April 30, 2004


This is only the second or third time I've done a 'cruise' of blogs to find out interesting things others have written and then blogged them here. I've been working diligently on what amounts to financial forensics for one of the three companies that has recently hired me, and I haven't had much time to think creatively.

So I will join the long list of bloggers who do that, thing for which I've been thankfully included. One other note before I do this. I'm tempted to give credit to the blogs which point me to other blogs where the target information can be found, but that's being too courtly. The point is the original content, not that I'm so brilliant an editor....

So here's what I've found on my cruise.

  • A haunting journey through the back country near Chernobyl. "Every step toward the little cars adds 100 microroentgen to my geiger counter reading."
  • The cure to post-modernism. Boobs done properly. And plus she's so nice I decided to mention her twice. Do you know what a 'tinkle winkle' is? Why it's a cheesburger. No wait, maybe it's a padinga. Find out.
  • Sports vs Activities. Settled once and for all. Fishing is a sport after all, but it's nothing compared to Boxing.
  • Bionicle saves Lego from certain doom. But can anyone prounce the names of their characters?
  • Oh yeah and a little nothing about AQ's chemical attack.
  • Does anybody care about the Kentucky Derby any longer? I do hope, in my retirement to be with the horsey set, but I must confess I can't remember the last time I thought about horses. Well, except for last week's episode of Touching Evil.
  • Do government officials shoot themselves in the foot? Literally.

Posted by mbowen at 06:03 PM | TrackBack

In Defense of Globalization

Note to self. Jagdish Bhagwati is the man.

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Speakin On It

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Adrian Piper

(from Decide Who You Are #21)

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April 29, 2004

The Melancholia of the Slightly Right

Just the other day I took one of those marginally useful political spectrometer tests. This is a few weeks after accepting a leadership appointment in the California College of Republicans, and just before I've been up for a third contract in as many weeks.

Since I value work more than political accolades, and I'm a family man, the choices I have to make with regards to my schedule are clear. I'm going to work hard for my family and not so hard for the Party. But my moderately Authoritarian Right score gives me comfort and unease.

Over the past year it is clear to me that I am a strong right centrist who is attracted to the liberality of Christianity in moderation of my nationalist militancy. I am a conservative attracted to unchanging principles in defiance of perpetual progressivism and indeed social innovation led by consumption of technological increments. I seek reform of capitalism only to the extent that it become more attuned to all sustainable economies, which it should promptly exploit. Since I am scientific, rational and skeptical I am by nature a problem solver and an explorer. I change according to what's provable, but only on the margins.

Today, I'm reading this little bit of sad news for moderate Republicans.

Amo Houghton is a throwback: an unassuming, old-money multimillionaire known around Congress for being a very nice guy. Just as unusual, he's a Republican moderate. And now he's leaving office.

Fellow moderates were dismayed by the decision of the 77-year-old not to seek re-election to the upstate New York seat he has held since 1986. Houghton is the former CEO of Corning Inc., the glassware company founded by his family in 1851.

``We feel the loss greatly,'' said Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., president of Republican Main Street Partnership, a centrist group that Houghton founded in 1998. ``There are not that many of us.''

Castle said there are 40 to 45 GOP House members, out of 228 Republicans, who identify themselves as moderates and ``we're constantly scrambling to find others who believe in our viewpoints.''

Into this gap, I expect my cohort of blackfolks to waltz in. Easier said than done, of course. But it's good to know about the Mainstreet Republicans. I never heard of them - shows what I know. Moderates in retreat doesn't sound hopeful, but I know better than to quit. In my way is a boulder, I've got to push it along.

Posted by mbowen at 04:38 PM | TrackBack

Silitary Code of Conduct

Bust a gut laughing. Go ahead.

And remember rule 204: NEVER nail a stuffed bunny to a cross and put it up in front of the Battalion Headquarters sign as an "Easter Desecration."

Still, I think if I was in this guys company, I would have kicked his ass by now.

Posted by mbowen at 03:54 PM | TrackBack

Patriotic Duty

I wasted a perfectly good hour yesterday trying to find out the best way to announce to the world that I am a member of the Victory Coalition. I contributed directly to the Spirit of America via Pay Pal and not through the Esmay sponsored blog contests, and considered the appropriate way to say so short of writing a self-serving paragraph sorta like this. I had something graphically nice in mind. Unfortunately, I lost my CD of Adobe Elements. Poor pitiful me.

However, I think it is important that Americans go ahead and contribute to to one of the funds. It seems to me to be especially important to do so if you hold various gripes and grudges against Bush's explanations. In the end, its the work that gets done in Iraq that matters, not all the political significance we attach to it in our eternal debates.

Be that as it may, I am a partisan and I'm very proud of the right hand side of the blogosphere for stepping up to the plate with some very worthwhile philanthropy.

Stay tuned for some serious red white and blue around Cobb. I'm liking this a lot and I think it speaks very well of our nation. If you haven't already, go give to the Spirit of America. You're not a soldier, it's the least you can do.

UDATE: The guys over at Modest Needs, are pulling their weight too.

Posted by mbowen at 01:06 PM | TrackBack


Vance Lawson was my best friend. I never knew he was gay until after he was dead.

We hung out in a post-highschool clique of young adults at the end of the 70s and early 80s. I was 18 and had just dropped out of USC when I started my first full-time working stiff job at the legendary Fedco on La Cienega. Vance worked in the Garden Shop, I worked in Radios. Vance was a tall good looking light skinned brother with hazel eyes. They guy on CSI, Gary Dourdan, could be his brother - they look that much alike. Vance had the problem of most light skinned brothers who didn't have a bad attitude, he wasn't black enough, plus he had a 'faggy' name.

When I met him for the first time, I gave him shit about his name, but he was in a bad mood. His manager had accused him of stealing some tools, which he hadn't. After proving he didn't, he decided after much internal debate that what he would do to get back at his boss was steal some tools. It came down to a single socket wrench. He actually needed it for 'The Ghost', his blue and primer low-rider-in-progress.

Vance was independent minded and funny as hell. Our clique centered around myself, he and Tracy my soon-to-be girlfriend. About 8 of us, all graduates of Dorsey except for myself would regularly get together after work and go to Westwood to see a movie, or the Carnation Company Restaurant on Wilshire. The lot of us were seriously into music and movies and parties and typical young adult stuff. Tracy was the sweet and sensible woman, heart and soul of the clique, Ant was the mechanic and DJ, Brett was our scapegoat and pet, Precht was a part-timer with the clique because he was in flight school (and T's long-distance boyfriend), Caroline was neck swiveling boy crazed one with the firey attitude, Veronica was the BAP with long straight hair, Janice was the bombshell (and my girl) misunderstood ghetto girl, and R. was the other military guy, husky and musclebound with a heart of gold and Caroline's on again off again love. Finally there was Tonya, the ditz with tits, myself and Vance the merry prankster. I always thought of myself as sort of the conscience and the organizer of the crew. I came up with the name Oui Clique.

Vance had a crush on this girl almost exactly like Tom Hanks did on Donna Dixon in the popular TV show 'Bosom Buddies'. Strange irony that, given that Tom Hanks is gay, I always thought of our friendship sort of like the male friends on the show. But he talked about her all the time and was constantly coming up with schemes to get her. She ended up going with some hardhead and he and Vance almost got into a knife fight about it. I remember that he was very depressed about the whole thing. He was a big chilvalrous romantic.

Vance could be very meloncholy. His father was white, we guess, because nobody ever saw him and he would never really acknowledge Vance who lived with his mother around the corner from my house. Sometimes he'd get into a funky mood about Shelly (aha, I remember her name!) or his father and not want to talk. But most of the time, Vance was the life of the party. He was a practical joker and a quick wit. He dressed almost as well as I, we were about equal skill in disco skating, but he was better looking. He was a maniacal driver - his favorite maneuver was hitting 70 in the 'suicide lane' near the curb and passing cars from the right. Every once in a while he'd do reverse donuts around the lampposts in the Fedco parking lot. In many ways he was a big kid, but he could dis you down to size.

Kevin was Vance's 'cousin'. He started hanging with the clique in 80 or 81. I had left Fedco and gone to work for City National bank on 6th and Olive. This was while I was still with Janice but about to quit her. (She said she'd stab me if I didn' marry her, but that's another story.) Kevin was in the Navy and just got out. He was bolder than any of us and would be down for whatever. I introduced him to Missy a pale and slightly chubby girl from the bank and it wasn't 3 months before she was pregnant. All that time Kevin had been hanging with the clique and his boldness, especially about sex, made him something of the authority. Up until that point Janice and I were pretty much the hot sloppy couple. Kevin said he could hook me up with even hotter chicks, which was strange, given his attraction to Missy. I remember off the cuff suggesting that we go to the Pussycat theatre in Hollywood to check out a blue movie. Veronica, of course, wasn't having it, but Tracy, surprisingly said she would. Kevin thought it was a brilliant idea that the whole clique go, but in the end, only a few of us actually went in and then immediately came back out.

This was the first of two memorable flirts with gay life. The other time Vance told us about this great club. The clique was always looking for new places to party, and white LA was starting to open up. So we'd go to whatever new place would have us. This particular club was called the 'Blue Parrot' in West Hollywood. Vance said that the music was the bomb, so we went. When we got there, it became very obvious that it was a hot disco, but also a white gay club. So we debated the whole thing and then decided to go for it. Ant tooke the most convincing. The girls stayed back in the cars - we figured we'd have to persuade the bouncers to let girls into a gay club. As we got up to the bouncers, a huge Crescent wrench dropped through a hole in Ant's pocket. Unknown to us, he brought it 'just in case'. We broke running back to the cars in a fit of hysteria. We were all kind of pissed off and yet relieved. That was one barrier not broken that night. Vance went back and retrieved the wrench.

I can't remember if it was before or after this incident that I practically busted Kevin and Vance together. I happened to be driving in Kevin's neighborhood, off Queen Ann Place just north of the old Sears on Pico and I saw Vance's car. I pulled up and knocked. No answer so I just walked in. It was funky as hell, but they managed to convince me that they had been working out on Kevin's new weights. No they were too tired to do any more working out. I wasn't really in the mood to work out but I was mad that I wasn't invited. I never thought twice about it until many years later.

By 82, my four years of being associated with my parents for financial aid purposes was over. So it was off to CSUN where Tracy had been. Tracy and I got together, and Vance and my younger brother and I shared a two bedroom flat on Vincennes in Northridge. Living with Vance was a pain and we drifted apart as friends after a year. He had gotten work as a medical assistant of some sort at an area hospital, and he was taking Tae Kwan Do. His hours were odd and he was always tired. He seemed to get progressively stranger and defensive for no reason. He wasn't quite himself. I got deep into campus politics, moved into another apartment, pledged Alpha Phi Alpha and so our paths never crossed much. He dropped out after a while and I didn't see him any more. The clique essentially ended by 82.

Some years later I got the word that Vance was ill. Nobody really knew what it was. We figured it was some germ he got in the hospital, a kind of super pneumonia or anemia or something. He still lived at home and I saw him once or twice. He had lost some weight and yet it made him look somewhat harder and more ripped, but his attitude was completely different. He acted as if I had betrayed him by going out with Tracy, and not taking Tae Kwan Do with him and all kinds of shit. He kept comparing himself to me, I was working in El Segundo but did I have a really good credit rating like he did. He was sick a couple of times, I guess.

I don't know when he died. But when I ran into Tracy one day, she told me the whole story of how many men showed up at his funeral. It was a shock to everyone, especially me, but apparently Vance was a real player. Some of these men, including Kevin, were guys who had come around peripheral to Oui Clique, most, Tracy never knew.

There had been on guy that Tracy said was there. I don't remember his name, but he was definitely out when we met him. We were actually having a discussion at Tonya's house. We talked about gays and whatnot. What's the difference between a queer and a queen and a transvestite, blah blah - the talk of kids 20 and 21 years old. I remember saying that if I was gay, I'd be out and proud of it. I don't remember Vance agreeing or disagreeing with me. But I do remember hearing that it's harder than it seems.

I was very angry at Vance for never sharing his secret with me, and it hurt me for a very long time that he would take that with him to the grave. It hurts me now just thinking about it - that he thought he might lose me as a friend. Maybe he lost me as a friend because he didn't tell me, I don't know. But I often think that there were plenty of things I said about fags in the ordinary course of being myself that he took as clues that he couldn't confide in me. I wondered if Tracy knew. She said she could have guessed and maybe suspected, but was still shocked to find all those men at his funeral. That's part of the life Vance chose to live and I can't change that, nor blame him for his choices. I blame him for not being a better friend; I blame myself for not being a better friend.

I've found others of my male friends to be gay but much of it by accident or a chance meeting after our friendship ended with the pretense dropped. And at least one of them made a (crude, drunk) pass at me in a way such as it could not be mistaken for anything else. But I've been largely oblivious to men's attractions to me, and of some of my male friendships I wonder what component may have been a lopsided sexual attraction. I've known one man to whom I've been strangely attracted and if I were gay I would have jumped his bones in a heartbeat, but most of my emotions on the subject center around Vance.

I don't really have any specific conclusions to draw, but I was compelled to tell this story.

Posted by mbowen at 07:49 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 28, 2004

Audie Murphy

If you grew up when I did, most of your heroes were probably astronauts. But I dug Combat, The Big Red One, and The Sand Pebbles, and most of all The Battle of the Bulge. So I understood that there was more than one kind of hero.

A couple weeks back I was rambling on about why I have no need nor desire to go back to school and finish off degree work; one of the reasons I gave was the example of Audie Murphy who never spent a day in college. My friend said, "Who?".

I don't think anybody knows what a war hero looks like, and somebody in this administration is to blame for putting on flightsuits himself and not letting the people who do for a living get some glory. And I mean ticker tape parade glory. The closest we got to it was the briefing from the commander who found Saddam.

There's a lot of people who deserve medals for what they're doing in Iraq. Might I suggest that the President start handing them out publicly? A certain Democratic candidate could be made to look pretty stupid for throwing his away.

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Unintended Consequences

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Amazon Jewelry

I can't think of anyone who considers haggling over the price of some piece of jewelry to be a pleasant experience who isn't a jeweler himself. So I would like all of my readers who find themselves on the side of the small businessman instead of Wal-Mart to reaquaint us with the romantic values of storefront merchants, jewelers in particular.

When I was a young impressionable kid, we always used to speak about somebody getting 'jewed' out of their money. Although I hadn't much experience myself, I had assumed the origin of the term was in the jewelry trade with only the merest suggestion of the religion of the Jews normally found in that business. Be that as it may, lots of people get ripped off and everybody knows it. The moment you walk into a jewelry store, you're a mark. You may as well be in a casino or a strip joint. They will sell you stuff you don't need and make you think you're having a good time. That may be coming to an end with the announcement from Amazon.com that they are jumping into the jewelry business.

I predict that this is going to kill a lot of mall jewelry stores. I'm not particularly sentimental about it, but I am interested to see if people react in the same way to the passing of this type of vendor.

Posted by mbowen at 08:57 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


I have nothing to say, but I've been a few places.

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April 27, 2004

Fezzik, You Idiot


Which Princess Bride Character are You?
this quiz was made by mysti
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VPN Headaches

Well now I've swallowed a firehose. I'm signed up to work on three projects at once. It's nice to have a full plate for the first time in many months. I'm getting into the groove of working at home.

Anyway, I'm getting headaches trying to get my VPN router to work with XP. It's a real pain, and I'm trying to do anything I can not to have to purchase one for the other end, but it's starting to look futile. I've got the Linksys BEFVP41 v2 and it just is pure annoyance.

How is your VPN setup?

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The Library of Games Fallacy

Every once in a while I hear this bogus argument about PS2 being better than XBox because it has a larger library of games. This cannot be true of any one person and is fast becoming marginal for the console audience itself. You'll also note that PS2 partisans don't concede that the PC is a better gaming platform because there are more titles available for PC.

I've played something on the order of 100 different games for the XBox and there could be more but I don't remember where I put the list. But this is an insane amount of games representing about $5000 worth of software. (Of course I rented most of it). For any one player or household there is only likely to be a couple dozen games owned. Therefore I say that it's the quality of the best games that makes the biggest difference in the value of the platform, not the total number of games.

Everyone concedes that Halo2 is destined to be a world-rocking affair. Viva XBox!

Posted by mbowen at 08:23 AM | TrackBack

A Gay Banana Split

I've been arguing against same-sex marriage and for civil unions again. I came to an interesting conclusion after an interesting analogy.

I think gay activists are demanding a banana split when all they really want is ice cream and nuts. I say you can't have the banana split when all I want is to keep my banana and cherries.

If conservatives from the Christian Right and Jehovah's Witnesses marched into the Castro and demanded with bullhorns that gay sinners get married before God, would they go, just to be accepted, just like everyone else? Would they give up their rainbow bumperstickers for Jesus fish and Marriage Encounter bumperstickers? Is what we call marriage what gay folks want?

I think not. I think that gay couples want to express their love for each other in a way that has more social resonance than 'civil unions' and I think that the state cannot offer that. I think the demand for Marriage, above and beyond civil union is an admission that the alternative lifestyle is not self-sufficient and needs more public, and religious acceptability.

Activists for the gay cause must recognize that public and religious acceptability cannot be demanded. These things must be negotiated.

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April 26, 2004

Does America Care That Much?

Larry Diamond makes the case, which I've heard repeated a number of times, that America should double the number of troops in Iraq, and crush 'insurgents' to insure that democracy happens.

Who has the nerve?

Posted by mbowen at 08:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Michael Jackson: Going Down

The next trial of the century (in lower case) is about to get started with a new legal team for Michael Jackson. Ofari is pumping up the alternative explanation machine and readying millions of potential victims how they too will be victimized by Michael Jackson's victimization.

I simply predict that he's going down for sure. His legal team has just reorganized. I'm not sure that there is enough public support for Jackson to merit the kind of theatrics we witnessed for OJ. I'm sure even most optimistic people are hedging their bets. That doesn't change the fact that there will be folks spending their public capital explaining how a Jackson conviction means more than what it means.

Some days I wonder what this country is coming to.

Posted by mbowen at 06:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Badtz Maru is a Penguin

Not a crow. There I said it.

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Racial Resentment

I was just passed this last night. It's a paper entitled Racial Resentment and White Opposition to Race-Conscious Programs: Principle or Prejudice?. I've saved a copy here. Download file
The abstract is quite enough, for I am familiar with the details, having done my amateur research on the web for many years.

White racial resentment – a form of new racial prejudice – is associated with opposition to a broad range of racial policies but its nature remains unclear. Resentment could derive from racial prejudice or stem from ideological principles – two very different bases for white opposition to contemporary racial policy. To assess the nature of racial resentment and its political effects, we examine the reactions of 760 white New York state residents to an experimentally altered college-scholarship program. Program beneficiaries’ race and socio-economic class was varied and the impact of racial resentment assessed separately for black and white recipients to determine whether racial resentment produces greater support for the program when targeted at blacks than whites in line with the prejudice hypothesis, or has a stronger ideological component that drives opposition to the program regardless of recipient race. The analyses yield a potentially troubling finding: racial resentment means different things to liberals and conservatives. Among liberals, racial resentment conveys the political effects of racial prejudice and is better predicted by overt measures of racial prejudice than among conservatives. Among conservatives, racial resentment appears more ideological. It is closely tied to opposition to raceconscious programs regardless of recipient race and is only weakly tied to measures of overt prejudice. Racial resentment, therefore, is not a clear-cut measure of racial prejudice for all Americans and we suggest that researchers explore other ways in which to assess the political effects of racial prejudice across the ideological spectrum.

In other words, racism has a political component. Which is to say that the thought that some people articulate in their politics is indeed racist. And it comes as no surprise to me in the least that white liberals are showing their true colors. Lest anyone doubt the subtlety here, the experimenters put it in language appropriate to a 46 page paper, while I cut to the chase for the purposes of blogging.

Disentangling Principles from Prejudice: Major Hypotheses Continuing disagreement over the meaning of racial resentment, and the origins of white opposition to race-conscious programs more generally, demands a less contentious method of studying racial attitudes. We adopt an experimental survey design that allows us to test whether racial resentment is a measure of general prejudice by examining whether it conveys racial discrimination in support of a college scholarship program. We test two key hypotheses. First, we examine the resentment-as-racism hypothesis. This hypothesis predicts that racially resentful whites will be less supportive of programs targeted at black than white students, confirming the prejudicial nature of resentment. Second, we contrast this with the resentment-as-ideology hypothesis which predicts high levels of program opposition among the racially resentful regardless of the program beneficiaries’ race, challenging the role of racial resentment as a measure of racial prejudice. Third, we examine patterns of program support and the origins of resentment separately among liberals and conservatives to determine whether resentment is broadly ideological for conservatives and racially tinged for liberals, as a further challenge to the resentment-as-prejudice hypothesis.

It has been a while since I've eyeballed affirmative action, but I was talking about the politics of racial resentment six years ago in my somewhat famous syllogism in the 'Angry White Math' series.

If enough people get to understand this, I think it will be yet another proof that we are not beyond racism, and that African Americans will have yet another reason to abandon the Democrats.

UPDATE: Link fixed.

Posted by mbowen at 08:07 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 25, 2004

Playing the Gay Card

Once upon a time, I was a feminist. In fact, I spent a lot of time reading Bell Hooks, (excuse me, bell hooks), Gloria Alzandua and Audre Lorde (and others forgotten). I spent almost as much time explaining it to women as I did explaining it to myself. In other words, if you are a man looking for a righteous spouse, chances are the more well read you are in the feminist texts, the more time your date is likely to be checking her watch. Feminist theory makes for a better man in theory. In practice, you spend more time with your own meat. My advice, open doors for the lady, at least that way they understand the respect you're attempting to convey.

One of the annoying things about feminism is that it's very complicated, and most people don't understand it. That which has been popularized is held in disdain by true feminists. It's a two tier system. So any man attempting to satisfy his own appetite for feminism may find himself stuck between the pseudo-feminists that the real feminists hate and the radical feminists that hate men. For me, the instinct for survival won out in the end. But it was not without some encouragement from that school of thought formerly known as the 'Do Me Feminists'. I like that school. Think Salt and Pepa singing 'Shoop' as a DMF anthem. Don't get it? You're not alone.

Aside from feminism's twists and turns, there is the ethics of trying to follow it, which is difficult enough given the kinds of persons likely to give you the thousand mile stare. Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, such women are as likely as not to be former victims, ever alert. What is known are the horrors of domestic violence and the ugliness women endure from those our society rightly calls cads. So do not doubt the steely determination of such watchdogs to watch us 'dogs'. The DMF contingent has made peace with male sexual aggression, and it's a good thing as evolutionary biologists are backing them up. But there are plenty who would rather we stick with our own meat. Those would be the radical feminists.

This paragraph might be the one in which I crack wise with something to the effect that every man is a lesbian trapped in a man's body. To the extent that's not a laughing matter, there is generally some undeserved abuse and pain behind the thousand mile stare. Is it not life experience that makes all the difference when it comes to matters of intimacy and violence? Pain, they say, is the best teacher. I agree vociferously. But if one's life is not informed by such pain, it's awfully difficult to make peace with feminist theory as advanced by those who have the worn the bruises and lacerations of patriarchy.

It is from this context, as one man who might be instructed by feminists on a more appropriate het lifestyle that the gay card comes in. In the end, what most men want is love, and we spend an ungodly amount of time looking for it, especially those of us with disposable income. Into that bourgie pastime of looking for love, sex, affection and all that romance comes feminist informed gender equality and all that. Chances are that an ordinary straight man coming in contact with theoretical feminists will come to understand gender as socially constructed. In otherwords, you were born in a box and you have to grow out of it. It is not sufficient to describe you as a man, you are a heterosexual man in a male body and if you've never seen yourself this way before then you are an unthinking agent of evil patriarchy.

You can say, 'but I really love women', and then you will be asked an infinite regressing series of 'why' until it comes down to your mother, your first grade teacher or a playboy magazine. In any such case you have been busted, and thus the first day of your re-education.

It is at this point which you should, homeboy, play the gay card. Just admit, as best you can that you are acting out something (insert link to foucaultian jargon generator here) and really worship at the alter of penisity. At this point, you will be released from re-education and your feminist inquisitor will chalk up a victory against patriarchy, and thusly add more ammo into the all-purpose excuse of there not being enough good men.

I am serious and I exaggerate and I am glib in all this. But there is something about the bohemian lifestyle that irks and annoys me, especially in its influence among the chatting classes. For there are good things that bohos teach us, multiculturalism for one. But over the 90s, as the Alternative has itself morphed into its own mainstream, we are in danger of moving much of society away from a sustainable mainstream. What I'm getting at is that I have a hard time with the evangelism of alternatives, gaming as if all of this was a zero sum thing. I find it difficult to believe that the self-sufficiency of alternative lifestyles is completely undermined by the conventional. And so I suggest the gay card to terminate conversations which go awry when someone is suggesting that the way you love isn't what it should be. Tell me how it works.

At the very least I thought we would have learned by now how difficult, if not foolish, it is for women to try and change the way men love.

Posted by mbowen at 11:42 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

April 24, 2004

Rock v Chappelle

Posted by mbowen at 10:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Today was a daddy day, and so there's been little blogging in Mudville. Aside from that, I keep banging my head in a particular online ghetto in something which I am finding to be tiresome and fruitless.

I'm further feeling particularly nauseated because of a new sort of crappy censor they've got running at stripcreator.com which has taken a bit of poignancy out of the comic I've decided not to run this evening.

So after watching Master and Commander with my boy, I'm going to get into that which I should have last week when I bought it, namely The Confusion.

BTW, UCLA and the LAT should be proud that they are able to generate such thick crowds at their Festival of Books. Nevertheless, I hate crowds, and the very thought of the publicity planning which led KPCC to bring Arianna Huffington to the stage has got me crabby just thinking of it.

..and so I retreat to the battles off Algiers.

Posted by mbowen at 10:15 PM | TrackBack

April 23, 2004


Kevin Drum wonders aloud (may as well, since what's in his head isn't working) if something could be done to make affirmative action palatable to blacks and latinos if it weren't based on race.

A few posts later he acknowleges with resignation that: "57 percent of Americans continue to believe that Saddam Hussein gave "substantial support" to al-Qaida terrorists before the war with Iraq.."

So let's see if I get this straight. 57% of Americans are willing to be wrong in the politics of war and that's understandably not worth fighting, and yet he expects Americans to come correct on race?

Cannibis is bliss.

Posted by mbowen at 03:36 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

People of The Dons

The other night, I met the spousal unit's new partners. I don't want to reveal too much but we're involved in a venture that I think will be heralded from coast to coast. Basically, what happens when you put together a brother like me, barbecue and jazz? If you like that idea and can imagine it happening at a cool spot in Hollywood, then you have an idea about the venture. It turns out that these brothers go way back and are intimate with the lifestyle that was everything exciting about 'The Dons'.

If you are black and know Los Angeles, then inevitably at some point in your life, you had to be overcome by the massive weight of the social scenes generated by the money, brains and style of The Dons, Baldwin Hills, View Park and Ladera. The Dons are basically a neighborhood on the north facing hills of Baldwin Hills. The streets are named Don Felipe, Don Miguel, Don Milagro, etc. Built by the same developers as built Beverlywood, Cheviot Hills and the modern houses on Vie Del Rey in South Pasadena (Monterey Hills), these were where the sons and daughters of the bourgie lived and played. And man do I mean played.

One of the things I haven't done in a very long time, but do from time to time is to remember back in the day to the lives of myself with the Party People. When I think of upscale partying and the Party People, I think of the young adults of The Dons as the leaders of the pack. You see during the 80s, a revolution in paryting was going on. Prior to then, in the late 70s, it was all about house parties, and while house parties were still happening, the black club scene was exploding in neighborhoods that had never seen the like from El Segundo to Beverly Hills. So here is an intro to a book that needs to be written one of these days, which is a canonical rundown of the happening clubs of black LA in the Arsenio Hall / Cosby 80s.

I suppose if you have to start somewhere, you would start with Uncle Jam's Army. Because what they did, along with the Boss Bugs of LA, was get people to caravan in their cars to the LA Sports Arena where the DJ would spin records for up to 3,000 people. If you have ever been to a dance party that massive, you understand completely what George Clinton was talking about when something about the music gets into your pants. If you can remember the Shel of LA or any of a dozen other DJs who moved us to the floor (paste half a dozen names here), then you have an idea of the crowds that populated the club scene. The impact of that music and dancing scene transformed LA black radio, LA itself and black culture at large. Nobody can deny what NY did to generate hiphop, but the style and sophistication was all LA. LA doesn't get the credit because of the way hiphop was nourished in the hands of people other than us. But there will be other people to tell the stories of LA Reid, Babyface, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Just don't forget them when you're moaning about 50 Cent.

Now among those crowds were the people who made black bourgie LA legendary, but I'm only going to mention one name, and I assure you that name is sufficient to bring a freight train of memories and associations. Her name is Cara Wallace. You could fill a club on the word that she would be there. There were other divas on the scene but Cara and her sister were legendary. Where could you find them?

Glitter, 24K, Paradise 24, Disco 9000, Osko's, Golden Tale, Tiberio's, Carlos & Charlies, The Greenhouse, Danceteria, The Red Onion, The Bit'n Apple, The Jockey Club, The Chamineh, The Ramada, The Red Lion, Bourbon Street Grotto, King King, Funky Reggae, Moody's Westwood, The Speakeasy, Flippers, Starlite, Reseda, Eve After Dark, Consolidated Plaza, Flanagans, Popcorn, Pizzazz, Peanuts, Crush Bar, Carolina West, Five Torches, Little J's, Simply Blues, and probably most legendary of all Friday's at the Marina where nobody actually danced.

There are a dozen others I forget the names of, the RBD club on Manchester near Crenshaw, the club on Santa Monica and Sepulveda, the tiny upstairs club on Beverly just east of La Cienega.

All of that is to say that in the years before I tossed my BAP life on the funeral pyre and went to live in Brooklyn, LA's upscale black party scen was just paradise. It was all about the look and feel of the people from the Dons that set the mood. Graduates from private Catholic highschools and the best public schools like Palisades were the movers of the pack.

Although there's much too much to talk about here, the story that has never been told is how influential this crowd was on what's bling in hiphop today. Because all of those clubs and all of those parties were there before hiphop went mainstream, and the bourgie end of it even had problems with Rick James. So there's a big dollop of class and sophistication embedded in that buppie scene that was stripped of it as the most monetarily successful of hiphoppers emerged in the 90s. The place to start studying that was what happened when the drug dealers started coming to Friday's.

Before I close, I should mention one more name, because without it, the extent of this scene's influence could not really be appreciated. The name is Earvin Johnson.

I jawed with the spousal unit's new partners until 1 in the morning about the clubs, the restaurants, the music and the people of that era. We were deeply a part of it and it was deeply a part of us. Hearing some updates, I had no idea how deep the rabbit hole went when it came to some of the deeds and doings of the people of the Dons. One of these days, half the story will be told.

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Vivica vs Vanessa

Busting out laughing. It's Friday and time to. So I'm cruising around and I land on a cool spot which highlights the contrast between Vivica Fox and Vanessa Williams. When she first broke out, there was no bigger scandal (not since the crippling of Teddy Pendergrass) than Vanessa Williams' nasty pictures. But isn't it fascinating how the world has forgot it? Hmm.

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You Know It

:: how jedi are you? ::

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April 22, 2004


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Iraq vs Vietnam

At Africana, Jelani Cobb suggests that we've got another Vietnam on our hands.

I would suggest a comparison of numbers. First of all, let's start with a math question. What is 22 x 254? That's the number of soldiers who died in Vietnam, just from California. If you care about the dead, perhaps you might check out their names. The answer is somewhere north of 5500, which is more than 8 times as many American soldiers as have died in Iraq. At the current rate of American casualties it will take 8 years of occupation in Iraq to match the number of Vietnam dead from California alone.

Look around you. Do you see any mass demonstrations in the streets of America? NO. It's because Americans can count. That's reason number one why this is not 'another Vietnam'.

Do you know what Congress was debating yesterday? They were debating whether or not National Guardsmen on active duty in Iraq will be penalized for early withdrawl of funds from their IRAs. If this were Vietnam, I daresay they'd be a lot more worried about whether they're ever going to see America again, much less the tax rates on their stocks, bonds and mutual funds.

Moral outrage is a good and fine tool in politics, but let's keep things in perspective. The occupation of Iraq is not another Vietnam, it's not even another Gulf War. It is what it is, so let's pay attention to that and leave historical comparisons to the time in the future when this occupation actually will be history.

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The Conceit of Being Well-Read

I suspect that Hitchens is on a roll with his anti-religious rants in preparing himself to ramp up his rhetoric against the scourge of jihadism. It's almost enough to get me to put down Neal Stephenson in favor of Salman Rushdie. Not.

Last night he had a fair salvo of invective against Christianity's nut of forgiveness, but like most anti-theists his focus centers on the hole instead of the donut. All men are afraid of the dark, so what does it matter that one creates God and another creates Science if the purpose is obliviate fear? Well the conduct of those systems of belief does matter, and anyone is right to criticize a means that creates more fear than it settles. There is plenty of evidence that religion bears a great responsibility for that. Amis said that the purpose of philosophy is to show the proper way to prepare for death, and admirable goal. And so it works equally in that the age of Maoism and Stalinism and other like political philosophies a great deal of preparation was made of an ungodly amount of death.

It is only being well read that diffuses the conceit of any monotheism or single political ideology. But being well-read is a conceit as well, especially in that it arms one with a kind of grip which allows one to swing a more or less straight path through any jungle of diverse trees without getting bogged down in the fruits of just one. Such swingers as Hitchens, and Amis to a lesser extent, can quickly find the nut of contradiction in any single system given the broad understanding a life of sampling gives one. And yet it is only conceit that could justify ignoring the fruits of systems of belief entirely.

Goedel famously suggested, (and if your belief in math is total, you could say he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt) that it is impossible for any single system of proofs to be both complete and consistent. I generally take the example of Judaism to be exemplary of this. There are a huge number of rules which must be scrupulously followed by the faithful, and yet in the holy of holies, in the temple where G*d, who must not be named, there is only one human who can go to the single place. And yet what he sees must be nothing at all. Judaism, like every other monotheism is a faith around a void, and that non-existence is the article of faith which legitimize everything around it in perfect harmony with Goede's Incompleteness Theorem.

That such religions have a singular proveable flaw make them more consistent than the forest of trees the well-read swing through on their random paths toward enlightenment. For all such swingers must examine & abandon, revise & review their world view. This is called being progressive, and although it should be incredibly tiresome, men such as Hitchens remain faithful to its discipline. They cannot stop reading. They cannot stop writing. Their task is never complete for there are few settled truths.

Those that are, must then be observed religiously, and one is apparently the rejection of theism. This principle may often be practically correct, although I've yet to hear any anti-theist reject the principles of Buddhism. It is a conceit nonetheless, so let's not forget that.

I am not here to suggest that all things are relative. It is only that I am convinced all things are not which makes me conservative. I know of what it is I conserve and so I am not so likely to be swinging through forests of logic. I honestly believe I can be honest without knowing who Leni Reifenstahl was. (Although Google helps)

And that's all I have to say about that.

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April 21, 2004

Kicking Crabs to the Curb

Don't ask me in any detail because I haven't seen a minute of it. If one of them passed me on the street I'd have no idea. But from what I've been able to glean from second hand sources, Kwame should have fired Omarosa.

How can I presume the dynamic going on between these to blackfolks? As much as anyone, I suppose. But I suspect that Kwame must have felt at some point that he would take extra heat for 'dissing the sister'. It would only make my case stronger were I able to percieve a bit of bourgie reluctance in K's regard of O's ghetto monopoly, and anyone capable of confirming that meta-bservation would be sufficient for me to suggest that K thusly didn't deserve to win, for what it's worth.

O was corrosive to the spirit of teamwork. I'd have put her in the basement and given enough static, kicked her to the curb. But not knowing the necessity for that in the context of the work to be done, maybe she could and should have been retained. On the other hand, how seriously can we possibly take this crap?

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The Most Dangerous Woman in the World

Whatever you might have said about Kill Bill v1, you cannot say it again about Kill Bill v2 unless it's simply 'Wow!'.

The difference between Beatrix Kiddo and every Clint Eastwood there ever was is that all the male killers ran out of moral ammo before they ran out of bullets. So they always lived with some regret about killing too much. Kiddo has no such problem, she doesn't ride off sad into the sunset. Instead she has a fit of teary laughter and then cuddles up with her young daughter and watches an old movie. Everybody she killed deserved to die because finally she proves that there is honor among theives. Or at the very least, thieves and killers with young children.

Like any superhero, Kiddo has reserves that require a backstory to explain. Kiddo finally rescues herself from the pit of doom which seems to put Tarantino's film on the verge of folding in on itself and backing out of a narrative sideways. When she finally does, you realize that she is truly indestructable. What the hell are we going to do with an indestructable woman? We're going to let her live happily ever after but not before wrecking every convention of the action hero genre in the process.

Tarantino has created a masterpiece in this duo of films that will have feminists and others banging their heads against walls for the next decade. He has illustrated another pure kind of power, that of feminine revenge that we will all be so glad for as we proceed into the future. In fact, I will go as far as to say that this is the movie among all movies America has ever made, that will be considered by far the most pornographic and blasphemous in repressive Islamicist regimes around the world. Uma Thurman is now the devil incarnate to a world of men who suffer the the greatest indignity when they are told they 'cry like a woman'.

If you haven't read Spiders, do so. This too is the stuff of the future.

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Is Gitmo the U.S.?

Even a daunting question for the legal scholars, this is a perplexing one for the rest of us. Some legal fiction has been created which says that a US Embassy in a foreign country is as if it was not, which is to say on US soil and thus subject only to the laws of the United States. Somehow this kind of applies to US military bases, and presumeably the brigs within. Gitmo seems to be to me exactly the case of a brig within a US military base, subject to the laws of the US.

But these days NAFTA tribunals have established that even Supreme Court decisions may be subject to further review. I think the American people ultimately will not have it, and I imagine many judges flipping their wigs at the thought of a reversal of their decisions by some extra-territorial court.

Yet these days, we face disintermediation of national boundaries via technology and other modern developments. What exactly is an armed subcontractor of a multinational corporation in an occupied territory? Other than the obvious, that he is a goner in the hands of radical jihadists, what are his rights to trial? This is the sort of question we are faced with as we try to accomodate our legal system to the kind of ventures into imperialism which we find ourselves.

Allow me to remind you that I am an imperialist and that America should endeavor mightily to be the proper kind of empire. Consequently we should employ the right kind of imperial tribunal in this context lest we become the Pontius Pilates of the future. How is unclear but why is not. We simply cannot extend the rights of citizens to those murky persons. The context and circumstances of their arrest is more important than than the legal fictions of our patches of sovereignty on foreign soil.

I hope that we come to some better understanding that the forces of international law come from the power of nations and not the conveniences of legalese. International courts have quite a long evolution ahead of them and we should not be so quick to defer to their short list of precedences. Treaties are more durable and have a longer history. So let us not be so quick to push everything into the purview of domestic courts, the laws of war are sufficient.

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Hitchens and I

According to the personal answer I got last evening from Christopher Hitchens, I've been right all along to suggest exactly what I've been moaning about. Americans who have abandoned the cause of the Kurds and others who have rebelled against Saddam Hussein are our greatest source of national shame.

I found out just this afternoon, and it infuriates me to know I must be that far out of the loop, that Hitchens and Martin Amis would be at Royce Hall this evening. The hall didn't sell out, and I managed to deal with a kind bloke a Jackson for a seat in the fourth row. It was from that fourth row that I stood as the second person selected from the audience to speak.

The first, some woman from Seattle, had managed to get the pair reduced to telling dick jokes, if you can believe that. The theme was exchanging the word 'dick' for 'heart' in the titles of popular songs. I hated to embarrass them at their own game and added at the end of that session 'Owner of a Lonely Heart' in back reference to Hitch's excellent dis of al Sadr as a true wanker. Had I decided to also mention the other classic they forgot 'Stop Draggin' My Heart Around' it would have inappropriately continued a sort of levity that needed to cease considering the gravity of my real question. I asked if in our pursuit of ridding the world of Jihadists whether or not we had punished Socialists quite enough. With a brief reference to my incurable sobbing over Koba the Dread, I further asked if we should be concerned with some resurgence of that particular kind of terror. The short answer was no, but that is not what one pays such literary folks to say, and thankfully so because their responses illuminated much.

Amis piped up to say that in his reading of history the death of God was indeed final and into that void filled the cults of ideology. Devotion to Maoism, Stalinism and several other isms I forget replaced devotion to God in the modern world, and the overproduction of these (misplaced is not what he said) loyalties produced catastrophes of historical magnitude. On the whole I found Amis to be rather subdued the entire evening but his was a fine answer. It indicates, as does his respect for the power of the myth of Christ (even via Gibson), that his respect for religion is somewhat similar to mine. But more on that later. Hitchens' angle on this was curiouser still, since he was indeed once a Socialist. It was through his response that we turned to the Kurdish rebel soldiers. There used to be a cool name for them that we have forgotten.

Hitchens had, in response to Brian Lamb some time ago answered three questions of himself with regard the current and future status of a secular, internationalist socialist program and came resolutely to the conclusion that there was no future in it. The best work of Socialism is behind us and it will not at any time in the future provide a mandate returning to power. Certainly many millions have been improved by the work of socialism. Certainly the Marxist critique of capitalism and of history in fact, cannot be outdone according to Hitchens, but there is nobody on the planet with a better idea than global capitalism. So we are in 100% agreement. Fabulous. This was all good, but his next step blew me away. Hitch thus doesn't disown the analytical tools of Marxist theory and he gives credit where credit is due internationalist, secular socialists. Then specifically he talked about his association with precisely those parties in Iraq, Kurds and Shia among them, as they battled against the tyranny that was Saddam Hussein.

Hussein literally tortured his foreign ministers. He would torture them for days before he sent them on UN missions. These men lived in such fear of Husseins's wrath that they would say exactly what he wished in contradiction to any and all logic and reason. No amount of time spent with Kofi Annan would make an ounce of difference. But what really got Hitchens' shorts hitched up was the suggestion that the militant jagoffs under head Wanker al Sadr would merit the honorific of 'insurgent'. These weren't insurgents, and the internationalist secular left of America, following the airheaded lead of the likes of Michael Moore, in order to score points against GWBush, ought to be lashed for this unforgivable abandonment of the true insurgents of Iraq, those Kurds and Shia who were left dangling after the first Gulf War.

It was, for me, a resounding endorsement of what I've been saying for over a year and I am satisfied to have this confirmed in such a dramatic fashion by none other than Hitch himself.

UPDATE: Background on CH mindstate.

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April 20, 2004

Three Questions

Go ahead. Ask me three questions. Any three you like. I'll answer.

(Yeah this was Baldilocks copy of DC's idea, but I like it.)

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The Big C

Today is the big meeting with the oncologist out in Santa Monica. Moms, of course, is brave and confident in the way that women of faith are. Although it sometimes feels like diffidence to me, the bottom line is that her head is straight and she's ready to go under the knife.

We've gone through the legalese of Advance Directives and decided who is going to decide what. There are significant details with regard to the timing and milestones in the grey areas and percentages of recovery progress on the respirator. It comes as a small surprise that there was nothing at all in the California form which suggested that same sex couples could not designate their partners as having medical power of attorney. This may be new, at may be not, but I've seen it and I know. It's an admittedly odd way to come to a political discovery, but there is always something to learn when you walk through life with your eyes open. Ours are open and watery, but the vision isn't blurry. Our mother is 67 and about to lose a kidney.

Everyone's best guess through the lenses of the MRI scans that the cancer has originated in the right kidney and is pressing up against the liver. So while the kidney has got to go, there will be a good deal of residual cancerous growth on the liver itself which the surgeons will have to scrape like so much carbon on toast. Liver tissue regenerates rather quickly, so we are hopeful that as the surgeons do their scraping they don't get too happy about it. So we have requested that RFA be available during the surgery to zap any spots of cancerous tissue that appears to be left.

The complication in all of this is a recently discovered spot of something ugly in the vena cava, the main vein to the heart. Nobody knows exactly what it is. I suspect that it might be part of the missing yellowcake from Niger, but I could be wrong. The smart money is it being some bit of cancer which broke loose from the homeland and established a colony in the new world, in which case the news is not so good. But there is a significant minority report which indicates it might be a simple blood clot, which can be deftly handled in a 15 minute procedure. The difficulty in this is you can't know until you've cracked the ribcage and opened the damned thing up. I'm sure we all look very forward to nanotechnology. Until then we do it the old fashioned way. At worse they will have to bypass and pull some veins out of her leg and make a graft of some sort. I will ask specific questions about the diameter of these pipes today.

As you might imagine, such thought takes a bit out of one. I hope at my turn to be a lucid subject.

It reminds me of my late uncle Salif, who remained a man of mystery until his bitter end. His decision, that old African, was to keep quiet about the reality of his cancer. He became a consumate asshole to the people who loved him most. He drove them away in a calculation of love, selfish to be sure, but effective. By the time he died, his wife and kids were practically to the point at which they were wishing him dead. That may be the way they do it in Mali, but things are different here. And yet it makes us think about our willingness to submit to death and in what ways we prepare ourselves and others for it.

I'll have time to be philosophical beyond that point another day. This day, it's down to Santa Monica for the Big Meeting.

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The way I see things, the extraordinary blame Bush gets for the war against The Baath party owes much to the politics of Ritter, Blix and Fisk.

These days, few people are likely to consider the broad level of support our military action had, not only abroad but domestically. Congress gets almost no blame. There are no state governors who will say publically that they are against the war and that troops should come home immediately. Unless the anti-war sentiment can be spun into an indictment of Bush and an endorsement of Kerry, most political voices and elected officials are silent.

I say that the geopolitical conflict with Iraq was inevitable. The accumulation of damnation of Saddam Hussein grew greater as time went by. But that WMDs became the single most imporant issue of the domestic political legitimacy of the war owes primarily to the agendas of Blix, Ritter and Fisk.

I understand and respect any pacifist objection to this conflict, and I expect of that pacifist the acknowledgement that Hussein's murders would go unavenged. But the WMD argument is becoming ossified in opposition to the war, and I find it embarassing for my opponents to argue this point.

Blix represents the deliberation of the UN. His inability to find WMDs, in my opinion, was only exacerbated by the fact that the UN is incapable, on the ground, to be an effective fighting force. I don't think anyone doubts his eyesight, but his ability to get where he needs to see is entirely hobbled by the tactical incompetence of the organization he represents. Blaming Bush via Blix means you believe the UN is better at finding out secrets than our forces. He wouldn't even be as sure as he is today were it not for our thousands of troops pacifying large areas of Iraq. I would suggest that there was no other timely way of coming to the level of certainty we have today. The UN inspection regime has, ultimately lasted since the first war. It has failed for 12 years and not come up with a better raison d'etre than WMD, Bush's term.

Fisk embarassed all the journalists in the world by giving them a firehose of information they couldn't contextualize. He proved that few were doing their homework. In the end, about all the media could do was attempt to digest and regurgitate his politics, which were essentially that Bush was both stupid and conspiratorial. And yet our journalistic ethics blind us to advance the kind of thinking that could actually help Americans understand the situation on the ground. Were it not for the ready-made gripe that pool reporters and embedded reporters could only see a limited amount, media organizations might have an answer to Fisk. But like the CIA itself, media organizations have not been willing to invest in people with human intelligence on the ground. Between editorial and live footage of heads rolling, speculation ruled. Default to WMDs. Yeah that and a fair but self-serving documentary about a journalist's fate in Bagdhad the first time around.

Finally, and I believe most importantly, Ritter's decision to agitate against the war became a rallying point for the opposition. Yet Ritter made it entirely clear that he was not going to speak about humanitarian concerns, because if he were to detail what Saddam Hussein actually did, it would rally Americans to the cause of war. What Ritter knew and knows today is that Americans could be made to feel about Iraqis what it feels about Rwandans. Instead he chose to pursue a course which highlighted what he felt were abuses of our own democratic system. I think it is entirely reasonable for him to have done so from the point of view of a patriot willing to be isolationist in this matter. Yet the inevitable results of this is that it too combines to undermine the pacifist responsibility for averting their gaze from damage done by Saddam Hussein with or without WMDs.

The WMD argument is null and void. There are none, and perhaps there never were and those who needed to know, actually knew. As Woodward's book suggests, Bush and company had other significant geopolitical reasons to do battle with Saddam Hussein WMD or no. But in order to paint Bush in the colors of war, many Americans have undermined their own credibility as humanitarians with their suggestions that our deposing of Saddam has done more damage to Iraq than Hussein himself did.

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April 19, 2004


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April 18, 2004

Make Me Laugh, Dammit!

I watched most of, and will see the rest of Chris Rock's new HBO special. Tonight I know to have a couple drinks first.

It's official. Chris Rock has lost his timing. I've been watching more comedy these days to compensate for the fucking death and disease in my family. That was rather frank, wasn't it? At any rate, I figure a good laugh during vegetative television time is better than watching 24 or Alias or the Sopranos or Law & Order which is my usual fare of dramatic misery. These entertainments are very practically useful for us affluent suburbanites in reminding us how wonderful our boring lives are, and we are thankful for their existence. Other people's problems are fun to watch. It makes paying the $200 cable and high speed internet bill go down easier. But then again, sometimes it doesn't and that is where comedy comes in.

Chris Rock.. what can I say. I remember Chris when he only owned one leather jacket. Back in the excellent old days of the Comedy Act Theatre, Los Angeles 1988, Chris broke onto the scene with fresh material and an ironic delivery that was truly remarkable. Then, he started in with the repetitive preaching style. It worked once. This time it did not.

What's happened? Has he been in too many movies? Yeah, I think that's it. But worse off, his racial material stinks. It was rambling from Affirmative Action to Slavery and he milked 5 jokes too damn long. Who taught that nigga 'octagon'? Ho boy! He needed to stop, instead he made a wreck. Then he starts talking about Rich vs Wealthy. Stop preaching, it ain't funny. What Rock needed in that whole section was hyperbole, instead he tried to be the insightful critic. I got news for you Rock, you aint that smart. Stick with the comic genius because your depth perception needs adjustment. Chris Rock needs to realize that it's not gutsy for him to handle this kind of material, so nobody is going to be impressed or put on edge. Those barriers have long been broken. You've got to say something new. Jerry Buss signs Shaq's check? That's deep?

And even when he did something pretty damned good with the 'Alright because it's all white' piece... well. You see Reverend Rock and see what I mean. I think I've become immune to his charm. He doesn't look like a funny comedian any longer. He looks like a bank teller in a pimpsuit with $50,000 worth of cosmetic dentistry. Actually, that should be funny, but Chris Rock already did that.

I didn't see the opening 20 minutes, but I can tell he made no references back to it. But the closing part of the act was the best. On marriage, Chris rocks. But if this is his best material, clearly there isn't much left for him to talk about. He's not saying anything new about it, but at least he performed reasonably well. If anything, this turn proves how much time Rock must spend doing boring family things. Hey, dumbass, that's our job.

Rock reminds me how correct many of his earlier critics were. If you took out the profanity, you'd be left with a man of few words and an occasional funny face. His white people black people stuff is tired, his Bush bashing was completely predictable, he didn't do one impression in the whole final hour, and the whole special was edited by a pro. When a comedian is funny, you don't need to see the audience laughing because you're too busy laughing. His laughs weren't that long so that he was standing idly waiting for it to subside, so why show the audience.

As I said, I'm in a clustermunch situation so I'm willing to laugh at anything that can do it, and quite frankly, The Fairly Oddparents does a better job. Advice to Chris Rock, shave your head, gain 30 pounds, go to Africa, learn yoga. Do something. But change your life somehow; all your schitck is predictable and your timing is off. Chris Rock has already done Chris Rock. So Chris Rock has to change. Can he do it? He better get back on the road.

Where is Patton Oswalt when you need him? (I'll be damned.. on the Fairly Oddparents!)

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April 17, 2004


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Threat Logic

Was Saddam Hussein a threat to the United States? I believe so. As I've said before, I believe strongly in Powell's argument about the necessary complicity of nations in providing aid and comfort to terrorist organizations & leaders. Without the Taliban, bin Laden would have had no army. The threat of Saddam was certainly qualified, but it was certainly real.

For folks who have a difficult time understanding the level of threat of Saddam Hussein or of Iraq, perhaps you should consider the extent to which you believe America is mired and bogged down. It seems to me that you can't have it both ways. What we are going through is the inevitable cost of tyranny unchecked.

Looking back at my post of Little White Lies shows a bit of past persuasion. It's clear now, with the kidnappings and atrocious acts initiated by radical militants in the Sunni Triangle, that even helicopter gunships are necessary for the kind of destruction that 'bogs us down'.

As Blair said this week, his visits to other capitals in the Middle East, leaders are all breathing easier now that Saddam is gone, especially those (I bet) in Saudi Arabia. Remember, this is the man who liked burning down oil wells. This is the man who went after the oil in Kuwait. He had regional designs which were contrary to the regional designs of the United States. Whose do you prefer?

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April 16, 2004

Bombing for Gay Marriage

My good friend Jim has updated his blog and is now running Trigger Fish. Do check him out. He's only just begun and he's on a roll.

It would be ironic if the end result of al Qaida's war upon the West and its values ultimately drove the West further into putting the liberal in liberal democracy. Blowback works both ways.

These days, I wonder if Spain's economy is so cushy that they can make such pronouncements, or on the other hand, is their newly elected leader really straight out of moonbat central?

Either way, Jim is a great tickler for the strategic.

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Posted by mbowen at 04:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Tony Blair, Once Again

This morning's press briefing with the President and the Prime Minister was a study in contrasts and symmetry. All told, I think it went quite well. Geopolitically, I don't think there is much more to be said which doesn't capture the proper intent and spirit of our intervention in Iraq.

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April 15, 2004


Posted by mbowen at 07:54 PM | TrackBack

Illegal Militias

Muqtada Al Sadr is 'evil'. Now you know.

Why? Because he has an illegal militia. What precisely is illegal about the militia is unclear since there are more pro-American clerics and others, including Chalabi, who have militias. Maybe it's because of some illegal acts done by the militia. Either way, here is another snarl in the smooth rhetoric of good vs evil.

Still, I don't understand why some folks (I've been overusing this kind of logic) can't seem to figure out that whether or not Al Sadr is 'evil', that he's no more predisposed to agreeing with UN or 'international' rules than he is to kissing the ass of the IGC.

For some inexplicable reason, we are negotiating with and militarily surrounding Al Sadr. Clearly the IGC isn't powerful enough to arrest him, so he's only 'illegal' to coalition forces. One wonders exactly how much such loose cannons will be allowed to get away with as the transitional government takes control. Moreover, how many American journalists are going to stick around to see how much more of Al Sadr's kind of behavior will be tolerated as US troops stand down? Few, I'd bet.

So Al Sadr, the gangsta cleric, will run around unleashed for an intederminate period. He will continue to recruit militiamen... What really kills me is the logic of this. Here you have Iraqis who have clearly not all been regular army joining up into religious militias complaining that the Americans are shooting them down, and so they fight the coalition troops. They really have no legitimate reason to be combattants. What do they do when the government is theirs? They shut up and obey? No, they'll find another reason to try to get the American Army to leave Iraq. But until the new Iraqi army is built, under the auspices of the same damned IGC and its elected successors, they'll have to remain in the militias.

So the way I see it is that the post IGC government is either going to beat these guys down, with coaltion help, or they're going to give some kind of amnesty to militias currently in conflict with the occupation forces. Impossible.

What's even more incredible is the domestic opposition which says Bush is in a quagmire and more troops are required. Yet at the same time they say this is a battle for hearts and minds. It's a battle for reason and competence, I say, and with the likes of Al Sadr rising to national prominence, the likelihood of that battle going the right way is dubious. But it's not for a lack of trying. The Iraqi people simply refuse to be pacified. So it's attrition all the way forward.

We couldn't just crush them. That wouldn't be nice.

UPDATE: Sadr backs down.

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Ashcroft's Walls

It's clear, given the 15 minutes I was able to listen to him, that John Ashcroft is hell bent on catching the bad guys. He appropriates the rhetoric of war when he talks about what he wants to do with identified international bad guys. I must say that I am a bit more favorable to him based upon what I heard yesterday, but I absolutely want civil libertarians to be a half-inch behind him at every step.

Coming up to speed on FASI searches and warrants and what not is an interesting curve. It once again points to the abject failure of big media to point out, with any specificity, anything much beyond the gripe of partisans. It seems to me that there has been entirely too much to learn via these broadcast hearings that we have not been hearing. I mean we in the blogosphere count ourselves as fairly well-informed if not news junkies, but when have we been given such a clear understanding of the frustrations of the good guys before?

At any rate, it is clear that Ashcroft wants to charge through these walls although it is not clear what has been done since his bull has been unleashed. There's a bit more to know.

Let me also say at this point that the woman who gave the FBI accounting of their tracking of the two AQ operatives was brilliant. I've started to collect those staff statements and I'll have them here soon.

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Rise of Nations

I've made the plunge and picked up a PC strategy game. My choice: Rise of Nations. I played for about 4 hours last night (and early this morning) and have found it to be just as good as I thought it would be.

My first time out, I basically got to medieval and beat up my neighbors. But they started it. I would have liked my first time out to be a bit more peaceful so that I could regard the economics a bit closer, but I just generally found that I would have a surplus of life. That is to say the game put me in a situation rather quickly where I would get bored and rich but not able to expand my population, the question of military adventure arise quickly.

It's clearly addictive, deep and complex without taking huge amounts of time to make progress. More to come.

Posted by mbowen at 08:28 AM | TrackBack

April 14, 2004

Multicultural Radio 1: Air America 0

On 1580 AM, you're not going to hear Al Franken. You're going to hear the same spanish language stuff you heard 3 weeks ago. Evidently, Air America f'd with somebody's money and got kicked to the curb.

The somebody is Multicultural Radio Broadcasting. You gotta know how I get a kick out of this. What did the Airheads think, that they were going to get a free ride? I can't tell you with any certainty that MRBI is not white-owned, but my guess is that there was a little wink wink nudge nudge we're all liberals kind of koolaid sold. Clearly MRBI ain't drinkin', which has got the Airhead panties in a twist.

"MultiCultural Radio Broadcasting's conduct in this matter has been disgraceful. To shut off a broadcast that listeners rely on without warning and in the middle of discussions is the height of irresponsibility and a slap in the face of the media industry. In addition, it is a clear violation of their contractual obligations, and we are seeking legal remedies against them in court."

Oh this is just too delicious.

Posted by mbowen at 02:04 PM | TrackBack

Pushy, Nice People

I just politely closed the door on some evangelists who were selling Awake! magazine door to door. This weeks cover story is "Nuclear War, How Real Is It?". I have my own guess about how likely it will be, which is not. On the other hand we may very well have an nuclear accident, and in that case, a lot of people like me might not close the door at all.

Now that I have become rather proficient with dealing with disappointment and borderline tragedy, I see an interesting sort of pushiness. One of the first things I noticed, and that my mother noticed at the beginning of her hospital stay was that people would come around about three times a day asking to pray over you. And sure enough, it wasn't 30 minutes before a large woman with somewhat disheveled hair but a very warm voice came around and prayed over Moms. Her prayer was practiced and non-specific and moved along quickly, and though I respectfully bowed my head, I wondered exactly what's up with these amatuer chaplains running around the wards.

At Harbor General, there's no registration. You just walk through the metal detectors and you're in. The wards upstairs and over on the East Wing are wide open and there seem to be folks there at all times who are just visiting. It's very unlike the security I recall at Northside in Atlanta when we were bearing the girls. But I imagine that maternity is probably more locked down here than the general part where Moms was staying. At any rate, there seemed to be no deterrent to anyone who decided to do a good turn or fifty by praying for people who have been incapacitated.

The persistant desire to do good is something we are fortunate to have in our society and I'm confident that it manifests itself in all kinds of ways I probably haven't really recognized before. It's something I see in women in their 50s and 60s. They are pushy and nice; willfully charitable. Picture them in your mind. Relax and let them help.

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George, Uh, Said It

What does George W Bush have in common with Ronald Reagan? Not enough. Reagan, after all, was the Great Communicator.

I can't recall sweating so much for somebody. He says the right thing and you understand him, but he's like an inarticulate child that only a parent can love.
What are we supposed to do? Yike. After about the 47th time he said 'Freedom' I switched off the radio. Fortunately, there wasn't much else to say. I was just shocked that he couldn't quip with the greatest failure question.

Anyway, I'm glad that's over and it's clear why he doesn't do it that often. Sheesh.

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April 13, 2004

FBI Systems

Listening to Janet Reno this morning on CSPAN, one wonders exactly what kind of system is being built. This thing seems to be magical, because with it, they're going to be able to really catch the bad guys, and without it they seem to be lost without a clue.

At least we can be reasonably sure that this is an IT assignment that won't be outsourced.

Posted by mbowen at 09:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 12, 2004

Iraqi Council: Professionals Wanted

Updating my information and opinion on the Iraqi Governing Council, I don't think there's a hell of a lot to be lost if the IGC is expanded beyond 25 members. It's a concession to loudmouthing but it isn't clear to me that it will make Iraq any more governable.

As I was informed this afternoon, the problems with the IGC was not so much that the 25 were appointed by Americans, but its competence to govern was questioned when it tried to make its first appointments. The 25 bickered so much that every subordinate organization they appointed was done without consensus, so that instead of appointing a 10 member constitutional drafting committee, they appointed one with 25 members. My understanding is that they've done this twice.

So adding new members to the highest council, as is being demanded from all Iraqi quarters will only add to the madness in my opinion. Nevertheless, in accordance to UN Resolution 1511, there are some reasons to do this.

If Bremer continues to punt to the UN, I doubt that it will really help the Iraqi people. But I can see how shutting up Americans by doing so would have some domestic political currency. My guess is that this is what Kerry's appeasment process would be all about (appeasement to the Left wing of the Democrats that is).

I would draw the line, however, at adding some ethnic or tribal quotas to the IGC expansion. The bottom line is competence, and that seems hard enough to come by. Iraqi professionals need to be able to contribute.

None of this will speed up elections. None of this will get Sadr to pipe down. I don't see how the Iraqis are going to run an army when Sadr gets his own religious militia. I don't see who is going to arrest all the kidnappers and guerilla groups in the country when the handover is done. There's a great deal of complaint about the American presence in Iraq, but when the new government takes over, the American military is not going to just disappear. So when the screamers start throwing bricks over the walls of the American military compound, which Iraqis are going to make arrests?

Posted by mbowen at 04:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Just Reading

I'm about 1/3rd the way through 'The Man Who Warned America'. I find it difficult to believe those screechy voices asking why, why, why would find JPO a good guy.

Posted by mbowen at 04:10 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 11, 2004


Blogs are supposed to be cool, right? No. Blogs are supposed to remind us, from a personal and biased perspective, what living life in America is about and what it should be about. The best bloggers are those who journal our lives and remind us through their own personal commitment to the introspection and self-improvement, the currency of democracy.

The best blogs do that. When I forget to read them, I forget about one of the things I'm supposed to be all about. Jump back, slap myself, ouch! But seriously, deal with this. GV is on top of the game, and reminds me of the kind of writing that makes a difference to me.

Posted by mbowen at 09:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Practical Tangent

I don't know what kind of partisan I am. I suppose I'll measure myself by my peers, but what I do know is that I like John O'Neill. So pursuant to all that, I'm not going to weigh in on Rice or Clarke again until I hear from the perspective of O'Neill's biographer whose book I picked up at the airport this evening.

As far as I'm concerned, what we continue to face is AQ and other terrorists, and really the only thing that gives me any comfort is the work and dedication of CT professionals. Furthermore I have my positive biases for the FBI for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I have a couple friends and associates that work for the Bureau, one who in fact works CT in California.

So if my litmus tests go off the predetermined scale, it's because I'm going on the practical tangent of learning what it is that CT folks do for a living and what one of their best learned.

Posted by mbowen at 08:27 PM | TrackBack

It's Not About Rice

I have yet been unbusy enough to read Rice' testimony or read Clarke's book, but I'm rather perturbed on how questions about Rice' competence have risen to the level of chatter without any real smoking gun. I've heard talk about her 'performance', which all sounds to me like stupid expectations which will second guess whether or not she is 'intelligent and articulate'. Given that there's only so much that can come out in a couple hours, I expect that she would find a way to defend the White House and her good family friend, GW Bush, half of which is her job.

I don't think anybody is going to say that Condi Rice is the world's best CT expert, but it is important to know whether or not her personality is or is not a barrier to get the the best CT experts to work for the President. So I don't care so much about Rice' future outside of that context.

Again, all of these people we elected to do something other than fight AQ, so all of them will have been caught flat-footed at some point. If there's going to be some political fight about it, I don't hear anybody from the Bush Lied crowd saying the names of other CT people who should have been heeded. If Clarke hadn't stepped forward, nobody would be hounding Rice. So calls for her head are disingenuous from the perspective of lacking evidence of others more competent.

Think about it this way. Have a commission investigate the American public's political pressure on the Bush CT strategy. They've had since nine-eleven to come up with people better than Tom Ridge, Ashcroft, Rice, Perle, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld. Who are those people? Not even Kerry knows.

So Rice is a poor friggen NSA compared to who, and for what reasons? Sure she's flacking for Bush, that's her job. But what specifically did she do wrong in the prosecution of her duties, and who on the planet is leaking the stories to the media about what royal fuckups she's made? Nobody is leaking stories, so perhaps she's not such a goofball after all. Nobody has the names of people saying she has done anything which rises to the level of the Valerie Plame matter.

So this is not about Rice, it's just another litmus test on the Bush 43 White House.

Yet and still, there are details which ought to be pursued in the interest of getting our country better prepared to deal with the ghost of terrorism yet to come, rather than the ghost terrorism past. Clarke has written a book. Anybody else?

Posted by mbowen at 05:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 10, 2004

The Elephant in My Backyard

I am in the process of the grass roots work in the community I grew up in. Not without a little trepidation, I will be the representative of the new West Los Angeles chapter of the California Congress of Republicans. Interesting times lie ahead.

My immediate task is to get my own papers in order with a gaggle of GOP orgs, membership and whatnot. Then we've got to get the accounts started so I can start building the organization. My territory is the 47th Assembly District which includes parts of Westwood, Cheviot, Miracle Mile to the edge of Koreatown, the Cadillac area around Kaiser, Palms, Culver City, Ladera, Baldwin Hills, Crenshaw, View Park, Liemert Park and the Mid-City over to USC, including Rampart (I think).

That's a lot of territory to cover, but I know it. I'm very excited about building up a base and getting to know people all over. Thus begins my education about Republican politics in the real world.

Karen Bass stomped the last Republican candidate, Dale Everett, 23.5k votes to 5.6k. So I suppose I'll start by talking to him. Then I'll start looking for places to meet with folks.

We've had some grief from Daniel Pipes, but he's just doing a suspicious rah-rah. I pay it little mind.

Posted by mbowen at 12:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Blix' (Little) Bombshell

Hans Blix, frustrated internationalist, confirms what I've been saying all along. Italics mine.

But if getting Iraq right was tough, getting the diplomacy right was much easier. Reading this book one is struck by how, at the end, the United States had become uninterested in diplomacy, viewing it as an obstacle. It seems clear that with a little effort Washington could have worked through international structures and institutions to achieve its goals in Iraq. Blix and ElBaradei were proving to be tough, honest taskmasters. Every country -- yes, even France -- was coming around to the view that the inspections needed to go on for only another month or two, that benchmarks could have been established, and if the Iraqis failed these tests the Security Council would authorize war. But in a fashion that is almost reminiscent of World War I, the Pentagon's military timetables drove American diplomacy. The weather had become more important than international legitimacy.

So here's the calculation. Let's imagine that the Pentagon's best calculation was that if we waited 2 more months for the invasion of Iraq, we would have lost about 4000 more soldiers than we did. Would it be worth it for international support?

More specifically, if you were the President of the United States of America and the troops are sent into Iraq by your sayso, would you send them later knowing that decision would both cement your international coalition and kill 4000 more Americans. How many American troops are worth the diplomatic victory?

Have I made this point clearly enough? 4000 is a number picked out of thin air, but somebody had to make that decision and the Pentagon knows what that number is. If the number was negligible then we have a problem. The question, I think, most clearly falls on the head of Colin Powell. After all it was his doctrine was that we go in with the big force at the right time.

One more thing to consider here, which in a way typifies the nature of timetable justifications. We all know that some dodgy intel suggested that Saddam Hussein himself had been pinpointed. On that tip we launched several tons of cruise missles which hit their target but missed Saddam. This upped the original timetable by 2 or 3 days. One can argue that this kind of aggressive opportunism characterizes the Administrations persecution of this war. The only imprudence I see in that is political, and I sleep just fine with that.

Posted by mbowen at 12:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 09, 2004

O'Neill Was Right

As I speculated and continue to believe regarding the pre-nine eleven state of readiness, John O'Neill was right.

So Rice is technically correct. But her "context" for the case omits the bigger picture -- which tends, in fact, to corroborate Clarke's version, and moreover paints Rice and her Team Bush cohorts in a decidedly incompetent light.

The bigger picture includes what happened next: Namely, FBI agents and the Clinton counterterror team, headed by Clarke -- realizing the enormity of what Ressam represented -- sprung quickly into action and soon uncovered most of the rest of his co-conspirators. Ressam, it must be remembered, was scheduled to bomb L.A. International Airport. However, there were at least three other millennium plots, all outside the U.S. but against mostly American targets. (As far as I know, the speculation that the Space Needle was targeted has been mostly discredited.) More to the point, investigators began uncovering a much broader assortment of Al Qaeda terrorist cells operating within the U.S.

This happened largely because of Clarke's "battle station" status for officials in Washington. The Seattle FBI agent investigating the case, Fred Humphries, was quickly brought under the wing of John O'Neill, Clarke's counterterrorism chief (and himself a victim of 9/11, having been forced out by the Bush administration). And O'Neill, as Clarke explained in a PBS interview last year, used Ressam to springboard into a broad swath of terrorist cells -- and because of that, the other components of the Millennium Plot were stymied:

Orcinus demonstrates the patience I lack these hectic days in his review of the Rice testimony vis a vis Clarke's claims. I questioned her placement in the Bush Administration but only in hindsight. She's a cold warrior and her bailiwick is Russia, it is certainly reasonable to question what she does (and why) when the war has turned to terror. Surely she's not contemplating what the Russians are doing in Chechnya.

At any rate, this is a rabbit hole I am likely to pursue with the understanding that as a long time advocate of cloak & dagger activities against terrorists I am likely to land on the hawkish side of affairs. Clarke, with only a cursory review, appears to be more intelligently hawkish on the matter than Rice and his suggestion that there are profound differences in the interpretation of the same facts is quite damning of the wisdom of the current administration - namely Rice if CT is indeed her job.

Rice can't be blamed entirely. She rode in on the coattails of GWBush who was not elected in the context of terror. It would have been McCain. So when and how Rice knew O'Neill is what I want to know next.

Posted by mbowen at 11:26 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Whatever to Dodd

It has come to this. Apparently, Chris Dodd (D-CT) uttered 14 words as part of a verbal tongue bath of Robert Byrd which is supposed to make us all loose our bowels over its 'racist' implications.

I can only hope that serious folks attached to this wispy chain of evidence and courtly commentary will read my thoughts regarding the failures of anti-racism and the post-racial future. As BTD Steve notes, I am not generally in a gracious mood when it comes to going over point by point what I actually know in this regard and it makes me appear to be more intransigent and ignorant than I am. But I have decided that for my own health it's better not to stress over these things.

As a general example of Americans being manifestly unable to extract competence from their government officials, this charge of racism is a par for the course. While there are more serious folks who will make the proper points, I think they will be lost on the general and partisan public whose mass (if you consider 30% voter turnout to be massive) will decide matters in a binary fashion. It's no wonder that lobbyists have a field day on Capitol Hill, 'everyone else' is a Dolt by comparison.

Anyway, remark noted.

Posted by mbowen at 10:01 AM | TrackBack

PC Gaming

Ooh baby, I'm cooking with gas. Now that I've got the Shuttle fully righteous, I'm willing to be down with the PC game crowd. Not since A-Train and The Sims, have I done much PC gaming. I have come to understand that I've missed a little bit.

A couple years ago in my pre XBox days when I suffered the indignities of getting thrashed in Super Mario Kart by a 7 year old boy, I said to myself it was time for a change. So before I spent a grip on a console, I looked for what was hot. The result was Sin, Everquest and Black & White. I was told that these were the finest the PC had to offer.

Sin was actually fairly enjoyable even though it overburdened my machine. I really never got past any decent level and once I got stuck at a checkpoint with a non-elidable cut scene, I tossed it. I found Black & White to be fairly entertaining for a time but I really got annoyed with the UI. Once my monkey was on a leash, I had all these stupid leash commands that never quite worked. He got tangled up at the entrance to the temple and I dumped that one. Also, one of the shoulder angels glitched so I could see but not hear him. Ick. By the time I started the tutorial to Everquest and found that I couldn't jump up a ledge, I thought, well maybe I'll just use magic for the whole game. By that time, I ran into some ducats, said f it and bought my XBox. I've never looked back.

Recently, however I've gotten the urge to do a real seriously grown up strategic kind of thing. All I can think of is 'Age of Empires' because it sounds grown up and strategic. (Whereas Condi Rice makes 'strategic' sound like excuse making.) So I'm asking for a little help here. BTW I've got a big fat flat panel and a Radeon and an optical cordless mouse, I think things can be more pleasant.

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

Three Degrees of Stupidity

As an Update to the Moronic Inferno, I have come up with Three Classes of Subpar Intelligence.

Class Three: High Function Stupids - Cognizant Stupidity
Cognizant stupidity involves a paticular and localized lack of intelligence. This is generally transient but clearly noticeable. Such people are often taken advantage of primarily because they have something to lose. Most cognizant stupid people function well in society. It takes some time to determine their stupidity - they can be lucid for prolonged periods of time.

Fools are the most commonly and widely dispersed of the type. A Fool, also known as a Dupe is someone whose stupidity lies in a narrow area. Some Fools are often mistaken for intelligent people who are 'fatally flawed'. Foolishness can be rewarded in society however that doesn't quite make up for the lack.

We often also encounter Idiots, who function quite well in society, but there are a class of things they just don't get. Idiots are generally smart enough to avoid their own idiotic behaviors, but they have a surprising amount of tolerance for their own idiocy, which they can sometimes convince others as 'unique genius'. Idiots are particularly annoying because they generally believe that they know what they're talking about even after it becomes clear that they don't. They will call it a 'difference of opinion', but they're simply idiotic.

Stooges at the low end of the cognizant totem pole, never quite avoid stupidity. Stooges however are intelligent enough to use their stupidity to their own advantage, and usually are most recognizeable by their capacity as Flacks, Namedroppers, Flunkies and Brownnosers. Stooges are deceptive by nature and function best under the color of authority. Stooges, once discovered, do what they do best, blame somebody else.

Class Two: Low Function Stupids - Chronic Stupidity
Chronic stupidity manifests itself in a variety of ways, however a chronically stupid individual is almost immediately recognizeable as challenged by ordinary life. As low function individuals, they are generally found in co-dependent relationships with each other or sympaticos.

The classic LFS is a Doofus. Easily recognizeable, a Doofus has difficulty making sense of common social conventions, such as dressing properly, laughing without snorting, or using breath mints. A Doofus who sees you tomorrow will retell the joke you told him today. As a social incompetent, a Doofus aims to be a geek, but alas is too stupid to convince anyone save perhaps their poor suffering parents. At the same level of a Doofus but with an emphasis on physical stupidity is a Spaz.

However there are fairly stupid people who do manage some ability to pass themselves off as socially acceptable, that is until they open their mouths. Meet the Airhead, also known as the Twit. Both are capable of talking at a reasonable speed but are they saying anything? No. These stupids are remarkably unselfconsious about their stupidity, but that is because they generally are able to seek and find each others company. If you know more than one Airhead, check yourself.

Also very common are Dolts. Also known as blockheads, knuckleheads, and shitferbrains, Dolts are generally incapable of thinking on their feet. Dolts have one-track minds which can make them fairly good athletes, thugs and gas station attendants. A dolt has a favorite song and she's always singing it. Dolts never get over the death of a pet or Curt Cobain.

A Doofus who is also a Spaz is generally known as a Moron. Morons are at the bottom of the low function chain. Morons tend to remain out of sight and out of mind, but they can make their presense spectacularly known. Driving on the sidewalk is a moronic activity, as is setting fire to cats. Most winners of the Darwin Awards are Morons.

Class One: The Pathological Stupids - Terminal Stupidity
Uh, what can I say? These are a group that one doesn't often encounter in the mainstream of society, however there are many who remain uninstitutionalized. It is not generally considered polite to discuss the behaviors of the PS crew, but who gives a fart about that?

The most charming of the Pathologicals is the Imbecile. Imbeciles generally have sunny personalities, which means that they can smile without drooling. In the company of an Imbecile, most people are pleasantly surprised that they can do anything at all. In fact, imbeciles are about as bright as 7 year old children. Give them cookies, but when they start talking about 'doody' it's time to leave.

The most common of the low end are Retards. Retards have a hard time maintaining any train of thought whatsoever. Not only do they speak in non-sequiturs, life itself is one stream of non-sequiturs for them. Although it's snarkily cool to call someone a Retard, as I am prone to do, true Retards need personal attention at all times and must be kept away from sharp objects.

Cretins are the lowest of the low. You've never seen one, and that's a good thing.

UPDATES: More stupidity assessment.

  • Basic Laws of Human Stupidity
  • Posted by mbowen at 08:44 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
  • Brass Tacks

    Posted by mbowen at 12:03 AM | TrackBack

    April 08, 2004

    Moronic Inferno

    Clarke v Rice is on in the peanut gallery, and we have critics of critics of 17 year old criticisms trying to determine if Dr. Rice is a moron. Beside the obvious, which is that few of us are in a position to tell what level of stupidity can rise to the top of the US Government, I find it absolutely incredible that the basis for this comes from these 563 words.

    Since I'm stating the obvious, some people would say that any researcher who can't tell a man from a woman probably is more of a moron than one who can't tell a "former military scientist" from a "communist agent". That's just my opinion, I might be wrong.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:28 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Inglewood Kicks Wal-Mart to the Curb

    But retail analysts don't think this is the end.

    "It's good for Wal-Mart to get into California but it's not as if Wal-Mart's future depended on this vote," said Yannas. "At the same time, what the Inglewood decision could have some effect on is Wal-Mart's attempts to get closer to metropolitan cities, especially if we see other cities around the country putting up similar opposition to having Wal-Mart in their neighborhood."

    So here's where this thing can go. Wal-Mart can go back to the Inglewood City Council (ballsy move, that) and make a big deal public concession to the environmental and other regulations. Or Inglewood could stick it to Wal-Mart by inviting Costco to open a store on the same spot.

    It really depends on what Kenneth Ulmer says. Now here's an interesting story. It was my understanding that Ulmer was in favor of the project. But this story contradicts that, which leaves me with an odd feeling considering I've been told that Ulmer owns the property. Perhaps the city of Inglewood is involved in the purchase of land to be occupied by Wal-Mart, or he had a lease in mind. But if he suddenly changed his mind, then the matter was doomed. Perhaps he's figuring out a way to get more money. This leaves me with a strange feeling...

    There's much more here than meets the eye.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Randi Rhodes, Barrelfish

    You have to hand it to the Airheads. They know how to pick 'em. Randi Rhodes is just about as shrill a lefty as one could possibly imagine. She is a nightmare, a perfect goose for the Dittohead gander.

    Last evening she said something that sounded perfectly logical. In fact, if it's possible to be exactly half right about something, that's where she was.

    In defending Liberalism, she gave as an example the US Military. She paraded her Air Force cred and then spoke in terms of raising all boats. The Military, she says, preaches liberalism. You are only as strong as the weakest among you. In your squad or platoon or battalion, it is your first priority to find the weakest link on your team and make them stronger. The failure of the weakest person puts everyone at risk, a scream at the wrong time, an inability to keep up; in the presence of danger weakness can put the strongest member in harm's way. This is why the entire team is punished when the weakest person messes up, they suffer together when any of them suffer. Quoth Randi Rhodes, the Military teaches Liberalism.

    So why, she asks do Republicans, who value the military, find excuses to be anything other than Liberal? I'll answer that one.

    The Military is not a Democracy.

    You have no choice in the matter of teamwork in the military. You are trained for life and death struggle, fortunately public life in this free country is not so harsh. In the military, you don't have freedom of association, you are no longer a citizen. Your entire life is subjugated to hierarchical authority under a completely different set of rules. You submit your mind, body and a good portion of your soul to your unit, your group and your commanders. You don't own yourself, you are a GI, period, end of story.

    Yes, Randi, the Military teaches Liberalism, and that liberalism is the inevitable result of there being top down control of every aspect of every soldier, and every soldier's life debt owed to their superior officers and commanders. It serves a very valuable purpose which is to defend America, not to become Sparta.

    I am not given to believe that the Left is authoritarian by design, but more often than not, such sentiments bespeak a Hobbsian intervention. Here's to hoping they don't get their way in the land of the free.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:34 AM | TrackBack

    Shuttle XPC

    Callisto is the name of my newest computer. I love it. I can say without qualification, that it's the sweetest machine I've ever owned, well with the exception of the original 6085.

    It's a Shuttle XPC SB75G2. And for the first time in life, I assembled the whole thing myself. I got all the goodies: Serial ATA 7200 RPM Maxtor 120GB drive,
    Sony DVD-Rom (I'm going to get the Plextor DVD Burner later, I didn't really need to burn DVDs right now). It's got the multithreading P4 3GHz CPU and an ATI Radeon 9600 SE video board. I don't need more than that since I'm a console gamer, not a PC gamer.

    I'm not overclocking anything and I didn't use thermal grease on the chip. I'm still having a bit of trouble with the ATI card, but since graphics aren't a priority I can let it slide for the moment. The weird thing was that I had to stick in an old Ethernet card because the native interface is too fast for my LAN. It has got a 1394 which runs some gawdawful 400Mbps. My pathetic little routers don't handle that, and they're brand new.

    So if you don't see me blogging, it's because I'm deep into file transfer hell.


    Posted by mbowen at 10:38 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Say What?

    Posted by mbowen at 09:43 AM | TrackBack

    April 07, 2004

    Wishful Sedition

    Yesterday, amongst the giggle girls, F9 and F7, I hung out with George and his lovely.

    On what turned out to be a fairly bright day after late night and early morning low clouds and fog along the coast, we strolled down the promenade and pier in Redondo. The awkwardness of having an n-way conversation with a top blogger and your own daughters finally broke when they discovered the huge fishtank in the seafood restaurant and we got down to political sputtering.

    I realised rather quickly that I need some stronger struts in my theories. Taken on their own, the arguments I present make perfect sense. But it doesn't all add up coherently. George was polite enough to not raise his eyebrows too high. What's interesting in this first person exposition is that I'm a bit more anti-left than I sound. It doesn't make me particularly comfortable to say so but it is true so I may as well flesh it out properly.

    What emerges in my theory is a very strong appreciation for Things That Work, which is very much a part of my attraction to religion (in that it works for centuries) and for America (in that it functions despite major dislocations). For example, I often cite the story of Orange Juice, which can be gotten in any ghetto or any desert in this nation at any time of the year. As well, I cite the fact that OKC can happen, LA Riots can happen, NYC Blackouts can happen, and we don't have soldiers on the street being shot. We don't have kids throwing rocks at cops or Molotov cocktails tossed through storefronts.

    Riots in America are not political and this is why the Left is marginalized - why it cannot remain a majority party. We're not agitated enough. The Left has to look for trouble because as uncomfortable as we may get, we are not in trouble as a nation. We're peaceful, we're happy, we watch television. The economy makes us squirm and it punishes many of us, some it absolutely destroys. But even so, you won't find Enron survivors or Dot Com survivors striking in solidarity with Southern California grocery strikers, and nowhere will you even find roughneck miners or steelworkers tussling with cops. Capitalism has been reformed so that we may never see another Debs. Too many families have climbed up, and there remain too many below who still hope to climb for the prophets of doom to solidify their grip on the downtrodden. America isn't downtrodden quite enough. So the Left is really a Sorta-Left and incapable of gathering the kind of steam we recently saw in Spain. These are poor times for disaffection.

    At the same time, I don't think anyone is prepared for the know-knothing cynical dysfunction of the kind of Republicans who have been running things. At the heart of the Republican schitzophrenia is disdain for government and an emnity against its competence in anything but tax abatement and military superiority. They hate themselves. They run for re-election on premises which would support their ouster and so all they can do to justify their existence is as a placeholding foil to their Democrat rivals. There was no clearer manifestation of this than Newt Gingrich's bullheaded willingness to stop the government dead in its tracks. None of this logic would survive the most basic scrutiny in the business world Republicans treasure so much. Hire me, I'll do less than the other guy. Republicans have a very difficult time employing the word 'productivity' to the operation of government. That is why I believe them more prone to graft and corruption. But that's a discussion for another day.

    With the kind of miserable Republicans we suffer, what would the Left do? Since I believe a little class warfare is healthy, I suggested a deck of cards outlining the top enemies of the Left, with Carl Rove at the top. Even I can't stand his trickeration, but given this Republican conundrum, it is natural that such a man rise to the top. All the emnity of the Democrats is focused on the White House, because after all, in Congress everything is relative. If Republicans give the elderly 5 pills instead of the 7 the Democrats proposed, it's considered 'fiscally conservative' regardless of the fact that the elderly don't need pills at all, but crutches. So the presidential race is a kind of all or nothing battle (with much sound and fury).

    Given that America survives OJ Simpson and nine-eleven, what kind of disaster could the Left cook up in order to raise voter turnout to something around 70%? It would have to be huge, Vietnam War sized. That's not anything they could invent, they simply would have to react to disaster in a better way than the incumbent Right can manage it. But there aren't enough body bags coming back from Iraq for that to happen. America can afford that too.

    Perhaps only acts of desparation would work, thus the title of this post.

    I am quite happy these days. But even in my unhappy days when I was equally mad about Osama and GW about the economy and the foul mood my fellow citizens in the wake of the darkest deeds of terrorism; in those days at the beginning of this blog, I sat down to write. And I think most Americans would rather sit down to write than to get up and fight given the levels of threat we deal with on a daily basis. It speaks volumes about the stability of this great civilization and the excellent qualities of American people themselves. We have quite enough fighters and even in war we can afford the apathy of the kinds of voter turnout we have.

    I don't buy that Americans are ignorant by and large. We're spoiled, and so we don't need to know so much. All human beings understand inately when their lives are threatened, and we are not close to desparation. When things get ugly there are plenty of competent folks to handle them. We always have heroes to rise to the occasion - hell half of our popular fiction is all about that very idea and fact.

    So I will continue to stay with the Republicans, as they require a bit of principled reform from moderate black nationalists. Yet I am honestly sympathetic with the Left to the extent that they truly understand and are willing to deal with the problems of their particular concern. Still it remains the case that this is America, and that's a good thing. So long as it is, conservatives will remain in power, wishful sedition notwithstanding.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:42 PM | TrackBack


    It appears that some enterprising Americans have found new ways to shock and disgust. In a tale of obscenity and censorship, a highschool faces the outrage of the finger. OK three fingers.

    In May of 2000, it was reported in the local paper that thirty-four students who had attended Hanover High School in Pennsylvania had had their pictures taken for the school yearbook giving an obscene gesture. The principal, John P. Cokefair, had sent a letter to the thirty-four students' parents explaining that because of the preponderance of this gesture in the photos, the offending photos would be re-taken, without the gesturing students, and these students would bear the cost of the re-shoot.

    Here is more evidence that I am becoming a cranky old fud. Kids today!

    Posted by mbowen at 11:02 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Marginal Issues

    I've been hanging out with the Afrofuturists for a spell explaining as a grouchy old man about the bad old days. I just happened upon an interesting transcript from 11 years ago, from Compuserv. Check it.

    We've come a long way.


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    Posted by mbowen at 10:44 AM | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 09:45 AM | TrackBack

    Your Competition

    Could you do this?

    Mexican woman performs own Caesarean to save baby
    LONDON (Reuters) - A woman in Mexico gave birth to a healthy baby boy after performing a Caesarean section on herself with a kitchen knife, doctors said Tuesday.

    The unidentified 40-year-old woman, who lived in a rural area without electricity, running water or sanitation and was an eight-hour drive from the nearest hospital, performed the operation when she could not deliver the baby naturally.

    She had lost a previous baby due to labor complications.

    "She took three small glasses of hard liquor and, using a kitchen knife, sliced her abdomen in three attempts ... and delivered a male infant that breathed immediately and cried," said Dr R.F. Valle, of the Dr. Manuel Velasco Suarez Hospital in San Pablo, Mexico.

    Valle recounted the event in a report in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics.

    Before losing consciousness, the woman told one of her children to call a local nurse for help. After the nurse stitched the wound with a sewing needle and cotton thread, the mother and baby were transferred and treated by Valle and his colleagues at the nearest hospital.

    "This case represents an unusual and extraordinary decision by a women in labor who, unable to deliver herself spontaneously, and with no medical help or resources, decided to perform a Caesarean section upon herself," Valle said.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:33 AM | TrackBack

    April 06, 2004

    She Beat Me

    Even though I know better, I like to occasionally poke fun at feminists for not having all the answers. Plus, I'm Dad, so I get to stand up as a very fulfilled individual patriarch, aka proud poppa.

    Sure there's some folks who like to beat me up about letting my kids play video games, but I think I'm on good ground when I suggest that they're better than television. So on that limb I suppose it's a good thing that my daughters are gaining skills as button mashers in Soul Calibur 2, and they're kicking my butt.

    So what are we to make of it when a 9 year old girl opens a can of whoopass on her dad? Well, it's all great fun and that's all we care about around here.

    I didn't think that I was going to like this game as much as I have, being a Virtua Fighter snob from way back when. It turns out to have all of the subtleties of the VF series including blocking, throws (although not reversals), side motions and combos. The game is pretty large with a narrative section, a bunch of alternative weapons, corny dialog and very cool combat environments.

    Most impressive of all is the practice mode. All cheats are built into the system so that you can see what moves there are. So you can have an infinite life and practice until your fingers get numba;dn...

    Posted by mbowen at 08:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


    It's a pleasure to try out this new toy I have. It's going to allow me to correct my spelling mistakes and do a lot of other cool things. It's called the MTC or MT client tool. Big props to Prometheus 6 for building this doohickey.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Strange Fruit in Fallujah

    I read Healing Iraq for the first time a day or so ago. The feeling of utter frustration really struck a chord in me. What we witnessed on the front page of the NYT and other papers was nothing short of a lynching. According to Zayed, some of this is nothing new. And for that reason, Iraqis have my deep sympathy. So it wasn't a surprise to hear the following:

    Iraqis know very well who those 'pious' people are. They are gangsters, rapists, murderers, thieves, kidnappers, looters, and criminals. They are only using religion as cover. I can't even dream of what would happen if those people were left to make trouble on our streets that way without punishment. I believe that it's now time for Al-Sadr to experience a very bad accident soon. We will be sorry for him I assure you, "Oh poor fellow, what a terrible misfortune, what a great loss" we would say to each other knowingly. It's scenes like these that make me sometimes wonder to myself if Saddam wasn't justified in assassinating all those clerics.

    Although it's difficult to parse the details of foreign places, this kind of brutality carried out in the streets in front of children shows the depth of depravity that has befallen these people. I sense that it parallels our American South in the worse era of Jim Crow. Just as the Islam used in justification could only be a travesty of true Islam, Christianity was used to justifty Klan acts of terror. Our sense of revulsion that such things could be makes us react with anger. I know that anger. We all do.

    I think we are fortunate to have the kind of reflective society that brings thoughtful influence to bear on the kind of reactions we could charge our forces to inflict. And as odd as it may sound, our experience with Jim Crow will help us moderate our anger when we see this kind of horror. In our gut, we want to wreck shit, but we know better.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:25 PM | TrackBack

    Annenberg, Finally

    More than a decade ago, I watched McNeil Lehrer with religious devotion and frequency. First weened off network news there, I felt that finally I was getting somewhere in knowing things computer geeks don't get in undergraduate studies. My favorite regular guest was Kathleen Hall Jamieson, who would dessicate the political spin with aplomb. Finally, she's got a website.

    FactCheck.org. Thanks Deb.

    The truth is stranger than fiction.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:24 PM | TrackBack

    Strikes Against Bush

    I think it's reasonable for me to document my strikes against GWBush right about now. I'm a Republican he is in danger of losing, not that I was very strong for him in general rather than on the biggest issues.

    • Slime & Defend
      Carl Rove must die.
    • Valerie Plame
      This was unconscionable. Outing a CIA operative for political gain was dastardly, and he never owned up to it or rolled a head for it. He can not be forgiven.
    • Steel Tariffs
      Never made sense, and backfired to boot. This was pure heavy handed manipulation, without any regard to matters of free trade, he almost got us hauled into WTO sanctions.
    • Colin Powell
      Bush's timetable on Iraq has set our foreign policy backwards and has put the agenda of the PNAC ahead of that of the State Department. He has taken an American Hero and turned him into an emasculated flunky. Powell and Armitage should be kicking Perle & Wolfowitz' asses, but because of Cheney, they're not.
    • Compassionate Conservatism
      That's Arnold Schwartzeneggar, not GWBush. Your domestic agenda is a joke. This is moderated by the fact that the Bush White House has all but muted Tom Delay, Bob Barr and Trent Lott. This Congress *did* pass McCain Feingold. But his fake 'hispanic' is ridiculous.
    • Deficit Spending
      Republicans don't fool me with their promises not to spend. They goddamned do spend. Missile defense is a classic boondoggle. At any rate, the Federal budget has gone to hell in a handbasket, and there's nobody stopping the train.
    • Microsoft
      GWBush allowed Microsoft to get away with murder. Anti-Trust law is there for a good reason, and Microsoft flaunted it. Playing this like it was a loony lefty scheme of Clinton's was stupid and wrong.
    • Amicus Against Michigan
      Stupid and wrong.

      What GW Bush has done right is obvious. As a mediocre President, he has risen to the challenge of staring down Saddam. Nuff said about that.

      Posted by mbowen at 03:06 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 03:02 PM | TrackBack

    April 05, 2004

    Kerry - McCain?

    Just for the chance to get John McCain in the White House I'd probably go for this ticket. John McCain is a straight-talker and he walks the walk too. Who else has the cojones to outlaw soft money? Somebody who is not all political hacking that's who. And of course Russ Feingold gets props too.

    So on the odd chance that this could happen, let's keep an eye out for Conservatives for Kerry, by another Republican blogger who isn't afraid to say about Richard Clarke what I said.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:53 PM | TrackBack

    The Google Bubble

    I read the latest set of articles about Google in Wired. I swear they almost made me feel it again. You know, the fever, that feeling that the scientific advances are starting to work like magic on the finances of mere programmers.

    This stings particularly badly not only because I don't want to feel like a sucker, but because I turned down a job at Google last year. I took the calculated risk that life in Northern California is simply not worth it despite the deflationary forces of the past two years. Aside from that I was told that my database group, the financial database group would not necessarily rub shoulders with THE database group. Not that I wouldn't have bogarded anyway.

    So the sword of Damocles hangs over my head as I bite my nails through the Google IPO. Was I right, or was I wrong? I hope I was right. This will be the second time. I turned down Microsoft over a little thing called Visual Basic back in 1991.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:42 PM | TrackBack

    Too Black?

    Posted by mbowen at 01:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    On Kos

    For what it's worth, I think Matt Stoller has got the right idea and perspective on what's going on regarding the dust-up over Kos' 'monumental' blunder.

    In a nation that seems incapable of allowing men with beards to run and win for public offices, the kind of gotcha games that scandalists line their policical credibility ar bound to find a gold mine in the web.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:14 PM | TrackBack

    Grammar God

    Grammar God!
    You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

    If your mission in life is not already to
    preserve the English tongue, it should be.
    Congratulations and thank you!

    How grammatically sound are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Posted by mbowen at 01:05 PM | TrackBack

    Why AA Is Like Church

    Dean Esmay is dealing with private demons and public criticism. I think his conflict is very instructive of the kinds of unique questions Americans face with regard to their choices of institutions.

    Since our culture is institutionalized, it makes it more accessible to all ethnics, creeds and persuasions, but it also opens up questions of personal development and recovery to cultural and institutional critics. A difficult prospect to face, but also a direct consequence about the fact that we have choices. In this there are even market mechanisms of public opinion at work which have no real bearing on the effectiveness of the institutions criticized.


    Posted by mbowen at 12:56 PM | TrackBack

    April 04, 2004


    Two summers ago, I was reading Martin Amis in Houston. His book on the crimes of Stalin, 'Koba The Dread' opened a wound in me that has never healed.

    In some ways, after reading what I could never finish for breaking down into tears, I felt that I had lost my individuality. It is the acknowledgement that 20 million people can be killed, the enormity of hubris and evil, which destroys the pretension of uniqueness. One cannot be unique when one is dead, one can only symbolize what is missing in what remains. You become a memory like everything else, you fail to arouse reactions, you become one with the spirit world. You are passive when you are dead, and even as you live, in everything you do, you are only preparing those around you for how you persist in memory. Or not.

    It is this understanding of humanity that stays with me now. And somehow I think it returns me to the constant angst of adolescence. Nobody understands what I feel - nobody cares about me. It's not that they actually don't, but that the chances that this understanding will persist beyond my contribution to its maintenance are slim. I think that is always true of everyone and the presence and the pressures of love or work makes us forget it. We believe that those who know us will always know us more or less fixedly. We assume the consistencey of meaning. A kiss is always just a kiss. So you kiss those you love, but as time goes by a kiss becomes something else entirely. Your dead body cannot be kissed.

    In memorializing my grandfather, I could never tell you what his kiss was. He buried the woman who kissed him most, and if he wished to be known in that dimension of love, he would be eternally frustrated. He would have to go around kissing people. It seems hardly worth the effort, and what can one do to be ever what one was in the days beyond the grave?

    I think such dissapation would cause a great deal of anxiety, but I am not particularly anxious. I have my Buddha, I consciously humble myself to the infinite possibilities beyond the dusty concerns of domestic tranquility. I may never be known in any way I wish to be, and this is the case for all of us. We know not the hour nor the circumstances of our death, and we must finally acknowledge the probability that the significance and meaning of our death may completely overshadow the significance and meanind of our life.

    I don't know where it is written that a man at middle age comes to contemplate death. I never really bothered to read about Rabbit. But I'm at that spot. As many things have happened over the past 3 years, I've hesitated to call it the period of death, but that is what it has turned out to be not only symbolic.

    So as I work through the ethics of death and loss:

    • I sit with thousands of dollars in the bank waiting for the inevitable robbery.
    • I stand in opposition to the optimism of American youth.

    What is to be done about conformity?

    More later..

    Posted by mbowen at 06:51 PM | TrackBack

    The Shores of Tripoli

    I have recently come to discover that Libya just may become the place to be 20 years hence. If I were a rich man, I would seriously consider getting there first with the resort money.

    Kadaffi, the country's leader who has been cut down to size via cruise missiles and international courts is sitting on a gold mine. Actually, it's water. A huge amount of it. Sooner or later, as they get it to the surface and golf course architects get whiff, Libya will be transformed.

    Kadaffi's son is already saying nice things about America (IIRC, he attended university here) and Israel. We also know that in the wake of the fall of Saddam Hussein, Kadaffi himself took a timely opportunity to come clean about his weapons programs.

    I don't know if Lebanon is back to normal or that Beirut is calm enough for tourism as it once was, but Tripoli may soon become a destination for people with megapixel cameras, mobile phones and short pants. Between now and then, watch the international engineering firms.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:05 PM | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 12:52 PM | TrackBack

    On Air America

    I have been pleasantly surprised by the depth of seriousness of Al Franken and have snorted at Randi Rhodes with such derision I have practically deviated my septum. So is Air America of questionable value? No it is objectively miraculous, for the moment.

    Within one week, I've heard Richard Clarke, Joe Biden, Pat Buchannan speaking seriously on this radio network. It's got clout to swing. Despite the amateurish production values, the miserable fidelity of AM broadcasts, and the retarded mattress commercials which tend to interrupt conversations at random intervals, Air America is a breath of fresh air and a dash of salt to boot. Right now they are turning heads and they've got the jump on all media. This salutory effect is very useful for all of us, no matter what side of the fence we stand.

    The best thing about Air America right now seems to be their ability to say what 'The Liberal Media' cannot. They do so with aplomb and not a small amount of style. Let's hope they don't get smug.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:14 AM | TrackBack

    Crucifixes & Cigars

    I think I just saw one of those signs that America is back. He's red, he smokes cigars, he's shy in love and he works for his dad.

    Hellboy brings back a kind of superhero that undoes Batman, Spiderman and comes closer than anyone has to being a regular good guy since Indiana Jones. The film that carries him disturbs our desire for snarky quips and delivers them halfway, but adds a remarkable amount of genuine affection.

    You'll also be surprised to see that the film represents Catholicism directly into its themes of of good and evil. How could it not with a character named Hellboy? Good is not simply ordinary innocence violated reaction as with Spiderman, nor wealthy philanthropy as with Bruce Wayne, but comes from self-doubt and a genuine desire to prove oneself of value.

    What was merely hinted at with the freakiness of the XMen, is fully fleshed out in Hellboy and in him is the warmest hero the big screen has seen.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:49 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    April 03, 2004

    Presupposing God

    I think I almost understand what is being said here.

    As soon as I'm able to abstract it to general logical stuff, I think it will be a useful tool in my theologics. Not only that, I think it can work on matters of political philosophy. Explain adherance.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:05 PM | TrackBack

    Osama's Motivation, America's Capability

    I have just been reminded of something I believe everyone has forgotten. The reason that Osama Bin Laden attacked America was because we had American troops in Saudi Arabia. And why did we have troops in Saudi Arabia? To protect Saudi Arabia (for oil reasons) from Saddam Hussein.

    Osama Bin Laden believes that America should have no business with the Muslim world. Presuming that he is rational, we could just remove our troops from Saudi Arabia and the jihad would be terminated. But that would be a fool's bet. What we can count on for certain is that AQ continues to threaten peace and security all over, and that Bin Laden's rationale is not to be appeased.

    But it is worth pointing out that we are at war with AQ because we went to war with Iraq in 1991. The Wahabists of Saudi Arabia started getting their knickers in a twist when confronted with the possibility of seeing American women driving military vehicles on the street.

    Let me also add a notable contribution to clarification from Senator Joe Biden yesterday. (Yes I was listening to Franken again). The PNAC still finds acting against states as fundamental to the combat of terrorism. I concur and think it is wise despite the obvious consequences to priorities with regard to the deployment of American forces. Clearly in retrospect, it was a mistake to focus on anti-missle defense (whose very physics are a matter of intense debate) in contradiction to the priorities Richard Clarke would have had the Administration support in 2001. But none of that proves that actions against rogue states is a poor idea. Afghanistan is proof.

    What the American military and its allies have proven beyond a doubt in Iraq is that it is capable of dealing with a rogue nation's army and can take down a tyrant. What America has yet to prove is that on the heels of such a coup, it can transition an entire nation more or less, to democratic rule. The failure of such a transition implies the reversion to the kinds of coups the CIA has orchestrated in the past, substituting one dictator for another. If you like the old style of puppets, then you should be cheering for the US to get out yesterday, constitution or no.

    We also have not yet proven that we are capable of coordinating intelligence and alliances of the sort a global cell busting organization requires. After all it was the invocation of Chapter Five of the NATO treaty that got Germany, the UK and (yes) France, fighting along side Americans in the ugly back country of Tora Bora. I hear calls for more of this multilateralims but I don't hear it called for specifically with regards to joint military offensive action. I think the recent fighting in norther Pakistan which has dragged on for at least a week, demonstrates that covert coups are not going to work.

    So someday we may have a new kind of Army - the kind Rumsfeld talks about. But we did what we could do well. Hopefully we'll get good enough, soon enough to rid the planet of AQ. But let us not forget that we must still deal with states, both friends and enemies. We are not constituted to do much anything else, unless you are particularly fond of the old CIA tactics.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:54 PM | TrackBack

    April 02, 2004

    Why Not Bomb Fallujah?

    Air America did two things yesterday. It cranked up the juice on its transmitters and it cranked up the juice in its commentators. Whichever woman I heard yesterday evening talking about the stocks of American and United Airlines proves that this new radio station can be as crackpot as Pacifica. Certainly as Pacifica goes broke, they'll all bleed over. Al Franken is good, period. These other loonies are voices from the insane asylum.

    While I'm not likely to subject myself to any such bleating in the near future, I have already heard enough of their theories (preheat oven to 200 degrees and warm for 3 minutes) to know that they are the sort who are full of Itoldyaso over the recent incident at Fallujah in which several Americans were literally roasted and then hung from a bridge. To these wild and wooly lefties, GWBush is the bloodthirsty tyrant who is looking at every opportunity to expand his thoughtless reign of unilateral militaristic domination of innocent brown countries. The mob at Fallujah represents to them nothing more than the justified reaction of cornered pawns in a geopolitical chess game in which America is a rogue red queen. This Air American airhead literally said that our purpose was to bomb Iraqi villages in order to save them.

    But what does it take to bomb Fallujah and why are we not doing so? Can anyone honestly say that it is beyond our capability? We could carpet bomb the entire place with a day's notice. But we don't. It's not because we can't; it's because we don't want to. It is inconsistent with America's purpose in Iraq, which is not to bully people around or teach them a lesson in anything other than post-tyrannical life. Self-governance is the lesson, and we can only hope that the new government of Iraq has learned something from our forebearance. Clearly other people in Fallujah make it plain that they do not wish to learn any such lessons, but since we have such hardheaded fools domestically, such stubborness comes as no surprise. We can be thankful that Airhead Americans have as their only weapons of miniscule destruction, the power of AM radio. Not that they could shoot straight.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:48 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Day One

    It's cancer, of course.

    As far as anyone can tell, it's renal cancer which has spread to my mother's liver. How big this mass is, has not yet been entered into the computer, so the attending physician who answered my questions yesterday wasn't able to tell me.

    My brother and sister and father dropped down to see Moms yesterday at the County hospital in Torrance. After I got the phone call, I was in something of a stupor. I didn't get particularly weepy, but I was on the edge of it, trying to think of something to clear my head of woe. The phone call came just after I finished changing the banner for my big hilarious joke for the season, but at least I got my one laugh out of that.

    So now I have to put together the care package I had promised from two nights ago. She needed a few personal items and I used my new color printer to print up a couple photos: the happy collage of the kids and my worried about the world picture. F7 had also crayoned a get well picture that was very nice. But I needed something else. What could it be?

    She told me jokingly on Tuesday night that if she needed chemotherapy that the honor would come to me to pre-emptively shave her head. She wouldn't have hair just falling out. It's a perfect sentiment from Moms, she's got guts. So I figured I could come up with something to make the worst-case scenarios lighter, and the idea struck me. A skull.

    We could call it Mort and sit him next to her bed. Anytime we weren't around and she was feeling low, she could look over at Mort. Relatively speaking, she'd been in a lot better shape than Mort who has no eyes, no friends - literally nobody. The very idea cracked me up. It made me laugh hard enough to pick my ass up and head over to the hospital. Except human skull replicas cost $150 at skullsunlimited.com. Maybe I could get one cheap from a UCLA medical student.

    When I got to her stall, Sister was sitting cross-legged at the end of the bed, Pops was kicked back casually and one of Force Ten (the grandchildren) was there as well. The mood was light. Good. I joked that we weren't all singing Kumbaya. I have to be in a joking mood, it's the mood I want to be in.

    So we talked around her. I think maybe it's best that she just see us talking. Sometimes the subject would get to her specifically, but ever since she had her blood transfusion, she's been feeling better than she has in a long while. She only complains about the regular poking and vital signs checks every half hour 24/7.

    An orderly came to fetch Moms for another scan downstairs. So Pops took off, and Sister and her daughter went across the street to get some pie. Moms was back within 15 minutes and then shortly thereafter my brother 'Doc' arrived. Doc was all business, and got the doctor to give us the factual rundown. Dutz returned with pies but no milk and we all had a little picnic.

    Dr. C says Moms will probably be released as the oncologist assigned to her reviews all the cultures and stains and bloodwork and such to try and determine how far in the body the malignancy has spread. Hopefully not far. This is called staging the cancer. I may have heard her say early, but of course that's just what I want to hear. Her best guess, not even knowing how big the malignancy is, is that it started in her right kidney and moved to her liver. How quickly is part of the great calculation. The cancer's aggressiveness will be characterized.

    She expects that the polyp removed just after Wednesday's colonoscopy will be shown to be benign. Just another bump in the series of bumps expected of 67 year old women. But that's small comfort considering the big meeting to come in a week or so. We'll sit and hear it. "Give it to me straight doc, how long have I got to live?".

    Just the facts are annoying, and I'm facing a strange array of ethical dilemmas in dealing with such matters of mortality, spirituality and economics. But I will meditate on those under separate cover. In the meantime, I'm staring at my mother a great deal more than usual and trying not to think of her or our family in any other tense but the present. Demons are lurking. Hope is ever present. Strength and humor are in evidence. Time ticks into the future.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:38 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    April 01, 2004

    This Changes Everything!

    Al Franken is a genius. He is single-handedly going to swing the pendulum back to the left.

    His O'Franken Factor is the keystone show of the new Air America radio network. I am left, having listened to him all afternoon, thinking that I have taken leave of my senses in embracing the Republican view of the world. In fact, I believe that the more people listen to him, the more problems Republicans are going to have in covering up the lies and fraudulence of their every utterance. He makes it so clear, he undermines my confidence in Conservatism just by speaking.

    So let me be the first to say it. I recant. I am no longer a Republican. I'm going back to the Democratic Party and I'm going to immediately review everything I've said in this blog for a sanity check.

    What has done it? Well, simply stated it was Al Franken. I mean when he said that he's been to Kosovo three times and has done USO shows for the troops, I realized that liberals aren't all traitors. He has quite correctly pointed out that Rush Limbaugh, aside from being a big fat idiot, is a drug addict as well. All the times I have listened to Rush Limbaugh just pretending to be entertained, I was really subjecting myself to a kind of subliminal comotose state. I was being slowly boiled like a frog, and only hearing the humor and wit of Franken on the AM radio makes me realize how far from reality I have strayed.

    You know since I thought Kerry was the best Democratic candidate all along, perhaps I knew deep down that I retained some sense. This changes everything.

    I know that my conservative readers are going to hate me for this, but I am free to change my own mind. And I think of all the folks I have alienated and confused by my controversial appeal as a black Republican. It's just not worth it anymore. I mean with Condi Rice just about to show her ass in Congressional testimony, I think it's a great time to just get out before it's too late for all of us.

    I hope I'm not too late. Maybe the Kerry campaign could use a convert. I mean maybe that's the best part of it. I could show out the Republican scam from the inside out. A black reverse David Horowitz! What could be better.

    I feel so much better just letting this all out. I mean liberalism is all our natural state, it's not worth maintaining all the contradictory fictions of conservatism. What's the point? I should just be more charitable to my fellow man. I think I'll start with gays. Everything I've said here about same sex marriage - hey. It was just to curry favor with the right wing. I don't really care. Hell I'm like Humpty and I say Doowhachalike. It's a free country and a free world. So long as you don't harm a hair on my head, I won't harm a head on your hair, whatever.

    OK and while I'm being charitable, let's pull some troops out of Iraq. I mean what are we trying to prove over there anyway? Leave them alone. They'll work it out. We need to be home spending those billion dollars raising the minimum wage. The whole thing was about oil anyway, and where's our oil George? I'm paying $2.15 a gallon for gas. What is this, France?

    And another thing. Walmart. They're just another scam perpetrated on the American people.

    I feel such a burden lifted from my shoulders now that I'm free of the ideological shackles of the right. I'm going to go celebrate with a blunt.

    Last but not least, I want to personally apologize to Janeane Garofalo for everything negative I ever said about her. garafalo.jpg

    Posted by mbowen at 02:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack