May 31, 2004

Training Day

Posted by mbowen at 03:26 PM | TrackBack

Prison Rape Is Still A Joke

You've heard the jokes. About Martha Stewart, Michael Jackson and all the other famous people who may be heading to prison. A beefy cellmate will bring them a 'dose of reality'. We know the joke, we're Americans. It's all about prison rape. So why was everyone so shocked that poorly disciplined American soldiers would humiliate prisoners of war? Humiliation is what Americans expect to happen to prisoners, especially sexual humiliation.

Bob Herbert finally breaks the barrier for mentioning the sort of ugliness that goes on in American prisons.

On Oct. 23, 1996, officers from the Tactical Squad of the Georgia Department of Corrections raided the inmates' living quarters at Dooly State Prison, a medium-security facility in Unadilla, Ga. This was part of a series of brutal shakedowns at prisons around the state that were designed to show the prisoners that a new and tougher regime was in charge.

What followed, according to the lawsuit, was simply sick. Officers opened cell doors and ordered the inmates, all males, to run outside and strip. With female prison staff members looking on, and at times laughing, several inmates were subjected to extensive and wholly unnecessary body cavity searches. The inmates were ordered to lift their genitals, to squat, to bend over and display themselves, etc

Most African Americans have no use for Minister Louis Farrakhan or his Nation of Islam. There are several reasons for this. However, if you are in prison, membership in the Nation is a man's best defense against rape. That's where many converts come from. Taking some of the traditional conservative roles of male and female roles of Islam as their basis, the NOI is especially adamant and forward thinking in establishing this defense. Outside of the typical denunciations, it would be interesting to see what those deep inside the Nation of Islam's prison programs have been saying about Abu Ghraib.

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May 30, 2004

A History Lesson

John Dos Passos argues a number of things in 1946 that are being repeated about Iraq. An excellent gem of a letter about our bungling in Europe.

Try these points on for size:

  • We have swept away Hitlerism, but a great many Europeans feel that the cure has been worse than the disease.
  • Never has American prestige in Europe been lower.
  • “We’ve lost the peace"

I learned about this from hearing a fairly good speech by Bill Bennett, called 'The Politics of War and Civil Society'.

Other juicy tidbits. This 'unilateral' action includes a coalition of 31 nations. The Gulf War 'multilateral' action included a coaltion of 34 nations. This is a huge difference?

The last seven times the US military was engaged, it was done for on behalf of muslims.

Posted by mbowen at 11:28 AM | TrackBack

May 29, 2004

Politics of the Internal Empire

Victor Davis Hanson asserts in a jumble of historical facts that multiculturalists are responsible for spreading a fog of victimology which has poisoned the American spirit and resolve. Ultimately he places blame at the foot of Marxism, which is a good thing because there is much to multiculturalism he refuses to understand in his current indictment. What he refuses to see is the extent to which multiculturalism is not internationalist politics but an expression of the desires of non-whites to have cultural influence and economic power in America.

I don't know if Hanson is the main exponent of this false nexus and have not read Mexifornia, but many who quote from it suggest a panicky loss of control and understanding of how America is changing. I find it difficult to believe that blacks, latins and asians are widely persuaded by Left academics' Marxist agenda, and I think that anyone credulous enough to take that as gospel is letting prejudice work. The Culture Wars are over, but this rearguard action is spoiling for a new fight.

The reason that it is important to recognize that multiculturalism isn't Marxist goes something like this to my mind. Multiculturalism calls for an internal empire. It demands access to markets for people of all ethnicities, and with the understanding that the best kind of ethnic diversity is a good thing, multiculturalists want a piece of American pie. An academia chock full of Leftist apologists are not going to bend the will of new immigrants to this nation. When Indians and Koreans came, they didn't check in with Anhuradi Roy to determine how they would stock the shelves of the stores they opened.

Anyone who does business in China knows that despite the fact that there are many Cantonese speakers, the power lies with Mandarin. It is foolish to suggest that Americans who speak Spanish are any threat to what America is all about. Even for those who are cynically concerned about keeping power away from Hispanics have few legitimate concerns. Masking tape is printed with instructions in Spanish, Bar Exams are not. Say what you will about bilinguilism but Telemundo is not a threat to Fox News, even though Telemundo has been here much longer.

Simply because Republicans have been relatively incompetent to recruit these people into their ranks, and for good reason considering the number of blood and soil nativists inspired by works like Mexifornia, doesn't mean they are part of a mass conspiracy to subvert the values of America. So conservatives need to watch out for how they alienate potential allies in ignorance.

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This is a Recording

This horse may or may not be dead, but I'm going to beat it nonetheless. And since this coincides with the last bit of the Negro Digest content I've scanned so far, I think it would be a fitting way for me to cap off the latest meta-discussion about Bill Cosby.

As I first stated, this kind of discussion is nothing new. Although the tone has changed a bit from 1967 when this original piece was written by Pops for the Negro Digest, the message is the same and should be loud and clear. Independence is ours to take if we are willing to be responsible. Self-reliance is the key to all progress.

Although I couldn't OCR the text for easy reading here in the blog, I have a nice scanned pdf file here. Most everyone should be able to read it. (It's a little bit over 2MB so be patient with the download.) Still, there's one little excerpt I'd like to highlight.

The message would be loud and clear and directed specifically to all black people in America. That others would hear it is not important.

Part of life is airing dirty laundry. Here's some Old School hardline from my family to yours. I bet it makes you laugh and cringe.

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May 28, 2004

Telco Subversion

Cringely has a great idea that numbs the brain. Unfortunately it's one of those things that only works at the dorms of tech schools and certain areas just south of San Francisco.

It's based on the latest incarnation of the geeks old proverb, 'If you build it, they will come." Since half the computing on the planet could now be open source, this has morphed to 'If you configure it, they will pay.' Not bloody likely.

What Cringely and boing boingers tend to forget is that most people are lazy. We don't have the time nor the patience to figure out half of these technologies:

If you have a WRT54G, here's what you can use it for after less than an hour's work. You get all the original Linksys functions plus SSH, Wonder Shaper, L7 regexp iptables filtering, frottle, parprouted, the latest Busybox utilities, several custom modifications to DHCP and dnsmasq, a PPTP server, static DHCP address mapping, OSPF routing, external logging, as well as support for client, ad hoc, AP, and WDS wireless modes.

Then he must certainly add:

If that last paragraph meant nothing at all to you, look at it this way: the WRT54G with Sveasoft firmware is all you need to become your cul de sac's wireless ISP. Going further, if a bunch of your friends in town had similarly configured WRT54Gs, they could seamlessly work together and put out of business your local telephone company.

This sounds remarkably like: "Look at it this way: an ordinary PC with Kazaa or Morpheous software is all you need to become your cul de sac's digital jukebox. Going furhter, if a a bunch of your friends in town had similarly configured PCs, they could seamlessly work together and put out of business your local record store."

Putting people out of business is not so simple as geeks would like to belief. It sounds perverse, but the techno-troglodytes of the world with their inferior expensive technologies fight back, with lawyers. They're not always wrong for doing so.

Of course I like the concept, and it's a cool way to say on your phone bill. But the millions are not going start configuring routers. As soon as they do, Kazaa! There's a can of worms in them thar hills.

Posted by mbowen at 08:31 AM | TrackBack

May 27, 2004


alang2000.jpgTerry Gross' interview with William Langewiesche the author of 'The Outlaw Sea' was fascinating today. Among the interesting topics was Alang, the ship graveyard, a massive beach where thousands of poor Indians take apart supertankers by hand.

I recall Wired's story and pictures as he described it. What a place. There is also a firsthand account with good details here.

Posted by mbowen at 10:04 PM | TrackBack

When Common Sense is Not Enough

I followed up on Cosby just enough to hear Cornel West and Mike Dyson comment. (Thanks NPR for the .ram files). West came correct, Dyson went out into left field. I also breezed through Mark Neal's piece on Hiphop long enough to hear him drop a half dozen 'sheroes' names, and then came to a disdainful stop by the time I got to this:

As Pough notes, "rappers become grunt workers for the patriarchy: they sow the field of misogyny for the patriarchy and provide the labor necessary to keep it in operation, much as Black men and women provided the free and exploited labor that built the United States."

Then I went to Tavis' site and read the transcript. Cosby said the following:

I am saying to the people, “Hey, man, the bridge is out. The bridge is out.” You can drive over there. You can get angry with me if you want to. A friend of mine said--I was sitting with a diabetic friend of mine, and this cat has got to take a shot or else he'll go blblblblbl--like that. So the cat sat down and he ordered a Coca-Cola. And I said, “Hey, man, what are you doing with a Coca-Cola?” The guy said, “What you want me--” I said, “OK, man.” You can go ahead and get mad at me, but you're not gonna get mad at the Coca-Cola. I'm not the one sending--you understand?

In the milleu precision writing, we would say that Dr. Cosby is lacking in specificity. In the Old School, we would slap Mr. Neal upside his head as soon as he referenced the next authoritative author. Cosby is a multimillionaire because he understands something about communicating basic things in simple accessible language. And he makes you laugh when he does it. He doesn't get bogged down in jargon.

When Smiley suggested that he and Cos could talk for hours, Cosby said no. You don't need to talk for hours. The concept is simple. Let Dyson talk for hours. Let a thousand academics write ten thousand books. What do you get?

Isn't it fascinating that Cosby got the whole country talking with just a few well placed simple words? Isn't it fascinating that one or two sentences removed turns the whole meaning? It is very refreshing to me to see wisdom expressed plainly, and I think Cosby underlines the point that it needn't have been him if somebody's dad had done their job.

Cosby will not run for president. There will not be a 12 step program. People just have to use their heads, because when common sense is not enough, and people start turning to theorists, it's already too late.

Funny, maybe that's why certain intellectuals trip so hard over hiphop. Sometimes it only takes 16 bars to tell the truth.

Posted by mbowen at 09:53 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Fort Greene Revenge

About 12 years ago, when the hottest jam on the radio was Black Sheep's 'The Choice is Yours' I happened to be a house party in Ft. Greene with the kind of cool people I used to party with those days. Among them was a young brother who was an Assistant Professor at some non-trivial university. The brother had dreads, a PhD and a 70k gig.

The topic drifted to the kinds of problems black folks who come correct have with ordinary white folks. It's an old subject I think best written up by Brent Staples in his 'Parallel Lines'. While Brent was a PhD Candidate at the U of Chicago, he used to purposely sneak up on dainty whitefolks and give them a fright. This particular brother said something about black power that I had never heard before, and it's something I never forgot. He had to get into one of these upper middle class white kids parents face over some bullshit. And his bottom line went something like this: All your entire life, you have been working hard and climbing in society for what? You saved your money for years and years and put all your hopes into your child's education. You and thousands of others compete for years on end to get good SAT scores. Then your kid competes with all the rest from across the country and around the world, just to get your kid into my class. So think very carefully about what you say to me because I am the man whose grade can make the difference between success and failure for what you've been claiming as your values all your life.

In my entire life I have never imagined in any black on white revenge fantasy so sweet as that. You cannot buy grades at university, and there is nothing rich white bigots can do but burst their own blood vessels when it comes to dealing with black professors. I know there have been some black profs who get off on this kind of power trip, but thankfully that's a world of politics I don't have to deal with. I say get your tenure and go buck wild. In the meantime, not for the black power trip, but out of real respect for what it take to go that length past achievement and social climbing to true excellence and scholarship we ought to keep this man's lesson in mind. Everybody in America has to come face to face with this 'elitism', black and white alike.

There are people who know, and there are people who don't. Props needs to go to those who do know; that work is real.

Posted by mbowen at 12:03 PM | TrackBack

..As Long As You Don't Hurt Anybody

Checking out Walter Williams, I see he makes the slippery slope argument on the acceptability of Same Sex Marriage toward polygamy and bestiality. He's right and he's wrong.

It's a cruel sort of dismissal to the validity of the fraction of non-straights who have loving relationships to suggest that their sexual taste runs directly to goats and pigs. Sheep I could see, but pigs?

Seriously, the argument we hear in support of SSM is often of this variety. 'So long as nobody gets hurt, they should have the freedom to do what they choose.' I have a problem with that logic.

I know we talked about this before vis a vis the video hos in Nelly's employ, but let's overwork the metaphor shall we? You see, none of the bimbos on the booty shaking circuit are hurt. It's an affront to decency, but people have to make a living, right? It seems to me that you cannot suggest that perverse, empty sexual relationships are not costly, there is a such concept as an opportunity cost. If your concept of sex and love follows the concepts sold by of Snoop Dogg or R. Kelly something is out of place. But nobody gets hurt just watching a video, right? But it is not somebody (outside of STDs) that gets hurt so much as something gets hurt. Sybaritic sex does damage to the concept of monogamy. And that is true whether or not you are straight.

Now independent of whether or not you are grossed out by the sexual tastes of bling rappers of both genders, it doesn't take much of a stretch of the imagination to understand what damage they do to family values. Speak to any reasonable married parent about what they believe to be the influence of today's hiphop. They hate it. Yes, we've been over this before.

In a free country, citizens are under no obligation to protect Marriage or Family. It's strictly optional. If you pursuit of happiness does not include gay sex, you only need be tolerant. Nobody gets hurt by straight couples kissing on television. But if you ask any lesbian or gay activist, they will give you an earful about how such behavior does damage to their concepts of love. I can't speak for gays and therefore can't tell you if they hate 'The Bachelor' as much as I hate R. Kelly, but I definitely understand the parallel when it comes to damaging concepts. And it is something I would hope we don't forget.

Americans' free choices always have direct and indirect costs. Every player that gets his freak on with multiple partners does damage to the concept of stable productive relationships, Marriage and Family. We know this. There's no force or coercion involved; nobody gets hurt. They're just doing what makes them feel good. But something is hurt. There can be no question about it.

Those of us who believe in the traditional concepts of Marriage and Family sometimes get overzealous. We overstep when we tell people what they ought to be doing. But we are not wrong to make clear the costs of going in one direction. When we say that Same Sex Marriage does damage to the concept of Marriage, we're not making this up.

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80's Toy

gi joe
You're GI Joe with the Kung Fu Grip!! You're
strong, tough, and know how to kick some ass.
Don't forget though, no matter how manly you
think you are, you're still just a doll. God
Bless America.

What childhood toy from the 80s are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

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May 26, 2004

Brother Spence

Once again, I stand with great respect to my man Lester Spence. Today marks his debut at The good doctor who has been holding down the fort at has made another advance in getting the good word out to thoughtful folks. So you will find him regularly at Africana, and hopefully sometimes back at his old stomping grounds. With the utmost respect I wish him well in his new endeavors.

My new associate-in-league Avery Tooley threw out a word to me today. Contrarian. I find it intriguing and something that I'm not sure that I can get away from. I would not like to be known as a contrarian, not least because of one of my rules, that the Devil's Advocate is merely masking his contempt. And yet it is often true that I find myself at odds with people I admire. I do so because I enjoy pointing out what I see as logical weaknesses in positions that I abandon. I respect others for taking that angle, but I have to show them why they're weak. This fact was readily apparent to me in my recent face to face with George Kelly. The Left, I explained to him, is not sufficiently seditious to upset the great comfortable garden capital has made of America.

At any rate it is with that sword of contrarian swinging above my head that give me an itch this evening in light of one of Spence's closing paragraphs:

Finally, we have to begin to think outside of the box and use tactics of misdirection and passive aggression in order to make further strides. For most of us, for example, the odds of us casting a vote for the Republican Party are about the same as the odds of us being struck by lightning. How could we hack the Republican Party for progressive purposes?

Yike. Maybe Carly Simon has my number, because I probably thought that song was about me. Me? A contrarian, passive-aggressive misdirected hacker? I can't cop to all that, but I see where that idea might come from. I'm sure he means it in the best way. Those of us dedicated to our future pluralism are going to have to make genuine juke moves to shake off the old. Not only our old predictable selves, but the old predictable enemies who still think they can post up on us and know our next step.

Like most capable people, Spence has a positive outlook. I share his optimism. P6 is hooked into the concept as well. We're moving forward. Black politics ain't what it used to be.

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Extreme Makeover: Iraq Edition

Something about the screaming 'Oh My God' over and over is getting under my skin. You've seen it. Somebody's teeth get whitened & straightened to movie star brilliance. Somebody's automobile has been transformed into something fabulous. Somebody's house has been remade to look like a showroom at Expo. A busload of mechanics or construction workers or cosmetic engineers descend on a humble piece of a humble person's property and within a week or so a miracle occurs, all televised for your entertainment, envy and moral edification.

I like the premise. As a kind of humanitarian extention of the Monster Garage concept, you could do a lot worse. On the other hand, you could do a lot better. A couple months ago, Rodney Allen Rippey (yes that one) told the crowd at Ofari's that he was trying to get his reality show bankrolled. His concept, do a good deed. Change somebody's life by granting them a wish. If I could have any job on this planet, I could think of nothing more rewarding than being an 'angel'. A man on the street philanthropist with a monster bank account. Should we be surprised that Hollywood has fallen way short?

These makeover shows dramatize the great transformative power of American wealth and expertise. And nothing says you are American quite like the holding in abeyance of ordinary fears and pain in anticipation of one's own transformation. We call it the American Dream, but at it's most basic level it is a great physical transformation. Interestingly, I am tutoring F9 in the difference between physical change and chemical change. One could say that a real American undergoes a chemical change, when their material surroundings undergo a physical change.

These fundamental qualities of American malleability is what makes this nation the perfect destination. I have long been a support of both the external and internal empire. Our unique ability t build malltowns and subdivisions is reason enough for us to handle a hundred million more immigrants. Bring them here. There's plenty of room and we have the technology to make people and their environments better, stronger, faster.

But instead of a patriotic and serious Oscar Goldman directing the bionics of extreme makeovers, we have reality show producers who are keyed into the money shots of screaming and weeping people. I sit with my jaw open considering the awful calculus of parsing through the applications these producers must receive. Are the applicants [sym]pathetic enough to begin with? I don't even want to think about the criteria.

Where early on in the season, the lucky contestants were ordinary middle class families (speaking specifically of the Home edition of Extreme Makeover, sponsored by Sears), now they seem to be exclusively families who have suffered some tragedy, suddenly fatherless or unable to live in a home declared unsafe. It is this transition from a fantasy show to a do-gooder's show that has got me upset. The formula suddenly fails.

As it happens, the spousal unit has been catering these past few weeks for the volunteers at Habitat for Humanity. They have been operating in 'North Long Beach' aka Compton. Although I've never volunteered, I've always admired their work and thought it would be an excellent use of my spare time. As far as I'm concerned, building homes for the poor on the regular is about as civilized an occupation as anyone can have. So most charities compare unfavorably to Habitat. What chance does Extreme Makeover have?

I have written off Hollywood's moral center. So I have no expectations. It works for me because when something like Empire of the Sun comes along, I retain the ability to be genuinely touched. Conversely, when they try so unsubtly to tug at my heart I resist strenuously, and I have to say these tearjerking Home Editions are self-congratulatory clunkers.

I say stick to 'Pimp My Ride'.

Going one step further into the murky realm of analyzing the American temperament, I would venture to say that the attitude of these producers might be shared with the producers of Gulf War II. As with Extreme Makeovers, there are limits to how much happiness material comforts bring. And since only Americans undergo chemical change when presented with a miraculous physical change, I'm sure a fair number of neocons were disappointed to find an insufficient number of Iraqi citizens screaming and weeping for joy. Maybe 'Oh My God' doesn't translate well into Arabic and/or Islam. As a neocon squarely in ideological agreement with the PNAC, I've been disappointed, but not bitterly.

Just as I see through the screams of delight, I know that the tragedy overshadows joy when the cameras are gone. My father died, an Extreme candidate might say, and all I got was this lousy remodeled kitchen. Surely Iraqis, orphaned of domestic tranquility must be looking forward to the day when their newly remade nation is truly and finally a comfortable and safe home.

It's a good idea to throw money and talent at problems and we Americans are uniquely gifted in our abilities. But big splashy productions trying for ratings points are not the way to go about nation building. Those of us who have an inkling about the slow way of building liveable homes understand what patience and effort goes into the job. We eventually see through the hoopla of the fast-paced, exclusively sponsored, high stakes cosmetic engineering of Extreme Makeovers. Geopolitical security is not show business, and I for one am not impressed with the lightning speed. Not any longer. I'm all out of 'Oh My God'.

I haven't looked close enough at this occupation to be completely disillusioned, nor am I afraid to. But as I look at this Administration's record with regard to its lack of responsiveness and willingness to admit errors, I can only expect to hear more details from the detractors and fewer from the champions. The premise was right, the future is improved and the world is safer. But this production wears on the nerves of people who can take bad news, and the whiter, brighter teeth of the Bush Administration are an insult to all of us.

Posted by mbowen at 06:42 PM | TrackBack

May 25, 2004

Evil People: Left vs Right

A very insightful piece stands over at Doc Rampage. I can't be certain how right he is about the Left, but what he says about conservatives is right on the money. And all this time I thought it was obvious. But speaking the obvious doesn't always help, sometimes you have to interpret and explain the obvious. The Doc does a fine job.

When a leftist says that American society is no better than, for example, Arab Muslim societies, what he means is that American society does no better at producing good people than does Arab Muslim society. And he's generally correct. If there is less brutality and cruelty in America than in the Middle East, it is only because American law and social customs keep it under control better. It's still there under the surface, and in the right circumstances it comes out. When leftists say that Abu Ghraib is revealing, what they mean is that this demonstrates the existence of that underlying current of evil --a current that exists as surely in America as anywhere else.

Again, the left is correct. What they fail to understand is how utterly obvious that fact is to conservatives. Of course there are brutal and cruel people in America. Of course some of these brutal and cruel people are in the military. Of course even otherwise good people sometimes do evil things. None of this shocks the right, or even seems worth remarking on. That is why conservatives misunderstand what the left is saying. When a person says something utterly obvious, you assume that they mean something else by the remark. If you ask a friend how he likes your new car and he says, "Well, it's red." You assume he doesn't just mean to tell you the color of the car. And when the left constantly points out evil things done by Americans or the American government, the right is inclined to react similarly, looking for the meaning in these obvious and trivial statements.

See my thoughts with this in mind on Abu Ghraib, seriously here and lightly here.

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Celebrity Deathmatch: Loh vs Blair

Losers Sandra Tsing Loh and Jayson Blair are in the news both duly serving as twin barometers of journalism's ability to eat its own dogfood with a smile.

There an interesting kind of intolerance for both of them. Where liberal defenders of free speech portray Loh as a scapegoat for the chilling effect of Ashcroft's purported assault on civil liberties, Blair takes the full hit for his part in his demise.

I can't think of anything Loh has ever done which merits a massive defense, and I take some satisfaction in noting many journalists have been equally dismissive. Unlike Matt Welch however, I don't find their dismissal cruel or unusual.

In any case, what is most important in matters of free speech has everything to do with the nature of the expression suppressed. In Loh's case, it is only comedy. In Blair's case, there was apparently no truth at all.

As a child of the 60s, I understand the pressure put on blacks who would organize grass roots political campaigns. When the FBI would spy and infiltrate organizations in order to foment discord and chaos. That's an affront to free speech, for real. But if the slippery slope starts with the likes of Blair, Loh and Howard Stern we have a lot of vulgar mindlessness to lose before we hit upon something substantial. Journalists might find some more appealing individuals to defend if they need the support of ordinary (and espcially blogging) Americans.

Posted by mbowen at 03:21 PM | TrackBack


booker.gif I'm doing a little work on the new League and I stumbled across this picture taken in 1881 of Booker T. Washington. I think that it's an extraordinary shot showing him to be quite a passionate man. I just couldn't pass it without posting it here.

UPDATE: I corrected this to read 1881 (from 1861, thanks to Molotov). 1881 was the founding year of the Tuskeegee Institute. Tuskeegee was founded as a 'Normal School' which looks to be the forerunner of today's public elementary schools.

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May 24, 2004


Posted by mbowen at 01:24 PM | TrackBack

Armey Vs DeLay

There's a great article over in today's Salon magazine. Get a day pass and read it. I am taking this as insight to things that have gone before I was anywhere close to the Republican party. It is a very valuable history for me, and I think it will be for many.

The link is here.

Armey's stature as a former House leader lends his critique special weight. But most remarkable is that he is willing to make it at all. While many House conservatives say privately that they feel helpless in sticking up for their principles in the face of ruthless intimidation from the Bush White House and DeLay, few have dared to speak as boldly as Armey has. DeLay, who is known as "The Hammer" for his ability to pound Republicans into supporting the party line, doesn't just discourage dissent, he beats it to a pulp. And the "with us or against us" mentality, once directed only toward terrorists and Democrats, is increasingly targeting conservative dissenters as well.

During last fall's battle over Medicare prescription drug benefits, for example, DeLay engaged Stuart Butler, a vice president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, in an oddly personal debate at a meeting of the Republican Study Committee, a group of 50 House conservatives. DeLay ridiculed the venerable think tank's research as uninformed. (Its insistence that the Bush administration was low-balling the bill's costs turned out to be correct.) His attacks were so aggressive -- "name-calling," as one attendee described it -- that many Republicans left muttering that DeLay had crossed a line.

Bottom line, is I'm an Armey man, and I look forward to the day when this showdown breaks loose. I've heard positive things said by black conservatives about Armey and I have also heard that DeLay's intolerance was a main reason that JC Watts hit the bricks. Picking sides won't be difficult at all.

Posted by mbowen at 12:37 PM | TrackBack

Black Elitists and Community Service

I don't often rant, but I've got a bug up my ass about something said on Orkut. I'm spending way too much time over there.

First of all, I wonder if you are familiar with NSBE. Check out And I say yes it is 'elitist' to study Analytical Geometry (second year calculus) when so many blackfolks struggle to get a 400 math on their SAT. But there are blackfolks who got it goin' on like that. But I would put my foot down on anybody who has beef with this organization. Do they go back to the community? All the time. They say do the math - no excuses. That's why we have black engineers today.

Now back in the 80s it was my job (and I was elected by black people to do this job, twice) to be in charge of getting money so this organization could survive and do its job. The program I designed and administered brought in over a quarter of a million dollars of corporate money per year. But I could do so only because I had good grades, a part time job and time and energy to do so. As it happens, a brother that pledges Alpha, holds down a 3.5GPA and has a corporate internship needs support too. So I had to look where? UP. So I did, and I found the support I needed. But that also means that there is a black community out there who isn't spending all their effort trying to get gangbangers out of jail or help teenage mothers get off drugs or complaining about Nelly videos.

That means there are some 'elitist' blacks out there helping other 'elitist' blacks get to the point where 'money aint a thing'. And if you truly believe in the kind of work that takes highschool students who are willing and able to become college students of engineering, or medicine or law, then you have to support that 'elitist' cause. Still, all that was at the level of black students getting money from white owned corporations. Where are the black corporations? Well they are coming, from people like me.

Now start talking community activism with Democrats and what do you hear? TONS of disrespect for 'elitists' like me and Dr. Cosby who donated $20 million to Spelman. When you talk to Republicans what do you hear? You hear what is it we need to do to help people build small businesses and corporations. That's what you hear. Local politics. So I'm going where I get support? UP.

When I hear blackfolks complain about Republicans, they have to go all the way to Haiti or Iraq or the White House to start their beef. But when it comes to local politics, they don't know shit and they don't do shit. I've been there and done that with community activism, and it wasn't that hard - I did it while I was still in college with the aid of thousands of dollars. So the bottom line question to people who expect to be effective is where are you going to get the money? Are you going to get it from white liberal charity, or from black owned businesses and corporations? You think on that question a while and tell me who's selling out.

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Moody's Upgrades Cali

I'm pleasantly surprised at this good news. Moody's has upgraded California's Bond Rating to A3. Nice job Arnie!

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The 'Black' Problem

I've had a little time to reflect on what I think manifested itself this week in the controversy over Cosby. Professor Kim has the most detailed analysis I've seen.

As I've said before, there is a battle for the soul of blackness itself. There is no singular black leadership, and no particular need for one. So into that vacuum are a number of contingent groups trying to own black. I'm certainly a partisan in that representing what I call the Old School. There are many ways of breaking out the groups of African Americans, and I'm not the first to suggest that our class boundaries are somewhat different that those of the mainstream. Still, I tend to think class, as it's generally understood, is an adequate explaination. Nevertheless I am also compelled to note the way a form of anti-black prejudice takes in these battles.

By any standard Bill Cosby is an extraordinary man. People tend to forget that his book, Fatherhood, was a huge success. Cosby stood in the late 80s as one of the lone exemplars of the urban professional who was not just an old ex-yuppie. A man with his share of triumphs and tragedies, Cosby was America's Dad. He was the man who famously told Eddie Murphy to chill on the profanity, even when the whole country was laughing along with Eddie. He's a great promoter of college education and has been, for as long as I can remember, a big patron of the Penn Relays. I could go on, but I'll let AARP do some talking. Notably:

Cosby has also been a major contributor to education over the years. In 1989, he set a philanthropy record by awarding $20 million to Spelman College, an African-American liberal arts school for women outside Atlanta. The majority of the gift was used for construction of the Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Academic Center, in honor of his wife of nearly 40 years, who also holds a doctorate in education and continues to support the cause. The remainder funded a Cosby-endowed professorship in the arts.

So what is it that causes ordinary blackfolks to take umbrage at the statements of this extraordinary man? Beyond the partisan fight, I believe that there is a prejudice that this black man cannot be that correct. By what authority does any black man tell others how to live?

I am reacting, of course, to some black liberal reactions I have seen on the 'net calling Cosby a sellout and worse. Dyson calling him ignorant is piece of unreality I find hard to swallow, but I'm sure Dyson can figure a way to fast-talk his way out of that. But I'm also reacting to the white conservative reactions which have popped up. They are two sides of the same coin. Black liberals are astonished at the nerve of a black man who dares to criticize dysfunctional blacks. White conservatives are astonished at the nerve of a black man who dares criticize dysfunctional blacks. The fundamental agreement between these groups is disbelief, both undercutting Cosby with anti-black prejudice. One from the perspective that he can't be trusted from now on the other from the perspective that he couldn't be trusted until now. And yet, from the perspective of conservative and successful black families, there's nothing new in Cosby's utterances. Indeed one black blogger noted that the only interesting thing about the whole dustup was that Cosby said it and not his mom.

Of course none of this would matter if it weren't for the fact that Dr. Cosby is right. But it is a significant indicator of the political difficulties conservative, well educated and economically successful African Americans will have simply speaking the truth they know, as shifting political opinions to the left and right stare in disbelief. Be that as it may, we in the Old School can once again take comfort in the words of DuBois.

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May 23, 2004

Where Do Babies Come From?

I'm sure you must have heard by now about the German couple who didn't know they had to have sex in order to get pregnant. If you didn't, here's the scoop.

As far as I'm concerned they are perfect candidates for the Darwin Awards. But what about the people who are actually getting them into sex therapy? Stop being do-gooders. This couple and their religious sect were doing us all a favor.

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The Ultimate War Sim

You have got to read this. Split your sides and think deeply at once. Damn!

I want that "Public Support" meter to rise and fall according to Troops Lost, Length of Conflict, Innocents Killed and Whether or Not There is Anything Else On TV That Week. I want to lose 200 Public Support points because, in a war where 8,000 units have been lost, one of my Mutalisks happened to be caught on video accidentally eating one clergyman. Then, later, my destruction of an entire enemy city goes unnoticed because the Nude Zero-Gravity Futureball championship went into overtime.

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The Vision Circle

I would like to take some time to illustrate my political purposes going forward and paint my vision, putting it in the context of where I'm coming from.

There are three elements of my political activity that are in play right now. As well, things are jumping off in my business as well, so that plays directly with what kind of time and priority I have.

CCR 47
I am starting up a chapter of the California College of Republicans in the 47th Assembly District of my state. This is the place where I grew up. This is about flesh and blood, face to face grass roots Republican politics. It's about being part of the machine. And I expect it to be part of the home base for black conservative bourgie LA. The Dons, Ladera, View Park and all that is in the mix. But it is naturally, inclusive of all the folks of Southwest LA.

At some point, CCR 47 is going to have a community blogs, mailing list, bulletin board service and all that.

Keeping It Right is a brand new discussion list for conservative, right wing, libertarian, and republican-oriented African American bloggers. Or primary effort at conception is to get our collective act together. At the moment it's all about the top black bloggers on the right side working together to increase our visibility such that we don't get overlooked. That's all it is right now, it can grow.

Vision Circle
Vision Circle is a group blog dedicated to serious black politics. It is generally, of the Old School bent basically because of the personal orientation and experience of the two people who write there, myself and Dr. Spence. Our schedules are tight so volume is low right now. The point of Vision Circle is to get people with some very clear thinking, an academic level of discipline, and/or lots of hands on political experience to deal with the issues, and most importantly policy positions of African Americans.

When people complain that there is no substance to Al Sharpton's campaigns or policies, we want them to know that Vision Cirle exists. It's for grown folks. In many ways Vision Circle is an online policy think tank. It is not about activism, but thoughtful commentary and review of law and govnerment policy.

Looking forward, there are several things I would like to see. One is an authoritative black group blog producing work on par with the major bloggers. Quite frankly I am very annoyed that when black politics gets in the news that blogs other than those run by blackfolks are getting the traffic. This is the summary of a slight gripe that has grown a bit with no disrespect to non-black bloggers. If and when it happens, there is going to have to be two, because I simply don't see Lynn Johnson and La Shawn Barber writing for the same group blog. That is all good.

But let me be clear that I don't see this as simply a left, right split. Vision Circle still stands as the policy joint. See? It may or may not be a synthesis. I just think that it's important to separate partisan advocacy from policy discussion - to the extent that is possible.

So that's basically the way I see things. Grass Roots (CCR47), Advocacy (KIR) and Policy & Analysis (VC).

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Amazing Cool Page

If you've been getting blogspam, you know this phrase. Are spammers that stupid?

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Soul Plane & Minority Pride

Saturday morning was fabulous. I made my semi-regular trip over to Ofari's. This time I was there to meet some folks who are helping me get started with my chapter of the CCR. It turned out, however, to be a real blockbuster of a visit.

Although I didn't take complete advantage of it, I had an opportunity to meet with Bernard Parks, the Councilman of the 10th District and former Chief of Police. I don't know why people still take seriously the notion that Magic Johnson's destiny is to be Mayor while Parks is still around and interested. Again, I didn't speak with him, but I'll tell you that he's larger than life.

The main panel before Parks consisted of Anne-Marie Johnson who is a political animal of fearsome breeding, the legendary basso profundo Lee Bailey of Radioscope fame, a woman whose name I forget who runs the country's largest black film festival, and my frat brother Joseph C. Phillips (!). The subject was Soul Plane, the latest ghetto fabulous production out of Hollywood. Our panelists were generally full of piss and vinegar about the matter, especially Johnson, but all conceded that this is the way the market works. I keep forgetting to hog the mic when I come to Ofari's, then again I have a blog for my full set of opinions.

I am of two minds when it comes to ghetto fabulous entertainment. The first and foremost is the Uppity Position, the second and significant is the Belle Isle Picnic Position. In either case, it speaks to a real difference between real people, but as far as black pride goes, you have to be proud of who you are. Take care of your family and values, and stop worrying about what other people think. Be a minority within a minority within a fragment of a demographic sliver. Just be proud of it.

Uppity Position
I don't know what's wrong with people who even care about what Hollywood films say about black people. If you can't get the right 'message' out there, so what? If it isn't taught at university it's just peasant bullcrap anyway. Why lose sleep over that? Anything 'other' people think about you and your people is not confirmed or denied by Soul Plane or Scary Movie 3 or American Pie or whatever. Stop whining and ignore this trash, and don't respect anyone who takes it seriously. Period.

Belle Isle Picnic Position
If you do like watermelon and biscuits for breakfast, then you should count your blessings that there is a ghetto fabulous movie for you. Here is mass entertainment for the masses, isn't it nice that it's a black mass? These stereotypes weren't picked out of thin air, they represent real black folks. Real tacky black folks but real nonetheless. Give the tacky people a break and be happy for them. This is their movie. What does that hurt?

As for me, I'll probably get the bootleg.

But seriously for a moment, I should reiterate that I don't believe in the moral persuasion nor effectiveness of consumer boycotts. It underscores the market forces without making a significant difference. The consciousness attending such efforts is fleeting and only gratifying to activists, who aren't truly leading anyone but glomming onto the demographic already targetted by the manufacturer. The attention given activists is codpendent on the marketing budget. So their agenda is also controlled by the manufacturer.

So the thing that really annoys me most is that those people who have the Uppity Position (who are something of a minority when it comes to what Hollywood percieves to be the African American market) spent too much time hating on what the Belle Isle Picnic people are obviously going to pay to go see instead of pubbing up their own efforts. Why did I not remember the name of the woman who runs the biggest African American independent film festival? It's precisely because everyone on the panel spent too much time grumbling about the significance of the negative, and what that 'means' about race and stereotypes.

Again, the little white man in some black heads still isn't dead. Worrying about what whitefolks think will drive you to drink. It's precisely because there will always be some who believe just what you fear. What these insufficiently proud African Americans forget is that Hollywood is irrelevant to that racist thinking. The Klan doesn't need Soul Plane as an excuse. And nobody needs white liberal guilt shushing people in sensitive response to the bleating boycotters.

I blame Ofari because this is the way he does things. What needed to happen was to pub up the Film Festival and dis Soul Plane en passant. Then again, maybe so many people wouldn't have shown up if they didn't have a chance to spit on Soul Plane.

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May 22, 2004

Eatz in the Hood

The Crenshaw Strip has a history that has never been told, but it lives on in memory. Over on Orkut's Angry Black Man community (the most jumpin' off set in the whole joint) the subject turned to Chicken.

That's funny because the other night at the Comedy and Magic Club, where they were joking about naked pyramids, a black comic tossed out a line that I never heard before. 'More nervous than a black family's pet chicken'. Cracked me up, because we had a pet chicken. He didn't last. On the other hand, the girl across the street had one and treated it like a kid sister. But I digress.

Yeah man, I used to always go to Pioneer Chicken just off of Crenshaw next to Boy's Market. You used to be able to buy had a bucket of fried gizzards. Man that was the bomb! Gizzards and Orange Whip! Pioneer Pete and that whole western theme. Best batter in the western hemisphere, worst service on the planet. A bittersweet experience every time.

Now if you want to go back, you cannot overlook Chicken Delight on Adams between Normandie and Vermont (on the south side). Nor can you forget Jim Dandy Chicken. Jim Dandy used to right at Crenshaw and Jefferson. That's where you could get a half pint of fried clams. Wooo! And of course no story about Los Angeles and Chicken would be complete without Golden Bird, the proprietors who have always been.. well, significant figures in the seditty community.

That's just the chicken. I can still remember the first time I ever went to Fatburger. Yeah, the original one on Western just north of Jefferson. That nasty little shack had the best burger. It was after church at St. John's, and my would-be girl and her mom (who is now practically a bishop in the Episcopal Church) used to stop by there all the time. They had to take me home one time and so I had my first Fatburger when sometime in 1978. It changed my life because since then I've always looked for dumpy fastfood joints to deliver way beyond what they appear capable of delivering.

It was in that spirit that I did find Oki Dog. I'm talking about the Oki Dog on Santa Monica Blvd. That trashy, nasty joint with all the junior hoodlums and runaway kids and boozy bums with post-traumatic whatever that's called. The Oki Dog is actually two hot dogs smothered in chili and cheese topped with pastrami wrapped in a flour tortilla instead of a hot dog bun. It is by far the epitome of junk food and has yet to be topped in any universe.

Back to my 'hood. Now if you can remember this joint, you're showing your age. But who could forget the Nubian Queen. The NQ was by far the nicest restaurant ever to hit the black community (back when we were all just one black community). Right on Crenshaw half a block south of Adams, the Nubian Queen had all the ambience of that Michael Jackson video 'Do You Remember the Time'. It was that slick. The service was good, polite and the food was good. They went broke within a year, but for one shining moment...

Right next door, and probably still there is Leo's BBQ. I cannot remember a time when Leo's didn't exist. It was probably there when the Windmill was still on Adams and Crenshaw and the owner of the chinese laundry still wore a queue. That's some LA history for yo' ass! Of course Johnnies Pastrami Stand is still there. Johnnies was scene of so many interesting and dangerous nights in my imagination. Whenever pops went to get a sandwich or two, I was always afraid to leave the car. It was populated with 'the element'; the real pimps. You see, West Adams, for all its churches on the hill, and more that a few motels further west, and strangely beautiful women with no place to go. I always used to ask my father why anybody would want to have their vacation in this neighborhood. It was a long time before I understood why he used to crack up at that question.

El Rey was the coolest taco stand around. Over on Santa Barbara and Arlington (or was it Western?), you could get them to make you a suicide - orange soda mixed with root beer. I never was much into the tacos, but I always got thirsty driving by. I also used to drool at the waitress drawn on the side of a little bar called the House of Dimes on Jefferson just west of Western around the corner from Fatburger. How many black boys would stare at that miniskirt on the green wall? There must have been thousands with that same memory.

One of these days, I'll probably visit all of the old black bars and dives that I never bothered to in my 20s when I finally got over my fears. I wonder if their stories will ever be told. Here's to hope.

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(Black) Energy

The second time I went to the UK, I hung out with a bunch of blokes in the midlands. As far as I was concerned it was about as deep into the boondocks as anyone could possibly. A cute village where property never changes hands and if you are unfortunate to land there, it suddenly becomes apparent why 13 year old kids get sopping drunk. It's BORING.

On the other hand, this lack of cosmopolite diversions makes for excellent chumminess. You have nothing to do but hang out at the pub with your mates and delve into several degrees of honest conversation beyond which you might encounter on this side of the pond. At least that was the impression I got when one bloke told me something about my drinking preferences.

I was working there to solve a database performance problem, this being the 90s and all. And once I finally nailed it, it was cheers and smiles all round. But before I had gained everyone's full confidence they at least had the courtesy of sharing tea and coffee as was their tradition. I wasn't a big coffee drinker and I told them so, I'd rather sample the kinds of beverages I'd never seen before in the states. And after a few trials of this and that, I settled on Lucozade. This rather freaked out my host, but he couldn't refrain from laughing. You see, in the UK at the time, me ordering a Lucozade was the equivalent of me ordering a fried-chicken and watermelon sandwich.

After he finished cracking up, he told me what was so funny. I found the whole thing curious and memorable, but I wasn't put off by it in any way. At some point later I recall a similar reference in a Martin Amis novel. Funny that in a country where they sell grape soda with as much alcohol as beers, that they talk shite about Lucozade. Odd thing stereotypes.

Fast forward to now. About one month ago this week, I finally had one of those energy drinks that people waste their money on. This one was called Monster. I took one drink and I was transported back to Stratford upon Avon. I didn't think much of it until yesterday I had yet another energy drink. This one is called Merlins. Hold on here. What's this? The same damned taste.

I suppose there are only so many good ideas in the world. The trick is getting the marketing budget.

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Naked Pyramid Jokes

I've already heard some naked pyramid jokes. I knew it would only be a matter of time. I don't think it's particularly significant that people drunk at a comedy club would yuk it up about things (that was the context), but I do think it significant that sensible, sober people will. And that's what's about to happen next. I predict.

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PGR2 Paris

As of this moment I am ranked 1710 in the city of Paris for Project Gotham Racing 2. I've been playing it all night. There are several new tracks and cars that are finally downloadable from XBox Live for the game. It costs 5 bucks and of course it's more than worth it.

There are a couple of really good tracks. Several of which (of course) run around the traffic circle at L'Arc du Triumphe. There's a really nice tri-oval called Les Deux Ponts (The Two Bridges) which I predict is going to be the Paris equivalent of KGB Corner. It's fast. And there are some interesting hairpins and cresting turns that throw you a curve. But by far the most challenging aspects of the new Paris tracks are the traffic circles. There are some you can more or less take a straight line through, some you have to angle towards and accellerate through and some where you have to slow down and do a chicane-like maneuver. Sometimes there are two of them and you have to remember which side is deadly depending on which direction you're going. These dividers are trickier than the ones in Chicago, so be prepared.

The playing field is leveled a bit. The TVR Cerbera Speed 12 is available in the download. Ha ha to all you scrubs who paid 30 bucks for the cheat. I've heard that the color glitch has been fixed, but I haven't verified that.

There are seven new cars in the download including the Speed 12. The most fun to drive so far is the Ferarri 288 GTO. It's got nice accelleration and speed and it's a real slider. Somebody said that it's the one Magnum PI used to drive, but that was a 308. They look very much alike. Also the new BMW 645 and the Corvette C6 are included. The 'Vette's about the same as the Z06 with a slightly growlier engine and what seems to be taller gearing. The BMW has amazing brakes. The others I have yet to try.

Interestingly enough, there's no weather selections when you're hosting Paris. I would have really liked to have seen the Eiffel Tower at night, but.. il n'est pas possible. Alors..

Posted by mbowen at 01:04 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 21, 2004

Cosby in the Spotlight

Several folks are frothing at the mouth over Bill Cosby's admonishments. The best quote I can find is as follows: Note my bold emphasis

"Ladies and gentlemen, the lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal. These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids – $500 sneakers for what? And won't spend $200 for 'Hooked on Phonics.' They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English. I can't even talk the way these people talk: 'Why you ain't,' 'Where you is' ... And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk. ... Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. ... You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth!

Lots of conservative commentators show how few blackfolks they know by being dead flat shocked by such talk. Over here in the Old School it was our bread and butter. Nobody knows class warfare like us uppity negroes. But Cosby is not engage in warfare, it's simply the kind of thing you hear from blackfolks with strong families and values. This should come as no surprise to our white conservative cousins, but apparently not enough of them are linked over to Cobb (and the upcoming black right league).

I should take a moment for those of you following this story to link you to Joseph C. Phillips, who was a young star of the Cosby Show and is very well tied into Republican politics. We've been in communications on and off, for some time.

I may or may not get into a detailed analysis of the statements and the reactions, but all I'm saying right now is this. This is not new.

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May 20, 2004

New Portable Devices

Over at the NYT there is an interesting piece covering the emergence of the Freenhand Systems amenuensis. As soon as I saw the device it reminded me of the RocketBook.

I remember that the RocketBook was a good idea, priced entirely too high. I wonder if it could make a comeback.

This device only costs 1200 bucks, which is the cost of a good laptop. But for musicians the benefit is readily apparent.

Kurt Bester, 48, a pianist and composer who also tested the device, said it had freed him from fumbling with paper when he plays since he can turn the page by tapping the screen or pressing a foot pedal. The bright screen helps him read music in dark rooms, take notes and even archive music he writes before it has been printed.

"This is my sheet-music iPod," he said.

I'm sure the thing has a foot pedal so that you can turn the page without having to let your fingers leave your instrument, which by itself is well worth it. But what's fascinating about Freehand's innovation is the price point.

Remember that Tivos now cost about 200 bucks. Considering how much has been crammed onto the Microsoft and Apple platforms, not to mention game consoles, PDA and cell phones, there must be a wide variety of special purpose devices that professionals could use much better than a PC.

I think this could be an important development.

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Animazione Molto Divertente

This is hilarious. I haven't laughed so hard in a long time.

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Ellis Cose on Brown

Ellis Cose has put together a remarkable report on the state of American eduction in the post-Brown years which includes some very important survey information as well as.. well everything.

From the report:

Brown was so much more than just another lawsuit. “Brown led to the sit-ins, the freedom marches … the Civil Rights Act of 1964. … If you look at Brown as … the icebreaker that broke up the sea, that frozen sea, then you will see it was an unequivocal success,” declared Jack Greenberg, former head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and one of the lawyers who litigated Brown. Clearly Brown altered forever, and for the better, the political and social landscape of an insufficiently conscience stricken nation. It succeeded, as Greenberg attests, in dramatically shaking things up and, in the process, of transforming a reluctant America. Yet, measured purely by its effects on the poor schoolchildren of color at its center, Brown is a disappointment—in many respects, a failure. Between past hopes and current results lies an abyss filled with forsaken dreams. So this commemoration, this toasting of the heroes of who slew Jim Crow, is muted by the realization that Brown was not nearly enough.

Download File

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Affirmative Action and Me

A year or so ago, back when I still had patience for it, I used to keep up with the writings over at Discriminations. I've since concluded that the author, while well intentioned, is dainty and lacking in historical perspective. In one of his harangues, he cheers on the closing of minority apprenticeship programs at universities like MIT. My biographical response is below.

One of the most difficult things about defending a proper Affirmative Action has to do with the notion that 'a leg up' should work at multiple levels of society. The presumptive liberal justification for Affirmative Action is that it is a species of welfare designed purely to raise the poorest blacks to a socially acceptable level. So you hear much grumbling about the fact that middle class blacks get Affirmative Action. However if you take Affirmative Action as I do, as not merely an economic, but a social integrator, then you see its value as something that empowers the society of blacks it was conceived to benefit. When blacks in the middle class and even upper middle class recieve Affirmative Action benefits, they open up to the community of blackfolks, valuable and hertofore unknown knowledge about the inner workings of the highest parts of society.

Ellis Cose writes of the dilemmas facing blacks in the middle and upper middle classes in his book 'The Rage of a Privileged Class'. What all of my peers confirm is their frustration with their underemployment. It is a problem which hardly ever sees the light of public debate. This lack is part and parcel of the presumption that the suppressed status of the African American requires only marginal remedies, that any black person not in deprivation ought to be grateful for what they get, that affluent blacks have no complaint worthy of attention and all other such injuntions against the Uppity Negro.

With that preface, my response:

my parents were sociologists, but i learned to program computers when i was 13 years old in 1974. i could explain nuclear fusion and fission in the 7th grade and independently figured out negative numbers when i was 9.

as a national achievement finalist (and national merit semifinalist) i was invited to the mite program. i regularly scored in the high 80th percentiles on all standardized tests. but i was a junior in highschool before i ever even *heard* of MIT.

the mite program had an extension at georgia tech (which i also never heard of) which was handled through the atlanta university center, and it was into that specific program i was invited.

my college advisor had essentially no advice.

i declined the program. i never met any engineers or scientists. my jesuit prep school had a lousy math program, and my math education essentially stopped. although i applied and was accepted to usc on early decision for their electrical engineering program, my interest was solely in computing, and software at that (i took early classes, the full curriculum and directed study in computers). there were only 5 kids in the student body of 1200 who understood anything about computers.

at the age of 17 i took a summer job after highschool graduation running all the scientific computing programs for a chemical reprocessing facility. evidently, i had a knack for thermodynamics programming. my boss said that i had great potential to be a chemical engineer. but by this time it was obviously too late in my highschool career (i had already graduated) to take honors chemistry, which this practicing chemical engineer said i would have passed with flying colors.

if i would have taken the mite invitation, i would have learned from real engineers at the university level which way my talent could have taken me. instead i muddled through highschool, uninspired and told in no uncertain terms that there are no such things as black engineers (or partners in accounting firms). since there were no computer engineers that i could have contact with, the entire area was a complete mystery.

i have no doubt that such a program would have shown me exactly what i needed to know, as i have subsequently met many mite graduates, including one of my best friends who is now a research professor at georgia tech. despite the fact that by any standard, i have landed on my feet and have a rewarding career, there is no question that i could have done better had i taken advantage of that opportunity.

most people who don't make it their business have little idea of what it takes to discover and nurture the talent and hunger of kids who have racist and other presumptions against their undernourished ambitions. i've been that kid, and i've helped others who are that kid.

the broad net cast by programs like the mite program is appropriate, and yet there are many fish, like me, that still get away.

i can assure you that there is institutional patronage in programs like mite and that many black and latino folks who have come up through the system the hard way will continue to fight for it.

i can also assure you that organizations like nsbe (of which i was a national officer) will continue their unique missions, and i can further assure you that despite the complete lack of racial restrictions or preferences in membership, whitefolks will continue to ignore them.

i could argue for years that there is something very different about being black or latino and persuing arguably the most difficult of all undergraduate programs. it is a story that doesn't translate well, especially in light of the tabula rasa of context-free colorblindness. what doesn't go away, however is the sense of duty and purpose of those deeply involved in such programs.

the fact remains that america wants engineers, scientists and technologists. furthermore it is undeniable that programs like mite and groups like nsbe and shpe have been very successful in their missions to recruit, retain and graduate black and latino engineers.

Today there are active MITE and MESA programs at UW, Mizzou, Perdue and a number of other universities. As well, the NSBE is keeping the torch lit. The Lemelson Foundation is funding MITE at MIT.

I am perfectly comfortable with these programs going 'underground' and private so long as they remain viable and visible to their intended beneficiaries. In otherwords, a generation of us are dedicated to privatized Affirmative Action, beneath the radar of sniping reactionaries. It's the American way.

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Two On the Right

I am writing a critique of a 1986 article of Cornel West's called 'Unmasking the Black Conservatives'. But it's actually more interesting to follow the arc of the careers of the people he wrote about, and so I'm sidetracked at the moment.

Walter Williams
Since he's a regular writer, I've included Walter Williams into the blogroll. I find it rather amazing that he manages to keep such a low profile considering: Dr. Walter E. Williams holds a B.A. in economics from California State University, Los Angeles, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in economics from UCLA. He also holds a Doctor of Humane Letters from Virginia Union University and Grove City College, Doctor of Laws from Washington and Jefferson College and Doctor Honoris Causa en Ciencias Sociales from Universidad Francisco Marroquin, in Guatemala, where he is also Professor Honorario.

Dr. Williams has served on the faculty of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics, since 1980; from 1995 to 2001, he served as department chairman. He has also served on the faculties of Los Angeles City College, California State University Los Angeles, and Temple University in Philadelphia, and Grove City College, Grove City, Pa.

Bob Woodson
Robert L. Woodson, Sr., is founder and president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise (NCNE). Often referred to as the godfather of the movement to empower neighborhood-based organizations, Bob Woodson's social activism dates back to the 1960's, when as a young civil rights activist, he developed and coordinated national and local community development programs. During the 70's he directed the National Urban League's Administration of Justice division and then served as a Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

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May 19, 2004


My daughter just bought a crucifix for her best friend who is a Jehovah's Witness. My wife intercepted the gift and asked me to research first. I came across a tirade of 'facts' that may or may not be true. For what it's worth, it's an astounding compilation. Despite it's inflammatory nature, I think it's a safe bet that the crucifix is not a hot idea.

Download file

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Clinton Was Right?

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On Sarin

Sarin is found in Iraq. AHawk says it all.

Lastly, if you're pleased with the use of Sarin against anyone, anywhere, because it helps you score political points, you're a monstrous excuse for a human being, and should kill yourself at the earliest possible convenience. Preferably with Sarin, for that extra bit of irony that the kids are all into these days.

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Elvin Jones

One of the oddities of my Jazz knowledge and my musical knowledge in general is that it is inarticulate. I know that I know Elvin Jones, and I think that my favorite of his work is on 'Countdown' from the Giant Steps album, but since I can't find the CD, I cannot be sure.

I just know he died, playing all the way to the end.

All my 'trane is in the mp3 mix today. Rest in Peace.

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Google Stumbles

So what is going on here? Has Google run out of server juice? For the third time this week, Orkut has been out of commission. And there are reports that GMail had a bug that lets you have a terabyte of storage instead of a gigabyte.

I think some of the operators at Google have been wringing their hands in IPO anticipation instead of having them on the switch.

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Exit Strategy

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May 18, 2004

Who Hates Hiphop? We Hate Hiphop!

Hate is too strong a term. How about using the terms over at BookerRising? 'We' means African Americans.

Hip hop influence on kids: 52% negative, 23% neutral, 18% positive

Ages 18-29: 42% hip hop a negative influence, 28% neutral, 24% positive
Ages 30-44: 52% hip hop a negative influence, 22% neutral, 20% positive
Ages 45-54: 55% hip hop a negative influence, 24% neutral, 16% positive
Ages 55-64: 55% hip hop a negative influence, 17% neutral, 14% positive
Ages 65+: 58% hip hop a negative influence, 25% neutral, 6% positive

There's some really fascinating statistical data over that way. Do check it out. Although there's one I find difficult to believe which was that in 1950 only 8% of African Americans had highschool diplomas. Amazing if true.

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How's Your Kid's Math?

Check out this international standard for 3rd & 4th Grade Math from TIMMS.

TIMSS is a collaborative research project sponsored by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). In 1994-95, achievement tests in mathematics and science were administered to carefully selected samples of students in classrooms around the world. With more than 40 countries participating, five grades assessed in two school subjects, more than half a million students tested in more than 30 languages, and millions of open-ended responses generated, TIMSS is the largest and most ambitious study of comparative educational achievement ever undertaken.

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Man on Fire

Can you kill the man who tried to kill you? Yes or No? If he is part of an organization, should you kill the organizers? If you could, would you?

It's very difficult to talk about Denzel Washington's latest film without also talking about Abu Ghraib and bunch of other stuff. As much as I want to keep the subjects apart, I cannot manage it. I am at the point at which I am wanting to make the film a litmus test for sense and sensibility over the question of Iraq, but in a deeper way. However instead of stringing this character study together with what I've been talking about in 'Monsters on a Leash', let it stand as a metaphor for the man who does democracy's dirty work and sacrifice. Denzel Washington has given us a performance for the ages which resonates in many directions.

Here's what I'm getting at. I am trying to break through a kind of social phlegm which I believe to be a self-imposed exile. It is part and parcel of my antagonism to that which I describe as 'dainty'. If I were to call it 'liberal' then it would score me points with my conservative brethren but that's not my aim. Rather I am trying to reveal a kind of denial which will get us in deeper trouble. In the context of Man on Fire, it is the denial that there is a necessary good in the dealing with evil in the harshest ways. I am trying to break through the denial that says there are no noble ends worthy of extreme prejudice.

If the Geneva Conventioneers go to the movies, they would certainly have to give a huge failing grade to the Man on Fire. However I don't think they would convince many Americans that this is not an extraordinarily moving film. But let me qualify that one more step. A moving film in the genre of action is what I'm talking about, and I realize that many Americans don't go to the theater in order to see action films. I don't quite know what to make of such Americans because the great advantage of going to such events is the technology of emergence possible with the large screen and the booming system. Unless you are one of the types who are unimaginative enough to consider 'Sleepless in Seattle' a good reason to date... excuse me, my demographic is showing. 15 years ago, I'd go for a Tarkofsky at the Nuart, these days I go for a Scott at the Bridge. As for Amelie, she waits for pay per view. What I expect from an action film goes beyond the boom to the character in focus, the hero. What is his code?

From the very opening credits, I was stunned at the brilliance of director Tony Scott's sensibilities with light and film. I have been watching a great deal of digital entertainment recently: digital shorts, gaming and game cut scenes. Scott's ability with film expresses a much larger visual vocabulary, and his facility with it is often breathtaking. It is an accelerated communication I am witnessing, the visual equivalent of New Yawkese at a rapid clip. Not since Soderbergh's 'Traffic' has this kind of film been made, and yet where Traffic is an investigation into a series of characters and tragedies, 'Man on Fire' comes down to one. What does it take to unravel the kind of organization that sanctions terror and extortion? What happens when a man who can, does with trained lethality?

Washington brings a gravity to the action hero previously unknown. I even heistate to call him an action hero or this an action film. He is deliberate without being obsessed. He is damaged without self-pity. He has no attitude whatsoever. I regard him as the man who stands in disbelief at the fact that he remains alive despite the great damage done to him. He is mortally wounded, and yet he persists, seemingly in defiance of God. He is aligned to his condemnation, but ultimately accepts the opportunity for redemption offered by chance.

Washington's John W. Creasy is a frightening individual. For he makes life and death decisions on his own. He follows his own conscience, not a manual. He isn't following orders or procedures of the sort which in a democracy give the public the confidence that all is well enough. He is a protector, and he is not merely satisfied with punishing. Instead he demonstrates that it is possible to destroy all corruption - the full plant, leaves, stalk and roots. He is not a professional in the justice system, he is investigator, judge, jury and executioner. He is a scarred warrior past all ideology surviving on bible verses, whiskey and the deadly drills of the counter-terrorist trade. He knows he has gone too far.

This makes him frightening not because he a loose cannon. He paces in a cage of his own creation. He dulls his own blade. He could be sharp, deadly but he chooses to be disengaged. Such a man defies what is often expected of an assassin. We have become used to the idea that no man is capable of all that, and that given any such capability such a man should work as part of a team. We are led to believe that there is a button that can be pushed, a memorandum of understanding corroboratively agreed upon which sets in motion a series of professional actors who bring evildoers to justice. And this is satisfactory for the bourgie American citizen. Were we to find John W. Creasy somewhere in that bureaucracy, were we to know his sources and methods, we would be crying "Who let the dogs out?". We would resist his truth. We could forgive an ignorant brute, but Creasy is neither. He is an artist of death, an assassin. Echoes of 'The Professional'. But Creasy is completely self-possessed. He is a man without external sanction.

Think of the adage 'Women and children first.' When a ship is sinking, this is the rule. Why? While everyone knows that cowards will try to escape and women will die, there is more than mere chivalrous attitudes. There is an understanding that dirty work and sacrifice must be done in the interests of human survival. There is so much of our economy and culture that is available to the weaker sex, that perhaps we have forgotten about blood, guts and glory. We forget that there are monsters which arise and so we create thoughtcrime out of that which would arm us for the unthinkable. These are the thoughtcrimes which become armor in the conflict we dread. Those are the thoughtcrimes that are Creasy's training - it's what keeps him alive in the in-between times.

I think 'Man on Fire' is an excellent parable and a tragic drama. Technology has enabled the ordinary thug to commit crimes like none other in history. In the cracks of our society grow dangerous weeds. If Creasy makes us uneasy it is because he is today's man fighting tomorrows battles. One day we may come to understand him better. Until then our sensibilities may be challenged by his methods, but that is not the worst thing we face. We face our own unwillingness to fight.

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Keeping It Right

Now is the time for all good African American bloggers on my side of the fence, to come to the aid of themselves. I'm feeling blackified today, and this happens from time to time. It's not what I'm all about but it goes pretty deep. So this is an open letter to my bretheren. Let's league up.

Most of us know of each other's blogs. We often end up on the same blogrolls. But I think we should come up with a logo and reserve a place. Nothing's mutually exclusive of course, I'm a proud Bear Flagger. That's not going anywhere.

A year or so ago, I opened up a website called It died and became VisionCircle, which could also use a little traffic. But while Vision Circle is still hopping along on one leg, it's needs its own evolution and it would be too egocentric of me to suggest we all do something there. I am not opposed at all to doing a joint group blog. I like 'Niagra Two' but I think a Leauge and a logo would be the easiest thing to do right now.

Me myself, I get tired of black socialists. Not because I hate them, but I just think they are wrong on many critical issues and I'm tired of hearing them repeat themselves. I think the black right needs to be heard a bit more clearly and I know we need to understand and differentiate ourselves. Some of us are Christian Conservatives, some of us are Moderate Republicans, some of us are Libertarian, some of us are Independents who can't stand Jesse & Al. Some of us are even Democrats just waiting for an excuse to go in a new direction. All of us are in various stages of political maturity and sophistication. But we're all politically divorced from the Left. It's not that don't have any love left, we just can't live under the same roof any longer.


Baldilocks? Thornton? Barber? Tooley? Shay? Black Right are you with me?
(oh yeah, we got it right and ain't goin' nowhere!)

I would suggest the following as our litmus test, that which I consider the core of the Old School Values. It's not particularly ideological, but I can't see how you could be considered Right if you don't conserve these values.

We are African Americans of all backgrounds and ethnicities. We are proud of our heritage, and respect the lives, triumphs and tribulations of our forebears in this country and beyond. We aim to represent their greatest hopes for us and honor their memory.

The United States of America is our home, not simply by default but by choice. We take our duty to our home seriously and we defend it. We seek to improve it by our work and values and leave it better than we found it.

We are extended families and we put family first. It is the primary organization to which our lives are dedicated. We fight for the proper upbringing of our children. We demand respect and consideration of our elders. We love and support our brothers and sisters.

We work twice as hard and sometimes get half as far, but we work with dignity and we expect and enjoy our rewards. We are not materialistic but we know the value of a dollar. We seek self-improvement through creativity, dedication and effort in our jobs, businesses and partnerships.

We have abiding faith in God and the principles of righteousness. We strive to be true to transcendent values and take the long view of our purpose on Earth. We conduct ourselves as vessels of spirit and we guard our own souls and the souls of others from corruption.

We believe in the rule of law and rights of people to be free and to determine their own fate. We fight tyranny and oppression of all kinds keeping in mind the battles of those who struggled and died that we might be free.

We believe in a tolerant and open society, and we welcome all people to enjoy its benefits and responsibilities.

UPDATE: To subscribe to the Keeping It Right mailing list click here.

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CIA Rules!

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..And the Horse You Rode In On

The defenders of perfect meritocracy are whinging again. This time, it's Harold Ford they want to take down a peg.

I guess that people don't understand black power. It's clear that they don't respect it, and that's perfectly understandable. There is plenty of company in the crowd of whitefolks who assert (with grating frequency and volume) that everyone should go to the same schools and take the same tests and follow the same paths of rightousness as their long suffering immigrant parents. We've heard that one before. There will always be somebody white saying that blacks don't deserve what they get. So long as they continue this bleating and drop the words 'affirmative action' somewhere in their complaint, the American mainstream seems not to mind terribly.

I mind.

It was none other than Chris Rock who said the rule of American success is that only white people can profit from pain. If you are black, you have to be good, and whatever you do has to be positive and uplifting. If you profit from pain and are discovered, not only does your ass get kicked, your black ass gets kicked. There is a difference between an ass kicking and a black ass kicking, because a black ass kicking serves as a public service announcement. That is to say it is terroristic.

Today, Donald Rumsfeld is on the verge of an ass kicking. I think Cambone, one of his underlings, will get the ass kicking. But it won't be a black ass kicking. It won't call into question the judgement of the individuals who got him to his position. It won't tar the institution. Those things happen only when the black man screws up.

Q: Who let you in here, nigger?

A: Affirmative Action, sir.

Q: If you screw up, it's your ass!

A: I only expect that I be treated the same as anyone else.

Q: HA! You don't get that kind of equality boy.

A: Why not?

Q: The boy don't understand why not. Because, dumbass, you got here on Affirmative Action.

A: So?

Q: So!? Do I have to explain everything? Affirmative Action makes you a second-class citizen. Don't you know that boy? It ain't the color of your skin, you see. It's your participation in the corrupt racist system.

A: It wasn't corrupt and racist before Affirmative Action?

Q: Shutup and be glad you're here. I ask the questions.

In order to perpetuate the myth that Affirmative Action is a corrupt, racist influence on society, one must assert that the remedy is worse than the cure. It's not surprising that people arrive at such a twisted conclusion. It's precisely the same kind of logic that opposes the war and occupation of Iraq. Now that Saddam Hussein is gone (now that the Civil Rights Act is passed), all the people who agitated for it need to go home and leave us alone. But enough with the analogies.

The racial resentment attending the presence of Uppity Negroes is nothing new. Whatever their life experience, it will continue to be the benefit of Affirmative Action which will take the credit or blame for their success as soon as their beneficiary status can be proven. But the very fact and presence of Affirmative Action exists because it is a vote, it is a powerful force in society that everyone in society does not get, nor participate in. In that way it is like a religious scholarship. Its intent is to give someone a leg up, to boost them higher than they would get otherwise. It's a different breed of horse.

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Tony Randall

Tony Randall, out of all the actors and public figures I can think of, was the most refined. He was sophisticated without being pretentious. He was graceful without being wishy-washy. He has a wonderful facility with the language and a supple wit. He was stylish and cosmopolitan. A very classy gent. He will be missed.

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May 17, 2004

Monsters On A Leash

Seymour Hersch lobs a certain accusation at the US this weekend that a lot of people are paying exceptional attention. In this is his final closing bomb.

“In an odd way,” Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, said, “the sexual abuses at Abu Ghraib have become a diversion for the prisoner abuse and the violation of the Geneva Conventions that is authorized.” Since September 11th, Roth added, the military has systematically used third-degree techniques around the world on detainees. “Some jags hate this and are horrified that the tolerance of mistreatment will come back and haunt us in the next war,” Roth told me. “We’re giving the world a ready-made excuse to ignore the Geneva Conventions. Rumsfeld has lowered the bar.”

First, let me point out the obvious which is that the defense of the nation requires no international sanction. While it is quite possible that the Geneva Conventions have hit upon a universal standard of behavior which has been and always will be broadly acceptable, the chances are more likely that it could use a review in light of the kinds of conflict with which we are engaged. It is just as likely that our Armed Forces may be completely unsuitable for this kind of conflict. Again, both were conceived with the kind of national defense required for a clash of modern nations. I am willing to stipulate both require update in terms of their dealing with the cellular nature of distributed guerilla terrorism.

The 'bar' is not 'lowered'. It is illusory. It is a bourgie convention designed to make citizens of liberal democracies sleep better with the idea that gallantry is the order of modern warfare.

With regard to the humanitarian treatment of prisoners of war, the Geneva Conventions are presumeably that thing which separates us from the savages. Or more appropriately, the Conventions separate the civilized warring nations from the rogue states. I think it is beyond question with regard to the perfidity of the jihadist irregulars that we are dealing with rogues. But we're all capable of savagery. In that regard, there is no difference between 'us' and 'them'. We all retain the essence of our humanity which allows us to kill at all. No one suggests that we not kill the enemy. The difference lies in what our systems are constructed to do and how they perform when called into duty. The difference lies in the quality of the cage in which our monsters reside during the off season. The difference lies in the willingness to look, to see, to judge and to act when monstrous subjects are at hand. These are not differences made real by the existence of a Geneva Convention, but differences made real by the structure and behavior of the US military and its civilian oversight. The Army is built with a purpose in mind, it is to defend us as a nation from our enemies. When orders flow from generals to lieutenants to grunts, it is our own military code which establishs boundaries within which professionals operate for the satisfaction of the citizenry. When there are honors and medals and certificates of merit to be handed out, then accredited professionals can parade past the reviewing stand in front of the gathered cameras. But this does not define the whole of our military capability.

I am perfectly willing to go out on a limb for the sake of argument and suggest that what is being done in the name of America in the spaces of Abu Ghraib are exactly what went on under Saddam Hussein. I know that is not the case, as do most reasonable people. But even if it were the case, there remains something we have that our enemy does not which gives us the moral high ground. Our monsters are on a short leash. There are few of them and their operation is limited to a short period of time.

So understand what I am saying. I'm not saying that we are worse or better because of who Americans are and who Arabs are or what our cultures sustain. For the sake of argument, in this conflict we have put our monsters out against their monsters. And there needn't be made any argument about whose monsters are worse. That leash on our monsters is not the Geneva Convention, it is the American system, the American press, the American courts, the American people.

Anyone suffering under the delusion that we wouldn't and couldn't have torturers and assassins working somewhere on our side is incompetent to judge. If we need to give this power a proxy then let us name Cambone. Let those nameable be fodder for our political satisfaction, but the capacity will never be dismantled so long as humans war. It cannot as it is inherent in the nature of humans. We fight, and sometimes we fight dirty. But dirty fighting is not what we are all about, what this war is about, nor what the occupation is about. If GWBush loses the next election, it both confirms the fact that we bourgie civilians are in control and that our monsters are under our jurisdiction.

Our monsters are, by definition, cruel and unusual. Rumsfeld approved 200. We know. They are back in the bottle. Don't be surprised.

I grew up in the shadow of the nuclear bomb. When I was an adolescent, Planet of the Apes was my nightmare. Charlton Heston crying at the destroyed Statue of Liberty defined despair. So I, and many like me are conditioned to terms of defeat and resignation which are orders of magnitude more monstrous than what we bear witness to today in Iraq. In a war and occupation where our troops suffer less than one thousand deaths, we suffer the death of a thousand bleating cuts at the hands of those for whom sneering disgust is their only public expression. It's naive, cowardly and dishonest and I am weary of it.

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Negro Digest Covers IX

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Torture American Style

I continue to believe that Abu Ghraib was not as much of an outrage or an aberration as people make it out to be. This can be illustrated through via references to popular American entertainment whose subtext is humiliation and torture.

Consider the following from The Princess Bride, as said by the hero to the villian.

Wesley: "To the pain" means the first thing you lose will be your feet below the ankles. Then your hands at the wrists, next your nose.

Humperdink: And then my tongue, I suppose, I killed you too quickly the last time, a mistake I don't mean to duplicate tonight.

Wesley: I wasn't finished! The next thing you lose will be your left eye, followed by your right.

Humperdink: And then my ears, I understand! Let's get on with it!

Wesley: WRONG! Your ears you keep and I'll tell you why. So that every shreik of every child at seeing your hideousness will be yours to cherish. Every babe that weeps at your approach, every woman who cries out "dear God, what is that thing?" will echo in your perfect ears. That is what "the pain" means. It means I leave you in anguish. Wallowing in freakish misery forever.

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May 16, 2004

Raphael Maldonado, Vinnell and AQ

A fascinating theory. Bodyguards to the Royal Saudi Family were in on the AQ bombing.

The bombing on 12 May 2003 was implemented with precision based on meticulous intelligence. Lt-Col Raphael Maldonado, then a Vinnell instructor, claims al-Qa'ida received inside assistance from National Guard members. "This compound was too big and complex to be bombed without inside help", he said. He points to the discovery of a detailed map in the car left behind by the assailants and an improvised ladder consisting of concrete blocks and the trace of shoe markings made by people rushing to escape just before the explosion.

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May 15, 2004


About an hour ago, military jets flew over Redondo Beach. I heard it from in the house, but then of course by the time I got outside they were gone. My neighbors across the street said they headed from East to West. About 15 minutes later I heard them again.

What gives?

UPDATE: Armed Forces Day Parade in Torrance. Shucks, I missed it. This time I saw a couple F18s flyby at five after 2pm.

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Simon of Cyrene: Black African?

I must confess that I've forgotten my Stations of the Cross. Of all the Masses in the Catholic calendar, the Stations of the Cross were the most painful. Surely there must have been some time when I was twiddling my thumbs in mass as we all sang..

At the cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful mother weeping,
close to Jesus at the last,
Through her soul, of joy bereavèd,
bowed with anguish, deeply grievèd,
now at length the sword hath passed.

It has been so long since I've been at such a Mass that I am forgetting the melody. The one in my head doesn't quite match the meter of these lyrics and I wish I knew some dutiful Catholic so I could hum this song in my head and know the words which belong.

On my mind have been thoughts relating to integration, 'separate but equal' and affirmative action. So in reflection of Gibson's 'Passion', I wondered what kind of reaction others might have given to seeing a white Simon. Most blackfolks I know who commented on the film found this to be the most(!) troubling aspect of it. I haven't really thought about this controversy much until this morning.

We all know that American Christianity has been whitewashed, just like everything else. The recovery process for the correction of history is complete for the most part as regards what can be made politically significant vis a vis 'The Struggle'. But there are figures, like Simon, who are not so easily politicized. In many ways it doesn't matter if Simon of Cyrene could be considered visually black, unless of course it was true.

It is a truth we are not likely to determine with any accuracy, but as a black Catholic (of sorts), it was a matter of pride and honor in the 70s to assert his black face. It has become something of a tradition in American contemporary culture to depict Simon as black, much the way McDonald's commercials make their appropriate obeisance to the presence and power of black America. It has the appeal of our principles of equality, and it's offensive not to. Despite this realistic although sometimes gratuitous and annoying convention, it's decorous and proper but it's not absolutely necessary. On the matter of Christian Saints, however, I'd say that it is necessary to get it right even if by some dogmatic fiat.

To the extent that we know fact about Cyrene was where Libya is, there is clearly some ethnic heritage of the place which is likely berber, arab and other Northern African. No quick check of the web gives anything definitive. But I'll be checking the Bernal-Lefkowitz debate and see if I come up with something.

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May 14, 2004

A Little Bit of Thurgood

Volokh puts a little bit of history on my mind. And so I decided to go look around to hear his oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the Brown case.

Thurgood Marshall was a prankster at Lincoln University. There's an old story that he got a cow into the presidents office and fed it a laxative. I didn't know that. But from Juan Williams' story about the beginning Marshall's political consciousness, you get a feeling about his greatness.

Posted by mbowen at 03:57 PM | TrackBack

Passion of the Berg

Uncensored Nick Berg Beheading Video!!!

I'm doing it purposefully by putting 'Nick Berg' in the caption, but on the whole I'm a bit disgusted with the link whoring going on.

The blogosphere is what it is, and little about the latest turn of events is changing what we are collectively. Most of us got our start blogging about the war in Afghanistan and Iraq anyway, but what we have become is much more than that. The blogosphere is a realization of what many of us computer folks have been wanting since the days of Fidonet: a way to connect intelligent people with things to say that aren't dumbed down by television, or exploited for dollars by universities. So I think it is inevitable that whatever interesting events go on in the world, there will be fascinating commentary to be found here. Commentary is one thing, hosting this video is something else.

It was none other than Prince who said of today's foul-mouthed rap stars, you eventually get the audience you deserve. So when some bloggers start complaining about the idiot comments they start getting, perhaps they'll look back at this moment with regret. I said before and I say again don't look at the video. It's repulsive and disgusting, and it doesn't tell us anything about jihadists that we didn't already know. Although I'm certain many have been shocked out of complacency by its gut wrenching qualities, it doesn't inform, it enflames.

Like every writer on the net, I am tempted to take advantage of whatever is popular and interesting even when I think it has been talked to death. All that goes into the Obligatory Seriousness Department. But I refuse to host this propaganda. People who need to see it can see it where they can, there's always someone to accomodate appetites. But I can't do that in good conscience and I really think bloggers are doing themselves a disservice by making hay of its publication.

I don't believe that anyone who watched 'The Passion of the Christ' by Mel Gibson, learned more about what Christianity is all about. Despite the huge spash it made worldwide, the film wasn't made of the stuff that changes minds. People who realize that should also realize that the Nick Berg video is not where to go to become informed about what we're involved in overseas. The same is the case for the Abu Ghraib pictures and the Rodney King video. What you really need to know is behind the scenes.

I have every expectation that the blogosphere will redeem itself from this grisly diversion. It remains primarily a written medium, and good writing will out. So I call on all bloggers with the good sense to call Gibson as a sensational propagandist to make the same call on the filmers of Nick Berg's tragic execution. Don't Host It.

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Laker Flag Time

Now is the time that the Laker Flags are coming out. I'm starting to see them on cars here and there.

You could fill a hot air balloon with the breath I expel talking about politics, but you'd be hard pressed to get a birthday balloon out of me when it comes to sports. A lot of that is because I'm from Southern California where we do sports, not just talk about them. It's not like I'm from Cleveland or someplace where fat guys eat pizzas in bars while watching the games... We have chicks in our sports bars. Anyway, enough with the stereotypes. Lakers Rule!

As a fair weather sports fan, I take a great deal of pride in the way that folks from other towns just hate the Lakers. I like the way they hated the Raiders too. If we could only get people to care enough about the Dodgers, things could be great again. I was one of the folks who wished fervently that Dennis Rodman could have worked it out with Phil. Phil is the only coach who could handle Dennis. But also because Rodman would have given the Lakers enough weirdness to turn ordinary hate into something extraordinary. This all makes for a city which is even more difficult to pigeonhole, and anything that breaks up myths about Los Angeles is all good with me.

Posted by mbowen at 10:59 AM | TrackBack

Watch And Learn

I am coming around to the realization that my field of software is an Oldsmobile. Part of this realization has to do with the grid computing infrastructure I mentioned last month. Part of it has to do with the insanity of VB.NET which I am trying to digest. (more on that later). A good fraction of it relies on my absolute ignorance and fascination with the tools, techniques and outputs of the CG trade (Do check out Rockfish). But a lot of it has to do with watching my own kids and monitoring their expectations.

As Stowe Boyd points out, kids don't care about snail mail. And one of these days, the tools of this trade are going to be a lot more sophisticated.

Yesterday, as I returned Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow & Red Dead Revolver to the local Blockbuster, I tried to conceptualize a new set of visualization tools for Enterprise computing. When it comes to graphical interfaces, we are so very retarded in terms of the way we conceptualize the functioning of our businesses. Even the simplest videogame is worlds ahead of what most businesses use. The number of execs I have talked to who would pay an arm and a leg for stoplight charts and dashboard dials are legion. But no gamer over the age of 7 would settle for the lack of realtime, or subtlety in corporate accounting systems. As I staff up at Metro Decisions, I'm only going to take gamers. I decided that a month ago.

A pal in NZ is starting up a company which appears to have broken through the OLAP barrier. It was bound to happen. Now that reality is at our doorstep, the next phase really has to kick in. And we will not sell it to the current crop of businessmen, but to the next generation which is happening now.

I have watched the industry for a long time, and they squander resources. They make excuses the same way they make work. Young minds and egos have no time for such ossification.

I argued with F9 yesterday. She says as a general principle the movie is better than the book. The subject was L'Engel's 'A Wrinkle in Time' and I wouldn't concede the point. But perhaps I should. What's in books that can't be digitized? It's always that the book covers things the movie does not. But we do have ways to visually and auditorially master the third person omnicient, and the craft will advance from here. What's expensive about shooting film in the current format can be overcome by videogame narrative. Kids do spend 100 hours in single games. I know.

There's a great potential awaiting the right team of programmers. You may not have heard it here first, but this blog is to remind me of certain things as well.

Posted by mbowen at 10:18 AM | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 09:09 AM | TrackBack

Black or African?


Posted by mbowen at 09:03 AM | TrackBack

MT at the Crossroads

Movable Type announced the availability and pricing of their newest edition, MT version 3. I say HA!.

The fact of the matter is that 100 bucks isn't much to ask considering what you get. On the other hand, there isn't really anything wrong with the version I have except for its vulnerability to spam. But now that I upgraded to the latest version of MT-Blacklist, spam hasn't been a problem.

Although I'm fairly sure that I qualify for the free version, I don't see any features worth upgrading to right now.

Posted by mbowen at 08:33 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 13, 2004

Model Men


Posted by mbowen at 12:26 PM | TrackBack

Hiphop History via Tooley

Do check out Tooley's chronology of the rise of Gangsta and commercialism in rap. It's a good reminder, as in "let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be", because there isn't that much humor in rap any longer.

I often think of the golden age of commercial hiphop as exemplified by the House Party crews. Kid & Play, Doug E. Fresh, Biz Markie, Salt & Pepa and Rob Base. Guy and the New Jack Swing. And don't forget "Doin' the Butt" and the rise and fall of Go-Go. This was the music that Quincy Jones reached out to.

I think it's something of a shame that Gangstarr had so little talent at the time (and depending on who you ask, is still short). It's also too bad that Buckshot Lefonque came out too late. Because a lot of what might have been got started too late. The vulgarity of the Roots is what I'm talking about. If they would have started around '89 and picked up the ball where Paris was falling off, then ATCQ, Jungle Bros and De La might have had more company.

By the time Onyx blew up, it was too late. They made lighthearted party rap with humor all look like Kriss Kross. It only lived on with a bit of the Digables and the Wu, but I digress. But let me say one more thing. Daddy Freddy. Daddy Freddy should have been a star. KMD should have lasted. Black Sheep should have lasted.

Anyway do check out Tooley's site. We're on the same side.

Posted by mbowen at 10:56 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Roche's Update on Sadr

Review this:

The fighting we are engaged in against the uprising of Muqtada Al-Sadr is one that is extremely sensitive and risks catastrophe. Had we entered this previously, it would not have been possible for us to win. Over the months, we have been involved in preparations and much planning. Thus, today we are scoring amazing successes against this would-be tyrant.

I ask that the American people be brave. Don't fall for the spin by the weak and timid amongst you that are portraying this battle as a disaster. Such people are always looking for our failure to justify and rescue their constant pessimism. They are raising false flags of defeat in the press and media. It just isn't true.

That's just what I needed to hear.

Posted by mbowen at 10:30 AM | TrackBack

On Nick Berg: Close Your Eyes

I have a word to those who wish to be in any ways productive over the next week. DON'T.

It answers the question: "Should I watch the Nick Berg video?".

I made the mistake this morning of downloading the video from the Agonist. While the executioners stood over a kneeling Berg, I went to a website and read an overly literal translation from the Arabic. Fortunately I only saw portions of the dispicable act, yet those seconds I will be trying to forget for a while.

I was curious to see the video because I had heard some folks said the video was faked. I figured I could make some determination myself. None of that matters. This is grotesque beyond belief. It's a door you don't want to open. Nowhere in the blogosphere have I heard anyone suggest not watching. I am doing so now. For your own peace of mind, you don't want to let those demons in.

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Posted by mbowen at 08:54 AM | TrackBack

Abolition & The Civil War

denBeste discusses Abolition as a proximate cause for the Civil War and others follow. I disagree and I think it is notable that this kind of disagreement is present today. As I am one of the few who have championed our current war in Iraq on the grounds of Empire, Humanitarian Rescue and Universal Suffrage most people would argue that it was about Oil or Weapons of Mass Destruction. Likewise there were many factions in the runup to the Civil War who were pursuing their own political agendas, few of whom had the true liberation of the African specifically in mind.

I've only mentioned this topic briefly here in Cobb, however I talked about this at length on Abuzz several years ago. A transcript is here. Download file

Some key excerpts: (from the Archives - Sept, 2000)

the abolitionist movement in the main did not possess the political power in the american congress during the lincoln presidency to force the north into armed conflict with the south on principle. abolitionist leaders in the congress like charles sumner were *reactive* as opposed to proactive with regard to militia actions in the western territories.

preservation of the union was the primary official motive of getting into war. but already guerrila fighting had begun precisely over the matter of slavery in the western territories.

john brown was the spearhead of the militant abolitionists, but he had great problems influencing the rest. in brown's thinking, a war was inevitable and he was bent on escalating the conflict, on the terms of equality under god, a far more radical position than that officilly stated (early or late) on emancipation.

so if you would like to believe that *the* moral motivation for the federalists was the negro question, then you would have to show john brown as the leader of that movement. clearly, brown had no federal sponsors.

i think the crux of this question can be answered by evaluating the positions in the congress of the matters of the two revolutionaries most militantly opposed to the general oppression of the african. and those two are nat turner and john brown. in the end i think you will find that the north was NOT escalating the wars started by those two, but fighting their own war for separate purposes.

lincoln defended the principle of human rights for the african, but that fell far short of civil rights. one could argue that some segment of the african population in the south enjoyed human rights prior to the war. it's rather like newt gingrich attacking bill clinton on the question of marital fidelity.

Key in understanding the willingness of the North to ignore the fundamental questions of the African's rights in the US at the time are embodied in Henry Clay's Missouri Compromise and the Fugitive Slave Act.

I was particularly interested, at the time, in the question of migration and why it was that the West did not have many ex-slaves.

i am starting to believe that it was the control of the west which was the prime factor in the civil war. the litmus issue was slave or free as if those were the two parties of congress.

i've never really followed this part of history very closely. my primary concern, as i've ranted, was to find a thread back through american history which took the same principled position on equality for the african. and mostly i've spent time debunking lincoln on that score, as well as illustrating the differences between douglass and garrison. also john brown and sojourner truth are touchpoints. (actually the more i reflect, the more i realize i've talked about this period - still i don't like to get bogged down on the subject of slavery)

so i look at the abolitionists as a loud minority a few of which do truly have their heads on straight re: equality. they can't force the issue to the point of armed conflict. and only one or two of them is taking the battle to the streets (of kansas).

the fact that blacks were never promised any federal protection or homesteading rights in the west proves to me that the primary question of slavery for the union was not liberation but economic control. nevertheless, abolitionists were indeed making most of the proper noises.

I also noted the origins of the Klan:

as for the motivations of individual soldiers, i would look to the guerrilla fighters who were involved in violent conflict before the war.

now project something backwards and that is the fact that during its height, the kkk claimed many millions of members. but the origins of the klan and its methods of terror are found in the person of william quantrill.

why, before there was even a declared civil war, would men who did not own slaves, who in fact were very poor, go on raids to terrorize the 'free soilers'? this is part of the complex psychology of white supremacy and the southern culture. it is not as simple as defending slaves you have, but defending the honor of slave holders and that way of life. (which essentially guaranteed even the poorest most illiterate whites of always having someone they can kick around)

Fascinating stuff.

Finally, I'd like to add a couple references as regards neo-confederates. I have a section here as part of my Race Man's Home Companion. Further, Silver Rights deals some body blows.

Posted by mbowen at 12:24 AM | TrackBack


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May 12, 2004

Joe Steps In It

An interesting discussion on black identity over at Open Source Politics.

Posted by mbowen at 07:15 PM | TrackBack

The Myth of Senseless Violence

It suddenly occurred to me that one of the problems with the way this war has been reported is that it has not been reported like a war. It has been reported like a traffic update, with body counts.

There has been very little context about the geography of the situation since the fall of Baghdad. Instead of hearing about which military units are engaged against which of the enemy in which area, we merely hear things like this AP report:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Mortar fire slammed into a marketplace in Baghdad’s biggest Shiite Muslim neighborhood, and a roadside bomb hit a bus Saturday, a day that saw at least 33 Iraqis killed in multiple attacks. Outside Baghdad, insurgents rocketed a U.S. military base, killing four soldiers.

In Sadr City, the capital’s sprawling Shiite slum, angry residents vented anger at Iraq’s U.S. occupiers after the mortar barrages, which followed an early morning clash in the neighborhood between U.S. troops and militiamen loyal to a radical Shiite cleric.

The worst single incident of the day came when a bomb exploded on a main road as a bus passed near Haswa, 30 miles south of Baghdad. The back of the bus was shredded and seats crumpled. At least 13 people — including a four-year-old boy — were killed and 17 wounded, said Wasan Nasser, a doctor at Iskan Hospital in neighboring Iskandariyah.

"Mortar fire slammed", "a bomb exploded". "13 killed, 17 wounded". There is very little who, why or context. It just sounds like a traffic report.

What we need to hear is something that might tell us that the 239th Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division is holding the territory Northwest of Blah City and that the supply routes are being successfully defended and we are cutting off theirs. That on a routine patrol of the American supply routes 4 irregulars emerged from a village a few miles away and attacked the convoy. They were captured and the supply line remains open....

Purpose. Direction. Meaning. Understanding. It's not being written into the way this conflict is being reported. Instead it all sounds like senseless violence.

Any idiot (and many do) can say x number of American soldiers were killed in April. But how many can say what they were doing at the time? Who can tell us whether it was a routine operation or something special. This is the reason very little heroism is understood here. 'We support our troops' is a blank check and we're not getting the kind of stories that flesh that out.

Except now that something has gone wrong at Abu Ghraib, or that Nick Berg has been executed. We find out all about where he's been.

Consider the following:

While leading his platoon north on Highway 1 toward Ad Diwaniyah, Chontosh's platoon moved into a coordinated ambush of mortars, rocket propelled grenades and automatic weapons fire. With coalition tanks blocking the road ahead, he realized his platoon was caught in a kill zone.

He had his driver move the vehicle through a breach along his flank, where he was immediately taken under fire from an entrenched machine gun. Without hesitation, Chontosh ordered the driver to advance directly at the enemy position enabling his .50 caliber machine gunner to silence the enemy.

He then directed his driver into the enemy trench, where he exited his vehicle and began to clear the trench with an M16A2 service rifle and 9 millimeter pistol. His ammunition depleted, Chontosh, with complete disregard for his safety, twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack.

When a Marine following him found an enemy rocket propelled grenade launcher, Chontosh used it to destroy yet another group of enemy soldiers.

When his audacious attack ended, he had cleared over 200 meters of the enemy trench, killing more than 20 enemy soldiers and wounding several others.

That's reporting. Any questions?

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Posted by mbowen at 05:19 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

What's A Tip-Drill?

If you know the answer to this question, then perhaps you need a lecture by Jelani Cobb:

It would be easy to assume that sexist music videos are simple entertainment — not the equivalent of a body of myths that have been used to oppress black women, were it not for the fact that the lines between culture and politics are not always that easily distinguishable. Hip hop is now the prevailing global youth culture and, in many instances, the only vision people have of African American life. In a twisted testament to the ubiquity of black culture, a student who spent a semester in China reported back that some of the town residents were fearful of the black male exchange students, having met very few black people, but viewed a great many black-thug music videos.

If you don't know the answer to this question or if you are still unclear about the concept, then in my estimation you are ahead of the game. But apparently serious people deal with the utter foolishness of MTV. Why? Well Jelani Cobb has an excuse. He has to teach young people who presumeably don't have the will to resist MTV. And while it's admirable to take such an opportunity to bring up historical figures like Ida B. Wells and Ronald Reagan, it's sad that one must combat illiteracy in this fashion.

I said illiteracy because that is the state of anyone who views a great many black thug videos, be they in Hong Kong, Marbella or Milwaukee. Not long ago, rock & roll and hiphop were passably instructive. One of my favorite songs said

Fight the Youth
The Youth with poisoned minds
ignite the truth
restore sight to these blind.

Fight the Youth
The Youth with poisoned minds
and if they suffer it's no fault but their own.

I don't have the patience to be an educator. That's a job for folks like Jelani Cobb and my boy Monroe. I don't envy them a bit, because getting people with a 'legitimated' youth culture to respect and understand civilization is trying work.

I think it speaks volumes that the personification of black youth is such a battleground these days. There is such a strong and deep tradition of worrying about what 'The Man' thinks of the Negro. It has kept so many knees from going out of the house without Vaseline. It has kept so much dirty laundry in the closet, that many blackfolks still shudder at the prospects of their race in the face of idiots 'representing' out and about. Where I grew up[pity], we had an expression: "I didn't raise 'em." In the face of that race raising tradition, many blackfolks still get grief for abandoning the least of their brothers. While the charitable sentiment is understood and appreciated, lunkhead hiphoppers and their illiterate groupies and supporters need no respect from me. Nor you.

As the ghetto poet once said: We aint lovin' them whores.

The 'twisted ubiquity' of 'black culture' needs some differentiation. Everything that passes for culture is not Culture. Everything that's creative isn't Art. People defending thug-hop today for the sake of free expression sound like the same ones who defended the 2 Live Crew in the 80s. Censorship isn't the answer, calling bullshit is. This is what the defenders of Art and Culture are called to do, and I wonder if they are when it is so easy to call this vulgar peasant crap 'black culture'. If it were just black culture, then it would just be blacks, but this is universal because it's gutter, and there are gutters, thugs and whores everywhere.

Some day in the next twenty years or so, when people get tired of retro 70s afros and little pimp dolls hawking Sprite, some engaging filmmaker is likely to do for hiphop what Steven Speilburg did for gin joints in 'The Color Purple'. Somebody will romanticize all this sloppy shit in the color of nostalgia. Perhaps kids born in 2020 will think of Tupac the way I thought of Bird Parker. Who can tell? But I hope they dig up this blog and know that everyone wasn't fooled.

Some may think that Nelly's vocabulary reflects poorly on African America and fuels racism worldwide. I think guilt by association works only on those who associate with the guilty. I never heard of a 'tip-drill' and even my imagination doesn't help me figure it out. These aren't people who are fueling a conspiracy of destruction against African America, they're just today's peasants, caught on tape.

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

Ballot or the Bullet

I've just reviewed Malcolm's famous speech because I used that phrase in a rhetorical question posed to Iraqi militants. There's not much overlap contextually, but the phrase stands out.

The Sadrist rebellion is a big problem and I'm not sure I'm happy with the logic which might appease Al Sadr if he is not forced to stand trial for the murder of Abdul Majid al-Khoei. I think it bodes ill for the country if it is not able to get its courts in order in cooperation with the CPA so long as militias are running around like Afghan warlords.

So I'll repeat, intermperate language and all. Do they want the authority to run their own country or the authority to shoot at Americans? Do they want the ballot or the bullet? If they choose the bullet, they will be crushed. And people who have information about those who choose the bullet will be arrested and dragged off to interrogation - and you all know how the story goes. Somebody in Iraq MUST have heard of Martin Luther King, so why the fuck are they trying to be Nat Turner? They're fucking with the US Marines, dumbasses. The people who just crushed the man who had been crushing them for 30 years. What are they trying to prove, because they are going to die trying.

I think we have some business and responsibility to the future government of Iraq to make an example of Al Sadr. Not to is to concede defeat to the Baby Bin Laden Theory. the Sadrists and their Mahdi Army are a threat to the future stability of Iraqi government, we owe it to those who would be peaceful to stop him.

Posted by mbowen at 12:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

100 Partially Interesting Self-Indulgent Things

I think I'm a pretty interesting person, but that my public personna is so reserved that most people don't think so. I also express a kind of over the top enthusiasm which can quickly morph into self-possessed detatchment. So I believe that I am rather difficult to get to know. I also have a penchant for glib truth-telling and peasant English. I don't think I know many people who know me well so this is an interesting experiment. It's embarrassing in a way because I feel like I should do it, even though it's all about me. I suppose I can excuse that, being a writer, so here goes...

1. I think this is one of the most self-indulgent posts I've ever done.
2. I owe the Federal Government over 40 thousand dollars in back taxes.
3. My IQ is 136.
4. I do not have a degree in Computer Science.
5. I learned how to program a computer when I was 13.
6. I have had sex with fewer than 50 women.
7. Cobb is my second middle name.
8. I have owned 13 automobiles.
9. My favorite drink is a margarita straight up with no salt.
10. I wear size 10.5 shoes.

11. I can juggle three.
12. I have bowled a 173.
13. When I was a kid I socked somebody so hard I gave him two black eyes with one blow.
14. I have saved two people with the Heimlich Maneuver.
15. I have saved one child from drowning as a lifeguard.
16. I have saved one hiker from falling off the cliff at Mt. Lowe.
17. I hate crowds.
18. I was confirmed with the Episcopal Church by the Archbishop of Los Angeles
19. I was a camp counselor.
20. I've soloed in a gospel choir at the LA Cathedral.
21. I was present at the first Kwanzaa.
22. I am a classic Gemini.
23. I have extraordinary dreams. In many I compose classical piano music or play great basketball.
24. I used to identify with Judd Hirsch.
25. I voted for John Anderson illegally.
26. I used to own a Xerox 6085.
27. I have been detained by police about 30 times.
28. I have a perfectly clean criminal record.
29. I have horrible credit. (See #2)
30. There are 6 computers in my house.
31. I have lived in NYC, Boston, Atlanta, Houston and Los Angeles.
32. I'm the guy in the bar who stopped the fight.
33. I'm the guy in the movie who told the asshole to shutup.
34. I'm the guy at the seminar who asked the tangential question.
35. I marched with William Kunstler after the LA Riots.
36. I helped Philip Morris sell more cigarettes.
37. I had a japanese girlfriend who spoke almost no English.
38. I went on a blind date with someone who turned out to be a man.
39. I flew a plane over the White Mountains in Vermont.
40. My primary email address is named after a Toni Morrison character.
41. An epic novel of mine exists in pieces somewhere on this PC.
42. I have composed over 30 songs.
43. I have written over 500 comic strips.
44. The most difficult dive I ever did was an inward 2 1/2 off the three meter board.
45. I did a failed dive (score 0) at the prestigious Jack Kramer Club.
46. I didn't apply to Stanford because I heard the chicks were ugly.
47. I turned down a 4 year scholarship to FAMU.
48. I get jealous of black men with cleaner bald heads than mine.
49. I climbed Mt. Whitney via the Horseshoe Meadow Trail.
50. I danced with Rosie Perez on top of speakers at a Beverly Hills nightclub.
51. Maxine Waters spoke at my brother's funeral.
52. I got married in a Mediterranean Restaurant by my grandfather in Soho.
53. I have visited 43 of the top 50 American cities.
54. I have about 7800 MP3s, 22 XBox Titles, 50 Disney Kids VHS Titles and 40 DVD movies.
55. I expect people to inspect my bookshelves when they come to my house.
56. I don't like cats, but kittens are OK.
57. Batman was my first hero, then Muhammed Ali.
58. I am a goofy footed snowboarder.
59. I am an ISTJ except when I play sports.
60. I am rather difficult to embarrass, yet very well-mannered.
61. I've had exactly one good math teacher in my entire life.
62. There's an interesting story behind every one of these factoids, but I wanted to keep it brief.
63. My best friend in highschool went deaf and then later regained his hearing.
64. I am allergic to penicillin.
65. I had every childhood disease (Measles, Mumps, Chicken Pox and Rubella). Rubella was the worst. Our house was quarantined.
66. I had a job shoveling toxic waste.
67. I used to race motorcycles.
68. I never ask for Italian food.
69. I was elected twice to be National Finance Officer of NSBE.
70. I've been to Milan, Sydney, London, Paris, San Juan PR, Mexico City, Birmingham & Puerto Vallarta, but not Milwaukee.
71. I've never had sex with a white woman.
72. If I was a white man, I'd want to look like a jarhead or a cowboy.
73. I cook a mean BBQ Chicken.
74. I used to smoke Mild Seven, japanese cigarettes.
75. I've been bitten in the face by a German Shepherd.
76. I don't have casual discussions face to face, this is a reason I blog.
77. I no longer worry about nuclear war.
78. I've had sex on top of a jumbo washer in a public laundromat.
79. I used to love quirky foreign films, now I hate them.
80. I like ironing.
81. I love obscure documents with small print.
82. I only use fine point pens and never with blue ink.
83. I obsess over my fingernails.
84. OK now this is getting difficult.
85. If I could be any person in history I'd probably choose Napoleon.
86. The thing I most admire about America is the spirit of its children.
87. The thing that frightens me most is drowning in clear, deep water.
88. The worst thing that could happen to me is losing my mind.
89. If you threatened my family I would cave in. If you hurt my family I would kill you.
90. I cry at the mushy part.
91. I'm a very inner directed kind of person; you are probably wasting my time.
92. I take bad news very well.
93. I think I'm a better decision maker than anyone.
94. The only thing I've never had enough of in life is money.
95. I have a crush on Zadie Smith.
96. I hate talking about race. I used to do it all the time.
97. I always make the best of a bad situation. I'm the cynic who wants to take charge. Get out of my way, idiot.
98. I don't understand dainty people.
99. I believe psychoanalyisis is relativistic.
100. I'm glad this is over.

Posted by mbowen at 10:42 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 08:01 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Heads, You Lose

In a cruel twist of fate, Americans who have been screaming for the rhetorical head of Sec'y Rumsfeld have been handed instead the real head of Nick Berg. We have jihadists to thank for this.

I've spent a bit of time reading Juan Cole this afternoon. His angle generally is of the tenor that we don't understand Iraqis well enough to deal with the subtleties of their complaints and are irrevocably retarded and therefore not worthy of engaging them militarily. This is particularly interesting considering his identification of the 'Sadrists' as a legitimate faction whose future needs assurance in the new Iraq. His enthusiasm to identify this group early on may overstate their importance or influence around the country. But there seems to be some contradiction in his coverage over whether or not these vaunted Sadrists are indeed responsible for the Fallujah bridge lynching. Cole is eager to point out that while the Sadrist militia, the 'Al-Mahdi Army' are few in number, the Sadrists themselves number in the tens of thousands. Thus any military action against the militia, while appearing effective only enflames the multitudes. Adding one important point, the CPA and the President have called for the head of the leader of the Sadrist, Muqtada alSadr himself.

The reason I bring this up is because I too think it's important to understand with some clarity, exactly who is doing what to whom and for what reasons. So I question first whether or not the beheaders of Berg are Sadrists, and if so whether Cole and those following his reading of events feel it necessary for them to remain at large given the CPAs calling for his arrest. If not, and the beheaders are truly AQ, what does that say about the Sadrist followers and Sadrist supporters internationally? The point being, there may be complicated links between Iraq and international terrorism now, but if the Sadrists are any indication, then jihadist groups anywhere may be likely to oppose America in similar, popular militant ways.

Stratfor says War:

There are some who argue that it is not reasonable to speak of the
confrontation between the United States and al Qaeda as a war. It certainly
does not, in any way, resemble World War II. It is nevertheless very much a
war. It consists of two sides that are each making plans, using violence and
attempting to shape the political future of a major region of the globe --
the Muslim world. One side masses large forces, the other side disperses much
smaller forces throughout the globe. But the goals are the goals of any war:
to shape the political future. And the means are the same as in any war: to
kill sufficient numbers of the enemy in order to break his will to fight and
resist. It might not look like wars the United States has fought in the past,
but it is most certainly a war -- and it is a war whose outcome is in doubt.

The war against Saddam is over. So who is fighting Americans and coalition members? They are Iraqi militants who are too impatient for the handover, and their violent resistence catalyzes the Islamic partisans whose families are faithful.

What remains to be seen is how long seething resentment can motivate radical militancy and to what extent other partisan groups are willing and able to provide real justice. Whatever happens to Americans, the response is going to be disproportionate. We're big. Deal with it. But I have confidence that our forces are going to strike at the proper partisans. So if we are at war with jihadists (and we are) will enough sensible Iraqis know to move out of the way?

They had better.

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

May 11, 2004

Monsters from the Id

I have decided to run with this series of cartoons. Let them stand as they may. When I wrote them, I was expecting to find a bit more brutality than the ICRC Report details. So far as I can interpret from the report I read this afternoon, only two detainees have died as a result of arrest and or abusive treatment at all camps between October 2003 and the present as detailed in paragraphs 15-19 which I judged to be the most stunning indictment.

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Brand New Halo 2 Demo

Destructable vehicles is just the beginning.

OK it's going to be worth the wait.

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Less Than Lynching

If I were GWBush I would send a fat-headed general to give a "you can't handle the truth" press conference. The Red Cross report, as adequately and appropriately interpreted by Josh Mitchell, is hardly as damning as many would like it to be.

What that man, way below Rumsfeld, would impatiently explain is some subset of the types of interrogations that go on, as part of the operating standards of our military. Furthermore he would explain the extent to which our military intelligence group authorized the use of certain techniques in the context of what excesses we know about. The point is to make explicit something of the nature of war interrogation and the fuzzy line between that and torture.

For example, what is the significance of using plastic handcuffs (like riot police do) and traditional handcuffs? When is it appropriate to blindfold or hood a prisoner and when is it not? What kinds of threats can an interrogator make?

Only by putting people in the uncomfortable light of options, tactics and uncertainty will some of the weight of responsibility be properly contextualized. It is somebody's job to do this. Were they doing it properly? It is not a question that is answered by a snapshot which is propaganda.

What the Red Cross report makes clear is that the excesses were systematic, that what was going on at Abu Ghraib was roughly what was supposed to be going on, and therefore not particularly aberrant. It is also made clear that whatever abuses occured were directed at a particular subset of the detainees and was not generally applied to any or every POW.

Quite frankly, I was prepared to hear that people's fingers were being chopped off or that their eyes or teeth were being poked out - the stuff of American gangster movies. But what we have, as Kevin Drum excerpts, is not quite up to par with American lynching. Emmitt Till got a much worse deal than any Iraqi detainee.

It is unclear whether or not any of these high-value detainees were hospitalized or required hospitalization, or that those needing it were denied. The priorities on hooding and permanent nerve damage seem appropriately high on the list of abuses.

I am pleased that we've been able to get this information quickly, and this seems to derail the impact of any extensive Congressional inquiry although we're likely to get one anyway. I cannot estimate what impact such news is likely to have on anyone although I am hesitant to publish some of the cartoons I've written in light of this revelation.

However one may feel about the purposes of this conflict, the ways and means of its accomplishment are very serious, and while it always makes sense to compare and contrast what Americans have done with what Saddam has done, it is most important to determine whether or not we Americans are breaking our own standards. That is job one. I find it difficult to believe that any information gained by breaking these prisoners is a net positive given how its news has been recieved in the West, but I am equally sure that it is not fundamentally changing Iraqi opinion in the street, given what they know of the Baathists.

It is inconceivable to me that the Iraqi on the street, given his dire conditions, is not at all looking forward to the establishment of self-rule. So the kind of rebellion established by militia groups and evidently supported by a sizeable plurality of Iraqis suggests to me that no absolute standards of law and order are attainable. If the CPA cannot arrest, and having arrested cannot deliver to justice then all expectations of the occupation should be as cynical as possible. But it is the highlighting of this aspect which erodes support for what peacable transistion the CPA expects to carry out. To the extent that propaganda of this sort is used to characterize the aims of occupation and the ways and means by which it is being accomplished, the CPA is undermined. Let us remember that the purpose of the American forces of occupation is primarily to secure the operations of the CPA as it works to make that transition real.

UPDATE: There is more grisly stuff than I expected, given that I expected Drum and Marshall to show the worst. Cryptome, a very trusted source, has this copy online: Note in particular paragraphs 15-18 as the gravest of the alleged war crimes.

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Janet Who?

When I mentioned to Pops last weekend about the appointment of Michael Kinsley to the LATimes, he knew immediately that it mean curtains for the black woman who previously ran the show. Among the millions in the Kwaku network, I had no idea whom he was talking about. All I knew now was that a [heretofore obscure] black woman lost her gig to Mike Kinsley.

For all I knew, Karen Grigsby-Bates was the highest ranking black of any stature at the Times, and she has done well for herself with her new gigs at NPR. But Janet Clayton, at 48, was apparently the woman.

I take her invisibility and obscurity as a plus. I have been thinking about racial integration recently, especially in light of a recent interview by Brian Lamb of Charles Ogletree about his new book 'All Deliberate Speed' where he talks about 100 years past Brown is the drop dead date for affirmative actions. Also in that mix was Adrian Piper's declarations of not. She is not a 'black' this or that.

Check this story on other news in journalism.

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May 10, 2004


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The Horror

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Big Media Subversion, The Cool Zone & Dead Links

I've decided to go back to view the very first website I ever built which is almost 10 years old. It was 'The Cool Zone'. For better or worse, large sections of it can still be found here.
Excerpted from the intro to the Cool Zone:

the cool zone is a black cultural product in cmc which is designed to interactively involve folks with artifacts of various types. these artifacts whether visual, textual or aural will, if everything works properly, provide a basis for what i beleive is a new art form. this art form puts the flavor of blackness - the expository cultural components of african-american life - into the technology of the 90s.

For many years, in fact most of my life online, I wrote interactively in lower case so as to distinguish it from the work I composed offline. From this distance it looks cool still, but a bit futile and immature. The thing I think I've learned most over the years is to stand alone as an observer - connecting the dots in my mind publicly and letting that influence (or not) fall where it may. I no longer conceive of myself as a director of motion, although I still fall into the embodiment bag. Nor is the personna stuff so necessary. I am accustomed to the level of scrutiny and feedback the internet provides. I have no expectation and therefore no fear of fame.

What brings me to talk about the Cool Zone is twofold. The first is to link to 'B' which might have been the first group blog, or perhaps something a bit like ''. I see in so many words what Orcinus' gripe is about the media, and in concert with Gerard quotes of the Iron Rules I remembered my same gripe. I started it with 'B' way back in the days. In fact, much of what brought me to the Internet was a purposeful subversion of big media fueled as it was by the Big Lies about black Los Angeles pre- and post-riot and informed by Marshall Blonsky's semiotics.

From my intro to 'B'

In my view the editorial style and physical limitations of what we call newspapers force researchers into particular ways of seeing things that lack the authenticity of the voice of people, African Americans, especially. The very manner in which newspapers and televised journalistic reports are assembled are biased to profess the false objectivity of journalists who themselves have become a very powerful class of Americans. This bias for me has become unendurable and I find it most annoying to parse through a multiplicity of papers to get at the truth. Having done so, the truth I arrive at seems much the product of oppositional cross-examination of institutions with much to hide. Yet often there are odd spots of writing I happen upon which ring with the flavor of authentic experience. It is this type of information that gives me the confidence that the world is indeed populated by human beings who can understand and explain it and do so out of genuine curiosity and love.

The second, interesting in passing note is the sad resignation I find in the finding out. It turns out that only bloggers, something I would have not suspected, have come forward to subvert the signs. I thought it might be a bit more intstitutionally based. And so when I see the dead links in the Bastions Plane of the Cool Zone, I am sadly reminded that black grass roots & other organizations never really did the hookup. Nobody did really. Not in a transformative way about informing our society about what's going on at ground level.

Hopefully soon we'll turn our cameras back to home when this awful war is over, now that the technology is cheap and abundant. We may yet find out what we're all about. Who's manning the thousand points of light?

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Exercising the Physical Soul

I was just writing about Teleology the other day in response to denBeste's argument about the three forces in geopolitical conflict today. This was extending an argument I had made against the anti-theism of Christopher Hitchens. In both, I assert the fact of the soul and the need for humanity to search for and understand the mind of god as a pre-requisite for the scale of civilization we wish to maintain.

I look at religion as a way of knowing. It retains the potential for a kind of multidisciplinary education and the more ways it touches life, the more meaningful it becomes. As an Episcopalian, I'm afraid of Muslims because perhaps like Merton in the context of his criticism of Episcopalians as irreligious, I understand that Islam cannot be so easily compartmentalized. So what I find most appealing about the evolved religions is the richness of rituals and sacraments. You eat, you drink, you embrace, you stand, you kneel, you sing, you walk slowly, you sit in silence. If it were all about sermons and arguments about the nature of god, it could be compartmentalized, abstracted and lost in the crowded mediasphere.

I say that people are looking for what 'reality tv' gives them, an opportunity (if only vicariously) to undergo an 'extreme makeover' to be taken out of the matrix and physically challenged in a kind of rituality. Our bourgie lives demand it.

The church that only makes us sit and listen quietly will die. Our souls may transcend our bodies, but how does our inspiration move our bodies? The intersections are sparse in contemporary American life, and I think part of the stirrings we feel have to do with the disconnectedness of our physical activities with any philosophical purity. We bemoan the corruption of sport because in participating in sport we gain the experience of embuing a physical memory with the discipline of following strict rules. Knowing that Sport is owned and the rules of money overcome the sphere in which sportsmanship rules is very painful. For traditional sports in many ways it is a fait accompli, which is why I believe youth are drawn to the anti-corporatism of extreme sports, skateboarding and triathalon for example.

The urge towards religion engages the spirit, the soul. So does sport at its purest. In many ways, a graver physical sort of sacrament, especially a rite of passage, could make a tremendous difference in how central religion could be in American life or any life. Into the void, the work of the body will become the work of the devil, thus Crusades are around the corner.

Inspiration A: The recognition of the fundamental human need for religion.
Inspiration B: The moral appeal of military discipline.

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Tortured Logic

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May 09, 2004


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This Week's Fragmentary Thinking

The New Fiction
Now would be a good time to begin evaluating where we are culturally in the post nine-eleven era. 24 and Alias are two new dramatic TV shows that demonstrate how far we've evolved our sense of disciplined paranoia. Looking back to 'The X-Files', it's amazing how naive and ridiculous it was. On the other hand, looking to Dick Marcincko, we sure did ignore a lot. This week Spencer Abraham shocked the nation with news that it would reduce the number of nuclear storage facilities in the nation, excluding long-time joints like Sandia and Lawrence Labs.

Chickens Come Home to Roost
Just what we need, more corporate mismanagement. Air America learns a lesson about corporate incompetence the hard way. Good for them.

The Rookies or 'Just Following Orders'
I just heard someone on NPR say that nobody who has read the statements and papers relating to the torture at Abu Ghraib can come away with any logical conclusion other than that everything done there was sanctioned by Military Intelligence.

It's Settled. This is How We Think
A funny list.

P Diddy Grows Up
'"A lot of listeners have no idea what this play is about," said Ms. Info, who calls "A Raisin in the Sun" one of her favorites. "They just know that P. Diddy is in a play. But it's not about music, there are no Bentleys, it's not gangster, so some people might be disappointed."'

Kinsley & Davis: Mikes Makeover LA
I don't read the LA Times very often, oddly enough. I get pretty much all I need to know from the blogosphere and from the NYTimes. Besides, the Times' articles are entirely too exhaustive and end up being somehow editorial. But that's an old familiar criticism. Kinsley's addition to the staff might pique my interest. He will be reading Mike Davis' 'City of Quartz' to familiarize himself with the terrain. Davis, an old socialist from way back has penned the reference book on serious Los Angeles. Has nothing been written since. 'Southcentral' Los Angeles as a metaphor and paradigm of inner city blacks was started by Davis. Is there no way out of this impasse?

Sine Qua Non of Racial Stigma
Jayson Blair is in the news. Sorta. His book flopped. It's one year later. Nobody really cares. Only dainty people with gripes against Affirmative Action really care about Jayson Blair. He signifies race, period. End of Story. Case Closed. (but its 2004!)

On The Other Hand, Funtown Is Now Open
In ways that MLK couldn't see or predict. Though it serves us well to mark his words.

It turns out that I've been economizing on McCalories the wrong way. According to the Washington Post Fast Food table, Download file, an order of fries is less costly than a fish entree. I just generally assumed that a Filet O Fish couldn't possibly be too dangerous. You learn something every day. Now the question is whether or not I could get some idiotic idea proven in a mockumentary and get Disney to distribute my film. Hmm.

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African American 101

I've written about it so many times, and yet every time the subject comes up, I can't find what I've written.

Back in the mid-eighties, it was Jesse Jackson that helped popularize the concept of 'african american'. We did so because of three primary ideas.

1. Connection to Africa means that there is something to us that extends beyond and through slavery. If you believe that all of the Africa was killed out of blackfolks, then you concede that blacks originated completely out of the experience slaveowners planned.

2. 'Black' was not what we always were nor will be. There was and is a strong desire to break up the monolith of 'THE' black community. We're all not the same. Black nationalism worked for a time because we all needed a common political and cultural agenda. Those days are over. African Americans are diverse by definition.

3. African American is more demographically neutral. You make a specific historically accurate distinction when using the term which means all Americans of African descent. This allows historians and researchers to make comparisons and contrasts between African Americans of 1870 with those of 1970. It works exactly the same way as with Irish Americans and every other immigrant group. It is historically inaccurate to say 'blacks of the 1870s' because Black Conciousness and Black Nationalism did not exist at the time.

BTW. White South Africans and others living in the US are *expatriots* of the nations they were born in. Not African Americans. It's a joke that was funny in 1992...

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Tortured Humor

As usual this weekend, I tried to get some yucks in from Garrison Keillor, the Car Talk Guys and Michael Feldman of NPR's "What D'You Know?". Feldman, however had the nerve to try a succession of jokes about Abu Ghraib. It went over like a lead balloon. Worse, his rambling interview with the author of Tom Tomorrow continued the pitiful attempt at light banter with the occasional gratuitous swipe at Republicans. Republicans are such idiots because they say Democrats are not patriots.

I can't say that I've ever heard a worse episode.

There's only a certain kind of humor that works about Abu Ghraib and Feldman is incapable of delivering it. One has to have the kind of personna and schtick that allows you to tell somebody in the audience his mother's panties stink. Unless and until you can attain such a level of communication, jokes about torture cannot work. This is something I believe I am capable doing but it's unclear if the audience of Cobb or the blogosphere itself is ready, willing and able to deal with it.

It takes me back once again to Hitchens and Amis, because there is something I perceive about the contemporary Brit that allows him a certain resigned and callous yet intelligently skeptical regard for the absurd. When you can write a story like 'The Little Puppy That Could' as Amis did about nuclear armageddon, you're onto something. Although many will disagree with me, I happen to think that both Will Self and the American T.C. Boyle share this kind of eye. Ultimately Abu Ghraib represents the absurdity of taking weekend warriors and turning them into weekend torturers.

Once upon a time I dreamed of being a New York playwrite, imagine the play about the men and women who listen to talk radio, who take their powerlessness as ordinary Americans seriously and grow as cynical and vulgar as any average taxpayer. In fact, wouldn't that be the best name for it, 'The Taxpayer'. They volunteer as a group for the National Guard in patriotic substitution for midlife crisis after a corporate RIF package sends them to paintball camp. Soon they find themselves on a C-130 landing in Baghdad. Their typical Puritan regard for crime and punishment finds expression as they find themselves in their own prison experiment, etc.

The point of such an excursion is to put American audiences into the context of empowering their own best political and cultural sensibilities in an arena in which there is no possible proper context. Where lawlessness prevails, nobody's law is right. The creation of order requires force, and this is something talked about but never experienced by Americans since in America they have no power. Their experience of it destroys them and recreates them. They can't go home again.

There's the outline of a powerful drama, but very much like I wrote about with the wankers, I would infuse such a drama with stuff like references to 'Fear Factor' worm confections and the ordinary television gross-outs that under the color of authority suddenly become international crimes.

There is no way around this. This means me, this means you. So why is nobody laughing?

UPDATE: Finally, Ayn Clouter finds some humor.

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UN Charter

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May 08, 2004

Stealth Maestro Mike Skillz

is my pimp name. Recognize.

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New XBox Titles

This week and last, I broke my own rule of renting from Blockbuster since I already pay Gamefly. But the new games that have come out, I just had to try. I got 007 Everything or Nothing, Spinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow, Red Dead Revolver and Ninja Gaiden. I would have liked to find Rallisport 2, but they didn't have it.

007 has been out for a while and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I didn't get very far through the game but I think it degraded my skills for Rainbox Six. That lock-on targetting system really takes the right thumb out of practice. All in all I rate it highly. It's one of the best third person action titles since Brute Force.

Ninja Gaiden sucks. I understand why somebody would like it, that is to say somebody 10 years old like my boy. But it's just not my style. A bit too much button mashy for my tastes.

Red Dead Revolver is the bomb. I'm only three chapters into this and I'm really opening up a can of wild west whoopass. The duelling interface is innovative and cool. They've really done a bang-up job and I intend to get fairly immersed into this puppy..


Chances are I won't get a chance to do much of anything other than to play Pandora Tomorrow. I don't know what I did wrong when I played Splinter Cell the first time, but I just didn't get it. Or perhaps I just wanted to run and gun at the time and never got anywhere. But this time, I am fully engaged. I like sneaking around a lot, especially since I've been getting snuffed in Rainbow Six 3. This kind of sneaking is cooler than Metal Gear Solid, and less forgiving. It doesn't get much better than this.

I'm looking forward to playing the online game too, because it's re-orients the controls and gives a completely different challenge.

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Rainbow Sicks

I decided to buy Rainbow Six 3 and am getting my butt splattered in the Live game. My ELO is somwhere in the low 700s which means I get killed 8 times for every kill. But since I'm something of a butt kicker in PGR2, my friends are gracious enough not to boot me out of their rooms. What I don't understand about R63 is that my guns don't seem to work in the live game anywhere near as effectively as they do in story mode. As I run through the missions, I can double tap tangos with my AK and they're down. But I've emptied a whole magazine at close range and not beaten down live adversaries when I've gotten the jump on them. I've swapped weapons a couple times, but to no avail.

Interestingly enough, on Ghost Recon, I'm pretty good, especially in the pistols only fights. So I took that idea and tried to run around with a Desert Eagle, and my roomies are clowning me, like I don't know there are assault rifles in the game.

I generally play fairly aggressively in Co-op mode, but I haven't seemed to find my rhythm. A lot of that is because I don't know most of the maps from both teams yet. In fact, I've only played Green Team a couple times, and I was so twisted I almost fragged a partner. I really hate being a newbie in this. It's a really good game but it's less fun than XIII right now because I'm just dead meat in it. I'm starting to regret my purchase...

I have a friend whom I hope is going to show me some tricks to increase my skills. We'll see.

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Karen Bankhead is Comin' Clean

The theatre scene in Los Angeles is a mixed bag. One thing that everybody agrees on is that it's not New York. But it's not really Los Angeles either. So the production that goes on is more often a labor of love than anything that resembles 'a scene'.

Into this state of affairs jumps Karen Bankhead, just the sort of person who does it from the heart. Her latest comedy "Comin' Clean" is a double bill playing Tuesdays at the Masquer's Caberet on West 3rd near La Cienega.

I don't usually write up shows I haven't seen, but as company at the Game Bar at the end of Melrose last night, Karen's sparkle inspired me. There are very few people who can crack up a table demanding her to 'say something funny' with one word. Imagine what she can do with an entire script.

Karen harks back to the old school of the Inner City Cultural Center and the Inglewood Playhouse and revitalizes the new black drama circuit with her own brand of lighter entertainment. Don't expect any mind-bending political trickeration a la Suzanne Lori-Parks, just some good old fashioned fun for the people. And one more thing, this is dinner theatre, so you can get your grub on.

Check it.
323 653 4848 for reservations.

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Negro Digest Covers VIII

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May 07, 2004

Ted Rall

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Condi's Black Ops

Nobody wants to give Condi Rice five on the black hand side. Her image is so overloaded by the tirades of the tired black radical left that she's not even considered a person any longer, much less one with a heart and a soul.

But as Crispus has discovered, Condi has been engaged (gasp!) in Black Ops. So there.

I'm not down with the role monkey circus, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time saying how wonderful a person Rice may or may not be. But something about her choice of associates is pretty interesting to me. I'm speaking of Jendayi Frazer in particular. In fact, by looking at the pictures here, it appears that the entire Republican agenda on AIDS is run by blackfolks, not all of whom are even Republicans.

BTW, it's good to see and hear black libertarians. While I think most American Libertarians might as well be French for the amount of practical influence they have on Congressional Legislation it's always nice to hear them speak up, as they often have notable things to say on matters of economics and (of course) Liberty. And there's a good chance that black Libertarians could neutralize some of their post-modernist yuppie crap in the process. So long as they're not Socialists or Anarchists, I consider them on my side of the fence. More power to them.

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On Teleology

I've just added Teleologic Blog to the blogroll. Do check it.

Following up on denBeste and the reactions to him, especially Steve D, I'd like to take the issue a bit further. This follows also from an epiphany I got reading Allen Wheelis when I was a college sophomore.

Ultimately I am willing to believe that the emergent behavior of humanity itself, if it could be viewed as we view the emergent behavior of ant colonies, is uninterpretable by humans. But it is interpretable by 'God' and it is human destiny to attempt to make sense of the mind of god and thereby understand the context by which all human behavior can be understood, or judged.

This task by definition is both noble and futile, but it gives us a reason to try, and that is part and parcel of the human condition. We must assign it reason, we are compelled to try to figure it out. It is our instinct, and it gives us meaning.

I beleive that it is provable that without this instinct to discover the mind of god, human life would fail to have meaning. We would be more self-destructive than we are. But that we are held in awe of understanding our collective meaning means that we are permanently invested in our collective survival. My gripe with anti-theists is that they don't grasp, or that they fail to acknowledge that this is proximate cause of theology - the yearning of the faithful to discover the mind of god. Without this practice of transcendance, we accept that we are butt sniffing sheep and that nothing matters but our herd. Without it, we abandon responsibility for humanity. Without it we are, as Buddha suggests, trapped in the dusty details of domesticity.

To fail to seek the mind of god is to deny human instinct, the instinct for collective survival.

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Pets or Meat

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Quote of the Week

From the Belmont Club:

While it is important to punish everyone responsible for the outrages at Abu Ghraib, the only effective way to stop the corrupting influences of war is to achieve victory. Japanese tourists are welcome in Asia everywhere today because the Second World War ended in 1945. And if by contrast Palestinians hand out sweets whenever a Jewish orphanage and Old Folk's home is bombed it may be because the UN refugee camps there celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1998. If the outrages at Abu Ghraib hasten the end of war it will not have been in vain, but if they lead, as the Left most earnestly desires, to a Vietnam-like stalemate, it will be not the last but the first of many sad mileposts.

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Repressed Jihadist Wankers

One of the many things I agree with Christopher Hitchens on is that jihadists like (Muckety) Muqtada are big wankers.

This was reported in When I first read it, I thought it was The Onion.

Dhia al-Shweiri spent several stints in Baghdad's notorious Abu Ghraib prison, twice under Saddam Hussein's rule and once under American. He prefers Saddam's torture to the humiliation of being stripped naked by his American guards, he said Sunday in an interview with The Associated Press.

Now the 30-year-old, who used to work in a fabric shop, is a die-hard fighter in the al-Mahdi Army, the fanatic militia of a Shiite Muslim cleric who has vowed to take on the Americans.

Al-Shweiri said that while jailed by Saddam's regime, he was electrocuted, beaten and hung from the ceiling with his hands tied behind his back.

``But that's better than the humiliation of being stripped naked,'' he said. ``Shoot me here,'' he added, pointing between his eyes, ``but don't do this to us.''

I can't get the idea out of my mind that this attitude is precisely what makes the American war criminals laugh and smile in their pictures. Here are Iraqi men who would presumeably think nothing of the perfidy of shooting at American soldiers from the cover of a mosque, but would rather be shot in the head than be naked in front of a woman.

Are we Americans totally devolved? No. There are plenty of signs that we're pretty damned vulgar. Nothing quite says it like the reality TV show 'Fear Factor' where young adults compete for cash by drinking milkshakes made from large roaches or worms. So it is not beyond the imagination of the average American to come up with ways to utterly humiliate people. Hell, we do that for entertainment. What HBO viewer of Real Sex or Sex and the City couldn't think of a way to make a jihadist wanker totally freak out? The temptation just oozes.

Of course that's why ordinary American HBO viewers are not to be put in charge of Iraqi POWs. That's why the military chain of command is so important, so this kind of humiliation for fun doesn't happen. Those rules were broken and now there is a price to pay.


I understand where this darkness is coming from, and so do you. You know and I know that over here in America, where we put people in jail for smoking weed, that humiliation is part of the game. Don't drop the soap!

There's something I hate about jihadists and I realize that my willingness to stereotype them and those like them is the first step in dehumanizing the enemy, and that is a mistake of the first order in military conflict. It underestimates them and their capacity to change, which is why defeated racist generals are so completely surprised. But I'm not a military officer, I'm not in Iraq, I haven't sworn an oath to uphold the Geneva Convention, and I'm a patriot. So hose 'em. They're still wankers. Shower the lot of them.

I got your 72 virgins right here, BIATCH!

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Outrage vs Intransigence

How much outrage over Abu Ghraib is sufficient? I'm not sure. How much stonewalling can the Bush White House continue? I'm not sure.

There's a lot of screaming going on around here, much of it for the head of Donald Rumsfeld. As Digby makes a fine point about the outrage of the Republicans over the Clinton Cabinet nobody from Bushies has been forced out of office. Are Congressional Democrats that lame? Is the White House that tightly united? Is there nothing we Americans can do but wait four years?

There's something particularly unsettling about the White House's seige mentality, and I truly wonder how Bush percieves his presidency in reading public opinion. Is it paranoia? Is it willful ignorance? Is it arrogant intransigence? Whatever it is, it isn't responsive or transparent. Bush seems to believe that his affability and resolve are all that's needed. He's like the William Shatner character Denny Crane; all he needs to do is say I'm the Republican Party's Choice, and therefore commands all of America, and its image abroad. Imperial? Yes. Nothing destroys an empire so quickly as a wrong-headed emperor.

There doesn't seem to be enough steam on this matter to cost Rumsfeld his head. The Administration has already swallowed Plame to my profound disgust. While I don't think Rumsfeld's head is the appropriate punishment (Disbanding the 357th is perfect), I resent the attitude I perceive which says there's no way Rumsfeld could be touched by this.

President Bush said that he would restore dignity and character to the office of the President and to America.

He has failed.

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Kerry's Military Card Trumped

For Candidate Kerry, there is no military history worth mentioning now that his former COs have come out against him on a character issue. Read 'em and weep, Democrats.

A group of former officers who commanded John F. Kerry in Vietnam more than three decades ago declared yesterday that they oppose his candidacy for president, challenged him to release more of his military and medical records, and said Kerry should be denied the White House because of his 1971 allegations that some superiors had committed ''war crimes."

This is just woefully pathetic.

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Negro Digest Covers VII

Posted by mbowen at 08:15 AM | TrackBack

May 06, 2004

DenBeste's Three Forces

These paragraphs capture the nut of a nicely spun analysis of where three ways of thinking about the world turned on the events of nine-eleven.

Both p-idealism and Islamism deeply fear empiricism. They also resent and envy empiricist success. Both of them have a fundamental belief that they themselves were entitled to that kind of success, and to some extent feel as if empiricists have somehow stolen it.

So when a group of Islamists culminated a series of terrorist attacks against the US with one which far surpassed any other I've ever heard of in causing death and destruction, p-idealists in Europe and Asia and domestically within the US saw it as an opportunity, not a threat.

The best possible outcome, from their point of view, would have been for the attack to shatter empiricism's hold on the US, allowing p-idealism to take over. That, ultimately, was what the whole business about "ask yourselves why they hate you" was about; that was why there was a lot of expression of sympathy and commiseration, but with a strong tone of condescension and recrimination, in the three weeks or so after the 9/11 attacks.

Part of current p-idealist political dogma is a new "post-modern" idea of transnationalism, where nations (and nationalism) are seen as bad, and a rise of world governance run according to Socialist principles would replace the existing system. In this new Utopia, deep political disagreements which led nationalists to go to war would instead be settled by diplomacy and/or mediation. And the reason why that would work was because it was obviously elegant and clean; thus according to teleology that meant it would work. (And empiricist arguments to the contrary based on historical analysis and game theory were irrelevant.)

I am clearly an Empiricist in just about every sense of the way denBeste describes it, but as a conservative, I am attracted to the idea that there is a fixed notion about what is good in humanity. Although I agree that new value is created and destroyed in markets, I don't like the idea that these are the measures by which human value ought to be based. Therefore to the extent that p-idealists or islamicists insist that there is a teleological aspect to the human soul, I must agree.

And I think it is only upon reflection on the massive evil error of Stalinism which puts this into perspective. An Empiricist shouldn't need to be prompted along these lines. "How evil is the extermination of 20 million humans?" "I don't know, let's investigate."

Again I have some difficulty resolving this apparent contradiction between what I see as the value of religious conservatism, which is from my perspective the conservation of the idea of a transcendent soul, and that of Empiricism, scientific inquiry and the idea of Progress. When I speak of the notion of religious conservatism, I mean it in the context of my complaint against Hitchens. Or as expressed at the dictionary site denBeste references, over the interpretation of 'immanence'. I hope you can get the context for the commentary about Hitchens and I:

Briefly, I would say that the idea of a Social Contract is predicated on the belief that man has a soul - that there is some transcendent value in human beings. I would argue that before the discovery of non-zero sum games, it was indeed a leap of faith that anchored altruism. People hoped 'enlightened self-interest' would work better en masse, but they couldn't prove it. But the inclination towards it was for the betterment of society which originates in the populism of Jesus and continues with the individualism of the Reformation.

So while I buy into denBeste's thesis, I would also like to hear a bit more about the history on the Islamicist side. What exactly is the nature of the perversion of Islam into Islamicism from their own interpretation of history, or is it merely the error of Fundamentalism as Karen Armstrong suggests? Certainly there must be something to their religious beliefs that propose immanence in parallel with ours.

Islamic republics can be democratic. Witness Iran which has more females in parliament than we have. I can't help but believe we are missing some details here.

Posted by mbowen at 01:29 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Charlie Murphy

So I finally have decided to take the clue from what seems to be the biggest audience at Cobb, the Rick James Bitch contingent. Comedy Central eat your heart out, Cobb got pull.

I bought and viewed the DVD set for the first season. I'm still trying to figure out what I must have been looking at on the TV because this uncensored DVD version is the bomb. I have been busting a gut all night. Chappelle is throw down funny. That's the man I was crackin' with.

I met Chappelle way back in 91 at the Houlihans on 42nd and Lex and we spent a couple hours baggin' on people coming in and out of the joint. It's still memorable. So when I watched one or two episodes on Comedy Central, I wondered what the hell happened. They bleeped him. It made the whole thing soft, like a bad Saturday Night Live. But that's over. Chappelle has invented the funniest sketch comedy since Flip Wilson's Geraldine and Reverend Leroy (of the Church of What's Happenin' Now)

Now specifically to the Rick James stuff. Chappelle is really righteous in bringing Paul Mooney and Rick James into the mix. I like the way he's doing it. I have crossed paths with Charlie Murphy and believe me, that is just who he is. He used to have a club somewhere on Ventura Boulevard. Actually I have a Charlie Murphy story.

When I was in school at Northridge, I did my share of partying. But this was like 84 and 85 when I was a broke student. So I heard about this club in Encino that was Eddie Murphy's. Naturally I had to check it out. So I took my broke ass down there driving my beat up little Karmann Ghia (unlike my boy's whose was racing yellow and slammed with sweet mags and the dual exhausts). So I'm stopped at a light heading westbound on Ventura when this huge black Mercedes is coming up fast behind me. I don't think he sees me at all and so I brace for impact. They swerve and then run through the light, and all I can see when I lift up my head is a jheri curl in the back seat of the Benz as is passes by. At first I'm like, man why didn't he hit me, I could have his car. Then I saw the jheri curl and I thanked my lucky stars.

Anyway, I get to the club and it is straight ghetto. I'm expecting that this is going to be something really suave, it being Encino and all. Instead, it's a bunch of hardheads in sweatsuits and jheri curls and psuedo pimps looking like Orange Juice Jones. I ask around and it's not about Eddie Murphy, but his brother. The chicks are nice looking but it's clearly a ho trap. This party was all about tricking tricks into thinking they were going to see Eddie. I was not about to find any nice college babes in that joint. That was my first and last trip to that club.

I can't say with any certainty that the black Mercedes parked out front was the same one that just missed me. But where else would some drunk Negro with a jheri curl be at this time of night in Encino? It was a goddamned disgrace. Full Force lookin' bastards.. From then on, I stuck to frat parties and Al Jarreau's joint on Sunset, Glitter.

Posted by mbowen at 12:11 PM | TrackBack

From the iTunes

1. JSB: Art of the Fugue - Contrapunctus 9
2. Duke Ellington: Bakiff
3. Luke: Birthday Song
4. Sergio Mendez: Look of Love
5. James Newton: Fluerette Africaine
6. Eminem: White America
7. Jeffery Osborne: That's For Sure
8. Funkadelic: Who Says A Funk Band Can't Play Rock?
9. Prince: Sexual Suicide
10. Stan Getz: One Note Samba
11. Djavan: Total Abandono
12: Cecil Taylor: Garden 2
13. Imani Winds: Quintette - Andante Tranquillo
14. Nas: Nastradamus
15. Herbie Hancock: Tones for Joan's Bones
16. Sly & Robbie: No One Can Stop This Boy
17. Perri: No Way to Treat a Lady
18. Mana: Vivir Sin Aire
19. Nancy Wilson: You've Changed
20. Kronos Quartet: It Don't Mean a Thing

Posted by mbowen at 11:46 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Picture's Worth

kwc.JPGThis is a church in Berlin. It is known as the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Like most Americans, I am vaguely aware of who Kaiser Wilhelm was. Although the history is a couple mouseclicks away, I haven't bothered to learn much. I do know that it was gutted by American bombers when they purposely bombed the capital city of Germany during WW2. Our purpose was to kill civilians. We were engaged in total war; kill as many people as possible. So what if their churches get destroyed?

Clearly this was a beautiful building. Even in its damaged state, it retains the grandeur of its original design. However I was unable to find any pictures from before the time it was bombed. The meaning of the church has been irrevocably changed because of the damage we inflicted on the city and people of Berlin.

But you don't care. Nobody cares about Berlin. Berlin is fine.

All we care about today is a couple dozen victims of torture in a jail in Iraq. We care about a minor atrocity on the premises of the site where greater continuing atrocities was business as usual for the Baath Party. Today the world's literate and fed population, the ones with access to journalism, is focused on humiliation. Today America faces a political tragedy (perhaps), a tragedy of perception.

Phillip Kennicott of the Washington Post suggests:

But these photos are us. Yes, they are the acts of individuals (though the scandal widens, as scandals almost inevitably do, and the military's own internal report calls the abuse "systemic"). But armies are made of individuals. Nations are made up of individuals. Great national crimes begin with the acts of misguided individuals; and no matter how many people are held directly accountable for these crimes, we are, collectively, responsible for what these individuals have done. We live in a democracy. Every errant smart bomb, every dead civilian, every sodomized prisoner, is ours.

I agree with Kennicott when he says any interpretation of the pictures can only be propaganda. Whether you say it's an aberration or that it's par for the course, it's propaganda. It's spining the facts towards pro- or anti-American sentiment during a period of armed conflict. That's war propaganda by definition. So let's take it for what it is, and ignore it until after the conflict is over.

It's difficult for me to determine whether or not people care about the reasons for war, or about the conduct of any war. The antagonism and furor created by the publication of the other pictures suggests no ends are worth any means. If it can be suggested that these pictures show more about America than anyone could possibly have known before their release, then what enduring truth about America really matters?

We are not engaged in a total war. In many ways, to the detriment of our troops safety and morale, we are not engaged at all. Rather we are sitting ducks getting symbolically whacked by photographs. It's a strage occupation but hardly war. Instead, the war is one of minds, of international politics, lies, distortions and of course propaganda.

These acts will stand alone and come to signify little in world history. Like prison guards at Dachau, every soldier smiling in a photo over the spoils of war may come to regret the orders they followed in a civilian court 40 years hence. Unlike the Nazis, however, our purpose is not and was never the destruction of a people, but for their liberation. So I have confidence that the world will look at Baghdad a half century from now as they look at Berlin today. They will say that Baghdad is fine. That's the way I picture it.

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May 05, 2004

Sudan: Least Favored Nation

I've had a little time to think about it and my snap judgement is that the Axis of Evil needs an update. We need to bump Iran down a peg to position number four and move Sudan up to number two behind North Korea. Iraq holds at three and is about to drop off the charts. Zimbabwe comes in fifth.

The cheese-eating equivocators and spineless relativists at the UN have done the world enough disservices, but allowing Sudan to be on the UN Human Rights Commission is a new low. I reserve a very small amount of faith in the UN, but it appears that the only people who take it seriously are those for whom its budgets and powers seem great. That excludes much of the second world and all of the first, by my reckoning.

The whole thing needs to be rethought.

Posted by mbowen at 08:30 PM | TrackBack


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Star Sighting: Forest Whitaker

I saw Forest Whitaker the other day. Actually it was over a week ago Sunday, I think. We were at the Natural History Museum at Exposition Park.

I don't know what is considered the appropriate way to say something to a movie star. So I told the kids that there's a guy who went to school with Auntie K. Since I know he went to Pali around the same time I was supposed to be there, I mentioned it that way. Not that the kids would have seen any of his films or recognized the big lug. I'm not sure he was very popular at Pali either, not like Lisa N. or Tracy B. aka Dewey Dolphin. But I digress.

Like me, he seemed to be on Daddy duty, showing his troops the butterflies in the outdoor aviary specially hooked up for butterflies and moths. It's really a cool exhibit; I didn't realize we had Monarchs in So Cal nor huge Luna Moths. But there they were, fluttering around to the delight of all the kids.

I had my moment as F and I stared non-chalantly at the pupa display. I tried mightily to think of some line from Ghost Dog, my favorite movie of his (Smoke is a close second). But I just thought it would be too tacky even if I could.

Forrest, if you're out there, good looking out. Maybe our kids can play together another day.

Posted by mbowen at 11:30 AM | TrackBack

Negro Digest Covers VI

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The Tillman Myth

Can you smell it? Smells like victory. No wait. Smells like Hollywood.

The gears are grinding. The wheels are spinning. The smoke is rising. The slow-motion cameras are at speed. I can feel the red, white and blue moment rising from the ashes of Pat Tillman's body. Something real is about to be turned into something really phony and I get the feeling that I'm going to be sick.

I realize that I am walking a fine line. I've already said why I don't think Pat Tillman is a military hero. I have pretty high standards for military heroes, and I've spelled that out. Schwartzkopf was a military hero. The commander who found Saddam had his moment and that was worth celebrating. I think Tillman was an ordinary good soldier who did what an ordinary good soldier does. He looks out for his unit. At absolute best, Tom Sizemore in 'Blackhawk Down', but I don't really think that good. But you know what? A 'Blackhawk Down' sized movie would convince me, and that's the friggin' problem.

The more I think about the publicity around Tillman the more I think people are missing the point. I want you to read this story about the culture of sacrifice and think about what it really means. Then I want you to imagine the absolute best about Tillman. That he's really on the side of the grunts and the good guys.

Should there be a Movie of the Week about this story? No.

It seems to me that you can't have it both ways. If "We Support Our Troops" is anything more than a cliche, then you owe it to them not to make an idol out of the handsome, would be rich guy. Salute in silence and get back to the task at hand.

Now wasn't it me who was just talking about Audie Murphy last week? Didn't I say we should have some real medals given out to real soldiers instead of flightsuits for the President? Yes I did. Hand out the real medals to the real soldiers. Take a photo with the President at the Rose Garden. Have a fly-by and a 21 gun salute at Arlington (if he deserves Arlington). But don't make a movie. Don't have his folks on a talk show. Don't hang yellow ribbons, and don't make him a litmus test. Stay away from the purple prose, stop the myth-making before it gets out of control.

That's it. I'll say no more.

Posted by mbowen at 03:57 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 04, 2004

Out of the Woods

After six hours of surgery, Moms is doing OK. She is now talking and breathing on her own. I should say whispering because that's about all she can muster, but she's got a firm grip in her relatively cool hands.

The heart team was on standby, but she didn't need it. A bypass was not necessary because Dr. Bilchik was able to get the lood clot out of the vena cafa inferior where it was. He patched it up.

She has about 1/4 of her liver left, so there was some aggressive scraping going on. Fortunately, as we all know, the liver will regenerate.

If you are going to have cancer, renal is the best to have because it stays relatively isolated from other organs. You have two kidneys. One is enough. Her remaining kidney is producing urine at a goodly level. Cousin K. (M.D.) says she is about 98% on the other side of the danger zone.

Her blood hemoglobin is up to 11. This is tremendous because it was as low as 6 not long ago. When she had her first transfusion it only got up to 9. 14 is normal. Now it seems to be holding steady.

She's in the ICU and off the ventilator - breathing just fine on her own. The machine above her had her at a rate of about 20 and her heart rate was around 118 while we were talking. She presses a little button whenever she needs the drugs and the medicine kicks in. She has a scale of one to ten and is pushing the button about 6 times now. It makes her pretty tired so the conversation has to move on after the clicks.

She's hungry and wants to eat, but she's just on the IV drip. She's also got a big bag of Heparin dripping into her as well. She may be out of ICU as early as tomorrow.

Syl, Pops, Dutz, and I hung out in the cafeteria and had an animated conversation about family and things. It was good to be happy and have our optimism confirmed by reality. What's real is Moms is in good shape, so we haven't had to walk around looking at our shoes, which makes us truly fortunate, considering the things others are suffering in that very hospital.

The next step is finding out what new kinds of services will be available to Moms as she recovers. One promising program is MSSP for which we believe she is elibible. There is also a 'Life Line' service, a kind of granny Lo Jack. I don't think we'll be needing that.

Posted by mbowen at 09:13 PM | TrackBack

Obligatory Seriousness About Pat Tillman

The first idea that popped into my head about Tillman was something to the effect that who cares if this guy died? He's a soldier. Soldiers die. What came out of my keyboard was a lot more cynical than the man deserved. So then I tried to think of ways to badmouth the people who thought he was making a great sacrifice. I began to repeat the post I wrote when they wanted to make statues out of 9/11 firefighters (I was against it). That didn't work either. There has been no angle that I could come up with that sounded right.

So instead of weighing in on the negative side, I should probably state instead what I think a military hero is all about.

The other day I heard that some British journalist got a medal for dragging some of his wounded guardians from the scene of a mortar attack. But that's not really military heroism. That's being lucky for not being a complete sitting duck and running on instinct.

All in all I wish we had some authentic commando-type heroes to talk about. Somebody who makes a calculated risk between military tactic A and B, where B yeilds the greater victory over the enemy but is considerably more dangerous. Heroism is about initiative in action, not "He was a great guy and he'll be sorely missed." That applies to all soldiers, regardless.

I'm not hanging my hat on Tillman's hook. He did a stupendously patriotic thing in giving up the money to serve. His country didn't really need him, and yet he volunteered. That's a great leap of faith. Yet, my gut is to second-guess him. How do you arrive at the NFL draft and then decide you took the wrong career path? Logic suggests that he expected the enlistment to be a quick side trip, or that football and warfare are more than simply symbolically similar. Neither speaks well of his judgement. But I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he considered himself a natural-born warrior - he damned well looks the part. Maybe he really was on his way to fulfill his destiny and football was the closest he could come to it in peacetime. That being the case, I say right on. If he had served his time, led his squad, saw some action, it would have been a chapter out of a fantasy playbook when he came back to the NFL. Sounds cliche doesn't it? Now perhaps you have that same kind of queasy feeling I have about this whole hero business.

It only takes a moment's consideration at the 'war heroism' of John Kerry to prove that what we've been making of heroism is less than meets the eye. What we are not hearing about these men, even John McCain, is something to the effect like, "Were it not for the actions of Joe Hero, the allies would never have saved London", or a hospital full of children, or the Bridge at the River Kwai. I'm sure that has as much to do with the way our media 'reports' as anything, but it seems to me that a military hero is a hero to the military. When they start teaching what you did at the War College, that's when you're a military hero. That's something you can't walk away from or trade for press & political kudos.

When Tom Clancy wrote 'Every Man a Tiger' about the air war over Iraq, I learned about Chuck Horner. Chuck Horner is a military hero. He masterminded the use of air power and delivered victory to the allies and save thousands of lives in the process. That's what I'm talking about. A military hero is somebody without whom our military doesn't function as well. A military hero is a strategic asset, you're not only glad he's on our side, you're counting on it.

I hope that clears things up.

Posted by mbowen at 09:08 AM | TrackBack

Diebold Silences Critics


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May 03, 2004

Negro Digest Covers V

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Baby Bin Laden Theory: A Postmortem

I wish to god that I could find that impish cartoon that showed the lunatic scenario of the Middle East going berzerk in war if the US invaded Iraq. I took that to be a graphic representation of the Baby Bin Laden theory. If any of you readers can find it, please send me a link.

Most everyone in CT agrees that Mohammed Atta was the kind of soldier most valuable to Bin Laden and that Attas don't grow on trees, and now the State Department has this report on the net damage of international terrorism. These kind of numbers are sleepytown, and suggest that a good deal of work has been done.

I've been hesitant to say so, but I tend to believe that the hightened awareness we all have as Americans would be sufficient to help us out. The nine-eleven commission has demonstrated what most people should have guessed, our ability to counter terrorism in the days before 9/11 was faulty, and we've gotten better. However as much as Ashcroft has railed against his legal walls and restrictions, I have yet to be convinced that his overproduction has served us well on balance or that it has been a crushing burden on the civil liberties of Americans.

Posted by mbowen at 07:10 PM | TrackBack

Tacitus Capitulates, More Will Follow

As much as I like the idea of the American Empire, I think I'm going to have to settle for Hegemon for the time being. Tacitus, who has been following the progress of the Iraqi military strategy a lot closer than I have shows that he is weary to the breaking point and concedes victory to the jihadists. He did so on April 30th (It's very difficult to link to individual posts over there). Bush's plan has undergone enough tactical setbacks to be considered strategically mismanaged, and the volume of the dissent both foreign and domestic cannot be squelched.

At this point, I think Colin Powell officially becomes a footnote, and unless somebody like McCain has the cojones to run against Bush this fall, there is no end in sight for the downfall of the PNAC. Democrats, if they win, will backtrack and demolish any forward defense of Arab liberty. Bush, if he wins, will only entrench himself as a symbol of whatever it is anti-Americans call us these days.

But hey, we still make the world's best hot dogs.

What occurs to me at this moment in history is that any jihadist who is inflamed and encouraged by the pages of al-Jazeera may march confidently off to suicide unhindered by the truth of American life and purpose. Which also suggests to me that the time for nation-building is over and that the next Islamo-fascist nation that crosses our path needs to be absolutely crushed. If only there were an army to devastate, the world could learn a valuable lesson. But it seems now that we are paving the way towards total war, which is tragic.

The capitulation of Tacitus I take as a forward sign, a bad omen. That it comes directly in the wake of the expansion of the EU is also not good news.

Posted by mbowen at 04:40 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Stagger Lee

My daddy didn't ever tell me about Stagger Lee, nor the Signifying Monkey. When I was knee high to a grasshopper, I got an earful of Aesop and a passle of Old Possum's Practical Cats instead. My parents did sing Kumbaya, but also Polkadots and Moonbeams. On the other hand, I did master the art of reading Tarot Cards before I graduated from elementary school, plus I spoke Swahili. Blackfolks' home training differs from tribe to tribe.

So some time later in highschool, when one of those 'black IQ tests' was passed around, I wasn't quite sure about this Stagger Lee character, nor Shine for that matter. Of course I didn't feel bad about it. My best friend in the 'hood, Darrell, was from Texas. He knew that kind of stuff.

Well it turns out that a couple other people have gone and given Stagger Lee the semi-academic treatment, so that the legend lives on in a different way. I appreciate such scholarship and therefore link to it here and here.

Now it turns out that Stagger Lee's real name was Lee Sheldon. This in and of itself is interesting if only because the filmmaker's name isn't Spike, but Sheldon Lee. Or maybe that's his dad's name. I forget which.

The legend of Stagger Lee, seems to me best left in its original form. I like a man who can make the devil uncomfortable in his own home. Just this afternoon I was considering what might be my next online personna once my work as Cobb is done. The name 'Lucifer Jones' is just too good to pass up. I'll see you in 3 years. That's a level I can relate to. But the notion that black manhood might be symbolized by a hat is a bit much.

Therefore, if the Stetson represented the black man's manhood, the fight over the hat represented the black man's struggle for freedom. And this is my whole point! Lloyd Price's "Stagger Lee" reflected the civil rights struggle and predicted the more combative stance--the lunch counter sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, and even the turn by some to Black Power--that African-Americans would take in the early 1960s. With this record, "Stagger Lee" was reshaped from a cautionary blues ballad to an aggressive rock 'n' roll song. The factors which I pointed out earlier--the exuberance in Price's voice, the backup singers chanting "Go Stagger Lee", and the celebratory tone of the record--contributed to this reshaping. And these changes also must have influenced how this song was interpreted. In effect, Price created a new song with a new symbolic meaning. By taking "Stagger Lee"--a song which reflects and stems from the oppression of the black race by the white race--out of its blues tradition and recording it as a rock 'n' roll song, Lloyd Price changed its theme from oppression to liberation. And this transformation was brought about by Price regardless of what his intentions were or what was going on in his conscious or subconscious mind. A song which was so deeply rooted in the tragedy and inhumanity of the white race's oppression and enslavement of the black race, and which was recorded by a member of that black race in such a jubilant, rocking, and exhilarating tone, could no longer be a blues song or a song of oppression. It could only be one thing: rock 'n' roll. And as rock 'n' roll it announced an amazing turn of events: victory and reedom.

It's a charitable stretch, but I'll stick with Ellison's Prologue (to Invisible Man), which I talk about a lot but can't find anywhere. I am rather persnickety today about what type of characters get credit for doing the work of black liberation, and now with some significant documents in my possession, I'm more likely to give credit to the oratory of Wyatt Tee Walker, rather than the legend of Lee Sheldon. On the other hand, Stagger Lee was indeed on the black IQ test and on page 50 of the Norton Anthology of African American Literature. So you know people take their symbols where they can find them.

But let's not confuse vernacular folktales with the real work of raising the race. A man who shoots another over the theft of a Stetson is bad - not bad meaning good, but bad meaning bad. (Sorry RunDMC). And I for one am rather fed up with the legend of the black badass. Even at this late date, listening to Onyx' Slam is a treat, just as reading page 50 is. Let art be art and let life be civilized. 'Nuff said.

Posted by mbowen at 03:21 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 02, 2004

Wary of Kerry

Surprisingly, there has been nothing that Candidate Kerry has said in the weeks since he's been the Democrats man, which suggests he's ready to take the Oval Office from GWBush. Everything I've heard sounds very soundbitey and superficial. He can't seem to get his rhetorical crow-bar under the Bush presidency and reveal it's seamy underside. He's done nothing except parrot the rhetoric of Bush skeptics, cynics and haters. In otherwords, he seems not to have his own individual take on the Bush Whitehouse as a career politician that suggests in any way that he would do anything substantially different.

Nader, on the other hand, is always different. Not likely better by a long-shot, but at least you understand where he's coming from practically speaking so that you know he might give us a different face. I don't often read TPM, but I'm generally rewarded, and this time is no exception.

I'll probably listen a little closer, but I cannot find anything substantially different in Kerry's view of the New World Order which would suggest that America will be considered a substantially different entity under his helm. To the extent that Bush's initiative (or jumping the gun if you will) turned America from an intermittently bright shining beacon into Lucifer's own project, there's nothing Kerry says which would bring us back to the good side of the world. Not that that's necessary, but the Republicans are just way out in front of him on foreign policy. He cannot move anywhere Republicans haven't already expected him to go. He's boxed in, and can't make a big enough difference to the world.

The Bush Administration, admittedly out of its depth in the nation building department, has enough internal strife between State, Pentagon and Whitehouse which has made prosecution of the entire Iraqi operation (notice how nobody bothers to call it Operation Iraqi Freedom any longer) clumsy. I don't think it tragic or irrecoverable, but I would need to be convinced of a great deal before I turn that matter over to a new team. As far as I can see, Kerry doesn't have the time, wit or resources to come up with a better plan between today and November.

Unless he can convince he's Mighty Casey and doesn't strike out, I'm sticking with the incumbents.

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Blonde Eve


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Negro Digest Covers IV

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Negro Digest Covers III

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In Praise of McCain

It seems that every time I hear something new about John McCain, it's an admirable stand of right-thinking. This is the man who should have been in the White House.

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Negro Digest Covers II

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Negro Digest Covers I

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May 01, 2004



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Institute for Black Studies

I swung by my father's house today. Ever busy, he was painting the awning on his patio. Inside, Abenaa was working with a friend on her plans to start a charter school. As usual, he had me fix some mumbling thing on his computer but this time I didn't grumble about it. Also, I find that he purchased a brand new Dell laptop with a huge screen. He has no idea how it works.

It is also my habit when visiting Pops to consider the mass and magnitude of literary and photographic materials I will inherit someday. This time, however, and probably for the first time, I felt overwhelmed by the prospect. So I took the unusual step of liberating some materials from his shelf, in this case about two dozen issues of Negro Digest.

He recieved these and God only knows how many other correspondances through his Institute for Black Studies. As I paged through these particular publications, it reminded me how little a great deal of thinking has changed. It's difficult to say how well understood or how powerful the ideas of the time were. What's clear to me, in any case, is how little the dialog has changed from the abstracts on the back covers of these magazines.

I'd like to share with you some of the covers and perhaps some of the content of these dilapidating volumes. I've decided to do so under this category of Wellington House in representation of a black past. These first two are irresistable.

Posted by mbowen at 05:29 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Another Manifesto

As a signer of the Cluetrain Manifesto, I've received a chain letter suggesting I sign the EQnomy Manifesto, which goes a little something like this:

12 Theses

  1. People want to experience that they live. Now.
  2. The truly important things are: being-human, development, challenge and fun!
  3. People define their own passion, energy, success and needs.
  4. Our EQnomy is a sizzling party of real, authentic human beings.
  5. We seek no 'balance between work and personal life'; we are our authentic selves in work and in private.
  6. Our talents, time, attention, ideas, knowledge and networks are ours and our responsibility.
  7. An organization is not a Counsel, Company, Care- or Educational Institution. An organization always consists of PEOPLE who are committed to each other and to other people.
  8. "What does your care, involvement, service or product add to me, my development, challenge and fun!?"
  9. We do not want to be 'robbed'; we want to be 'touched'.
  10. Before we go along with an organization, we first want to understand it and feel it; the mission, the culture; the people.
  11. We are loyal to the passion and inspiration with which all once began. Not to the rules that 'crept in' along the way.
  12. To us it is not about WHAT we do. To us it is about WHY we do what we do.

I don't know, but doesn't this sound a little like a late night dorm room conversation? I'll keep it for my kids. Besides, I'm not sure about number nine. It sounds naughty.

Posted by mbowen at 10:46 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Platoon: A Second Look

Last night I saw portions of Oliver Stone's 'Platoon' once again. I dropped in at the point just before the American soldiers had decided to destroy a village. It has been 16 years since I first saw this film and I must have learned a great deal because this time out I was aghast and in complete disbelief that American soldiers would conduct themselves in such a way.

The first scene had one of the young soldiers shooting at a one legged villager to make him dance. The next soldier gleefully cracked his head open with a rifle butt.

It gets worse, a screaming defiant woman is rifled down as an annoyance. Her son is forced into a battlefield confession by having a gun place to the head of his young daughter. I'm not even going to get into the rape scene.

War may be hell, but 'Platoon' is slander. Nothing presented here makes any tactical sense, not that I'm a soldier, but really. Here you have a group of 15 or so men who have completely lost their minds acting out of pure desparation and confusion. Nothing about the way they were acting suggests any battlefield discipline or even basic cohesion. It's as if they are all sleepwalking through atrocities, stepping aside while each of their cohort acts out some twisted fantasy. Gone savage.

I turned off the tube as the ineffective leader of this Platoon finally yells 'Cut it out!' and the gang troops sheepishly, mechanically away with their torches and grenades to 'save' the village.

This week, several American soldiers and their commanders were accused of torture and similar war crimes. It's difficult for me to assess this matter given the ubiquity of media and the way information travels. On the one hand, a handful of soldiers going off the deep end in 13 months of combat and occupation is a thankfully small fact. It's amazing that we find out so much so quickly. On the other hand, who knows how much of this may have transpired already.

Messages such as Oliver Stone's suggest strongly that there is not much more to soldiering than arming oneself, putting on a uniform and letting the beast out; that orders are little more than bullies shouting, and that killing in war is nothing more than mass murder. In this he suggests that soldiers are no better than violent criminal thugs. We should know better.

War is not a stage for passion plays of the id. Enough such madness happens, but there is a critical difference between irregulars and professional armies. So we should remember this difference when our imagination is stretched and our trust is strained by images of brutality. If a situation such as Stone's takes place where those who would be soldiers simply act like stunned onlookers or crazed savages, we should know there is something radically wrong. That's not war, that's war crime.

We should be proud that our professional army is making examples of these war criminals. Their prosecution is business as usual, not their crime.

Posted by mbowen at 10:21 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack