August 31, 2004

Out Blacked

I haven't been counting noses, and I haven't watched one minute of either convention on television. But it has come to my attention that both Rod Paige and Michael Steele spoke tonight. Has the RNC out-blacked the DNC? Just asking.

Posted by mbowen at 10:36 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Schlafly & Dobson

I'm not quite as authoritative on the matter of Fundamentalism as I should be given the kinds of claims I am likely to make in the following essay, but I think I know a thing or two. One thing that makes my life a bit easier is understanding something about a promise made by Carl Rove to GWBush in 2000 which I learned about today.

The authority on this matter seems to be David Kirkpatrick who writes for the NYT. What I've learned from this gent is that I've been barking up the wrong tree, probably like a fool to those who know better, when I say that I want to kick Pat Robertson to the curb as an ascendant part of the Old School Republicans. You see, Pat Robertson isn't the man any longer. He has been replaced, by and large by Rev. Dr. James Dobson.

Dobson is the man behind Focus on the Family. Not only that, he's the author of the 'Left Behind' series of Evangelical fantasy books. Yeah I said fantasy, if you have a beef, take it up with the Archbishop of Canterbury. He's also the man on the phone every week with some of the President's people. In short, he's the dude that gives those of us drawing a bright line between Church and State heartburn.

Phyllis Schlafly is more well known for giving all sorts of people heartburn forever and a day. Me, I never paid a moment's notice to her. If you had told me yesterday that she was dead, I probably wouldn't even have Googled the obit. But according to insider Kirkpatrick, Shlafly's Eagle Forum are the parties responsible for strongarming abortion language onto the planks of the RNC's document.

What does this have to do with Carl Rove? Well, apparently Rove promised Bush 4 million more Christian Fundamentalist votes than actually showed up at the polls in 2000. And for this GWBush has been looking over his shoulder, and occasionally bending over backwards to find and keep those lost sheep happy. How so? Well, I guess you can take your pick of gut-wrenching right wing rhetoric and lay it at the feet of social conservatives like Schafly and Dobson. They are the prime sources of influence within the Republican Party.

Example A. Stem cell research policy.
Example B. Federal Marriage Amendment.
Example C. Partial Birth Abortion legislation.

Now none of those three examples above give me gas. I simply don't like Evangelical Fundamentalists. That's a religious beef. With regard to politics I like them blurring the lines between Church and State even less. Just as I dislike crotch holding knuckleheads representing 'Black', I dislike raputure bumpersticker Jesus freaks representing 'Christian'.

That's not fair of course. I've used Focus on the Family's movie reviews to help me decide on many occasions. In fact there's probably a great deal of common ground between my basic values and theirs. But I'm not a Fundamenalist. If you ask me which side won the Culture Wars, I'll say my side. They think they've lost. One day we'll disentangle Angry White Paranoia from all this mess but I'm satisfied not parsing it that close. As Ms. Rice recently said, we need to be a bit more humble considering how long it took us to achieve a multi-ethnic plural democracy. Bottom line is that America is getting better not worse and I'm not taking any cues from embittered pseudo-persecuted prophets of doom. Clear enough? Fundamentalists, find your suburb and get a grip.


There are several big things that I take from this knowledge.

1. A hell of a lot can be bought with 4 million votes. GP are ya with me? (If you don't know, you better ask somebody). Seriously, this is a very concrete example of what swing voters can accomplish.

2. A very serious question can be asked as to whether it is via Dobson and/or Schlafly that socially conservative blacks are attracted to the Republican Party. I don't think so, but I want to find out. If so, then are we completely wrong about Sunday morning being the most segregated hour? If not, that means somebody needs to tell Fred Price and Cecil Murray that they're not playing a big enough game.

3. None of these people were anywhere before 1972. Which suggests to me that in 15 years African American influence in the Republican Party can be very substantial.

I think this should also clear up the distinction between what I mean between conservative blacks and black conservatives. I can imagine that there are a goodly number of African Americans who will come to the Republican Party via the Christian Conservative route. But I see a significant difference between them and white Evangelical Fundamentalists that's more than racial. Again, we'll need to disentangle sides of the Culture War when we look closer. Me, I'm sticking to the college-edumacated Talented Tenth elitist position when it comes to the Chu'ch, but I'll get in trouble one way or another. Quite frankly, I hope Ambra or LaShawn sets me straight on this. I think Mike King has sided with Jesse Lee Peterson too (whom I presume to be a sterling example of a black Evangelical Fundamentalist - but I could be wrong).

Finally, I wanto focus for a moment on Zell Miller. I like Zell Miller, who was attractive to me as a Democrat when I lived in Georgia. I don't know if he's changed his position much in the past 7 years but I know he's made a lot of enemies to his left among the Donkeys. I think I would be surprised to find that he has looked at policy and philosophy from Dobson and/or Schlafly to make his decision about switching parties.

Like me, he's just running like hell from the idiocy of the Left, not running to the 'wisdom' of Social Conservative Ideologues.

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The New iMac

If I were Bob Adams, I would be punching holes in the walls right about now. Bob Adams, the semi-legend who had the responsibility for Xerox' workstation business must have constant nightmares haunted by Steve Jobs. Today at, the new iMac can be eyeballed. The future of computing is now.

Back in 87, when I was at Xerox, the fourth floor of Xerox Centre housed the Industrial Design Group. It was there that I met John Seeley Brown while he was on a field trip. That was the year that he gave his famous 'information as basketball' metaphor. I loved to come down and browse the latest mockups of the computer of the future with their sleek lines and technically impossible flat full color screens. As soon as I saw the new iMac I was transported back to that design center.

Hmm. Now I have reasons to punch holes in the wall. I just learned that Tony Domit actually made a pile himself. Just as I was about to jump ship from Xerox, I spoke extensively with Tony Domit about a new venture which was going to put the Xerox workstation on a PS/2 board. I was only an apps programmer, but had done some fairly interesting stuff on that platform and I was very interested it its future. I most certainly would have had a nice equity position in AWP. He was having a collossal fight with other Xerox managers about getting the product out, primarily because it would make them look stupid. In the end he did. I'm happy for him, and kinda mad about my impatience. Oh well. There's always more money and more business.

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PETA Abuses Free Speech

These days, free speech is often theatre. You would think that we'd have better theatre, instead we get 'Real World' shenanigans dressed up as 'politics'.

Members of the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals were arrested and charged with indecency and disturbing the peace after a chilly rally in March near Harvard University where they stripped to their skivvies and staged a nearly naked pillow fight to protest against fur.

At least they weren't wearing leather shoes.

Posted by mbowen at 08:26 AM | TrackBack

More Support for the Internal Second World

Abiola makes a strong argument for expatriation of the educated in the Third World. I cannot recall the last time I considered this matter, but I'm sure that when I did, I thought it to support the notion of 'underdevelopment'. Not I am more convinced now that a professional brain drain is the result, rather than the cause of a nation's downfall.

Note also these goodies.

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August 30, 2004


There's a new bee in my bonnet. It's Oakley. For a long time I probably regarded them the same way as everyone else. Too much testosterone. Today I'm a believer.

This infatuation was a long time coming. Several years ago, I had a few hundred left in my flexible vision account and splurged at Linden Optometry in Pasadena. The Oakleys were fabulous. I still have them, and they are and have been among my favorite material possessions. But I never fell in for their overpriced, overengineered watches. Back then, that was all they had, so that was all the thought I gave it.

Then two years ago January I found went shopping for casual shoes for the first time in a long while. I was shocked by how shoe technology had changed. People talk a lot of smack about what poor Asians are doing in shoe factories but I think the overwhelming majority of us would be absolutely stumped by the design and manufacturing process. Nothing said that like the Oakley Flesh Shoe, a kind of sneaker / loafer with no laces but a snug fit. Oakley makes shoes? They sure do and boy are they comfortable. I threw away an old pair of Timberlands for those, and that's saying plenty.

So I was looking to replace the Flesh and I had a pair of Nikes in mind, but I decided to check out the Oakley site to see if they had updated their shoe. Whoa! Immediately, I saw this thing called the Stick. It was exceptionally cool, and sold out. So I began a journey to the local authorized dealers to see if they had any in stock. Foot Locker? No. Foot Action? No. They didn't carry them - nobody buys Oakleys. Of course I'm told this by 19 year old kids who have to shout over the noise coming from the hiphop videos. So I try another mall. Same story, same noise, same moonshoe looking Nikes fill the walls. By this time I'm starting to appreciate that I don't want to wear anything but Oakleys. The harder I search, Spyder Surf Shop? No - the more I want them.

I end up at Sports Chalet in Torrance. There I meet Glen. Glen tells me that he's been on a tour of the Oakley factory in Orange County. Suddenly, the old stories from Wired Magazine started percolating through my head, how this guy Oakley was a fanatic talking about thermonuclear protection and sunglasses in the same sentence. Glen waxes poetic when he starts talking about Oakley products; he's so helpful I wished I had more money to shut him up and buy half the store. He tells me about his manager who's an Oakaholic and wears everything Oakley from head to toe.

But what really gets me are the boots. Not just ordinary boots, but tactical special forces extreme ultra boots. I even feel weird talking about them. Check out the cover:

The United States military teamed with Oakley to invent an assault boot specifically for the U.S. Elite Special Forces. Available now for civilian use, this military hardware exceeds the combat performance profile for durability, comfort and protection. Engineered with a lightweight athletic design, the Elite Special Forces Standard-Issue Assault Boot is braced by an over-the-ankle boot shaft and shielded by abrasion resistant panels on soft top-grain leather. Comprehensive moisture control maximizes comfort. Advanced polymer EVA and premium urethane offer resilient shock absorption. High-NBS vulcanized rubber maintains traction over a full range of terrain.

Glen tells me that not only do they last forever, but they weigh about 6 ounces each. The main difference between the one they sell to us civilians is the absence of Kevlar. Still, I can't stop salivating. He doesn't have any but I can always go to their store in Irvine. I consider it for a moment, then I realize that I would need tactical boots and a G3A3 if my spousal unit discovered that I spent 225 bucks on some shoes that make me look like a wannabee Neo. I finally manage to get out of Glen's sales perimeter and I can hear myself think again. Wouldn't you know, Sports Chalet doesn't have the Stick either.

I relent and order another pair of black swede shoes called ThirteenTwenty from the online store. A few days later they arrive via UPS. Ack! They're pointy toed and they don't fit. These look like shoes for a tightrope walker and I sure the hell don't want to look like Philippe Petit. There is no way to tell from the camera angle how flaming these shoes look on a man's foot.

So I pretty much am resolved to head down to Irvine and give these Oakley metrosexuals a piece of my mind, and I discover they have a store in Hollywood. OK, save myself a half an hour on the freeway. I get into the Oakley store and I feel like I've died and gone to gearhead heaven. You know I'm a gearhead, right?

First of all let me say this. Oakley golf shoes are so incredibly cool that they make me want to use exclamation points. Next, Oakley ski wear is actually manly with just the right touch of grunge. I stayed away from their denim because I was determined not to spend any money, but I have a feeling that my Gap days are over. Unfortunately they're not on it when it comes to head gear, although they're very close. The problem is that their ski caps are not watch caps, and I may have complained when I watched I Robot, but Will Smith had the right kind. Oakley's don't let you fold it up - the logo wouldn't work. I hate those pointy tops, they make people look like Jay, Silent Bob's drug dealing sidekick.

I found the perfect shoe at the Oakley store. It's called 'Teeth'. Yeah I know. It looks a great deal more outrageous online than in 3D. They must be the most comfortable shoe I've ever worn, and that's no exaggeration. I don't know how they've done it, but they feel revolutionary. They are perfectly snug and yet you can yank them off your feet without untying them. They've even done tricks with the tongue, laces and eyelets so that they feel different when you tie them. When you pull on the laces, they tighten all the way from the first set of eyelets. It's better than velcro. Yeah I got some Oakley socks too, and I remember them from when all they used to make were dirtbike handgrips.

I'm going to say that Oakley has probably got me as a customer for life. There are only three other brands that smack me with this level of extraordinary tech and gearhead style: TVR, Ducati and Breitling. Now you know what to get me for my birthday. That or a Dell Rack.

Posted by mbowen at 09:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Necessary, Achievable & Noble

Is it just me or does John McCain sound like Les Nessman from WKRP? This is the second time I've wondered onto a radio broadcast of him speaking and I swear he sounds like a pinched professor. That doesn't detract at all from the rousing content, which although it got slightly tedious in the praise department, was good enough for me to hear to the end.

I turned on the radio just in time to hear half of NYC boo and shout. I had no idea what was going on. As soon as I switched on the radio I heard the word 'filmmaker' and then howls, whistles and catcalls. It took me a minute and then I put it all together. The speaker must be talking about Michael Moore. That was my chuckle of the day.

McCain put it plainly. We're all on alert. Bush did the right thing and he will continue to fight the good fight. I'll buy that. But more importantly, McCain struck the right note of patriotism when talking about our regular elections. You could just feel the love.

My friends, we are again met on the field of political competition with our fellow countrymen. It is more than appropriate, it is necessary that even in times of crisis we have these contests, and engage in spirited disagreement over the shape and course of our government. We have nothing to fear from each other. We are arguing over the means to better secure our freedom, and promote the general welfare. But it should remain an argument among friends who share an unshaken belief in our great cause, and in the goodness of each other. We are Americans first, Americans last, Americans always.

Nice one.

Posted by mbowen at 08:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Queer Fist

It's probably not fair of me to mock the political sensibilities of NYC's recent mobs. I myself have mobbed NYC at a particular moment in time. But Queer Fist? They want to make out in public until Republicans barf all over themselves and then lecture us about freedom?

Back to your garrets you pathetic bohemian hunger artists! We've got a country to run.

Posted by mbowen at 01:32 PM | TrackBack

August 29, 2004

Geopolitics Uber Alles?

I'm not accustomed to this kind of confidence, and I wonder today as I did in the month immediately preceding the war in Iraq if the smallminded and quarrelsome nature of our domestic politics has blinded us to geopolitical reality.

Considering all the time he's had, I find John Kerry mindnumbingly dumb on matters of foreign affairs. He has said not one thing that softens me to his cause. I continue to have my gripes with George W Bush, but it occurs to me that it is practically September and Kerry is still nothing but a nothing. I have heard no vision but carping against Bush and this shameless Vietnam bottom feeding. If Bush lacks, it is not for ambition, and a man of action is preferable to one who would let the likes of Michael Moore rally the troops.

So these days I am leaning more towards believing as I did on the eve of hostilities, that our domestic quibbles reflect poorly on us all, and given the choice of a strong foreign policy laced with realpolitik and the domestic agenda, I will take the worldly road. If I could vote for John McCain, I would. If I could vote for Colin Powell, I would. I cannot. But I think I am better off supporting their party, for nobody from the other side comes close.

We did the right thing in Iraq, and it doesn't matter who likes us for it. But I think I am willing to sacrifice domestic tranquility for the sake of the right confidence abroad, especially considering Democrat inability. The best American minds will always be at the disposal of the president, and so we cannot afford to let him fail - but at least we know GWBush will try to succeed at things that are worth pursuing, whereas for Mr. Kerry, all he wants to do is dance, and make romance.

My period of neutrality has ended.

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Larry Franklin

The Google count for 'Larry Franklin' stands at 4380 at this moment. It's going to get a lot higher very soon according to the allegations I'm reading this morning. Apparently, this character is an Israeli mole in the Pentagon who was funnelling secret documents about Iran to Israel.

There's going to be a lot of thrashing before we can figure out exactly what's going on here. There seems to be no comprehensive message or spin developed. Since Marshall has played a big part in breaking the story, I'll watch there first.

I've long said that since the ascendancy of Khatami, the US should have made some strong diplomatic advances toward Iran's secular leader. Iran whose population has a great deal more in common with ours than those in Pakistan could be a great ally in the war against Jihadism. Eager to pound his fist about an Axis of Evil, GW has used a rhetorical club instead of a sharp stick. He's only set himself to bat .333 by his own standard, and there's still division about the first hit. It's not even a good 8 year strategy to try and take out 3 countries, four if you count Afghanistan which almost nobody does.

I believe that what this means about Iranian policy is the more significant story. I'm not surprised that Israelis have spies here or have the ability to turn Americans, and that kind of dirty business is not news. Disgusting, but not alarming. What I'm looking for is evidence that the Bush Administration was overly influenced by a foreign agenda, and any connection to Feith is going to be a hot button.

There's already enough piss and vinegar over the Office of Special Programs, if these allegations stick, and the FBI evidence seems strong according to Marshall, then there can be political hell to pay for GWBush. I've already complained that Bush, being outside of the Beltway was incapable of being a wartime president in terms of the administrative genius needed. Even with the great speechwriting he had, it took a lot more than that to wrangle that bureacracy to the ground. Depending on Rove's political hardball was foolish.

Interestingly enough I watched Richard III last night.

Posted by mbowen at 11:09 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Booker Rising

Booker Rising is an excellent compendium of facts and statistics about African Americans. Edited by Shamara Riley of Crispus, a member in good standing with the Conservative Brotherhood, it aggregates moderate and conservative African American opinion from within the blogosphere and print journalism. If you haven't checked it out lately, do yourself a favor and hop to it.

Posted by mbowen at 10:56 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A Clown From Portugal

Today, some asshat in a clown suit tackled the leader of the men's marathon. As a pathetic attempt at fame and desipicable deed against the sport, this idiot doesn't deserve any recognition. I hope Portugal is embarrassed, and I hope officials never release his name.

Posted by mbowen at 10:44 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 28, 2004

How Black Nationalism is Conservative

There are three touchstones in my understanding of race and economics in the US. I've just been handed a nice example that works well within that framework. This shouldn't be surprising, as it comes from one of the authors.

Massey & Denton
America is segregated by race in the legacy of its very own Apartheid. Residential segregation affects the prospects for non-whites by isolating them from mainstream products and services.

Oliver & Shapiro
The primary economic difference between blacks and whites is the matter of inherited wealth. While there may be parity and equality in some areas of American life, equity makes a transformative difference in every respect.

Glenn Loury
The legacy of race discrimination is bound up in the economics of America. Civil Rights Law in and of themselves are not sufficient to make up the gap. A passive non-racist attitude is no help. Ghettoes must be destroyed.

It's all fairly simple, really.

George, ever vigilant and right on target, sent me this from Thomas Shapiro. It took me a while to get past the egregious first example of a black family, but I didn't let that daunt me. It is a nicely nuanced revelation of what I consider the single most important understanding in the back of people's heads. Do they have the assets or not? It's a bit of text to chow down but worth it. Here's a nice quote:

No question about it. I mean, if my parents hadn't had the money to send my kids to [the private] Hills School, we couldn't have considered it. We would have had to really do belt tightening, and financial aid, and many more loans, more mortgages. It would have been very difficult and a real strain on us, especially with two. And we probably would have felt like we just couldn't swing it as a family. So, I don't know, I would have had to have gone out and gotten a job that would pay enough to justify two kids in private school. With that, it would have meant not being able to mother them as much myself. Or my husband having to change work, and all the soul-searching that would have meant for him. It's unimaginable. I can't envision a path that we would have been able to so comfortably just sail on over to Hills School. And, yeah, [we would have had to] go through a lot of heart-wrenching decisions about Alexander [school and tutors]. But they never had to do with money. None of these decisions have had to do with money. I can't imagine it being any other way.

As I post this, I am concurrently writing a piece about a few of my cohorts, the young gifted and black. I consider our fate in light of what I understand about wealth. All of my best friends are extraordinary achievers coming from relatively modest circumstances. I'm consider myself very lucky in that, and all of us seem to be drawn to each other in that way. I beleive that this hunger we have is a good thing, but that we ultimately will be replaced. Some other set of historical circumstances will create the Jordans of the next era. It is part of my aim to capture some of that spirit here as I write about myself and the Old School. It's the spark of Black Nationalism to challenge every aspect of America for the fate of true self-determination within us. How have we transformed that in our lives to meet the demands of survival and achievement?

For myself, I have found in America this very real matter of class. The notion that we are not class-bound is a foolish sentiment. We all recognize it vaguely, just as we recognize race sharply. But the success of the Civil Rights Movement and of Multiculturalism have take the edge off race. And yet we have not, as a society made that transition completely with regard to our acknowledgement. Too many are still thinking of black and low class in the same bucket and that has always rubbed me the wrong way, even in elementary school.

I bring forth the idea of 'Natural Aristocracy' again. It is more than simple meritocracy in that it involves values as well as merit. Consider this coming from a white family, something people like us, and notably Cosby, would often say:

I had cousins growing up in the city, and—this is my own blood, but basically they turned out really trashy. Their friends were trashy. [I] did not even want sometimes to bring my own children around my cousins, because their lifestyles were different, their values were different. Things that were important to us were not important to them.

And Also

It is unfortunate that it is bound by race too. As far as I am concerned, that has nothing to do with it [lack of diversity]. I think it's economic because it's the same issue we dealt with when we lived in the city. It didn't matter if our neighbors were white or black, as long as they had the same standards we had.

This is precisely the attitude of the Old School and I am not surprised to hear it from upscale white families. I happen to believe that many of our white neighbors are a bit more wealthy and a bit less talented, which makes for an interesting edge in our relations, but we're still in the same world. My point is that this is the way the Natural Aristocracy replaces itself, through family values. It's not only talent and merit, but manners and priorities and values and these are things that arise from the socialization of families in neighborhoods, and they are maintained that way.

Noblesse Oblige is an absolute requirement for this kind of Conservatism to work. Careerism cannot prevail. People who are incapable of recognizing how success must be replicated and how the fate of the group depends upon how the resources of the successful are employed are to be weeded out. This is expressed in different way by successful blacks but consistent with Old School values.

I will conclude by saying that my generation has peeled back the onion. We have done Corporate America and we have done international business. Our parents may have marched in Mississippi, but we manage deals in Milan. We are bringing home strong understanding and valuable lessons. Our children are poised to make waves, but wealth is the key and we know it.

Posted by mbowen at 09:24 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

August 27, 2004

What Jimi Can't See

Jimi Izrael wrote a scathing critique of hiphop, he just doesn't realize it. Although he says that "Hip Hop music is the voice of America's poor blacks and Latinos.", when it comes to whitefolks he says:

First, there is the presumption that putting rappers at the podium will turn millions of black kids into a political force. But most of the millions of people who buy hip-hop music these days are white, and they have little or no comprehension of the deeper meaning of hip-hop culture or the social forces that begat it. They know only about rap music, break-dancing and baggy clothes. Young white kids can't truly relate to being black, but many can relate to being alienated. They grasp that message, along with the cartoonish violence, slanguistics and fantastical opulence of hip-hop life. They can't be rallied to adopt hip-hop's social agenda because they only listen to hip-hop, while we live it every day.

What Izrael says about white suburbans actually applies to every hiphopper, what he says about the first person plural only applies to hiphop's literati and others so inclined.

There is no deeper meaning of hiphop culture. It is what it is, and anybody anywhere can walk into any level of hiphop consciousness. It's exactly the same for opera, bhangra, dance hall, oi, gregorian chant and any other kind of music on the planet. Hiphop's social agenda is about as thin as as the pants on Lil Kim's ass. There is absolutely nothing hiphop has discovered through its 'politics' that adds any dimension of understanding to what black and latino politics have been. Hiphop consciousness is not political, it's simply about understanding and appreciating the music, which (duh!) over the past 20 years lots of people around the world have done. White kids understand everything about hiphop there is to understand which is rap music, break dancing and baggy clothes. If black and Latino kids are more invested in this 'deep meaning' of hiphop, more's the pity for them. But there is nothing about being black or latino with regard to hiphop that make them any different from their white brothers and sisters who consume the same products.

There is a real and significant difference between appreciating hiphop and actually performing hiphop dances, designing hiphop clothes or performing on a mic. But hiphop is merely a style, a flavor. Being down with the flava doesn't make you a dancer or a designer, and it sure as hell doesn't make you effective in politics. People who study dance, clothing design and politics have more to teach hiphop than hiphop has to teach them, and until we see the Hiphop Institute at Harvard, it will always be that way. As far as I know there is a turntablist instructor at Berklee, but the rest is all street apprenticeship. Street wisdom is good around the way. Didn't somebody rap about dying for a rock and dying for a block?

Hiphop's industrial base is disposable income. It's a bourgie institution which feeds on itself. It's politics, were they expressed, would bear the same contradictions and conflicts as that of the larger society. Hiphop, which is incapable of forming coalitions of any sort (not since Self-Destruction) would be hard pressed to get any coherent policy developed. But Russell Simmons does not make a think tank any more than Bono, and anyone with any hope for a new politics in the US needs to think long and hard about how Rock and Hollywood have developed their politics. Scary huh?

I know enough about hiphop to know that Aaliyah, Left Eye & De La Soul all took a great deal of pride in the fact that they could take their money and go hide away in other countries. That's where they found their peace away from the dimegrabbers, bootyshakers and sucka MCs who were just shorty versions of themselves. Hiphop's hierarchy despises its own roots because it exposes clearly how much it's just the ego trip of spoiled young Americans masturbating in the mirror or pointing a nine at it's own head.

Hiphop is a revolution of expression, but it only rarely expresses anything of enduring value. To desire hiphop politics is simply a desire to transcend the shallowness of the hiphop world. I think many hiphoppers will do just that, but I think they'll be loathe to call their mature politics 'hiphop politics'. Hiphop, just like Rock is all about youth. We hope that they'll grow out of it.

Posted by mbowen at 09:27 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 26, 2004

Good Boy

Noted without comment.

"I had my fun in 2000 and I made a lot of people angry," Williams said. "It's not fun when you're making people angry at the same time. I learned how to do it right."

OK one comment. You will note how they put "gentlemen" in quotes. Blow me.

Posted by mbowen at 03:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Net Sports

Last night I watched my first Olympics broadcast of the Athens Games. I can't tell you how much it makes me yearn for Australian broadcasts. The Outdoor Life Network got it right when they broadcast the Tour de France. Stick to the action, don't put commentators on camera, switch cameras to different parts of the race, let color give historical context, not personal drama stories. NBC is so schmaltzy it's disgusting. I do not, repeat, do not want to have the camera zoomed in on an empty pair of wrestling shoes.

Since my family was at the previous two games, Athens is a letdown in every dimension. I haven't even paid much attention. So it was something of a pleasure to hear the Olympic theme and actually perk up. There was only one good aspect of the coverage last night, and that was Men's Volleyball. (As soon as I saw Marion Jones' baby drooling, I shut the tube off and cranked up the XBox.)

The sport has truly advanced since I last watched. What really shows up is how much more they use the spaces outside of which a normal volleyball game might be played. If there is one metric one could use besides the obvious speed involved, it's how far back players are to serve. The same goes for table tennis. Something that's also interesting is to see how players get wide of the playing fields up close to the net.

It took me a while to get used to the rally scoring, but it kept the action nice. Interestingly, recieving a serve was a better scoring position. But Lloy Ball proved that there's still a place for service aces. Sweet. I'll follow these guys on the court. That was pure drama.

Posted by mbowen at 01:41 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Earth, Wind & Gangsta

The first record I ever bought was 'Getaway' by Earth Wind and Fire. It was a 45 that I bought from Crenshaw Records. I played it over and over on my record player until I memorized the lyrics.

This morning, like every morning, I woke up with a song on my mind. Unlike most mornings, I was unable to immediately crank up the iTunes and find it. And so I started this day shocked to my foundations that I don't have "Let's Groove" somewhere on my hard drive. In fact, I didn' have Arrested Development nor did I have any Red Hot Chili Peppers or Bill Withers. Something is out of joint here. So I am on a mission to correct these deficits as we speak.

Since I can play and rip at the same time, I found myself going back down memory lane to a particular lyric. noting as I do, and have been for a dozen years how lame contemporary music is when it comes to inspired love songs. Be that as it may, the lyric was:

Shining star for you to see
What your life could truly be.

Of course you know that. But did you know that there was once a street gang in LA called the Westside Family? They were originally Family but then got incorporated into the Crips. I know, because I knew a dumbass kid named Dana Andrews, who had the hottest sisters on the planet back in 1973. Dana had a faggy name and he was too lightskinned (with freckles) to get respect. Add to that the fact that he was a Catholic school boy and not very good at football or basketball and you had a formula. Dana did have balls, however and wasn't afraid to fight or shoplift. Typical knucklehead ghetto 7th grader stuff. So I was there at the beginning when Dana and other kids who lived somewhere in the nice looking public housing on Adams just west of Western decided to make something out of the green bomber jackets that they stole from Sears Pico.

He decided to call them the Gangsta Crips and wanted me to join because I had gone to public school, which added to the rep. Since I had gone to public school and knew how to fuckin' cuss, among other Huckleberry skills, I was very quickly becoming one of the most often swatted kids at Holy Name of Jesus School. Nevertheless, I wasn't interested in getting a big dog and making it bite public school kids who were relentlessly picking on us Catholic school kids. I didn't particularly like Dana although I had a huge crush on his sister Danielle and I wasn't about to steal a green bomber jacket, even though it looked hella cool. Besides, where I lived on Wellington & Jefferson, no bangers trolled. Our blocks already had the cohesion and we were deeply into street sports. Aside from all that, the very notion of following Dana Andrews was a joke.

Gangstas would go on to clash with Family. And it was this rivalry which brought to mind the constant bastardization of popular songs mouthed off by teenaged boys who thought they were being tough and clever.

Shining star for you to see
This is strictly Family

While I'm on the subject, I may as well mention that the closest we got to a gang was the TrayVerMike. That was myself (as Mike), Tracy Caldwell and Verdis Arnold. Despite the fact that he did some time, I always think of Verdis as a quarterback and a mechanic. Verdis could easily throw a bomb from lightpole to lightpole, and his scratch-built lowriders would have done Mr. Arnold proud, had he lived long enough. Mr. Maurice Arnold was a SeaBee and drove a moving van. He'd be gone for long periods and left Verdis in charge of his other seven kids. When Mr. Maurice came home we'd know. If we didn't hear the truck, we'd hear the ass-whoopin'. Living next door to the Arnolds taught us all how to talk exactly like Ice Cube.

Tracy Caldwell was possibly smarter than me, and we debated that in the leadership of the short-lived TrayVerMike. But it was clearer that he was the money and living right kid. His mother had a master's degree in something and bought the house down the block. His was the only house that had more rules than mine, which seemed impossible to believe - for example what the proper kind of pillow was and why sleeping in certain positions would hurt your posture. Still, Tracy and I were best friends and used to count the scores of scabs on our bodies, each relating to some adventure in the neighborhood. I never met Mr. Caldwell, who divorced his mother. They had to move out to where Sportsman Park was, under the flight path to LAX and Tracy was more on behavioural lockdown than ever before. Needless to say, when he moved out, that was the end of TrayVerMike.

We never lived out our promise "TrayVerMike You", but if we had, we would have held down the territory from the 10 south to Exposition and from Crenshaw west to La Brea, except for a few spots on West Boulevard and Harcourt. Considering that TeeDee lived over on Blackwelder and I knew the kids at West Adams Foursquare, we could have extended the turf and challenged up to the Jungle. There were Pirus to the North, and we would have had to make a stand at Mt. Vernon Jr High which would have put us in over our head. And since we weren't under any sort of attack we were satisfied with our reputation as kings of sport.

Me and my brother Deet held down gymnastics and diving. We could represent on that pretty much citywide. Whether we were at the Colisseum Plunge, at Rancho Cienega, Sportsman's Park or Centinela, we were always in the top 5 flip floppers. I had a full twisting back, that's why. As well I had a very sweet Arabian to a front and could start another roundoff after that. Deet could do 4 gainers in a row. He could also put back layouts into the middle of a tumbling run.

Deet and Dock were good bballers. I was the most dangerous free safety in street football not coincidently because I could run hella fast, and I just realized this has got to be boring the snot out of most sentient creatures. It's just that old Earth Wind and Fire does that to me...

BTW. I would like to add that I was also listening to Rick James 'Ebony Eyes' this morning, and I bet you didn't know that.

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Breakfast at Denny's

Michael Savage is on vacation today. So his guest host talked about race on the air. I didn't catch the beginning but the man was making some good points. Still, as usual, I turned off the radio and continued the conversation with my steering wheel at a higher level of discourse.

I told my own reparations story as an example of the kind of thing nobody hears in the shallow discussions that ever make the air. It starts here at my last grandmother's funeral. Those 200 acres would make a big difference, and I think every black family has got such a story.

It occured to me that the last people Americans want to hear stories about racism from are those of us who are well-educated, well-paid and articulate. The irony is that we are the ones most likely to have legitimate complaints of racism. I'm not saying that the poor and uneducated blacks don't face racism, but rather that their lot are more likely to be beat down by more factors. When someone with a master's degree is told they are not qualified, it's more likely to be a racist lie then when sombody from the ghetto is told that. Racism may be more consequential for the little guy, but it's more obvioius and blatant for the big guy.

That's all.

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August 25, 2004

Poltical Burnout

This is exactly how I feel today, after being involved in a pissing match over Kerry:

Converse claimed that only around ten per cent of the public has what can be called, even generously, a political belief system. He named these people “ideologues,” by which he meant not that they are fanatics but that they have a reasonable grasp of “what goes with what”—of how a set of opinions adds up to a coherent political philosophy. Non-ideologues may use terms like “liberal” and “conservative,” but Converse thought that they basically don’t know what they’re talking about, and that their beliefs are characterized by what he termed a lack of “constraint”: they can’t see how one opinion (that taxes should be lower, for example) logically ought to rule out other opinions (such as the belief that there should be more government programs). About forty-two per cent of voters, according to Converse’s interpretation of surveys of the 1956 electorate, vote on the basis not of ideology but of perceived self-interest. The rest form political preferences either from their sense of whether times are good or bad (about twenty-five per cent) or from factors that have no discernible “issue content” whatever. Converse put twenty-two per cent of the electorate in this last category. In other words, about twice as many people have no political views as have a coherent political belief system.

It's probably more fair to say this is what the little man on my shoulder is telling me all the time. To listen or not to listen, that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler to put up with the Coulters and Moores that American political life is heir to, or to take up arms by way of a think tank or 527...

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Fay vs Schlesinger

Last time I checked, there were about 7 different investigations into the Abu Ghraib scandal. I'm not sure whether or not that's a good thing, but it will certainly have the effect of burying the significance of the findings. 20 years from now it will be interesting for people fresh to the deal try to figure out which one the American people cared about.

As for me, I somewhat care. I have just a few new thoughts on the subject. It appears that Schlesinger is going to try to lay blame as much as possible up the chain of command. This makes no sense to me. How can it be that an entire bureacracy is responsible for injuries to a dozen people? Instead of the effect of highlighting the probelm, it simply spreads the blame all over the place. When 500 people are responsible for $100 dollars of damage, it doesn't matter much to each. If your aim is to target Rumsfeld, as many people's aim is, you end up taking the whole bureacracy route. Dilutes a misguided effort. Dumb.

It's interesting to hear something that actually merits the adjective 'horrendous', and I say so only because I have yet to see this in a Quinton Tarrantino filme, which is the Dog Game. The rest of the abuses, I simply don't find so far outside of the imagination of vulgar Americans.

Which brings us to an interesting inversion, which is that our liberal and permissive society would be better represented to the world through a disciplined military code of conduct, than by the goodness of ordinary American people themselves.

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Pardon My French

I like the French. While I don't particularly admire them, I would say without hesitation that they are an admirable bunch. I don't disdain them as is the current American fashion. On the whole I am positive. There are several reasons for this.

The French Have Balls
There's no other way to put it. The French are combattive, arrogant and stubborn as hell. They stand up to us, or anyone as if they really don't care what we think. They do, but they make a good show of not being the slightest bit purturbed.

French Is A Cool Language
There is something about the way French is spoken when done well that is remarkable. I studied French for three years in highschool and was pretty damned ready for honors in my fourth, except that there were not enough francophiles in my school to justify offering the class. So I had learned enough to start reading books. But the way French sentences and paragraphs are constructed allows for incredibly persuasive arguments. Call me weird but I really dug the French subjunctive.

The French Have Style
The last time I was in Paris, which was some time ago, I hung out with my cousin at a fashion show. It was a hiphop fashion show, in fact, and the models looked like they were straight out of a Janet Jackson video. It took me a while, having stared my eyeballs into straining, that these African women were not English speakers. Imagine a room full of girls that look like Sanaa Lathan

In addition to those things, the French Understand Sex and the French Are Free. They can and will lecture you on those matters. I think America will come back around to giving the French their due props. Wait and see...

While I'm at it, it being national stereotypes as informed by my limited personal experience, let me add the following.

Germans talk too much about the littlest things. I don't know how they do it, but they can get into discussions and not leave until they have completely exhausted the subject and taken score about who knows the most. Every time I speak to one of them, I get the feeling that they are counting the syllables in the words I am using. They're fricking relentless on this. On the other hand, they do understand loud music, fast cars and women in fishnet stockings.

I truly don't understand Italians. I suppose that's because I have never been able to get one of them drunk enough to confess anything. They seem completely uninterested in impressing anyone for any reason, probably because they keep getting insulted all the time. It's probably not fair that I am thinking of the (rich, WestLA) slob who used to date my sister and a lot of stuff that DeLillo wrote, but I do tend to believe that Italian men can be pretty effed up in the head, especially when it comes to women.

Aussies are the world's friendliest drunks, although they're a bit more bigotted than you would think, especially about people who are not in the room. They can't dance for shit, but that doesn't stop them from trying. Australian food sucks rocks, and what's worse they don't have good foreign restaurants there either. Nevertheless they are great outdoorsy people and have the most intelligent and sophisticated appreciation of sports and wildlife on the planet. They're a bit self-conscious which leavens out their rough edges. In the end, you gotta love 'em.

Kiwis are the most honest and personable people on the planet. They make us all look bad. You won't realize it until you've seen them compare favorably with happy Aussies. New Zealand is probably the only modern place on the planet that requires little or no cynicism and paranoia, and because of this is the exception Kiwis are completely capable of being legitimate lefties. Most of them are too polite to tell us to get over ourselves - on the other hand since they enjoy pristine land at 5 bucks an acre, maybe they're quiet for a reason. Having danced with Maoris, I will never take a tribal marking lightly - which also means I can't take most tatoos I see seriously. I wonder if I will be able to adjust to NZ realities in my lifetime.

Russians are the craftiest fucks in the world. I admire their passion and their appreciation for the tragedy of life. Of all the folks I know, they most closely resemble African Americans in their capacity for subversion and love. I think we are equally subject to the temptations of Bling and perserverance under ordinarily cramped circumstances. We are both poetic and practical people. I do love Russians to death, I only wish I knew one I could trust. Well, actually I do, it's just that I can't find him.

To be continued...

There's a lot I could say about Brits, but I think I'm more persuaded to admire them for who they've been rather than for who they are. In Britain, I see our future, 300 years from now when Wall Street is a subdivision of the Chinese Borse. I mostly meet Brits online when gaming, and what counts for the average Euro counts nicely for the average Brit, which means above all they value fair play and understand the pain of dissolution. Brits, if they didn't invent it, perfected the art of the social drink, and are thus the cause of global drug culture in non-spiritual populations. What could be a greater tribute? I give Brits the most credit for not being particularly swayed by pretty pictures and the invention of the hedgerow. As you can see, it's complicated.

Chinese have had my focus for the past 3 years. I was on my way to spend 6 weeks in Asia in 2001 when certain events took over. I was learning Mandarin, both conversationally and pictogrammatically. What I like most about the Chinese is that they do business with friends in defiance of markets, lawyers and the dignity of the common man. It is of course, their great weakness too, if you don't count gambling. You see, to me, the Chinese represent the idea that a human being is empty clay - that it makes no sense to assume anything positive about them, that uneducated or untrained or unloved that they possess nothing, not even a soul. That the Chinese accepts this emptiness and meaninglessness of himself means that of all people he is the most worldly. Chinese represent the absense of transcendence to me, he is the perfect soldier, the perfect businessman, the perfect chef because without his skill, he is nothing.

It is difficult for me to disentangle my thoughts about the Japanese from what must be common stereotypes by now. Instead, I prefer to think of Japanese Americans who, of all Asians, seem the most American.

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August 24, 2004

Murkowski in Alaska

Lisa Murkowski is running against three conservative Republicans for the Alaska senatorial seat. I'm watching this race. What this article doesn't say is that the other three candidates are also trying to make abortion a big issue in the campaign.

Mainstream Republican leaders have embraced her. She's gotten the blessing of Alaska's senior senator, Ted Stevens, who called her "a hell of a lot better senator than her dad ever was."

She's been endorsed by President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who made a campaign appearance in Anchorage. There has been a pipeline of Cabinet secretaries choosing Alaska to announce federal programs.

She supports tax cuts championed by President Bush and emphasizes her close relationship with Stevens and Rep. Don Young.

Money has poured in to her campaign since she began campaigning in January 2003 and she had raised $3.75 million through Aug. 4.

Her three Republicans challengers do not believe she's the best person for the job: Former state Senate President Mike Miller, 53, a gift shop owner from North Pole who spent 18 years in the Legislature; Wev Shea, 60, the former U.S. attorney for Alaska, now in private practice, and perennial candidate Jim Dore, an Anchorage house framer.

Miller has not been subtle in reminding voters of the circumstances of Sen. Murkowski's appointment. A mailer last week showed a frog with a gold crown under the headline "Kiss monarchy goodbye."

Miller's campaign also has been tagging Murkowski with a label considered leprous by Alaska Republicans: liberal.

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Whitman Speaks For Me

The NYT has an article that shows about where my head is at.

Those who once might have been called Rockefeller Republicans say the prime-time slots set aside to present a centrist image show that the leadership knows the party must broaden its appeal to retain the White House. But they worry about their real influence in a party dominated by conservatives at a time when the ranks of House moderates are thinning and an activist group zeros in on candidates it brands RINO's, Republican in Name Only.

"Frankly, if the president wins walking away with this, maybe the country is in a different place than where the moderate Republicans are,'' said Christie Whitman, the former New Jersey governor and Bush administration official who is writing a book titled "It's My Party Too." "If he loses, it is an absolute validation of the fact that you cannot be a national party if you are excluding people.''

Mrs. Whitman makes it clear that she does not want President Bush, whom she served as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, to lose. But she is not alone in urging party leaders to consider the contributions of moderates at moments other than when it makes strategic sense

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August 23, 2004

Gateway + MicroCenter

Gateway is finally showing evidence of brains. They are going to sell their machines in a new deal with MicroCenter. MicroCenter is by far the best retailer of software and software related books in the country. They are most definitely a destination. Gateway has been making mediocre consumer PCs for a long time and completely missed the mark with their cow-flavored retail chain.

I don't know how it can happen, but I am hopeful that this can result in more MicroCenter stores. I may still end up going to Fry's for the prices, but I do miss MicroCenter - which is a much smarter store with far better people. Come to LA, please.

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Tertiary Meta

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Malkin v Matthews

I have never had a reason to like Michelle Malkin, only a reason to dislike her, namely for her suggestion that MEChA members have their motives interrogated by major media. It's ironic that her snarky call for Katie Couric to play 'hardball' with the Mechistas is exactly the pickle she found herself in last week.

We have just been debating the necessity of dropping the loudmouths from conversations vis a vis 'intellectual non-violence'. I think that the ultimate result of that kind of discipline will result in a higher general quality of debate, with fewer debaters. It's clear that the blogosphere will roll on in any case, and I am hopeful that lessons like these are not fogotten.

For the record I have disliked Chris Matthews from day one. He has always been a fast-talking hounddog with no tact nor respect for nuance. What Keith Olbermann is doing reporting politics is anybody's guess.

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

Weird Science

At the UCLA Open House when I was about 12, I stood for a long time contemplating whether or not I should stick my finger into a flask of liquid nitrogen, and then pass it through the HeNe laser that had just burned a hole in a block of steel. Even though I considered myself a coward for not trying I'm pretty sure that I did the right thing.

They say really smart people never make the same mistake three times. That's because if they goof once, they're sure that it's somebody else's fault. Here you'll find the geek version of the Darwin Awards.

Posted by mbowen at 08:35 AM | TrackBack

Greene Still Great

Moe Greene got bronze in the 100 meters last week. Scott Ostler has taken a moment to talk smack.

Justin Gatlin ran faster than the speed of Maurice Greene's sound.

Greene was clocked talking a mile-a-minute after the 100-meter dash Sunday night, but Gatlin stopped the real clocks in 9.85 seconds.

Greene claims he's still the Greatest Of All Time. Gatlin didn't have to say it, but he's the World's Fastest Human. Which title would you rather have? One title is made up and debatable and drawn in tattoo ink on Greene's shoulder. The other title is now etched in gold and in the Olympic record books.

But I think the guys at MSNBC have the proper perspective:

Greene has run 3 of the 4 fastest times ever in the 100 meters. But he does not hold the current world record. That was set in 2002 by another American sprinter, Tim Montgomery, who is currently under investigation by the U.S. anti-doping agency.

Montgomery's time was 9.78, Greene's previous world record was 9.79. Montgomery was running 10.12 or so and failed to qualify for the team. Furthermore Greene has overcome two injuries, including a broken leg, and has had to completely rethink his start. Amazing.

We haven't heard the last of Mo Greene.

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August 22, 2004

The World's Ugliest Website

I'm doing research and looking at new companies to target for my business, and I came across one hideous website that I just had to share with you all.

Frontier Logistics


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NAACP: Co-Opted by the Majority

I'm going to cross a line here for the sake of provocation. It's strange because I'm not sure we're big enough to attract the kind of attention of somebody in the know, but I don't want to be dismissed, I just want some high level informed answers. Here goes:

I'm not sure that the NAACP doesn't fall into the bucket of special interest group. What do they do besides interpret reality into the argot of racial offense to a group of constituents whose sole political concern is racial offense? I think if you 'left race out of it' for a moment with the NAACP, you'd have a transparently socialist organization. Why would anybody on our side want to meet? And hash out what?

If I say that the NAACP has outlived its usefulness, I say it because it has been a success. Over the course of its lifetime, it has fulfilled its destiny in raising the racial consciousness of America to something that is fair. Not equal mind you, but fair. It is now incapable of doing incrementally more because there are no new ideas. It fights increasingly narrower battles at an increasingly pitched volume for diminishing returns, and now to maintain its own image it must overreach.

Therefore it must be relegated to the status of a watchdog organization with its eyes focused, not on the future, but upon the present. Its past doesn't matter. It doesn't need a general membership, it needs a few wealthy sponsors. It doesn't need an awards show, it needs big staff in Washington.

Am I wrong?

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The Dynamics of Spawn Camping

The most happening game on XBox Live these days is the latest installment of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six, known as Black Arrow.

I started playing Black Arrow last week. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, it's basically the most popular combat simulator online. If you have absolutely no interest in squad-based first person shooters, this may seem tedious but it's actually rather interesting, especially if you worry about how the socialization of your sons is progressing. If you have no son, it's still a fascinating foray into game theory.

XBox Live
What goes on here? Well, it works a little something like this. Your son has his XBox hooked up to a large anonymous network of several thousands of others people's sons. He drops in a game disc, which is essentially a $50 DVD that almost nobody tries to bootleg, and all the other gamers that are online at the same time appear. Now your son has a list of 40 or 50 (up to a hundred) other gamers on his 'friends list'. Most of these friends will be people he has, and will never meet in person. They could be from Alabama, Alberta or Allemagne. He just knows them by their 'gamertag', their alias, and perhaps by their voice if they've played enough. Voice? Yes, that's what that silly Bobby Brown My Prerogative headset is for. He can hear what all the other players in his room are saying, and of course he can talk back to them.

For generations people have been shouting back at sports players on the television. Your son may be stupid, but at least he knows that the people on the other side of the screen can actually hear him.

The Room
So boy turns on the game, enters a PIN through his handheld controller and now there are several thousand other gamers playing Black Arrow with which he may cooperate or compete. He chooses which kind of game he wants to play, say 'Total Conquest' (that would be compete via cooperation), and all of the hosts who are hosting that kind of game show up on the screen after a quick search. Not their faces, just their gamertags in a list. He can then enter any hosted game of any particular host and get started gaming. He can't start playing a game until he gets into a room. No matter what time of day or night, there's always a room with plenty of English speakers.

The Host
I mentioned hosting a room. Who is a host? Anybody who wants to be a host is a host. Your son might be a host. Maybe he's even a good host. So there is a choice your son makes. Maybe he wants to host a room, maybe he wants to join somebody else's room, maybe he wants to join a room wherever his friends are. Let's say he chooses to be a host and serve up his own room. He then configures up his room depending on how he wants to play. He will allow 16 people to play, two opposing teams of 8 each. He will allow friendly fire and he will ban grenade launchers. The game will be Total Conquest.

The Clan
In addition to having a large set of friends which are visible across games other than Black Arrow. You may join an identifyable clan within the context of the Black Arrow world. These clans can arrange to compete exclusively against each other in tournaments, but most of the action has unaffiliated individuals mixed with clanners.

Ready Up
One more thing. Your son and everyone on his squad has to decide which compliment of weapons they are going to employ. They do this in the lobby before the game starts. There are assault rifles, chain guns, pistols, sniper rifles and a variety of explosives. Take your pick.

Total Conquest
Now here's where it gets very interesting. The game itself places your team and the opposing team on opposite ends of a map. It might be a subway in London, a castle in Milan, a ferry in the middle of some sea, or a hotel in Cannes (or several other locales). Your goal is to capture three satellite uplinks on the map and defend them for 20 seconds. Sounds simple in theory, except that the other team is trying to do the same thing. They'll be using their weapons against you, rushing, sniping, tossing grenades, setting traps. But there's one particularly nasty tactic that has the entire world of Black Arrow in an uproar.

Spawn Camping
It's practically impossible to survive more than aabout 90 seconds in one of the battlefields. So you die. But after a few moments, you come back to life back at your insertion point, aka your Spawn at one corner of the map. But imagine that your enemy has crossed the map and is now holed up in a sniper position. As soon as you pop back to life, he kills you on the spot. This is spawn camping.

Most Black Arrow players hate spawn camping. It violates the spirit of the game, which is to conquer territory and employ various tactics in the field to get and hold all three uplinks. However the Black Arrow points system only rewards players for the number of kills they make, and it is 'legal' from the point of view that the game allows it. So you can appear to be a superior player by having a lot of kill points even though you are doing little more than shooting fish in a barrell.

During a game, if someone starts camping out at the enemy spawn point, almost everyone immediately knows. The cursing and shouting really starts. There are several tactics to counter the spawn camper(s). One is to fight fire with fire and camp at the other team's spawn point. Another is to allow all of your team to be killed and spawn simultaneously, making too many targets. A third is to leave a man to guard the spawn point at the expense of capturing territory or hunting down the enemy. But most of these tactics fail. If an individual player gets close enough to their opponent's spawn point, it almost irrevocably tips the advantage in the game to that player's team. This brings us back to the host. The host can boot anyone out of his room for any arbitrary reason. Sometimes the boot spawn campers, sometimes they do nothing.

Adult Gaming Enthusiasts are organizing to evade immaturity and unethical behavior across the board.
On August 13 Ubisoft, the game's publisher, has announced a patch to fix spawn camping by changing the rules of the game. This will probably be automated in a mandatory download, but when it will be available is anybody's guess. In the meantime, the ethics of the game are entirely in the hands of the players.

However spawn camping isn't unique to Black Arrow. Other games, like Castle Wolfenstein have seen similar problems. Not everybody agrees that it's a problem. Some argue that it is a form of ambush and that game programmers are right to allow it. But I'd argue that it depends upon the game, and certainly for Total Conquest in Black Arrow, it's a real game breaker.


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August 21, 2004

The Libertarian Task

Here is how Libertarians can earn my unending respect and admiration: work out the microeconomies and advocate for open pricing in every aspect of life. Where should they start? Health Care.

I believe it was Thoreau who said that we who have never done things such as set a broken leg, have any idea of what real life is all about. I tend to agree with that sentiment. But what I break my leg, how much does it cost to fix it? I don't know. In fact if you try to Google up an answer, you'll find more information about dogs and cats than humans. That is absolutely pathetic.

But there's a reason why you can't find out about this enormous inefficient market. It's because the powerful interests are so deeply embedded that they cannot be extricated. Republicans and Democrats are incapable of even getting started to talk about reform. If Ralph Nader wasn't such a pompous ass, he'd focus the media on this issue. If Libertarians weren't such impractical dweebs, they'd quit showing off their ideological purity and get down to this business.

Hospital A:
Broken Leg Fixed $1500

Hospital B
Broken Leg Fixed: $1700

Now for every broken leg, as for every broken automobile, there are a million reasons why and two dozen ways to fix it. And you can be sure that there are nefarious characters ready, willing and able to scheme us out of our bucks. But Libertarians ought to dedicate themselves to opening up these markets and giving transparency. They will make themselves heroes and take down a lot of Republicans and Democrats in the process.

Hop to it.

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Wal-Mart & The Marginal Labor Market

Sebastian Holsclaw has a great Wal-Mart discussion in which people claim that Wal-Mart takes more than it gives with respect to employee benefits because of the size of the safety net. Is Wal-Mart subsidized and incented to pay low wages and benefits? If there was a minimum wage hike to pay for more benefits would that be a good thing?

I interpret things this way: Wal-Mart is not special with regard to its 'dependence' on the safety net, it just has the wherewithal to respond quicker. This is a quickness that is, in part, enabled by its information technology infrastructure. As the price of this techology goes down, there will be more companies enabled similarly.

In a neighborhood with small businesses who compete for the same labor pool, small incrementals in employee benefits make enough difference for Wal-Mart (aside from its reputation) to tip the scales in its favor. I wonder if those in favor of increasing the safety net would feel more confident taxing those small businesses to the same tune they would Wal-Mart.

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August 20, 2004

Social Conservatism, Elitism & The Natural Aristocracy

There has been a lot of blabber about the concept of aristocracy that has somehow filtered its way into the mind of Phil Agre, and thus into this corner of my worldview (and the blogosphere). We're going to have a problem here.

Agre begins:

Q: What is conservatism?
A: Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy.

Q: What is wrong with conservatism?
A: Conservatism is incompatible with democracy, prosperity, and
civilization in general. It is a destructive system of inequality
and prejudice that is founded on deception and has no place in the
modern world.

As it happens, I have fortunately stumbled, by way of Hispanicpundit whom I now thank, onto the work of Russell Kirk, a heretofore unknown progenitor of Conservative Thought. And while the very idea appears oxymoronic to the liberal flacks who dot the landscape with their yelps and insults, there are certain consistent principles which there abide. Yet it is true that having personified so much of Conservatism itself in the undeserving bodies of Barry Goldwater, George W. Bush, Tom DeLay and Trent Lott and indeed in much of what goes by the name of Republican these days, a very large host of Americans are misled and confused. It is only natural that pinko rats take advantage of this confusion. It is only appropriate that we on the Right seek guidance from history.

But since I am a writer all too familiar with my own nomenclature, this opportunity allows me to dig up a few terms that I think contemporaries will find more familiar, which is why I allude to the Matrix, elitism and social conservatives. To wit:

I am not a social conservative. I am an elitist. If the Merovingian were not a corrupted ghoul, I think I'd very much enjoy hanging out with him. He is powerful, intelligent, erudite and arrogant. Excellent qualities for a member of the ruling class. Unfortunately, he wasn't wise enough to ally with a circle of equals, and instead hired leagues of flunkies and goons. Thus it was inevitable that he would be defeated by a group of bounders of extraordinary caliber.

A social conservative would insist that a certain set of inflexible values be ascribed to in order to dine with the Merovingian. An elitest would devise a serious of tests. Social conservatives value loyalty and obedience. Elitists demand performance and competition.

I leave you with Thomas Jefferson:

I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents. Formerly, bodily powers gave place among the aristoi [aristocrats]. But since the invention of gunpowder has armed the weak as well as the strong with missile death, bodily strength, like beauty, good humor, politeness, and other accomplishments, has become but an auxiliary ground for distinction. There is also an artificial aristocracy, founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents; for with these it would belong to the first class. The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature, for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society. And indeed, it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed man for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of the society. May we not even say, that that form of government is the best, which provides the most effectually for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government? The artificial aristocracy is a mischievous ingredient in government, and provision should be made to prevent its ascendency.…I think the best remedy is exactly that provided by all our constitutions, to leave to the citizens the free election and separation of the aristoi from the pseudo-aristoi [pseudoaristocrats], of the wheat from the chaff. In general they will elect the really good and wise. In some instances, wealth may corrupt, and birth blind them, but not in sufficient degree to endanger the society.

This is the aristocracy of which Kirk speaks. Now you know.

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LA Riots in Retrospect

In many ways, my engagement of the public in politics began in the years leading towards the LA Riots. Considering the candidacy of Bernard Parks has taken me back to some of the things I wrote as Boohab in relation to those days.

Since I see myself more and more as part of a conservative movement in both a public and personal context, I need to review my prior statements and perspectives in order to see what has changed and why. I think the matter of the Riot is specially deserving of review no matter what, but also since I was engaged head to head with David Horowitz I think it can also illustrate the difference and distance between black and white neoconservatives over contemporary issues involving race.

So I will be posting here some verbatims of me as Boohab, and see how well they stand up.

I don't think it's beneficial to think about the accuracy of the aim of the looting, torching, shooting ragers. those who riot best, riot. those who lobby best, lobby.

what is important is to recognize the disposition of political forces in the aftermath. to consign this matter to the police as merely a crime wave is to foreclose the possibility of a transformative politics of the ragers. yet this was the status quo of the racist stereotypes against south central and east los angeles, and this is precisely what horowitz has done. such is the justification for the lapd being one of the most advanced paramilitary police forces in the world. is there any reason to believe horowitz' dismissive majoritarian position might be moderated by intelligent or (heaven forbid) compassionate consideration? well, not if you are preoccupied with maoist history and the love affairs of opera singers.

so instead of engaging (which would probably have been very easy, considering salon's recent article on maxine) on a level of political negotiation, we witness crude and egregious examples as par for the course.

this does not bode well for the future expansion of democratic politics in the united states. there are generations and geographies for which adequate political representation has never been achieved. where the practice of voting and speaking out is the experience of defeat after defeat. where human rights issues become 'special interest' issues. where people don't expect suspects to be brought to trial - merely shot in the street. where people are suspects for just being alive.

my experience tells me that the fire next time will be put out by next wednesday. american society and politics absolutely crushes such political dissent even before it gets the opportunity to become political. and as long as americans can distance themselves, with haughty indifference from the truths of these matters, hiding behind the thin blue line of police force rather than engaging in constructive political engagement, then as malcolm x said "as long as those ingredients, explosive ingredients exist, you are going to have the potential for explosion on your hands".

I was clearly concerned with the ability of blackfolks to engage successfully in political matters of their utmost concern - of which the death of suspects is clearly a top priority. And while the logic of law and order is always clear, there has been a political disenfranchisement of African Americans. I mean this in the context of the ability for black elected officials to get beyond the rhetoric of dismissal and actually handle business.

Maxine Waters, because she never took any crap from anyone, is a perfect example of this kind of disenfranchisement. Despite the fact that she is the top dog in South Central and everybody wants to get in their two cents about South Central, few people in the public are prepared to get past her image, so she and more consequently the desires of her constituents are dismissed.

Posted by mbowen at 08:05 AM | TrackBack

August 19, 2004

Russell Kirk: Once Over Lightly

One of the leading lights of Conservative thought is a gent by the name of Russell Kirk. Considering that I studied Computer Science and not a Political Science, it is not surprising that I've not heard of him before today. How then could I be a true Conservative? The same way any scientist who observes correctly the effect of air pressure on object even if he never heard of Bernoulli. Independent discovery still has a place in this world, however I would have preferred that somebody had hipped me to this cat many years ago. It would have been more Conservative, wouldn't it?

The first thing I'd like to note about Kirk comes from this excerpt of an Amazon reviewer's on his book The Conservative Mind:

One repeated note throughout this book is that markets and economic forces are disruptive and need to be tamed. Alternative sources of human values, other than what they command in a wide-open economy, must be preserved. The market, left unchecked, has the potential to overrun settled ways of life, to undermine religious faith, and to coarsen standards of behaviour. While this is not Kirk's only point, it is the one that seems most conspicuous today.

Now the first person I heard say anything like this was in fact Cornel West. I agreed with him then and agree with him now. Human value does not come from Markets. Indeed unregulated markets can be and probably generally are destructive of human value. I say markets need to be regulated by sustainability, which will require a revolution in accounting, and by strong declarations and defenses of human rights and civil rights. This, my friends, is the very basis of my gripe against Libertarians, whom I consider irresponsible and leaning towards anarchy. Libertarianis is certainly understandable as an ethos in the context today's complex and often over-regimented society, however it doesnt' stand on its own.

Now onto the famous Six Canons:

1. The principle of moral order -- a belief in a transcendent moral order to which we ought to try to conform the ways of society.

I tend to believe that this is absolutely true, but I think that people get bogged down in the matters of discovery. Which is to say that atheists have a hard time accepting that Theists have recieved any revelation, and this somehow unhinges their moral credibility. The hell with it, say it's all 'self-evident' and hash it out. Ultimately people will discover that murder is wrong. I believe their is a cognitive theorist who suggests that our emotions are hooked to our minds and bodies in such a way that we are inately capable of knowing (because it makes us feel bad) what is right and wrong vis a vis the low end of Maslow's Pyramid. There is a reason that the sight of blood or of human skeletons is revolting and scary - we are innately moral. The religious way to describe this is that God made that so. Fine. Transcendence is transcendence.

2. The principle of social continuity -- Conservatives prefer the devil they know to the devil they don’t know.

This is a no brainer. Of course it's true. I don't even see how this is debateable.

3. The principle of prescription -- A reliance on the “wisdom of our ancestors.”

Well, now the value of this really depends on how broad a faction of ancestors one is willing to claim, no? But the basic principle stands. Human knowledge evolves slowly. Just as we physically evolve slowly. What is valuable doesn't change, so heed your grandmama.

4. The principle of prudence -- Public measures should be judged by their long-term consequences.

Really, what more needs to be said here, other than what I keep saying about Bush blowing the budget makes him more my enemy than my friend. But you already know this. Conservatives like me are all about the Long Now.

5. The principle of variety -- A healthy inequality is necessary for civilization.

This could mean any number of things, but presuming that it says something specifically in defense of a Class System (as contrasted to a Caste System), then I tend to agree. Throw in a little Peter Principle, a little meritocracy and open markets and I think it works just fine. People need to do what they are good at doing, and they need to be rewarded appropriately. Somewhere, some man needs to get a passionate night of lovemaking for not stealing a truck, but he's in another class than I.

6. The principle of imperfectability -- Since man is imperfect, no perfect social order can be created.

Abso-frickin-lutely. So now I suppose I need to check out this Jeremy Bentham character and see exactly which of his screws were loose. There's a task for another day. I've blogged quite enough today.

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Keeping It Right

I'm adding a new category to my blog today in order to do something that I've been meaning to do for a while, which is to introduce and keep track of outstanding individuals and groups that smack me in the face as being Old School and/or Conservative Blacks and/or Black Republicans. This serves two primary purposes. One of them is to satisfy my packrat proclivities and organize something which I have failed to organize so far. The side effect of that will be to allow everyone else easy access to the same pile. And the other is equally self-serving which is to create a mountain of examples which deflect the ever increasingly tiresome questions about how/why and to what extent am I 'being' all that I claim to be. Ask them too.

Today I spotlight Tavares Forby, the young man who runs the newly hatched He says:

I have very few black friends that I can talk mathematics, physics, politics, or other abstract subjects with. These are very powerful subjects that change the world. One night I went to go see the second Matrix at a theatre near UCSD. I got there about 40 minutes early because it was the first night it came out. During that 40 minutes before the move, I looked around the theatre and all I saw was a lot of Asian and White college kids with there text books open, using their TI-89, or had their laptop open doing some type of school work. I was amazed (besides the fact I was the only black there). And I thought to myself, how come I never see this in the black community? How can we get African Americans to shift some of their interest into something outside of their own? Maybe making these other interests look cool or a focus on changing the views of our younger African American generation can make a difference. Whatever the answer is, we need to get back in the race!

We're with you Tavares and we've got your back and I am pledging my support of the Keeping It Right network to insure that our folks are hooked up properly. At the very least, I can start placing some people in all the tech jobs people keep throwing at me over at my other site, Cubegeek.

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Abortion: An Individual Right?


First of all let's clarify something about rights. I say they are the gift of the strong. Others might say they exist independently, we just have to recognizen them. I disagree.

I could claim that God created a right for me to read your mind, but until the device is created that enables me to do so, does that right exist? If I claim God created the right, then it exists in perpetuity since the beginning and to the end of mankind, but I can't exercise that 'right' until I have the capability. Once that capability is expressed, then law springs up around it as does political rhetoric. Rights evolve owing to the relative importance they have in society.

Understand here that abortion is an invention. It is a medical invention that adds to the convenience of modern women such that they don't suffer the responsibility of childbirth and rearing if they choose not to. There are a lot of good reasons and bad reasons for this choice. But to speak of it as a right, I think mischaracterizes it. Rather I think of it as an enabler, or perhaps a consequence of the expression of something that more resembles a right which is sexual gratification.

Humans need sexual gratification. It's way down on Maslow's Pyramid. But there are also a huge number of choices there too. And I wouldn't be so quick to talk about a woman's right to choose abortion without talking about a woman's right to choose lesbianism or marriage or masturbation. Which is more fundamental, the sexual needs of the body or the need to be free of childbearing and childrearing?

Abortion is brutal contraception. Sure you have a choice, and I defend wise choice, but I don't give license.

One more thing that I want to add to this stew is the question of where one body ends and another begins. A woman cannot get pregnant on her own. She must have possession of someone elses genetic material in order to conceive. So it is inevitable that the other person has some 'right' to determine the fate of the development. A child, or an embryo, or a fetus or whatever you want to call it inside a woman's body is not hers exclusively. It is only half hers. So her individual rights are compromised the moment she becomes pregnant.

I say this because whether or not one agrees that a fertilized egg is a person, it could conceiveably be brought to term outside of the body in which it was fertilized and still exists as 'joint property' of the two parents until it reaches some measure of selfhood. It could go into another woman's body. It could go into an artificial womb. It could go into storage. Hell, it might even go into a pig or a cow or the bloody Matrix for all we know.

So if a woman's right to abort is absolute, then it stands in direct opposition to a man's right to sire. So what if he's a rapist. So what if she's a murderer? One person is still plotting to deprive the other.

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David Horowitz Makes Sense

Uh Oh.

I think I'm having a paranoid moment. I just read an old article by David Horowitz and I don't see anything wrong with it. This is spooky. The article is the notorious Baa Baa Black Sheep published in Salon in 1998. Hmm

Posted by mbowen at 08:46 AM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

Mr. White

The past is often full of pleasant surprises. I just happened across an old section of my website (Boohab's Factotum) and in it was a search string for Google that pointed to the writings of the best ally I ever had as an anti-racist online.

James A. White (if that was his real name) was a German geneticist associated with the Human Genome Project working in New York. If you ever needed anybody on your side to completely thrash the ambitions of American Neo-Nazis, you couldn't design somebody better than Mr. White. All of the hard racial subjects, IQ, heritability, The Bell Curve.. White handled them with aplomb, authority and attitude. I tended to handle such matters with flavor, facts and ferocity; it was a great balance.

Anyway, here is the link. Here is an example of one of his exchanges with legendary internet white supremacist troll Matt Nuenke.

When someone can show that you can take blacks and give them an enriched environment and they will be able to learn and function normally into adulthood then the genetic basis of IQ may begin to be in doubt. Until then, the stupid race hypothesis is the most credible and consistent. Whether one is a left winger or a right winger, good science does not care. Facts is facts.

What do you do about the "white" groups who do no better than blacks on
standardized tests? There are obviously many who score no better, in order
for the white average to be 100. Where are these facts you refer to found?
In TBC? Those so called facts are very tainted. The Minnesota Twins
Studies? Again these studies are about as scientific as "The Legend of the
Seven Cities of Cibola". You continue to look only at tainted studies and
evidence, why not look at the studies and data which would tend to indicate
otherwise? In the meantime you are willing to continue the needless
sacrifice of the lives of millions of people on the altar of a theory of
racial superiority. The US went through this same thing once before in its
history. Also before the turn of the century in England there was a theory
of Social Darwinism which prevailed for a time which essentially said the
same thing about the English working class. Your attitude is the very
reason American society keeps going around in the same loops and never
solving the problem. Politicians get elected in the US by "playing the
race card", alternating between calling they inferior and calling them
saints. The temptation is too great and as long as that exists blacks in
the USA will always be pawns in a game.

Posted by mbowen at 08:09 AM | TrackBack

August 18, 2004

Installing A Divinity In Your Head

I started out in life as a Black Nationalist. My late baby brother was born with Spinal Meningitis which he survived - this turned my mother, a lapsed Catholic, into a born-again Evangelical and introduced Jesus for the very first time into the household when I was in elementary school. Understand that as a kid, we never said grace or bedtime prayers. There were no praying hands on the mantel, cross or portrait on the wall. So suddenly I had to reorient causality onto this Jesus character.

It took a couple years, but I finally figured out that Jesus must be in my head and that I didn't have to alter my body position to speak to him. And since he must be God, then I don't have to sit and wait for an answer - either he's going to say something to me immediately or not. If he doesn't answer immediately, then he's saying, in effect, Michael go do what you want. How could he be incapable of hearing my prayer? If he answers prayer, how could he stand to be subordinated to my own will? So my checking in with Jesus worked with the provision 'unless otherwise directed by heavenly command, I'm about to do this'. Jesus never really stopped me from doing anything I wanted to do, but the act of checking in developed into a strong conscience. So strong in fact, that I became convinced that I was doing God's work. That stayed me for a very long time.

Soon enough it was off to Catholic School, who told me that I was too lowly to speak directly to Jesus and that I better check with Mary first. Hmm. That's a twist. Not only that, but they stopped in the middle of the Lord's Prayer, so the priest could say "Deliver us Lord from every evil and grant us peace in our day." Well the Catholics had it all over the Evangelicals for dignity and demeanor, but what's up with the intercession? I already had my P2P connection with Jesus hooked up, now this new gaggle of saints and clergy are cluttering up the connection and translating it to SNA. I swear if it was in Latin, I would have never given them a second thought.

Two years later I was off to study with the Jesuits. They deconstructed Genesis, taught me about who this character King James actually was (yike!) and introduced me to the machinations of the Council of Nicea. Well, there's a fine how do you do. These guys have a set of moral power tools which have made a fine mess of all previous constructions, but one thing stuck firm. Be a man for others - be Christlike. And suddenly I was no longer capable of making the ultimate sacrifice for any Black Nationalist cause.

In the end, I decided with Pops, that straight up Episcopalians were the right combination of tradition, structure and Living Jesus and Good Works. I took my second Catechism, was re-baptized and Confirmed into the Episcopal Church at the age of 16.

I bring this up because I am proud of having been Confirmed by an Archbishop and of all the discussions I have regarding the sensibility and provenance of my conservatism I never am questioned about my Christian faith. And yet any person with a reasonable amount of certainty about the propriety of their own sect might easily point an accusing finger at my less that singular history. Is this because we simply don't do that in America or that we have accomodated for our religious diversity? In other words, while some folks are dividing us up into Red and Blue states over something we only do once every four years why don't they bother dividing us up into 30 someodd sects based on something we do much more often?

Well, we don't need religious consensus to function as a nation. People more or less assume (I assume) that a proper religious upbringing is sufficiently moral to not worry about the differences in the forking paths to righteousness. After all, religion is all about righteousness. But this kind of benefit of the doubt is less likely in political circles, even though political ideology is less well defined than religious dogma.

I don't want to seque too far away from the theme of the title other than to say that installing a Republican in your head is not quite as likely to happen as installing Allah in your head. Is it because politics is not all about righteousness that we are so critical of non-deterministic political philosophies?

Posted by mbowen at 07:17 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

August 17, 2004

Parks for Mayor?

I want to get into it here about the prospects for Bernard Parks as he runs for mayor of Los Angeles after having raised a measly 80 grand for his campaign. As Patterico has reminded me, there are a number of blackfolks in Los Angeles who are not too fond of Parks for the way he finessed the aftermath of the Rampart Scandal, especially with the open allegations that he terminated all investigations into cops involved with Suge Knight and apparently cut immunity deals that defied reason.

I am saying all of this from memory because there's actually a lot to be said that I have some of my own writing about and I want to get some feedback on this thread too. I recently met Parks at Ofari's but didn't take the time to deal with him. I wonder now how he's playing his own race card in assuming some significant majority of an automatic black vote against Villaraigosa and Hahn.


Posted by mbowen at 10:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Doug Schuler & e-Liberate

Add one more pioneer to the stew.

Motivated by a desire to help make online discussions more productive -- particularly among civil society groups who are striving to create more "civic intelligence" in our society -- Doug Schuler proposed in his 1996 book New Community Networks that Roberts Rules of Order could be used as a basis for online deliberation. Roberts Rules of Order was developed by Henry Robert in the late 1800s to describe an orderly process for people meeting together face-to-face to make decisions fairly. One of the most important criterion was that although every attendee would have opportunities to make his or her ideas heard the minority could not prevent the majority from making decisions. Robert labored over his "rules" for 30 years and they are now in daily use by tens of thousands of deliberative bodies worldwide. One of the interesting things that we have learned about Roberts Rules is that the process seems to scale up: small groups of 5 or so can use as can groups numbering in the hundreds.

I told you this was a great idea.

My angle differs in that it seeks to overcome specific temporal and spacial boundaries assumed by Robert as well as work on multiple levels of sophistication. An XRepublic can thus generate resolutions of varying complexity on similar topics in different time frames - it doesn't seek to force every quorum to develop a comprehensive resolution for larger majorities, rather to generate specific resolutions for specific constituencies which are related one to the other. One of the things I am trying to achieve is a balance of simplicity and completeness such that the language necessary might be more rule-based. This way one can review the effectiveness of amendment with regard to enforcement.

For example if one constituency leaves out clauses which specify "you cannot murder by poisoning with mercury" in a murder law, and it doesn't have a mercury poisoning, then the resolution is safe enough. Why add to its complexity in anticipation of a sophistication that doesn't exist in the constituency?

Posted by mbowen at 06:51 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Mo' Fragments

Orkut is Dead
So is Friendster. Long live Multiply. I guess.

Ball Sweat
My favorite energy drink is Sobe Adrenaline Rush. Some customers are near Starbucks, some customers are near 7-11. This customer has its own kitchen and so when I need to wake up from slaving over a hot laptop, I know there's a fridge full. I wondered if I was getting the maximum kick, so I found this site to have a lot of good subjective answers. But I like the taste of SAR.

Protecting Parker Center
Patterico has discovered an old black political tactic. Don't trust the newspapers when they defend cops. I know he doesn't trust the LAT on general principle, but he's exhibiting the kind of behavior, which in blackfolks, often brings hoots of derision. It's not easy being a skeptic, especially when it involves the murders of rap stars. I'm sure I wrote some delicious stuff about this way back in the day, but I can't find it in the archives.

Started Retarded
I know that I'm not the only person who noticed that there are (at least) two versions of that Black Eyed Peas song. Suddenly during the NBA finals, the rest of the world outside of the tighter hiphop sphere learned.

UK In Da House
The recent New Yorker highlights Dizzee Rascal & The Streets. Even though I knew half of them were thuggin' I always had a soft spot in my critical vision for French rappers, especially those and other Euros under the influence of Jazzy Jay. To wit {IAM, SLEO, Lucien (of course), Solaar (of course), and the just salty enough Raggasonic}. I haven't heard these new kids, but let's give them a shot.

Litmus Dumps
Somebody asked me what it is about me that thinks I'm Conservative. I'll agree that there's got to be a fairly shortcut way of describing it. My kneejerk is RTFM, what do you think I've been writing about for the past two years? But I suppose I can aggregate a dumbed down manifesto. Here's a first axiom: Youth Culture Is Stupid. Stay tuned. Oh, by the way Gay Marriage Is Oxymoronic.

Phil Agre Goes Crazy
I've been subbed to RRE for a couple years. It's more of the research feeds I browse and archive for no good reason other than that I am a packrat. He really started barking up the wrong tree the other day with the following grafs:

Liberals in the United States have been losing political debates to
conservatives for a quarter century. In order to start winning again,
liberals must answer two simple questions: what is conservatism, and
what is wrong with it? As it happens, the answers to these questions
are also simple:

Q: What is conservatism?
A: Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy.

Q: What is wrong with conservatism?
A: Conservatism is incompatible with democracy, prosperity, and
civilization in general. It is a destructive system of inequality
and prejudice that is founded on deception and has no place in the
modern world.

Here is a man who obviously travels in small circles. That may be his definition of Conservatism, but I think that he's got a dictionary Jones. Sniff the empirical Phil and leave the strawman theories for your undergrads.

Posted by mbowen at 04:40 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

The Last Word

I've heard a lot of discussion about Ebonics and BSV and whatever slanguage blackfolks are accused of speaking, but I've not heard anything so potent and clear as Avery Tooley's piece. Love it.

He's got the verbiage for all the explaining that needs to be done, plus the right attitude, and in this I make the distinction between proper and right. Language is that which flows from the self. It is the most personal of creations. It is your voice. What can it be besides a version of boastful scientific animism when some pretentious fop tells you that you're not. The most honest criticism that might be made is that one is not speaking the King's English. Fine. See Monty Python.

I've always seen language as power, and I've been a shape shifter. It was always clear to me that one speaks appropriate to the situation. Most of my teen years, there were three venues each with its own propriety when it came to speech. Home, School, Neighborhood. In my neighborhood, everyone sounded exactly like Ice Cube. At school everyone sounded like a character out of 'Donnie Darko' which shouldn't be a surprise since they filmed it there at LiHi. At home it was a mix of Cosby Show and Roc. Plus having learned conversational Swahili as a child and having Fracophones in the family, not to mention the Mom's lapses into Creole, flexibility and fluidity was always the order of the the day.

But I leave it to Tooley.

Posted by mbowen at 09:25 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Doom Network

Posted by mbowen at 01:16 AM | TrackBack

August 16, 2004

The Man In The Mirror

If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and make a change.

-- Michael Jackson

If this is what Michael Jackson considers a mirror, then he's truly desparate.

Jackson made a surprise visit to Los Angeles' pre-eminent black church on Sunday, which legal experts said was an effort to boost his reputation ahead of the showdown with the Santa Barbara County prosecutor.

With all the flack that I've been lightheartedly taking about what Republicans do or don't know about black people, you've got to admit that anybody off the boat could do a better job than Michael Jackson's handlers. First he hires the NOI for security, now he's at FAME. Jeez.

Now you know what's going to happen. Jackson is going to do time and a bunch of black hack flacks are going to try to compare him to Martha Stewart and pick through the newspapers to find out which other criminals got off light. They're going to say it's a racial thing and try that self-fulfilling prophesy. Certainly there are complications that make this an interesting story, but the racial sideshow blurs those distinctions. So for my part, I'm going to focus on the two protagonists, and I think Sneddon has the upper hand. The fact of the matter is that Tom Sneddon wants Jackson's neck and he's going to use all of his wiles to get it, since Jackson slipped through Sneddon's net last time.

Understand that Sneddon and Jackson are deadly enemies and that you can view Michael's latest works completely (at least I do now) through the lens of this particular fight. He's bleeding all over the page - why else would he hire Biggie Smalls to rap with him? Check out the lyrics from 'Unbreakable' off the 'Invincable' album. WTF?

Now I'm just wondering why you think
That you can get to me with anything
Seems like you'd know by now, when and how I get down
And with all that I've been through, I'm still around

Don't you ever make no mistake
Baby I've got what it takes
And there's no way you'll ever get to me
Why can't you see that you'll never ever hurt me
'Cause I won't let it be, I'm too much for you baby

You can't believe it, you can't concieve it
And you can't touch me, 'cause I'm untouchable
And I know you hate it, and you can't take it
You'll never break me, 'cause I'm unbreakable.

Can you believe this? I'm a big fan of the bogard, but this fool is in over his head. The fundamental difference between the Gloved One and the rappers he fronts with is that Jackson cannot survive outside of a multi-million dollar bubble. He'll never be able to go incognegro and that is his great weakness. It will undo him. When people say that you're a hypocrite just for going to church, you know you're in trouble.

I believe that Michael Jackson thinks that he's so special that he can push the boundaries of adult/child affection. He must think that his kind of love is beyond reproach. He comes from an effed up family and was clearly unable to create a normal one. So all of that purity and affection he might have had, he tries to overcompensate for with other people's hearts and other people's children. But it's too late. He's an old man and this crap doesn't work any more. Now he is faced with the kind of power that doesn't respect his money, state prosecutorial power. It must be rocking Jackson's world.

One more thing, looking into the future. If Jackson's estate survives, you can look forward to watching his kids blowing millions on the fast life. Golddiggers take note, there are some marks to be taken.

Posted by mbowen at 11:57 AM | TrackBack

The New Security

This morning I sent out an invoice to one of my customers - an Adobe PDF file. Since GMail wasn't working, a periodic annoyance, I used my old Eudora client. As the mail went out, I noticed that there was a lack of an outbound virus scan. Usually when I send out a large document, it takes several extra seconds as Norton AV checks to make sure I'm not poisoning my email recipient unintentionally. This time, the little window didn't pop up.

Is Norton turned off? Yes, but only for outbound mail. Now I remember. When my buddy made his debut as a bassist in a reggae band, I spammed several hundred people on his behalf. In order to accomplish that, I turned off the outbound scanner.

It has been about 20 years since I first started using anti-virus software. I was getting McAfee updates even before Mitnick's famous worm. Back in those days, the threat level was nowhere near as consistent as it is today. Viruses are much more sophisticated, but ironically, they tend to be a lot less deadly. Back in those days, many virues just erased hard drives - they were just plain destructive. Today virus hackers seem to be more interested in owning fully functional machines. It's more like brainwashing than killing. We are a nation of potential Manchurian Candidates for today's crackers. I'm fairly safe however, but my safety has more to do with my own awareness than what any tools do for me. It was the fact that I know my outbound mail should be scanned rather that the fact that Norton does it for me, that adds to my security.

What I'm particularly pleased about this morning is that this consciousness is embedded in me after all these years. It doesn't hurt using it. I think about surgeons that I know, they'll drink themselves under a table, but they won't touch cigarettes. When you understand what the bad guys can do to you, it's not paranoia any longer, and after you've been practiced the safe regime for a long enough time, it starts to feel more like common sence than 'preparedness'.

I bring up this notion because I know that it's important for the future of our country, in the face of terrorism, that we all begin preparing ourselves. For what it's worth, I think people are getting accustomed to airport security. Whenever I have to go through a terminal, I know to wear my Oakleys. They come off in a second, they pop on in a second.

But I also know that, as a civil libertarian, I am particularly sensitive to this boiling frog effect on our important freedoms. The important thing to know is that once your security conciousness becomes elevated - when you begin to understand more about the threat against you, so does your understanding of the value of the tools in place (or not) to protect you. Again, it is the consciousness that is your strength, not the tool. Because as time goes forward, the nature of the threat will change in terms of its manifestations. Terrorists might want to blow up hard drives now, but next season they may want to brainwash us. The point is not to get overly dependent on one defensive tactic. We'll then have the options to trade-off. Maybe we want to spam for the sake of our friends, so we'll turn something off for a while. Maybe we'll want to encourage American students to study abroad, so we'll lift exit visa restrictions for a while.

In order for us to accomplish this kind of preparedness consciousness, we need to have some transparency from our government. Way back in the day, when I first loaded McAfee (or was it Norton?), I remember that the virus definitions all had names and descriptions. It gave me a great deal of comfort to know that any day I could look up the name of one of xhundred viruses and their variants to understand what kind of damage they might do and how likely it was that I would be infected by it. They still provide services like this today, even though I don't use them, I'm glad to know that they are there.

Twenty years ago, most Americans didn't even have PCs much less any knowledge of viruses or how to defend against them. But the fact that companies like McAffee and the Norton guys (who have been owned by several different entities) have been open about virus threat assessment and detection let a sizeable group of Americans operate securely. We've been able to internalize and maintain our preparedness consciousness because of that transparency. Now we would no more likely leave our machines unprotected than a cardiologist would smoke or an AIDS worker sleep around. But we know average Americans are not always so informed and disciplined.

When it comes to Homeland Security, some of us are going to know what's behind the big Orange Light, but most of us don't. Somebody somewhere is going to have to be our Surgeon General and start spreading some details and transparency. Even if she's going to be frank about masturbation like our old friend from Arkansas, Dr. Elders. Better safe and embarrassed than smug and in danger.

I'll vote for a president who does that.

Posted by mbowen at 10:08 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 14, 2004

What's Wrong With This Picture?

This is one of the most critical litmus tests I have on America. If you can't understand this picture, I'm really out to slap you around. I put up with the shame and embarrassment of people dissing Moe Greene four years ago and I really am not having it any more. I wasn't having it then, but I'm also putting people on notice because the subtle subjects have pointed me in this direction again.

We have just been discussing 'Race: Public Dialog vs Single Combat' in the context of Dr. F's comment about blacks and Japanese vis a vis white respect. Here's cutting to the chase for you: When you see this picture, you need to shut up and salute. If there is anything in you that finds it difficult to accept that these Americans are the absolute best in the world at what they do and deserving of your unconditional support and respect, you need to get a sharp knife and cut it out. He who wins the gold makes the rules. So this is what it looks like. And if you can't respect that, then it's civil war.

Obviously, I get very exercised about this particular issue, because I think it is symbolic of the fate of African America and of America itself. I don't care who you think you might be, you cannot afford not to respect black men who triumph like this. And I might be betraying a mote of insecurity to think that there are those who don't get it, because I'm prepared to write vulgar threats. This one goes deep for me.

In my right hand is a pen. In my other hand is a CRKT M16-13Z. You don't want to know what it's like when a man like me doesn't have a country.

Posted by mbowen at 11:47 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Spy Geekery

I'm having a paranoid moment.

What if somebody came into my house, or better yet, what if somebody were eyeballing me as I type this? They'd have to notice the DVDs next to my flat panel: {Ronin, Enemy of the State, Spy Game, Swordfish, Heist, Heat}. They'd have to notice my bookshelf {Ludlum, Bamford, Littell, Clancy}. They'd notice all my books on hacking. And as I write this I'm desparately trying to find out what a TR105 is and how I could get one.

I need to get outside.

Posted by mbowen at 11:43 AM | TrackBack


Colin Powell says:

I think our historical position is we are a superpower that cannot be touched in this generation by anyone in terms of military power, economic power, the strength of our political system and our values system. What we would like to see is a greater understanding of power, of the democratic system, the open market economic system, the rights of men and women to achieve their destiny as God has directed them to do if they are willing to work for it. And we really do not wish to go to war with people. But, by God, we will have the strongest military around. And that's not a bad thing to have. It encourages and champions our friends that are weak and it chills the ambitions of the evil.

Sorta makes you feel good, huh? Wait until you read the whole thing. I kick Bush for muzzling this man. When I say that the White House is not open enough, it's because I expect a good long press conference at least once a month. But every time I hear GW, it's a dozen mumbling words. Just listen to this interview and compare it with what we generally hear out of the White House, and you'll understand my frustration.

Posted by mbowen at 09:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 13, 2004


Posted by mbowen at 10:55 AM | TrackBack

The Charlie Levy Story

Charlie Levy won the President's Award at Xerox 18 or so years ago. He was the software architect who finally figured out how to sell the Xerox workstation. Everybody acknowledged that the machine was a work of genius but nobody could think of an application for it. Besides, it and a printer together cost 12 grand. Charlie called it the Documentor, put together a nice software package and enabled Xerox to sell thousands of them. He got a seven figure bonus and went to retire at a windsurfing commune in Hawaii. True Story.

I met Charlie in his waning days at Xerox at a rooftop party in Manhattan Beach back in '88. He told me two things that I'll never forget, and up until this moment never really questioned. The first thing he said was: "Brains are a cheap commodity." He meant it. The other thing he said was that all the Computer Science PhDs in Silicon Valley are wasting their time. Microsoft owned their future.

In those days, rights to UIs like Motif where heavy and contentious multi-miilion dollar licensing issues. Where Motif is today was inconceivable, even by Richard Stallman. In the eyes of men like Charlie, and those of us who idolized him, software was all owned by clumsy, brutal corporations like Xerox.
In those days, the entire software industry was an appendix to hardware manufacture, just as it was in Xerox. Its economy was directed by people who didn't understand or care about its art. It was as if Shell was a subdivision of Ford. The only exception to the rule was Microsoft, and Microsoft sucked. It made no sense to want to be a software genius because in the end you would only toil for Microsoft.

Nobody questioned that Charlie was prophetic about Silicon Valley until the Netscape IPO. Suddenly the whole planet realized that scruffy, iracsible software guys with beards and Hawaiian shirts could have million dollar paydays - that there could be entire tribes of Charlie Levys. Charlie could not have forseen such an event. Suddenly software itself could be its own business (and not be Oracle, or Microsoft) He was born too soon.

I bring up this story because it is illustrative of how circumstances can make capable people quit after a lifetime of effort, only to see their children's success humble them. You can never master what you are incapable of visualizing, and you never know how a great idea will ultimately be manifest.

Posted by mbowen at 09:31 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Low Hanging Fruit

Interesting stuff re: Minority Business from the Negrophile

The group looked at investments in minority-owned businesses made by 24 funds from 1989 to 1995, according to UW business professor William Bradford. 11 of those funds — representing 117 investments — received an average of $1.62 million return on a $562,400 investment. The other funds' investments were too young to produce returns.

Posted by mbowen at 12:34 AM | TrackBack

August 12, 2004

It Depends

Posted by mbowen at 04:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Race: Public Dialog vs Single Combat

"One day the fellas got together.
We vowed that no one would ever
come on our block and terrorize us.
The ones that used to do it now they idolize us."
-- Mohandas Dewese

This is a complicated meditation on anti-racism. I'd like to sum it up in the words of a friend of the family. He said that if blackfolks want to learn anything about race then they would learn from the example of the Japanese. The White Man did not respect Japs until Japs started killing white men. It was a scary thing to hear, and it's the kind of thing even Bill Cosby won't say in public. But as I think about it, I think that it's ultimately the last word and why public debate on the question of race is doomed.

Debra Dickerson says:

When I realized that I had internalized the world's loathing of blacks, my first response was, counterintuitively, relief. Finally, I have proof that blacks' obsession with racism isn't crazy. If I secretly think that many poor blacks are animalistic and stupid, you'll never make me believe that lots of other people don't, too. My lasting response has been chagrined amusement to realize that I hold such ridiculous, illogical notions. Most of all, acknowledging my own racism has given me a measure of compassion for how difficult it is to retain one's humanity in such a politicized and inhumane world. I'm black and I make my living thinking about race, but I still wasn't immune to the insidious bigotry in our world. How much harder it must be for those with far less time to contemplate and come to terms with these vexing social issues.

It's not bigotry per se that hamstrings us in the struggle to achieve a just society. It's our inability to talk about and think our way through our preconceptions. We have to learn how to forgive each other, and more importantly ourselves, when we're stupid.

Althought Dickerson says we ought to be all about class and not race and gives some interesting anecdotes about how (Class Three) racism is lived, she doesn't say what we ought to do about racism besides talk honestly. This kind of talk ought to annoy me because it's just talk, but it doesn't because it's just talk. In other words, I acknowledge the failure of anti-racist politics, even though anti-racist sentiment is strong. So the fact that somebody who ought to know better only recommends that we all flap our lips honestly about it, doesn't bother me any longer. I don't expect people who understand racism to do anything political about it, you'd simply have to drop too many too-white folks, and quite frankly we've learned to route around those people who are too white more efficiently than we've learned to make them pay.

Drop? Is that hiphop slang for kill? No, that's strictly political enemy talk.

Consider the recent flap over Trent Lott. If you are a true anti-racist and you want to be effective, you've got to go where the racists are and confront them don't you? If you're MLK you don't march on Ann Arbor, you go to Selma. But like I said, today's politically correct folks assume the Republican Party is chockablock with folks who (like Lott?) are hell-bent on giving white supremacists aid and comfort; so they route around it at any cost. When it comes to extracting a real price, they are unable to do more that 'speak truth to power' which is ultimately just honest talk.

While I am a Republican and expect that I'll have to play hardball of that sort sometime in the future, it's not why I'm here. I am not an infiltrating assassin or double-agent. I've always been anti-racist and everyone should know so. I hold everyone to the same standard so it really doesn't matter what party I'm in. I only assume that the racism of liberals is something different from the racism of conservatives. Don't ask, I haven't studied it that much.

The irony is, of course, that those who assume (rightly or wrongly) that the Republicans have all the racists also assume that whatever they do can't be racist because they're not acting in concert with Republicans. Hmm. Maybe that this difference. So perhaps this is the reason that as a starting point they say that everybody's racist and encourage talk so that they can distinguish themselves by degrees rather than by principle.

Like Dickerson, I'm another black person who is certainly aware of the dimensions of racism in people's heads. But unlike her I'm no more likely to call myself a racist than your priest's understanding of the ways and means of Lucifer is likely to make him consider himself a Satanist. "I feel your bigotry" is so Clintonesque. I'll have nothing to do with it. Furthermore, I have given up the mantle of the Race Man although I retain the wisdom and scar tissue. So I am just as guilty of inaction on behalf of the public as the rest.

However, since I'm a talker in the public sphere too, I would suggest that the issue has been talked to death and the honesty ought not to be about our own personal bigotry, rather about our own politics. Why are we unable to work out some politics around racism? Is my own frustration illustrative, or is it just me? I don't know how to muster the thinking of the people and influence them towards anti-racist principles in this democracy. I am at a loss to explain how to get millions of Americans to think and do the right thing, but I think it has to do with many more millions of dollars, not simply honest talk. So if our two parties are illustrative of the state of the art, then they too must have concluded that the right sentiment is sufficient. Which means all of us are just left to deal with our consciences and talk honestly about our feelings.

As I said, I don't get upset about this lack of public spirit. Why, because I'm conservative. I am as black as anybody, and I know that if and when I succeed according to the plans I have laid out, I'm going to face racial hostility. I'll face it from blacks, whites and others. (though generally through the perspective of white supremacy, the dominant form of racism in America - (I feel more 'nigger' than 'goyim' or 'gaijin')) I'll face it tomorrow in the same way I faced it yesterday. I can count on myself, my family and various African American traditions to get me through it - not on popular politics, Party platforms or pop psychology. That's OK with me, because I know how to talk back, fight back and if necessary, shoot back. I take responsibility for the amount of warrior code I must adhere to in order to pursue happiness in this place.

Quite frankly I don't want to put anybody I've seen in public politics in charge of my fight with the nation of millions who would hold me back. Instead, I want to depend on my own networks, and posses. The law is sufficient most of the time. I know things would be a whole lot different if the right person was running this government, and I say make Johnnie Cochran head of the EEOC and watch knees tremble from coast to coast. Yet I also know that as I and my contemporaries rise through the upper middle classes the fights of racial hostility will be unlike anything they teach during Black History Month. Who feels for Joe Jett? Better yet, who fights for Joe Jett when his chips are down? He does.

So when it comes to honest talk about racism, I can do that. But I've already done so and so I consider myself ahead of that game. I'm not going to stick around for the results of the next round of elementary public debate about 'race relations'. As the kids around the way say 'That is so yesterday'.

Does that mean I think racial hostility will come to violence? It already does, but not for people like me. At my level I expect treachery in business, general snobbery and all the other kinds of intrigue of bourgie Americans. Do I think blackfolks will have to kill to get respect? For that kind of respect, sure. It was done in WW2 and that, from my perspective, is as real a driving force as any behind the Civil Rights Movment. It's what humanity demands. Whitefolks, like everybody else, need to be beat at their own game according to the rules of the game (which must occasionally be bent), whatever that game may be. Not just once but consistently enough to forge real respect and real alliances. There's no way around that. That's what equality means. That's what Malcolm had in mind.

For the sake of our own civil society, no such extreme measures need to be considered. Blacks don't have to be Jackie Robinson just to play baseball any longer. But we should never forget what Jackie had to deal with, and what those of us on the leading edge will face. No amount of public debate is going to make that opposing pitcher throw a softball.

Posted by mbowen at 12:04 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Conservative Blacks: What We're All About

In anticipation of the Instalaunch initiated by LaShawn and the NRO article I suppose now is a good time to re-introduce myself and my aims to a host of new readers.

As facilitator of the Conservative Brotherhood I am putting forth an effort aimed at getting a bit more traction for the wit and wisdom that we African Americans have known all of our lives. I have been writing essays and observations online for over a decade in just about all the interesting places that don't actually pay.. from the forums at Delphi to The Well to Salon's first Table Talk. The Blogosphere is another step on the way and I am hopeful that it will only get better from here forward.

Over the course of those many years I have had the good fortune to come across writers with fascinating ideas and persuasive insights on matters that confound the rest of us. I have discovered that there are clearly ways to clear up murky subjects through online discussions that are not well served by broadcast media. In this, I am not taking a stereotypical swipe as someone in the media boondocks, but acknowledging real differences in capability and capacity. I have concluded that even the most tangly issues such as race, religion and politics can be approached comprehensively and satisfyingly here in cyberspace. So it should come as no surprise that these some of my favorite subjects.

The focus here at Cobb is Culture, Politics and Thought. I'm attempting to personify who I am, a college-educated, self-employed married father of three living in the upscale (overpriced Southern California beach) suburb, who grew up in the 'hood, (nicely stereotyped by Hollywood's 'Boyz'). I want to put that simple face on the particular complexities of black politics. I am convinced that we have reached an inflection in our history and that larger numbers of African Americans in my generation are moving beyond the basic concerns of human and civil rights and focusing their political energies on issues of social power. We stand on the shoulders of MLK and Malcolm X, and on WEB DuBois and Booker T. Washington before them in an America that is more of our creation than ever before. We are not so alienated at home as our parents. The question often comes up 'What do black people want?', the answer is 'Anything that's worth having'. The ways and means of accomplishing this emergence, as informed by our heritage and inspiration, is the subject of my writing and black conservatism is the ethos.

Recent remarks by Bill Cosby have been an excellent tangent for approaching the principles of the 'Old School' as we like to call it. Although one could start by examining that group previously known and self-identified as the 'Talented Tenth', there are interesting dynamics afoot among black Americans that often defy characterization. Part of that is changing how we are perceived - yet another change from 'colored' to 'Negro' to 'black' and beyond. I say this is a measure of our ambition. All Americans, immersed as we are in racial consciousness, regionalisms and class distinctions, understand general limits assigned to The Negro. And so those who would be considered that find it in their own best interests to transcend and reclaim. That's what we're doing here.

The best way to get an understanding of conservative blacks is to read what we're saying. I wish there was a shortcut, but abstractions really don't serve us well considering our relative anonymity. However, I assure you that any subject you place in the search box will be found. Now you know where we are. Let's get on with it.

Posted by mbowen at 09:43 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Threat Level

Posted by mbowen at 09:40 AM | TrackBack

Mass Distribution

Posted by mbowen at 08:31 AM | TrackBack

Olivier's Hamlet: Take One

Since I happened on the UK Google News, I've been on a little bit of a Olivier trip. Last week I purchased two of his DVDs. Hamlet and Richard III. I've discovered a neat tool that allows me to watch DVDs on my PC in the background of translucent windows. So I can read the script of Hamlet (via Gutenberg or others) and watch Olivier perform.

That got tedious - interpreting text and watching acting is a bit much, even for a multitasker like myself. So I started watching it straight. Although I fell asleep last night shortly after Hamlet's admonishments to Ophelia (that was cold-blooded) I am gathering that Olivier's Hamlet is nothing like the weasel other interpretations have floated by my ears.

If memory serves me correctly, the good prince's elaborate ruse is masterfully rendered up to the end, but that he must sacrifice his best man in a swordfight in order to reveal the duplicity of his uncle the usurper. All of his protestations at the beginning of the play are in recognition of his new sworn duty.

The time is out of joint: O cursed spite, That ever I was born to set it right!

Loaded words for sure, and yet sets the mood for all of the rest of his action and plotting. That's the way I take it watching Olivier, who truth be told, makes wearing tights look cool. Don't tell anybody from my old 'hood that I said so though. Plus, I've got to hand it to Olivier in doing the scene where he goes through all of the expressions that Ophelia describes without overacting. Amazing.

The most fun about watching Shakespeare is hearing his phrasing which has come down to regular use in the language completely outside of the context of the play and then reconciling it in real time to the situation on stage. It's like (OK I'm going to hear it for this) Mystery Science Theatre 3000, and actually gives a new dimension to watching. But then again, Polonius is supposed to be a cagey old fool.

Anyway, that's what I'm doing this week, as well as listening to the new Modest Mouse and breaking out a few new action DVDs and XBox games.

Posted by mbowen at 06:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 11, 2004


I thought that I would be able to get away with buying just one O'Reilly book on VB. It turns out that there are even more flavors of this stuff than I thought. Fortunately, the kind I needed was more of the same: VBA.

I shouldn't complain that at this late stage in my career that I am automating spreadsheets. After all, the pay is very good at the moment and it does keep me on my toes. But in the course of doing so I have discovered VBS, which looks to be something I actually didn't expect to find - a fairly capable scripting language for Wintel. I don't know snap about VBS except that it looks like it instantiates methods out of the big class of VB objects. That's a fairly fabulous capability to have driven from the command line. That is, if it all works.

set shell = wscript.createobject("")
set fs = createobject("scripting.filesystemobject")

Since my new business model is taking me on a tour of the Second World, which on days like yesterday appears more and more fascinating, I expect to be seeing a lot more of this kind of code. But it only makes me wonder even more about the 'alternatives' of Perl and PHP. How is it that small companies have overlooked the simplicity of these free alternatives to Microsoft VB? Is real programming talent that scarce? Scary.

Posted by mbowen at 03:53 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Ed Brown at Vision Circle

Ed Brown is one of the many people I have known from many years of collaboration, conflict and correspondance over the net, but have never met face to face. I have come to respect his tenacity and probity over the years. Ed doesn't let you come incorrect and can be counted on to shock you into rapid awareness. He takes nothing for granted and suffers few fools, and so it is with great pride that I am able to bring him to a wider audience through VisionCircle.

He has hit the ground running with questions about SBA loans to black business and the illogic of partisanship. I expect that soon he'll actually introduce himself. In the meantime, be prepared for a treat and a bracing experience.

Posted by mbowen at 02:09 PM | TrackBack

My Stamp

I never quite understand what's going on at the Diktat. The irony is so thick that I cannot often penetrate it. But there seemed to be a pretty cool blogmeme happening that I thought I'd join.

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

In Retrospect

Barbara Boxer asked a dumbass question this evening in her debate will Bill Jones. It went a little something like this: If you knew then what you know now about Iraq, would you have voted for War?

I didn't hear Jones' response but I know it couldn't have been as good as this:

Hell Yes!

What I Know Now:

  • I now know that Saddam Hussein could be captured alive.
  • I now know that Bagdad can be taken in two weeks.
  • I now know that of 25 million Iraqis, we'd only get called on human rights violations against a couple dozen prisoners.
  • I now know that the Baby Bin Laden theory is false.
  • I now know that we could turn over sovereignty within 18 months
  • I now know that we could keep the price of gas down to $2.20/gal without using the Strategic Reserve, or reconsidering ANWAR
  • I now know that we can base in Iraq instead of relying totally on Israel
  • I now know that we can absolutely guarantee that there are no WMDs in Iraq.
  • I now know that Chalabi cannot be trusted.
  • I now know that Chalabi is not necessary.
  • I now know that Turkey is not a problem in Kurdistan.
  • I now know that Syrian fighters don't make a difference.
  • I now know a Shi'ite cleric who can be trusted in Iraq.
  • I now know that the UN Oil for Food Program was corrupted.
  • I now know that Libya is no longer bluffing.
  • I now know the nature of Jihadist militancy on the ground.

I don't see how I would know any of those things had we only kept the No Fly Zones in operation and let yet another gaggle of inspectors poke around. Any more questions?

Posted by mbowen at 12:01 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 10, 2004

What's Done Is Done

I took Moms to brunch Sunday in Culver City, she asked me what I'm going to do in November, and I've been thinking about it myself. Today the answer is, most definitely abstain.

There are a number of reasons for this but the one that stares me starkly in the face is that the best thing I can imagine George W. Bush doing, he has already done. He pulled the trigger on Saddam Hussein. He put our nation on alert to deal with terrorism from 9/12 forward. He put a nice tax break in my pocket in 2003 when I needed it most. He kept Greenspan who juiced the economy basis point by basis point until it turned around (mostly). But GW Bush does not impress me as a man with a plan for the future. He is running on his record and frankly, it's just not good enough.

On all the big issues, the President did the right thing except for the budget. I look at Iraq as a ground rule double that because of his speed and single-mindedness he stretched into a triple. If he would have found the WMDs, then he could have stolen home. But now Iraq is stuck on third. All Kerry has to do is bunt to score on Iraq. The big hit has already been made.

But on the little thing, the details that make the difference between luck and polish, I could go on with a surfiet of negative quibbles and bits. I'm not satisfied that he runs an open enough White House. He's less articulate than Puff Daddy. I think he's a pretty rotten administrator. He did nothing notable on the domestic side of the house but protect steel and fire O'Neill. He didn't fess up or crack down on the Plame leak. But there are also two big mistakes. He broke the budget and he destroyed Colin Powell.

Bush does not stand on the right side of the principles that I hold the Republican Party to primary of which is fiscal responsibility and noblesse oblige. That's more of a problem with the Party than with the man, after all, the Republican controlled Congress co-signed all of this spending malarky. But as the so-called leader of the Party, he should be held to account. My vote was for McCain in 2000 and the Party didn't deliver then either. It's tough being in the minority, but principles are principles.

I remain convinced that history will show Bush as a mediocre president, much maligned and deserving of little of the flack he's gotten over the War in Iraq. And I am even pleasantly surprised that as inimical as Ashcroft has threatened to be to civil liberties, most of us are OK. Most of his damage can and will be undone. Compassionate Conservatism turned out to be a big goose egg, but Trent Lott got pimpslapped properly. Arnold turend out to be the big winner for Moderates like me - even though I expect that complications will soon overtake him as well.

What stands out most in my mind is that the lesson of GWBush is that at no time should one vote for a president someone you think would make a nice president if things go the way you think they ought. Events always overtake the presidency and one ought to always hedge the bet, because omissions of skills at the presidential level always come back to bite somebody. More specifically, I don't want my vote going to somebody who is not some kind of Washington insider - the Executive Branch is too serious and complicated for that. And it is in Bush's mismanagement of that which I feel bears the greatest weight in my argument. Here is a man who has failed not only to win the popular vote, but to keep public opinion with him during wartime. How do you do that when Lee Greenwood is on the charts? How do you get your personality outshone by your VP, your political strategist and your house majority leader? Anyway, I don't want to beat up on the president, I think it's enough to say that I don't think he deserves another go 'round. He can't even answer questions about what oil is doing at $45/bbl and he's supposed to be an oilman.

Being a Republican, my vote was the president's to lose, and he's lost it. There's no way possible that Kerry can earn it. But there are two things a Democratic president can do for me.

1. Is put the Republicans in congress back on their toes and halt spending.
2. Undo Ashcroft's overzealousness by guaranteeing sunset provisions in the Patriot Act.

I expect little from either side this November, and I'll probably always be harsher on the Republicans, because I expect lots from them. It's a damned shame that I honestly believe that it will take a Democrat president for Republicans in the Congress to start getting stingy with tax dollars.

Now I'm sure somebody will be able to explain the economics of deficit spending with regard to economic stimulus, but don't forget whom you're talking to. I don't get government contracts. Throw me a bone and we'll talk.

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

August 09, 2004

The Scariest Thing

The scariest thing about being a black Republican of my sort has to do with alienation from Old School partisans on the other side of the fence. Advocates like Faye Anderson who failed to succeed with Republicans can be de-emphasized, however women like Wilma A. Lewis must be taken more seriously. I find it difficult to believe that someone like Ms. Lewis would be a big partisan, but I find it equally difficult to believe that she might be a Republican from way back.

What if 80% of blacks in the 99th percentile were all Democrats? What if they have decided that more diversified political power is simply not worth pursuing?

Nevertheless, much of this has to do with integration. In my lifetime, the very thought that there would be black fatcat bankers or Wall Street brokers and traders seemed impossible to believe. And when I joined, with leagues of others, the corridors of Corporate America (that's what we used to call it back then), we hardly expected to find managers anywhere but in Personnel. Line managers with signing authority and huge budgets were still considered in league with The Man. They were the guys who kept "last hired, first fired" alive in the self-defeating ghetto mentality many of us used to share. That has changed, as has the attitude of line managers towards blacks, whether or not they themselves are black.

So while it's reasonable to expect that blacks in the big fat powerful law firms might mostly be of the dyed in the wool Democratic and Civil Rights defender variety, I look forward to the day when other sorts will be just as easily found. In the meantime, my elitist suckup senses are quivering. What if it's just Don King?

Posted by mbowen at 04:53 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Jesus, Revolutionary

I think Jesus was a populist. I think what was revolutionary about the nature of Jesus as a prophet as distinct from all other prophets was his populism. If Jesus was around today, I think he would be saying 'All Power to the People'. He was an enemy of the State.

I say this with the Gospel of Thomas in mind. Thomas says that Jesus would say that he was the Son of Man and that God exists in all mankind. Consider the following uttered in the time of the Roman Empire:

(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."

This idea that the people are one with the Kingdom of God, that the Son of Man suggests where two or three gather together in prayer that they are in the presence of God flies in the face of hierarchical intervention.

Jesus was a democratizer of the Jewish faith. He took the role of intercession away from the priesthood. His parable of the Good Samaritan undermined their authority. That's radical.

I don't think there is a simple way to say whether Jesus was a 'liberal' or a 'conservative'. He was Jesus and that's all he had to be. We won't be the first or the last to claim him, but I think this essential nature of his politics cannot be ignored or denied. He defied the state and said he needn't be a king to do so. He opened the gates of ultimate redemption to the individual, independent of all the established churches, kingdoms and authorities of the day. In that, as Luther finally reminded us, was the whole point.

I think Thomas' take slams the point home, and it doesn't surprise me that any church establishment would strike such notions from an official Bible. Thomas' interpretation of Jesus' message destroys authoritarianism. It locates divinity within and around us and demonstrates Jesus knows this and spreads the good news to everyone. Not from the top down, but from within the people outwards. Why else would Jesus work through ordinary men as his disciples? Why else would he wear the same kinds of clothes? Why would the 12 have no hierarchy?

What these things mean to me transcend silly political labels. We all have something to learn. But then again what's the point of writing as an advocate if one doesn't advance a claim? Mine is simply this, something I think stands to reason. The message of Reformation by re-establishing the connection between the individual and the divine enabled democracy. The concept of the divine spark within us, that all legitimate authority arises from the cooperation of individuals sounds like Christianity to me. It also sounds like Bhuddism to me. From my perspective, Thomas is the link between the two and that Jesus and Bhudda were saying the same thing - both by wandering the countryside.

As soon as I solve the problem of ascetism, I think I will have achieved a higher plane.

Posted by mbowen at 09:58 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

When Time Allows My Mind to Sleep

Rick James is dead.

In his day, Rick was the most revolutionary dude in music. I attended his concert in Long Beach when he was at his peak. 7th row Motown comp tickets. I have never seen before or since a huge crowd of blackfolk on their feet screaming for a white guitarist, but for the dude in Rick's band, it was done. There was no question. Rick James was the king of Funk & Roll.

The Stone City Band, broke us out of L 7, and Rick James, more than anyone short of George Clinton got under your skin and into your mind. He wore the braids and the tight pants. He sung straight out about Mary Jane. He dared us to be different and pushed us to the edge. He was a funker, a rocker and a balladeer. He crossed over without selling out.

I can't imagine that anybody who really loved Rick James' music would say that Super Freak was what he was all about. If you ask me, his greatest song was his duet with diva Teena Marie - 'Fire and Desire'. As I listen to it, it brings tears to my eyes, and memories of my old girl Tracy. Behind that would be 'Dream Maker' and 'Bustin' Out'.

Rick James in jail made a lot of people happy. In the Jack & Jill world I used to hang around, simply dancing to a Rick James song was frowned on, and the very thought of wearing African braids was just too much. I enjoyed the tension he brought to such parties. But when Super Freak came out, I started to wonder if this was the same man. I knew he was, but I smelled blaxploitation. Sure white radio stations would play Super Freak, but they wouldn't play 'Mr. Policeman' or 'Ghetto Life'. When it came to socially conscious songs Rick James was right behind Stevie Wonder. Rick James was too honest.

Hey Rick, you were the man. I'm Just a Sucker for your music. Still.

More Cobb around Rick James

Posted by mbowen at 09:05 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 07, 2004

Mad Army

I am writing this post to remind all concerned that I still bust out laughing whenever I hear that American Forces slaughtered Al Sadr's militiamen by the hodload. I know it doesn't gain me any points with the Great Spirit, but I must assume that if we are made in the image of God, then God must have a sense of the absurdly funny.

What else can one do in the face of the futility of illiterates who pick up their pitchforks to do battle with the battle hardened Marines, but laugh? Somehow, someway the lesson may get over to me in my electronic ghetto, but I still say that Sadr's militia defies all dimensions of reason and exists only to prove that martyrdom for it's own sake is what Iraqi boys have to look forward to. They are doing exactly what it is they want to do, die for their cause. And who are we to begrudge them the honor?

If I had the power, I'd get a giant vacuum cleaner and suck up all of the human debris from Najaf and empty the bag on the Bikini Atoll. At least they'd have the opportunity there to watch each other die slowly. They might have a chance to congratulate each other on their bravery and fidelity for the sake of that big wanker Moqtada Al Sadr. They could sit around the campfire and trade stories of their brave battles against the beater bar and suction vortex. They could revel in tales about their dusty captivity on the other side of the Great Satan's HEPA filter. They could marvel about how they survived the Emptying of the Bag and give thanks to Allah for what awaits them as their hair falls out.

I just thought you should know.

Posted by mbowen at 10:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 05, 2004

White Male Bashing

The LA Weekly reviews 'What's Wrong With Kansas' and bashes white male conservative bloggers for being who they are. There's nothing wrong with bashing white males, but there's something a little weird about bashing white males for being wrong when you don't highlight what's right about those who are not. It all seems a bit essentialist to me.

I can't say that I read enough of Lileks, Sullivan and Taranto to know if they are indeed pontificating tightwads as author Thomas Frank suggests. But I don't understand what's so white about that. Perhaps the following is a clue:

Frank can explain them, these entitled but curiously persecuted Tucker Carlsons of the paramedia, because he might have been one himself. Having grown up in Mission Hills, Kansas, a tidy suburb just over the border from Kansas City, Missouri, Frank admits he had been lulled into the notion of a classless society by play dates with millionaires’ children. He spent his adolescent years as “a bitter self-made man” in training, constructing debate-team “dis-ads” against liberalism (“any argument worth its salt had to end with the other team’s plan somehow precipitating a nuclear war”), and classifying businessmen as working-class because, after all, they worked for a living. When one of his fellow debaters announced he planned to pursue a political future as a Democrat because “that was the party of the working class,” Frank took it hard.

“I remember the moment he said this with the perfect frozen clarity that the brain reserves for great shocks: Pearl Harbor, 9/11 . . . Class conflict between workers and businessmen?”

It wasn’t until college that Frank finally got religion: While his peers landed sweet summer jobs in their dads’ friends’ banks, Frank, a workingman’s son, was consigned to dreary summer temp work “designed to show me the round of boredom and frustration that is most people’s lot in life.” Other boys went off to Ivy League schools; Frank had to settle for Kansas University, where even the fraternities — reserved for young men from “a dominant class with its middle finger in the air to the world” — didn’t want anyone so low on the social ladder. In time, he was disabused of his classless fantasies and “did a very un-Kansas thing: I started voting Democratic.”

Sounds like a personal problem to me. Not having enough privilege to satisfy his own ambition, he attacks the idea of privilege. Not very sporting of him. But I suppose if you want to lay underemployment at the feet of The Man you will have a lot of company. Not exactly an orginal idea. Hell, I'm underemployed and I know it's The Man's fault. Why oh why aren't wealthy people making me rich? The story of my life. But what exactly does this have to do with the blogosphere? That's where I lose the thread.

Chalk it up to another jab at Ann Coulter. Lord only knows why she's worth mentioning. I mean it's not as if she couldn't be abducted from Conservatism and videotaped in bondage. I think some creative and gutsy people might like to ransom her in exchange for a troop withdrawl of the VRWC. No? Well, then if it's not that deep, then we ignore.

The other day, I was informed that a blog with only 300 hits a day was considered tiny. Hell, I thought I was a Large Mammal. But that informant may be right after all. This has got to change. We non-whitemale bloggers need more attention.

Posted by mbowen at 01:10 PM | TrackBack

100 Questions

School is just one month away. If you have kids in elementary school as I do, you know that they are going to have to do book reports and term papers. Yeah, term papers in elementary school, we're the leaders of the free world remember? Anyway, here is a useful guide to help your kids decide what to put into their papers. It worked for us.

Download file

Posted by mbowen at 10:10 AM | TrackBack

Threes for Keyes

Alan Keyes has decided to run against Barack Obama in the Illinois Senate Race. I have several comments which happen to work out to three word phrases.

  • Glutton for punishment.
  • Desparate for attention.
  • Three time loser.
  • Ditka was right.
  • Stay in Maryland.

Perhaps I'll figure out a more charitable way of thinking about this development. One can honestly say, for example, that the GOP is attempting to put a black candidate in a highly visible race, and lord knows that Keyes is going to start whipping his ideological horses. It doesn't get more visible than that. But if this is anybody's idea of a strategy. Yike. Obviously Keyes is thick skinned - the question is whether or not people will consider him smart or foolish for fighting what seems to be an inevitable losing battle. It depends entirely on what he says during the campaign.

But here is one sentence you thought you might never hear. Yesterday's decision makes it inevitable that there will be a black Senator elected by Illinois this fall, Democrat or Republican.

Posted by mbowen at 09:51 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

The Wisdom of Crowds

Note in passing the following commentary vis a vis the potential for facilitation of collaborative judgements in XR. Drezner recommends James Suroweicki.

What was missing from the intelligence community, though, was any real means of aggregating not just information but also judgments. In other words, there was no mechanism to tap into the collective wisdom of National Security Agency nerds, CIA spooks, and FBI agents. There was decentralization but no aggregation and therefore no organization. [Senator] Richard Shelby's solution to the problem -- creating a truly central intelligence agency -- would solve the organization problem, and would make it easier for at least one agency to be in charge of all the information. But it would also forgo all of the enefits -- diversity, llocal knowledge, independence -- that decentralization brings. Shelby was right that information needed to be shared. But he assumed that someone -- or a small group of someones -- needed to be at the center, sifting through the information, figuring out what was important and what was not. But everything we know about cognition suggests that a small group of people, no matter how intelligent, simply will not be smrter than the larger group.... Centralization is not the answer. But aggregation is.

This is absolutely correct. I'll be passing it on to the folks at Deme.

Posted by mbowen at 09:37 AM | TrackBack

Henri Cartier-Bresson

The master is dead.

"Henri Cartier-Bresson" were the first French words I ever learned. My father insisted repeatedly that my pronunciation could be improved. He wasn't satisfied until I got it right, and so I learned to respect a man I had never heard of before and have rarely heard about since.

Cartier-Bresson was a great inspiration to Pops, who began Wellington House Photographics in the 70s. In reviewing the Frenchman's work today at the NYT I can see his influence. I've long had a great fondness for photojournalism and pored over Time Life books as a kid. There can be such truth in a photograph. It is a subtle art which is underappreciated in our country. And yet serious photographers and photography persists. Every once in a while a great photo captures the public imagination such as the one of the Abu Ghraib prisoner.

As an inspiration, Cartier-Bresson was peerless, and yet somehow I think it was lost on most of us. His portraiture is startlingly honest without being obsessive or perverse like that of Arbus or glossy and artsy like that of Mapplethorpe, or devoid of intellectual challenge like that of Wegman. I think it says a great deal about the way our culture chooses to look at people that defines much of what photography is, and Cartier-Bresson shows us what we are missing.

His tenderness with subjects and lack of finickiness with the process (unlike Adams) reveal as much about the character behind the camera as the subject in front of the lens. Finally, it is the eye behind the camera we admire for allowing us to see and feel sympathy for those captured on film.

Merci Henri.

Posted by mbowen at 09:15 AM | TrackBack

Equilibrium vs Equality

I brought up the concept of 'cultural equilibrium' in my recent review of Affirmative Action. It's a tricky thing to establish formally but important nonetheless. The point of thinking of cultural equilibrium has to do with fine tuning the political demand and priority into a set of expectations that can be reasonably well-served by elected officials.

Affirmative Action is a good place to start thinking about equilibria. I do so because I was involved as a programmer in the Manpower Planning systems established by Xerox in the mid 80s, when Republicans like Bob Dole had regular meetings with blacks like Vernon Jordan in the context of the Business Roundtable. During those years, the Business Roundtable would contribute to the shaping of corporate management by awarding companies who had demonstrated leadership in integration.

Much of my perspective on Affirmative Action was shaped by the days when men like Vernon Jordan exemplified what it was all about. I don't know if I've written much about it here, but my experience at Xerox was quite instructive. Although there weren't large numbers, there were black managers at just about every level of that multinational corporation all the way up to Jordan who was on the board of directors. Other notable blackfolks at Xerox included the late Guy Dobbs, my personal role model and President of Xerox' Special Information Systems - the closest thing they had to a military wing. Just to give you an idea of what kind of man Dobbs was, I'll just say that I personally met one of the scientists on this page who was typical of the class of individual who worked at XSIS. Also notable was the black man (whose name I forget at the moment) who managed XVMS, the Xerox unit that essentially invented digital voice mail and of course A. Barry Rand who famously went on to become the CEO of Avis.

During my stint in Personnel Systems (back in the days before the concept of the IC, the precursor to today's IT), I wrote software code for several of the mangers, on of whom was the Affirmative Action Compliance Officer. Xerox' policy was based on the 'Balanced Workforce Model' of Affirmative Action. The short description of it is that it identified underpromotion, and overpromotion, by race and gender, established metrics and goals for promotion and RIF in a self-correcting model. It worked in the context of a grading system similar to the GS system used by the Federal Government and the Armed Forces. In my many years of (boohabian) discussion of race on the internet I have met few people who understood that Affirmative Action could be so logical, precise and fair. Once upon a time, the American Management Association used to run courses and certify managers in Succession Planning and Balanced Workforce. I don't think they do any longer.

The beauty of the BWF model was that you could immediately see how many individuals who were eligble for promotion to the next level by race and gender. And you could see the race and gender composition of the level into which they would be promoted. What we could very clearly see in the model back in 1986 was where the glass cielings were, by department all over the Group. (I didn't have access to the corporate wide model). This objective data, along with the subjective understanding personnel managers had, gave a very clear picture of what was possible and what was not. It was this encounter with the facts and the feelings that gave me my first true glimpse at the strengths and weaknesses of an Affirmative Action program, which was according to the Business Roundtable, the most successful in the nation. I should also mention that David Kearns, the CEO of Xerox at the time made it abundantly clear that he wanted black executives in his company - his program was a top down get your ass in gear directive. The best of all possible worlds.

What we discovered, among many other things was that women and minorities were not doing as well as one would hope in several of the technical areas of the company. At the lower and entry levels, there was a big spike in 'protected classes' who were eligible for promotion. But at the mid management level there were only a few who sat below the cieling. So while one could look at the overall mix of minorities and women and see a big gap, the future was bright. There was also a reversal of this in other departments. There were places where blacks in particular had made big strides into upper levels of management, but at the lower levels there were no young bucks queuing up. So they typical gripe you hear today about whites losing their grip on power was the case for these black managers.

The predicament of the 'endangered' black managers proved to be an interesting dilemma. Within the parameters of the system all had fought tooth and nail to establish, they found themselves on the bubble. So the controversy of the day became what to do on the margins. Xerox had proven itself to be operating in good faith by implementing BWF which illustrated the defacto racial discrimination proven by the glass cielings. But nothing could be done within the context of that system to get more blacks into this, the best of all systems. As a proportional representation argument looking strictly at the inside of the corporation, there was little that could be done to change the process. So black managers looked outside, and in doing so illustrated the problem of equilibrium vs equality (and equity).

Inside the company, BWF was policy. There were no secret glass cielings - we knew where they were. We objectively saw progress over time. The system worked and was at equilibrium.

Before I get further into this, I want to emphasize that although things were good on balance, I don't want to give the impression that they weren't contentious. There were more than a few lawsuits and ugly loud discussions going on. There were entrenched positions on both sides and nothing was conceded without a fight. However there was a substantial critical mass of blacks in management that insured that nobody got away with murder. In the end cooler heads prevailed but all was not wine and roses. When I talk about Affirmative Action as a peaceful concession to a militant demand I mean just that. I don't want to overstate my position as a pawn in this game, but the Compliance Officer was very glad to see my BWF reports. I also want to give the context of the Black Manager's Office, so I posted that from the archives.

So the black employee organizations, having established a large beachhead in Xerox Corporation, like most black organizations were oriented towards giving a helping hand to those on the outside. They raised the question of community representation. Ultimately, the aim was to force the system to overproduce. You see inside the corporation, blacks were somewhere around 7% if I remember correctly. But that was far short of 12% of the American population. When blacks were running things in one of the large sales organizations under a cat named Bernard Kinsey, there were complete blocks of territories that were black controlled. The managers had the ability to recruit, hire, train, groom and promote blacks from the bottom to the top.

The experience of those managers proved a cultural sea change for Xerox, but it didn't change the rules of engagement for the Affirmative Action program. The Sales organization might have had its own independent way of hiring and firing, but they were not using the same rules as the general organization with its structured annual reviews and standardized pay scales. But what the sales organization did know, as they must, is the importance of marketing and networking. So they quickly discovered that their networks were very different than those of the general Personnel. Imagine if you could a corporation that hadn't heard of Hampton Institute. In the Old School, such a thought is unthinkable. And so at the urging of the black employee organizations the question of aggressive recruitment was brought forward.

Understanding the dynamic of overproduction and underproduction of Affirmative Action is crucial. The fact that we knew where the glass cielings were as well as the future prospects for minority representation did not alter the rate of hirings and firings. The system in place for the general corporation worked at one pace, and for the sales organization at another pace. The efforts of blacks in the corporation to influence blacks on the outside in order to prepare them (who wants slackers hired on your rep?) for entry level into the appropriate departments was a constant challenge. Affirmative Action on the inside was hard fought equilibrium, yet there were still many opportunities for improvement. Despite the desires on all sides to do what was on the table (BWF) and bargain against what was still off the table (Aggressive Recruitment) all the parties were subject to the fortunes of the corporation itself. If they had a bad quarter, or were losing money against the Yen (we saw a lot of that), or went through reorganizations, such events completely changed the rate of hiring and reduction in force.

It became abundantly clear to me that Affirmative Action was only going to work in an expanding economy, because when it came to hiring people, there wasn't much objection. But to even suggest that when it came to firing, whites would be fired first to hit the BWF target (even though it happened), people went ballistic. I began to appreciate Malcolm's position more and more. Affirmative Action is often little more than window dressing. Only when you control the business is real change made. Kinsey demonstrated that. College admissions was a walk in the park compared hiring and firing on the job, and even at this level, very few departments were going to reach parity for years. I had quantified the whole thing. And let's not even go there when it comes to blacks vs women and 'are Asians a minority' and blacks vs 'other' minorities.

So when I talk about the very limited ability for Affirmative Action to make a material dent in the lives of African Americans in the aggregate, I say so from the perspective of the insider. I and my colleagues were over in the Inglewood, CA school district teaching night classes in computer literacy. We had to look in those people's eyes and make promises about work over in El Segundo - us with two and three years of seniority. Each one teach one? It's more like teach 50 and hope one of them makes it. Not my cup of tea, especially considering what I'd seen of corporate politics.

That doesn't change the fact that there were and still are a lot folks who can absolutely benefit from the leg up. Nothing can take away from the value of the job in a great company like Xerox was and still very likely is. What I think many people don't realize is that 50 to 1 (maybe I exaggerate) ratio and all the blackfolks who are still waiting on promises we made, black and white, based on the productivity of Affirmative Action at companies like Xerox. It's hard for people to reconcile (or admit) that many of us who zipped through and excelled needed it and there are still those who need it just as badly.

Today, I cannot imagine that the political will of Americans to deal with the complexity of Affirmative Action is sustainable. They look at a guy like me with two car garage and 6 computers in the house and say Hell No. But the guys I grew up with never got their shot. There's a lot of truth-telling that people still don't want to do, like admit the truth that the first generation was cherry-picked and that we ignored the Second World. Like admit the truth that there was often demand without supply. Like admit the truth that only when blacks were 30% of an organization did real, lasting and sustained change happen. Like admit the truth that a less than effective status quo was often a hell of a lot better than a fighting for more. Like admit that there are still millions of blacks and others who need Affirmative Action just as much as 30 years ago. Like admit the fact that Asians often played both sides of the game. Like admit the fact that blacks often bogarded the whole process and judged it based on narrow self-interest. Like admit the fact that white women often bogarded the whole process and got away with it.

Still on the whole this struggle has made American corporations inestimably more robust and has made our society a great deal better equipped to handle upheaval. Not so much of the reasons often quoted in Diversity arguments, but because in the end we had to make it all happen inside the context of the shared goals of the business. I think blacks and whites have learned the most, having been the most entrenched and bitter rivals and that is why our concerns still dominate the thinking and dialog on these matters.

Equality is impossible. Equilibrium changes dynamically. Equity builds over time. Equity becomes inertia, and soon somebody else is knocking at the door.

I've got a little off the point of 'cultural equilibrium'; let me try to close. The first generation of Affirmative Action beneficiaries, engaged as they were in struggles to integrate bore a lot of the burden for their bretheren on the outside. We were the ones who decided to answer our office phones with discernable accents, just to make the point that we were still black enough to check your shit. We were the ones who dared put "What's up with that?" into the white collar lexicon. We were the black men who patiently explained that shaving every day was not an option. I'd say we invented Casual Friday. But the point is now we have changed the texture of what goes in corporate America that we've made it harder to see what's so good about continuing Affirmative Action's unfinished business. Don't get me wrong, I don't expect to be in any way implying that we've stereotypically made corporations less uptight - we've broadened the ways and means of communicating and truly diversified management practices.. I cannot be exhaustive by any stretch or even think of a broad categorization of the changes attributable to inclusion. But the change is real. Look at any corporate website, the black face is there, the woman's face is there. It looks like a fait accompli. We are at a cultural equilibrium - BMW commercials play hiphop in the background. Cadillac commercials play jazz.

Equality is an illusive goal. We are engaged in a struggle for it. The question is whether our perceptions about what we think we can do are in line with the material supply and demand. How tenuous is the balance we have achieved or failed to achieve? What factors affect that percieved balance, and is that balance even real? How much slack is in the system? What incentives do people have to contribute? Is conflict always destructive? What do we upset on the way to a greater goal? How soon can we get there? How many people can get there? How long will it take? What are the overall limiting factors? How much can we deal with overproduction or underproduction? Since I started my career in Decision Support putting numbers (but not quotas or timetables) on the most contentious of issues, I am particularly aware when black vs white comparisons evade other factors in what demands a multidimensional analysis complete with correlations, trends and moments. Now I hope I've passed on some of that complexity to you.

Posted by mbowen at 08:06 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 04, 2004

The Black Manager's Office

(from the archives - june 1998)

The black manager's office has an 8x10 phote of five black children
dressed in denim and brightly colored shirts.

Who are they, say passers-by.

One of them is me, says I. The others are my brothers and my sister.

Oh. They say. Very few can determine which I am.

How old were you?

Guess, I say.

Almost none try. I was 14.

I am the one on the far right with the beanie and jean jacket. The
picture was taken at the Pacific Missle Test Center at Pt. Mugu. We
stand in front of a large blue sign which says "Systems Effectiveness".
I am gesturing to the sign with a knowing smirk on my face.

Hmm. They leave.

I am guilty of entrapment. I confess.

The black manager recalls other black manager's offices. The corporate
counsel for the division had red black and green pillows on the credenza
behind his large wood desk. His Omega Psi Phi shingle hangs besides his
J.D. his resentment of judge bork was one of his only comments on the
black internal e-mail list. he was a model of restraint. he said that
bork lacked restraint and such a radical should not be on the nation's
highest court.

the affirmative action manager's office had nothing memorable. but the
man himself was a bull. he was from army airborne. nobody liked him.
his reports were systematically ignored and his requirements were
evaded. he once made an unforgettable comment at a business lunch.
another personnel manager (about whom it was well know to those privy
to such information) who made more money and had not
attended college made some comment to which the aaction officer replied
'in airborne we used to kill people we didn't like' he pointed to the
variety of forks, pencils and straws at the table and said 'i could
kill you with any of these things in a matter of seconds, but i am
just an affirmative action officer and you can ignore my memos forever'.
we ate norweigian food in silence for a while, somebody told a joke,

the corporate technology consultant had papers everywhere. he wore strictly
polyester suits and drove a red ferrari 308. his afro was at least 4
inches tall and he almost never combed it. he was partner in a chain of
computerland stores, peppered his language with obscenities and took
the job 'for spending cash'. he had done two tours in vietnam, and was
once one of dec's top salesmen. he called himself a 'nouveau nigger' and
often liked to stump people in embarrassing ways. i recall him making
a joke with one of the top manufacturing engineers at the expense of
a white woman in the strategy department about the ability of non-engineers
to make business decisions about product development. it was basically
one of those smart ass questions like derive maxwell's equations from
the following premise. he did shit like that. he often talked about
personally financing a college scholarship for leaders of the crips. he
expressed anxiety about the fact that he might turn 40 without having made
his first million dollars. he was only 75% there and he had 3 years to go.

we often forget that the modern american corporation was modeled on
the command and control principles of military organization. these
two men in particular reminded me of that. i had much of that in mind
while watching schindler's list.

the black personnel officer's office was large and spacious. he was a
rotund and ingratiating man. he dropped names. the casual way in which
he spoke about his associations with influential blacks inside and out
of the corporation was impressive beyond words. connections could have
been his middle name. he was in line to be a vice president. two years
later he was under accusation of sexual harassment. all i knew were
rumors. he was soon back as a consultant part time. nobody visited his
office any longer. i was instructed not to provide software or hardware
service for him. i did so after work.

the black woman who worked as an analyst for artificial intelligence
products gave me all the software and documentation i asked for. she
directed the educational software markets program. there was no profit
in it and students who wrote ai programs were neither often contacted
nor their applications systematcially reviewed. the ai programming
environment was widely respected most everywhere but inside the business.
she left not long after. no budget. her office was a miracle of tidyness.
she showed me her object oriented spreadsheet and expert shell whenever
i asked. this was 1986.

the black woman who was making six figures and had a corner office was
reputed to have a temper. she understood technology unlike most of
the busisness folks around her. she was 100% business and everybody
treated her that way. there was respect. people wished they could deal
with somebody else but they dealt with her. i made sure she got everything
she wanted from my department. when she smiled she reminded me of
somebody comepletely different than who she was when she walked
swiftly through the halls arguing with some other manager. she was
a vice-president or practically there. she wore power well.

the black manager whose office was around the corner from mine told me
that i was not a team player and i would never succeed in management
if i wanted to insist on my arrogance about computer technology's role
in the everyday business of running a business. he told me i must make
a choice between programming and business management. he could never
remember his email password. he had studied finance at a prestigious
university, and i was shocked to find during one of the e-mail discussions
that he had spent more than 10 years in personnel. he resented the
attitude of the young upstarts hired in the 80s with their power ties,
mbas and expectations. but he never got particularly angry about it.
he had a quiet kind of resolved resignation about such matters. i think
of the darryl pinckney's grandfather in 'high cotton'. he was a negroin my
path. he was incorrect and he was right.

the black manager who had the accident was the captain of the lacrosse
team at ohio state. he was always very active in e-mail discussions.
despite the brain damage, he was still highly respected. you could hear
the fire behind his messages and the passion in his stumbling voice.
he was, so goes the story, the most promising black manager of the lot.
by the time i met him, he was mellow in his slower pace. we often drank
together in the bar downstairs. there was always peace in the man,
ultimately. i believe i liked him most of all just as he was, although
i often looked into his good eye and wondered what if...

Posted by mbowen at 03:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Pub Tagged

Silly me. I've been pub-tagged by PsychoDad.

I have a box on the web that I've kept a few ports open on in order to have a nice way to access files at home. I opened up the FTP port in order to handle a 3gig file I had to get from a customer site. Ordinarily I would just use one of my hosted domains for that kind of stuff, but I obviuosly didn't have 3 gig sitting around...

The symptoms are easy to spot. A whole tree of undeletable directories. MS can be somewhat helpful, and I've used solution number 3, to a certain extent. But I want to know exactly what my vulnerability is.

Of course there are utilities from people who are ready and willing to help me, for a fee. But I'm going to read the little doc on it and work my way out of the mess I stumbled into.


Posted by mbowen at 07:36 AM | TrackBack

August 03, 2004

Orange Huff Duff

Tom Ridge declared an Orange Alert today. Some people think that was stupid.

One of the extraordinary premises of 'Cryptonomicon' the historical fiction which rocked the geek world a few years back was that information theory, not superior firepower and 'greatest generation' courage, won WW2. Part of that was due to the development of 'HF/DF'.

HF/DF stands for something I am too lazy to walk over to my shelf and find out. Suffice it to say that it was the precursor to radar, and it sorta worked. In 'Huff Duff', the Allies had a secret weapon. While everyone was focused on whether or not the Enigma code was broken or not, Huff Duff stations were sensing where ships at sea were physically. With a little bit of calculated estimations and extrapolations, the Allies were able to figure out where enemy ships might go by plotting their possible movements rather than intercepting their communications. So they could be where the enemy was before the enemy was there.

Now half the trick of having a secret weapon is not to use it so as to tip your hand to the enemy. If I've been reading your mail, I don't want to act as though I know too much, otherwise you'll become suspicious that I've read your mail. One way of using, but not using your secret weapon is to mask your offense, another way is to randomize your defense.

Defense randomization makes your assets more difficult to attack because your enemy, if he is surveying you for targets, cannot accurately predict when you might be most vulnerable. If you have a regular changing of the guard and staffing levels for Sunday morning are predictably low, then your enemy would be most likely to attact on Sunday. But if you suddenly have your guard up on the Sunday of the attack, then your enemy will be suspicious that you have read his mail. If you have read their mail and you randomize your defense, and you are suddenly ready for the Sunday attack, your enemy is likely to blame dumb luck.

Offense masking throws your enemy off track by making your attack look like dumb luck. For example. Let's say your asset is a bank. You place a little old lady in front of your bank on Sunday and she just happens to suddenly twist her ankle and flags down a car which just 'happens' to have an off-duty officer. Dumb luck right?

In either case of Offense Masking or Defense Randomization you make yourself appear more stupid and vulnerable to your enemy than you actually are. Every time I hear the phrase 'intelligence failure', I take comfort that our agencies have a hundred tricks like this at their disposal.

Posted by mbowen at 09:46 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Somebody sure does hate Earthlink.

Spammers have created an ever more sophisticated set of ruses to get people to send them credit card information. They have been fairly sloppy enough in the past to leave the URLs in their new forms pointing to their bogus domains.

But today, they seem to have gotten control of and somehow a redirection for It didn't fool me because I'm in security awareness mode this week, but this latest was a pretty good spoof.

Be alert.

Posted by mbowen at 12:20 PM | TrackBack

A Conservative Review of Affirmative Action

LaShawn is boiling up the pot with a new flap over Affirmative Action, which she opposes. There's a fairly decent debate over the old, spider-web covered issue linked to and attending her post.

Now that I am out of the closet as a conservative and Republican, I'd imagine that people would expect me to oppose Affirmative Action for a new reason. And while I have 'seen the light' and adopted some conservative litmus positions (with nuance of course) I can't say that my position on Affirmative Action has changed much, although I am a bit more inclined to say the hell with it all. It sort of reminds me of an odd position I had against Reagan's Constructive Engagement, which was to support it because the more people hated America's involvement in South Africa, the more attention it would bring to the problem - not that the policy itself was effective.

I primarily support Affirmative Action for two reasons. The first has to do with the principle of racial integration. Affirmative Action mixes people. Anything that does so is good. Period. The second reason is that Affirmative Action exists as a peaceful concession to a militant political demand. It was a deal struck between the leaders of two separate and unequal worlds - a treaty which kept the peace in America. It was an honorable deal that we should honor.

The soundest criticism I hear about Affirmative Action is that it essentially fights fire with fire. That it establishes a racial preference and that this sort of discrimination is flatly wrong. I accept that criticism, but only in the case of integrated applicants. A black kid from the integrated 'burbs doesn't need to be integrated again. A kid from a segregated neighborhood is defacto discriminated against on the basis of race (which established the ghetto in the first place) and that needs to be countered. This is important point. I'll return to it.

On balance, however, I still support Affirmative Action. It's still a good idea and it's still useful. However I don't think it is as important an issue as many folks make it out to be. It's not as important, for example, as school vouchers which would affect a great deal more people. It is not as important as the minimum wage. It is not as important as amnesty for illegal immigrants, tax reform, health care reform or (of course) our occupation of Iraq and War on Terror. It's not as important as the continuing debate over abortion rights, civil liberties vis a vis Homeland Security, police abuse, the drug problems, HIV/AIDS or the sepration of powers.

It is more important than 'under God'.

Affirmative Action addresses a social power issue. At its best, Affirmative Action increases the social mobility of the previously land-locked. Further it keeps alive the notion of social mobility and prepares all of us to deal with it. A nation with a continuing program of Affirmative Action is more pluralistic - it gooses the dream along. But Affirmative Action is not a question of justice or rights. And in this regard, its defenders are often too shrill for their own good.

Today, I think the legitimate basis for discussion about Affirmative action has to do with its resonance as a matter of social power. Therefore I put proponents for 'Diversity' on the same footing as those who complain of 'Stigma'. While I recognize these, I happen to devalue both arguments. This is because my defenses of Affirmative Action originated when such programs were more important and less controversial than they are now. I am conceding that the second generation of beneficiaries are less significant than the first in carrying the water for the continuing political & social support for racial integration. In other words, role-medeling is over.

What this means is the following. While it is clear to me that today's individual beneficiary gains as much from Affirmative Action as yesterday's, society does not gain as much. Like it or not, we have reached a point of cultural equilibrium which diminishes the marginal social value of each new black or brown face integrated into the mainstream. Yes we still need to goose the dream along, but for most Americans, the very idea of the integration Affirmative Action creates has already been created.

So we have a case of perception vs reality. Therefore we take it down to economic cases.

One: Is all the Affirmative Action in America going to change the gap in unemployment between blacks and whites? No. For one thing, it's not a zero-sum game. For another thing the pool is simply too small.

Two: Is Affirmative Action going to changes the pattern of employment for blacks? I think it already has, but still has a little juice left. I think the demand for Affirmative Action is static and is not bringing blacks into many new areas but largely replicating the demand of the first generation. It's still doctors and lawyers, not concert violinists and architects.

Understand that this cuts both ways. Whites on the whole are not losing anything concrete when it comes to the benefits of Affirmative Action, nor does Affirmative Action raise the race of blacks and browns. Given those two facts which were not the case a generation ago, Affirmative Action is not as important to society as it once was. However, it is just as important to individuals as it ever was, which is the point I made up top and want to emphasize.

So here is the curveball. Since I think 'Diversity' is a sham, always have always will, and because I think 'Stigma' is an argument which barely hides racial resentment, I think it is entirely reasonable to substitute some socio-economic criteria for race.

Doing so creates problems but it resolves others.

First: It does damage to the spirit of the Treaty - it would constitute a blow to black political patronage. But nobody is going to riot on the streets about it. The heat is off. It will create a significant amount of resentment - but we can deal with that because we deal with it now.

Second: It deflects the commitment to racial integration and establishes whatever year as ground zero. Direct racial integration becomes a side-effect rather than the explicit purpose of Affirmative Action. This is a big deal. It effectively destroys what we know of it. It's not Affirmative Action any longer.

Third: It eliminates the basis of the Stigma argument, and while I don't believe that admissions committees are ignorning the class of the egregious red herring of the black doctor's kid, it would finally shut up that loud minority.

Fourth: The Diversity crew, whose shape-shifting justifications are legendary, would be mollified. They will adjust to the new reality without much fuss - it serves their socialist egalitarianism symbolically.

Fifth: The racial nose counters will never be satisfied on either side of the fence. It forces them to say what they really mean.

Sixth: It still gooses the dream along.

As long as a non-racialized Affirmative Action has the same demonstrable affect for poor black and brown kids, the current have-not group, I think most people would support this idea. But doing so raises a very important question about the overall effectiveness of our public education system itself. If a deracialized Affirmative Action is to take the most deserving black and brown kids and give them a leg up, why aren't they getting it anyway? If a deracialized Affirmative Action just integrates regardless of merit, what exactly is the point of putting objectively disadvantaged kids into heavy competition?

A deracialized Affirmative Action satisfies both the Stigma and Diversity contingents but broadens the scope of questions of opportunity and equality in public and private schooling. This is exactly what we're seeing. It brings in questions of vouchers, achievement bonuses, tracking, charter schools & infrastructure investment. In other words it takes one small can of very nasty snakes and turns it into six cans of slimy worms.

As a conservative black, I have always understood with the same insight as Malcolm, that Affirmative Action and empowerment do not belong in the same sentence, with this exception proving the rule. Affirmative Action has done a good job in changing the pattern of black employment and social mobility over the past few decades, but it alone does not account for black achievement. It has been a kick in the pants for a lot of people, but not a sustained push. Everyone who is a beneficiary ultimately sinks or swims on their own. But I also acknowledge, without giving comfort to the Stigma weinie dogs, that on the whole society is not going to be dramatically changed with respect to additional Affirmative Actions. That job is done, and I think nothing quite says so like the fact that the hiphop generation is exactly what they want to be, overexposed. They don't care about one more black accountant, America doesn't care about one more female manager any more than Malcolm cared about three black cashiers at Woolworth.

Who cares? That one kid who is the first of her family to get into college. That kid who gets to escape from the ghetto into a different, although equally challenging world. We can and should work for those individuals. That's the important work of preserving opportunity in a free and open society. The sooner we get down to that business, especially in breaking people free of our ghettoes, the better off we are. That cannot and will not take place under the banner of 'Affirmative Action', but it needs to take place, and we need to be all about it.

Posted by mbowen at 08:39 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 07:04 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 02, 2004

College Did Not Prepare Me

College didn't prepare me for life.

I wonder how many graduates are willing to say so. I think it's something they all know to be true, but are loathe to admit outside of their own little circles. If this little secret got out, I think a significant part of American society would collapse.

This is a pro-Affirmative Action argument. Think about it. Well, actually it's more of an anti-standardized test argument which can be used as an pro-Affirmtive Action argument.

I'm reflecting on the entire deal surrounding the two dudes who wrote the musical comedy 'Avenue Q' as they were interviewed by Terri Gross today. How is it that one becomes an English major without the understanding that life sucks? How naive are our college grads today, and what does that say about the difference between a 1100 and a 1250 on the SAT?

Second world, man.

BTW, I don't generally do hat tips. But I've got to give props to G for hipping me to a blogger who's transcribing the experiences of a friend who's checking out China.

Posted by mbowen at 02:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Scientific Animism

Scientific Animism is a term I coined about 16 years ago when I first started reading Ishmael Reed. It gave me a hedge against rationalists who said I was weirding out by accepting polytheism. Part of what I was trying to understand was the rationality of religion itself, which is a tough thing to do when one is surrounded by engineers of the skeptic variety. I noted that such engineers were, to a man (and I do mean man) always predisposed to have a fondness for Hobbits.

The term itself describes the willingness of people to believe the pseudoscientific, or even the scientific, without applying the scientific method. Animism is, of course, the belief that spirits inhabit animals and that animals should be respected or revered for their possession of these spirits which, properly interpreted, add value to human life and understanding. I think that most of us are, in fact, Scientific Animists. We trust that certain materials possess magical qualities depending on what those we deem scientifically authoritative tell us, but we don't test with our own senses. My classic example was that of cholesterol.

How many of us who 'watch our cholesterol' could actually identify a molecule of cholesterol under a microscope? When we eat a bowl of cereal for breakfast, we are told that it contains 20g of cholesterol. How can we be sure? When we run up the stairs and we reach the top panting, we think perhaps we have too much cholesterol in us. If I saw my doctor and he took my blood and sent it to a lab to have the amount of cholesterol checked, how is this materially different from having a witch doctor read our palms? To the extent that we trust, it is not. Scientists are high priests. They speak in terms incomprehensible to the average Joe and make pronouncements that are, in the words of the great writer, indistinguishable from magic.

Today's news is that scientists are themselves animist.

The dismal statistics presented on the science literacy level of scientists and science educators by Showers (1993) argued against a rapid increase in science literacy. Scientists and science educators (1) have high levels of paranormal and pseudoscientific belief, (2) do not use their scientific knowledge when voting, (3) use nonscientific approaches in personal and social decision-making, and (4) do not have high levels of science content knowledge outside of their specific disciplines. How can we expect nonscientists to think and act scientifically if scientists and science educators do not? If we decide to mount a concerted program to disabuse the public of paranormal and pseudoscientific beliefs, we must first ask if cultures can survive without paranormal beliefs.

I think the answer is no. We cannot survive without credulity. It is a fundamental part of our sociability. We need people to tell us things we don't know, and we need to believe them.

Posted by mbowen at 07:27 AM | TrackBack


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August 01, 2004


Posted by mbowen at 09:41 AM | TrackBack