July 31, 2003

Andrew the Bear

I can't remember reading anything that Sullivan wrote that I agreed with, but I've never felt compelled to read anything of his at all. I don't feel as though I must keep up with his proxy for gay, or conservative for that matter, opinion.

So it was with unexpected pleasure that I found his essay on 'bears' while traipsing through Salon. For what it's worth I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who thinks 'Queer Eye' is an out of place waste of space. As if I don't know how to dress myself. But aside from dissing those he refers to as the slightly offensive feminized man, it's comforting to know something familiar and respectable about some of these guys whom every fundamentalist and his mama are trying to boot from the community of marrieds. I like bears. I like their attitude.

Posted by mbowen at 11:08 PM | TrackBack

More Crap From Israel

NPR Reports:

Citing national security, the Israeli parliament votes to prevent Palestinians who marry Israelis from obtaining Israeli citizenship or even permanent residency status in Israel. Many of Israel's 1 million Arabs condemn the move as racist and a violation of human rights.

This is about as low as you can go. The Israeli right is boil on democracy and civil rights.

Posted by mbowen at 06:42 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Winamp Hoverable Playlist

Note to self:

that's cool.

Posted by mbowen at 04:17 PM | TrackBack

Civil Unions

I have reflected a bit more on the matter of civil unions and I have come to the conclusion that my argument did not, in fact, fall off the cliff.

Given GWBush's recent statements, I think I have achieved a bit of clarity, especially in light of what I think he's trying to do which is wrong. He said:

I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman. And I think we ought to codify that one way or the other. And we've got lawyers looking at the best way to do that.

Wrong! The Church has already codified the sanctity of marriage and needs no further assistance from you. To do so is a breach of Constitutional principle as far as I'm concerned.

If Bush and conservatives are concerned about the sanctity of marriage they should be reminded (by someone like Karen Armstrong) that they are failing in their faiths. By engaging in their fundamentalist activism, they are undermining that which sacred texts have already set forth. That family and civil courts are already in the business of settling matters of divorce is quite plenty enough. But to put the law ahead of the process which otherwise might be handled exclusively by clerics is going too far. The United States has no business redefining Marriage, and people of God ought to understand that as well as people with great faith in the Constitution.

The state should recognize all civil unions without regard to faith and merely acknowledge Marriage as an expression of religious freedom and add a bunch of heretofores and other flowery legalese enshrining it because George Washington was married or some such. It should not quote any holy texts or suggest that there are multiple levels of standing in civil union.

A wedding of atheists at the Justice of the Peace is not a Marriage. It is a civil union. You can call it a marriage, just as you can call political partisans 'bedfellows', but that doesn't make it so. The state needn't codify what marriage is any more than it need delineate what Happiness people Pursue, it need only allow it to occur.

Posted by mbowen at 02:56 PM | TrackBack

Hobbes and Black Gangs

One of my problems is that I'm a fast grokker and generally have no patience for detail. I get it and move on. It's a habit born of insatiable curiosity and the abstraction theory of computing. Be that as it may, I did read at least 15 paragraphs of this excellent essay.

One of the most dangerous errors of our time is the belief that human beings are uniquely violent animals, barely restrained from committing atrocities on each other by the constraints of ethics, religion, and the state.


And, in fact, less than one half of one percent of the present human population ever kills in peacetime; murders are more than an order of magnitude less common than fatal household accidents. Furthermore, all but a vanishingly small number of murders are performed by males between the ages of 15 and 25, and the overwhelming majority of those by unmarried males. One's odds of being killed by a human outside that demographic bracket are comparable to one's chances of being killed by a lightning strike.

What I found especially interesting was the following. It immediately reminded me of the memoirs of Sanyika Shakur aka 'Monster' Kody Scott, the infamous Los Angeles gangbanger. We had a short correspondance back in the day and he was transfixed by his independent discovery.

Human beings are social primates with social instincts. One of those instincts is docility, a predisposition to obey the tribe leader and other dominant males. This was originally adaptive; fewer status fights meant more able bodies in the tribe or hunting band. It was especially important that bachelor males, unmarried 15-to-25 year-old men, obey orders even when those orders involved risk and killing. These bachelors were the tribe's hunters, warriors, scouts, and risk-takers; a band would flourish best if they were both aggressive towards outsiders and amenable to social control.

I cannot recall what Kody named his theory, but everything about what he was saying could be summed up in that paragraph.

Monroe, I know you're not reading this, but I hope you do.

You see one of the other discussions we had, Monroe and I, was on the nature of pledging. I suggested rather strongly that fraternities are less influential in society because they are not independent. Everything a frat does to create brotherhood must take place within the ethical constraints of bourgie university policy, which means no hazing.

I've been an advocate of old school hazing in the pledge process because as I was going through it, this same insight hit me. If you are willing to submit to the relative brutality of hazing for your brothers, then the slings and arrows of ordinary life become mere pinpricks in comparison.

If young black males are out of control of schools, parents, churches and other middle-class institutions, it most certainly is related to these facts. What stresses and forges cohesion in young men? Who is delivering that stress? If it is street life, then they will belong to the streets. If it is the justice system, then they will belong to the system. This is basic.

It doesn't take a Leviathan justice system to control the young man. It takes pledging hard and rites of passage. I hope Monroe can step up.

Posted by mbowen at 11:33 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Each One of Y'all Teach One

These days, I spend a goodly amount of time over at the negroplex at Ladera Center. In case you don't know, the knighted and beloved Magic Johnson owns this medium sized shopping center, complete with it's TGIFriday's, Starbucks and Fatburger. Ladera Heights is, without question, one of the nation's ritziest black neighborhoods, and although a good number of the houses still sell below a million dollars, it ain't much below.

As an aside, the Friday's at Marina Del Rey was so extraordinarily popular in the late 80s that... well it was a phenomenon nobody who attended will ever forget. Back in the days of Aunt Kizzy's Back Porch, brothers and sister from all over Los Angeles would stream down to the Marina for happy hour that stretched all the way until 1 in the morning. I must update you all however, because Houston has a hotspot called Cabo (on Richmond) that really does put this new Friday's to shame and is more like the old Friday's, plus a huge parking lot, plus a huge dance floor, plus an outdoor patio. The new Friday's does generate lines and the catch action is stupendous, but I'm too old to be impressed with all that.

What I do enjoy very much is Friday's association with Jack Daniels and the associations I can make with Jack and a barful of black strangers who are always friendly, and sometimes attractive. I was there just Saturday and I had a fairly interesting (for a bar) discussion with a brother whose name I forget. I'll call him Monroe, even though he was from Baton Rouge.

Monroe is a Que. He was wearing his Omega Psi Phi hat proudly. This came to that and he wound up telling me about how he is seriously reaching out to young black men. He told me that at Westchester High School just around the way, most of the black kids there were girls and there were no young black men who weren't just athletes. He despaired that the rest were all running the streets and not in school, that their aspirations were stereotypical and impossible. He took his community activism very seriously. Moroe is a man on a mission, and I have no doubt that he will make a difference.

We talked about the difference between Los Angeles and the South, and I have come to an interesting insight that I've been thinking about all week. It used to always get on my nerves to hear blackfolks from the South complain about how brothers in LA were 'fake', etc. But Monroe's other comment, (Monroe is a very positive brother) made an impression on me that helps me see something. He said, you all are blessed, you have so many different things to do out here. There are so many opportunities, that's what makes me so upset about these knucklehead boys. They don't take advantage.

Since I am an Alpha, I don't care about knucklehead boys, unless they happen to be family in which case I got something for they ass. But every Alpha is secretly a Que and every Que is secretly an Alpha. We care that the others are doing their job and secretly admire them for it. So I care about knuckleheaded boys in that I hope that Ques are rescuing them. Since Monroe is not satisfied, I'm not satisfied, but I expect him to actually do the work. Aside from the fact that I've paid my debt to society, I don't have the patience. Although I would be very pleased to find knucklehead boys reading my blog, I honestly don't expect it, nor do I expect to do much more than blog. Writing is my religion.

But the idea that finally materialized in my thick skull was that in Los Angeles, we are accustomed to people not being exactly what they seem to be. When you are from here, you sit down to dinner with the stranger and we let them ramble on about what they're up do. If we hear something different the next time, we don't have a fit. We understand that people change; we expect it. We reserve greater imaginations for ourselves than brothers from the South precisely because we have more choices. We may not make the right choices but we have them. That we do is what must make it so frustrating for everyone else. We don't have to fight for space, and we are not getting beat down.

Clearly, most of African America is not from Los Angeles, but I think that if they were, they would know that it's not everybody's job to try to raise the race. Not everyone is well-suited to the task, nor does it only depend on everyone. Just as it's a little bit foolish (or perhaps a lot) for knucklehead boys to think they are going to be big ballers when they should just be in school, it is likewise foolish for every black person to think he's Monroe.

Once people get accustomed to that idea, perhaps we can get rid of Jesse Jackson. Don't forget you heard it first in Los Angeles.

Posted by mbowen at 12:07 AM | TrackBack

July 30, 2003


Vampires don't want to believe that the sun hurts. So I imagine that every once in a while, they peek out at the sunrise with contempt. They know it's coming, they know it's simple and ridiculous, but they do it anyway and they get burned. The next thing you know their wife is slapping them on the back of the head while bandaging up their eyeballs and forehead. "What were you thinking?"

I don't know, I just wanted to see..

Didn't you know what was going to happen?

Yeah I guess, but, you know I was just curious.

Curious! Didn't you have any clue that you're not supposed to do that? It just messes you up. Think about the consequences of your actions sometimes. Now I have to nurse you back to health.

But, it just gets in my head and..

And you have to go and remind yourself how painful it is.

OK. Now. You're an American. Go ahead and watch this. But remember, it's going to mess you up.

Posted by mbowen at 05:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Word is that Arianna Huffington is considering jumping into the cuisinarted cesspool which is California electoral politics. She's one who's not likely to be blended in with the rest of the swill, as she exhibits real backbone.

I've already jumped up an down for Kemp and he folded in a day. I'll raise my eyebrows for Huffington. Let's see what happens next.

Posted by mbowen at 03:59 PM | TrackBack

PAM Kicked to the Curb

Cash rules everything around me. John Poindexter has run out of cash. He should have used Whuffie. If the reason it was killed was just that, then people are really out of their minds. Haven't they ever heard of HSX?

I remember a very popular pacifist site with cartoon figures popping out of maps of the Middle East which described a rather overblown worst case scenario if we went to war. Do you remember it? I'll give you props if you can find it. (Props is like virtual dap, which has long been a social currency in the 'hood. Surely you can find an economist to explain it if you must.) This seemed to be very convincing to folks who were against the intervention, and with a very good reason. It showed what was possible as a game. The problem was that it wasn't dynamic, it was scripted, and there was no way to tell what probability of independent events were used in the model nor the levels of causality implied in dependent events. These were only things that work together in the mind of a paranoid, or a conspiracy theorist.

I'm not likely to give thanks that we have John Poindexter in service to our nation. Let us not forget that this bloody genius didn't know how to delete his own email. But I do give him credit for his involvement in the PAM gaming idea, which as soon as one of you fine folks finds it was shared by the left. Chances are that PAM was overpriced and overcomplicated, but that doesn't change the fact that this is the kind of tool which could help ordinary folks understand what connecting the dots is really all about. Sophisticated, computer aided guesswork.

I am a big supporter of open source intelligence, and it may come to be that the debacle over Niger will be another brick on the public disclosure side of the intelligence see-saw. No matter how that goes, any tool that the public can use is a good idea. So let us hope now that the code for this unfunded project finds its way to SourceForge. I can't wait.

Update: Much props to George for finding the original game.

Posted by mbowen at 11:51 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Wrong Number

Three times an idiot from Century 21 calls me asking for Rose. I tell him wrong number. So what does he do? He hits the redial button.

Posted by mbowen at 11:04 AM | TrackBack

Black Frat Cosmology

I'm setting you up to get the guts of what has focused my mind this week on things black and my recent experience with the Kwaku Network, the Negrophile and upcoming family reunions. Next will be the story of Monroe, but before I get into that I need to talk about black frats.

Here follows the somewhat stereotyped cosmology of the black greek fraternity system for those of you who missed the cluetrain in college. It should also be fun for those of you who know. You should know that I am a first-class very typical Alpha and this is all coming from my POV.

Alpha Phi Alpha (Black & Old Gold)
This is the fraternity of WEB DuBois, which in some sense is all you really need to know. Alphas are highly ambitious, upper crusty, imperious, snobby and otherwise 'too cold'. They get away with it because more often than not they are brainy and refined. Alphas strive for absolute perfection and so have a reputation for being closet freaks if not straight out queer. Alphas go for noblesse oblige most of the time because they really do believe that they are better than you. When your girl gets tired of your bullshit, she will seek out an Alpha man. You can always tell an Alpha man, but you can't tell him much.

Kappa Alpha Psi (Crimson & Creme)
Deion Sanders would be the perfect Kappa. Kappas are all business and all self. They are flashy and flamboyant and project an image of 'so fresh so clean'. A Kappa has a million dollar smile and so he insures it. Kappas are generally the least concerned with how they rank with other frats. They're just waiting for you to turn your back on your girl, sometimes they don't wait. A Kappa always has to be right and will not let you forget it. The best thing about a Kappa is that if you need some studly looking guys to stand up at your wedding, they will make your pictures look swell. On the other hand, he's probably taller than you. Kappas are all military swagger.

Omega Psi Phi (Purple and Gold)
Omegas are also known as Que Dogs. Ques are loud, proud and idefagetable. Think Eddie Griffin. You have to admire how comfortable they are in their skin. Ques are unpretentious and down to earth. When they express their pride it rather shows they have no couth or fashion sense but their energy and loyalty are awe inspiring. Of all the frats, Ques take their brotherhood most seriously, thus the brands and tats. A Que by himself is nobody, but a pack of Ques are formidable, and actually rather scary. If a Que gets your girl, forget it, she's ruined. Despite the fact that Ques are mostly ugly and fearsome, they have hearts of gold. A Que has got your back for life. I suppose that's why they call them dogs.

Phi Beta Sigma (Pale Blue & White)
Sigmas are the stepchild frat, that is because they are hardheaded pragmatists and don't believe in all those symbols. As a frat they are therefore humble, humanistic and generally fairly selfless. For some reason this makes them the frat most likely to actually do those community service things frats always say they do. Ironically, the service they seem to be best at is throwing parties. Then suddenly you will find the Sigma talent for organization and money grubbing, er financial acumen. Sigmas function best in the real world. If a Sigma gets your girl, you'll never know it.

If, for some reason you are a midwestern farm boy and none of this clicks, think of the Archies. Archie is the Alpha, Reggie is the Kappa and Jughead is the Que. There is no Sigma. They just showed up.

Alphas and Kappas get away with it. Ques and Sigmas don't. Sigmas are subversive and crafty back room gamblers. Ques have animal magnetism and travel in packs. Kappas are sheer blunt force trauma and are insufferable in large numbers. Alphas are calculating, manipulative and given to fantastic schemes for world domination.

From the Matrix:
Morpheus is an Alpha. Neo is a Kappa. Cypher is a Sigma. Tank and Dozer are Ques.

From Star Trek:
The Klingons are Ques, Kirk, Picard and Sisko are Kappas, Ferengi are Sigmas. There is only one Alpha in the Star Trek galaxy and he is Q.

Posted by mbowen at 09:47 AM | Comments (41) | TrackBack

Cool It Baby!

Maxine Waters is a treasure, and a friend of the family. No history of Los Angeles will be complete without special mention of her service, fire and determination. She is a formidable woman, but I haven't heard anything about her recently. That's neither here nor there. What I remember about Maxine on this fine day was her insistence some dozen years ago not to play the game of calming rowdy rampagers in the Los Angeles Riot. She said 'I'm not going to sit up here and say "Cool it , baby".

Maybe it is the point that we haven't heard from Maxine. This morning, Inglewood was cool, frigid even. If you haven't heard yet, the trial of the two officers charged in the latest blackman beatdown to make national news resulted in a not guilty verdict on the little cop and a hung jury on the big cop.

I woke up this morning to the KPCC simulcast that droned me off to sleep last night as thick negro accents rang out and flat white accents blathered on about 'civil rights leaders'...

You know, forget it. I can't muster any more concern for this non-story about non-violence and non-riots and non-justice.

Posted by mbowen at 08:49 AM | TrackBack

July 29, 2003


Whenever you sneeze in mixed company, it's interesting to hear the responses. They vary from silence, to 'God Bless You', or just Bless You. Sometimes people say "gesundheit". Keep that in mind.

Keith Boykin meditates on the media images of black men:

It's easy to dismiss high-profile black men when the white media control the information we know about them. We can dismiss Rev. Al Sharpton because the media portray him as an ambulance-chasing buffoon, or we can dismiss Jesse Jackson because the media see him as a rhyming, hypocritical adulterer.

Despite the fact that he's just talking about the background noise of American life and uses the examples of the Fungibles in his argument, I fundamentally agree with him. America uses black men as Grimm fairy tales, to frighten the naive and teach lessons about good and evil. But that doesn't mean one shouldn't dismiss Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. We all have our reasons, but we're not all brainwashed by the Man's media circus simply because we agree from time to time.

Taking it one step deeper, Boykin suggests that there are many things that we oughta do to counteract this media siege. I have my own suggestion, and that is that we shutup about "what black people ought to do". Count me as one of those people who responds to "There goes your people" with "I didn't raise 'em".
You see I suffer (mildly and it gives me very little pain) from the same problem about identifying who is my brother, who I should respect and for what reasons, as a black man. I don't have any black problems, as black problems are construed in the general public.

My brother is dead. He committed suicide about 12 years ago. I don't hear very often that suicide is considered a black man's problem, but it was his. I say this because I enjoy the passions attending this discussion of the role of the black man, and I don't want it suggested that I am being dismissive of real black men's real problems. My daughter is anemic but it's not Sickle Cell. I've got family and I understand some of their problems, but they are not about much of anything else that passes muster as a 'black problem'.

It amazes me how contradictory the 'each one teach one' philosophy is when applied to uppity negroes such as myself. I believe it is because folks who preach it are more brainwashed by the Man's media circus than they let on. My classic example was about the flack over the Million Man March. To make a long story short, nobody bothered to respect the investment that blackfolks had made in their own educations already when they made loud suggestions that the Million should have stayed home and contributed $100 instead to a giant college scholarship fund. It turned out that some large percentage of the marchers were already college graduates, which implies many billions had already been spent on successful college educations - which nobody bothered to respect.

So when I tell you that I'm not interested in teaching some ghetto brother to fish because my cousins in Alaska already own a commercial fishing boat, I expect you to say right on. But I know what I'm going to hear. When I tell you that I have no interest in teaching elementary school kids computer literacy because I build systems for the Fortune 500, I expect you to say wow that's great. But I know what I'm going to hear.

What I'm going to hear, in the end is a backhanded compliment, like "You are Blessed". There's a but at the end of that and some implication of social responsibility. I won't dodge social responsibility, but I just might tell you that yours makes no sense and I really don't want to have anything to do with it.

If you sneeze and someone says "God bless you", you should accept the courtesy, but it doesn't mean you need to acknowledge their god.

If someone looks at you as a black problem, er black man, and suggests ways for you to become healthy, likewise accept the courtesy.

I've overstepped the bounds of a measured response because I'm thinking a bit about such matters this week. This seems a bit outsized and defensive considering that I agree with Boykin and am arguing past him. He is saying 'God bless you' and I am deconstructing parts of his creation myth. I'm yelling, I DON'T HAVE PNEUMONIA IT'S JUST DUSTY IN HERE OK? I DON'T NEED YOUR DAMNED BLESSING.

There's a reason for this. I will get around to blogging it in due time.

Posted by mbowen at 08:05 PM | TrackBack

Off The Coast

GWBush has upset me once again. This time it is his half-assed show of military force off the coast of Liberia. Evidently, somebody has convinced him to pay attention to the 'Q' word.

Levy doesn't come squarely out and say it, but the history between Liberia and America is largely symbolic here, and it doesn't matter exactly how complex it actually is. The action required of American peacekeeping is largely independent of that. If people cannot come up with a good historical reason for saving a couple hundred thousand people from the chaos, torment and brutality of a civil war, it's morally difficult to say why we bother having an army that travels the world.

I think we can come to expect that GWBush is not leading the charge with any depth, but that doesn't change the character, capabilities and nature of the American military. Let us have our reasons at the ready aside from his thinly disguised domestic political ambition.

If this watered down watery excursion were to make a stop at hmm, say Principe, would that be a surprise?

Posted by mbowen at 10:31 AM | TrackBack

EFF & Recovered Memory

This morning as I watched Cory Doctorow gesticulate wildly with Leo Laporte on The Screen Savers about AB 1143, I suddenly remembered that I have met Bruce Sterling.

I met him at a meeting of the CPSR a very long time ago at UCLA, probably around 1987. Everything he was saying was so far over my head that I never showed my face at such a meeting again. At that point in my life I had just read my first Chomsky, gotten my first understanding of what was going on in Afghanistan regarding shiny kiddie bomblets and learned that there was a nation on the planet called Namibia, and of course fallen out completely with the USG over Iran-Contra. In other words, I was becoming overwhelmed by the duplicity of the world and trying to adjust myself in this new light. But as of yet I had still not read Toni Morrison, so I was still above ground and un-repurposed.

But of course the thing that shocked me about this Sterling character was how smart and paranoid he was. He looked as though he belonged in a cube down in aerospaceville (El Segundo) and not standing in front of people exhorting them to refuse and resist. It was this incongruity among other things that made people have to shush me. I simply couldn't believe all the things I was hearing, especially from this dinky looking outfit.

There is a chance that the person who impressed me that evening was not Bruce Sterling, there are a lot of manuscript diaries I'd have to troll to find out, but something about the level of detail and energy he brought to the forum was memorable, and seeing Doctorow brought that moment back.

Posted by mbowen at 08:16 AM | TrackBack

July 28, 2003

Losing Face

This rather alarming story is illustrative of what happens to intelligent people who determine that they'd rather be principled when dealing with middle class people who need to keep their jobs. They lose.

I cannot stand crowds. Crowds are mobs that lack motivation. (Mobs are militias that lack discipline. Militias are armies that lack political legitimacy.) In any case, they are people who are all out to get something, generally in submission to unknown reasons. Part of being Old School means not getting too attached to privileges, and being ready to fight when serious things are threatened, like family. Since I am not a member of the international jet set like John Gilmore, I am more inclined to dismiss his beef, but I admire his principle. He is right of course, but he is fighting for position against a crowd.

I wouldn't be the first person to suggest that Gilmore is rather self-indulgent in his beef with the airlines. It's not as if his inconvenience, not to mention the inconvenience he heaps on his fellow passenger-cattle, amounts to an abridgement of rights. Nobody has any right to have somebody fly you around. Nor is any amount of dignity guaranteed in flight. As a practical matter, his perfectly logical tantrum amounted to a protest which neatly and legally held a plane hostage. Rather clever if you look at it that way. But I rather doubt that was his intent. I'm rather confident that Gilmore would have been satisfied enough to have such a potent story as the article presents, rather along the same lines as the shocking story of the woman whose breast milk was considered contraband. It's certainly more interesting that a stupid political button. Was that his plan? He'll never tell.

Once upon a time, I was searched by FBI agents in front of a busload of people at Logan Airport. Naturally, I was told that I fit the profile of a drug courier. I am inclined to trust my instincts which were screaming fuck you, your airline, and by the way how does it feel to be making an ass out of yourself in front of everyone here? But I have a thousand mile stare that I pull out of my bag of black man's tricks for such occasions. Uppity behavior gets you up i' de tree. Besides, I don't have bail money, and I'm not selfish enough to put my family at that risk for the sake of making a perfect point in the blogosphere.

If Gilmore's antics serve us at all, it will be because he will have won his court cases. I certainly hope he has a legal team of the calibre required for such hijinks. One is reminded somewhat of Plessy. I leave it to the legal scholars to parse the difference. Still, I am struck by the difference between rich libertarians and poor liberals. I often wish the rich libertarians were.

Posted by mbowen at 11:08 PM | TrackBack

One Aim, One Destiny, One Neck, One Rope

I got the following work of fantasy off the Kwaku network, which I have never really fully described. There is a joke which is probably 200 years old. It goes a little something like this.

White Dude: I don't know, what do black people think about it?

Black Dude: I don't know either, I missed the meeting last Wednesday.

If you were a male child born in Ghana on a Wednesday, your name would probably be Kwaku. So that's the name of that tune.

I really hope somebody gets me in a discussion about this. I'm in a mood to be irascibly contrarian.

WHAT IF.....What if Michael Jordan, who was dismissed from the Washington Wizards, has finally come to the conclusion that no matter how popular he was in basketball and around the world, some little old white man controlled his destiny. Michael Jordan's destiny. I mean he put over $40 million in ticket sales alone in Abe Pollins coffers. The Wizards were a team that he alone personally made popular and profitable. He alone made the team and organization a star attraction in every city he went to play. # 23 Jordan Wizard jerseys selling off the rack at sporting goods stores everywhere. Not to mention the economic impact that he made on Washington DC and the league all >around. But all that doesn't matter because Jordan doesn't own what he created the value for.

BUT WHAT IF...What if immediately after that meeting with Abe Pollin, Jordan got on his phone and called Bob Johnson, Oprah
Winfrey, Bill Cosby, Willie Gary, Magic Johnson, Russell Simmons, John Johnson, Cathy Hughes, Sean Combs, Master P. and said it's time. It's time for us not to own just a team, but it's time for us to own our resources: sports and entertainment. Of course David Stern, Abe Pollin and other NBA owners would be laughing their asses off. Thinking, those negroes are trying to start a league of their own. Hahahaha. Then in the very next batch of calls, he calls: John Thompson, Charles Barkley, Paul Silas, Isaiah Thomas, Maurice Cheeks, Doc Rivers, Lenny Wilkins and others and says we need experienced coaches for our new league.

We have the investors, now we need coaches, general managers and front office personnel. It's time. Will you join us in making world history. The laughs from Abe and David have subsided, but they are still coming. And they still have doubts. Those negroes can't do it. Then in the last batch of calls, while Abe and David Stern are still laughing, Michael Jordan calls Allen Iverson, Shaquille O'Neal, Tracy McGrady, Chris Webber, Kevin Garnett, Vince Carter, Jason Kidd, Tim Duncan, Paul Pierce and Lebron James and says, "It's time." He continues, "My partners and I are starting a new league and we need you. We need to control what we have given to this earth in terms of our entertainment, sports and athleticism. Without you, there is NO NBA. Forget your contracts, you all are all millionaires. Come with us and lets make history." Abe and David Sterns aren't laughing anymore. They realize that there is something serious happening and Michael Jordan, the most popular and beloved athlete in the world is leading the charge. Well what about arenas, the owners say? We own them.

Fine. There are plenty of arenas in every city that are not being used. They are old, but hey it's a start. So we'll lease them. Well what about TV? No problem. Willie Gary and Cathy Hughes' companies are starting cable channels. We'll run our games on them for now as well as BET, then we will negotiate with the major networks soon. And with Cathy, we got radio broadcasting, so that isn't a problem either.

Well how do we advertise? No problem. We get Russell Simmons, Jay-Z, P-Diddy and Master P. to get every rapper and R&B singer in the world to talk about the new league in all their songs. We do commercials and videos with Bill Cosby, Spike Lee and even Oprah yelling "The UBA is fantastic(Universal Basketball Association, others can play, we just want to own). We get John Johnson and Earl Graves to write about it in Jet, Ebony and Black Enterprise. We get FUBU, Sean John and Rocawear to design the team uniforms.

We get Oprah to talk about the new league and interview players, investors, coaches on her show. We get Johnnie Cochran and Willie Gary to head our legal team. We get actors like Halle Berry and Denzel Washington to publicly endorse the league and attend the games. And finally, we get Michael Jordan, the biggest draw in the world to put his competitive spirit and name recognition behind it. (Michael, please with his brainwashed butt!) There are a lot of intangibles missing in this hypothetical situation, but nevertheless, this "what if" could be the trigger to set Mr. Jordan on path that would really put his name in the history books. He alone has the clout to bring this to fruition. When are African Americans going to stop hating and start cooperating with each other to do something on this scale?

When are African Americans going to stop being used by sport owners and start thinking OWNERSHIP? Bob Johnson is great, but he had to be voted in by 28 other white men. If we collectively take what is ours, sports and entertainment, and hold it back from the world until we own it, then we can control our own destiny. It sounds far-fetched, but IT CAN BE DONE. Then Michael Jordan, the greatest player to ever play basketball, will not have to worry ever again of being used by someone for personal financial gain. If Mike owned the league, he's the one who'd be doing the firing and hiring. And then a person! like Abe Pollin would have no choice but to respect the greatest basketball player to ever live. What if....Those who don't understand interest pay it, those who do, earn it.

Posted by mbowen at 10:13 AM | TrackBack

He Who Must Not Be Named

I've been surfing this morning, the Tavis Smiley website, not because I like Tavis, but because I've got my new Real One media player hooked up and now I can listen to the KPCC simulcast. Along the way, I have encountered Nat Turner.

One of the most interesting things I ever recall Denzel Washington saying had to do with the reason he declined a role in the film 'Amistad'. He didn't want to put the conflict of slavery into the context of a courtroom drama. He said, why not just have a story where the slave picks up a sword and cuts off the master's head? And then he said "That's what I'm talking about."

So I'm considering what it would take to get that script written. There has never been a movie about Nat Turner. If there had, we'd all know about it. It would be the kind of horror film nobody could match.

The only way to talk about slavery is horror. This is the lesson of Beloved. At bottom, it is so inhumanly cruel, so dastardly that it is a miracle to survive it. Slavery is the violence in America's heart. It's where we all come from. It is the center of gravity of our nation's history and soul.

I don't often think about him, but it is probably most true that my greatest hero is John Brown. The reason is Russell Banks' book. I have never quite been so moved. There is much to say about Brown and me personally but I will save that for another time. I wonder what I would be if I had learned as much and as well about Nat Turner. What kind of visions would I see?

Nobody learns about Nat Turner or Denmark Vessey or Gabriel Prosser. They are just names. They are just correct answers to black history questions. They are just three paragraphs on a website. They don't resonate in our imaginations; we don't even know how to think about them. We don't even know how to talk about them. We are as mute as the miners, digging holes in frustration.

Film is our shared popular culture, and so is Harry Potter of late. So it is from the context of Rowling that I think about rebel slaves as those who cannot be named. The horror attending that peculiar institution we'd rather not speak about, lurks beneath the surface. It's so much easier to talk about the Civil War as a war won by the good guys delivering its proxy salvation to a people who needn't have revolted. The Civil War Won civilizes the entire affair of slavery, it came from the top down, by fiat of the Educated and Sensitive.

But 1000 slaves designing to take over a state? That's terrorism. Riders on horseback killing families while they sleep in the night? That's unspeakable.

Yes, and that is where we come from.

Posted by mbowen at 09:53 AM | TrackBack

July 27, 2003

Perfect Knowledge

I'm at a loss to explain what it is that Congress was trying to prove last week when Schumer, whom I generally like, started making noise. Let me rephrase that and slap around Nancy Pelosi. It has taken them almost two years to come up with this report which is supposed to tell us what went so wrong with our intelligence services that we couldn't predict September 11th. Ahem, the answer is that we cannot see the future. Now go back to your districts and fill some potholes you boneheads.

What is wrong with this endless hand-wringing and fault finding is that it raises the level of clamor attending the intelligence business while blaming the intelligence agencies for not being better. This is the kind of environment in which the enemies of civil liberties thrive, whether or not any progress is to be made in predictive activities.

We are demanding to know more and more and more because everything we had up to this point did not deliver us from evil. Well that's going to lead a whole bunch of Ashcroft wannabes into temptation, and we are going to end up knowing less about Osama bin Laden and more about Lacie Peterson and you and me. Mark my words, this is not good.

Whether or not Wolfowitz knows that he is backing up my point we should listen to him when he says that intelligence about terrorism is inherently murky the United States must be prepared to act on less-than-perfect information. Let's put people in place with good sense and good judgement. Let's not put people in place with extraordinary snooping tools.

We should all understand that the Saudis are pulling strings here and I agree that information should and will be declassified. But who is prepared to do anything about it anyway? Let's see one Congressman haul a Saudi through the wringer. It's not going to happen. Friggin' hypocrits.

Posted by mbowen at 01:48 PM | TrackBack

A Nation of Stooges

It occurred to me as I disabled my file sharing software this afternoon, that the RIAA could be a bit more bloodthirsty and effective if they wanted to. Don't credit me, credit Disney's hot flick Pirates of the Caribbean. OK don't credit Disney, credit real pirates. Real pirates attract real bounty hunters. So why not use peer networks to rat out peer networks?

How? Let the RIAA pay for individuals to crack the network by licensing a free version of say, this tool. If every subpoena served is worth about $20,000 the RIAA could afford to post a $10,000 reward for each successful prosecution. Then people would be motivated to snitch on others.

The RIAA would, of course, be considered very much like a gun dealer in the Old West, not caring whether their arms arm bandits or posses. But if they were seriously concerned about their appearance, they wouldn't bother chilling the P2P industry with their phlegmatic legal actions.

Posted by mbowen at 12:28 PM | TrackBack

Hussein Family Values

From Newsweek we learn a bit about Iraq's deposed first family.

Uday was the more grotesque. He supposedly had a penchant for raping the girlfriends of other prominent Iraqis and then branding them with the letter “U.” Iraqi soccer players remember Uday as the world’s only Olympic Committee chairman with a torture chamber in his headquarters. Players who failed to measure up could be dragged through a gravel pit then dipped in a sewer, so their cuts would fester. Saddam favored his younger son, Qusay, who was less flamboyant and more purposeful in his sadism, though no less wicked. He would watch as political prisoners got fed, feet first, into the wood chipper; when he grew bored, the prisoners were fed in head first. Qusay was chief of Saddam’s security forces. Uday ran the ragtag Fedayeen. Both men were feared by everyone in Iraq.

I hear that we killed them. What a shame.

Posted by mbowen at 10:08 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 26, 2003

Foucault's Panopticon Reviewed

For us thoughtful paranoids, at Surveillance & Society.

Posted by mbowen at 08:56 PM | TrackBack

Excess Capacity

I am wondering a little something about our civilization today. I took a glance at an article in the NTY just a few minutes ago and it combined with a feeling of aimlessness that lands me, more times than not, in front of my keyboard. The article mentioned that some writer somewhere in Europe won some prize formerly held in high esteem by Yanks. But for some reason, this time around, nobody bothered to translate many copies of this world class literature into English.

So I am wondering exactly what it is that very together individuals do with their spare time in this nation. Simultaneously, I am wondering if it matters quite as much as we would like to think. You see on days like this where I restlessly wait for somebody to give me something to do which is not directed by my inner demons, paranoia for example, I wander the blogosphere in search of an idea to pique my curiosity. Brain spew channel surfing. As I am drawn to certain verbiage, others of it seems to be so much excess capacity wasted on egotists with relatively short attention spans like myself. And we blog back, like this here.

The reason the political dimension of the blogosphere exists at all is not because there is a real political movement underground. It's because people who are smart enough to be running things are not. Nobody is employing DenBeste, Drum, Healy or Drezner to be running those things on which they frequently opine. They are just guys with a lot to say, and only virtual organizations to say it to. Those who can't do, blog. It is a fortuitous capacity that fits well with our ideas about an informed democracy, but if they disappeared without a trace tomorrow like so many rural Liberians, nobody would say much about it.

Perhaps it is something of a stretch to say that they are smart enough. You recall the old saw, "If you're so smart why aren't you rich?". mean if bloggers were running things then . So are we all just hoping to cash in, sell out and otherwise matriculate up the invisible ladders into the American stratosphere, or are we just making a good use of otherwise wasted time?

I shouldn't be so cynical. I should be glad that there are folks out there with whom I am able to connect that are as deeply interested in serious issues as one can possibly be without having a direct vested interest in the system. But sometimes I do wonder if all this woolgathering has real consequences we can see.

Posted by mbowen at 03:32 PM | TrackBack

July 25, 2003

The Undiscovered Country

COULD we but know
The land that ends our dark, uncertain travel,
Where lie those happier hills and meadows low,—
Ah, if beyond the spirit's inmost cavil,
Aught of that country could we surely know,
Who would not go?
-- Edmund Clarence Stedman

I like this stanza. It speaks to me as regards the possibilities for the Middle East. Back when Hitchens began blowing everyone's mind, I was making my first steps into accepting the idea and focus on a future American Empire.

My expectations of the Empire should be long standing, and they will survive the damage being wrought by the current resident of the Oval Office. I despair of his ability to do anything befitting a man in his position. He simply is incapable of articulating a vision appropriate for the mission. He's a governor.

It is difficult to envision how our future embrace of free countries might work where we provide the technology and infrastructure of destruction while embracing refugees to be integrated into our pluralist society. But that is the goal I see.

Posted by mbowen at 04:12 PM | TrackBack

Draft Kemp

I am waiting for somebody to stand up and say that the California governorship cannot be bought for $1.7 million. On the other hand, it gives us a unique opportunity. I now have a dog in this fight.

Posted by mbowen at 09:08 AM | TrackBack

July 24, 2003


Today is a landmark day which means that this year is a landmark year. Check this out:

Disney and Movielink will make such films as "Monsters Inc.," "Chicago," "Gangs of New York," "The Recruit," "25th Hour" and "The Jungle Book 2" available for download at prices ranging from $2.95 to $4.99. Users will need a broadband connection and a PC with Microsoft's (MSFT: news, chart, profile) Windows 98, ME, 2000 or XP operating systems, as well as the latest versions of either the Real Networks (RNWK: news, chart, profile) RealOne player or the Windows Media player.

Customers will be able to store movies for up to 30 days. Over that span, they can watch a movie as many times as they wish in a 24-hour period.

Now this could just be a loss leading fakeout, but it means that people who know the technology are getting paid to do it. The genie is out of the bottle.

Posted by mbowen at 02:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Verbal Equivalence

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, the problem is that just looking at the picture you never have any idea what the first 82 are going to say. In this case, one would predict tragedy.

The divorce was as ugly and nasty as it could have gotten. I thought it was all my fault. I wouldn't understand how traumatized I was by it until I was well into my twenties. My mother basically shut down for a couple of years. Isolating in her room with Valium and Lithium. We went on welfare and we kids became little adults, taking care of mom and keeping secrets from social workers, daddy and anyone else who could threaten our family.

But what you don't know about that little boy is that his name is Charles. RuPaul Andre Charles and he became a star. A big, international star. And now you know the rest of the story.

You've got to admit it, blackfolks are incredible.

Posted by mbowen at 12:37 PM | TrackBack

NUDnicks on the Late Freight

Tom Joyner has started a small panic several days late and several dollars short. He has outed the corporate strategy of 'NUD', which means "Non Urban Dictates". It's difficult to say how important or widespread this is, but since I've gotten email from the Kwaku network it's most definitely being signified on.

My instinct tells me that there's less here than meets the eye. I used to be a big fan of Tom Joyner's show when I lived in Atlanta and I think he's an admirable guy, not to mention rich. But when I check out this site. I notice something strange. First off, the article that's quoted comes from none other than the Final Call, and it's four years old. Secondly, the picture up top shows buppies in marketing employed by Eddie Bauer, a company that is on the list I got, and definitely has been through this torture chamber before.

The Kansas City Association of Black Journalists has the most concise version of the story: dated February 2002

A new, little-known marketing term is making the rounds. It is called "NUD." It stands for Non Urban Dictate. Tom Joyner exposed it on his morning radio program. Essentially NUD means that a company is not interested in African-American consumers. The NUD label is a signal that a business does not want its marketing and advertising materials placed in media that are aimed at urban audiences. As a service to African-American consumers, the Urban Institute will list all companies that have an NUD policy. The Urban Institute is based in Washington, D.C. The phone number is (202) 833-7200. The e-mail that KCABJ received on NUD lists 25 mainstream companies.
Here are the 'dirty companies';

Jos. A Bank

Weight Watchers
Life Savers
Continental Airlines
Northwest Airlines
America West Airlines
HBO - Apollo Series
Paternal Importers
Calico Corners
OM Scott
Pepperidge Farms
Ethan Allen

Busy Body Fitness
Mondavi Wines
Builders Square

Don Pablo
Aruba Tourism
Ciba Vision
Grady Restaurant
Eddie Bauer
I am of the general opinion that consumer boycotts are stupid. If people are going to get off their butts about something, it shouldn't be over the question of whether or not Nike loves them, although Nike clearly does. All consumer boycotts fall, by definition, into Class Three racism which is way beneath the radar for dropping political bombs.

Blackfolks are going to wreck havoc in the market. Nothing to be done or said about that, let it be. But let's not have people thinking this represents 'progress'. The great irony of this is when you look at the companies in question, you have to think, well it makes sense. Speaking for the Old School, I have to admit that I can go for some Ethan Allen and some Jos. A. Bank, but who or what is Don Pablo? It's difficult for me to imagine that the vast bulk of African America needs anything any of these companies sell, not to mention that if this list is indeed complete it means that every competitor to those companies is doing their fair share of urban advertising. Now tell me the truth, did you lose any sleep missing that Tom Hanks Earth to the Moon thing? Jeez!

On the flipside of the coin, there was an interesting story this week that said that black consumers are showing their muscle in the DVD market. The large Class Three complaint about limited first run theatre distribution of black films, which generated its own host of urban myths, is now somewhat acknowledged by the film industry. Depending on how you look at it it's a backhanded compliment. They say films like 'Drumline' which did only light business in theatrical release, has kicked booty in DVD sales.

Posted by mbowen at 11:14 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack


"of violence and of mayhem all will claim a great abhorrence
but everyone had camera crews at normandie and florence"
-- special effect

This week a judge in Los Angeles will announce, on television, the verdict for a white police officer charged with excessive force against a young black man. The jury began deliberations yesterday. Haven't we seen this somewhere before?

Posted by mbowen at 09:02 AM | TrackBack


I have been tremendously productive the past several days. My house is clean, the plants are watered, the fish are fed. The clothes are washed, the bills are paid.

I loaned my brother a copy of MS Excel (don't tell anyone), I helped my father with his new Dell, I bought a nice $100 Celeron 500MHz machine and installed Red Hat 9. I moved several gig off of one machine to another. I archived all of my notes and code from my last contract and I finally downloaded and deleted about 113 digital pictures from my camera.

I closed one host and shut down Old School Republicans as a separate site. I folded it under Vision Circle. I launched Cubegeek.com and added a user forum. I invited several dozen folks to join.

I've started reading about TCP/IP, so I can answer obscure questions like "What is the significance of the number 87.5 to DHCP clients?".

I've been debating the past present and future dynamics of ethnic and racial minorities and women online. I've tried to make sense of two mergers in the Business Intelligence market. I've started a new 'modified Atkins' diet. I've had a couple technical interviews for a new position. I've patched some descriptions of my XRepublic project and I've climbed to the top 5700 (out of 26,000) on MotoGP2.

But here I am at midnight typing into this laptop as if I've got to. I'm in a weird place I tell you. I feel like there's more I could be doing. I know I'm not going to go bed until I am absolutely dead on my feet.

I need to figure out why I can't connect to my new machine, even though I've the vncserver working perfectly, I can't do a simple telnet, and moving my iptables file didn't help.

I really need a glass of wine.

Posted by mbowen at 12:04 AM | TrackBack

July 23, 2003


For the second time in a year and a half, a conservatively dressed clean cut young man has come to my door, flashed a badge and inquired about the man next door. The first time, the young guy said he was from the FBI. The other day, the guy said he was from some Air Force outfit.

I don't know my neighbor. In fact, I really don't even know the name of the street one block over that parallels mine. I just live here, inside. I wouldn't know the name of the young lady who lives behind my house if the mailman didn't put her stuff in our box periodically. So I was really no help, and probably won't be any time soon.

It's disturbing to know that the guy next door is being investigated. Or is he? I wouldn't know an FBI credential from a fake, and I sure as hell wouldn't know an Air Force investigator's credential. So who is the man next door? Or, who are these fresh faced kids pretending to be government officials?

This is too creepy.

I'm going to see if I can find somewhere on the net that tells me what real FBI credentials look like, because I really don't like the idea of people playing Agent Smith on my front porch.

Posted by mbowen at 08:29 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Shining Example

I am just going to have to mention it but it tires me to do so. What kind of example are we setting. I just went off half cocked (comme d'habitude) over at another conservative site that was making a fetish over Bennett's gushing over Israeli democracy. I endeavored to remind the gentle readers of the assasination of Rabin, the recent no confidence votes and the fact that all of the prime ministers except for Golda Meir going back to Ben-Gurion in the early 60s, were military men.

On the other hand, we have Congressmen that barely restrain themselves from violence, and political candidates who don't. Are we going to be exceptional or not?

Posted by mbowen at 06:37 PM | TrackBack


I've just been doing some random surfing off blogrolls. What I have found is something that I think would challenge a lot of folks with regard to matters of sexual freedom.

The other day I told some folks that at some point in my life, I became unembarrassable. I don't know if that's a good or bad thing yet, but I'm really not concerned. The point is that I have a hunger for truth and reality. I love to set my mind about it. Starting with a link called GoodShit off Samizdata, I wound up walking into a collection of bondage pictures at a joint called Amityworld.

If you've never seen bondage pictures, you are missing something that gives the kind of perspective on say, teenage sexual behavior, that will refresh your confidence that whatever they're doing, it can't be that bad. It works rather in the same way that watching Arnold Schwartzeneggar films desensitizes one to cartoon violence. I hate to say 'desensitize' but I suppose that is as good a word as any. If one is a sexual prude, one is overly sensitive, and should properly be desensitized.

I cannot say with much confidence that photos such as these are proper desensitizing for the more repressed among us, but they certainly are eye opening. The staging of these tricks is intricate and elaborate. Clearly these people spent hours getting into these costumes, tying each other up and strangling their body parts with menacing looking steel and leather devices. It's mock torture.

At some point I had to chuckle. People are strange. Really strange. I am curious as to know what it is about a person that would draw them into this kind of behavior and realize that one never knows. Who is that masked man? He is undoubtedly you my neighbor and a fellow American whose liberty we are bound to defend.

From the old school we would basically find reasons to kick such folks dead up in they asses, but of course they would probably find that only primitively intriguing. I can remember my mother threatening to 'string you up by your thumbs' for some juvenile offense, but I seriously doubt she had the imagination to do so ceremoniously. Considering how some of these poor slobs have been strung up, I'd gladly go for the parental abuse.

I don't have a point to make, really. This is just another very intiguing episode in the life of a half-closed mind.

Posted by mbowen at 10:17 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Country Penguin

Some days, it just doesn't pay to be serious. Check it.

Posted by mbowen at 09:29 AM | TrackBack

Plame Blamed

In yet another bracing slap of a revelation, the Bush administration has shown itself to be venal and vindictive. GWBush must think he's running a kingdom.

Valerie Plame, a woman who acted on behalf of the CIA and was involved in finding out exactly how [in]accurate the Niger connection to Iraq was, has been outed by Bush Administration officials. She was a spy and the administration deliberatly blew her cover. It's a rather complicated story but it is very important to understand this: GWBush wants everybody who has told the truth about the weakness of the African uranium connection to pay dearly.

If that's compassionate conservatism, you can have it. This is really sickening. This is like leaving a wounded soldier on the battlefield. There's no excuse. I do hope the American call GWBush on this dastardly deed.

Posted by mbowen at 08:45 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

MIT & BC Stand Up for Students

MIT and Boston College have stalled RIAA efforts to punish students swapping music but claiming that subpoenas were improperly filed. Good on them. Are you listening Loyola?

Posted by mbowen at 08:36 AM | TrackBack

July 22, 2003

Kali, H20 and Rotisseries

I've been having a rather intense discussion with Kali Tal who is somewhat legendary for being annoyingly right when it comes to gender and racial issues. I am pleased to call her a friend, as much as one can have friends that meet once in 10 years and have periodic talks on the net, but I understand how being on the dummy end of a debate with her feels. I also know what it feels like to be inspired by someone as tireless and fiercely intellectual as she. It's more of the latter which is why I am proud of our association. Part of this discussion was about what is the best way to communicate via internet technologies. She brought up a stellar point. To wit:

Styles of discourse are not natural. They differ from culture to culture, and are a product of socialization. Socialization takes place through institutions--the family, schools, religious traditions, etc. Men and women are socialized to different styles of discourse in this culture (again, I refer you to the voluminous and oft-duplicated research on this question). When women adopt male discursive strategies, they're punished for it (again, see the research on conversational patterns and the disruption caused by women embracing "male" speech patterns, and see both my posts [and other women's posts] to this list). The mechanisms of punishment are engaged automatically, without deliberate or conscious effort on the part of the men in the conversation because that is simply the "normal" reaction to female speech that challenges the status quo. That's the very definition of institutionalized oppression--when enforcement mechanisms become diffuse, naturalized, and automatic, so that no individual needs to take responsibility for keeping another in her place. It just "happens."

I too have long been interested in what silences are created and destroyed when dealing with racial issues in cyberspace - why cyberspace is supposed to be a deracinated place where 'intellectual discourse floats disembodied'. For a time, my entire reason for posting into cyberspace was an experiment in 'post-modern blackness', and so I learned a great deal about what is real and what is not in this communications medium.

Since Kali and I are still in the midst of this discussion, you can imagine my delight when Art McGee found H20, which is precisely the sort of thing that might mitigate against our despairing that the internet might not yeild the kind of environment for real discovery and collaboration between parties whose styles of communication are at odds. H20 offers this wisdom:

The Rotisserie implements an innovative approach to online discussion that encourages measured, thoughtful discourse in a way that that traditional threaded messaging systems do not. The basic concept of the threaded messaging board is to enable broadcast-to-broadcast communication among a group of people, meaning that every participant in the conversation receives every post from every other participant. This mode of discussion inevitably leads to the domination of the discussion by a few very verbal participants and silence by the lurking majority. The Rotisserie breaks this mode by assigning every post within the conversation to another, specific participant for response. The resulting conversation guarantees that every post will be responded to by at least one other participant and that every participant must respond directly to the post of another participant.

This is a stellar idea and a very different way of conceptualizing a solution to this complex problem. It seeks to avoid conflict through enforcement of rules that determine when it is appropriate for contributors to speak which is predictable and orderly. This is completely different than the way I had envisioned managing speech restrictions which, quite frankly, is more oppositional.
Bozo filtering.
This is the first There is one level of peer review. If a particular individual becomes worrisome, he can be filtered in such a way that his comments do not appear to the filtering party. This is done on an individual by individual basis as is widely recognized in major contemporary Web Conferencing systmes.

If a person proves himself to be a bozo of sufficient dimensions, then within a house, this citizen can be Censured. Censure involves a vote of Citizens. Censure is a very strong punishment requiring the consent of 20 citizens of a house. These 20 citizens must be members of atleast 2 unaffiliated Partisan Groups. The result of Censure is that his speaking privileges (ability to write statments) are suspended for a period of 30 days. Any individual who is Censured cannot be Censured again for 60 days after regaining speaking priviliges in the House.

PNG is a bit more serious. It means that a person is essentially expelled from a House. He becomes Personna Non Grata in that House. He may remain active in another house, but the PNG remains permanently on his record. In order to PNG an individual citizen, 25 House members must concur that he be expelled from that House. PNG however requires a 'standing writ'. This means that those Citizens who PNG'd him must remain active in that house for as long as the PNG stands. The standing writ is established by the active status of 10 of the original Citizens who voted for PNG.

In defense of my method, I think it gives participants more control and responsibility for the tone of discourse, but as Kali notes, if there are culturally irreconcilable differences below the conscious level of the participants, it doesn't seem likely that simply lopping off the heads of offenders helps. It might create more silence than it overcomes.

In any case, as work on systems such as these progresses, I believe we are going to find a new world of computer mediated deliberation which will be more productive ways of making decisions across broader populations than our world has ever seen.

Posted by mbowen at 08:04 PM | TrackBack

Micropayments are Back

And so is Guy Kawasaki. Check it out.

Posted by mbowen at 07:55 PM | TrackBack

Why Did You Support the War, Daddy?

It looks like a lot of bloggers whom I respect are giving their rationales the once over and giving an entire retrospective on their wagging lo these many months. I suppose I have the advantage of not being so prolific with the call and response of the major blog circles. I try to call 'em simply and let the details fall to those without elementary school children in the house.

Uranium was never part of my moral calculus. In fact neither were WMDs. I was no more afraid of Saddam's military this time around than the first time, and everybody knows that Colin Powell cut them off and killed them. What's more, when mitigating circumstances showed themselves about gassing of the Kurds, I still didn't waver.

Something you are not going to hear in any of today's debates about this is the fate of the Kurds. The Kurds are just fine, thank you, not that any American in media earshot gives a damn today. In fact, the American forces have held back the Kurds from a well deserved jaunt of revenge during the hostilities, and the Turks were still displeased at the Kurdish bravado under their newly found freedom.

Let's get this all straight. We Americans are continuing our ridiculous debates only listening to ourselves and not the rest of the world, and it is making us a truly sucky empire. Thank god Tony Blair has the guts and brains to say what's up and what's right about this expression of might. It's all about liberty, but not American liberty. It's about the liberty of people in the Middle East and that's why deposing Saddam was a key priority with or without uranium, scuds, chemical agents, bioweapons or terrorist ties. Iraq itself was wrong, and now it has another chance. But until we Americans grow up and shutup sometimes and listen to the cries for freedom elsewhere in the world, all of our justifications for everything in our foreign policy, military or not, will become a partisan sham.

A partisan sham is what we are enduring right now. I'll try not to suffer it, but only repeat now the logic that made me support GWBush in his actions, if not his reasons.

Several weeks ago, I asked the rhetorical question whether or not the world will accept this imperial show. I wondered out loud if Saddam, of all the nasty bastards on the planet, and Iraq of all the gawdawful spots in the world, were the right targets for our first venture. Perhaps I am waiting for the right person to do the right thing in consideration of the fact the GWBush is wrong for just about everything which calls for an intelligent command of the oratory worthy of free world leadership. I want my emperor to be kingly, and why oh why did I get GW? Do you hear me pissing and moaning?

Yet if I could stop for a minute and start dealing with the hideous facts of the matter on the ground in Iraq (and probably a half dozen other horrible places), I wonder if I would mind so much if my president is Shrek instead of a Handsome Prince. I'm a policy snob in the face of Saddam's clear and present danger. Not to me, to Iraqis. It's not about me.

Since it is not about me, and a busybody neighbor is better than an abusive parent, I have to concede the fact that an ugly rescue is better than benign neglect. I feel that our geopolitical snobbery and posing are pretty worthless right about now, and the fact that we have to wheedle our way around the diplomatic chicanery of the UN and everyplace else is only necessitated by a failure of brotherhood and an ignoble squeamishness which is not rescued by our well-meant outrage at Bush's mendacity. I do believe in class warfare.That means noblesse on our part and revolt by the Shi'a.

The focus of the world is on Saddam Hussein. WMD or no, Iraqis are hopeless without our intervention. Now is the time for action, political snobs be damned. No matter how physically wreckless we may be, and I have a strong feeling that we won't be, this war is better happening than not. No matter how diplomatically wreckless we have been, and I know for damned sure that we have been, those are only words and hard feelings, but they're not lives. Lives are more important than words.

Posted by mbowen at 04:44 PM | TrackBack

Hadley Draws the Straw

Brave suicide bomber, er speechwriter Stephen Hadley has decided, with the approval of his bosses, to take all the blame for those 16 little words that GWBush spoke with conviction.

Tsk tsk tsk.

I can't decide which is worse, if he gets a Republican perk or sent to political Siberia for this. Either way, he's dead meat. Makes you kinda wonder what it's like to be on the team where the star player doesn't own up to his mistakes. I have lost some respect for GWBush on this matter.

Posted by mbowen at 04:22 PM | TrackBack

Doing the Nasty

Somewhere in this great nation of ours, people are bickering about the future status of Kobe Bryant much the same way they did about the future of a guy named Bill Clinton.

Elsewhere, however, they are talking about freedom, specifically the freedom of North Koreans. Most of us, I would say, would have a very difficult time understanding the mentality of a people who would make Kim Jong Il into a hero. As a leader of a country, he sucks. Why 2 or 3 million of his people starved to death. That's 1 out of 10. We in America have a tough time dealing with 10% unemployment, imagine if it were 10% starvation. Starvation to death.

In North Korea, we are told, all of the radios and televisions only tune to government channels. You can't travel anywhere. You must serve in the military whether you want to or not, and above all you cannot say anything derogatory about the government and its primary hero Kim Jong Il. Any misspoken words or illegitimate freedoms will be reported to the authorities by a nation of stooges. In North Korea, you had better watch what you do.

Americans rightly sneer at such oppression. Who in their right minds would suffer a society where people who exercise basic freedoms are destroyed? Who indeed.

Over here, we have many freedoms. Perhaps that is why we are so willing to suffer the ignominity of our sexual taboos. Whether we like it or not, the freedom to have sex how we want, with who we want, whenever we want is freedom. But we, like North Korea, have a nation of stooges who cannot wait to destroy the lives of people who exercise that freedom.

We make fun of Mrs. Bryant and Mrs. Clinton when they defend their wayward spouses, but could it be that they know something about freedom that we don't? Could it be that they among us have learned something about the juggernaut that is unleashed around this unsightly obsession Americans have when somebody famous is a bit too free with their sexuality? I think so.

We have been given a stark and brilliant lesson by the Supreme Court this year in the matter of bedroom behavior and the public interest. It's none of our business how, when and why people do the nasty. So long as we call it 'the nasty', there will be a familiar and repressive force against sexual freedom in our society. It is at this point that I will try to remind everyone that we are a nation of laws and that we should respect those laws.

Kobe Bryant is charged with sexual assault, and he is innocent until proven guilty. That's the criminal standard. Americans can and will rightly judge him when that charge is proven or disproven in a court of law. But that is not the nature of the talk in our nation of sexual stooges. People are in a quandary about why somebody who has every advantage our society has to offer its heros should go in this direction.

Perhaps it is because we are not truly willing to admit that sexual freedom is a real freedom.

Posted by mbowen at 02:35 PM | TrackBack

July 21, 2003

Toothless Carnivore

Cringely cracked me up this morning with the following revelation:

Last week's CALEA column did result in readers sending other interesting/appalling stories, including one about Carnivore, the FBI's system for tapping ISP communications with you and me. The DCS-1000 or Carnivore system is apparently rife with security defects, starting with the fact that it is a Windows 2000 box exposed to the Internet, typically not behind the firewall, at the ISP and remote-controlled from the FBI office using PCAnywhere. The data it captures are downloaded insecurely in the PCAnywhere session. In fact, the FBI admitted that some significant e-mail intercepts concerning Osama Bin Laden were "contaminated" and were not legally usable (the technician reportedly was ordered to destroy all the intercepts) due to technical problems with the box.

Oh man, that's rich.

Posted by mbowen at 07:40 AM | TrackBack

July 20, 2003

Revenge and Rescue

Another political timebomb is ticking for the Bush Administration as yet another interestingly marginal rationale for war is deconstructed.

In the 14 weeks since the fall of Baghdad, coalition forces have not brought to light any significant evidence demonstrating the bond between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Uncovering such a link should be much easier than finding weapons of mass destruction. Instead of having to inspect hundreds of suspected weapons sites around the country, military and intelligence officials need only comb through the files of Iraq's intelligence agency and a handful of other government ministries.

Our intelligence experts have been doing exactly that since April and so far there has been no report of any proof (and we can assume that any supporting information would have quickly been publicized). Of the more than 3,000 Qaeda operatives arrested around the world, only a handful of prisoners in Guantánamo — all with an incentive to please their captors — have claimed there was cooperation between Osama bin Laden's organization and Saddam Hussein's regime, and their remarks have yet to be confirmed by any of the high-ranking Iraqi officials now in American hands.

We will find nothing of political relevance. This is a lose-lose rabbit hole.

There are only two reasons, apparently, that Americans are willing to war over. They are revenge and rescue. Kill the killer or free the hostage. The objectives, if and when accomplished will become self-evident. But if you use dodgy or even stellar intelligence, you lose. The American public can and will be spun endlessly over this and that evidence. Even a smoking gun is not enough, especially not if Americans weren't shot. In Iraq we can't even find a cold gun. Now that we are debating endlessly policies and procedures, we are turning the US Military into the LAPD. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly.

I like the kind of military we have today. One that can shock and awe. In fact the longer it takes to rebuild Iraq, the more profoundly impressive the amount of mass destrcution we are able to wreak without 'weapons of mass destruction' becomes. But GWBush and Rumsfeld, unaware, are about to transform the American armed forces into something much less than a force for non-nuclear detente. They are going to turn them into police. They are going to turn the great American three-headed Rottweiler into a flea-bitten mutt on a short leash.

The politics and circumstances of this war will have long term consequences that to me, spell even more reluctance from the international community to acquiesce to their deployment anywhere in the future. There will be limits on the number of divisions that can go in. There will be limits on the kinds of armaments they can use. The American president will say, hell we'll go in alone, and the Europeans will say fine. Then one day an American will shoot a French trooper and that will be the beginning of the end, and the end of my speculation.

The ability for us to punish Korea is no geopolitically diminished. We can only pray that GWBush doesn't have to be the man to unleash the beast once again.

Posted by mbowen at 10:23 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 19, 2003

Feelgood for the Day

According to EMode, I'm a Visionary Philosopher with an IQ of 131. That's about right according to all the tests I've taken all these years. They tell me:

This number is the result of a formula based on how many questions you answered correctly on Emode's Ultimate IQ test. Your IQ score is scientifically accurate; to read more about the science behind our IQ test, click here.

During the test, you answered four different types of questions — mathematical, visual-spatial, linguistic and logical. We analyzed how you did on each of those questions which reveals how your brain uniquely works.

We also compared your answers with others who have taken the test. According to the sorts of questions you got correct, we can tell your Intellectual Type is a Visionary Philosopher.

This means you are highly intelligent and have a powerful mix of skills and insight that can be applied in a variety of different ways. Like Plato, your exceptional math and verbal skills make you very adept at explaining things to others — and at anticipating and predicting patterns. And that's just some of what we know about you from your IQ results.

Now that's marketing! It's also friggen spookily accurate. They want me to spend 15 bucks to find out more. But of course I'm too smart and I see through their (scientifically accurate) flattery.

Besides, I'm still bummed out by the fact that Fedex has my new computer on their truck and I can't get it until Monday. I had reserved this weekend to installing Slackware. Oh well, I might as well go see Bad Boys 2.

Posted by mbowen at 11:42 AM | TrackBack

KFO in the Gigabytes

I woke up this morning at 5 out of a dream that I was part of a lowrider bicycle gang. The reason was plain. I had gone to sleep the prior evening, well OK at 1:30 this morning, with my DMX-Patsy Cline playlist at full blast. Yes you heard me right. I thought I had it set to play only once through, but instead I was doing something for my dogs in twilight rem sleep. So I have had plenty of time to start re-arranging all my gigabytes, as is my desire in this lonely morning.

Not long ago, the most interesting conversation I've ever had the privilege of engaging took place in HLR's private virtual salon. The subject was the separation of church and state, enjoined as it was by people of all intelligent stripes, it was a masterful thing. But I was most impressed by a cat named Mike Sellers whom I have unsuccessfully tried to coax into the blogosphere. If and when he ever does, we will all be in for a treat. Tim Burke, you know. He was also present.

Reminescent of Douglas R. Hofstadter and for the purposes of this complex discussion, I embodied three characters in a debate from three perspectives. As I happened across the text in my diskkeeping chores this AM, I could not resist them. It only goes to show how inspired I must have been at the time. Since I am engaged a few posts down in something of a religious debate, this is a good moment to dredge this up from the archives.

The point I was trying to illustrate was something about the difficulty of solving problems when people come with examples that cannot be authenticated by third parties.

kukla: slavery is the fact of life in our christian nation and the black man suffers for it. yet the bible tells us that for the curse of ham, this is his destiny. the best we can do through christian charity is to bring him succor and pity his fate, but it is ordained of god that he should suffer this way. slavery brings wealth to the nation and we are stained by the shame of it, but such is our imperfection before god. we are forgiven.

fran: slavery is indeed shameful but defensible because the nation profits from slavery, and the slaves themselves cannot stand in the way of national progress. i should rather see them free but the social reality is that we cannot agree what else is to be done with them. if the people could only be convinced slavery is wrong i could use my iron works in troy n.y. for something more profitable than manacles - railroads and western expansion. would that slaves could be set free and sent west! but this is impossible and so i stand behind slavery as it stands.

ollie: indeed! christ himself was a black man and he teaches us to love all as equals. christian charity should rescue them from slavery and set them as equals before god and man, no matter what cost to the nation. this commandment supercedes any old testament curse of ham. we are not forgiven this vile tresspass against god's creation.

fran: i know nothing of this 'ham' nor his curse and am not inclined to believe it anyhow. yet if what ollie says is true, then perhaps your version christian charity is flawed and inconsistent, kukla. i should fund a study of the history of those peoples and see if christ was wooly headed after all. if it could be proven, we could change the nation, and i could break my contracts, thus joining the railroads.

kukla: what do you know of christian charity? mind you the law of the land, fran. ollie is a heretic and a radical who seeks to justify overthrow of the south. why he even supports the work of osama turner!

fran: is this true, ollie? if it is, then i must side with kukla, who at least stands correct in that osama is a murderer of the first order. i could not condone any such support. slavery is legal, and profitable for me. murder clearly is not.

ollie: no. i abhor his violence, nevertheless his aim is proper - the south must come under new order, and god wills it that all should speak up against slavery for the moral reasons i have given here. the curse of ham is false. the truth is that the black african's soul weighs as much as any white man's.

kukla: the south follows the will of god, slavery shall remain, the black man's accursed soul is born best by those who employ it now as they do for the wealth of the nation, and the greater glory of god. furthermore you have no right to speak on what course christians should follow as they regard the souls of the african. your research would be of no conseqence to true christians.

fran: perhaps not, yet i do agree that the african is at least more our equal than the perpetual slave our laws keep him. i am intrigued that if this christ of yours himself was a black man, i would be convinced that ollie would be more correct in principle. yet i know nothing of weighing souls. i daresay that my am more inclined to reverse my position, were it is possible to discover..

ollie: oh but it is! the blood on the shroud of turin is african. and a man of your stature could endeavor to prove it. i should gladly provide you with introductions to do so, kind sir, if you would provide the means.

kukla: it doesn't matter what the shroud says, it matters what the bible says. the black man's soul is cursed, slavery remains, end of discussion, you bloody heretic. what care you of the christian order of things?

ollie: the shroud is the perfect relic to prove the black man's soul is equal. what care you of the greater glory of god you sniveling hypocrite.

kukla: usurper!

ollie: blasphemer!

fran: gentlemen, gentlemen! there remains much yet to be determined. i must say i am entirely put off by the tone of your discussion. i daresay i should leave well enough alone, what with all this soul weighing, blood tests and ancient curses. i shall profit either way the law of the land goes. and while i am inclined to enter a vigorous debate about this policy i'm afraid to belong to either of your contingents. therefore i cannot take council from either of you in these terms.

Posted by mbowen at 07:52 AM | TrackBack

Just Give Me a Reason

"You are now free to move about the country. Some restrictions apply."
-- Southwest Airlines

Wired reports that Southwest Airlines, ever innovative, will be installing videocameras on every plane, recording faces and conversation, and keeping them for 10 years. Just in case. Look at this, they're just trolling for a rationale.

He conceded the system would not prevent determined terrorists from sabotaging a plane, as the terrorists of the Sept. 11 attacks did. The purpose is to help law enforcement identify criminals and keep track of their whereabouts. Pilots could check the cabin before opening the cockpit door during a flight. And, airlines could use the records to defend themselves in lawsuits over situations like air rage.

I've got your air rage right here.

I haven't explained this category of 'A Punch in the Nose' and now that I've got too much time on my hands, I think that I should apropos this vile intrusion. Well, the long and the short of it is that it is an Alexandrian Sword against the Gordian Knot of insurance, litigiousness and other pansy ass evasions of the inevitability of human tragedy and decay. These blasted aging Boomers are smothering us with their frailty and wealth. It's drives me to distraction.

You know what they are? They are the fuzzy focused 86 year old drivers plowing through the farmers markets of our everyday lives and their power is an oversized, out of control Buick hardtop. It's killing us.

Posted by mbowen at 07:34 AM | TrackBack

July 18, 2003

Unmitigated Gall

The RIAA has called upon Loyola University to stab its students in the back and turn over their names for prosecution under new laws that make it a crime to eat into their precious profits. Loyola rolled over like a punk pooch.

Education officials say that while universities are typically under legal obligation to protect student privacy, the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act afford students suspected of copyright infringement no such protection.

Which is all the more reason to protest the law, as it clearly has no respect for... I'm too incensed to speak, which I will remedy as I get some focus. But I am ashamed of Loyola, and you should be too.

Posted by mbowen at 01:32 PM | TrackBack

Mainlining Moja

I really want everybody to read this guy. To me he represents the essence of what blogging should be all about. Put yourself is a situation and scream your guts out to the planet. I could dig all that from the war perspective, but here's the heart of the matter (for me, so far). Check out this post on music:

there's something about it...just doing it in your room...all by yourself...it's the love of the music...the creation of something more then what it is...taking 2 records and making them one...blending...the perfect mix...it creates a charge...and your proud of what you have just done...sometimes others are around...sometimes you're alone...it really doesn't matter...but when you get to the point where you wish others were there to witness your meticulous match work you're finally ready for the big time...to take it to the road...to share your impeccable musical taste with the masses...

dj's make more money then most people think...and they only work at night...during the weekends...it's enough to support them...and the good ones get rich...i don't want all that...but i do want the nights...the lights...that feeling that you are the man making the whole night happen for all those people...you brought the party in your little record case...and the good times that people will remember...

the house parties are so great...it's very intimat...your surrounded by friends...by people you have never met...drunkenness prevails...and inhibitions are gone...great fun...

i didn't always like dance music...i didn't feel it for a long time...i was brought up on rage against the machine and tool...but all that changed with my first duty station in germany...the birth place of techno...europe is so far ahead of us musically...but we'll never admit it...you have to live there to see it...hard to believe but true...i missed the rave scene in the states...it seems to have came and went with out much help from me...i found a few dirty desert parties in phoenix...i danced as hard as an underage guy can in jacksonville...but my life started in the dorain grey...i was reborn inside ms connexions...

If you asked me what being an American is all about, I don't think any story would be complete without the understanding that this was written by an American soldier.

Posted by mbowen at 01:14 PM | TrackBack

Moja Transcribes Post War Iraq

A fascinating journal is here.

i sit here all night trying to change the world from my lap top...and it's beginning to weigh on me...there is a story here that deserves to be told...there are other sides to this multi faceted goliath...

Posted by mbowen at 11:45 AM | TrackBack

July 17, 2003

Blood in the Water

Any day now, somebody is going to pin an unforgettable phrase on GWBush, but it seems to me that this is the month that his failed facility with professional English (God hang the King) is going to become more than a thorn in his side.

What's interesting at this juncture is that he cannot hide behind the troops. They've already done the job. There's no noble mission he's succeeding in. America is all out of rah-rah.

You'd think the Democrats would have gotten a phrase out there by now, but they're such losers and whiners that they can't even take advantage of the fish on their plate. Shameful, really. If I come up with a stunning phrase, of course I'll post it here.

Posted by mbowen at 11:03 PM | TrackBack

Break out the Champagne & Vaseline

Well, here's news for celebration. According to the New Scientist, masturbation can help prevent cancer. This is excellent news and gives a new spin on the scourge of prostate cancer. If you get it, it's because you weren't getting any. I can envision a whole store full of homeopathics for this treatment.

But seriously, this is really good news.

Posted by mbowen at 07:41 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Several interesting things happened to me today. In no particular order, they are the following.

I had a very intense dream about the 60s which included several acts of racial violence. Dream was about me watching a musical documentary film that was playing in the living room of the house I grew up in. My father had invited a roomful of film critics. I sat between David Denby and Elvis Mitchell and watched the film. There was no furniture in the house.

I talked to my boy, long distance. He's doing well although he still cannot remember the name of his babysitter. Don't ask.

I had a very successful pair of interviews at a large entertainment company in Los Angeles. I am looking forward to the next two, which I believe to be a bit less stressful. I already envision myself there, and I am really psyched about it. No more contracts in Texas!

I felt the first honest bit of fatigue over the peace in Iraq. The thread of my support is beginning to unravel. Even though the Council is in place, we are losing a body a day, drip drip drip. It's becoming annoying and I'm starting to turn off stories about Iraq.

I believed what the scientists are saying about the impossibility of boost phase interception of solid-fueled ICBMs.

I acknowledged that I am more attracted to the 'old school' in Old School Republicans, than the 'Republican' part, using an efficient razor by my partner Lester at the site. It will be modified.

I reduced my time by 2 seconds at Catalunya on MotoGP2.

I reduced my expectations of Cornel West.

I enjoyed the extraordinary jump in popularity of my new site, Cubegeek.com which is only 3 days old.

I worried again about the failure of California legislators to pass a balanced budget.

I have also conceded to the possibility of living in the San Fernando Valley - Canoga Park, even. Yet another step down on the socio-economic-fabulousness ladder. Who needs it?

All in all I would say that I am growing a bit cynical about those things I do not control and more enthused about those things over which I have some measure of control. Despite the fact that some political blogmapping poll I took yesterday assures me that I am more libertarian than authoritarian (and I happen to think that map is useless), I guess I have control issues.

A toast. To the death of optimism and wishful thinking.

Posted by mbowen at 12:33 AM | TrackBack


We have a winner!

I have found, finally, a nuanced approach to news on the continent. As I was beginning to splutter about Cornel West, he really angered me this evening with his bluster about the African Union being disrespected by GWBush, who according to West, upstaged their entire conference just by being on the continent. Instead of giving us a clue as to what the African Union is trying to accomplish these days other than 'self-determination', Cornel simply launched into trying to embarrass Bush. What a self-serving load of tripe. From this point forward, I expect nothing more from Brother West other than interestingly wooly banter, although not with Tavis Smiley.

Our young man from Tennessee, on the other hand has a few interesting things to say on Liberia.

Welcome to the blogroll, Noah.

Posted by mbowen at 12:05 AM | TrackBack

July 16, 2003

Cornel & Tavis

Get on my nerves. There. I said it.

Posted by mbowen at 09:49 PM | TrackBack

July 15, 2003

Raceman Results

Appropos of comments somewhere around here, I present the current statistics from my Raceman test.

realists = 0.0273037542662116
anti-racists = 0.4419795221843
racialists = 0.068259385665529
colorblind = 0.16382252559727
bigots = 0.150170648464164
racists = 0.148464163822526

I don't know whether it is a good or bad thing to know with fifteen digit precision the number of people who incriminate themselves as racists and bigots, but it is comforting to know that the biggest minority group has the right idea. On the other hand, as Baldwin said, acting on what you know to be true is not so easy. Fortunately that cuts both ways.

So the net effect is that I'm dissatisfied with the state of mind of Americans. So what else is new?

By the way, here are the results from back in April of this year.

realists = 0.0255863539445629
anti-racists = 0.439232409381663
racialists = 0.0682302771855011
colorblind = 0.166311300639659
bigots = 0.157782515991471
racists = 0.142857142857143

Posted by mbowen at 11:22 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Acknowledging the Soul

My brother reminded me yesterday that there is a very fine line between life and death when it comes to reasons for suicide. He's a cop and he gets to see a little bit.

On this particular occasion, a musical composer of some sort had a very bad day. He couldn't find a job, his motorcycle broke down, and his car broke down. So he took a big bottle of pills. It's a sad state of affairs when such are the symptoms of suicide. I try to be mildly amused and embarrassed by American middle-class materialism, but this is truly tragic. How is it that a person arrives to believe the value of their life is equal to the value of their possessions?

Cornel West put it in a way that I had never heard before, it being the necessity of other types of social institutions to keep capitalism in check. He's right of course. Organized religion is a way to build social capital which offsets capitalist capital. What does it profit a man if he lose all his possessions and forget he has a soul?

At the heart of this is the idea, not unique among ways of coming to knowledge, that each individual is precious. I like buddhism's conception of a single global soul because it encompasses our Western ideas of ecology. But the idea of the individual soul, if taken logically, allows us to treat all humans equally. Within the scope of human rights, the Buddhists, Christians, Jews and Muslims are all speaking the same language. There is a soul which cannot have a price attached to it, any affront to it is equally wrong no matter the person's station in capitalist, communist, fuedal, tribal or anarchic society.

I do not believe that Western thought has arrived at the idea of individual rights completely independent of the influence of the religious concept of the individual soul. So we ought to give credit where credit is due.

Posted by mbowen at 06:18 PM | TrackBack

Hearing Harry

I finally finished listening to Harry Potter's latest adventure. I think I should have read it, as that would have taken less time. Instead, I bought the CDs, and went through a dozen batteries in the Walkman.

Listening to a book is a self-conscious activity. I haven't worn headphones outdoors in a decade, and never walked around listening to somebody speaking in the voices of a dozen different characters. I've discovered that the interstices of life are actually fairly vast. The time spent driving to lunch, standing in line, shopping or constructively ignoring other people adds up. Into this time, if you are willing to be rude and disconnected, you can stuff a bit of fantasy into your day.

Harry's world, Rowling's work is quite engaging. Although people who have spent a great deal more time and effort in advanced fantasy worlds find it flat, I have been delighted. As much of the chatting classes now know, some highbrows have rather condescending things to say about Rowling. But I, who generally believe in Culture, am a big defender and fan.

Posted by mbowen at 01:20 AM | TrackBack

July 14, 2003

Raving Atheist

Now here's something interesting, a raving atheist. We shall most definitely look closer. I wonder, politically, when and where you can count on ranting rationalists.

I haven't raved on faith vs reason since finishing The Fountainhead in my sophomore year. OK I admit I was long out of college, but I wasn't a liberal arts major, alright? We techies get it late if ever.

Most atheists I've listened to over an extended period of time strike me as people who escaped an abusive childhood. But it's not logical for them to blame it on God, who after all has no interest in human affairs. Hell, even Morgan Freeman says don't mess with free will, and he's the best God ever caught on film. It is logical for them to blame a good deal of pain and suffering on their fanatic evangelical doppelgangers on the other side of the aisle, as it were.

I have several difficult questions to pose to atheists of all stripes which have nothing whatsoever to do with God.

The first involves the moral imperative implied by the existence of the human soul. Atheists must acknowledge the soul, the spirit. the ineffable essence of human life which makes it precious beyond the concerns of all human institutions. We may very well be on the verge of creating the 'compassionate corporation' whose lifespan may exceed that of organized religion, but the soul, its very invention owes to religion.

Governments, Armies, Commercial Enterprises and Organized Religions represent the most powerful organizing forces we've invented. Each has a part to play in human destiny. Drop one and what have you got? Are atheists anarchic of necessity?

Posted by mbowen at 12:42 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions

Somebody went there. They asked the question, "Oh yeah? How many racist things happen to you?". Not exactly in those words, but that was the gist.

As part of my Kwaku duty, I shall answer the question as succintly as possible, for my existential partners who lack the patience and otherwise have better things to do a midnight on a Sunday.

The stupidest questions are best answered with leading questions. So the return question is, how many blondes have you slept with? Huh? comes the response. What has that got to do with.. And then you interrupt with, the effect of racism on me is very much like the effect of blonde haired sex on you. It didn't have to happen in the past ten years once to change how I feel or what I believe.

Naturally, the blonde sex question can be substituted, but it should be sexual, because anyone crass enough or pitifully naive enough to ask such a rude question is more likely than not to be overly influenced by the sexual, if Huxley is to be believed.

And just in case they persist in their purient curiousity and ask something as idiotic as "Why can't white people say 'nigger'?" I've got a few snappy ones for that too, my favorite being the mother in bed one. But you know me, I can be scandalous.

Posted by mbowen at 12:09 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 13, 2003

Cubegeek Launch

I'm very excited to launch my new site. It's really amazing how far the tecnhology has come to allow for cheap webhosting and content management. I think the industry will benefit.

So as a consequence of that and my long standing desire to share information far and wide, I put Cubegeek together. Fingers crossed.

Posted by mbowen at 01:19 PM | TrackBack

A Theory of Engagement

Charles Taylor has about 40,000 troops in his army. The rebels allied against him have a total of about 5,000. And so there is a civil war going on. I've seen figures of about 3,000 bandied about when it comes to the sizing of our peacekeeping force, and of course about 1 million Liberians have been displaced since 1999. Understanding that I am a numbers kind of guy, it doesn't seem too difficult to percieve that a cease-fire imposed by an international peacekeeping force of very moderate size could go a very long way in Liberia.

50,000 warring troops can certainly destabilize a nation of 3 million but if the rebels are that few, does it follow that an equal number of peacekeepers can bring stability?

I'm not gung ho for battle, but I think that it might be worth sending a force to find out. If the rebels accept them, and the cease-fire is established, we can accomplish things rather quickly.

My theory is that a tripwire can be set based upon the lives of American soldiers. They stand among civilians and establish a demilitarized zone until elections are called. If too many American peacekeepers are killed, we lower the boom. The boom destroys the country a la Iraq, and then we leave. The effect is the imposition of a mutually assured destruction incentive on warring factions. The US is not primarily responsible for the peace, we can leave that to Belgians and Swedes and all other such experts in the international community. The Americans are the boom and the bang - mercenaries for peace, the Sword of Damocles, the Alien Threat.

Note that we go in for peacekeeping purposes only, and we get off the hook from nation building. I think it's a role no American president can screw up. How's that for cynical?

Posted by mbowen at 01:16 AM | TrackBack

July 12, 2003

Boohabian Projections

You would think that just buying a 120GB disk drive solves all your problems. It just complicates life. Now that I've got more than enough room to put all of my stuff, even redundantly, it's hard for me to know which of the freed up volumes I should use for what purposes.

So I've come across a lot of old Boohabian stuff like this:

I have always primarily advocated affirmative action from the standpoint of integration. What I’ve always said is that in a post-Jim crow society, anything in the mainstream that remains segregated is defacto wrong. So any way you can integrate that is good - even if it means taking black bums off the street and making them heads of Savings and Loan Associations. In short, I support tokenism too. When blacks can destroy the S&L industry and not be blamed because of their race, that is the day America will have reached equality.

Short of that day, any and every effort Americans make to destroy racial ghettoes is good work. Something much more strong than affirmative action is warranted if the myth of racial inferiority is to be destroyed.

Empowerment is the secondary reason I support affirmative action. To the extent that opening doors serves the interests of beneficiaries of affirmative action, that's all good. Even if non-distinct individuals get bumped in a zero sum game. Anyplace that is capable of supporting politics of hardball affirmative action, quotas and targets and other overproductions should continue. As long as this remains a significant minority of affirmative actions, these don't despoil the market.

Diversity is the third reason I support affirmative action. Ethnics *are* different, and there *are* no objective standards by which all Americans can or should be judged. As long as affirmative action doesn't create situations like that surrounding David Cash in which persona non grata is the rule rather than the exception the discomfort level should be ignored. People who can't get along inter-ethnically should recognize that their days are numbered.

It could use some editing but it's still essentially my position on the why. For that reason it will end up on the static website. There's so much stuff I have.

Posted by mbowen at 11:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Productive Solitude

My wife reminds me that I have about 6 more days to frolic with her and the girls before they join my son in the hither and yon. He is spending the summer with his biomom, and soon they will pack up and be off to Michigan. I will remain here in Los Angeles.

That means I will find myself after a few days, several pounds lighter, running around half-naked and deeply engaged in my solitude. It will be productive solitude, it will be the sort, depending upon whether or not I find work, in which the fires of my mind will take over my waking life. I will have spectacular dreams, and my writing will improve. I will wake up to my old self and become angry that I haven't done anything since last summer. In preparation for that time, I have purchased a 1000 page O'Reilly book and Richard Powers' Galatea 2.2.

After our afternoon swim at the Y, I found an old letter from my father who suggested, evidently in February of this year, that I read Powers. Normally I will glance through his photocopied article and assuming that it was a headline I had already consumed online, I would chuck it. This article remained in the side pocket of my VW Beetle, now going on six months. It gives me a small bit of comfort to know that my system worked, and I probably wouldn't have had time for Powers until this moment, but the shock of recognition.

My father acts as if he is convinced that my intellect approaches that of Power and were it not for the cruelty of racial injustice I would be writing books equal to his. He's only half right; he'd have to be rich enough and anti-bourgie enough for me to live in his extra house and not mind that I didn't work. All this after he paid for my higher education. But I'm here somewhere in that limbo of unrecognized and undernourished brainfire: geekland. Too smart and curious to not feed our brains, we drag ourselves through the anti-intellectual desert of American society from soul quenching oasis to oasis. We can't just stop and live at the oasis, our work, our families keep us trekking the wastelands. So eventually, inevitably we stare our laziness in the face when words such as these strike us in the face:

..I heard a lecture by Terry Waite, who told about his five-year captivity in Beirut. After the lecture, he took questions from the audience and someone bluntly asked, "What was the main thing you learned in being locked up for five years?" In the moment after my stomach lurched at the question, I ran through all the possible answers: "Love life while you can," "Never take people for granted again." But his answer was shocking. He said, "Contemporary humanity has lost the ability to engage in productive solitude."


What do you think he meant by "productive"?


He wasn't using the term in the way late-capitalistic market society would mean productive. He wasn't talking about General Motors's definition of productivity. The currency he was speaking of is very much the care and tending of individual salvation.

To me, his comment legitimized the process of reading and writing. The thing that makes reading and writing suspect in the eyes of the market economy is that it's not corrupted. It's a threat to the GNP, to the gene engineer. It's an invisible, sedate, almost inert process. Reading is the last act of secular prayer. Even if you're reading in an airport, you're making a womb unto yourself—you're blocking the end results of information and communication long enough to be in a kind of stationary, meditative aspect. A book is a done deal and nothing you do is going to alter the content, and that's antithetical to the idea that drives our society right now, which is about changing the future, being an agent, getting and taking charge of your destiny and altering it. The destiny of a written narrative is outside the realm of the time. For so long as you are reading, you are also outside the realm of the time. What Waite said seemed like a justification for this unjustifiable process that I've given my life to.


Just this morning, I saw a man gesticulating like a minister. But it was C-SPAN2. It was Jonathan Brent and he was talking about the beginning of the end for Jewish doctors under Stalin. As I watched him, I waxed nostalgic for the days I used to sit watching CSPAN and taking notes in my living room, trying to figure out the complicity of the CIA in the fate of the Allendes, or watching the Soviet coup unfold. But mostly I remembered words uttered by Albert Murray, that literature is his religion. It's mine as well, but I have been abandoned by and have abandoned the faithful. I live outside of the gates. I am a man alone in his intellect, a solitude made bearable only by the fact that this blog technology allows me to recall what I've been thinking as well as share it with whomever drifts by. I don't have time to go to seminars and lectures, everything is disembodied knowledge. It brings be directly to Richard Powers.

(I can't find the article now, so skip the illucidation on why I like him before I read him. It's Emily Eakins' "Science Guy" piece. You're a geek, you look it up.)

I've been looking for somebody to follow up Eco, DeLillo, Littel, Stephenson, and Pynchon. It may very well be Powers. We'll see.

As a side note, I'm not particularly interested in his thing on race, the latest book. I'll read Turnipseed instead. One step at a time.

Posted by mbowen at 08:15 PM | TrackBack

People Like Us

Sometimes I forget where I come from. It's easy to do; just pay attention to 'everything' in the media. There's this big gaping hole that I am so used to seeing that it's a surprise when it suddenly gets filled in. That's how I felt when my cousin said a friend of his has a new book out.

I suppose it's not too late in the summer to pick it up. There's a good chance that I will.

Posted by mbowen at 04:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Old News: CALEA Hacked

Cringely, ever informative and better than most bloggers, gives us a fright with his news.

That's what led me to this story. In the Lacie Peterson murder case in California, thousands of Scott Peterson's phone conversations were recorded using CALEA technology. Some of those conversations were between Peterson and his lawyer, some between Peterson and the press. None of them were with me. I have no idea whether Scott Peterson is guilty or innocent, and it doesn't matter at all to this column. What matters is that a few days ago 176 new phone conversations were "discovered."

How do you "discover" a recorded phone conversation in a totally automated system? If you can discover a conversation, then you can also lose one a la Rosemary Woods and the famous 17-minute gap in that Watergate tape. The whole system becomes suspect and subject to abuse.

I never wanted to give a phat gnat about Lacie Peterson's murder, but clearly every man's death diminishes me.

Posted by mbowen at 10:27 AM | TrackBack

July 11, 2003

Sixteen Words

I enjoy being an amatuer geopolitical pundit as much as the next guy, but you've really got to wonder what kind of thought goes into the headlines these days. I suggested the other day that some open source intelligence would be a good thing and as of yet Cryptome doesn't have the unclassified docs. But even from Tenet's statement, it's clear that a lot of the spew going on about this African Uranium is a bit out of perspective.

According to the CIA, Iraq had 550 tons of yellowcake just before the war. This is about double what it had a dozen years ago. Recall the Matrix-Churchill scandal. Back then Time reported:

After the Osirak attack, Iraq tried to realize its ambitions by buying bomb- grade material from underground suppliers. In 1982 Iraqi agents paid $60 million to a team of Italian-based smugglers who claimed to have access to stores of plutonium and highly enriched uranium. According to U.S. officials, the smugglers' offer was a fraud, and the Iraqis walked away from it empty- handed. Stung by those setbacks, Baghdad turned to a third means of joining the nuclear club: the enrichment of uranium to weapons-grade level in gas centrifuges. The centrifuges take uranium-bearing ore or a mixture called yellowcake and separate out the 3% of uranium 235, which is fissionable, from the 97% of uranium 238, which is not. Iraq is known to possess 250 tons of yellowcake, most of it purchased in the 1970s from Brazil, China and Niger. In recent years the country has also begun producing its own yellowcake from mines in northern Iraq.

Tenet says clearly that the thrust of intelligence findings on Iraq was not on what they might do with Niger. That emphasis falls to a speechwriter in the West Wing.

In October, the Intelligence Community (IC) produced a classified, 90 page National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq’s WMD programs. There is a lengthy section in which most agencies of the Intelligence Community judged that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Let me emphasize, the NIE’s Key Judgments cited six reasons for this assessment; the African uranium issue was not one of them.

It's clear to me that Tenet has done his duty and that some Congressmen may be doubling over themselves at this late date, sniffing the wind. But they were informed and can't pretend that they were out of the loop either. The CIA no doubt will have documents to prove it themselves adequate to the task of vetting intelligence, but not of presidential speechwriting. Why should they be?

Bush himself needs to take responsibility for this. It was his speech. It is absolutely ridiculous to place blame anywhere but on his head. Now we all know he's the picture of mediocrity when it comes to the spoken word, and his writing is probably no better. My nickel says Rumsfeld made him say it. But Bush's puppet factor is already discounted into the net present value of his presidency. Fudge all you want, he said the words. They are his sixteen words. He takes the blame or he's a weasel.

But quite frankly there's not much blame to go around. Iraq was in material breach. The substance of the intelligence from the CIA, Blix' inspectors and international opinion are all in agreement. Pacifists are reaching mighty low to suggest that the absence of a Nigerien connection mitigates the substance of that breach.

I wonder, as an aside, if any of the people complaining about Halliburton and other fastracked federal contractors have any idea what it takes to dispose of 550 tons of uranium ore?

Update: William Saletan Agrees

Posted by mbowen at 08:44 PM | TrackBack

The Truth about Uranium

I hear that there is a theory that science makes no great leaps forward after marriage. I'm not entirely sure that I believe this at all, but even if it were true, it would make for a striking incrimination of science itself.

I've a theory about a phenomenon I call 'scientific animism'. It occured to me when I was younger than 30 and single, so there might be something to it. The idea is simply that loads of us love to believe in science, even though we don't understand it. One simply needs to be a fan of sci-fi or be wary of cholestrol without the ability to identify the molecule under a microscope to be such an animist. Nothing could be further from the true precepts of the scientific method than our abiding faith in Science and Technology. Science is about disciplined skepticism and the ability to immediately walk away from that which stinks. The result is often frustration but often discovery.

If its defenders are to be believed, the scientific method is the best way of discovering truth. But truth is not such a good thing, since Truth doesn't serve man. If truth be told, scientists can be self-serving in their quest for the possession of truth. It does indeed make them high priests. And there's the rub.

So what are we to do with the latest and greatest discoveries of truth as revealed by unmarried people without children? Not much, says conservative moi. But we needn't worry, because the nature of such scientific discovery, by dint of the difficulty and discipline required to advance it trickles through the rest of society rather slowly. What scientists know and discover is rarely communicated to the world by scientists themselves - they don't have the money, and that's a good thing.

It it is most interesting when scientific animism meets that other work of faith, political partisanship. So as scientists and politicians climb over each other to try to discover the truth about say, Uranium, we animists and partisans have a tough row to hoe in making sense of their competing axioms. The truth is out there, but the fact is that it may always be to little or too late to be of any practical benefit.

You don't have to be unmarried and single to discover that.

UPDATE: Disenchanted

Posted by mbowen at 03:49 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 10, 2003

Elephant Man

Sometimes I wonder where this man keeps his brain hidden. I swear he can be an embarrassment. Three billion dollars worth of compassion is not much more than an international greeting card.

Posted by mbowen at 09:37 AM | TrackBack

23 Million Clues

The creators of MoveOn.org should be encouraged to see that 23 million people have called to register their telephone numbers on an telemarketing opt-out list. Politicians should also take note. This is the future of democracy - it will move as quickly as markets.

Whatever reasons Congress has given to change the rules for opt-in vs opt-out as the default for electronic marketing have now been slapped around.

Posted by mbowen at 12:24 AM | TrackBack

July 09, 2003

Background on Zimbabwe & Mugabe

Last year at various points, I was discussing Mugabe and Southern Africa. Here's a bunch of stuff from the archives:

Google Groups:
zyro (me) and Economic Watcher banter back and forth informatively.

the story has percolated to the u.s., sort of:
one presumes that lekota has come back empty-handed, but i'm still looking

From South Africa's Fingaz via the internet archive

Mbeki Attacks Blair over South Africa's refusal to sanction Mugabe & Zimbabwe

Posted by mbowen at 09:28 PM | TrackBack

Diversity IS Good

I've been poking fun at 'diversity' as a rationale for academic Affirmative Action for quite a while now, despite my close understanding of what good it is in the corporate context. Diversity is good for whitefolks:

Please try to be clear.. through the storm that rages around your youthful head, about the reality which lies behind the words acceptance and integration. There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them. And I mean that very seriously. You must accept them and accept them with love. For these innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. They have had to believe for many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men. Many of them, indeed , know better, but, as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger. In this case, the danger, in the minds of most white Americans, is the loss of their identity. -- James Baldwin, 1963

What I essentially suggesting here is that Affirmative Action, as it is now legally, politically and socially constured exists for the primary benefit of people who consider themselves white. The creation of the 'stigma' of Affirmative Action is entirely of white manufacture and is irrationally directed at blacks in particular. 'Stigma' is irrelevant to the actual benefits of inclusion but attempts to socially override that benefit. The blame is placed on Affirmative Action itself rather than at the racial resentment at the heart of this reasoning.

This society is not integrated and Americans still benefit from the legacies of racist distributions of goods and services in almost every sphere of life. But there is no political movement as activated as that against Affirmative Action when it comes to addressing the inequities of race. So long as whitefolks continue to be white and can impose their majoritarian inclinations on the political landscape, this will continue to be the case.

Posted by mbowen at 08:51 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

100 for Zimbabwe

One hundred demonstrators in supoort of the MDC opposition party in Zimbabwe called upon GWBush to support their causes against the Zanu-PF of Robert Mugabe. This protest was in Pretoria, Bush's second stop on his African whirlwind.

Yesterday, however, I bothered to watch the video news and saw footage of hundreds of children among dozens of rebel militia mobbing American military advisors in Liberia with chants of support. That was truly spectacular.

Soon, Bush will be meeting with Thabo Mbeki as the latter will no doubt be asking the American president to solidify his committment to the Millenium fund for AIDS assistance. The irony of that conversation is staggering, given Mbeki's previous superstitiously dismissive comments on the disease, and Bush the Elder's legendary intransigence.

At this point I should be referring to Randall Robinson's TransAfrica webpage for some background and policy recommendations. Unfortunately, I read his last book and have discovered him to be one of the most incoherent writers I have ever come across. What to do, what to do?

Well, in Zimbabwe we need to ignore the 'white farmers' issue because it will be impossible for Bush to convey any nuance of those disputes through the racial fog of American media. Instead he should simply stress that Mugabe is a garden variety tyrant. The question is whether or not those MDC actually have support in southern Africa. Since they are a genuinely democratic opposition movement, somebody on the American backchannel should be hooking them up for the future. That means, of course, that we are going to have to deal with the thousands of political tentacles Mugabe has used to ensnarl southern African businesses in his tyranny.

We're teasing Liberians with jarheads in camo. The Liberians think we're on the ground as peacekeepers. Let's continue scouting out the place so we can set up camp soon.

Posted by mbowen at 08:50 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 08, 2003

Too Black, Too Strong

I have one of those headaches again. This one is called boohabian blowback. It is the feeling one gets from digging deep into the archives and reliving old-ass arguments despite having moved on. I retired the boohab several years ago, but through several coincidences I have found myself writing on the racial subjects again and wishing at times for his clarity of purpose. These days, I've got all the words, but not much of the passion. This lack is very good for my life as a geek which I intend to continually enrich, but not so comfortable for my life as a black political writer on the net.

The fact is that I have already made up my mind about the future of racism in America. It is, without question, a shit sandwich. The more bread you have, the less shit you must eat, but only relatively speaking. And while it's true that I have a bucket where my father had a barrel, it doesn't make the taste any more palatable, nor the skill of swallowing it without retching all over everyone and everything more easily acquired. Nevertheless, as a writer, I have grown calloused. If it ain't mass murder, I'm not losing sleep. So I find it difficult to sustain the discipline and context that I did in rants such as the following from 1996:

whether we liked it or not, our very identity, any difference, subtle or otherwise, became a matter of intense concern. in order to head this off, we were consciously *black*. we had to come with a story that *we* owned. assimilation implied that the old regime was correct - that the old presumptions and proscriptions of the institution were appropriate. so one had to be black as a challenge, and further as winners. the point was not to be objectified. so we created blackness improvisationally along the way such that as winners or losers we were always our own selves, not mere victims or justifications of the system. it made us much more consciously individual than any average student who could ride along in the belly of the beast without confronting such facts.

This is an angle on Affirmative Action I have competely forgotten and it is the core of the argument I have against the whinging of Shelby Steele. What's wrong with me?

Posted by mbowen at 09:41 PM | TrackBack

28 Days Later

Horror is an emotion I understand a bit better now. I have been horrified.

Unlike any film I've ever seen, '28 Days Later' is a truly chilling experience. It's even difficult to say whether or not it was entertainment so much as a lesson in the darker side of human nature and the twin poles of hope and despair. The premise is simple. What happens if a virus that causes violent madness within 20 seconds of exposure got loose? What happens to individuals? What happens to society?

The answers are brought to the screen with a unique style of filmmaking that will leave you breathlessly gripping your seat. It is a combination of quick cuts, gothic images and modern music that is immediate, graphic, haunting and memorable. This is a film for those lovers of film who will remember a two second shot for its composition and color, in '28 Days Later' is the work of a director with an excellent eye who uses plenty such compositions. He proves himself deft at both fast paced action and close tracking of emotions.

Of course often the emotions are fear, horror, revulsion, anxiety and confusion. That's what kind of film this is, and its ability to convey such things, intelligently and artfully make it something you must see.

Posted by mbowen at 09:16 PM | TrackBack

The Case for Open Source Intelligence

If you are a congressman on some special committee, chances are there are few things more annoying than a leak of a critical memo to the press. If you are a staffer who sees that something is going terribly wrong on a committee, chances are you have no more powerful weapon than to leak a critical memo.

I gather that this kind of cloak & dagger intelligence game is played all the time inside the Beltway. As much as it is insider pool, it is a part of the power struggle. When the public knows, it makes a big difference. In fact, some of this pool is played with the public, and when the press insiders know the effects they develop a great expertise. It doesn't seem beyond belief that Washington bureau chiefs know a real memo from a fake one and understand exactly what the presence or absence of a good leak means.

Today we hear that GWBush is recanting an inflammatory statement including the words Iraq, Uranium and Africa in no less than his State of the Union Address. Apparently, a lot of people knew better, but not us in the American public. Of course it is incumbent upon us to find out, to trust but verify, but what are the chances that we will get our hands on the kind of intelligence necessary to debunk such a claim? Slim, I think. What's worse is that the intelligence services themselves cannot seem to get their best thinking past the ideological blinders of this President. This has happened before.. How many DCIs have we been through in the past dozen years? Webster, Gates, Woolsey, Deutch.

My radical position here is that if there is not going to be military or economic pressure directly brought to bear on a 'rogue state' then it does the United States very little benefit to keep most secrets secret. If the Administration policy is to remain disengaged from say, Chile, why not declassify whatever dirt we have on Chile?

It seems to me that the first invitation into any coalition of the willing involves sharing intelligence with the new ally. The most important ally of American policy is the American public, so share already.

Posted by mbowen at 09:06 PM | TrackBack

Well, That's Settled

U.S. President George W. Bush, on the first day of his five-nation tour of Africa, has called slavery "one of the greatest crimes of history."

In a speech delivered at Goree Island, Senegal, Mr. Bush said African slaves and their descendants strengthened American democracy through countless acts of courage.

Why bother putting this on the VOA? What do Africans care about American slavery? Only as much, I suppose as they can wrangle from tourists to their slave castles. But there is so much more to consider.

There's not much we can expect in 5 days, and I am beginning to believe that a significant portion this junket is for the benefit of [African-]American audiences.

Let's watch closely shall we?

Posted by mbowen at 08:24 AM | TrackBack

July 07, 2003

The Treaty

"This is a world of compensations; and he who would be no slave, must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it." -- Abraham Lincoln, April 1859

Yeah but God is not just.

I. Boone suggests that Affirmative Action is an entitlement on the order of feudalism and entail. Boone further suggests that we take to heart the words of Abraham Lincoln to buttress our resolve against its 'sacred orthodoxy'.

I think Boone should be reminded of Nat Turner and Frederick Douglass. The other side of the coin of florid and high-falutin' rhetoric bursting at the seams of the Claremont's reminescences is the will of the slave to take manners into his own calloused hands. I would go as far as to argue that slavery, overturned here by a war only incidental to an actual slave rebellion, has its long-standing legacy only in the absence of a treaty between nations. The African-American nation is exceptional in that it did not throw off its own chains, but it might have as did the Haitians.

Lincoln does not deserve, nor do the founders, all of the credit for the emergence of the African from slavery. And that credit which is due to African Americans themselves in that long march to freedom and self-determination accrues to the 'sacred orthodoxy' of Affirmative Action as well, for it acts as that treaty between nations.

Posted by mbowen at 07:52 AM | TrackBack

Racist Founders?

I haven't really done anything special for this Independence Day as regards my blogging, though I have done a bit. But since I have been investigating the blogroll for new inclusions, I did find Stuart Buck, one of the legalistic bloggers.

He makes a weak case against Spike Lee's argument that the founders were racist, but it did remind me to check my own position on the matter. This being the second time I thought about the litany of complaint, I figured I may as well bring up my commentary from the archives. I essentially believe that the Founders did not think any anti-racist declaration was a necessary condition for nationhood. In their eyes, a good nation could be compatible with racism, and while they could be counted on to rant against slavery and the south, it didn't suffice.

If you look at the Declaration of Independence, it is a litany of contemporary complaint. If we made one today it would probably include complaints against federal taxes, the BATF, OJ Simpson and Geraldo. The things people love to hate. In that course of those human events, the rebels listed all their sufferings, which didn't include racism nor sexism. So in creating a blank slate for their new world they set primary defenses against their enemies, but in sum it was a tirade against the tyrannies of monarchy. So today America, whatever its flaws, can never be institutionally monarchist. America is by definition, anti-monarchist. Whatever oppression happens in America today, it cannot be placed at the foot of monarchy. What is most important, thus in my view about the Declaration of Independence, is that it categorically rejects monarchism from the perspective of those most intimately familiar with its oppressive nature. We now call those folks our founders. Those 'victims', those 'complainers'.

So how could we, in principle, create a document that exclaims loudly against racism, as the Declaration of Independence did against Monarchy. What goes into creating an Anti-Racist Manifesto? Incidentally, that is what brought me, the second time around to the Harare Accords. If I were a legal scholar, I might ask myself, comparatively speaking, which set of laws between that of the new South African Constitution, which includes significant language from the Harare Accords, and our own system and amendments is more completely anti-racist. I would actually include the new Germany as well as several other nations. I suspect that theoretically speaking, South Africa beats us, considering as I have, some of the work of Kimberle Crenshaw, Linn Washington, Patricia J. Williams and Judge Higgenbotham. Of course, I'm not a legal scholar and am unfamiliar with the details of the South African legal system. However I am aware of the UN Treaty on Racial Discrimination and I know that the U.S. did not become a signer until about 1996. I also recognize that you can go to jail in America for holding up a 7-ll for 50 dollars, but not for firing somebody because you think he's a nigger. We have no criminal law for racism. You can be a capital R racist and run for office in America's form of democracy, because America's form of democracy is compatible with racism. But notice you cannot run for King. You cannot run for president of the supreme Soviet. So I ask you, what is a bigger threat to democracy? Monarchy, Communism or Racism? We've lived with racism longer than with Communism or Monarchy?

Because we have spent so much time and effort fighting Communism and Monarchy and relatively little time fighting racism, I think Americans are much better at identifying any strains of communist thought. We have had internal purges of communists and suspected communists, but not of racists and suspected racists. With respect to internal purges, the only Americans who have come under McCarthyite scrutiny because of race have been non-whites. I'm not suggesting that we appoint some Racial Tribunal and start marching white supremacists off to internment camps. Rather that we increase our ability to determine the 'sticking power' of racist ideas in people's heads and coupled with an anti-racist fiat in our government, cripple the ability of our democracy to be compatible with racism.

Now this is where I get in trouble with those poor misguided souls who are adamant about perfect colorblindness. But I only want to touch on that briefly in this context. Imagine a Declaration of Independence which could not identify the explicit nature of the crimes of the King. It would have been toothless. It would have been an example of using what I call the 'Asshole Card', which in contemporary America, because of colorblindness, unfortunately trumps the 'Race Card'. If Thomas Jefferson were to play the Asshole Card, he wouldn't have been an author of the Declaration, he'd have said, "Hey George is just an asshole who happens to be King. The fact that he's King is just a coincidence. Being an asshole isn't a crime."

This is all very interesting in light of the recent agitations against the racial discriminations of Affirmative Action. Their appropriation of the moral high ground of anti-racist rhetoric ought to put them squarely in the camp with Spike Lee. If the U of M can be considered racist for authoring the point system for undergraduates, certainly the authors of the Three Fifths Compromise are racist.

Update: The Claremont Institute recommends vindication.

Posted by mbowen at 07:13 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

One Million

The very last thing today's NYT AP article updating the Liberia situation says is:

Nearly one third of Liberia's 3 million people have been forced from their homes by fighting since rebels took up arms against Taylor in 1999.

Our military advisors are on the ground. Good.

What's not so good is that we're rather stuck with Jamie Drummond, the charity and concert organizer tightly associated with Bono of the band U2. I'm not so sure that 'Africa' can use all the help it can get, and it strikes me rather odd that such an individual can be close to the center of policy. It only shows that the best we can do is quite insufficient, as Chester Crocker wonders aloud whether or not Bush's trip is 'tourism'.

Posted by mbowen at 06:14 AM | TrackBack

July 06, 2003


Once upon a time, I imagined that if I sponsored it, conversation would bloom all over my website. One such failed experiment was the DWB section of my website. I'm taking it off the static pages and dropping the links to the ACLU section on racial profiling and a reference page into the blog via this entry. Here's an excerpt:

The "stop and frisk" exception in Terry v. Ohio(13) permits the seizure of a citizen without a warrant and can be justified on grounds less than probable cause.(14) Although the Court provided the police with great discretion to conduct temporary seizures and detentions, it also placed limitations upon the use of this lesser standard in justifying searches and seizures. Specifically the Court permitted these intrusions upon a citizen's liberty interests only when the police officer possessed a reasonable belief that the suspect posed a potential threat to the safety of the officer or the general public.(15) In addition to limiting the use of stop and frisk to situations where a potential physical threat was present, the court also limited the extent of the intrusion. The stop and frisk was limited to a pat down of the outer clothing where a suspect might reasonably hide a weapon.(16) It neither allowed the officer to conduct a more extensive search or prolong the detention if the frisk revealed nothing.(17)

Despite the restrictions delineated in Terry, later courts applied this expanded exception into other areas.(18) In Michigan v. Long the Court extended the "stop and frisk" exception to automobiles and containers within automobiles that might reasonably hide a weapon.(19) The parameters of Terry were also used to extend the lawful entry of a home in Maryland v. Buie. In Buie, the Court allowed, without a warrant, a "protective sweep" of a home for officer safety.(20) Although Terry was limited to instances where the police suspected the person may be in possession of a weapon and they posed a potential threat to the officer or the public, later decisions permitted the use of non-weapon evidence discovered in the course of a search though it posed no threat . By 1993, the Court expanded Terry to allow the confiscation of non-threatening contraband.(21)

Posted by mbowen at 08:52 PM | TrackBack

The Challenge Defined

If you are one of those folks, like me, who have been thoroughly convinced that the American Empire needs to be, then you need to understand exactly how difficult its creation and maintenance will be. Tim Burke reminds us, without sparing the rod:

You can only make nations slowly, through persuasion and example and investment and the painful unfolding of history. If you want something resembling liberal democracy in Iran, for example, then put your money on Iranians who want it too, not on the US military. The fighting in the Congo will end when the fighters finally decide that they cannot live this way any longer, or their victims successfully fight back, or when a single group of combatants achieve a necessary and structurally solidified monopoly on force sufficient to suppress any opposition. There is no way for outside military powers to impose any of those things on the Congo, not without a force of a million men, decades of work, an intellectual clarity about the nature and origins of liberal democracy and trillions of dollars to match, and maybe, probably, not even then. If China is going to be a free society, it's going to get there the same complex and messy way that Western Europe did, because there are social groups that have meaningful power who want to be free and are willing to pursue their own liberation.

I think that I should further explain how I believe my thinking on this avoids some of these pitfalls while admitting plainly that I am parsing what seems logical and desireable without the benefit of any formal study of the develpment of nations.

Firstly, I think it is important to show that Americans become Americans rather quickly. As a nation of immigrants, we absorb and transform peoples of all sorts. And while we suffer from the excesses of blood and soil nativists on occasion, it does not overwhelm the system. America is, within itself a Diaspora. We have ethnics and classes and devout of all sects plying their trades, hawking their ethics, yet stable and without the kinds of revenge killings we see in nations less fortunate. With the three draws of accumulated abundance, land and liberty, we should continue to be a destination of choice.

As much as we complain, I don't see any evidence that the increase diminishes our democracy or significantly alters our national interests. There is a certain level of responsibility that the elites of this nation hold to the American public despite the fact that they often do not serve us directly. Philip Morris, the tobacco giant, sells far more cigarettes to the Czech Republic than to California. But you are likely to find that the work ethic of Californians more represented in the high offices of PM USA. In other words, as Americans, our expectations of ourselves at work, transcend national boundaries. There are class and ethnic and religious expectations we shed in our daily lives of service to the multinational corporations that employ us. This ethos is a very significant part of our lives, it makes us somewhat ahistorical and flirts with the destruction of other social values, but it makes us, in our work lives interesting kinds of global citizens. Only America could create a Wal-Mart. Our consistent conversion of all manner of people into corporate zombies is a good thing.

Depending on your overall take on the value of globalism, the values propagated and disciplines established by the tasks inherent in gaining global market share are constructive or destructive. I happen to believe that it is the task of the University and not of the corporation to find ways and means of preserving the millions of ways of knowing that are reduced by the establishment of corporate rules and motive. The corporation turns human effort into profit and glorifies profit, not human effort. This works so long as exploitation and slavery are kept in check. They are kept in check for the most part and so the American economy is constructive. That the world depends upon our solvency is not an accursed addiction, it is to our mutual benefit. We are a benevolent engine.

Let us keep in mind that this goal of globally democratic nations is one that is just as reductive of human activity as that of global markets established by corporations. Whereas democracy puts liberty in the hands of the people, so corporate life puts economic affairs in the hands of the people. You vote and you get your slice, you work and you get your slice. They work exceedingly well together and they are both liberal and destructive of memory. They require people to put trust in the future, to delay gratification, to be zombies today in order to prosper freely tomorrow. That means people must have a reasonable amount of stability and so these systems both require the kind of physical security only well-disciplined armies can provide.

In the 90s, it was Albert Murray who said rhetorically against James Baldwin that "The fire next time will be put out by next Wednesday." He was referring to the futility of armed struggle against the United States in the wake of the Los Angeles Riots. America has got a good thing going and a huge amount of wealth and effort will be expended to keep that standard of living intact. So we are bound to defend and project power. Whatever threatens the American order will be met with rage, because all of us have invested in the future of liberal capitalist democracy and our investments have not yet paid off - we have sacrificed our organic lives for it. We cannot be ethnic selves, we cannot be religious selves. Those affinities do not carry very far in the substrate of American life. That's just you in your subdivision; there is no Irish Catholic corporation for you and your ilk. That freedom is for the privacy of your own home and do not carry out into the street.

I believe that this is the fundamental difference between the West, and the developing world. Whereas we enjoy the security of a well-disciplined army and are willing to sacrifice our tribal selves to the zombification of being a home-owning taxpaying middle class American with predictable loyalties and an endless variety of breakfast cereal choices, our fellow humans elsewhere are free in other dimensions. They are free to grow their own food, sew their own clothes, employ their own feet for transportation, sing songs of their own creation and otherwise live off the grid of dependencies that sustains here in the Matrix, er, the West. And because of that fierce independence, they will also pick up their own machetes, torches, AK-47s and other oversupply of the global arms market and fight whatever battles seem appropriate to their disconnected worlds. There, the fire next time is the same fire as their father's time. It continues to burn in Liberia and the Congo.

I should add here the important consideration that these days in some parts of Africa, a 15 year old orphan boy with an automatic rifle is a weapon of mass destruction. It is a weapon too horrific to contemplate, it requires a very specific kind of environment to be produce and sustain such weapons. What could be a more poignant example of the failure to delay the gratifications of liberty and prosperity than the haunting face of a child soldier?

But these are not the only failures in our world and an American Empire cannot be justified on such egregious terms. But our domestic tranquility is of necessity a model for the prospects of other people. Establishment of a spreading order is as much one of evangelism as of conquest and pacification. The success of immigration is our great gospel, and if we are truly our brothers keepers, why shouldn't we keep them as we keep ourselves?

There are great reasons why the rest of the world shouldn't be like America, but that is a matter of arrogance and attitude, not of substance. America is good enough for the rest of the world. Our problem is in sustaining the balances of power within our own system to make American liberty enough for anyone on the planet. When we master that, with stability and without oppression a good portion of the world will beat a path to our door.

But I say that the decentralization of global communications networks means that a culture is arising in the stable areas of the world that foretells the kind of life some of us are already living right here right now. And while I don't want to elaborate on that now, I think it is important to understand the absolute dependence this decentralized culture has on the American nation.

Think of the US and the EU as a global utility for the new networks of city-states. If these city-states are cultivated under the auspices of the same kind of industries American corporations have become, they will have no more need for their own armies than does Philip Morris.

This is the why I think an American superpower which can be globally pre-emptive is a good idea. It may, with the proper cooperation with China, Russia, Japan and the EU, create the kind of dominance and omnicience that obviates the practicality of organic armies. Developing nations will be put on the same terms as American immigrants.

Thus the future of all wars will be terrorist suppression. But we will say farewell to the rebel soldier. Or at least, that's my vision.

Posted by mbowen at 07:51 PM | TrackBack

The Institution

As I get older and less patient with people, I paint myself into a corner. Now I am coming to realize that if I don't chill out, I am going to become a minority of one. I'm sure Thomas Mann could have predicted the same, but I wasn't aware of his writing until, well, late.

Yesterday I sat in the company of 'church boys'. I didn't realize that, and I could still be wrong. These were the kinds of men I have spent the early part of my life ignoring if not belittling. From my perspective, they came from the wrong neighborhoods, attended the wrong schools, pledged the wrong fraternity and of course, prayed to the wrong god. I refer to Jesus the Personal Savior as contrasted to Jesus the Christ.

If you grow up Catholic or Episcopalian, you understand that Jesus is the Christ. On the other hand, if you go to the wrong church you come to know the more anthropomorphic Jesus as the great Shoulder. My bit of religious intolerance comes into play with my inability and unwillingness to reconcile these two interpretations of divinity. I find myself more attracted to Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus than to those Christians who have turned Jesus on his head. But that is not the main reason I'm ranting - well it is but this didn't start as a rant.

The observation that makes me type this is my relative ignorance, vis a vis a particular flavor of black American manhood, of the Institution of the Black Church. Because as these men, whom I find likeable and even admirable individuals, continued their conversations through the afternoon, they revealed to me a deep knowledge of the financial condition of their churches and a bit of the drama between this and that bishop, and schisms between those in the AME who break off and take their money, er.. congregations with them.

If you haven't noticed, perhaps because you live elsewhere than where multimillion dollar domes of the faithful are erected, there are any number of Bishops embroiled in such controversies. How indeed do you keep a denomination of Christianity together if its leaders are continually spinning off their own franchises? This is a crucial question for these black Protestants who have seen churches spring up from high school auditoriums into nationwide ministries in the span of 10 years. And these are no small feats. There are churches in Los Angeles that fill more seats than many professional sports teams, and they have the non-denominational arenas to prove it.

Once upon a time, I latched onto a theory about the varioius failure of grass roots black politics owing primarily to the opacity of the Black Church. It takes a long time to become a deacon who counts the coins, and the minister doesn't report his balance sheet to the congregation. Therefore blackfolks judged the efficicacy of politicians the same way they compared and contrasted their spiritual leaders - by the amounts of fire and brimstone they could evoke, without reference to the financial stability or integrity of the organizations they ran. This method of appraisal inevitabily leads to disappointment or worse.

I haven't given that much thought until one of those 'wrong' men led the conversation, perhaps for my benefit, perhaps not, to the falling out of one bishop and Reverend Fred Price. I like Price for his politics and what he represents to me by the way of black conservatism, but I cannot say that I understand him or his church deeply. Then again, I am an Episcopalian, not African Methodist Episcopalian, upper middle class white liberal Episcopalian with a streak of Jesuit education. Although I don't pretend to be white, you should know the type, and deep down in my soul there is a man who loves the pipe organ, the incense and the same words said week in and week out. I am an admirer theologians, not healers. I understand John Updike. I do not understand Creflo Dollar. I think church buildings should be owned by the big church and that priests should have a vow of poverty. So I am estranged from the goings on, and it makes me feel as though I am at a new special distance, being Republican and all, from the centers of black political power.

I feel odd about that only to the extent that I understand communities must be built from committment, so too political organizations, power and patronage. I have always felt somewhat entitled given my BAP origins. Today, I know the gulf is great. I know how Audre Lorde must have felt some days.

Posted by mbowen at 05:59 PM | TrackBack

Quiet Riot

I just want to ask one question. Where has all the white hostility gone?

Now that the Supreme Court has handed down its decision regarding Affirmative Action at the U of M, I am thinking about some of the claims the plaintiffs raised and wonder if everything was wrapped up in the legal claim without any real regard to what continues. That is to say was this always strictly a legal mountain made out of one person's personal molehill, or did it truly represent the kind of injustice worthy of a Supreme Court hearing?

Remember this?:

I. The MAS asserts that achieving racial diversity in the university student body can never be a “compelling state interest” sufficient to justify explicit racial discrimination.

II. The MAS also asserts that the racially discriminatory admissions systems of the University do not, in any event, substantially advance intellectual diversity, nor do racebased programs contribute to the central aim of the University – the pursuit of truth.

III. The MAS further asserts that, under the Equal Protection Clause, “academic freedom” does not license or conscience racially discriminatory conduct.

IV. The MAS contends that the racial preferences of the University are immoral and totally unacceptable in a democratic society.

V. The MAS concludes that racial preferences in admissions engender tension and racial hostility on the University campus.

Where are the Friends of Grutter? Have they all stowed their tents and gone home? Have they decided that their colorblindness was possibly wrong? Will they piss on the Supreme Court like Gore supporters? Are they wallowing in self-pity? Are they taking to the streets and throwing trashcans through pizzeria windows?

Perhaps they just went back to their law offices to scour the country for another uniquely positioned white victim.

Posted by mbowen at 04:26 PM | TrackBack

The Sword of Damocles

I am reading 'Stealing the Network'. According to a resource that I have found, there is a popular password 'ou812'. Since I am not a fan of VanHalen, this is not one that would occur to me although I do get '8675309'.

My curiousity in computer security is elitist if not morbid. On those days that I enter one of my periodic bad moods, moods of vague dissatisfaction with what my life has become, I think of my cousin's choice - computer security and begin acting paranoid.

Paranoia is a constant companion for me. I owe the Feds lots of money. Every once in a while I miss a payment, generally coinciding with the breaks between contracts. At times such as these, my wife wistfully watches the Home & Garden channel, my daughters do cartwheels in the hallway and my son plays the same 7 keys on the Casio over and over and over. It only takes one bit of spam to remind me during such a period that I might not have a job, my wife hates me for not having a mortgage, my daughters are airheads, my son is an idiot and the IRS is about to take whatever money I have in the bank and garnish it. Ordinarily, I would have a drink, but then that would only bring on the heart attack.

The spam reminds me of course that there are millions of hungry bloodsuckers waiting for me to keel over, and if they could attack my firewalls, they would. Then of course there are thousands of hackers who can and probably have already. I am not fool enough to retain any credit card numbers on my machine, then again, there's nothing on them anyhow.

So I am reading 'Stealing the Network' so that I too can beome a predator and that I can stop writhing in agony over the unknown. The first step to sanity is knowing better than a million idiots what passwords not to use. But at the very least there is some comfort in being a black man so that if I use the name of an old girlfriend, 'Sindeetha' is not in the dictionary.

Posted by mbowen at 03:40 PM | TrackBack

The Ecology of Software

An excellent quote from Linus Torvalds.

I think it ultimately the only way to do software. I have arguments why. The main one is the complexity issue. It's very hard for someone who doesn't work like this to keep control of an increasingly complex source base and increasingly complex user base. If you try to control the process too much, you can go straight to the end point where you want to go. That works well if you know where the end point is. If you don't know where it is and you can't control where people want to use your software, it's a very bad thing to have one branch that is very concentrated on one line of development. The best analogy is biological diversity. You have the Linux approach that is fairly diverse and all over the map. Maybe it is not very efficient. But it works very well in the face of complexity and changing circumstances. Changing circumstances will really show that part of that diversity really works. Biology on the other extreme is a very mono culture, which works very well as long as the circumstances stay the same. To some degree they are seen as very efficient and they can live on for a long time. A perfect case in genetics is sharks. They are very stable but they also don't evolve anymore. That works, but if you want to go past a certain point, it's a problem.

Posted by mbowen at 09:13 AM | TrackBack

Lie or Die

A fascinating look at a sad story. Murders in New York.

Now he was ready to walk into a courtroom to testify in the murder case. But on the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant, the word had been out for months: "lie or die," as one neighborhood girl put it. The half brother of the defendant in the schoolyard shooting, himself a suspect in another slaying, was said to be tracking down witnesses. People said money had changed hands. Eyewitness accounts had been recanted.
Posted by mbowen at 08:44 AM | TrackBack

July 05, 2003

An Old School Tale

I came across one of those old black men that give people fits, honest to a fault, unsympathetically political and conservative. His name is Clark and he's 73. He has a long memory. We talked politics.

I spent a great deal of time with him on this hot afternoon. We talked about, or more accurately he railed on about missing weapons of mass destruction, Colin Powell's great lie to the United Nations, voter apathy, Gerald Ford, the difference between GWBush and Ronald Reagan, Affirmative Action, Harold Ford, Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, black conservatives and the politics of the northeast, Pennsylvania in particular.

His father, he told me with his eyes fixed on mine, was born in 1895. He had something that was rare for black men who worked in the coal mines at the time, a sixth grade education. He could both read and write. This made him very attractive to the Republican bosses of the day who were agitating to weaken unions and wished to convince blacks that they shouldn't join white unions. The elder Clark refused and stuck with the pro-union Democrats. For this, the Clark house was firebombed.

He continued on and told me how much he loathed the passing of the Taft-Hartley Act, which he saw as nothing more or less than an excuse for union busting. I've never thought of it in any way, to me it's one of those vague memories - some bit of trivia to recite at games parties. It occured to me that his conviction is a bit stronger than mine, I possess the more optimisitic direction, he bears witness to the destruction of hope and the venality of party politics. I have always wanted to be one of those gruff old men who has no difficulty whatsoever in brazenly stating his opinion. In that future I will be talking about the past.

We seemed to converge on a point, I think. It's hard to digest two lifetimes of political lessons into an afternoon, but it was an odd one. We agreed that Jesse Jackson's infamously overblown 'hymietown' remark marked the beginning of the end of the Democratic party. He hopes for General Wesley Clark to announce his candidacy, I hope the Colin Powell will shed some light on what is going on behind the scenes between Defense and State. We both agree that Bush shouldn't and won't survive 2004. He believes that Bush would jettison Rumsfeld in order to try.

At the end of the afternoon, we embraced. He hollered out that he had hugged a Republican and we chuckled about it.

Posted by mbowen at 09:55 PM | TrackBack

A Selection

Funny, I was just about to mention that one of my most popular creations was this Racism Selector. I have no real idea if it is because I don't bother with hit counters and the like. But I do get at least 10 emails a week from people taking the poll. The results are fairly consistent, but I won't reveal it for a week. No sense skewing beforehand.

This is interesting because I am in the process of reorganizing my blogroll to be a more honest reflection of what I actually do read and follow, as well as a bit more about my own works, for whatever they are worth. And so the selector has been on my mind. Kevin Drum provokes again.

1. Kucinich, Cong. Dennis, OH - Democrat (100%) Click here for info
2. Edwards, Senator John, NC - Democrat (84%) Click here for info
3. Moseley-Braun, Former Senator Carol IL - Democrat (82%) Click here for info

are the choices, according to the new presidential selector I most favor. I suppose I should pay attention to this Kucinich character. I'm not quite sure how to pronounce his name but he seems to do fairly well among us on the net. Is he the next triangulizer?

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

July 04, 2003

Dolores Umbridge

I hate Dolores Umbridge like no other character I've ever hated. You know what I'm talking about.

Update: The hatred is getting worse, and now I spell her name correctly. I've been listening on CD not reading. (Thanks MD)

Posted by mbowen at 10:42 AM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

Rewards for the Staff

In many ways, Glenn Loury is the model of the black conservative that I have become. And yet I have completely neglected him on this site. I will attempt to remedy that beginning with this quote regarding the U of M case:

The second striking aspect of the court's opinion is its marked deference to those leaders from business, academia, and the military who filed an unprecedented number of friend-of-the-court briefs asserting the importance of maintaining diversity in their respective domains. Such claims are extremely difficult to convincingly verify with data, and have been widely disputed in the media by opponents of affirmative action. Yet the court avoided the temptation to substitute their relatively uninformed views on such a central question of fact for the considered judgments of the people who manage these institutions on a daily basis.

This deference is significant because it shows that trust in the benign institutional motive of admissions committees, personnel officers, and other key actors is essential to the legitimacy of racial affirmative action. This court has effectively issued a categorical rejection of the analogy often employed by conservatives, which holds the prototypical liberal college president to be no better than the segregationist of yesteryear. By taking them at their word, the justices have affirmed that, far from being obstructionists ''standing in the schoolhouse door,'' today's ''racial discriminators'' are trusted public servants seeking to advance important social goals under difficult circumstances.

Having been a student advisor the the Minority Engineering Program at Cal State Northridge and the software programmer for Xerox's compliance program, I am intimately aware of the honest diligence of those admissions and personnel officers. I am very glad they have been rewarded.

Posted by mbowen at 10:33 AM | TrackBack


I have a three day weekend, but I am not entirely free of work. I was actually expecting at this time to be officially unemployed, and so I had gunned up my mind to prepare for the period in which, free of reins, it could wander and become creative as expressed through the many words I type into the ether. Instead, I have been extended on my current project by a couple weeks. This has resulted in some disorientation, especially considering what is due Monday at the office.

I have missed all of the Tai Chi lessons I signed up for at the local Y except for the first from working overtime. I have let my room become a mess, and don't have any slacks that have been drycleaned recently. If it had not been for my recent discovery of Groove Salad, I would have cosiderably less peace than I do.

This photo, taken by my father during one of his monthly jaunts up the coast that I always seem to miss, reminds me of the kind of peace I need to achieve. There is something elemental in the meanings that scene evokes. It's something I now realize I must have as soon as I can spare a string of hours.

If you are reading this, you probably need that something too. Hope this helps.

Posted by mbowen at 10:13 AM | TrackBack

Sixoseven, The Band

I have rebuilt my laptop. Now that I reinstalled my Dreamweaver web authoring stuff, I've taken some time to spruce up my website a little bit. You may not know this but I've written some songs. Now they are up on the website.

Finally, I have enough space to keep several songs up there. They are mp3s and you can copy 'em and give them away and do whatever you like. I would most prefer if you actually listen to them and enjoy them. For free, of course, like everything else.

I've written about 30 songs, some of them embarassingly bad. I actually thought I could do a little of what Bobby McFerrin does. I'll publish that one 5 years after I'm dead. Others are actually always fun to hear, like Smooth Bear and Juba. I've pestered my friends with these for a while, nobody has told me that I sound stupid, so they must be pretty OK. Judge for yourself.

Posted by mbowen at 02:03 AM | TrackBack

July 03, 2003

20MBPS on Copper

If you know a guy named Jess Posey, you may be friends with a very wealthy man soon. That is if telcos do what's best for guys like me, which is offer me HDTV quality signals through my phone lines. According to Cringely, it can be done.

Telepulse is going to get slashdotted.

Update: Hmm, how do you hack this?

Posted by mbowen at 06:34 PM | TrackBack

Be Careful What You Wish For

According to the NYT:

The Pentagon has ordered military planners to prepare detailed options for American troops to join an international peacekeeping force to oversee a cease-fire in the war-battered West African nation of Liberia, two senior military officials said today.

This is a good thing. America has been largely ambivalent at best in its regard for the tribulaitons of African nations. Excuses made over the fate of soldiers in Somalia have been overblown. Still, one wonders whether or not this State Department is still a redheaded stepchild to the Pentagon and we are possibly on our way to doing more damage to our own reputation.

Posted by mbowen at 07:40 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

WMD Error 404


Posted by mbowen at 06:49 AM | TrackBack

July 02, 2003

Flying Monkeys

Two months ago I said sing Ding Dong because the witch was dead. Well, it looks like those flying monkeys are a bit more pesky than anyone imagined. Finally, some ugly truth. Now we're getting somewhere.

Posted by mbowen at 08:58 AM | TrackBack

Something about Critical Mass

John over at Discriminations asks questions that nobody on a college campus with critical mass ought to have to ask in the abstract.

Shouldn't admissions committees be responsible for determining what "the viewpoints" of their applicants are? Of course students can change their viewpoints over time, especially if they are learning something, and even students who strongly agree with "the viewpoints" of their minority group should be allowed to stray from the reservation every now and then, but why should any minority students be given an admissions preference if it is known in advance that they are likely consistently to express views that are unrepresentative of their minority groups? What "diversity" do they provide?

When I was in college, he would be slapped about and instructed to read the newsletter of the Friends of Africa or come to a meeting of the Black Survival Union or hear a guest of the speakers bureau of the Black Business Association. He would, within a week, have been exposed to three different groups of African American students with widely different persuasions and interests. But John's questions suggest we have reached a state at which there are such paltry numbers of black undergraduates that one can presume that black viewpoints can be assigned and determined by admissions staff. It makes me want to puke.

John references Peter Kirsanow

The "critical mass" or "meaningful numbers" of minorities is the level at which minorities will not feel isolated and will feel free to express themselves without concern that they are necessarily representing the viewpoints of their particular racial/ethnic group. Divining these figures is akin to determining the precise location of a photon at a given point in time (apologies to Neils Böhr), but institutions should back up their determinations with social-science data.

On the other hand as I suggested, there are always essay questions.

I think one can be 20 points of 'athlete' and that counts as much as 20 points of 'asian' or 20 points of 'legacy' at the age of 18. That these are all positive discriminations gives these characteristics the benefit of a doubt. Fine. But now that the automatic granting of points is no good I am just as well suited to accept an essay on any such topic (pick two from "My Ethnicity", "My Athleticism", "My Religion", "My Dad's Old Boy Network"..etc) and assign points to the quality of the essay. There's nothing particularly mechanized about that.

At my university we had about 1700-2000 black students in a population of 25,000. I recall from memory the following black organizations:

Rejoice in Jesus
Friends of Africa
National Society of Black Engineers
Black Business Association
Alpha Phi Alpha
Kappa Alpha Psi
Omega Psi Phi
Phi Beta Sigma
Sigma Gamma Rho
Delta Sigma Theta
Alpha Kappa Alpha
Zeta Phi Beta
Black Greek Council
Black Survival Union
Minority Engineering Program

That's all I can recall, but I know there were more under the radar because of the charter issue I talk about below. I wrote this in 1993 (warts and all) in response to some query about assessing the quality of black student life on campus. I raised these issues in the context of different schools in Southern California in order to have some clarity beyond the standard ways and means of protest.

As a black BMOC I dealt with a complex tangle of issues which affected the quality of life for black students. Too often institutional questions are overlooked or given scant attention [due to the] coverage of 'diversity' issues that I see and hear nowadays. Here are some questions that pop into my mind which you might pursue...

Institionally, what access to blacks have to finance their student organizations under the auspices of the University? Many colleges have insisted that black organizations be funded from single 'black' funds, or that all black clubs be organized under one 'umbrella' organization. Does the school recognize with equal benefits etc any and all clubs and orgs that black students seek to organize? What is the predominating disposition of complaints lodged by black organizations?

Do black organizations have complete freedom to select which speakers come to campus for their groups? Do they have complete access to university facilities? How does their access compare with that of other groups? Are black organizations denied insurance for their social functions on campus? Does the University require additional security for activities black organizations sponsor which involve blacks from off-campus?

Are there records of harrassment or conflict between blacks and campus security? What is the predominating disposition of such conflicts? What types of complaints have been officially lodged by black organizations against University policy? How have these been resolved?

Characterize the racial quality of student politics. Are blacks likely to form coalitions with other racial minority groups? Are black organizations represented in all public University activities (parades, reception committees). Compare and contrast protocols and courtesies extended to officers of black organizations with others. What is the volume & quality of mail distributed through University offices to black organizations? Are all black organizations listed in official rosters of university groups? Are very small black organizations allowed their own charter?

How are black organizations solicited for their opinions on major questions facing the student body? Are black organizationally sponsored functions given adequate coverage by the campus press? Is there an adversarial relationship between the school paper and any black organization? Do black organizations tend to publish their own calendars or advertise independently of major school media?

In the 1980s we were informed that we were the largest numbers of black students ever in predominantly white colleges and universities. Some time during those years, the number at integrated schools eclipsed that in the HBCUs. I don't know what the figures are these days, but I'm concerned that they are something less than critical mass.

John suggests that 'diversity' requires and reinforces stereotypes. He's right, unless and until you have critical masses of minorities on campus whose own diversity is self-evident.

Posted by mbowen at 12:09 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 01, 2003


Rick Sander via Volokh posts a touching expose of the desires of people on the other side of the politically unbridgeable divide.

I believe honestly that Americans want blacks and latinos to succeed, but in the same way they don't want to pay off their credit cards or balance their government budgets, they don't want to address core issues. For such Americans, Affirmative Action is a fudge. It's a racial get rich quick scheme.

There's nothing quite so annoying as those who decry the hipocrisy of cheating the letter of the inconsistent law without giving much consideration to the forces that objectively cripple students we know to be fundamentally equal given the fiction of racial determinism. But the political power of the desire for diversity outweighs the political power of the desire for inclusion, so we will continue to fudge.

Posted by mbowen at 10:52 PM | TrackBack

Poison Rider

Here's an idea, for what it's worth, to derail RIAA's proposed legislation. What makes the RIAA so special that they become an agent authorized to break into a million computers? If they are putatively working on behalf of me, the artist, and get blanket authorization to break every computer server which might have a piece of my intellectual property, what's stopping me from authorizing someone else?

Either I can authorize a terrorist, or the RIAA has elected itself powers of search and seizure. See?

Posted by mbowen at 07:00 PM | TrackBack

How Do You Like Your Violence?

More ratings to help us understand.

Posted by mbowen at 06:41 PM | TrackBack

Rites vs Rights

"The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God�s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Therefore marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God."
-- The Book of Common Prayer

Marriage is an axiomatic article of faith. Profession of marriage before God is therefore a declaration of faith, not only in one's spouse but in the principles under which it was created. What then is the state's interest in marriage?

I would suggest that the state express passivity with regard to the holy orders of matrimony as part and parcel of its duty to the First Amendment. The Constitution binds us to respect freedom to worship and thus protects, without underwriting or respecting the practices of religious ceremonies and rites. The state simply recognizes the right of churches to establish and maintain their rites and balances that interest with domestic tranquility.

The Episcopal Church ordains women as priests. This was once very controversial but is less so today. In this expression, the Episcopal Church has declared this gender role as appropriate. The state must not either encourage or inhibit ordinations of women and do so only affirmits its neutrality on the merits of the rite. Furthermore it should restrain others who do not respect the ordination of women according to their beliefs of gender propriety, from interfering with the free exercise of Episcopal Ordination.

Whether the state does so for 'Gay Marriage' depends entirely upon whether or not gay marriage is recognizeable as the exercise of religious beliefs. If some church establishs a gay rite, then the state is bound to allow it. The question is how much trouble would Christians, Jews or any other group make trouble over the issue with whichever religious sect establishes the rite. The state can and should issue a hands-off warning if it sees that rite coming.

We have common law marriages recognized by the state as regards property rights, benefits eligibility and parental rights. The state establishes, de facto civil unions which are not recognized as religious sacraments for these and other reasons, but these are entirely independent of those rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. The rights and responsibilities of partners in civil unions and common law marriages are are defended for different reasons than that of a religious rite of gay marriage. Gay domestic partners should be considered similarly to common law partners for civil purposes.

Therefore the state should not *recognize* 'Marriage' any more than it recognizes 'Extreme Unction'. The state buries unidentified bodies in the ground but that does not make it a Funeral. The state recognizes civil unions bt that doesn't make them Marriages.

It is important that the state make it clear that its acceptance of any marriage rited certified by a religious body is only accepted in the same way as any other religious rite, balanced as they are against the state's compelling interest in domestic tranquility. The state does not or should not give standing to religious exercise.

Is then Marriage recognized by the state? I beleive that the state can substantially recognize all the qualities of marriage without endorsement of its articles of faith. And for this reason a civil union can in fact be functionally equivalent to a marriage. But it cannot be a marriage which is, as I've said, axiomatically ordained of God. All protestation to the contrary, Churches do have the equivalent of a trademark on the word, and those who seek the mask of respectability afforded marriage without the blessing of the Church, well they are on their own without God.

What then of the weddings of atheists? Are their marriages ordained of God? Strictly speaking, they are civil unions. A justice of the peace is not a priest, so when a state vests authority in a justice of the peace it is not establishing religion. Yet this is the gray area where my argument falls off a cliff. I hope to get a few hints as the subject progresses.

Posted by mbowen at 06:27 PM | TrackBack

Sunglasses in the Auranet

This afternoon I took the kids ice skating at the top of Palos Verdes. While I still have my buddha working, there are times when older sensibilities take over, when I'm dressing, for example. I wore my A&F snowboard pants (not really thick at all). But to over compensate for the fact that I know that in such environments, I should wear no labels whatsoever, I wore a sheer RL Polo Sport shirt that says so right on the front. And furthermore, I wore that black Kangol skull cap my wife bought me for Christmas. Hedging my overcompensation, I brought along my black fleece with the zipper neck and no labels. Nevertheless I decided against the slightly worn cap with some obscure reference to yachting or golf. Needless to say, I was awash in mixed signals, then again, I'm quite a code-switcher. I also came armed with small talk. Get down to business quickly and get back out again is the rule. I think I ended up talking too much to one guy and not enough to another. Whatever. This is paragraph #1.

In paragraph 2, I relate a somewhat obscurely related fact, which is the matter of sunglasses on eBay. Some of you may know that if you have some difficulty registering, or are a newbie, or have changed your identity in the past 30 days, you will have a probationary thingy attached to your account in the form of a pair of sunglasses. This indicates to potential buyers of whatever it is you are trying to sell at eBay, that you may not be whom you appear to be and that only minimal information is available about you. Nice concept.

Here in paragraph three, I attempt to be a bit more serious and come to the real point of the discussion which is to reflect about some of my first thoughts about that which Howard Rheingold has provoked me into thinking. I have been unassiduous in my completion of his Smart Mobs, but yesterday somewhere just past page 176 he mentioned Auranet. Auranet is a 12 foot 'personal space' in which smart items located on your person will automagically coordinate and negotiate this and that information about you to similarly equipped persons at some point in the future.

Like what?

I'm married. Do I keep a copy of my kids photos, or do I protect those from all strangers? I've got a lot of money in the bank, which credit card do I expose - do I set a profile for when I'm slumming? I'm horny and on the make, do I set to beergoggle mode, and what if She is the Right One? How much do I go about wearing on my sleeve? Which labels do I select from my electronic closet? What's in your wallet?

In answer to the question of what we should be asking ourselves now that we are in the golden era of bigger and more pervasive is better of course, I suggest the following. This has always been the great warning I have held, which is to beware of perfect simalcra. As Marshall Blonsky instructs, very little of what we process as real information is actually authentic, and we are not protected. The news and information and knowledge we present in the future, about ourselves, about the world, about any and everything will come without a metadata guarantee. We will be so intent on getting the crap through the goose of the electronic global mind, that we won't pay much attention to its provenance. Instead we will rely upon systems of reputation to give us credibility, and these systems of reputation will be content agnostic. It will be more important to us to trust people and systems to connect with us than it will be that everything they tell us always be verifyable. Half the point of establishing a trusted friend is not having to second-guess everything they tell us. The problem, of course is that crap will get under the radar.

I'm thinking about this crap factor as I prepare myself to review the resignation letter I have recieved from trusted sources several degrees of separation from the originator. But I know that this letter has not got a PGP signature attached, and never would. I am not the original target of this letter, so I cannot know that it's not a fake, nor can I know if it is generally undoctored if it isn't a complete fabrication. And though I am likely to trust the folks that sent it to me, and having generally reconciled its existence to the fact that I have seen it coming from multiple directions of trust does not change the fact that the entire artifact may be a fabrication.

Which brings me to a point about modifying the architecture of the XRepublic to accomodate the blogosphere. What would it take to completely defraud the blogosphere? How difficult or easy would it be to get the top blogsources commenting about X knowing that X would inevitably lead to certain conclusions being drawn by rational people? I'm suggesting that such a thing, if not practical now, could be done with a sophistication heretofore unknown. I am suggesting that the margin for error is significant. I'm saying that anything can ultimately be hoaxed. I'm also saying that we'll be used to that.

This is the context for the discussion of sunglasses in the Auranet.

Maybe I don't want you to know that I'm married. Or maybe I just brought my kids to the ice skating rink and stood around taking digital pictures like an idiot because I was really spying on Mr. D who I just happen to know would be there today. Maybe I'm just shy and not from around here and don't really want to talk to anyone today. One never knows, does one?

The more we depend on our electronic auras to present ourselves, even as we get more and more sophisticated with our labels and social signifyers, people will remain as opaque as they wish to be, and sometimes inadvertantly more than they want to be. I raise the flag because we may lose the skill. Just as some of us smalltalk well, others of us are completely awkward. We depend on some electronic Cyrano to express ourselves, and wind up incapable. We will literally be at a loss for words from processing so many digital signals and icons. Who hasn't been tongue tied? Who hasn't found the perfect personal ad and found ourselves practicing dozens of times what message to leave on Her answering machine, only to sputter like an idiot. Maybe she had Caller ID and I am screened for life.

Which brings me to the second to last paragraph, which was The Last Castle on television last night. Robert Redford spoke to a dyslexic corporal sharing the same bighouse prison yard. The corporal was 2 years into a 7 year bid. He had been in the service 13 years, and committed a crime that took 15 minutes. Redford suggested that he was more Marine than anything else. This is easy for a certain type of human to do face to face...

Today, I'm very concerned about my privacy. I want to wear sunglasses and I don't want to submit to mind-cavity searches by the authorities. In that, I am like many of my peers in the information technology business.  We may come to regret that. We never know when we may have to run down the street screaming for assistance like Griffin Dunne in After Hours.

Posted by mbowen at 04:54 PM | TrackBack