February 28, 2005

Equal Time

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Ode to Daddy Freddy

If you never heard Daddy Freddy, you missed something special. Daddy Freddy represented an alternative future for the hiphop of the early 1990s. I listen to his music today with an air of regret and resignation. We could have been here.

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Nowhere in Africa

The wife and I watched 'Nowhere in Africa' on Tivo last night. It was the story of a family of three German Jews who found their way to freedom from Nazi atocities by leaving Germany for Kenya. It portrays their adjustments to this reality as the war progresses and their child grows. There's a lot to this excellent story, but this is not a review of that film. This is a question about racial integration in America.

Over at K Street Friend and here provocative questions are raised about the success of residential integration. Questions like these:

Are many members of black America adopting the values, standards and ideals of the white middle class, and are trying to distance themselves from the black poor?

In the 1960s, federal entitlement programs, civil rights legislation, equal opportunity statutes and affirmative action programs broke the open barriers of legal segregation. The path to universities and corporations for some blacks was now wide open. More blacks than ever did what their parents only dreamed of – they fled blighted inner-city areas in droves. The new frontier, business where the dollar is made and where significant wealth and resources are at stake.

But, is there a widening rift between the black haves and the black have-nots that has been blurred by racism, ignored by blacks and hidden from white society?

Is black wealth, like white wealth, now concentrated in fewer hands?

Yes. Everyone wants to distance themselves from the black poor. Even you don't want to hang around your poor cousin. So? The answers are all yes. And while it would be interesting to engage in all of the questions presumed by the presence of these questions, we really don't have a forum for that anywhere do we? I mean I could build one in a week but I really don't have the patience (nor the budget at the moment) to do the marketing. It'll happen, don't worry.

It occurred to me yesterday while I was cleaning up the garage to find my football to go on a walk with my son, that I don't trust blackfolks who refer to whitefolks in the abstract or vice versa. If you don't have the social skills to make a lie of all the stupid stereotypes we put up with, you really are a social failure. I think a goodly number of Americans have to admit to themselves that they lack the skills to take their own personal relationships beyond the state of the races, circa 1950. That's just too bad.

Families are trying to do right by their own values. But how often are they really questioned? Sometimes living outside of your comfort zone means having to listen to other people talk about the way you raise your children. How many times have we heard about the village it takes to raise a kid? Yeah all well and good when the village of folks is just like you. But have you ever dealt with a village of strangers?

I'm going to take it personal for a hot moment. You see one of my children is a superstar. That child has always been a straight-A scholar athlete, popular leader in school. Also one of my children is a ball of absent-minded energy with a penchant for boo boo jokes. So I know what it's like as a black parent at a predominantly white school to watch other parents as they push their children to being friends or pull their children from being friends with one or another child from my family. I leave most of those matters to the spousal unit, and am not particularly sensitive to them, but I recognize the dynamic.

So what am I saying? I'm saying that I could make mountains of these molehills in self-righteous black anger. I don't because living in the predominantly white 'burbs is not the holy grail. It's just another place to live. And until more and more legions of blackfolks get over that hump, we are going to continue to hear moans in anticipation that the answer to all those questions is "Yeah, so?"

It's hard living in rural Kenya if you are a German Jewish refugee during WW2. It's not hard living in Euro-American suburbs if you are an Afro-American in 2005. So when I ask people about whether or not the legendary dysfunctions of the ghetto are worth suffering, I do so with that in mind.

One cannot deny the historical fact of the Great Migration. The South Side of Chicago is black because blacks fled north in the wake of the failure of Reconstruction. This is why the Urban League was formed. Millions of African-Americans got sick of sharecropping and left the rural South for the urban North. And today millions of African-Americans are abandoning the urban centers for the suburbs. That's the effect of the aggregate progress of thousands of families who have, one by one, made their decision to leave the old ways behind - as was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. We should expect new Urban Leagues formed in support of this new migration.

If there are any scholars out there, I would be interested to know how the politics of the new urban dwellers evolved.

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Gluckert's Hot

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A Black Summit

Something important happened this weekend. It wasn't the Oscars though, it was something called the State of the Black Union. It was moderated by Tavis Smiley, whom I thought would disappear after leaving his NPR show. It starred George Fraser, Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Lee Petersen, Jesse Jackson, Michael Eric Dyson and a host of others.

I missed it entirely.

But Deet, my brother, says there's going to be a DVD. That's good. I wonder if the bootleg of that will get around to as many black barbershops as the rest of the Hollywood hits. We'll see.

What the LA Times says of this event is that the participants seem to be split on ideological lines. This is to me, a surprise. When I had retired from the top ranks of national black campus leadership in the late 80s, our dilemma was one of class. We saw black unity failing because, although many of us were pretty much aligned on ideological grounds, we had serious problems with reconciling the needs and desires of those further ahead on the road to destiny with those straggling behind. Who could be authentically black suckling on the proper corporate, educational or government teat? Was it the Cosby kid or the Boyz from the Hood?

The idea that we would be choosing between Democrats and Republicans never occurred to us in 1988. We were still trying to get Jesse into the White House. This year Jesse Jackson sealed his own doom by saying that blacks have an agenda, precisely the one that Martin Luther King left us. Martin Luther King is dead.

Sooner or later, some explicit criticism will careen around the 'sphere on these matters. I'm a bit disappointed to take it all in second-hand. But if anything great was said, we'll see it on DVD.

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February 27, 2005

Hollywood Shuffle

"The difference between a nigger and a black man is that the nigger believes he's a nigger."

All I know at this moment is that Morgan Freeman won best supporting actor. Good on him. But I imagine that there's going to be a lot of pontificating tomorrow morning and I decided to get a few words out there first.

As I've said before, speaking on behalf of the Old School, we don't play the 'positive images' game around here. So it's not particularly interesting whether or not 'Ray' is a true black film. One of these days I'm going to check it out though. I hear it's very good. On billboards all over the city is Halle Berry. She's to star in the upcoming feature, 'Their Eyes Were Watching God'. It's an Oprah Winfrey production, and as such has all the earmarks of what I would imagine to be the perfect black on black on black film. As well, I hear that 'Diary of a Mad Black Woman' is due to hit the theatres soon, and it will be co-starring none other than the legendary Cicely Tyson. Quite frankly, I thought Cicely was dead - you see I saw some of her scenes in a special preview of Eddie Murphy's 'Life' several years ago and none of them made it to the theatres. Last time I checked 'Tuvok' had a cast role on ER, showing he survived the passing of his Star Trek role. And there are probably a dozen other examples I could give to show that blackfolks are alive and well in Hollywood.

Of course it will never be enough.

I think the sooner people realize that there is no satisfying blackfolks, they'll stop trying. And that will be a good thing. Because then blackfolks will stop thinking that everything they do is progressive and they'll start being conservative. Some of us already are, of course. When I read Cane by Jean Toomer, it hit me in a unique way. Suddenly I understood that what I needed to move forward as a human being was already done. It wasn't about what Hollywood had or had not produced for me, but what I hadn't done to deal with myself. The book had collected dust on my father's bookshelves since before I was born, and had been mentioned in a thousand anthologies, but I had not reached out and read it. My bad. Not Hollywood's.

Chris Rock is right, you know. The very idea of handing out awards for art is ridiculous. Craftsmanship? Sure. So to think of the Oscars as that makes perfect sense in that context. But the very idea that the peer recognition of professional filmmakers should resonate socially with people who have the same skin color as the recipient is an error.

It is inevitable that blackfolks will win Oscars. But they will always be different from the average black person hungry for existential validation. And here's where it gets deep.

Life keeps moving. African American life keeps moving. They are the same. But black stays still. It is a historical moment in time, the end of which is coming soon. There will soon come a day in American history when it will be clear that everything blacks promised each other and the world will come to pass and simultaneously become irrelevant. There will soon come a day when the actual Negro Problem will be forgotten. It will be renamed and redefined of course. Some minority within the minority will claim the stage and continue to shout while the overwhelming majority will have gone home. But all of the symbols and signs of struggle will seem odd, clunky and distant - like what fingers look like after a day of picking cotton. Like the adjective 'cotton-picking'.

When that day comes, the ability for people to represent black desire will be indistinguishable from their ability to represent human desire. It will be the day everyone recognizes blackfolks as humans. Today, there are lots of folks on both sides of the color line who can't, because that fixed thing that is Black, that Negro Problem, still substitutes for the actual real complexities of actual real people.

So today people can still jump up and down and claim that Nelly's videos really do set the black race back 50 years. And people can still jump up and down and claim that Condi Rice's success means goodness and light for all blackfolks. And people can claim that Morgan Freeman winning something for his work means something to black you and black me, or that Jamie Foxx stands for more than just Jamie Foxx, or Halle Berry, or Oprah or Denzel or whomever...

They don't. They're just people who are good at what they do.

I think I represent some of the best that Black Nationalism has to offer. I think I learned most all of its lessons. I'm very proud of where I come from, and I know that to be a very real Black place. I catch crap for it every Kwanzaa. Such is life. But I also know a hundred ways that Black Nationalism, Black Consciousness and Black Arts did not prepare me for the large life I have. People don't speak much about 'Black Macho & The Myth of the Superwoman' much any longer. In fact, I'd bet the name recognition ratio of Malcolm X to Michele Wallace is 100 to 1. I know the Black Nation was a Man's nation where women were allowed to have larger afros, but that's about all.

So how can I explain it other than to simply and flatly state that in a million years, no Hollywood writer is ever going to get Queen Latifah to that level? Don't expect it. All the static theories are going to come up short. All the limits of concepts and ideas and thoughts and literatures and arts are going to fail to represent life faithfully. The images simply cannot be real and perfectable. Choose one.

The Black Problem, the Negro Problem, all of those things we think we know, become outdated and passe. All the performances cannot be abstracted to symbolize anything that applies to all of us, or even most of us, nor even some of us. I say the symbolism stops pretty much at the red carpet. To be inside that room on that stage getting that award is what those lives are dedicated to. Anybody who believes much more than that is a liar or a fool or both.

If I remember correctly, Nell Carter died in her plush livingroom somewhere in Beverly Hills. It happens every day, you know. Somebody with a star on the walk of fame, or three dozen episodes to their credit, kicks the bucket. Do like I did. Take a walk at dusk in Beverly Hills. Search the eyes of the men bent over their walking sticks or the women with the small dogs and arthritis. They were somebody once - maybe she was the voice of Betty Rubble or he was the guy who came up with the slogan "Where's the Beef?". Maybe he headlined in Vegas. Maybe she was the second wife of a studio mogul. They all had their parts to play.

I know without a doubt that I'm a human being and there is nothing extraordinary about that. I also know that in three generations the entire film industry cannot and will not ever adequately describe much about the human condition. On the other hand, if I thought I was just a nigger, or just a Negro, or just Black, then I suppose there might someday come around the perfect symbol for me. I might even wait patiently for it, but life keeps moving on.

This is just too precious to not quote in its entirety.

Love Ya. Loved the Pitch. We'll Do Lunch. I'll Call. By Martin Kaplan Martin Kaplan, a former Disney executive, is associate dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and director of the Norman Lear Center (learcenter.org), which studies the effect of entertain

February 25, 2005

When you watch the Oscars on Sunday, you will see winners thanking their worst enemies, losers concealing their disgust and weasels being honored for their commitment to uplifting the human spirit. In some circles, this kind of dissembling is little more than good manners. But in Hollywood, being a good liar is a prerequisite for professional success.

Late last year, for example, Michael Eisner took the stand and testified that his former best friend, Michael Ovitz, was a liar. Ovitz testified that Eisner was a liar. Both, no doubt, were right. They didn't become two of the most powerful people in the entertainment industry by being Boy Scouts. Like showmen from P.T. Barnum to Harry Cohn, they rose by learning to bluff, bedazzle and shill.

These are venerable American skills. But Hollywood is a special case. It's not just that the entertainment industry, like other corporate sectors, is short on scruples. It's that entertainment itself is a tissue of lies.

That's why Plato banished the poet from the Republic; because poets — the pop stars of his day — get people to believe things that aren't true. Then as now, entertainers con us into thinking that illusions are reality, that dreams come true, that actors are the characters they play. They persuade us to suspend our disbelief. Show business is about talking the suckers into the tent to see that magic.

The problem is that when you lie as a matter of professional duty on a regular basis, sooner or later you lose touch with reality even on the big things.

I spent 12 years on the Disney lot, four of them as a studio executive, the rest as a feature film writer-producer. My initial training as a suit consisted of watching the masters at work. Early on, I sat in a meeting where a chieftain told a producer and a writer who'd just pitched a project: "I love this movie. Let's do it." After they left, the executive, without missing a beat, told me: "Get me out of that."

The operating principle, I learned, was never to say no to someone's face. And because both sides of the transaction assumed that rank insincerity was baseline behavior, everyone also understood that "yes" could just as easily mean "pass." No wonder Eisner told Larry King he'd rehire Ovitz in a heartbeat, even as he tried to offload him to Sony.

Everything in Hollywood is always fabulous. ("Fantastic" is Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's favorite word.) No studio executive is going to admit that the tent-pole picture on which he just spent $150 million tested miserably with preview audiences. Virtually every human interaction in the business involves marketing, salesmanship, promotion. If you say a casual "How are you?" to someone in the industry, the minimally acceptable reply is, "Excellent." I have also heard, "Perfect." And from an agent's assistant, on the phone, I once heard this: "I can't imagine how I could be any better."

Executives and producers spend their days playing God. In development meetings, they invite writers, who themselves play God, to re-imagine their scripts. "What if she doesn't die, but gets married instead?" "How about setting it in Malibu, instead of Sparta?" "Hey, what if the president uses the space shuttle as a doomsday plan to escape a nuclear war?" (actually proposed to me by one of Hollywood's most successful producers).

No suggestion by a studio executive — no matter how idiotic — is ever laughed at. As at Versailles and the Vatican, acceptable answers range from "yes" to "Why didn't I think of that?"

The illusion of omnipotence and infallibility is fostered not only by a sycophantic corporate culture but by the staggering amounts of money that people are paid. Super-agents and their clients, and super-executives and their courtiers, need never butt up against the real world's limitations. Your flowers are always fresh. Your office can look like a Cotswold cottage or the flight deck of a starship; your home can resemble a movie set or a theme park. Private jets exempt you from civilian inconvenience. Not everyone lives in a bubble as impermeable as Michael Jackson's, but we shouldn't be surprised that even minor Hollywood royalty risk confusing the exquisite sensory input they permit to reach them with the foul rag-and-bone shop of reality.

"Nobody knows anything" is how screenwriter William Goldman famously boiled down entertainment industry epistemology. Most players in town know how subjective their opinions are and how much luck goes into success. That's why accountability often means failing upward.

"If I said yes to all the pictures I said no to, and no to all the pictures I said yes to, it probably would have all turned out just the same" is a saying I've heard attributed to Eisner, as well as to half a dozen other moguls. But in Hollywood, even apocryphal tales can be true. Psychologists talk about an impostor syndrome, in which people have nightmares that they will be discovered to have no credentials for their job. In that respect, Hollywood is probably no different from politics, punditry or any other part of the infotainment economy. There's no way to credential yourself to pick hits.

If actors and actresses are simply grown-ups who are rewarded for playing and pretending, the way they did as children, then it should be no shocker that the suits who make their deals and sign their paychecks also believe in make-believe.

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Cyclotrimethylene Trinitramine

Every once in a while I wonder for a hot moment, whether or not America has lost its gonads. Then I remember that guys like me are not so rare, and that we get pot bellies because we're safe. It is not a trivial thing, our safety.

I think of my brother the cop in his righteous indignation against moonbats who say we're the bad guys. Doc is right on, and what he says is what we should know: it takes a non-trivial amount of brainwashing and/or evil intent to do really wrong.

It has been a while since I ranted about the foolishness of the militias in rebellion in Iraq. That's because we've handed them their asses for the most part. Yet and still there's a daily kaboom over that way, and it takes its macabre toll. There is no great mystery to bomb making. In fact, it's surprising just how many different ways there are to make explosive devices. It's not a wonder that there are so many IEDs going off in Iraq, the technology is not the problem. It is a wonder that people can be so wrong as to engage in anarchic destruction.

Today I've been reorganizing my files and came across 'pranks.txt'. Really hilarious stuff can be done with a bucket of liquid nitrogen, a hacksaw and a can of Barbasol. So as I was browsing through it, I found a couple formulae for stink bombs. The best one seems to take several weeks to bake, so I let loose the Google hounds to find a better one. Instead I found... well, let's just say I found some fairly obscene recipies. So I read a bunch of stuff, including how I could make C-4, the plastic explosive.

I remember the early days of the 'net when most every law enforcement agency in the country was deathly afraid of Loompanics and other anarchist cookbooks online. Anybody could get this stuff. And it's true, there are so many step by step manuals on the internet, you could arm... well an entire insurgency.

There aren't insurgencies or armed militias in the US aiming to do major damage to the republic. That is the province of the cowards whose most potent weapons are the adjectives of disgust. None of them has the courage to mix a batch of chemicals which might stain their carpets, much less the temerity explode them in a police station. So today I am giving thanks for dissent, even and perhaps especially that of ridiculous extremism. Because whatever we have over here, we have a civil society which is a great distance from turmoil.

Today in the news is the arrest of Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan al-Tikriti I am reminded how unlikely it is for some American dissident to leave the US and try to direct a militant campaign from abroad. We're doing OK here. We're doing OK.

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February 26, 2005

Don't Hate

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Pick a Subject, Any Subject

Max Gordon sounds as if he's paid by the word, and rants in about seven directions at once in his massive rambling broadside against the usual suspects. Any one of these could have been brilliant, but taken together they are, in the immortal words of Rodney Allen Rippy, "too big 'a eat".

Let's see. There's the trauma of great-grandmother's bones:

My great-grandmother was educated in rural South Carolina through the sixth grade, when racist whites burned her school to the ground. Several children were still inside. As the story is told in my family, she went back to the school and searched the ashes for the charred bones of her classmates, some of which she kept and placed on a mantle piece. My grandmother grew up with those bones as a reminder of what education means in America for a black person, what it has sometimes cost.

There's the lowly entry-level peon's-eye-view of Godless Corporation:

If you are a black employee of an American corporation and have decided to file a complaint about racism, you may be dismayed to find that the entire human resources department is black (with the exception of one white supervisor). Having to face this black army you are immediately disarmed. To have to tell a black face, with your black face, that you've been passed over for a promotion or raise, or that you're underpaid and you think it is because of your race, seems more than a little odd.

There's some Queen Latifa:

What I want to shield the child from is not sex-talk or naked bodies; it's the contempt the movie has for her, for humanity. It's never the sex in pornography that eats away at us, nor is it just the sexual contact of incest that ultimately destroys; it's the cynicism, the overwhelming psychological burden of despair that an adult pours into a child's body and mind.

How is that about Queen Latifa, you ask? Unfair question. Meanwhile, Max takes us to some Affirmative Action in what must be the longest single sentence this side of the Nuyorican Reverse Poetry Slam:

However, for the working-class black student who may come from a community with inferior schools, inadequate money for materials and no advanced placement classes; whose relatives have taken out loans to get her a place to live on campus; who has to barter at the financial-aid department, filling out scholarship applications and concentrating this year on how she's going to pay for next year; who feels isolated on a predominantly white college campus and has to guard herself against the potential racist epithet uttered by the white person on her dormitory hall, or by her professor under the guise of "intellectual discourse"; who wants to stay in bed all semester, overwhelmed with the anxiety of trying to prove to herself and everyone else that she is there because of her achievements and not a number; by the time this student sits in a classroom at an American university, believe me, she's earned it.

Then Death Row (not thankfully not Suge Knight's Death Row):

In his Atlantic Monthly article of July 2003, Alan Berlow described how Alberto Gonzales, legal counsel to then Texas Governor Bush, helped in deciding the fate of prisoners on death row. (It is estimated by the ACLU that of the more than 2,000 people on "death row" virtually all are poor, a significant number are mentally retarded or otherwise mentally disabled, and more than 40 percent are African American, a disproportionate number Native American, Latino, or Asian.)

OK you get the picture. Or maybe you don't. Somebody needs to focus. Slow down. Chew your food, Max. You have a whole blog to get your points out. Try pieces that lend themselves to critical dissection because right now they're falling apart under their own weight. You can't go from Alabama to World Peace in 11 paragraphs, which is about as long as this monstrosity about Condoleeza Rice(!) made sense.

I paid attention because Professor Kim did. Then again she has the saintly patience that has to grade bad papers. Me, I hope that Max stays around long enough for me to play rope-a-dope Ali to his firebreathing (and ugly) George Foreman.

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Pick a Ho, Any Ho

Since I have a bad attitude, and I'm going to try to maintain this bad attitude for a while to see what it yeilds creatively, I've decided to let you know how little I care about HIV and AIDS.

Still, it hit my usual prohibitions when my knee jerked at some factoid about HIV and African Americans. My gut reaction was, I don't have HIV and I don't even *know* anybody with HIV, so why do I care about HIV? The fact is that I don't. I don't think about HIV, hell I don't even think about sex. How do you think I get so much blogging done?

Sooner or later I'll need to see a number however. In the case of HIV alarm, P6 has provided the number I needed to see.

In the 2001 survey, out of about 5,500 people examined, 32 were HIV-positive. Of that group, 23 were African American. The overall prevalence of HIV was 0.43 percent, up slightly from 0.33 percent a decade earlier.

On the one hand, that's a disturbingly high rate for a deadly illness, regardless of the selection criteria used to decide who to ask. On the other hand, 32 infections out of 5,500 people means it's not too late for you to be safe.

Also, "18 to 59" is a pretty broad swath. In this age of focus group marketing I can't think of a demographic defined that broadly. There's a a finer tuned result in the middle of the article.

It's not disturbingly high, unless you're one of those people who are easily disturbed. Considering the disturbingly high number of juvenile delinquent black auto theives who try to run over cops at 4 in the morning who get shot in the head by the LAPD, maybe HIV infection is distrubingly high. I don't know why such sensitive people aren't disturbed by needle-sharing butt buddies, but then again what do I know?

Now there are a lot of details to be aware of in the P6 article and commentary, which is why I cite it. The pleasant thing about being an ass is that you can be an intelligent ass. And so as an intelligent ass, I am privileged to make jokes about serious material (stay tuned for more cartoons).

If I went to meatmarket bars every weekend for a three months, that would put me in contact with about 5500 packages of potential meat product. Out of those 5500 about 32 would be HIV positive. I think I can pick the hos out of that bunch. What guarantee would I have that they weren't the dirty two and two/thirds dozen? Not much, but the odds are pretty good in my favor. Aren't syphillus and gonnorhea more prevalent than HIV anyway? Well that's a damned hard question to answer because the paperpushers at the CDC have decided against a Fisher-Price interface for us layfolks. Somebody show me were HIV/AIDS morbitity stats are published in the same damned table with other STDs and you get a medal from me. Fricken hype and hysteria.

Just scanning this monstrosity was enough to send my brain into siezures. It's enough to make you think that thetruth.com is probably not such a bad idea after all.

Aldous Huxley said an intellectual is somebody who has found something more interesting than sex. Athough I doubt that he meant football, he was certainly onto something. In the meantime, I think Nancy Reagan said it best. On the other hand, let's ask ourselves some interestingly provocative questions about our friend the bling rapper. Do rappers have HIV? On the other hand, let's not go there.

What's the bottom line? Getting information in context about HIV from the CDC is a lot more difficult than keeping your pants on. Unless you're a ho.

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February 25, 2005


Shasta McNasty goes racial. I'm going racial so let's all go racial. It's all about the moral posturing of reading controversial books in public. Lot's of fun, especially if you look like either Alistaire Cook or Dr. Dre.

But seriously, I thought the issue of white identity was generally accepted and understood, and since I just posted about that, I figure that I would bring forth some more from the archives.

I contend that the most telling aspect of racism latent and present in American life is existence of what I call white citizenship. The problem is that many Americans may strive for it without giving it much thought. it probably will take a bit of doing for one to recognize this concept because white citizenship is, for the most part, considered to be neutral and the default of the American mainstream. To be able to remove what is actually racial and cultural from the concept of citizenship, we become better citizens. Constitutionally, our citizenship should have nothing to do with our race or creed.

I must admit that I have had some difficulty in formulating this argument for presentation. It seems overly harsh to say that Americans who consider themselves 'white' might be 'natural' candidates for racist ideas. Yet what, if anything, must the purported neutrality of whiteness entail which is racist? Why indeed would anyone call themselves 'white'? White as compared to what?

My own interest goes beyond some shallow vilification of the term 'white', although I believe that to be a good pedagogical device. African Americans have certainly had to wrestle with the idea of being 'Negro' or 'colored' or 'black' even in the complete absence of racial discrimination. This is part and parcel of our being. For the sake of slavery in which none of us alive has taken part we African Americans deal with that question of identity. That living white folk too, have had no participation in that institution should not exempt them from self-examination. But beyond that, I am curious to know what if any influence can be made on people who consider themselves white which works in racist ways.

In short, how are ordinary white folks who have no pathological reason to be racist, taken in by racist appeals to their identity as Americans? In doing so, I am not suggesting that there is some mysterious force visible only to the proper race man which stealthily infects only white people, but I point to racist appeals we have all seen work, such as the Willie Horton ad crafted by lee Atwater and the presidential campaign of David Duke.

M. Bowen, 1996

BTW, I can remember that BTD Steve was a bit upset with me for not going racial about 18 months ago. Some time since then I've decided that it is better not to pre-determine whether not you are going to comment on something racial or not. Just go when the conversation goes.

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Racial Identity vs Racial Consciousness

(from the boohabian archives)

June 1996
Boohabian Provocation:
disempersoned ideas! humbug!

someone asked about the observations of those to whom race is a non-issue.

on this question, i make the general assertion that in a racist society, colorblindness is the moral equivalent of racism. if a judge declares integration the rule of law and all the white kids leave the city school, it is immoral to say 'all i see are children going to private school'. but even in situations which are not so drastic, the specificity of racial consciousness must be considered.

one's own individual experience does not take place in a vacuum. to 'objectify' one's experience is to deny individuality. to disembody experience is to dehumanize. if i say 'i am x and i feel this way', to create a forum in which x cannot be discussed is to take away a part of an individual's weight. it also cheats from the observers point of view. if an observer only hears 'i feel this way' and has no experience with an individual who claims to be 'x', the observer can deny the fact that being 'x' can lead to that feeling.

fill in the blanks. i pursued a phD in engineering because when i was 15 and black in highschool, my white counselor told me that black folks can't do engineering. so every time i hear 'black folks can't do engineering' i know that somewhere people who don't want to hear about blackness are denying black individuals who are enigneers to say 'im black and im proud and that's why i am an engineer'.

sure you can say that race is a non issue regarding what an engineer does, but in effect you are using the passive voice. it's like saying 'the hoover dam got built' without a whit spoken about *who* built it or why. 'the civil rights bill passed', 'the revolutionary war was fought', 'some churches burned', 'shit happens'...

hmph again i say.

how is it that when we shed race and gender we become pure? what a farce! this experiment of pure revelation has already been done. it's a failure in general and has grave consequences for civil society.

you can take note of my black identity in cmc page and take special note of heidegger's observation in the 'it could happen' section.


I find it interesting that you can make the argument that one's racial consciousness is somehow intrinsic to one's identity, while this Jamaican fellow i know (and an awful lot of Indian people, African people, and Muslims i've met) of the same "race" laughs at your suggestions. Seems to me that there are an awful lot of people in the world (even with the same color of skin as you) who consider "race" to be nothing more than an exotic quality. For them, "race" is primarily an aesthetic issue -- except when they hafta deal with racists.

I find your idea that "racial identity" is somehow intrinsic to one's character insulting. Furthermore, it is "racist" (in the sense that "racist" simply means "one who believes in/supports the ideology of 'race'). I am not a racist, and i think those who are are silly, dangerous people. I have a father who is French/Amerindian, and a mother who's English/Scottish. What am i?

Who are you to tell me?

Noone has ever suggested that with the shedding of race and gender one becomes "pure." The suggestion has been made, however, that perhaps the idea of eliminating the names from these posts would be an interesting experiment. I agree. Not because it would negate anyone's sex/gender -- all would still be free to say, "i am a black american, and my experience here is...." Rather, it would eliminate the ego that goes with seeing one's name in print, while making distinctions between who is saying what unclear. Thus a conversation could be carried by four different entries, four different people, but still give the illusion of a "dialogue." It would be an attempt to see a sequential process of thought be supported through vastly separated, different minds.

I totally agree with your second paragraph. It has, however, no bearing on this conversation. The only way i know that you're a "black" man is because you say so. And noone has ever suggested that we take that power away from you.

Boohabian Followup Answer & Snark:
well, i am not saying what i think you are saying that i'm saying. but let me say it in another more basic way.

first of all, if you read any of my background material, you would see clearly that i beleive there is no essential character to any racial identity - that racial identity is a social construct. i have a racial identity because there are laws and social customs in this country which said i must. into that identity are poured any number of ideas which are mine to accept or reject. i am conscious of that racial identity and in order not to be subsumed by any negative or positive idea associated with that racial identity, i must make individual choices. my racial consciousness means i know that i am african-american as society and law dictate. my individuality has to do with what i do about that, in the face of those societal and legal definitions.

as a white american, you must do the same thing. as an asian american you must do the same thing. americans have racial identities, period. americans have racial identities whether or not those identities are positive, whether or not they are accepted as face value, whether or not they are scientifically proveable, and whether or not they believe it. that is nothing more or less than a description of the racialist nature of american society. race exists.

most adults are conscious of their racial identity. just as they are conscious of their gender identity. but i'll leave all analogies there, because i am speaking specifically about race.

now, you claim that i imply that racial identity is intrinsic to one's identity. if i do imply that, it is only to the extent that racial identity is a given to be dealt with and as a result one's individuality can be discerned. what i am not saying is that one *is* of necessity what one's racial identity connotes. a person who takes a look at his skin and seeks to fulfill a role presented in strictly racial terms, is making an individual choice to be that thing. a weak choice, but an important choice nonetheless. but hear me out. nobody has *no* choice. american society always has a racial bucket for you and no-one is excused.

let me put it in other elementary terms. king said one should be judged by the content of one's character and not by the color of one's skin. without deconstructing that too much, you can see how it implies that the color of one's skin can substitute for a character judgement. it also means that how one decides to deal with the fact that they may be judged by the color of their skin has a direct bearing on the content of their character, and that applies to all americans. so i say again. one's own individual experience does not take place in a vacuum.

now exactly what does this have to do with jamaicans, and who are you to compare them with me?

your simple definition of 'racist' is in error. let me correct you. with the following pointer.

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I Don't Care About You

This is the essay where I express my frustration at your inability to understand me, and my willingness to abstract that what I know to be true for the sake of the public good. In so doing, I will wrap up three itches in my head, although it probably won't buck up my spirits.

First of all, there's the abject cynicism of my compadres over at Vision Circle. I was going to try to be serious about the Black Progress Net:

Many years ago I read 'The Black Power Imperative' by Theodore Cross. This was the book that single-handedly proved to me that there remained a great deal of work to do in continuing the progress and reform brought about by the Civil Rights Movement. That imperative, of real representation and political power, became my imperative.

And make the distinction between those who publish books and those like me who read 'em and critique 'em. Point being I'm never going to try to be a paid policy wonk or policy analyst. Leave it to the professionals.

Then I read Lynn Johnson's resume and realized that she and George will be doing all the black thangs at SXSW. I don't get to represent. So I'm never going to fly around the nation speaking on panels with journalists about all this yada either.

This morning I read Faye Anderson with despair. Niger Innis and Jesse Lee Petersen? Yike. I know this isn't the best that conservative blacks can do.

I know where I am. I am in the bubble ahead of things. My mind and my brain run too fast, and I'm never going to slow down long enough and write enough non-caustic syllables to profit from what I know. It's inevitable, I think, that I am destined to be alone with my keyboard.

In 1993 I spoke out at Harvard and watched the stars of black academia shrug off the entire internet. And I had bothered to wear my email address on a backwards baseball cap, because as anyone who knew could see, that was the coolest of all possible worlds.

For the next week or so I'm going to be digging up stuff from the archives, because at this particular moment, the past is more interesting than the present, and the present just doesn't seem worth the effort of seriousness. That means the cartoons are about to jump off. But I don't care.

I just don't care.

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February 24, 2005


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The End Of My Blackness: 1997

(from the archives)

every four years or so, i pierce a barrier and find that i am no longer the black man i was that many years ago. the existential issues that i found most pressing then, at the moment of clarity, have been resolved.

the good side is that this end has always signalled a demonstrative progress. secondly, i have always discovered a new way of being black that fits me more comfortably. the bad side is that it always presents a new set of problems, and i often grow weary of the 'black' discussions i have had over the previous period.

i have not yet reached the end of my current period, but it's coming shortly. it is signalled by my imminent return to los angeles, the publication of 'critical white studies' shown in the link, the denoument of 209, the waning of bandwidth in webchat in my favorite racial fora, the relative completion of 'boohabs factotum', and my periodic readings of the norton anthology of african american literature.

on that last note, i have found myself utterly stymied by the phraseology and syntax of the brer rabbit stories. written in the o.g. dialect, it is almost as foreign to me as the faerie queen and the canterbury tales. i try to read it to my (light skin, good haired) children, and i feel foolish. i call them the 'old time stories', and try my best uncle remus accent. we all end up confused, me as i stumble over the text trying to make sense of the original meaning, and translating it into pre-school english, they as they try to reconcile this different storytime voice. at least it's about a rabbit, sorta.

along with the compilation by delgado & stefanic, i recently purchased massey and denton's 'american apartheid'. i gather it will give me all the beef behind my own 'originated' theory which i based on a snippet here and there. i have been arguing for the past 5 black years that the single most unifying thing black people have is geography, and that essentially all black dysfunction stems from the ills of living in ghettoes - that our human and civil rights battles are mostly won and what we need most is to actually move to the level playing field. that without white boogie men in our heads, triumph is inevitable, as long as we are living next door to the (white) competition. unfortunately 80% of us ain't residentially integrated, and so we are mired in unique battles that outsiders do not comprehend. massey and denton have the specs.

the last political sea changes of any note were the stacking of the supreme court by reagan, and before that the failure of the rainbow coalition. 209 by comparison is actually less severe, but more indicative of the kind of dismissal 'we' can expect in the future. it portends, in my view, the death of subtle politics, and the political meaninglessness of black middle class struggles in the eyes of the political majority. the black part of me which was dedicated to being engaged as a political progressive is ended. i am resigned to my own elitist understanding - let others negotiate. combined with my reading of nathan glazer's latest, and the relative silence greeting his well reasoned refutation of his earlier rejection of affirmative action, i will be content to be even more hardnosed. the public is wrong, the public be damned.

all this leaves some question as to the fate of my website, which never actually got the attention i thought it deserved. maybe it was the lower case, but i'm not certain that i have the will to continue building 'the race man's home companion'. its biggest dilemma, the question of whiteness, has be adequately answered. i know where self-identified whitefolks are coming from, for the most part, and i know how far they have to come in order to make the kind of political impact the home companion sought to aid. i think ignatiev is appropriately radical and anything short of that will be ineffective (as is glazer). as for the rest of the factotum - well, now it's just something to do.

at this end, i am walking through bookstores and record shops not quite sure what i want to buy. i'm sick of my previous tastes. despite the fact that i am who i am - irrevocably a gut-level cultural nationalist who grew up in the roughest black neighborhood that still could be called lower middle class - i don't care about what all of that has meant thus far.

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Upon Reading The Recently Released Writings of Dr. King

(from the archives)
19970627.1805 – OKC to ATL

“Upon Reading The Recently Released Writings of Dr. King”
postmoderen, post-soul reflections written at 32 thousand feet.

In 2014, it will have been 50 years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act and as I reflect on the release of Hong Kong and the fall of the Raj in 1997 I am curious about what will be asked. Today I am not certain I am asked to do anything more than vent – my feeling in the long understood of and devalued currency of Black Rage is what all expect to hear. I am tired of that dialog.

I am like many a gangsta rapper – my allegiances to the dollar and my own power echoes in the vacuum of slain forefathers. Nothing is above mockery, in silence stand sentinels of order. I find in their quiet dignity only the simplicity and humility of those overwhelmed. I keep trying to jump – like a prophetic frog sitting in slowly boiling water. I don’t want to want to suffocate blindly, yet I don’t know what really lies beyond. So we are jumping and shouting half-afraid and half longing to be slapped into a place we know we don’t belong. Is this self-destructive? I don’t know.

The problem with living for affluence in America is that you struggle for privilege and prominence amongst those who struggle for survival. Yet survival is so easy here – no one lives in fear of dysentery or starvation of malaria – that survivors are easily dismissed. Everyone’s suffering seems equally shallow – no one is oppressed, merely disadvantaged, disillusioned and socially dysfunctional. Yet if there are those who truly suffer, they are so out of reach – so far from our striving arena that their very existence is mythology. We conjure up the spirits of carjackers and rapists and embody them into the faces of those who are sufficiently distant. Our voodoo consciousness is so pervasive that none seem content to simply rob passersby for supper money. Crimes are outsized, spectacular and deranged. The disadvantaged watch television dramas written by paranoid millionaires, take lessons and plot.

So there often seems no morality clear enough to grasp and shepherd the suppressed and oppressed – its all varying degrees of the same ethics of white collar crime. Smart greed and danger and brutality are the signifiers of poverty.

In this uncivil society what are Civil Rights for? When all politics are bought and paid for, what is the purpose of free speech? I sometimes believe that our nation is too large for movements – the airwaves too full of mixed signals to maintain any significant message for any significant group. So when they ask me in 17 years, my story will sound nothing like anyone else’s I fear. I will have become a disembodied individual, subject to the same dissonance and greed as everyone else.

Many people predict that great crises await. Something might come that humbles us to our roots or the even our own love of ourselves will destroy the mesh between us. But I wonder what that great mesh is, what is citizenship today? What indeed is holding our country together? Mortgages? Families? Employment? Religion? I think it is familiarity. We are held together by McDonalds, Sears, good roads and television networks, by interstate commerce and the ubiquity of mid-western English. We just happened to be a Christian country but we are not called to be Christian in the next state – we are called to produce a major credit card – then we may pass. It is not the content of our character but the flashing blue LEDs which say ‘approved’. If a crisis is to be, a great number of computer networks and trucking routes must fail. I can’t recall a day in my life when the sun didn’t rise or some TV somewhere didn’t draw the waves. It would take sabotage, and who would dare? Who could?

In small cities across our nation, there are suburban conveniences and infrastructure which are all too often awe inspiring. How they are run is a secret – somehow we have the world’s best hospitals and cellular phone system. This is the land of the idiot proof, plus we get free coupons. A lifetime of transactions have already been specified. All we need do is prepare to make selections and it feels like freedom. Ask any American about their freedom and they will tell you 1000 things already dreamt 300 years ago. We have no idea how free we are not, and who is to show us any better? Dayton, Ohio is a town for Bosnian Summitry.

Civil Rights may well have been inevitable. Perhaps they were. Back in the old days before ATM networks and KISS FM, some people were isolated enough to conceive of a different type of freedom, and others were provincial enough to deny it. Maybe it was easier in those times to get enough of a good original idea together it would fall into minds with less crowded bandwidth, find root and bear fruit. And so barriers were broken because human spirits grasped something deeply needed and deeply personal. We have been sighing ever since.

I have imagined an historical imperative to move forward based on the wisdom of that age, and yesterday for the first time I saw a book filled with the writings of the man of two who has symbolized all that great turning point has meant. In those words perhaps I will grasp that original spirit and reconsider what freedoms are yet to be, what networks are yet to be built over which a more authentic traffic might be carried.

We have lived, year after year with rebroadcast visions and snippets of dreamy rhetoric. And we have lived in a cynical world of privilege, contempt, deceit and bombast. If I can discover what moved one million or a bus full in the direction of greater civility and freedom then perhaps when I answer that question I may answer with and unexpectedly inspiring voice. We all need inspiration, desperately. By rights we deserve that.

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February 23, 2005

Everything Worth Having

'Everything worth having' is a snappy answer to the stupid question 'What do black people want?'.

In thinking about the role of black public intellectuals and female public intellectuals, I have to ask how much time they spend lambasting 'the opposition'. Call me sheltered but I am convinced of the essential beauty of creation, and I mean man's creation. To paraphrase Devo, it's a beautiful world we live in. And I know the kick line to that is 'for you, but not for me'. The question is whether we use our skills to move in or burn down the house.

But sometimes the question is not so stupid. And as I look towards discussion and debate over Estrich v Kinsey and the black left vs the black right, I want to keep that in mind. I admire people who challenge for the crown, but not those who say the castle is irredeemable, especially those who cannot build their own when there are still plenty rocks around.

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The European

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Hunter S. Thompson, Eclexia & The Alternative Mainstream

I hate suicides and lushes. So a suicidal lush gets no props from me. I also have no experience whatsoever with Hunter S. Thompson's actual work. All I knew yesterday is that one of the Doonesbury characters (which I don't read) is supposed to be vaguely based on this guy. He was certainly influential.

I am given to believe that people in search of alternate realities are generally desparate. Of course I was educated in the sciences, I have to believe that. Still, no desparation speaks louder than that of extreme excess. A supernal desire to blot out reality says to me, 'I don't know how to get my life to make sense given what I see'. That's an understandable problem, which is why there are 500 religions in the world. The religion of drug abuse, I reckon, has its global devotees. And so they've lost a prophet of rage. But what have we lost? What has humanity lost? Someone who dealt with reality? Are we so convinced by the fact that he wrote non-fiction?

In reading much of what people had to say about Thompson, I sense an anti-authoritarian resonance. Hunter S. Thompson is the man everybody wanted Michael Moore to be. Most are convinced he had actual genius and sustained his inspiration long enough to be considered one. I think rather that he was a creature of his day and marked its boundaries by his extremity. In admiring Thompson, like admiring Leroy Neiman, we are admitting to loving a moment in time. A crazy time.

Back in 1978, when I was a freshman at USC, I was transfixed by the cryptic language of the Reader, LA's original alternative weekly. I'm sure that was the psychedelic reality of gonzo.

What was a secret was that I wanted to live in 'The Swamp' which was filled to the brim with wise-cracking, subversive, geeky whiteboys. In 1978 I registered to vote and later cast my ballot for John Anderson. I was only 17 but the student who registered me said it didn't matter, nobody ever checked other than him. What was most fascinating to me were the classified and political sections of the L.A. Reader. It was the most cantankerous thing I had ever read. Here was a newspaper with curse words and rambling cryptic messages in the back pages, rants against the system, my great introduction to the world of snark. I wanted to be in there. I wanted to play Moog synthesizers, program computers and repair pinball machines. I wanted to figure out a way to hack the timesharing system.

Being charitable, I recognize that there are few temptations as appealing as having the power to invert somebody's world. To generate the act which is so perverse and mind-altering that some individual or group is forever marked. What could be more gratifying than conversion, to seduce the meek beauty, to decorate the soldier's gun with flowers, to show with implacable logic and inimitable style that the core beliefs of your opponent are dead wrong and stop them in their tracks. These are the head swelling rewards of conversion and it must be that which lies at the heart of the devotees of the alternative.

Witness Charles Monroe-Kane. His is the story of an impetuous youth determined to pull off a moral stunt.

I have struggled mightily over the past several months to find something upon which to hang my thoughts about the 'alternative mainstream' and this must be it. It explains the the sin of Eclexia. I think I have broken through, excuse me while I absorb the import.

It's ironic and perhaps only appropriate that taking seriously someone I was bound to disrespect cued up this insight.

Part One: The Sin of Eclexia

"A little bit of everything adds up to a whole lot of nothing."
-- Cobb's Rule #1

There is probably no such word as 'eclexia', I just made it up, but the sin is real. It is the fatal attraction to novelty and change. It is the mindless sacrifice of tradition at the alter of the new. It is the inability to find satisfaction in the settled.

Eclexia is characterized by a restless antipathy to the established and an overweening desire to get away from it. The eclexic is eclectic to a fault. Their fatal flaw is that once the novelty of the thing has worn off, once it becomes established, their interest and respect fades rapidly.

Eclexia is a sin because it is fundamentally disrespectful of the efforts made by people who bother to study something specific. It acts against collaboration in solving standing problems. It refuses to focus. Thus the eclexic requires some outre personality which allows him to eschew the 'mundane' tasks that are faced by all of us. In that regard, eclexics are dependent on an established alternative subculture - something that allows them to easily be understood as 'cutting edge' or 'radical' even if they are not talented or committed in any way.

Part Two: The Alternative Mainstream
I don't believe that the world operates singularly in zero sum terms, but that a cultural win-win is possible. Still there is a certain cost to alternative culture which isn't countercultural. It's the cost of dissonance.

I'm trying to guage what is transient about American culture. It has to do with my conservatism and also with a better understanding of class. It's particularly compelling for me to gain this understanding since I expect to be doing a bit of business with some Chinese folks.

I am convinced more than ever that society advances through adherence and conflict. At all levels there are power struggles - people follow their desires and adhere to what gets them what they want. But of course a lot of people opt out. Some opt out loudly. This loud dissent is sometimes the very stuff of which progress is born, but sometimes it's simply noise. We have so many competing versions of what happened in the 60s that it's often difficult to distinguish between the useful dissent and simply dropping out.

But we have survived all of that era intact and a great deal wealthier. The alternative has become substantial. Today you could be a billion dollar business selling music and clothes for tongue pierced youth. The alternative is established. The good news is that the social pressure towards conformity has dropped below the suppressive, although I'd rather not be queer. The bad news is that we must often share the social stage with people whose lifestyle, indeed their lives, make no sense.

Eclexics and noisy alternatives often mistake their differences for sentient dissent. Indeed we even have a 'politics of difference' as if such a thing were consistently ethical. While I'm not certain Hunter S. Thompson was a creature existentially tied to such madness, he certainly seems to have inspired those who are to devotion.

I have just been arguing that the good thing about the blogosphere is that it can serve to counteract the cults of personality surrounding broadcast media stars in the category of 'news'. What was Thompson but a media personality who 'reported' the facts?

Thompson belonged on the fringe, in the alternative scene, and was part of the movement of the 70s that altered the landscape of pop culture. Now that we have an alternative culture in the US that is at least as big as Catholicism, it seems appropriate to honor the Gonzo. It's part of our correctness.


I take a small bit of comfort in knowing that eclexics will bore of Thompson reverence within a week.

GVDL, ever mature, demonstrates his ability to repel the hordes.

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When Cosby Becomes Farrakhan

I think if I hear another word about Bill Cosby, I'm going to projectile vomit green spew like some animated monster on Aqua Teen Hunger Force. He has become encrusted into the Fungibles like the curls of George Washington's Rushmore rock locks. Everywhere you go, you cannot talk about black anything without the interminable conflict raising it's ugly empty head: Cosby vs 'Real'.

What has happened here? The same thing that always happens. Americans have locked on to a proxy exactly in tune with the Isbell Theory. There are no black leaders, so we invent them so as to better understand those faceless nameless masses, and place them into the appropriate compartment.

We Americans are so good at doing this because too much of our culture is pop culture, and hardly anyone recognizes the power of organic traditions any longer. We think that there's a spokesmodel for our every value. So that's what Cosby has become over the past year, the Bill Bennett of his day, a pop representation of a set of values. The problem is that it becomes all about Cosby and whether he's a worthy character, rather than whether what he is contributing to the ongoing dialog will stand the test of time.

It's still to early to tell if Cosby will continue to respond and engage in such a way that minimizes the damage. The more he talks, the more he's going to distinguish himself from others who address the subjects. However if he goes on tour and its his new version of the Cosby Show, then he will be no different than Farrakhan. Cosby must share the stage and take his knocks. We've got to see Cosby vs Michael Eric Dyson and Cosby vs Abagail Thernstrom and Cosby vs JC Watts and Cosby vs Oprah for him to merit the oxygen he's sucking out of the atmosphere.

It's not a bad thing that Cosby is too large to ignore, but can we have some context please?

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February 22, 2005

Gone Zo

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Hard To Get

Your Seduction Style: The Coquette
You are a pro at playing the age old game of hard to get. Your flirting style runs hot and cold, giving just enough to keep them chasing you. Independent and self-sufficient, you don't need any one person to make you compelte. And that independence is exactly what makes people pursue you.
What Is Your Seduction Style?
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A Weird Mood

I'm in a weird funky mood right about now. I know exactly what's bothering me but I really can't talk about it. It has an aspect of if I coulda woulda shoulda, but it's really not my fault. Sounds obscure? Yeah. Well I'll tell you later. It's huge.

Secondly, I'm really pissed with iTunes because it's not smart enough to review all of the tunes in the library and see if they really exist on the disk. That's no so bad; the bigger problem is that I lost so much music in my disk crash. Now all those stupid exclamation points are a sick reminder.

What else? Actually I positively love this extreme weather. I stopped yesterday morning on the way to the office at some cement tributary on the border of Cerritos. It was a big chocolate rush of muddy water. I am enchanted by rivers in ways I can't explain. I think I'll go out today and look.

Doc is going to Brazil next week for a month. Must be nice. I'll try to get him to write a bunch about it.

I've got SMS spam on my cellphone.

I can't get Darwin to boot on my old Red Hat machine. I want to roll with OS X but I can't afford a Mac Mini right now. So for the moment I've got an old copy of Mandrake (9.2) on it. I like Mandrake better than Red Hat. It's working for me. What I really want out of this is a secure machine and to start learning Kerberos and LDAP, so the next step is to get GPG working. Which brings up the annoying question: Is PGP hacked?

The rain has my kids inside. They're driving me nuts. Do other parents play with their children? I mean how much playing are kids supposed to do anyway? I'm an order of magnitude closer to my kids than my parents were to me. Rain rain go a friken way.

What else is on my nerves? There's nothing in the blogosphere worth writing about today. I'm over on the technical side, doing a lot of commenting over at Slashdot, and with my old private online community.


Oh, and one more thing, if Hunter S. Thompson was so friken important, than we would all immediately know the blogger that most resembles him. I think him killing himself showed exactly... I'm uncharitable about this guy. BFD.

And another thing, I was really feeling angry last night and I found that it really destroyed my virtual killing. I think this the first time where I really desired to hurt people by shooting their avatars in Halo2 to take out my real world frustrations. It absolutely destroyed my game, I dropped rank.

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Affirmative Action

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February 21, 2005


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February 20, 2005

Back v Reeves

"The ability for a straw to break a camel's back always depends upon how much baggage that camel is already carrying."
-- Michael Bowen

Ed Brown has raised an interesting question over at Vision Circle. It arises over the question of Michael Steele's ability and willingness to deal with a controversy that arose several years ago in the California Republican Party. Apparently one cat named Bill Back offended a cat named Shannon Reeves. Back's white, Reeves is black. Back was provocative, Reeves was offended. Therefore the legitimacy of black Republicans is suspect.

I have a problem with this controversy for a number of reasons, primarily over the proxy given one white voice to speak for whitefolks and one black voice for blackfolks. If the controversy is to be believed, the disagreement between Back and Reeves is and should set the tone for blacks and whites over the fate of the Republican Party. I think this is exactly what leftists say when they say 'the personal is political', it is the hearty investment in identity politics. The fact is, there is no issue.

I have come to discover that Reeves and Back were bucking for the same office in the party, and I am content to leave the spitting match at that level. But I remain a bit upset for such boogabears to disrupt the ambitions of others. In otherwords, this is nasty campaigning and infighting masquerading as racial politics. Or maybe that's all racial politics is. Who knows? All I can see is a wiffle bat war that makes a lot of noise and slander. You'd think something was actually at stake.

When I asked for the document over at Vision Circle, I had no idea that such a tiny bit of empty-headed speculation would support such a vitriolic hodload of innuendo, but let me allow you to be the judge. Here is the original and opening paragraph of 'What if the South Won the Civil War?' by William S. Lind, the document quoted by Bill Back.

If the South had won the Civil War, where might our two countries be today? It is of course impossible to know, and as someone who proudly wears his great-grandfather's G.A.R. ring-he served in the 88th and 177th Ohio Volunteers, and his diary records the monitors bombarding Fort Fisher as he watched from a Union transport-I'm not entirely comfortable asking the question. But given how bad things have gotten in the old U.S.A., it's not hard to believe that history might have taken a better turn. Slavery of course would be long gone, for economic reasons. Race relations today in the Old South, in rural areas and cities such as Charleston, South Carolina, are generally better than they are in northern cities, so we might have done all right on that score. When southerners say they have a special relationship with blacks based on many generations of living together at close quarters, they have a point. The real damage to race relations in the south came not from slavery, but from Reconstruction, which would not have occurred if the South had won. And since the North would have been a separate nation, the vast black migration to northern cities that took place during World War II might not have happened.

Now here is the opening paragraph of Shannon Reeves' open letter to the California Republicans:

Dear Colleagues: As many of us have learned in recent media reports, Vice Chairman Bill Back distributed an article entitled, ''What if the South had Won the Civil War?'' -- an article that concludes that problems with race relations in America are the result of slaves being freed through Reconstruction, and black migration out of the south as a result of desegregation. This article trivialized slavery and it trivialized the impacts of slavery on my ancestors and people of African decent. The notion that this country would be better off if my ancestors had remained enslaved, and considered less than whole people, is personally offensive, abhorrent, and vile.

It may be clear to Reeves that Lind and Back are both neo-confederates, but this is not clear to me. Whereas Reeves goes on in his letter specifically to the heart of race-relations and its attendant symbols, Lind goes on to talk about Federalism, WW2, "Western culture, Christianity and an appreciation of the differences between ladies and gentlemen." which is a hell of a lot of speculation for 525 words in 5 paragraphs.

I don't really have any questions. Somebody might link Lind's paltry speculation to some more thoughtful expression which reflect honest to goodness Neo-Confederate thought. Somebody might show how Back really only wanted the racial aspect of Lind's writing to be his message - the upshot of which is that the most threatening aspect of Reconstruction - black economic independence and political enfranchisement is what Back hates. But I doubt anybody cares that much. If they do, then they should go a few yards further than I do here. But my conclusion was that both players played a race card.

Who won? Well, that really depends on whose sensitivities are shared the widest. But this was assymetrical war to begin with. I mean Back could have done a whole lot better if he wanted to use racial code words - it could have been somebody black people have heard about, but who the hell is William S. Lind? That's why I tend to believe that Reeves played himself. Nevertheless, if Back was trying to be as subtle as possible in goading Reeves to explode, he's a cunning master of the new racism..

I've been a Republican in California for almost two years, and while I've met a few party officials and activists, I've not met either Reeves nor Back. I'm not that deeply connected. Who knows how deep this emnity goes? Certainly not me. What I do know is that this war of words is a distraction. I'm inclined to give both parties in this dispute the benefit of the doubt with one important understanding. If it is true that Back v Reeves is all about the party's real feelings about race then what's true of one is true of the other: both Reeves and Back are window dressing.

My advice to Michael Steele? Don't ever utter their names.


Shannon Reeves is a man. Shows what I know. (Corrections made to prior text).

See Also:

  • Baldilocks

    Posted by mbowen at 12:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
  • Ekranoplanes

    The kids are soaking an unusual amount of Japanimation today. I notice that one called DICE featured a futuristic flying boat. Hey, wait a minute, I've seen that before. It's an ekranoplane. I'd love to see one of these badboys built, get the coast guard a couple dozen good sized ekranos and we'd radically tilt the balance of power on the seas in the WOT.

    Check out the whole story.

    The important quality of speed was, in all times, the object of the steadfast attention of ship-builders. But the increase of speed for ships was limited by quickly growing hydrodynamic resistance in the case of an insufficient capacity sail and oar movement.

    This restriction was removed with the introduction on ships of mechanical engines in the middle or the end of the superstructure, but the situation did not change , even for ships at the beginning of the Nineteenth century. But speed could only go so far in any case, and even nuclear powered ships of the Twentieth century concede little to steamships. The trick in speed was connected to idea to lift the keel of a vessel from water to air, an environment 840 times less dense. The main obstacle, growth of resistance of water, disappeared.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:21 AM | TrackBack

    The American BBC

    "Humankind still lives in prehistory everywhere, indeed everything awaits the creation of the world as a genuine one... if human beings have grasped themselves, and what is theirs, without depersonalization and alienation, founded in real democracy, then something comes into being in the world that shines into everyone's childhood and where no one has yet been -- home."
    --Ernest Bloch

    The big crack is too large to pass over and small ones are appearing all over. Major media are approaching a crisis. Michael Kinsley may be the next casualty, not that I'm quite sure he'd bother to fight back, Check out Slates'

    And before I go, I'd like to second Susan Estrich, who has attacked Michael Kinsley on the charges of sexual discrimination, which he feebly attempts to repel. In his long, miserable chauvinist career, Kinsley has done more to block women, their views, and their professional aspirations than any journalist I know. Just ask Dorothy Wickenden, Ann Hulbert, Jamie Baylis, Emily Yoffe, Helen Rogan, Suzanne Lessard, Jodie Allen, Judith Shulevitz, Jodi Kantor, Margaret Carlson, Dahlia Lithwick, Kathleen Kincaid, Lakshmi Gopalkrishnan, June Thomas, and others. They'll fill you in. Send e-mail to pressbox@hotmail.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

    My speculation about where this might end could have a happy ending in my book, and here's the idea I'd like to percolate. Let's move the American press in the direction of Brian Lamb and have journalists in the major organizations become anonymous voices of restraint. Part of the reason that so much of mainstream punditry is under attack from the blogosphere is because there are far too many columnists who, in the final analysis, are hardly worthy of the level of influence they possess.

    Let's take a peak at the group who I think is going to get axed by bloggers. Ironically, you'll find them listed prominently at the site of one of the first iconoclasts of this war: Matt Drudge. From the 3 AM Girls through Harry Knowles down to Bill Zwecker. These opinion-makers are soon to face the question of interactivity. If they don't face audiences with the same bravery and skill as top bloggers, they'll find themselves increasingly marginalized.

    But there is a big qualification on this, which is even more significant, and incidently something I've been concerned about for quite some time. There is a question of whether those people who come to replace them will in actuality be subject matter experts or just good writers. All of the Drudge-Era columnists are good writers whom I think could survive a good long time based on common sense and style alone. (Not incidentally why I think Cobb can survive). But at the level of the national spotlight, they'll have to be more than that. This means essentially that academics are going to have to speak out of school. It will be the nuance and insight of experts that will rule the day.

    This opinion comes to you from a big fan of CSI. I expect that my love of geeks mirrors that of the public's. We want the straight dope, unadulterated from the source made sensible. We like the Michael Crightons of the world. Such are the demands of literacy in a democratic society, our curiosity will not be ever placated by the pandering of the artful. Sooner or later we need the authentic facts, and time is running out for the Drudge-Era columnists precisely because we now know that we can get to the real experts.

    The Blogosphere is bringing us closer to that reality. I regularly consult the blogs of Jack Balkin, Larry Lessig and Dan Drezner and Bruce Schneier. I am not likely to go back to anchormen as authorities.

    America wants savants. We'd much rather listen to experts we don't quite understand than people who are as ignorant as we are, but are 'presentable' and 'credible'. Given the choice between hearing Geraldo Rivera talk about science, we'd take Ira Flatow. And given the choice between Ira Flatow and the late Dick Feynman, the man who actually brought physics forward, we'd take Feynman in a heartbeat. My bet says that Feynman's books will ever be more popular, even after his death, than Flatow's, if he's written one.

    Part of the appeal of finding these folks in the 'sphere is that each of them have personalities and are interesting in their own right. The facts of news are boring and should be told that way. The people who truly understand and make the news are interesting and should be discovered that way. The current paradigm of broadcast news has perpetrated a cruel inversion in which the storytellers become more interesting than the storymakers. This is what has allowed them to make non-stories into news. This is what has allowed them to make such media creatures as 'The Trial of the Century' or elevate the tribulations of Chandra Levy to national proportions. This is what has to stop.

    If internet technologies motivate large groups of people to form such arenas as the blogosphere going forward, the opportunity for media conglomerates to take advantage will decrease over time. We will find home.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:57 AM | TrackBack

    February 19, 2005


    Posted by mbowen at 04:23 PM | TrackBack

    Halo Ring Triggered

    This magnetar story is incredible.

    A huge explosion halfway across the galaxy packed so much power it briefly altered Earth's upper atmosphere in December, astronomers said Friday.

    No known eruption beyond our solar system has ever appeared as bright upon arrival.

    But you could not have seen it, unless you can top the X-ray vision of Superman: In gamma rays, the event equaled the brightness of the full Moon's reflected visible light.

    OK what does this mean. It means a couple things. If there were a neutron star that flashed like this somewhere in this galaxy, we'd be dead. No only that, since gamma rays and light and all that fun stuff travels at the same time, there would be no warning. Warning would be impossible. One side of the planet would get fried immediately, and depending on how long the flare was so would the other. Then if all of our best scientists and equipment were to survive, it would take them two months to figure out what happened.


    Posted by mbowen at 03:16 PM | TrackBack


    I am almost convinced that Keanu Reaves has no acting talent. He's almost all surface, all motion and pose. He's been living too long in the Matrix. But that is not enough to destroy the intriguing film that is Constantine.

    Constantine, the video effects film noir is a mixed bag, but it is a huge bag. Visually, this film takes you to places that have not been accomplished since 'The Cell'. As a film noir, the script almost works, except that Reaves walks too upright, he is too possessed of inner strength to fill this character out properly, a man deathly afraid of dying yet trying desparately to save his soul. Reaves is still a bit too heroic to make stoicism work. And so the emotional resonance we should have with him fails a few times.

    Instead of the kind of depth that we could have expected from the grit of this film Reaves passes through it zombie-like. He gets beat to a pulp but seems not to tremble. That's some classic bad direction of human resources. I kept thinking to myself, this was the perfect movie for Mickey Rourke or Benicio del Toro, a man whose sweat would cling to the cross around his neck. A man whom we could believe had a great deal of love be squeezed out of him, a man with an awesome, trembling fear of God who walks with scorn and pity among the agnostic. A man who marvels at all the wonders and signs given, and cries for humanity in between long draws on the cancer sticks. That's the man at the center of a movie that could have been great.

    Instead we have the possibility of a new genre, the religious noir thriller. It's got magic, dive bars, sketches of Santeria, angels and demons, and Lucifer himself. Madre de Dios! That bastard was beautifully evil - Peter Stomare has a scene that rivals Michael Madsen's torture dance in Reservior Dogs, better than Pacino in 'The Devil's Advocate' and damned near as good as Christopher Walken's trailer scene in 'True Romance'.

    The film starts off with a bang mixing elements of horror and a detective thriller. Exposition isn't quite what it should be - again, all Reaves' fault, but good enough to leave an adequate amount of intriguing confusion. You never know what might happen, and when extraordinary things do happen, they are visually rewarding if not quite viscerally.

    The excellent news is that CG is advanced enough so that we can expect more angels and demons in the future. We've come a good ways since Van Helsing. This is the genre to watch. So what's next?

    Posted by mbowen at 12:05 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


    Vinx is unleashed, passionate and unique. I watched this man squeeze hundreds of sounds out of his drum with casual ease, and marvelled at his vocal improvisations last night at Ghengis Cohen on Fairfax.

    What you can tell immediately is that he hears quickly. Vinx is in the midst of his beats without a doubt, but directly on top of that is a somnambulant vocal that moves at the pace of slowly building emotions.

    His sidemen brought some extraordinary musicianship to bear. As a quartet they work very well considering they don't seem to have worked together long. Vinx entire set had the feel of a jam, cut loose and funky, grooving well and occasionally synching into brilliant moments. His simple lyrics of love and longing are amplified through the big man's range, which cracks every once in a while like roadhouse blues singing.

    Vinx was bouyant and on his marks. He's a talent that will persist, bumping and grinding through the snitty and heartless industry that is the music biz. I hear he was something of an athlete. Today he looks like a big friendly football coach as he strokes his massive hands across the skins. But his is close your eyes and groove music and you know that within that frame is the soul of an artist, a free loving spirit, bold, large & honest. What he is not is a discrete professional, and in the end, you have to ask yourself who would you rather have singing your love songs?

    In that regard, Vinx has both the soul of an old bluesman, the edgy charm and intimacy of a standup comedian, and the rhythmic sensibilities of anyone on the world music scene. Plus, he can sing, and in harmony with Smith on vocals, does some real sweat stuff. I'd like him to purr a bit more sweetly on occasion, because I can tell he's got the soul for it, but he didn't descend to crying depth this evening. If you ever hear that on record, you'll know that Vinx is about to capture the world.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:35 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    February 18, 2005

    The Greatest Love Songs: Old School Version

    From the "That's why white people are so f'ed up department":

    The spousal unit fixed me eggs this morning, and so at the (very late) breakfast table I decided to read #807 of Entertainment Weekly, which somehow managed to get in my house. On the cover, stars of the new movie 'Sin City' and the 50 Greatest Love Songs of All Time.

    Now I've always said that porno is good and pornography is bad. We need a little porno to remind us of our baser selves. Without it, we become Michael Jackson. So I have no problem with, and in fact am looking forward to a $40 million movie starring Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke. However if such fare is balanced by solid Old School oatmeal, then everything the Wahabbists say about our devolution is true. I have a feeling that the folks at EW have an inkling of this notion despite their otherwise insipid and tawdry material. If you're going to have hookers in leather, you've got to have love songs too.

    So what makes me practically spit up my eggs? This is their top ten.

    1. God Only Knows - The Beach Boys 2. Can't Help Falling in Love - Elvis 3. Something - Beatles 4. A Natural Woman - Aretha 5. Let's Stay Together - Al Green 6. I Will Always Love You - Whitney Houston 7. Wild Horses - Rolling Stones 8. Sweet Childe o Mine - Guns n Roses 9. All I want Is You - U2 10. In Your Eyes - Peter Gabriel

    That's not the end of the trauma. The fact is that it gets a lot worse as it moves forward. Let me give you a clue, there is no Luther Vandross, no Earth Wind and Fire and Heatwave's 'Always and Forever' is nowhere to be found.

    In order to make up for this deficit, there is some logic placed into the list. The logic is that there has got to be some soul music in this list or else people will think we're crazy. So they put in Al Green, but not his best, c'mon yall. It's 'Love and Happiness'. Everybody knows that, or everybody is supposed to know that. They put in Etta James, Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. Uhm.. is there anyone under 60 that fell in love to that music? What's annoying is that they pick some good artists, but their emotional resonance is just on the wrong songs. Isn't there anyone at EW who fell in love the way we fell in love?

    OK. The entire list isn't reprehensible. There are a raft of no brainers but man, I gotta get my own 50 out there. I'm not going to put them in any rank because that's not how love works.

    Always and Forever - Heatwave
    Reasons - EWF
    Ribbon in the Sky - Stevie Wonder
    Distant Love - Marvin Gaye
    The Beautiful Ones - Prince
    Love & Happiness - Al Green
    Turn Out The Lights - Teddy Pendergrass
    A House is Not a Home - Luther Vandross
    Wildflow - New Birth
    It Takes a Fool - Spinners
    Mighty Love - Spinners
    Could It Be I'm Falling in Love - Spinners
    My Girl - Temptations
    Cry Together - OJays
    For The Love of You - Isley Brothers
    Don't Say Goodnight - Isley Brothers
    Yearning For Your Love - Gap Band
    I Do Love You - GQ
    Knocks Me Off My Feet - Stevie Wonder
    As - Stevie Wonder
    La La Means I Love You - Delfonics
    You're Still a Young Man - Bloodstone
    Ain't No Sunshine - Bill Withers
    Just The Two of Us - Bill Withers
    Use Me - Bill Withers
    Love Ballad - LTD
    Concentrate on You - LTD
    You Are My Starship - Norman Conners
    Misty Blue - Millie Jackson
    I Get Lonely - Janet Jackson
    Here and Now - Luther Vandross
    There's Nothing Better than Love - Luther Vandross
    You Bring Me Joy - Anita Baker
    Lead me Into Love - Anita Baker

    (damn, I'm tearing up just writing this stuff)

    Your Love Is King - Sade
    By Your Side - Sade
    Kiss of Life - Sade
    No Ordinary Love - Sade
    Unbreak My Heart - Toni Braxton
    Breathe Again - Toni Braxton

    (OK I quit, this is getting too sentimental and I've got things to do) - (Insert more here later)

    From the personal perspective of an individual who, in 1983 wore his hair exactly like Jessie Johnson, there has to be a Prince Section part of which fills up the subsection known as Make-Out Music.
    The Beautiful Ones
    Another Lonely Christmas

    Also Special Mention goes to the last tracks on the Janet Jackson album 'Janet'. You know, the ones with the raindrops...

    Now this list is Old School and not so personal because for me personally, I have to let my greatest mack secret go open source, considering that I don't need it anymore. The absolute, slam dunk romantic neutron bomb is Clifford Brown with Strings. This is for the night at your apartment when you've cooked dinner, you have the candles and flowers out and you're about to hook up the foot massage after the wine. It cannot fail, with American women anyway.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:07 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    Pitchfork for Mr. Hume

    The blogosphere is becoming more of an obtuse spheroid every day now some of its more egotistical members are beginning to become obsessed with their own power. Such is the typical workings of the human mind. I believe that this constitutes a twofer among the seven deadly sins, pride and greed.

    I hear that Al Franken is one of the ringleaders of this latest blog mob, but like much else at Air America, the website isn't functioning properly. So let's drop it on the head of Oliver Willis. The story:

    Brit Hume is the anchor of Fox News Channel's prime time news report, Special Report with Brit Hume, and he makes things up. On February 3rd, Hume intentionally manipulated the words of the 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to make it appear as if FDR supported privatization of social security. This is a brazen falsehood. President Roosevelt's grandson, James Roosevelt Jr., describes Hume's journalistic malfeasance as an "an outrageous distortion". We agree.

    The blogosphere has found its rope, now everything is a hanging offense. Methinks, somebody is about to get fisked or even sued, and it will be a blogger. Stay tuned.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:06 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 09:24 AM | TrackBack

    Pitchfork for Mr. Gannon

    Every once in a brainfart I check Daypop for a new something to write about. The past two times I have been faced with the ugly yet incredibly popular story; it has been somebody who goes by the name of Gannon.

    The basic deal is that this Gannon character has been something of a stooge filling up space in the White House press gallery lobbing softball questions. But deep undercover, he's a gay prostitute. All I can say is that I imagine his character is perfectly suited for what he's been recruited to do.

    As stories from Washington go, I have a sneaking suspicion that this is fairly common. Not being an inside the beltway bandit, I don't get to hear such intrigue. The blogosphere is really giving us our money's worth.

    As for the political implications, I have no idea what they should be, if anything at all.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:02 AM | TrackBack

    February 17, 2005

    I Repeat, There is No Crisis, But

    The thing I didn't quite understand the first time around was that there is no cash in the social security trust fund. My current understanding is that in 15 years, demographics will force it to go into deficit spending. That's somewhat scary, but not that scary.

    I have also recently happened upon the opinion which is swaying me a bit. Don't be opportunistic. See, Social Security was voted into being by another generation, and to the extent that it being broken forces my generation to do an expensive fix for the sake a generation too young to vote is like a shot in the dark. I don't particularly like the idea of locking down any legislation that manages trillions over generations. I didn't ask for it, and it's those damned Boomers who are swelling it into deficit spending.

    Smart people who consider themselves part of the investor class have already discounted the value of Social Security. It's just a little bit of supplement, and nobody should have been so dependent on the Government's ability to provide retirement cash. So why should we depend on them to overhaul the program and make it more profitable? That's the core irony of this whole deal. Who could possibly win? Only people who depend on Social Security a lot more than real investors.

    Now here's the rub. Like anybody, I'd much rather not pay the 6 odd percent of my gross paycheck to FICA. And there have been plenty of times when I beat the 90K cap so that I maxed out my annual contribution. So right around Halloween or Thanksgiving I get an extra 6% in my paycheck. Whoo hoo! But Bush's proposal is to raise that cap. So he's actually sucking wealthier people into paying more, therefore making us more interested to see that the FICA funds are earning us more. Isn't that called government dependency?

    So basically I'm taking the conservative position that Bush is being wreckless, and I'll my position is to leave Social Security alone. This potato is too hot, and just like Gay Marriage, the sooner you try to deal with it, the more mess you make. Privatizing Social Security is like a constitutional amendment, it's big big. I don't trust anybody Bush has hired in the financial department, and we all know that Cato is behind much of this.

    Now that I'm griping about domestic affairs rather that geopolitics, I'm thinking that this whole thing is about accounting tricks and not real reform. You want to talk about crisis, talk about health care. It's already getting outsourced.

    We've already had quite enough ideological fervor here Mr. President. Cool your jets. You are not a great bureacratic reformer, so just leave it alone. We'll try again next election.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:46 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Bloggers on Charlie Rose

    Last night on Charlie Rose was a fairly interesting roundtable on blogging and the effect on media. If I could have only been there. But perhaps I can if I trackback. What was completely missing from the discussion were any technical aspects of why blogging is useful. It's not just the 'interactivity of the internet' it is the function that blog software provides to shape the behavior of people at keyboards. With only a passing reference to Technorati, Andrew Sullivan glossed over the possibilities of innovation and the moment was lost.

    Secondly, and perhaps predictably, most of the focus was on the conflict between MSM and the 'sphere. While they were right to note that the blogosphere is growing at the expense of political magazines and television, I don't think enough focus was given to democracy itself. Perhaps they remain convinced of the Diebold scandal's ability to scare people away from digital democracy, but the real power is going to be getting people to vote early and often.

    It is more than campaign finance reform that this medium is capable of achieving. It is the very process of governing - the nuts and bolts of taking minutes and calling the question. The core aspects of deliberation.

    If I could be famous for anything, I would like it to be for XRepublic. If I had a million dollars, I could retire and start working on it. Every year I promise to do a little bit more work on it and every year I push it only few inches further. And yet year after year it seems that the world is ready for what I believe to be my best idea whose realization eludes me. I need encouragement, and programming assistance. XRepublic can be the revolution that the blogosphere needs to take it to the next level.

    I would hope that those of you who might feel that the blogosphere is the realization, should read on in my (scanty but substantially inspired) XRepublic & Digital Democracy section. This is the destiny we seek.

    At American Digest, Gerard goes into some depth about the processes and practices behind the best bloggers, specifically how tools like Google as well as desktop productivity software enable, extend and expand the 'note-taking' discipline common to journalists. It may seem arcane, but there are software professionals somewhere who are responsive to the needs and requirements of these very intellective acts. And so it goes for every discipline for which software is designed.

    The point is that it is not just blog software and 'the internet' but a kind of softwarey-augmented discipline in the hands of millions that make the magic.

    Even in the blog world, there are different levels of technical expression. LiveJournal -> TypePad -> MT -> WordPress to full blown CMS. What needed to be expressed was that content managment software has become relatively commodified, and in the hands of millions, it has generated a powerful capability. But there is much more software out there waiting to come down in price and up in usability which will create many spheres and powerful and as influential as the blogosphere. Or if one likes the blogosphere, think of the blogosphere growing more arms and legs and pressing other industries besides journalism.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:17 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 07:12 AM | TrackBack

    February 16, 2005

    Who is Reggie Fowler?

    Reggie Fowler is nobody that I ever heard of in my entire life until 30 minutes ago, but he is someone I expected has been around for a while. Well, of course he has. How else could he come up with $600 million to buy the Minnesota Vikings? People are going to make a big deal out of his becoming the first black owner in the NFL, but really. Didn't we know that this was inevitable?

    I've only got one snarky thing to say. His business is in Arizona, the state without an MLK holiday. Saints preserve us! How could that be!?

    Yay capitalism!

    Posted by mbowen at 05:12 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 03:56 PM | TrackBack

    SHA1 Broken

    Just yesterday I downloaded cfv, a cool CLI tool for win32 that gives me some version checking stuff. I'm going to build a general purpose thingy that helps me build some automatic versioning tools and tripwire stuff. There are plenty of applications for it and I'm going to try to work it to make a secure file system, which is to say one that allows me to eyeball a log of changed files on a daily basis, extra coolness eh?

    Anyway, the cfv package hosts a myriad of hash functions which are of varying length and sophistication. I'm a bit paranoid, now that I mention it, of the PGP 8.1 version that I got from PGP.com because its signature file has a dead or revoked key and the pgp keyserver isn't very responsive. I'm beginning to think that PGP itself is a honeypot. So my trust of hash functions has come pretty much down to MD5. But even so, since I use SlavaSoft's HashCalc, I had some interest in SHA1 since its result is a little bit longer. (This by the way made me think of whether or not that's what Google or other websites use to make an ID cookie...) Either way, it appears that it's now broken. This means work for security guys everywhere. Flight to quality. Must be nice.

    In English from Frobnicator:

    Yes, they found a way to break the hash function. But as the parent said, it does not mean it's suddenly invalid. Sure, the group found a way to break the algorithim, but look at According to TFA a collision can be found in about 2**69 hash operations. That's 590295810358705651712 attempts before they can find a match, as opposed to the 2**80 (1208925819614629174706176) that was expected before the paper. While the paper means it is orders of magnitude less work, it still means a lot of work for the attacker. Lets look at two relevant examples: disc images and passwords. Lets say I have an ISO disk image. I hack it, and want to modify some of the 'junk' bits using their algorithm. I'd still need to perform 590295810358705651712 hash operations on that image. Computing the hash of a disc is a slow operation. That's not something I could do in a day, week, or even a few months. Perhaps if I had a massivly parallel computer available, I could do it, but not as an individual. For a password, hopefully your system would lock the account long before there are that many failed login attempts. However, if your attacker has that kind of resources, you can assume it is feasable for them to find a hash collision. That's really only significant for governments, multi-national organizations, and other major enterprises, but not for most people.

    So down here on earth, it's not a big deal, especially for those of us who don't shred all our trash.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:33 PM | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 11:37 AM | TrackBack

    The Coalition of the Damned

    People in Lebanon are attending the funeral of their former prime minister. He was assassinated by a suicide bomber with a car bomb. People in Los Angeles are attending the funeral of an anonymous 13 year old boy. He was shot dead by police after a car chase.

    Tony Muhammad, the local leader of the Nation of Islam, brought the congregation to its feet when he vowed to hold city leaders accountable for Devin's death and said that it "will be the straw that breaks the camel's back."

    "It's time for black people to stand up," he said. "We'll police ourselves! Look what this little brother's life has done — it has brought together Muslims and Christians and Jews, Bloods and Crips."

    I feel a bit hesitant to walk over a delinquent kid's dead body to make a point about the politics of protest, but it's clear that there are people who a great deal more shameless than I. Ultimately, there's not much to make of this matter, that is to say there shouldn't be. You swim in dangerous waters when you choose to make somebody a symbol of heroism or victimology or whatever. Symbols are made to be slapped around like a hockey puck. Somehow, I know Devin Brown's mother isn't up to that.

    Should there be a black Elian Gonzales, a black Jeffrey Dahmer? No. There are already many black symbols. We have a goodly share that over the years have ossified in the public consciousness as representative of the trials and achievements of African Americans in our unique history. Mohammed Ali is probably one of the greatest symbols of triumph, but we have our symbols of failure and oppression too. When it comes to the devaluation of black life, several come to mind.

    The essential problem here is that Brown doesn't measure up as a symbol in the pantheon of black symbols, and the fact that so many folks are willing to represent him as one waters down the impact of whatever movement they expect. This is a small tragedy written in large print devaluating black politics. The very idea of Crip and Blood unity having any significance outside of itself played out 14 years ago. But this is where the Coalition makes points.

    A generation ago, this kind of grandstanding could be parlayed into real political capital. Many asked and recieved patronage in the form of political appointments. But blackfolks have already marched in every major city and black police chiefs have already been tenured in every major city. We are in the second generation. Indeed Bernard Parks was sitting in the front row of this congregation, clearly working his angle for his upcoming mayoral bid (which was doomed long ago if you ask me). They are fishing for trout with a boat anchor baited with the dead body of a boy who lies in the shadows of Medgar Evers, James Byrd and yes Emmit Till. This kind of trolling will make no one fishers of men. They need to throw their nets on the other side of the boat.

    On the other side of the boat are people like me who are struck with the awful fact of a fatherless youth speeding away from police in a stolen car at 4 o'clock in the morning. As one who is willing to let the past good be remembered in acceptance of a harsh present and an empty future, I'm completely willing to hold no hope for Michael Jackson. He crossed a line that may make sense for some, but most of us know that's something is radically wrong. When a middle school kid is out on the streets driving a stolen car at all hours of the night, something is radically wrong. Sooner or later that kind of life catches up with you, or as Gil Scott Heron said, "Down some dead end streets there ain't no turning back."

    Every man's death diminishes me, and every child's death is a tragedy, but every tragedy does not have a silver lining big enough to be counted as progress. Especially not for an African American nation of millions, although perhaps for a ragtag few in South LA who marvel at gang peace this might be enough. Were I part of a community that daily sees its youth go down in flames to all of the ailments that plague our society, I surely could see some sense of victory in the death of one that fuels righteous indignation against a police force in dire need of change. But I am part of a community that expects much more from youth and gets much more from police. I am not without sympathy or understanding, I am without political support or ascent to such tactics as grandstanding at funerals.

    Like many, I have watched funerals throughout the 80s become a rallying point for black South Africans. And I witnessed the triumph after decades of struggle by millions of black South Africans for democracy and freedom. Here in the US we have democracy and freedom, so what is a funeral for? A funeral is for mourning the loss of a loved one and an opportunity to take the lessons of one life gone and apply them to those who must carry on. Devin Brown's life, to my ears, has no great lesson, only a small old one which is that the family comes first.

    Whatever coalition forms from those political mourners is a poor one. For there is little in the symbol that they can use to gain popular sympathy. If Americans know anything it is how to pimp a symbol and how to dash one to the dirt. These folks would be much better off leaving Devin's mother to ordinary grief instead of the inevitable letdown she will feel if she believes the hype.

    I have written that we have yet to reach the point at which black rage can be co-opted by the mainstream, and so black political rage becomes discounted in the scheme of things. If it takes the death of youth to gather such coalitions as this, then that will continue to be the price of the ticket. History has given us the proof, here in Los Angeles. Where is the coalition of LaTasha Harlins, Ron Settles? Where are the friends of Rodney King? They are nowhere and nameless. It's just 'black SouthCentral LA', whatever thousand show up when somebody gets beat down by cops. What do they have to do? Show up at First AME, wail and promulgate ignorant conspiracy theories. Call in to talk radio and rant irrationally. Cry at funerals and pour a drink in the street. It's as familiar as The Color Purple, sentimental, heart wrenching and ultimately politically useless. This is not the currency of political progress, and yet it continues to be saved up and spent.

    My gut tells me that everyone who is making a mountain of this tragic turn has spoken for themselves and have as much representation as they will ever get or need. Just as there will be some permanent league of sweatshop employees and their complaints will ever be the same, there will be some permanent element of African America who lives in fear of police and despair of change. Thoughtful people will come to their aid and we all have some measure of responsibility to them. This is what we expect of the politics of progress. So the rest of us have our work cut out for us. We must be responsive and see that appropriate reform is carried out. Then one day, hopefully soon, a funeral can be just a funeral.


    Jack Dunphy takes out some rage against the LA Times for supporting these sorts of politics. LA Observed, observes.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:24 AM | TrackBack

    February 15, 2005

    Bloggers & The Day Job

    Mike Peska put together a snarky commentary on blogs and bloggers this morning on the air. The nice mischaracterization he makes is the distinction implied between bloggers and people with day jobs.

    The best bloggers blog their day jobs. But beyond that, the blogosphere as a group have a good excuse not to watch television. We're generally critical of the MSM. According to AC Nielsen, the average American watches 3.75 hours of television per day. Speaking for myself, I watch about 2, and since I use Tivo it's on my schedule. I also listen to about 90 minutes of NPR on a daily basis, all in the car. Since I sleep only about 7 hours a day and generally work about 30 hours a week (self-employed, you know) I get a lot of time to blog. But simply halving your television watching and turning it into blogtime is plenty time.

    I'd also argue that the best bloggers are fairly voracious readers, and that makes all the difference. I've got Yahoo tracking headlines for about 12 different RSS feeds, and Blogrolling lets me know who has got something new to say. I've got 12 news sources, including Google News - an aggragation itself, that tab out in Firefox which I periodically check.

    My point is that a significant portion of the blogosphere represents a flight to quality. Journalists themselves have been a large part of online communities since the dawn of Internet time, notably at the Well. If large names in the journalism community are fearful of large names where blogging meets journalism then this is only noticeable because, well journalists get a lot of attention. But among the top blogs are attorneys and economists as well, and the blogosphere's appeal comes not only because of any opposition or even conflict with the profession of journalism itself, but simply because a large number of intelligent people enjoy communicating with other intelligent people.

    In the opening few minutes of Peska's piece, a reference was made to the effect that a relatively small number of people read blogs, as compared to the mainstream media. Well, a relatively small number of people read the New England Journal of Medicine too, or the Economist for that matter. That demographic is smack dab in the core of the blogosphere. All one needs to do is eyeball the blogroll of popular sites like Crooked Timber and you get an idea of the people we are dealing with. Sure there will be great swells of blog traffic when issues like Plame, or Nick Berg videos hit, but on a daily basis a lot of us are pretty damned serious.

    If mainstream journalists have a bit of a yellow streak about them, it must surely be that in the blogosphere full-time geeks have more than five minutes of fame bracketed by anchor banter. The audience here actually does spend the time and wants the gritty technical details of the sort which are almost never aired or printed.

    What they really have to worry about is that such geeks may be soon be overlapping with those sources they are so eager to protect. Imagine a world where whistleblowers decide to self-publish to the blogosphere rather than to big news organizations.

    See Also

  • American Digest
  • Roger L. Simon

    Posted by mbowen at 12:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
  • Dead Men

    Posted by mbowen at 09:36 AM | TrackBack

    Liberal Spirit

    Right about now, everything is copacetic. I don't have any complaints. Part of that is because the tenor or reportage on Iraq has shifted significantly. Part of that is because I've been thinking about too many other things.

    But I have been thinking about spirituality, and yesterday I heard a name spoken which up until then I had only read. It is the name of Reinhold Neibuhr.

    I've forgotten most of what I learned about Neibuhr reading about him in the writings of Cornel West. But I seem to recall that his influence as a social leader in America was pretty much unsurpassed. That we don't have people like Neibuhr in our contemporary society goes without saying. At times I think that boomers have killed off the very ideas they used to cherish when they spoke of individuals like Neibuhr, and Dag Hammarskjold. The closest we've come to someone so universally well regarded might be Nelson Mandela. But what strikes me particularly is how Neigbuhr struck a balance between ethics, politics and religion in ways that seem almost impossible today. What have we done to stop the rise of such people to prominence?

    I think of this in light of the appointment of Howard Dean to the chairmanship of his party. In every reflection, it just seems to be so mundane, so corporate, such a shadow of the energy he seemed to be able to generate in his poor followers a year ago. And thinking of Howard Dean in that light made me know what it is the Democrats have lost completely, which is the spirituality of liberalism.

    Today's Liberal Spirit is secular. In fact it is for all intents and purposes, agnostic. This is the great foolishness the left has swallowed somehow. Because GWBush has claimed God, the Democrats have disclaimed God, and thus they have lost their claim on the American electorate. In their reactionary zeal, they have mislabeled all American Christians as fundamentalists and alienated the sensible, practical middle. But the worse thing is that they have lost their soul.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:56 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    February 14, 2005

    Xenon This Year

    I've cranked up my gaming a bit this past week. For two weeks I didn't even touch Halo. Now I'm coming back around to it and I can see that the new skills I picked up from the Unofficial Battle Guide are becoming more smoothly integrated into my playing style. I'm winning more frequently, and still finding new routes and tactics. Man this is a rich game.

    But I don't know what Microsoft is thinking in releasing the next box in October. Halo2 would have been out less than a year, and it's going to chill the market from now until then. I'm telling my boy only to get old games we used to rent. So from here on out, no new games. Unless maybe HalfLife comes out on the platform.

    In any case it seems to be a done deal and the beginning of the hype starts now.

    They've got to do a removable storage thing, and have some security feature so that you can copy games onto the [removeable] disk. I'm getting rather tired of the performance of some of my older games. That would be killer. I suppose some form of HD would be nice, but I really don't see how the graphics could be improved. In short, from my perspective, everything on XBox2 would be gravy, and that means they are going to have to do some convincing to get me to upgrade.

    After October, the original XBox is going to start to look like a real bargain. As it stands there are a lot of good, cheap games out there to be had, like PsyOps, a real sleeper. BTW, Is Yu Suzuki on board?

    Posted by mbowen at 05:46 PM | TrackBack

    Tivo To Go: Crippled & Crazy

    I waited a month and a half for this?

    Finally, having submitted a request to upgrade my Tivo software to the latest version that enables transfer of movies from my Tivo to my home network, I have gotten it. It took at least 30 days. In the IT world, that's the kind of software delivery that kills a company.

    So I get the upgrade and download the new desktop client. Along with that I get a 'Media Access Key'. OK they're encoding the mpeg so it can't be transferred all over the globe (as if bandwidth was free). There's also a password. But when I went to download the movies that I've been storing on my Tivo since December, it tells me that the service is not installed. Not a terribly useful error message. It turns out that it takes another 24 hours for the Tivo itself to get the access key.

    OK so finally yesterday it's ready to go. I start downloading something small. One episode of 'Aqua Teen Hungerforce', a 15 minute show. It takes 40 minutes. What? Well, maybe it's because I'm running my anti-virus at the time (every Friday evening). So I kill the AV scan and try another two episodes. One hour and 28 minutes. This is retarded.

    Clearly, they have crippled the transfer mechanism. Plus the end quality is weak. I get weird stripes on the top few pixels in the view like it needs to be cropped. Full screen expansion is lousy. All the stuff only plays in Windows Media Player.

    On the whole, it's worth it, but mostly because I wanted it so badly. This is clearly something that will be worth it if I can get it on my laptop, but for the home computer as an alternative to the TV, the quality sucks much worse than DVD or P2P mpegs.

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


    Posted by mbowen at 09:26 AM | TrackBack

    February 12, 2005

    Blogswarm Triumphant

    It has been official for almost 20 hours now. Eason Jordan lies under the tornado house, his little feet slowly curling into balls. Who now wears the ruby slippers? The blogosphere does not, we cannot. We have too many feet. We are like swarming sentinels in search of The One. A new One will appear, and he will beware.

    Here's the way I see it. There are actually hundreds of good ideas, millions perhaps. But as we look backward in time, there have only been a few to circulate them. The blogosphere is the energized part of the international web of ideas and it is expressing its ability to circulate more than the current generation of media can. This is a greater power and a more sophisticated one than even the Cluetrain signers considered. But it is not necessarily a force for good, it is simply a force to be reckoned with. Today, that force has momentarily become arrowlike, pointing in the direction of Eason.

    The Blogosphere is set to become a more deliberative medium. The right advances in the toolset will objectify all these deliberations. Then, the true power of the blogosphere will become evident. It won't be the blogosphere - it will be something else. This is the beginning of a real revolution.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:27 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    Voices of the Unheard

    Posted by mbowen at 09:56 AM | TrackBack

    February 11, 2005

    Friday Fragments

  • For some reason, I believed that North Korea was a physical island. I had no idea that Koreans could literally walk across a border and be in China, or Manchuria.
  • I have decided that most perfect rock & roll song ever is Little Wing as performed by Stevie Ray Vaughn. I have two versions. The second most perfect song is Django as performed by John McLaughlin's group. I just thought you should know.
  • My daughter has click-clacks. Do you remember click-clacks? These have straight plastic tethers instead of just string, so it takes no skill to make that annoying noise. At least she won't bonk herself in the head...right away.
  • Here's a simple way to express that Americans have many liberties but take advantage of few. Vanilla milkshakes at McDonalds. I have never had one. Have you?
  • Ten from the iTunes:
    Fugee La - The Fugees
    Dirt off Your Shoulder - Danger Mouse
    Can't Hide Love - EWF
    Crepescule with Nellie - Branford Marsalis
    I'm Coming Out - Diana Ross
    Insensatez - Jobim
    Cheezit Terrorist - Blackalicious
    Afternoon in Paris - Sonny Stitt
    Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring - Jacques Loussier Trio
    Magenta - Sixoseven

    Posted by mbowen at 02:23 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack
  • Driving While Black: A Personal History

    I need a new nigga, for this black cloud to follow
    Cause while it's over me it's too dark to see tomorrow

    -- Nas

    I started to write this piece yesterday afternoon as I was minding kids as a school parent. The point of it is supposed to be how 'not there' I am - 'there' meaning in the ferocious grip of the controversy over the latest tragedy of [another] black kid shot to death by the LAPD. But that would miss the point that I feel I owe, because in so many ways I have been at Ground Zero of 'there'.

    You see, my youngest brother died in jail.

    In 1991 in a holding cell in Gardena, Ca, my baby brother took off his t-shirt and hung himself in shame. I can't remember it like it was yesterday. It was a long time ago, but what I can remember is how it made me feel in light of what I had been doing at the time.

    I have probably mentioned it many times before, but somewhere around 1989 I ditched my buppie cadre and headed for the radical hinterlands. As part and parcel of these days before the Internet, I was always attending seminars and lectures, trying with the zeal of a scientist, to find out where black culture and politics would lead me. In those days of Darryl Gates, Ron Settles, LaTasha Harlins and soon Rodney King, it led me to a very cynical and oppositional state of mind.

    I really didn't realize exactly where I was until some time later in Boston over beers with my colleagues. The stories rolled around from 'the best single malt scotch' to 'the finer points of cow tipping' and finally to 'times I was so drunk and got stopped by the cops'. I had been laughing my ass off, wiping the traces of slobber and shrimp scampi from my mouth. Suddenly I was Schleprock with my own personal thundercloud over my head, only I was evil Schleprock determined to rain on everybody's fucking parade like ten tons of shit bricks. Think Gary Oldman, the pill popping cop in 'The Professional' saying 'EVERYBODY!!'. Instead, I loosened my tie, took two rapid shots of Glenfiddich and marveled at the good fortune of my colleagues' unslit throats. I slipped into what Brent Staples calls 'parallel time' where every white person becomes transmuted into the black & white realm of Mayberry or Hooterville. Where nothing, absolutely nothing they say or do can be taken any more seriously than the pronouncements of Don Knotts. Where their reality suddenly becomes a meaningless sitcom. And I laugh the soundtrack laugh over their silly little stories. You want to know what's real? Huh? Do ya? You feel lucky?

    I didn't let it show, but then how could I not? I suddenly knew my most real friend there, Tom. Because after a moment, he stopped laughing too and looked straight at me. I waved him off and shook my head looking down. I'm OK man, I gestured. Just let me breathe. I don't really know what transpired at the rest of that dinner, but I started actually counting the number of times I had been stopped or detained by the LAPD. By detained I mean forced to get out of the car while the officers do something, like come up with some bullshit story to excuse the stop. You know the pose. Cops talking into their lapels, black man sitting cuffed on the curb. The answer for me was...

    fzample, having been detained by police about 27 times before my 30th birthday (with only 3 or 4 actual citations issued), i have amassed a great deal of anecdotal evidence that my car was one of the most often stolen in the city of los angeles. and of course that changed depending on what kind of car i was driving. once it was a 68 karmann ghia, then it was a bmw 2002, then it was a bmw 318i. then i happened upon consumer reports or an insurance industry something in kiplinger's which stated that through those years the stolen cars were consistantly 2 year old camrys, cutlass cierras, and ford mustangs. for the parts! imagine my heartbreak to find how misinformed those poor police officers actually were.

    ..complicated. I have always put my own personal grief in the context of something larger than myself, and I think most blackfolks do as well. So it came as no surprise to Pops that when I did a 'call for papers' for my DWB project, I was the only one willing to speak up. Who wants to write it down? Who would speak the unspeakable outside of the mob? Of those 27 times, here are the ones I most remember:

  • Cops pull me over for 'not signalling' and run a complete check on me. I am told that there is an 'escaped convict' that fits my description. (several times)
  • An off duty officer pulls a gun on me and my date for stealing his parking space.
  • Officers push us up against a chain link fence and feel up my girlfriend. No citation is given.
  • An officer pulls me over because my brights are on, and asks me a series of idiot questions. "Most car thieves don't know how to operate BMWs"
  • Officers ask me my 'gang name', ask me if I know where 'Pookie' lives.
  • Officers detain me and ask me if I plan to blow up the 1984 Olympics. I ask if I am under arrest and if not can I go? "Are you willing to risk that I won't let this dog out after you?"
  • Officers cuff me first, run a make on my plates and then uncuff me to give me a sobriety test. The reason for the stop? "I was driving at night with my windows down."
  • Officers draw weapons because I refuse to get off a 10 speed bike. "Do you have a reciept?"
  • Most young black men in LA County know the meaning of the figure $277. This is what it costs to get a traffic warrant removed. At least that's what it cost in the 80s. But outside of LA County, in my 30s I never saw another. I have no fear at all of cops, I never got my head split. Despite all this, in the context of black manhood, I am considered fortunate. But I know a lot about how cops operate and I have extraordinary spidey senses about and around police vehicles in traffic. I know when I'm being tailed and much more.

    You see, my current youngest brother is an LAPD officer.

    One of the reasons I am not 'there' is that I went the whole 9 yards before. If I had been in Los Angeles during the riots, I would have gotten myself is a heap of trouble. I dreamed up a plot to kidnap an officer and remove his trigger finger with garden shears. I would return the hostage as soon as I got my airtime. I invented a new salute, which might still actually be useful, which is an open hand with the index finger bent over. A good cop doesn't shoot.

    My cop stories from LA are something of a bottomless pit. In the wake of Rodney King, I actually spent a lot of weekends out cruising the streets with a videocamera. I wanted to catch 'em in the act. I drove all over the city and followed cops, even ones with sirens blazing, and once through a red light. I never got them on tape once, beating or even with kids cuffed on the curb. Try as I might, I couldn't prove with video, what I knew to be my own personal experience. Not one head slammed on a hood. So during this time after the King beating and before the riots, I recognized that police work was work. I did find them assisting with traffic accidents. And the one time I thought I hit the mother lode, running into half a dozen squad cars parked outside a highschool gym, it turned out to be a charity basketball game.

    After my brother died and the family went through the various dramas (We had Johnny Cochran's law office and Maxine Waters in the mix, as well as an independent review of the Coroner's report), I had gotten my fill of Los Angeles. I knew the place was wrong, and I knew that I was wrong. I had options, so I exercised them. But I was openly sick of the place and I said so all the time. This town yeilded up nothing. No accountability to the public or by the public. It was a seething cauldron of people shouting and shooting past each other. I hated LA.

    Once outside of LA, it all stopped. NYC cops walked. They were everywhere, but never seemingly in a hurry. They were calm. They talked to people, never having to assert their dominance. Boston cops were fat joke caricatures of cops. Heaven forbid they had to run after anyone. By the time I lived in Atlanta, 5 years out of LA, I had even lost some of my peripheral vision. And then I visited LA for a weekend. Sure enough, I got pulled over. But by this time, the LA cop was in Hooterville. But hey it was true, I didn't have a front license plate. (cue laugh track).

    When my brother applied to be a cop, suddenly a million things clicked all at once. There was absolutely no question in my mind that he was exactly the kind of person I would want to be a police officer. I had moved back to LA, over it, and had been here for a couple years. Previously, Doc had been with FedEx. That fit him too. When it absolutely positively had to be done - no excuses. That's the kind of man he is. Eggs is eggs. He was from the 'hood, like all of us, with no reason to be irrational around black youth, but also no slack for knuckleheads. Gangbangers killed his best friend back in highschool.

    As he went through the academy he would call me and tell me about how things were going. How so many of the younger recruits behaved, what the training officers stressed, how the PD felt about itself, what the senior officers were like. He called me one weekend to tell me about non-lethal training. Officers have to tazed as part of learning how to use a tazer. They have to take a face full of pepper spray too. One day, long after he had been on duty, he took me shooting. So I've been getting the inside scoop for a while.

    What I know about cops, ironically, comes from my own gut. I know what it's like to step into the danger zone and try to right the wrong. Most people don't understand that's not what cops are supposed to do. They essentially are part of the system whose job it is to take dangerous people out of our midst. But since they are human, they're usually there after the fact. So what a cop learns very quickly is what the mess looks like. A cop knows what dead bodies look like, in empty homes, at the foot of tall buildings, in crack houses, and in the steel tangles of ex-automobiles. A cop knows that people are their own worst enemies, and sometimes the only way to know someone's heart in the 15 seconds it takes to end a life, is their reaction to cops. And a cop knows that they are the line over which good people don't step. That's why they exist, because you can't do it yourself. You can't fire a gun because you don't like guns, and you don't know how. You can't wrestle a violent drunk to the ground because you don't know how. You can't stop a man from slapping his wife around because you don't want to get involved and it's none of your business, plus he looks kinda scary. Men like Doc say 'no excuses', and I like that. I need that, and I'm not afraid to admit it.

    When it comes to the politics of protest, well, I've graduated from that school. That's why this is a blog and not a flyer, a picket sign or a bullshit manifesto. I believe in going the whole 9 yards in every direction and relying on your gut. So, being of sound mind and middle age, I get somewhat annoyed knowing that there is history out there as well as real cops and real families with real stories, when I hear the same old complaints. The bottom line is that we have a social contract in place, and we punt a hell of a lot of our own responsibilities off to police forces. They shoot bad guys because we are afraid to shoot bad guys. They deliver suspects to court, because we don't know how. And judges judge and jailers jail and parole officers monitor all because we have decided not to be our knuckleheaded brothers' keeper. Which is both our bourgie prerogative and our moral default. And so we have a system that handles all that mess for us, and we don't like to spend too much tax dollars on it, and we feel sorry for the poor slobs who have to be government employees in it, with their steel desks, old staplers and cardboard boxloads of papers and forms.

    Imagine living at the DMV. Not fun. Now imagine a DMV full of burglars, counterfeiters, drug dealers, fences, domestic abusers, sexual predators, hustlers, pimps, stickup men, gangbangers, vandals, hookers, drunk drivers, car thieves, suicidal nutcases, mental outpatients, brawlers, crackheads. Except they're not all at the DMV, they're distributed all over the city walking next to you and me. Hell, you can't even stand it when the guy in the car next to you is booming his sound system.

    Probably because I used to spend a fair amount of time on the subject, I quite frankly don't care enough about police reform any longer. I knew Daryl Gates was an ass for a long time, and chiefs around the state and country knew it too. I have come to understand how public pressure results in police policy, and I know very clearly how certain political forces came to regard young blacks as the enemy. I realized early on how white distrust of blacks manifest itself, nothing made that clearer than commentary surrounding the Verdict, and subsequently the OJ Simpson trial. Cops are the instrument and must exist because of the social contract, but we should all understand that the social contract between blacks and whites is broken. Tragedy is the inevitable result. So I don't think about it simply in terms of cops and me, but in terms of you and me, politically.

    So when I listen to the angry voices lamenting the loss of some kid whose face and name was brown. I know that there's still a bunch of folks out there who believe they live in a different America. They do. But that's partially their choice and it's partially ours. Still, I have to say, as one who has been 'there' as a black man, that there were too many times that I had been living under that cloud and slipping into parallel time, as if this wasn't my America too. I don't have to be eating shrimp scampi and telling jokes all the time to know this is my America, and I don't have to be looking at the face of a snarling German Shepherd to know something's wrong.

    I'm going to leave this without a personal conclusion and close with the words of James Baldwin. On good days, I'm fairly sure that I'm already there, but it hasn't been easy writing this. And of course, it's not all about me.

    Take no one's word for anything, including mine-but trust your experience. Know whence you came. If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go. The details and symbols of your life have been deliberately constructed to make you believe what white people say about you. Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity and fear. Please try to be clear, dear James, through the storm which rages about your youthful head today, about the reality which lies behind the words acceptance and integration, There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them. And I mean that very seriously. You must accept them and accept them with love. For these innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. They have had to believe for many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men. Many of them, indeed, know better, but, as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger.
    Posted by mbowen at 08:28 AM | TrackBack

    February 10, 2005

    Cell: Processing Jail

    IBM's new Cell chip could be revolutionary.

    "It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Cell processors will have an extraordinarily secure but cumbersome memory model. For each main-memory access, the processor would have to consult four lookup tables... Three of those tables are in DRAM, which implies slow off-chip memory references; the other table is in the DMA controller’s SRAM. In some cases, the delays caused by the table lookups might eat more clock cycles than reading or writing the actual data. The patent hints that some keys might unlock multiple memory locations or sandboxes, perhaps granting blanket permission for a rapid series of accesses, within certain bounds."

    The Cell chip promises to destroy spam, viruses and spyware. That's the good news. The bad news is that here we have the makings of the beginning of the end of file sharing, basically the ability to put DRM security into hardware.

    While it's certainly true that security schemes like DVD decoding can be 'chipped', those are rare individuals who can. The ability to short circuit the memory model of the CPU is going to be a rarer quality still. So, practically speaking, once Cell chips are common, the world loses the power of the masses to overcome industry security.

    This is yet another indication to me that we are coming closer to the surveillance society, that more and more of our activities can and will be monitored. There are many ways out, but not for the urbane. Some other time, I will talk about life off the grid, which I predict will be the return of the rugged 70s, which was actually a pretty interesting time in its own right. But now, let's consider life in the grid.

    The promise of grid computing is delicious, and the Cell processor will be a great enabler of that. A moment's consideration suggests to me that somehow, there are going to be fingerprints on processes. In certain ways this too is very exciting. For those of you who are less technically inclined, think of it this way. If you are using windows, if you bring up the task manager, you can see all of the programs your computer is using, sorta. Notice the difference between 'Applications' and 'Processes'. As I write this I show 9 applications running, which corresponds exactly to the number of windows open on my desktop. But when I pop over to Processes, I show 76. One of the things Unix guys (like me) fuss about is that some of these processes can be made invisible to Windows. There might be 10 or 20 more running that I don't know about. That's a simple definition of spyware, and it's a big security hole in Windows. In Unix and Linux systems a command called 'ps' gives a much more comprehensive view. That is, unless your kernel has been hacked.

    The general solution to knowing what exactly is running on your machine is 'fingerprinting'. There are algorithms called 'hashes' that can uniquely identify that every bit in a collection of bytes are in the right place and order. The one I like is called MD5. You could take a huge file, say a 10GB picture of yourself, and change one pixel on a nose hair and MD5 will generate a completely different fingerprint of it. The security tool ZoneAlarm maintains a table of hashes for every program that your computer allows to talk to the internet. But a more advanced kind of security program would have fingerprints of every process that your CPU runs at all. Digital Rights Management extends this concept to certain types of data as well. Whereas ZoneAlarm gives the authority for allowing or restricting programs to you personally, DRM would have third parties determine that authority.

    The Cell chip facilitates such matters by having its own unique ID which can be checked. It doesn't take long for a database guy like me to add two plus two. If you think online registration of programs you buy is a pain, imagine the day when it's done for you whether you like it or not. That's what DRM architecture is all about, and the backdoors will only be in hardware, or at least that's the plan the way I would plan it.

    The great exciting advantage of this is that I could conceivably authorize my mother's computer, with her permission, to help me crunch some numbers. In fact, I could join a computing pool and authorize some fingerprinted programs and/or data to be run simultaeously by the group.

    Now here's the killer, which I never thought of until this moment. I could create a program within which is some encrypted data, that can only run on processors I designate. I could, in effect, create my own DRM scheme. 'I' meaning Al Qaeda. Of course, there will always be 'old' computers and those who don't run Cell processors, and there will conceivably be ways to disassemble code compiled for Cell use only, so there will always be ways to crack the uncrackable. But this is just one more escalation in the complexity of modern computing. It's like an arms race.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:56 AM | TrackBack

    More Eason

    Posted by mbowen at 09:30 AM | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 09:24 AM | TrackBack

    Thursday Fragments

  • BugMeNot doesn't bug Salon.com. That bugs me.
  • Blogcritics isn't taking my trackbacks. That bugs me.
  • I'm actually fed up with XBox. For now.
  • It has taken me 9 days to recover from a disk failure. It was one of those Maxtor 250GB dealies with that I had to specially partition in order for XP to recognize the whole thing. Nevermore. Thank the gods of programming geekery for RecoverMyFiles. Good job guys.
  • I know lots of people have asked privately, but I'm responding publically. No, I am not going to send you a copy of the three episodes of 'Eyes on the Prize' that I took for my own personal use. It's a venal sin to download, it's a major sin to redistribute. Don't ask. More on this later.
  • Suddenly I'm hot. Recruiters are all over me this week. I don't understand why. Must be the economy is coming back.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:43 AM | TrackBack
  • February 09, 2005


    Cobb is a mature blog, and I am very happy with it except for one thing. It's not popular.

    Popularity is all relative, of course. I am very pleased to have made it to Large Mammal status, but I think my stats need to be goosed. In order for me to sustain interest in blogging, I'm going to have to get higher in the 'sphere. Here's what I'm going to do.

    I'm going to ask you all, especially those of you who already have, to put some nice quotes in the comments section. And like all the bloggers who have heretofore been more shameless than me, I will pick and choose the most popular of you, blogwise, and then stick your quotes somewhere near my banner with links to you. And I'll return the favor, if I like you.

    Secondly, I'm going to do more trackbacks and references to blogs that I think are making interesting points. First stop, Blogcritics.

    Thirdly, I'm going to buy advertising here and there. Why? Because I think I'm worth it.

    Fourthly, I'm going to keep writing in this same original, socratic and yet not-too-jargony style.

    I'm going to keep up the cartoons, for sure.

    What I'm not going to do is become a shameless self-promoter, although I will participate in other people's comment sections. I'm also not going to advertise on my personal blog. I'm not going to chase around for me too things to say.

    I also wanted to say thanks to new readers for your kind comments. You are the ones who have spanked me into this new direction.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:50 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    The Month of Blogging Dangerously

    I've solved the group black blog problem.

    It suddenly occured to me that the problem with having a black group blog is that sooner or later, everyone would get sick of it. So I've come up with a solution: The Month of Blogging Dangerously.

    I'd have to fund, organize and build the whole thing because I don't believe in... whatever it is that happens when somebody says, let's do this big black thing. There's some unnamed committee dynamic that just wrecks good ideas. But the Month of Blogging Dangerously basically goes like this:

    You get the hottest black bloggers in the 'sphere to contribute for one month to a free-for-all black blog. You announce it ahead of time, and you buy massive advertising on the biggest blogs and maybe a few non-blogs like Africana, Black Voices, Slate and whomever else. All that matters is that you get a big fat blast out to start, and a dozen good writers to contribute for a month. Instant insanity. Huge hits, tremendous exposure. At the end of the month, everybody goes back to their regularly scheduled blog. Fait accompli.

    The domain becomes a placeholder with ads and referrals to the bloggers and that's the name of that tune. A million blogger march. It's brilliant.

    Anybody have $10,000? I didn't think so. Anyway, you heard it here first, and I am the poster child for what's friggen wrong with this country. African Americans are undercapitalized.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:56 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Psychology, Bullies & Clint Eastwood

    I grew up in a black neighborhood in the 70s, so I don't need psychology.

    A black neighborhood like mine in the 70s was like an Irish, Italian and Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn in the 40s. Its one of those quintessential American places that generate real people by the crateload. But such neighborhoods possess a modicum of toughness, they either make you or destroy you. If you get out, and most people do, you have a distinct advantage over the average Joe. Imagine the average Joe to be from the San Fernando Valley in the 80s. Who'd win in a fight? Probably not the cats who identify most with Michael Anthony Hall. If the average Joe was from Compton in the 90s, that might be considered an overkill of toughness. Such places kill dreams. The Brooklynites and my crew retained all of our humanity and imagination. We'd win that fight because we knew it was not our fight.

    It has to be about a fight because we're human beings, and no matter what is said about the sophistication of our social skills, it all still comes down to dominance and submission. So this is where I pick up the ball on my my latest provocation.

    I am hoping, at this stage in my life, to understand what's truly useful about what I've learned all my life. And it is by taking a detour to the East (I'm going to live and work in Beijing), that I expect to experience what I've learned in a totally new context. That's an exciting thing to me. With that in mind, I tend to look at intelligence as knowing what not to waste time on. So it occurs to me that there is some balance of self-regard I am going to find makes for a better human being.

    I also want to say at this particular moment that I think that Islam is in bad shape as regards its ability to communicate its unique messages to the world. Certainly there is something there we lack and would want in our greed for the eclectic, but the militants and Wahabbists are screwing it up for everyone.

    The Western/Asian mindset has been progressing fairly nicely since the invention of the Pacific Rim in the mid 80s. Here in California, we couldn't imagine life without Sushi or Szechuan. We understand the Tao and we recognize Tai Chi when we see it. We can distinguish Japanese from Chinese, linguistically if not in people's faces (but that's hard even for Asians).

    So what I believe is that this mixture of cultures and outlooks is generating a new type of self-regard. As I deal with businessmen and jetsetters in my new role in international business, this is the constant I am going to be looking for. I'm more than a little displeased that the African and the Arab are left to the side, but I'll get some of the African flavor for certain. I am tending to believe that it is a disarming generousity an lack of artifice in the main - but that may just be a sterotypical attitude of a city slicker who is not so generous or plain. Even so, I got the German, French, British, Aussie and Italian tropes pretty tight. So the American and the European vibes are clear - with Asian rising.

    I'm going to throw in one more tangent, which is that the metropolis around People's Park in Shanghai's Pudong looks very much like something out of science fiction. I've Googled for pictures and they all look fake, it looks too futuristic to be real.

    Back to the main theme.

    Like many Old School folks, I am somewhat perturbed by the strident bullheadedness of folks who are unsatisfied with secularism and find it their moral duty to pursue atheism. Hitchens among them, although he has many other redeeming qualities, they find a rather convenient logical syllogism to dismiss much of religion. In propositional logic, we know that if you accept something false as a premise, you can prove anything. So, goes the argument, if God exists then anything is possible. And specifically Hitchens has a point which is that if [a non-existant] God can forgive any sin, then every sin can ultimately be justified. But generally atheists have no point, the pedagogy of religion is part of the essence of humanity itself, even Carl Sagan respected the numinous.

    Atheists however do have something going for them, or so it would seem. They are scientific to a fault. So how do they handle the nebulosity of human emotion and instinct? Psychological analysis. This is the science, more or less, of human feelings. More importantly psychological health dictates the proper sense of self-regard.

    My provocation here is that psychology is a pseudo-science inferior to and hopefully soon to be replaced by evolutionary biology and cognitive science. From my perspective, psychology is irredeemably culturally poisoned. Our definitions of sanity and mental health, at least in the realm of the bourgeios, are cultural values masquerading as science. Our commonsense notions of 'crazy' are just about as good as that state of the art theory, what we lack is the multivariate experience of hearing 300 people spill their guts over the years, but our ideas are just as good. They are fundamentally the same.

    In other words a good shrink is no better than a good priest. Furthermore a good priest is no better than a good homie from the 'hood.

    So it is this notion that causes me pain when I hear stories like that of the battling babies. Because all I can say is that the conflict is good for the babies, except the 'thoughtful' parents are sublimating their anger and assuming moral superiority in the context of psychology. Meanwhile they are getting their asses kicked face to face.

    I am hopeful that many Americans will give the appropriate props to people who grew up in situations where the good had to survive by beating down the bad. It is the kind of experience that we seem to have little tolerance for these days. You could never get Popeye on children's television these days. That's a shame. We have lost much of our warrior code in the popular culture, so it is no surprise that we like martial arts films where the moral conflict draws antagonists into single combat. We used to have that in Western movies, now there's only Clint Eastwood left. No wonder he's winning all the Oscars.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:38 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    February 08, 2005

    John Yoo: The Unnamed

    This is the interview that people who have decided to hate Judge Gonzales don't want to hear. It is by John Yoo, the man who is unnamed because of the political pressure Democrats seek to bring to bear in the cause of besmirching George W. Bush, and throw yet another monkey wrench at the idea that Bush is not racist.

    John Yoo is a former deputy assistant attorney general in the office of legal counsel of the Dept. of Justice. He wrote some of the memos in the new book The Torture Papers, including some pertaining to the Geneva Conventions and the definition of torture. He signed off on the memo denying prisoner-of-war status under the Geneva Conventions to al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. Yoo is currently a professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley.

    The basic fact to overcome that our liberal friends can't seem to wrap their heads around is that the Geneva Convention is a treaty. You don't treat people who are not signers to the treaty the same as you do with signers of the treaty.

    Yoo says:

    It is also worth asking whether the strict limitations of Geneva make sense in a war against terrorists. Al Qaeda operates by launching surprise attacks on civilian targets with the goal of massive casualties. Our only means for preventing future attacks, which could use WMDs, is by acquiring information that allows for pre-emptive action. Once the attacks occur, as we learned on Sept. 11, it is too late. It makes little sense to deprive ourselves of an important, and legal, means to detect and prevent terrorist attacks while we are still in the middle of a fight to the death with al Qaeda. Applying different standards to al Qaeda does not abandon Geneva, but only recognizes that the U.S. faces a stateless enemy never contemplated by the Conventions.

    At this point in time, I'm a little bit behind in what Gonzales has done specifically with Yoo's start. If I remember correctly, he did begin by assenting to such a premise as that above (made by Yoo last May) back in 2002 when GWBush was just beginning to look at what the law said. The 'quaint' and 'provincial' adjectives in his comments about the Geneva Convention where then blown completely out of proportion, and then he magically became the Torture Guy.


  • Marty Lederman
    Details the differences between the two OLC memoranda on the Federal torture statute and why laywers like one more than the other. A revised version has been released by a cat named Levin just this week.

  • Volokh
    Should Yoo resign for 'aiding and abetting' war crimes?

  • Vision Circle
    The racial angle. Is Bush exploiting racial sentiments to further an agenda to torture?

    Hanes, Yoo, Delahunty

    Posted by mbowen at 06:30 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack
  • How Many Cops Have To Die?

    I just got off the phone with Doc, who is loading up on carbs. Apparently he's going to be on duty all night due to some firey protests happening at Parker Center right about now. Enraged citizens are saying things like 'how many cops have to die before you change?'.

    All this comes in the wake of a recent decision against car thief Stanley Williams who got bopped upside the noggin with a flashlight last year. Nobody's going to fire the cop who did it, citing a lack of evidence of excessive force, ie the cop didn't even draw blood. Urban Leaguer John Mack was looking for cosmic justice there, and Hahn himself decided to spite his own police chief for election brownie points with the assumed 'black vote'.

    Now just the other night, yet another car theif who took cops on a high speed chase was apprehended - with a rain of bullets. This kid happened to be a black teenaged kid on his way down the slippery slope. And so there is predictable outrage.

    Doc is pissed at the local media because, as he put it, "Never in a million years are they going put a mic in front of a reasonable black person who says Williams had it coming." Amen to that.

    Obligatorily, it's always a gross miscarriage of justice when suspects die before they get their day in court. But that goes without saying. What needs to be said in this and every case are the particulars. The particulars here are that this kid's father recently died and there was nobody to pick up the slack. A tale as old and tragic as time itself. This poor kid hit a brick wall and that's a shame, but he was running in the wrong direction to begin with.

    I'm pleased to see that there are no headlines on this unrest at the moment, but I don't watch local news. If there is bad news tomorrow in the idiot escalation of this series of unfortunate events, I hope it's less than lethal. Nobody has to die over this crap.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 12:08 PM | TrackBack

    Michael Jackson, Secular Sex & The War on Terror

    I've been watching more VH1 than ever recently. My Tivo misrecoreded and I got stuck with 60 minutes of a 90 minute documentary on the Gloved One. I think that Michael Jackson is going down because he's guilty.

    Jackson is guilty of thinking that he could trust children. When he his found guilty, it's going to destroy him. He won't be right for a decade. It will be interesting to see Michael Jackson on the other side of this, but what's going to happen in immediate future is fairly easy to guess.

    First of all, anyone who sees this documentary as I did, will finally understand Jackson's weirdness. This is the first time any explanation made perfect logical sense to me. Sparing you the details, Jackson believed all sex was damnibly evil according to the principles of Jehovah's Witnesses. The cleanest possible sex, therefore would be sex with children. At most, probably dry humping and touching through clothes, but who knows really? This is the guy who read the bible to prostitutes sent up to his room.

    Why Michael Jackson decided that he needed to be purer than anyone in the world is anybody's guess. But the unintended consequence of it was that he couldn't simply screw chicks like an ordinary dude. Screwing chicks, and I use this terminology purposefully, would have saved his soul from a jury of his peers. However, Mr. Jackson felt the need to be extraordinary. His prison was of his own creation, something he couldn't escape partially because he was always wealthy enough to keep it functional.

    Bottom line. Jackson is a victim of his own tortured psyche. By refusing the dirt of the world, his unique dirt has no sympathy in the world. He never learned to make lemonade from life's lemons. Instead, he sought the company of people in his own narrow emotional niche. Boy stars, boy cripples, Vienna choirboys, those enchanted with a naive innocent boy's eye view of the world.

    The interesting thing is that it's not too difficult to believe that Jackson's perversion is not particularly shocking. The story of how he became to be a pedophile is more shocking and intersting than the perversity of what I believe to be the alleged crimes. Our taboo's [in]appropriate as they may be are sufficient to put him under the jail, but I hardly expect that the evidence will show Jackson to be a predator. Think of the evil genius who obsessively strokes his cat. It's not normal, but is the cat really harmed?

    We know, or perhaps we in the lay public only think we know, how vicious and sick child predators can be. And there is plenty about our society that makes it damned near impossible to grow up straight given our general inability to talk straight about sex. So it's going to be difficult to get perspective on exactly how sick an entertainer with a dirty sinner boy's view of sex is.

    For one thing, the revelations about the source of Jackson's dysfunction is more of an indictment of the Jehovah's Witnesses than anything. Their moral constraints on sex cause an insurmoutable conflict for Jackson, as they must for anyone with any moderate amount of contact with contemporary American society. Even as I think about Witnesses I have known, the parallels are striking. Jackson, and possibly millions of other Americans, are psychologically damaged by draconian restrictions on sexual expression to the point at which no sexual act can be considered moral, but rather a necessary evil.

    That there are sects of Christianity that impose such restrictions on sex, it is the fact that America is a secular democracy that gives us the right to laws which supercede such 'wills of God'. (And we secularists hope (to God?) that Iraqis choose wisely in this regard).

    I think it is arguable that we are sexier people because we Americans must deal with this sexual duality. If Prince couldn't scandalize us, he wouldn't be sexy. If the Moral Majority hadn't piped up, Janet's would be just another boob. The very fact that there is something to virginity in the American psyche is what made Britney Spears whatever it was that she was. Oh yeah, a sex symbol. America creates and markets sex symbols on a daily basis. It's a huge economy that would flop over dead in a truly libertine society. Sexual liberty (freedom under the law) is a very large part of the capital L Liberty that we cherish. It should surprise no one that when we raise our hackles against other societies we look at the status of women. One of the first questions we ask is whether their women can be sexy or not. I'm not saying we're right or that our judgement is sound in any case, but we ask all the same. After all, why would any American care about 'female genital mutilation'? Because we think of sexual pleasure as a fundamental right, a measure of liberty.

    So denying freedom to Michael Jackson, a sex symbol if there ever was one, strikes a deep chord. There must be a great deal of righteousness attending this matter, because we will need to strike a blow for the right kind of sexual freedom. We'll draw a line in the sand. We'll send a message. We'll say 'never again'.

    It's too bad that we couldn't have gotten over this hump with Gary Condit. The death of Chandra Levy was a great deal more scandalous in all kinds of dimensions than Jacksons bumps and grinds, dirty as they may be. But there's the unwritten rule that only black men truly exemplify evils. White men may offend and make errors in judgement. They may even become tragic anti-heros, but only the black man can embody the spirit of wrong. And in case you forgot, we have a black serial killer too. There are two white exceptions to the embodiment of evil rule, however. They are Clinton and Bush. Other than that, we save our best hateration for the uppity and errant. Condit might have broken that cycle, but instead some lunatics dropped a bomb on our moral circus and we had to get serious.

    Today, however, there is no question about who is legitimately in the White House. We have given our souls back to the Beatles again and the Patriots are victorious. The Iraqis have spoken loud and clear in defense of democracy. Rice and Gonzales have integrated the top jobs in government service to the astonishment of nobody, and Cheech and Chong are getting back together. In other words, all is well with America, so we can get back to the mindless business of moral mythologies. By the way, I keep forgetting to mention because I kept forgetting that everyone forgot about terrorism marring the Rose Parade or the Super Bowl.

    We're complacent again. What a country!

    It is my sincere hope that our complacency has not taken place in a vaccuum. We should by now have been hardened to the concepts of 'advanced interrogation' and unilateralism. We should already be nice and deaf to the lamentations of Sudanese women and babies in our complacency. This hardness will prepare us for the inevitable dirty bombs and ugliness to come in the asymmetrical war we wage on behalf of truly free people in the first world and the hope that the rest of the planet hopes this way. I think we are properly reserving our rage for the right enemies, and we are prepared to spill the right amount of blood in our righteous indignation.

    But I do worry that we may not have enough money in the bank.

    Chances are that, for the sanctity of family and the protection of children, such a deviant as Michael Jackson will be removed from the public and sent to his doom under some prison somewhere. He's sure to get his due process. And most certainly every American with an opinion will note that justice was done. By the time he gets out of jail, we'll have our Megan's Law databases indexed by Google with alerts automatically emailed just in case he is released to a halfway house in our immediate vicinity. In fact, we'll know about all of the sexual predators and violent offenders by then, if the current trends continue. but I wonder if we'll be any safer from those who are truly after our balls.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:07 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    February 07, 2005


    Posted by mbowen at 06:23 PM | TrackBack

    Don't Be So Quick To Judge GoDaddy

    The best commercial for the Superbowl was the one with the cat and the butcher knife. Gotta love that.

    Second best belongs to GoDaddy for pushing the goddamned limits. Fox deserves a big kick in their pants for pulling the second spot and I hope GoDaddy gets their money back. It was the only commercial that brought back the irreverance of the dot com revolution commercials. They held up their end. Better yet, they're blogging about the censorship. It's second best, but also most significant.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Condi's Black Ops II: Tyrone Willingham

    According to the WaPo's Russakof:
    Perhaps Rice's biggest impact on Stanford football was as provost in 1994, when according to Tyrone Willingham, she was "very, extremely instrumental in my becoming head coach."

    Rice as provost and Willingham, one of the few African American head coaches in Division I-A, sent a powerful signal of Stanford's vision of opportunity, recalls athletic director Leland. In 1999, Willingham coached the team to its first Rose Bowl appearance in 28 years, and Leland remembers watching the game that clinched the bowl berth from the press box with Rice. With two minutes to go, Leland says, Stanford recovered a fumble, sealing the victory, "and right then, Condi jumped up and cried out, 'There is a God!' I said it was fitting that for 4,000 years we've debated this question, and Condi Rice has settled it -- at a football game."

    I had heard that Rice was a big football fan, but I really had no idea until I read this piece. Thanks George.
    Posted by mbowen at 08:52 AM | TrackBack

    February 06, 2005

    RIP: Ossie Davis

    Ossie Davis was the man a lot of people think Morgan Freeman is. Ossie Davis is the old man of black acting and activism, a man with a soul two miles deep. A couple weeks ago I was helping Moms with one of her many computer problems, and so being in her bedroom I had to bear up under the weight of the Gospel Channel, whichever one that is. As part and parcel of this was a family drama about a middle aged woman who began to lose her mind from Alzheimers. It had the distinct feel of an episode of 'Touched by an Angel' except for the fact that it ran feature length. As hokey and soapy as it was, there were many truly tender moments in dramatization of things we think we see on television but actually don't. What happens when mom gets Alzheimers. In this drama, which I'm pretty sure was funded by Dobson's group. Davis played the magic negro. He came with the appropriate bibical hardline in a soft reassuring drawl, every time the husband in the story felt as though it were time to give up some virtue.

    I've never been a huge fan nor a great critic of Ossie Davis. He and Ruby Dee have always represented a pedestrian kind of morality which became intimately familiar over the years. Together, the were like soft pokes in the shoulder, never too bossy but always in the same spot. Whenever you thought of a role for Ossie Davis, you knew exactly what you were going to get. A wise old black man coming out of a tradition of love and respect who was going to show you, one way or another, the right thing to do.

    This familiarity was something our generation rebelled against. Davis aptly represented everything dusty about the Old School. Twice in Spike Lee's films, Davis represented an old authority being challenged by youth's vision. As 'Da Mayor' in 'Do the Right Thing', he was called a drunk and ridiculed. That very black tradition of having 'an elder' in every neighborhood was called into question. I believe that to me, and to many others Davis himself became permanently associated with a powerless generation of African Americans whose moral vision was more appropriate to 'Negroes' rather than contemporary blacks dealing with new social issues. On the other hand, in 'Get on the Bus', Lee's film about the Million Man March, Davis represented the disgust an older generation with its well-wrapped universe of culture and respect had for a younger generation often confused and adrift in a world of freedoms they never sacrificed to earn. In either aspect, Lee perceptively cast Ossie Davis, a man you can hardly look at without calling 'Pops'.

    Davis and Dee were producers for a long time in their careers and I will be setting the Tivo to absorb more of them. Ruby Dee must be crying relentlessly now. That they could be apart is a greater tragedy than his death.

    The passing of such actors, pioneers breaking barriers, will be a long season. We will be looking at Poitier and others one day. Buy their DVDs now, if you can get 'em.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:09 AM | TrackBack

    February 05, 2005

    The P Factor

    Posted by mbowen at 07:00 PM | TrackBack

    February 04, 2005

    Black in the 80s

    Oh man VH1 has done it again. If you are not watching 'Black in the 80s', you're missing a great series. It's all in there. Lou Gossett, Spike Lee, Run DMC and all that. Them was my days, brudda!

    BTW. If you ever get a chance to see Eddie Murphy in Boomerang, you get closer to any picture ever to where my head was at as a single man in corporate America. It's still hilarious when I look at it today and think about me and my running buddies talking about women's feet.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:06 PM | TrackBack

    Eye on Ford

    Submandave makes a prediction that I think passes muster.

    Democrat Congressman Harold Ford Jr. from Tennessee will "cross the aisle" and support President Bush in establishing private Social Security accounts. He will end up one of Bush's major bipartisan partners and be invited to the signing of the final Bill.

    Ford has always struck me as the kind of individual who smells like a Republican, in the good way of course. But he's got too much sense to abandon what has been handed to him, so he's a Democrat. He doesn't strike me as the kind of individual who might get his dander up like a Zell Miller, but I don't think he has much other company in the Democratic South, such as it is.

    Ford has instant BAP credibility. Let's see how quickly it gets impugned if the prediction comes true.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:11 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    I Don't Just Happen To Be Republican

    Geopolitically, I'm a textbook neocon, although tending toward the cheap hawk scenario. I believe American Imperialism can be a force for post-colonial liberation. Economically, I'm for open borders, open shops, no minimum wages and pollution commodities markets.

    I'm for minimalist good government and private elistism when it comes to social policy. I think the American safety net should be infrastructural rather than personal - that is America should not guarantee free health care, rather they should guarantee the country's ability to stop polio and smallpox from ever becoming a problem here again. That safety net should be indexed to a reasonable incremental margin above Western standards moving up and down over time in line with economic performance. The idea that Roosevelt's Great Society should be a permanent endowment does not make sense to me.

    I agree with the president that borders should be open and that America should have a net immigrant growth taking advantage of the peace dividend of the 20thC. That is to say until China gets its act together, we should expect to educate Chinese immigrants and grow this country that way..on down the line to Bangladesh. Repatriation is imperial thereby guaranteeing that what works best here is ultimately implemented there - America as global incubator & VC.

    That's way more Republican than Democrat, and I think the reason has to do with principled socialism in the Democratic party, which I do not abide. I think the global business model is going to win and destroy the Democrats' economic base and discredit their political theory. The wane of Big Labor and the rise of Undocumented Labor is the indisputable evidence that socialists are on the losing side. Business American Style, complete with its 401Ks, paid maternity leave, stock options, flexible medical accounts, flatter organizations, real-time communications & computing, entrepreneurial quickness, diversity training and other first world innovations are all evolutions of capitalist corporatism and the revolution of business management ala Peter Drucker. The left had nothing to do with it. It was the rise of the Yuppie and the MBA that accounted for American business productivity over the past 25 years, now this is a real investor class. This thing GWBush calls the Ownership Society is real, and the fact that more Americans read the Wall Street Journal than ever before is no accident.

    Such things don't just 'happen to be' Republican. It is the real legacy of the Reagan Revolution in contradistinction to the Saturday Night Live vision of America. We can look to our culture and see where the lines are drawn.

    I am most impressed with GWBush's open, above board use of the regular Army (and Reserves) in dealing with Iraq. Just having watched Harrison Ford in Clancy's 'Clear and Present Danger', it is amply clear that the American Presidency has been dramatically changed and indeed liberated from hand-wringing secrecy. There is a huge difference between what GWBush had done today (and ironically what Rumsfeld sought to downsize in terms of diversifying the Powell Doctrine) and what Reagan did twenty years ago. Whether it was the nature of Saddam's national threat or the irony of using covert action against terrorist cells, the end result of marching large numbers of American troops to overturn a foreign power is tremendously beneficial for the reputation of America as a nation that does what it says, rather than as a nation that sends 'military advisors' around the globe in pursuit of secret policies. This to me is GWBush's greatest legacy, one that makes America honest and plain.

    Domestically, I believe that we should be able to sustain a broad variety of classes and that it is vital that the same old American dream be accessible to an internal Third World. I have a great deal of disdain for the necessity to legislate and otherwise regulate into existence of affordable housing. I think that the political leadership of the nation should be responsible to keep business feet to the anti-trust fire in order to sustain a diversity of mid and small cap businesses that operate on thinner margins in more downscale communities and regions. In other words, instead of small towns in the midwest emptying out because all profits have been sucked out for the sake of mega-efficiency that some lower performing businesses remain solvent and provide steady, if low income jobs.

    That means insurance reform, and restrictions on massive capital investments. It means American businesses above a certain level should aim to be globally competitive, not just use their accumulated capital to consolidate and cherry pick smaller businesses for mergers and acquisitions. I understand that this is a constraint on the road up, but it can also force a kind of efficiency downward. Again, to my way of thinking, it is simply anti-trust.

    That's all for now, I smell a new tangent coming on.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:48 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Mo Greene: Gone

    I'm sure that in the world of Track & Field, somewhere out there Maurice Greene is getting his props. But as we approach this Super Bowl Sunday, amidst all the blather about what [black] athletes lack in character, we in the American public have truly forgotten this man.

    It hasn't been a year since the Olympic Games in Athens. What can you remember? If I say 'Marion Jones', what's the first thing that comes to mind? Drug scandal? It's a shame that she was slandared like that. We destroy those whom we are supposed to respect and raise higher the profile of twisted characters. What's wrong with us?

    I have endured long, long, long conversations about the value of whathisname who almost sorta mooned some football fans a couple weeks ago. But in my universe nobody from the NFL approaches the inspiration of Olympic athletes. From my odd point of view, football players are most fun when they are something of charicatures of themselves. 'Remember the Titans' factor notwithstanding, people like Emmitt Smith are boring. Give me Deion Sanders or Jeff McMahon any day. What football fans are loathe to admit is that the days of Vince Lombardi are long gone. Football is no longer the noble metaphor it once was, and there is no team capable of being 'Americas Team' the way the Packers once were.

    There are coaches out there in basketball and football, notably Bill Belichik and Larry Brown who have done well to generate all for one and one for all attitude that shuns the cult of personality around superstardom. But none of the major leagues today seem capable of sustaining such an attitude. Major League sports are in the same kind of crisis as is the Catholic Church and it speaks poorly of us all. But what's worse is that we ignore those possessed of singular talents and character, like Maurice Greene.

    Greene remains the patron saint athlete of this blog, as I said in the beginning. He's the man in my book though he may not have the popularity he deserves. And as the antics and scandals escalate in the world of pro sports and people look for some way to outdo or undo what was done last year at the Super Bowl, there I will sit mildly amused and a little disgusted.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:08 AM | TrackBack

    Remembering Turkle

    I found this paragraph:

    Turkle (1984) vividly describes nerd self-identity in her ethnographic study of undergraduate men at MIT. In one social event "they flaunt their pimples, their pasty complexions, their knobby knees, their thin, underdeveloped bodies" (196); in interviews they describe themselves as losers and loners who have given up bodily pleasure in general and sexual relations in particular. But Turkle notes that this physical self-loathing is compensated for by technological mastery; hackers, for example, see themselves as "holders of an esoteric knowledge, defenders of the purity of computation seen not as a means to an end but as an artist's material whose internal aesthetic must be protected" (207).

    Back in the first days of the internet, the world turned to people like Donna Hoffman, Howard Rheingold and Sherry Turkle to understand what the wired world was all about. Each of these individuals are alive and kicking in their respective disciplines and better informed about the medium than ever. Yet somehow in the wake of the acceptance of the stereotypical 'geek', their particular studied genius is ignored. These days we are just as likely to grant credibility to anyone with a fetish for cartoon penguins or puts numerals in their spelling of computer jargon. More's the pity.

    These days, there seems to be a boom market for manifestos. But they all seem to be pointed to the cult of the dead cow and other elite programmers, hackers, coders, crackers, open source devotees, distro evangelists, p2p mavens and others heavily invested in the new world of geek cool. But this is all Guild-speak. The rest of us need to pull our heads up periodically to look at how all this effects us as people. Turkle's paragraph, now 21 years old, reminds us that there are basic human things going on here. So let's try to keep that in mind, eh?

    Next up, decoding the latest manifesto.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:30 AM | TrackBack

    Eason Jordan: Tick Tick Tick

    In the steady disintermediation presaging a major shift in the way industries do business, Eason Jordon is being hoisted on the petard of disclosure. Blogs do it better than major media, and as others in the blogswarm have noted correctly, we are going to hound down and parse the question of journalistic privilege during wartime.

    For excellent reading on the subject, see Rony Abovitz.

    Right now I believe that US soldiers were too busy doing real soldiering, that nobody here really reported, to target harmeless and discredited Arab journalists. But I would not be surprised if Arab embeds on the rebel side got blown up collaterally, many times.

    But the larger question, it seems to me, keeps coming back to the nature of what our attention sustains, and what value it truly has. I certainly feel indebted to those journalists who are truly war correspondants, like Dexter Filkins who are not afraid to go into the middle of the shooting and bring some perspective about battles onto our screens.

    Somewhere in this blog, I have advocated for WarTV, all combat all the time. I want to see video images from the fronts. I know this to be impossible - there is a certain Heisenberg effect that would be generated by live coverage that no self-respecting general wants. I think the 'video game' coverage of laser guided bombs is about as close as we're ever going to get to that. Short of this kind of 'trial of the century' wall to wall coverage, I think we as an audience have to judge the effect our attention has on what data becomes ethically distributable. In other words, our hunger for news is the sole reason that journalists are in the middle of wars anyway.

    If Knowledge = Pain, then the curious are masochistic, and voyuers are sadistic. (wrings hands, twists moustache) Let's see what happens as the clock runs down on Eason Jordan.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:26 AM | TrackBack

    February 03, 2005

    Everybody Loves Oprah

    I'm going to throw out a wild idea. I've been in some fairly vigorous debate over at Vision Circle with the gents who make me think the hardest about black politics. There, I wrote the following:

    Perhaps Democrats have only recently become non-racist enough for their liberal ideas to come from behind the condescention of radical chic and actually deliver some worthwhile patronage to black constituents. Hey but that's not my issue. I discount the racism on both sides, and thus have taken away the power of 'we love black people' to focus on more hardball issues - like the kind of permanent economic improvement that is not dependent on the political will of the majority.

    As soon as I wrote that, it occurred to me that there is a very cynical way of looking at Oprah's success. America loves Oprah because no matter how wealthy and powerful she becomes, she is always open, friendly, accessible and (gulp) non-threatening. Oprah stays middle class. No matter what she does, she's still right there.

    In the North, they say you can get high & mighty as you like, but don't get too close. In the South they say you can get as close as you like, but don't get too high & mighty. Oprah is from the South, can't you tell? She seems incapable of offending, and I believe that is her genuine personality. I don't dislike Oprah, but I do like Cosby better. I favor my father, who is from the North, can't you tell?

    I am far from convinced that blacks and whites in this country have separate destinies. But there remain a host of things we have yet to do as blacks that stand out to me like sore thumbs. Unfortunately, those are things that are generally reserved for upper class folks with money, brains and/or power. So my sore thumbs are not considered 'authentic'. I know better than anyone that unique rage of the privileged class that Ellis Cose wrote about a decade ago. Every now and then, we get closer to the kind of promised land I could retire in, but I still look at films like Eddie Murphy's Boomerang and dream on.

    What is the power of 'I love black people'? How does it disarm and disable? Just throwing it out there.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:39 PM | TrackBack

    No Wood No Peace

    Posted by mbowen at 10:04 PM | TrackBack

    The UN Mandate

    I can't believe my ears. I heard people today defending the UN inspectors and privileging their process over that of the US military.

    I don't see how anybody could say that given the spineless mandate of UN peacekeepers. This is the UN that is careful not to call what's going on in Darfur 'genocide'. I actually believe they have a point, but that's not the issue. The issue is what a UN mandate actually mandates, and I am gradually being convinced that it means nothing.

    When I awoke from my bourgie American haze to the gutbucket reality of geopolitics late in the 80s, one of the situations that got me to wake up was that of the wars for Namibia. In little more than an afternoon at some rally, I was alerted to the fact of Namibia's wealth in uranium, and the proxy wars being fought in and around that country. Suddenly Namibia was on my map. And when I looked at any political map, I found that South Africa had a claim on Walvis Bay, the port city of Namibia that facilitated the global trade in uranium. The UN began trying to act on this matter in 1978, and the territory wasn't settled until 1994.

    Am I under the influcence of the film 'Hotel Rwanda'? Yes. Do I think that the closing of the UN Mission in Iraq was cowardly? Yes. I believe that anyone who is not afraid to shoot at UN Peacekeepers is capable of defeating their efforts and rendering all UN proclamations to the effectiveness level of prayer.

    Oil for Food scandal aside, it is becoming clear to me that the UN bureacracy is not actually effective. NGOs do a better job. What exactly do the world trust the UN to accomplish? I'm not exactly sure, but it has proven itself to be a poor arbiter.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:37 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    February 02, 2005

    State of the Union - Live Blogging

    18:08 Even Kerry is clapping.

    ... (missed a few minutes)

    :11 - An active force for good in the world. Confident and strong.
    Quite true.

    Well, he's jumping straight into it. The legacy. Prosecuted corporate criminals. That's not Ashcroft's doing so much as Spitzer's. Nobody punished Microsoft.

    The left side doesn't like making tax cuts permanent. 150 government programs that 'don't fulfill essential priorities'. But I do like 'wisely or not at all'.

    Yay for community colleges. Yay for increasing Pell Grants.

    Every time he says 'small business' people just yell. Boom boom boom, he's just ripping through this stuff. It sounds like the British Parliament with all the Hear Hears.

    Environmentally responsible forms of energy. Conservation, and Nukes. I knew the nukes were coming. Good on that. Hydrogen fuels, yeah whatever to that. Clean Coal will make a bigger difference. More secure, less dependent on foreign energy.

    Uh Oh Immigration.
    Rejects amnesty? What's that all about. Hmm. A reversal?

    Social Security. Honor its great purposes. Strengthen and save Social Security. Do I smell triangulation?

    55 years and older. No changes. AARP gets what they want.

    2042? Don't tell me about 2042.

    It should not be a small matter for the US Congress. The left side of the aisle wants to punt.

    Smart move now in citing a whole bunch of ideas. They're all on the table.

    He sets out the ground rules. Sounds good to me. OK it's not worth all that much clapping. Now this is starting to get boring. It sounds like he's got the whole thing laid out.

    Does everybody like this Thrift Savings Plan? Well he's pitching it you young people.

    Government should not undermine the values..OK Constitutional amendment? I thought that was dead. This is all for applause.

    Human life never bought or sold as a commodity. Not bad. CSspan can only focus on one side of the aisle here it seems.

    OK now the activist judge thing. Energize the base. OK

    We continue to support faith-based...OK.
    Young men an ideal of manhood that respects women and rejects violence. That sounds like Compassionate Conservatism. Parents & Pastors, Coaches and Community leaders. Good one. So now Laura Bush takes the stage. Deft move W.

    Reauthorize Ryan White Act. Hey the left side stood up. 'Everybody has AIDS'. Oops there got the brothers standing up quick.

    DNA evidence. Barry Scheck is smiling. Yay. Special training in capital cases? Good.

    I didn't realize that Dennis Hastert was that fat.

    NATO is training Iraqi troops? I didn't know that. Maybe they are good for something after all these years.

    The conditions that feed the ideology of terror. Yeah right, we're going to change the conditions of the world? The only force powerful enough.. is the force of human freedom. Is that so hard to believe? Did Zarqawi say that?

    Our aim is to build and preserve a community of free nations. Because democracies respect their own citizens and their neighbors. Very good stuff. Ukraine, Palestine. Nicely.

    Secretary of State Rice. I like the sound of that. 350 million aint much. We can afford that. Is peace within reach? Hmm. I sorta doubt it. But let's give it six months.

    Oooh. Call out the Saudis. Call out Egypt. That's what I'm talking about. Confront Syria. Well the Syrians have a weak government, what can they really do?

    Iran must give up its Uranium enrichment program. As you stand for your own libery, America stands with you. We have a nice example of this now don't we?

    Aren't people getting tired of standing up and then sitting down again? Well about the Iraqi elections they really do have to. Nice story about the woman who got her parents out of bed. Hey Sofia. This his your night. Brilliant. Is her finger still blue? No matter. This is the highlight of the evening.

    A small group of extremists will not overturn the will of the Iraqi people.

    An effective command structure for the Iraqis. Iraqis must be able to secure their own country. W, knows that he cannot afford to abandon Iraqis. Anybody who saw the movie 'Three Kings' knows that story. We will not set an artificial timetable. Good.

    Paen to the troops. Injured troops. Right on target. This is shaping up to be a pretty damned good speech. Bryon Norwood. Hugs. Oh man I'm about to cry.

    Confidence in freedom's power to change the world. We live in the country where the biggest dreams are born. Good stuff.

    OK it's over. Whew. Somebody give me a tissue.
    Thank God for CSPAN, I couldn't stand to hear the spin coming in right away. Good Night.

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

    Straight Liberals

    It has been a long time since I have called myself a 'straight liberal', but I recall the occasion that made me think so. It was a visit to a club in Los Angeles called Catch One which was, at the time, a eye-opening if not mind-blowing experience.

    During that particular point in my life, around about 1989, I was getting tired of my old buppie cadre and decided to go out on a limb, experimenting with such radical concepts such as reggae music and fashion, Pacifica Radio, and Multicultural Politics. I ended up being something of a spoken word artist and a host of other things, but I never forgot where I had come from or why I left. And it was this sense of realism that made me choose the term 'straight liberal' because while my new girlfriend who very much resembled Joie Lee suggested that I explore my feminine side, I wasn't at all conflicted about my own sexuality nor my distrust of 'the personal as political'. Still, I was not averse to letting such ideas run free in my mind, and I surely recognized the power of such artistic endeavors as Marlon Riggs' 'Tongues Untied' and Mapplethorpe's photographs.

    I think that my experience of those years was instructive in that I got enough of a taste for the boho lifestyle to understand its limits, strengths and weaknesses. After about 4 years of it, I got married to my old buppie girlfriend and never looked back. More recently I have viewed much gay activism with skepticism, especially that over the question of marriage. It may be the particular set of politically and culturally active gays I came to respect, but I never could see that wedding rings and mainstream social acceptance were their endgame. My recent smackdown of Larry Kramer speaks to this.

    Trolling Negrophile for potential ways and means to improve my blogtraffic, I came across the following:

    The black gay movement has been hijacked. Yes hijacked by these —self-promoting ambulance chasing looking pretty for the camera manufactured cookie cutter stepford fags who are into activism because they could not cut it in Hollywood. Or America's next top male model. Or the AIDS divas who are mostly, though not all, terribly dysfuctional. They hold groups of black men hostage with their self-righteous rhetoric and "brothas are dying" proclamations while they finance their trips to get manicures and wear their designer clothes to AIDS conferences bringing to mind Mother Teresa in Manolos. Not that people doing good work should not get paid and wear what they want. But thinking of some AIDS divas that are not doing good work, who I would not let run my little cousin’s lemonade stand, or my grandmother’s yard sale, let alone an AIDS agency, brings to mind the corrupt preacher stealing out of the collection plate.

    I can't say exactly what I expect from hearing sexuality discussed intelligently, but I have to admit that if there's something to be learned, you could do a lot worse than Charles Stephens.

    I've not expected much from, nor invested much time in black gay blogging or writing in general. In the long view of things, I think that our intimate relationships speak more to issues of self than they do to issues of society. I believe that the gulf between the personal and the political is, and should be wide - that ones duty to others is a matter of selfless obligation. To bring ones sexual history into it is simply inappropriate, and quite frankly selfish. I thought of that in particular yesterday as Terri Gross interviewed the black daughter of the late senator & arch segrgationist Strom Thurmond. His sexual exploits were legendary to the Washington insiders. To the rest of us, he was something else entirely, but we needn't have known the whole man to know enough, and none of us should have been the ones to judge. His paternity serves no political purpose, and yet I recall the outrage and theorizing that went into much of the verbiage of that scandal. In the end what good did it do us? None. That woman is no political symbol, she's somebody's daughter.

    And so we are faced with the problem of this blurring of lines in American politics in which people put greater and greater amounts at stake in having their own existential situation confirmed or denied in the personal politics of the days or the personalities of politicians. Meanwhile, I think men of goodwill are turning their backs to the entire charade. That spells trouble.

    We should not confuse the personal with the political and it's about time people started standing up and saying so. I care about the health and robustness of our pluralistic democracy, but I don't care about what you do on your knees, religiously or sexually. I think more people should make the distinction and I'm glad to find one whom I think has.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:42 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Compacts & Contracts

    I am optimistic but have mixed feelings about the new overtures that Republicans and Newt Gingrich are making towards African Americans. The new 'Mayflower Compact for Black America' from the Gingrich camp and Bishop Harry Jackson's 'Contract with Black America on Moral Values' both strike me as mixed blessings.

    These days, it is taken as an article of faith by just about everyone that American Evangelical Christians belong to the Republican Party. To the extent that these initiatives are generated out of that particular sentiment, problems will arise. Were I one of those Evangelicals, I would wonder exactly how closely the direction from the Party is meeting the aspirations of the grass roots. From where I stand it looks like a match made in Heaven, but working out the details will keep everyone in Purgatory for a time. Those details are that everyone in the Party is not genuinely evangelical though they may be looking at the Black Vote that way. Conversely everyone in the black right is not evangelical and they may percieve the Republican effort to be too narrow.

    But even where expectations meet in the middle, I see two important caveats. The first is that one should understand that this is all about votes and the broad appeals are going to be used primarily for marginal purposes. The Republican Party is not going to spend proportional amounts of money to go after all Evangelicals, but as many as possible especially in battleground states. Every candidate that gets generated out of this effort is not going to be dipped in the Holy Spirit. In the end, what matters to Republicans is beating down Democrats and if you can beat down the Devil doing so, that's a bonus, but not a necessity. People who think this is an opportunity to glorify His Holy Name are going to be dissappointed in the end. It's going to come down to money, just you wait and see. Living in California as I do I cannot imagine this initiative being as successful as it will be in the Black South. Then again, I might be surprised.

    The second and more particular point is that it can be assumed that this effort for the Black Vote will be considered a subset of the Evangelical Christian vote, in otherwords a subset with a twist rather than a whole new constituency. These will be people who are looking for blacks who sing Amazing Grace with rhythm, but they won't know who Kirk Franklin is. This represents a bold opportunity in the meet and greet department, and I'm going to cash in on the new openness too. I'm not evangelical by a longshot, so watch my elbows.

    Aside from those gotchas, there is a lot of good afoot. To the extent that getting black votes is a self-fulfilling prophesy and in the end my goals are all about diversifying the heretofore monolithic black vote, this is all good news.

    One particularly bright spot in the news is this meeting as described by the LA Times:

    Last week, about two dozen black civic and religious leaders who agree with Bush on moral issues visited the White House, where they received the president's thanks and were urged to support his plan to revamp Social Security.

    One who attended the meeting, the Rev. Eugene F. Rivers of Boston, said the post-election period marked the beginning of a "significant transformation" among African Americans, a clear move toward the GOP.

    Rivers had been hosted in the White House by Bill and Hillary Clinton, who heralded his work with gangs in Boston. He also has conferred with Police Chief William J. Bratton about Los Angeles' gang problem. Lately, Rivers has been embraced by Bush, whom he supported last year.

    I am critical but not skeptical. I have seen the synergy between white Republicans and conservative blacks up close and personal. It is genuine and real. I've seen the freckle-faced call for moral clarity and patriotic respect, and I've heard the dark-complected 'Amen!'. Yet anyone who thinks this marriage is going to be easy is not paying close enough attention. To my eyes, the kind of fire and brimstone preachers who are down for a moral crusade in terms of anti-gay activism are a far cry from the Thomas Sowells of the world and strangers to the world of Republican fundraising.

    Further, I'm saying it loud and clear right here, that there are going to be struggles for attention in this initiative. The old Talented Tenth contingent, speaking for myself and my existential partners, who are well integrated and upscale are going to seethe a bit while Republican operatives attend to the Moral Minority. But the fact is that ministers do deliver votes whereas all we can deliver is talent and legitimacy. This takes place during a time when moderate Republicans such as myself, McCain, Whitman, Giuliani & Schwartzeneggar are having serious beefs with social conservatives.

    I recognized this dynamic a while back, and I was bit surprised to see that my neocon, pro-business angle on Republican politics was not the dominant position from the black perspective. I expected to see more Walter Williams types in the room, instead we were more than offset by the Jesse Lee Petersens. But that's my own activist gripe; the ordinary black voter is going to be well served by this friction and jousting. The point is that there is attention and attraction.

    In the end, geting below the surface of the skin game is what the Republicans need to do, and they are about to do so. I hope people are smart enough at this juncture to hold tight to their core beliefs and wrangle out some real horsetrading patronage out of these initiatives. Republicans are going to have to be patient and recognize that diversity in the African American electorate is real - that this one size is not going to fit all. Black voters and political activists are going to have to recognize that they don't get to co-opt the entire racial demographic.

    I understand clearly that the advantage in this game at this time lies with black evangelicals. My partner in this struggle of the Conservative Brotherhood, LaShawn Barber, exemplifies where the nexus of the larger American Right and Black Conservatives are meeting right now. Her popularity is self-evident and on the rise. But just like the Brotherhood, black moderates and conservatives are not in ideological lockstep. But all of us are hoping that intiatives of this sort will generate a breakthrough in the national dialog and will energize a diversity of interests in the real diversity of the black electorate.

    The bottom line is that both political parties are going to have to work harder to get and keep the attention, votes and money of African Americans. These initiatives, particular and peculiar as they may be across the broad spectrum of political initiatives to increase the black vote, are welcome and indeed encouraged. Here's to hoping that people are smart about it.

    Check It:

  • VisionCircle
  • Prometheus 6

    Posted by mbowen at 08:03 AM | TrackBack
  • February 01, 2005

    Iraq Review

    This is an opportunistic time to review my thinking on Iraq, which hasn't changed a great deal since the last time I weighed in on the matter last year.

    The >60% voter turnout in Iraq really speaks for itself, and I think that it's about time that people who have been stretching the boundaries of logic and common sense trying to find ulterior motives in the President's intentions ought to admit that they are full of crap. That, not surprisingly, includes a great many Iraqis themselves. But most especially, I'd like to send a boot to the head of those critics who made such a fuss about the meaning of the word 'sovereignty'. Remember that? Still skeptical?

    I think that Friedman is dead on target about the Shi'a on stage. They are going to be conciliatory and recognizing the significance of their new legitimacy, they are going to be gracious while the world watches. Importantly, Iranian mullahs should be shaking in their boots. Their ability to suggest that their form of revolution is the only legitimate path toward islamic empowerment has just been savaged by the reality on the ground in Iraq.

    For the first time since the LA Riots, I listened to Dan Rather drone on for more than 3 minutes straight and I'm not quite mortified but rather sorry for the old sap. He veers onto a tangent about poor roads, spotty electricity service and no garbage collection. It actually makes sense. So when asked, aside from security, what's holding back these bread and butter issues, he talks about shiite vs sunni and 'slipping into civil war'. Is it me or did he completely elide the question? Here everyone and their mama has been mumbling about Shiite vs Sunni, and then he asserts that the real issues are infrstructural, then when asked about progress on infrastructure he starts in about how the insurgents aren't going anywhere so many more Iraqi police and guardsmen have to be trained.

    I'm not as convinced as some that the next government will have great difficulty mustering an army to give rebels the boot. The thing that convinces me that Iraqi nationalism isn't dead are my memories over the design of the new Iraqi flag. There are already reports that the Iraqis are starting to hand over more intel on their fascist bretheren.

    Meanwhile not many I've head in the American press are willing to admit that there are secular forces in the Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni slates who will assert themselves. And as soon as the General Assembly begins their constitutional deliberations, these factions are going to have to be identified as well as their positions. No longer will the media have an out to suggest that the three 'groups' are going to rip each other to shreds or 'slip into civil war'. There will be real horsetrading politics going on. I predict that the anti-Bush spinners will focus purely on Iraqi foreign policy and [dis]regard for the US, and basing rights.

    Let us recall a bit of the litany. Two days after Christmas, the international press was calling for Rumsfeld's head. It didn't happen. In November, we went hunting for 3,000 rebels in Falluja. We routed them. This past weekend more than twice that many Sunnis voted in the election, Sunnis from Falluja. The end of October saw the end of the Madhi Army. You don't hear anything about al Sadr any longer do you? Also back in those days, Kerry thought he could destroy the administration for missing 380 tons of high explosives out of 406,000 tons already accounted for. Back in the beginning of October, the whiners were sure that a single election wouldn't work and that the country was inevitably headed towards partition.

    What would be a good thing to see right about now is some update on the Bremer Report. We haven't really heard anything about the infrastructure in Iraq. We know that 50+ people were murdered over the election weekend and that was a rather high number. That so many Iraqis did their duty and voted begs the unasked question about what they've been doing all these other days when the terrorist bombers are not so busy.

    GWBush is still a mediocre president. Going to Iraq is still a good idea. American troops are still crushing militias in rebellion. Al Zarqawi will be the next idiot to get his due. Now back to your regularly scheduled pissing and moaning.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:55 PM | TrackBack

    The Metaphysics of the NFL

    Posted by mbowen at 07:32 PM | TrackBack

    Beyond Bombs

    Thanks to Kevin McCullough, I discovered an interesting tie in Condi's history. It's an interesting time, now Black History Month, to draw connections. It turns out that Rice knew one of the Four Little Girls of Birmbingham Alabama. She says:

    I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, before the Civil Rights movement--a place that was once described, with no exaggeration, as the most thoroughly segregated city in the country. I know what it means to hold dreams and aspirations when half your neighbors think you are incapable of, or uninterested in, anything better.

    I know what it's like to live with segregation in an atmosphere of hostility, and contempt, and cold stares, and the ever-present threat of violence, a threat that sometimes erupted into the real thing.

    I remembered the bombing of that Sunday school at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963. I did not see it happen, but I heard it happen and I felt it happen, just a few blocks away at my father's church. It is a sound that I will never forget, that will forever reverberate in my ears. That bomb took the lives of four young girls, including my friend and playmate Denise McNair. The crime was calculated, not random. It was meant to suck the hope out of young lives, bury their aspirations, and ensure that old fears would be propelled forward into the next generation.

    I've long said that history belongs to the survivors, and there's a huge part of American history that few people want to admit to - the wrong side of the Civil Rights Movement. When you watch Eyes on the Prize, you won't find people pointing with pride to their uncles in the white mob. So there's much moral history written in courage that overwrites the despicable acts, and blackfolks have an upper hand in inheriting that. Doing the right thing in Alabama wasn't easy, but for many it was necessary. We are extarodinarily fortunate that Dr. Rice will never forget.

    Today, after Iraqis have voted after a long dark period in their history, it is perhaps overly simplistic to draw parallels between the unpopularity of presidential orders to send troops to 'interfere' in affairs of self-governance. But there are many of us who hold certain Constitutional constants to be universal. If we are to be called 'outside instigators', sobeit.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:26 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    US Search

    I just wasted a perfectly good 2 hours at US Search looking up random people in my contacts list. I found every one of them. It's rather astounding that so much information is available, and yet when you really think about it, it's not so much at all. It's only because I know the people that I know that any of the information is correct. If I didn't know the people at all, I'd take more of the information presented as credible. They say that the test of intelligence is knowing what to discard. True.

    I'm buying Schneier's book on IT security, 'Secrets and Lies' to get myself up to date on some basic concepts of security. As well I'm thinking about Ricky Jay and different kinds of confidence games. There's so little we actually know about people, and so many people out there. I am finding at this point in my life that I'm feeling a bit like a teen - that everybody else is having fun with everybody else except me. Only this time I know that people are very disconnected.

    Every time I think about the old demographic chestnut that about half of the people in the US are born, live and die within a 50 mile radius it makes me think about Foucault's ideas about sex and proximity. We only think that we are falling in love with the right person, but our experience is far too limited. We love the one we're with, and we try to change them, and we resign ourselves. I'm comfortable with all that, except now I know where several of my ex-girlfriends live. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

    But we are getting better about understanding the connections between people. For example, I had no idea that there was a difference between the sexual activity of teens and adults.

    Still I didn't pay the 40 bucks it costs to deliver the details for any of my foundlings, which illustrates a principle about privacy. It costs time, effort and money to invade someone's privacy. No security analysis is useful without a cost/benefit analysis. What your information is worth to somebody else is usually a whole lot less than what it's worth to you, so little in fact that it may not be worth going after, even when it's in plain sight.

    Lastly, I want to give a plug for HUMINT. I really have a ball watching '24' and shows like that. Go Jack.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:23 AM | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 10:19 AM | TrackBack

    Manthought 101

    Posted by mbowen at 10:12 AM | TrackBack

    Oh Yeah, That

    Posted by mbowen at 08:59 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack