March 31, 2004

Air America, Sorta

It must have been an interesting calculation for the folks over at Air America to choose AM 1580 to be the LA station. It doesn't reach Orange County or the San Fernando Valley. But in South Central and the Westside it comes in loud and clear. That is if they haven't changed the transmitter since back in the day when 1580 was KDAY, the station that broke West Coast Gangsta Rap to the world. Be that as it may, as I drove north from Irvine, the garbled horror became more clear and finally intelligible around Carson. It's amazing to me that the station doesn't reach Long Beach, what are they thinking? If this is the America they want to air, they've got a long way to go. Start with radio stations we can hear, morons!

I hardly expected to enjoy Garafalo's show, but they do a good job of not taking themselves seriously while sticking a few serious subjects into the mix. The show immediately previous, while mostly garbled, was mostly whining about GWBush and the war in Iraq. But Garafalo and her co-host were actually reasonably entertaining, and saying things outright which are only cleverly hinted at on NPR.

Air America is going to eat NPRs lunch, and that's a good thing. There is nothing so annoying as their dumbed down Day to Day show. Have I snarled about that already?

Who knows if any of the listeners to Redneck Radio are going to swap over. We'll all have to wait until Air America can figure out where the rest of the nation lives.

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

Condi Rice & Black Liberals

If you hang around black socialists for a long enough time, you're certain to get headaches. Right about now the hand-wringing is at an all-time high: Condi Rice is about to shoulder the entire Bush Administration.

Like most liberals, black radical liberals wish to take responsibility for assuring everyone in the world will be free of racist oppression. Those of a more educated stripe as befits their higher status in the bourgiosie, look for quite subtle slights, especially those suffered by those like Condi Rice who ought to be queens somewhere in New Nubia. According to such schools of thought, the higher their status in America, the more tragic it is that they will face the same ugly debilitating racism as the rest of us, nevermind the fact that they are not debilitated and seldom even embarrassed. (Still everyone waits for the memoirs when the race card is bound to show the secret suffering.) And so as Rice approaches the stand with the world watching, certain blackfolks will be on point observing the forces of racist hegemony work against she who should be a righteous black sistah. Can you say Anita Hill? While there is certainly nothing inherently wrong with anti-racist activism of any stripe, there is very little that can be learned from how Class Three Racism affects the most powerful class of African Americans.

Of course Condi Rice is a Republican (from way back) and thus earns the emnity of all leftists. This is as it should be and so she earns a tidy amount of dismissive disgust, heavy on the disgust. Rice, like Powell cannot be dismissed. In these days post-MLK and post-X there is a tendency to look for the black leader. And many attending to the fate of African America in our semi-opaque world of culture and ideas seek to exemplify aspects of our unique character and strength in the person of publically recognizable figure. Bill Cosby as the black father is such a Fungible. That counts for negative roll models as well. Thus Condi is often villified and hung in political effigy as a classic example of a sell-out, Uncle Tom and or traitor to the Struggle.

Ironic aint it?

Not to the radicals. Such messages actually combine to make Rice a victim. Ahh. Now it makes sense.

Posted by mbowen at 07:54 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 30, 2004

I'm Rick James, Bitch

Dave Chappelle was interviewed by Elvis Mitchell this week and I really dug it. Even though I was probably expecting something completely different and in several different modes when I checked out his show at the Wiltern last year, I still find him to be a brilliant comic.

Since then, his show on Comedy Central has become a monumental hit, one that I've been hearing en passant. When I hang out on XBox Live, "I'm Rick James, Bitch" is by far the most popular quote from any movie, show or television program. It's up there with quotes from the film 'Office Space' and the Chevy Chase 'Vacation' flicks. I've not had a chance to see that episode - I'll wait for the DVD.

Chappelle aims to be completely honest with himself and his audience, and he has a refreshing sensibility about the nature of comedy. Directness is part of it. I like that.

Posted by mbowen at 08:03 PM | Comments (33) | TrackBack

Executive Privilege & Rice

Condi Rice has been speaking on television. I don't think this is reason enough for her to be compelled to testify, but I do agree that the Bush Administration is overly secretive. I don't think that they abuse executive privilege but they do undermine their own credibility by such standoffishness. They really are running the White House as the political headquarters of the Republican party which is what is so particularly annoying about things these days.

Frist's speaking up on this issue is really one of the first times in recent memory that the Republicans of Congress have been able to draw any attention away from the President and the White House itself. Compare this to the days of Newt Gingrich. What's up with the House and Senate? Have they lost their spine?

Richard Clarke has won this round. Which only proves that our Congress has a stick up it's butt.

Posted by mbowen at 07:30 AM | TrackBack

March 29, 2004

Conservatism & The Butterfly Effect

In letting the strength of the logic of a conservative position or a moderation of a liberal position speak through me dispassionately, I appear more conservative than I think I am. As I present such arguments more and more, I notice strange things happening.

At the latest discussion, this time with my brothers the other day, I noticed this phenomenon in action.

Let's begin with some simple arguments.

Conservative Argument: The UN is relatively worthless.
As a practical matter, I find it necessary to respond to the false panacea of International Law. More and more I wonder exactly what it is, if anything, that American Liberals see as useful about international law other than that it symbolically represents the greatest consensus possible. To that I must simply respond that perfection is the enemy of progress.

The UN is an artifact of the second world war and the Security Council is an artifact of the Cold War. It's time to rethink the entire mission of the UN. The UN cannot, has not and will not depose despots. It drags its feet in search of a consensus that can never be. What can the UN do about Sudan? What will the UN do about Sudan? Nothing, I suspect.

The UN ratifies and second guesses. But doesn't the World Court do this better? The WTO, Red Cross, IMF, NAFTA, any dozen treaties, The Kyoto Protocol. These are all more powerful and effective organizations than the UN. What is the one thing that the UN does better than any other entity on the planet? The only answer I can give has to do with occupying realestate on the Hudson River. Outside of that it is a second rate entity.

Understand that this is not contempt for the UN. It sounds like it but why would the UN be beyond reproach?

Liberal Argument: The Development of the First World Underdevelops the Third World
Myth, I say. The angle here is to attempt to undermine the moral authority of American material progress. We are arrogant in our establishment of authority over people with dirt roads simply because we have 8 lane highways. Yeah? So? The overproduction of the First World benefits the Third. If we didn't have Merck over in New Jersey, where would the AIDS drugs come from, Jakarta?

My question is, what is it that the Second World does so well in their relationships to the Third that excludes them from debates about how American capitalism is a scourge on the planet? What did Brazil ever do for Burma?

We consume mass quantities of everything. We're fat and happy, but we are the most industrious fat and happy people. If not, we're close to the top. I seem to recall that there were some fairly good arguments about why American consumption is bad for everyone else. But I would argue that globalism will leaven that of necessity. That unless and until more nations begin to participate in the global economy, Americans will continue to monopolize the skills and wherewithal for its appetite. No matter what can be said about American hegemony, we cannot control scarcity and we cannot stop knowledge. America has everything to lose in international competition and the second and third world nations have everything to gain. We're not bombing the competition.

The net effect of this simple logic, plus simple observations like the country that has done the absolute most to completely isolate itself from American influence is North Korea (workers paradise or hell on earth, you decide), magnify what I think are mostly slight differences between Americans.

Maybe the difference really is that Liberals feel mostly guilty about being American whereas Conservatives feel mostly proud.

Posted by mbowen at 10:20 PM | TrackBack

Hating Hospitals

I hate hospitals. So it's entirely likely that I'm to be cursed with having to deal with them. It's only been a few days since I spent half a day in an emergency room. Now I've got the bill. It's not pretty.

If that weren't enough, now my mother is in the hospital. She's anemic and they're doing all kinds of 'scopies on her tomorrow. Today they made her hold her breath in the CT scanner with a biopsy needle in her liver.

I don't even have the humor at the moment to shake my head at the retarded luck I'm having.

I realize I do not have the patience of a physically weak person. I hate being sick because I don't have the stomach for not being able to work through things. I'm going to hate dying. I can't go quietly. So sitting by my mother's bedside is an exercise in patience for someone else. Very trying.

I don't need this kind of aggravation, but I get it. That's why I needed a cigar.

Posted by mbowen at 09:48 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 08:36 PM | TrackBack

The Higgs Boson & Supercomputing

I can tell that I'm about to become an old man. I know this because the most incredible technological fantasy I ever imagined is almost about to become something of a reality. Let me describe the fantasy.

When I was a kid and I would be sitting in the back seat of Pop's 1968 VW Bus on our way up to the Angeles Crest I would watch the freeway go by. But on the interminable trips to Mt. Baldy or Crystal Lake I fell into a trance doing this on the 60 Freeway. During one of these trances I imagined myself to be the pilot of an incredible machine flying low over Earth at about 60 miles per hour. My machine, disguised as a yellow steel and glass internal combustion engine vehicle with rubber wheels had a sophisticated system of laser scanners and a Molecular Forge.

The Molecular Forge was a less complicated version of the Subatomic Forge, but I hadn't been promoted to that level of surveyor in the Earth Observation League. What I did for the League was to take my machine, affectionately known as 'The Bus' and scan massive chunks of roadside property.

The first lasers, the Mappers, would scan the surface and composition of the target area to a depth of 3 meters and record the shape and position of the zillions of atoms, figure out their molecular structure, temperature and everything else about them. Secondly, the Disintegrators would vaporize the target areas and break them down into molecular cloud. The Forge lasers themselves would reassemble all these bits adding subtle tags which tied the reconstructed material back to the massive Survey. Ultimately we would know more about the Earth than the Earthlings, and if we found it suitable we could take over the planet at will.

I was proud of my machine, but why they assigned me to the Pomona Freeway was a humiliation I couldn't explain.

I've been a database guy forever. Even before I understood any computing theory, I had always envisioned their ultimate purpose as replacing librarians. We've come close enough in that we use it to Orkut librarians. But now it appears that some of the ultimate databases are being assembled. Why? In order to map subatomic particles of course.

In an 8 hour session of atom smashing, the new supercomputing grid being assembled for CERN is going to generate 10 terabytes of data. They're going to do this day in and day out. To help you comprehend the magnitude of this, right now the record for the largest database is somewhere around 67 terabytes. Now this is commercial information (I think it's the telephone billing system for NTT) and I'm sure that when you get into signals intercepts and telemetry for Echelon, there's plenty of terabytes online that we'll just never know about. But these guys are going to destroy those records in just a week of operations.

So they've invented new technologies to handle this awesome science. The Mappers are real. By the time my kids grow up, they'll have the whole VW Bus, and I can die happy.

Posted by mbowen at 12:18 PM | TrackBack

March 28, 2004


Posted by mbowen at 11:46 AM | TrackBack

Insult Checks

OK. Here's a brilliant idea. If only I knew the right people I could make it happen. Since this is CC licensed, you shouldn't make money without my permission.

Insult Checks

Did you ever have to pay somebody that you hate? Your check should tell them so. There could be graphics with themes like 'blood money', or 'hush money' etc. A check that conveys the message, I swear to god i wish I never had to deal with you but here's your money. Or 'here's your friggen money now shut the hell up' a very convenient one for paying bets that you lose. A check with an image of a haughty Caiphas tossing 30 pieces of silver to a grovelling Judas would be a great one. Or one with a cigar-chomping fatcat tossing a coin over his shoulder to a frail whimpering wastrel.

God I want those checks. I have to find a printer.

Posted by mbowen at 11:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Carousal Sans Arousal

I put on the lite Hollywood Suit last evening and swung around to a number of functions. I don't know what it is that I find so mildly fascinating in people.. well actually I do. That's why I read books.

Naturally, I'm one of those alien-comes-to-earth people who watches human social behavior with an odd mix of curiosity, revulsion, amusement and contempt. Every once in a while, however, I can jump into the primordial stew and appear as one of them. Last night was one of those exceptional times, although I could feel the clock ticking on my humanoid disguise.

LABlogs had a meat at Farmer's Market last night. I haven't been to that joint in about 20 years, I think. They've upgraded. It's quite the spot - as busy as City Walk and as animated as Knott's Berry Farm. The lox was pretty good too. My unknown host purchased several pitchers of beer of which I consumed mass quantities thereby recharging the batteries of my human disguise. I managed to meet several semi-interesting folks, but I think I missed the political discussion, which I guess is all I really care about. Since I am no longer in the business of seduction for kicks, making people have a mental orgasm is about the best I can do. Not that my skills were up to par at all lastnight. Anyway, I didn't really dust off that sabre. Instead I just watched faces, remembered names and sought out signs of passion.

The first subject was Douglas. Doug's the tech writer with the thin book on high tech jobs. If I had my brain in gear at all, I would have started to talk about offshoring and the book. But he was just the first person I met and I really wanted to get into the beer rather than the book. Since I wasn't really intent on talking to anyone about anything at all, I let conversations seque into each other, which upon further consideration can be considered rude, but wtf, it's LA.

Jonah and Susie were there. Susie has one of those kinds of smiles that makes you think of girl scout cookies, summer days, haystacks and rhubarb pie. She's the kind of person you hate to be cynical around, at least that was the impression she made on me without even saying much. Jonah's pleasant mood was clearly a reflection of his proximity to her. He's a pure native Cali boy who is managing his current estrangement from fresh ocean breezes. Outside of the 1 mile zone from the shore somewhere near the eastern edge of flightpath of the Santa Monica Airport he's taking life one day at a time. I told him of all numerous joints I've lived in, South Pasadena is my favorite. It's unnatural I must confess, my attraction to South Pasadena. Something awful needs to happen to me there. We've all got to find our place.

Eric managed to pull his power book out of his cool looking knapsack but I didn't manage to peep what he was browsing. I forgot to ask if he was at ISI, but it's not as if I'm going to talk about that much. He's into KM and social software so I'm sure we could blab on at length. His blog is fairly interesting and I'll probably link it.

As the sign-in sheet (you know, that meatspace registration database) came around, I realized that I didn't know any of these people and never read any of their blogs. That's a sobering thought. So I had another beer.

One of the fellows there did recognize me by my blog. I had passed some cards around. He liked the banner. I could take that as a backhanded compliment about the actual writing, but I wasn't in the mood to be persnickety. I was actually enjoying my reprive from the drudgeries of the rest of life - but don't get me started about the rest of life.

Rumors were going around the table about Karaoke. I didn't realize that the Karaoke was in the market - that's why the guy at the raw bar mistook me for one of the band members who were taking five someplace, I imagined. I told Susie about my act, but I really had no intention of reprising it. I was here to get into a juicy conversation about something or other.

Chris, the Lonewacko, plopped down next to me next. I espied his REI bag and day hike shoes and fancied him a serious walker. Hey, finally somebody whose blog I recognized. Maybe we're not supposed to talk about our blogs, so I asked him about hiking. He thought I was talking about his blog. But he did lay the bomb comment of the evening in regards to the event that started him blogging. I won't reveal it, he probably does it more justice somewhere on He also had the coolest assymetrical odd-size business card of the lot.

Al, the UK expatriot, must have recognized that I'm an alien. I have the vague feeling that his head was someplace else. Who knows. All I can say is that Al is not bubbly. And not bubbly without being snarkily cynical or insulting must be some species of alienation I have yet to understand. Nevertheless we prattled on about nothing for some period of time until he suggested that the gentrification of Downtown LA is inevitable and that Westside real-estate prices would drop. Look. There may be some nice digs in Silverlake but that's never going to happen. Conversation stops. I hate when that happens. I'm beginning to be unable to muster passion myself.

Scott was good at shouting across the table intelligibly. This skill tells me, along with his profile, that he's a party man approaching my own level of sophistication. Either that or I've had quite enough beers, and now everybody is cool. Scott did have a very cool business card as well as a very cool camera.

Spencer (5000) has nine stars on his right arm, although at first he wasn't sure. I like that kind of modesty. Alongside him was a babelicious beauty in a preppy plaid skirt. I shouldn't say more because, well I just shouldn't. You see, women whose names I don't know only register in the more reptilian parts of the brain.. you get the picture.

Right about this time reality started sinking in. Sometime much earlier, I recieved the phone call that reminded me about the other part of life. I decided to make a mysterious exit as my buzz had been effectively killed. On the whole, I am glad to have come, and I think it was an hour or so very well spent. As a social experience meats are a unique test of patience, especially one so non-specific as this one. With no opportunity to pre-hash positions (as with the one I'm going to tonight) one is left to the vagaries of making something up as you go along with complete strangers who may or may not be interested in doing the same. Just above complete anonymity, with the possibility of exhaustive detail (such as this transcription), it's a disorienting kind of expectation.

I never did talk to the guy who liked my banner, and I hope he forgives me, but I had to get a cigar.

Posted by mbowen at 08:56 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 27, 2004

Slime and Defend

It's really disturbing how arrogant Bushies are these days, not only the apparent campaign to drag Richard Clarke in front of a grand jury, but the audacity that they are beyond criticism and reproach. Now distant memories about problems that Richard Armitage had as well as the ambassador who quit are slithering to the surface of my memory. This White House is too partisan and touchy for me. I'm sick of it. Is nobody taking a long view any more? This tit for tat is truly annoying.

Posted by mbowen at 02:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 11:15 AM | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 11:07 AM | TrackBack

Spain Again

Posted by mbowen at 11:05 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 26, 2004

Peak Oil Researchers

Use the following names to talk about 'Peak Oil'

  • Paul K. Hubbert
  • John Felmy
  • Paul Roberts
  • Chris Skrebowski
  • Joseph J. Romm

(from Warren Olney)

Gasoline prices are rising again, with one survey claiming a national record of $1.77 per gallon. Despite predictions of $3 a gallon before the end of this summer, even by today’s standards, the energy that drives the world’s economy is dirt cheap. Yet, recent books called Out of Gas and The End of Oil are solemn reminders that that will inevitably come to an end. The question is, how soon? New research predicts that supply may stop meeting demand sooner rather than later, with drastic consequences for civilization and planet Earth. Are those the fantasies of Chicken Little, or does the world face massive economic depression and even “energy wars" in the next 30 years? Warren Olney leads a spirited debate among energy reporters, economists, energy trade representatives and a Clinton White House Energy Department official.

Posted by mbowen at 01:27 PM | TrackBack

March 25, 2004

On Marriage: None of Your Business

I didn't catch the beginning, but certainly the end of Peter Sprigg's interview this morning on NPR. The conciseness of his answers was surprising. There are certain things he said which are particularly worth noting, in my ongoing drama over the state of marriage in our nation. Spriggs brings up the point of the government interest in marriage vis a vis procreation.

Why tie marriage to procreation?

If marriage had nothing to do with procreation it would be ludicrous for us to be even be discussing the government giving licenses to people to marry or requiring a court proceding for them to end their marriage. Why would we want the government to get involved in people's prvate relationships at all? I would submit the only reason it's a public instituion is because of the interest in procreation and child rearing.

While I have maintained that the state has an interest in the stability of domestic partnerships, and that civil unions are reasonable, I do so with the firm conviction that this is subservient to the goal of serving the needs of children.

From the perspective of Christian Charity, I consider a consequence of this. If we are going to have an internal third world, the state is under no particular obligation to insist on marriage. They may ask, but Christians would demand it in a charitable way. This is what we do for our perserverance, you should too. Indeed as Sprigg notes, there are fairly obvious objective studies that children fare worse with regard to poverty on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale when parents are apart. (We should all revisit that controversy - should you be married to get welfare?). So when it comes to domestic tranquility, the state is more likely to 'pacify' the rabble than insist they get married. Indeed isn't that what has happened to children of single mothers as welfare has been sliced and diced?

On the racial 'parallel':

"Those laws, from the start, were burdening the institution of marriage in the service of a totally unrelated social goal that some people had of keeping the races apart. Now, defining the marriage as the union of one man and one woman on the other hand is not irrelevant to the central purpose of marriage, it is the core of the central purpose of marriage."

Good stuff.

Posted by mbowen at 12:56 PM | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 07:31 AM | TrackBack

14 Acres and What Do You Get?

Some 350 farmers have made something of a garden of sorts on 14 acres of property snatched up by the City of Los Angeles for a project that never materialized. Eminent domain was the snatching mechanism, and to smooth things over, they gave right of first refusal to the swipee.

Well now 12 years and some 580 trees later, the City has decided that its domain is not so eminent, and the original owner who is losing about 35,000 a month is drooling over the prospect of building warehouses.

I smell a train wreck.

UPDATE: Information

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

You're Killin' Me

As everyone who has ever watched the bad guy get his knows, the proper way to kill someone is to push them over an impossibly high cliff. Watch them scream as they go down and splat on the bottom.

The death penalty is certainly inhumane when handled by clowns. But there have got to be some surefire ways of snuffing people out reliably and swiftly which could give an audience thrills and chills. For my money watching them plunge from a very high spot has got to be tops.

The only difficulty for such a maneuver has to do with manufacturing an appropriately tough, yet transparent body bag. We in the gallery at ground zero don't want to get splattered and we certainly want to be able to see their face. There has certainly got to be some super baggy that could do the trick. Or perhaps a plexiglass box would suffice. I know. How about one of those huge inflated balls like in that Jacky Chan movie?

Death by deceleration. Now that's entertainment.

Posted by mbowen at 12:40 AM | TrackBack

March 24, 2004


No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction. -- John Dunne

Richard Clarke is making me want to look closer, the more heat he takes from the Bush White House, the deeper hole they dig themselves into. It's as if they have forgotten that history is recorded and will be reviewed. As I take in the broad sweep of his allegations, he makes perfect sense. That the White House is already on the defensive nauseates me. They can't even co-opt his expertise. This is crummy, and I am now getting accustomed to a White House that won't come clean.

When I think about all the overblown rhetoric that surrounded missile defense, how absolutely wrong the Bush White House was about that it really makes me sympathetic to Clarke's case. Not only that, but in the hearings, he admitted failure. That's courage, and it is a clear showing of character, yes I said character, that George W. Bush singularly lacks. Bush is too small to apologize. Somewhere inside of him is a little Richard Nixon but he's very clever in hiding it from the cameras.

When nine-eleven hit, the first guy I thought might have had some answers was actually killed in the WTC. His name was. John O'Neill, who had asked for more focus on the bombers of the USS Cole. I expect that his name will come up in Clarke's book, but even if it doesn't, he's the man for whom a great deal is owed. Clarke said that has CT not been reduced from a cabinet post, and had the top agency directors been directly accountable to the president, the AQ operatives in the USA, who were already identified by the FBI, more traps could have been set and sprung.

It truly amazed me when the Bush Administration allowed missle parts to be shipped from North Korea to Yemen. It was like spitting on the grave of O'Neill who proved right on the AQ-Yemeni connection. But now I have entered the realm of history, which of course is nuanced. Reading history right about now would be a lot more interesting than the press conferences I am hearing.

UPDATE: Drezner is reading. History twists.

Posted by mbowen at 09:09 PM | TrackBack

MLK Sr. a What?

I want to throw something out there raised by a cat name Bob Parks. He says that he's heard that MLK's parents were Republicans. It's something you'd think people would have heard about before. It makes perfect sense, of course and is only symbolically significant, but there it is.

Posted by mbowen at 10:23 AM | TrackBack

March 23, 2004

More on Spaulding

I caught the entire second segment of Fresh Aire's tribute to Spaulding Gray and it brought to mind some things I haven't considered in a while, which is the indulgence of analysis. It wasn't cemented in my mind until I Gray himself started talking about how difficult it was for him to deal with the fact that after having children, he wasn't being mothered by his girlfriends. A hell of a thing to learn in your 50s I'd say.

Gray got divorced, or legally separated (I suppose there is some difference) when his psychiatrist informed his wife that his behavior was sufficient in California to have him committed into a mental institution. She would have been on the hook legally. It's rather curious to follow this instance of marriage considering that Gray was having babies by another woman during his marriage to this one. They got together because, as Gray was having many operations on his eye, his girlfriend only had limited access to him in the hospital. The law giveth and the law taketh away.

Such legal conveniences are expected of those privileged characters in our society, again illustrating the differences between marriage and Matrimony.

I would like to believe Gray's exposure of his own life, in time, gave a mature treatement of his immaturity but I am not familiar with his later works. In either case I wonder with increasing suspicion what psychoanalysis reveals about personality and values in a corrective way. I've only been through a touch of it myself in the aftermath of my own brother's death. But I suspect that in the best circumstances psychoanalysis gives one a friendship that friends don't - allowing you to make an honest assessment of what you do in life.

Still, it is the conceit and privilege of those with dough to make reasonably functional lives out of that which would wreck the average Joe. But another way to think of psycholanalysis is as a crutch without which those who cannot walk under their own power to stumble through life more or less reasonably. We save those who ordinarily couldn't be saved thus extending the expectations of what is redeemable behavior. I have a problem with this and I am likely to be a harsher judge of Gray than I have been. It's a class thing too.

Posted by mbowen at 04:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Nineties

The 90s was the decade of the African American.
Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Puff Daddy, Denzel Washington, Oprah Winfrey, Colin Powell, Janet Jackson.
This is the decade in which African Americans came top with style, with class, and power in reserve. Men and women began wearing dreads and braids like never before. Reggae music became more popular than ever, and black models like Tyson and Tyra changed the look of high fashion. Where there was once only the Cosby Show, now whole networks seemed dominated by black sitcoms. At the beginning of the 90s nobody believed hiphop would move beyond gangsta rap, by the end of the 90s BMW commercials had hiphop soundtracks. African Americans pushed the multicultural agenda, migrated back to the South, recreating it, integrated the mainstream like never before, closed economic and educational gaps and triumphed on the domestic and world stage.

The 90s was the decade of the Republican.
Bill Clinton moved the entire Democratic Party to the right, why? Liberals were toast. We had Newt Gingrich's Contract with America, Term Limits, Tax Abatement, Welfare Spending reductions and the rise of governors playing at presidential politics. Rudy and Rush redefined the public sphere. People forgot Mario Cuomo existed.

The 90s was the decade of the tribe.
Decentralization became the standard and American culture made peace with its multiple personalities. When I think of the look of the 90s, I see Janet Jackson's album. The 90s are orangeish brown. It is dark red with stainless steel highlights. Think Urban Outfitters. Think Houston's restaurant. I see Djimon Hounsou and all fashionable black men with shaved heads. Clothes have become baggier, casual Fridays an institution. Facial hair is a lot more prevalent, but not quite like the 70s. If the 70s was plastic and neon, and the 80s steel and glass, the 90s was cherry wood and platinum. It was the decade where people named their kids Jason and Connor. It was the decade of the Alternative Mainstream, when everything that split off didn't die but survived on its own, where people felt more comfortable in their niches and niches became more acceptable to everyone. Cable battered the networks. McMansion 'communities' shrank the size of the new suburbs. Show what tribe you belong to, what's your tatoo? What's your gender? What's your preference? What's your ethnicity?

The 90s was the extreme decade.
Once the 'Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics' sticker became almost de reguer on half of pop and rock. Rock music came back in the 90s and finally made it's accomodation with hiphop. Rock and hiphop have merged and the best is still yet to come, but radio for youth is all of a piece. Baggy pants are what you wear, period. The X Games became an institution and Sprite and Mountain Dew duked it out. Ultramarathons, Eco Challenges, Iron Man Triathalons, Snowboarding, Bungee Jumping, Wakeboarding, Street Luge, Mountain Biking, new forms of skydiving, Base jumping all reached peak levels. It got to the point where even James Bond couldn't do anything to surprise us.

90s was the decade of computer.
Computers and software finally lived up to their potential. All of the ideas that had been germinating in universities and thinktanks catually came to fruition in the 90s. In the 90s, everyone finally got a cell phone, a home computer, an email address and voice mail. Now it is the exception that you have a little machine with tapes at your office from which to get your messages. In the beginning of the 90s, having a fax was a big deal. At the end of the 90s, people talk about email attachements. The 90s was the last decade for the videogame arcade. It went from the fringes of society into nonexistence. As was predicted, cocooning happened in the 90s, and something dramatic in home technolgy. Suddenly, people began spending more money on Video than on Audio. DVDs really exploded and The Matrix was the killer app. The number of people who don't have at least two stereo speakers in their television has probably dropped down to zero. There are no more dial phones anywhere. Cordless phones in the home are the norm rather than the exception - the very sight of a woman in a kitchen untangling a long phone cord is anachronistic. In the 90s, computer generated graphics signalled the very end of cheesy special effects. Jurassic Park was the beginning of a long string of films, including the reawakend Star Wars series that proved movies could once again be magical.

The 90s was the decade that introduced us to the Big Box.
Walmart emerged as the king of the outdoor 'destination' mall, but other big winners were Home Depot, Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond and Staples all of whom didn't exist or were tiny and unheard of in the 80s. We changed our way of shopping. Mongomery Wards died. Woolworth died. K-Mart wheezed on its death bed. Costco proved that for lower prices, people will abandon cushy department stores and spend half a day consuming mass quantities. We started going to Smart & Final instead of Pavillions. We shoved these mass quantities into the back of our huge minivans and SUVs. Shopping was not about browsing in a mall, but pushing huge cart in a warehouse-looking store, after having checked the internet for the lowest prices. We didn't need any floor staff to help us, except to get that box down from the 20 foot high shelf.

The 90s was the decade of the 'investor class'.
The new upper middle class went beyond just talking about. In the 80s we could all joke about yuppies, their BMWs and their cell phones. In the 90s they moved away and wound up in half million dollar homes and suddenly it wasn't so funny anymore. They were for real. There were probably more new models of Mercedes-Benz introduced in the 90s than ever before. The E Class, The C Class and the S Class began to be seen everywhere.

The 90s was a decade of domestic terrorism and ever more gruesome crime.
The LA Riots were not just in LA but in every major city. The OJ Simpson trial, the Unabomber, Waco, Ruby Ridge, Oklahoma City, Centennial Park Bombing, Polly Klaus, Heidi Fleiss. While most Americans felt safer and violent crime was generally held down, the crimes we paid attention to became ever more bizarre. Our fascination with crime also became bizarre as expressed in our interest for movies like 'Silence of the Lambs', 'Seven', and 'Natural Born Killers'. Television shows like 'NYPD Blue' and 'Cops' satisfied this appetite for extreme crime.

All in all, the prosperity and innovation of the 90s made it a very powerful time. The 80s were extreme in their own way, but they only seemed to be the chaos and accelleration that prepared us for what was to come. The 90s proved that even greater robustness was possible, that America could swing with extremes and even when the center didn't hold, the margins could stand on their own. What do you think?

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On Gay Marriage: Part VI

I made allusions to the 'nature' of the gay lifestyle which I had rhetorically toned down to 'the legacy of Stonewall'. My point was to illustrate the asymmetry of straight sexual lifestyle with that of gay throwing a wrench in the argument that marriage is the same thing and 'it doesn't matter if you are straight or gay, red, blue or green'. This is willful blindness poking it's ugly, empty head up once again and if there is any parallel at all between the thinking on race and on homosexuality this is it.

A cat name Kunstler nails it:

As much as the gay community wishes, they will never persuade the non-gay majority that homosexual behavior is wholesome, in particular between males. In reality, the norm of male gay social behavior is extreme promiscuity with predatory overtones -- hence, for example, all the problems the Catholic church is having with what is basically a homosexual subculture devoted almost exclusively to victimizing boys.

The wish to normalize male homosexuality is inevitably a way of discounting and marginalizing male heterosexuality. However, I'm not convinced that male homosexuals want to cede the social margin to the straights; that "outsider" position is so deeply connected with gay culture generally. What we are really seeing, I believe, is the final tactical move of the womens' movement to keep bothersome men away from them generally and to get as many men as possible corralled into a gay ghetto with the priapic diversions of gay life.

In the end what bothers me about gay marriage is the idea that it is exactly the same thing as marriage between a man and a woman, and this is the obvious result of the extreme relativism that has reigned as a kind of supreme fashion statement among high culture vamps since the 1960s. This relativism has been a long game of pretend -- pretending that all behaviors are equally okay.
It seems to me that this kind of lazy relativism is a luxury that can only be enjoyed by a cossetted elite luxuriating in a high entropy economy.

I am prepared to say that there is a fundamental and moral distinction between the generally accepted definition of marriage here in America and a proper Christian one. While all the Jews I have been able to query on this have provided me with the shocking news that gay rabbis are marrying each other, I believe I am on reasonable ground in assuming no such funny business occurs in Islam.

So while I'm not particularly concerned with people's squeamishness about homesexual acts themselves or whether or not hets are convinced about wholesomeness, it is important that lines are drawn in terms of beliefs and standards when it comes to the standing of marriage, or as I am now inclined to say with distinction Holy Matrimony.

We're not all the same and we're not all trying to be the same thing.

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March 22, 2004

The Origins of Schism

I was engaged in a rather provocative discussion this morning over the question of rights. Keith, the guy I was debating asserted that we are losing something because God is not acknowledged as the source of our freedoms and rights. We didn't talk long enough for me to understand the nut of our differences, but what got me started was what sounded to me like blurring the line beween church and state - he made it sound as if the Constitution was valuable not owing to Jefferson's intellectual effort but to his divine inspiration.

I changed the subject, because I couldn't nail him on that and he brought something else up. This was the fact that he belonged to Price's church. Price is non-denominational. So in comparison to Cecil Murray of First AME, I asked him if he felt particularly impotent. You see, let's imagine you are against or for same sex marriage. If you get your congregation on your side of the issue in a sect of 3 churches, and you feel that the country is still out of whack with fundamental Christian values, you don't much choice but to take that classic cop out 'In It But Not Of It', 'it' meaning The World.

No small number of African Americans have left the Christian faith and/or disparaged it because of the inability of black churches to be effectively influential on white churches within their denominations with regards to civil rights questions, and this goes all the way back to the question of slavery and its associated deprivations. But what is one to say about Bishop Porkchop on the Porkchop Christian Network broadcasting live from the Porkchop Dome? There is no recourse but schism, it seems.

As an Episcopalian I feel a certain entitlement to get riled and find various interpretations of Christianity offensive. So it's as good a reason as any to question the propriety of the new mega churches that are sprouting up all over the south in particular. What indeed is a non-denominational Christian Church other than a big Bible study group? I find them lacking in sacred symbols and sacraments - and thus the enticements to community seem more spontaneous. Indeed charismatics substitute self for sacrament. Certain individuals may 'own' a congregation of several thousand and arrogate upon themselves the title of Bishop.

This is disturbing to me, not in principle - these are the inheritors of protestantism. Who needs official intercession? But then what is the purpose of the congregation and how does the Christian Church get so distributed?

The problem of Fundamentalism derives, in my estimation, from this rabble. Start with King James, and since my childhood there have been at least 3 new versions of the bible. Add to that all of the denominations which lose adherants and the new megachurches that gain them, and can there be any wonder that there are not agreed upon answers to questions like 'when does human life begin' from a theological perspective. As the American Church begins to function like a plural democracy one must ask the question - what is the point of dogma? It can't be established in such an environment. Thus I think we have an oversimplified core of Christianity from which all manner of loopy theories spring. So if you have 200 odd sects, is it any wonder that the only thing they can agree upon in response to films like Gibson's that 'Jews Killed Jesus'?

You see where I'm headed? I am a strong believer that one of the great responsibilities of the Church is to stand in opposition to the cultural overproduction of markets. Markets are amoral. A people can go to crap (not to mention Hell) when they spend more money watching Janet Jackson's boobs than in the collection plate. This is not an argument about paying money but about paying attention. Our culture and economy are capable of getting us to believe most anything (And people are shocked about the conflicting signals they got from the CIA!), but there are certainly times when we need to be drawn together in our beliefs about a few things. The prophetic Church, as Cornel West describes it, summons us to flex our moral muscles. Markets simply follow our desires whatever they may be.

So I am curious to know how and why schisms and heresies happen in Christianity and what the large number of randomly pointed Christian sects, denominations, etc. mean in the context of the work Christians feel compelled to do in the world. Furthermore, who punishes the bad churches?

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Dudley Hiibel Is His Name

Now you know. Now that you do, you should try to remember it because his case being heard by the Supreme Court is either going to result in smarter cops or not. Right now, this officer seems quite incapable of any verbal judo whatsoever. To me it looks like a case of another officer making everybody look bad (and piling on procedural requirements) because he didn't have sense enough to work through the law with the man standing in front of him. As familiar as I am with curbside behavior, I know this kind of malarky is not likely to go down in Los Angeles, but I'm not surprised to see it in Podunk. has some great material, and if you're a civil libertarian as I am, you'll probably be back:

Is Refusal to Show ID 'Probable Cause'?
This is the crux of the issue before the Supreme Court. Dudley Hiibel believes it isn't because of that pesky old Bill of Rights. Let's review a couple of those rights, shall we?

The Fourth Amendment
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The Fifth Amendment
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

In other words, Dudley Hiibel was unreasonably searched and seized because he refused to show his ID. The argument that not showing ID makes for 'Probable Cause' is not only laughable, but clearly un-Constitutional. In addition, the mandatory showing of ID is nothing less than compulsory self-incrimination, which also flies in the face of the Bill of Rights.

Notice this justificication in the Nevada Supreme Court Decision against Hiibel:

Most importantly, we are at war against enemies who operate with concealed identities and the dangers we face as a nation are unparalleled. Terrorism is "changing the way we live and the way we act and the way we think."[24] During the recent past, this country suffered the tragic deaths of more than 3,000 unsuspecting men, women, and children at the hands of terrorists; seventeen innocent people in six different states were randomly gunned down by snipers; and our citizens have suffered illness and death from exposure to mail contaminated with Anthrax. We have also seen high school students transport guns to school and randomly gun down their fellow classmates and teachers. It cannot be stressed enough: "This is a different kind of war that requires a different type of approach and a different type of mentality."[25] To deny officers the ability to request identification from suspicious persons creates a situation where an officer could approach a wanted terrorist or sniper but be unable to identify him or her if the person's behavior does not rise to the level of probable cause necessary for an arrest.

There is nothing whatsoever in this case that gives any indication that this traffic stop, (and it was less than a traffic stop, in that the vehicle was already parked) had anything to do with terrorist activity.

I have been in a situation in which a rookie cop cuffed me because he was afraid of me. I was a black man driving a big expensive car in downtown LA late at night with the system booming. That means something. I can tell when a cop is afraid of me or not. It may be within procedure to cuff someone if you're afraid. Even so, it is not reasonable for a cop to be as evasive as this one was in speaking directly about reasonable suspicion, probable cause and what is or is not an arrestable offense. Around here, one of the first things out of a cop's mouth is what he's stopping you about. He might play a guessing game to see what you're going to say, but in my vast experiences with roadside manners, they get to the point pretty quickly. Not doing so is disrepectful of citizenship and subversive of people's trust in police.

In the gap between detention and arrest everyone needs to know the law, but it is incumbent on the officer to teach the citizen or suspect something about what's going on, so long as there is time and no imminent danger. The officer always has the advantage with respect to the law so the greater burden remains with the officer. Either they are soliciting cooperation or they are forcing their will, a failure in the first case should not automatically lead to the second. This is why this is a case of poor policing, in my judgement.

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Sacred Art

aam 2.JPG

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March 21, 2004

Richard Clarke

Richard Clarke has thrown down the gauntlet. Now comes clobbering time for GWBush.

The Bush 43 White House has been able to hide behind Iraq for a good amount of time. I have been willing to say that Iraq was a good idea, if not a timely one. I am not one of those who find magic in UN sanction, but the president decided to go it alone, and he has to face up to that decision. So the question is whether or not the experts on terrorism really do agree with the president and what has he done to push them off or follow their lead.

I do buy Colin Powell's arguments that states still matter and that state sponsored terrorism is part of the threat picture these days. But I don't know what makes Donald Rumsfeld or any of the PNAC people experts on terrorism. Which is to say while I still look forward to a great American empire, it still must make the clear distinction between the wars against tyrants and the wars against terrorists. It has mushed up its rationales and is not coming clean. This is unacceptable.

A war against Iraq, regime change in Baghdad, is a good idea. I think it was inevitable. I think when all is said and done, America took the right path. But this is a path that others most certainly could have done more responsibily. Kerry has yet to prove to me that he would have taking the right road, much less more responsibly, but that still leaves Bush with a black mark which gets harder to ignore as time goes forward. He has taken advantage of the crisis (not as shamelessly as the Spanish Socialists - btw if anyone is still complaining about France, shut the hell up and look further south for your Quislings) and the time of crisis is over.

What positions Bush has put us in is not a bad one geopolitically, but it is a horrible one with regard to using the intellectual resources of this government properly. More and more he appears to me to be a single-issue, single-minded singleton. That's not presidential.

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March 20, 2004

Twenty Years

Every once in a while I play a time machine game. I bring a person, often myself, back from a particular year and explain to them what's going on in front of me.

This evening was a rather remarkable game. I had brought myself into the present from 1984 as I browsed through the Fry's in Orange County and tried to explain the CG in the James Bond film on the plasma display to a self who had yet to understand multi-tasking. Later on the drive home, while stuck rather closely to my personal history, I found it simply amazing how many things had changed in the past 20 years.

Geopolitically, the rise and fall of the Soviet Union is the story of the century, but what I found almost incredible was what has gone on with American culture, particularly vis a vis blackfolks, who have become African Americans, by and large. In 1984, hiphop consisted of Run DMC, UTFO and Full Force (not to mention the 'real' Roxanne). Explaining the absolute dominance of hiphop to anyone nursing at the tit of New Wave and Punk in 1984 seems inconcievable.

In order to explain Barbershop 2, I had to explain Ice Cube, NWA and Gangsta in general. To explain Gangsta I had to explain the 'birth' of South Central via Mike Davis. This took me back to Latasha Harlins, Rodney King and the LA Riots, the opening of the 90s.

The expansion of cable, the proliferation of cell phones, the whole SUV thing would all seem remarkable. The dominance of the Republican Party, the economics of computing hardware, the double wars against Iraq, the rise of anime and of country music would all seem very odd to someone from 1984. The destruction of the WTC and the election of Arnold Schwartzeneggar are the most improbable events I could explain. The triumph of multiculturalism amid the backlash against Affirmative Action is a fascinating irony. The feats of reproductive science, genetic engineering and digital signal processing might have been predicted, but not the phenomenon of the internet, eBay and Google.

I'd say it has been a fascinating 20 years. What strikes you?

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March 19, 2004


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March 18, 2004

One Year In


Let's start with the Axis of Evil. We are up against a terrible nihilistic enemy. Think about what the Islamist terrorists are doing: they are trying to kill as many people in Iraq and elsewhere as possible so the U.S. fails in Iraq, so Iraq collapses into civil war, so even a glimmer of democracy never takes root in the Arab world and so America is weakened.

Nails it.

He goes on to suggest that if we had more troops, things would be better. I disagree. We are just not good at nation building. Should we be? I'm convinced that we are doing about as well as can be expected and that there is nobody on the planet better equipped to do so, although the Brits have a bit more experience.

I think that our softheaded partners are letting us take the blame for something that nobody can do well and blaming us for trying. Cheeky. Wrong. This is World War 3. Maybe it will take a year or so before countries decide which side they are on. Then it's on.

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March 17, 2004

It's Not You

Posted by mbowen at 09:18 PM | TrackBack

On Being Socially Liberal

I started out in life as a Black Nationalist, and a partially militant one at that. It was the Catholicism of the Jesuits and the Social Responsibility of the Episcopalians that broke through that Nationalism and made me an essentially tolerant and even charitable individual after the model of Jesus Christ.

These days I am seeking to express my Christian ethics more explicitly. I do so for a number of reasons. Firstly in the context of my Republicanism I need to distinguish myself from the reactionary Right. Although many religious Republicans are painted as fundamentalists I think most are not. In fact, I believe that I am in direct conflict with Christian Fundamentalists and all those who would seek to replace laws established democratically with those unilaterally recieved on faith. At the same time, I have a great deal of respect for the consistency of dogma in ever directing us to heed the moral lessons of religion which have been established and maintained for centuries.

Over the next few months, a great deal of Cobb will be dedicated to exploring the themes of religion in society. I am thinking in particular why America has difficulty replicating MLK and why our Archbishops are not so heroic as Romero or Tutu. Why is it that the liberalism that is Christianity, from my point of view, has become so divorced from the liberalism we associate with National Public Radio? Why is it that the public accepts scolds like Dr. Laura from a religious perspective but not like the faculty of Notre Dame University from an intellectual perspective? Why is it when we know that Democrats and Republicans are both distorting the truth for partisan reasons that we do not seek the perspective of Imams? Why is it that we cannot discuss religious differences in the absence of conflict?

I will be bringing forth parts and pieces of discussion from a private forum here and I hope to engage folks here as well. The journey is both personal and public, and again it starts with the Nationalist, the militant, the ethnic enclave. It ends much more universally, but does it stop at the line of other religions? I think that's a reaction expected condescendingly by those who have judged religions millenia old by the ugliness of their religious neighbors and heresay. We shall see.

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


I spent the entire morning and half of the afternoon in the Emergency Room over in Torrance today. I'm fine, but I sure was mad this morning.

I spent last evening rushing around to put together a slide show for this Sunday's after service coffee hour in commemoration for my recently departed grandfather. Pops came by with his DLP for the slideshow and I'd only put in about 60 pictures out of the 150 that I need for the powerpoint. So I'm grumbling around trying to get that done when I start getting these zaps through my chest.

I'm not saying anything about it, but they hurt. It's like somebody sticking a voodoo needle in and around my heart. It's real sharp for a second and then it disappears. Several times this happens. The kids are being complete pests. Everyone is getting on my nerves. I can't wait until I get them all in bed so I can relax. Brother, the stress is finally getting to me.

So finally the spousal unit gets home (we are back to being a two entrepreneur family, god help us) and we're ready to crash on the sofa and watch The Sheild. Ouch. It happens again. About six times that hour. After the show, I google up chest pains. Now I'm convinced its Angina.

My wife's father dropped dead of a heart attack when she was a young teen. I ain't going out like that, but all evening I'm trying to think whether or not I should go to the emergency room. I'm not exercising. I'm not short of breath. The pain doesn't go to my arm or my neck. I can handle the pain. In fact, this is what bothers me the most. What if I've already had a mild heart attack and I'm walking around on 80% heart muscle? I cannot afford to be sick. I cannot afford to drop dead.

I go to sleep without speaking.

I wake up blam at 6 am. Nothing hurts, but what if? I go to the bathroom. I go back to sleep. I can't sleep. 7 am; the alarm rings. I get up and wake the magic children. They're up. I jump back into bed. Pow, I get zinged again. Pow again. OK it's settled. I'm going to the emergency room. I drop the kids off to school, come home and tell the spousal unit.

We arrange to be seen at urgent care. Like who knows how many millions of Americans, I have no health insurance. I've only paid myself once in my new business and I have withdrawn for Medicare, but I haven't sent any money to the state or whomever it goes. No matter, I'm going to have to eat this. And today I was supposed to be onsite. I can't afford to be sick. I'm pissed off now. Urgent Care says we can be seen at 10:30.

So I'm sitting at my desk, dressed for work. My wife and I have faced the reality, as we do so often in our life of drama and marriage, and we're thinking. She's worried but not really worried. I'm worried but not really worried. How much is this going to cost? I'm supposed to be healthy. My grandfather just died at 91. I've got 50 years to go. I don't need this. My father beat prostate cancer. I eat too much Carl's Jr. OK. If I get another pain we'll go straight to emergency. It's 8:30, my head is in my hands.

She calls the emergency room to see what the traffic is like. They're empty. Fine, let's go. We drive over.

The receiving nurse isn't sure if she should hookup the EKG or let Leo. So she takes my blood pressure and temperature. I walk into the ER and the head nurse tells me to leave on my undershorts and get into the ass-out robe. I have my own private bay #24. Wifey is out parking the car somewhere away from the ambulances, I'm waiting for the cart with needles.

But Leo comes in first and hooks up 10 leads to me. 6 around the heart one on each shoulder and ankle. The EKG cranks for about a minute. I take a peek. It looks normal to me.

Leo trundles out with the '12 lead' and heads off in another direction. I sit and wonder, somewhat relieved, if anybody is going to see what's really wrong with me. OK it's not what's going on with my heart, but they're going to find it in my blood. Soon enough, the head nurse comes in and starts hooking me up to the monitoring system. By this time, I'm about ready to make jokes, because I can see that they are moving slow enough to assure me that I'm not critical. I've answered enough questions in my head from over at WebMD, but it was good to see the looks on the professional faces as I repeated 'no'. That didn't stop her from giving me a good jab with the IV needle. I didn't realize the technology was such that only one is needed for extracting blood and injecting various fluids. I didn't watch her take the vials, but I was accustomed to the sharp pains.

The administrator took my driver's license. I signed paperwork. I got my armband. I signed that I am not an organ donor, not that you butchers are going to have a chance at them. A doctor my age impatiently scritched his thick black hair with his bony fingers. He thumbed through charts and talked about an associate from UCLA and the ER facilities at one of the other campuses. You couldn't fake your way around a hospital for long. Doctors do know a thing or two. I tried to make parallels between their careers and mine. Are there surgeons who specialize in dying procedures?

Now with a needle valve taped into my left arm and a half dozen leads taped to my body, I began the wait. Accompanying me in this wait was a writers curiosity, and 'Deadline Poet' by Calvin Trillin. As more casualties and emergency personnel came to and fro in the ER, Trillin's humor made me laugh out loud with embarassment. There was moaning, groaning and blood elsewhere in this joint, and I'm grinning like an idiot over poetry about John Sununu. Soon enough, the XRay Tech came by to break up the monotony.

Seated up in my bed, she kept up a one-sided conversation with a smile as she dropped the shield over my 'nads and aimed the XRay machine at my chest. When the plate was behind my back and my breath drawn in and held, the machine started whirring. XRay machines do have a kind of comic book wizardry to them - they actually sound like something powerful is going on inside of them. She grabbed the plate and buzzed away with the portable machine with power steering. I decided to sleep.

As nurses came and went, the conversation might drift to me and I'd waken from my light sleep. Catching the eye of the head nurse who was increasingly harried by the fact that some family had not been able to get their child released, I hoped that my light needs would make their day easier. The old woman across in bay 28 dozed herself. Somebody down the corridor kicked a nurse, who yelped with pain "Don't kick me.". Somebody else was having siezures and a nurse spoke in apologetic tones about needle sizes. A young woman whom I swear looked like Debra Brown from 1979 went to the bathroom directly facing my bed. She had no bra on. I became vaguely aware of my body, half naked and entangled in wires and needles. I'm helpless here. I hope there's not a fire. I don't want to run out into the street ripping wires and such off of me. I fell back asleep, my butt gets real sore real fast. I hate this bed. Where are my results?

It's already noon. I call the spousal unit to tell the guys I won't be making it in today. I have too much to think about. The head nurse comes back in and tells me that everybody is pretty sure that it's not my heart. Just some muscle spasms of some sort - but everybody presents differently, we'll see. I tell her that I was on Lescol several years ago, the anti-LDL cholesterol drug. She writes a few more things on my records, and I start to worry about more of the ordinary things I worry about - like how much this is going to cost, and what kind of contract work I'm going to get in April.

The doctor finally comes over at about 1:30 and says he's pretty sure it's not cardiac. The pain didn't knock me on my ass and I breathe fine. It's something else. What? Who knows, but nothing a little motrin shouldn't handle. It's official, I'm not going to die soon. The kids are safe. We talk about kids and the odd numbers back from 2 of my 40 blood chemistry results. One of them has to do with my 'muscle blood' the other with my liver. So I should drink less coffee and sodas. Good idea, I've already got the discipline for that, but I have been slacking. Damned Vanilla Coke. I get a referral to a cardiologist, copies of my results and a hearty handshake. Fine. Unplug me so I can go home and sleep.

The wife, who has been off to work all this time gets back to the ER roughly 20 minutes after I sheepishly walk out under my own power and hang out in the waiting room. Everybody has that defeated hospital look despite the pleasant decor. The TV blares about some explosion in Iraq, the Wall Street Journal has a full page ad about Cingular swallowing AT&T Wireless. The world is turning, and I am walking. Good enough.

Now that I've written all this up, I have enough closure. I'm still somewhat curious about my bloodwork. My hemogram WBC is 4.5 thou/uL which is low and my MCH is 27.5 pg which is low. In my metabolic PNL my ALT (SGPT) count is 65 which is pretty damned high, whatever that means. also my CK is at 310 which the doctor circled. But I bought myself a chicken sandwich at Quizno's and I came home to relax. BTW, no more sharp pains since this morning. Good.

Finally, I loaded up the film camera and took some defiant looking pictures of me topless with a half dozen monitoring patches on me still. I'm still fighting.

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March 16, 2004

Thirty Ketubah Texts

I find it fascinating that there are so many interpretations and variations of the Jewish marriage contract, the Ketubah.

From Orthodox:

On the ___ day of the week, the ___ day of ___, in the year ___, corresponding to the ___ day of ___, in the year ___, ___, son of ___, and ___, daughter of ___, join each other in ___, before family and friends to make a mutual covenant as husband and wife, partners in marriage. The groom, ___, promises ___, the bride: "You are my wife according to the tradition of Moses and Israel. I shall cherish you and honor you as is customary among the sons of Israel who have cherished and honored their wives in faithfulness and in integrity." The bride, ___, promises ___, the groom: "You are my husband according to the tradition of Moses and Israel. I shall cherish you and honor you as is customary among the daughters of Israel who have cherished and honored their husbands in faithfulness and in integrity." "We, as beloveds and friends, promise each other to strive throughout our lives together to achieve an openness which will enable us to share our thoughts, our feelings, and our experiences. We promise to try always to bring out in ourselves and in each other qualities of forgiveness, compassion, and integrity. We, as beloveds and friends, will cherish each other's uniqueness; comfort and challenge each other through life's sorrow and joy; share our intuition and insight with one another; and above all do everything within our power to permit each of us to become the persons we are yet to be. All this we take upon ourselves to uphold to the best of our abilities." All is valid and binding.

To 'Secular Humanistic'

On the ___ day of the month of ___, in the year ___ at ___, ___ and ___ entered into this Covenant of Marriage. We pledge to each other our mutual trust and respect. We will offer support and encouragement for personal growth and the fulfillment of our shared dreams. We will be open, honest, loyal and devoted to one another. We promise to be faithful friends, companions and life partners and to comfort one another through life’s sorrows and joys. We shall honor each other’s individual needs, and shall cherish and love one another throughout our married life together. Let us weave our commitment to the Jewish people and culture into the fabric of our lives. Together, let us build a Jewish home filled with loving affection, laughter, wisdom and a dedication to peace and harmony for all humanity.

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Bayesian Comment Spam Filter

Can be found here. I'm going to have to do this.

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March 15, 2004

Stuff & Thangs

Young Black Elite
Over at I have bumped into the flavor once again. Since I've returned to Los Angeles in 1997, seven years, one spouse and three children after my departure, the old crew seemed to have disappeared. Of course they didn't, they just left my social radar. Now seven years later, I actually have a little time freed up to run around town. It will be interesting to see what the scene looks like.

Cobb will be undergoing a change or two in the coming months. The first thing is that I will be tending more towards the less caustic as I mentioned. The second is that I will be tending towards the less personal and topical. I expect to be writing a few more substantial pieces and letting the comic do the topical.

There are vicious raccoons in my tree out front. It's scaring neighbors and their dogs as they walk by at night. I'm going to have to call animal control.

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The End

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Marriage Is Not What You Think

Marriage is not what you think it is, marriage is what you get when you raise children. Donald Sensing gives us something to think about. I'll begin with this insight:

Elements of marriage such as property rights and the like do not centrally define what marriage is. Indeed, the historical and present record shows that such matters have varied widely across human cultures and experience. The wife as an equal partner is a modern development, but its lack in other times and places does not obviate the essential character of marriage, the procreation of the next generation. The various legal and social rights and recognitions that pertain to married couples are the result, not the cause, of marriage, intended to buttress its central purpose. Therefore, they are added or discarded inasmuch as they do so, though not without other influences as well. Thus, the legal rights and social claims of married partners are incidental, not essential, to defining what marriage is.

Sensings conclusions only seem reactionary when taken out of the context of his thinking, which I find not only logical but compelling. Someone somewhere said I sounded like this guy, but I had not much read his blog. I'm finding quite a bit to like, especially this about Jesus.

Back to Marriage. I had started somewhere down the road about Marriage gaining its specialness inherent in the notion of the committment required of couples in full anticipation of rearing children, but stopped short of prohibitions against same sex couple raising kids. (emphasis added)

The central proposition to the institution of marriage which makes it more than just a relationship is its aspect of permanent commitment the basis of which is central to family. This is the essence of what is sacred and critical of Marriage, without which it is nothing more than a formal acknowledge of a relationship between people. So it is not religion that makes marriage sacred though we refer to it as Holy Matrimony, rather it is the transcendent aspect of love embodied in the ideals of Marriage that gives religion appropriates as a sacrament. That is why Marriage is universal and religious rites center on its transcendant aspects the most important of which are permanence and fidelity.

When I say 'central to family' I mean it in the context of the understanding that the Wedding Vow althought it denotes the love between two, connotes the role of parents. DINKs are Marriage Lite. Voluntarily sterile DINKs are life partners for sure, but that's not what we mean by marriage. If it were nothing more than a blessing on a 'significant relationship' then we'd respect the host of the Dating Game (or any of its variants) as much as ministers who marry.

Sensing, dispatches with love rather quickly, and I think he does so to his credit. When reviewing my writing, I see that I'm trying to accomodate the loving aspect of both Matrimony and Civil Unions, and that is what puts them on a more or less equivalent basis. But I know that it's true that it is the commitment to raising children that makes Marriage special even though it's not explicitly emphasized in the Rite of Holy Matrimony.

I've also accomodated the need for the state to have an interest in social stability, but does that really matter when it comes to domestic partnerships that don't involve children? Not much relatively speaking.

So on the whole, in light of Sensing's clarity, I think I've put a bit too much emphasis on the romantic aspects of Marriage, which I think makes me rather typical. I stand corrected.

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March 14, 2004

Anti-Terrorism Circa 1986


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Break Up to Make Up

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Shaka, When the Walls Fell

If you ask me the greatest episode of Star Trek, I would say that without question it was 'Darmok', starring Paul Winfield. Paul is dead now but he will long be remembered by me as the great Tamarian officer.

Finally, Rapheal Carter has put together The Darmok Dictionary which finally does the episode justice. If there was ever an allegory perfectly apporpriate to the African American angle into multiculturalism it is captured in Darmok.

The thing to note about this translation is that it's impossible to sum up the meaning of the phrase in a single word; it's a quite complex comment on an entire situation. The other phrases that we can reliably translate can, in fact, be summarized in a word or two--"Shaka, when the walls fell" means "failure." But the example of "Darmok" hints that this simplicity is an illusion, born of our limited knowledge of the language. For a Tamarian, "Shaka" would connote not just "failure," but a specific failure, in specific circumstances which you and I can't know. Consider Counselor Troi's example, "Juliet on her balcony." Dr. Crusher glosses this as an image of romance--true enough; but of course the phrase connotes much more than that. We are aware that the love of Romeo and Juliet is star-crossed; that it will end in tragedy; that it is love at first sight; that it is the love of youth and not of maturity; that the scene alluded to is a clandestine second meeting between the two lovers; that in it, Romeo is looking up at the Juliet's tantalizing backlit silhouette, while she sees him unclearly against the darkness; and so on ad infinitum. Every Tamarian phrase should be presumed to be this rich, though the richness is hidden from us.

His interview with Terry Gross back in the '89 was exerpted this past week. Cool guy. It's amazing that I didn't know that he was on Julia. That's something I should have known.

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America Awaits Your Arrival

Now that I'm back on the employment train, in the proper first class compartment as well, it is amazing how quickly things seem to get back to my spoiled normality.

This was the first weekend that I've been able to go shopping and actually buy things. As I said, I got my HP 6110 All in One Fax/Copier/Scanner/Printer that does color. (As a fascinating aside, this thing costs 300 bucks. The idea that such a machine would exist at that price point would have made Xerox execs of the 80s die of fright.) Now that I can scan, I'll have a lot more Wellington House pics that I'll be able to publish. But the point was that Target and Best Buy are always there awaiting your money.

No matter when or how you attain your fortune, the retailers, the real estate agents, the motorcycle salesmen, the maitres d' are all ready to serve you. The plastic surgeon, the Ferrari mechanic, the DSL provider, the furrier, the jeweler. There's a massive army all infrastructured up and ready for you to express yourself financially. All you've got to do is say "I've got money to spend" and opportunities present themselves. It's stupendous.

It turned out that although I opened up my business account at Wells Fargo expecting to do my primary banking there, I showed up to deposit on a day that Diana wasn't in the office. I don't know how it is that a loan officer is split among several branches but that must be the case unless they only work 3 days a week. But my instant credit wasn't happening. The guy there tells me it's going to take '5 to 7 business days', which to me might as well be 'allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery'. I asked him if he'd call into the bank the check was drawn on and verify funds. No, he says, Bank of America doesn't do that for us any more. (Light bulb). OK I says, I'll come back tomorrow to see if Diana can do something. Instead, I hightail it over to Bank of America, open up an account in 20 minutes and have credit overnight.

This country works when it comes to money. Nothing is broken when you have the funds.

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It just occurred to me that if religious conservatives were hounding gays to get married in the eyes of God, they'd be a lot more hesitant to agitate for it.

NPR finally aired the gay man I thought I'd never hear in this, the one who said none of his gay friends were hustling down to city hall, that the whole point of coming out of the closet was to avoid getting pestered about marriage - that marriage is the ultimate conformity and that the gay lifestyle was an alternative to that.

Thank you.

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Been Down

Obviously Cobb has been out of commission for four days. It's a long and complicated story about lost passwords, Dreamhost's down control panel, Yahoo's inability to answer the phone and a domain registry organization in Melbourne. All's well that ends well, I suppose.

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March 10, 2004


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March 09, 2004

Where Ice Cream Comes From


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In My Sweaty Palm

I have in my hand, the first check paid from the first invoice from my first customer for the new business I started this year. If you told me this would be the case six months ago I wouldn't have believed it. I was ready to sell out to the Man and get back on the corporate treadmill. But now I am my own boss, once again. I'm not leaving this business until I can sell it for a nice chunk of change.

Tomorrow, I'm heading over to Wells Fargo in Redondo to sit down with my officer, Diana and have a cup of coffee while she gets me immediate credit on this fat check. Then I'm going to head over to Comp USA and buy that HP 6110 that I've been needing for 6 months.

And then I'm going to buy myself an ice cream cone.

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Whatevers to That

Since I have wasted an entirely good day off work not working and blogging instead, I may as well keep bloviating with a list of things that are somewhat interesting but not really:

  • Water on Mars
    Several billion years ago. So what? Here is definitely a case where fiction is far more interesting than truth.
  • Martha Stewart Guilty
    You think she'll go to jail? Hm, in five years maybe she can trade stories with Kobe Bryant. There's got to be a market for consulting the rich and famous as they prepare for life in the big house. Or maybe I already saw that on the Discovery Channel.
  • Congressional Computers Lack Security
    What a shock. This merits a gate suffix? Puhlease.
  • Bush Uses 9/11 Photos
    That's really tacky and I should kick him for it, but whatever. I don't watch TV, it didn't affect me.
  • Howard Stern Booted from Clearchannel
    Boo hoo.
  • Jayson Blair is Published
    Celebrity drives. Ethics is in the trunk. What else is new?

If there's anything else that has fallen beneath the radar of my elevated sensibilities, whatever to that as well.

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Sandra Tsing Loh, Unperson

NPR's Gen X yuppie ditz, Sandra Tsing Loh, has been disappeared from the airwaves. Maybe this FCC overreach is not such a bad idea, for a season at least. The question is, when are we going to be rid of Dr. Laura? No time soon, I'm afraid. In the meantime serious people, as opposed to the silly, can have a breath of fresh air as the airwaves in the vicinity of KCRW, Santa Monica will remain blissfully free of Loh's annoying foibles.

The reason? A dirty word.

When you get old enough to stare ugliness in the face enough times, it must make you a believer in karma. Not enough good things happen in this world for the right and proper reasons and we Americans are fairly neurotic because of that. This is why our politics are so crazed, people want to prove that something John Kerry said 30 years ago is exactly the same position it is today. Isn't it ironic that the people most frenetic about such consistencies are liberal atheists? If you want consistency, you might consider religious dogma. Outside of this you should get used to being disappointed and not having the appropriate causalities you desire. Sure it's good that Bush got rid of Saddam, but if the wrong reasons harsh your mellow dude, you're just going to have to get over it. Similarly, Loh is gone for saying 'fuck' on the air, but she should have been 86'd for her (dare I say twinkie?) mind-numbing superficiality. I'll get over my anguish.

I have my gripes with Ruth Seymour dating back to her ruthless badgering of Muslim guests and callers during the first Gulf War, so I long ago switched to Pasadena's KPCC. But I give her a pat on the back for this one. Good call, Ruth.

Addendum to Loh. Lenny Bruce was funny. You're not.

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Aegis & Causality

MK at Parablemania argues that gay marriage is indeed a cause of the decline and failure of marriage as we now know it. Citing the kind of bastardy stats usually hurled at our own Negro population attacks Andrew Sullivan's dismissal of causality of the decline of Nordic society.

Marriage in Nordland is in severe decline. In 2002, an extraordinary 82.27 percent of first-born children in Nordland were born out-of-wedlock. A "mere" 67.29 percent of all children born in Nordland in 2002 were born out-of-wedlock. As I explained in "The End of Marriage in Scandinavia," many of these births are to unmarried, but cohabiting, couples. Yet cohabiting couples in Scandinavia break up at two to three times the rate of married couples. Since the Norwegian tendency to marry after the second child is gradually giving way, it is likely that the 67-percent figure for all out-of-wedlock births will someday catch up to the 82-percent figure for first-born out-of-wedlock births. At that point, marriage in Nordland will be effectively dead.
Now consider the county of Nord-Troendelag, which is bordered by NTNU (Norwegian University of Science and Technology). NTNU is where Kari Moxnes and Kari Melby teach � two radical pro-gay marriage social scientists. Nord-Troendelag is like Massachusetts � a socially liberal state influenced by left-leaning institutions of higher learning. In Nord-Troendelag in 2002, the out-of-wedlock birthrate for first-born children was 83.27 percent. The out-of-wedlock birthrate for all children was 66.85 percent. These rates are far higher than the rates for Norway as a whole.

When we look at Nordland and Nord-Troendelag � the Vermont and Massachusetts of Norway � we are peering as far as we can into the future of marriage in a world where gay marriage is almost totally accepted. What we see is a place where marriage itself has almost totally disappeared.

I've never quite taken this argument seriously, but now I am having a second look.

I ask of MK what is the likelihood that the blessing of gay domestic partnerships by the Nordic Church results in a changing of the liturgy? That is to say, what is the effect on the sect of one liberal priest blessing a gay union in their own parish. His analysis seems to omit something that I am curious to know which is whether the nordic churches have re-written sacraments or if they are simply accepting a defacto 'marriage lite' in their laity just to be liberally trendy. Are these reformers or rebels?

The dictionary may change, the law may change but is the Church changing? If the Church is the guardian of Holy Matrimony, that is fine. The Church is limited in its ability to police marriage - what say did they have in the enactment of no-fault divorce? The state may have arrogated the authority of blessing marriage, which ever direction that common-law form takes, but the very fact of the sacraments existence demonstrates people choose to observe it. People still do go to churches to get married, not just city hall.

As my wife and I approach our 10th anniversary, we are considering a re-dedication ceremony. It seems to me that if this 'second marriage' could be seen as 'marriage plus' then the church has an opportunity to make clear its commitment to the values inherent in Holy Matrimony.

If Holy Matrimony becomes something rare then I believe we have to accept that. That is because the Church is, despite however many thousand points of light there may be getting government funds, not capable of assuring the welfare of children in or out of wedlock. Their existence is not the Church's responsibility no matter how correct the moral logic in the principles and ideals of Matrimony. The aegis of the authority of the Church is limited in a secular society, as it should be. The law of the land is not Church law, indeed what the Chruch can do is limited by the law of the land.

The upshot is that the state really has no business blessing but only regulating all 'unholy' unions. It cannot recognize Matrimony and therefore cannot take credit for it. Likewise Christians cannot take credit for the fidelity or infidelity of Jewish marriages. What can any Church do but stick to its guns? If that which the state recognizes as marriage is failing, the only recourse is for the Church to prove those unions it blesses are superior. There are ways to do so.

I think it unwise to use children born in wedlock as the single benchmark for marriage vs matrimony especially if the rationale is merely to advocate against gay marriage. But it is still worth surveying couples' commitment and divorce rate of those of church weddings and those without. Despite the financial aspects of 'rights' activists for the gay cause are attempting to claim, many of them relate to responsibilities in sickness and in health. A truer moral calculus will compare such commitments across the board. People need to acknowledge that gay unions can measure up. That doesn't mean the Church necessarily blesses them; surely, muslims can be righteous. So can gays, and so can their unions.

There is something, on the other hand inherent, in the choices of the heirs of Stonewall which won't bear up under this kind of comparative scrutiny. After all, there is a quality of lifestyle that is imiplicit in the difference between 'gay' or 'queer' and merely 'homosexual'.

It is not sufficient to suggest that a community that shares conflicting values over sexual preferences will collapse. When the question is marriage then the topic needs to focus on those things people do, or do not do, in the context of their vows. The Church and the State both will need to determine what they mean by it and how well they maintain the quality of lives sustained by the values they publicly bless. It is my expectation that the state will lower the bar and that less is to be expected. But drawing a conservative line at the current denotations and connotations of Holy Matrimony will not be such an easy case to prove. The Church needs to be prepared to prove some things, if only to the faithful. After all, if the dysfunction of nordic marriages is self-evident, who is claiming them to be truly married? The Church?

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Farewell Spaulding

Spaulding Gray is dead.

He washed up on shore in black courderoy pants, a fairly uninspiring way to be found. An unfitting end to a life of inspired honesty, and yet an honest one. It wasn't surprising. He told his family and friends that he would take his own life, and so he did.

Gray meant a lot to me as a writer with self in the subject. I wonder if he wrote his own eulogy somewhere, somehow it seems impossible for anyone other than him to tell us about him. And yet no writer ever knows how their work will effect others, so every tangent from his point of departure is his work in process. But he's no longer part of the process. Life isn't fair, and death can be sudden but reflection goes on. As we reflect on Spaulding Gray's reflections of himself, we are called to honest testimony of our own humanity and bridging the distance between lives lived and truth told.

Farewell Spaulding.

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Black Business Assn

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Extended Family

My brother's ex-wife's fiance's sister is one of the top highschool basketballers in the nation. Even thought she's just a sophomore, according to what I've heard, she's good enough for everyone to start counting WNBA chickens. This is worrysome.

I only know one guy, with whom I haven't spoken in some time, who is a honest to goodness sports dad who has had the mixed blessing of his kids being potential pro athletes. So I am way out of my depth talking to G, the baller's dad, about the subject. He's apparently something of a phenomenal coach in California women's basketball.

Anyway, I suppose I'll get to know them and the whole thing better. I'm just really not prepared for basketball zillionaires in the family.

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All Apologies

I have been a mask of myself over the past few posts and I'm not particularly proud. What I have said in my litmus test about profanity is selfish and lazy. So I hereby pledge to work harder to avoid profanity.

As I drove this morning to pick up my mother from the clinic (sigh), I continued to fume about Ironbear and what his resignation represents, writ large sociologically. But I'm not going to indulge that here - just see Bell's Rules. The next moment I reviewed my beatdown of Acidman/JarheadDad and it came back to the N Word.

If you have a problem with a hideously objectionable individual who happens to be your boss at the corporation, you might choose to call him 'a running dog of the imperial capitalist class'. If you chose those words, you would be hard pressed to convince anybody that you were anything but a communist of some sort. Likewise, if you had a problem with a hideously objectionable individual who happens to be African American and you choose to call him 'a nigger' you can't convince anyone with an ounce of brains that your not some sort of racist.

Our choice of words mark us.

I've been XBoxing Live for a few months- actually a year, and it's time to renew my subscription - and recently I've noticed how annoying it is for me to play with adolescents intent on proving their mastery of curses, the latest and most annoying perjorative which is "That's so gay."

I get really tired of this rabble, and I can't tell you how often I drive by churches and temples wanting to be inside where the utterances are more profound than profane. It's not that I am seeking safety from offense, but respite. It's unfortunate, all this mindless anger, all this witless expression, and the dissonance it creates saddens me. People curse and spit and throw plates of linguini. Their limited eloquence cannot bear the weight of their passion and so they are ignored. I can do better, and so I will.

In this, I am not trying to be a role-monkey. I'm simply trying to discipline myself and do what I know I am capable of doing. As I said, I look on the last few days of posts and I can't say that I am proud of the way I've said things, knowing I had just run out of patience and let a 'fuck' suffice.

What's done is done. The future awaits.

Posted by mbowen at 11:15 AM | TrackBack

Parablemania: A Kindred Spirit

I've just discovered Parablemania. I like it. I think that I have stumbled upon a treasure, a place where theologists and ministers post and discuss ethics. Beauty.

Naturally, I'm following remarks on the Gibson film and same-sex marriage.

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March 08, 2004

Viral Superdistribution

This is a big idea.

On NPR Sunday's "On The Media" show they reported a distributor in Mexico which targets bootlegger's networks and co-opts them. There's some impurities in this method because it uses the Federales to help the business target these resellers, but the idea is perfect. Manufacturers can profit from a distribution model that uses the very same guys who peddle bootlegs on the streets. Four bucks per DVD? Yep. They do it, and the quality is better (obviously) than those taken by handicam in theatres.

This is the kind of business I could really go for myself.

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Libertarian Socialists

Here's what I honestly want to know, if somebody can help me out. What do they teach about the role of taxation in business schools these days?

When I started reading management theory and the business press in the early 80s we were obsessing over beating the Japanese and modernizing American business management practice. There were essentially two schools, Deming and Hammer. Big business started implementing supply chain tracking and kan ban methodologies and other JIT practices. Manufacturers reduced the number of vendors, the ISO 9000 regimes came into practice. CAD/CAM and factory floor automation investments were being made. And of course all the stuff in my field management computing were all the ingredients being mixed together to make American companies fiercely competitive on the global scene.

These are the kinds of innovations that management has been using. So why is it that all we ever hear about from libertarians in particular is that what we really need is deregulation and tax abatement. Do they know the first thing about how to make profits or are they really just shills for corporate welfare?

Tell me, because I think they are just making excuses for businesses to vote themselves into profitability, and are thus nothing more than socialists for the business class.

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Public Intimacy

I just volunteered a bit of information with a meta tag cleverly named 'ICBM' which denotes my GPS coordinates. It's curious that I have done so as well as Orkutrified myself. That's a lot of information.

I don't know that it's particularly useful though. I've always talked about the economy of frequent flyer miles as the ultimate 'invasion of privacy'. It illustrates the paradox of personal information.

As much as I reveal here, I couldn't tell you with any certainty that there have been more than 1000 unique individuals who have ever bothered to read Cobb.

We truly are alone in the world.

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Just another backbiting moment with regard to gay marriage. I still say it's mostly about money and social overreach. Here's an intersting tidbit from Hit & Run.

Or take the issue of estate taxes. Right now, a wealthy 80-year-old widow can leave all of her property tax-free to a 20-year-old boy toy if she marries him a month before her death. If the same widow wills her property to, say, her niece who has been living with her and providing constant care and companionship for 10 years, the niece will have to pay a huge estate tax. Where is the justice in that?

On the positive side, perhaps the rage over gay marriage, like that of feminism and contraception, will prompt us to review what it is we actually believe about marriage - and how consistently (or not) our system of laws treats marrieds. I welcome that.

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Loony Libertarians

I scored 18 on The Libertarian Purity Test. It's amazing to me that there would be anyone who scored more than 50 points. What are such people like?

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March 07, 2004


You are Lucy!

Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

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Looking For Trouble

I'm in a snitty mood this evening. This is me today, wearing my grey cutoff shorts, my Trojans football jersey (XXL) my red bandana and my dark Oakley shades biting an Arturo Fuente torpedo with unbrushed teeth. If I would have had a shotglass with Jack to help me hawk up a good brown spit, it would have topped off the day, but there was none of that at my neice's birthday party.

I was all daddied out from Saturday, and all the babies could tell. Nobody could hand them to me because they all started to scream. Good.

But all this is just burying the lede of what's really got me steamed. It's the Black Commentator again and all the Black Commentator wannabees. I'd bet a nickel that Baldilocks has already beat me to calling bullshit on Aristide's whining about being 'kidnapped' but I really have to rant on this matter.

What is up with all this follow the leader crap? I'm upset at myself oftimes for being topical, but can't these people think of anything original? Where oh where was all the outrage about the Haitian condition 4 weeks ago? There can be no doubt that shit is hitting the fan in every crack of the world, not least of all Haiti but not until Bush can be blamed for something do these cockroaches crawl out and party. Can they not pick a country anywhere on the planet and say two things about it without reference to the great white conspiracy + Colin Powell and Condi Rice? Hell no. That would require them to think.

I'm halfway guilty here. I try to think globally but I realize I can't hold that many nations in my head. I'd like to talk about the government in Cote d'Ivoire and why the French sent troops but the Americans did not, when they were calling for us. I tried. I'd like to talk about the economics of slavery in the Sudan and why we shouldn't try to buy them. I want America to be a proper empire, but my attention span isn't very good in Africa, South America or anywhere else. I just kinda focus on Iraq sometimes. But one thing I don't do is start talking out of my ass when something bad happens without any consideration to what has gone before, specifically I'm willing to listen to people in the blogosphere who study those places.

So it's really annoying to me that I have to hear this spew about Aristide being kidnapped. It's a stretch from people who just need to connect unconnected dots in their wack proofs of GW Bush as the ultimate evil.

Anyway this is uncharacteristic of me and I really should find some of that Jack and just mellow the hell out. I'm really not disappointed so much as annoyed. If I keep up this sour attitude against black political commentators, I'll find myself in agreement with people like David Horowitz, a fate worse than death.

Posted by mbowen at 10:40 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Shaking The Devil's Hand

Can't shake the devil's hand and say you're only kidding.
-- They Might Be Giants

This is the letter that a lot of people hate. People who prefer Arthur Ashe to Muhammed Ali, people who prefer MLK to Malcolm X. This is the letter where the charming well-spoken black man tells them to piss off. You've been warned.

What I'm talking about is respect. Smash called bullshit on Acidman's rant against people he considers no count niggers. Acidman said he doesn't care who he offends. Today I'm going to agree with him. The reason is simple. If he said anything like that around me, he'd get his ass kicked. You know it, I know it everybody knows it. So when it comes down to it, no real intellectual exercise in explication is necessary. Some whitefolks simply don't respect blackfolks and are looking for opportunities to talk about it. So fucking what? It's not like this isn't America and we've never heard that story before.

I was so taken for a loop that this cat Ironbear had such respect for me and yet was confused about what to do with his previous respect for Acidman that I began writing a complicated story about respect. Part of that came out in the "Legacy of Slavery" post from this morning. But let me tell you what, this is an old tired assed story and I need to slap myself for thinking twice. "Gee, I think my friend is a racist, but I think he does have a point about black poeple." Here's my answer. Fuck you and your friend. Don't ask me for permission, because I don't want any part of your sorry ass confusion. If your mother didn't raise you right and you hang out with cracker ass crackers, that's your problem. But your problem ends at my doorstep and you know that, that's why you're tiptoeing. I don't have time for this.

Intellectual clarity is a blessing. So is guts. Don't play around with men with both.

Now here's the abstract conservative part scavenged from the overlong thing I wasted Saturday writing:

The better part of wisdom is to know when to stop asking questions. Wisdom is not only a fullness of knowledge but a paucity of foolishness. Lines must be drawn if one is to respect one's own self. You can't engage everyone or consider the validity of everything. No reliable decisiveness comes from endless curiousity, no strength can be maintained without decisivenss. A little bit of everything adds up to a whole lot of nothing. This to me is the essence of conservatism. It isn't that conservatives are always correct, but that they can only be so wrong.

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The Legacy of Slavery

I don't know jack about slavery. Never studied it at all. My cousin the playwrite tells me that it's an absolutely fascinating subject. A while back, he read a great number of letters written by black soldiers in the Union Army to their wives and former masters. He informs me that what most people know about slavery could fit in about 500 words. He's generally right, especially when it comes to me.

Now as a black pundit, I get to talk about 'dysfunction' a lot. Not because I want to, it's just how some people wriggle their way into conversations, especially people with about 500 words to say. Within those 500 are often 'the legacy of slavery'. You remember the Reparations debate, all that stuff before nine-eleven? Anyway, I never went back to slavery. I have been quite satisfied in my understanding of the great disparities between black and white as a succession of oppressions. So I basically go back to my great grandfather's time just before WW1 and the great Flu epidemic in the early days of the Great Migration. But most specifically I take the Great Depression as a starting point.

When Hoover was president, enough blacks and enough whites were dead even in poverty for that to be a ground zero in my arguments. So I am prepared, when I have to talk about it, to say that all the racism just in the last 70 years is sufficient to account for every discrepancy between blacks and whites in America. You don't have to go back to slavery. Just go before the invention of the suburb in the days when every 10th white american was in the Klan. Go to the days of Eugene Debs and all of his whites only unions. Go to the days of the segregated army adn the all-white civil service. That's enough.

Any legacy of slavery that got manifest through the not too distant bad old days is truly deeply embedded in America. So much so, I contend, that it doesn't much matter politically. Nobody is capable of making changes within this democracy capable of undoing something that deep. At this moment I am not prepared to say what any of those embedded qualities ar, other than to suggest that they are not psychological.

So when it comes to the subject of 'dysfunction' and I hear 'legacy of slavery' applied to things like teenage pregnancy, gang violence, drug addiction, etc, my bogosity meter peaks. Now I understand that slavery was very real and very devastating, but any black family that survived the Depression, in my opinion, has overcome. On the other hand racial essentialism is not real, so anyone who attributes such dysfunctions on race stands on even shakier ground.

There is nothing inherited by African Americans via the 'legacy of slavery' that a fair amount of money and social power can't fix.

How much? Your guess is as good as mine. More later.

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The Public Restaurant Analogy

An analogy I'll be using from time to time:

The US is a strange place. This is the country where any joe with a decent shirt and fifty bucks can go and eat in a restaurant sitting next to a multimillionaire. They move with equal ease, we all understand the rules of a restaurant as a public place. And yet, sitting within a couple yards of each other, they are not likely to speak in a way that will change their lives significantly. You brush against people with solutions to your problems and you never know it. That is so strange.

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Daddy Saturday

Yesterday was quite a day away from the keyboards.

I spent a couple hours at the local Trader Joe's selling Girl Scout Cookies, and I am learning something rather fascinating about fatherhood. There's a kind of love that seems very strange to explain - it must be something general. I feel like I'm becoming wiser about love. Yesterday was one of those occasions when I felt really cool walking hand in hand with my daughter. It's almost precisely the same feeling you get when you and your date hit the party and you know she's the most sizzling babe in the joint. You just get all smug and the look on your face says "She's with me". Except when it's your seven year old daughter in her Brownie vest and pony tails your face says "She's from me."

F7 dazzled everyone with her fours times tables and ability to make change. It became something of an embarrassing power stuggle between her and her sisteren. Who gets to do the math this time? I let Lee handle it. She's the mom in one of the only families we regularly socialize with out this way. Its strange how she and I can never manage a conversation with sentences longer than 7 words, but that's a blog entry for another day.

We sold probably 80 boxes of cookies in two hours. It's simply amazing how easy it is for my daughter to do this. When I was a kid, selling cookies and candies to my neighbors was like selling pet insurance in a trailer park. Chalk one up for another middleclass benchmark blithely accomplished. F7 charmed the pants off 'em.

Later we headed to one of the 10 cousins' birthday sleepover at my sister's place. Her place, over near Olympic and La Cienega is a cozy neighborhood at the edge of burglar bar territory. She's only been there about 6 months but after they painted the interior (and took down the hippie beads in the doorway) it is the ultimate in . It's now one of those 'lights on' places that you drive by in the evening and wish you were home. All that and homemade chili and three sausage salsa made for a perfectly lazy afternoon. Except for the 14 children rampaging, it was very relaxing.

Pops was back from Chico's funeral and in great spirits. He gave me a copy of the program which he had populated with literally dozens of color images. Teach a man how to ink jet and he'll entertain himself for life. I brought the laptop and showed off some of the WHP library that I'll be sharing here in the days and weeks to come.

I got an opportunity to explain something about what the blogosphere is and how it works. This can take a good 30 minutes of exposition. Amazing. Well the day wound down after yet another Spongebob pinata bit the dust. I got a chance to teach my kids the intricacies of the old school videogames. My sister bought the package with Dig Dug, Pole Position, Galaga and Pac Man. Wowza. I've got the Did Dug theme in my head still.

Most daddylicious of all, I got to hold a three month old baby for a good long time. Babies do love me, especially baby girls. I've got a big thumpy heart and then I hold them over it, it works it's little miracle. Plus I can cha-cha, and I can tell by the bubbles they blow, that they're digging the rhythm. Ahh, there is nothing on the planet quite as intoxicating as baby smell. I love baby smell. Don't you?

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March 05, 2004

Deep Variances

Deep Variances
M. Bowen
August 2001

Deep Variances are high level indicators of problems at a deeper level of hierarchy. It can reveal fudge factors and other low lying problems which might not otherwise be noticed at a high level. The effect is that it quantifies problems in a manner suggestive of the *breadth* of a particular problem in contrast to the *severity* of that same problem. Severity errors propagate normally up a dimensional hierarchy when they are sufficient, but a breadth indicator such a Deep Variance can give an early warning even when certain high level balances seen ok.

For example, imagine a high level of variance volatility at a low level of a dimensional hierarchy. There are high negative and high positive variances. These 'balance out' in aggregation. So an individual considering overall progress might not think to look into the detail.

Tech Details
In Essbase, make the Deep Variance another member of the Scenario dimension, but don't code the formula into the member. The forumula needs to be calculated by script because there are two passes. The first pass is implemnted by the custom script. The normal 'rack and stack' aggregation of a 'calc all' is sufficient to create the high level numbers. These high level numbers will thus represent a *count* of deep variances as defined by the variance trigger. In this case, the trigger is (actual-plan < -2).

fix (@LEVMBRS(item,0))
"Deep Var"
(if (actual-plan < -2 )

Note that in this case, 'Item' is the only sparse dimension. I don't know what might be the case for multiple dimensions.

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Pattern Recognition

what.jpgDo you know what this is? I'll give you a hint. It could kill you. It's rather amazing that people are capable of giving meaning to weird arbitrary shapes, but I assure you that this is a very important shape. You might recognize it in the context of these other ones, but think about it before you click.

Amazing huh?

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March 04, 2004

AQ Kahn: International Goat

We know too much about this guy.

I have a strange feeling that AQ Kahn knows a great deal more than he is saying and that he is alive for very, very specific reasons. The last time I felt this way about somebody, it was when Skilling quit Enron 'to be with his family'. There is some massive conspiracy afoot.

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March 03, 2004

Drezner on Mexican Immigration

Note to self, Drezner is right.

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Race, Cyberspace & The Digital Divide

Grace Lee interviewed me (fairly and with balance) for this month's ReadMe, NYU's Online Journal focusing on Race Cyberspace and the Digital Divide. It's a pretty good piece. I'd be intrigued.

Slowly but surely, the digital divide---the much-noted gap between black and white America, when it comes to computer usage and Internet access---is closing. Although it currently makes up only a small percentage of Internet users (blacks account for only 8% of all U.S. Net users, while whites constitute 78%), the African-American online population is expected to more than double by 2005, according to a recent study by the Trade Association Report. As the growing popularity of Afrocentric sites such as BlackPlanet, CushCity, and Africana hints, the African-American influence on new media and Net culture is sure to loom large, in the near future. That said, ReadMe wonders how much diversity there is on the Net. The black-run weblogs, warblogs, community portals, and e-commerce sites discussed in this special package of articles do not take away from the fact that the Web is not the colorblind utopia foretold by Wired magazine in the giddy '90s. In issue 4.3, ReadMe removes the virtual-reality goggles and takes a hard look at race in cyberspace

One small correction, although I participated in CIN Steering Committee Meetings at Xerox El Segundo and help configure parts, the physical CIN was built by others. I was moderator of the XeroxBlackNetwork and a vocal participant in the closest thing we had to a political forum which was the Philosophy discussion group.

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Church of the Grisly Christ

I have returned from seeing the latest Mel Gibson movie. It was painful.

We Episcopalians say "He suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the scriptures." A good third of this movie stops at about the second word. Mel Gibson has beaten Jesus to a bloody pulp in this film and I'm wondering if there is any sect of Christianity that has made such a graphic iconography of his torture. I hope not because I've had a wonderful lifetime of 'hating' Baptists; they'd have to step aside for the Church of the Grisly Christ.

The film's opening is off to a lurching start. Jesus suffers in the Garden of Gethsemane realizing the weight of his doom. As we watch, we know he's going to die, but his trembling seems overdone. There are not enough words to carry us forward - indeed this film is almost subliminal. Only knowing what Christians know gives any clue of the pain to come, but even the most seasoned Christian in the audience can only guess at the horrors in store.

I found myself asking, especially at Golgotha - the place of the actual crucifixion, how is it that Christians chose this particular moment as a focus for the great symbols of faith. The answer is obvious from the film's perspective. In essence, the Christ is the one, the only and ultimate martyr of Christianity. The sacrifice of body and blood are not merely symbols but the gritty gorey reality of ancient Roman brutality, and what was so monumental about Jesus' sacrifice was that he knowingly, preciently perhaps, walked directly into that hell on earth. For all the films ever made of the life of Jesus, certainly one should give contemporary audience the full weight of the pain of that bloody sacrifice. In that, the Passion is an extraordinary success, the Saving Private Ryan of its genre. Mel Gibson can now be acclaimed as the master of period violence. If he had only been the director of Gladiator, that fate would have been sealed forever. But the Passion could have done it on its own with little need for Mad Max, The Patriot or Braveheart.

This is a subliminal movie. Its script is the merest suggestion of familiar scripture and it does little to give us anything but our own memories to underlie the drama. It provides a modern vision for ancient stories, a realization as graphic as movie technology can provide but it does so without so much narrative as necessary to hold an ordinary film together. One is left with the distinct impression that Gibson studiously avoided adding a single word that might contradict some bibilical interpretation, and so left the talking, literally to the camera. By having all the dialog in Aramaic and Latin he has created an authentic, if claustophobic, world. The film provides no context, it refuses the backstory of John the Baptist, for example. It doesn't allow the man on the street to be heard or the mob to shout anything more than 'Free Barrabas'. One must come to such a film with a great deal of subtext already in mind because the story is told like a courtroom drama where only the prosecution speaks. He could be any man, and perhaps he was. As he stands accused and for much foreground story, Jesus is mute. He stands oddly defiant, neither subversive, nor superior as the Pharisees led by Caiphus denounce him and ask for his head. So I can understand why some Jews would become upset with what they might percieve as a dramatization of that which many [failing] Christians insist binds all Jews as Christ killers. There is no subtlety in the portrayal of these religious leaders, these are the Bad Guys, outraged at the impiety of this Nazerene. The slap and spit, they manipulate mercilessly, they call for blood.

The film handles Judas' anguish at his betrayal with some brilliance, his madness, grief and desparation are perfect material for Gibson's macabre touch. Yet in all of this there is but one actor who takes us onto our toes. Only Pontius Pilate, played brilliantly by Hristo Shopov head and shoulders above any previous Pilate, gives us something studied, even Shakespearean. His inner conflict gives the film its only mystery and tension. The rest is a kind of eyes open grand guignol one can only bear to watch once.

Of the dramatic depiction of Jesus himself, the stroke of genius is the actors' single, open amber eye. This one unblemished spot on the body racked from head to toe with ripped flesh conveys the silent dignity of a man condemned and resigned to that fate. In the single open eye of Jesus the Nazerene it is possible to see divinity.

But it is not divinity which is the subject of The Passion. The great wincing weight of this film is found in the lacerated body of Jesus himself. I defy anyone not to be moved by watching, over and over in slow motion, a mother's tears as her son is flayed to the bone. The unmerciful cruelty is so wrenching that it is nearly impossible not to feel compassion. The Roman thugs so delight in their brutality, the throngs so transfixed by the spectacle, the Marys so pitiable and traumatized that there is nothing left to do but cry. Through this unflinchingly goulish lens, Gibson does damage to the import of the message of Christ. I immediately thought, this must certainly have happened a thousand times all over human history, so what difference does it make that the torturers are Romans, that the accusers are Jews, that the martyr is Jesus? It matters and yet it doesn't. If it weren't Jesus, we'd walk out of the film having endured the bludgeoned point quite long enough, and yet because it is Jesus we stay, waiting for him to be Jesus. But he's just a man beaten into a gelatinous hulk stumbling up a hill, we pity him, we cry for him, we wish it were otherwise. Is the film heretical? No, it casts Jesus in the light of a warrior rather than as a teacher. Jesus has his heroic moment while chained to the whipping post, standing courageously as the King of another otherwordly kingdom, bloodied but unbowed. And then the beatings come with even more cruel ferocity. He is beaten into oblivion. It is surprising in many respects that nobody loses their lunch in this film as half the audience is wont to do. It must be the blood, the blood of Christ that gets to you, not the vomit, teeth and piss any other man would have shed under such torture. So what makes this the perfect sacrifice for the whole world is not the consistency of Jesus deportment as teacher to the end, but his willingness to soldier through the greatest pains imaginable. This is the point slammed home in Gibson's Passion, the sheer bonecrunching agony of it all.

Can one person's death be so significant? One could watch this film as a cautionary tale about inhumanity or about what happens to justice during occupation. So much of the import of the life of Christ is bound up in the travesty that someone unfamiliar with many Christian principals, while getting it on this basic physical level would lose sight of the transcendance. It wasn't that Christ died so horribly, but that he loved so transcendently, that he taught so wisely, that he lived with such integrity.

Gibson has created more than a film but an event which will prompt discussion about the nuts and bolts of Christianity. It marks us all that the incitement for this is such a grisly affair.

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Zeke Wins!

As of Date: 03/03/2004 Time: 02:54 Votes Percent


DANIEL Z ZEIDLER 224,996 28.08
DAVID LOPEZ 172,263 21.50
BOB HENRY 136,994 17.10
CRAIG J MITCHELL 131,536 16.42
MICHAEL D SHOOK 85,325 10.65
CRAIG A RENETZKY 50,027 6.24


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Excluded Middle

New York City is heading on a bold new vector. The will be eliminating middle schools. Their move, to make elementary go K-8 and some highschools 6-12 is going to be controversial but I think it has a lot going for it.

I'll simply say this; at our local elementary, there is a buddy system between 5th graders and Kindergarten kids. It's a beautiful thing. The influence of younger children on older kids and vice versa can be used to teach responsibility in the best way.

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Nothing Doing

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Death, For Laughs

Being sucked dry by leeches isn't so bad.
You will be sucked dry by a leech. I'd stay away
from swimming holes, and stick to good old
cement. Even if it does hurt like hell when
your toe scrapes the bottom.

What horrible Edward Gorey Death will you die?
brought to you by Quizilla

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March 02, 2004

Sluts and the City

I hated 'Sex and the City' for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it reminded me in a rather painful way what it is like to be a black man in NYC, which is to say (in one way) rather completely outside the consciousness of the kind of skinny cute white chicks that pass for models of America's feminine consciousness. You want to know how I felt watching it? Like Sally Field in Terms of Endearment when she had lunch with her friends at Tavern on the Green. It made me so glad I don't trip like that.

Nevertheless, I have been fond of asking women that I found attractive even as a married man as to whether they believed that 'Sex and the City' met any basic standard of realism. The answers, I can say with some surety, depended upon whether or not they attended a predominantly white university. Don't ask me how I know. I'm using sexual profligacy in educated white women as a metaphor for...oh I dunno..the corruptions of courtly life and the desire to partake? How shall I say.. Uma Thurman in 'Dangerous Liasons'. Role model? You decide.

I thought Sara J Parker was a lot more attractive as her character than, say, Murphy Brown or whomever Calista Flockhart was supposed to be. There is a certain time in a citified bourgie man's life (or perhaps I should say 'guy') when that is exactly the right kind of babeage. But at some point the joke wears thin. A woman who goes broke from buying too many shoes is just not worth the time, at least with those I consider grownfolks.

I cannot say that I'd watched the show enough times to find if any of the chicks had any redeeming characteristics, but watching always reminded me of that great line from 'The Cook, The Thief..'. "Men who hang around the ladies room are bound to be disappointed." The whole voyueristic appeal of hearing women confide about their sex lives may seem liberating, but after a while it's like 70's porn. Enough already.

Spending much time considering the feminist ramifications of sexual freedom in the context of 'Sex and the City' seems a little bit foolish. First of all, doing so would contradict my first rule: "There is Marriage, and then there is everything else - nobody really cares about everything else." Isn't that the point of sexual freedom, getting your jollies? It's about not having to care. Secondly, sexual freedom (read 'studied promiscuity') after some point goes against the natural inclinations of the body as it matures. When you start taking hormone shots just so you can feel young, you've gone beyond any reasonable standard of freedom into the areas of obsession and denial. (Some anthropologist of the future is going to have a field day explaining the twisted toe bones of pump-wearing women of the 20th century). At some point more sex is just more sex. What's liberation got to do with it?

But sex can't only be sex. That's the problem. Meaning has to be attached, love has to be attached, power has to be attached. If 'Sex and the City' was ever worth watching, it must have explored all of the ways these various weights attached themselves to all the sex that sounded like such a good idea back at Suburban U. Unless you're trying to be Wilt Chamberlain or Luke the rapper, amassing huge numbers of giving and getting orgasms doesn't manage to be a decent life goal. If the point of 'Sex and the City', or anyone's concept of sexual freedom is that it doesn't change who you are with your clothes on, where exactly is the liberation? You're not a prude? - OK that can be proven in a week. Then what? To go on for years and years of sexual escapades is to treat it like a hobby, a pastime, a recreational sport.

Perhaps I have a wacky sense of the word liberation. For me, it always meant 'freedom from' which is very different from 'freedom to'. What does a woman who can screw her way through dozens of men prove herself free from other than meaningful and lasting relationships with men? "Men, who needs them", is not the point of feminism, otherwise what responsibility can it take for men?

One final note. I wrote about dancing with sluts about a year ago. I know what it's like to be a lighthearted sexual predator. It must certainly be different for women to enter such a hunting mode. But If one becomes proficient it's unlikely that the skill would be significantly diminished over time. If one can turn the habit of objectification of people as sexual prizes on and off at will, doesn't that say something pretty heinous about our regard for each other as human beings? I say turning it off for good says something positive and mature about individuals, not to mention realistic at middle age.

So here's to 'Sex and the City'. May it remain turned off.

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On His Way Rejoicing

By Robert Thomas Bowen, Sr.
Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church
New Haven, Connecticut Saturday, February 28, 2004
“You turn men back to dust,
saying, ‘Return to dust, O sons of men.
You sweep men away in the sleep of death;
They are like the new grass of morning –
Though in the morning it springs up new,
By evening it is dry and withered.”
(from Psalm 90)

Part I – Recognition
At a time like this, tears come with little effort. The body of one more of God’s creatures has been stilled. His name is Raymond Curtis Bowen. His full and hearty laugh is now but a memory. Those rolling pop eyes, as big as golf balls are forever closed. The quick dance steps of an imaginary character he called “The Ready Critter” have faded. The steady raising of the proper glass with the appropriate beverage prompts a smile among us, but is no more….The magic of this man. He proudly donned a God-given cloak of intelligence, charm, pride, and more than a hint of Yankee boastfulness. He was the gentleman in every sense of the word. And these qualities were firmly built on a foundation of devotion and love. Not the soft, soap opera kind of love; but love at a deeper, more meaningful level. Love as wide and full as the life he lived…bursting with joy and delight. The evidence of his effect on others is not simply our presence here this morning; but the many ways in which our otherwise regular lives have been irreversibly touched and changed. We can smile and call it The Chico Syndrome. He was a special man, a distinctly splendid and special man.

And he was rich beyond measure. His cup (to say nothing of his glass) always ran over. He took delight in what he said, what he saw and what he did. Books were not written by him or about him; nor were there TV specials nor holidays set aside to tout his accomplishments or honour his life. And yet…and yet Raymond Curtis Bowen was truly a great man. A great man. Not in the standard, the traditional sense of conquering nations and building cities. Rather he conquered hearts and built trust. He was great because of his impact on the lives of everyone with whom he came into contact: His friends, co-workers, neighbors and neighbors’ kids, Connecticut State Guardians, New York, New Haven Hartford Railrodians, his children grandchildren and great grandchildren, nieces and nephews. And, of course, his esteemed fellow St. Lukians! He was Chico, Ray, Uncle Ray, Grandfather, Past Master, 2nd Lieutenant, Phi Gam Permittee, ad infinitum…a man of all seasons, for all the right reasons. He was respected, appreciated, admired and, yes, even envied. He was special. And because of this short list as so much more, he was loved by many.

Part II – Celebration
We have more than ample reason to look upon Chico’s earthly sojourn as indisputable evidence of not just God’s power, but God’s limitless capacity to mould and extend gifts to his people. And there is no distinction between a gift and a blessing. Raymond Curtis Bowen was a blessing. And blessings are not to be sadly mourned or even pitifully grieved. Blessings are to be fully acknowledged and richly celebrated. Back in sometimes sunny California, Reverend Lynn Collins reminds St. John’s parishioners that if we have been blessed we should, in turn, be a blessing to someone else. Doesn’t that go right to the heart of the kind of man Chico was? Always blessing us with his insight, his wisdom, his uncanny ability to draw attention to himself and then, throw a conversational curve and talk about subjects and people beyond himself: French and Russian literature, epics of ancient Greece, DuBois, Garvey, Ellington, Sarah Vaughn and Shakespeare. A strange and wonderful tapestry of knowledge coupled with rare imagination.

Well, Chico more than did his part. Now we are called upon to do ours. Our charge is simple although important. It is, I think, to unabashedly thank God for this 91 year old gift…this Connecticut-born, worldly wise, spiritually secure, God-believing, God-fearing Masonic Shriner Afro Anglican Yankee Episcopalian with an Elk’s point of view!

Part III – The Return
A few short weeks ago, a small group from NBC visited Chico in Wallingford. NBC means “New Haven (Aunt Gloria Williams), New York (Rodney Bowen) Baltimore (Ray Bowen, II and Ray Bowen, III) and California (Bob Bowen).” To put it mildly, it was an unusual experience. Chico slipped in and out of being lucid. He would smile and then, for no apparent reason, he would frown. At one point a single, large tear rolled down his right cheek. He said three simple words: “I miss her.” The most dramatic display, however, was his repeatedly making the sign of the cross. Over and over again.

This was accompanied by gestures which can be likened to taking communion. His endless chant was: “Prayers…first thing, every morning. Prayers…first thing every morning… Prayers…first thing every morning.” When he said this, his speech was steady, measured and unmistakable. Chico then said he wanted to go home. Home. But when any of us asked where home was, he didn’t know. Or, perhaps if he did know, he wouldn’t say. We were in the Masonic Home solarium and he then looked up to sky. What had been an almost deadpan expression melted into what can only be described as a smile of pure serenity. It was as though he saw something…or someone. Then, a rather sly grin slowly came across his face. His silence informed us that we would not be privy to the details of what had just occurred. Raymond Curtis Bowen had made a connection with something or someone that was beyond our ability to grasp. For a brief period, he had entered another realm. It was as eerie as it was real. It was a special moment for a special man. We left shortly after that. The rest is medical and mortal history.

And now he has come or we can say he has gone…full circle. Back to basics, to his own beginning. The inevitable closing of the eternal loop that waits to envelop us all. In his last years, Chico may have moved slowly; but he got across the final finish line before each of us. He won. And we no longer need to wait on him. To change his clothes or adjust his ever-crooked tie, to coax him to finish his apple sauce. Now, he’s there waiting for us. Raymond Curtis Bowen is no longer on his way rejoicing. His journey is complete. He is at home…at peace…at rest…rejoicing! And we are fully assured that he is not home alone. On the blessed contrary: He has finally joined hands with his Maker and rejoined hearts with his beloved mate, Lucille Harriott Frances Cobb Bowen (aka Miss Madam). For him, it has all come together because…God is good! All the time!
(From Psalm 104)
“I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long
As I live
May my meditations be pleasing to him.
as I rejoice in the Lord.
Praise the Lord, O my soul.
Praise the Lord.”
“Prayers, first thing…every morning.”


Phi Gam – Phi Gamma Delta, a Yale fraternity where Chico served as permittee/manager.
Railroadians – Another Bob Bowen fabricated designation for the people who worked with Chico during his 21 years with the New York, New Haven, Hartford Railroad.
2nd Lieutenant – Chico had achieved this rank in the Connecticut State Guard.
St. Lukians – A Bob Bowen fabricated designation for the members of St. Luke’s Church.
Lucille Harriott Frances Cobb Bowen - Endearing name Chico made up for my mother, Lucille Cobb Bowen. She loved the name, but not as much as she loved him.
“On Our Way Rejoicing” (Chico’s favorite hymn and…..expression)
On our way rejoicing,
as we homeward move,
hearken to our praises,
O thou God of love!
Is there grief or sadness?
Thou our joy shalt be;
is our sky beclouded?
Clouds are not from thee.
On our way rejoicing,
as we onward move,
hearken to our praises,
O thou God of love!

If with honest hearted
love for God and man,
day by day thou find us
doing all we can,
thou who givest the seed time,
will give large increase,
crown the head with blessings,
fill the heart with peace. Refrain

On our way rejoicing
gladly let us go;
conquered hath our Leader,
vanquished is our foe!
Christ without, our safety,
Christ within, our joy;
who, if we be faithful,
can our hope destroy? Refrain

Unto God the Father
joyful songs we sing;
unto God the Savior
thankful hearts we bring;
unto God the Spirit
bow we and adore;
on our way rejoicing now and evermore. Refrain Words: John Samuel Bewley Monsell, 1862 Music: Hermas

Posted by mbowen at 08:05 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What Failure?

If you pressed me into a corner and asked me if I truly believe that the majority of Americans are sufficiently disciplined in their geopolitical worldview to sustain the proper policies for America, I'd say no. It takes me back to Chomsky who, in his inimitable way, pulled back the blinders.

Nevertheless, while I think Perle's rhetoric gets outsized, I fundamentally agree with him and the PNAC imperials. We have fairly good prospects to become a fairly good empire. The problem is our cushy citizenry, but in a two party system, they can be marginalized through bipartisanship. Sound cynical? Yeah, it sounds cynical to me as well.

At any rate, here's Scott Ritter shooting from the hip. I wonder if he overestimates the power of democracy. Certainly nobody is programmatically manipulating the blogosphere (although if it can be assumed that the CIA has moles everywhere of import it would be great sport to figure which of the bloggers in the top 100 is the mole), and we are not decieved. But what we can do about what we know is limited - we're too granular to exert power like other forms of mass communications.

From Scott Ritter, Feb 26 2004:

Well, if you're looking at it from the standpoint of the American intelligence services and the British intelligence services, nothing went wrong. I mean, one of the greatest frauds being perpetrated today is the concept of an intelligence failure. They didn't fail. Their mission has been all along regime change, so that succeeded. What we're confronting here is one of the greatest intelligence successes in modern history. They were tremendously successful. They were able to use deception, deceit, fabrication, manipulation, the classic tools of the trade to gain their objective, which was the elimination of Saddam Hussein.

One of the main deceptions they put out there was the notion of disarmament, that there was a requirement for Iraq to be disarmed of weapons of mass destruction and that the United States and Great Britain together with the Security Council supported this requirement, and we're responsible for holding Iraq accountable to this requirement. As a weapons inspector, I can tell you that I and hundreds of my fellow colleagues aggressively pursued a disarmament objective. That was our task. We worked for the Security Council, responding to a Security Council mandate. But the notion that the United States government and the British government, and, remember, these were two nations that helped frame the Security Council resolutions that we were implementing in Iraq, the notion that they actually believed in disarmament has turned out to be a lie. They never intended on allowing Iraq to be disarmed.

They never intended on allowing economic sanctions to be lifted against Iraq because, see, their policy wasn't to peacefully disarm Iraq and allow Iraq under Saddam Hussein to reintegrate itself into the family of nations. Their policy from day one, especially the United States, has been the elimination of Saddam Hussein. In order to do that, they had to continue economic sanctions against Iraq, and economic sanctions were linked to Iraq's obligation to disarm. So disarmament was only useful to the United States and Great Britain in so far as it facilitated regime change. Therefore, it's only useful in so far as you can continue the perception that Iraq has not complied with its obligation to disarm, therefore there's a legitimacy to maintain economic sanctions that have contained Saddam Hussein for a purpose, until which time we can bring together the means to achieve regime change. That was the goal. That was the objective. The CIA worked for the executive branch of the United States government, the executive branch being the President, has since '91 under three consecutive administrations pursued a policy of regime change. President George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President of the United States, made it clear that economic sanctions will not be lifted until which time Saddam Hussein is removed from power.

This policy of sanctions-based containment linked to regime change was inherited by Bill Clinton, and, for eight years, the Clinton administration sustained that policy. Albright said on numerous occasions that economic sanctions will not be lifted until Saddam Hussein's gone. Again, this policy was inherited by Bush 43, the 43rd President, George W. Bush, the current President of the United States, and he made good on this policy. So it's a tremendous success. The notion that we had an intelligence failure is wrong. It was an intelligence success. We had a failure of democracy. We had a failure of the rule of law. We had a collective failure as the American people. We had a failure in congress to uphold the Constitution of the United States. We had a failure in the media to search for the truth. We had lots of failures, but we did not have an intelligence failure. The CIA knew that Iraq had been fundamentally disarmed. The CIA knew that there were no meaningful weapons of mass destruction programs. But, see, their job as intelligence professionals wasn't to tell the American people the truth. It was to support the policy of the executive, which was regime change, which required them to create a perception in the American public that somehow Iraq was not complying with its obligation to disarm, that Iraq had maintained weapons in violation of the Security Council resolution that constituted a threat to the people of the United States, a threat that, since September 11, 2001, simply could not be ignored.

Ritter goes on to drop this bombshell on my world.

Ritter: I think anybody who opposed the regime of Saddam Hussein was a grave threat. He has a history of torturing and killing tens of thousands, maybe even more, of his own citizens. Millions of Iraqis fled the country out of fear of repression from Saddam Hussein's government. So I think that there is legitimacy. I'm an eye witness to it, to the horrific nature of his regime. I think we need to put it in the context of history. The brutal suppression of the Kurds, if you take a look at how the Kurdish people are treated by all the nations that have Kurdish minorities, Iraq, until the late 1980's, had the best record of treatment for the Kurds of any. The Iranians have a worse record of suppressing the Kurds. The Turks definitely have a pretty bad record of suppressing the Kurds. The Syrians aren't much better. Iraqi Kurdistan had a level of autonomy in terms of government that was unequaled in any other country. During the Iran-Iraq war, however, the Kurdish minority was used by the Iranians as a tool to fight Saddam, and so you had Iraqi Kurds actually switching sides and fighting for the Iranians. Now how would we treat that in the United States. I'm just curious; what would happen if South Carolina decided that they were going to withdraw from the union? Wait, they did that. It was called a civil war, and we fought the war for four some odd years, a brutal war in which we killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. Read up your history about what the Union did in the Shedendoah Valley to break the back of the confederacy's ability to feed and sustain the army of northern Virginia. Talk about Sherman's march to the sea and suddenly understand how horrible civil wars are. Research the Russian civil war, and see what the reds and the whites did to one another and the brutality that took place. I'm not condoning Saddam Hussein's treatment of the Kurds. I condemn it in the strongest terms, but let's put it into perspective. People call it genocide. it is not genocide. It is brutal suppression of a population base that had committed treason. Committed treason. They had joined the Iranians. The same thing with the Shi'a. What happens during a time of war if a significant population base rises up against central authority? They've committed treason. And that's what the Shi'a did, and Saddam suppressed them brutally. Killed tens of thousands of them. I'm not condoning it. I'm condemning it, but let's put it in perspective. This is not Saddam running around gunning down the Shi'a. Fact is if you take a look at 1991, 70% of the Shi'a were on the side of Saddam. Of the 30%, not all of them rose up. Many were just sitting on the sidelines. It was a minority that rose up in 1991, and they were brutally suppressed. Saddam has a history of brutally suppressing, and let's not sugarcoat, murder, rape, and torture of those who oppose his regime. And he did so. But, you know, we knew about this. This is not a great secret. We stood by in the 1980's and let him do it. He gassed the Kurds in Halabja, or some people say he gassed. There's a question of whether or not it was Iranian gas or Iraqi gas. But we know he used gas against Kurds. We did nothing. We said nothing. We know he used gas against the Iranians. We did nothing. We said nothing. Worse, we sent U.S. teams to Baghdad with intelligence information, satellite photography, signals intercept, and helped plot out Iranian military positions on these photographs and then sat back and watched as the Iraqis planned chemical weapons attacks. We knew they were attacking Iran using chemical weapons, and not only did we not step up and say stop, but when they asked for more intelligence information, we provided it. And how do I know this? Because I've debriefed Wafik ai-Samarai, the director of military intelligence of the Iraqi army. He's the one who met with Rumsfeld. He's the one who met with Rumsfeld's people. He's the one who met with the CIA. He's the one who sat in a room while all of this took place. That's the reality of it. I'm not condoning anything Saddam did. I'm condemning him in the harshest terms. But to sit back here and suddenly say we have to invade Iraq because of the horrific nature of the regime, that's absurd in the extreme.

So this takes me back to my Holocaust Denial post, which now must be taken in this context.

Posted by mbowen at 09:45 AM | TrackBack

Duck Duck Goose

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March 01, 2004

Mobil's Torrance Refinery

Yesterday I saw one of the biggest flares ever at Mobil's Torrance Refinery, right around the corner from my house. It occured yesterday afternoon around 3pm.

It was tremendously smoky and the flames were a very hot orange. It looked a lot darker than the orange I associate with the burning of gasoline but the smoke was so thick I kept convincing myself that it was gasoline. I couldn't smell anything but I was curious as to what it was and how much. It's always fascinating to me that there are tons of things in the air. So I gave them a call this morning to find out their story.

The woman answering my question said that the refinery was starting up some units to increase production and they had to flare while the units were warming up. I think she said something about 140 degrees. So I asked if they were burning gasoline, which is what I suspected because of the thick black smoke. She said it was 'mostly hydrogen' then hung up.

I may not be a chemical engineer, but I wasn't born yesterday. You don't get thick black smoke when you burn hydrogen. There was a whole lot of something else in that smoke.

The year before last, I was building a system for Toyota which is immediately east of the refinery. Toyota has an environmental warning process that all employees should be aware of, so the refinery will notify them if something hairy is going down. There have been no emergencies in my experience either at Toyota or at the refinery, so I wasn't surprsed that they would have a hotline. I am also not surprised that I couldn't get any specifics about what was flared and how much. The refinery can't get away with murder, but it's very likely that they are getting away with assault.

Who polices flares? Nobody apparently.

I know that the SCQAMD once had a program to enter air pollution into a cost accounting scheme and it resulted in a lot cleaner air. Their website looks rather dead, which is no surprise since our whole state is broke. Still, I think it has always been the responsibility of citizens to collect local information and declare it publicly. Now that the blogosphere exists, the tools are at our disposal.

I dig heavy industry. I think there's a natural attraction to it since I'm a soft-handed white collar kind of bit counter. I like the huge machines and the fat red buttons, the yellow striped zones on the floor and the blare of safety horns. But I've also gotten sick working in a chemical plant and I think the public could be better served by better access to compliance and monitoring tools.

So I poked around and found this information about air pollution. I think I've found a new hobby.

Posted by mbowen at 05:04 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Snide Remarks on Strike Resolution

The grocery strike is over here in Southern California and now is the time for the "I told you sos" to start galloping through the parlors of the chatting classes. I'm going to be uncharitable and point out the obvious.

I'm mostly negative on the concept of collective bargaining, but I'm more negative about hyping the supposed superior morality of unions. Unionism is little more than co-dependent managerial infighting. It's like having two adversarial personnel departments working for the same CEO. Either way, unions are entirely dependent on the corporations against which they battle, so how they are considered to exist in a entirely different moral universe is a solopsism worth debunking.

It is in the context of that which I say the union has been successful in screwing a nice hole in teh pockets of all perspective new employees of the supermarkets. (Of course it's equally true of management.) Those employees with union membership and seniority keep their own benefits and all the new guys get to be treated as second-class citizens since they will contribute dollars out of their own pockets toward their benefits. This two tier system throws a disgustingly phlegmy wrench into the concept of union brotherhood. It's a miserable state of affairs.

"It was take it, or there's the door," said Ralphs cashier Carlos Beltran, 25, who voted "yes" at Local 770's polling place in Hollywood. "They are all thieves, the companies and the unions. They're just sticking it to us."


Not only that, the union employees voted themselves a little cash bonus, proving quite honestly that everyone has their price.

Instead of raises, veterans will get lump sum payments this year equal to 30 cents an hour for every hour they worked in the 12 months before the old contract expired. That would be about $500 per employee based on an average 32-hour workweek. A second bonus would be paid after the end of the second year of the contract, equal to 30 cents an hour for every hour worked from March 6, 2005, through Oct. 6, 2006, according to a contract summary obtained by The Times.

Please let us not hear anything more than arched eyebrows for golden parachutes. We've captured something about human nature here. I think I'm going to have some fun in my own private fisking of labor bloggers. Where's American Black on this?

Posted by mbowen at 03:27 PM | TrackBack

Race & Weapons

Over at, they've got some interesting tests, rather like the Implicit Assumption Tests. Since this morning I'm obsessing over race and last week I went shooting, I thought I'd mix the two together and see how I fared. I'm actually pretty good, or I test pretty well.

Your data suggest little or no automatic racial association with Weapons or Harmless Objects

The score above has already been corrected for the order that you performed the task. If your score was 'Inconclusive', click here. Compare your score above with the distribution of all respondents scores below.

This table does NOT contain your data. This data is from a random subset of others who completed this task, and reflects the percentage of people who fell into each level of bias or no bias.
Interpretation Percent of Total Respondents

  • Strong automatic association between African Americans and weapons 29%
  • Moderate automatic association between African Americans and weapons 13%
  • Slight automatic association between African Americans and weapons 23%
  • Little to no automatic racial association with weapons or harmless objects 26%
  • Slight automatic association between European Americans and weapons 5%
  • Moderate automatic association between European Americans and weapons 3%
  • Strong automatic association between European Americans and weapons 1%

    If your test showed a "preference" for a group, the result points to a hidden, or unconscious bias. The results of over one million tests show that unconscious bias exists in most of us.

  • I favor these tests because I firmly believe that they can be indicative of what people really believe. In my time as the Boohab, arguing about race with people realtime all over the net, I concluded that it's about what people believe and the reasons for that which are mostly to account for racism in this nation. Unfortunately most debates about race don't get to such matters, rather they focus on external events and ethical behavior in response to racial conflict.

    As an aside, I made a couple mistakes during the test which I think the researchers might find significant. I twice misidentified a black maglite flashlight as a weapon instead of a harmless object. Can you guess why?

    Posted by mbowen at 10:26 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Black and White Together

    You remember the 70s. Those were the years where we decided to party over the collective relief that the whole country didn't burn to the ground in 1968. If you were in highschool, like I was, you were probably called to draw a poster of some sort. Posters were big, and especially during the Bicentennial any poster that would get you props had to have the following prop:
    This is panel 14 of a Lois Lane comic, appropriated from this comic blog. As I read it, chuckling, I noticed that something was missing. Suddenly after panel 6, where Lois begins to suffer a few humiliations as a black woman, Superman appears beating up an interracial(!) team of thugs. Somewhere after four panels of the white Lois being dissed by blacks and one panel of the black Lois dissed by whites, the comparisons suddenly stop.

    Is this fair? Is this balanced?

    Posted by mbowen at 08:57 AM | TrackBack

    Speak Up Dammit

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    Allah Hates Fags

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