negro (RIP Aaron) that I consider the matter of vote suppression. Do I believe that somebody with the nerve to want to be President of the United States would try and suppress the black vote. Yes I do. Do I think they could get away with it? Yep. Do I think they could get away with it twice? Only against peasants.

    Deep down in my heart of hearts I believe that most people are peasants. Just as strongly, I believe that nobility has no permanent address and you never know where the next king will be born. Maybe in a cotton field. Perhaps in a manger. So I know that people will not stay down and that abused enough times will rise in their own defense. What goes around comes around, and you really don't want to mess with those pitchforks and torches too many times.

    Now John Kerry comes and makes promises to blackfolks like we're all peasants and what we want as blackfolks, more than anything else, is the comfort of knowing that he's on our side when it comes to fighting voter suppression. Considering the fact that I consider myself one of those nobles born among the common folks, how do you think I take that? Well, I tell you. I'll round up some of my fellow nobles and show him exactly our attitude towards usurpers. Though I've learned to be handy with a sword, I might go incognegro and stick a fork in him just to remind him that peasants may be peasants, but they're not all stupid.

    You won't find me grumbling about rumors of voter suppression like an old wife. I just know that I'm not about to be intimidated or suppressed, and that people like me won't either. I don't make it my business to second-guess blackfolks. I can only represent the Old School - me and people like me. And you can be sure that we remember who it was who faced the dogs and firehoses. We didn't ask for and weren't looking for a knight in shining armor to come to our emotional rescue, so we won't be yours all yours. We grow our own balls around here and we're not impressed with Kerry's.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:51 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    September 10, 2004

    Rudy

    I've written that I don't know what to think of Italians. That may be true, but Italian-Americans: we're dogs.

    One of my homies from NY and I agree on damned near everything except one: Rudy Giuliani. We both loved him from the beginning up and until Diallo, at which point I kicked him to the curb, especially after he had Carl McCall arrested during a protest. And though I'm glad he rounded up the squeegee pests, I was real keen on his falling out with Chief Bratton. My sentiments were with, and still are, with NYC's former and LA's current Chief of Police. Luima, we don't even need to talk about. So that was three strikes against a guy I used to respect and admire. If Giuliani were a martini, he'd be ice-cold with prime Stoli vodka. But his arrogance added just too damned much vermouth, so I poured him down the drain.

    Like a lot of harheaded skeptics, I wasn't prepared to call anybody a hero for doing their job >= nine-eleven. I just don't have that kind of thing in my constitution. People who do admirable jobs do admirable jobs. Medals are for soldiers. But clearly, aspects of the old Rudy shone through, especially because America was not in the mood for too much vermouth in those days. But since I am long gone from NYC and also pleased with various aspects of Bloomberg, I wasn't expecting Rudy to recover.

    As it happens, I found this over at Negrophile spoken by none other than Diallo's dad:

    "We think at last he has become a good leader," Diallo said in an interview last week. "Because of what he did on Sept. 11th."

    "We hope that he has changed. I hope that if he wants to become a leader for the country that he has changed for the better. I think he has the potential."


    Huh? What?

    If you ask me today who I'd rather have represent my kind of Republican to the nation, I'm not sure you could do much better than Pataki, Giuliani and Whitman. You could throw Arnold into that too, but I prefer the career guys. In fact, I prefer Giuliani because of his background as a prosecutor. He knows where the law and order rubber meets the road, no cheesy legislator or baby-kissing pol he. I like that in my political dudes. I don't believe he has a political future, but I like the stuff he's made of, whereas creatures like Tom DeLay, Phyllis Schlafly and Carl Rove make my head hurt and the back of my throat tingle. I like very much that New York Republicans make Schlafly's stomach upset, but enough with the metaphors of malaise.

    If Rudy G has a political future, I think he would be a damned fine replacement for Hillary Clinton. Unlike many on my side of the aisle neither Clinton raises my blood pressure. I could take them or leave them, and although I never trusted Bill, I think he admirably kept his head on when the VRWC was losing its and blaming everything on him. Even though he got creamed in the end, Clinton played defense better than GWBush whom if he loses will be considered the biggest putz in history.

    If I were a New Yorker, and I had the option, I'd want to hear something from Bratton, but then I'd very likely vote for Giuliani for Senate in a heartbeat. Then me and my dogs could have a cold one and some sausages on 7th Ave at Tonio's. That would be nice.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:49 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    September 06, 2004

    Undone?

    Over at Vision Circle, I'm uploading several hefty documents about race that I collected when that was part of my Boohabian focus. One of them was part of the outputs of President Bill Clinton's Initiative on Race, which I imagine became part of the legacy Democrats use to demonstrate how much more cool they are to blackfolks. I find that an admirable but dubious claim, but not for lack of trying. Still, I wonder if anyone anywhere on the planet actually took such deeds to task. Since I'm willing to bet that I'm the only race geek who bothered to download any such artifacts I find it hard to believe that anyone is acting on them in a constructive way today. But I'd like to be proven wrong.

    Be that as it may, in the spirit of 'what have you done for me lately' I ask the question what has the Republican Party undone for blackfolks lately. I suspect that people will go all the way to Iraq looking for an answer, if they don't get caught up in Haiti first, but that they will find little that Clinton has done that Bush has undone.

    Since I'm not studying race relations I leave that question open to anyone who is willing to bring forth some adequate proofs, and I provide the docs. There will be more to come at Vision Circle, so keep your eyes peeled.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:17 PM | TrackBack

    September 02, 2004

    Taking Money From White People

    ovington2.jpg
    P6 has a snarky report on Project 21's recent interview on C-SPAN.

    He suggests that blacks are not led astray, hoodwinked or bamboozled by white liberal politics. That is putatively because political organizations like the NAACP are directed by blacks. So he finds it credible when Mfume suggests that Project 21 is a make believe black organization. Why? Because it takes money from white people.

    I'm really not in the mood to return snark for snark. But I wonder how it is that any black people could possibly be possesed of their own minds if they are willing to accept assistance from whites. I wonder if Kwesi knows whether or not the pipes that bring water into his house were laid by blacks or whites. Because if he has been drinking white water for all of these years, I don't know that we can trust his opinion, as a black man.

    By the way, wasn't there some white guy who went by the name of Springarn? I heard he had something to do with the NAACP. No maybe my memory is bad. Maybe it was Moskowitz or something like that. Nah. Couldn't be.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:11 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

    Cornel West: A Mouthful

    George, as usual is looking out for my interests and sends me West's intellectual PR for his next book 'Democracy Matters'. An exerpt of West-speak:

    Free-market fundamentalismjust as dangerous as the religious fundamentalisms of our daytrivializes the concern for public interest. The overwhelming power and influence of plutocrats and oligarchs in the economy put fear and insecurity in the hearts of anxiety-ridden workers and render money-driven, poll-obsessed elected officials deferential to corporate goals of profit, often at the cost of the common good. This illicit marriage of corporate and political elitesso blatant and flagrant in our timenot only undermines the trust of informed citizens in those who rule over them. It also promotes the pervasive sleepwalking of the populace, who see that the false prophets are handsomely rewarded with money, status, and access to more power. This profit-driven vision is sucking the democratic life out of American society.

    It's amazing. I'm starting to see through Cornel West. 10 years is a long time.

    I think his assumptions about the responsibilities of the market are misplaced as well, exactly where the DOJ is failing us. He should be watching the difference between people like Rudy Giuliani who come from the prosecutorial side law and order guys who get government power and Michael Bloomberg, who comes from the corporate side to get government power.

    You can depend on the former to exercise toughness wrt law and order and are not going to be punked by corporate elites. Eliot Spitzer is a good example. You can depend on the latter to make governement actually more efficient, effective and responsible to the public. Although somebody needs to follow up on Bloomberg's initiative to have a centralized call center to handle all complaints of New Yorkers.

    None of these are democratic in the way I think West wants to see democracy, which is more of a call of social justice in all things which depends too much on outsized symbolism for my taste. Enron is no more. Plus it took out Arthur Andersen. You cannot think of a more incredible story of justice, and yet West would harp on that as exemplifying what's wrong. He simply has no respect for the intelligence and probity of investors, nor the flatly undemocratic prosecutorial powers of the DOJ. And he doesn't seem to give organizations like FASB the time of day but rather lumps them indistinguished as agents of 'market fundamentalists'. He simply doesnt' bother to give any value to the elements of trust that businessmen must establish one to the other, nor the institutions that make this possible.

    In the end, his noises about King, Coltrane, Mobley and Douglass are non-sequiturs, and I think he's bitten off more than he can chew as he talks about empire and geopolitics. But then so do we all.

    I would like to send West on a mission to that great creator of profits: Johnson & Johnson and see how well his rhetoric stands up to reality. The fact of the matter is most of the largest corporations who are the most influential in our society operate in relatively thin profit margins. And yet like moths to a flame, or perhaps deer in the headlights, we find Leftists completely overwhelmed by two words 'corporate profits'. They cannot fathom how it motivates people in any but corrupt ways. I daresay it is because of their complete lack of experience and understanding of how small folks become big folks and how 30% profit margins on 10 million is a completely different animal than 3% margins on 100 million.

    Maybe we expect too much of them.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:50 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Kobe Be Free!

    I'm 14 hours behind the facts on this. But the case has been dropped against Kobe Bryant. I'm stunned, surprised and glad that Bryant didn't go down in flames. I had already written him off, not so much as a predator, but as an idiot and a soon-to-be has-been. It appears that the Lakers have a future after all. Yay LA.

    While we're doing the black man proxy thing, let me say for the record that if Michael Jackson get's off, I think that would be less of a happy day. There's nothing Michael Jackson can do for me but fade away more gracefully. He's definitely a has-been, and I have no sympathy for him at all.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:30 PM | TrackBack

    Captain Blackman

    Ever since I read Captain Blackman by John A. Williams back in the 80s, I knew not to take any guff about African Americans not being patriotic. In fact, while I was in college, I had to work hard at keeping my own dream alive in order not to be seduced by the real leadership opportunities of the armed forces. Back then, my promised land was Corporate America. I know better now, but that doesn't change the fact that the military is a great opportunity for millions of Americans.

    Now, check out this military acadamy in St. Paul. I have a feeling something incredible is under way. I wonder what history we don't know about blacks coming to serve as officers from our traditional universities. It would be interesting research.

    I hope that the Charles Young is successful. I have every reason to think it will be. There's a big discussion of this over at Joanne Jacobs' blog.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:11 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Building Defensive Weapons

    The other day a specialist was on NPR bemoaning the lack of organization in the Department of Homeland Security. I have my biases.

    I think that, depeding on your defintion of 'win', we can win the WoT. If the goal of terror is to terrorize, then we must refuse to be terrorized. That starts with reducing the hyperbole associated with manic rhetoric about how shoddy DHS is. The fact of the matter is that we have had no significant events of terrorism since three years ago. We must be doing something right. But let's dig deeper.

    It has been said that mechanical engineers build weapons and civil engineers build targets. What are the targets of terrorism and what are the defensive weapons we can build? I hear grousing about the lack of sophisticated airline security with regard to the number of bags that are x-rayed and scanned. Some context should be drawn as to whether this legitimate complaint has merit in perspective.

    I come at it this way. AQ had a number of years to plan the plane hijackings. It involved senior planners and fairly large cells. Let us assume that this was their Pearl Harbor. They will never again be able to pull off a stunt of this magnitude unless we are totally inept. Secondly, we have captured or killed most of the senior leadership. We have attrited their ability to create, plan and carry out such massive attacks. We've had two Olympics and two major political conventions without incident. Is it possible that they can no longer plan well enough to take out the biggest targets? Is there no mother of all terrorist acts in the works? I think there aren't quite enough masterminds remaining to pull it off, and we've demonstrated our willingness to run our military through two countries making sure.

    On the other hand, there are baby Bin Ladens with one and two, perhaps three years of experience. Relatively speaking, these young turks will be amateur terrorists. What do amatuer terrorists do? That's easy - look to Iraq. They kidnap and behead. They use car and truck bombs. They attacked the UN headquarters in Iraq. They form ragtag militias.

    So now we throw in a bit of rhetorical thinking. It seems to me that when one thinks of AQ capability of fielding weapons of mass terror, our attriting ability and record is parallel to that against Saddam Hussein ability to field weapons of mass destruction. Once you start taking out the leaders, you reduce the net ability of the enemy to field sophisticated super weapons. Iraq, after our total domination of it, no longer poses a threat, not for the lack of trying as Baathist and Sadrists prove - but for lack of ability based on our battle of attrition. Understand that it is the ability of AQ to recurit minds like Atta which increases their ability to deploy weapons of mass terror. But men such as Atta are as scarce as weapons scientists. Each officer we take out of AQ, exponentially aids our cause and reduces the net potential of that organization. When we prevail, what will be lef of AQ is a network of suicide bombers and rock throwers. We don't defeat terrorism, we defeat mass terrorism.

    What this means for our defense is that here at home we will face, perhaps what Russians face with Chechnya or what Spaniards face with ETA or what Chinese face with Falun Gong or what Israelis face with Hamas: an unending stream of small acts of terrorism. Will America be able to absorb a monthly bus bomb? Hard to say. But the fact that we have no large attacks - nobody taking out the Golden Gate Bridge, nobody cropdusting cities with Anthrax says something.

    The expert made a point that I think bears repeating. We don't have enough EMTs. We don't have enough ambulance drivers. We don't have enough firefighters. These are the people who are going to make a difference in dealing with the 3 year old terrorists. But it hasn't come to that even in three years.

    I think as we advance most forcefully against the masterminds and the networks of WMD proliferation, we will severely attrit the ability of anyone but state sponsored terrorists to recruit for, plan and carry out acts of mass terrorism. But we'll never stop the molotov cocktails, rock throwers and mad bombers. They can be anywhere, at any time, for any fool reason. But I think the lessons of the Sadrists in Iraq are very instructive, for to carry out a radical jihad, some loud mouths must be heard and some holy order must be established. They are the groups, like Hamas, in the middle. There is where we will watch.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:05 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    September 01, 2004

    Kerry's Think Tank

    OK somebody help me out here. We know about the PNAC, and true most of us didn't know who they were or what they stood for until after GWB was elected. But who is Kerry's Think Tank? Show me a statement of purpose because the crap at johnkerry.com doesn't cut it. There is nowhere near enough detail for a wonk-head like me. So where do I go for the meat?

    Posted by mbowen at 12:21 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    August 31, 2004

    Out Blacked

    I haven't been counting noses, and I haven't watched one minute of either convention on television. But it has come to my attention that both Rod Paige and Michael Steele spoke tonight. Has the RNC out-blacked the DNC? Just asking.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:36 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

    Schlafly & Dobson

    I'm not quite as authoritative on the matter of Fundamentalism as I should be given the kinds of claims I am likely to make in the following essay, but I think I know a thing or two. One thing that makes my life a bit easier is understanding something about a promise made by Carl Rove to GWBush in 2000 which I learned about today.

    The authority on this matter seems to be David Kirkpatrick who writes for the NYT. What I've learned from this gent is that I've been barking up the wrong tree, probably like a fool to those who know better, when I say that I want to kick Pat Robertson to the curb as an ascendant part of the Old School Republicans. You see, Pat Robertson isn't the man any longer. He has been replaced, by and large by Rev. Dr. James Dobson.

    Dobson is the man behind Focus on the Family. Not only that, he's the author of the 'Left Behind' series of Evangelical fantasy books. Yeah I said fantasy, if you have a beef, take it up with the Archbishop of Canterbury. He's also the man on the phone every week with some of the President's people. In short, he's the dude that gives those of us drawing a bright line between Church and State heartburn.

    Phyllis Schlafly is more well known for giving all sorts of people heartburn forever and a day. Me, I never paid a moment's notice to her. If you had told me yesterday that she was dead, I probably wouldn't even have Googled the obit. But according to insider Kirkpatrick, Shlafly's Eagle Forum are the parties responsible for strongarming abortion language onto the planks of the RNC's document.

    What does this have to do with Carl Rove? Well, apparently Rove promised Bush 4 million more Christian Fundamentalist votes than actually showed up at the polls in 2000. And for this GWBush has been looking over his shoulder, and occasionally bending over backwards to find and keep those lost sheep happy. How so? Well, I guess you can take your pick of gut-wrenching right wing rhetoric and lay it at the feet of social conservatives like Schafly and Dobson. They are the prime sources of influence within the Republican Party.

    Example A. Stem cell research policy.
    Example B. Federal Marriage Amendment.
    Example C. Partial Birth Abortion legislation.

    Now none of those three examples above give me gas. I simply don't like Evangelical Fundamentalists. That's a religious beef. With regard to politics I like them blurring the lines between Church and State even less. Just as I dislike crotch holding knuckleheads representing 'Black', I dislike raputure bumpersticker Jesus freaks representing 'Christian'.

    That's not fair of course. I've used Focus on the Family's movie reviews to help me decide on many occasions. In fact there's probably a great deal of common ground between my basic values and theirs. But I'm not a Fundamenalist. If you ask me which side won the Culture Wars, I'll say my side. They think they've lost. One day we'll disentangle Angry White Paranoia from all this mess but I'm satisfied not parsing it that close. As Ms. Rice recently said, we need to be a bit more humble considering how long it took us to achieve a multi-ethnic plural democracy. Bottom line is that America is getting better not worse and I'm not taking any cues from embittered pseudo-persecuted prophets of doom. Clear enough? Fundamentalists, find your suburb and get a grip.

    (whew)

    There are several big things that I take from this knowledge.

    1. A hell of a lot can be bought with 4 million votes. GP are ya with me? (If you don't know, you better ask somebody). Seriously, this is a very concrete example of what swing voters can accomplish.

    2. A very serious question can be asked as to whether it is via Dobson and/or Schlafly that socially conservative blacks are attracted to the Republican Party. I don't think so, but I want to find out. If so, then are we completely wrong about Sunday morning being the most segregated hour? If not, that means somebody needs to tell Fred Price and Cecil Murray that they're not playing a big enough game.

    3. None of these people were anywhere before 1972. Which suggests to me that in 15 years African American influence in the Republican Party can be very substantial.


    I think this should also clear up the distinction between what I mean between conservative blacks and black conservatives. I can imagine that there are a goodly number of African Americans who will come to the Republican Party via the Christian Conservative route. But I see a significant difference between them and white Evangelical Fundamentalists that's more than racial. Again, we'll need to disentangle sides of the Culture War when we look closer. Me, I'm sticking to the college-edumacated Talented Tenth elitist position when it comes to the Chu'ch, but I'll get in trouble one way or another. Quite frankly, I hope Ambra or LaShawn sets me straight on this. I think Mike King has sided with Jesse Lee Peterson too (whom I presume to be a sterling example of a black Evangelical Fundamentalist - but I could be wrong).

    Finally, I wanto focus for a moment on Zell Miller. I like Zell Miller, who was attractive to me as a Democrat when I lived in Georgia. I don't know if he's changed his position much in the past 7 years but I know he's made a lot of enemies to his left among the Donkeys. I think I would be surprised to find that he has looked at policy and philosophy from Dobson and/or Schlafly to make his decision about switching parties.

    Like me, he's just running like hell from the idiocy of the Left, not running to the 'wisdom' of Social Conservative Ideologues.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:43 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    August 30, 2004

    Necessary, Achievable & Noble

    Is it just me or does John McCain sound like Les Nessman from WKRP? This is the second time I've wondered onto a radio broadcast of him speaking and I swear he sounds like a pinched professor. That doesn't detract at all from the rousing content, which although it got slightly tedious in the praise department, was good enough for me to hear to the end.

    I turned on the radio just in time to hear half of NYC boo and shout. I had no idea what was going on. As soon as I switched on the radio I heard the word 'filmmaker' and then howls, whistles and catcalls. It took me a minute and then I put it all together. The speaker must be talking about Michael Moore. That was my chuckle of the day.

    McCain put it plainly. We're all on alert. Bush did the right thing and he will continue to fight the good fight. I'll buy that. But more importantly, McCain struck the right note of patriotism when talking about our regular elections. You could just feel the love.

    My friends, we are again met on the field of political competition with our fellow countrymen. It is more than appropriate, it is necessary that even in times of crisis we have these contests, and engage in spirited disagreement over the shape and course of our government. We have nothing to fear from each other. We are arguing over the means to better secure our freedom, and promote the general welfare. But it should remain an argument among friends who share an unshaken belief in our great cause, and in the goodness of each other. We are Americans first, Americans last, Americans always.

    Nice one.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Queer Fist

    It's probably not fair of me to mock the political sensibilities of NYC's recent mobs. I myself have mobbed NYC at a particular moment in time. But Queer Fist? They want to make out in public until Republicans barf all over themselves and then lecture us about freedom?

    Back to your garrets you pathetic bohemian hunger artists! We've got a country to run.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:32 PM | TrackBack

    August 26, 2004

    Breakfast at Denny's

    Michael Savage is on vacation today. So his guest host talked about race on the air. I didn't catch the beginning but the man was making some good points. Still, as usual, I turned off the radio and continued the conversation with my steering wheel at a higher level of discourse.

    I told my own reparations story as an example of the kind of thing nobody hears in the shallow discussions that ever make the air. It starts here at my last grandmother's funeral. Those 200 acres would make a big difference, and I think every black family has got such a story.

    It occured to me that the last people Americans want to hear stories about racism from are those of us who are well-educated, well-paid and articulate. The irony is that we are the ones most likely to have legitimate complaints of racism. I'm not saying that the poor and uneducated blacks don't face racism, but rather that their lot are more likely to be beat down by more factors. When someone with a master's degree is told they are not qualified, it's more likely to be a racist lie then when sombody from the ghetto is told that. Racism may be more consequential for the little guy, but it's more obvioius and blatant for the big guy.

    That's all.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:06 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    August 25, 2004

    Poltical Burnout

    This is exactly how I feel today, after being involved in a pissing match over Kerry:

    Converse claimed that only around ten per cent of the public has what can be called, even generously, a political belief system. He named these people ideologues, by which he meant not that they are fanatics but that they have a reasonable grasp of what goes with whatof how a set of opinions adds up to a coherent political philosophy. Non-ideologues may use terms like liberal and conservative, but Converse thought that they basically dont know what theyre talking about, and that their beliefs are characterized by what he termed a lack of constraint: they cant see how one opinion (that taxes should be lower, for example) logically ought to rule out other opinions (such as the belief that there should be more government programs). About forty-two per cent of voters, according to Converses interpretation of surveys of the 1956 electorate, vote on the basis not of ideology but of perceived self-interest. The rest form political preferences either from their sense of whether times are good or bad (about twenty-five per cent) or from factors that have no discernible issue content whatever. Converse put twenty-two per cent of the electorate in this last category. In other words, about twice as many people have no political views as have a coherent political belief system.

    It's probably more fair to say this is what the little man on my shoulder is telling me all the time. To listen or not to listen, that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler to put up with the Coulters and Moores that American political life is heir to, or to take up arms by way of a think tank or 527...

    Posted by mbowen at 11:53 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    August 24, 2004

    Murkowski in Alaska

    Lisa Murkowski is running against three conservative Republicans for the Alaska senatorial seat. I'm watching this race. What this article doesn't say is that the other three candidates are also trying to make abortion a big issue in the campaign.

    Mainstream Republican leaders have embraced her. She's gotten the blessing of Alaska's senior senator, Ted Stevens, who called her "a hell of a lot better senator than her dad ever was."

    She's been endorsed by President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who made a campaign appearance in Anchorage. There has been a pipeline of Cabinet secretaries choosing Alaska to announce federal programs.

    She supports tax cuts championed by President Bush and emphasizes her close relationship with Stevens and Rep. Don Young.

    Money has poured in to her campaign since she began campaigning in January 2003 and she had raised $3.75 million through Aug. 4.

    Her three Republicans challengers do not believe she's the best person for the job: Former state Senate President Mike Miller, 53, a gift shop owner from North Pole who spent 18 years in the Legislature; Wev Shea, 60, the former U.S. attorney for Alaska, now in private practice, and perennial candidate Jim Dore, an Anchorage house framer.

    Miller has not been subtle in reminding voters of the circumstances of Sen. Murkowski's appointment. A mailer last week showed a frog with a gold crown under the headline "Kiss monarchy goodbye."

    Miller's campaign also has been tagging Murkowski with a label considered leprous by Alaska Republicans: liberal.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:43 AM | TrackBack

    Whitman Speaks For Me

    The NYT has an article that shows about where my head is at.

    Those who once might have been called Rockefeller Republicans say the prime-time slots set aside to present a centrist image show that the leadership knows the party must broaden its appeal to retain the White House. But they worry about their real influence in a party dominated by conservatives at a time when the ranks of House moderates are thinning and an activist group zeros in on candidates it brands RINO's, Republican in Name Only.

    "Frankly, if the president wins walking away with this, maybe the country is in a different place than where the moderate Republicans are,'' said Christie Whitman, the former New Jersey governor and Bush administration official who is writing a book titled "It's My Party Too." "If he loses, it is an absolute validation of the fact that you cannot be a national party if you are excluding people.''

    Mrs. Whitman makes it clear that she does not want President Bush, whom she served as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, to lose. But she is not alone in urging party leaders to consider the contributions of moderates at moments other than when it makes strategic sense


    Posted by mbowen at 07:42 AM | TrackBack

    August 21, 2004

    Wal-Mart & The Marginal Labor Market

    Sebastian Holsclaw has a great Wal-Mart discussion in which people claim that Wal-Mart takes more than it gives with respect to employee benefits because of the size of the safety net. Is Wal-Mart subsidized and incented to pay low wages and benefits? If there was a minimum wage hike to pay for more benefits would that be a good thing?

    I interpret things this way: Wal-Mart is not special with regard to its 'dependence' on the safety net, it just has the wherewithal to respond quicker. This is a quickness that is, in part, enabled by its information technology infrastructure. As the price of this techology goes down, there will be more companies enabled similarly.

    In a neighborhood with small businesses who compete for the same labor pool, small incrementals in employee benefits make enough difference for Wal-Mart (aside from its reputation) to tip the scales in its favor. I wonder if those in favor of increasing the safety net would feel more confident taxing those small businesses to the same tune they would Wal-Mart.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:07 AM | TrackBack

    August 19, 2004

    David Horowitz Makes Sense

    Uh Oh.

    I think I'm having a paranoid moment. I just read an old article by David Horowitz and I don't see anything wrong with it. This is spooky. The article is the notorious Baa Baa Black Sheep published in Salon in 1998. Hmm

    Posted by mbowen at 08:46 AM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

    August 14, 2004

    Powell

    Colin Powell says:

    I think our historical position is we are a superpower that cannot be touched in this generation by anyone in terms of military power, economic power, the strength of our political system and our values system. What we would like to see is a greater understanding of power, of the democratic system, the open market economic system, the rights of men and women to achieve their destiny as God has directed them to do if they are willing to work for it. And we really do not wish to go to war with people. But, by God, we will have the strongest military around. And that's not a bad thing to have. It encourages and champions our friends that are weak and it chills the ambitions of the evil.

    Sorta makes you feel good, huh? Wait until you read the whole thing. I kick Bush for muzzling this man. When I say that the White House is not open enough, it's because I expect a good long press conference at least once a month. But every time I hear GW, it's a dozen mumbling words. Just listen to this interview and compare it with what we generally hear out of the White House, and you'll understand my frustration.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    August 13, 2004

    Low Hanging Fruit

    Interesting stuff re: Minority Business from the Negrophile

    The group looked at investments in minority-owned businesses made by 24 funds from 1989 to 1995, according to UW business professor William Bradford. 11 of those funds representing 117 investments received an average of $1.62 million return on a $562,400 investment. The other funds' investments were too young to produce returns.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:34 AM | TrackBack

    August 12, 2004

    Race: Public Dialog vs Single Combat

    "One day the fellas got together.
    We vowed that no one would ever
    come on our block and terrorize us.
    The ones that used to do it now they idolize us."
    -- Mohandas Dewese

    This is a complicated meditation on anti-racism. I'd like to sum it up in the words of a friend of the family. He said that if blackfolks want to learn anything about race then they would learn from the example of the Japanese. The White Man did not respect Japs until Japs started killing white men. It was a scary thing to hear, and it's the kind of thing even Bill Cosby won't say in public. But as I think about it, I think that it's ultimately the last word and why public debate on the question of race is doomed.

    Debra Dickerson says:


    When I realized that I had internalized the world's loathing of blacks, my first response was, counterintuitively, relief. Finally, I have proof that blacks' obsession with racism isn't crazy. If I secretly think that many poor blacks are animalistic and stupid, you'll never make me believe that lots of other people don't, too. My lasting response has been chagrined amusement to realize that I hold such ridiculous, illogical notions. Most of all, acknowledging my own racism has given me a measure of compassion for how difficult it is to retain one's humanity in such a politicized and inhumane world. I'm black and I make my living thinking about race, but I still wasn't immune to the insidious bigotry in our world. How much harder it must be for those with far less time to contemplate and come to terms with these vexing social issues.

    It's not bigotry per se that hamstrings us in the struggle to achieve a just society. It's our inability to talk about and think our way through our preconceptions. We have to learn how to forgive each other, and more importantly ourselves, when we're stupid.

    Althought Dickerson says we ought to be all about class and not race and gives some interesting anecdotes about how (Class Three) racism is lived, she doesn't say what we ought to do about racism besides talk honestly. This kind of talk ought to annoy me because it's just talk, but it doesn't because it's just talk. In other words, I acknowledge the failure of anti-racist politics, even though anti-racist sentiment is strong. So the fact that somebody who ought to know better only recommends that we all flap our lips honestly about it, doesn't bother me any longer. I don't expect people who understand racism to do anything political about it, you'd simply have to drop too many too-white folks, and quite frankly we've learned to route around those people who are too white more efficiently than we've learned to make them pay.

    Drop? Is that hiphop slang for kill? No, that's strictly political enemy talk.

    Consider the recent flap over Trent Lott. If you are a true anti-racist and you want to be effective, you've got to go where the racists are and confront them don't you? If you're MLK you don't march on Ann Arbor, you go to Selma. But like I said, today's politically correct folks assume the Republican Party is chockablock with folks who (like Lott?) are hell-bent on giving white supremacists aid and comfort; so they route around it at any cost. When it comes to extracting a real price, they are unable to do more that 'speak truth to power' which is ultimately just honest talk.

    While I am a Republican and expect that I'll have to play hardball of that sort sometime in the future, it's not why I'm here. I am not an infiltrating assassin or double-agent. I've always been anti-racist and everyone should know so. I hold everyone to the same standard so it really doesn't matter what party I'm in. I only assume that the racism of liberals is something different from the racism of conservatives. Don't ask, I haven't studied it that much.

    The irony is, of course, that those who assume (rightly or wrongly) that the Republicans have all the racists also assume that whatever they do can't be racist because they're not acting in concert with Republicans. Hmm. Maybe that this difference. So perhaps this is the reason that as a starting point they say that everybody's racist and encourage talk so that they can distinguish themselves by degrees rather than by principle.

    Like Dickerson, I'm another black person who is certainly aware of the dimensions of racism in people's heads. But unlike her I'm no more likely to call myself a racist than your priest's understanding of the ways and means of Lucifer is likely to make him consider himself a Satanist. "I feel your bigotry" is so Clintonesque. I'll have nothing to do with it. Furthermore, I have given up the mantle of the Race Man although I retain the wisdom and scar tissue. So I am just as guilty of inaction on behalf of the public as the rest.

    However, since I'm a talker in the public sphere too, I would suggest that the issue has been talked to death and the honesty ought not to be about our own personal bigotry, rather about our own politics. Why are we unable to work out some politics around racism? Is my own frustration illustrative, or is it just me? I don't know how to muster the thinking of the people and influence them towards anti-racist principles in this democracy. I am at a loss to explain how to get millions of Americans to think and do the right thing, but I think it has to do with many more millions of dollars, not simply honest talk. So if our two parties are illustrative of the state of the art, then they too must have concluded that the right sentiment is sufficient. Which means all of us are just left to deal with our consciences and talk honestly about our feelings.

    As I said, I don't get upset about this lack of public spirit. Why, because I'm conservative. I am as black as anybody, and I know that if and when I succeed according to the plans I have laid out, I'm going to face racial hostility. I'll face it from blacks, whites and others. (though generally through the perspective of white supremacy, the dominant form of racism in America - (I feel more 'nigger' than 'goyim' or 'gaijin')) I'll face it tomorrow in the same way I faced it yesterday. I can count on myself, my family and various African American traditions to get me through it - not on popular politics, Party platforms or pop psychology. That's OK with me, because I know how to talk back, fight back and if necessary, shoot back. I take responsibility for the amount of warrior code I must adhere to in order to pursue happiness in this place.

    Quite frankly I don't want to put anybody I've seen in public politics in charge of my fight with the nation of millions who would hold me back. Instead, I want to depend on my own networks, and posses. The law is sufficient most of the time. I know things would be a whole lot different if the right person was running this government, and I say make Johnnie Cochran head of the EEOC and watch knees tremble from coast to coast. Yet I also know that as I and my contemporaries rise through the upper middle classes the fights of racial hostility will be unlike anything they teach during Black History Month. Who feels for Joe Jett? Better yet, who fights for Joe Jett when his chips are down? He does.

    So when it comes to honest talk about racism, I can do that. But I've already done so and so I consider myself ahead of that game. I'm not going to stick around for the results of the next round of elementary public debate about 'race relations'. As the kids around the way say 'That is so yesterday'.

    Does that mean I think racial hostility will come to violence? It already does, but not for people like me. At my level I expect treachery in business, general snobbery and all the other kinds of intrigue of bourgie Americans. Do I think blackfolks will have to kill to get respect? For that kind of respect, sure. It was done in WW2 and that, from my perspective, is as real a driving force as any behind the Civil Rights Movment. It's what humanity demands. Whitefolks, like everybody else, need to be beat at their own game according to the rules of the game (which must occasionally be bent), whatever that game may be. Not just once but consistently enough to forge real respect and real alliances. There's no way around that. That's what equality means. That's what Malcolm had in mind.

    For the sake of our own civil society, no such extreme measures need to be considered. Blacks don't have to be Jackie Robinson just to play baseball any longer. But we should never forget what Jackie had to deal with, and what those of us on the leading edge will face. No amount of public debate is going to make that opposing pitcher throw a softball.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:04 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

    Conservative Blacks: What We're All About

    In anticipation of the Instalaunch initiated by LaShawn and the NRO article I suppose now is a good time to re-introduce myself and my aims to a host of new readers.

    As facilitator of the Conservative Brotherhood I am putting forth an effort aimed at getting a bit more traction for the wit and wisdom that we African Americans have known all of our lives. I have been writing essays and observations online for over a decade in just about all the interesting places that don't actually pay.. from the forums at Delphi to The Well to Salon's first Table Talk. The Blogosphere is another step on the way and I am hopeful that it will only get better from here forward.

    Over the course of those many years I have had the good fortune to come across writers with fascinating ideas and persuasive insights on matters that confound the rest of us. I have discovered that there are clearly ways to clear up murky subjects through online discussions that are not well served by broadcast media. In this, I am not taking a stereotypical swipe as someone in the media boondocks, but acknowledging real differences in capability and capacity. I have concluded that even the most tangly issues such as race, religion and politics can be approached comprehensively and satisfyingly here in cyberspace. So it should come as no surprise that these some of my favorite subjects.

    The focus here at Cobb is Culture, Politics and Thought. I'm attempting to personify who I am, a college-educated, self-employed married father of three living in the upscale (overpriced Southern California beach) suburb, who grew up in the 'hood, (nicely stereotyped by Hollywood's 'Boyz'). I want to put that simple face on the particular complexities of black politics. I am convinced that we have reached an inflection in our history and that larger numbers of African Americans in my generation are moving beyond the basic concerns of human and civil rights and focusing their political energies on issues of social power. We stand on the shoulders of MLK and Malcolm X, and on WEB DuBois and Booker T. Washington before them in an America that is more of our creation than ever before. We are not so alienated at home as our parents. The question often comes up 'What do black people want?', the answer is 'Anything that's worth having'. The ways and means of accomplishing this emergence, as informed by our heritage and inspiration, is the subject of my writing and black conservatism is the ethos.

    Recent remarks by Bill Cosby have been an excellent tangent for approaching the principles of the 'Old School' as we like to call it. Although one could start by examining that group previously known and self-identified as the 'Talented Tenth', there are interesting dynamics afoot among black Americans that often defy characterization. Part of that is changing how we are perceived - yet another change from 'colored' to 'Negro' to 'black' and beyond. I say this is a measure of our ambition. All Americans, immersed as we are in racial consciousness, regionalisms and class distinctions, understand general limits assigned to The Negro. And so those who would be considered that find it in their own best interests to transcend and reclaim. That's what we're doing here.

    The best way to get an understanding of conservative blacks is to read what we're saying. I wish there was a shortcut, but abstractions really don't serve us well considering our relative anonymity. However, I assure you that any subject you place in the search box will be found. Now you know where we are. Let's get on with it.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:43 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

    August 11, 2004

    In Retrospect

    Barbara Boxer asked a dumbass question this evening in her debate will Bill Jones. It went a little something like this: If you knew then what you know now about Iraq, would you have voted for War?

    I didn't hear Jones' response but I know it couldn't have been as good as this:

    Hell Yes!

    What I Know Now:

    • I now know that Saddam Hussein could be captured alive.
    • I now know that Bagdad can be taken in two weeks.
    • I now know that of 25 million Iraqis, we'd only get called on human rights violations against a couple dozen prisoners.
    • I now know that the Baby Bin Laden theory is false.
    • I now know that we could turn over sovereignty within 18 months
    • I now know that we could keep the price of gas down to $2.20/gal without using the Strategic Reserve, or reconsidering ANWAR
    • I now know that we can base in Iraq instead of relying totally on Israel
    • I now know that we can absolutely guarantee that there are no WMDs in Iraq.
    • I now know that Chalabi cannot be trusted.
    • I now know that Chalabi is not necessary.
    • I now know that Turkey is not a problem in Kurdistan.
    • I now know that Syrian fighters don't make a difference.
    • I now know a Shi'ite cleric who can be trusted in Iraq.
    • I now know that the UN Oil for Food Program was corrupted.
    • I now know that Libya is no longer bluffing.
    • I now know the nature of Jihadist militancy on the ground.

    I don't see how I would know any of those things had we only kept the No Fly Zones in operation and let yet another gaggle of inspectors poke around. Any more questions?

    Posted by mbowen at 12:01 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    August 10, 2004

    What's Done Is Done

    I took Moms to brunch Sunday in Culver City, she asked me what I'm going to do in November, and I've been thinking about it myself. Today the answer is, most definitely abstain.

    There are a number of reasons for this but the one that stares me starkly in the face is that the best thing I can imagine George W. Bush doing, he has already done. He pulled the trigger on Saddam Hussein. He put our nation on alert to deal with terrorism from 9/12 forward. He put a nice tax break in my pocket in 2003 when I needed it most. He kept Greenspan who juiced the economy basis point by basis point until it turned around (mostly). But GW Bush does not impress me as a man with a plan for the future. He is running on his record and frankly, it's just not good enough.

    On all the big issues, the President did the right thing except for the budget. I look at Iraq as a ground rule double that because of his speed and single-mindedness he stretched into a triple. If he would have found the WMDs, then he could have stolen home. But now Iraq is stuck on third. All Kerry has to do is bunt to score on Iraq. The big hit has already been made.


    But on the little thing, the details that make the difference between luck and polish, I could go on with a surfiet of negative quibbles and bits. I'm not satisfied that he runs an open enough White House. He's less articulate than Puff Daddy. I think he's a pretty rotten administrator. He did nothing notable on the domestic side of the house but protect steel and fire O'Neill. He didn't fess up or crack down on the Plame leak. But there are also two big mistakes. He broke the budget and he destroyed Colin Powell.

    Bush does not stand on the right side of the principles that I hold the Republican Party to primary of which is fiscal responsibility and noblesse oblige. That's more of a problem with the Party than with the man, after all, the Republican controlled Congress co-signed all of this spending malarky. But as the so-called leader of the Party, he should be held to account. My vote was for McCain in 2000 and the Party didn't deliver then either. It's tough being in the minority, but principles are principles.

    I remain convinced that history will show Bush as a mediocre president, much maligned and deserving of little of the flack he's gotten over the War in Iraq. And I am even pleasantly surprised that as inimical as Ashcroft has threatened to be to civil liberties, most of us are OK. Most of his damage can and will be undone. Compassionate Conservatism turned out to be a big goose egg, but Trent Lott got pimpslapped properly. Arnold turend out to be the big winner for Moderates like me - even though I expect that complications will soon overtake him as well.

    What stands out most in my mind is that the lesson of GWBush is that at no time should one vote for a president someone you think would make a nice president if things go the way you think they ought. Events always overtake the presidency and one ought to always hedge the bet, because omissions of skills at the presidential level always come back to bite somebody. More specifically, I don't want my vote going to somebody who is not some kind of Washington insider - the Executive Branch is too serious and complicated for that. And it is in Bush's mismanagement of that which I feel bears the greatest weight in my argument. Here is a man who has failed not only to win the popular vote, but to keep public opinion with him during wartime. How do you do that when Lee Greenwood is on the charts? How do you get your personality outshone by your VP, your political strategist and your house majority leader? Anyway, I don't want to beat up on the president, I think it's enough to say that I don't think he deserves another go 'round. He can't even answer questions about what oil is doing at $45/bbl and he's supposed to be an oilman.

    Being a Republican, my vote was the president's to lose, and he's lost it. There's no way possible that Kerry can earn it. But there are two things a Democratic president can do for me.

    1. Is put the Republicans in congress back on their toes and halt spending.
    2. Undo Ashcroft's overzealousness by guaranteeing sunset provisions in the Patriot Act.

    I expect little from either side this November, and I'll probably always be harsher on the Republicans, because I expect lots from them. It's a damned shame that I honestly believe that it will take a Democrat president for Republicans in the Congress to start getting stingy with tax dollars.

    Now I'm sure somebody will be able to explain the economics of deficit spending with regard to economic stimulus, but don't forget whom you're talking to. I don't get government contracts. Throw me a bone and we'll talk.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:11 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    August 05, 2004

    Threes for Keyes

    Alan Keyes has decided to run against Barack Obama in the Illinois Senate Race. I have several comments which happen to work out to three word phrases.

    • Glutton for punishment.
    • Desparate for attention.
    • Three time loser.
    • Ditka was right.
    • Stay in Maryland.

    Perhaps I'll figure out a more charitable way of thinking about this development. One can honestly say, for example, that the GOP is attempting to put a black candidate in a highly visible race, and lord knows that Keyes is going to start whipping his ideological horses. It doesn't get more visible than that. But if this is anybody's idea of a strategy. Yike. Obviously Keyes is thick skinned - the question is whether or not people will consider him smart or foolish for fighting what seems to be an inevitable losing battle. It depends entirely on what he says during the campaign.

    But here is one sentence you thought you might never hear. Yesterday's decision makes it inevitable that there will be a black Senator elected by Illinois this fall, Democrat or Republican.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:51 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

    August 03, 2004

    Orange Huff Duff

    Tom Ridge declared an Orange Alert today. Some people think that was stupid.

    One of the extraordinary premises of 'Cryptonomicon' the historical fiction which rocked the geek world a few years back was that information theory, not superior firepower and 'greatest generation' courage, won WW2. Part of that was due to the development of 'HF/DF'.

    HF/DF stands for something I am too lazy to walk over to my shelf and find out. Suffice it to say that it was the precursor to radar, and it sorta worked. In 'Huff Duff', the Allies had a secret weapon. While everyone was focused on whether or not the Enigma code was broken or not, Huff Duff stations were sensing where ships at sea were physically. With a little bit of calculated estimations and extrapolations, the Allies were able to figure out where enemy ships might go by plotting their possible movements rather than intercepting their communications. So they could be where the enemy was before the enemy was there.

    Now half the trick of having a secret weapon is not to use it so as to tip your hand to the enemy. If I've been reading your mail, I don't want to act as though I know too much, otherwise you'll become suspicious that I've read your mail. One way of using, but not using your secret weapon is to mask your offense, another way is to randomize your defense.

    Defense randomization makes your assets more difficult to attack because your enemy, if he is surveying you for targets, cannot accurately predict when you might be most vulnerable. If you have a regular changing of the guard and staffing levels for Sunday morning are predictably low, then your enemy would be most likely to attact on Sunday. But if you suddenly have your guard up on the Sunday of the attack, then your enemy will be suspicious that you have read his mail. If you have read their mail and you randomize your defense, and you are suddenly ready for the Sunday attack, your enemy is likely to blame dumb luck.

    Offense masking throws your enemy off track by making your attack look like dumb luck. For example. Let's say your asset is a bank. You place a little old lady in front of your bank on Sunday and she just happens to suddenly twist her ankle and flags down a car which just 'happens' to have an off-duty officer. Dumb luck right?

    In either case of Offense Masking or Defense Randomization you make yourself appear more stupid and vulnerable to your enemy than you actually are. Every time I hear the phrase 'intelligence failure', I take comfort that our agencies have a hundred tricks like this at their disposal.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:46 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    A Conservative Review of Affirmative Action

    LaShawn is boiling up the pot with a new flap over Affirmative Action, which she opposes. There's a fairly decent debate over the old, spider-web covered issue linked to and attending her post.

    Now that I am out of the closet as a conservative and Republican, I'd imagine that people would expect me to oppose Affirmative Action for a new reason. And while I have 'seen the light' and adopted some conservative litmus positions (with nuance of course) I can't say that my position on Affirmative Action has changed much, although I am a bit more inclined to say the hell with it all. It sort of reminds me of an odd position I had against Reagan's Constructive Engagement, which was to support it because the more people hated America's involvement in South Africa, the more attention it would bring to the problem - not that the policy itself was effective.

    I primarily support Affirmative Action for two reasons. The first has to do with the principle of racial integration. Affirmative Action mixes people. Anything that does so is good. Period. The second reason is that Affirmative Action exists as a peaceful concession to a militant political demand. It was a deal struck between the leaders of two separate and unequal worlds - a treaty which kept the peace in America. It was an honorable deal that we should honor.

    The soundest criticism I hear about Affirmative Action is that it essentially fights fire with fire. That it establishes a racial preference and that this sort of discrimination is flatly wrong. I accept that criticism, but only in the case of integrated applicants. A black kid from the integrated 'burbs doesn't need to be integrated again. A kid from a segregated neighborhood is defacto discriminated against on the basis of race (which established the ghetto in the first place) and that needs to be countered. This is important point. I'll return to it.

    On balance, however, I still support Affirmative Action. It's still a good idea and it's still useful. However I don't think it is as important an issue as many folks make it out to be. It's not as important, for example, as school vouchers which would affect a great deal more people. It is not as important as the minimum wage. It is not as important as amnesty for illegal immigrants, tax reform, health care reform or (of course) our occupation of Iraq and War on Terror. It's not as important as the continuing debate over abortion rights, civil liberties vis a vis Homeland Security, police abuse, the drug problems, HIV/AIDS or the sepration of powers.

    It is more important than 'under God'.

    Affirmative Action addresses a social power issue. At its best, Affirmative Action increases the social mobility of the previously land-locked. Further it keeps alive the notion of social mobility and prepares all of us to deal with it. A nation with a continuing program of Affirmative Action is more pluralistic - it gooses the dream along. But Affirmative Action is not a question of justice or rights. And in this regard, its defenders are often too shrill for their own good.

    Today, I think the legitimate basis for discussion about Affirmative action has to do with its resonance as a matter of social power. Therefore I put proponents for 'Diversity' on the same footing as those who complain of 'Stigma'. While I recognize these, I happen to devalue both arguments. This is because my defenses of Affirmative Action originated when such programs were more important and less controversial than they are now. I am conceding that the second generation of beneficiaries are less significant than the first in carrying the water for the continuing political & social support for racial integration. In other words, role-medeling is over.

    What this means is the following. While it is clear to me that today's individual beneficiary gains as much from Affirmative Action as yesterday's, society does not gain as much. Like it or not, we have reached a point of cultural equilibrium which diminishes the marginal social value of each new black or brown face integrated into the mainstream. Yes we still need to goose the dream along, but for most Americans, the very idea of the integration Affirmative Action creates has already been created.

    So we have a case of perception vs reality. Therefore we take it down to economic cases.

    One: Is all the Affirmative Action in America going to change the gap in unemployment between blacks and whites? No. For one thing, it's not a zero-sum game. For another thing the pool is simply too small.

    Two: Is Affirmative Action going to changes the pattern of employment for blacks? I think it already has, but still has a little juice left. I think the demand for Affirmative Action is static and is not bringing blacks into many new areas but largely replicating the demand of the first generation. It's still doctors and lawyers, not concert violinists and architects.

    Understand that this cuts both ways. Whites on the whole are not losing anything concrete when it comes to the benefits of Affirmative Action, nor does Affirmative Action raise the race of blacks and browns. Given those two facts which were not the case a generation ago, Affirmative Action is not as important to society as it once was. However, it is just as important to individuals as it ever was, which is the point I made up top and want to emphasize.

    So here is the curveball. Since I think 'Diversity' is a sham, always have always will, and because I think 'Stigma' is an argument which barely hides racial resentment, I think it is entirely reasonable to substitute some socio-economic criteria for race.

    Doing so creates problems but it resolves others.

    First: It does damage to the spirit of the Treaty - it would constitute a blow to black political patronage. But nobody is going to riot on the streets about it. The heat is off. It will create a significant amount of resentment - but we can deal with that because we deal with it now.

    Second: It deflects the commitment to racial integration and establishes whatever year as ground zero. Direct racial integration becomes a side-effect rather than the explicit purpose of Affirmative Action. This is a big deal. It effectively destroys what we know of it. It's not Affirmative Action any longer.

    Third: It eliminates the basis of the Stigma argument, and while I don't believe that admissions committees are ignorning the class of the egregious red herring of the black doctor's kid, it would finally shut up that loud minority.

    Fourth: The Diversity crew, whose shape-shifting justifications are legendary, would be mollified. They will adjust to the new reality without much fuss - it serves their socialist egalitarianism symbolically.

    Fifth: The racial nose counters will never be satisfied on either side of the fence. It forces them to say what they really mean.

    Sixth: It still gooses the dream along.

    As long as a non-racialized Affirmative Action has the same demonstrable affect for poor black and brown kids, the current have-not group, I think most people would support this idea. But doing so raises a very important question about the overall effectiveness of our public education system itself. If a deracialized Affirmative Action is to take the most deserving black and brown kids and give them a leg up, why aren't they getting it anyway? If a deracialized Affirmative Action just integrates regardless of merit, what exactly is the point of putting objectively disadvantaged kids into heavy competition?

    A deracialized Affirmative Action satisfies both the Stigma and Diversity contingents but broadens the scope of questions of opportunity and equality in public and private schooling. This is exactly what we're seeing. It brings in questions of vouchers, achievement bonuses, tracking, charter schools & infrastructure investment. In other words it takes one small can of very nasty snakes and turns it into six cans of slimy worms.

    As a conservative black, I have always understood with the same insight as Malcolm, that Affirmative Action and empowerment do not belong in the same sentence, with this exception proving the rule. Affirmative Action has done a good job in changing the pattern of black employment and social mobility over the past few decades, but it alone does not account for black achievement. It has been a kick in the pants for a lot of people, but not a sustained push. Everyone who is a beneficiary ultimately sinks or swims on their own. But I also acknowledge, without giving comfort to the Stigma weinie dogs, that on the whole society is not going to be dramatically changed with respect to additional Affirmative Actions. That job is done, and I think nothing quite says so like the fact that the hiphop generation is exactly what they want to be, overexposed. They don't care about one more black accountant, America doesn't care about one more female manager any more than Malcolm cared about three black cashiers at Woolworth.

    Who cares? That one kid who is the first of her family to get into college. That kid who gets to escape from the ghetto into a different, although equally challenging world. We can and should work for those individuals. That's the important work of preserving opportunity in a free and open society. The sooner we get down to that business, especially in breaking people free of our ghettoes, the better off we are. That cannot and will not take place under the banner of 'Affirmative Action', but it needs to take place, and we need to be all about it.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:39 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

    July 30, 2004

    68 Annoying Questions

    There's a lot of buzz about young black polticians and black politics these days. Or is there? I think it's just Barack Obama making a name for himself. Nothing wrong with that, of course. I will be glad to see him do well.

    However it is an open question as to whether having a black Senator will be a good sign for black politics. Much of it depends upon the responsibilities he gets. Will he author any notable legislation? Will he get appointed to the right committee? You see black politics still exists in a ghetto in the public mind, and there are certainly millions of blackfolks who are asking the same annoying questions.

    So I am looking forward to seeing what the bottom line is going to be after everyone has finished touching Obama's hair and remarking about his uncanny ability to orate. (You would have thought that Bryant Gumbel answered those questions a generation ago). Will he have to answer the same stupid questions?

    There can be no doubt that many of these questions, which will never be directly answered given what I've seen of the ObamaBlog, will come from African Americans. And what better way to figure out what's on the minds of blackfolks than to see what questions they ask? I've stolen 68 of them from Earl Ofari Hutchinson's website because when I went there looking for some discussion about Obama, I found nothing else. To me, these are a combination of moderately interesting short answer questions, but taken together as a comprhensive sample of black political interests, they make my head hurt. Yet somehow I have to admit these are the questions people want answered.

    I see a disconnect here. To call Obama a black politician, if it is to mean anything but a demographic qualification, means that he is responsible principled black questions and issues. And yet knowing that a US Senator can get to the bottom of just about anything that goes on in America, I can scarcely imagine Obama spending his newly found popularity shouting into the phone for answers or assembling a Senate Inquiry into any of the questions that follow. But I don't know Obama's direction and I admit that I find these questions mostly trifling.

    So the question I am begging is not whether Obama is 'authentically black' but what kind of issues African Americans raise that deserve the attention of a Senator. Because now that everybody wants to claim Obama, he's going to have to set some priorities that sooner or later are going to cause some people to disown him. That might move black politics further up the socio-economic scale (my hope) or demonstrate that it is stuck in the basement (my fear).

    OK the Questions.

    1. Will Kerry Keep The Promise He Made at the NAACP Convention to Aggressively Push Civil Rights?
    2. Why Do So Many Blacks Believe Cosby's Myths About Themselves?
    3. Are Bushs Tighter Restrictions on Cuba a Play For the Cuban-American Vote in Florida?
    4. Is Interracial Sexual Relations an Issue in the Kobe Bryant Case?
    5. Was Clinton Really A Political Genius?
    6. Did Ray Charles Crack More Than Music Barriers?
    7. Was Reagan an Enemy of Civil Rights?
    8. Did Cosby Get it Right When He Called Poor Blacks Knuckleheads for their Alleged Bad Grammar and Criminality?
    9. Does The National World War II Monument Honor The Fight of Black GIs in the War?
    10. Who Do You Blame For The Nick Berg Beheading?
    11. Are Separate Schools a Bad Thing?
    12. Was Pat Tillman hero or did he get what was coming to him?
    13. Is The Jackson Indictment About Child Sexual Molestation or Something Else?
    14. Is the Iraq War Bushs Vietnam War?
    15. Should Condi Apologize For 9/11?
    16. Are Black Athletes Dumber Than White Athletes?
    17. Will Condeleezza Rice Be the Scapegoat For Bushs 911 Failure?
    18. Is Wal-Mart Good or Bad for Black Communities?
    19. Does Rapper 50 Cents Anti-Gay Slur Represent The Sentiment of Black Men?
    20. Is Gay Marriage a Threat To The Black Family?
    21. Will U.S. Marines Help Haiti?
    22. Should California Apologize for Its Slave Past?
    23. Will Conservatives Turn on Bush?
    24. Was Janet a Victim?
    25. Race Was Inevitable in Bryants Case Why Do White Males Cheer Bush?
    26. Jackson and The Nation of IslamGood or Bad?
    27. Why Do Millions Shun The King Holiday?
    28. Should Child Killers Be Treated As Adults?
    29. Should More Blacks Support Bushs Reelection?
    30. Was Nixon A Racist?
    31. Do You Believe That Strom Thurmond Fathered A Black Child?
    32. Would You Attend and Approve A Friend's Gay Marriage Ceremony?
    33. Why Do So Many Blacks Think Jacksons a Racial Victim?
    34. Is Jackson a Target Because Hes Black and Successful or a Child Molester?
    35. Why Is the Unemployment Rate Among Young Black Males Astronomically High?
    36. Is Sharpton Off Base in Calling Blacks That Endorse A White Democratic Presidential Contender Uncle Toms?
    37. Are You Surprised That Hip-Hop Icon P. Diddy is Accused of Using Sweatshop Labor to Make His Hip Fashions?
    38. Are You Concerned That Theres a Rush to Execute Sniper Suspect John Allen Muhammad?
    39. Are the Rape Charges Against Kobe Bryant Unfounded?
    40. Does Limbaugh Deserve The Publics Overwhelming Compassion for his Drug Plight?
    41. More Blacks Than Whites Oppose Gay MarriageGood or Bad?
    42. Is Arnold Schwarzenegger a Racist?
    43. Why Has Progressive Democratic Presidential Contender Howard Dean Attracted So Few Blacks and Latinos to His Campaign?
    44. Should Blacks Demand that Clinton Do More than Preach at a Black Church for Their Support?
    45. Should Black Voters Bail Democrats Out of Recall Mess?
    46. Is there Any Merit to the Connerly Initiative?
    47. Should California Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamantes Use of the word "Nigger" be Held Against Him in His Bid To Be California Governor?
    48. Should Blacks and Latinos Vote for The Terminator?
    49. Can White Jurors in Eagle be Color-Blind Toward Kobe in a trial there?
    50. Why Is It Near Impossible To Convict Cops of Abuse Against Minorities?
    51. Should Kobe Be the New Poster Boy for The Thug Athlete? <