November 30, 2004

Mfume's Departure

Under ordinary circumstances, considering the great deal of respect I once had for Kweisi Mfume, I would in this piece review his accomplishments during his tenure at the NAACP. However, there aren't many expectations that I've had of the organization. So if he did a good job by NAACP standards is something I wouldn't really bother to know much about. I admit it, I'm apathetic.

The NAACP puts a face, sometimes a cockeyed face, on matters of racial outrage. This is an admirable task except for the fact that the majority of Americans echo that outrage anyway. There is rarely an event of racial significance that the blogosphere, the punditocracy or anybody with a mouth big enough to get on television, doesn't say just as much as the NAACP. So why isn't their membership larger?

The reason is simple. The NAACP is a black political organization. It's not about people of color, it's about blackfolks. My expectation was that Mfume would, in wresting control from that demagogue Ben Chavis, bring the strength of the Multicultural Movement front and center in the new NAACP. From my perspective, there is nothing fundamentally different about racial issues facing blacks in 2004 that weren't there in 1996, but clearly the opportunity to get Asians and Latinos swelling the ranks of the NAACP is lost. So as far as I can see, it's the same organization it was before Chavis, back on the rails, solvent, black, boring and almost superfluous. That is, superfluous to blackfolks as a voice of outrage.

That the NAACP is black and not Asian and Latino is a problem. It is a problem that the NAACP must resolve or face increased marginalization. Its byline is that it is the oldest Civil Rights organization. That's like saying the Communist Party is the oldest party in Russia. That means it's more about the past than the present. Problem.

Mfume, I'm sure, did a decent and respectable job at the organization, he simply didn't do the job that might save the NAACP from obsolescence. So who's next?

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Somebody's Idea of Black Culture

Baldilocks is meditating on an old meditation. I thought I'd bring back some flavor to that discussion that we've discussed here and there.

The way I see it, there are two bogus arguments that fuel such problematic discussions and and one shady argument. The first bogus argument is the racist one. Blacks are genetically predisposed to be blockheads, so ugliness is inevitable. Second bogus argument is a slippery version of the first, racist, but trying not to sound racist: Black *culture* is predisposed to ugliness and so such behavior is to be expected. The third argument is the shady one which suggests that Black culture *should* have ugly elements in it because it's appropriate to the political struggle of African Americans.

If people really respected Artest as an individual (or disrespected him as an individual) we wouldn't be talking about black people, culture or authenticity. But now that we are, Mr. Peabody, crank up the wayback machine.

Boot To The Head Simply stated, one hundred years from now, people will forget Nelly, but they will still be playing Thelonius Monk. In the words of Stanley Crouch, there is some music which seeks to 'elevate with elegance', and then there is music to shake your ass to. Seeing as men and women will always have reason to shake their asses, it won't really matter if it's Nelly or someone who has yet to be born, rise to pop stardom and then fall into obscurity. The asses will be shook, the tune forgotten. But for those cultural productions which are part and parcel of the will to reach excellence and perfection, for those which sustain the spirit, the memories will be strong.

Mass Markets & The N Word
The stop dead in your tracks argument in my hip pocket about 'Why can't white people use the n-word when blacks like xxx use it all the time?' has changed. The answer I now give, when asked, turns the tables. Of all the African Americans there are, why is it that you wish to emulate blacks like xxx? This answer helps the clueless to understand that blacks recognize class distinctions between themselves, which is part of my reason for bloviating on behalf of the Old School into the blogosphere. But let's take this distinction one step further and talk about the commercialization of black culture.

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

There. That should keep their heads ringing for a minute.

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November 29, 2004

The China Outlook

I met with my new partners last night and they outlined to me some of the plans which have netted them a great deal of investor interest, actual cash, and American execs poking them on the shoulder saying "Can we work for you, please?". I have to say that this is one of the most exhilirating weeks I've had in my life.

So the outlook for me taking the position is excellent. The prospects for making a nice pile of Yuan is also very good, and the experience of my partners in China at or near the top of the pile is quite encouraging. One of the commenters at Dresner says that China is a civilization masquerading as a nation-state. That's quite possible. I'm looking at it as a very very large corporation with a set of executives that we all desparately hope know what they are doing.

A couple things are clear, and several other things I'm learning are new. The first thing is that the more you believe in the greatness of a nation being defined by the industriousness of its middle class, the more you will have to admit that China is well on its way to inheriting that mantle from the United States. As a corrollary to that, it should be well understood that the closeness with which we deal with the UK is likely to be replicated after we 'get over' the transition. In this, the era of the global small business, the consequences could be that such a transition will happen without an armed conflict. This is my hope, and quite frankly, my investment.

I imagine that there may still be some purists after a fashion who might suggest that Sony is not an American company or that Toyota doesn't make American cars. And yet I think they would have a very difficult time convincing others that Spiderman is not an All-American film or that the Prius doesn't appeal to uniquely American sensibilities. I hardly think of the Netherlands when I fill up at a Shell station. Who says 'Royal Dutch Shell'? But the reality is that such institutions are deeply engrained in American life. What we eventually got over with the Japanese, we must inevitably get over with the Chinese. And so if and when it comes to banking or military might, that might not be so easy, but at the commercial level, I think we'll handle things just fine.

As a market, the American middle class, rounds out to about 70 million households. In China, those with equivalent purchasing power is about 4 times that. I'm not certain that the current status of the corporation, short of what Wal-Mart has achieved over the past ten years with its brilliant use of information technology, is ready to handle such a market. It's easy to say that the same ideas will work, but I strongly believe that a great number of business plans, and companies organized around such business plans, will not scale. I believe that selling to a global market of say 700 million, there are only a few corporations who are ready willing and able. So as this market of consumers evolves in China, nothing great American corporations take for granted will work of necessity. Nor will businesses born and bred in China necessarily have the magic to handle this expansion. What I think is going to happen is that there will be many companies who are successful initially, but will get slashdotted by too much success. It's one thing when your call center can handle 5 million calls to complain about your product's failure, but what about 50 million calls the next year?

Here's the surprising anecdote. Not 7 years ago, GM built with about $3 billion several state of the art automobile assembly plants. And why wouldn't they make them state of the art? China pays good money. What you don't hear is that now, something on the order of 40% of GM's global revenue (or is it profit, I don't remember) comes from those new plants. When GM went there, they understood that they would be catering to the upscale crowd. So they figured that the Chinese would want Cadillacs. No. The most popular GM car in China for the bling bling set is the Buick. That's what they love. Hmm. Maybe Tiger Woods knew something we didn't after all. Maybe not.

The moral of the story is that the Chinese consumer economy may be as familiar yet as strange as the Buick. Perhaps Pepsi will beat Coke over there. Maybe their favorite NBA team will be the Houston Rockets but because of Juwan Howard, not Yao Ming. Remember that we called it 'space' and the Russians called it 'the cosmos'. Modern China will be the same as, but different from the US. And like two overlapping circles, there will be some that is mutually exclusive, and I think a lot which will be excitingly brand new.

Let's keep one thing in mind, the Chinese, like almost nobody else, want to be like us and better. That means they are heading in the same direction. They don't hate us because we send a few billion to Israel. To them that is a pittance in a pot. They don't hate us at all. They envy our economy and infrastructure and they're working hard to get their own up to speed and beyond. They run their country like a corporation, not a democracy. Right now they're spending. Think about it.

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Sounds Like Genius

It appears that we have a genuine prodigy in our midst. According to all who ought to know, Jay Greenberg is our once in a millenium composer. I just want to hear it, and I wonder why it is that I believe that this is a genius that is readily found simply because of the context of what he produces is likely to find resourceful ears.

In the previous story, hearing Sophia Stewart ramble about the eyeball on the back of a dollar and why the NAACP is not defending her claim to capitalist largess reminds us that only certain kinds of genius are going to be recognized. That is the genius that the king appreciates. The rest is merely cleverness.

What if his mind were drawing a tabla instead of a cello? He'd probably be beating paint cans in the IRT instead of inverting treble clefs at Julliard. Speaking of which, have you ever listened to Squarepusher?

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The Real Oracle

It turns out that the W brothers aren't quite the storytelling geniuses they were cranked up to be. Somebody named Sophia Stewart has won her day in court charging that the Ws ripped off her ideas big time.

Monday, October 4th 2004 ended a six-year dispute involving
Sophia Stewart, the Wachowski Brothers, Joel Silver and Warner
Brothers. Stewart's allegations, involving copyright infringement
and racketeering, were received and acknowledged by the
Central District of California, Judge Margaret Morrow residing.

Stewart, a New Yorker who has resided in Salt Lake City for the
past five years, will recover damages from the films, The Matrix I,
II and III, as well as The Terminator and its sequels. She will
soon receive one of the biggest payoffs in the history of
Hollywood, as the gross receipts of both films and their sequels
total over 2.5 billion dollars.

Stewart filed her case in 1999, after viewing the Matrix, which she
felt had been based on her manuscript, "The Third Eye,"
copyrighted in 1981. In the mid-eighties Stewart had submitted
her manuscript to an ad placed by the Wachowski Brothers,
requesting new sci-fi works.

Ahh the woes of intellectual property. Her side of the story is all here.

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Conservatism and The Black Image

Ed Brown has been jabbing me in the ribs every week about why the Black Right hasn't defended Earl Graves when he did right, or why the Black Right didn't defend Kwesi Mfume when he did right. I don't have specific answers to that, just a general one. Black Conservatives don't play the 'Positive Black Images Game'.

My theory is fairly simple. Once you step outside the homestead of black liberal politics, you're on your own. And one of the first notions that goes out the door is cosmic justice. You see, you will realize very quickly as a black conservative, that a sizeable majority of blackfolks don't have your back. Black conservatives haven't lost their minds, they've only lost the benefit of the doubt. It is that benefit of the doubt (which is more or less the confirmation of an archtype / stereotype) you suddenly cannot be a 'black leader' as they are popularly understood to be. You lose the right to publicly call yourself poltically black without a measure of controversy. And to the point of this essay, you lose the credibility accorded those who might protect the image of the black man and the black woman. That's a job that black conservatives are not allowed to have, despite the upper middle class desire latent in all Americans to have black conservatives represent. The positive black image is a conservative cultural fact that is denied by liberal politics.

This afternoon I considered the possibility that there is a class of black entrepreurs in the rap industry who are more influential than anybody dares say. I just hear tell of some producer who is under indictment for money laundering to the tune of 1 million dollars. Now we can all pretend not to be impressed with such a figure, but not many people get their hands on that kind of cash. Obviously it's drug money we're talking about; half of gangsta rap is an open source biography of ex-drug dealers and hustlers. So who represents black businessmen? Well, if you count what goes on television, and who gets documentaries made about their life stories, the answer is clear. Big ballers. They control the image. It's their surly lifestyles who make up the public knowledge of our rich and famous.

For me, becoming a Republican, as an expression of black conservatism has been difficult. But becoming Republican for its own sake was easy. The difficulty of being a Black Republican has everything to do with fighting every perception about blackfolks that doesn't fit with every perception about Republicans. Most of my conservative black cronies get over this hump, but most blackfolks, including many conservatives I know personally, have a hard time with this reconciliation. So they are 'independent'. I understand that most folks of this sort have nothing to prove politically, and so it's not so critically important that they make something of their political identity. Nor is it so important that I make something of it. But for those who take political activism and politics more seriously, the identity issue with black Republicanism is real.

The battles are fairly shallow and interminable. They go on and on about the same idiot things. It's a trap that liberals never seem to tire of baiting. Black Republicans take a measure of false pride in their embattled status and do a good deal of sniping back. But in the end, the existentials of Black Republicanism are acheivable in short order. You get over it, you're in, and the world keeps turning. But if there is one real lesson that black Republicans learn quickly, it is that they have very little control over their image. It is just another species of racism. No matter what black Republicans do, we can't seem to get enough credit for it to outweigh the stereotypes.

Out of this experience it is clear to me that the manipulation of the images of blackfolks continues to have significant payoffs to certain political interests which are aligned with the interests of racist and the non-thinking of the ignorant. This is a consistent fact whether one is conservative and liberal. Somebody is always challenging with ignorance or with lies, the image of the African American you have in mind. The significant difference between conservatives and liberals on this matter is that liberals fight for absolute control over that image and conservatives inevitably relent. The liberals have won.

The maintenance and construction of the image of the African American is a perennial liberal project. They're all putting in work. It's a task they win whether or not positive images are maintained, because there is a liberal interest in portraying blacks as oppressed. There is also a liberal 'responsibility' for black success too. The only image that disconcerts black liberals and presumeably most whites (liberal whites + racist whites) is that of the independent self-made black, aka 'uppity negro'. Ironically, many rappers fit that mold perfectly.

We in the Old School are happy enough with our own well-understood image to overcome existential burdens faced by the multitudes who fret and sweat over media images. That doesn't make the lies more digestible, but underscores the value we place on self-understanding (starting with Woodson). But whether we opt out of the uphill battle of correcting popular stereotypes, or ignore the whole game with some self-satisfaction, it's clearly not our bag. While the occasional Cosby is quite welcome, ultimately we have to say that we knew who we really were all along. But I believe that even when we say what we are all about and try to exemplify, we're never going to win the images battle. Nevertheless, we have the reality of individuality and truth on our side. That's good enough for me.

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Strange Dreams

Last night I dreamed that Jay-Z pulled a gun on my daughter and I had to shoot him. I didn't want to because we were business partners and friends. So I found myself in the bitter predicament of shooting him in front of my daughter and wanting him alive. I scrambled to get him emergency treatment. His daughter and mine were playing around his body.

He owed me an explanation, and when I finally got the nursing staff to stop tranquilizing each other and the two little girls, the doctors got to work. When he was finally lucid, Jay was my old friend again. He said that he didn't know what made him do what he did, but he was glad that it was me that shot him. He needed that. He thanked me for shooting him, because he knew I couldn't kill him. Of course I could, he's just lucky I decided not to.

It was this decision that gives me pause to think about self-interest.

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It's All Good

This has been one of the best weekends in my life.

I have a hyperbio which I have maintained more or less for 10 years. Except it hasn't really changed because it chops my life into about nine parts of about 4 years each. It's clear to me that I am finally out of part nine which included the recession, nine-eleven, the death of my grandfather and some of my awful situations, some of which has been chronicled here.

The Wedding Renewal was most excellent. Better than I expected, mushy, the whole bit. Funny, I took no pictures. I scanned in 2500 over the past week, but took none that evening. Being nervous is good for you.

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November 27, 2004

Mardi Gras


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November 26, 2004



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Easter Face


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6480 Photos

I finally did it. I sent all 41 undeveloped rolls of film to be processed for the holiday weekend.

As one or two of you know, today is my tenth wedding anniversary and we are having a get-together tomorrow over in Inglewood. I've been working on perfecting the A/V presentations all week, so it was part of the deal that I take care of all those celluloid memories. All told, I added more than 2400 photos to the collection including scanning in half a milk crate of snapshots.

If any of you are face with such a task, I highly recommend the latest Photoshop Elements 3. It has really made this work go smoothly. Considering that all of the GIFs, JPGs, TIFs, PNGs and PSDs are in umpty folders on multiple drives, the catalog feature it has puts them all together nicely. They have really hit a home run with the interface this time. It's fast and sensible.

I'm going to break a rule or two and post a picture of various members of the Nuke. They're just irresistable. I figure if Lileks can get away with it, so can I. By the way, I am absolutely sold on letting the film pile up. I found an independent guy who did the whole deal for me at 7 bucks per roll including photo CD and proof sheets. Yeah that's over 300 bucks but compare that to 12.99 at Rite Aid.

So beware. The cuteness express is about to roll.

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Suburban Samurai

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November 25, 2004

Happy (Gumbo) Thanksgiving

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Artest & Race

Maybe I ought to pick a theme a week and beat it to death. I'm still not finished with Abortion, but I've been having too much fun planning my Thanksgiving and being disgusted with David Stern.

Is there a racial component to this discussion? That depends on how large it is. I think people who consider this matter as an extremely horrible situation for the NBA are influenced by race. I think most sound minded people see it as a brawl and little more.

Race plays into this at this level only because of the world historical hype that has put an exclamation point behind every adjective. As soon as you start talking 'image of the NBA' then you are talking race. It is inevitable and unaviodable to deal with race if you desire to manage that public perception of a national sports league. Scale it down, and it's a big fistfight between assholes that got nationally televised and talked to death. Scale it up and race is just as legitimate an issue as anything else.

Before this incident, most people never heard of Ron Artest. So how suddenly is he the face of the NBA? Only because he fits a racial stereotype. Nobody has asked Artest to conform to the behavior of anyone other than black role models. He's not Robert Parrish and he has nothing to prove to America, he's just another pro athlete.

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November 24, 2004

Literal Rednecks

In somebody's neck of the woods, some rednecks talking out the side of their necks got their necks broken.

The truck driver and father of six had come up from his home in St. Paul, Minn., intending to hunt on public land. He got lost in the dense forest and, wandering near a swamp, climbed onto a tree stand — a wooden platform built on a branch. A hunter approached and told him he was on private property. Though he hadn't noticed a No Trespassing sign, Vang said, he climbed down and walked away.

Then, Vang said, five or six hunters in all-terrain vehicles drove up and demanded to know why he had trespassed. He told them he was lost. They surrounded him and began spitting out racial slurs. The men told him they would report him to authorities. They cursed him. One of the hunters was carrying a gun, he said. Vang, walking away, turned and saw the gun pointed at him. He dropped to the ground. A bullet whizzed by him.

Thus sayeth Vang, who turned out to be more than these airheads bargained for. I don't understand what it is with people who think they can just provoke anybody without repercussions. Rule number one is never point a gun at somebody unless you're aiming to shoot. And if you shoot, don't miss.

And so..

He shot the man who had pointed the gun at him. The man dropped. The other hunters ran toward their vehicles. Vang kept shooting. More men fell. He chased those still standing, shooting one in the back. He heard the man groan. He walked past the body.

As the hunters' friends — alerted by walkie-talkie — arrived in two more ATVs, Vang took off his blaze-orange coat and turned it inside out so the camouflage pattern showed. He reloaded. An ATV whipped past, a man steering with one hand and holding a gun with the other. Vang shot him and the young woman sitting behind him.

I think Vang knew he was a dead man walking as soon as he killed the first man. Anyone for gun control?

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Rather Not

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November 23, 2004

Sending A Message

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The Best We Could Do

In listening to Kofi Annan's Communications Chief this morning on the radio, it has become clear to me that there wasn't much the UN or anyone could do to avoid the Oil For Food scandal.

Considering the pain that Iraqis were suffering in the aftermath of the Gulf War (which is not repeating itself), it was in the interests of the US and the UK to get as much humanitarian aid to as many Iraqis as possible. The problem which was unavoidable was that there was only one way to get that aid to Iraq, through Saddam Hussein.

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Why Conservatives Should Defend Ron Artest

David Stern's banishment of Ron Artest from the NBA amounts to the establishment of a nanny state.

A guy walks into a bar. He gets drunk and insults another patron. The offended party takes a swing at the drunk and connects, knocking the drunk on his butt. The drunk stumbles towards the door. On his way out the door, a trial lawyer who just happened to be in the same bar informs the drunk that the man who hit him is rich, and offers his services to sue. The drunk takes him up on his offer and wins 2.5 million in civil court. The bar patron declares bankruptcy and lays off 15% of his employees.


When I first moved to NYC and was tutoring kids in a program at Columbia, an Italian guy asked me why Americans are so arrogant. I told him it's because we are always within a few degrees of separation from somebody rich. We don't have to work as hard as other people to reach a level of material success. The secret? OPM. Other People's Money. There's an entire class of Americans who reach affluence and leisure just managing OPM. Since this Italian kid was a grad student, I reasoned that he was surrounded by just such Americans. He suddenly understood.

There is also another class of Americans who prefer to be the movers and the shakers, rather than their attendants and toadies. These are truly remarkable people who are easily distinguished from the idle, decadent and otherwise Paris Hiltonesque rich. We're arrogant because we're a few degrees away from them too.

Anybody who thinks there are any atheletes who didn't work their asses off to get to the top of professional sports is really living in a dreamworld. People like Ron Artest are the go-getters, and people like David Stern are the estate administrators. When the attendants and toadies can transfer wealth to appease the whinings of drunk fans and the morally outraged, it is an inversion of the values that make this America a great place.

It's class warfare. It's soaking the rich. It's wrong.

The Indiana Pacers have just been destroyed by the collective actions of drunk Detroit fans and their head commissar, David Stern. Be afraid.

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The Mouse Returns

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Stern, Ashcroft & Saturated Awareness

I thought I might get away with only talking peripherally about the Detroit melee, but I have actually found interesting in the matter worth talking about directly.

First of all, my opinion. No punch in the face is worth 5 million bucks. There is absolutely no way in hell it is acceptable for Artest to be suspended for a season. This is nothing more than a pure excess in moral outrage. The punishment is outsized. In the ideal situation I would have done this as Artest; have the culprit identified and setup a special legal situation. On the condition that I don't sue your family into starvation, you will drop your gaurd and I will deliver a crisp combination to your face. I will then spit in your face. The beating will be videotaped and delivered to the internet. OR I will sue you into bankruptcy. That's justice.

But there is no justice being dealt in this matter. Almost immediately I've noticed how quickly folks have fallen into a pattern which is almost identical to that of the immediate wake of nine-eleven.

The thing to keep in mind is that something changes when you get media saturation of this sort. It happens fairly often in America. At least three or four times a year there is an event that is so prominent that you get the effect of 100 million minds thinking about the same thing at the same time. This is what I'm calling Saturated Awareness. It is a powerful force that is not being appropriately considered.

The standard sets of analyses about who knows what and when is certainly appropriate, but the problem is that very little use is made of the strength of public ethics. In November of 2001, all of us found 'anthrax' somewhere, and we tested the ability of our phone systems and police departments to respond to our concerns. They couldn't of course. Our new diligence overwhelmed authorities, and it always will. In these situations, there are winning and losing leaders. The winning leaders, like Rudy Giuliani are the ones who respond by the reassurance of directing our concern into actions we can take. The losing leaders like John Ashcroft are the ones who respond by promising to lead a regime of change so we don't have to do anything. In other words those who promise to take care of us fail. Those who show us how to take care of ourselves win.

In the meantime a portion of the new elevated consciousness should rightly fuel greater scrutiny on whomever was asleep at the switch. It's enough that a few heads should roll, but generally there is already somebody who already knows what should have done, but simply didn't have the focus or resources to do their job. Common sense dictates that some security guards doing their jobs could have maintained a bright line between fans and players and avoided the conflict at the Palace. Now that everyone knows it, it would be trivial for 100 million of us to pitch in a penny each to fund such an organization. Instead, the Commissioner is out to make an example of Artest. Why? To attempt to satisfy our needs and do something for us. But that something cannot be done for us. We have to do it ourselves, we need to be better fans, and the Commish needs to show us how. If he did so, we'd immediately see the difference.

Americans are like that. It's why we like singing God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch. It's our part. It's a fairly useless and almost ridiculous part, but it was what we were asked to do and we always want to do our part. That says a lot about the quality of our leadership doesn't it? You bet.

What is mind-bending is that so much of this is Saturated Awareness is forgotten. Only the experts retain the kind of institutional memory required. That's why leadership is still as important as ever. The last time something like this happened, it involved none other than Latrell Sprewell choking his coach. In my opinion this was a much more egregious act by a player than going after some drunk who hit you in the face with a thrown beer. And yet I heard nobody draw the parallel between last Friday's brawl and that incident, or to Roberto Alomar's spitting incident in baseball. If they did, then they'd have to confess how stupid million dollar fines would seem, now that the public outrage has died down. Most of us would still be breaking our necks to pay for that gob of slob or glancing punch both of which happened over 6 years ago.

It comes down to the acts of individuals but when they are so deeply analyzed and so broadly covered, it is human nature to try and draw parallels. When the act is shocking and despicable it's our instinct to punish severely and then try to set up a zero-tolerance policy. It's almost like clockwork, we can expect somebody to demand some change 'so that this will never happen again'. This is the beginning of error.

But things like this do happen, it's just that we're not paying attention. So it wasn't surprising to find that within a few days a similar incident was reported. The reality hasn't changed, we've just been made painfully aware of it. That painful awareness gives insightful leaders an opportunity to treat us like the adults we are and assist us in making intelligent contributions to society. Instead the temptation to make outsized gestures and overwroght proclamations seizes leaders by the throat and chokes the brains out of them. So it has been in Basketball and Justice.

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November 22, 2004

Beyond Halo 2

I finally finished the Halo single player campaign. It was a blast. Like a lot of folks, I was fairly perplexed by the ending. The cinematics in this one were insufficient, by my reckoning, to give me enough details to fill in plot holes. On the other hand, I was very interested to get to the next level, just fresh from the exhiliration of beating the last set of baddies down.

It's true that Halo2 is more expansive in every way than the first. I can see how Halo3 could be even greater. What seems to be the huge surprise, and I may be reading this wrong, is that Earth itself is the Arc, and the Prophet of Regret came to warn humans that the Covenant was on a course to glass it. The Arc, if I'm reading that correctly, is the place where all of the Halo rings can be remotely activated. If Earth is the Arc, then it alone is safe from the Halo weapon, and/or the Founders were the original Earth inhabitants and Humans are the decendants of the Founders. With these pieces, Halo now approaches a new level of sci-fi drama. Or as this guy explains:

the halos don't kill flood...they kill their only means to spread which is all sentient life (meaning everyone else)...the halos were created to contain the flood, so when the rings were activated, they were already quarantined inside the rings, which is why they were able to survive.

The "Ark", which in Biblical terminology, is a safe haven for remaining life (eg. Noah's Ark contained animals, humans, etc, that were to be "saved" from utter destruction (the Great Flood).). So the theory about the humans actually being decendants of the Forerunner are actually likely. This would explain why Regret's fleet only had few Covenant warships (which if they had more could have easily obliterated Earth's defenses) at the start of the game, because he didn't know that humans were on the "Ark".

Earth contains the key to activate all of the Halos, as stated by 343 at the end of the game. If you all remember, at the site, when you point the cursor at the continent of Africa, it says "This is what we came for", which means the key is in Africa. This explains why the only place you get to fight on Earth as MC is Old and New Mombasa (which are actual cities in Africa). This is why the Covenant did not fully glass Earth, as they did with Reach, because they need to get to the key and begin their "Great Journey" into godhood, which they believe the forerunners became after activating the rings (foolish bastards!)

thats, more or less, what i came up with after beating the game, except for the Africa bit (totally looked over that :err: ) lol.

Im just curious what would be if the covenant ever find out the true purpose of the Rings, or worst yet, they actually manage to activate them. Thats why I think they bought in Abriter. Use him to help rally the covenant against the Prophets and help them to realize the truth of what the rings actually do (wipe out all life). This, consequently, i think will result in a truce/agreement between the Humans and Covenant converters to stop the flood and the religion of the false prophets.

Basically the whole story references, and in some instances, are identical to the Bible. i.e. Master Chief the savior and the one true hope to save mankind, the Ark as a haven for life, 7 Rings - the 7th day, Sunday (holy day), etc...

The question is whether or not Ridley Scott believe so, because he is being pitched this movie like nobody's business. You just have to get the right writers interested in taking up subplots and complications on the various alien races of the Covenant and voila.

In the meantime, I've got my ranking up to 5 in the online game and can now concentrate on that exclusively.

Posted by mbowen at 12:44 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Obligatory Seriousness on DeLay & Ethics

Tom DeLay is a lightning rod for criticism, and rightly so. I much prefer Newt Gingrich. I think Tom DeLay is one of those powerful Republicans, like Ed Meese and John Sununu, who will not disappear as quickly as most people would like, but whose place in history will accurately reflect the often wayward ways of power. I don't like him and I don't believe that he serves the public interest. However he is a cog in a big machine whose excesses we all must tolerate. He's still not as bad as Darryl Gates was.

As rules go, I think defenders of DeLay have a legitimate point. An indictment is not a conviction. That's about all the point they have.

Aside from the fact that there is nothing the opposition seems prepared to do in order to rid the Congress of Mr. DeLay except wish, I will grant this fight the status of a molehill rather than a mountain. The Texas redistricting fight is old news about dirty pool. As soon as possible the Dems will reverse it, holding the same moral card they have for decades - minority enfranchisement, which seems only to mean something good when Democrats establish it. The irony is, of course, that you can't seem to have it both ways. Either the Republicans are 'suppressing the black vote' or they are 'stealing it'. I really have a big whatever to that, although I'm sure there's some legitimate corn in that load of crap.

DeLay has gotten away with everything short of breaking the law, which means that he's pissing a lot of people off by doing whatever the hell he wants. He's not my idea of a great man or a great Republican, but he is doing it for my party. I'm with Shays on this one.

In the overall scheme of things, I think this is simply hypocrisy. It is not a miscarriage of justice, nor is it a inch that will lead to a mile, or a dangerous precedent. One could stretch and say that it is a blow for honesty, an acknowledgement about how Congress operates in the real world. I'll call it as I see it, a completely selfish and crude act of power politics. Exactly what we should expect from the likes of Tom DeLay. Is this news?

Posted by mbowen at 11:32 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Treo 650 Blogging

Note to self: Get hBlogger.
Also keep track of Patterico's quest.

Posted by mbowen at 10:26 AM | TrackBack

November 21, 2004


Posted by mbowen at 09:14 AM | TrackBack

November 20, 2004

Goodbye Sears

Wall Street (investors) cheered the sale of Sears & Roebuck to KMart this week. Ordinary Joe should look forward to seeing the Craftsman Tools being sold at Home Depot. This is a money deal and everybody seems to understand that perfectly.

When I was a kid, I believed that American Corporations were these giant, permanent immovable objects. I have learned that they are a great deal more dynamic than I ever imagined. In fact, they come and they go. This particular move is something of a surprise. While my stock market predictions are just about right (Dow 11,000; NASDAQ 2,100) for the year, predicting what will happen to businesses is literally anybody's guess.

Well I don't care what anybody says, Sears is going down. The guys at Kudlow & Cramer were just salivating over the deal. US News says:

At the Manhattan meeting, hedge-fund manager and self-proclaimed Warren Buffett fan Edward Lampert, who owns 15 percent of Sears and will serve as chairman of the combo, conceded that the deal was an "enormous undertaking." But he also expressed confidence that a strategy of cutting costs, mixing the pair's most successful product lines--Martha Stewart Everyday from Kmart, Kenmore and Craftsman from Sears--and converting several hundred Kmarts situated in more upscale demographic areas into Sears stores would work.

I don't buy it. They saliva was over real estate. That's right. And I think we're just about at that point where the American people have gotten so silly that we need to understand the value of land again. Too much high falutin' going around for my taste, and so we need a little bit of interest rate creep and to see the price of gold break 500 bucks. I say Lampert is valuable as Sears' very own Carl Ichan. He doesn't know snot about retail and will not in a million years beat Wal-Mart prices or Target savvy. So he'll do a bunch of real estate transactions, change what malls look like, and carve up Sears into little pieces with KMart's cash.

Marketing people are seing the light of a new day. People don't care about brands as much any longer. We don't care if it's a Kenmore washer, we care that the damn thing doesn't shake the whole house in the spin cycle. Quality is divorced from brands, and people buy 50 dollar DVD players, and throwaway 'burner' cell phones. Comprende? We don't 'Trust Sears' we just shop there.

Mark my words, KMart is going bye-bye and Sears is next. Only shareholders will be happy. The rest of us will be at Wal-Mart & Target.

Posted by mbowen at 05:08 PM | TrackBack

Da Brawl

Elections are not enough. We need fistfights.

I haven't said anything about and various snide backbiting about red states and blue states, but I've had it about up to here and I'm ready to smack somebody. But I'll admit to it. Over at Baldilocks, she found and remarked upon a classified ad that some Dem put out as an open invitation to a fistfight. He wanted to find somebody who actually voted for Bush so he could kick his red ass. I'd pay for ringside seats, and really couldn't wait for somebody to throw a beer.

I grew up in a fistfight neighborhood, the oldest of four boys. So I know just where this comes from, how far it goes, and how long you can put it off before it gets too crazy. But human beings have a visceral need to push and shove, to smack each other in the face when logic doesn't suffice. There is a superceding logic of violence that we need to satiate - man does not adjudicate by words alone.

I've been in enough fights and seen enough fights to know the good ones from the blood feuds. You don't let a man who wants his wife back to fight the man who took her. That kind of squabble can't be squashed mano a mano. But a debate about an election? Yep? The man who kidnapped your kid? Nope - that goes to the death, but the man who cut you off in traffic, or called your president a fucking idiot warmonger. This is the kind of talk that can be shutup by a left hook to the schnoz. The problem is that most of the weenies who can't figure out how to get their life back on track in the wake of GW's double are those most in need and least likely to get the crap beat out of them. So they remain full of crap; vile, vindictive, uber bitchy, trifling, backbiting snitty crap.

I can't think of anything more stupid and poofy than all this mouthing off about what the 'blue states' ought to do to the 'red states'. As if they would. All written by metrosexual journalist pricks who couldn't catch a football much less run their own country. The very idea that these guys could go their separate ways and lease the US Military is the height of condescension. Do I sound as if I were sick of hearing it? And don't let me forget Arianna Huffington, who is just the kind of shrill instigator that keeps this fever up. Man what I wouldn't pay to see that one smacked into silence. And Rush Limbaugh puking every 10 seconds during GWBush's dedication of the Clinton Library? Oh my god beat his lard ass down.

What's this? Violence to cow dissenters into silence? Yes, because the opposition isn't loyal enough to take one on the chin from and for their brothers. That's just the kind of fight that needs to take place, where the combattants realize that their differences are enough to bring the conflict to blows, but that they still must live together as brothers. That's how the dynamic works - and suddenly there's a new kind of respect shared. The aggrevating harping stops when you know the retort can be physical, and when both parties have exhausted themselves physically in the ring, they have to get up and have that bloody embrace. But unless that happens all the nasty, snarky, snide spitting continues.

I have no idea how we as a nation are going to get this done. Maybe it will happen the way it happened in Detroit this weekend. Sports hooliganism. If it were possible to get the Dallas Cowboys into the Superbowl representing the red states and the New England Patriots representing the blue states, that would do it for us. Then all over the country we could have some nice bar brawling. But if talk radio and blog bitching continues as it has, I remain convinced that we're not going to be right until some of us eat some knuckle sandwiches.

Any liberal blogger who wants to duke it out with me, I'd be happy to put on some boxing gloves and go a round with you. I promise to raise your hand in victory at the end, after I smack the crap out of you.

Posted by mbowen at 04:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 19, 2004

The Biography of a Parrot

Dr. Condoleezza Rice became the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, commonly referred to as the National Security Advisor, on January 22, 2001.

In June 1999, she completed a six year tenure as Stanford University 's Provost, during which she was the institution's chief budget and academic officer. As Provost she was responsible for a $1.5 billion annual budget and the academic program involving 1,400 faculty members and 14,000 students.

As professor of political science, Dr. Rice has been on the Stanford faculty since 1981 and has won two of the highest teaching honors -- the 1984 Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching and the 1993 School of Humanities and Sciences Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching.

At Stanford, she has been a member of the Center for International Security and Arms Control, a Senior Fellow of the Institute for International Studies, and a Fellow (by courtesy) of the Hoover Institution. Her books include Germany Unified and Europe Transformed (1995) with Philip Zelikow, The Gorbachev Era (1986) with Alexander Dallin, and Uncertain Allegiance: The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army (1984). She also has written numerous articles on Soviet and East European foreign and defense policy, and has addressed audiences in settings ranging from the U.S. Ambassador's Residence in Moscow to the Commonwealth Club to the 1992 and 2000 Republican National Conventions.

From 1989 through March 1991, the period of German reunification and the final days of the Soviet Union, she served in the Bush Administration as Director, and then Senior Director, of Soviet and East European Affairs in the National Security Council, and a Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. In 1986, while an international affairs fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, she served as Special Assistant to the Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In 1997, she served on the Federal Advisory Committee on Gender -- Integrated Training in the Military.

She was a member of the boards of directors for the Chevron Corporation, the Charles Schwab Corporation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the University of Notre Dame, the International Advisory Council of J.P. Morgan and the San Francisco Symphony Board of Governors. She was a Founding Board member of the Center for a New Generation, an educational support fund for schools in East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park, California and was Vice President of the Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula . In addition, her past board service has encompassed such organizations as Transamerica Corporation, Hewlett Packard, the Carnegie Corporation, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, The Rand Corporation, the National Council for Soviet and East European Studies, the Mid-Peninsula Urban Coalition and KQED, public broadcasting for San Francisco.

Born November 14, 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama, she earned her bachelor's degree in political science, cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Denver in 1974; her master's from the University of Notre Dame in 1975; and her Ph.D. from the Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Denver in 1981. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has been awarded honorary doctorates from Morehouse College in 1991, the University of Alabama in 1994, the University of Notre Dame in 1995, the National Defense University in 2002, the Mississippi College School of Law in 2003, the University of Louisville and Michigan State University in 2004. She resides in Washington, D.C.

Posted by mbowen at 01:12 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Gung Ho

Posted by mbowen at 12:17 PM | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 11:51 AM | TrackBack

I Know Black People

No you don't.


Posted by mbowen at 11:39 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 18, 2004

Yee Haw!

I just got back from my visit to my new accountant. I'm home free. I'm in control of all my taxes and I've got money left to burn. Happiness has been pursued and captured. It's a wonderful feeling.

Posted by mbowen at 04:22 PM | TrackBack

November 17, 2004

Obligatory Seriousness on Pat Oliphant's Cartoon

A big lipped bird? In the context of Oliphant, which I cannot recall, he may think that he's not out of line. Maybe he's portrayed other Cabinet members as animals, but whatever excuses will be proffered, this is a pretty low blow.

I wonder why he picked a bird, and if a bird why not a crow? OK so it's a parrot. Still, why not just go for the gusto? Everyone should know that crows are the smartest birds on the planet, so to say that Condi is dumber than a crow is damned insulting. On a good day, I could even accept the trickster aspect of a 'yes massa' crow, but a parrot? The allusion suggests that Condi is even dumber than the putatively dumb Bush.

It's not the first time intemperate blowhards have taken swipes at Condi Rice, and it won't be the last. She's certainly above it as are most of us over here in the Old School. But it's an interesting commentary that this probably won't go far as being categorized as a racist snipe. Technically, it's not. But if Oliphant is not indeed in the habit of portraying political bigwigs as animals, he's going to have some explaining to do.

I'm fairly happy for Condi Rice, and it's notable that her Black Ops may begin to pay off big time in her rise to power, especially as regards development in Africa and matters of AIDS. I take a bit of vicarious pride in having that black track through State and I will be watching to see if Armitage stays on - because he's one I especially like and admire.

As some analyst mentioned yesterday, Rice is actually better suited for this kind of position in which she is a public speaking diplomat among heads of state and runs the show rather than as the NSC Advisor who herds and coordinates interagency commmunications and policies between varying bureacracies.

If Oliphant is not in the habit of portraying political bigwigs as animals, he's going to have some explaining to do.

Posted by mbowen at 05:17 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Reverse Spoofing?

OK now I've seen it all. I'm just checking the blog for referrers which are a bit high today and I see that I have been cited as a 'sponsor' for a popup. I have no idea how that happened.

Somebody at has pulled an interesting fast one. Somehow their popup pops up from somewhere and then it redirects the victim to here. So I've got to figure out how they did that.

Obviously you could see how bloggers might be reluctant to undo the spoof, since it attracts traffic to your blog. But I'm not associated with and I don't want to be, despite their being rather clever bastards.

Nevermind. I actually *am* happy to be associated with because they are part of the conglomerate that hosts my racism test. Thanks to Kyle for discovering this.

Posted by mbowen at 03:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Damned If You Don't

One of the consistent arguments that I've had in my favor about the nature of this occupation and suppression of the rebellion is that the US has been fighting as cleanly as possible. What pacifists have exploited are the onesy twosies of Abu Ghraib and more recently the shooting of a combattant in a mosque. But what there has nver been is a humanitarian crisis of the sort wars generally produce. Iraq is not full of refugees living in squatter camps or running towards the borders. This has contributed to the force of the rebellion, and made it tougher for humanitarians to do their jobs.

Iraq is not a classic charity case, says Kenneth Bacon, a former Pentagon spokesman who heads Refugees International, a Washington advocate for those displaced by war or disaster. Unlike in Afghanistan (news - web sites), Bosnia, Haiti or other places the West has tried to help, in Iraq there's no starvation or widespread disease. There is no refugee crisis. Still, Iraq is broken on a large scale. Only big contractors and military engineers can fix the electrical grid, oil fields and water and sewer systems. Luring Western experts means six-figure salaries.

This is from an article which updates the whereabouts of O'sullivan of JumpStart International, who has decided to bug out.

So there are two notes to remember. One is the bad news that Sully is out of the picture. The other is the corrective news which you should keep in mind whenever you hear an American (flabby-butt bourgie) journalist exclaim how dangerous Iraq has been. It would be a lot less dangerous if we simply exterminated Iraqis and destroyed more of their infrastructure more indiscriminately.

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

Missile Defense News

My buddy tells me that the DOD has put together a successful test of the Airborne Laser. Say what? 6 powerful lasers that paint a blistering hot softball-sized spot of pure energy at a ballistic missile in boost phase? Holy smokes!

But wait. Here comes the skeptic in me. I remember when the stealth technology first came out. Some of my engineer friends made me get that same yahoo feeling I had this morning, but as we sat and talked about it, as engineers do, he suggested a flaw. In Feynman like style he asked, OK so if our stealth planes are invisible to radar, how do we know where they are? He said, radar waves aren't the only types of energy in the electromagnetic spectrum. And so with that I inferred that we use microwave radar which he neither confirmed nor denied. I haven't followed up, because I have come to understand that new weapons systems are simply designed to leapfrog.

So how does the offense win in the ballistic missiles vs lasers war? Taking the same line of questioning, how do we avoid getting burned by our own lasers? Why smoke and mirrors of course. Hmm. Watch for new export restrictions on that kind of coating that turns regular sunglasses into mirrorshades, and pray for sunny weather. Other than that, suck on this Kim Jong Il!

Posted by mbowen at 12:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Spellings Nominated

" these two midgets walk into a bar.."

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

Grandbaby Got More Back

Who is more evolved? Them what got big booties or them what got less? Well it only takes a moment's consideration after reading this NYT article to figure it out:

Humans were born to run and evolved from ape-like creatures into the way they look today probably because of the need to cover long distances and compete for food, scientists said on Wednesday.


Among the features that set humans apart from apes to make them good runners are longer legs to take longer strides, shorter forearms to enable the upper body to counterbalance the lower half during running and larger disks which allow for better shock absorption.

Big buttocks are also important.

"Have you ever looked at an ape? They have no buns," said Bramble.

Maybe this explains why women always look better when they are running and why I still love Marion Jones. Speaking of which, did the scandal ever evolve to anything more than a media slam job? No. Shades of Richard Jewell.

Posted by mbowen at 11:03 AM | TrackBack

November 16, 2004


GWBush has dropped a few bombs in the past week. He has been gracious in victory but probably won few hearts in maganimity. He has done what fundamentally needed to be done in Falluja which is crush the rebellion, or at least crush the rebels. He has lost some of the most prominent folks in his administration. His underlings have pissed off senior CIA pros to the limit.

What the heck is going on here? This is a lot of change for a couple weeks. Where's the keel on this ship, and what is the nature of this exodus? I'm waiting to hear a speech, or has it been made when I wasn't paying attention.

Posted by mbowen at 07:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Drama & Trauma

Joe Hicks was on the radio last night. He basically expressed his disgust at the people putting people on the streets in mindless protest over the reforms being carried out at King Hospital. The LA City Council is behind this fulmination. I've ditched concern over the issue and I'm convinced that Hicks is correct. Then again everybody has a right to go out in the street and yell. Too bad they look like such idiots.

What's wrong with liberal black politics? It is married to drama, and trauma. Too often, public interest doesn't go much beyond the noise.

Posted by mbowen at 07:26 AM | TrackBack

Obligatory Seriousness on Foreign Born Presidents

The noise to draft Arnold Schwartzeneggar has reached an annoying pitch, or maybe it was just that one radio host last night who badgered his callers. For him, the only legitimate reason not to change the constitution was to admit you don't trust foreign born immigrants.

My point is simply this. Do we really need to outsource the presidency? A constitutional amendment which allows foreign born individuals to become president is more than an open invitation. It is a call for assistance, an admission of dependency.

Furthermore, if not Arnold than who? You don't amend the Constitution for the sake of one man. I don't care if he's Jesus.

Posted by mbowen at 07:18 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 15, 2004

Yeah But..

The NYT Reports:

NASA plans to try to set a world speed record for jets on Monday with the flight of a pilotless vehicle that culminates a decades-long research program into hypersonic flight.

The craft, the X-43A, is powered by a rocket booster dropped from a modified B-52 bomber. In a short dash above the Pacific, it is to use its experimental scramjet engine, which is expected to push the craft to almost 7,000 miles an hour, or 10 times the speed of sound.

Yes but this aircraft is only as big as a kayak.

Posted by mbowen at 03:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Yellow Green

you are yellowgreen

Your dominant hues are green and yellow. There's no doubt about the fact that you think with your head, but you don't want to be seen as boring and want people to know about your adventurous streak now and again.

Your saturation level is higher than average - You know what you want, but sometimes know not to tell everyone. You value accomplishments and know you can get the job done, so don't be afraid to run out and make things happen.

Your outlook on life is brighter than most people's. You like the idea of influencing things for the better and find hope in situations where others might give up. You're not exactly a bouncy sunshine but things in your world generally look up.
the html color quiz
Posted by mbowen at 12:13 PM | TrackBack

My Heart Goes to the Heartless

Liz recently invited me, graciously and thoughtfully as usual, to comment on questions regarding the seemingly irreconcilable differences between left and right in this post-election 12 step season. I demurred silently, as rudely usual. I think there's too little blur in top 20 lists, and I'm definitely in the blur zone when it comes to crisp definitions of my conservatism and conservatism in general.

However there are salient points that I think can be illustrative, but only when I think of them. To wit.

The phrase 'Character Counts' stands in contradistinction to the phrase 'Competence Counts'. If you ask me what separates liberals from conservatives that dichotomy splits the difference. Conservatives care mostly about performance and don't give a damn how you feel about it. Liberals want everyone to feel a sense of belonging no matter what kind of lamer they are.

Now there's a cat named Blackwill who is yet another leaving public service under a cloud of suspicion. It ails me to hear this kind of newsm he's the kind of guy who appeals to me. Why? Precisely because of this kind of testimony about him.

By the time I'd arrive in my office at 0730 (early, because I knew there'd be a lot of work waiting), I would find between 20 and 30 e-mails from Blackwill, time-stamped from 0330 onward, most dealing with materials he'd gleaned from the Internet. He was exceptionally demanding of his staff, to the point where they were breaking down with overload.

While Blackwill made my life difficult, he was always a decent human being. I think his major fault was that he simply lacked empathy toward other human beings, whether they were staff or foreign counterparts. It seemed, at times, that what he knew about managing personnel he'd read in a book. He could and would argue his side exceptionally well; he was not quick to realize that other sides might have some merit on occasion.

That being said, I'd go back to work with Blackwill in a flash..

I haven't been as international in my life as I might have expected given what I was up to three years ago. So I'm not quite as experienced as I should be to talk about human nature vis a vis the expression of power and wisdom. Yet I retain the distinct feeling that many, perhaps too many Americans, are spoiled in that they expect talented people to be heroic as well. The world isn't gentle, and people who deal with it needn't be. But for these false expectations we shun men like Blackwill. I call that hateration, but I could just unconsciously be regurgitating the moral of the story of 'The Incredibles'.

Posted by mbowen at 10:29 AM | TrackBack

Thankless Jobs

Less than a week after PLO Chair Yassir Arafat dies from complications of sudden physical manifestations of his grinchlike soul, yahoos in Palestine are taking potshots at his successor Abbas. You couldn't pay me enough tribute to take such a thankless job.

Colin Powell, once the nation's clearest hero, now retires not two weeks after his boss gets re-elected. Sounds to me like he's clearing the hell out ASAP. Another tour of duty complete. Along with him go three other Cabinet members including Rod Paige, co-signer of the controversial 'NCLB', the unfunded mandate to force our kids and schools to just be better.

Meanwhile over at the CIA, our new notable Scheuer has several associates who are following him out the door with the assistance of Porter Goss' boot.

If I were the billionaire I deserve to be, I would use the US Government to develop a profound sense of frustration in brilliant men and women, then give them some job satisfaction.

Posted by mbowen at 09:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 14, 2004

Jacking Al-Jazeera

My brother Doc, in his heady froth of patriotism, gave me a bit to think about the other day. It's a simple question I'd never considered before. Why doesn't the CIA just jack Al-Jazeera?

When I began listening to Chomsky a long time ago when he manufactured his own version of Manufactured Consent by dominating progressive left thought, I have believed that the CIA had moles operating in joints like the NYTimes. While I've come to a bit more sophisticated understanding of information theory, I understand there's no need for a physical arm-twisting editor on board. Information can be contained and parsed out in such a way as to appear complete and suggest without confirmation or denial of a concealed truth. In other words, my ability to influence what you think exists independently of my capacity to control what you think. When nits comes to grits, influence is enough, especially when you are the CIA and can always restrain what anybody can know without your permission. The point of all this is that I've always believed the CIA capable of great manipulations, and influencing any media outlet or conglomeration of them doesn't seem beyond the pale. In fact, it is not beyond the realm of possibility, as far as I'm concerned that Rupert Murdoch himself is operating according to a CIA plan.

I don't concern myself with such far fetched ideas, I just concede the possibility that they might be in somebody's interest.

Considering that symbolically, OBL is the most wanted man in the world one wonders what lengths our boys have gone to track his whereabouts. How difficult would it be for the CIA to figure out which reporters at Al-J are getting the periodic videotaped bloviations of Public Enemy Number One. There is a transaction that occurs here on the regular and clearly his emissary has mastered the art of the dead drop. But we've busted spies before, how hard can it be to bust a reporter for an enterprise as green as Al-J?

I believe that an organization like Al-Jazeera, despite its editorial position whatever it may be at the moment, is more valuable in the long run to US interests than one that is compromised and embarrassed by our spymasters and CI agents. Nevertheless, I have few doubts that there are more bugs in that joint than anybody there suspects. If not now, then soon.

Posted by mbowen at 07:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Standing of the Unborn

As a Christian, I am fully aware of my proclivity to challenge moral thinking in the public sphere, but I engage this within the context of our civil society. This provides an ethical challenge between what I think, feel and believe and what I am willing to do. I choose the moral framework of religion and the instrumentality of the law.

Fifteen years ago, I poisoned my mind with a dose of critical legal theory beginning with the works of Derek Bell and Kimberle Crenshaw. In those days I was seeking a legal understanding of racism and legal strategies against it. Basically I was trying to get under the question of whether or not our Constitution and/or founders were principly racist and if so, irreparably so. One of the legal terms I learned was that of 'standing'.

Standing basically means the ability of a person to his or her testimony be recognized in a court of law. If you are a space alien or a lizard or anything but a human, you do not have standing in a court. Anyway, all I was interested in was the diminished standing of Africans here in America, but I did learn this powerful concept.

So when the question of legalizing abortion or making abortion illegal comes up, I see it in terms that pro-life advocates suggest which is that a fetus is a person. IE an individual, IE someone who is endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights among which is certainly life. So abortion is a constitutional question if a fetus is a person, just as slavery was a constitutional question if an African was a person. In many ways the the question is parallel - is a woman's unborn child her property or does it own itself? There the similarity ends.

I say that an unborn child is property and not a person endowed with rights. So I am very interested to guage people's position on the matter of the standing of the unborn.

If one believes as I do, that an unborn child is the joint property (or if the word property is sounds too harsh, say 'responsibility') of the parents, then they must consciously relinquish that property in order for the state to act in their stead in the matter of its disposition. Or, as I said before, the state must meet some burden to show that the pregnant pair are like a car out of control without brakes and intervene on behalf of society.

If one believes that the unborn child has some kind of standing to exercise its right to life. (very consciously using the phrase 'right to life'), then the state has a much more powerful interest in intervention. They probably shouldn't have to prove any matter of capacity, simply the intent to deprive the unborn of their right to life is sufficient. It is the standing of the unborn as a person endowed with inalienable rights that makes this a very central legal question in our nation.


Posted by mbowen at 05:59 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Losing the Flavor

This morning I have climbed out of the queen size with aching thighs to find bad news to my surprize. ODB is gone, and I hardly knew him. If he did, 'ooh baby I like it raw', then I know one more tiny thing more than his duet with Mariah Carey. But what catches me a bit flatfooted is the reverent nostalgia for the very concept of an Old Dirty Bastard.

Down here in the Wonderbread Heartland of the Left Coast where everyone wears desginer sandals to the gym showers so as not to catch something requiring Lamisil, we don't know jack about ODB, and couldn't miss him if we wanted. This is the pudding I'm dipped in, and I'm always making a way when I can. So when I read Jimi's ode, I wanted to wipe a tear from my eyes, but the tears didn't come. I no longer have the ghetto heart. I seem to have left that man's heart at Crenshaw and Jefferson about 15 years ago.

Just like that one nigga in your crew, he wasn’t on no bullshit--rapped about life, the life he saw as ya’ll rode around looking for a liquor store. He’d rap about the girl crossing at the light---with the window open, loud enough so everyone on the streets could hear. The girl might give him a finger or give him a number---lines like “Girl, I’d eat all the shit out yo’ ass” can be seductive---but no matter what, when that nigga hopped in your ride, you made room. Because everyone knew there was adventure afoot. The night might end in a fight or in jail--- or both. It was all par for the course. That nigga was trouble--- he was a trip. And he was priceless. That’s why you kept him around. And that’s why we tolerated Ol’ Dirty.

I haven't had that nigga in my crew since the days we snuck in to see Bruce Lee movies. I haven't had that crew since the days of waffle-sole Nikes and powder blue sweatsuits. I haven't tolerated men like ODB since before gangsta rap. Like the pit in my stomach feeling watching a man in a white wifebeater, large pink curlers and 18 inch arms swagger in my direction, those feelings just don't happen any more. I know the feeling well, I just don't feel it.

The ghetto lost all of its flavor to me suddenly. Of course nothing happens all at once, still I can remember the day back in 1994 when I took it upon myself to walk 125th Street in Harlem end to end. For years afterward I would continue to cruise the ghetto streets from city to city. But after that day on, it would be a distant monologue of observation, not an intimate call and response. From Albany Avenue in Hartford, to MLK in Tampa, ghettoes failed to leave me breathless. They became stunningly similar with canned drama. Why? Because I didn't live there and I didn't have to care. But in '94, when I did live there and I wanted to care, I found there was nothing for me there.

It was rather disappointing for me to find little in Harlem to care about. I had once tutored kids at St. Luke's Church up on the hill. I knew the place well enough to know where to find excellent fish fry ,which blocks not to walk, and familiar faces at the Studio Museum. But hoping for Harlem to be an example of something special was a failed hope. It was just a city with a lot of blackfolks in it, and I imagined that most of them, like me, just wished that Harlem would assist their ambitions rather than challenge them. In the end, it is the quality of deprivation that gives rise to the special hunger of black emergence. Harlem like many other American cities develops that hunger but rarely satisfies it. In that way Harlem like every other ghetto is a good place to be from, but only if you end up somewhere better.

I've been wearing the metaphorical khakis and loafers for a decade now. It has only been my life as Daddyman that has required me to take money as seriously as I do. In certain moments, especially when hanging with my dog K, I kick myself for not kicking my financial game up a notch when I was still a young player. But at the time, I wanted to be an coder, an artist, and a politico. BAP/Boho days are fondly remembered and those ambitions were mostly satisfied but new priorities emerged and I had to leave all that challenge behind. I headed to the juicy suburbs of Atlanta, the acknowledge First World Black Mecca of my generation, and I never looked back.

I have a neighborhood where people push strollers, jog at night and can order Thai food for delivery. The Bruce Lee movies are all on DVD at a number of local establishments. As I have expected it to, it has made life pleasant and removed the challenges of ghetto life, and the flavor of ghetto personalities from my daily routine. I have no special desire to relive my past, or immerse myself for the sake of keeping it real or remembering where I came from. I'm not where I am by accident, but as an expression of what I want. I am where I need to be.

As I watched Chapelle's Show last night on the tele, it was cool to see where I might be if I was single and kept to the old dreams, managing my ambition from the 'hood, with regular forays into the underworld. I can't say with any precision that's where Dave goes, but I know he knows what I would know if I hung more with the homefolks. It takes me a minute to distinguish Lil Kim from Faith whatshername. But on the passing of ODB, the man who inherited king fool from Coolio in my book, I note the passing of a section of my old flavor.

Pour a drink for what once was but is no more except in vivid memory.

Posted by mbowen at 08:47 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 13, 2004

A Full Day

So I went to my Capoeira class today, and now I am sore. That's a good thing.

I cannot begin to tell you the names of the moves that I was doing. That's because I have no idea how they are spelled, I just know how they hurt. There's a lot of thigh burn involved in Capoeira. But I'm lucky that I have some real practitioners here. They show little tolerance for the jazz-hiphop form that I wasted time in a dozen years ago. Which is a good thing, because even though I knew there was more than a personality conflict going on between myself and the dreadlocked, baggy pants women (excuse me, wimmin) in the Peoples Republic of Cambridge, I was feeling a bit bad about dropping out of that 'class'. It was clearly a vehicle for the shirtless instructor to get over. It takes an Alpha Male to know one. I got off on a bad vibe with everybody in that loft studio.

Today was different. I learned four moves and combo'd them together. Unfortunately this class goes for 90 minutes, and I should have had some breakfast. I worked myself to the lactose limit several times, but did a pretty good Au.

Then I headed out to see my boy for some structural advice. He hooked me up with a new attorney and CPA so that I can prepare for the international. This stuff gets complicated quickly. In the meantime he showed me around the shop he's the CFO for. Now I know what an excimer laser looks like on the inside.

It appears that I am going to have a tangle of corporations and limited partnerships in order to flow the bucks from one continent to another without getting sued. I rue the day I may have to face some asshole in court. People have no idea how ugly this can get in real life. My boy explained briefly about the fortune he lost at the hands of an overseas con-man. One trick to beware of is that one guy can be running a con on multiple of your associates at once. There's no safety in numbers. But from where I stood drawing arrows and circles on my notepad, the future looks bright.

As the day came to a close and the light that usually reflects on my TV screen has disappeared over the horizon, I sat down to a little bit of Halo. I'm totally accustomed to the new feel and am now tweaking skills. I've learned the maps for the most part, although Lockout always gives me vertigo. I'm developing a style and a combination of tactics. Then I finally landed the bonanza - a full 8 on 8 fracas at Colossus - Team Slayer to 250. The full dynamics of the game emerged in this one, because when you play for that long, you have to communicate a strategy for the game. Our side did, and we dominated. It was a superb battle that all of us will surely remember and try to replicate - like the first game of Cat & Mouse on PGR2- I think the high score Team Slayer match will live on. BTW, Juggernaut is slammin' too.

The kids baked oatmeal cookies and watched James & the Giant Peach. I burned a couple logs in the fire and we had Smores. My boy won a whiteboard in a pin the nose on Voldemort at his schoolmate's birthday party. I have survived another day without a new spyware infection.

It has been a good day, but boy do my legs hurt. I'm walking around like Fred Sanford.

Posted by mbowen at 10:34 PM | TrackBack

No Blacks in NZ

Here's an interesting article.

The recent pop culture fixation on large bottoms has been around since at least 1992, when rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot scored a hit with "Baby Got Back."

But some credit the recent booty shakin� efforts of shapely stars Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce for the fresh emphasis on bigger and rounder posteriors, coupled with the fashion explosion of the Brazilian-style low-rise jeans.

Tsk. Those people just don't know. We raise 'em like that. They must think it's collagen injections.

Posted by mbowen at 05:00 PM | TrackBack

November 12, 2004

The Long Now

I am painfully aware that since the middle of August ore thereabouts, the quality of my writing at this site has deteriorated. I in the middle of one of those transitory moments in which I am rather fed up with my ability to look beyond my shortcomings. I have these moments because for most of my life I have arrogantly and studiously ignored most of the people who brought them to mind, and so I have become relatively immune to criticism. It's a flaw, I admit it.

It would have to be someone like Stephenson who brings this to mind, although it's just as often a Shakespeare play on DVD or an article by Michael Pollan. I get mad at myself for not being able or willing to concentrate on anything of substance as I define substance.

So I am in a long now, an interminable present, and endless fixation on the topical. In other words I'm not looking deeply at anything. In some ways I want to counter this with my series on abortion, a worthwhile subject if there ever was one, but I'm lacking in the energy and I can't get these comments to work well enough to generate a proper Socratic dialog. What's the last book I read? I haven't finished one all year, I think. Instead, I've been monkeying around with Visual Basic. Bleaugh!

Maybe I can become sarcastic. That's always good for the comic.

Posted by mbowen at 09:37 PM | TrackBack

A Literary Beowulf Cluster

But people on the Beowulf side may never have taken a writing class in their life. They just tend to lunge at whatever looks interesting to them, write whatever they please, and let the chips fall where they may. So we may seem not merely arrogant, but completely unhinged.
-- Neal Stephenson

I have just come to understand something with a clarity heretofore impossible, clouded as it has been with feelings. Thanks Neal. I'm a Beowulf writer, as are most of us bloggers.

Posted by mbowen at 09:23 PM | TrackBack

Real World

Posted by mbowen at 11:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What's Harder To Get?

Drudge and Unfogged are talking about a cat named Michael Scheuer, newly ex-CIA who is saying that OBL now has some sort of religious permission to use a nuke against the USA.

Now as much as I appreciate ex-CIA cats who lash out, which is to say a considerable amount, my first reaction is to say whatever to that. OBL is our enemy, and if we are at war with him, I'm not sure what purpose it serves to consider that he has permission. This would always be assumed anyway, wouldn't it?

What is more interesting and pressing is whether or not he has the goods. We'll keep an eye open on Scheuer.

Posted by mbowen at 11:14 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 11, 2004

Halo 2 Rules, Changes the Rules

Halo grossed $125 million in its opening 3 days. Bigger than Spiderman2.

Halo 2 sold through 2.4 million units in its first 24 hours of North American release, Microsoft announced today. That adds up to $125 million in gross receipts, giving Bungie's latest Xbox project a place in the record books for both games and the entertainment industry at large.

To pull a couple of examples from the movie business, the all-time record for a movie's opening weekend belongs to Spider-Man 2, which grossed almost $115 million. Pixar's The Incredibles, launched this past weekend, drew a $70 million gross in its first three days. Shrek 2 owns the record for the highest single-day gross, drawing $44 million on May 22, 2004.

That's what I've been doing all day.

Posted by mbowen at 10:35 PM | TrackBack

The End of My Blackness - Part 7

As of more or less now I am no longer a Black Republican. I'm just a Republican.

The reason is actually pretty simple. I am what I am, and I'm tired and bored of the novelty. Jumping up and down and saying I'm a black X is fun and interesting for a while, but it really is rather presumptuous. Not that I mind being prosumptuous or even provocative. It's just that in order to do so, you have to make a bunch of assumptions about people who are not like you or who you assume are like you. That's annoying and gauche. So I'm not going to do it any longer.

I'll still be reppin for the Old School, but depending on how soon I move to Beijing, that may become tired too. Hard to say at this moment.

Now this in no way affects any of the commitments I have to KIR, The Bear Flag League, VisionCircle, The Conservative Brotherhood or the California Republican Party itself. I'm simply excusing myself from the "I'm a Black Republican, what are you?" game.

Does that make sense?

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

November 10, 2004

Why I'm Not A Democrat

Perusing JPB's site can be a very cool experience. Check this out from 'T'.

According to The New York Times, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, reflecting on her party's recent losses in the presidential, Senate and House elections, asked: "How did a party that is filled with people with values -- and I am a person with values -- get tagged as the party without values?"

As one who was raised a Democrat and became a Republican only 10 years ago, I would like to answer Gov. Napolitano's question as honestly as she posed it.

Gov. Napolitano, your party does indeed have very many people with values in it. But the Democratic Party is no more representative of the average Democrat's values than the National Council of Churches is of the average Protestant's values. Both are far to the left of their membership.

Here is the Democratic Party as most Americans, including this John F. Kennedy liberal -- a New York City born and raised, Jewish, Ivy League-educated intellectual who lives in Los Angeles -- see it.

To most Americans, Michael Moore is a Marxist who has utter contempt for most of his fellow Americans, who goes abroad and tells huge audiences how stupid and venal his country is, and in his dishonest propaganda film, portrays the American military as callous buffoons. Yet, this radical was given the most honored seat at the Democratic Party convention in Boston, next to former President Jimmy Carter.

To most Americans, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are race-baiting demagogues. Yet they are heroes to the Democratic Party. Most Americans do not see their country as the bigoted and racist nation regularly depicted by both black and white Democratic leaders.

To most Americans, a man who wears women's clothing to work is a pathetic person in need of psychotherapy. To the Democratic Party, he is a man whose cross-dressing is merely another expression of multiculturalism. The California legislature, which is entirely controlled by Democrats, passed a law prohibiting any employer from firing a man who shows up to work wearing women's clothing.

To most Americans, Eminem is a vulgar nihilist who poisons young Americans' minds. To John Kerry he was a man whose anti-Bush hate video was worthy of endorsement.

To most Americans, obscenity-filled evenings should be restricted to R-rated films or a Las Vegas comedy act, not a major party's fund raiser attended by its candidates for president of the United States. To Democrats, those who object to such evenings are regarded as judgmental, hypocritical and narrow minded.

To most Americans, Hollywood stars are regarded as terrific to watch in films but also as narcissistic ingrates when, between private jet trips to Cuba and Cannes, they express their contempt for traditional America. That the Democrats have a veritable monopoly on support from folks like Sean Penn and Robert "Castro-is-a-great-leader" Redford may give Democrats a heady feeling, but for tens of millions of Americans it merely reinforces their belief that the Democratic Party shares Hollywood's values. Even The New York Times, in a post-election analysis, wrote of "the possibility that activist entertainers' fervent endorsements might have cost Mr. Kerry the election."

To most Americans, the American military is not only heroic; it is regarded as more important to safeguarding freedom than any other human institution, including the ACLU, the United Nations or the university, to cite three major Democratic Party affiliates. To virtually the entire Left, which includes the Democratic Party, the military is, at best, a necessary evil. Otherwise, the overriding doctrine is "Make love, not war." That is why Harvard still refuses to allow ROTC training -- and it is unlikely that either of the Massachusetts senators even finds that wrong, let alone as reprehensible as most Americans do.

To most Americans, gays are fellow Americans who happen to be homosexual and who should be accorded the same respect any fellow American is accorded. But most Americans also believe that America should retain the millennia-old definition of marriage as man-woman. They regard liberal judges who take it upon themselves to redefine marriage with contempt. And these judges are identified with the Democrats.

Whatever their views on abortion and abortion rights, the vast majority of Americans view the abortion of a viable fetus/baby (partial-birth abortion) as immoral. The Democratic candidate and his fellow Democrats repeatedly voted against a ban on this practice.

Gov. Napolitano, I hope that this short list answers your question about how it is that your party has gotten tagged as "the party without values." Indeed, the real question, as this observer sees it, is how has this party retained so many people who have traditional American values?

Posted by mbowen at 04:43 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Another Confession

This time from Barlow, whose diatribes, I've recently missed. I guess it's safe to go back out into the blogosphere again.

I have a terrible admission to make. I've been so fanatically opposed to this administration that I have taken dark satisfaction in their failures, even though they were American failures as well. I welcomed growing indications that the situation in Iraq was deteriorating into a sump-hole of back-alley insurgency. Good economic news was bad economic news as far as I was concerned, and vice versa. I was tickled to death with Al Qaqaa and its terrorist-purloined WMDs, and not just because the name was so great. Surely all these bad tidings would eventually add up to an indictment that would convict Bush in the eyes of the American people and they would rouse themselves from Fox-hypnosis and 'possum sleep and vote for change.

But it didn't turn out that way. While I still believe that half of America is hallucinating on hot religion and bad TV, I can't say I have been any too sane, having been delivered into a condition where I took comfort in the successes of our enemies and frowned at news of economic recovery. Despite my own financial anxieties, and those of all around me, I have been so zealous that my own well-being was secondary in importance to the political damage bad times might do the Bush administration. Now that's hallucination. And I'm sorry.

I wonder if I've been an unusually hard-blowing blowhard. I don't think so...

Posted by mbowen at 04:29 PM | TrackBack

Unelectable Dot Com

Go and read the joke just in case you forget all the things people were saying while they're still on the net. Anybody want to take this to the geeky nth degree? There has got to be several gigabytes of wishful thinking and propaganda that still exists on the net.

Posted by mbowen at 02:33 PM | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 01:40 PM | TrackBack

A Woman's Value, A Woman's Duty

In my continuing moral exploration of the issues surrounding abortion, my first step was to suggest in the political realm that there is much wiggle room. I think it is a radical position to want to reverse Roe and that both sides could be satisfied with a healthy dose of government regulation.

At this point I'd like to look at the sense I have of the relative value of a fertilized egg and fetus vs the woman who bears it. My theory is that the value of a woman's life, and that the value of the eggs, fertilized eggs, fetuses and infants varies society by society, but that no matter what the society the woman is at the top of that chain. That being the case, what is the duty of a woman, or of society to these items which are putatively subordinate to her? At what point should that value be inverted?

The argument that struck me was this:
If the life of an infant were equal to the life of the mother, then our institution of marriage would not exist. That is because we would be perfectly willing to have women die during childbirth. In addition to the old adage, an eye for an eye, we'd say 'a child for a mother' and call it even.

But there is no society in the history of mankind that has subordinated the life of a woman to her progeny. We might find some places where kings had harems and that a woman bearing a child of noble blood would be killed, but I hardly think that's what we're aiming for today. It's certainly not marriage and family as we know it or want it.

What we must face is the fact that human life is valued relatively in our society and in the world, and if duty to life is based on the value of lifem then a woman's duty to herself is greater than that owed to her unborn.

I think that quickly reverses once a child is born, but not before. "Kill me, but leave my fetus alone", doesn't quite cut it.

Posted by mbowen at 08:13 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 07:51 AM | TrackBack

November 09, 2004

Halo 2: First Look

I didn't think I'd be writing this early, but it turns out that I have a break at work. Yes, I'm at work.

I picked up my copy last night at EB Games in Torrance. I was 26th in a line of about 75. The headlines say that MS has already done 100 million worth of business. I have no doubts. I was going to wait actually, but last evening I saw my MS communicator show that a couple of my buddies were already online playing. I couldn't stand that kind of peer pressure. I felt midnight pass through the states like New Years Day.

I got back to the crib at 12:28am and popped the disk in calmly. I hate shrinkwrap like the next guy, but I wasn't going to do something stupid with my big knife. So I patiently created my profile, inverted my look and logged onto Live. As I expected, there were already people I knew online playing including eedad, my fearless clan leader. I decided to go the long way and start a new campaign offline.

The trailers pick up the story reasonably well. The head Covy is getting branded for goofing the Halo mission and the Master Chief is getting a medal for his participation in the same. We're in orbit. I basically played a couple deathmatches and CTF online for about half an hour last night and another 90 minutes or so to complete the first chapter last night and this morning.

The gameplay seems smoother and faster. I've been playing Black Arrow for the past few weeks and I can tell that my aim is a lot better than it has been. At Medium, the grunts and other aliens come and drop at a predictable pace. The opening is not quite as heartthumping as the first Halo but then again, I'm hardly the noob I was. I dual-weilded all the indoor battles and it's brilliant. With a couple of plasma rifles, the MC is about as deadly as any FPS character ever. It rather reminded me of Berserk mode in 'Brute Force', except that the two rifles fire independently. So you can go lefty or righty or both. It will take me a while to get used to the different combinations of dual-weilding, but it's really a great dimension to gameplay.

The headsup is disoriently different at first. It took me a long time to get used to looking for life bars in the bottom left instead of the top right. Also, in multiplayer I had voices coming out of the TV and the communicator. Furthermore you can really jump high in the new game. As I get used to these fundamental changes, Halo 2 should soon feel natural.

The AI is definitely improved. You can immediately see that when you get to do a little Warthogging. Let a Marine drive and ride shotgun. He'll drive you to the right places and with the gunner, get the job done even if you kick back and relax. I noticed a bit of a glitch in firing if the driver does a quick 180 - plasma goes in weird directions, and your range isn't that good, but shotty is good.

Recharging is quick. Not only your shields for the battle armor suit but for the big gun on the Scorpion. Spend all your time fighting and no time looking for health packs. Brilliant again.

The music is noticeably brighter and grungier. The earth city is very cool looking - concrete futuristic. The graphics are snappy and seamless. I actually started to get nauseous on one particularly up and downy part of the station in orbit. It's a lot crisper than the original, and I found myself making a lot more long-distance shots without zooming than I'd try in the original version.

New weapons. I don't know what their official names are but I like them. Plasma grenades seem a lot more powerful than before, whether they are or not, the explosions they make are a lot cooler looking. The minigun is very smooth and accurate. The bursty assault rifle seems a little weak, but it's actually pretty effective at knocking the sheilded Jackals off-balance.

The new Covy drop ships look vulnerable to big guns. The Scarab is ultra-cool. The hover-hooches are cool too. I've done the hijacking of a ghost. It's not hard at all. Secondary explosions haven't played a big role yet.

I stopped just at the incredibly wierd plot twist in the campaign, so I haven't gotten my hands on a sword yet. More later.

Posted by mbowen at 11:36 AM | TrackBack

China Tech: First Look

CTN are the first initials I know. The first is for ChinaTechNews and the second for ChinaTravelNow. These two seem to be fairly decent sites that I'll be scoping out.

On Kudlow & Cramer the other day, they had a cat on who was a securities analyst who said the big stock play is of a company that sounded like 'Outlook'. Cramer was saying that it might be the next 'Shanda'. So I checked out what Shanda was, and it turned out to be the number one gaming developer over there. Fascinating. That's going to be part of my task when I get there.

Following Shanda takes one to a number of interesting places. The first place I found was here at Pacific Epoch. I expect that to be a regular site for news in the sector. Speaking of which, DigitalChina is also one of the 800 pound gorillas to be paid mind.

Now I need to figure out what decoupling the Yuan means.

Posted by mbowen at 09:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Eleven Nine

Yes I stood outside at midnight like a kid. Yes Halo2 is better than the first in just about every way. It's faster. The weapons are cooler, the environments seem larger.

And yes I *am* going to work today.

Posted by mbowen at 07:50 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 08, 2004

The Vast Greatness of Gaming

I missed an opportunity to dignify my rantings through appeals to authority the other night. I was too busy drinking margaritas and consuming juicy steak with my wife and friends. So instead of being at Beckman Auditorium hearing:

Techno-cultural historian Steven Johnson is a contributing editor for Wired and Discovery magazines, and is the cofounder and editor-in-chief of FEED, the revolutionary Internet magazine that managed to blend technology, science, and culture. He is also the celebrated author of the award-winning books Interface Culture; Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software; and, most recently, Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life.

I was just telling that story of Mandume, the Seville, and Jersey Highway Patrol again.

Be that as it may, I happen to think that this cat Johnson is onto something once again. I really dug his explanation of emergent behavior. And I was pretty thrilled to hear him talk about what he has learned over the past few years about thought centers in the brain. Notably that you're supposed to use only 10% of your brain at a time. Why? Because the brain is a collection of specialized tools that have evolved to do different kinds of thinking. Basically take your left-brain / right-brain theory and break it down a couple dozen times and this is where cognitive theory is getting us. So the MRI of a guy solving crossword puzzles is different than the MRI of the same guy playing piano. Different mental task, different part of the brain.

As a reader of Oliver Sacks from way back in the day, such matters have always been of deep interest to me, and I'm definitely going to change the way I start thinking about how my kids brains are developing. Speaking of which, he said that we now know with a great deal more certainty that emotional states are deeply related to thoughts. A happy person remembers happy times. A sad person remembers sad times. Until you're happy, you forget your self-esteem and all the good things you did when you were you. Stuff like that. Anyway, that's just another big incentive to remind me not to make the kids cry when I correct their homework.

But Johnson's newest book is of a revolutionary piece. 'Everything Bad is Good For You' is due out this spring. He argues that television, movies and videogames are not the mind-rot they once were. In fact that they stimulate the mind in ways previously never considered. There are all kinds of tangents one can take with this, but it's something I understand. I long ago decided that it would be better for my kids play videogames than to watch television because of their interactivity. I expect Johnson to discover a nice set of concepts of mind-jigger that vids give us.

A simple example in obviousness might be the comparison between 'I Love Lucy' and 'The Wire'. In the old days, the plot basically focused on one caper with a small set of characters that was resolved in 30 minutes. A show like 'The Wire' mixes multiple clans of characters with clashing interests going in several directions at once. Watching shows like 'Gunsmoke' only required one glance to get in on the fun, but if you tuned to an episode of '24' in the middle of the season, there's no way your are going to be able to make sense of its complexity.

Online videogames, especially what MMORPGs are morphing to, expand on this even further because behind each character is another human being, not a screenwriter. They are not simply games, they're economies. This is not your father's idiot box.

Posted by mbowen at 01:56 PM | TrackBack

Rafe Gets Real

Rafe Coburn has been an annoying git for several months. He got so political that I forgot that I liked him. It's not that I mind people being political, it's that I mind intelligent people that I respect being so totally wrong that they sound brainwashed.

I haven't read him in a while but I think that he describes exactly why I didn't.

So in the process of dealing with last Tuesday, I came to an important realization, and it actually made me feel a lot better. It's pretty obvious, but I think a lot of people are having trouble getting there. I know I was. Here it is: I'm not responsible for getting Democrats elected. There are paid professionals who are in charge of that. They have to figure out which candidates can win. They have to come up with a message that will appeal to the majority in any electorate. They have to raise the money to run the ads and pay the campaign workers and buy the bumper stickers. None of that is my job.

More importantly, there's no reason for me to try to pretend to be something I'm not in order to help Democrats get elected. That means that when I'm talking to people, I don't have to moderate my views to make it seem like I'm more "reasonable" than I really am. Those of you who read this might be confused, because I don't really bother with moderation when I'm writing for this site. But believe me, when I talk to actual human beings face to face, I generally strike the pose that many liberals do, which is that I'm a moderate who agrees with them on most things and is still going to vote for a Democrat. I have no idea whether that persuades anyone to vote for the candidates I support, but it certainly isn't any fun for me. Going along to get along sucks.

I see him coming back to life in his final stages of acceptance. Too bad more people don't stop pretending to be great purveyors of logic and reasonableness. Good.

Posted by mbowen at 01:00 PM | TrackBack


Adding this new category to my blog, I'm starting the journey towards a greater understanding of China and things Chinese. I've started (sorta) by getting into an argument about the war in Iraq with a cat who runs a site called, but there's a lot more to learn. A lifetime to be sure...

So my first stop is to check out and see what they have to say there. Since I'm a blogger, and I understand that China has only one ISP, it may be difficult to blog from Beijing. We'll see.

Posted by mbowen at 12:39 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Finished Fable in Fifteen

Fable is nowhere near as big as Knights of the Old Republic. Its story is not as complex, its scope is smaller. But I'm ready to play it again from start to finish, and that's something I'd never say about an RPG of this sort.

I think that the authors of Fable have come up with a very happy medium, and that is because of the fighting system. I spent most of my time in Fable battling, sometimes with (dumb AI) allies but mostly singlehandly, and I enjoyed the hell out of it. I cannot think of any other fighting game I've ever played that allows such a wide arsenal of offensive and defensive weapons to be weilded in real time. The targeting is nice but not too easy, the spell gradations are very cool and the variety of enemies is really nice.

While it's true that the boss battles leave quite a bit to be desired as boss battles go, I don't particularly like boss battles, and so it suited me just fine. It took me three days to beat Bastila in KOTOR and I was really about to give up completely. When it came to fighting the last boss, I just said forget it. It wasn't worth a one minute cut scene after having played the game for weeks. But I think the folks at Lionhead understand that even in a great fighting game, it's a lot more fun to hack and slash legions of enemies than to conquer big monsters.

I went pretty much straight for legendary good-guy status and spent almost no time interacting with anyone who wasn't directly involved in my quests. I think part of that has to do with the fact that it's far easier to select and emply use a variety of weapons than it is to use the variety of expressions. I am at a loss to explain why it was so easy to map the skills onto my right thumb but the left d-pad was a monstrosity of cascading menus. If I wanted to laugh or belch in someone's face, they will have walked halfway across town before I could engage them, but in a second, I could slow time, zoom through them, summon a creature, make myself berserk and triple club them with a flame augmented obsidian greathammer. Then again, I can belch at people in real life.

I cannot describe how delicious it is to have this array of weapons and spells at your disposal. But playing them has left several other dimensions that the game has completely unexplored. I'm going to explore them while I patiently wait for Amazon to deliver Halo2 to my doorstep.

Posted by mbowen at 08:37 AM | TrackBack

Finally, A Real Protester

From Deutche Welle:

A train carrying "Castors" of nuclear waste from France to Germany ran over a protestor who had chained himself to the tracks, severing both of his legs. He died of his injuries a short while later, police reported.

A 23-year old environmental activist paid the ultimate price for his convictions on Sunday. Despite a large security operation, the young man managed to chain himself to the railway tracks near Avricourt, in protest of the latest transport of nuclear waste from a French reprocessing plant in La Hague to a storage facility in Gorleben, Germany.

A spokeswoman for France's SNCF rail operator said the train's driver noticed a group of people sitting on the tracks, and pulled the emergency brake. "One of the people remained sitting, and his legs were cut off and he has died," the spokeswoman said.

Posted by mbowen at 07:45 AM | TrackBack

November 07, 2004

Falluja: Commandos Take Main Hospital

So the first thing we have done is to capture the main hospital in Falluja and blocked a major escape route. Rebels will not be able to use the main hospital to treat their wounded or launch attacks against the coalition forces.

Units: First Marine Expeditionary Force

U.S. intelligence estimates there are about 3,000 insurgents dug in behind defenses and booby traps in Fallujah, a city of about 300,000 which has become a symbol throughout the Islamic world of Iraqi resistance to the U.S.-led occupation.
Posted by mbowen at 08:26 PM | TrackBack

Whose Enlightenment?

I would like to invite my liberal and atheist pals not to spit, because the wind isn't blowing the way you think it is.

I want to think of a concise way of saying it. I like this confession:

Karl Rove kicked our ass. There is no other way to slice it. We got an old-fashion whupping and it hurts. I, and a whole lot of people like me, just found out that we are seriously out of synch with our country. America, my beloved America come what may, is a conservative nation. I am anything but conservative. I am in the minority. The other guys are in the majority. They won. We lost. I lost. It's their country to run as they will. That's the law and it's the America way. I will honor it. I do not have to like it. Goddamn all Ghost-worshippers!

but I dig a touch deeper and I get this:
The nation's racial heterogeneity also partly explains its conservatism. U.S. heterogeneity sharply contrasts with the much greater homogeneity in Canada, Britain and continental Europe. People are much less likely to support income redistribution to people who are members of different racial or ethnic groups. Ethnic divisions make it easier for the enemies of welfare to vilify the poor, by making them seem like parasites who could be rich but prefer to live on the public dollar. The pro-redistribution populists were defeated in the South in the 1890s by politicians who stressed that populism would help blacks (which was true) and that blacks were dangerous criminals (which was not.) The enemies of Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society also employed racial messages that conveyed the idea that welfare recipients were dangerous outsiders who should not be helped. The sharp racial division that runs through American society makes it possible to castigate poor people in a way that would be impossible in a homogeneous nation like Sweden, where the poor look the same as everyone else.

Although I think this is a good argument, I want to disagree. Why? Primarily because I think America's integrative xenophobia strikes a very good balance. We've created the Hispanics and we've created Diversity out of necessity, but it is a lesson we've learned well. The alternative to this is the liberal and Christian conciet of Enlightenment.

Simply stated, if we are to defend pluralism and democratically open societies, we cannot do so while spitting on Christians in our conservative nation. Because it invites Christians to take ownership of the Enlightenment values, which are certainly a Christian legacy, but not entirely owned by Christians. We simply don't know enought Turks to say otherwise in our popular culture.

So if atheists and liberals punt American democracy to Christians and religious conservatives, then those two groups will certainly take as much credit for it as possible and liberals and atheists will have marginalized themselves further into their own private Idahos.

Yes we are a conservative nation but if you cannot respect the proper reasons why without glib cynicism, you doom yourself to oblivion marginalizing both yourselves and the reasonable citizens you have no idea existed in harmony with the devil you think you know.

Posted by mbowen at 01:01 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Kerryism Doesn't Exist

The word from one of the managing editors from Newsweek was that inside the Kerry Campaign was absolute chaos - that Bob Shrum had the Kerry message bouncing from pillar to post. It showed.

I've got the November 4th episode of Charlie Rose still on the DVR and I wish that I could broadcast it to all my readers. The clearest evidence of pure vacuum is the meaninglessness of 'Kerryism'. What is it, and which Democrats will need to be responsible to it come 2008? It's nothing and Democrats can do whatever they want next time around. They are starting from below ground zero.

Clinton was the biggest thing to hit the Democrats in a generation, but he's gone and there's nothing new on the horizon. He couldn't help Gore; he couldn't help Kerry. Daschle is dead.

The editors on Charlie Rose said that Kerry was trying to appease the center, the moderate left and the far left. Where Kerry himself was a deficit hawk, he could never make the case. All that ever came of that idea was Pat Buchanan's dissent. Kerry couldn't even lead his campaign better than Pat Buchanan shouting from the sidelines as regards Bush's profligacy. Kerry was advised to come out against gay marriage. He's not for it, but he couldn't say it. He failed the global test within his own party, and so did nothing. Captures him perfectly.

Kerry has left his party squirming. It is both spaghetti and a void writhing in pain and disbelief. The first thing they're going to have to admit was that Kerry was a total failure, and what is it ... MoveOn. I'm still waiting for a candidate for president who wears a beard. Here's your chance, Dems.

Meanwhile, I'll continue the Old School mission and work on the pregnant opportunities to bring the Republicans around to heel. It's difficult to tell whether we'll have better luck with Giuliani or McCain. But my eye is on Colin Powell, again.

Posted by mbowen at 10:18 AM | TrackBack


Posted by mbowen at 10:16 AM | TrackBack

Selma and Falluja

Everybody with half a wit knows that the coalition forces will produce a military victory in Falluja. From TPD:

We're going to "win" in Fallujah, at least in the military sense. We'll most likely raze it to the ground. But can we ultimately triumph over all this animosity, from within and outside of Iraq? After all, our winning formula from the very beginning was "hearts and minds."

I would like to remind people that some hearts and minds are not worth winning.

It is my understanding that Samarra and Falluja represent the main cities in the two provinces that stand against Alawi in Iraq. Everybody else can't wait to vote and prove that they can cobble together a functional government with real power sharing. In the meantime, Falluja simmers with militant resentment. And while most opponents to Bush have had a full election season to ignore all kinds of realities, sooner or later they are going to have to recognize that when the other 18 or so provinces vote, there is going to be a greater mandate in Iraq than there is here in America - and once and for all they are going to have to admit that Bush did in fact bring Democracy to Iraq. As Agent Smith says, it is inevitable.

But there remains a particularly annoying fascination with the outlayers, and it is at this point that I as an African American suggest how to look at Falluja. Look at Falluja as the heart of the Confederacy. Look at Al Sadr like the head of the KKK. And look at the international coalition in Iraq as you looked at all of the nations in the world who expressed concern at America's old Negro Problem.

Clearly the severity of the oppression and the militance of the resistance in Iraq is much greater than ours was. But if you asked blackfolks in 50s Selma Alabama if they would mind thousands of soldiers rumbling through with tanks to crush the Klan, I think you know the answer. There is nothing of value worth preserving in the ideology of the anti-coalition militant rebellion in Iraq. It is intransigent and serves only to promote chaos, and Americans are wrong to suggest that simply because they are Iraqis, they deserve more consideration than Alawi is giving them. There is no case for the rebellion that stands any reasonable test, indeed they stand against the necessary progress for Iraq.

Moreover, they have produced no equivalent to MLK. Instead they have consigned civilians to thuggery and cosigned the terrorist kidnappings and executions of various outlaws. For these reasons alone they should and will be crushed.

Good riddance.

Posted by mbowen at 09:53 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

I have procured the top level domain, and over the next few weeks, transfer this puppy over. I simply don't have the time nor the inclination to do all this crap myself, so I'll be hiring out the task. If you can point to a decent looking site you've done and want the business, drop me an email ( Otherwise I'm going to bite the bullet and call Sekimori.

In the new world of the comments will work and world hunger will end as will global warming. We'll also rid Minnesota of mosquitos and put John Kennedy back in the White House. Stay tuned, and thanks for your perserverance.

Posted by mbowen at 08:29 AM | TrackBack

Private Idaho

I've been doing a modicum of thinking about the permanence of the Alternative scene in America and what it says about zero-sum social progress. Today in the aftermath of the re-election of GWBush there's a whole different twist.

It is surprising to me how the spin of the losers has taken over. They have characterized the average Bush voter as an evangelical hick with no sense of intellectual vigor. I get the feeling that these people were more hurt by November Second than by September Eleventh. Here's an excerpt from somebody now forced to retreat back into his own private Idaho:

Who ARE those 53%? What happened to MY America--the America that would
see through such a vapid fool to the truly dangerous handlers behind him,
and cast them all out like demons; the America that had a respect for a
freer press in 1972-4, and thus brought down a far less corrupt and stupid
President, before we became a one-channel state; the America that would
see the "Patriot Act" for the Fascist framework it is, and tear it down;
the America that had the respect and goodwill of most of the world, even
past September 11th; the America that preached tolerance (we can argue
whether it ever PRACTICED it to the fullest extent possible, or even
3/5ths of the way) and was, just a few years ago, beginning to see gay and
lesbian rights as closer to "mainstream"; the America with a Supreme Court
that ratified women's control of their bodies; the America that thought
Senator Roman Hruska was a little addled and eccentric when he proposed,
in support of the truly mediocre Nixon Supreme Court nominee J. Harold
Carswell, that "mediocre people need representation, too"; the America
that had black leaders like Martin and Malcolm and Stokely and Huey,
rather than Chief Justice Clarence Thomas, and Prime Minister Condoleeza
Rice, and Media Czar Michael Powell..

It goes on and on. You get the drift.

It boils down to a single fallacious phrase 'my America'. Your America, anybody's America is just a tiny corner of it. It's not yours until you own some of it and control some of it, and for most of us that's a house, maybe with a front yard. This is the ownership society, and if you ain't owning, you're renting. You live in a rented blue house, not because the landlord agrees with you, but because he knows your type is attracted to blue. But he can paint it red, you can't. The smart landlord keeps the house blue, the smart tenant understands and respects this.

"Rights are the gifts of the strong." This is a phrase we need to keep in mind because today's strong Americans are committed to it. But it's their committment that we should honor, not the abstract principle. The man who is cursed for doing good may decide to take a holiday. But that's what a lot of folks are doing today.

I am recognizing the pain that people must feel in recognizing that they are not as connected as their love of songs like 'We Are The World' suggests. This is a contradiction. You cannot be 'alternative' and zero-sum at the same time.

Posted by mbowen at 05:17 AM | TrackBack

November 06, 2004

The Fall of Falluja

Alawi has called for a hard press on the militias holed up in Falluja. It's going to be ugly.

From what I've heard of the Iraqi people, they have been exceptionally responsive to the kind of iron fists they grew up with. With Alawi calling the shots and Iraqi army in joint ops, the citizens seem to be much more prepared for the ugliness of battle. Still, it must be with a heavy heart that Alawi sends in the marines.

One of the things I recall from the news over the months is that very few people in Iraq know how to read maps, and very few of the houses in the various towns and cities have anything resembling what we call addresses. So even when we have infiltrated militias with informants, it's not possible to call a mortar strike. Such precision does not exist among the villagers. So it will be inevitable that ordinary people will be mowed down, accidently.

Falluja will not be cleansed, it will be thrashed. And it has come to this. I haven't made a secret that I was opposed to the first war on Iraq - in fact, I still have a 'No Blood For Oil' sign in my closet. At the time, I was swayed by the notion that American police and soldiers would not perform well, and might ultimately balk at the politics that drove them to fight. I'm certain I used the words 'the US military has been turned into a mercenary army for the sake of an undemocratic regime' or some such notion to announce my questions about the worthiness of Kuwait as an ally. Today, I am much less likely to believe that either soldiers or cops have the luxury of second-guessing the politics that drive the rules of their engagements. They are middle class people doing their jobs, just like the rest of us. We all know the politics suck - all politics not under your direct control suck. And so like it or not, American soldiers at the behest of Alawi will go hard and hot into Falluja and start wrecking things. Real soldiering.

I though to myself what would I do in such a situation. I certainly wouldn't want to leave my hometown simply because some asshat militia is holed up maybe 3 miles away in a part of town I don't frequent. But a militia on the run might be anywhere. I'm a red man in a blue state, a black family surrounded by non-blacks. There might be a Baptist next door to me. I don't know. Yes I've been to a Baptist Church, but I'm not one of them. Really. Well, I know my wife is a Baptist but she's not one of the bad ones. Really. Could I keep the occupying soliders out of my neighborhood? Could I keep the militamen out of my neighborhood? No. If my city were declared a target what could I do?

I could leave. I'd bet most Fallujans cannot. I'd bet they'd better try. There has been plenty water under the bridge where bodies were burned. Falluja knows its reputation. Falluja knows what's coming. The city will fall to the troops at Alawi's request and it's going to be ugly. But we know that.

Posted by mbowen at 09:03 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What Else?

Posted by mbowen at 08:06 AM | TrackBack

November 05, 2004


Pixar has done it again.

I think we have seen the future of family entertainment. Pixar has created characters that are better people than people. Clearly this movie is going to make half a zillion bucks over its lifetime. There is no way you could get any teenaged girl to remain a teenaged girl if she were to play that role in a live action 'Incredibles'. There would be no end to the celebrity deathtraps that would spontaneously generate around humans saddled with the stardom such a film creates.

I was just thinking this morning how great a show is 'The Fairly Oddparents'. It's great just be being solid family entertainment without the odious burden of child stars. My God, who could suffer another Hillary Duff, Raven Symone, Mary Kate & Ashley or any of the rest of the twisted, denatured suburban avatars, who grow up and try to do music videos.

In 20 years, people will still smoke. But we can hope that there will be no child actors left. Pixar has showed us how, with style, morals and brilliance.

Go and see it before your kids get ridiculed on the playground for not.

Posted by mbowen at 10:08 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


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My job hasn't changed this week. Nothing has changed this week except that we have proven that America finds GWBush more or less acceptable as President, and that Democrats have proved themselves incapable of convincing anyone but themselves of their wisdom.

I'm a little piqued at the backbiting, so I've decided to say the 'A' word. Somehow, folks have decided that the next thing that the great boogeyman is going to do is rip Roe v Wade to shreds, and that he's just wringing his hands and twisting his moustache with sniggering delight. Why? Because George W. Bush is a right-wing religious fanatic in the hands of the evangelical lunatics who want to turn America into a Christian Republic - sorta like an Islamic Republic except with chicken fried steak.

The latest blather into this fracas, aside from Teri Gross who is dignifying the paranoia, is the rumor being circulated that Senator Arlen Spector has warned President Bush against nominating a pro-life judge. Somehow it always comes down to abortion.

Not that I care, but let's try to take this matter seriously and find out exactly why abortions themselves are so important and how much people are actually willing to do to change things. My take on it is this. There's not going to be any significant motion on this issue. The only people who are fired up about it are marginal to the political process and most of us are shouting at shadows. I suspect that this will be as controversial as gay marriage, but that's never stopped me before.

I think America could actually survive a great number of restrictions on abortion and may have to, but that the government will always be too slow. I also think that privacy advocates will win in the end and that Americans will reserve the right to keep sex private, whether or not that actually makes sense. Finally I expect that my thinking, which probably seems blurry at the moment, will get sharp enough to become arrogant.

So the first piece of evidence that I want to throw into the stew is that of Mifepristone. Sound familiar? How about if I call it RU 486? How about if I call it the Abortion Pill? Of course there was a huge controversy about this pill in the pre-9/11 era. But it was approved by the FDA and apparently, you can get it if you need it. You don't have a right to it, it is a method.

I contend that regulating the methods of abortion are a different matter than restricting the right to abortion. In general, I believe that human beings have the right to make life and death decisions - despite the fact that many of us punt to the state. I would argue that by the same authority that adults have to choose whom they sex, and have authority over their progeny, they have authority to determine the reasons - the logic and the yes and no of it. Yes I want a child and I get authority over that. No I don't want a child and I get authority over that.

But just like people have a right to drive cars down hills, they forfeit some of that if they don't have brakes. A pregnancy is like a car rolling down a hill, the further it goes the harder it is to stop. The question is where on that hill do we draw the line over which the state's interest in avoiding ugly crashes supercede that of the (co)-driver's interest in personal control.

Today I'll say birth. As soon as you are born, you become a citizen, not before.

Posted by mbowen at 11:14 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

The Blind Planet

Every once in a while I have those kinds of dreams that are so compelling that when I wake up in the middle of the night and go back to sleep, I dream it again in continuity. Last night was such a night.

In this particular dream, I and another astronaut had come upon in a large plain surrounded by dark mountains a large area enclosed by a very secure looking chain link fence. Actually there were two sets of two fences, each with razor wire on top and a dog track in the middle of the pairs. The groud was a dull rusty reddish brown and we could see strange footprints on the arena sized infield.

We scaled the fences with no problem. The place was lit with banks of lights not unlike a football stadium, but the size of the enclosure was more like 100 yards wide and a mile long. We walked around the area trying to figure out what kinds of creatures were kept in here by the footprints, especially the deep ones which were perfectly circular, an inch deep into the hard dusty ground and looked like they were made by an elephant - a very large elephant.

It was dusk and getting darker and soon we couldn't see anything beyond the stadium lights which seemed like they were getting dimmer by the moment. We took off our helmets after a brief atmosphere check. The air was silent and cold. The lights were clearly going out. Somebody, or something, knew we were here. I started walking the long way, my partner, Jones, crossed over to the other side.

A bright light caught the corner of my eye. Jones had turned up his suitlights to observe something on the ground in the growing dark. I could see him about 75 yards back over my left shoulder. As he did, the stadium lights went out completely, as if in response. Then it happened, I heard an ear-piercing shriek from the corner of the arena behind him. In the narrow beams of my suitlights, I ran toward him only to be intercepted by two kiwi-like creatures. They ran like ostriches but had skin like lizards that was a kind of marbled green pattern. They were about 5 feet tall with thick legs and a short neck. Their heads seemed much too small for their muscular bodies - and they ran fast making shrieking noises as they headed straight for my partner. They ran full speed into him sending him sprawling on his back. As he struggled in his spacesuit like an upended turtle, the creatures started shrieking a different call towards the other end of the arena.

Whatever made those large footprints was bounding this way in the darkness, following the alarms of the birds. My partner's lights pointed straight into the air making dusty reddish columns in the dust raised by the commotion. The birds kept calling and the thumping got louder. I turned up the intensity of my lights to see clearer and then the birds shutup and headed towards me. Uh oh. I ran towards the fence on my right and started to climb. I was high enough to escape getting bumped. They leaped up and tried to grab at me with their ducklike beaks. They had flat head and large eyes which looked to be 100% iris. I shone the light directly at them again, they blinked and started shrieking again. This time really loudly in a higher pitch.

The large creature, which I still couldn't see, must have stopped in its tracks and started heading towards the birds and I. The birds slammed their bodies into the fence effectively dropping me to the ground. I turned off my lights and ran along the fence towards the monster in complete darkness. The birds weren't particularly scary but I wanted to get behind whatever that big thing was before it knew what I was. With my lights off, the birds must have circled in confusion and continued their noise at the normal level. I'm sure I passed the big thing, but what was it?

I looked back towards my partner who was now clearly standing on his own two feet and moving towards where I had been a minute ago. His lights were on and the birds were circling back to him, screeching. I shouted to him to douse his lights, but I'm sure he couldn't hear. I tried the radio. Nothing. The twin squawkers obviously the eyes for this creature which I could now vaguely make out. No, it was more like a shadow - an outline passing through dust. My partner was suddenly lifted by an invisible hand to what must have been 30 feet in the air. Something roared. It was a terrifying sound - like a giant walrus in an echo chamber.

Jones yelled out to me and was lifted higher by the invisible roaring entity. The lizard birds split up, one following behind the creature and one heading towards my light. The creature had whirled in place and began marching double time back down the center of the field in my general direction. Jones was held aloft like Fay Wray in the grip of King Kong, pounding his fists haplessly at his captor.

As the bird headed towards me I backpeddaled as fast as I could. I could feel the panic rising. I knew that the creature was blind and I figured that the birds were deaf, and most importantly I knew that we were dinner. But the birds were too fast to evade. I thought about just leaving Jones, but not only was that impractical since my ship needed both of us to takeoff, it was kinda immoral too. So I flipped off my lights and turned upfield in the direction of the stomping monster. I gained on them quickly. Jones looked petrified but unharmed, I was feeling as if I might be able to do something when I ran smack into something I couldn't see.

The next thing I knew I was aloft moving rapidly towards the end of the stadium. My hips and legs were in a painful vice grip and I could see the entire field and the deeper darkness of the monster's lair at the far end. Then the roar hit me. I was headed in the opposite direction as Jones whom I could hear begin to howl. I could feel the awful creature's heartbeat through my pinned hips. I started to scream, I mean really scream in desparate fear. My mind was racing, sweat was pouring from my forehead, I felt strong as an ox for all the adrenaline pumping through me, but all I could do was scream louder than I ever heard myself. Even my own voice scared me more.

Seconds after I was wailing like a freakishly large child, the creature reached the end of the field and dropped me into the dust at the edge of his lair. It then sprinted to the middle of the field in a cloud of dust.

Jones' voice crackled over the radio "Touchdown".

Posted by mbowen at 08:52 AM | TrackBack

RIP Yassir Arafat

I know, he's not dead yet, but he is the lamest of ducks.

All this mystery surrounding exactly what's wrong with this man stinks to the high heavens to me. As they say on CSI, poisoning is usually done by people close to the victim. I wouldn't be surprised if this is the culmination of a Mossad plot, or a Fatah or a Hamas..

But what the death of Arafat will most likely reveal is how much he, as the lightning rod of accusations of foot-dragging, was indeed the stumbling block of peace. His legacy will be an interesting lesson to us all, and it will not be complete until Palestine has a flag, borders and an embassy in London.

Arafat's fate seems emblematic of warlords and pseudo-leaders all over the world. Maybe he was one of a kind, but maybe he was ahead of his time - head of a people in the margins of world opinion, trying to become a nation against the odds. But I think history will judge him harshly and I think that Palestine is doomed to suffer the same fate as Albania. The unwanted millions will languish in a third world land - a country in name only. But what is Palestinian nationalism? How has it become so impossible to achieve?

I think it has become impossible because the militants are not defenders of land, property and the material possessions of the Palestinian people, but because they have been defenders of radical ideas. Their claims have been legitimated by persistence, but are essentially rooted in an insatiable oppositionalism to Israel. It's not enough for Palestinians to have and to hold, they have to hold forth and be heard. Arafat personifies the leader fighting forever for mindshare above all, how else do you turn down land and peace?

I have no special hopes for Israelis nor Palestinians. Their competing claims for Jerusalem will continue until somebody nukes the place. Arafat is gone. Let us see if those who succeed him will follow him.

Posted by mbowen at 08:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Man Bites Dog

In the WSJ:

A 9-year-old African-American fourth-grader from inner-city Oakland is helping keep alive a dying Asian art form -- Chinese opera. A challenge to even native Chinese speakers, it weaves elements of mime, song and acrobatics.

Posted by mbowen at 08:38 AM | TrackBack

November 04, 2004

Dreams of Durga

In less than a week, the adventures of Earth will continue. The Halo universe is taking shape in my imagination thanks to the ilovebees story.

I've known about the viral marketing site for quite some time, but I didn't pay much attention. But the 40 some odd audio clips make a fairly compelling story and humanizes a great deal of the backstory. I've decided to purchase the two Halo books by Nylund (who is probably a hack, but a good hack) to fill out my eventual immersion in all things Halo. For those who are not so gaga to decrypt the fun convolutions of the bee fans, there's Dana's Bee Blog which spells it out in more easily decipherable English.

The one thing that is clear about this new Halo stuff is that there's a lot of estrogen and progesterone in it, not just testosterone. What do you call feminine macho? Machaca? Well a lot of the bad guys get cut to machaca in the bee narrative, but I won't spoil the adventures of Janissary James, Kamal and the rest of the gang.

This is going to be great.

Posted by mbowen at 05:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Over There

Posted by mbowen at 09:14 AM | TrackBack

November 03, 2004

More About The Society

It's not the Quad A, AAAA but the AAAS. Society not Association. My bad.

The African-American Alumni Society ("the Society") was established in 2000 with a core mission to assist in the advancement of Loyola High School of Los Angeles through the united efforts of its alumni as well as to foster the continued cordial relations of the Loyola alumni in the Amcan-American community. The Society seeks to recruit qualified Amcan-American prospective students for entrance into Loyola High School. The Society also seeks to support the development and advancement of African-American students of Loyola High in efforts to secure their successful matriculation.

The Society seeks to generate and maintain the active interest of all Loyola alumni in its regular business. The Society assists with the development of Loyola High School and the fulfillment of Loyola High School's mission, through fundraising and public relations efforts. The Society provides the African-American alumni with regular opportunities to assemble and maintain valued relationships through the promotion of alumni events and religious activities. The , Society acts in accord with the values of the Catholic, Christian and Jesuit nature of Loyola High School.

Community, Outreach Tutoring Program:
Established in 2000, this initiative offers 8thgrade students from targeted Catholic and private schools the opportunity to hone their math, English and interviewing skills in order to gain admissions to the Catholic high schools of their choice. The program is offered free to the students through the generous' support of the Loyola community. To date, more than 900 students have participated in the program, including 50% of the Amcan-American students in this year's Freshman class.

Black History Month Outreach Program:
Established in 1999, this initiative offers Loyola alumni and underclassmen the opportunity to return to their respective elementary schools and give testimony to their individual experiences while a student at Loyola, and in their current profession. The goal of the program is to impress upon our young men and women the value of ~ a Catholic education, and of attending a premier Jesuit educational institution.

St. Peter Claver Scholarship:
Established in 1992, this scholarship offers need-based assistance to African-American students with exemplary conduct. The scholarship has been successfully endowed with $462,000 through the generosity of the Loyola community. To date more than 64 awards averaging $2,745 have been given to deserving Loyola underclassmen.

Welcome Back Reception:
This annual gathering of Loyola's African-American alumni, underclassmen and their families offers the opportunity of fellowship and discussion regarding the Loyola experience.


Mentor Network:
It is dearly recognized that a young man will transition into adulthood more effectively when shown the correct I?athfrom one who has walked it before. The objective of this important program is to pair underclassmen with Alumni in order to begin teaching them the opportunities and responsibilities that lay ahead in their development beyond the halls of Loyola. It is anticipated that the Mentor Network program will begin in the Spring of 2005.

African-American Alumni Society' Scholarship:
Administrative processes are almost complete in the establishment of this merit-based scholarship to support and recognize the accomplishments of African-American scholars at Loyola. Requests for endowment support will begin in January of 2005.

African-American student annual adminision at Loyola has increased from 12 to 37 students since 2000. This figure represents an increase of more than 300% in four years. African-American students represent approximately 11% of this year's total incoming Freshman class body, and. is the second highest number of African-American students in a given class year in the history of Loyola.

African-American faculty at Loyola has increased from 2 to 4 teachers since 2000. Their experience and dedication is a welcomed addition to the Loyola community.

An African-American alumnus has been honored as a recipient of the Cahalan Award -- "'(alumnus of the year) in each of the first -three years of this notable award. Honorees include: Al Sanford '76, Michael Porterfied '73, and Anthony Williams '69. African-American alumni hold active leadership positions in support of Loyola's growth and development. We give thanks to the generous contribution of the time and experience of: Mr. Glenn Harvey '78 (Board of Regents), Mr. Marlon Thompson '79 (Vice President of the Loyola Alumni Association, Executive Council); Mr. Ty Carter '80 (President of the African-American Alumni Society, Executive Council); Mr. Gabriel Alfred '80 (Executive Committee of the African-American Alumni Society); and Mr. Gifford Irvine, '81 (Executive Committee member), Mr. David Walker '76 (Executive Committee member), and .Mr. Lou Williams '67 (Executive Council).

African-American coaches have made valuable and significant contributions to the coaching staff') of Loyola's sports teams. We are honored by the commitment of: Mr. Greg Wells (Head Coach, track team), Mr. Michael Porterfield (Head Coach, Junior Varsity team), Mr. Al Sanford (Assistant Coach, track team), Mr. Gifford Irvine (Assistant Coach, Varsity football team), and Mr. Stephen Faulk (Assistant Coach, Junior Varsity football teanl) for their dedicated service.

The foundation of the Jesuit education system is deeply rooted in the principle of ethnic inclusion. It: is widely recognized by the Loyola community that no individual can be truly successful without offering to assist his less fortunate brethren. We are thankful for the leadership and support all of the Loyola community for working to strengthen the universal ties that:bind all of us together.

Posted by mbowen at 09:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Thinking of Ways to Gloat, Not.

Aside from the fact that I am wearing all red today, I'm pretty much at the same level that I was yesterday. No nervousness, no excitement, just happy to be on the same vibe as 51% of America.

To tell the truth, I'm actually more excited to see Tom Daschle get the boot. That's worth gloating over. Other than that I'm curious to see what superlatives left partisans are hurling. I'd imagine that God's call center has a very long queue today.

Last night I had my spreadsheet and made my call at 9:15. It went the way I thought. I was surprised that Kerry refused to concede considering that Alaska too was on the Bush column, but we all knew that it came down to Ohio.

What interests me today is the amount of excuse-making and apathy people whose faith was broken yesterday we are going to have to suffer through. The election is going to 'prove' all kinds of consipiracy theories, and the wierd will just get weirder. Meanwhile, those of us with the political bug will find new things to talk about.

I don't have any reason to gloat really. I'm hoping that the percentages for Bush were higher in Cali than were expected. I'm fairly confident that the percentages of blacks for Bush were doubled - we'll see and hear spin soon enough.

We all had a moment, an overly long moment, to come together and squabble about stuff we generally understand and don't directly influence. In this moment, called election season, people get illogical in their logic - thinking everything they think matters and makes a difference. I got fed up with it a while back, and the final straw was Kerry (or was it Edwards) talking about how impressed he was that Cheney loved his daughter. We're all going to take our favorite symbols and suggest that these things we were so convinced we were right about distinguishes us from the fools who went the other way. That's just a continuation of the same delusion. I'm not going there.

I think the interview Thune gave this morning on NPR was just about right. We took advantage of the way the issues divided us to reach out to a few more people that we can agree with long enough for our election goals to be met. Now it's over, and we can get back to being normal people. We aren't really red and blue people, we just wear the colors for a few weeks, and then we go back to not particularly loving, hating or caring about other Americans we don't even know.

The process works. Congratulations America, you've shown yourself entirely capable of committing to non-violently turning over the most power in the world. That's always reassuring. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming. It will be nice to once again be able to make political commentary without all the exclamation points.

Posted by mbowen at 12:38 PM | TrackBack

November 02, 2004

Ohio + New Mexico = 4 More Years

That's my call.

Posted by mbowen at 09:32 PM | TrackBack

A Reward and a Promise

Slate gets Black and Republican in the same headline. Wow! But wait... it's a sideways attack.

It's probably true that the Republicans are not targeting heavily black precincts because they're heavily black; they are targeting them because they're heavily Democratic. But let's not be naive: They are also targeting black precincts because they expect to find voters and polling officials who are relatively poor and socially powerless and hence easier to bully and intimidate. This may not be racism in its purest form—animus based on nothing other than race—but it's close enough to make decent people want to take a shower. Note to Karl Rove: If the GOP wants to shake its image as the home of modern racism, this is not the way to go about it.

Considering that for Ford, the full-time black man who wrote this stuff, Carl Rove is the only Republican he thinks worthy of his 'advice', I'll go him one better.

As a black republican I hereby offer a $500 reward for any photograph of an identifyable Republican operative at a polling place who is harassing African American voters.

You have until Friday to produce the evidence.

I will deliver it to the Chairman of the California Republican Party and I will find out the names of the people involved and I will publish them here.

I find it hard to believe that the same Republicans I know, who don't have time or experience to get off their backsides and get out the black vote are more motivated to go into those same neighborhoods and pester blackfolks. It simply doesn't make sense to me. So show me the money, and I'll show you the money.

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Election Update

Posted by mbowen at 03:17 PM | TrackBack

Homeland Security

Posted by mbowen at 03:11 PM | TrackBack

A Nation of a Million Hoodies

I haven't hooked up my own music today at the office, so I've been forced to listen to Eminem twice already this morning. I hear that he's been getting a bit of press for his political vehemence which is clearly anti-something. I think it's a safe bet to say that he's anti-Bush but I really didn't pay that much attention to the video. On the other hand I know what he said last time around in 'Square Dance' so it wouldn't surprise me at all.

The image from the video which sticks out is that of the little cartoon Boriqua getting all pissed and putting on her hoodie. It's a great image that hasn't been done enough in animation. The only folks that have come close are the animators of that Disney flick Voyage to Atlantis. I know it's a Disney flick because it hasn't yet come out of DVD, and well Disney are the masters of artificial scarcity. (It's going to bite them in the ass within 4 years, take my word for it.)

But what really strikes me off-balance is the notion of people reflecting 8 years hence that it was an Eminem video that got them off their duffs to vote, which is a lot more than you can say for Public Enemy. Of course all us grownup know that Kerry won't stand up for Em, and only a kid would swing lefty for Kerry, but they're all part of the equation. (Only my part of the equation is correct.) I would expect rather that the hoodie kids would rather toss eggs at the next WTO or maybe spraypaint somebody's fur coat, but what do I know? Bottom line: I give PE more credibility.

I like the excitement generated and a big turnout is a nice but what will Em be rapping about this time next year. Not politics I'll bet. Good marketing though. We'll see what MTV is playing next week this time.

Posted by mbowen at 12:05 PM | TrackBack

California Initiatives

I have conservative rules of thumb that I just invented for dealing with the questions of bond issues and initiatives.

#1. Initiatives are 'nice to have'.
If it were truly a compelling political issue, then the legislature would be dealing with it. That may not always be the case with California's especially wimpy legislature because they are so accustomed to punting to the voters at large.

This year it is especially obvious that the California Assembly is trying to get the voting public to cosign their girly resolve. I'm going to reject as much of that as possible. None of the initiatives gets the benefit of the doubt.

#2. Bonds Double.
This Children's Hospital bond for 750 million will cost 1.5Billion. The stem cell research bond for 3 Billion will cost 6 to pay back. It's no wonder these are on the ballot, because no legislator in his slippery right mind would dare try to pay for such stuff, attractive though it may be, when our deficit is so huge.

This is not the way to go. I'm sorry but I don't need stem cells. With three billion we might find a way to help what, 2000 cancer patients in 8 years maybe? I like Jerry's Kids as much as anyone, but spare me the telethon, and don't take it out of my taxes.

#.3 Immediate Taxes are Best
If you're going to tax me, let it be simple and direct. A half percent sales tax for police officers? That I can deal with. I still might not vote for 'A' depending on how charitable I feel. I feel that Bratton is doing a good job and I'm rather perversely proud that LA doesn't have so many donut-bellied cops per capita as the Windy City or the Big Apple. So the existing strategy works well enough.

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Trudy Schuett

Trudy Schuett is fighting the good fight. Check it.

For the month of October, Domestic Violence Awareness month, I've been tracking news stories on domestic violence and encouraging my readers to contact their local media to correct some of the many factual errors that keep getting recycled. Each of the stories appearing at the DesertLight Journal represents at least one e-mail either correcting an error or thanking the reporter for their balanced coverage.

It is my stance that current programs, which are rooted in feminist anti-marriage, anti-family ideals have failed miserably in serving their communities and have in fact, impeded progress in finding solutions to this problem. Even though these kinds of programs have been in place for 30 years, they still only promote divorce as the single solution and have made no effort to seek other options. In addition, in most cases they still refuse to recognize or help either male victims or female abusers. Websites for these organizations are often more concerned with placing blame and providing divorce assistance than anything else.

I believe that I've had some impact -- pieces that appeared in the Arizona Republic early in the month reflected only the feminist side of the story, but a more-recent article was more objective. My local paper, the Yuma Daily Sun, which has mainly ignored my efforts in the past will be providing a link to my site as a resource in an upcoming article on domestic violence. I've also noticed a general trend away from the simple repeat of bogus statistics in the media as the month wore on.

Checke it out.

Posted by mbowen at 06:13 AM | TrackBack

November 01, 2004

Again, They Rise

My cousin's theatre company, Rising Circle, is in the news. Good reviews for good work:


Only 5 performances left! This week come celebrate DEMOCRACY with the people!!!!!'s PICK OF THE WEEK
Check out


'Pulling the Lever':The people have spoken
October 30, 2004

A rabid Republican, desperate to charge Michael Moore with treason, thrusts a leaflet at you.

You can view the entire article at

Posted by mbowen at 11:56 AM | TrackBack

Yes on 69

I'm a big fan of databases, DNA and punishing crooks. Put it all together and what do you get? A threat to civil liberties? Nah. You get positive identification of felony arrestees. That's OK with me. When it all comes down to it, I think that DNA identification is inevitable and largely a good thing. Anonymity is not protection - but I'll go into that later. (I think it's a specie of the myth of security through obscurity.)

An identity theif is arrested. How do you identify him, with a driver's license?

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