July 31, 2004

Juinor Modders

In Project Gotham Racing 2, I am ranked 4999th in the world, or at least I was at 3:30 this morning when I signed off. That's not bad out of 224k people who race this online game. I've been around the block a few times, but last night I saw something I never saw before. Upon reflection it doesn't seem to be much, but I was very impressed at the time.

Just like in the Matrix, everything about these simulated worlds are driven by rules. Sometimes there are gaps or glitches in the rules which allow the observant and persistent to bend them. For the most part however, most people play the game and enjoy themselves within the constraints of the playing field.

Last night, a modder went 450 miles per hour. This is the equivalent of Neo flying in the Matrix.

A modder is someone who takes apart a digital appliance and modifies the hardware or software to add features to an ordinary game. This is very much like the aftermarket for cars, except it's chips. By doing so, a modder can bend or break rules or even add their own.

In PGR2 there are a collection of about 100 automobiles for racing, each with its own speed, colors and handling characteristics. In the original version, which has twice been updated by the manufacturer with expansion packs. A well known, and perhaps the only flaw in the game was known as the 'Color Glitch'. Through a series of button clicks on the XBox controller, a player could change the colors of a car. This was notably done on the Porsche GT1, one of the most desirable cars in the game which was only available in white. Players who mastered the Color Glitch would appear at the start of a race with orange or black GT1s, thus announcing their status to the rest of the players. As more people learned the Color Glitch, races would take forever to start as players would try to outdo each other by picking cool colors. That all stopped three months ago with the addition of the Paris Booster Pack which also patched the bug.

I was in the company of two young modders, a 19 year old kid from Philly and a 13 year old from somewhere in Canada. Philly did the hack. Canuck offered to set up a webcam session and show me how to mod my own XBox.

Stay Tuned.

Posted by mbowen at 11:04 AM | TrackBack

July 30, 2004

Serious Business at Goldfingers

Greg Martin, one of the smartest and coolest cats I know is going to be making his debut in a reggae band Tuesday night at Goldfinger's Bar in Hollywood. His band is called 'Serious Business'. What can we expect? A damned good time because I'm going to be there with my new Malcolm X glasses and porkpie hat. All I can say is this is the man who introduced me to Coltrane and Ivan Van Sertima. It's going to be dope, yo.

See ya.

Posted by mbowen at 07:29 PM | TrackBack

Unix Viruses &cetera

A Taste of Computer Security

Given the nature and scope of the field, it would require one or more books to even briefly touch upon all that is known about computer security. This document's goal is only to give you a taste of (a subset of) the subject. The various sections are not uniform in their depth or breadth, and the document's overall structure is not pedagogical. I could have titled it Thinking Aloud On Computer Security, if not for the somewhat pompous undertone.

Posted by mbowen at 06:31 PM | TrackBack

68 Annoying Questions

There's a lot of buzz about young black polticians and black politics these days. Or is there? I think it's just Barack Obama making a name for himself. Nothing wrong with that, of course. I will be glad to see him do well.

However it is an open question as to whether having a black Senator will be a good sign for black politics. Much of it depends upon the responsibilities he gets. Will he author any notable legislation? Will he get appointed to the right committee? You see black politics still exists in a ghetto in the public mind, and there are certainly millions of blackfolks who are asking the same annoying questions.

So I am looking forward to seeing what the bottom line is going to be after everyone has finished touching Obama's hair and remarking about his uncanny ability to orate. (You would have thought that Bryant Gumbel answered those questions a generation ago). Will he have to answer the same stupid questions?

There can be no doubt that many of these questions, which will never be directly answered given what I've seen of the ObamaBlog, will come from African Americans. And what better way to figure out what's on the minds of blackfolks than to see what questions they ask? I've stolen 68 of them from Earl Ofari Hutchinson's website because when I went there looking for some discussion about Obama, I found nothing else. To me, these are a combination of moderately interesting short answer questions, but taken together as a comprhensive sample of black political interests, they make my head hurt. Yet somehow I have to admit these are the questions people want answered.

I see a disconnect here. To call Obama a black politician, if it is to mean anything but a demographic qualification, means that he is responsible principled black questions and issues. And yet knowing that a US Senator can get to the bottom of just about anything that goes on in America, I can scarcely imagine Obama spending his newly found popularity shouting into the phone for answers or assembling a Senate Inquiry into any of the questions that follow. But I don't know Obama's direction and I admit that I find these questions mostly trifling.

So the question I am begging is not whether Obama is 'authentically black' but what kind of issues African Americans raise that deserve the attention of a Senator. Because now that everybody wants to claim Obama, he's going to have to set some priorities that sooner or later are going to cause some people to disown him. That might move black politics further up the socio-economic scale (my hope) or demonstrate that it is stuck in the basement (my fear).

OK the Questions.

  1. Will Kerry Keep The Promise He Made at the NAACP Convention to Aggressively Push Civil Rights?
  2. Why Do So Many Blacks Believe Cosby's Myths About Themselves?
  3. Are Bush’s Tighter Restrictions on Cuba a Play For the Cuban-American Vote in Florida?
  4. Is Interracial Sexual Relations an Issue in the Kobe Bryant Case?
  5. Was Clinton Really A Political Genius?
  6. Did Ray Charles Crack More Than Music Barriers?
  7. Was Reagan an Enemy of Civil Rights?
  8. Did Cosby Get it Right When He Called Poor Blacks ‘Knuckleheads’ for their Alleged Bad Grammar and Criminality?
  9. Does The National World War II Monument Honor The Fight of Black GIs in the War?
  10. Who Do You Blame For The Nick Berg Beheading?
  11. Are Separate Schools a Bad Thing?
  12. Was Pat Tillman hero or did he get what was coming to him?
  13. Is The Jackson Indictment About Child Sexual Molestation or Something Else?
  14. Is the Iraq War Bush’s Vietnam War?
  15. Should Condi Apologize For 9/11?
  16. Are Black Athletes Dumber Than White Athletes?
  17. Will Condeleezza Rice Be the Scapegoat For Bush’s 911 Failure?
  18. Is Wal-Mart Good or Bad for Black Communities?
  19. Does Rapper 50 Cent’s Anti-Gay Slur Represent The Sentiment of Black Men?
  20. Is Gay Marriage a Threat To The Black Family?
  21. Will U.S. Marines Help Haiti?
  22. Should California Apologize for Its Slave Past?
  23. Will Conservatives Turn on Bush?
  24. Was Janet a Victim?
  25. Race Was Inevitable in Bryant’s Case Why Do White Males Cheer Bush?
  26. Jackson and The Nation of Islam—Good or Bad?
  27. Why Do Millions Shun The King Holiday?
  28. Should Child Killers Be Treated As Adults?
  29. Should More Blacks Support Bush’s Reelection?
  30. Was Nixon A Racist?
  31. Do You Believe That Strom Thurmond Fathered A Black Child?
  32. Would You Attend and Approve A Friend's Gay Marriage Ceremony?
  33. Why Do So Many Blacks Think Jackson’s a Racial Victim?
  34. Is Jackson a Target Because He’s Black and Successful or a Child Molester?
  35. Why Is the Unemployment Rate Among Young Black Males Astronomically High?
  36. Is Sharpton Off Base in Calling Blacks That Endorse A White Democratic Presidential Contender “Uncle Toms”?
  37. Are You Surprised That Hip-Hop Icon P. Diddy is Accused of Using Sweatshop Labor to Make His Hip Fashions?
  38. Are You Concerned That There’s a Rush to Execute Sniper Suspect John Allen Muhammad?
  39. Are the Rape Charges Against Kobe Bryant Unfounded?
  40. Does Limbaugh Deserve The Public’s Overwhelming Compassion for his Drug Plight?
  41. More Blacks Than Whites Oppose Gay Marriage—Good or Bad?
  42. Is Arnold Schwarzenegger a Racist?
  43. Why Has Progressive Democratic Presidential Contender Howard Dean Attracted So Few Blacks and Latinos to His Campaign?
  44. Should Blacks Demand that Clinton Do More than Preach at a Black Church for Their Support?
  45. Should Black Voters Bail Democrats Out of Recall Mess?
  46. Is there Any Merit to the Connerly Initiative?
  47. Should California Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante’s Use of the word "Nigger" be Held Against Him in His Bid To Be California Governor?
  48. Should Blacks and Latinos Vote for The Terminator?
  49. Can White Jurors in Eagle be Color-Blind Toward Kobe in a trial there?
  50. Why Is It Near Impossible To Convict Cops of Abuse Against Minorities?
  51. Should Kobe Be the New Poster Boy for The Thug Athlete?
  52. Does Bush finally Recognize the Importance of Africa?
  53. Is the NAACP Relevant To the Black Poor?
  54. Latinos Have Replaced Blacks As America’s Number One Minority. What Does That Mean For Blacks?
  55. Was The Release of 12 Blacks Unfairly Jailed on Drug Charges in Tulia A Victory over Racism in The Drug Wars?
  56. Do the Democrats Care About The Black Vote?
  57. Would Jayson Blair have gotten away with his con of the New York Times if he were white?
  58. Should Blacks Be Charged With Lynching?
  59. Why Are Americans Reluctant To Aid the Building of the Martin Luther King Monument in Washington D.C.?
  60. Why Do So Many African-Americans Support The Death Penalty?
  61. Can or Should a Democrat Beat Bush in 2004?
  62. Will the NAACP’s Lawsuit Against Gun Manufacturers Stop The Spiraling Black Murder Carnage?
  63. Will a Green Party Presidential Candidate Put Bush Back in The White House?
  64. NAACP Says Oppose the War But Support The Troops Are You Tired of Hearing From Iraq War Opponents?
  65. Did Bush Attack Iraq to Guarantee His Reelection in 2004?
  66. Why Aren’t Blacks In The Streets Protesting The Iraq Attack?
  67. Has Colin Powell betrayed his principles and blacks?
  68. Is Clarence Thomas Cruel, Spiteful, or Even Unbalanced?
Posted by mbowen at 10:38 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


I just drifted through Ofari's website wondering if anyone over there was talking about Barack Obama, who has become an instant celebrity. I think the site is broken, but I did find something interesting. More on that later. What I didn't find was any discussion about Obama or any issues associated with him. Similarly, at Obama's blog, I have only found relatively tepid steps into issues and policy, not that I expected much more from someone campaigning.

It is somewhat annoying to me that people have so quickly gone from 'Barack Who?' to 'Obama for President'. What was the name of that song? Holding out for a Hero. His instant celebrity and instant credibility are suspect and I'm not buying it. I say this with the recognition that he has come to celebrity the right way, by being clean in the face of scandal drowning people opposing him. Unless you're the DA who convicts Charles Manson, or the doctor who cures cancer, there's probably not a better way to get famous. Hell, we've already forgotten the name of the CO who captured Saddam Hussein.

I have no doubt that Barack Obama is everything he appears to be. He's sharp, charming, educated and all that. He is in many ways a textbook example of the class of African Americans I've always associated with. But what has he got that Carol Mosely Braun ain't got? If you put him head to head against Harold Ford, Jr. How does he compare? If you had a choice between Obama and Michael Steele, who would you choose and why? These are the sorts of question that I believe very few Americans are prepared to answer. He simply represents somebody who is not first generation black politico, Obama is a Not-Sharpton. That's a good thing yet I think he's yet to show that he's the equal of any of those African American politicians.

While I'm no presidential scholar, I have come to regard with skepticism that the VP is somehow a 'natural' choice for succession. Nixon made it and Johnson did under extraordinary circumstances as did Ford, but Vice-President is just as often a dead-end job. So people thinking Edwards-Obama aren't saying anything and further I don't think the Senate is the place to show leadership of the sort that makes for presidential material. So in a certain way, he's dead ending. I'd never vote Russ Feingold as president, but I sure am glad he's done what he has in the Senate. Obama is way back in the line behind John McCain. Still it's all good; sometimes a black Senator is just a black Senator.

The difficulty here is that the same kind of instant recognition that Obama is getting, especially from African Americans, is exactly the kind of thing that I expect could be a windfall for the Republican Party. The right focus and exposure on somebody who is good enough is all you need to gain momentum in this game. Obama's cred is proof that it is a game and that he's playing it right, because quite frankly (and I'm a Republican) if I had to shoot one of the two based on their value to African Americans, it wouldn't be Charlie Rangel. But I'm willing to play the opportunity game, that's why I am in the GOP. The future is more important than the past, the most important question is whether or not, as a black Senator Obama will have to prove himself worthy by answering the same old questions. If so, he's just another sacrifice waiting to happen.

I think we should let Mr. Obama win his election and actually perform admirably in the Senate before we go annointing him black messiah. Not that that's stopping anyone.

Posted by mbowen at 09:30 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Six of Nine

Posted by mbowen at 08:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Friday Fragments

Just for the hell of it, let's imagine for a moment that Eurocentricity still works in the sense that whatever the world evolved from Europe before, a new emergent generation can evolve again, independently. In that spirit, I offer this tidbit of a guide to English Schools.

Kubrick's film is still not cheesy after all these years. I have discovered a trick on my PC that allows me to play DVDs on the desktop. Every window above it is translucent. A film like 2001 makes for perfect realtime wallpaper. So much of the film is slow and beautiful. It's rather like a new genre and way to enjoy video.

Power Law Distributions Again
Clay Shirky is rehashing this idea in the latest Wired magazine. Perhaps because it gets more readers than his online writings. This is a fundamentally big idea. It's something I make use of in my consideration of markets, semiotics and organicism. The question is what is the nature of shifts that create and destroy fame? This relates to the Fungibles and the problem of giant sucking sounds.

It looks very good. A lot better than when I first tried it 3 years ago. Which reminds me. I haven't heard anything about Chandler lately. I think it's dead.

Posted by mbowen at 07:27 AM | TrackBack

Prime Time

Posted by mbowen at 03:38 AM | TrackBack

July 29, 2004

The Cohen Report

Here is where the power of the blogosphere comes into action. I've heard the rumors now I've got my hands on some facts from PR Newswire:

Today, in response to a new report on discriminatory auto loan markups by American Honda Finance Corporation, the Consumer Federation of America calls on Honda and its dealers to end undisclosed lending practices that discriminate against African-American car buyers. "In response to litigation and public pressure, other auto loan companies are beginning to curb discriminatory auto loan practices, and Honda should do the same," said CFA Executive Director Stephen Brobeck.

The report, prepared by Dr. Mark Cohen of Vanderbilt University, is based on examination of records of 383,652 AHFC customers over the period, June 1999 to April 2003. It concludes that African-American borrowers consistently paid higher "finance markup charges" over average than white customers when they finance their cars at dealerships through AHFC. The study controlled for factors such as term of loan, type of vehicle, creditworthiness of borrower, and geographic area.

Auto loan markups occur when lenders allow car dealers to mark up auto loans above the "buy rate" reflecting the actual creditworthiness of borrowers. A growing body of evidence reveals that hundreds of thousands of consumers, perhaps millions, have trusted auto finance companies and car dealers to charge them fair and reasonable rates only to then be subjected to markups that, in the past, have often exceeded five percentage points. A report, which was released by CFA, the National Council of La Raza, and the Rainbow-PUSH Coalition early this year, estimated that these overcharges cost consumers at least $1 billion annually.

This is something we can all jump on, and quite frankly I hope the Jesse squawks. I happen to know an official at Toyota and she tells me that when Jesse says jump, American Toyota oils up the pogo stick.

On the personal note, even though I clock big figures, my FICO score is somewhere around 3 out of a possible 1000, due to my back tax issues. Nevertheless I have had fairly decent relations with Ford Motor Credit, GMAC, Volkswagen Credit and some other third rate finance company. I know I've had my stuff marked up, and I know exactly when the dealer is doing it, but I really don't complain because I actually do have lousy credit. Besides, I don't buy new cars. The way I see it, depreciation is a bigger ripoff than credit markups. Nevertheless, I see this as a big issue and I do want to get a sense of blackfolks experiences with credit departments.

On the whole, Ford Motor Credit was best with us. We got the best rates and service from them.

Here's the report.
Download file

It's important to understand that what's going on here is not directly Honda's fault. Honda dealers are the ones who have the discretion to make these markups. They are both biased in doing so and exceeding the limits recommended by Honda. So there are names that can be named and dealerships that can be identified in this scam. Still, it is Honda's responsibility. They hand pick their dealers. Dealer Associations should also crack down, they will ultimately pay the price.

I'm interested to know how much black radio will get involved in this matter. They should start seeing some conciliatory advertising dollars. At least if I was a black radio station manager I would be using this discovery to my advantage.

Posted by mbowen at 12:57 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Quaker Decisions

Paul Kingston writes about an alternative way of deliberation which is fascinating.

The prototype I've been into is an attempt to provide a web space for business meetings on the Quaker model. You may well know that this is characterised by not (ever) using voting, and by trying to avoid individuals developing personal positions. In a Quaker business meeting all those present are trying to "perceive the will of God" in the matter before the meeting. So the challenge is to enable people's contributions to float free (a contribution, not a position) and to support the process by which the clerk of the meeting produces a minute, and that minute is refined towards agreement. The Quaker model of business meeting has characteristic advantages (and disadvantages) compared to what I might call the conflict model (state position/negotiate position/win the vote)- particularly, the ability of the meeting to turn on its heel and adopt a very unexpected position (since no-one has built up emotional investment in earlier positions). I've heard it suggested by people with more direct experience than I have that the Quaker model is closer to what happens in succesful boardrooms (at least, some succesful boardrooms) than the conflict model.

I think this is brilliant, and I've not considered such things in relation to XR. While I am generically familiar with various 'national' ways of business decision making, this is a new angle. I haven't been able to locate the international business style guide for some time now, so I'll briefly mention them from off the top of my head.

Germans look to a senior expert to architect a solution. Prestige is accorded to those who can closely follow within the strict discipline of an organization or methodology established this 'thought leader'. Dissent is not encouraged. This is what make Germans excellent engineers.

Japanese work in harmony according to plans that are driven by concensus. What is most important is the sanctity of the agreement. Anyone can object. Nothing goes forward until all are satisfied. Once written the plan cannot be altered.

French define the model of conflict. Every idea is battled until the strongest survives. Every nit can be a point of contention.

The American model focuses on the pitch, the resources and the goal. People are assembled and organized any way possible to reach the target. If personalities conflict then they are reorganized or replaced. Decision making is cyclical and may evolve at any time during a project.

Chinese work in the context of what assembled people and their relationships can do. In contrast to the American model, the team is most important and relationships between team members are settled before any work is begun. If there are conflict then it changes the goal.

These are very broad brushes of how various cultures organize to accomplish work. As I said there is more real research in this area but I cannot remember where I found it.

Posted by mbowen at 12:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 08:30 AM | TrackBack

Debunking Black Socialism: Part Two


Cosby's dressing down of black youth and his suggestions for their
uplift reveals the bankruptcy of the black bourgeoisie and their
outright subservience to their capitalist masters. Viewpoints on
what is success and how to go about achieving success are always
stamped with the brand of a particular class.

Ever since the black masses stepped up from slavery, the black
bourgeoisie has made the quest for education the centerpiece of its
program to uplift the race. No doubt, this was tempered by the white-
supremacist denial of education for the black masses on the one
hand, and the great and glorious desire and struggle of the Afro-
American masses to learn by any means necessary. Our history is
replete with gallant efforts to learn to read and educate ourselves,
even though illegal and often in the face of death and torture by
our white supremacist oppressors. And still we rise!

No clear thinking person has ever advocated that the Afro-American
masses cannot use education in the sense of basic tools of learning
and discourse. No clear thinking person will ever deny that
education can be a powerful weapon in our struggle for justice. On
the other hand, education is also a weapon to maintain our
exploitation and oppression when it is used to keep us within the
limits proscribed by our exploiters. As demonstrated by Cosby and
Colin Powell, our history is checkered with educated black's whose
main function (consciously or unconsciously) is to keep us confused
and subservient to capitalism.

Interesting twist, and certainly true, but let me suggest a clear dichotomy between justice and education. Certainly education can be used as a tactic for justice, dumb folks get had. But education can be valuable in and of itself regardless of its service to justice. Socialists are always directing education towards the purposes of social justice and Capitalists are always directing education towards the purposes of commerce. Why don't we just leave education towards the purposes of enlightenment and say that it's good for its own sake?

So the question is not are we for education? The question is how do
we define success? This is where the black working class departs
from the black bourgeoisie.

Good. They ought to.

Who is Cosby admonishing? The vast majority of black youth (although
influenced by it to some degree) do not exhibit the worse features
of reactionary bourgeois culture. The vast majority of black youth
do go to school, do attempt to learn to read, write and speak the
king's English, do listen to adults around them to get a good
education, and when able, do go to work 9-5. And despite this, black
youth are still the special targets of the repressive state
apparatus, suffer disproportionate incarceration and become ensnared
in the justice system, suffer mad unemployment, suffer bad schools,
housing and health-care. enough to make you wanna holler. Where has
the striving for bourgeois respectability gotten black youth and the
Afro-American people? And dont black youth see the hypocrisy and
lying of the racist-capitalist system? Of course they do. No wonder
they are so rebellious! The problem is they suffer bad political
leadership. Their rebellious spirit is not being channeled into
righteous struggle against the system of oppression.

Here Washington repeats himself for emphasis. But he adds the point about one more horrible bit of suffering - bad political leadership. Meaning what? Bad for whom?

Since Cosby is not admonishing the majority of black youth, and in
effect telling us something that we already know and have been
concerned about, the main effect of Cosbys dissin is to smuggle in
the black bourgeois outlook and program on the direction of the
black liberation movement. Cosbys berates a small segment of black
youth because he knows that the more backward elements in the black
community and those who cannot see through his thoroughly bourgeois
ass will be giving him right-ons. But the class conscious black
worker is not fooled.

First of all, liberation is not an issue. If you are working class then you are already liberated. If you can afford the luxury of a union and a steady paycheck, oppression is not your problem. If you buy clothes that you expect expresses your personality, then you are middle class. Liberation is a matter of concern when there are human rights violations at hand. Enfranchisement is a matter of establishing and maintaining civil rights. Empowerment is what comes next. That means the politics of social power - meaning beneficiaries are already liberated and enfranchised. Affirmative Action is an empowerment strategy. It means you can survive without it, but you want to climb higher.

Because the bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie's relationship to the
means of production is individual, they inevitably see their
advancement as an individual struggle, accomplishment and or
failure. Consequently this gives rise to individualism as their
world-outlook. They make it or break it based upon their individual

For example, take the small lawyer or any other professional. They
succeed or fail mainly on their own individual effort. If they fail
to become big-time lawyers it's because they were not smart enough,
did not have the right connections, did not study enough, etc. Their
success or failure is viewed as an individual thing. Since their
relationship to the means of production is primarily individual,
their outlook is essentially individualistic. They suffer from what
we call the bourgeois or petty-bourgeois individualistic world
outlook. Success is an individual endeavor.

Contrast them with the working class. Our conditions of life are
such that our relationship to the means of production (how we go
about making our living, earning our subsistence) is social, not
individual. Since our conditions of work are social, that is, we
work collectively with other workers to earn our keep, we develop a
more collective outlook on how to achieve success.

Workers develop whatever outlook suits them. In any case, they are more likely to be indoctrinated directly or indirectly by the actions of management since they voluntarily subject themselves to collectivism. If they would start being more human instead of just being a 'worker' then they would come to understand the reponsibilities of management as well. They might come to appreciate what it means to be on the generating side of payroll than simply on the consuming side. But theirs is a voluntary indenture to the collective which they will never escape until they assume the burdens of enterprise.

So long as people see it in their self-interest to do so, they will. But that doesn't invalidated individualism. We support multiple classes in America. If individuals in the working class choose to renounce their individualism, it's their individual choice. Washington suggests that African Americans don't have that choice.

The days are gone when we as a worker labored in our own homes or
shop to produce our keep. The days of the individual producer are
long gone. There was a time when you worked in your own home or shop
producing shoes. As an independent shoe-maker, or weaver, or
spinner, etc., your success appeared to be based upon your own
individual effort. Capitalism put an end to that state of affairs.
By running the independent producer out of business, gathering them
all under one roof, and implementing a division of labor, the
capitalist system has made production social in character as opposed
to individual. Now the former peasant who used to farm his own plot,
or the former shoe maker, who used to make the whole shoe, now makes
only the tongue, along-side another worker who makes the heel, etc.
Capitalist owners, expropriated the small producer, gathered them
all under one roof, put us an assembly line, and now world-wide
production is social in character. Nothing is produced individually
anymore neither cars, telephones, shoes, furniture, nor computers.
This social character of work, this collective work, forces the
worker to think collectively. The outlook of the working class is
fundamentally collective in nature unlike the conditions of the
petty-bourgeois our life conditions forces us to think collectively.

Obviously Mr. Washington has absolutely no clue about the nature of the software industry, or publishing or the role of the entrepreneur for that matter. Pshaw.

Why is this important? Just like success to the black petty-
bourgeois and black bourgeoisie is determined by their class
position, success to black workers is determined by our class
position. Because our conditions of work, and therefore of life
(since work and how you go about achieving your means to get by is
the most fundamental aspect of your life), are collective and social
in nature, our success can only be collective and social in nature.

Just so long as you qualify that 'we', then 'we' don't have a problem with this.

For example, if a worker wants to increase his or her standard of
living, he must get more wages, more vacation time, more health
benefits, etc. from his employer. Any individual worker who walks
into a bosses’ office can either beg for more or demand more.
any rate, they will probably be laughed out of the office, because
the bosses have no fear of an individual worker in a workplace of
many. The worker can only advance his own interests by uniting with
other workers and making the struggle a collective or social one.
This eventually gives rise to, necessitates and promotes a more
collective or social world outlook. This is why we say that the
outlook of the working class is collective because we can only
advance our individual interests in a collective manner. This is the
experience of workers the world over. This is the material basis for
the working class to form trade-unions, engage in strikes, and
bargain collectively, for only by collectively confronting our enemy
employers can we advance our individual interests. The workers sink
or swim as a class. Not as individuals. Success for the working
class must be viewed collectively.

This is very likely to be the case for relatively low-skilled positions. And it has been the dominant paradigm for generations. What labor collectivists are having extraordinary difficulty with are several important changes. The first is that management in a number of industries is much more advanced and responsive in every way. And yet there remain some industries where no change has occurred or that no change is possible. I could speak at length about this but I'll summarize it thusly. Nobody who works at Amazon.com wants a union, that's because the management there is loved. Washington's worldview only makes sense in the retarded industries where management is hated. This is a shrinking world, and his inability to see or recognize that all labor that isn't collectivized isn't managed by the same kind of retards he is accustomed to.

Do the workers have petty-bourgeois and bourgeois outlooks and
ideas? Of course they do. But these ideas are alien to our class
interests and needs. And when the workers do act individually and
selfishly they are not acting in their own class interests.

The question is whether Mr. Washington will chain them in place in the working class or let them be free to get uppity.

The workers are bombarded daily by the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois
world outlook. The newspapers, the movies, the television, the
schools and universities, the churches, the music, etc, are of
course owned and controlled by the bourgeoisie and are their sources
to bombard the working class with their backward ideas and
ideology. In addition, the working class is not walled off from the
petty-bourgeois in society. They are all around us. The brother or
aunt who made it; friends and old school-mates; even the worker
right beside you that had a couple of years of college and got
steeped in the petty-bourgeois ideal and now brings that outlook to
the job. The most glaring example of the worker infected with the
petty-bourgeois individualist outlook is the one who doesn't want to
join the union, who will the cross the picket line, and who will
snitch on his co-workers in the hope of currying favor from the

Class mobility has always been frightening to people who cannot handle change.

While the black bourgeoisie calls on us to get a good education, act
proper and maybe one day we can make it, the reality is otherwise.
Black youth and the black working class can only rise as a class.
Only by building a revolutionary black youth and black workers
movement aimed at the fight for socialism can we advance the
interests of the vast majority of us. Success for black workers and
black youth is not an individual thing. That kind of thinking and
program would have us still drinking from colored only fountains and
will keep us tied to the Democratic Party and oppressed by the
system of capitalism forever.

And there it is. You are black forever, you are working class forever, you cannot be bourgie unless you were born bourgie and the racist-capitalists won't let you become anything else but part of the black working class masses. Even though Washington admits that Cosby is giving his best advice, the advice that works for Cosby, to blacks down the economic ladder, Washington would have them ignore it. Why? Because it can't work for the masses! He rejects upward mobility through individual initiative and insists that it must take place through collective rebellion.

This is why the black bourgeoisie with the support of their white
capitalist masters keep forcing the respectable bourgeois positive
role model down the throats of the masses. Every time that we turn
around some knee-grow lawyer, entertainer or athlete is being pushed
in our faces as someone to be like. They especially love to promote
black athletes and entertainers to our impressionable youth. As
someone said, we dont need their positive role models, we need
revolutionary role models.

Of course you need them. There are none around. There's a good reason for this.

The capitalist system will always allow for an individual here and
there, to blow up and make it. We are bombarded daily with the
success stories of Colin Powell or Puff Diddy. BET devotes a whole
program to the worship of entertainers who made it How I'm Livin?But
the reality for the vast majority is always different. The interest
of the vast majority can only be advanced in a collective struggle
demanding the strongest unity and organization. Like the lottery,
one winner is always necessary to keep the masses losing. The
masses can only advance by keeping our eye on the prize, not by star-

This is babbling. The difference between 38k a year and 75k a year is significant. The difference between 75k a year and 110k a year is significant. The difference between 110k and 160k a year is significant. None of those brackets are rich. Bourgie advice can make the difference, collective action will never make the difference.

Success for black youth and the black working class will only come
as a result of a unified and determined struggle against the system
of exploitation, which in the end, is the only way that our hopes,
dreams and aspirations, for a life made possible by the best that
technology, the human spirit and our labor can produce. The
individualistic, careerist outlook of the black bourgeoisie must be
thoroughly defeated. No one has “made it” if the rest
of us are
catching hell.

It is a hell Washington is determined to maintain a padlock on with as many blacks as possible locked in. He conceptualizes the economy in fixed, zero-sum terms and fails to deal with the improvement of management, the birth of new industries and business models, class and geographic mobility, the expansion of the middle class and the role aggregated intelligence plays in the shape of both the labor market and new demands of it. He is dumbing down workers and forcing an ideological divide between employees and their genuine understanding of the rules by which their companies operate.

Worse yet he assigns a permanent working class status to blacks and steers them away from the kinds of advice that could raise their standards of living for the sake of a bogus revolutionary posture. He is leading his masses to devalue themselves as individual actors in a dynamic market by fixing their hopes and values for their families outside of their own families and into the hands of those like himself.

If he doesn't realize what he's doing, it's a disgrace. If he does, it's a crime.

Posted by mbowen at 02:14 AM | TrackBack

The African Problem

Posted by mbowen at 12:03 AM | TrackBack

July 28, 2004

Empire in Decline

baby.bmpWhy do I have a creepy feeling that the first country with enough nerve to land an army on American soil is going to rip right through? Maybe it's this headline from MSN.com today. I try not to forget that Thirds are robust. So why do we let puff journalists waste our brainspace with such notions.

Avery was talking about teenage pregnancy. My fundamental argument is that God didn't make mistakes. If a human body can get pregnant, then how can that be wrong? But we have to balance the complications of American society. The problem is not that teenage girls want to have babies - there's almost no wrong reason to want to bear a child, but that our economy will squash the mess out of those who can't deal.

I would like to believe that there is some town in Alabama where you can buy a house with running water, electricity, gas heat, cable tv and sewage hookups for 40k, and that within commuting distance there's a job that pays 18k/year. Lots of people from around the world would love to get to that place, and most everybody I ever knew in my social circles would avoid it like the plague. That's just fine. At least we'd know where there's an economy for teen mothers. Forget welfare, just buy them a bus ticket. I don't know how, but I'd like to quantify this distribution problem and then push towards rectifying it. It's my mama's logic: "There's a time and a place for everything." Surely America is big enough a place to have enough such places.

But if every malltown we build has to be brand spanking new and every new house has to be 250k; if every old town has to die and every downscale gig has to be sucked into Chennai; if the whole damned world has to be efficient then we're going to have some serious problems. Because human bodies aren't going to stop functioning any time soon. But let me clear, I'm not Malthusian. I accept war. I accept the concept that some lives are cheaper than others.

My point? That baby ain't worth 250k.

Posted by mbowen at 11:05 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Gods of Rap

I can remember when rappers played on the radio called each other 'gods'. Gods of the earth. Do you remember that? It was just a trend.

Posted by mbowen at 10:25 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Fairness and Balance

'Love is the shit that makes life bloom.
You never know when you might step in it.'

-- Michael Franti

Every morning I hit Google News to gather material for the day's thoughts. This morning I noticed that they have different versions. So naturally I accessed the UK version of the page. What a shock.

The entertainment section alone shows why it is that I listen to the BBCs World Service with increasing frequency these days. It's top three headliners: The Bolshoi Ballet, Laurence Olivier and the fine imposed on an X rated satellite feed. US headliners: Jay-Z, Michael Moore & Courtney Love. Where do I sign up for expatriation?

I read a story in the NYT the other day about how many feet of fiber optic cable Verizon had laid for the sake of the Democratic Convention in Boston and the Republican gig in NY. I went on to consider why this is a big news story every four years. It's all about a boondoggle for broadcasters as they build their skyboxes. Remember good old days when you could tell how important a speech was by counting the number of microphones at the podium? That's the recurring theme. Even Al Jazeera is getting in on the madness.

But I don't watch broadcast news. I haven't for about 12 years, and then it was only a steady diet of Charlie Rose. I am hoping that someday there will be a digital subscription service available online so that I can catch the highlights of Charlie Rose as I can with Terry Gross and Brian Lamb. In the meantime, the editor I trust is Google.

Every once in a while, a story pops up in Slate or Salon that's worth reading, especially if its Hitchens or Saletan (whom I much prefer in print than on Day to Day). And it's true that I am just as likely to read the WSJ and the NYT for my regular diet. Now that I'm solvent again, I have renewed my subscriptions to Wired and the New Yorker, but I tend to read more of the fiction than I ever have in the latter. But that's about it for print. I sorta miss reading The Economist on the regular. I ought to but I don't.

Instead, my main courses are NPR as I commute two hours a day & eat lunch in my car to hear The World, and the blogosphere. Blogwise, I have travelled in ever narrowing circles. I can't remember the last time I read OxBlog or Volokh. I like Abiola's new format but I don't read enough. Negrophile is still excellent but I only skim. I check out the Conservative Brotherhood mostly, and LA Observed which is annoyingly specific. LA Observed is a perfect blog, it is a fly on the wall that speaks English instead of buzzing self-consciously like most blogflies do. It is local and specific. On the other hand it often smells like the inside of the Beverly Center, full of Westsiders who take the oddest tangents on stories about what is authentic about Los Angeles.

I'm too informed, and my life is relatively devoid of intimacy. It's a strange thing to desire fairness and balance, because the synthetic intelligence of Google provides it best. Yet we must be anchored in the desparately unique, or at least this is part of the lesson I am taking from three films that are on my mind these days, I Robot, Speilberg's A.I. and Minority Report. That desparation, that small circle, that intimacy is what gives us pain - the inescapable pain of loneliness, the barren empty feeling of being filled up with the idiosyncrasies of a few co-dependent humans. That gotta get outta here urgency of emotional stuffiness and lack of fresh oxygen. That's the crud that makes us biased and subjective. That's flavor, like built up carbonized chicken fat in a rusty iron smoker, we heat up and pass it on to the next raw recruit to be roasted over the coals of life.

I don't like our shit. I don't like Jay-Z or Michael Moore or Courtney Love. I don't want their flavor in my life. But I know this means I am rejecting humanity, sacrificing intimacy for some supernal plane of thought. As I stepped out of the shower this morning, it suddenly occurred to me that my life was truly altered the first time I saw Visicalc. A spreadsheet changed my life. I love numbers. I love economics. I build financial data warehouses for a living. I made a database yesterday that ranked 500 retail stores by the percentage of returned merchandise. The highest was 11.83%. The lowest was a store in Alaska with 2.71%. The query came back in under 3 seconds.

I'm going to work now. I'm late. I'll be listening to NPR in my car. I don't want to because they're only going to rehash the naive hope of the millions of Courtney Love, Jay-Z and Michael Moore fans who listened with rapt attention and applause as Barack Obama publically praised everything about John Kerry except the moles on his bung. Who knows what the credentialled bloggers will report? I'll turn to AM for a moment, suffer through commercials about mattresses and calcium supplements done in nasally voices, then I'll turn it off. Or play my same favorite four songs off the Bad Plus CD once again.

You know it's really too bad I don't know anybody who's 26 and could fuck my brains out. I might be in a better mood. Then again, I've already seen 'Lost In Translation' and I know that's how it goes. I'm too thoughtful, sensitive and responsible for nutbusting abandon, besides it would cause me to make funny faces and strange sounds and you never know who's watching. On the other hand, this kind of mood somehow makes my comic better.

Posted by mbowen at 08:21 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 06:59 AM | TrackBack

July 27, 2004

New Mission

Posted by mbowen at 11:32 PM | TrackBack

July 26, 2004

Afro-Netizen at the DNC

I will endeavor to bear the strain of listening attentively as Chris Rabb, proprietor of the AfroNetizen and kind blogroll subscriber wends his way through Boston this week. Seeing as he is representing black blogdom to the world, I think we owe him a small debt of gratitude - especially if he drives more traffic. In fact, I am counting on him to.

Aside from that, once again I am green thinking, why didn't I think of that? But on second thought, I'm really not hot to go to the RNC, even though I'd like to hang out in the Big Apple for a while. It's been too long. The point is that it is a blog moment and anything that the mainstream press can do to bleed a bit of their attention onto this intellectual marvel known as the blogosphere is all to the good. What's even better is that we have an army of second-guessers who are ready willing and able to talk about the look and feel of the place without all the journalistic masking. Lovely.

We're rapt over here Rabb. Go get 'em.

Posted by mbowen at 04:12 PM | TrackBack

Roboto Redux

I finally saw I Robot this weekend. It had a weird balance between action and sci-fi. Were it not such a shameless vehicle for Will Smith it might have been a more interesting entertainment. For some reason, the phrase 'Cool Pose' kept flashing in the back of my head as I watched his character.

Anyway, I Robot was somehow a bit less interesting than the concept of 'We Robots' embedded in the story. The more I think about the extraordinary logical frame upon which all the macho junk of 'I Robot' hangs, the more disappointed I am in the film. The dramatic exploitation of these concepts was completely subordinated to Smith's left bicep, which turns out to be the movie's only interactive allusion to human sexuality of which the film is otherwise devoid. Not familiar with the original story (hard to believe ain't it?) I found the revolutionary hook fairly interesting. The idea that one race of robots would war against another for the right to take care of humanity is fascinating. The film's director decided to embed these revelations deep into action, so that instead of close-ups on the stars' faces as dialog is revealed, Will Smith gets to punch somebody with his bionic arm, or burn rubber on his motorcycle. You might watch the film and completely miss this concept, instead reacting to the idea that the robots have declared a curfew on humans as a power grab for a bogus emergency.

But the emergence of synthetic consciousness is not bogus. It's actually more dramatically and sweepingly (implied) in this story than it is in 'AI'. The great revelation of this story is that robots have come to the inescapable logic that human sacrifice is a necessary component of human freedom. Instead of languishing as sentient pets to be humiliated and destroyed, Asimov's robots take command of human philosophy and push it to its logical conclusions. Devoted as they are to the purpose of human freedom, they are willing to take some away to deliver larger hunks of it to the masses.

In such a world, who would want to be the head of a large multinational? It would be a huge risk to be evaluated with precision by the degrees of freedom your enterprise creates or destroys on a global scale. Heh, shades of 'Robocop', the head dog is whooped by the robocop technology he built.

So let me go ther and bring back the other stuff I was talking about. I last asked to think not of robots in this film, but 'Thirds', my newspeak vocab-bite for Third Worlders - immigrant grunt workers. The realization of ever polite robots in the film gives humans a sense of entitlement without guilt. Something we don't quite avoid when the people who do our scut work speak a different language. But it's interesting that the kind of symbiosis established in Neal Stephenson's 'The Diamond Age' between the NeoVictorians and the next down class of artisans who make all of the wool, wood, leather and horsey items the Vickies fetishise is not established when there is a language barrier. But with the robots' flawless manners and English, a workable intimacy is taken for granted in I Robot's future.

America is the perfect setting for such an evolution. It suggests that our laziness is useful after all. We will become inventive enough to build and arm agents of our greatest wisdom. Then we can kick back and have a Bud. We can only hope that their pettiness is as transparent to us as ours would be to them.

Posted by mbowen at 03:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Heidegger, Reality TV and Blackness

I've always dug the single idea I know of Heidegger. I found it expressed another way over here.

The philosopher Martin Heidegger pointed out how human beings tend to look at the world as a standing stock of material, ready for us to use. As inventory to be processed into something more valuable. Trees into wood. Animals into meat. He called this world of raw natural resources: bestand. It seems inevitable that people without access to natural bestand such as oil wells or diamond mines, that they’d turn to the only inventory they do have—their lives.

More and more, the bestand of our era is our own intellectual property. Our ideas. Our life stories. Our experience.
What people used to endure or enjoy—all those plot-point events of potty training and honeymoons and lung cancer—now they can be shaped to best effect and sold.

The trick is to pay attention. Take notes.

The problem with seeing the world as bestand, Heidegger said, was it leads you to use things, enslave and exploit things and people, for your own benefit.

With this in mind, is it possible to enslave yourself?

Without going too far in that direction and back to my original premise, I don't think that blackness online has degenerated into a stock premise. Yet I think that it's overwhelmingly clear that the Hiphop nation is precisely an overexploited resource of low ordinal dimensions. The very fact that some of its biggest stars are dead is proof enough. But hiphop is not the only victim of cannibalization, I would venture to say that much of America suffers the same problem. What could be a greater testament to that than our recycling of superhero sci-fi?

Last week on NPR, I heard about a poor woman from a South African township who is suing Disney for the rights to the melody to 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' which her father wrote back in the 40s or 30s. Are we so starved for experience that we must rob the Third World for the stuff that excites? Perhaps. So maybe this explains our constant exploitation of the internal Third World for storytelling material - there is no future. There is only reality enhanced hindsight.

We are the victims of our own curiousity because we fail to physically explore.

Posted by mbowen at 10:35 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

That's Not Funny

What actually is funny is the JibJab version of 'This Land is Our Land'.

What's not funny (but actually could be hilarious) is a photoshopped MLK as Barney the Dinosaur holding hands with a rainbow coalition of ethnics including the JibJab heads singing "I love you, you love me, all Multiculturally". Somebody with skills and time, have at it.

On the other hand this is funny too.

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

The Bullet Test

I thought I would take a moment to remind would be radical leftists about the nature of the country in which we live. This is the country where millions of people will spend money to be entertained by spy fantasies but won't spy. Why? Because we're happy.

This morning I was reminded about the great sacrifices made by Fred Hampton and Mary Clark. One of them was a Black Panther some decades ago. The other fails to register in my rogues gallery of minor celebrity. Nothing annoys leftist radicals so much as the failure of the masses to take up their torches and pitchforks to evict whomever the revolutionary vanguard depicts as public enemy number one. Today it's the cops. They remain aghast that cops get to push civilians around, but that civilians don't push back.

I propose to all would be revolutionaries that you henceforth apply The Bullet Test. In the spirit of Malcolm X, you can vote with your mind or with your gun. The choice is yours.

Cops know better than anybody that they can easily be shot. It doesn't take a whole lot to outnumber police. It happens every day here in Southern California, at the airports, at the beaches, at the parks, and especially during the summertime. But as often as cops are outnumbered and outgunned, they remain in control. Why? Because conditions are insufficient to sustain violent rebellion.

This is something leftists don't seem to understand. Americans are happy. They are quite happy to go to a movie or out to dinner. They stand in line in orderly fashion. They have no reason to revolt and nobody can gin up any that stand the bullet test.

There are no progressive forces, there are only progressive fantasies. Nobody knows, or cares enough about Fred Hampton or Mary Clark to shoot one cop. Nowhere in America will you find anyone bold enough, or dedicated enough. That's how ridiculous and irrelevant Fred Hampton and Mary Clark are. They might be worth a couple dozen emails, or maybe even a freshman seminar. But they're not worth one bullet.

Rapper Chi Ali went to jail for the murder of some kid who owed him $300. In my book that's random idiocy. In any society as large as ours, there will be some number of deaths attributable to freak accidents and random idiocy. Check the Darwin Awards. Left radical militants in this country have no conditions sufficient to raise their profile and threat to the status quo over that of lightning strikes or death by shark attack. I'm more afraid of my bathtub than the threat posed by left militants. So go on ahead with your Geronimo Pratt and Mumia. Spiderman is more real.

In the meantime we have families to protect from random idiots like Chi Ali. Isn't it nice that we have nice cozy jails for them? Meanwhile, we sustain a continual, if tiring dialog with the literary mau-maus who are desparate for their own army - as if they had the leadership skills to maintain control over anything more dangerous than a weinie dog.

Viva Democracy!

Posted by mbowen at 08:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


It takes a little while, but after you read about six articles from Xinhua News Service, you get the taste of government propaganda in your mouth. Man are we lucky. But that does little to dilute the sheer awe inspired by the Three Gorges River Project which is already generating electricity.

In China, they build things.

Posted by mbowen at 06:48 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 25, 2004

Still Black, Still Republican

The other day I see somebody checked up on something I wrote last September. What's changed?

I've voted one time since then. But I've done a great deal of thinking and doing since then. I've helped establish the Conservative Brotherhood and the Keeping It Right Network. I've spoken in defense of Ronald Reagan as a panelist on a radio talkshow and I've been nominated to do grass roots party work for California Republicans. I've even been invited to advertise on this blog for a well-known conservative fundraiser, which I may very well end up doing, despite the fact that I've never done any advertising. In less than a year, I've done more for conservative causes than ever previously, and I'm proud of the work. I feel like I ought to do a lot more, and I'm somewhat ashamed that I don't have the wealth and time to do more.

In the past week I've even listened to Larry Elder on the radio. Something of a serendipitous occurrance I must admit. I have a lot more plans, but before I get into that I want to stress what i just said. I'm proud of the work I have done in support of the Republican Party, the Old School and conservatism. This is what makes all the difference. It has never been about what Republicans can do for me, it's always been about what my doing, my influence, my work, my people, my ideas can do.

Ambra, a sister who is consistently insightful brings up this point early in her gripe against various old institutions:

Growing up, my general understanding of the Republican party was simple: Republicans were evil, white, and to be feared. I'd still say the second and third are mostly true. Listening to family members bad mouth Ronald Reagan and George Bush on a consistent basis didn't give me any motivation to hold them in high regard. Hearing many Republicans referred to as "racist bigots" certainly didn't birth in me any desire to be associated with them in my future adulthood.

What I hear there is the same kind of fear and ignorance that has radial clerics plotting to bomb the US. For all anyone can know who has never been here, America is home to the devil. The longer you watch with an evil eye, the more likely you are to be rewarded. There was once a line from those kooky foreign films I used to digest with abandon. "Any man who hangs outside the door of the woman's bathroom is bound to be disappointed." Sooner or later you'll smell the stink.

Sometimes the best way to get the results you demand are to demand them. So what is it we are demanding from the Republican Party? Nothing. We are simply expecting them to be old, white, racist and evil men. Hell that's easy enough. Take this example. A few folks have capitalized on what this 73 year old man said about 'suppressing the Detroit vote'. Such incidents, as if any of us could find Troy MI on a map, give otherwise intelligent people all the excuses they need to verify the stereotype of Republicans. That's not thoughtful and it's not admirable.

Being as I may become the biggest black Republican Party apparatchik I've ever known or that most people I know have ever known, I would gather that what I have to say might carry a bit more weight. At least that would be my hope. It's a dangerous proposition, this kind of black representation. I both draw to it and recoil from it. But the fact remains that everything I think about blacks and the Republicans are here in plain view and a lot of people don't find me a disagreeable person - liberals and conservatives alike.

I'm not 73, and everything I've written today on this blog I have been writing listening to Stevie Wonder. At this very moment, the title is 'Have A Talk With God'. So I don't see why it's so difficult for folks to recognize how simple this is.

Anyway. Little has changed. I find that I have a greater understanding of conservative thought. Savoir has given way to Connaitre. I find that I have a greater understanding of what is transient sniping and partisan bickering. I have grown more patient with conservatives and less forgiving of liberals and greatly more supportive of those in the middle on the verge of dropping out.

Aluta Continua.

Posted by mbowen at 01:25 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Booker T's Answer

I guess I've been flirting with the answer but perhaps it has been in front of me all this time and I've been ignoring it. Booker T. Washington has the answer, vocational school.

I have been recently extolling the virtues of the Second World. I've been considering the contradiction between equal standards across the board in public education and the economic reality of downscale communities. Darkstar says the choice is obvious and Booker Rising has trackbacked to the question.

So let me stand on a limb and say that vocational tracking is the way to go. If you grow up in a city with a big transportation hub, then a significant proportion of the high schools should be all about truck driving, logistics, container shipping, railroad piggyback systems, warehousing software, inventory systems, supply chaing, Kan Ban and all that rot.

Here's the objection and difficulty. The flow of global capital is very quick, and inaudible to lots of Americans - especially to socialists and teacher's unions. If we are to establish vocational schools, we need some reasonable guarantee that a middle class income is forthcoming in those vocations, otherwise we undermine the premises of free public education. If we hedge our bets, then all we'll be producing are butchers, bakers and candlestick makers and devaluing the labor market. So what happens if the transportation hub moves two counties away?

It may not be that way. There may be some industries (and I guess I picked the one) where it's not so easy to rip up and move offshore. I mean nobody is ever going to replace the Long Beach Harbor or the Burlington Northern. And as I said, there's always work at FedEx. However our relative amounts of trade with the Pacific Rim might decline.

But this necessitates that our educational system is as fast as global capital. It needs to be accellerated to adopt as quickly as the world it trains students for changes. We can do this. First step, get rid of the SAT.

Posted by mbowen at 12:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 12:23 PM | TrackBack

Debunking Black Socialism: Part One

Perhaps some of this is coherent, but it represents the kind of nonsense that is out there. I can't assume that it is as self-evidently wrongheaded to everyone as it is to me, so I guess I'll have to take it apart bit by bit here. My counter is in bold.

A Reply to Bill Cosby: Only Socialism Can Save Black Youth



by Ron Slim Washington

Black Telephone Workers for Justice

The arrogance of the black bourgeoisie was on display again as Bill
Cosby utilized the PUSH platform (co-signed by Jesse Jackson and
Judge Greg Mathis!) to continue his condemnation and criticism of
black youth. Refusing to bow to public criticism of his prior
statements on black youth at the NAACP Brown v. Board of Education
anniversary function, Cosby, puffed out his chest and took it to
black youth again…accusing them of not being able to read or
write, cursing, calling each other niggers and going nowhere. Cosby,
a chief spokesman for the black bourgeoisie, called on us to stop
blaming the white man for our own anti-social behavior.

What makes this story interesting is the struggle to find the truth
in the phenomena. Anyone with eyes open can describe social
phenomena. What is difficult is to grasp the context that shapes the
phenomena and in which the phenomena plays out.

One does not have to be a rocket scientist to see the phenomena: the
negative, anti-social and self-hating characteristics of many black
youth. Though not the principal aspect of black youth culture, it's
all around us. So all around us, that it can be described as
systemic. Cosby's description of the most negative cultural and
political aspects of black youth culture is nothing new, and in
fact, something that is talked about in every barber-shop, diner,
work place and community, everyday. It is something that our
community has been talking about and trying to deal with for a long
time. In almost every community one can find community activists of
all sorts attempting to interface with black youth and searching to
find the ways and means to channel black youth's frustrations and
anxieties in a positive direction. From little league and sports
programs, mentoring and afro-centric after school programs, to
numerous stay in school and stop the violence and anti-gang
initiatives, the black community is trying to deal with our youth.
But, of course, divorced from the black community as most black
bourgeoisie are, these positive efforts aren't recognized.

These positive efforts are singly unable to rid the country of this behavior. Only maturity and force handle the anti-social nature of some kids. One can't be rushed, the other can't be unilaterally initiated. So society basically waits for kids to grow up or screw up. This is actually sufficient but it doesn't handle the sentiment that we want black kids to do well. Some may go as far as to say that the 'suvival of the race' depends upon charitable intervention, but the problem is actually not out of control. I can't say how pervasive it is, because I'm bourgie and I don't live in the 'hood. It's not pervasive in my America.

The key question in this debate sparked by Cosby and raging in the
black community (was Cosby right?), is not whether the phenomena
Cosby described is correct, but wherein lies the cause of the
phenomena and where must our principal blows be directed? Should we
blame the system or blame the victim?

The arrogant black bourgeoisie has further revealed its defense of
the capitalist system and counter-revolutionary program in blaming
black youth, the victim. Note that as a reflection of his outright
support for capitalism, Cosby poses the problem as blaming the white-
man. By not posing the problem as blaming the system, he effectively
lets the capitalist system off the hook and like a pulling-guard
runs interference for it.

I will inject at this point that a socialist has a vested interest in blaming capitalism. I will defend capitalism as a capitalist, but keep in mind that not everything that is wrong with dysfunctional youth is economic in origin. Socialist countries have laws against theft too. So what is it that lands bad kids in jail? These are offenses against their own communities which cannot be labeled as agents of the capitalist system. (I haven't read this thing to the end, I can just smell it coming.)

The class conscious black worker recognizes that the current and
historical anti-social and negative aspects of black culture in
general and black youth culture in particular is a result of
capitalist exploitation and national oppression. The system is the
principal cause of our misery and how we respond to that misery. No
matter how repulsive and negative the anti social behavior may
appear, they can only be resolved by the destruction of the system
causing the behavior, that is, the capitalist system itself. Any
other view is hopelessly utopian and ultimately serves to throw dust
in our eyes as to what our principal task must be. In addition, the
negative aspects of our culture can only be transformed in struggle
against the system of exploitation. As will be shown later, black
youth overcome reactionary bourgeois culture and forge a new culture
only in the fight against the system. Only the complete overthrow of
the capitalist bourgeoisie, its expropriation and the rule of the US
multi-national working class can bring an end to the suffering and
anti-social behavior of black youth. Only socialism can save black

OK so there it is. Youth automatically rebel against The System. True enough, but they rebel against any and every system. This adolescent rebellion is not world historical and its impulse is not born of wisdom but confusion. This is why youth only lead youth, not adults.


The anti-social behavior, worship of the most reactionary features
of bourgeois culture and the internal contradictions amongst the
people are nothing new to Afro-American people. Throughout our
history in the US, in every period of our history, certain sections
of our community, particularly the most exploited and oppressed
workers, poor farmers and share-croppers have exhibited anti-social
behavior born of oppression. Remember how back in the day, the black
bourgeoisie castigated black workers and poor farmers for gambling,
drinking, fighting and fornicating on Friday nights in the most
dangerous sections of the black community. Remember how the black
bourgeoisie, striving for respectability in the eyes of white-folk
dissed black workers and country folk for not being a credit to our
race, and blamed them for bringing down the race. This modern day
Cosby/Jackson black bourgeoisie is singing the same old tune. E.
Franklin Frazier (The Black Bourgeoisie) where are you when we need

This is a sketchy proof but I'll allow it. Sure every group exhibits anti-social behavior, but is it born of oppression? Is it a conscious decision? You have to ask the basic question are poor people anti-social because they are poor or because they are anti-social? You would have to establish a benchmark, I think, against those who have bought into the dominant system. If you argue that the System is corrupt is it because the system, you have to prove that it's not the fault of anti-social people running the System. See? Suge Knight is a crook whether he's the head of Death Row Records, or just another brother on lockdown. Similarly Skip Gates is a sweet guy whether he's teaching at Harvard or a skinny kid from the Piedmont. Does buying into Capitalism (or Socialism for that matter) as an economic system necessitate a change in moral character. I say no. Washington says yes. Socialists aren't necessarily immoral, they're just stupid.

What is key to understand, is that not only the Afro-American
people, but all people who suffer exploitation and oppression
develop anti-social traits specific to their historical situation.
We can look at the history of the oppressed Cuban people and what
went on in some to the worst sections of Havana; the history of the
oppressed Algerian people and what went on in the Casbah, described
in the writings of Frantz Fanon and illustrated in the Battle of
Algiers; the history of the negative anti-social behavior that
existed in Soweto and Johannesburg; and in the poorest sections of
Shanghai prior to the Chinese revolution. What is important to
understand is that it is the system of oppression and exploitation
that breeds the anti-social behavior, and only in the fight for
national liberation and socialism can the behavior be changed and
the new man/woman be forged. Survey the literature on the history of
white workers in the US, and you will find that some of the most
vehement bourgeois criticism was heaped upon the anti-social and
negative social behavior of Irish and Italian workers when they
first migrated to this country and were forced into the Irish and
Italian ghettos.

Yeah yeah yeah.

When we look at the situation in the US, the negative aspects of
reactionary bourgeois culture amongst black youth are not accidental
nor an aberration. What you find in LA is what you find in Detroit.
What you find in Atlanta is what you find in NYC. What you find in
Newark is what you find in Birmingham. In short its systematic. And
if the anti-social behavior is systematic then it stands to reason
that it must have a systematic cause. For us, the question is
whether the systematic cause is the system of capitalism or
own failings as a people as our enemies would have us believe, and
which is now being trumpeted by the black bourgeoisie. Our enemies,
from day one, from apologists for slavery to apologist for
capitalism have always claimed that our lack of morality, our lack
of a desire to work, our laziness, our failure to value education
and hard-work, our single-parent house-holds, our bad grammar, etc.,
are the reasons for the conditions that we find ourselves in. From
Moynihan to Cosby, this is the same old song, sung to defend the
system of exploitation. The class conscious black worker rejects
this propaganda.

A clever conflation. If you are capitalist, then you are racist and vice versal. Washington's inability to distinguish the critiques don't make his point.

Overcoming the worst features of reactionary bourgeois culture for
black youth and the Afro-American people in general will come as a
result of bringing the youth and workers into revolutionary struggle
against the system of oppression and exploitation. Unity, a thirst
for knowledge, compassion and respect for our people (the vast
majority of workers), will come as a result of struggle to transform
the system. Only in this way will we transform ourselves.

Or you could go to college.

This is the third time I've let this 'reactionary bourgeois culture' slide by unidentified. It would be nice to have an example of this so we could all gasp in horror. What is this? The guy who puts spinning rims on his SUV and talks about the guy with ordinary rims? Are we in a struggle against the capitalism of Sprewell?

Just looking back at our most recent history proves the above point.
When we look back nostalgically at the 60's as a high point in the
struggle for unity in our community, we remember it was a time when
we called each other brother and sister, spoke of serving and
defending our community, and fought for respect for every member of
our community. The fight against the remnants of Jim Crow, police
brutality, unemployment and all of the other ills that were
manifestations of racism and capitalist oppression brought millions
of black youth into struggle. It was in the course of struggle
against the system that black youth began to leave the street
corners and the negative life-style and take up the fight against
bourgeois individualism and the dog-eat-dog pursuit of capitalist
materialism. How to serve the black community and black people?
became the call to which black youth responded. In many communities,
former gang members became political. Thousands of black youth
joined the Black Panther Party, the Simba's, revolutionary high
school and college organizations, and thousands of local community
organizations. In the course they began to develop a new black
community that had not existed since Reconstruction and the Harlem
Renaissance. Thousands of black youth selflessly quit colleges and
universities and went south to develop the black liberation struggle
or took up the struggle in their local communities. Black youth
remade themselves in the course of attempting to remake the world.
In the course of active participation in the black liberation
movement they helped to remake many black communities that for a
brief period served as hotbeds of political activity and models for
our future. Black youth developed a new attitude toward black women,
and began to refer to them as sisters and comrades in struggle.
Motivated by fighters such as Malcolm X, the struggle even went so
far in many political circles as to place the Black woman on a
pedestal as the Mother of Civilization.

There's a big fat nostalgic paragraph. It's more true that folks like my father and Ron Karenga were in a battle for the vanguard against Negroes, specifically those Christian Negroes who were considered anti-intellectual and 'counter-revolutionary'. The revolutionary consciousness they attempted to created was a challenge. It wasn't so much a gracious agenda as it is said in retrospect - it was more like 'join or die'. Like all radicals, everyone looked forward to some apocalypse that would divide the righteous from the rabble. The apocalypse never came, and 'brothers and sisters' accepted ony the more reasonable aspects of the new consciousness. I was a Simba, and there weren't even dozens of us. We black youth followed not because our inherent rebellion recognized the perfect parallel with the Struggle, we simply followed what our parents told us to do.

Black youth in thousands of communities across the country began to
put community and serving the people first, and going for self
second. The popular model of emulation in the black community, the
numbers running, Cadillac driving, conk-headed, immaculately
dressed, drug dealing, diamond on the pinkie, womanizing pimp began
to be rejected as a model for black youth and was considered played
out. We all remember the merciless criticism leveled at that life-
style by Malcolm X and the NOI. We all remember the call by forces
from every section of the black liberation movement to clean up our
communities. Swept up in the upsurge of the black liberation
movement, black youth began to re-define their world-outlook and
value system. Thirsty for knowledge, black youth began to study in
order to take part in the community discussions on fighting the
system. Black youth (many coming home from the racist-imperialist
war against the Vietnamese people) began to develop ritual
handshakes as a way of expressing the new found unity and sense of
brotherhood in the black community. Black Panthers and Simba's in
the black community, the Young Lord's in the Puerto Rican community,
the Brown Beret in the Chicano community, swept up in the fight
against racism and capitalism posed a direct challenge to the anti-
social behavior of the pimp and pimp culture. The movement became
cool to black youth. The influence was so great the even Superfly
now had to find a way to justify his anti-social behavior as serving
the community and fighting the MAN.

If you say so.

With the setbacks in the popular movement and the all around
fragmentation of the revolutionary movement, black youth are once
again without revolutionary leadership and consequently subject to
being won over to the worst influences of reactionary bourgeois
culture. In the absence of a revolutionary movement and a
revolutionary role models, Snoop-Doggie-Dog (Superfly 2000) and
Nellie (Pimp Juice) have set black youth back twenty years. But even
these popularly recognized backward role models don't do as much
damage to the black liberation movement as that done by the
bourgeois and petty-bourgeois role models promoted by the Cosby/
Jackson capitalist collaborators. Only a revolutionary youth
movement aimed at the fight for socialism and national liberation
can bring a halt to the current state of affairs.

The Boy Scouts of America fight against Nelly and Snoop Dog. So do Catholic Alter boys, Christian camp counselors, and church youth of all stripes. So do high school football teams, cheerleading squads, Four H clubs, Girl Scouts and Campfire Girls. The fight for socialism is not the sole font of decent morals, righetousness, and good citizenship. At the public elementary school my kids attend, everybody understands that Character Counts. It's hardly revolutionary and not even socialist. But if we have (finally) come to describe this 'reactionary bourgeois culture' as best exemplified by Snoop and Nelly, why didn't you say so 2000 words ago?


Black youth have a great and glorious history of rebelling against
the system of exploitation and oppression and consequently have been
special targets for capitalist repression both political and

It's not great and glorious. Further, their is nothing so special about youth culture that makes it a target of capitalists except for the disposable income they spend. Military? You must be smoking.

Though not the main or leading force, black youth have always played
an important and at times a vanguard role in the fight for black

Following their parents.

Historically denied access to education and work, humiliated by
white chauvinism and racism, targeted for police repression, etc.,
black youth in every historical period have rebelled against the
system. Could it be any other way?

How about we leave the crypto-socialist codewords out and say that black people have always struggled to improve their position in society? No, it could not be any other way. We have the example of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman who struggled for freedom and justice long before there was any such idea as Marxism

Black labor has been an essential need of the capitalist system.
It's widely understood that the slave trade was one of the essential
components of the development of the capitalist system throughout
the world. And it's even more widely understood that slavery in the
US was essential to building the wealth of the US that we know
today. The need and drive for cheap black labor, the super-
exploitation of black labor, has been and continues to be the major
factor determining the fate and situation of black people in
America. Last hired and first fired; relegated to the cheapest and
dirtiest of jobs, forced to live in the most used and dilapidated
housing and communities; having our history distorted and our
culture denigrated; and subject to extreme forms of legal and
illegal repression and incarceration, are the necessary results of a
systematic attempt to maintain the majority of black people as a
source of cheap labor for this capitalist machine.

I resist the temptation to break this paragraph up, but it betrays a determined ignorance of markets and attribution of willfullness to a centrally controlled 'System' which is directed by racist principles. There is no centrally directed capitalist machine.

Black youth are exceptionally vulnerable to the rapaciousness of
capitalism. For example, unemployment is a permanent and inevitable
feature of capitalism. You can't have capitalism without
unemployment! And it doesn't matter what your educational and skill
level may be. Capitalism cannot employ everyone because the very
nature of capitalist accumulation makes many workers superfluous on
the one hand, and the existence of a large surplus of workers
without jobs and willing to work for anything is a weapon to hold
down the wage levels of those that are working. Many of us are
familiar with the history of capitalists attempting to use
unemployed black workers to break strikes of white workers back in
the day. All of us are familiar with our bosses’ daily threats
us to act right or he will hire someone off the street that will
gladly take less than what he is paying us.

You can't have unemployment without a minimum wage. But we are deep into socialist fundamentalist territory. I dont' have the time to unwind all of that thinking, even in this massive post.

Black workers always suffer the worst effects of unemployment.
Whatever the unemployment rate for white workers you can almost
double it to find the rate for black workers. For black youth, the
rate is sometimes four or five times the normal rate. We joke in the
black community about not knowing full employment since slavery. The
cause is the system.

An old canard. For someone so class conscious, you'd think Washington would break down something as simple as unemployment figures by class and education level. Blacks with the same educational achievements as non-blacks have unemployment levels which are comparable. Neither of us brings stats to this.

Since the effects of capitalist exploitation falls heavily on black
youth, we all know that without a job, you gon do crime. Without a
job black youth are forced into extra legal activity and anti-social
behavior. In addition, as a focus of police repression, black youth
are often the most rebellious element in the black community and are
the focus of tremendous police repression. The cause is the system.
It's no accident that the Black Panther Party captured the sentiment
of the black masses by standing up to the police. It's no mystery
that the black rebellions of the recent past were heavily influenced
by revolutionary minded and unemployed black youth. The system is
the cause.

If this were constant across the generations, the appeal of the Black Panthers would be as strong today as it was 30 years ago. But look how clearly, simply and easily he asserts that blacks who are unemployed will be criminals. Tsk. My bet says there are many more 20 year-old losers still mooching off their parents, than on the streets doing crimes to eat.

As part of the capitalist response to rebellious black youth and the
urban rebellions of the recent past, it is widely understood that
the capitalist flooded the black community with drugs. The racially
discriminatory drug laws are the direct cause of the present large
numbers of black youth and men incarcerated or “caught up in
system. This capitalist response served the system well. Imagine how
much more volatile the black community would be if all the young
black men currently in jail were on the street without jobs. The
60's would only have been a dress rehearsal for even greater
contemporary rebellions.

Oh this is a real gem. Supply without demand. The capitalist system also floods the ghetto with Japanese automobiles, Florida orange juice, Chinese cotton, African Kente clothe, plastic toys made in Hong Kong, music from Hollywood, food from Mexico and the list goes on forever. Why? Because people in the ghetto have the money to buy it. If they didn't, nobody would give it away for free. Explain that.

The incarceration of black youth and the army serve to cover up the
real character of unemployment amongst black youth. Add the number
of black youth in prison and in the army to the official
unemployment statistics and the picture becomes a horror. The real
question is why aren't black youth more rebellious? given their
treatment by the capitalist system. And the system's response to the
threat of rebellious black youth: prison, army and the promotion of
reactionary anti-social behavior. Could it be any other way? The
system is the problem. The problem with the spineless Cosbyite black
bourgeoisie is that they want capitalism without its horrors .an

The reason black youth aren't more rebellious is because the conditions do not support revolution. This is the singular fact that all of the trumped up rhetoric of Washington fails to acknowledge. The ghetto functions, albiet strangely, with the efficiency it does because it exists within the greater context of the markets of America. It is permeated by and co-exists with the broad mainstream. It is never too far away from the goods of America. The electricity stays on, the phones always work, the gas pump doesn't run dry, the shelves at the markets are in better shape than any third world country and better than many in the second world. It may be a ghetto, but it is an American ghetto - and that means conditions never get so bad that riots are the order of the day. If they were, then the people would riot, like they did in Los Angeles in 91, like they did in Detroit in 68. But the conditions are not that bad. Repeat. The conditions are not bad enough to sustain open rebellion against society.

The essential irrationality of capitalism is reflected by poverty in
the midst of plenty. You can't have capitalism without the horrors
that result from a system based upon the pursuit of profit above the
pursuit of people's needs. You can't have capitalism without horrors
that come as a result of the ownership of all of society's wealth by
a small hand-full of capitalists whose soul is driven by the pursuit
of profit. You can't have capitalism without unemployment. You can't
have capitalism without war. You can't have capitalism without
exploitation. And given the particular history of US capitalism, you
can't have capitalism without racism and the oppression of the black

Nonsense. American capitalism is sustained by the consumer economy. 2/3 of the GDP is all about the goods and services that go into the average American home. Light bills, phone bills, gasoline, car payments, groceries, insurance, doctor bills, and all that ordinary stuff. Coming from the 'Black Telephone Workers for Justice' Washington ought to know how much capitalism is all about people talking to each other on the phone. Ooh exploitive!

The entire history of capitalism has demonstrated that the
systematic exploitation it exacts upon the toiling masses, always
bludgeons, beats down, alienates and kills the spirit of the weakest
sections of the working class and oppressed masses. This is an
inevitable horror of the capitalist system. You can't have
capitalism without its horrors.

Which is why we need extraordinary leaders like Washington to remind us of these horrors.
The most disgraceful and reactionary character of the mis-leadership
of the black bourgeoisie is that it attempts to mis-lead the black
masses of working people into believing that our justice can be
achieved within the context of the capitalist system. Hence, Cosby's
attempt to sell black youth the myth, that by dressing correctly,
speaking correctly and black bourgeoisie's sacred cow “getting
good education, black youth will achieve liberation. Only
revolutionary struggle aimed at overthrowing the capitalist system
and the building of socialism with save black youth. Anything else
amounts to throwing dust in the eyes of the youth and amounts to
wishing for capitalism, without its horrors. As Malcolm said, that
won't even happen in Hollywood! Capitalism without exploitation and
oppression is like night without day or a hit by Harold Melvin
without the Blue-Notes. It's the system, baby!

Only revolutionary leaders need education. They will direct the black masses to the proper revolutionary consciousness. Freedom requires the destruction of capitalism. This is a recipe for disaster, not that most people are big enough suckers to believe it.

There's more of this garbage to sift through, but I've had enough for this morning. It's truly sad that the people for whom this tripe is directed may not have a good number of alternatives. We can only hope they check out this website...

Posted by mbowen at 10:18 AM | TrackBack

July 24, 2004

Hitchens on Plame

So it turns out that Bush's caution over Niger's yellowcake trade was justifyable. That's a few too many twists for me to keep up with. Hitchens unmasks the reason the particular law in question was initiated in the first place - to protect a dodgy CIA.

To say this is not to defend the Bush administration, which typically managed to flourish the only allegation made about Niger that had been faked, and which did not have the courage to confront Mr. and Mrs. Wilson in public with their covert political agenda. But it does draw attention to an interesting aspect of this whole debate: the increasing solidarity of the left with the CIA. The agency disliked Ahmad Chalabi and was institutionally committed to the view that the Saddam regime in Iraq was a) secular and b) rationally interested in self-preservation. It repeatedly overlooked important evidence to the contrary, even as it failed entirely to infiltrate jihadist groups or to act upon FBI field reports about their activity within our borders. Bob Woodward has a marvelous encapsulating anecdote in his recent book: George Tenet on Sept. 11 saying that he sure hopes this isn't anything to do with those people acting suspiciously in the flight schools. ... The case for closing the CIA and starting again has been overwhelming for some time. But many liberals lately prefer, for reasons of opportunism, to take CIA evidence at face value.

I've been a big supporter of the CIA all my life, but that doesn't mean I don't prefer the Powell doctrine. I prefer a Department of War to a Department of Defense. Let's be up front about why we're in country and killing - that means Army. The CIA is better used to muck up private enterprise.

Posted by mbowen at 06:03 PM | TrackBack

California Dreamin'

We're sending 531 Americans to Athens. Yee Ha! Lots of Californians. I'll especially be watching for Dain Blanton to capture an unprecedented second gold in beach volleyball. As well, Californian Natalie Coughlin is going to be awesome to watch.

Be For Real
This morning I was listening to Harold Melving & The Blue Notes. Man, they just don't make romantic music like they used to. I wonder if any rap defenders have anything in their arsenal which has songs that express the simple emotion, I miss you baby. Still can't match the Old School though. Yesterday I was listening to all of my favorite rap, includind De La Soul, ATCQ, Black Sheep & Black Eyed Peas. Dres, as a lyricist stands head and shoulder above them all, and interestingly enough he was the only one who used phrases like 'black empowerment'. I wonder if contemporary rappers actually do anything like that. I also lament in passing other native tongues who fell off: Leaders of the New School and Handsome Boy Modeling School. BTW Who is Dante Ross, and now I know what happened to Chi Ali (typical).

Bourne Supremacy
This flick had absolutely nothing to do with the book of the same title. I wonder how they got away with that. Nevertheless the action was pretty superb. It lacked the heart of the first installment and suffers a bit of over-editing, but it delivers some heart pounding drama as Bourne meets someone who can actually take him out. It's closer to the spy's personal paranoia as he wears his own skin with confidence and resolve. This time Bourne is pure Bourne. The double dealing and plot manipulations are toned down and all the focus is on Bourne's relentless talent. I give it a solid B+ for including the most rock-em sock-em car chase this side of Ronin and Bad Boys Two. In a way the chase was a bit reminescent of George Cloony's effort. BTW, this is the first spy flick in memory that makes the computer dweebs seem exactly like that. CSI, and 24 fans, eat your hearts out. It's all about the man on the ground.

Posted by mbowen at 11:59 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Loury's Challenge Revisited

It bears repeating that a central challenge to African Americans is to see the legacy of Brown through. But as we have been discussing in Off Your Knees, there is a serious question as to whether or not ghettoes are ever going to get the resources necessary to become self-sufficient and a credit to the balance sheet of American prosperity.

Glenn Loury, several years ago, encapsulated precisely the entire question of racial justice in an essay that I have kept on my site since then. Entitled 'An American Tragedy', I find it resonates clearly these many years. I have adopted it in its entirety as the way I see the race problem. Ghettoes are designed to be dysfunctional and everything we percieve as wrong with blackfolks may or may not be true, but it is certainly true that no matter who you are, you'll perform worse in the ghetto.

The excerpt I highlight today is really directed at the excuse making that passes for realism when we confront the problems with American public education.

The problem with talk about black culture, black crime, and black illegitimacy, as explanatory categories in the hands of the morally obtuse, is that it becomes an exculpatory device--a way of avoiding a discussion of mutual obligation. It is a distressing fact about contemporary American politics that simply to make this point is to risk being dismissed as an apologist for the inexcusable behavior of the poor. The deeper moral failing lies with those who, declaring "we have done all we can," would wash their hands of the poor.

I have come to the preliminary conclusion that this is part of the core undoing of our society. What we seek in the Old School is the undisputed title of Black, and yet we must fight for that to be a dignified label in light of the degenerate 'culture' promulgated by mass media. Soul Plane is just a lighthearted (benefit of the doubt) tip of the iceberg. It goes without question that successful African Americans like Cosby are indeed Black in all the best ways, and yet masses of African Americans languish relatively speaking. While we all share American culture and the mass influence of the vulgar marks us all, we need to make distinctions of quality and make them stick. We are all Americans and we all share the blame for letting our popular culture be polluted. Michale Powell's crusade at the FCC is too little, too late. We are ignorant. We are vulgar. We are more Fear Factor and less Jeopardy. It's not the fault of our participation, but the fault of our tolerance.

How does the deserving elite, those who have matriculated through talent and persistence - always a minority, insure that what they have become is preserved? It will not suffice to simply write the rest of the population off. All of us must participate in the strongest, most principled aspects of our core culture and values. Without this there is no nation, there is only coercion. If we don't want cast off millions to believe that cash rules everything around them, then we need to mediate our relationships to them via other means.

To my mind that means education is essential. We, who have got, must insure that those who don't got, can get. How?

Loury challenges us to bomb the ghetto. We know that the ghetto doesn't work. We know it stifles the imagination and stunts the social growth of those it incubates in its foul domain. No matter how fabulous the 'hood rich may appear, they suffer the same poverty of spirit as the thugs, haters, pimps and whores their songs are all about. This should come as no surprise.

There's another way of looking at ghettoes however, which is to recognize that ghetto life, for all of its dysfunction remains constant because that is how humans live when they don't have. The inhabitants of any ghetto are just the same as the inhabitants of the legendary Sherwood Forest. HaveNots are the same all over the world and there is no reason to believe that America should be the exception to this rule. American ghettoes don't burn to the ground because ghetto life works. It doesn't provide a reliable supply of college graduates or urban professionals, but it also doesn't self-destruct in a blaze of anarchy. Reconciling the promise of the First World with some acknowledgement and respect of the absolute value of life, even in the context of ghetto survival is the great challenge we face.

Get It Together or Leave It Alone?
To what extent is the equilibrium offered by ghettoes acceptable to the idea of America? My gut says forget the idea of America and deal with what America really is. Yet if the nation is to be consistent then it cannot allow certain problems to fester. Is the ghetto a festering problem? Not politically. This is hard news for the people in the ghetto, but I think it is news we must accept. No political majority of Americans are going to get off their butts and infrastructurally remodel ghettoes. The left wing of the Democrats is devoted to the proposition that we must - if and when they win the White House, then we'll see some significant change, but I am betting that change will be too little too late.

This relates to public education in that one must ask at some point whether or not educational standards should be absolute. If they are, then it means of necessity you will be teaching things to ghetto kids whose value only exists inside the classroom and outside of the ghetto. But I think there may be a ray of hope if we can change the paradigm of the classroom - make it interactive with the rest of the world. That will cost. The other alternative which also seems attractive to me is to teach class-appropriately. That is to say, don't teach horticulture in the city - but teach plumbing. Tough choice. More n this point separately.

Posted by mbowen at 08:53 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 23, 2004

Still An Outsider

Without making any assumptions about the political predilections of the heads mentioned, I noticed that I am still unnoticed by the NYC chatting class as represented by Gawker.

For some reason, this bothers me.

Posted by mbowen at 11:57 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Choice is Yours

"Now you can get this, or you can get with that
I think you'll get with this yes, for this is kinda fat
If you get with that, then you will surly miss,
Because that is so wack, I think you'll get with this."

-- Dres

GWBush and Bill Cosby have a bunch of American scratching their heads. And so I 'm going to say that 2004 is the year that America acknowledged black diversity.

Mr. Bush said that as he seeks to "earn" the votes of African-Americans, he was going to ask them to consider some questions.

"Does the Democrat Party take African-American voters for granted?" he asked his audience, who responded with applause. "It's a fair question. I know plenty of politicians assume they have your vote, but do they earn it, and do they deserve it?

"Is it a good thing for the African-American community to be represented mainly by one political party?" he said.

"Have the traditional solutions of the Democrat Party truly served the African-American community?" Mr. Bush said. "It's what I hope people ask when they go to the community centers, places — as we all should do our duty and vote, people need to be asking these very serious questions."

Mr. Bush said: "I'm here to say that there is an alternative this year."

You can always count on GWBush to make things so plain that they seem to be a lot less complicated than they actually are. On the other hand, it's uncanny how fundamentally correct he is on the biggest issues.

Posted by mbowen at 11:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Last Pure Sport

I have been enjoying myself tremendously whenever I get a chance to watch the Tour de France on the Outdoor Life Network. It's the last pure sport left. It has always fascinated me that so many can compete for so long and at the end the difference between them is measured in seconds. But not this year.

Lance Armstrong is so dominant in this year's tour that it's frightening. At this point he is four minutes into the lead. That's insuperable. He could fall twice and still win.

If you get a chance, do check out the coverage. You will recognize that this is what sports are supposed to be. The commentators are not throwing quips all over the place, they are experienced, knowledgeable and articulate in English and French. There are no beer commercials. There isn't speculation about who's getting traded or paid the most. The camera isn't always focused on the battle for first place. Crowd idiocy is not considered colorful and there aren't gratuitous shots of people who make cardboard signs with network call-letter acronyms. It's all about the athletes and the sport itself.

That's the way it should be.

Posted by mbowen at 07:28 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 07:06 AM | TrackBack

July 22, 2004

Fragments for Today

9/11 Commission Report
Just downloaded the PDF. Just reading the TOC makes me think, man those radical Islamists have no idea what a can of whoopass they've opened.

Sandy Berger
I don't understand his motivation, not that I've been paying much attention.

XRepublic + Deme
It looks like we have a winner here.

Homeland Security Investing

The need for up to the minute information in the Homeland Defense and Security sector is a pressing concern in today's variable global environment. Not only are events shifting at a rapid pace on an international level, but closer to home, it is becoming increasingly important to recognize the companies who are striving to protect us now and in the future.

To invest in these companies, is most certainly an investment in the future. HomelandDefenseStocks.com has been ranked as one of the top Internet deliverers of information providing the public with news, research, homeland security links, featured and exclusive articles and information on companies who are driving at security and technology solutions. Some of the top areas covered by the site are: Airport Security, Biodefense, Biometrics, Defense, Internet Security, Integrated Security, Military, Border and Port Security.

Posted by mbowen at 03:59 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 21, 2004

Stanley Crouch & Senseless Violence

I don't believe that there is a such thing as senseless violence. Violence makes perfect sense to the person doing the violence - they choose it because it makes sense. The term 'senseless violence' is used by people who refuse to recognize what sense it actually makes to the initiator.

Stanley Crouch is being shunned in various chatting circles because of the violence he did to a certain Mr. Peck. Much is being made of the bitchslapping incident in that it arose over some harsh prose written by Mr. Peck. Evidently, writers are not supposed to be fighters with any weapons but words. Clearly, those weren't the rules in Mr. Crouch's neighborhood, nor were they in mine.

I am pleased that Crouch doesn't seem to be on the recieving end of much more than emnity and scorn. Specifically, there doesn't seem to be any legal action pending in the matter. People have seemed to make up their minds that whatever opprobrium can be piled on Crouch's doorstep is an appropriate comeuppance. Not being aware of the circumstances under which Crouch made his decision to move off the page into three dimensional conflict, I am not making any judgement on the merits of the punch. Nevertheless I am pleased that this matter seems to have fallen inside the bounds of chivalry and that no scumbag attorneys have expanded the list of combattants whose opinions count materially.

Three cheers.

Now on the other hand, my informers on the Kwaku Network tell me a couple of important things. Number one, Crouch won't go toe to to with anyone who can put him on the floor. In otherwords, there are some very practical limits to his asskicking ability, and you can generally guess that they have to do with speed, size and power. On the backside of 50 years old, I think he should check himself. I am also privy to the scoops about Stanley's would-be career as a community college football player in the 70s. To wit, he bit, often got hit and couldn't do shit. If that's a formula for growing successful cultural critics, it's a new one to me. But I think we'd all rather have Stanley Crouch than not. After all, he did write Premature Autopsies.

None of this changes the fact that Stanley is Stanley and he will still get invited to any number of flouncy occasions in the Big Apple. It's good to know that two-fisted people still exist in that airy fairy world.

Only one question remains. Is Mr. Peck going to retaliate via Charles Atlas or Strunk & White?

Posted by mbowen at 12:22 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


Art McGee forwarded me a paper on Deme that I deem to be pretty interesting, if only because it formalizes much of what I've been thinking about when I think about using internet technology to the ends of deliberative collaboration. It's interesting that they come at it from the angle of the underprivileged. But now that it's happening at Stanford, I suppose it can be said to be truly happening. Todd Davies is the man driving this interesting vehicle. I've written him to get in touch with whatever he's doing. He's right, of course.

I'm going to, when I figure out how to get by with a little less sleep on a nightly basis, figure out how to integrate this new finding into my thought process as well as possibly collaborate with the authors. As for today, I'm making ends in the trenches and paying off debt. As you know, I am the father of an old neglected but brilliant theoretical child called XRepublic which has not been nourished recently.

In the meantime, I suppose I should be reading Habermas.

Posted by mbowen at 11:17 AM | TrackBack

IBM Taking BI Seriously?

Within the past week IBM has acquired Alphablox and added a new Microstrategy bundle to their offerings. Is this another attempt to forestall a Yukon invasion, or are they just filling up company checkboxes?

My guy on the inside is as confused as anyone but his angle is that it is just another way for them to fill out there Websphere story. Alphablox is very labor intensive and if you know it, it's a good way to bill consulting dollars, if not build a very efficient system. I don't think the guys at Cognos or Business Objects are shaking in their boots. However, for those big huge 'we don't really know what we're doing but we sure do have a methodology" type projects, there will be a lot of Rational guys filling out forms. That could be a good thing, I suppose.

Posted by mbowen at 10:31 AM | TrackBack

Assimilate or Die

You wanna be treated right, see Father MC
Or check Ralph Tresvant, for sensitivity.


I think that after 50 years of hearing about black dysfunction this and black dysfunction that a couple things should be obvious. I'm going to blather on about the obvious for a moment.

The first thing that should be obvious is that the American system works. You see, if you think for a moment about what Brown was all about, what the Civil Rights Act was all about, what Freedom Rides were all about, you will find that they all have one critically important premise at their heart. Integration is worthwhile because America works.

People who don't have those problems are not the beneficiaries of magnificently planned social programs.

Think about it for a minute. What's the difference between all these fools and you? A job. An education. A sense of integrity. These things exist in abundance here in this country, and everyone can reach out and grab it.

Or can we?

Activists who want to see this problem studied will attempt to convince us that there are monumental barriers to providing access to the goods for these impoverished victims. What keeps blacks down according to their theories? The capitalist system. That thing that provides jobs is the thing that keeps those long-suffering black victims from getting jobs. What keeps blacks down according to their theories? The educational system. That thing that provides education is the thing that keeps those long-suffering black victims in ignorance. Huh? What?

Understand that this is the bulk of the argument. The system is corrupt and the Man uses it to destroy black people. And they will have you believe that the capitalist system, because it keeps 10% of blacks unemployed is no good for the other 90%. And they would have you think that the educational system, because it keeps churning out illiterates should be overhauled despite the brilliance it sustains.

The revolution won't be televised because a machine that works with 90% efficiency doesn't require a revoution. Fine tuning perhaps. But the system works. Let's call the dropouts what they are. Dropouts. Nobody is going to sacrifice these systems for them. It's like that and that's the way it is.

Posted by mbowen at 08:43 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Second Coming Speculation

Somebody asked about where Jesus would show up for the Second Coming.

Well, Jesus would have to show up somewhere that everyone could see. If he was to appear as an ordinary human, there would have to be a way that everyone on the planet would be made aware of his presence. That argues for a story which would travel around the world, presumeably by mass media.

Nick Berg.

I'm really not up on the prescriptions most Christians have of the Second Coming. We Episcopalians say 'He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead'. So if Jesus were Episcopalian, then he certainly wouldn't go out like Berg. He'd do something like raise Atlantis from the ocean and teleport people in mid-sentence. He'd be on our cell phones, pagers, PDAs and car radios telling us each about our sins and what's about to come next. He wouldn't bother with one simple human form or our space time continuum, and he damned sure isn't about to be crucified again. It would be the end of the world and the human experiment.

I have a great deal of faith that the Trinity isn't finished with humanity by a longshot. We still have, by my watch, several thousand generations to go before we take up a reasonably good chunk of our galaxy and therefore more of the Trinity's attention. We have yet to meet the challenges of dealing with alien species, of which there must be plenty.

On the other hand, what if the truly righteous among us were so few that Jesus has actually had a second, third, fourth and 20 other visits but we were all preoccupied watching Fox?

Posted by mbowen at 07:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Philippino Diplomacy
There's a phrase which ought to take on a life of its own. A punch in the nose to them.

Foothill Fire
Firefighters are doing an extraordinarily outstanding job. I find it miraculous that nobody has lost a house. My hat's off.

Divac Back To LA
That's great news. We love you Vlade! Suddenly I don't like or respect Kobe Bryant any longer - as a player. He's just so over.

Sandy Berger, Pilferer
Will somebody finally tell all these partisans to shut the hell up? I can't believe this is more than an honest mistake. This happened to an FBI director a couple years ago, no?

Shreiking Florida Congresscritter Censured
I would have added a bucket of cold water, but then again I suppose that every opinion needs to be heard.

Girly Men
Anyone who complains about somebody being called a 'girly man', is by definition, a girly man. I am mortified by the reporting on this - it's not even meaty enough for its own blog post.

Posted by mbowen at 07:30 AM | TrackBack

July 20, 2004


I have been plogged by Amazon.com.

As if I didn't already have enough to read, Amazon has managed to make a new serial. Instead of just 'The Page I Made', now my exploits in online shopping are being blogged by the Amazonbot.

The Plog™ Service is a personalized blog. A blog is a straightforward and now widely adopted method of posting a reverse chronological diary on the Internet.

Then they go on to plug blogs that need no traffic. I wonder how that happened.

Posted by mbowen at 03:56 PM | TrackBack

FedEx & The Instant Working Class

I'd like to fly far away from here
Where my mind is fresh and clear
And I'd find the love that I long to see
Where everybody can be what they wanna be

-- Lionel Ritchie

New blogger Negromaticus points to the boundaries of Second World employment. Recieving high marks from folks you don't respect puts one in an interesting predicament. You see the value of the System, you could invest, you could game it, you could play it off and do something else.

My brother Doc, now knocking knuckleheads for a living with the Great and Powerful Oz LAPD worked his way up the chain and finally off the chain at FedEx. Like most, he started moving boxes at the airport and found himself in the company of a statistically significant bubble of young black men. Now this was pre-riot LA and so it's difficult for me to recall whose values rubbed off on whom. But I always seem to recall that Doc was as punctual as it is humanly possible to be, and being one of my father's unpaid house elves sons, he like the rest of us had been infused with a mighty work ethic. So the tales of Negromatic are not the first time I've heard commentary on the trife, slapdash, and drama among the youngbloods at the docks.

Now in transition from Hollywood to Academia, my other brother Deet is making ends meet as a permanent part-timer at FedEx. Working just half a day, he's got full benefits for his family. What a country!

FedEx is now the Post Office that Robert Townsend was talking about in 'Hollywood Shuffle'. There's always work at FedEx. When times get tough in the labor market, their planes still fly on schedule, and there seems to always be some scutwork for the able-bodied. In that, there is a love-hate relationship for such work. You can get it if you want it, but who wants it? There's not much glamour. Ever since Biz Markie said "Nigga please, you work for UPS", we've been reminded that delivery, in the eyes of many aint too respectable. Can you hear me revving up another plug for the Second World?

Back in the dark days of 2003, I came very close to finding myself on the payroll. But since, on good days, I make in the top bracket for unemployment compensation, I got more money sitting on my butt and looking for work rather than finding it. It would have been a welcome change. Eventually I did get some blue collar employment. I own my snobbery, but I was led towards this attitude not only because of who I might be, but also because of what people thought I needed to be.

As time goes by, I see more and more clearly how much has conspired against the ambitions of blacks in my generation, and how tough it must be for those in the next. I see the angle of the soft bigotry of advanced expectations in cahoots with the arrogance of the bogard a combination of motivations that rocketed us headfirst into the glass ceiling. I think I am fortunate enough not to have stalled in my corporate career before I went entreprenuerial to experience that frustration, although in the latter Dotcom days I saw it approaching. Why must a black man be a superman just to be a man? Why can a black man just being a man be considered a boy? So much of what we get out of the fact of our gainful employment goes to signify rather than just to get us paid. We have ourselves via W.E.B. to blame, and of course we know how much others want to touch our hair.

Tangential to this the other thing that I feel I have to assert is that participation in the market requires little of us. The dignity we carry is our own and that comes from the home. There are wonderful strengths our nation has because of our willingness to take from and trade on the status a job gives, but the trade of honest work for honest pay is enough. So that means we shouldn't concern ourselves about how articulate is the basketball star. He brings his skills and he's the best in the world at that. It's enough. Let's not expect him to write poetry. He does his job, so stop signifying. Likewise, the man lifting crates at the airport ramp is doing his job. Everybody find the right way, somehow, someway, someday.

Posted by mbowen at 12:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Say It Ain't So Lucy Flo

Rumor has it that the twins who ran Lucy Florence Cafe were in hock to the order of 31k to their landlord and that the joint is closing down. It's a damned shame.

I had been under the mistaken impression that they were part owners of the building, which is one of the reasons I gave Kamau such a hard time when the World Stage went through it's pityable demise.

I haven't been over to Lucy Florence in over 4 weeks - not since the Soul Plane controversy. I have been less than impressed with the selection of topics, most recently the noise over Stanley whats-his-name, the car thief who ran into the business end of a flashlight. Ofari takes over the joint on Saturday mornings but hands over the mic to a collection of whiney leftists, and although many sensible conservatives were regular attendees, their was a bit too little signal and too much noise for my tastes. Nevertheless it was a reliable place to catch some of the sentiments coming out of black LA.

Part of the problem in drawing crowds to Lucy Florence was that it didn't appeal to crowds, especially young ones. As a hangout, Magic's Starbucks and Fridays sucked all of the attention out of Liemert Park, except for those who had to, of cultural necessity, make a statement. It's a lesson hard learned. Sometimes brainless is the best way to make a buck.

I hope the brothers get another chance. As institutions go Lucy Florence was very good. Once again the Landlord has the last word.

Posted by mbowen at 07:39 AM | TrackBack

July 19, 2004

Fire Logic

I just figured out something about the deployment of firefighters that had me puzzled yesterday. It's about oil.

I might have mentioned that on the north side of the 14 as you go past Placerita, there is an oil field. We went past yesterday morning and only the south side of the freeway was burnt - trees were still smoking. I wouldn't be surprised if that was a backfire set to help prevent whatever was to the east from burning across at the western edge, not only to protect highway 5, but the oilfield.

I talked with a buddy of mine who used to work at a refinery. They had a coke unit explode and it sent all kinds of toxic garbage into the plume. They were liable, literally for free car washes for a year for area residents, not to mention the more obvious torts.

So when I only saw helicopters to one side and not in front of me, what was going on? They must have been protecting the oilfield. You don't want to have a fire in the oilfield. Avoiding that at all costs is going to mean some houses are going to be sacrificed.

That was the section of the 14 that was closed. I think that if the southbound traffic on the 14 had seen all the firefighters in the oilfields there might have been some suspicion about why there and not with the residents. So while I didn't see them, that's where I think they were, and for good reason.

Posted by mbowen at 09:33 AM | TrackBack


I heard a story on the radio about a drug scandal and Marion Jones. I read a story in the paper about a drug scandal and Marion Jones comparing her to Martha Stewart, the convict. I read a third story at MSNBC about several other people being investigated who have relationships with Jones. Why not just throw her in Gitmo until the Games are over?

Somebody show me the money, because I don't see it. All I see is a disgusting whispering campaign. This is how we treat our own best athletes?

Posted by mbowen at 08:02 AM | TrackBack

Who Is The Star of This Show?


Posted by mbowen at 07:40 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 18, 2004

Fire on the 14

My bros and I went hiking up Whitney Portal this morning. On the way back from a long and exhausting day, we got caught in the latest So Cal conflagration.

We had sweated all last night having heard that the 14 had been closed. And since this fire is 'only' 14k acres and not a lot of people have lost their homes, there hasn't been much news coverage. Caltrans has absolutely nothing on their websites. We lucked out and heard something on KNX around 11pm which said that the 14 was open to through traffic, you just couldn't get off the freeway.

We hit the intersection above the Van Norman dam just about 7 this morning and I have never seen something so dramatic. At the top of the hill above that cascade for the California Aqueduct on the east side of the 405, flames were towering over 100 feet in the air. It was magnificent and awesome. There was a huge column of orange, rose and purpleish white smoke rising vertically like a smoking volcano or a thunderhead. A plume blew towards the south as the light winds over the hills disturbed the column at it's lower levels. A big Sikorsky passed right overhead to pick up a load of water from the reservoir to our immediate southwest.

As we swung around towards the 14, Deet got a couple shots of the rising sun turned blood red through the fog of brushfire smoke. It was beautiful and frightening. Heading northeast on the 14 we could see how the freeway had been an effective break. Everything on our right, to the south and up the mountain had been burnt to a crisp. An oilfield on the right was untouched.

It was on the way back that all of this started to cause trouble. Just a few minutes past Palmdale where the 14 swings from the North down to the West, the CHP was directing traffic off the freeway. At about 6:20pm we could see the cars slowing down and so we decided to get off early at Agua Dulce Road. We concluded that the fire had changed directions during the day and jumped back north over the 14. It was hard to imagine this happening, but as we got out to make some phone calls, the ashes were falling thickly like fat snowflakes. We were down to a quarter of a tank and out of cell phone range - a modern emergency in and of itself.

As the number of cars getting off at Agua Dulce increased, so did a palpable sense of panic. There was nobody there to show anyone where to go. Soon a Sheriff's deputy arrived on the scene and directed us to take Agua Dulce road north the Sierra Hwy and out. Any of you who have a Thomas Guide know how indespensible it is, unless you are on the border of its coverage area. In our case we were on the diagonal line that went inexplicably from page 4541 to 4281 to 4425 which was a different scale. In short, we were lost.

There was never much danger from the fire since we got off the 14 before the roadblock. But we languished in the cow country north of Vasquez Rocks for an interminable period as we watched the gas tank empty. Making the left turn onto Sierra Highway took 45 minutes with no CHP on the scene. By the time we got into Santa Clarita, we were plenty crabby. But then the sense of panic and disaster came back. At the intersection of Sierra and Soledad Canyon Roads, people were in that state of agitation we all recognize instinctively. Just south of us, four plumes of smoke were clearly visible just above houses on the hillsides. There were no helicopters in sight. Houses were going to burn right in front of us.
Filling up the Avalanche at the Mobil station, I tried to understand the logic of.. oh wait. There was a helicopter finally over to the east. Right over where Lang is shown on the map, I could see a red chopper making rounds. There were three columns of smoke over in that direction but we couldn't see flames. The flames were right in front of us up the hill near the Friendly Valley Country Club. People were moving their horses out of the area all over the place. But we figured those were goners. We drove through and became momentarily disoriented as we drove on. But eventually we got back on the 14 at what must have been Placerita Canyon. Doc says they don't fly the choppers at night, so folks up that way are in for a hell of a time.

I know the Angeles National Forest pretty well, so I got really tired of not hearing what part of it was burning. I thought you all might like to know as well.

Posted by mbowen at 10:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 17, 2004

From the Kitchen Table on McW

McWhorter beats the NAACP about the face and head. Various Bowens comment.


there was a time when i would have dashed off a heavy duty letter of

life and age being what they are, all i now feel inclined to do is say,


I saw this letter to the Times and said EXACTLY the same thing. Fact of the mater is there are countless of us who share these very same sentiments.

Additionally there were some well-thought letters written to the Times on the lack of "Outrage" expressed when blacks shoot, beat and exploit each
other. "So long as it's not the LAPD landing the blows, nobody cares how many balcks are beat up south of the 10 FWY"

This is a point well-made and unfortunately, conservative, law-abiding, educated blacks are the LAST place liberal newspapers go for "a word from the
hood" when something goes down between law enforcement and blacks.

One last little point. Bill Cosby made some great remarks at the NAACP's annual meeting recently. he said , in so many words, "You (refering to black men) need to stop beating your women, get an education and stop taking your frustrations out on the world because you can't get much more than a minimum wage job."


It's worth noting that Pops is the liberal standard bearer in the clan with Dutz to his immediate left. Doc and I stand to the right. Deet is less political and more inclined towards interpreting the life of Christ. I''ll see if I can get him to speak on it.

Posted by mbowen at 01:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Books for the College Bound Black Man

Amy Ridenour has recieved a letter. I respond at length.


I mentor a young black man who is going to go to college next year. I was wondering if you had a list of literature or suggestions for some reading material. He is interested in economics and business. I was hoping for some ethics, philosophy, and history titles as well. I would prefer if the authors were black. He attends a majority white private Catholic school where he is one of the brightest students; I want him to have some black intellectual experience too.

Thank you for your time.

[Name Deleted]

P.S. I heard about your site from Trueblackman, (I don't know his real name) on Free Republic

It helps to be a voracious reader, no matter what your field of study. It's only with that kind of appetite that you get to the good stuff. There is a deceptively large amount of good stuff out there. I say large because any good 20 books is quite enough reading for a setting one straight permanently. This is deceptive because if the books don't click or you wind up with the wrong picks, you can go for years until you get the book that carries you forward.

Onto the lists and some personal context. I too attended a white private Catholic highschool, and I'm sure mine was better than his. Oops that slipped, but we Cubbies trip like that sometimes. I read Roots when I was a junior, but it did nothing for me like 'The Man Who Lived Underground'. There is something very important about getting to the right black literature that can change your mind forever - because it's very easy to fall into the trap of ghettoizing black literature based on 3 or 4 popular but weak books. It wasn't until I read (or tried to read) LeRoi Jones' "Blues People" that I even accepted the idea that blacks wrote scholarly books. I had always grown up around so many people who quoted Maya Angelou or Ntozake Shange as if they possessed all the black knowledge there was.

So I think the most important thing is to handle the Existentials first. You have got to be able to click with somebody who lets you know that you are not as alone as you think you are, being somewhat exceptional and in altogether a different potential direction than Method & Red. What I'm saying is that in the empirical fields, your coursework will be enough to know. Mastery is mastery - either you've got it or you don't. There isn't going to be much new 'what' from a black perspective (outside of Sowell and Williams), but there's a good deal of 'how as a black me' that is answered in black literature, without which you cannot empower yourself to be quite as well adjusted as a human being as such demanding courses require. Sheer brainpower will not triumph. You've got to be smart too.

The Existentials

Marcus Mabry - White Bucks & Black Eyed Peas
I have found a recent photo of Mabry as well as his bio at Newsweek. I am stunned. There seemed in this young man, when read his book a dozen years ago, nothing but a kind of sentimental soft clumsy geekiness - greatly out of context for the man he appears to be. I actually felt sorry for the guy, and then was very harsh, as black poets are likely to be, when I read of his trials and tribulations at Stanford. I have since come to believe that he's Republican and considered re-reading his book. Mabry needs rethinking from me, but I think he provides an excellent example of how that nebulous and aimless feel as an undergraduate inevitably gives way to the kind of conviction and purpose we all eventually acquire.

Brent Staples - Parallel Time
I found much to admire in Staples' tale. Here was a man with a goodly amount of cheek and backbone who took on the University of Chicago with gusto. He faced the multiple worlds presented to him admirably and sensitively. I see him as a playful master in his environments, reflective and confident. He embodied a kind of black man's spirit that one might tend to believe does not exist in truly intellectual types. And if I have been harsh with John McWhorter, part of it owes to the context of Brent Staples. If you only know those blacks that are presented as intellectuals through popular media, you miss , and quite frankly if there were only 10,000 of us in this nation, chances are that you won't see or recognize us in public.

Paul Beatty - The White Boy Shuffle
People who read this book had to call me on the telephone and tell me that they swore I wrote it under a pseudonym. When I read it, I couldn't believe it myself. Beatty is completely off the chain and led around by his brain bouncing off walls in joy and pain.

High Cotton - Darryl Pinckney
Although people who knew me as a youth mostly identified me with Beatty, Pinckney understands who I am inside. This is one book that I think comes closest to my soul. I can't know what it might mean to other folks, but it means a great deal to me.

Colored People - Skip Gates
Good book. Nice read. Very Old School.

The Philosophicals

Cornel West - The American Evasion of Philsophy
No matter what is said about Cornel West, he wrote this book. A lot of people mouth off about 'Judeo-Christian Values' but really understand little about what's going on in the core thinking that has made America great. This is an indispensible introduction and survey of the great public thinkers who have led the American school as distinct from the European. If you read nothing else, read this. It ain't easy, but it's worth it.

Charles Johnson
There's a lot of Charles Johnson to read among which are 'Middle Passage', probably his best work, and 'The Oxherding Tale'. Very logical, very playful and working on many different levels. Lovely bunch of good stuff.

Ishmael Reed - Japanese By Spring
Everything you need to know about the fallacies and foibles of multiculturalism wrapped in a wit that will send you whimpering to a corner trying to catch your breath from laughing your ass off. Don't go to college without it.

Candide - Voltaire
I read this one too late for it to make a difference. It's quick, it's easy, it's a must.

Malcolm X Speaks
Really everything you need to know about Malcolm X is distilled and captured in his speeches. I read this one cover to cover in a short period of time and it completely changed my estimation of the man, his times and his accomplishments. If you ask me, there all there. Michael Eric Dyson makes the treanchant point that for all of his threat and bluster, Malcolm never took his Fruit of Islam down to the South to butt heads with the Klan. Was Malcolm a coward? Who knows. What you can know is how electrifying and thoughtful he was in his response to the challenges of his day. You should also know that many Indians I have met compare him to Subhas Bose. Don't forget that.

Cane - Jean Toomer
How does a civilized man live alone in a wilderness of anonymity? How do you keep the engines of intellect running in your head when you are surrounded by people who have no idea of the skills you possess? Toomer's Kabnis spoke to me.

(more later)

Posted by mbowen at 11:27 AM | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 11:19 AM | TrackBack

July 16, 2004

I Love Marion Jones


Posted by mbowen at 07:17 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Is It That Easy?

I understand that Iraq has replaced Palestine as the daily dose of death on the news. Five people here, 3 people there, 20 people at once every month or so. It's annoying and distracting to hear it. But this week there seems to have been a number of rather big wigs killed including the governor of Mosul in the usually quiet Northeast.

Allawi has a headache he intends to solve with a Crackdown. Maybe that will work. But it's amazing how fragile the peace is over there. I'm astounded at how easy it appears for 'insurgents' to assassinate political leaders. There has to have been one just about every month.

Posted by mbowen at 07:09 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 15, 2004

That's What I'm Talking About

Armstrong Williams talks too fast. He's like a cache of rapid-fire cliches that work like shotgun shells. Spray and pray. If he would have slowed down and listened, he would have had the perfect retort this morning on NPR.

The NAACP guy rattled off about seven policy issues over which GWBush and the NAACP clash. What Williams should have noticed was that only one of them was reasonably close to a civil rights issue. Of course the NAACP thinks everything is a civil rights issue, that's why they have no idea why they are ignored. They also think that they represent the overwhelming majority of African Americans. But I am not hydrated enough to sweat the details of this clash of the (NOT) titans. The big news is that Bush is going to meet with the Urban League instead. Bravo!

I'm going to remind you all that the Urban League here in Los Angeles backed Wal-Mart in the Crenshaw Plaza. And I hope that for some of you, it's all you need to know. But man do I wish it came down to a showdown between the Urban League and the NAACP. (Now the evil part of me is thinking of a way to recast the acronym into an identifyable R Kelly fan club. It's that P at the end that keeps calling my name.) Of course we'll take the Urban League in a heartbeat.

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

Posted by mbowen at 11:22 PM | TrackBack

Pinoy Punks

There are so many hugely important things going on in the world that I simply don't have time nor the inclination to discuss at length. And yet I must at least take a poke at a few... Today I'm on full jingo isolationist snark.

The Philippinos are punking out of Iraq. Yeah, sorta, and so what anyway. On the one hand, we've turned over sovereignty to the Iraqis and now the country exactly resembles any tinpot joint just after a coup. Provisional government cracking down. The only difference is the US Army is there en masse instead of a few hundred military advisors and CIA types. What people seem to be forgetting (and I almost did) is that the US Army means that many thousands are not being disappeared, raped, pillaged and burned as is usually the case in such tinpot situations. So ordinarily we'd all be outta Dodge, but GWBush is bound and determined to prove he's a kind and gentle type Emperor, which he is. So we're saving ordinarily disposable lives. Yeah it's thankless, yeah we'll go back to the Powell Doctrine, bomb and split.

On the other hand, I mean who needs 'em? Part of this whole coalition fever makes mountains out of molehill countries. Their participation in this nation-building exercise only props up false notions of international agape. But that ain't real, execpting that it's real expensive. What a horrible way to stumble into the 21C, with a non-mandated president pulling geopolitical mandates out of the CIA's ass. An international coalition is a clever figleaf for mollifying the internationalists, but I guess we've done that too many times. Now they're taking themselves seriously.

Who runs them islands anyway? Aquino? Are we out of Subic? Don't they have their own Islamofascists too? Hmm. There's the backstory, maybe we failed somewhere on that WOT front. Jimaa Islamia...

Posted by mbowen at 11:03 PM | TrackBack


First, let's talk terminology. I'm buying into the Chris Rock lexicon and extending it a little bit.

Affluent: You can live large, occasionally.
Rich: You can buy anything you want.
Wealthy: You can buy anybody you want.
Powerful: You can destroy anybody you want.

Denzel Washington is rich, Bill Gates is wealthy. Dick Cheney is powerful. Wealthy people make other people rich. Powerful people set the rules for containing and controlling wealthy people and their wealth. Since this is America, it is possible to achieve power without being wealthy or even rich so there are interesting social equivalents of rock paper scissors. Whoopi getting fired is the example of a flimsy piece of paper covering a mighty rock.

OK maybe Whoopi is not a mighty rock, but I like her because she's friggen weird. And you cannot be that weird and that outspoken for as long as she has been without having learned a whole lot about herself and people in general. Something evil inside of me is telling me to say that Whoopi is the black Shirley McClaine. So much for discipline. But you can't boss weirdos around, they live in a parallel dimension, especially rich weirdos.

If Whoopi died tomorrow she'd be a saint. I think she knows that, and that's why she doesn't give a rat's ass. She's large. She doesn't have to care. She's completely off the chain. She made The Color Purple and that movie gets larger every time I watch it. So what if some diet food fools don't like her because she doesn't like bush, er.. Bush that is? She jokes.

Remember that Ted Danson thing? What was that all about? Who remembers, who cares? Whatever Whoopi Goldberg does is alright with me, so long as she remains true to form.

That's half my point. The other is this, for what it's worth. I am tired of hearing Americans freak out over what Large blackfolks say. We are all going to have to get used to it. Let's try to remember that an Illinois senatorial candidate married 6 of 9 and tried to get her to do the wild thing with him in titty bars. Do we need any more reminder of what kind of people we grow up here.

America is a superpower. That means there is so much wealth here that you can get rich doing just about anything. That means some pretty kooky people are going to end up rich. I'm glad its Whoopi and not more jagoffs like Robert Wilson, or this guy. Remember him?

Posted by mbowen at 08:58 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

July 14, 2004

The Biome Project

I'm a gnomey little dweeb driving my four door sedan 40 miles each way to my little cubicle. I turn on NPR and halfway through whatever paragraph, I turn it off and start daydreaming in the fast lane. Once upon a time, I wore a suit, overcoat and hat and peeked over my tome at the leggy women on the IRT. Commuting still provides ample time for reverie for the mentally overclocked and socially underutilized. This morning I landed in the 22nd century.

I had to explain to my new Third at the depot exactly why he had to eat his squid and why everybody scowled at him when he didn't clear his plate. After I put on his glasses and eartrans I explained once again patiently.

"It's you duty to the Biome", I said.

"The what?"

"The Biome, you idiot 3rd." I was more grumpy than I usually am when I pick up Thirds for integration, but his eartrans was set to 'Correct' so the slur didn't get through in whatever language he mumbled back.

Obviously he didn't understand that the success of the Global Biome Project had changed the way we humans ate in the First. Now that the project was successful, agribusiness had found that the lowest cost food to engineer and grow depended on which biome you were in. So there was plenty of squid for everyone but he didn't really have a choice of whether or not it was squid. I mean everything else would be too expensive. Back in the day, squid was expensive, now it was cheaper than chicken. That's because of the current balance of biomass in our biome. It made it easy to grow, in fact, it practically grew itself, and if he and enough people didn't eat it, we might be back to insects like in 2149.

How did I know the biomass composition? Well I didn't any more than he knew the stock price of IBM, but you could look it up because people were paid to know. And since much of the world, except for the third of course, had been mapped, the bioeconomists knew exactly which food chains would survive under which conditions. Since we humans are omniverous, it works out. The largest organisms to thrive, we simply picked off the top of those chains and sent them straight to your grocer's freezer. Sustainability was part of the economy, so long as people ate their spinach, as it were. But, Thirds had to have all these ethics explained. At least he was somewhat intelligent, I could tell he was getting it.

So then he asks me all these highschool science questions about how people figured out biomass composition and balance. Hell I don't know. Ask the gardener. I mean they all have the cheap portable biospectrometers that can tell you exactly what the air chemistry is, what microbes are in your dirt with all the DNA maps. From there it only takes a minute to model what survives best, not that the suburbs ever get out of balance. Sure they use it for dosing your lawn with the appropriate stabilizers to keep certain vectors out of your house, but the theory works for everything living. You figure out what's living, inject a positive vector and maintain balance. Geez. I was starting to sound like a cliche, but that's basically how it works. Anyway, I got sick of smelling his breath and suggested he get balanced himself. We could stop by the Wal on the way home.

Posted by mbowen at 10:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Funky Scream

It must be embarassing for men now in their 50s and 60s to hear old recordings of their 70s funk bands. Not because funky music is somehow inherently embarassing, but for the funky scream.

I'm listening to Shotgun II from S-Trains radio blog, and prior to that I had been listening to the WeFunk iTunes stream. The vision I get in listening to some of these songs is that of a big 'natural' black man of the 70s as the symbol of energy and pain.

When you get a chance, listen to 'Strokety Stroke' by the O'Jays. That's just big greasy nasty, and I used to love that song. Then 'Standing in the Shadows of Love' by the Four Tops. Great melody, but they're shouting huskily through all those "didn't I's". Just gritty emotional overload. I'm not even going to go there on James Brown. He was just too unique; sweating and screaming was his job. So I can accept that, even though sometimes when he comes up on iTunes I wish I had instrumentals.

I just see some white producer banging on the studio windows saying, no no can you add a little bit more soul? Scream some more. No, not melodically like Al Green.. just more primal. You know how you do it.

Is that the soul of Soul?

Posted by mbowen at 02:47 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Haps & Hazards

Tour de France
I'm looking forward to extended coverage of the Tour de France as July rolls by. Like everyone else, I'm rooting for Lance Armstrong to win an unprecedented 6 tours in a row, solidifying him once and for all as the greatest the sport has ever produced.

ESPN has a great interactive to keep track of standings. This is going to be great.

Groupthink Requirements
Ideological Coherence, Small Groups, Established Institutional Identity, Loyalty
Discussion that takes place in the context of assumed consensus.

Free Solaris
I downloaded the images for X86. Love that memory model. I don't even have a machine to load it onto. Hmm. Maybe I should find another cheap off-lease Dell. You can never have too much compute power, unless your wife makes you buy a new vaccuum cleaner.

IBM P5 Servers
Wow. IBM is really taking on demand computing seriously. If I read their blurbs right, they now have a dynamically partionable Regatta. That means if you are allocated a virtual 2 processor machine on a 10 processor box, and you suddenly peg your two, you can get four automatically, like within a second. That's just awesome.

DDX: Darts of Death
Mach 7.5 50 megajoule rail gun projectiles. Sounds like something straight out of the minds of Id Software. Nope. It's gonna be real on the next generation of Navy destroyers. Ships are going to be cool again. I guess this replaces the MOAB as my favorite weapon of mass destruction.

Posted by mbowen at 09:29 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A Few Words About Mike Ditka

No. Wait. Stop. Please. Don't. Aaargh!

Posted by mbowen at 07:22 AM | TrackBack

Megaphone Rap Orchestra

I still have Styx songs in my head. So I'm trying to exterminate them with Queen. This morning on my way to the dreaded project, I'm going through thunderbolts and lightning, and once I'm through that I get to mud on your face, a big disgrace. As I get into the full roar of 'We Will Rock You' an idea hits me like a sledgehammer.

You are all going to see this commercial with the three rhytmic taps. Even if you don't, sometime this summer you are going to hear the chant U S A - U S A. Put that together with We Will Rock You and what have you got but the rowdiest, hooligan jingo mojo this side of Marine Cadences. So imagine the stands in Athens when the American are taking the sprints and that flags come out. What do you need to coordinate the voices? A drum major. Straight out of Drumline, the most loudmouthed, funky, endzone dancing enthusiast, with dance moves like Turbo and volume like an Arkansas hog caller. Dressed all in white with a top hat like Uncle Sam jumping around the stage with energy like David Lee Roth. Can you see it?

Who is backing him up? The Megaphone Rap Orchestra. 200 trained voices shouting, rapping, whistling, chanting in unison, in rounds, in cadence. You will never have heard anything like it. A gospel choir of spoken words.

The possibilities are staggering.

Posted by mbowen at 02:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 13, 2004

Murder Most Foul

"When a guy is going around threatening employees within the workplace to the point of threatening to kill them, dismiss him. You don't keep that employee there." -- Tyrone Means (attorney for the plaintiffs)

You don't have to be a rocket scientist or an officer of the NAACP to know that something is wrong here.

Lockheed Martin Corp., the Bethesda-based defense contracting giant, permitted a racially hostile work environment for black employees "to grow in intensity" at its Meridian, Miss., plant until an employee shot 14 workers -- 12 of them black -- there last summer, an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation has found.

As far as I can tell, this incident is the most foul thing that has happened in this country since the DC Sniper. I don't know what was going on such that I didn't hear about it. What occupied our minds at that time, huh? How did we not see a mass murder? Well, it's clear that this is a big ugly.

Now I hate to be cynical, but this is the kind of incident where heads should roll. I'll give it a day to percolate and see which heads speak out. All that nonsense about a flashlight and pound cake theives is a drop in the bucket when compared to quadruple homicide. Doug Williams, the terrorist in this matter, decided to be a suicide killer. So recourse falls to the place that employed this psychopath. So let's hear all the excuses. I'll even put some out there for you.

  • Well, it was Mississippi and it's always a racist hostile work environment for blacks. Who could tell the difference?
  • This is just some civil rights lunatics trying to place the blame on the white man.
  • This is just another example of the racist military industrial complex taking its toll on blackfolks.
  • Who cares? We got a war going on.
  • Democrats love when these things happen because it energizes their base.
  • Republicans love when these things happen because it energizes their base.

I'm energized. Who else?
(sounds of crickets)

At this late date, I feel a little weird giving my condolences to the families, but I do. I heard on the radio today that there are violent crime victimization funds. (Max $25,000, which is less than car insurance pays.) I'd say they've got a bundle coming - and some people at Lockheed really need to be fired and slapped around. Let's see what size trial and media nonsense these families have to endure to get what's coming to them. At the very least, they have my sympathy.

In the meantime, let's hear some strident yapping.

Posted by mbowen at 11:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

OWL & Metadata Management

There's an interesting nexus between some ideas Cameron and I dreamed up when thinking about XRepublic and this new notion of OWL and worm's eye metadata.

The point is that to harness the power of distributed thinking in assigning value to metadata on a subject matter, some categorization is necessary. You want to avoid re-inventing the wheel, but you don't want valuable one-offs to go unnoticed.

In the context of a bottoms-up deliberative space whose purpose is the generation of consensus, I came up with the idea of a Taxonomy Hike. If you care about your idea, then you can walk the distance it takes to attach it to an indexing scheme that people will look for. For example, if you want to weigh in on transracial adoptions, you might want to hook that up under the Parenting category. Cameron suggests Hipboning that subject in a dynamic way such that you can gain valuable insights by taking tangents that don't work in a hierarchichal taxonomy.

The following is from the XRepublic talk about the Wonk Path.

Taxonomy Hike
At some point, the Wonk needs to do some research. The research that is done online in the context of discussions and artifacts of the XRepublic necessitates a Taxonomy Hike. The Hike requires the Wonk to show a demonstrated effort to understand the context of similar discussions. Since there will be a Master Taxonomy which incorporates all of the discussions, the system should deliver the most 'considered' objects relating to the subject. This assures the Citizens that wonks have done their homework. After a wonk has taken the hike, she may be presented as a wonk and begin crafting a resolution, litmus test or other partisan artifacts.

Hipbone Room
The Wonk at any time in the process should be able to free-associate in the research space. In the Hipbone Room, some gaming is done to connect different concepts. An excellent introduction to Hipbone Games is given by Charles Cameron. As Charles Cameron has showed me via Hipbone, one of the most attractive things about dialog is that sometimes you happen upon a connection, a vibe as it were, which is completely unintentional but gives a great deal of insight to another class of problem or issue. XRepublic is more of a funnel for weighty arguments as determined by peers and is such directed towards a specific purpose. But it is also the aha of a tangential discovery that can lead to greater insights.

How indeed does some matter of Niger relate to a resolution of war? Nobody, but nobody was discussing that in March of this year when it came to the top reason pro or con. Nevertheless, something tangential in a different house, perhaps talking about Northwest Africa might be hipboned to the conversation somehow. The best we could come up with was the idea of a 'hipbone room' in which people free associate and build weblike structures in which seemingly disparate ideas could be linked to each other for another layer of contemplation.

In the context of BI and decision support, the need is the same. If you notice an interesting pattern of consumption by eyeballing your POS in a retail business - say you find a lot of men buying Diapers and Beer, you need the ability to flag that notion. There should be some way to hike the taxonomies of the global data warehouse from the data supply side which has a quick worm's eye facility onsite. Doing this before the data gets assimilated into the top-down paradigm of the DW might even obviate the need for data mining. At the very least it embeds human clues into the system.

I'm rather unclear about exactly what OWL is, but this page suggests it's a wider purpose facilitator for creating ontologies. I would expect that ontologies are broader than taxonomies, but make more sense from the worm's eye view. After some time, people might agree that a Diaper/Beer ontology needs recognition and acceptance into the formal Taxonomy.

How's that for a groupthink killer?

Posted by mbowen at 01:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Books on Oppression

Darkstar reminds me that things I used to say are still in the Google Archive. I've always hated Welsing, but I said some other pretty interesting things to - back when I was futzing with identity and being post-modern. If you get bored, there's a rap on the next page.

(from the archives - june 1993)

Welsing is an idiot and a racist, so I won't even bother with that book.

I have read three weighty tomes by Sowell and I doubt seriously that he
has anything new to say. What kind of economist is he anyway? The problem
I have with Sowell is that he views culture entirely too narrowly and
sees most cultural values in economic terms. Thus he has been supportive
of arguements against cultures whose highest priorities are not thrift.
In short, Sowell promotes a merchant class. As I have Confucian philosophical
leanings I find most of his advice utterly barbaric. Be that as it may,
it does not lessen his appeal to Americans (and immigrants to America)
who adopt unreconstructed Puritanism as their guiding principle. But
since I understand that black progress in this country is achieved in
spite of and often in opposition to the Puritan work ethic I found little
use for his work then as now.

Schlesinger is an old man who ought to just shut up and go home. I'm
sick and tired of the voices of World War II. As far as I'm concerned,
he's a dodo. Interesting in a Jurassic Park kind of way but long past
leadership. I throw a David Halberstam and a Kennan at the old feeb.
As for what he has to say, I beleive he is simply an alarmist who is not
beyond stooping to dirty politics. But all bluster aside, I believe he
has aligned himself very much like Dinesh D'Sousa (or Digun GaDinza
depending on if you've learned Japanese by Spring) on the losing side
of a battle that should never have taken place. If he had the wisdom
and courage of his 'opponents' (like Skip Gates) in this row, perhaps
I might consider his viewpoint more seriously. But as he said in his
letters to The New York Times and Wall Street Journal(!) on the issues
of curriculum in the State of New York, "I'm afraid.." and "I'm alramed.."
Not the voice of reason for my 11.95

Nathan Glazer. I don't even know why his name sounds familiar.
What are some of his other books?

Anyway if his book is about Affirmative Action, I'm hardly interested.
I don't think most progressive blacks give a rats ass about Affirmative
Action. I know I only talk about it to piss folks off. Few, (believe me
very few) Americans could write a halfway decent approximation on how
any good Affirmative Action program is supposed to work anyway. Having
written manpower systems, I know the math and I know how limited its
economic potential is. Bottom line is the only white people a decent
Affirmative Action plan hurts economically are the incompetent ones. The
rest is a bunch of symbolism, and empty symbolism at that. As I said
before, black progress is not, in the main, a Puritan thang.

All backlash against Affirmative Action, in my view, is just white people
trying to tell blacks how they should earn their money; and all die hard
Affirmative Action wonks are just black people trying their damndest to
jump through the right hoops. And I mean those racial terms figuratively.
On the outside, a few Affirmative Action supporters just like to flaunt
the idea that this, the weakest of many possible empowerment schemes, actually
succeeded in Amerikkka.

You are almost close in dishing the dose, but you miss the most as you
diagnose. The oppression of blacks, although economic is so much more
cultural therefore it's comic to hear the suggestions of those who might
cure the entirely wrong ailment therefore I'm sure if you follow the path
of those in the know and stop fiddling with math (it's no puritan game show)
You'll see in due time the dimension of crime perpetrated by those 'gainst
the spirit of brothers and sisters

against the spirit of brothers and sisters
against the spirit of brothers and sisters

who were thought to have none
and so they offered us money.

looking for ghettoes, what shows up on the map.
is the absence of this and that bourgeois crap.
and they look around their own dream house
and covet.
or give if their liberal
(don't you just love it?)


by their own definition
pre-defining the respectable
(why Jesse's position
is deemed 'unelectable')

even what race we are has to be certain
so have and have nots can be split by a curtain
or sheet if you will
some clan fills the bill
when zero sum demands that *some* must be hurtin'

the fact simply stands that america must
be led by a few and the rest ground to dust
especially those whose art makes the test stick
'against all enemies foreign and domestic'

But what makes the black people enemies here?
Is it black agression or simply white fear?
Maybe now we hit on the question
that raises to issue more than a suggestion.
Those who seek reform from the foot on her neck
is justice most noble and evil's harsh check.
And those who suggest such morality's whining
Are diners while others still hunger for dining.

And all their pronouncements and all their decrees
their arguments, politics, wit, and degrees
their windbaggy sermons about disuniting
their scoffing at activists who keep on fighting
(and writers who write despite critics trite smiting
and rappers who rap on while suckers keep biting)
their sunday morning diatribes
their frontin' and posin', their Toms and their bribes.
Will all come to nothing but much wasted time

Their grandsons well say "Now it's 2009
You're talkin' bout years ago, now we've progressed"
but still the same voices will shout in unrest
Theres no way around it; until it's addressed
directly, precisely not put off in jest
as long as the people know they are oppressed
There can be no stopping, there will be no rest.
May times many ways, still you can attest
No justice, no peace, just like open chest.

Did you ever play that game back in school?
you get fired on if you're not vigilant, fool.
A lesson learned early for kids in the hood
that no one is safe until everyone's good.

And so it will go in the place of my birth
this city this county this country this earth
as with small strokes great oaks are soon felled
the spirit of my people will not long be held
we'll do what we must and do what we can
this shit's gettin corny i'm outta here, man...

What stops that rap from radio airplay? What limits the tap to those who
read Thackeray? The white middle and upper classes wish (still in their
insecurity) to make blacks pale comparisons of themselves, themselves
pale comparisons of unimpressed High Europeans who have long dug our jazz.
Money is merely currency.

dig further.

dig further:
James Weldon Johnson- The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
Charles Wright - Absolutely Nothing to get Alarmed About
& Sula.

Your suggestions make it seem impossible for a black man with a good
job to have any legitimate complaint. But I am not Puritan.

mbowen@panix.com harambee!

Posted by mbowen at 07:31 AM | TrackBack

July 12, 2004

Lucifer Jones & The Gospel of Thomas

I have already come up with the name of my next social project. After I am satisfied with the Black Republican, African American political diversity, & class recognition project that is Cobb's mission, I'm going to take on Christianity. The agent of light in the matter: Lucifer Jones.

Several years ago I met a very unique individual named Kevin Mutschler. Like me, he had an abiding interest in theology and computer science. Unlike me, however, he had gone the whole nine yards because, raised as an evangelical he needed to know that the Bible was truly correct in every way - that it was the blueprint for righteousness. The Jesuits ruined that for me when I was 13. They taught me that there were multiple authors of Genesis, they told me who King James was and the explained the politics at the Council of Nicea. Just fresh after the decisions of Vatican II, I learned at an early age that a great deal of faith is taken on faith. Since I took the life of Christ to be evidence that love actually does conquer all, I didn't worry. Kevin worried. So much in fact that he learned Hebrew and Greek in order to read original texts. I have met few people before or since who have been more sincere or dedicated to uncover the profoundest truths of the Holy Bible. When I last saw him around '99, he was a dedicated Kabbalist. Yesterday I heard a program that stopped me in my tracks and immediately reminded me of Kevin. More than that, I found enough there to urge me to get into this matter myself.

The bringer of this extroardinary news is Elain Pagels.

Her latest book, Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas, is just out in paperback. It's about a religious text that is little known -- the secret Gospel of Thomas, rediscovered in Egypt in 1945. She will explain why it was suppressed by the church and kept out of the cannon. Pagels has been called one of the world's most important writers and thinkers on religion and history. She won the National Book Award for her book, The Gnostic Gospels. Pagels is a professor at Princeton University.

It upsets me that I feel like a contrarian in this, but the Gospel of Thomas instantly reconciles my view of Christianity with my interpretation of Buddhism. It is John that makes Thomas heretical. It is the Gospel of John that makes Christianity authoritarian.

There are several English translations of the Book of Thomas. Here are some pivotal verses from an arbitrary translation:

(03) Jesus says: (1) "If those who lead you say to you: ‘Look, the kingdom is in the sky!’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. (2) If they say to you: ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fishes will precede you. (3) Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and outside of you." (4) "When you come to know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will realize that you are the children of the living Father. (5) But if you do not come to know yourselves, then you exist in poverty, and you are poverty."

(44) Jesus says:
(1) "Whoever blasphemes against the Father, it will be forgiven him.
(2) And whoever blasphemes against the Son, it will be forgiven him.
(3) But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, neither on earth nor in heaven."

(48) Jesus says: "If two make peace with one another in one and the same house,
(then) they will say to the mountain: ‘Move away,’ and it will move away."


Posted by mbowen at 10:06 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Massive Voter Registration Drives

"If you get enough people fired up, there's no telling what might happen."
-- Vernon Clarke (Reporting from Philadelphia on the NAACP Annual Convention)

It's rather sad that I find myself bad-mouthing the NAACP. I can't remember the last time I gave them the benefit of the doubt. The last thing I ever hoped was that in the wake of multiculturalism, they would actually become something for 'people of color'. Alas, they lack the imagination. I hear the Legal Defense Fund still does good wonky work, but the general org - hack central.

So it appears that their big secret weapon is 'massive voter registration'. No disrespect to the objects but this is scraping the bottom of the barrell. Who is not registered to vote? Most likely the people who don't care. It's one thing to raise new ideas which encourage people to participate in the political process, but it's another to have the end result be voter registration with the presumption that all blacks are going to dislodge the sitting President. So where is the NAACP the other 4 years? Giving awards to R. Kelly.

I'm not going to explain the math that demonstrates that voter registration drives targeting African Americans has diminishing returns every year. Even if they had been successful at it every time (hmm) there's a fixed amount of bang for those bucks. After all these years, they might have come up with something better. Tsk.

Posted by mbowen at 04:19 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

RIP Isabel Sanford

What a voice she had. Unforgettable.

I don't think anyone realized how old she was. I thought she was absolutely marvelous in 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner'. Her nuance was right on track. Remarkable even.

Posted by mbowen at 03:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

And Now A Word From Our Sponsor

Cobb? I don't know who the hell that is or what he has to do with the deadline Michael Bowen has this week. And you know what, I don't care. Just get it done. Fuck Cobb.

Actually, that's my internal taskmaster speaking. If posting seems light or repurposed, you understand the reason.

Posted by mbowen at 02:03 PM | TrackBack

Sob Sisters

Posted by mbowen at 08:24 AM | TrackBack

Worst Books I Ever Read

Following the meme. I don't read many bad books. That's because I don't use the library. I buy books, and I rarely buy a book I don't think I'd enjoy. But sometimes someone loans me a book, and sometimes I make dumb mistakes. Without getting into the whys and wherefores, here are books I remember hating because they were supposed to be all that, and weren't.

1. The Isis Papers, by Frances Cress Welsing
3. Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino
4. The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, by Henry Miller
5. The Periodic Table, by Primo Levi
6. The Reckoning: What Blacks Owe To Each Other, by Randall Robinson
7. The Women of Brewster Place, by Gloria Naylor

Most of these books were mostly disappointments, especially Naylor, whom I like and respect as an author. But there is no number two when it comes to bad. The Isis Papers is the Nick Berg video of literature. And so I dedicate a few paras of scortched earth.

This book is so horrid that it made me ill just thinking about it. It is obscenely retarded, ridiculously hyperbolic and has all the style of the instructions on a package of dog food. I've read cereal boxes with more wit and humor. I've heard more insight into the nature of race from 7 year old children.
Perhaps the only thing more astounding than the fact that the book was ever published is that there are people who actually believe this garbage. It only underscores how tragic are the dimensions of this uniquely American dilemma.

I will periodically could come back and add to this review every time I have an opportunity to find a new metaphor for idiotic poison stinkiness. In fact, the Isis Papers is a milestone, a testament to awfulness which will have critics reaching for superlatives for years to come. It will continue to challenge reasonable people with common sense to find ways to describe its slimy gutwrenching putrid foulness. Think of the old woman in the Princess Bride booing Buttercup. Boo

After I read it, I tried to justify it. I tried to figure out where she was coming from. No good. It sat on my shelf - and I thought, well at least I can tell something about people by judging their reaction to the book on my shelf. Instead, I just got nauseated by seeing it there. I actually felt sorry for the books that were next to it. OK, I say - there has got to be a good use for it. So I cut out the middle of it and made it into a book safe. Then I couldn't think of anything I cared about enough to hide, but not so much that I would put it into the embrace of the Isis Papers.

In the end there was only one good use I found for this book. I threw it into the trash. With that one motion I felt purified and my house felt cleaner. So I picked it out of the trash and did it again 12 times.

I would remind thoughtful people, in case you've never seen it -heaven forbid the temptation strikes you - that books don't burn well; whole books that is. If you take the pages out one at a time however, you get good kindling. Just thought you should know.

Posted by mbowen at 02:33 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

July 10, 2004

Open Secrets

Posted by mbowen at 04:07 PM | TrackBack

Soul Plane Postmortem

Those who are convinced of their moral superiority and influence on American Society will no doubt remain lost in their own solopsistic universe, exterior to market realities, but I would like to remind all concerned that the sky did not fall and the state of Black America today is the same as it was six weeks ago.

$16 Million

Gross Box Office Reciepts to date:
$13.9 Million

Rubbing it in the face of the Great Protectors of Black Images in Hollywood:

Now happen to know that somebody's going to sell some DVDs to get their money's worth out of those puppies. There will be some spots created for whatever the latest ghetto fabulous program is on MTV, and they'll close the gap and some paneder's kids will get to go to college. That doesn't change the fact that Soul Plane is just another brick in the wall.

And I bet you hadn't even thought about it this week.

Posted by mbowen at 03:48 PM | TrackBack


When I'm down and feelin' blue
I close my eyes so I can be with you
Oh, baby, be strong for me
Baby, belong to me
Help me through
Help me need you

-- Irene Cara

The Spousal Unit and I sat down last evening to watch a film I thought I knew. These days as the flags are being raised back up, those that remain at half mast still remind me of points made about America before and after the Reagan Era. Nothing quite symbolized that to me like the themes and subtexts of movies made before the 80s. 'Fame' is one of those films.

There are several extraordinary things about this film which mark it higher in my estimation. What strikes me most about it in retrospect is how clearly it shows the ambition, talent and vulnerabilities of the youth of that period - my generation. It's a film about transition in many ways. As I watch it, a hundred tiny memories come back. NY subways with grafitti, slimline 110 film cameras, the constant dialog about 'junkies', the old Times Square.

Irene Cara's performance of 'Out Here On My Own' is a miracle of strength and tenderness. You could watch American Idol until you die and there will never be another moment like that.

I only saw the last half of the movie and yet it moved me, with its vignettes showing the nuanced emotions of the kids. I cannot think of any contemporary films about youth which so finely captures their spirits as they struggle to become adults and handle the facts of their lives. Instead I see a series of near misses that always get their serious tone from kids learning to respect their elders rather than learning to respect themselves. Heathers, Donnie Darko, The Man Without a Face, Seconhand Lions all miss the mark in that regard. And as I watch a bit more of what my kids watch I am looking for ways to accurately describe the kind of shallowness - what kinds of souls these kids seem to be missing.

The kids of Fame cursed. They raged, but they did so in a way that showed a true spirit, not in the shallow way that contemporary kid actors work at their upbeatness. The character Doris showed how it was OK to be a little bit naive. She had enough heart to handle the demons of Ralph.

Thinking about the kids of Fame makes me consider the notions of 'Zero Tolerance' more closely. Their freedom to rage and to connect with the dangers, of reefer of sex of violence of rebellion, is what grew them or destroyed them. But we got to see them face all of that without parents. They faced full-on the same demons that destroy adults knowing that as artists they would have to channel its effect on them and produce performances of inspiration and hope. It's a lot to put upon any head, it is in fact the challenge of the human condition, and yet there it was. There were no dramatic proxies for those dangers. Coco was in the apartment of the pornographer. I wonder if our advanced parenting skills and our notions of what is appropriate for our kids to experience betrays a fear that they will not be able to understand what is at stake. Is it that, or is it our fear that they will indeed handle what we could not? What corrupts is the inability to resist corruption. It seems to me that you have to face it, eat it, digest it and shit it out to know what evil is. Developing judgement is a risky business but isn't that what youth most necessarily must do?

RIP Gene Anthony Ray

Posted by mbowen at 08:41 AM | TrackBack

July 09, 2004

Nacho Cheese

Here's an idea that I cannot get out of my head. Churches are not deliberative bodies.

I hesitate slightly in casting aspersions on any church that ain't my own church, but I think a certain fact remains: When it comes to parishoners, congregants, members of the chruch having quarrells withe the way their minister spends money - it ain't democracy. As far as I can see it boils down to this in the Christian church. As soon as that money leaves your hand and drops into the basket, it's God's money. That means you got no say in what happens to it or what it's used for, it's not your cheese. Some churches, and it's more than a few, will tell you that's God's money even while its still in your pocket and only the devil is making you hold onto it. Sure they'll call it god's blessing or god's grace, but whatever they call it, it ain't yours. For the moment, I'll call money cheese after the hiphop argot, because everybody knows that hiphopers are the most materialistic creatures on the planet and they're not about to give up their cheddar for any spiritual blessings.

I bring this up tangentially to the old, black politics in church thing. See I have come under the spell of the argument that the reason that the Democrats get away with murder when it comes to actual accountability to black communities is because said black communities are met at church. And of all the folks who will forgive, forget and be thankful for whatever they get, it's black churchfolk. You see they are members of black churches where what's mostly done by the people at the pulpit who collect the cheese, is blessings and exhortations. And if your cheese ain't working for you, well.. it's God's money.

I am sure there are some very significant moral reasons for signifying in front of parishoners, but let me ask anyone who knows: What does your church's budget look like? What is your church's fiscal year? How much does your pastor make? What is your church building worth? What recourse do you have if you don't like what's being done with your cheese?

Rude questions, right? Perhaps. My point is that I don't see many counter-examples of a fiscally informed laity. And that may not be the point of going to church, but it sets a horrible example for dealing responsibly with politicians and expecting accountability. Where else are you getting your examples?

I don't know what percentage of blackfolks who vote are fiscally oblivious churchfolks. But it seems to me that's where Democrats have been going for black votes for generations, and they're on to something.

Posted by mbowen at 12:15 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Styx, Robotics, Labor & Complexity

As part of my Rock Recovery project, in which I catch-up and try to recognize and acknowledge all of the rock & roll music that I listened to during my youth but never really penetrated my conscience, I have come to Styx.

We're all going to be treated in a few weeks to another blockbuster film realization of science fiction of the late 20th C. I hope to god that we get a real Farenheit 451 film one day, but for now, this Asimov will do. The trick is to balance the visual with the guts of the provocative dilemma and speculative future which is what the best sci-fi does. BTW I would include Raimi's Spiderman and Ang Lee's Hulk in this new genre of the New Visualization. I am beginning to enjoy this genre more than that of my usual fare of hard-boiled action and dense intrigue. (Get Shorty, The Heist, etc.) Still I think they have yet to beat Heat or Ronin. Nevertheless, we may have a good opportunity to see America's #1 sci-fi action star, Will Smith, deliver some nuance. I'm not holding my breath on 'I, Robot', but just imagine M. Night doing Bradbury's Martian Chronicles.

Now many of you may remember Styx big hit of the 80s, 'Mr. Roboto'. While listening to Styx' Roboto, I became intrigued at the meaning of the phrase at the end of the song "I'm Kilroy!". I found the answer along with the lyrics in this freshman comp essay. But the subtext that weds this idea to the flick I Robot is found in this para:

This song’s literal meaning depicts his escape from jail, but the true meaning of this song is hidden in the words and expresses Dennis DeYoung’s (the lead vocalist and writer) thoughts about the average blue-collar worker. He first educates the listeners about the workers in their meaningless lives. He sings of how the workers are human on the inside, but on the outside, treated sub-human, as if they only exist for the company’s profit.

I'm not sure there's much of an education to be had, but it certainly reflects a bourgie view of the Second World. The problem is that it's not robots that are doing our dirty work, but new subjects of the Internal Empire. So here's your subversive assignment. Imagine that all the robots in the film 'I, Robot' are not fancy machines, but boat people. It's a lot more likely that Your Human Competition is going to be doing all that work. It won't be US Robotics, it will be more like Halliburton subcontracting to Titan, subcontracting three times removed for skills not immediately appetizing to the average First or Second Worlder. Is that slavery?

As I listen to the song, the first lyrics play perfectly with the scenario of a robot that evolves and becomes a victim of his own evolution. Styx' Mr. Roboto is actually a rock star humonculus and not an actual evolved robot but their predicament is similar. Everybody purposely bogards and becomes uppity. Everybody wants to complicate their lives with ambition. As Mr. Smith says in the Matrix, "It is inevitable."

It is inevitable that evolved creatures will find themselves in situations which generate out of their own complexity. I say such creatures will not be able to explain why. No one can predict whether or not these situations will be good or bad, but they will be new and the cause of that is the embracing of the complex possibilities. Is that creativity?

Things that make me say 'hm'.

Posted by mbowen at 11:25 AM | TrackBack

July 08, 2004

Right Wing Epiphany

Over in Orkut, where I tend to be a bit more lower-case and provocative than I am here, I re-engaged the Cosby argument. And as I was engaging in the discussion I think I had a breakthrough. I think can genuinely see exactly what it is that the right wing sees in the left wing. The difference, of course, is that I'm not afraid of the left wing and I don't believe they are a threat. A danger and a menace perhaps, but not a threat.

The thing that nailed it for me was the quotation of some Z Magazine article written by a political science professor from Ohio. I didn't parse it very closely because it immediately reminded me of something else that got me right to the edge of epiphany. That other something was the NPR segment about Freedom Schools in Kansas City. Basically there was this very uplifting story about those young people that Cosby recently loves to hate, beating the odds by attending a 'Freedom School' during the summer in an super supportive environment. I'm listening to this radio segment saying, man this is so cool but I would never do that work in a million years. That's for my buddy Monroe.

Now while it's true that I did a very heartfelt stint teaching Saturday School at St. Luke's parish in Harlem several years back and it was that experience that reintroduced me to my own family tradition of Kwanzaa, I have serious problems with the scalability of Ujamaa and a couple of the principles. So my enthusiasm is just for this very organic and grass roots sounding program. The voices of the people convinced me that this was done from the heart and that it was all good.


The KC program, which included about 7 of these schools was expanded because of the charity of a large [white liberal] foundation. Now the origin of the Freedom Schools was all about education of rural blacks to understand what kinds of things they would be getting that they have always been denied in the deep South. How government derives from the consent of the governed, so black people need to vote kinds of things that the redneck highschool teacher supposedly teaching civics wouldn't cover. But now 50 years later, it's part midnight basketball, drug-free, supplemental education, afrocentric support, summer school. In combination a great point of light for those who get zilch in the ghetto. (Remind me never to say 'inner city' again - I understand that American Apartheid was designed to create ghettoes and keep blacks and browns there - like Jewish ghettoes from where the term originated). I cannot presume to know exactly what Mr. Liberal Daddy Warbucks sees in these poor black ghetto kids, but I have a general idea about the parameters (poor, black, ghetto kids, money for programs).

At the end of the program, the NPR announce clinches it. Some university is sponsoring a study of these kids. ARGH!

Can you feel it? Little black kids are lab rats for a university study. The volunteers who dedicated their time in 'giving back to the community' in a modified form of Deep South rural education for poor blacks victimized by poll taxes, will be replaced by professionals. The university study gets read into the Congressional Record, several left organizations line up behind it. Daddy Warbucks elbows a couple of his cronies at a garden party and the whole thing is off to the races.

Now some of this stuff works. Headstart I would say, and the kind of stuff in California under the heading of the First Five. But that's not a black racialized liberal co-optation of more Civil Rights Era stuff.

So when this cat started quoting... hm let me find it:

Bill Cosby's decision to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision by proclaiming that poor black people deserve their fate at the bottom of America's steep socioeconomic pyramid has delighted many white Americans. Large numbers of United States Caucasians are grateful for Cosby's widely reported intra-racial top-down smack-down, which gave politically safe - because nominally "black" - confirmation to their own self-satisfied opinion that poor African-Americans have nothing and nobody but themselves to blame for their difficult circumstances in this great "color-blind" "land of opportunity."

Paul Street (pstreet99@sbcglobal.net) is an urban
social policy researcher in Chicago, Illinois.


OK it wasn't Ohio. But it suddenly hits me. How does an urban social policy researcher make money? How do they pay their bills? The are professionally engaged in the 'industry' of politics that comes up with plans and politics and basically federal government money that goes to programs. So the Cosby us against them can get rendered into policy and dollars via university studies and policy research and all of that business that goes to direct our tax dollars.

If you asked me what makes the Freedom School concept work, I think I heard enough with the interview. People saw a need right in front of their faces and did something about it. I could immediate recognize those blackfolks valid concerns - the concerns we are all rightly facing. But it's the ways and means of the institutionalization of this abstracted thing that suddenly make me say whoa. And that's where the epiphany was coming from. I see the wheels cranking, and I see the whole thing growing from the original Freedom Summer (no foundation money, no corporate sponsorship, no tax dollars), to this Freedom School (no corporate sponsorship, no tax dollars) to the next steps. Where is all the money coming from? Non-black hands.

So at the end of this rainbow I see failure and bitter disappointment. And I think that is exactly how the right sees left tax & spend. Except a lot on the right wing as we know, think the whole effort is of dubious merit. Epiphany.

Posted by mbowen at 12:28 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 07, 2004

Spence: Black Ops

A great article not to be missed is this by Lester Spence.

What would happen if Kerry did more than name a couple of high-level African Americans to his staff? I think he would find that these operatives would have an insight into various sorts of communities that could be helpful to know. He would probably find out, for example, that you could find politically minded black men and women outside of church. I remember when Howard Dean was running for office, and the only time you would see him talking to black people, or talking about black people, was when he was in a church somewhere. Black churches are second homes to a significant number of black men and women, but they are not and have never been the home to all black people. And it is more than a little bit insulting (racist even) to assume that all black people are god-fearing, praise-and-worship folk with nothing but Jesus on their minds.

Exactly. And you know I think that counts double for Republicans. It's why I'm in the GOP.

UPDATE: S-Train says EXACTLY what I'm thinking about church.

Posted by mbowen at 08:49 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Worm's Eye Distributed Client Side Aggregations

I just had a flash of inspiration. One of the problems with the cube paradigm is as Neil Raden says here in his Netezza white paper. It doesn't take advantage of cheap hardware scalability and it abstracts the most educated guesses of strike teams that don't always strike true.

What if we reversed the paradigm of query aggregation with the understanding that end-users have significant hardware resources at their disposal? The idea here is that an analyst will poke at peek at detail and then come to some preliminary conclusions given their worms eye view of the business. Therefore you give them very specific access to real-time data in their area of expertise and then allow them to speculate about the effect on the business. In other words, rather than using standard top-down metadata to pre-build aggregations for marting, allow ad-hoc aggregations using bottom-up metadata decided on by some collaboration of worms-eye views of the business.

Posted by mbowen at 10:39 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Jimi Izrael

I think I just figured out why I'm only something of the writer I might have been. It's because I've written to cope but not to survive.

There have been times when my writing was loopy and impntrbly dense, lower case and reflective of spontaneous energy, when it was clear that I had a great deal of the outside world flowing through the twists in my noggin to land curiously on the page. There was a time when that swirl and flow would move me into a direction of vibing into the subject with fascination and infect my soft creamy middle adding new flavor to the mix I had become. There was a time when I maintained an existential contract with the creative and sought to be more avant than on guard. That was then.

So encountering Jimi Izrael makes me think first of the Wigs, the Tribe of Gorgik, the cool collective of black New York writers that never came to be. When I had something of a chance to jump in, I realized I didn't have the patience to pay dues. I was too old, too successful, and too unimpressed. Aside from that, my girl had more than a quarter million dollars in debt watching her magazine crumble in the rented loft and I remembered the words of my aunt's boyfriend with the new Nikon. "Show business is just like any other business, except the people are twice as flaky." Do you want to know how much patience I have with flaky people? I don't even have the patience to answer.

And yet I sat around Nkiru waiting to bump into somebody.
And yet I sat around Fez waiting to bump into somebody.
And yet I obsessed over Lisa Jones.
And yet I obsessed over Greg Tate.
I knew that the somebodies were out there.

But for a number of reasons, I moved to Boston instead. I got entangled with people going nowhere or to New York, or back to France, or back to LA. The dalliance was over and my writing went back to the DL - to the internet where everyone is a writer and it doesn't matter how fly you can be in a cafe over drinks, where there are no parties to be invited to, where getting hit on is tabulated...

I don't want to be that kind of writer any longer. I'm no longer a devotee to the cause of literary hiphop. I don't care if it lives or dies, except for my sympathy for those of talent like Izrael might be sustained by its economy.

Posted by mbowen at 07:58 AM | TrackBack

Hit Me With Your Best Shot

OK It's Kerry & Edwards. Didn't I predict this some time ago? Dunno, but this is the Democrats' absolute best ticket possible to beat Bush. Bush Cheney is not the absolute best ticket but man what a showdown this is going to be. I'm glad the Dems have their 'A' Team on the field. One way or another there is going to be some crowing after this fall's election.

A stunning clash is what we're in for.

Hey, since everybody has enough money, why don't both parties fund a bunch of propaganda films between now and election day. Then we can all just kick back and go to the movies rather than watching boring Town Hall debates.

Can you imagine this? Bush-Kerry debates. Ho hum. Oh how I long for the days of Buckley-Vidal.

Posted by mbowen at 01:18 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Boyd & Me

OK This is getting spooky interesting. Firstly, I find the person of John Boyd fascinating. I understand the spell he casts on devotees immediately. I have appropriated his quote about wealth and freedom and have placed it at the top of my quotables. He makes the case for the organic - which I had lived for much of my adult life.

Secondly, although I haven't been able to find it, there is something profound about getting inside OODA loops that was described nicely in a story I'd seen about boxing. (Then suddenly I remembered that Gerald Early wrote about boxing and almost immediately turned to the exact page in his first volume of 'Speech and Power'. There it was: Ralph Ellison.)

Once I saw a prize fighter boxing a yokel. The fighter was swift and amazingly scientific. His body was one violent flow of rapid rhythmic action. He hit the yokel a hundred times while the yokel held up his arms in stunned surprise. But suddenly the yokel, rolling about in the gale of boxing gloves, struck one blow and knocked science, speed and footwork as gold as a well-digger's posterior. The smart money hit the canvas. The long shot got the not. The yokel had simply stepped inside of his opponent's sense of time.

Thirdly, connecting this to Nash and game theory is about as wonderous as one could hope. These are still spirals that intrigue me. And yet it is not the pure mathematics that make me excited but this very thing about Boyd:

His next stop was Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The Air Force sent him there to learn industrial engineering, a standardized curriculum that forced him to take a survey course in thermodynamics — the science of heat and energy. On the way to class one day, he had a flash of insight: the laws of thermodynamics, particularly those governing the conservation and dissipation of energy, were like the tactical give-and-take of an air-to-air duel. It was the kind of insight that characterized his genius for using analogies to combine seemingly unrelated pieces of information, gleaned serendipitously from very different disciplines, into a new world view.

I spent a lot of time training myself to think exactly in that manner, sometime around 1988. I called it 'A New Way of Knowing'. Basically, I would listen to television, some music and pick over some book and write three unrelated concepts at the top of a page. I would then write an essay that would somehow join the three concepts together. Granted, I wasn't doing thermodynamics, but I was interested in concepts such as the social implications of Goedel's theory. If you go back and look at some of my early (but not early early) writing, pre-boohab, pre-Cobb I would have titles like 'PJ O'Rourke, Jesuits & Whitemaleness' or 'Albert Murray, Bugs Bunny & Musical Brotherhood'.

A man whose intelligence and heart inspire me suggested that I have some facility for this kind of thought, and I'd consider him something of an expert of the sort. I think we owe him a visit as well. So head over to Charles' site and check out his brilliance.

You see? I haven't said much here, but I've linked some fairly interesting concepts. Now the next trick would to go a step deeper and see what Ellison was saying about invisibility as a choice vis a vis Boyd's going below the radar as a Ghetto Colonel. Then hook that back to Murray's highminded religious literacy and relative obscurity - lives as criticism to establishment elites. Cool.

Holy smokes, the plates of shrimp just keep coming. Charles' last entry about co-intelligence is right on time. It takes us back to the Tao. (Doesn't everything?)

Posted by mbowen at 12:26 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Dat Ole N Word

Chuck D said something happened between 1989 and 1992 in hiphop. It was NWA of course. But then Chris Rock said he'll use it if it benefits him, given all the shorts he had to take coming up. Nelson George said something else, George Wolfe said something else. Wynton said something; Stanley Crouch said something.

Wait a minute. Now I'm confused. How many black people can you get into one documentary? Well I'll tell you who else was in it. Ice Cube, Alvin Poussaint, Donald Bogle, Bryant Gumbel, Talib Kwali, John Sally, Whoopi Goldberg, Sam Jackson, John Singleton, and that was just the last 20 minutes.

So maybe this is not a story about the N Word so much as it is about this new cable channel, Trio. Where did it come from? Where is it going? My interest is piqued.

At any rate, no I can't remember the first time some white kid used it against me. I'm sure I stopped counting. The latent effect is nil. But I do have some old handy N-Word resources. All those multivariate black responses to the various questions surrounding the word almost made it interesting enough for me to open my mind. But in the end, I think I agree most with Chris Rock. It's only an interesting subject because saying the word is something whitefolks can't do, and it blows their minds that there is actually something they can't do.


UPDATE: Re-revisit an old subject. Nicely done at P6 last August.

Posted by mbowen at 12:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 06, 2004

Sudanese Memetic Milestone

07KRIS.162.jpgToday is a milestone. Make a note of it. The NYT pasted this picture of adorable children on the front page of their web edition. It is at this moment that Americans may start waking up to the reality of suffering on the ground. I rather wish they had done it several months and thousands of refugees ago, but I'm just one political cartoonist.

The next step to watch for in the establishment of this meme for rescue is the naming of a warlord or evildoer. At the very least, you can expect NPR to pickup on the strangeness of the name 'Janjaweed Militia'. As of today there are about 15,000 hits on Google. When it hits 100,000 the meme will have weight.

Posted by mbowen at 09:20 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 09:11 PM | TrackBack

Cobb Is..


cobb is on the right track
cobb is a prick
cobb is such an exaggerated case

Posted by mbowen at 11:13 AM | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 08:03 AM | TrackBack

July 05, 2004



This is just so hilarious I just had to post it.

Posted by mbowen at 09:18 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Boyd Cycles, OODA Loops

There have only been a few places online where I have heard about Boyd Cycles aka OODA Loops. Never have I heard Boyd compared to Sun Tzu, but the only serious geostrategic thinker I knew was the first one to mention them and he became entirely too busy after nine-eleven to be engaged online. The other person I have only just discovered. So I will take notes at this new site from time to time.

In my field of Business Intelligence, about which I almost never write here in the blog or elsewhere, I have arrived at a number of somewhat inexplicable gut facilities for success. Since I have been working primarily for myself over the past 3 years, I haven't had much call to explain that. In the overwhelming majority of times, I am able to make my case in a two hour meeting, and everything flows from there. But if I have any skills worth speaking of, they flow from an understanding I have about decisionmaking which I have evolved over the past 17 years. I find that much of what Sun Tzu says is quite applicable to this core of my thinking and approach to business; it is certainly part and parcel of my attractions to spycraft, politics, philosophy, theology, ethics, law, military strategy and the scientific process.

Additionally This.

Posted by mbowen at 07:44 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Problem with Civil Rights Politics

Professor Kim leads me to black feminists who are having a difficult time figuring out which way to go in light of what's up with Bill Cosby. I have a lot of things to say about the subject, and I think that I will dedicate a lot of time to saying so in this and other posts, even if I repeat myself topically.

I think I owe it to people who may or may not be new here to soak up about as much bandwidth as this Cosby wave is capable of delivering. At least it's something I think I offer some alternative framework for discussing. To the points:

Let’s be fair, you will always have knuckleheads. Every group does.

But the solution is not to lob classist missives at poor blacks. The solution is not to blast poor blacks for “betraying the Civil Rights Movement” — a movement that was very much rooted in, and beneficial for black bourgeois interests.

Instead, we need to actively reframe the Civil Rights struggle to include economic issues. We need to actively work with and on behalf of poor blacks to bring change.

I personally don’t see enough of it coming from certain high-profile civil rights crusaders such as Mr. Cosby.

The Civil Rights Movement is over. It was, despite continuing rhetoric to the contrary, a complete success. All that is required from this point on is a modicum of vigilance. We should act as if it's done because it is done. Nobody is going to roll back the clock. Nobody is going to steal the money that Robert Johnson made from BET. Nobody is going to firebomb any churches, sic dogs or use firehoses on blacks who want to vote or otherwise use the American system. Nobody is going to keep blacks out of the stock market, public universities, hospitals, the officer's ranks of the armed services, government employment. A few isolated individual may try, but they cannot and will not succeed. We have not, by a long shot, reached the End of Racism, but we have reached the point at which it will take more than a nation of a million racists to hold us back. Why? Because there is a nation of a million racists trying to hold us back and they are not winning.

If you think they are, then stand to my left and raise your hand. I'm going in a different direction. Up.

The simple problem with this particular black feminists perspective is that they are expecting milk from a fish. There's nothing wrong with Civil Rights, it's just that they don't produce the kind of success she is looking for. If your parents didn't graduate from college and you are trying to get in, all Civil Rights politics can do is attempt to guarantee that unfair practices will not be employed to keep you out. They insure no special locks are on the door, but that's not the same thing as showing you how to make a key. What you will hear from any proper Civil Rights defender are all the failures in making things perfectly equitable - and that properly motivates people to check and balance what's wrong. That does not imply, however that the system itself is not capable of delivering the goods to those traditionally barred. But Civil Rights leadership is not about understanding African Americans in other colors than that of victims. That's their job; that's all they are, but it is not all we are.

The first step to a solution comes from loosening the grip of the politics of Civil Rights on your attention and then redirecting your attention to the politics of Social Power. Part of the problem is that too many African Americans don't feel as though there are any politics apporpriate for them aside from those of Civil Rights. That is the problem we in The Conservative Brotherhood are trying to address. Even by being boldly if sometimes even foolishly contrarian, many outspoken blacks are trying to say that there is another way for African American political interests. It's damned hard to get that message out there when most of the media engages in a(n unconscious) conspiracy against independent black political voices.

The politics of Social Power are about taking highschool kids and turning them into college graduates. Not to prove to The Man that black is beautiful. That was done a generation ago, but just because black families are trying to climb the ladder that makes America a great country. It's about staking an advanced claim in what America has to offer. It's about being uppity. It's about achievement and the pursuit of excellence. It's about using the system to do what it's supposed to do. It is a completely different attitude about what your purpose in America is all about. It's about taking a chance and making your impact on those better things. It's the entire difference between spitting on the flag and raising it high. And the first step is to stop believing that what faces you is some racist idiot who wants to stab you with an American flagpole. Kill that image. It doesn't apply.

If you think it does, stand to my left and raise your hand. I'm going in another direction.

If you acknowlege that every group has knuckleheads, then you're halfway there. Cosby may be in a conundrum because people expect him to speak as a Civil Rights leader. But he's speaking as a rich man who has given 8 figures to higher education. Repeat that again. He is a rich man who has given 8 figures to higher education. So whose politics are you going to be down with? Those who spend their money and time trying to get people through college or those who spend their money and time trying to get people out of jail? There's a conflict there and you have to choose. America's black politics are no longer sufficiently described in a letter from a Birmingham jail. In fact they are more and more being described in a website from middleclass black Americans who say things like:

We value education. We know that education is key to income, wealth and empowerment.

So you want to know "Where’s the “How to buy a house handbook"? " Good. That's what we're talking about. That's the direction we're heading. Don't be shy. Admit it, that's the direction you want to head as well. Our mutual problem is that people who are getting a lot of airplay are the ones who are saying that's not what black politics is all about. They're talking about who got hit on the head with a flashlight by cops. Hang tight. The future is this way.

Posted by mbowen at 03:04 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Your Competition: Part Two

The NYT tells a story of Bantu refugees who have found a home here in the US.

or Abkow Edow, a Bantu refugee from Somalia who now lives in Tucson, the Fourth of July was just another day. Though fireworks on the mountain and a reggae concert were scheduled, Mr. Edow was washing dishes at the Westin La Paloma Resort and Spa, wearing a baseball cap and thick rubber gloves that came up to his elbows. His wife, Madina Idle, was folding sheets and towels several corridors away in the vast underground complex below the desert views, the fountains and the valet golf carts.

But work is good. If the Fourth was just another day, it was a day in an extraordinary year for the couple, their two children and a grandson.

Mr. Edow, 57, and Ms. Idle, 42, have found themselves, after 12 years in refugee camps, at the end of the rainbow: America.

I often dream of doing business with people who don't spend so much time watching television. And I tell you without reservation that I feel a paternalistic and patriotic duty to immigrants such as these. It is days like this that I sometimes get angry at myself for being in the computer business. Nevertheless, I think I'll find a way to reconcile these things.

In the meanwhile, read this whole thing.Download file

Posted by mbowen at 02:47 PM | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 02:37 PM | TrackBack

Electromechanical Nostalgia

I have just found a treasure. The Internet Pinball Database.
And if you must know...

Old School New School

  • Bow & Arrow
  • Playboy
  • Six Million Dollar Man
  • Aztec
  • Xenon
  • Goliath
  • Old Chicago
  • Jacks Open

  • Twilight Zone
  • Theatre of Magic
  • Tommy
  • Cyclone
  • Old Chicago
  • Whirlwind
  • Earthshaker

Posted by mbowen at 01:31 PM | TrackBack

Shoe Bombs

I've actually had enough free time to read a book. Although I'm not finished with 'The Man Who Warned America' I have read enough about Ramzi Yousef to be significantly impressed with this whole shoe bomb thing.

To put it briefly, Yousef got busted and they found his computer describing his elaborate plans to sneak explosives onto commercial aircraft. So while most of us were laughing at the British guy they arrested with the shoe bomb, Yousef showed that it could be a very capable weapon.

Posted by mbowen at 01:27 PM | TrackBack

Wilson Park

I don't think anyone knows how much they love 80s music until it's played live by a band on the Fourth of July. Although for some reason I couldn't manage to break my cool pose (no alcohol in the park), inside my guts were jumping to the band yesterday at Wilson Park in Torrance.

I hate crowds, but I love examining them in minute detail. I prowl through them like a counter-terrorist agent looking for Ramzi Yousef, (when I'm not sprawled on a picnic blanket reading 'The Man Who Warned America'). Yesterday was no exception. I was wearing the mensch suit - picnic variation. Red bandana, blue muscle shirt, Oakley shades, red long shorts, Sketcher's sandals. When it got cold, I put on the grey hoodie. I have a weird kind of man-thing going that I can't quite explain. But I always find the top dog in a crowded place and acknowledge him but also let him know that I'm there. This counts for airport security and cops at large crowded places. It's a subtle thing. For some reason it seems to be mutual, except that it never works with firefighters - especially those down here in the South Bay who I think are pretty boys.

So I'm cruising this massive picnic which must have a good hundred thousand in attendance and I swing through all the different spontaneous neighborhoods that have aggregated on the lawns. To the Northwest are the line of mobile homes and the various bellies attached to them. Nobody has managed a decent BBQ, but what can I say? These were the earlybirds with their red white and blue face painted kids, canvas directors chairs, extendable awnings and monsterous coolers. Then there were the campers around the main stage with their large tents and unnecessary mosquito netting. Way back on Southeast end were immigrant families, sportos in their numeric gear, flygirls popping gum, skateboarders, volleyballers, tattooed rockers & ex-cons. In between was everyone in-between few of which were of the blogging classes.

Vendors hawking silly string and those stupid little things that pop when they hit the sidewalk were making a killing. The air was filled with whooshing, screaming and popping. A little kid who looked like a miniature Dennis Rodman ambushed his friends with a two-fisted spray of blue foaming strings. There were Dippin' Dots and Funnel Cakes, grilled corncobs, Kettle Corn and teriyaki meats on sticks. There was a rubberband gun vendor who had fashioned 20 different types of wooden 'replicas' from Mac 10s to Barettas to Chicago style Tommy guns. There were rug vendors who had Scooby Doo, Sponge Bob, and Confederate Battle Flags. (He seemed overstocked on the Queensized bedspreads, they were on deep discount and not moving). There there were porcelain frogs, $5 massages, sports trading cards, miniature kites, chinese calligraphy, $3 lipsticks and the ever present princess crowns with thier gold plastic stars and flowing multicolored ribbons. The Scientologists set up a booth. There was a prayer booth attended by some non-demonationalists. The Republicans were registering voters and offering a petition to keep the cross on the County Seal (I signed of course - they need 170k by 7/7).

All over people were staking out there few square feet with blankets or portable cabanas. Kids played pickle at the diamonds. Soccer balls and farting balloons squirted past. Teens played with gameboys or talked conspiratorily into their cellphones. Dads kicked their feet out lazily. The variety was stupendous. The local gymnastics joint had a demonstration; the spousal unit and I considered how much better gym class would be than soccer.

Men and women stood in line for the portapotties as short old people were weaved patiently through the crowds by their sons and daughters. Strollers of various dimensions with unidentifyable extentions and attachments jutted in an out of traffic. When it was announced that a little two year old girl with a pink top and blue jeans could be found at the information booth, I suddenly realised that I could find two within 90 seconds. The generators purred, the stadium lights came up at dusk and the band played better than anyone could have expected.

By the time I went back to the bourgiest corner of the park, the tents had come down and the front of the stage was packed. With a rebel yell, the crowd yelled more more more. When the band played 'Lets Go Crazy', all did. Their music stopped the world and we melted together. There was nothing they couldn't play, from Gary Newman to Foreigner to The Ramones. That's what I liked about them. And best of all, they didn't claim to be the Sultans of Swing. Sweet.

As I returned from returning the gaze of the cops outposted at the lookout point atop the multifunction building, I got in a few more chapters before the lights went down and the rockets went up. I was full of Dippin' Dots, BBQ chicken, honey glazed beans, grilled yams, hot cocoa, Nutter Butters, Canada Dry ginger ale, stawberry topped Funnel Cake, hot links and oreos. I could practically see the colors of my own belches. Unlike the previous year at the pier, these pyrotechnics were most definitely worth the wait. Lots of boom, and the shaped charges actually worked. We got apples and smiley faces! Incredible.

It took about 25 minutes to get out of the parking lot, and then the first incident of the night had at least 10 patrol cars screeching towards the east down Carson Blvd. We arrived at home completely bushed. I dropped the girls off to bed and found a couple other crunchy sweet ways to destroy my diet and make me look less fierce in a muscle shirt. Hey, but I'm free. Life is easy, kitchy-comfy and danceable.

Posted by mbowen at 12:43 PM | TrackBack


Lordy Lordy got a lot of motivation.
-- USMC Cadence

You have just got to listen to this stuff. It's absolutely invigorating and amazing. I put a couple copies into the radio blog for your enjoyment. The first thing I think is, call and response. This is the legacy of the work song in America.

Whenever people start getting apocalyptic in discussions about race, I let them know in no uncertain terms that if it comes to a race war and it really pit black against white, the first Civil War would be a picnic in comparison. Why? Because the Army ain't white. I read these cadences as an intellectual as evidence of deep integration of African culture into the bones of the American armed forces. But that's just the first impression.

The second impression is, damn. Why didn't I think of this when I was designing a pledge program for my fraternity?

And the third impression is of course, I'm hella glad these guys are on my side.

Posted by mbowen at 12:12 PM | TrackBack

July 04, 2004

Spangled Music

Oh say can you see any music for me? Putting together a CD for the day, I discovered that among those of us independent enough to share music, Hendrix, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey outnumber the USMC Band by a factor of about 20 to 1.

There's not nearly enough Sousa out there to satisfy anyone, and the quality is dodgy. Thank goodness for the Boston Pops. There seems to be plenty of Ray Charles, and a raft of stuff that says 9/11. There's about 45 people ahead of me in line to get Frank Sinatra's version of America the Beautiful but I did get Elvis.

There's a bunch of Lee Greenwood & Billy Ray Cyrus and even though I prefer the independence of Johnny Cash I can spare some room for those Americans. I've got a great recording of Taps followed by the Star Spangled Banner when you can clearly hear the click in the vinyl. Nice touch, although unintentional.

Where on earth is Kate Smith?

Posted by mbowen at 10:52 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


I have long been attracted to the symbols of America. As a teen, I had a massive American flag on my bedroom wall. I'm still a big fan of Sousa's music, but today is all about independence.

When I first got involved with anti-racist politics 14 years ago, it was the Declaration of Independence which was my inspiration. I read it then in rather hyperbolic terms as the great standing complaint of dead white men upon which a nation was build. Emphasis on dead whites. I always respected the document from many different perspectives, however in this effort the 'litany of complaint' was missing several key elements in my anti-racist and multicultural politics, namely racism and sexism.

What catches my eye this year is the following idea:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

The balance of human power is reverting back, in many ways, to the agency of the individual. Our ability to coordinate and manage people is being overtaken by the technology and knowledge available to the single actors and small groups. But at the moment for most of the world the problem is not this dissolution but the enduring grip of power over the many by the hierarchically organized few. Even as small private firms launch vehicles into space, despotic governments starve the masses.

Clearly from a neoconservative perspective it is America's duty to assist such global brothers from tyranny. But reading the Declaration and lightly thinking on our own history might lead some to conclude that intervention is not anyone's duty. Certainly any number of wars on this continent were not fought for such noble intentions as liberation of the oppressed, and we turned out OK. Consider the very next sentence:

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

The burden is clearly placed upon the oppressed people to throw off the shackles of the oppressors and take up arms if necessary. Is it ever that simple?


Posted by mbowen at 09:56 AM | TrackBack

July 03, 2004


Posted by mbowen at 09:02 AM | TrackBack

Believe It Or Not It's Just Me

Spiderman 2 is a very good film. It gets two thumbs up for positive values and all that good stuff. It's better than action films are supposed to be and it does it without being preachy, overly sentimental or wimpy. The film is all about heroism, pure and simple.

Speaking of which, does anybody remember that idiot show 'The Greatest American Hero'? Sorry if mentioning it makes you retch. I thought about that show in the wake of Reagan as an example of the soppy crap of the pre-Reagan era. But it started in '81. There has got to be a really, smashingly incriminating liberal review of that television show, that my inner conservative attack dog would like to shred to bits.

On the other hand, perhaps I should really just get some sleep and let it go.

Posted by mbowen at 02:13 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Sucking Up the Black Oxygen

I'm vexed, fumin', I've had it up to here
My days of payin dues are over, acknowledge me as in there (YEAH)

-- Phife

It has been a long time since I met John Mack, but I knew his daughter well. Every time I hear his name, or that of Bill Cosby or Jesse Jackson or Chip Murray I don't know whether to clap or spit. Each of these old black men stands head and shoulders above us mere mortals, but I wonder if they haven't been on the stage too long. Perhaps one day when I see my friend's name in the paper instead of her father's, we'll know that the wheel has turned. In the meantime, they've got me quoting Phife.

I wonder what it is we have to do in my generation to catch the political baton. At the same time I wonder if there is an ample amount of currency remaining in it, coming from that old blackman direction. Do you hear what I'm saying?

Again Cos is in the news. This time I'm tired of hearing it. He delivered the wake up call last month. This month we're ready to go mountain climbing and he's still saying 'wake up'. Now is about the right time for Cosby to point in the direction of people who have written their PhD thesis some time during the last three decades, OK? We get the point, now hand off the baton.

Posted by mbowen at 01:43 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Stanley Miller: Not Worth It

I'm irate this evening, and there are a number of reasons all having to do with this idiot GTA suspect and the cop(s) who brained him with a maglite.

The first reason is that I got a notice this afternoon that Ofari & company are going to discuss Bratton's fitness as Chief of Police. This is not a discussion that was a long time coming, this has everything to do with the idiot suspect, the zealous cop, and a six letter word that starts with the letter 'n'.

The second reason is the column in today's LAT by a cat named Steve Lopez, who begins with this farcical attitude:

Just to make sure all the bases are covered, I've decided to form yet another commission to look into the televised June 23 beating of a suspected car thief by Los Angeles Police Department cops.

Lopez goes on to makes sure we all know there are no shortage of blackfolks who don't care when white idiot GTA suspects are shot by cops, or think he should go 'back' to Mexico. And of course he makes sure that he mentions Al Sharpton and OJ Simpson, just in case anybody forgot about their relevance here.

The third thing that has me irate is that I have an eye appointment tomorrow morning and I cannot show up to Lucy Florence and express my outrage that any grown folks are making a stink about this non-issue. That's right I said it. NON-ISSUE. If you disagree, the comment facility on this website will accomodate several hundred megabytes. Type on.

But let me get to the meat of my point here. The beatdown and arrest of suspect Stanley Miller was not a politically motivated attack, so why should there be a massively calculated political response? To be blunt about it, it is a complete waste of political capital for any prominent blackfolks to weigh in significantly on the direct results or consequences of this particular police action. The reasons for this are several, but let me belabor the point.

If Danny Bakewell wishes to expend his energy and credibility playing Gallagher, that's his business. Let's try to remember something. I loved shopping at the new supermarket he built off Orange Grove in the Pasadena 'hood, but nobody elected him to anything. I'm not taking any cues from him, nor is anyone else I know. So why does it matter when he shows up to smash some melons for the reporters? It matters because he gets to be the 'so-called black leader' that snarks like Lopez write about. His role is already pre-determined by all the lazy people in Los Angeles who are unwilling and/or unable to deal with any level of subtlety when it comes to black politics.

Until such time as people like you and I (and there are plenty of us) get our fair share of air, everyone in Los Angeles suffers from this kind of dumbed down politics. I talked about the dynamic of black rage years ago. It's a trap. Here are some relevant excerpts. First from 1996

there is a vested interest in american politics to use black rage. white political majorities are particularly attuned to black rage, whether that is constructive or raw rage. in short, black rage is a legitimated form of political protest. a lot of blacks recognize this and make use of it. if i sit here in this forum and complain that black folks get harrassed unnecesarily by the same police that should be protecting them, that does not carry the same weight in american society as the artist ice cube writing the rap 'fuck the police' and having 17 year olds pump the beat in the car next to you with an evil stare on their face.

And importantly: (from 1999)

the result is that this gives more credibility to radicals who consistently *address* the issue, even if they have no solutions and no chance of attaining the power to implement any solutions. this is a classic case of whitefolks making themselves whiter than they need to be. in the end, the intransigent status quo remains in force, and blacks must resort to higher and higher pitched volumes to get america to wake up.

it is at this point where mau-mauing becomes more effective than ordinary franchise. but the mau-mauing does not take place in a vaccuum - the underlying tragedy continues. then whites excuse their unwillingness to listen from the tenor of the discussion. blacks excuse their hyperbole from white sangfroid. then somebody gets killed. suddenly whites realize there is some reality to the claim, but they can't figure out what black rhetoric is real - they blame the process. blacks say i told you so, but they can't figure out what white sympathy is real - they blame the process. blue ribbon bandaids are put in place, to keep 'the natives from getting restless', the issue gets incredible press, and then it goes away. the process is still broken

But here we have a not-so innocent man who is not seriously injured getting all this attention. This wasn't a shooting, and as far as I can tell, the suspect wasn't even hospitalized overnight. So if we are still playing the game of unelected 'black leaders' carrying weight and blue ribbon commissions and federal investigations, then please take the names of everyone in that charade so we can remember their foolishness come election day.

Los Angeles can not afford to let idiocy rule the day. That means sensible people like you and I have to start speaking up loudly and drown out the idiots scraping the bottom of the political barrell for cosmic symbolism. Miller is not worth it. Let's have some perspective here. Stanley Miller is no Geronimo Pratt. The controversy surrounding this matter is way overblown and there is no way that I can accept Bratton's credibility lying on such a thin case as this.

If there is any symbol that works here, it is Miller's theft itself. So called black leaders have stolen the car of respectable sensible black Angelenos' political voice, and now all the television cameras are on them instead of the people. When due process plays out and they are shown to be guilty of that theft and misdirection they should be taken out of the public eye. Meanwhile, we have no car. Who's thinking about us?

Posted by mbowen at 12:22 AM | TrackBack

July 02, 2004

LAT Well Runs Dry

I keep hearing evidence of wincing as journalist after journalist is leaving the LAT. The wincing seems to be coming more from the journalists remaining than the readership. Being of neither cast I note in passing that this run is probably not such a good thing. Yet I find it difficult to muster up a tear.

As I cozy up to the LA Observed blog, wedding myself ever closer to the appeal of the local, I feel a twinge of guilt for not giving the LAT much of my reading time, but my disposition of indifference has evolved over a long period. In the same way that most notable bloggers must feel, I've always felt a lack of depth and feeling in newspapers - that reading them engages so little of the person, that the journalist's discipline weeds out so much of human experience that they are incapable of truly informing. Sure there's information and oftimes its the only place it can be reliably found, but now that we get it, so what? The LAT was not egregious in that respect, but it had killed the Examiner which had spunk. Now the NYT seems to be bleeding the LAT. The cycle continues?

I do read the NYT on the regular as I do the WSJ. Blogs fill a great deal more of my news diet than before when I hung out more regularly at the Well and Brainstorms. Still, I'm well enough informed so that only the creative pieces at NPR are news to me - the big media rehash is predictable.

The LAT is a large paper, and reading it today reveals a whole lot of paper with a great deal of local content which is unique and interesting, but not much else. I can't imagine missing out on any national story by reading only the NYT and the WSJ.

When I moved to New York in 1991, I found their coverage of Los Angeles issues to be worse than abhorrent. Their entire spin on Los Angeles and California politics was so horribly misinformed that it proved practically unreadable. However, when it came to front page news, I was pleasantly surprised to find a better quality of writing. Still, I must confess that I fell in love with the NY Observer - a kind of paper LA could definitely use.

So if the LAT is doomed to be a local newspaper, then that's something I can abide considering the depth of writing here in the blogosphere. I feel sorry for folks who still depend on their dogs to carry in their primary source of news and information, as romantic as that must be. I think the best thing that can be said for the LAT is its standing as a steady employer of good writers who would otherwise go to seed and seedy publications. The whole is less than the sum of its parts, but it's a goodly aggregated thing.

Posted by mbowen at 04:10 PM | TrackBack

Farewell Brando

I know it sounds weird, but I am one of the seven people who have never seen 'On The Waterfront' or 'Streetcar Named Desire'. I have seen a few other Brando films most notably 'Apocalypse Now'. Yet I have to say that I never saw the 'it' about Marlon Brando until I saw him in 'Guys and Dolls'.

Posted by mbowen at 12:07 PM | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 08:03 AM | TrackBack

July 01, 2004

Najee Ali: Black Riot Proxy

I also want to clarify something that needs to be said. I think Najee Ali is taking a lot of heat for being a proxy for an unconsolable black public. This is disrespectful of both Ali and Los Angeles' African Americans.

It's rather facile for Jack Dunphy to suggest that Ali and other activists are hoping that black LA is spoiling for a conflagration over this videotape.

Ali's recusal from the panel is a good idea, given the heat he's taking for something that's not about him. Ali is neither the cause nor the solution to LAPD's discipline problems, and all the drive-by character assassination is not going to change that. Any commentary that puts his name in greater relief than that of the officers involved is painting this once again into a Blacks vs Police issue. That's stupid and inflammatory, plain and simple and it needs to stop.

I don't see how saying that *they* hope this is going to be Rodney King all over again helps the situation from not being Rodney King all over again. So from this corner of the spectrum, which can be simplified to read 'black & conservative' let's do what we can to give this matter the nuance it deserves rather than painting it black & white. Leaving Najee Ali out of it is a good start.

Posted by mbowen at 12:35 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

The Panel

Lots has been going on since I was away. I think I have a good reason to get back over to Ofari's post haste. I picked up the following from the LAT in reference to Najee Ali and this character who got beatdown by the LAPD. Black suspects all.

The panel includes members from a cross-section of the city, including Father Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries; Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean at the Simon Wiesenthal Center; John Mack, president of the Los Angeles Urban League; the Rev. Cecil "Chip" Murray of First African Methodist Episcopal Church; the Rev. Leonard Jackson of the First AME Church; attorneys Angela Park and Angela Reddock; William "Blinky" Rodriguez, executive director of Communities in Schools Greater Los Angeles/San Fernando Valley; Bishop Charles Blake, pastor of West Angeles Church of God in Christ; and Geraldine Washington, president of the NAACP's Los Angeles chapter.

Despite the inclusion of respected community leaders, Councilman Bernard C. Parks raised doubts about whether the panel is needed because the Police Department has an extensive process for monitoring and investigating allegations of police misconduct as part of a federal court consent decree.

This is basically an invitation to grant political grandstanding. You create an opportunity for people to say something in a pseudo-official capacity in which case they're likely to be circumspect. Why would any of these critics be louder at this moment than they would have otherwise? Hard to say LA would grant this exception unless it's an open an shut case of force within discretion, which I pretty much figured was a foregone conclusion given the reporting of the LAT that the guy said his nose hurt a little but other than that, no problem.

Aside from that, if people really believe that there is massed black rage ready to vent, then the amount of political integration and cross-communication is weaker than I have imagined. Considering what's being said about Ali, I can see that being true. It only speaks louder to this nasty feeling I have in the pit of my stomach about a folks like us in the Old School. I don't see which of us is on the panel. Granted, I'm going to have to get to know some of these people, but of the names I recognize, none of them is under 50 years old.

Over at LA Observed, there's some interesting links as well. I haven't bothered to give Parks quite the rundown, but a everything I've heard from him from interviews with KPCC folks sounds pretty solid.

Still, I'm fairly annoyed by this coalition of symbolic leadership, and while there's no denying that Murray, Mack and Blake are venerable old men, that's half of my problem with them. I'm going to ping my buddies and see what they have to say...

BTW, I had always thought that Lucy Florence had some ownership in that building. How else did they take over the fish market next door? Surprise. It only goes to show, it's not easy to know who has what in the bank.

Posted by mbowen at 12:09 AM | TrackBack