January 31, 2004

Freaking Out

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January 30, 2004

A Pinch More Compassion

GWBush must think he's rich, because he's spending money like there's no tomorrow. This is old news, but now he's spending it on the Arts. We've come a ways since Piss Christ haven't we? On the other hand, maybe there is no tomorrow for the Bush Administration and their breaking the bank to make a phony issue for 2008. Whatever the grand plan, this is probably the biggest bargain for cheap political publicity in history, depending on how loud the paleos screech and progressives scratch their heads.

Any way you look at it, the NEA is getting more money.

President Bush will seek a big increase in the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts, the largest single source of support for the arts in the United States, administration officials said on Wednesday.

The proposal is part of a turnaround for the agency, which was once fighting for its life, attacked by some Republicans as a threat to the nation's moral standards.

Laura Bush plans to announce the request on Thursday, in remarks intended to show the administration's commitment to the arts, aides said.

Administration officials, including White House budget experts, said that Mr. Bush would propose an increase of $15 million to $20 million for the coming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. That would be the largest rise in two decades and far more than the most recent increases, about $500,000 for 2003 and $5 million for this year.

The agency has a budget of $121 million this year, 31 percent lower than its peak of $176 million in 1992. After Republicans gained control of Congress in 1995, they cut the agency's budget to slightly less than $100 million, and the budget was essentially flat for five years.

In an e-mail message inviting arts advocates to a news briefing with Mrs. Bush, Dana Gioia, the poet who is chairman of the endowment, says, "You will be present for an important day in N.E.A. history."

Mr. Gioia (pronounced JOY-uh) has tried to move beyond the culture wars that swirled around the agency for years. He has nurtured support among influential members of Congress, including conservative Republicans like Representatives Charles H. Taylor and Sue Myrick of North Carolina. He has held workshops around the country to explain how local arts organizations can apply for assistance.


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Self Parsing

Believe. Receive. Explanation. Presence. Belief.

These are words I constantly misspell. I need to find a system that allows me not to look as stupid as these mistakes make me seem. So, Mr. CIA agent there's your formula if you want to forge me.

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The Happiest Song in the World

It has to be 'Do I Do' by Stevie Wonder.

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The Economics of Manumission

In reading Volokh it occured to me that the best way to defeat any capitalist enterprise is by ignoring it. This is in synergy with the chink in Wal-Mart's armor. The English idiom 'paying attention' is perfectly suited for the essence of profitability. If you look, you pay.

Buying slaves to free them doesn't work. To disable a slave economy, slaves must be freed, not bought.

My own family has its curse associated with American slavery. On my mother's side we are light, bright and damned near white, passing paper bag and ruler tests since antiquity. Louisiana records show us as 'Free People of Color' and it is for that reason, never having been slaves, I was able to track my family tree back 7 generations. Although I cannot know for sure, the curse didn't appear out of nowhere, so I believe it to be true - it being the fact that somewhere some ancestor of mine owned slaves, although it's clear we didn't retain any real estate. This leads me to believe we were engaged in the common practice of liberation through purchase. Having no soil to till, Louisiana petty bourgeois of color purchased relatives and strangers from the fields and put them to work in houses and kitchens. The law in Louisiana was once a slave, always a slave. They couldn't buy their own freedom. If it weren't for the invalidation of sales, slave traders could have devised contracts to make ending slavery as profitable as slavery itself.

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The Wimp & The Barbarian

Terence Moore has penned a thought-provoking essay on the declining state of American manhood. He does an excellent job of jabbing these males we know to be less than men, and while I think he overdoes Kipling just a bit (surely there are real men in Tahiti), he paints memorable portraits of the failing male. I think they are more alike than Moore might think.

We have reason to fear and fight the wimp and the barbarian both, but I don't see as much concern generated by Moore's version about the dangers of the wimp. When you come to understand that the wimp is a coward then you realize how the wimp and the barbarian reinforce each other - that they are two sides of the same counterfeit masculinity.

The wimp aims for revenge and overkill. He fears all conflict and depends heavily on others to maintain order and peace. The wimp is excruciatingly mannered and leverages such manners to the extreme. He desires to be gentlemanly and genteel because he desires to avoid real conflict. And yet the wimp is aggressive in areas over which he attempts to

The wimp is cynical.

The barbarian makes excuses for everything and fears a lack of control. He cannot go with the flow. He won't eat food he hasn't eaten before or wear subtle colors. He has to be crushingly bold and always overstep cloddishly, and then he pretends to be a clown instead of making honest apologies. When he realizes nobody is fighting back, he asserts that it was his intention all along.

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January 29, 2004

Must I?

"Black people need to...."

This is how to turn me off in four words. It's also how to make a buck if you're cute, black and have an advanced degree. Ladies and gentlemen I introduce to you the next African-American who is not a sociologist or political scientist who gets to bloviate about sociology and politics: Debra Dickerson.

Sooner or later, I'm going to have to read her new book 'The End of Blackness' if only because I have been writing essays similarly title on a regular basis every five years or so since 1983. Of course I was never so presumtuous in my claims. Instead I wrote 'The End of My Blackness', which is probably what Dickerson should have called her book.

One of the things that makes blackness a permanent part of America is precisely the slight of hand that Dickerson and her publishers are pulling off. It is not much different than the trickery that produces cameramen and pressfolk whenever Jesse Jackson clears his throat. If you can get a controversial Negro to spill the beans on race in any way that translates to the mainstream, and audience will materialize. There must be admonition for the masses of blackfolk, some fundamental basic thing they have wrong that the author has learned through the hard knock life of crossing racial boundaries. You know the formula. I await the 20 minutes she gets on Bill Maher's show when she faces off with John McWhorter. Somebody get me access to the gods of the TV Guide so I can set my VCR. That way I don't have to read the book.

Can you feel the hateration in my verbs, the jealousy? It's all anybody black wants to do - set the record straight for the nons who don't get it. And yet it is a self-perpetuating trap. The more you talk to blackfolks and whitefolks separately, the more need there are for explanation books.

What annoys me most about this uppercrusty chitlin circuit is that there are good black writers who own their corner and don't try to behave as if the contradictions of their life stories is an indictment of America's blacks or whites. It's not that they transcend race or any such hippie fantasy, they simply accept themselves, their lives and their little shard of the black monolith. We seem to be stuck with a nest of Negroes who make best-sellers out of their racial grief and that is supposed to be a perscription on what 'black people need to...'

I submit to you four such good authors:

Colored People - Skip Gates
Parallel Time - Brent Staples
High Cotton - Darryl Pinckney
The White Boy Shuffle - Paul Beatty

Pinckney especially resonates with me, and everyone who ever read Paul Beatty said they felt the need to call me on the phone because they thought they were reading my own biography. Or something like that, both were written several years back. What is my point?

My point is simply that it's nice to be in the pundit business. Lots of us want it, otherwise we wouldn't blog. But autobiography is not social science nor political science. I hope 'The End of Blackness' is not trying to be.

All that said, I genuinely anticipate the arrival of commentary on the Dickerson book. You can never have too many black authors.

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OK these are the last weeks when we start dealing with the last days in time - that is the Pre-Passion-of-the-Christ days. Mel Gibson is about to make a huge amount of hot air pass over the lips of Americans when his new film comes our way at the end of February.

I got a missive from Paul Harvey (yeah I'm on his extended mailing list, somehow) about how great a film this is. He apparently saw a preview in the company of a nodule of Washington DC Hill Creatures, and these pols left the theatre weeping. If that's the case, then we're in for interesting times.

I can't wait.

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January 28, 2004

Iraqi Holocaust Denial

Few things have become as exasperating as the continuing back and forth between the explainers and the complainers over the issue of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Yet it's remarkable to see how few people are talking about the masses Iraqi weapons have already destroyed. I don't understand what it is that activists of the Left have forgotten since Pinochet, but they have surely evaded the facts of Saddam Hussein's Genocide. Yes I said it. Genocide.

Instead of spending all of their attention on the failure of people who were looking for weapons, why aren't American humanitarians looking for people? The answer is a simple excuse which is the key to a moral evasion of significant dimensions: 'Bush Lied'.

I've been saying for almost a year now that the primary reason we were right in going to Iraq was to liberate the Iraqis from Saddam Hussein and his Baathist regime. Those Americans who consider themselves profoundly offended that GWBush has broken faith with them are now faced with the fact the WMD hunt was an honest effort and that our tactical information simply wasn't good enough. But they have broken faith with the Iraqis by their opposition to the destruction of the Baathists. It is something we owed them, not only because of our prior failure but because our forward commitment to justice.

Many choose to remain in denial. These are the new Holocaust Deniers.

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OK here's the deal. Democrats are going to be lockstep and fired up. All the flakes are going to get kicked to the curb, and very soon, within 6 weeks, basically after California votes, there's going to be swift and decisive unanimity. The theme is beat Bush no matter what and put all your eggs into one basket.

I think it's going to be Kerry or Edwards and in being consistent with what I've been saying all along, I hope it's Kerry although I think I'd be about as happy with Clark. Still, I have the feeling that Clark would piss off Wall Street. I don't know why but that's my feeling.

A Kerry Edwards ticket would be unstoppable as far as the Democratic party is concerned. So that's my prediction, based on the presumption that there are some Democrats whose heads are not completely anal-embedded. You heard it here first.

Posted by mbowen at 12:36 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

It's The Cheesiest

You know Kraft. They're the macaroni and cheese people. And your kids know them as the cheese and macaroni people, because it's the cheesiest. Why do you know this? You know this because the smart people at Kraft spent a fortune on advertising for you to know this. And now you know. But you probably didn't know that Kraft is going to spend a lot more money to try to get you to know something else.

Kraft isn't alone in its struggles in the food business. American consumers' increased health concerns have put the entire packaged food industry under severe pressure to change quickly. Worries about the artery clogger ``trans fat,'' rising obesity and the trend toward low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets have hurt sales of cookies and some other packaged foods.

``The growing importance of health and wellness has altered buying patterns to a degree I have not seen before in the food industry,'' Kraft CEO Roger Deromedi told analysts in New York. ``Low-carb diets like Atkins and South Beach, the focus on trans fat, concerns about obesity and increased demand for organic and natural products are requiring a shift in how we market and what we market.''

But Kraft also has hurt itself through overpricing, new-product fizzles and a failure to recognize sooner the ``fundamental shift'' Deromedi says has occurred with consumers and retailers, who now put a higher priority than ever before on price and value.

So if you are one of the many hundreds of oddballs that hate Wal-Mart, I wonder if you have any Kraft Macaroni & Cheese on your shelves. Why? Because you bought it because of advertising. It costs more than the bargain brand, and it's still the same damned powdered cheese. But your folly of eating corporate cheese has now cost 6,000 people their jobs. Oops wait. That's not it exactly..

It's the people who have stopped eating corporate cheese that have cost these people their jobs. Gotcha!

There's really no way out of this. We're all culpable somehow. We've consumed whatever it was that made Kraft bet that it could meet the payroll, and keep operating the factories for these many years. But those days are gone.

In order for the rest of the employees at Kraft to survive the death of the high-carb diet, Kraft is going to have to spend millions to erase the images of crayon drawn cows jumping over the moon from the 'kids' love of Cheese and Macaroni. Paying attention costs.

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The Redemption of Innocence

F8 sings constantly. The other day we were skating vert ramps on Tony Hawk Underground and she was singing Nas' 'The World is Yours'. As kids usually do, she misinterpreted the lyric of the chorus. Instead of "it's mine, it's mine, it's mine" was saying "smile, smile, smile - whose world is this this? It's yours".

It's a two way street.

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January 27, 2004

Where's Spaulding Gray?

I have a special affection for three men who most profoundly affected my desire to be a writer. I associate them all with urbane wit and a lot of good things in a world gone stupid. They are Joe Frank, Henry Jaglom and Spaulding Gray.

Of the three, Gray is the one I considered least likely to commit suicide. Yet it stands to reason that he may have done just that. Nobody has heard from him in over two weeks and folks fear that he has gone off swimming to that big Cambodia in the sky.

It was Swimming to Cambodia, but after 'The Killing Fields', which alerted me to this astounding man. He was having the conversations in public of the sort I have with myself, the sly allusions, the jumping from subject to subject, the right word at the right time. For me, Gray defined what narrative could be and why storytelling will always be superior to journalism - why it has lasted allthe centuries. Gray is why I put myself into all of my writing, why the first person is important.

Now he may be taking us all into his tragedy, but who could tell the story?

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Pazaak, Tatooine & The Sith

I am about 27 hours into Star Wars, Knights of the Old Republic and it occurs to me that the epic novel is back. Except it's not a novel, but a video game.

It seems almost disrespectful to call this massive interactive tale a video game. I realized that once I finally managed to capture the Ebon Hawk from Davik and Calo Nord when Talis was being destroyed. I flew through the atmosphere, fought off a dozen smaller spacecraft, and just like Han Solo's Millenium Falcon I punched into hyperspace.

It wasn't until I started playing this particular game (and I have played one other Star Wars game before, finding it tedious and unusually difficult) that I realized how much Lucas has made of his galaxy far far away. I knew there were many series of books written and I knew that many Star Wars fan[atic]s had been very disappointed in recent films that I thought were pretty good. I thought all of that was playing off the simplistic themes of the first (middle) trilogy of films. But KOR shows that this galaxy is at least as well thought out as that of the Star Trek series.

After having watched the bonus material for the making of Episode One, I concluded that Lucas was a self-important monomaniac who only had one idea in his life that he was milking forever. Now I'm not so sure. Now I see him more like Linus Torvalds, as the facilitator of a garden where 1000 flowers are blooming.

The Star Wars Galaxy is massive, and hundreds of creative people are populating its planets, pushing and pulling its Force and making a lot of fun and adventure for us. More power to them. Now excuse me, I have some more Wookiees to liberate.

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January 26, 2004

The New Retail

If I were a filmmaker, I'd do this political skit.

Clerk: Good afternoon sir. My name is Rokesh, how may I help you today?

Customer: Oh, hi Rakesh, I'm just looking at these dress shirts here.

Clerk: Excuse me that's Rokesh.

Customer: Huh?

Clerk: Rokesh is my name, not Rakesh. Rakesh is an Indian name.

Customer: I..I'm sorry. Heh, bad pronouciation. So Rokesh, which shirts would you recommend?

Clerk: Those that you are looking at for $35 are very popular..

Customer: ..but you would recommend those behind the counter which cost more.

Clerk: You are very perceptive sir. These fine shirts behind me are of the highest quality American linen.

Customer: And these out here?

Clerk: Chinese.

Customer: Hmm. They look almost identical. I can't really tell the difference.

Clerk: Allow me to explain. The American shirt is made by English speaking Americans who were born and raised in this country and whose parents were citizens. They are union workers who get full benefits including premium & catastrophic health care, vision & dental flex care, 401k, 529 contribution matching, profit sharing, tuition reimbursement, stock options, free day care, 4 weeks paid vacation, paid medical leave, pregnancy leave for both father and mother and 6 week paid sabbatical after 5 years of employment. They work in buildings that meet stringent environmental standards, get discount passes for public transportation and they have a company-sponsored bowling league.

Customer: So that's why it costs $85?

Clerk: No that's why it costs $65.

Customer: But you're selling it for $85, that's what the price tag says.

Clerk: Well that's our markup. I thought you were asking about our cost.

Customer: You mark up 20 bucks for a shirt?

Clerk: Well retailing is a sophisticated business, sir. This conversation is a perfect example, it's precisely what I was trained for. Our market research says that the Metrosexual demographic wants to know not only the surface qualities of the shirt but the conditions under which it was produced.

Customer: Yeah well fine. What shirts do you have for about $50?

Clerk: Here are some fine Italian shirts that I can sell you for $50.

Customer: It looks exactly the same as the other two. What's the difference?

Clerk: Are you sure you want to know?

Customer: Of course I want to know Rokesh, that's why I asked.

Clerk: Well, I was just required to ask you first. These fine Italian shirts are made from imported Brazilian linen, hand sewn by Algerian expatriots who left France after the crackdown post-9/11. The buttons are Caribbean Mother of Pearl...

Customer: ..wait wait. You are required to ask me if I really want to know?

Clerk: Yes, of course sir.

Customer: Why is that?

Clerk: Well, sir it is our policy, as a full-service retailer to provide our customers with information sufficient to aid in their haberdashery decision making process. But according to our research, some of this information could be considered tiresome. So we allow you to opt-in.

Customer: Jesus. I'll just take a blue one.

Clerk: $55 plus tax, sir. Would you be interested in purchasing an extended warrantee?

Customer: Wait a minute. You said the Italian shirt was $50.

Clerk: Yes, but our service contract with the Liberian shipping merchants requires a $5 surcharge.

Customer: What service contract? What Liberian shipping merchants?

Clerk: The ones who delivered the buttons from the Dominican Republic to Rome. Under the WTO Treaty we are required to divulge this information, and of course that costs money.

Customer: Yeah money I don't have to spend. For chrissake it's just a shirt.

Clerk: No sir, I'm afraid it is not just a shirt. It is the end product of a sophisticated international supply chain regulated by several NGOs and delivered to this retail establishment for the sophisticated consumer.

Customer: That's a mouthful.

Clerk: Are you suggesting that I don't know what I'm talking about?

Customer: Well, if this is not just a shirt, I gather you're not just a clerk.

Clerk: I have my retail certification from Fashion Institute and I have a Master's degree in Marketing.

Customer: You have a master's and you work here?

Clerk: I like people, the hours are good, I don't have to lift more than 40 pounds if I don't want to...

Customer: I can't believe this conversation, and there's no way I'm going to pay an extra $5 bucks just to be informed about some Liberian longshoreman.

Clerk: There's no need to get upset, sir. You can always buy the...

Customer: Forget it. I'm not intersted in any of your 'end-products'. I just have one question.

Clerk: Shoot.

Customer: You're wearing a nice shirt, which one of them is it?

Clerk: Hell, I don't care about any of this fluff. I bought it at Wal-Mart.

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The Hazards of IT

Somebody needs to be slapped about the head and face over the treatment that fellow Bear Flag Leaguer Rob got.

The solution to this kind of abuse happens to be having a big swinging balls attorneys. I don't trust the ethics of robo-employees. Not anything against them personally, but what they feel empowered to do within the strictures of their employment mandate. It's a fundamental kind of thing certain employees who are not employed to use professional judgement find as a risk of their own employment - aka selling ones soul to the mindless bureacracy. Doubtless none of those weenies had to ever sign a non-disclosure agreement, they're not that independent.

Somehow as my own business grows, I'm going to try and find a way that I can contribute to a pool, as with health care, that gets me the legal representation of the big ball swinging type. I want a letterhead from an attorney's office that sends a real sphincter puckering chill to those who would cross me. Lawyers with blood-dripping fangs is what I want.

Now you understand why I'm a part of the problem. I should just be able to slap the shit out of people and be done with it. Too much respect for non-violence, I guess.

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See America First

I may stink for going around the world, but America is my playground.


create your own visited states map
or write about it on the open travel guide

Actually there's a few more states I've been to, but the site is slashdotted.

Posted by mbowen at 03:07 PM | TrackBack

Sentimental Favorites

Norm Geras has posted the results of his top movie surveys. This is the part where I criticize the rest of the world for not seeing things as I do. But it's probably a better bet for me to use it to get some DVDs for the collection.

What's more interesting to me is investigating his tabulation methodology. What tools did he use? How often is he willing to do some of this kind of stuff, which is a non-trivial exercise given that he had to do a lot, if not all, the data entry by hand?

It has long been of interest to me to put some of the technology I work with on the net for free so people can do this kind of analysis like the pros. Finally in the blogosphere I have found a set of people wonky enough to care. Thanks for the inspiration, Norm. Now can you mail me a copy of that spreadsheet?

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January 25, 2004

US Infant Mortality

The Godless Capitalist, during a debate on Wal-Mart, has raised a very interesting statistical point:

The primary reason Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than the United States is that the United States is a world leader in an odd category -- the percentage of infants who die on their birthday. In any given year in the United States anywhere from 30-40 percent of infants die before they are even a day old.
Why? Because the United States also easily has the most intensive system of emergency intervention to keep low birth weight and premature infants alive in the world. The United States is, for example, one of only a handful countries that keeps detailed statistics on early fetal mortality -- the survival rate of infants who are born as early as the 20th week of gestation.

How does this skew the statistics? Because in the United States if an infant is born weighing only 400 grams and not breathing, a doctor will likely spend lot of time and money trying to revive that infant. If the infant does not survive -- and the mortality rate for such infants is in excess of 50 percent -- that sequence of events will be recorded as a live birth and then a death.

In many countries, however, (including many European countries) such severe medical intervention would not be attempted and, moreover, regardless of whether or not it was, this would be recorded as a fetal death rather than a live birth. That unfortunate infant would never show up in infant mortality statistics.


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January 24, 2004

I Wasn't That Smart

I did a lot of reading as a kid, but I also did a lot of rejection of reading material, some of it for good reason, some out of laziness. But I just happened across this reading list and I am surprised to see that these books are being offered so late.

I noticed a few things in particular. I read Lipsyte's 'The Contender' in the 8th grade, 'Lord of the Flies' in the 7th. 'To Kill A Mockingbird' in the 6th grade, 'Huckleberry Finn' in the 7th, 'The Scarlet Letter' in the 9th, and '1984' way before I was a senior in high school.

And since when could seniors in high school deal with Toni Morrison's 'Beloved'? Holy smokes. Something's wrong here.

Posted by mbowen at 10:44 PM | TrackBack

Three Classes of Multiculturalism

As I was struggling with getting my Texafornia piece out of 'draft', I started talking about multiculturalism over the matter of integration vs assimilation. I think that multiculturalism offers real answers but most people don't understand what a deep multicultural ethos involves. I think far too often we get bogged down in petty differences and toss the baby out with the bathwater.

I'd like to cite a series of books here too while I'm at it to help folks get an idea where I'm coming from.

Class Three - PC
The principles of multiculturalism are well suited to resolving issues but we suffer from a surfeit of dialog about the laziest version, political correctness. PC is nothing more than the "don't ask don't tell" version of multiculturalism, it is the false pretense that everything is relative and that we can all enjoy each other's cultures with a Coke and a smile. So long as we don't offend, we can 'all get along' and society is better off. But PC demands no real understanding nor even an effort.

Class Two - Diversity & Pluralism
Diversity is one step up from PC and makes pefect sense. However it is misaplied as a principle when it's really just a strategy. The value of diversity is that it stands as an indicator of a willingness to make the effort to be inclusive. The best of diversity delivers a kind of robustness, it fortifies an institution by giving disparate groups an interest in its sucess. But this need be done purposefully with the intention of maintaining that robustness without losing links.

Pluralism is not a consequence of diversity, rather I think it the proper result of a non-chauvanistic secularism in a democratic society. You can have a healthy pluralism without the attempted mutual understanding of diversity. I think they reinforce each other but that they are not the same.

Class One - Diplomacy
A proper multiculturalism is probably best described as a 'panglossos'. It involves a non-trivial understanding of history and language of the peoples of different cultures and traditions. It is diplomatic but not necessarily integrative. It is the most difficult to achieve, of course, because bridging such gaps are very difficult. Imagine giving up the principle of 'innocent until proven guilty' as the character portrayed by Richard Gere in 'Red Corner'. Respecting alien systems of governance, wedding and burial traditions, oral and written history etc are tremendous undertakings.

From the (google) Archives - January 1995

this is foolish alarmism. multiculturalism is not cultural relativism, nor
is it separatism, nor is it necessarily anti-nationalistic. it is simply
the corrective medicine that the educated classes of americans require
such that they are not 'ugly americans'.

generally speaking, the upper classes of americans in comparison with
their european and south american counterparts are more xenophobic, racist
and unaware of world history and literature. multiculturalism seeks to
address this but primarily by offering the context of world history and
literature. the natural consequence of this in a nation of immigrants is
*recognition* of the heritage and backgrounds of these immigrants. it is
certainly expected and hoped that this broader background will provide
anti-racist and anti-xenophobic forces which are ultimatly civilizing. but
multiculturalism doesn't confer status. it merely offers the opportunity
for educated americans to improve their worldview.

multiculturalism, however has political overtones and now political
enemies. since the conservative right has decided to overstep its bounds
and attempt to influence college curricula and progressives have reacted,
multiculturalism will never again be the civilizing academic initiative it
began as. the middle class types and hangers-on to white male rage which
is all the new vogue in cyberspace are those fueling the political force
of this issue. however this passion is far too blunt to precicesly
identify errors in multiculturalism as originally conceived and thus have
tended to villify all liberalism. enemies of liberalism are easily found.
although it has been said many times, it bears repeating. multiculturalism
has no politics outside of academic ethics and the opinions of loud
undergraduates. 'political correctness', however, since it finds an enemy
in the powerful republican right must ultimately become something
fungible. but anyone who searches will find few if any multicultural grass
roots political organizations which are not simply reactionary to bloom's
original treatise.

it must be said that my introduction to the debate began with the greywolf
annual. #5 i beleive it was. the title was multicultural literacy,
something of an answer book to bloom's 'cultural literacy'. quite frankly,
all recognized that america was getting dumber. bloom said every educated
american should know set A. the editors and authors of the greywolf annual
said, why stop there? they should know A & B, becuase to only know A
without the context of B is to place arbitrary limits on knowledge. the
argument has devolved from that point in 1987.

Posted by mbowen at 08:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Typical Provincial American

OK so I'm provincial. Except you can't count Canadian provinces. I ain't been. Nor have I been to Jamaica, believe it or don't. I know people from there.
Where have you been?.

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

January 23, 2004


I find something to agree with and disagree with in Dale Franks' latest clarification of his sophisticated understanding of the (southern) immigration problem.

What I agree with is that it benefits Mexico to have their citizens working in the US and delivering funds back to their home country. It stands to reason that these funds are not adequately taxed. I haven't heard much tell of the Mexican oligarchs being mercantilist, I'm not even quite sure what it means, but I'm sure some clever Mexicans have figured out a way to make a buck out of the way expatriot workers are making a buck.

It makes sense that if working conditions truly suck in Mexico, a significant enough expatriot workforce insures that there are a lot of voters who aren't raising the issue. Further it makes sense that if those remaining in Mexico are extra depressed it doesn't show if someone monkeys with the economic figures taking these expatriot workers into consideration vis a vis per capita income.

Nevertheless I'm not sure that we take a particularly nuanced view of the segment of the Mexican population who comes here in the context of the Mexican economy. The owner of Telmex, a pal of President V. Fox (he has a crazy nickname but it slips my mind) tried to purchase SBC during the Clinton Administration. Yes he could afford it, but suddenly it was made illegal by Congress. On the other hand there are campesinos who are too impoverished to even make the trip to become farmworkers.

Franks takes a swipe at theoritical multiculturalism as if it were the reason for playing nice nice with the immigrants. Having grown up in Los Angeles, and playing pickup soccer all through high school for what it's worth, I've always viewed multiculturalism as a formalization of what we do here anyway. Multiculturalism may need a jumpstart in Boston where they can't even cook decent barbecue ribs, much less understand Spanglish, but here in California it is de rigeur, if not de jure.

It is the ossification of the ethos which sets many conservative folks off. Multiculturalism won, and it still rubs people the wrong way. Stiil, but I think it the height of hypocrisy for those who are incapable of even a modest bit of Spanish to assert any mandate for mono- or bilingualism. Remember the old jokes they used to tell at my crusty prep school - Can you speak Spanish? No. How does it feel to be dumber than a Mexican? (Har Har!) My word on this is best illustrated by that wild man Ishmael Reed who appropriately says, if you're not speaking the language, you're not learning the culture. This cuts both ways, against kneejerk assimilationists who believe Mexican culture is inferior, and liberal activists who respect bilingualism in kids who don't read well in either language. The grain of truth is that the culture that lives on, lives on in literature, arts and philosophy but most people embroiled in immigration controversy aren't generally looking in that direction. When it comes to American politics, immigration is a racial and an economic issue, despite Mr. Franks honest protestations.

I have my gripes with multiculturalism. There's nothing more depressing than reading Marquez and very little reading Carlos Fuentes does for understanding the class of Mexicans and Mexican Americans we gringos mainly encounter. But considering the ignorant reaction of many political wags to the Bustamante -MEChA non-issue, every little bit helps.

Since I am in favor of empire, both internal and external and further that I recognize and respect class and am a staunch defender of pluralism, I am the kind of person that has no problem with what West Texas is. By my lights, El Paso is the ugliest city in the world. Then again I haven't been to Baku. Still it looks like something that might have survived a dirty bomb, barely. But if it and San Antonio, a horrific drive northeast by any standard (I did it 4 times two summers ago) went 80% Spanish language I cannot imagine that it would diminish America in the slightest. I think most Americans who are not Texans would be hard-pressed to tell us exactly what the main businesses are in either of those cities, although my guess for El Paso would be something to do with gravel.

My point is that in many ways West Texas is already an American Mexico, and everything is just dandy. Who are we to determine what is the proper character for an American city? If Deaborn, Michigan is suddenly recognized as the capital city if Islam in America are we suddenly to become upset with Dearborn?

Posted by mbowen at 01:31 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

She Devil

Posted by mbowen at 01:40 AM | TrackBack

The Appropriate Pacifist

In this appropriated clip, Martin Luther King Jr. echoes Gandhi and the Negro Spirit in his admonitions against the Vietnam War. MoveOn.org demonstrates how far they are from being non-partisan in their foolish portrayal of GWBush as Hitler in their anti-war effort.

While radicals of all sorts are intent on counterspinning every dodge and dive of actors on the political stage, the fundamental principles of Christian Love remain unchanged expressed through timeless metaphors. So I think what we ought to learn is that what the Left has lost and what MLK had in spades what Christian charity.

if you've seen the Hitler thing - take a look at the MLK thing.

Understand that people will appropriate MLK forever. It shows a lack of true leadership as this and that speech of his is stretched to work for every new challenge. But the difference between moral leadership and moral posturing is clear.

Posted by mbowen at 01:39 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 01:33 AM | TrackBack

January 22, 2004

My World

Posted by mbowen at 05:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bone Phones

Bone conduction is back!

Way back in the 70s (literally) I used to sell stereo. One of the new gadgets that came out right at the same time as the Walkman, was the 'Bone Fone'. It was a radio embedded in a 24 inch long tube of flexible blue spandex. You wore it over your shoulders like an athlete wears a towel around his neck, or somebody named Biff wears a wool pullover when the sun comes out. The heavy parts were in the ends so you could actually jog with it on.

It used bone conduction to transmit the sounds through your collarbones. Or so it promised. They went for 65 bucks and I sold maybe 3 of them in a whole year. They really weren't very powerful and it turns out that collarbones don't resonate bass very well. Good idea though.

Well apparently, some folks in Japan think that speech is another matter, so they've gone ahead and made a bone conduction cellphone. It looks ridiculous, but it just might work.

Posted by mbowen at 09:53 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Little White Lies

Blackfive has a photoshopped picture of a soldier with a backwards American flag and several others that makes a snarky political point. The fact that it's a fabrication is either the whole point or beside the point.

A number of people make the point that GWBush lied to the American people about WMDs. I think it's reasonable to say that most folks bought what it was he was selling. I don't think he lied. I think he persuaded. We all saw Colin Powell's UN presentation and we all bought it. By we, I mean those of us near the tipping point.

If you were like me, you always had suspicions about buried reciepts in the Pentagon. Why did Saddam have WMDs? Because we sold them to him, that's why. I have been satisfied for so long with matters of his murder that I'm never quite sure if I've spelled them out clearly here. What is a weapon of mass destruction? Well, that depends on how massive the destruction must be to get your attention. In order to get together a reluctant, heel dragging international coalition, the destruction has to be an affront to powerful nations the likes of which survived WW2. Thus, dramatic slide shows at the UN. Keep this in mind.

Imagine you are a striker at a supermarket. You hate the fact that there are people going into your store while you're out in the cold without work. So in sympathy if not agreement, I've gone to other supermarkets. They're crowded. How crowded is a crowded supermarket? Ten registers with 7 people in each line, plus 14 baggers cashiers and stock clerks. You've got 4 people in line for the butcher and 4 for the baker and at least three shoppers in every one of 10 aisles. In middle class suburban America, that's considered chaos. In math its just 126 people.

How long would it take Saddam Hussein with one helicopter gunship to destroy a supermarket full of people? Forget that they're Americans for a moment and imagine that they're Kurds or the Ma'dan Iraqis. Instead of supermarkets causing headaches, you'd be equally aware of certain places in your neighborhood being deadly. According to this strategic assessment, Saddam had about 100 helicopter gunships. It wouldn't take him much time at all.

I don't understand why the Clinton and Bush administrations did not want to use the term 'genocidal' to describe Hussein's activity, but I think it's appropriate to describe what he was all about. So the question about the truth-telling somehow focused on the how but not the what. I don't know the cause, but many in the American public have been snookered into looking for a smoking gun rather than a genocidal maniac. Perhaps it's because the Bush family doesn't spend much time in supermarkets.

For my peace of mind, and specifically to look beyond the squabbles in Israel and Palestine, I decided to behave like a powerful nation which has survived WW2. I invented the Lynch Factor so that anything below 3k murders wouldn't pass muster and I wouldn't need to comment. Saddam passed that threshhold easily, but I must say that I regret that arbitrary decision. It's the same kind of blinder that makes mass homicide something other than genocide, the same kind of lie that makes it necessary to raise the stakes from proving intervention requires nukes and chemicals rather than helicopter gunships destroying villages. This is the same kind of self-deception that justifies hair-trigger reactions and overkill. I'll try not to do so in the future.

In the meanwhile we are faced with lies and deception about the nature of international conflict, but Bush couldn't have lied to us if we weren't already lying to ourselves.

Posted by mbowen at 08:03 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 21, 2004


Posted by mbowen at 03:12 PM | TrackBack

Call Center Hate

I'm going to be a jerk and suggest a meme. When a call center calls you, ask "How's the weather in Mumbai?" Of course you needn't be so specific, unless the people calling you are THE ASSHOLES FROM PROVIDIAN, who can't seem to leave my nerves alone.

Yeah I'm a globalist but I expect outsourced CSRs to understand at least the difference between a first name and a last name.

Posted by mbowen at 09:48 AM | TrackBack

Post Iraq

Posted by mbowen at 08:16 AM | TrackBack

Iraq Reassessed

Pacifists are the only ones I give any credit for opposing the war against Saddam Hussein. Everyone else is trying to make political points. This is the context for my judgement of Bush.

Something I've been thinking about for a couple weeks and really couldn't find a way to say it was what to think of American discontent with the war disaggregated from the political performance of GWBush. I've come up with some questions I think must be considered in order to do so. But first to Bush from my perspective.

I find GW Bush to be a mediocre president. His election was primarily a repudiation of the Clinton presidency gone sour. He was elected to do the standard kinds of things people now expect of Republican presidents. Compassionate Conservatism could work. His election was achieved in the context of a healthy economy and an overheated stock market which has gone mostly kaput and has now finally started creeping back. But as for Bush's own domestic agenda, especially vis a vis Compassionate Conservatism, he never quite rose to that task. Events overcame him.

I don't think he's made the best out of a bad situation, but he has performed admirably. My confidence about where we are as a nation comes not my faith in Bush's ability to work the government, but from the people we are as Americans. We handled the situation, and we wouldn't have let any other president do much differently. But the zealotry of Neocons have rubbed a lot of otherwise intelligent people the wrong way, and it is the squealing of these stuck pigs that adds more noise than signal to the evaluations of Bush, the anti-Saddam missions and the actions against global terrorism.

What should Bush have done differently? He should have given Powell more time to be a hero. When the operant words were 'regime change', Powell was a hero in Europe. Could we have waited 6 months? Yes of course we could have, and I think we should have. Bush antagonized many nations by his timetable. There was no present threat, but we weren't sure about that. We in the American public were no more sure about Saddam's WMDs than we were about the Arab Domino theories which were equally discussed and considered a year ago. How many of us remember this? (insert link of very popular animation with little mad bombing terrorists and missiles flying all over the middle east).

Key in my thinking about these matters is the question of the no-fly zones. These were supported by the American public. Supporters of the 'Baby Bin Laden' theory had very little concern about the militaristic reactions to that American military presence. For those who might have spoken up against flying American jets over Iraq, the concern was primarily humanitarian, or so it seemed.

When the hostilities escalated to an out and out shooting war, I expected many Americans who sounded like pacifists in order to justify their arguments against Bush to focus on issues of humanitarianism. From those who complained that America had run roughshod in the first war and defied the UN whose oil for food program was insufficient I expected an airlift. I wrote a cartoon about it because I felt that the spirit of the loyal opposition was primarily one of concern for the living conditions of the Iraqis themselves. But that airlift never materialized.

By the time the anti-war arguments began pointing to 'priceless antiquities' I realized the amount of hypocrisy in many of these arguments. The contradictions were becoming clear. Fisk himself was a great example of someone who consistently asked the kinds of questions that were not generally answered, but battles erupted about the man himself. I think that reflected poorly on everyone both pro- and anti- forces.

What we have not been hearing in the anti-war arguments are about the devastation of war itself. There may be people who complain about refugee problems, but are there really refugee problems? How many people have actually been displaced by the battles and occupation? The humanitarian question has really not persisted in any shape. This is what is most striking to me about most opposition to the war against Saddam Hussein, and it is for this reason that I will most likely discount the kind of arguments that I am beginning to see: the increasing body count of American soldiers. If your most strenuous objection to the war and occupation is expressed in terms of the cost to America then I believe you're on the wrong track. Such an argument fails to recognize most moral calculations, most notably humanitarianism. Besides, we can actually afford it.

More later on Bush's lies.

Human Rights Watch hasn't published a word on Iraqi refugees in over 10 months.

Posted by mbowen at 08:14 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

I'm Just Laughing

Attention all y'all players and pimps right now in the place to be.
Mystical's ass got sent to jail now y'all gotta listen to me.
Think you can outsmart the law and do anything you please.
Guess who has the biggest laugh when you'll be on your knees.

Rap your ass, but watch yourself.

Posted by mbowen at 12:51 AM | TrackBack

January 20, 2004

Rushkoff: Open Source Democracy

Douglas Rushkoff weighs in. From the intro.

The emergence of the interactive mediaspace may offer a new model for cooperation. Although it may have disappointed many in the technology industry, the rise of interactive media, the birth of a new medium, the battle to control it and the downfall of the first victorious camp, taught us a lot about the relationship of ideas to the media through which they are disseminated. Those who witnessed, or better, have participated in the development of the interactive mediaspace have a very new understanding of the way that cultural narratives are developed, monopolised and challenged. And this knowledge extends, by allegory and experience, to areas far beyond digital culture, to the broader challenges of our time.

Also names to note in the Acknowledgements:

Thanks to Tom Bentley and everyone at Demos for the opportunity to extend this inquiry to a new community of thinkers. Thanks also to my editorial assistant, Brooke Belisle, and to colleagues including Andrew Shapiro, Steven Johnson, Ted Byfield, Richard Barbrook, David Bennahum, Red Burns, Eugenie Furniss and Lance Strate.

I'm looking forward to hearing from these folks in the future. These are precisely the kinds of questions I'm asking about here.

Posted by mbowen at 11:53 AM | TrackBack

Head Scratching

The best thing that apparently can be said for the Iowa caucuses is that they've just proven themselves to be sensible by putting John Kerry in the lead. Of the dwarves, Kerry has always been the one I've considered most sensible, but hearing tell that his campaign had disintegrated I discounted his effect.

I am not inclined to wax eloquent with purple prose at the demise of Gephardt. I'm glad to see him go. I have always considered him ineffectual and presumptuous. He is the singly most large yet boring mammal in the Democratosphere. Just looking at him reminds us all how much we miss Paul Simon.

Today is a refreshing reminder that pundits don't determine elections. That sound you hear is the rumble of 100,000 bloviators scratching their heads.

Posted by mbowen at 08:40 AM | TrackBack

Ideologues on the Prairie

Dale Franks' case agains illegal immigration is that a certain kind of immigrant defies America. America's greatness depends upon fidelity to core values of the country which by the nature of where they send their money proves they reject those values.

Legal immigrants come to this country to become Americans. They wish to start a new life, and become part of their new country.

Illegal immigrants, for the most part, have no desire to do any of the above. Illegal aliens tend to either 1) reside here temporarily (although temporarily can mean "until I can retire") with express intention of one day returning to Mexico, and do not become part of the larger national community, or 2) come here expressly for the purpose of having children born here, who then become eligible for a wide range of benefits, thereby allowing them to live off of our largess. They repatriate a significant portion of their income to Mexico. Indeed, this is Mexico's largest source of foreign income except for petroleum exports.

It sounds like a mix of two arguments. They are not contributing to the pot and they don't respect the pot.

While his measures against illegal immigration are rather draconian, he does make a point which goes beyond most we hear. But it brings into focus that we really don't know what the intentions of those 'sin papel' are. I but I think we can be pretty sure of one thing: If they could afford to bring their families with them, they would.

Whatever the net flow of money out of America from those who work here and send it back (Thomas Sowell surely has some figures), I find it very hard to believe that it is done so out of subversive patriotism to Mexico. Those who work here on a mission to get money back are part of a tradition estblished many years ago by 'coolies' that Sowell calls the 'Overseas Chinese'. This time of expatriot migrant worker finds low- or unskilled work in a country far a way and sends money back. I find this a legitimate enterprise, a poor man's free trade.

In this regard such workers are part of a system of free trade. They should not be under any greater burden of fidelity to patriotic duty than those American corporations who employ other than Americans in their respective countries.

It's a lovely notion to consider that Americans who fled the Eastern Seaboard to the prairies were the paragons of virtue that formed the strong core of the Republic. It speaks well of Kansans and Jayhawkers of which I am proud for specific reasons. But I'm not so certain that any declaration of patriotism suitable for legal immigration will live up to that standard, if it could be called a standard at all.

Amnesty for corporations who outsource labor and build offshore factories is taken for granted. Americans have all sorts of reasons for questioning their patriotism, but we really know it's all about money. I think it appropriate to apply that standard to expatriot migrant workers as well.

I understand that these issues will be dealt with separately, but they should be considered together.

Posted by mbowen at 08:31 AM | TrackBack

January 19, 2004

Israeli Expansionism Pushes One State

The One State idea is anathema to most parties concerned for a variety of reasons, many of them good. Here we see it used as a rhetorical device - a scare tactic. From Ghassan Khatib of BitterLemons.

The recent statement made by Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei concerning a binational state and resulting in such an uproar was not only a response to developments in Israeli-Palestinian relations, but also a response to growing debate inside Palestinian society and among various Palestinian political tendencies.

But before exploring the reasons for the statement, it is important to first clarify any misunderstanding. While many interpreted Qurei's comments to be an _expression of support for a binational state, this was not at all the context of his statement. Qurei was only intending to warn Israelis and the international community that if Israel's settlement expansion policy continues on its current trajectory, it will remove in practice the possibility for an independent Palestinian state and with it a solution based on two states; thus Palestinians would have only one remaining option to achieve their rights as equal citizens of a country: the one state solution. Qurei's warning stemmed, then, from his commitment to the two state solution, which remains the official position of the Palestinian people and their leadership.

Indeed, the binational state is not a solution. On the one hand, it contradicts a key element of Israel's objectives, i.e., to have a Jewish state, and on the other it contradicts a fundamental Palestinian goal, which is to have a state of their own. That is why this option has never been promoted by the Palestinian leadership and will never be its chosen policy. It could, however, be the practical outcome of current Israeli practices in the occupied territories, the wall and settlement expansion, which are delaying the establishment of a Palestinian state and making its prospects dimmer by the day. These changes happening right under our nose will likely be irreversible: as the saying goes, a ton of regret never made an ounce of difference.

If one state is such a bad idea, then so is expansionism. Israel might have no problem being a state if it were satisfied being a small state.

Posted by mbowen at 03:27 PM | TrackBack

Crazy Uncle Saddam

gal.08.jpg Uncle Saddam came over for the holiday and got blitzed again. Ever since he lost his job, he's been coming over, raiding the fridge and complaining about how nobody respects him any more. He doesn't realize that nobody really ever did, we just put up with him because Grandma Libby kept telling us it would be more cruel to let him crash. Anyway, I kept telling Libby he was beating his kids, so where was here concern about that? Finally Grandpa Dick got sick of it and went to beat the crap out of Uncle Saddam.

Naturally when Dick went over and beat the crap out of him Libby had a fit. All she cared about was trying to stop the violence. When Dick knocked over his 'priceless antique' Lladro off the mantlepiece, Libby hit the ceiling again. I like what Dick did in principle but now we've got to pay the note on this bum's house. Half of his kids naturally still love their abusive father. It's a real mess. Of course it turns out that Dick couldn't find the gun that he swore Saddam was threatening everybody with. I mean Libby's got a point now that we have to run Uncle Saddam's house and pay his mortgage until the kids are responsible enough to do it themselves, but of course Saddam pissed away all the money and nobody knows how to get it back - not that it would be enough.

Some of us are really pissed off at Dieter and Francois, our asshat neighbors who didn't want to march over and kick Saddam's ass. See, he owed them money. Anyway, Libby is saying the neighborhood is going to blazes and because Dick broke down Saddam's door it excuses other people to break into our house. She's afraid of Saddam's kids, like those skinny losers were going to do something scary.

Some people say that Dick flew off the handle because of the rat who drove his pickup truck through our front window and now he's taking it out on Saddam. But I understand that Dick needs to be out in the neighborhood and show that he's not afraid to walk around in public, even though he's come up with this stupid thing on the fridge telling us to come indoors on 'Orange' days.

Maybe if we find the guy who drove the pickup through our front window Dick would calm down and give Saddam a break, but what's done is done. He keeps saying that the example of Saddam will show everybody what's up. That's the news from Lake Woebegone..

Posted by mbowen at 08:27 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 18, 2004

Exit Strategy

Posted by mbowen at 09:59 PM | TrackBack

Radio Ga Ga

OK I've given it a month. Times up. I hereby pull the plug on NPR's latest foray into youth-oriented pop radio, Day to Day.

Simply stated, the problem with redneck radio is that while it is very entertaining, it is stupid. The problem with public radio is the exact opposite. It tends to be smarter, but it boring as all get out. Too damned sincere with no sense of humor. I suppose the solution to this is supposed to be Day To Day. Not even close. It's certainly true that Day To Day can be considered light and airy compared to Morning Edition and the personalities are young and friendly sounding, but they never pierce the veil. I get the distinct impression that the show is produced by people who were raised to cover their mouths when they laugh, or titter as the case should be more properly stated. The yuppification of the liberal tradition is complete - these are people who would be too embarrassed to laugh at a Richard Pryor joke, and they're supposed to be outdoing redneck radio? Yeah right.

Day To Day has dumbed down the already cloying sensibilities of All Things Considered and started putting beats behind voiceovers and political speeches. Sorry. I prefer my news a little bit harder. This won't do. Don't worry. I'll be dead or quiet in 40 years and you won't have to hear me complain in 2044. For now, I'll stick with Warren Olney.

Posted by mbowen at 09:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Secularism Gone Wrong

Incomplete thoughts on a massive subject - originally December 2003

Television and all forms of marketing are going through nichification. The common complaint is that although there are 500 channels, there is nothing on. Add the qualifier 'for me' and you have it right. The promise of the internet marketing phenomenon was one to one marketing, and it still appears to be the fetish of the entire marketing industry.

I can only think of one television show that families with children can all sit down and watch together, not that I've looked desparately. That show is America's Funniest Videos. Other than that, I'd bet that families who are guarding their children's virtue end up only watching television shows about families who are guarding their children's virtue. That or something zany, wacky or silly.

What you find hard to find are a full pipe of cultural productions which are edifying and open, ethical and real. Fundamentalists, although wrong to compete, are right to complain about the corruption of society. Conservatives are wrong to say we've lost something. Liberals are correct to say we've failed to create something. That something is, in the center of our society, a mature and continuous melioration of the ecumenical values of our cultural pluralism.

'The American Evasion of Philosophy' was the first book by Cornel West that I ever read. In it he gives a rapturous accounting of the men whose moral thinking have given shape and definition to what American political philosophy is, evolving as it has from Enlightenment and European Thought. To sum it up ever so briefly, we don't get bogged down in the mincing of words. At least we didn't until we got Post-Modernized. (Thanks a lot, Michel)

The greatness of American thought is not some jingo sentiment. When you read the work of Emerson, it resonates deeply. But it doesn't apply to America so much as it does to the world, and we Americans are in a slump because of our inability to recognize how to apply it to the world.

America is not a new land any longer. So those sentiments and longings are not so much a part of the national culture. We're growing up and getting weary and paranoid. Although we still seek opportunity, we tend to be more opportunistic with each other rather than with the borders of our understanding. Much of America is captive - beyond our reach and locked into the hands of the powerful. There are not huge vast horizons upon which to ply out legendary optimism. We are not recently escaped from captivity, we are not recently arrived. The frontier is crowded.

Instead of a new frontier with long term prospects upon which to build dreams, we are confronted with what is simply new. New films, new products, new versions, new remixes: News. So a good portion of the spirit of growth and triumph in the American sense of destiny is more of the same. We embrace it, but there is a puny payoff.

Posted by mbowen at 12:18 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack


Rafetells us that the other shoe has dropped. I like NASA. It's a hacker's paradise because they build everything from scratch. But that's also why it is an interminable rathole.

Unless someone can give me a really good reason to kill off the kind of culture that attracts the kind of brains NASA attracts, I say keep it on life support. On the other hand, isn't NASA a real ghetto, and shouldn't its geeks be introduced to real life?

Posted by mbowen at 10:57 AM | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 10:33 AM | TrackBack

Taking Jacko Seriously

Taking Michael Jackson seriously is the last thing I want to do, but we have something serious going on here.

Here is the latest scoop that I have heard from Najee Ali, director of LA based Project Islamic Hope. Ali is the man who helped get legislation passed in the California and Nevada pursuant to the failure to prosecute negligent witness David Cash in the murder of seven year old Sherrice Iverson. He is the leader of an organization which has its rhetorical foot deep into R Kelly's butt. So here is a man with no problems defending children. He believes Jackson to be innocent.

Not being a legal type myself, I don't know what the reasons are that the district attorneys' office would bypass the grand jury process to persue a felony conviction. What I do know is, that according to Ali, Jacko's bail is set to 3 million dollars for child abuse, whereas Robert Blake, accused of murder, had his bail set at 1 million, as did Phil Spector, similarly charged with murder. Depending on your suseptibility to outrage at the criminal justice system, this can be merely curious or a complete outrage. Ali leans towards the latter.

Jackson is a good guy who has donated many millions to black charities over the years, quietly and consistently. So there are a number of good reasons for him to have black political support. But even if he didn't do any of that, I have learned something about Jackson today that makes me respect him a great deal - for which if he did nothing else in his entire life this would be good enough. We are mostly aware that Jackson owns most of the Beatles' songs. What I didn't know was that he owns most of Elvis' recordings too. Most symbolic of all, he purchased the rights to Little Richard's music. He gave that all back to Little Richard, so now he won't die broke. Whether that is materially too little too late or not, it is a trenchant symbol of respect for black culture we probably didn't know Jacko had. That may count for a great deal from where I stand, but it doesn't mean squat in a court of law.

If people on the Kwaku Network are right, or close to being right, we should be prepared for another round of black vs white in the court of public opinion. MJ as OJ is just a verdict away. Najee Ali, who is a defender of Jacko's choice in the Fruit of Islam security detail (brother Jermaine is a member of the Nation) and who supports the notion that white jurors in Santa Barbara county will not give Jacko a fair trial will nonetheless present a complicated picture to a media eager to spin the divide. For he has said that if Jackson does get a fair trial and is found guilty, he will be the first to pour dirt on Michael Jackson's grave. Ali has no patience whatsoever for child abusers. So if Ali becomes spun as a racial defender of child abusers if the child is not black (I don't know anything about Jackson's current alleged victim and neither should you), remember that you heard it here first that this is a lie.

There is a kind of self-fullfilling prophesy in the matter of black and white opinion being divided on Jackson's innocence or guilt. What matters is how smartly the press plays that angle. Good thing we have blogs.

I know, according to the History album that somebody was 'a cold man'. Now I know that somebody was Tom Sneddon. He's the man determined to bring the King of Pop to the jailhouse. He's also the man who famously couldn't do it 10 years ago. So it's personal. Why there shouldn't be some kind of recusal in this matter is certainly a legal question I assume has been previously decided, but we should all wake up and smell the vendetta.

The Jackson defense is under a gag order, but Sneddon and the gang behind the allegations are having a publicity field day. This is why Ali has taken to the streets in defense of Jackson. If there are battles to be won in the court of public opinion Najee Ali is taking sides with no compunction. With allies like the NOI and the Gloved One himself, its going to be tough sledding for Najee Ali and the Jackson defense team. Nevertheless Ali presents a convincing case that if Michael Jackson is consistent about anything, it's that he loves children. What a cruel irony if it is a child that Snedden uses to destroy Jackson.

I don't believe that nobody knows or nobody can know whether Jackson has 'a history' or is a pedophile. But he has been exonerated by an investigation sponsored by the LAPD and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, and surely his legal team knows whether or not Jackson merits special consideration or needs to be kept away from little kids. I think much of the public opinion will fall to a question of Jackson's sexuality and brains. A hard sell for a pseudo-black manchild.

I do beleive that Michael is smart enough to know better than to do something stupid but that his handlers know but never tell. Let's see if they are compelled to testify against him based on the new Iverson law which was established by Najee Ali.

Posted by mbowen at 10:00 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 17, 2004

Oh Yeah That

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

January 16, 2004

Hard Mustang, Soft Mustang


Above is the Ford Mustang I expected this year. Below is what we got. Ho hum. I cannot believe how tame the production model looks compared to what it might have been. And you want to know the worse thing about it? From the front, it kind of looks like a Camaro.

They clearly stayed away from the higher profile square look which was the most attractive thing about it. Instead they made it more wedgey. The wheels look smaller and overall it's a much more rounded version. The first thing that hit me was the rear quarter window. It almost looks like a bubble compared to the flat windowless version above. The rear view is even more disappointing.

The good news is that the interior is really great. The engine looks pretty hot, but I may have been looking at a special version of the production car. It's a marked improvement over what's out there, but it might have been fabulous. Now it's merely very good.


Posted by mbowen at 08:19 PM | TrackBack

Drylongso in Retrospect

Several months ago I participated in a forum discussing gender and racial issues in cyberspace. It was sponsored by Lisa Jeter of Drylongso. Although it's a bit tricky to navigate, there are some absolute pearls of wisdom there about the black presence on the internet, what it means, how it works, and what it might be.

I'll just pluck out a few of my own quotes that I think have stood the test of time:

So I think the reality of cyberspace is that black folks feel as though the kinds of relationships they have in real life will be the same kind that they have online and are sometimes surprised and/or ill equipped to deal with the real individuality of people they do meet. People seeking affirmation of their personal lives and relationships are just as often as not given a cold reception or condescended to for opening up their feelings online. It’s very easy for people to turn you off and decide not to care. I think it is a mistake for black folks to assume that all black oriented content online is expressly for them and people like them. They must recognize that the monolith is shattered. This ability of cyberspace to create connections ends up introducing people to each other with widely differing perspectives on what it means to be black, the negative experience of a failure to create community only reinforces the stereotype of black disunity. Considering how important the idea of unity has been, it is not surprising that black folks may tend to be more disappointed with online experiences than others.

And this on combativeness online - can women get away with it?

Corny as it may sound, this is the entire subtext of male-oriented science fiction and comic book genres. How socially acceptable and empowered male misfits may appear is open to debate, but it certainly has its expression. Ruthless men jump right into the zone of devil's advocate, hardass gym teacher, loudmouth drill instructor, ubergeek, class clown / master of insults. These anti-heros never really become admired, but their ruthlessness is part of the process and in that way they find a fit. Yes they gain power and influence, but I think you have to be very thorough in your deconstruction of the white male power axis and recognize the personal costs. I honestly believe that those who succeed along that axis of outcast acceptance via power do not expect to be respected out of admiration. So the question in my view tends to be whether or not women are willing to use fear and intimidation.

Clearly it works for Dr. Laura.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of a lot of very fine writing and thinking over at Drylongso. If you are drawn to matters of identity and culture, you should bookmark it and tell a friend.

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Red Planet

Posted by mbowen at 12:17 PM | TrackBack

Union America

At Hit and Run, poster 'thoreau' hits a home run.

What I don't get is the people who say "I have absolutely no problem with Joe Immigrant coming here, living his life, working a job under terms voluntarily consented to by him and his boss, hanging out with friends, and whatnot. My only grievance is that he didn't get government permission before coming here."

Sure, I agree that the law is the law, and I don't like selective enforcement. But when I see a bad law that isn't enforced, my quarrel is usually with the state: Either enforce the law to be consistent, or repeal it. But I don't get mad at the people who are doing something that I don't think should be illegal.

So, to the people who supposedly have no qualms about Joe Immigrant getting a job and living his life (i.e. people in the third category that I described, not the first two categories), why are you mad at Joe Immigrant? You claim not to care if people come here, but you are upset that they do it without government permission. Why do you want them to get government permission in the first place?

Now, if you have a national security concern or an economic concern then say that. You then have a reason (however valid or invalid) for not wanting Joe Immigrant here. But don't say "I really don't care if he's here, I just think he should have government permission." If you really have zero qualms about his presence, why do you want the government involved?

I agree that one cannot be against a welfare state and for global capitalism without being for open borders. It's a simple contradiction. It makes me believe that there are few good reasons for keeping the border closed and more good reasons for having a better system of national ID.

Closing borders for economic reasons (they don't pay taxes, they take our jobs, they lower wages) is exactly the same thing as striking a collective bargaining agreement with management. We get the high pay simply because we're in the club. Closed border protectionism makes all workers in America, union workers.

Insuring that American labor practices and laws are enforced for every American worker is not different at all from doing so for everyone who works in America. It means sending Feds to inspect where work is being done. Which Feds to send, that is the question.

Posted by mbowen at 08:41 AM | TrackBack

The Other Cobb

Having risen to be the top Cobb on Google, I take some responsibility for more hits than I probably deserve at the moment. But it is a bit ironic that there is at least one, and probably two other Cobbs that my readers should pay some attention.

This one is Jelani Cobb. One of the core members of SeeingBlack, he's worth checking out.

Posted by mbowen at 07:22 AM | TrackBack

I Did It Again

Posted by mbowen at 12:24 AM | TrackBack

January 15, 2004

The Failures of Anti-Racism

Enjoining discussions about race in America is like mountain biking with nitro-glycerine in your backpack. I've been to the mountaintop, but I did so in the days before mountain bikes and backpacks when climbing was done with quiet determination. Now from a neighboring peak, I sadly witness the steady rumble of explosions like an X-Games blooper reel. I'm getting tired of listening.

What's happening in American discussions about race is disheartening to me on the whole. That is because the kinds of outrage one is most likely to hear is the kind that attends the failures of the privileged to get more privileges. Surely black politics is migrating from civil rights to social power, but too many folks have forgotten what basic justice is all about. All the high falutin' outrage doth grate mine own nerves.

A casual examination of several key incidents over the past few years leads me to the provisional conclusion that few things will correct this degrading situation. One of them is the crusade of Ward Connerly. Connerly faces two enormous challenges. The first is that his interpretation of Civil Rights Law is mostly devoid of the context of the Civil Rights Movement. Matters of racial justice are wholly different than matters of racial privilege, by conflating the two, he overemphasizes the importance of his rant against privilege and demeans the struggles of the 60s generation. He would do much better by not appropriating, but perhaps he's too old to change. The second is simple. He's not elected, he is merely a political consultant - a domain rife with hacks and charlatans. It is not enough to be a good guy on a noble mission, and the price he pays is that he is forced to lie down with dogs. Even he cringes at the mention of 'quotas' by some of his Republican cronies.

Connerly is the titular head of a cause without any rebels. Like Reparations, the cost of not addressing it is low. The failure of his proposition in California, like the failure of Pete Wilson's bid for re-election marks the end of an era. The culture wars are over, and the good guys won. It cannot be refought and every time he brings up his subjects, the shushing will get louder.

Reparations itself is yet another principled fight better left unfought. It doesn't stop people from trying, and in this matter the black senior citizen in charge of bringing the noise is Randall Robinson. I find him both singularly brilliant and utterly befuddled. His book, The Reckoning left me so profoundly disappointed I question my own abilities as a judge of character. But his character is beside the point. The Reparations debate is about as useful as that putting a human colony on Mars.

We have become a country whose racial debates are framed mostly by the opinions of a select few. Race is no longer the all consuming issue it once was. So many battles have been won, so many retired warriors keep rehashing their prior glories, the debate has become stale and ossified. This leaves most folks in a quandary. And yet the outrage that attends these debates seems both so predictable and real that they cannot be ignored - yet we do year after year, black history month after black history month. We shout, we sweat, we get frustrated, we calm down, we go home. We prepare for the next time.

I am beginning to believe that this kind of outrage becoming common is defacto evidence of the failure to create a substantial anti-racist coalition across the two parties. Much of the blame falls to liberals who have assumed a false leadership based on the premises of 'race relations', although conservative intransigence and ignorance has contributed mightily.

As David Bernstein notes, anyone anywhere seems to have license to cause a panic by claiming racism. Even as I have worked to generate dialog and consensus on the web for a few years, I find things coming apart. What I believe we are witnessing is a fundamental disagreement with what racism actually is and how closely we should examine it, if at all. We are doing so with a striking amount of unanimity that racism exists and that it must be fought, but the inability to define and put the existence and effect of racism in commonly held terms has disabled all effective combat.

This is a problem of will and priority, because of all of the problems we Americans study that of race is probably more well understandable than any. The problem remains in getting over the elementary hurdles and barriers to discussion. People have to want to talk constructively about it. By and large we don't.

As I said a few days ago, there is no question that if Johnnie Cochran were made Assistant US Attorney for Civil Rights, all racial chalkline walkers would be on immediate notice. If every tender American out there wants racism ended, why can we not make such a thing happen? I think it's because all of the partisans want total victory, which only proves an unwillingness to see eye to eye and work hand in hand.

On this MLK Weekend, you can rest assured that people will temporarily wake up their passions. That is if they are not too tired from skiing or armchair quarterbacking (Go McNabb!). This temporary lucidity is yet another step in a circular dance that goes nowhere.

America's racial history is a scar on our face long past healing and too deep for makeup. We have grown accustomed to our face. There is no getting around the fact that there will be no bipartisan adjudication. The future of race in America will be like wildflowers in Chernobyl. The catastrophe is buried in immovable concrete. What's past will never be systematically smoothed over or fixed. But those are real flowers.

Alright that was metaphor hell, but I'm too tired to talk about it and so are you.

You're not? OK go here.

Posted by mbowen at 10:00 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 03:16 AM | TrackBack

January 14, 2004

The Baldwin Forum

I attended a panel discussion about black political leadership this evening at the Baldwin Hills Public Library instead of going straight home to dinner. I am so deep in the doghouse that I'm probably going to have to mop the kitchen floor as pennance. With my tongue. This is an object lesson for all of us.

As a longtime veteran of such discussions, I found this one both unique and typical.

I forgot that dressing in my computer geek / soccer dad casuals doesn't quite get me the perky respect I am accustomed to, and I really didn't have anything juicy to say to Barbara Boxer's aides after the show. So I didn't count their non-chalance against them, especially since they were there to present Ofari with a framed Resolution celebrating his father's 100th birthday. Besides, my GOP Integration speil would just seem unnecessarily provocative.

I twitched and bit my tongue through most of the discussion, especially when Erin Aubrey Kaplan summarily dissed Colin Powell and Condi Rice. But she writes for the LA Weekly and cares more about black prisoners than the average bear. Such posturing is expected and I truly hope she can hook up with somebody like Monroe.

However, a cat named Chang had most of my attention and excitement. He and a brother whose name I forget are on their way to building a Charter school over near Washington Prep with funding from the Green Dot folks. This is extraordinary news and of course I wish them well on their endeavor. I met them after the panel discussion - they weren't a part of it. More's the pity.

Ofari was the man I really came to see and hear, since I've been promising to get over to his weekly roundtable. I learned to my delight that he's moved it over to Lucy Florence in Leimert Park which is a brilliant idea. Ofari is exactly what you would hope he would be, eminently reasonable, genuinely concerned and fairly well-informed, but that didn't change the fact that in one hour it is impossible to talk enough about black leadership.

I didn't get an opportunity to grandstand or pub up the website much, but I did press to a crucial few, Ofari not one of them. I did get to meet Joe Hicks, who of the three sounded mostly like me although I didn't have time to convey that either. Kitty Felde was a tad more restrained than her usual self but didn't need to interject much at all to keep the flow rolling. She was genuinely pleasant, as I expected and showed real interest in the blog. Thanks google for making me the top Cobb, I always feel self-conscious having folks scribble out URLs. I gotta get some cards made up.

So what was the discussion all about? In a nutshell it dealt with almost no specific issues. Joe Hicks said that he wished he had more time to talk about education, but the panelists had to trace their way through the minefield of who owns black politics and whom should benefit in what ways from it. Hicks raised class and Ofari grandfathered it out smoothly. So what education policy might all classes of blackfolks agree upon? For another day I suppose.

James Hahn was exemplified, with a bit of snark, as the most successful advocate of black political interests. Tom Bradley's name was brought up but not for what he did, rather the significance of his election and the necessity for cross-racial coalitions to enable black empowerment. I would have liked to have talked about Mike Woo, but..

So while the talk was short on specifics, it was good on general points, or at least not surprising in any dimension to me. This is always good because out here on the web one can get isolated. The consensus: the future of black politics will be intensely local. Hmm.

Out in the lot over by my car three 30something brothers were discussing the subjects with a bit more candor. They were clearly non-plussed by the lack of specifics. Outside of the issue of black male incarceration in California, there was nothing they saw the panelists raising of interest. But all agreed that the days of Jackson and Sharpton and that kind of national profiling are long dead and gone. They are completely welcoming of a broad diversity of black political leadership, but they must deal with root issues and deliver some solutions.

We had to pack up and leave, and I hope folks will be Googling me up. I'm looking forward to more local deeds of this nature. But for the moment, I'm in the doghouse. I owe M9 some help in researching 'responsibility' and my not getting home on time was one of the reasons he was up an hour past his bedtime touch typing (yay!) another essay due tomorrow.

Posted by mbowen at 11:58 PM | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 11:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Limits of Libertarianism

I'm finding Cobbs all over the place these days. The latest of these, Steve Cobb, has some good things to say about Libertarianism. I'm going to go off half-cocked before I read his opus so that I can do synthesis later. He sounds reasonable enough to hear out.

My reasons for not being Libertarian primarily has to do with my belief that humans are not be infinitely flexible and we should not pretend that they are simply because history has gotten away with it. Since we know that markets are amoral, they can be conformed to any shape whatsoever. So long as enough people are interested in X, X can come to dominate in a market economy given enough exchange. X may be in total opposition to human value. Market regulation is necessary in order to limit the freedom of markets from being destructive of the limits of human beings.

The best example I can think of is that of Baku. What is Baku but one of the world's most polluted places? There are very likely worse places, but it is Baku that is fixed in my mind because according to what I've heard, it is polluted beyond anyone's means to clean it up. What the Soviet Empire has fouled with oil spills, air pollution and chemical spills no free markets will consequently clean up. Global markets will sustain Baku's oil production business, and the people of Azerbijan will continue to be employed by that business, but no unregulated market forces will improve their health.

Secondly, when I hear Libertarianism championed, it is most often coming from the folks whose lives are well assisted by recent technology. I myself marvel on an almost daily basis on the progress of technology, science, medicine and all forms of civilizing knowledge. But I am also acutely aware that there are limits to the advancement of knowledge and conflict between the dissemination of knowledge and market incentives. The suggestion that knowledge, science and techonology are practically infinitely exploitable resources whose dissemination through market mechanisms will inevitably raise the standard of living is a fallacy I cannot abide. Furthermore, the continuous selling of this story flies in the face of human history as does American exceptionalism. Liberarianism sounds good for the here and now in the rapid and vital markets of America, but it is no good for humanity because humanity cannot sustain it.

This is why I believe Libertarianism to be irresponsible. Markets will not take care of things. There is no market solution to the problems on the ground in Iraq. There are fixed principles which must be pushed. There were no market forces that would ever have deposed Saddam Hussein.

As a global capitalist it sounds like a contradiction for me to suggest as I do that markets be expanded while Libertarianism be contained. That is because I think there are limits that should be imposed on freedom while I recognize that most people on the planet need more. We Americans should champion freedom for others, but we certainly have enough liberties and shouldn't base our politics on the false idea that more is always better.

Libertarianim defunds good government and the result is Enron. I'm listening, but I think it mighty peculiar that other than Samizdata, I don't hear much of Libertarian political parties and movements anywhere else in the world. I think that's because the amount of conservatism and big government liberalism we have at home is a necessary precondition (not to mention huge active markets and great gobs of money) for such Libertarian activism. It simply doesn't make sense anywhere else in the world. The fact that people desire freedom does not mean that Libertarians will deliver it - dismantling governments for markets is the wrong way for the world to go.

More on the Free State, and Steve Cobb later.

Posted by mbowen at 11:18 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Kitty in the Hood

Kitty Felde will be at the Baldwin Hills Public Library tonight to talk about black political leadership. I'm going to try and make it, but if I don't this is what I'd say.

Patronage Or Else
Black Politics will continue to exist so long as the political desires of African Americans are not met. The problem with the very idea of replacing MLK is that, as great as he was, MLK was not elected. When the hopes and aspirations of African Americans are placed in people who are not elected, they do not develop the collective skill of demanding patronage or else. The result is the miserable amount of clout black voters actually have because of the perception that they will only react.

Bring Out the [Stereotypical Black] Vote
In fact the pattern that I see is that political activism in black communities winds up being little more than voter registration drives with the presumption in mind that all the black votes cast will be of one form in order to combat the threat Democrats have agitated against. Without such an external threat, this predominating form of political activism is silent. Between elections, black political desire is ignored.

Republican Integration
I think of integration of the Republican party as additional enfranchisement for African American voters. Today, everyone expects that they know exactly what is on the mind of black voters, and that their influence is merely a question of voter turnout. The apathy is real on both sides. Joining the Republican party takes all presumptions off the table. All parties involved in such political activity have to really think hard about why this is being done. That thinking is not taking place, by and large.

Posted by mbowen at 10:12 AM | TrackBack

Mad Sex

Posted by mbowen at 08:50 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December Surprise

What if GWBush knew with certainty that he could find and capture Osama Bin Laden? Would he? Right away?

There's something a little strange about the reactions to Dean and Clark these days. What Dean has said about the Iowa Caucuses is right soudbiters be damned. If we keep getting sentences instead of paragraphs, anyone can be made to look like a genuine idiot. Dean is an idiot of opportunity and that's a good thing for everyone. Loose cannons break up sclerotic debate.

Now Slate throws its nose cautiously to Wesley Clark for saying things like:

President Bush didn't do his job as commander in chief in the early months of his administration. He was warned that the greatest threat to the United States of America was Osama Bin Laden, yet on the 11th of September in 2001, the United States had no plan for dealing with the threat posed by Osama Bin Laden. The ship of state was on autopilot. There were good CIA officers and FBI officers and everybody doing what they'd been taught to do, but the essential leadership process of putting focus on the resources of the United States, and giving these agencies a real target and a mission, it wasn't done. At least, I think that's what the evidence will show if we ever get the results of this presidential commission, and if they've asked the right questions.

Clark is correct to emphasize that it's not quite enough to say you are doing something, or that you have the right intentions. Bush has done little of late to update us on the prosecution of the search for Bin Laden. All signs point to Pakistan, we can't place troops there, and Musharref's can't do it alone. Or maybe he can but won't.

So Bush, having delivered Saddam, a handsome trophy indeed would have sealed his fate into a second term if he deliverd Bin Laden before November. But if the Democrats self-destruct, as they are likely to do by trying to outdo Republicans on foreign policy (where there are clearly no wonks to out-wonk Wolfowitz), Bush would do a hell of a lot better to deliver Osama in his second term.

The White House has got to be thinking that perhaps the duck has a 50% chance of laming up so whatever is big and controversial will have to wait until the next term, if it comes. So talk big with domestic things and get the electorate jazzed about Mars and Mexico. Sound strategy, but what about Bin Laden?

Clark is not wrong to put the pressure on.

Posted by mbowen at 08:42 AM | TrackBack

C#: A Reason to Love or Hate?

My boy V and I are having a monsterous debate about the virtues and villainy of Microsoft. We're both too small to see the whole picture, so it's tough going.

On the one hand, we are both unanimous about Microsoft's coming leadership in the game console market. They deserve it. XBox rules for many reasons, not the least of which is what an incredible thing they've done with contracting out the hardware manufacturing to Flextronics and now chip manufacture to IBM.

We clash over the issue of Java and somewhat don't care since we're talking past each other over which part of web services is more important. To me, it's unquestionably the back-end. V is a user interface guy and all for fat clients.

So I'll open the next salvo with the fate of C#. Understand that I don't want to be the one to foolishly bet against Microsoft. But I've got to say this. If Microsoft wasn't deviously trying to destroy Sun out of spite, they never would have created .Net nor supported the development of C#. I want to be a C# developer for fun and profit but I have a very sneaky suspicion that Microsoft is going to make me pay dearly for that.

As I said this summer, I've heard very good things about .Net from people I trust, but where is Microsoft positioning products to compete against BEA's Weblogic and IBM's Websphere application servers? This is the big question. Again, I am suspicious that MS is going to make me pay for something that isn't an open API.

To be continued.

Posted by mbowen at 12:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 13, 2004


Posted by mbowen at 10:50 PM | TrackBack

Thumbs Up for Chico

I'm rather amazed at my grandfather's comeback. At the distance I am from it, all I can do is be thankful. I'm hungry for details but I won't hear them for a while. For now I am quite relieved at the following, slightly edited news from Pops:

i called meriden this afternoon and spoke to chico's nurse, donna. she
said, "he's doing better." may have already mentioned ray's visit; but if
i didn't note that chico is off the ventilator, let me say so now. he's
getting his oxygen through his own nose (sounds so trite, so "taken for
granted" but for him, it's a major step forward.) also, he is getting
food through his own mouth (ditto re how this sounds). this, however, is
a problem area for him. today he simply refused to eat. and he does this
now and then. so the high nutrient iv remains in place. if the hospital
can get him past this hurdle, then real/rapid progress can be made.
so......... i know some of us pray to STOP eating so much and we pray that
OTHERS would do likewise. well, this time around let's pray that chico

the stomach tube (for feeding) which dr. huse attached to chico's stomach
during surgery remains in place although they hope NOT to have to use it.
but that's up to chico. as for conversing, he is indeed talking and
complaining about not being able to hear what others are saying. that,
too, is a plus even though chico's hearing will never improve. it's
wonderful, however, that he even KNOWS he can't hear!!!!!!

donna says he can quite possibly be sent back home late next
week. what part of the home he'll be sent to is anybody's guess
at this juncture; but at least he'll be "home."

so, that's the latest. i did asked donna if the tumor that was removed
was malignant, but she didn't know. dr. huse will be back on monday so
hopefully i can talk with him. also, the surgical clamps remain in place
and won't be removed until huse say so.

it goes without saying -- though you knew i'd say it anyway -- chico had a
lot of folks praying for him (including the entire men's club at st.
john's). but i don't need to say anything (here anyway) about what
"happened" with or to those prayers. it's more than something to casually
ponder as we are ofttimes intellectually so predisposed. on the contrary,
'tis something to SHOUT ABOUT!!

Posted by mbowen at 08:51 AM | TrackBack

Shaking Going On

My head is overflowing. Business is about to get busy and very, very interesting. I can't say who or exactly what, but if you are astute, you can put some of these kibbles & bits & pieces together.

I believe I am at the ground floor of a revolution. And it may turn out that Big Brother is actually a nice guy.

Posted by mbowen at 08:15 AM | TrackBack

January 12, 2004

The Struggle: Liberation vs Social Power

This past week I got into a spat with some black bloggers. I didn't think much of it, or maybe I did but didn't want to say much about it. That was until I got a personal apology and an explanation.

As soon as I got this, it made me think about why I got my own self into a spot about the madness. You see, while I was running the blog as normal, the fact of the matter was that a particular line of arguments was really getting under my skin - upsetting me more that I think I should have been. It wasn't enough to make me lose any sleep or anything like that, but I did start down a path of thinking that makes me uncomfortable. Let me explain where I ended up.

There are only a couple dozen good reasons, I mean really good reasons to be on the internet at all. One of them is to find people with ease that cannot be easily found in close physical proximity. Online relationships and communities are a very big deal, and when African Americans began they did so for these reasons. As any internet historian can tell you there was a lot of confusion about the black presence online. Many folks were hoping that race didn't matter. It turned out to matter a great deal, part of that reason was because blackfolks were looking to hookup to other blackfolks. The Hook Up was a killer app from day one. I knew it. Lot's of folks knew it. It was an extension of what blackfolks do in real life. They seek each other out for love, respect and support.

There's a political angle to this as well. If you've ever been in a Hatian barbershop you know what I mean. But if you haven't, then understand that a certain segment of blackfolks cannot get enough argument and discussion about politics and culture. We're caught up in the Struggle. There is also a group of uppity blackfolks formerly known as the Talented Tenth who make the state of the people their business. They take it upon themselves for any number of reasons most of which are inculcated from a tender age, to champion and defend the people. In my generation this compulsion reveals itself in classic forms which I don't have time to go into. Simply understand that P6 and I are coming from the same place and heading towards the same promised land. Primary difference is that he spends a lot of energy dissing Bush from across the river, whereas I'm whispering into the ears of the guests at his garden party barbecue. The first thing he'll tell you is that his reasoning is different. That's all good.

Politics is essentially a clashy affair and black politics is no exception to the rule. In fact, black politics is more emotionally clashy. I see two reasons for this. The first is that black politics has essentially been a politics of liberation. It's one thing to be an activist for a lower marginal tax rate and something other to agitate for the release of political prisoners. The issues that black politics deals with are essenetially emotional weighty. Thomas Paine got nothing on us. Secondly black politics have also been the politics of loyalty to the people, not to the party. Our loyalties have moved from Republican to Democrat based on the issues of the people. One who defies a party line will be cut out of course, but one who is found guilty of treason to the people is a horrible pariah.

What African Americans must deal with sooner or later is that black politics is changing. It is no longer exclusively about human rights or civil rights, but about social power and influence. This is inevitable given the educational and economic advances made by blackfolks. We are moving from 'Let my people go' to 'Let my business grow'. Since there are some 36 million of us, there are going to be blackfolks throughout that spectrum, but the motion is towards the politics of social power. 'The People' not under the oppressive thumb of Jim Crow are spreading out and becoming many people, and many people have many politics.

To my way of thinking there is no question about whether blackfolks should have a politics of liberation. They should. But there is also no question that blackfolks should also have a politics of social power. From my perspective, the latter is a minority politics within African America (or you can think of it as an elite politics). Representing the Old School, which spans both politics but tending towards the conservative, there are elements of both which I support. No matter. These politics will clash, it is inevitable.

Love and Respect are a big deal, and I'd go further to say that one of the huge problems with this nation is that we Americans find it difficult to say that we love and respect blackfolks without qualification. But I don't feel particularly compelled to make political peace with blackfolks on an alternate political track. I make the clash of priorities as plainly as possible without mincing words. That is because I also acknowledge the emotional committment that individual politically active blackfolks have towards African Americans. I have it. I've called them 'my people' all of my life. That wasn't a mistake and even if it was I'm not about to throw away all that history for the sake of a political point, or even a philosophical one. Tangentially, this is why black neocons are so controversial; theres a thin line between tough love and disrespect.

So I understand and recognize that as blackfolks, we are involved in the Struggle, but the Struggle is not simply and exclusively about liberation and the least of our brothers. It is about moving African America forward with love and respect. If you are going to use the phrase, 'by any means necessary' then understand that people who still love and respect blackfolks are achieving political goals by different means. Sometimes that means the Republican Party.

Posted by mbowen at 08:40 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 11, 2004


In retrospect, Microsoft was totally wrong. I wonder if they ever admitted it.
I don't think they ever explained why they used these idiotic folders. If you didn't know and cared just a little, I'm talking about Microsoft Front Page Extensions, something which has made about as much impact on the world of web development as Boy George has made on Rock & Roll; for a while it was cool, but really, what were we thinking?

Imagine you were looking at a web page. That web page would have a URL (http://coolpage.com/brainspew.htm for example). If that page was developed with MS Front Page, somewhere on the website there would be a copy (sometimes two or more) hidden in an invisible folder called _vti_cnf. Why? Who knows, who cares. It didn't set the world on fire whatever it was, and it doubled the amount of junk per website.

If you find yourself one day archiving your oldest and most treasured websites, I can only hope that you didn't use Front Page.

Posted by mbowen at 06:52 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The DEM 100

How well is the black capitalism going? It's aggregated by at least one investment company as follows:

The DEM Index is composed of 100 companies from the DEM Universe of companies. The DEM Index was designed to reflect the market capitalization and industry classification characteristics of the DEM Universe. The DEM Index companies are weighted by market capitalization. The DEM Index is intended as a performance measure of the DEM Universe of companies.

This comes from the Chapman Company, folks who at one time bought up Netnoir. I don't know if Barry Cooper is or was hooked up with them but it's an interesting bit of knowledge. They stopped updating the index last June for reasons that are unclear. My guess is that they weren't selling many index funds, because the track record looked good.

More traditionally we have the BE 100, but I'll be looking for other DEM like indices.

Posted by mbowen at 11:53 AM | TrackBack

January 10, 2004


Posted by mbowen at 03:15 PM | TrackBack

January 09, 2004

Mars Attacks

Do you have any idea how many computers around the world are getting new wallpaper this week? 23.4 Jillion. 12% of these computers are already named Mars or are serving some documents for some idiot pointy-haired boss project named MARS.

Now GWBush has had two flashy new ideas in one week. It must be a new year or something. Of the two it's difficult to determine which is more likely to get bollocksed up on the way to realization, but I'd give the critics of the manned mission to Mars a bit more credence in their opposition.

According to the Nova show I watched the other night, it takes our fastest rockets 7 months to get the 100 million miles from Earth to Mars, when they are at their closest. That's a lot of thumb twiddling.

Quite frankly, I don't think NASA is up to it. And there's nothing on Mars we need.

Posted by mbowen at 05:37 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


My websites get knocked down, but they get up again.

Posted by mbowen at 05:32 PM | TrackBack

What Hateration Sounds Like

Sometimes it's hard to be charitable. The Black Commentator wastes several thousand words attempting to smear Barras for not bowing down... It weird that I find myself getting so hot-headed about this that the words coming out of my keyboard sound like Thomas Sowell at his most apoplectic. But man this is pure madness:

All three of Barras’ icons are members of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the right wing of the Party. This is not surprising, since Barras is a servant of the DLC. Her March-April 2003 article in the DLC house organ Blueprint was a love note to Rep. Davis, who defeated Congressman Earl Hilliard on the strength of corporate and Israel lobby money just a few months before Denise Majette did the same thing to Cynthia McKinney in Georgia. Having knocked off two Black members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Right now claims to have tapped into a conservative current in African American politics. The reality is, Big Business, with the assistance of rightwing Zionists, have deployed their checkbooks to defeat progressive Black politicians. The same money draws flies like Barras, who are then provided space in corporate media.

Straight out of left field and into a mind-numbing zone of hyperbole. I wonder how I'm going to manage to deal with this kind of ignorance. It's very difficult to respond because it doesn't seem to recognize that blackfolks think for themselves.

Aside from all that, you can just feel the desparate pain of loss in this. Those were our black people, and now they'be been replaced by these other black people we don't understand! It's evil! It's Jews! Tsk.

Posted by mbowen at 01:35 AM | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 12:22 AM | TrackBack

January 08, 2004

Black Misery Month

Since M9 is about to be promoted to M10 within the next few weeks, I have already started to think about February. You know and I know that it's Black History Month, and I've already begun to dread it.

Last year, I started out on the good foot with Carter G. Woodson. I ended up doing pennance by serving some time at SCAA as a community service. Considering a comment I got a few days ago, I think perhaps it's time to remind everyone how real white supremacy is in America. Here. Now.

So if you do nothing else for Black History Month, spend an hour reading what goes on at SCAA and try to imagine hearing that kind of bullcrap your entire life.

It's not that I don't support and respect Black History Month. On the contrary, I'm drawn to it for all the right reasons, just as I am to Kwanzaa. Since you may be aware of the kind of bodewash that passes for legitimate commentary about Kwanzaa, you can probably imagine (well you can see for yourself at SCAA) the kind of offal downpour heaved during February. What am I supposed to do, ignore it?

As it happens, the jagoff they shot yesterday was named Bikel and his partner in crime was named Schlagel. Somehow, some idiot kids thought it was cute to pronounce his name 'Schnigger' in my wife's presence in the local elementary school library. As she shushed them knowing they were playing around the bad word but not necessarily directed at her, M9 didn't quite understand. This means I had to give the 'this word is Nigger' speech that I created purely off the cuff.

Interestingly (or not) enough, there aren't any big pictures of lynchings on Google when you need them. But I essentially explained that this is what people did to people they considered niggers. It is a word of profound disrespect. I'm fairly certain by his brief expression of puzzlement that he has yet to be dissed in such a manner. I would hardly expect my explanation to be an inoculation, but the spousal unit and I made it clear (we hope) that we are especially intolerant of that particular word.

What a headache. I'm glad I know what I'm doing.

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

Career Choices

Posted by mbowen at 08:18 AM | TrackBack

Sounds Like Compassionate Conservatism

The airwaves are abuzz with the sound of selfish bigotry paleoconservative teeth gnashing. But that's not the worst of it.

GWBush is showing his true Texas colors and saying some common sense things about paperless workers. (If I have to keep inventing terms, I will). As always, I am for open integration and immigration to maintain America's Second World economy. But I don't understand how, within a matter of minutes, the Bush plan was declared to suck rocks because it doesn't have provisions for 'family reunification'.

Where the hell was family reunification yesterday? Even Dean and Kucinich weren't talking about it. If there's anything lower than a coattail dragger, it's one who insists that he's actually in front of you.

At any rate, sooner or later some wonk is going to parse whatever legislation comes out of the rhetoric and I'll give a thumbs up or down on it. Meanwhile, beware of spin.

Posted by mbowen at 07:20 AM | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 01:41 AM | TrackBack

64K Question

Drezner asks:

The $64,000 question, of course, is what would happen if democratization led to extremist rule. This is undeniably a scary prospect. Still, the case of Iran, whose leadership seems increasingly out of step with its younger, pro-American generations, suggests that radical elements will experience difficulties retaining popular support over the longer run. Likewise, Hugo Chavez's attempts to pursue dogmatically anti-American policies in Venezuela have been met with increasing opposition. Anti-American jihads are of limited utility if they fail to deliver the goods.

The answer is that Hitler was elected and so was deKlerk. Just because you're a democracy doesn't mean we can't pimp slap you with several billion dollars of ordnance, unilaterally.

I'll take a cashier's check, please.

Posted by mbowen at 12:53 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 07, 2004

What History?

Posted by mbowen at 07:04 PM | TrackBack

Bad News from the Burb

This morning there were helicopters hovering over Redondo Beach.

The kids wandered into the backyard to look. They thought it might be a chase, but the birds weren't moving. The wife turned on the television and discovered that there had been an officer involved shooting.

There were roadblocks and cops on just about every corner all day long, I hear. I know they were redirecting traffic when I left for work this morning and redirecting it when I came home long after sundown. They had been doing house to house searches all day long.

The kids were on lockdown in school today. They ate lunch in their classrooms and had to use the restrooms in the main office. Police were running up and down the streets near the elementary school.

As I googled to find out, (since you can always find out what happens here in the land of 'it can't happen here'), I found that somebody was running a prostitution ring from a home with elementary school kids. This had nothing to do with the shooting, but it's nice to find out.

Every once in a while, maybe every other month we'll hear about a stalker, a rapist or a child molester on the loose. Everybody gets a bulletin, we're all on edge for a couple of days, and then it's forgotten a week later. This time, the whole damned South Bay was on alert. A cop got shot!

At some point, Redondo Beach police alerted Torrance officers to watch a residence near 190th Street and Prairie Avenue, where Bickel was believed to have been heading.

"We don't know if it was family or a friend's home, but we thought he might go there," said Keenan, who gave an account of the pursuit. At about 6 p.m., Torrance police officers spotted the stolen pickup going south on Prairie near 182nd Street. Police tried to pull the driver over, but he sped away, only to be trapped in traffic at 190th Street.

There, Bickel stepped out of the pickup and fired a gun at police. The officers shot him. Bickel died at a hospital at 7:40 p.m., police said.

"He was dangerous," said Redondo Beach police Lt. Patrick Shortall. "He got involved in two shootouts in one day with the police. The good part was no officers were hurt."

Schlagel remained at large. He is described as Caucasian, 5 feet 7, 155 pounds, with blond hair, blue eyes and a beard.

A neighbor said Bickel and Schlagel lived together near the scene of the first shooting. Ryan Beachkofski, who said he lives two doors from Schlagel and Bickel on North Gertruda Avenue, said he arrived home about 4 p.m. to find scores of police officers on the street and crime-scene tape.

"I was escorted to my house by a team of no less than 10 SWAT guys and two dogs," Beachkofski said. "They went in and did a full search of my house before they were sure it was safe to go back in."

Beachkofski said he was familiar with the suspects.

"Let me put it this way: You wake up at 6 in the morning to go to work, and they're up breaking bottles in front of your yard," Beachkofski said. "It just didn't fit the description of the neighborhood."

Here's the full story.

Posted by mbowen at 06:27 PM | TrackBack

Dr. Lester Kenyatta Spence

Dr. Spence is on a roll these days reporting directly from ground zero on the black political scene. His courage and depth serve him and all of us who read him well. I am very proud and fortunate to have him in residence at Vision Circle.

Every once in a while you can catch him on C-SPAN and his star is sure to rise in the field of black politics. If he can be categorized, I would say that he is from the Adolph Reed school. Community based, no-nonsense, policy for the people. He is a political scientist with the accent on scientist. He does research, (well his students help him do research) and he doesn't lead with opinion. His body of work at Vision Circle will serve us for a long time.

Do check out his recent posts.

Posted by mbowen at 08:12 AM | TrackBack

A Matter of Taste

Posted by mbowen at 07:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Because It's Worth It

I just discovered a very cool piece of software called Alcohol 120%. It sells for 50 bucks and appears to be able to master just about every laser disk scheme and recording format on the planet. That includes CD CD-R, CD-RW DVD, etc etc. It's an impressive work. It got me thinking about the ability to show movies on my new flat panel monitor from the DVD drive on my laptop. I haven't done this in years.

But it also got me thinking that I might finally be able to burn a CD that my XBOX would recognize as a redbook CD so that I could put some of my MP3s over onto it. I have never been able to take my own burned CDs and rip them onto the XBox's WMA so that I could use them as the soundtrack for games. It's also fairly annoying to me that the XBox, while it reads commercial CDs, doesn't use Gracenote and so I have to enter the names of the songs with my controller. That's a nightmare. At any rate, there's a good chance that I'm going to get this sucker. The best reason is because it manages CD images.

If you have growing kids and disposable income, chances are that you have a bunch of old Broderbund or Knowledge Adventure CD-ROM games around the house. We have at least 40. The old ones are all scratched up and about ready to go kaput, and that's not only because they use QuickTime version 2. It's because kids handle them. Over the years that costs a lot of money and I don't want to throw away these CDs, especially because I have a burner. But I've never been able to make copies of these CDs that work. Alcohol promises to solve all that, and I've seen enough software marketing to know when people know what they're talking about. It's the standard here at the test lab which employs me for the moment so I trust I'm not in for any surprises.

Thinking about the possibilities, I wondered if I might do the same with my XBox games, which are generally more costly than the PC games. There doesn't seem to be anywhere, at a casual glance, that I can find anything on the subject. However I did find out that a certain site called ISONews talked a little too freely about this subject. Well, the speech was free, but the mod chips to defeat certain security elements of the XBox scheme were on sale. The US took over the site and tossed its owner into the clink. I read through the story about this which was presented with some alarm from civil libertarian front. But this time, unlike with the RIAA, I didn't find this character's plight particularly sympathetic.

I've been one to download everything all the time. I'm a shareware, freeware, whatever warez mack daddy. If it solves a problem, I want it. Nothing has slowed me down but the RIAA lawsuits, and I have changed my behavior accordingly. But the reason I don't feel particularly drawn to the case of the ISONews pirates is because I think XBox games are generally worth the 50 bucks you pay for them. Whereas I think DVDs and music CDs are generally not worth what they go for in the 'marketplace'. I think Wal-Mart's price of 88 cents per downloadable single is good although I'm not comfortable with non-MP3 formats just yet.

I don't want anything encrypted that I don't encrypt myself. An appliance & bulletproof system, I could live with. If I were strictly Apple, for example, I probably wouldn't care about using proprietary encrypted music so long as the integration is seamless and completely portable with the iPod/iTunes thing seems to be.

This is also the case for XBox. I see unique value, there's nothing it does that I want done anyplace else, and I get real value for my dollars spent. So much so that I have alternate ways of feeding it proprietary encrypted games. I don't feel the need to work around the system, because I agree with the price. In fact, I am so untroubled by this matter, that I am considering buying a second totally incompatible system, the Gamecube.

The democratization of production and distribution tools for music has changed the value of it. The marketing of it has not changed nor has the pricing. This, and the failure of music companies to understand and respect the nature of the computer business has put their business practices into the realm of public debate. But it is most fundamentally a problem of pricing. Wal-Mart will prove it.

Posted by mbowen at 12:28 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 06, 2004

Clark Drops a Bomb

Wesley Clark has just made himself the man to watch with his new tax plan, and marks himself as the first Democrat to deliver a stiff uppercut to the upper class and a perfect soundbiteable plan for the rest of us. If he does it with a panache, he has a chance to win back the Reagan Democrats. It sure as hell got my attention.

Alas, I'm outclassed and have nothing to gain under the Clark plan. I'll have to settle for what Bush has done thus far, since I'm in the bucket above his cutoff. That doesn't change the fact that he makes it sound like a flat tax, especially if you make less than 50k.

Drum is correct that federal tax, especially if Clark gets his way, will reveal itself to be not worth the rhetoric spent on it. It will start to look less and less fearful for the Limbaugh section of the abatement addicts. Suddenly x million loudmouths will have nothing to talk about because they no longer will pay Federal taxes.

I'm wary of this. When you stick it to the millionaires, they bring out the long knives and lobbyists. You can bet H&R Block and the folks at Intuit won't be into it. The balance of tax reform efforts would now be directed at the upper classes and so who will mind the trough from the prole perspective?

Furthermore, this seems to be a point from which there is no retreat. Families who pay nothing under the Clark plan will never support anyone who proposes to reach into their pockets. If the feds deficit themselves into oblivion and taxes have to come up, where will it come from? The rich could switch the tax burden via lobbying to things like a federal sales tax, that would kill consumers the most.

Still, you cannot beat the appeal of getting rid of income tax. If Clark doesn't rally voters with this, something's radically wrong.

Things are getting interesting.

Posted by mbowen at 11:29 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Race to the Bottom

Posted by mbowen at 11:10 PM | TrackBack

The California Empire

Dont' you just love the E word? Arnold does, and he ripped it up this evening, declaring California an Empire of Aspiration.

It's amazing to hear just how garbled AS' speech is with regards to delivery. But there was no masking the spirit and the intent of Our Governor's State of the State Address this evening. He's ripping up sod and changing the landscape.

Arnold has made California government sound almost manageable, and whether or not it's true, the distance he has taken public interest in the management of state business in just this one speech is astounding. Here is one candidate who actually sounds better in office than on the stump. I thought only GWBush had speechwriters that good.

Nevertheless, we have hired Arnold to do the roughneck job, which is the best condition under which to elect a leader as far as accountability goes. Here is a moment in which I don't really want to hear the wonks come rip him to shreds, because he has done in this particular moment what no governor in memory has done, which is to involve the people in a wonky issue over the dead bodies of the legislature. He has basically called them on the carpet to get the cost of Workman's Comp down to the national average. Now we're about double. If they don't meet his goals by March 1, he's going to take it to the streets with an initiative for the November ballot.

In this bold move AS has asserted that he is deadly at the polls and the wonks and bickering partisans will not be able to resist the will of the people as expressed in the mandate of Arnold's election. Will the people come out of the woodwork to support Arnold? That is precisely his history as a blockbuster actor, and by gum it could work.

I didn't catch the intonation of his voice on the early part of his address where he basically said buy the bond or go broke. I turned on the radio in the middle of a long stream of applause. I immediately thought, oh brother, the Democrats on NPR, but the applause seemed too loud and long, so I wondered which of the candidates got all that. Surprise.

I am hoping that we in the Bear Flag League keep up with these matters. As a small business man, I'm very interested to see how opening up school contracting might effect guys like me. And of course whatever we can do as bloggers to keep track of budget numbers etc, will be all good.

State politics just got interesting. Whoda thunk?

Posted by mbowen at 09:26 PM | TrackBack

Now Is The Time For Baskets of Flowers

Chico is out of ICU. That just made my day. Whew! What a tough old bugger he is.

Posted by mbowen at 04:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Pete You Lying Turd!

I've always given Pete Rose the benefit of the doubt, and I think he has been unfairly hounded by obnoxious sports reporters for far too long. But it turns out that smelly lout has been lying all along. What a dirtbag sack of crap he turned out to be.

Kick him to the curb.

Posted by mbowen at 09:51 AM | TrackBack

All About It

I would presume that most Cobb readers know about George Kelly who is one of my blogfathers. He's a prodigious voracious reader. You can tell by the variety of material he presents in his info-rich blog. If you haven't been there in a while, go there.

Posted by mbowen at 09:39 AM | TrackBack

Clarke's Arpeggios

It seems as if I am hearing for the first time, all over again, the genius that is Stanley Clarke.

'If This Bass Could Only Talk' was on the box this morning and his signature arpeggios were in muted effect as he riffed and suggested riffs with his piccolo bass. Listening to them and trying to hear inside of the chords is well nigh impossible and you find yourself humming three notes where there are twelve being played. I don't think I've ever seen a video closeup of Clarke's long fingers when he does that incredibly fast thing he does with thick bass strings, but I imagine it to be capitvatingly awesome.

There is probably no better modern rendition of 'Goodbye Porkpie Hat' than that which Clarke delivers on this album. I must have listened to it a hundred times, but I never really paid attention to the percussion in the opening bars, and I realized that here was another place where the late great Gregory Hines left his signature taps.

Clarke has always been a man of few words, and yet sometimes embarassingly many lyrics. But people don't pay to hear him sing 'I Wanna Play For You', they just love hearing him play. Along with Jeff Beck, Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke is one of the last remaining paragons of jazz fusion who have transcendently mastered the arrangements for electronic instruments. With Stewart Copeland of the Police, 'If This Bass..' demonstrates what smooth jazz still attempts to be at its best.

Posted by mbowen at 09:23 AM | TrackBack

January 05, 2004

Thank Godwin

I got a 6MB pile of spam in my inbox today.

It was all one idiotic file, thanks to the MoveOn.org folks, of propaganda comapring GW Bush to Hitler. These savants apparently are appealing to people who don't know about or are interminably immune to the logic of Godwin's Law.

I think the word I'm looking for here is shrill. Or is it shill?

Posted by mbowen at 10:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


The past few months, I've been attending more Christian services than I have in quite a while. It's been something of a strange dance. It reminds me of a trip to Phoenix several years ago.

I was calling on one of the IT divisions of American Express. Afterwards, I found myself ambling about a large mall. I found myself in a jewelry store, of all places. So brotherman calls me over from browsing, and I say out loud, "Ok salesman, shoot me your best shot." I had absolutely no intention of buying a thing, but I wanted to see if I could be seduced. That's the story of how my wife got a ring with five diamonds for that year's anniversary.

I'm not casting about for a church home, but I am being open. I'm saying, "OK preacher, shoot me your best shot." I'm being highly analytical about it. I'm taking note of their devices and skills. It has taken me through a couple churches here in the South Bay in the past two years. But as I mentioned before, something magical is happening at St. John's Episcopal Church here in Los Angeles, and I can feel it.

The idea that inspired me to write today was that it suddenly occured to me that St. John's is about the only thing in my life today that follows me all the way back to the 1970s. Since moving back to California, I attended about twice or three times a year between 97 and 2002. This year, I'm sure to go once a month if not more.

Today we installed a new minister for community affairs, and suddenly the black clergy are front and center. There were a couple dozen visitors from Christ the Good Shepherd and one of my Old School favorites Church of the Advent. Every pew had a body all the way to the back of the nave, which is unusual for St. John's on this particular Sunday in the calendar. The service stretched till noon, and there was more laughter in church than I can ever remember.

But I'll tell you what did it for me. Hit me right in the heart. It was the bells. Well, it was the incense too, but it was the re-introduction of the chimes into the liturgy. If you're familiar with the Catholic Mass (Vatican II), you know that there are chimes rung by the alter boy right after '..do this for the rememberance of me.' and the blessing of the host and the bread. I haven't heard this in an Episcopal service here on the west coast in at least 20 years. Our new rector is bringing it way back and moving it way forward.

What I love about church services and churches themselves are the connection they provide to history. The tradition of ritual, standing, sitting, kneeling, reciting, embracing, singing, eating, meditating, praying, moving through the sanctuary, smelling the incense, crossing, bowing. It moves its way deep into you powerfully. Even as I relieve my boredom staring up into the rafters, there is continuity back to my own adolescence and that of generations before me.

Like my unnatural attraction to Pasadena, California and a certain kind of black woman, there is little I can do about something so deep in my bones. And I don't mind it at all.

So while all the analytics continue, there is a very simple slot in my person for St. John's Church, its relics and its ceremonies.

Posted by mbowen at 10:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Good Enemies, Bad Enemies

I've got a bad enemy, I think.

A good enemy is the kind who understands where you are coming from and dedicates themselves to the loyal opposition. A bad emeny is one dedicated to smear you as a foil to all they find good in the world. Sometimes a bad enemy can be useful, however. Those who cite the bad enemy against you identify themselves as similarly clueless, which saves you time in identifying the rabble. Sometimes as well, a bad enemy gives you a completely off-the-wall view of yourself that you couldn't imagine anyone having, thus strengthening previously unknown weaknesses. So in all that, enemies can be all good, if you know how to play them.

Today, I've been called out as a 'cheap labor conservative'. The best justification I can give for that label is that I am excited about poor people participating in free labor markets, specifically the Chinese, but certainly everyone in the Third World. But as he explains further, Campbell believes me to be a Keynesian. Not long ago I probably couldn't defend against that, because I've only come to realize that I am a Chicagoan. But in either case, it doesn't follow that I believe that black male unemployment, now quoted at somewhere north of 30 horrid percent, is due to welfare dependency and not institutional racism.

My theory is simple and has been consistent for a long time. Ghettoes work. When the Nationalists took power in South Africa in 1948, they looked to Jim Crow in America to craft their laws in order to oppress the black majority in that country. If ghettoization can work against a black majority, it sure as hell can wipe out a minority. For the full scoop, check out (black conservative, duh) Glenn Loury. This is precisely the situation of beat-up African Americans.

There are a lot of solutions to the ghetto problem most of which involve escape. Some involve destruction and one or two involve investment. My bad enemies tend to hate investment when it means white yuppies move in. Suddenly they start talking about economics, property values and changing the character of their old neigborhoods. You'd think they'd been paying attention to paleoconservatives. But I understand. Nobody like yuppies.

Be all that as it may I don't buy into micro-economics. Meaning I don't believe that 'family values' changes the unemployment picture. It's all about the infrastructure. So where I tend to part company with my pal Baldilocks who surprisingly seems to buy into that culture of poverty nonsense is that I say economics makes the community, not the other way around. You put a billion dollars of investment anywhere and suddenly people get happy and society starts to function properly. That is if that billion is in the hands of people who aren't crooks. A single mom can raise a black male child just fine, so long as she doesn't have to live in a burglar-bar neighborhood. A two parent household in the trailer park is still Raising Arizona. Nothing to brag about.

I've lived uptown, right around 125th and Broadway in Harlem, and I'm here to tell you it ain't pretty. There is no good work, there are no good schools, aside from the Garvey School right around there. The groceries ain't fresh, my car got broken into twice, parking is horrible, the park isn't safe and even the KFC is sub-par. Believe me when I tell you that clerks in the Mickey D's get into arguments every day about who's got a job and who doesn't know how to cook their own meals. The dysfunction grows on you. I got in the habit of buying an ice cream cone whenever I had to take a cab downtown. That way I had something to eat while I was waiting, and something to throw if the bastard left me at the curb. But I digress.

As I said, there are lots of ways to solve the ghetto problem, any solution that involves tens of millions of people is going to take a lot of time and a lot of money. African Americans who are stuck in ghetto are stuck, and mainstream solutions don't work for them, not because of a great contemporary racist conspiracy, but because a very old successful one that still works. But I, and I think any black person with half a brain knows that there is a difference between the Hill, the Hood, the Ghetto, the Projects and the Sticks. You cannot indiscriminately put all of us into any one bucket. The problems of the one are not the problems of the all.

So whatever the outcome of this high-falutin' blue ribbon committee, the answers are still going to be the same. If you're stuck in the Ghetto, your chances for American success are slim. It doesn't take a degree in economics to figure that out. Hell, Ron O'Neal just said so on Black Starz, and Super Fly was what? 1972?

So let me explain this patiently. It's not a black male problem, it's a ghetto economics problem.

Posted by mbowen at 08:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Cleaning Out My (XR) Closet

I have begun to clean up the XR demo which has a bunch of broken links. As well, I will be creating and updating more of the background and design docs in the site.

I've moved it around so many times that it has gotten away from me, and somehow Dreamweaver didn't do its job.

Additionally, I am reviewing ways in which I believe XR will and will not work in the context of how the blogosphere works. This will be of use to help explain what it will feel like and how it will operate in comparison to the blogosphere. To that end here is a reprinted comment of mine.

I think that blogs are a great place for individuals to clarify their own thinking and are natural aggregators for like minds. The Bear Flag League, which is kind of a unique and unexpected result of political blogging can be thought of as a partisan group of conservative Californians.

It is the creation of partisan groups that is a big part of XRepublic. One aspect of the system (which I was just discussing with a collaborator) is the notion of affinity searches. If you were on the wonk path, you would likely perform affinity searches to help you create partisan groups.

XR depends a lot on the willingness of wonks to do their work of gathering people to their cause. It is not clear that the blogosphere does any such thing despite the existence of the Bear Flag League and observable preferences in blogrolls. (Conservatives almost always have Instapundit, Volokh & LGF, Liberals almost always have Atrios, TPM & Yglesias) Whereas the blogosphere encourages the wonky to talk a lot, XR would encourage them to link a lot.

The use of trackback which encourages me somewhat.

But I am fairly certain that getting some of the top bloggers involved in XR would assure its success, even if its just rehashing of comments already made. There are certain documents that stand on their own.

I happen to think that writers like DenBeste, DeLong or Orcinus who tend towards the exhaustive, would fare very well as crafters of artifacts that would be long-lived and well referenced in an XRepublic. I also think that the more sophisticated reputation management system would be attractive to the egos of the blogosphere.

At the very least, even those who do not participate on a regular basis would find it useful to have some of their verbiage RSS'd into various XR artifacts, and I can definitely see bloggers having a sidebar of their blog with links to resolutions which include their works as referents.

Both XR and the blogosphere compliment each other. I hope I can exploit their synergy.

Thanks to Ward Bell for keeping me on my toes not just recently, but for many years.

Posted by mbowen at 06:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Return of the King Returns

On a second viewing, my estimation of this film has only increased. I took M9 to see it over the weekend, and after the parts where I fell asleep, the plot holds together so remarkably well, that I knew exactly where I was in the film.

What is even more evident upon the second viewing is the brilliant pacing and interweaving of the multiple threads leading up to and during the great battle.

Posted by mbowen at 05:07 PM | TrackBack

Death of the New Jacks

Ward Bell brings up a question that evokes much thought:

Snoop Dog on Prime Time TV and the exclusive spokesperson for Nokia? Never thought I would see it. Or, that I would see it and start thinking about culture highjacking. But, in some respects, the way the product was displayed and used, Snoop is probably the perfect spokesperson.

How do I explain this and what do I think?

I think some Muslim criticism of American pop culture is right on target.

I've said that most of our pop culture is porno, and that's not good but our civilization can stand it. Much of the liberalization of our current society I put down to a real thickheaded cluelessness of 60 years ago. I mean to put it in perspective, before WW2, beachfront property was considered low rent - then visions of Fiji island girls etc, morphed all the way to what Tommy Bahamas is today.

So all of the liberalizations of the 50s stood the old order on its head and social conservatives relinquished control (or it was wrested from them). Into this mix jumped legitimate civil libertarians and counter-cultural blockheads. This is why the commies always show up at King Day parades, they thought that we were thinking what they were thinking. But they're not showing up as much as they used to and elites are shaping up.

What this has to do with Snoop is that the same thing happened in microcosm within African America. Whereas once we were all Negroes, now there are different flavors of black and it all hasn't settled down yet. (As you know, I'm pulling for the progressive end of the Old School to win). Afrocentrics and multiculturalists, hiphoppers, Old School, post-soul, motown soul, buppies, baps... there are still lots of flavors, but the black capitalists that got the biggest hand from corporate capital were the Bling Bling hiphoppers.

What Snoop has got going for him is that crossover is dead as a subgenre. Youth pop is all the same hiphop and rock, thanks to Chuck-D, Living Colour, and the Black Rock Coalition if you ask me. While a lot of folks tripped out about wiggers, and other whitekids buying Ice-T, others recognized that it wasn't all culture vulture. Hiphop genuinely crossed racial lines and if you listen to any contemporary pop hiphop station today, this is self-evident. So there is big money to be made and Snoop is mainstream, period.

That wasn't always a possibiltity. So it was also a question of timing. Fifteen years ago you couldn't consider yourself a straight hiphop radio station. Dre, Ed Lover & Funkmaster Flex changed all that starting with Hot97 in NYC as a big commercial success starting from the jump off of Yo MTV Raps. By the time artists like Snoop walked onto the scene, the groundwork was laid for some real capitalization across markets.

Not so with the hiphop generation just a few years older like Latifa, Heavy D, Young MC, Rob Base, Salt & Pepa, Kid & Play and the original New Jacks like Guy, Bell Biv Devoe, Bobby Brown. These artists were actually a lot less raucous but dealt with heavier racial politics in the music business in their crossover bid. It wasn't until the gangsta sold to white suburban kids that the marketers realized hiphop was inevitable. So Snoop and his ilk never really had to compromise artistically, whereas I'm confident that the New Jacks were a little bit watered down and second guessed. If you remember, 1989 was the time of Milli Vanilli and 2Pac was just another young rapper in the Digital Underground crew.

The pendulum swung to the extreme and there were serious battles over direction in 90 and 91. You had Onyx on one hand and PM Dawn and Arrested Development on another, The Native Tongues and Digable Planets were a third way. Studios were throwing money everywhere, as were certain (ahem) pharmaceutical salesman.

At any rate, Snoop hung in there long enough to be consider 'old school' (lord help me), and diversified his investments. Master P came into the game late enough to be a bonafide black capitalist. A good question would be where is all the money that LA Reid and Babyface made? What happened to the fortunes of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis? Were they actually dwarfed by P Diddy and his old boss whatshisname? Is Rush still the real king or is Rocawear outselling Phat Farm? Interesting questions.

I would have liked to have seen the New Jacks do as well across mulitple markets as the Bling and Gangsta hiphoppers. Latifa, I think has done well, and Will Smith goes without saying (but everybody knows Heavy D should have done better). But I think the story of how Bobby Brown's misdemeanors have destroyed his career and how 2Pac's felonies have enhanced his career is all the difference between the kind of image black entertainers have been able to capitalize under the biggest producers and distributors of the music business in the 90s.

If P Diddy & Snoop money will capitalize on artists who are less porno, we will see. But that kind of baseball been beddy beddy good to them.

UPDATE: I cleaned this up a bit - I was on a tear writing it this morning. I also wanted to add that I think the same thing happened in Hollywood. The greatest casualty of the New Jacks of all was none other then Robert Townsend, who should have had a franchise as big as.. oh say Conan O'Brien by now.

Posted by mbowen at 04:09 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Auto Show

Writing about an auto show is no fun, especially since I found out too late that I could have taken as many cameras and recording devices I could carry. So I can only tell you how much cooler the Chrysler four-door hatchback is, and how small and silly their Crossfire looks in comparison.

I can try to describe that the coolest thing there was a Saturn Vue but you wouldn't believe me until you see how favorably it compares to the kitted out Scions.

If there are two words that can describe the biggest trend in the automobile world this year, they are 'massive wheels'. I cannot begin to describe to you how passionate car nuts are about huge wheels this year. 20 inches is too puny. You've got to have 25 inches. There's an entire car customization subculture which seems to have been taken over by Snoop Dog and his minions. Everybody with a goodie bag had a DUB goodie bag.

There were other oddities, like the hydrogen powered Hummers and the instant tailgate party pickup with the gass grill, plasma widescreen and beer tap.

There was a lot of excitement over the new V8 Lexus, the I430. Everybody had to sit in one of the many Coopers on display. Subaru brough a whole pack of their actual race cars and Cadillac had the biggest and boldest display. The electric blue Escalade was a big hit as was the Sixteen with its 16 cylinder 1000 horsepower engine and its... massive wheels.

Posted by mbowen at 07:48 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 04, 2004

White Cops or Black Cops

Every once in a while I hear the odd comment, mostly at other blogs, about black on black crime and how blackfolks need to handle that problem as a priority. Most of the time it's some white bigot venting and fuming, but sometimes it's a black person with a similar problem.

I would suggest as a rhetorical device worthy of the Boohab that such a white person, in order to be consistent, must surely be in favor of hardball affirmative action. For if 'black on black crime' is a black issue that blacks must deal with, certainly white cops and chiefs of police are not the solution.
So next time you hear somebody running off at the mouth about 'black crime' being a 'black problem', make sure you remind them of all the white cops in the way of the solution.

BTW if the person is black, ignore them. They're only talking about their friends.

Posted by mbowen at 09:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


According to Jonetta Barras and the Joint Center, I have underestimated the numbers of black Republicans. This is good news, but it means I've been a bit out of perspective with my own goals. I cannot say, however that hitting a numerical target was the ultimate goal, rather shifting the balance of power and demonstrating a black Republican praxis was and remains my aim in that direction.

There has been a measurable rightward shift in the black electorate. In 2002 the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a liberal think tank, asked black respondents in its national survey to identify themselves as either Democrats, independents or Republicans. Although 63 percent claimed to be Democrats, the number was down from 74 percent in 2000. The decrease occurred in nearly every age group, including among respondents 65 and older (where the drop was from 82 percent to 75 percent). There was a significant increase in those calling themselves independents, especially between the ages of 26 and 35. Respondents identifying themselves as Republicans also increased: Between ages 26 and 35, the share tripled, going from 5 percent in 2000 to 15 percent in 2002.

This has raised the ire of some, but it proves to me that it's very difficult to get an accurate rendition of the African American political character.

Barras' article is a must-read. It portrays an electorate on the move and parties who will have to work hard to earn their trust and vote. It gives some hard figures that defy stereotyped views of the African American electorate. I've been caught off guard. Have you?

There's one other thing I should clarify at this point. I do not believe that the Old School agenda will be accomplished strictly through Republicanism. That is one of the reasons I gave up the domain and website, oldschoolrepublicans.net. I think that a fundamental flaw in the caustic nature of dissing black Republicans comes from that assumption - that blacks abandon themselves, their communities and everything else because they embrace the GOP. It's more likely the case that blacks who take the Democrats for granted (and vice-versa) are the ones who mistakenly assume that their entire political agenda must be accepted by their party. This is why we constantly hear such strident litmus tests from them. But I understand that everything good for the nation and the progress of African America does not issue forth from governments, parties, churches, businesses, schools or non-profits exclusively. There is a balance. And into this balance, a lot more GOP is coming, more than perhaps any of us expected.

UPDATE: Tacitus gets 85 comments 3 days later. I'm going to have to put out a neon sign or something.

Posted by mbowen at 09:00 AM | TrackBack

January 03, 2004

Oh Yeah, G-Forces

Yes, I probably still want to ride in an F14, but I think I can wait until I'm back in top shape.

Those 20 minutes were the rush of my life. Unfortunately, the ride lasted 80. It was like being on the roller coaster at Six Flags Over Hell. Only without rails. We did barrel rolls, snap rolls, loops, yanks and banks. We dived, rose and dived again, sometimes with a vertical velocity of 10,000 feet per minute. We chased another F-14, and it chased us.

Playing XBox makes you think you can do these things. Well, can you?

Posted by mbowen at 06:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Chico in ICU

I never thought 'd think it good news to find my grandfather in ICU, but there he stays, now one more step removed from the operating table. He had previously been in the recovery room on constant alert. The last time we checked, he could not breath on his own, so he's 'wired'.

So far, so good.

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

Old School Parade

10848638.jpgGail Elizabeth Wyatt comes from my old neighborhood.

With her fair complexion, silky hair and refined dress, she resembles the archetypal African American trophy wife of her generation. Indeed, her husband is an obstetrician-gynecologist, and they live in a grand home — tennis court, swimming pool — high above Beverly Hills. Yet even on his arm, and even when she "looked like a lady going to church" in a new, emerald silk dress, she has been mistaken for a prostitute.

Check out this interesting article in the LATimes. If you need an id & password use 'laexaminer' in both.

Funny, you don't often hear about such folks. Don't you just love this paragraph?

Fourth- generation college, a granddaughter of a Methodist minister, a daughter of conservative educators, Gail Smith came of age in L.A.'s newly integrated Leimert Park, with suitable friends, membership in Jack and Jill (an exclusive group for cultured, middle-class black families), a cruise to Norway, deportment classes and a second trip to Europe, all before she graduated at 16 from Dorsey High School.

Over at the NYTimes, theres a profile of the classic character-building coach who is more than a coach.lsu.184.jpg

Leonard Moore has a Ph.D. in history from Ohio State, is the director of African and African American studies at Louisiana State and has command of enough clear-eyed maxims to get the attention of most college students. But the credentials that most impress his target audience of African-American student-athletes are his high school transcript and ACT test score.

And it's not even Black History Month

Posted by mbowen at 11:57 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 02, 2004

Our Ghetto: Earth

It just occured to me that there is probably a good reason for us not having been discovered by intelligent alien life. We're off the beaten path.

These Aussie scientists have outlined some parts of the galaxy which might be suitable for life. What's notable is this:

According to Charles Lineweaver, writing in Science, there are four ingredients needed to create complex life: the presence of a host star (such as the Sun), enough heavy elements (carbon, oxygen and nitrogen) to form a planet, sufficient time for biological evolution (at least four billion years in the case of Earth) and the absence of life-destroying supernovae (the explosive deaths of massive stars).

If four billion isn't much time, and you add oh 20,000 years of post-nuclear physics, then it is reasonable that some civilization may very well have discovered wormhole travel.

What if we're just not near a wormhole and wormhole travel is the only way to exceed the speed of light? Why would anybody bother with sub-light exploration and discovery? If there were wormholes to 300 habitable systems that would certainly enough for anyone's galactic curiousity.

Posted by mbowen at 09:16 PM | TrackBack

Howard Dean on Race: Put Up or Shutup

The Boston Globe reports on Dean's rightmindedness on race relations.

HOWARD DEAN SAID, "I'm trying to gently call out the white population." His genteel example was a story he tells to voters about how his chief of staff as governor of Vermont was always a woman. After two or three years, Dean noticed that she had a "matriarchy" in the office. When the chief of staff was going to hire a new person, Dean said, he told her, " `I notice we have a gender imbalance in the office, and I wonder if you could find a man.' She said it's really hard to find a qualified man. I got everybody laughing about that."

I think Dean has been keeping up with the rhetoric and on this matter he seems to have his head on straight. I'm not particularly as impressed as The Black Commentator as I wrote here, but it is good to know that Dean seems to have a proper grasp of the subject as far as he's stated.

What's more important than having the right perspective on race relations is having the right priorities. It's one think to know the proper way to think and yet another entirely to know what to do. Even knowing what to do is no guarantee that anything will be done, much less done well. It is this distinction that everyone should key into.

As an African American of the Old School, I have moderated my expectations of race-raising through public political action. As a Republican, I have kicked them to the curb and asked that others do as well. At some point I will explain and exemplify this matter in detail, but now I simply want to show where the scorekeeping should go, and in doing so deflate expectations of Dean in particular and liberal race-relations advocates in general.

What I don't want to hear are words to the effect that 'If Dean is elected president, it will be good for African Americans', based upon what the positive press coverage he is getting. In order to be a hard-headed pragmatist about it, you have to show exactly what he is going to deliver to African Americans. If he delivers a stern lecture to whitefolks, is that going to make a critical difference?

"Dealing with race is about educating white folks," Dean said in an interview Tuesday on a campaign swing through the first primary state where African-American voters will have a major impact. "Not because white people are worse than black people about race but because whites are in the majority, and therefore the behavior of whites has a much bigger influence on hiring practices and so forth and so on than the behavior of African-Americans."

He's right, but. Giving this paragraph a straight reading, which is probably more charitable than some deconstrunctionists I know on the Kwaku Network will be, Dean is essentially espousing a trickle-down theory of diversity. But is this one of material benefit, or of psychic benefit? Show me the money.

Dean, and any presidential candidate would be best off by committing to expand the budget of the EEOC and hiring a hardball Assistant US Attorney for Civil Rights who is not so tweedy as Christopher Edley Jr. (Clinton's Choice) and not so invisible as whoever occupies the office now. We need someone who will strike fear into those who are walking the chalklines of racial discrimination. Put Johnnie Cochran as the top cop for racial discrimination and you know something is going to be done about racial profiling and police abuse.

There's a world of difference between promising results and whatever mouthing off happens in the (half-assed) bully pulpit of the campaign trail. Whitefolks need talking to, but that's the job of folks like Bill Bennett and our other public scolds. Well, actually Stephen L. Carter is the man. A presidential candidate needs to talk about doing, not talk about talking. I believe Dean can talk a good game, but I cannot believe he is that serious about putting whitefolks on notice.

Posted by mbowen at 05:32 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Walmart: Weintraubian Perspective

Weintraub was wrong about MEChA. But he seems to be right about Walmart. Although he hasn't subscribed to capitalist/consumerist desire, I will prick up my ears from now on. What's news with blogoriffic detail is what's up with Wal-Mart's health care benefits. I have the nerve to give this to strikers whom I see every day. Give me something complete and I'll do it. You don't even have to dare me.

The company does offer benefits, and it says that about half of its workers subscribe to them, which is about average for retail operations in America. According to a recent article on this topic in the Wall Street Journal, Wal-Mart has structured its health benefits to emphasize catastrophic care. While the company has relatively high deductibles – up to $1,000 for a plan that costs an employee $13 every two weeks – it also pays 100 percent of medical charges above $1,750 a year in out-of-pocket expenses. And, according to this article, Wal-Mart has no lifetime caps on its coverage, a generous benefit offered by fewer than half of the nation’s retailers.

You can check to see what Walmart says for itself.

Posted by mbowen at 02:30 PM | TrackBack


"O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An foolish notion:
What airs in dress an gait wad lea'es us,
An ev'n devotion!"
-- Robert Burns

I don't know about you, but almost everytime I want to see it, Daypop isn't working. Technorati is quite reliable for telling me who links and speaks of goings down in the Cobbosphere, but going there and trying to find out what bloggers are talking about is a less than appetizing experience. Just yesterday I discovered Blogrunner for the first time. It's pretty damned good.

It's interesting to see what Blogrunner picks as my most popular topics. Although I know better, it's not a bad guess and I don't mind such a characerization presenting a non-human perspective on Cobb. I'll be using this tool a bit more.

Posted by mbowen at 12:16 PM | TrackBack

January 01, 2004

e-Voting, Diebold and Collaborative Policy Creation

The Diebold electronic voting 'scandal' is yet another issue that I haven't taken quite seriously. One of the reasons is that I think voting is overrated and policy creation is underrated. My angle on the e-ization of democratic processes has everything to do with the deliberative process and not the tallies. Studious observers of the political scene have undoubtedly noted the horseracing aspects of political commentary which has left principled analysis in the lurch.

On the bright side, the rise of the fisk, in the toolset of amateur political bloviation is a very good, if sometimes nauseating thing. The interjection of hyperbole at least shows we have a passionate pulse for critically directed mental activity beyond handicapping. The problem is that while nobody seems to be spared from the distraction of the endless posturing of right and left, I can only really cite Begging To Differ as a joint blog dedicated to present views from both sides of the one dimensional spectrum. Everybody is a critic, few synthesize.

The tools of blogdom and the entire internet are not designed for, and therefore not well-suited for synthesis and collaborative consensus-building. This is the aim of XRepublic, as I have not often enough brought to the attention of myself and my readers. However I may be in a position to further the aims of the XRepublic project this year if my fortunes go as planned. Indeed, I have found an alternative way of getting development done.

So I am saying publicly that I will pursue this with a bit more vigor this year because I am convinced that the blogosphere possesses the right combination of talent and energy to make the content work. I am also convinced that Six Apart are the people who can make it happen, and it is my intent to develop the system in the context of the MT blog & what I understand of RSS. So let me email MT and get on it.

The point is not the voting system we have today. It is pitifully outdated, and we will have to let oldfolks die. I'm talking to people today who are gamers, who have no qualms about representing themselves online; people for whom online reputation and peer systems are second nature. They will make this happen, and to hell with the boomers who get off dissing the young whippersnappers.

As for security. I honestly believe that it is a tempest in a teacup.

I have not been convinced that the nation's ATM banking network has ever been compromised in any significant way. In fact, I would argue that part of the great vulnerability of electronic voting is that it wouldn't take place often enough. A single wealthy donor could assure that votes get Counterpane levels of security. And if that is not the level of security afforded international interbank transfers, then such schemes could be adopted as well. I'm never going to find out where stolen plutonuim, hijacked IPOs and diverted gold transfers at national central banks have gone. Neither are you. Nevertheless, we can establish at least that level of trust in electronic voting. It is not a question of technology. Again, an open alternative will be open-sourced together, it is just a matter of time.

In the meantime we should develop the means and wherewithal to open up policy making to distributed deliberative bodies. This is a crucial direction in establishing a functioning self-determination. I cannot emphasize how important this is, which is why I am so very conflicted about my desire to develop it in an open way. I can only assume that someone familiar and patient with making fortunes can explain the compromises necessary vis a vis licensing and Creative Commons. A system like XRepublic, designed to advance us beyond the meatspace machinations of Roberts Rules of Order, is both a necessity and a boon to the world of collaborative decision-making. Its potential ought to be available to masses...Eh. I should be able to figure out something at least as clever as a record company producer.

In the meantime, if you or anyone you know can assist in this project, I'm all ears. I'm not interested in reviewing any theoretical literature. I already know what Scott Reents has said and built. I think my solution just needs to be built, and then we'll move on from there. The vision is crystalline in my head, I only need my demiurge.

Posted by mbowen at 02:40 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Driving in America

Just to jump on the driving thing. First, I have to say that VW owns my brain and it's easy to see why.First the Touareg, now this.

It's all about accelleration here. Respect the red light, but floor it when it turns green. Compete with all pedestrians for every inch. Peds beware, especially if somebody is trying to make a right turn. Lane changes on the drop of the dime. Parking is impossible so you might as well forget it.

The most important thing about driving in LA is having a good stereo, because you ain't moving anywhere fast. LA drivers are respectful of pedestrians, but we will snake parking places at the drop of a hat. Almost nobody cheats on the diamond lanes except on onramps.

Cow path city all grown up. I'll just say this, Boston is the scene of the most extraordinary driving behavior I've ever witnessed. A boxed in driver of a pickup mashing the gas and pushing the car behind him 10 yards backwards up onto the sidewalk. A schoolbus doing 70, with kids, in the breakdown lane.

They. Drive. Slow.
except for the motorcycles.

They. Drive. Fast. and run over the motorcycles.

Everybody else is normal. I think.

Posted by mbowen at 01:42 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


I woke up this morning to find out that I'm a Large Mammal. I owe it all to you readers and peers. Thanks from the bottom of my heart. A special shout out to DenBeste, sine qua non.

Blogging is probably the best thing that has happened to me as a writer. I have been a compulsive writer since dropping out of USC's Electrical Engineering program in 1978. It has always saved my soul.

Also I just wanted to add that Chico, my now less anonymous grandfather is in stable condition with vitals where they should be and good electrolytes. I don't know that 'stable' is the official designation however. I wish I had more technical details, but I'm getting all of my news from Pops who is only interested in the spirit of things.

Posted by mbowen at 12:42 PM | TrackBack

Boxing Out of a Paper Bag

Mac Diva is one of those writers after my own heart. Hers is the kind of withering scrutiny and intellectual honesty that serve as an anchor when the subjects of race start getting wacky. She's got the guts, the skills and the depth required to handle this tough material. Recently, she has turned her attention to Colorism.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced the settlement of a rare color harassment and retaliation lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against Applebee's Neighborhood Bar & Grill, an international restaurant chain headquartered in Overland Park, Kan. The settlement provides $40,000 to Dwight Burch, an African American former employee who was discriminated against based on his dark skin color by a light-skinned African American manager, and terminated when he complained to corporate headquarters.

When I was earning my bones as a race man on the internet as Boohab, the issue of multiracialism began to express itself in the years leading up to the 2000 census. People knew that race was going to be handled differently, that the Census Bureau was going to start giving people of multiple racial backgrounds some depth of representation. But it wasn't quite clear how that was going to happen. During the course of that discussion online, some multiracialists started making ugly noises.

Colorism is a neologism to me, but it does make some sense to recognize the term. If you are African American and you can't stand those darker than you, are you racist? In my world the answer is yes. This type is a specie of White Supremacy which essentially dominates the xenophobias of the United States - the more you look like an Aryan ideal, the better you are in all ways. Within African America that means lightskin[ded] folks are better than darkskin[ded] folks. Can blackfolks exhibit behavior which makes them believe those with more 'white' blood are better, you bet. The history is long and deep. I have little doubt that my own fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha at various times administered the Paper Bag Test. I wouldn't want to suggest that colorism isn't racist and have usage of the term let blackfolks off the hook, because there is no question in my mind that it is racial supremacy that informs the principle of colorism. But while we're being specific, I'll concede because it is important to distinguish what blackfolks are doing, and what the multiracialists are doing.

Black culture retains many of the terms of art of colorism. 'Redbone', 'bright', 'good hair', 'high yellow', 'light skinded'. We have ways of expressing African American polymorphism in these sometimes neutral but often deroggatory terms. While the historical majority of discriminations were by the lighter complected against the darker, there have been backlashes as well.

The multiracialists come at it from a different angle which sounds suggestively appealing and enlightened, but actually is an insidious choice. Although I have no reason to believe Lisa Bonet was a multiracialist, she was probably the most famous of the biracial folks. People marvelled at her beauty and charm, she had a kind of crossover appeal which was novel at the time. (But I think Lenny Kravitz is cooler). The sentiment of 'cant we all just get along' is often bolstered as people consider interracial relationships and flagging racial loyalties. Multiracialists took this to the extreme. Many of them considered themselves to be the only solution to the black and white problem. Miscegenation, they said was the key. Blacks and whites would never solve their differences outside of bed and interracial sex represented the ultimate integration.

But in demanding a new racial category for themselves on the 2000 Census of 'multiracial' rather than the scheme the Bureau adopted of letting people check multiple boxes, mulitiracialists sought numerical and political superiority based on their racial identity. Such ideas brought to light the fact that they considered interracial relationships superior to same-race relationships. In this strange inversion they asserted the primacy of mixed races over 'pure' races and consequently planned the destruction of the races as we know them.

With this in mind, I kicked them to the curb, and haven't tried to hear from them since. But Mac Diva says they are up to their anti-black antics again and I don't doubt her.

Keep your eyes open. Jungle fever never liberated anyone, it only entrenches old ideas about race.

Posted by mbowen at 10:42 AM | TrackBack

More Noise Than A Little

We were straight fools at midnight.

There's nothing quite like a happy family deciding to be bonkers. We had silly hats, djembes, maracas, tambourines, chinese drums, a gong, a triangle and a digideroo. That was some noise. We had sparklers & confetti balloons. Whew.

I'm stuffed. I'm beat. I'm happy. I'm proud. I'm going to have a good year.


Posted by mbowen at 12:22 AM | TrackBack