September 30, 2005

Suffering with Bennett

I am stunned that people can be so ignorant so as not to recognize a theoretical argument when they hear one. Perhaps they can't hear, perhaps they can't recognize. Either way it's their deficit and Bill Bennett has nothing to explain to this blogger.

It would be irresponsible for me to suggest in any seriousness that people who believe Bennett is a racist should be rounded up and carted off to concentration camps. In fact, I cannot figure any moral reason to do so, but there are certainly economic reasons to do so. We would be rid of those drains on society.

However I find myself in agreement with Bennett that there are moral issues that should not be excused or rationalized by economics. So, with the hope that I will be similarly misinterpreted, I would be proud to suffer the emnity of race of idiotarians opposed to Bennett.

But seriously folks. As an early reviewer of Freakonomics, I immediately recognized the parallel argument when I was informed here or there of Bennett's alleged tresspass. Levitt found through his research that there is correlation between lower birthrates and lower crime rates. That's about as far as anyone need take the arguments although Levitt himself goes the whole nine yards. The point is that there's nothing to the charge that Bennett is advocating genocide against African Americans in order to lower the crime rate, so there's nothing worth investigating.

In my own little experiments I have made exactly the same kind of statements as Bennett and I came to the same conclusion. In my case, the matter was the Economics of Racial Profiling, a subject generated by the issue surrounding blacks and Korean grocers in Los Angeles.

My conclusion was that if you were to do a strict racial profile on your customers, it could be economically justified but not morally justified:

Part of the problem here is that by identifying crime rates by race and observing the difference, you set up a standard by which some crime is justified, in this case, 'white' crime. by such a standard some race is bound to be overly persecuted in this case, 'blacks'. the very act of initiating a crackdown on criminals *by race* even if the statistics 'justify' it, is to set up a differing standard by which individuals are judged in the justice system. this is racist even if this the actions are restricted to the class of known and observed criminals. You end up treating one race of criminals worse than another race of criminals.

In fact, racial profiling is not restricted to a population of criminals. The effects are felt against the general population. In this case you alienate the innocent black general population as well as the criminals. By profiling the black population you are in fact treating all blacks as if they were black criminals, which we have already established are getting a worse deal than white criminals.

However, if you are only concerned with profit, it's clear that you can maintain such a racist policy with a minimal impact on your bottom line.

I would add that most Americans would have moral problems with racial profiling, not just those singled out. Needless to say we are reaping the whirlwind of shying away from a clear and present, well-measured anti-racist environment alive in this country. We stand on the brink of racial McCarthyism. Somebody help us out here. Is there no racial answerman? Can't the networks provide some poor soul to shoulder the burden? If not, we're all going to be suffering with Bennett. It may be sooner than you think.


People who got it wrong:

Bomani Jones

David Schraub
Booker Rising
Steve Barnes

People who got it right:
Jeff Goldstein

Posted by mbowen at 09:57 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Return of the Plonk

A long long time ago in a USENET group far away, blackfolks were under attack.

And me and the boys who had it up to here with the trolling and idiocy determined that we wouldn't be distracted by knuckleheads who didn't contribute constructively. But that didn't stop them from posting trash all over the place. It turns out that trolls have found their way here and so they must be dealt with. So for a few of you it's too late, but for those of you who would dare, here's fair warning.

I don't delete comments unless they're spam. I've made only one exception to that rule since day one. That's about 1 in 5000 comments grotesque enough to get on my last nerve. But if you want to test me, here are the guidelines.

Say something really stupid, foul and insulting that defies logic, common sense and restraint.
Make all kinds of spelling mistakes.
Have no real email address.
Do this about three times.

When you hear the sound of a PLONK! That is a troll being dropped off the face of my planet.

I'm trying to run a grownup show here. Go find another wall for your tags.

Posted by mbowen at 07:46 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Truth Insurance

Judith Miller apparently didn't crack. Instead, Scooter Libby has decided to face the music for better or worse and has released her from her oath of confidentiality.

It's hard to imagine that with all the lawyers involved and the complicated scheming nature it must require to become someone as well-placed as Mr. Libby that some kind of backdoors have been engineered to leave various players involved some breathing room. But if anyone has done the due dilligence, as it were, for dealing with the implications of truths to be told it is the intrepid NYT reporter who has just emerged from 90 days in jail.

She is seen marching triumphantly with the publisher of the NYT on today's front page. So it occurs to me that some folks have had to be prepared for this, and if they weren't that they certainly should be now. If we are going to have a contentuous relationship between the press and powers that be, it seems wise to have reporters who are willing to go the distance. My call is for some insurance and some courage.

Unlike most folks, perhaps, I am not particularly impressed with that which has passed as 'investigative journalism' over the past couple of years. I am somewhat resigned to the hope that historians will get the job done in retrospect. The pose of men and women in suits marching in slow motion has surely been an overused cliche of 'Eyewitness News' over the past two decades, and plenty of on-air personalities have made their fortunes in being bold 'investigators', none more (in)famous than Geraldo Rivera. Yet there remains a type of journalist that stick to their guns and go beyond the ordinary to capture the full breadth of a story. These are the men and women to whom much is owed. I think of Woodward (of course) but also Gary Webb, who went the distance on the CIA-Crack Cocaine story against all odds. Most of all, I suppose, I am impressed with people who have the discipline to write a book and dedicate themselves to the big picture and not merely the film at eleven.

The question remains whether or not the big media with all the money are truly interested in giving worthwhile stories legs, and if they can maintain the integrity it takes not to milk a story in progress with worthless details. Who wouldn't rather have a 3 hour exhaustive documentary and a companion 300 page book on the matter of Chandra Levy, rather than 6 months of 2 minute updates?

Believe me, we out here in the blogosphere would much rather have the former. Timeliness has its drawbacks, and so long as we are here, we're going to be better at processing the unfiltered, unedited up to the minute stuff. All we need is an AP bulletin and bloggers on the ground and we'll be on top of it. But what we'll never have are the resources to bankroll a dedicated and courageous professional to the arcane matters attending that which is worthy of national attention.

Posted by mbowen at 11:58 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Conspiracy Theories & Crocodile Tears

It didn't take long for the reaction to DeLay's indictment to stir up emotions. Last night on the news the defensive offensive onslaught was ferocious. An indictment, we were hotly told by DeLay supporters, was exactly the thing needed to get DeLay out of his position. It was as though that and an act of God were the only two things and they were sooner expecting the Rapture.

Color me naive, but I believe that in America, you can have pretty wreckless prosecution, but Grand Juries are something else entirely. Serving on a Grand Jury is something I hope I have an opportunity to do before I leave this place. One day in Providence, RI some guy rambled on about it for an hour as I sat in rapt attention. I seem to recall that in Rhode Island, a Grand Jury consisted of 23 citizens, and that large number meant you were much more likely to bring some intellectual probity into the indictment process. In all, this gent made something generally considered loathesome to be a very special thing indeed. I found myself marvelling at the very structure. And so it is with that in mind that I find it difficult to believe a Grand Jury could be railroaded.

But stranger things have happened.

DeLay's indictment came as a surprise to me, although I'm not particularly sorry to see it come. It is true that Democrats have been sniffing around his toilet for months and that NPR has been particularly shameless in their guilt-by-association tactics. I've defended DeLay on the grounds that if somebody had something on him they should put up or shutup. You can hate somebody for having name-dropping groupies who peddle influence, but you can't blame them and you certainly can't prosecute them. But as I read the indictment, I see a completely different angle and nothing to do with Jack Abramoff.

Tom DeLay is no hero. As Congresscritters go, he is singularly focused on strongarm tactics. As such it would be a good bet that he has presided over more votes split by party than any previous house leader. If there is any word that describes DeLay's leadership, bipartisan is at the bottom of the pack. His actions have even generated theories that the Republican strategy has changed to get a 51% majority and quit arguing their case. The very idea of doing the absolute minimum required to pass sticks in my craw and it is part of my beef with DeLay. He is a man whose ruthless efficiency is reminescent of Harvey Keitel's character in Pulp Fiction, Winston Wolfe. Powerful? Yes. Effective? Yes. Admirable? Nahh.

Is there any legislation this Congress can be proud of? No. Not since McCain Feingold and Sarbanes Oxley has there issued anything from Congress that makes me proud. Instead this has been a Congress that has done nothing inspired. It sits totally in the background while the President takes everything in the face. Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rice and even Scooter Libby have had higher profiles than this Congress. The world has little noted nor long remembered any acts of this practically anonymous body - this Congress of shadows. That is except for DeLay's hammering of opposition into submission, squishing them mercilessly like so many household pests. Where is the sweet reason and light? Dare I say that Congress has been stripped of its representational nature and reduced to a machine of manufactured consent? This is DeLay's doing, and the void is welcome.

As the days roll forward, we will see every type of charge and countercharge, every spin and slanted deconstruction. It's disgraceful already. Will this be the new trial of the century? You bet.

Posted by mbowen at 07:30 AM | TrackBack

September 28, 2005

Political Death Warrant


Looks like it's curtains for Tom DeLay. I will be taking this opporutnity to expand the influence of Republicans such as myself in the party, who have always sought a higher standard of leadership that that embodied by 'The Hammer'.

Posted by mbowen at 01:09 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Superdome Mythbusters

What will you believe to be true about poor black people and why? This is the meaty question at the heart of a new storm brewing over what people purportedly knew about the situation on the ground in New Orleans. It comes as no surprise.

I have often been asked if I think America is a racist nation. I suppose the answer has to be yes, otherwise nobody would ask such a patently offensive question. But determining the degree of racism and what exactly that means is a science that by and large the public has abandoned. So just as the majority of Americans can't tell whether the circumference of the globe is closer to to 25,000 miles or 250,000 miles, a lot of us don't know crap about racism. All we know is "I'm not racist, yes racism does exist, but not as much as Jesse Jackson says". Bloody brilliant.

I think that the blogosphere, spearheaded by Dean Esmay whose righteous indignation I find admirable, can nail down some of the perpetrators. We want to know who participated in arguing based upon the stories of anarchy that surrounded the Superdome. I think that would be relatively easy to do - follow the trail of wags who were knocking Nagin. That would be my strategy. After all, we do have search engines for this type of thing.

Since I've already picked a nemesis for what it's worth, I refer you to Junkyard Blog, who thought it would be more appropriate to call New Orleans 'Mogadishu'.

I've already said:

America has, unwillingly to be sure, looked at black poverty and squalor dead in the face, longer than anybody ever wanted to - for weeks on end. This isn't the OJ Simpson trial, this isn't about Rodney King, it's about destitute black faces on the air 24/7. Enough so that just about everybody freaked out and said something stupid. From Barbara Bush, to Kanye West to Wolf Blitzer to Randall Robinson, the gaffes just gushed. Why? Because nobody knew how to handle a black catastrophe - which is poor black people taking center stage in America's living room.

And right at the onset

But let's not mince words. New Orleans is a black vs white town. I was there this spring and all over the news was how clubs in the Quarter were getting sued for racial profiling. In addition to that, there is the kind of black poverty in New Orleans that defies cvility. It's very easy to take a wrong turn off the avenue and wind up in the third world, and everybody knows it. I'm talking dirt streets and standing water in the middle of the summer. There is a not-insignificant portion of New Orleans that a lot of people are glad to see washed into oblivion. But the people who lived there are now souls to be saved. Not everybody is willing to be charitable. Considering that disaster tends to bring out the best in people, what we haven't seen is the daily ugliness of racial New Orleans.

Outside of the human catastrophe, there are people whose interests it serves to highlight and exaggerate any situation that dehumanizes blackfolks. That's Class Three racism to be sure, but in this situation it is particularly ugly.

I say go get 'em Dean.

Posted by mbowen at 09:43 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Big Iron, Big NT

So you learn something every day.

This week, I'm playing with the biggest hardware I've ever worked on. I've been on an SP-2 before and I've worked on an E-10000. I've even had a fractional Regatta. But the new heavyweight champion in my little world is an HP Superdome with 16 Itaniums. The damned thing is running NT.

But this is no ordinary NT, it's the 64 bit Datacenter Edition, something my many customers have avoided with one notable exception. That was the guys at Waste Management in Houston, who for various reasons were given to continual scoffing.

Today, I'm about to see how monster this baby can go, as I'm heading up a performance benchmark team. Should be interesting, especially if we decide to bump it up to 64 processors. Yow!.

Posted by mbowen at 08:00 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 27, 2005

Cobb in the Spotlight

Dell Gines has done me the honor of an interview, and Booker Rising has covered it as well. There are some interesting comments on both sites. This is a good preparation for me as I go to speak at ConvergeSouth next week.

Of course it always seems that just before or after I'm in the spotlight, I am in a temporary blogging slump. Not much to blog early this week as I huddle over my keyboard doing overtime in yet another strange city.

Interestingly enough what I'm most proud of this week is the number of folks who have sought and/or found work through this blog using the Katrina Cleanup Jobs thread. Those three words in combination have put me at the top of Google.

Posted by mbowen at 06:46 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 26, 2005


I cannot remember who it was that said that we human beings don't like convergence, and that it is something of a common sense matter. I'm thinking about this upon consideration of the following muttered by some dude who works at M$.

While Nintendo advocated a paradigm shift to attract new gamers, Bach and his colleagues also saw a 'revolution' coming, but focused on convergence in the living room. The Microsoft executive's primary position was that "Xbox 360 will be the ultimate digital amplifier for the digital entertainment lifestyle", and the 'hi-def' nature of Xbox 360, much used as a buzzword by J Allard during his 2005 Game Developers Conference talk, was again a major keyword.

Oh. Now I remember. It was the Economist that I bought two weeks ago. Anyway, I've found some interesting things with regard to having purchased a Treo 650 last Christmas. Some things it does very well, and some things it does redundantly. I used to say that the fact that the Treo allows me to go places without my laptop made it worth the 600 I paid for it. Nine months later I have a different set of ideas.

Redundancy is Good
I can play DVDs on my current XBox as well as about half of the computers in my house. My T41 does a pretty good job as well on the road. But my old XBox died and between the time I replaced it I relied on a good old fashioned DVD player with VCR for about 150 bucks. It doesn't make sense for me to spend a premium for all in one functionality. I'd rather have overlap with cheaper components. The XBox can't be hooked into the stereo because I need clunky wiring to send the audio to the TV and the pre-amp. So when I play XBox DVDs, I can't kick in the Infinities. I can live with that. I just use the cheap player which routes into the Tivo and that goes into the preamp. Someday I may buy a switchbox to allow them all to hook into the preamp but that only means I'll be hearing Dead or Alive 3 at 7am on Sunday morning.

On the mobile end of things, it's a little different. As much as I love cargo pants, I do have a limited amount of pocket real estate on an average day. As well, I have to have a reasonable weight limit for carry ons. What do I give to get? By combining a camera, a phone, and an mp3 player as well as a browser and email client, the Treo is next to perfect. However the camera is decidedly low-fi as is the monaural mp3 player. It's practically a tease, although I'd rather have the weakly implemented features than not.

Posted by mbowen at 12:47 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 24, 2005

Integration by Income

Simply brilliant.

Over the last decade, black and Hispanic students here in Wake County have made such dramatic strides in standardized reading and math tests that it has caught the attention of education experts around the country.

The main reason for the students' dramatic improvement, say officials and parents in the county, which includes Raleigh and its sprawling suburbs, is that the district has made a concerted effort to integrate the schools economically.

Since 2000, school officials have used income as a prime factor in assigning students to schools, with the goal of limiting the proportion of low-income students in any school to no more than 40 percent.

Posted by mbowen at 04:13 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Calling All Jews, Reject Your So-Called Leaders

A thoughtful individual passed a note on to me this afternoon. It was written by a Rabbi Spero of the Caucus of America. It begins:

In New Orleans, beginning Tuesday morning, August 30, I saw men in helicopters risking their lives to save stranded flood victims from rooftops The rescuers were White, the stranded Black. I saw Caucasians navigating their small, private boats in violent, swirling, toxic floodwaters to find fellow citizens trapped in their houses. Those they saved were Black.

I saw Brotherhood. New York Congressman Charlie Rangel saw Racism.

Yes, there are Two Americas. One is the real America, where virtually every White person I know sends money, food or clothes to those in need -- now and in other crises -- regardless of color. This America is colorblind.

The other is the America fantasized and manufactured by Charlie Rangel, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who constantly cry racism! even in situations where it does not exist, even when undeniable images illustrate love, compassion and concern. These three men, together with todays NAACP, want to continue the notion of Racist America. It is their Mantra, their calling card. Their power, money, and continued media appearances depend on it.

I think that the first time I heard an argument like this, I was still in high school. And so it goes. So I responded:

America needn't be colorblind to be right. This rabbi who wrote this is not working within a framework to adequately understand the problems of race, class and religion to offer any useful solution. He no more represents the truth than he represents Judaism. If I disagree with him, it's not because he's Jewish, but I could spin it that way. It's my responsibility to recognize the difference between Caucus for America and the Lubavitchers. It makes me smarter with regard to my ability to distinguish jews. But I cannot simply say Spero is an idiot and all good jews should disavow him. It's my failure to recognize that all jews don't know, respect or follow him. Likewise we've been hearing commentator after commentator beat down Jesse Jackson in print making him more than he is and blinding America to the fact of the diversity of political views, class orientations and religious faiths between African Americans.


I've been here for about three years and I've had the good fortune to be invited to a couple speaking engagements. But I can only do so much. Yet so many Americans seem to suffer such impoverished imaginations that they find inspiration in beating down The Fungibles. When will it end? It will end when people start thinking for themselves and realize that blackfolks do too. When that day comes, as it has for most of us around here, then we'll have the good fortune not to be reminded of the obvious by people who obviously consider us clueless.

Besides. When I looked at New Orleans, I saw a mayor who risked his political career by shouting and cursing on the air to get assistance by any means necessary. Furthermore I saw a John Wayne dude who took command of the situation on the ground to universal praise of everyone who bothered to pay attention. He was commanding those helicopters. Both of those men were black. So maybe it's not so simple as black and white.


Posted by mbowen at 01:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

An Old School Anthem

All My Money, by Jeffrey Osborne

(I'll bring it home to you baby)

I get out to work, every day
Because I believe in getting paid.
Got a sexy woman I want to keep
She's always waiting home for me.

I work eight days a week
Cause I want to take care of your every need.
And when my work is through
I grab my pay and run home to you.

(Chorus) And I'll bring you all of my money Bring you all my pay. Cause I want you to be happy. I will do whatever it takes.

I'm up early moring. Six AM
I'm up and ready to begin
Got me pumping iron twice a day
I've got to keep my self in shape.

I want to look good for you
Any man who works his body wants to look good too
I want you to be proud
And run to me when I get home

(Chorus) And I'll bring you all of my money Bring you all my pay. Cause I want you to be happy. I will do whatever it takes.

And I'll bring you all of my loving
Bring all that and more.
Cause I want you to be happy.
Whatever it takes girl it's yours.

(Damn, I'm bringing you all my money!)

I work eight days a week
Cause I want to take care of your every need
And when my work is through
I grab my pay and run home to you.

(Chorus) And I'll bring you all of my money Bring you all my pay. Cause I want you to be happy. I will do whatever it takes.

And I'll bring you all of my loving
Bring all that and more.
Cause I want you to be happy.
Whatever it takes girl it's yours.

(Ad lib to fin)
(I'll bring it home to you baby
And you know that I will

Oh baby, I'm gonna bring it on home

For that smile on your face
I'll do whatever it takes

And I tell you girl
I'm going to bring you all my money)

This song is one of the happiest songs I know, and I don't find it one bit corny. So until I am asked to desist, I want you to have it too. Grab the link and play it and see if you don't find yourself uplifted.


Posted by mbowen at 10:42 AM | TrackBack

Because We Want to Know

I am worth $2,441,362 on

Posted by mbowen at 09:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 23, 2005

Word of Bond

I haven't been so quick to call blackfolks d dysfunctionally dependent on government largess (and scraps) as some Conservative bretheren. But nothing quite demonstrates the orientation of entitlement as the following mission statement:

We, the undersigned, vow to step up in the aftermath of Katrina, to ensure that no one is left behind again.

We commit to doing our part to ensure that all people are regarded as full humans, not as second-class citizens, and that our government is responsive to their needs. We commit to helping those who have been continually ignored gain a powerful political voice.

We will insist that those who have been pushed to the margins become a priority in this country, and that the federal government take responsibility for people in crisis. We will hold the government, and ourselves, accountable.

Together, we will be a powerful force for change.

I'm not going to deconstruct this at length. I think it speaks for itself. If there is going to be a race and class discussion about Katrina then let us use Julian Bond's declaration stand in (for the sake of argument) for the cause of liberal, poor blacks. The fact that this will be popular and considered by its signers to be unassailable IS the 'unbridgeable' difference between them and the cause of conservative, rich whites, for whom Bush purportedly singularly loves. If and when I find such a manifesto on the other side of the fence, I'll plop it in here.

In the meantime here are some dichotomous talking points, personalized for the sake of Socratic dialog with the Kanye asslicks who are bound to follow.

  • I: Heard the news and got out of dodge when the mayor announced. You: Don't watch the news.

  • I: Don't expect the President or other Government officials to care because they have no incentive to do better and they are largely incompetent bureaucrats.
    You: Don't expect the President or other Government officials to care, because they are heartless, racist criminals who enjoy watching people suffer.

  • I: Look at 60 Billion dollars in aid from the government as a boondoggle and an incredible opportunity to stimulate the entire economy of the region for blacks and whites alike.
    You: Believe it's all going to Halliburton anyway, if it's even true.

  • I: Am heartened by the generosity of Americans all over the country who have opened their arms, wallets and communities to displaced blackfolks who now have a chance to start over.
    You: Are still looking for more dead bodies to amp up the volume of your complaints.

  • I: Understand that nobody can be prepared for the inevitable slings and arrows and unpredictability of life.
    You: Want safety and security at any cost to insure that 'this sort of thing never happens again'.

  • I: Am satisfied that the overwhelming majority of people survived this ordeal and that valuable lessons have been learned.
    You: Will continue to focus on those worst cases and use them to typify an inplacable and ongoing 'institutional bias' that will never change.

  • I: Believe Kanye West is out of his depth, and is probably dumber than Tupac who wasn't too bright himself.
    You: Believe that Kanye West inherits the mantle of Malcolm X, and that I should be shot for dissing 'Pac.

  • I: Believe that most of the people who died in New Orleans were the elderly and infirm, and that this is similar in many ways to the people who die from heat exhaustion in Chicago, despite warnings by the mayor that they should drink plenty of water and stay by A/C.
    You: Think that the Superdome was just a Nazi concentration camp or a slave ship in disguise.

  • I: Am hoping that the displaced people can find the courage and assitance to move on with their lives.
    You: Are hoping to build another to make political points out of suffering by placing blame at the foot of GWBush.

  • I: Am saying all this in anticipation of a provocative yet nuanced debate about the real political differences between Americans in matters of class and race.
    You: Can't wait to call me names.
  • So this should be fun.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:19 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

    A Minority Minority Party

    I was introduced today to Ragged Thots, something I've been missing for a while, an old head Republican apparently from the 'hood. In the wake of Katrina, there's something of a bit of resignation in the air between Republicans and Bush that I really haven't been paying attention to, but I find myself agreeing with P6 on the matter of hardness. He has no such bonds.

    Although I haven't looked at my writing in a while to see if it accurately reflects it, I am done being a black republican. I'm a republican, period. In other words I've used, it's all about 'do' and not about 'be'. So I'll take this moment to start into tearing identity politics a new one, because I'm afraid that this is an ugly part of black conservatism.

    The same impulse that takes the personna of George W. Bush more seriously than the party of his origin is that same sentiment that says who is nearly as important as what, or how. If we are to lead our nation's policy through polling, then Bush's popularity matters, but I think it doesn't, at least until Congress is willing to undertake some kind of vote of no confidence.

    Bush has spent exhorbitantly. This is not in question. But he is not as cocky as Reagan was with the economic voodoo. If Greenspan is to be believed, we're not yet in trouble, nor is it certain that trouble is just around the corner. That doesn't change the fact that 'fiscal conservative' is not simply a label. Republicans are going to be concerned about government spending no matter who is in office, and that's the important lesson here. Principle and ideological fidelity count for something more than just litmus tests. And for these reasons, blackfolks, whitefolks whomeverfolks shouldn't so heavily weight their attraction to the party based upon the personalities involved. In the case of Katrina and 9-11, a bunch of money had to be laid out. And while I think it's clear that the debacle that is unfolding over the incompetence of W's massive reorg of our security agencies, I hardly think it's a reason to bolt the party. Then again, I discounted Bush's organizational ability a long, long time ago.

    From the very first day I decided to join the Party, I understood that it would be a long hard slog to getting black popularity. My premise is and always has been that class similarities between traditional Republicans and upscale blacks would make for a natural fit, but that it would be foolish to expect that more than 25% of African Americans would go for it. I did so with the express understanding that a lot of hard-working politicos have tried and failed to get that bread-breaking thing going on. So I have always anticipated that being a interracial broker for the black masses and the GOP would be a dead-end job. Quite frankly, I think it's a dead-end job no matter where you're trying to broker relations with 'the black community'. That's because you're ultimately playing with stereotypes. It's hard enough for me to keep things rolling with Progressives I understand and respect, much less try to get the black hoi polloi to come the a Republican Jesus.

    In 1992 I had a baseball cap stitched with my email address on it. Wearing it backwards in Brooklyn elicted very little curiosity. In fact, I think the only person whom I didn't know who noticed it was a research prof I walked past on in first class on a plane flight. While black college professors were ginning up their vocabulary to rail against another phantom institutional racism soon to be known as the 'Digital Divide' I had to basically take a stand. "The Internet", I said, "is for me and people like me. The rest of y'all can take the bus." But I did so after a not-insignificant amount of effort to communicate the benefits. I reasoned that being way ahead of the curve would put me in the ranks of 'first blacks', and so it did. But being first didn't really help in the end. I am inclined to believe that 'first black' is a trap, as is racial brokerage. There's always a bigger fish, and second and third generations not on the bleeding edge have fewer headaches. Of course I knew more about the Internet than Richard Parsons, but Parsons got to be the boss of AOL, making a lot more splash than any of the pioneers at The Drum, Netnoir or NYOnline. In the end, you simply have to be comfortable being alone. It's nobody's responsibility to nudge the race along. You and your 1000 black friends are still a molehill in this great big crazy world. Again, it boils down to principles and ideological fidelity.

    Chances are, that whatever it is that gives you the cojones to lead, is the same conceit that will make it difficult to get people to see things your way. Unless you are just in a popularity contest, the only people who are going to get it are those people who have been trying to get it. And so it goes with black Republicans, who will all inevitably be compared (by those who don't get it) variously to everyone from Clarence Pendleton & Alan Keyes to Thomas Sowell & Condi Rice. Cults of black personality. Is that what Republicanism is all about?

    There is something greater at stake here, and I don't know exactly how to communicate that yet. But somehow racial identity must be subsumed for a higher and more substantial purpose which is core to Western values.

    In the meantime, with the understanding that we must make sense of individualism, at the heart of our culture we're going to have to go it alone. Or to quote P6:

    "This shit is hard, and you have to be willing to deal in the kind of truth that pisses off both friends and enemies. Not like you should try to piss them off...if you constantly search for the angry truth, you got issues. But if you be avoiding things, it's not your friend you're hiding from."

    Posted by mbowen at 02:15 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    The Whatever Dude

    Matthew Yglesias is onto something here.

    Namely, the intelligent, well-educated aristocrats of 19th century Russia, "informed by idealism and goodwill" believed they were the beneficiaries of a fundamentally unjust social system dependent both on political autocracy and what amounted to chattel slavery. Something similar could be said about young, urban, educated white men in contemporary America who, unlike other brands of white men, are politically liberal.

    He's not quite so sure, but it sure is a knockout to read this observation of American anomie right next to a blogad on his site that reads 'There Is No Crisis'. Yglesias informed me a while back that he's from the third person school of social observation, and I am reminded constantly by another irritating commenter that 'just-so' stories are insufficient to be convincing. But the trenchant observer often finds himself in the trenches and should be counted upon to speak of the consequences of speaking up. In other words, if you can't be passionate about it, why write?

    I happen to think that America suffers from an overabundance of snark. No one quite embodies this surfiet so much as David Spade who is launching a new comic broadside on Hollywood which cannot be so much more than inside dirt served up with a heaping helping of snide. It's likely to be a hit. Spade's witty dishing is the flipside of the Alpha SNAG, and yet you know that Spade's characters are never far from Joe Dirt, incapable of being truly uncaring. But is the SNAG a myth? No, just a clearly identifyable character defect posing as something attractive.

    It has been several long years since I last took a peek at my copy of Iron John, but I've been thinking about passing it on to my son recently. But I'll certainly want to reread it in light of my search for the character of the Classic Citizen as I read on in VDH. We can be fairly certain that a sarcastic passivity won't be high on the list of values, an inaction borne of guilt is not likely to be there either.

    Once again, I think Baldwin is instructive here:

    "For several years it had been his fancy that he belonged in
    those dark streets uptown precisely becuase the history written
    in the color of his skin contested his right to be there. He
    enjoyed this, his right to be being everywere contested;
    uptown, his alienation had been made visible and therefore,
    almost bearable. It had been his fancy that dangere there, was
    more real, more open, than danger was downtown and that he,
    having chosedn to run these dangers, was snatching his manhood
    from the lukewarm waters of mediocrity and testing it in the
    fire. He had felt more alive in Harlem, for he had moved in a
    blaze of rage and self-congratualation and sexual excitement,
    with danger, like a promise, waiting for him everywhere. And,
    nevertheless, in spite of all this daring, this runing of risks,
    the misadventures which had actually befallen him had been banal
    indeed and might have befallen him anywhere. His dangerous,
    overwhelming lust for life had failed to involve him in anything
    deeper than perhaps half a dozen extremely casual
    acquaintanceships in about as many bars. for memories, he had
    one or two marijuana parties, one or two community debauches,
    one or two girls whose names he had forgotten, one or two
    addresses which he had lst. He knew that Harlem was a
    battlefield and that a war was being waged there day and night
    -- but of the war aims he knew nothing.

    "And this was due not only to the silence of the warriors --
    their silence being, anyway spectacular in that it rang so loud:
    it was due to the fact that one knew of battles only what one
    had accepted of one's own. He was forced, little by little,
    against his will, to realize that in running the dangers of
    Harlem he had not been testing his manhood or heightening his
    sense of life. He had merely been taking refuge in the outward
    adventure in order to avoid the clash and tension of the
    adventure proceeding inexorably within. Perhaps this was why he
    sometimes seemed to surprise in the dark faces which watched him
    in a hint of amused and not entirely unkind contempt. He must be
    poor indeed, they seemed to say, to have been driven here. They
    knew that he was driven, in flight: the liberal, even
    revolutionary sentiments of which he was so proud meant nothing
    to them whatever. He was just a poor white boy in trouble and it
    was not in the least original of him to come running to the niggers."

    James Baldwin - Another Country - 1960

    Now ain't that something?

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

    September 22, 2005

    Celibate & Gay

    The Vatican is about to drop a small bomb in the form of a new rule which says gays cannot be priests. I expected something of the sort when Ratzinger was elected, but not so soon. This development is appropriate to the Catholic Church as a hedge against creeping nihilism, however one has to wonder exactly how you can be celibate and gay at once.

    You can't of course. Gay is to homosexual as black is to African American. It's about a pride of expression and a celebration of difference. You can certainly be homosexual and celibate, but being gay and celibate is like being OJ and black. The blackness is not there if it's not celebrated.

    So if the Catholic Church is so very focused on that level of purity, that the very thought of homosexual pleasure is a sin forbidden the priesthood, then we can expect that they are going to be very strict in any number of areas of dogma. Perhaps a smaller more well-disciplined Catholic Church could pull this off, and certainly the Pope has said as much. So let's see if throwing this 'dead' weight off the ship actually makes it steer a truer course.

    I have said that the Catholic Church made its error in insisting on the duality of sexuality and intellectuality - a celibate priesthood was a decision made in a day of sexual ignorance. (Nor could Henry VIII be considered prescient in retrospect.) Chastity is a heavy burden on any man. As well, I have supported the ordination of gays and women in the Episcopal Church in support of a liberal notion of support and empathy with congregations in a representative / democratic fashion.

    A more authoritarian Catholic Church may be necessary in today's world. If that is the case, the course they are pursuing will certainly put them there.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:55 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    September 21, 2005

    The Reversals

    In reading 'Bonfire of the Humanities' I have bought into the concept that a goodly chunk of the American ideosphere is chock full of nuts. And yet they are professional nuts who have yet to be stared down, primarily because people spend so much money sending their children to sit at their feet. Yet something I wrote 13 years ago resonates with Victor Davis Hanson and his chums: That so many write for each other otherwise write to be paid.

    As a non-academic, I am probably on the late-freight in this revelation. I've know about 'Invisible Adjunct' and the meme about the lack of Conservative college profs, but I've long thought them mostly irrelevant. In fact, I've been blaming Hollywood and the Liberal Media for treason of intellect that actually has a more sinister source.

    In the meantime as I ingest the import of the treason against Western Civilization, (and come to understand at a deeper level the material gluttony of China) I will split Multiculturalism into half. The hindmost I will abandon to Hanson's sword and the milder version to myself. In between that is the simple truth that I do recognize the problem with Identity Politics (and have for a while) and yet never saw that coming when I read the Greywolf Annual lo these many years ago.

    I hate Eclexia, and I have a distaste for discovery that doesn't institutionalize anything of lasting value. My adoption of Conservatism is a hedge exactly against that. There is something worth knowing of King Lear and my soft multiculturalism says that James Earl Jones' version is worth seeing not only for its intrinsic value but as a confirmation of modernity. It is this confirmation that integration bears out and it is the heat and agitation of affirmative mixings that instigate the chemical transformation of a new and improved society. Not for the sake of separate racial or 'other' destinies, but for a shared destiny.(1) New people must be integrated into our way of life so it is all of our way of life.

    I haven't spoken of Empire recently, but that may be the only way.

    So I am looking for the rhetorical tells and the reversals of my logic to find the implications of the dreams of our leftist malcontents. It's not enough that I am right, I want to see the contradictions of my opponents.

    (1). Hmm. That's a ding against my opposition to gay marriage. (Don't ask and I won't tell).

    Posted by mbowen at 10:46 PM | TrackBack

    Talking to People Without Looking

    (from the archives: Oct 2000)

    i've been told that my face betrays a great deal. i notice that it is rare that i look at people directly in the eye, which i know that i do whenever they have 100% of my attention.

    sometime back in the late 80s i spent a lot of time learning to multitask. (now that i am in the mind to think of allan bloom) in my daily journal, i often would take four things that were happening at the moment i started to write and find a way to relate them all together. i would generally do this while listening to music and watching television (preferably news). i am so accustomed to working in this way - rarely does anything hold my attention in that way. i'm sure this isn't unique, but i'm told that i can be very annoying, because sometimes i actually *do* tune people out.

    anyway, i'm also not afraid to let things drop. knowing myself that i am generally a very earnest person, i have no overwhelming guilt when i fail other people. it's simply a matter of bandwidth. (you can imagine what my credit rating looks like).

    in general, i am very stingy with my time. i am one of those people who requires a strategy that fits with my worldview before i take step one. otherwise whatever it is doesn't get taken seriously. so when i want something done, i focus and do it. again, when people see me get off my ass for something it pains them that i don't do it for them. on the other hand, when i ask about fundamental motivating principles and intellectual frameworks excitedly, i don't get much reaction irl. this is the reason that cmc is so compelling for me, why i am having this conversation in community-time rather than in real-time. i can joots (as hofstadter says) multiple frameworks of reference and go humorous and serious as my mind goes. context can be captured at your leisure. i've always said that this is a wonderful place for people who don't rate a biographer.

    on the other hand, cmc life is compartmentalized mostly. i have been a member of [an online community] for just about 18 months or so, i guess. and prior to that i had always purposely crafted personnae for all of my interactions. a significant part of the reason i write in lower case here is to distinguish it from my other writings. for me lower case represents streams of consciousness. although i would say that i am a lot closer to me, and attempting continuously to unburden my more private self in this forum (in this thread in particular), there are still limits. however i am interested in jumping out again, in the context of my dealings with and membership in the middle class, and recontextualizing that which i feel comfortable revealing about my life.

    fzample: saul bellow is an interesting point in time. without fail, everytime i have decided to be patient enough to read something considred 'important', it has reached me in precisely the way i imagine i touches those folk paul fussell would call the 'x' class, one of whom i would presume to be. if you understood that i fell off the track of intellectuality somewhere around my 15th birthday for lack of the proper mentorship, you could see how being *actually* brighter than average and rebellious outside of the comfort of academia could isolate me. and although i think there is much more to be detailed in that dimension, suffice it to say that i have this personal history of 'bright moments' in which i confirm my own sense of self in certain writings and yet find those moments devastating. at times i console myself with the notion that the pain of individuality is inevitable for the western man (sophomorically eliding what i perceive to be the message of a yet unread thomas mann). at other times i anguish in the possibility that my would-be colleagues and i have fallen irreparably out of step, and while i scribble within a predictable circle all these years on the internet, they are living cozily within a respectable ghetto. if i were not making 6 figures by this my upcoming 40th birthday, i would certainly be ready for snatching myself out of america. so reading bellow is at once liberating and painful because i recognize that i am ultimately, if not consistently, shutting down the tolerance i must bear for my mediocre company everytime i receive the elevation good writing brings.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:23 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Moving Up Gracefully

    (from the archives: June 2000)

    I met with my boss today. He is considering hiring someone between myself and him. I am disturbed.

    I am stumbling a bit on my quest to become wealthy, as I have decided most definitely not to move to the Bay Area. Fuck it.

    Some time ago, and I cannot pinpoint the exact moment, I woke up from the hard charging rage. Perhaps the rockslide began as I recognized my old buddy in a new light, as he changed clothes in front of me as we discussed his plans to remodel his bathroom. It was a perfectly casual and intimate conversation, the kind one expects from good friends. And I realized after a time that this guy was, in a unique way, my kind of guy. Unpretentious, smart, humorous and well-mannered in that inimitable Southern California way. In that way, he embodied his neighborhood in a way I hadn't noticed before. His neighborhood? Palos Verdes Estates, where two bedroom cottages go for 700,000. If there is old money in Cali, this kinda seems like the place, even though I know that it's more in San Marino and Pasadena on the other end of the county. Still, the entirely comfortable, friendly feel of this particular conversation, surrounded by the kind of wealth which, while not obscene, remains potent, left a punctuation mark on me. It was that somehow, I absolutely belonged.

    And somehow, the work that lie between myself and that place became evermore obvious. I relaxed, took a deep breath, and measured myself. I felt good. I haven't ruined myself in my alternate paths. This, or someplace like this, is my home waiting for my arrival.

    Then some weeks later, the market crashed.

    The market crashed and I was nervous and yet I was at peace. I had seen the promised land. It wasn't all that, but it was comfortable - a comfort worth summoning strength and discipline for.

    As time has progressed, and I settled my soul in the measures of the Dalai Lama's recent literary structures, I have exhaled. I had been holding my breath. Somewhere in a fine film, the likes of which I have been denying myself with my appetite for action, it was said that the man who makes best use of the moment is at peace in every moment of the present. Thusly, the future takes care of itself. In the moment, you can make your most important decision within 7 breaths, and it is only for this duration that you must calm yourself and suspend time. The moment is then recaptured. And since then, I have not been held breathless at the prospect of wealth. I have merely stepped forward into my discipline knowing that there is no guarantee either way. Still, I belong.

    So I picked up a Linux book, a Perl manual and a spare computer hanging around the office and started back into my old habit of writing, not for people directly as I have been doing on the net since '93, but for the machine itself. I am imagining myself into the satisfying solitude of coding, of architecting a masterwork. And in doing so, I have imagined a world of dedicated mastery, not over minions who would provide legs for my march to wealth, but over myself and that subtle connection which generates trust and loyalty. How can I express it? Being a conduit of principle begins in accepting the principle as the spirit and the self as the vessel. It is only as a conduit/vessel of principle can one...

    This is only one abstracted side of the story, one that I suppose could begin and end with my happiness. I am finding ways to become happy and radiate that feeling. If I can become that kind of success, then I only need live long enough and keep my wits, and my new home will present itself. In this way, there is no need for jealousy or envy - which I always considered beneath me anyway.

    And so I have stopped being impatient. But then there is this meeting with my boss this afternoon. He wants to hire somebody 'seasoned'.

    Just the other day, I met with the Wall Street Analyst at the Trade Show in lieu of my boss who was unavoidably detained. Even as he arrived, he deferred to my descriptions of the business as the three of us sat comfortably in the shadow of our new titanium-tinged Trade Show Structure. The Wall Street Analyst said that I spoke well, and I know he meant it the right way, that I know how to talk to Wall Street Analysts. Inside, Michael X, told me that this honky bastard was searching my teeth for spinach. The boss and I ladled out quips, laughs, facts and nearly insider info as the Wall Street Analyst listened and queried intently. I continued to dominate his time and walk him through an extraordinary demo. I expect his next dispatch to quote me word for word, then well get a nice bump on Wall Street. This is the order of things. Nevertheless, I am an 'articulate black man', an unexpected pleasure.

    The New York Times' extraordinarily frank discussion of race has come at an odd moment. In one of its fascinating stories is the tale of the black man who has made his Atlanta millions with a white face man as his CEO. In his next venture, he is failing. People have referred to him as someone who 'helped found' his old company. The details of this story are annoying in a way that I transcend, yet crippling of ambition in a way that I cannot evade. Now this black cat appears from my angle to be of the sort who has a burning and dysfunctional desire to be king of a small hill. A grubber, the singnificance of whom is really only symbolic for people who really cannot see deeper than skin color. This is how I have always viewed feudal millionaires, why I continue to have more respect for career military officers, priests and philosophers. The bounder does what he must to get over, then he starts a foundation for kids. Hmm. Sounds like something I might do.

    And so I need to determine whether my peace is sublimation.

    The beauty of being Puff Daddy is that your greatest enemy is yourself. So I suppose that the lesson to be learned for the Atlanta Millionaire is that if you use a white man just because he's white, then you are doomed to die by the sword of a game whose rules you don't have the balls to change. Nevertheless, it is a lesson he will have the luxury of learning reading some book as he floats on his mansion's pool.

    Still I have yet to determine if my easy breathing is one of denial.

    Patricia J. Williams was on the radio yesterday evening. She reminded me of how I used to pull ideas from all over the place and relate them to standing. Somewhere on the web, there is a site with (perhaps) some record of her lecture to Columbia students about how NYC black cops were teaching young black males how to behave around cops: teaching them like they teach women who are raped. This is how you should dress yourself (so as not to draw improper attention). This is how you should walk (so as not to draw improper attention). This is how you should speak (so as not to draw improper attention).

    So I have yet to determine if this adjustment to my comportment is proper for me.

    I'm all out of paragraphs this Friday evening. It's 9pm and the sun hasn't gone down yet. Seems oddly light. I told Room Service that I spilled my wine by accident and to bring me another glassful. I figured they would see the sop towel and pick up the tab. No such luck. It's my mistake for not paying attention to the basic forces of nature. I should have known better.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:14 PM | TrackBack

    September 20, 2005

    Do You Know This Man?

    boo_aylwinLewis_150x180.jpgThis gentleman is probably the most unknown superstar on the planet. You have to admit that he's rather unassuming looking, and yet he has influenced American life in profound ways. I'm predicting that his next success is going to propel him into something of a cult hero, if he's not already that. His name is Aylwin Lewis.

    OK here's a clue:

    Aylwin Lewis stepped before an audience of about 80 people Sept. 8 and received an enthusiastic ovation. And consider who these fans were: H. Carl McCall, former New York State comptroller and gubernatorial candidate; Hugh Price, former president of the National Urban League; John Rogers, CEO of Ariel Capital Management; Charles Tribbett, principal at Russell Reynolds Assoc.; and more of the most powerful African Americans in Corporate America.

    Now you're probably getting the idea that he may have something to do with business. You're right. But how big could this guy be? Can't guess? Alright, enough with the suspense. This is the man who made YUM Brands. Yes, that's right. He's the one whose idea it was to merge Taco Bell, KFC, Long John Silvers, Pizza Hut and A&W. Wow you say? But that's all in the past. Aylwin Lewis has been there and done that, now he's the CEO of Sears.

    Huh? What? You mean that Sears? Yes, that Sears & Roebuck and guess what, KMart too.

    From Business Week:

    I'm 51-years-old, and 51 years ago I didn't even have the right to think that I could have a job like this. I had great parents and I have a great wife. Growing up, we lived in the projects. I had big dreams.

    But I could have lived a great American dream running a hundred restaurants for KFC. That would have been a nice career that would have been very good success, particularly for a black person. So it means a lot, keeping this door open. The history of this thing, the importance of this thing, yeah, you betcha it's important. And it's not a burden. It's a wind in my sail.

    Now you know.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:06 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Converge South is Coming

    ConvergeSouth is coming, and I will be one of the featured panelists.

    As you might imagine, I've got a huge amount to say about the state of blogging and computer mediated communications & augmented decision-making. I'm going to be putting together a wide variety of materials to keep in mind as we discuss all the progress and promise of the medium.

    The primary subject I've been asked to facilitate is that of the creative personna. I've been several different folks over my 13 year online career, each focused on a different communications project. It's all rather second-nature to me now. So I'll discuss the pluses and minuses of being creative online and being something other than you are in real life and how that does and does not split your personality.

    Anyway, the event is free and there will be a lot of top dog bloggers there. So if you're anywhere around Greensboro, NC two weeks from now, you owe it to yourself to attend this blogger conference.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:01 AM | TrackBack

    Understanding Phoenix

    I don't understand Phoenix.

    I've been there for two weeks in a row now, and I still can't figure the place out. Far more than Los Angeles, there is no there there. The major east-west highway goes north and south. Their river is a lake. The freeway loops don't loop and there are no mountains for 20 miles in any direction and they call the place 'the Valley'.

    It was 97 degrees on a good day, down from 109. In the middle of a day when it's 104, there is a 15 minute thunderstorm with 30 mph winds. The only public service announcements on the radio are soundbites from the Christian Right.

    I've been in the southwest of town. In Chandler, everything is new and expensive looking. The many Mimi's-sized restaurants have halos of mist spraying from the rain gutters in order to keep the temperature down for those souls brave enough to eat on the patios. There is an extraordinary variety of desert flora that grows out of well manicured dirt which looks orangish and simmers in the heat. All is stucco and tile and people drive slowly.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    September 19, 2005

    Grass Roots Technology Projects Supporting Hurricane Katrina Relief

    From my good buddy Y, an interesting review:

    Here's a quick update on the various grass roots technology projects that are providing resources to Hurricane Katrina Relief efforts. These projects are delivering telecommunication and data communication and infrastructure services to NOLA and the Gulf Coast.

    As one self-confessed "geek" wrote in his blog today:

    "I may be biased, but it is apparent that technology has played a
    tremendous role in the recovery from this disaster. Every site I go to
    has donation links for recovery organizations. Millions of dollars are
    being donated in such a way. ...The missing persons databases have
    reunited thousands with families and loved ones, reunited guardians
    with pets....I am personally not qualified for search and rescue,
    caring for the sick, pulling people out of flood-ridden houses or
    policing the streets.. But I am still very proud to be a part of the
    recovery effort in my own little way. I may be a tattooed computer
    nerd, a geek if you will, but I still would like to think that my
    presence here is making some kind of difference, if only to alert other
    geeks, like yourself, that New Orleans needs your support. I just hope
    we are able to bring an awareness to those who may not read the
    mainstream papers, watch the news."

    I am once again encouraging all of you to clean your closets and
    garages of used/obsolete computer equipment and peripherals and donate
    to the cause. And for those of with corporate jobs, please find out how
    your employer recycles or disposes of obsolete equipment.


    Grass Root Projects

    1) CU Wireless - Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network: Community
    Wireless Networking experts from throughout the United States are
    heading to the New Orleans/LA region to help rebuild their
    telecommunications infrastructure.

    The CU Wireless effort in the Katrina/Gulf Coast area is being blogged
    by Joel Johnson, Jacob Appelbaum, and others.

    Joel Johnson's Blog

    Jacob Appelbaum's Blog

    2) Operation Flashlight: A coalition of neighborly Americans hatched on September 3. They have sponsorship/support from
    the NAACP. Their mission is to organize structures of the evacuees, by
    the evacuees, and for the evacuees. I had sent an e-mail about this
    project a few days ago -- now the official web site is up.

    3)Radio Response: is a group of IT professionals,
    mostly from the wireless networking community, that focuses on
    relieving the communication blackouts that result from widespread
    catastrophe. The scope of their operation is currently limited to the
    Bay Saint Louis area, with the exception of the shelters that have been
    connected in northern Luisiana. However, plans are being made to extend
    both ways along the Gulf coast

    4) Project Interdictor/Outpost Crystal: Originally established by
    DrecNic to maintain continual data/telecomm connectivity to NOLA
    throughout the devastation left by the Hurricane, that phase of the
    project has reached end-of-life with great success. DirecNic is now
    focusing efforts on re-building is NOC and which was severely damaged
    by wind and water; DirecNIC is also working aggressively to restore
    business services to it's customers. The volunteer project is adapting
    to provide data and web services to other grass roots projects, and
    well as providing raw, uncensored reports "direct from the front
    lines". Future projects include: recorded audio/transcribed of
    emergency scanner feeds (available now), a comprehensive log of news
    articles related to the hurricane, and podcasts.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:52 PM | TrackBack

    September 18, 2005

    Pluralism: A Rambling First Stab

    Not more than a week ago, somebody progressive chided me for putting Pluralism at the bottom of the Old School Core Values. None of the values are in any order, but.. Just last evening, we in TCB have begun our own discussion about the meaning of the word.

    I'd like to do some explaining about the context and my original intent in writing:

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

    This is going to be difficult.

    I guess I start with the basic premise of loving America. And then I say, whom do I love America for? My favorite toast is, "To us, and those like us.", the appropriate response is "Damned few left." But it is hardly a toast I would have as America's motto which is, I believe; "In God We Trust". In God We Trust is much more general than in "I have accepted Jesus Christ as my own personal savior." or any of a thousand creeds. You are very likely to hear me say "We believe in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church". I think it is an unquestionable axiom of our nations' first principles that as strange as that creed may sound to some people, that as an American citizen, you are bound to tolerate it. Not to accept it. Not to give it credibility. Not to trash it. But to tolerate it.

    What is tolerance?

    As I was writing it, that question was left mostly dangling. What I intended to stress was a rejection of intolerance, most specifically religious and racial bigotry.

    Fifteen years ago, I read Harold Cruse's 'Plural but Equal', and the clearest thing I can say in summary is that 'Plural but Equal' means exactly the same thing as 'Separate but Equal' except that the separation is completely voluntary. If you're Mormon, you are free to hang out in any city in any state of the Union, but if you'd rather hang out in Salt Lake, we understand and we're cool with that. No love lost. To each his own. Live and let live.

    But I recongize that such platitudes are unacceptable for zealots and activists. For many Americans are engaged in a struggle. They want to continually wage a Culture War. They are threatend by the status quo and they desire to persuade. They run the gamut from gentle persuasion to radicalism. But all of them have something in common, a creed, a dedication to goals they feel are superior to those of the average American.

    When I was such an activist, I was progressive. To a certain extent I still am progressive. I was a reformer in every dimension. Now I am not. I am more interested in keeping that which works working, and I have lost all measure of contempt for the average American.

    Inclusion vs Openness
    I don't believe that America is inclusive. It is open. That means that this is a kind of first-come first-served society. There is an implicit open invitation to participate in the society at any level you can compete. But there is not any particular effort to make sure that everyone gets and explicit invitation. We figure that if you're all about it, you'll show up.

    I think this is eminently fair and appropriate to a society as large and complex as ours. In fact, I don't think it should be any other way. So when I'm talking about a plural society I mean that the expectations should be largely the same for each of us. We rise according to our abilities and luck. This is a major virtue.

    Inclusiveness, on the other hand is a minor virtue, but it is not something that should be handled as a large scale goal for society. It is one thing to build community, it is another to build a nation.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:49 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    Back to the Drawing Board

    A combination of events has got me thinking about the utility of speaking into the void.

    In order to get a handle on that matter, I am reviewing a couple of books. The first is 'Civility' by Stephen L. Carter. The second is 'The Bonfire of the Humanities' by Hanson, et al. At issue is the inevitable misinterpretation and dissonance among us. Why do we not know how to communicate things that should be basic to the very nature of our civilization? My excuse is that I pursued Computer Science and had to pick up all my liberal arts in my spare time, and I feel I'll probably blogging for another decade working through it. 'It' being a nuanced understanding of the rest of the world through Socratic dialog.

    Part of the question has to do with Pluralism, an investigation which I have conceded is beyond the scope of one overloaded essay. But let's start with the following from Carter:

    The Five Reasons for a Democracy to Value Sacrificial Civility

    1. By encouraging us to see even those with whome we disagree as full equals before God, civility enables us to hold the respectful dialogs without which democratic decision-making is impossible.

    2. Civility reminds us that in a democracy all our actions must meet the test of morality, and that our ability to discipline ourselves to do what is right rather than what we desire is what distinguishes us from animals.

    3. That self-discipline, in turn, enables us to resist the tendencey of the values of plitics and the market to swallow all of social life.

    4. Our adherence to standards of civil behavior servs, in Arthur Schlesinger's ter, as our letter of introduction to our fellow citizens, thus helping us to build community.

    5. By treating each other with the respectful civility that our shared cratedness requries, we help make bearable the many indignities and frictions of everyday life.

    I have no substantial disagreement with that. So that's a start.

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

    Caring about the Rich

    In this thread of the discussion I would attempt to derail an argument which is that President Bush needs to meet some arbitrarily high standard of 'caring about black people' which we can take as caring for poor people. It seems to me that you cannot get to be President of the US without a cursory understanding that no amount of 'caring' is going to change the plight of the poor. However a campaign that is all about 'caring' can get you elected whether or not you do. In either case it is the health of the nation which determines the relative destitution of the poor. Our poor may digust us so that we turn away from the tube or make disparaging remarks, but it doesn't change the fundamental fact that we haven't discovered as many dead in this catastrophe as befalls the truly indigent in the third world. In other words, indigence is relative.

    The literacy rate in America is something on the order of 98%. And we find reasons to find it pathetic that some Americans have no cars of their own or legions of buses and drivers at the ready. Some people in America don't eat for four days and we are stunned, shocked and scandalized. Some loony shoots dogs in an abandoned neighborhood and we get to know this and cluck our tongues in dismay. This and 3 dollar gas is the worst of our problems. Within two weeks, 60 billion is appropriated, millions of people contribute hundreds millions of dollars, and some of the greatest disgust is expressed at government officials who don't let every volunteer actually volunteer. That is nothing more or less than the definition of a great, powerful and privileged society.

    I've said before that the American Negro Problem is not a problem any longer. So when I hear people gnash their teeth and heave vituperous remarks at the man in the Oval Office, I wonder if they are thinking with any sense of perspective whatsoever, or are they too so absolutely spoiled that they have no idea what this event means against the scope of human tragedy. But let me be specific and defend what so many consider indefensible - that the President does for the rich and ignores the poor.

    The Internet works because it was based upon a communications protocol designed to survive nuclear attack. The Federal Reserve Bank works uniquely in the world. The interstate highway system in America is designed to handle truck and tank traffic. Wall Street exists for investors. If there weren't people who were extraordinarily demanding these things would not exist, and life would be tougher for you and me, and more intolerable than ever for the poor. We all have credit cards and electronic fuel injection and breakfast cereal because rich people have made those things possible. They didn't take all their money and run away to Las Vegas to blow it on the tables. It's working. There's orange juice in the ghetto because somebody decided to take millions of dollars and build trucks with refrigerators in them and drive them from California and Florida to every ghetto in America. Nobody in any ghetto knows how to farm oranges, but they drink orange juice. And they buy gasoline and electricity and natural gas. They can put their life savings in banks and the banks will never steal from them and all of us are guaranteed up to 100,000 by the FDIC - something you can't get in other nations. There was no cholera outbreak in New Orleans. There was no dysentery, no malaria, no dengue. Why? Because the economy of the US keeps extraordinary infrastructure working. They do it with lots and lots of money and lots of lots of rich people. Those rich people are as dependable as your bank and your electricity and your car insurance because there is no such thing as a poor person who ever ran a bank, utility or insurance company, and yet all Americans have equal access to all of those things, by law. Funny how that works.

    America is not broken. The better off the economy is the better off we all are. You try building your own house some time. Try sewing your own clothes. Try financing your own car. Try processing your own sewage or generating your own heating. Try refining your own crude oil or God forbid, writing your own paycheck. You might learn what it's like to be a wealthy American. On the other hand, you already are.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:12 PM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

    September 17, 2005

    Tell Me It Means Nothing

    Somebody had the nerve to ask me today, what are we doing in Iraq. I replied something on the order of 'providing stability in the region' and helping the people build a nation in the community of nations.

    I always find it interesting to hear people who don't argue often jump into a political discussion. Well actually I find it annoying, but since I happen to love these particular naifs, I could shrug about it. There's a kind of hit and run disgust with the lack of acceptance of their conventional wisdom. Like the woman who said that she doesn't even know anybody who voted for Bush. And so a couple of my good friends had the nerve to suggest it was about oil.

    Of course I was the only one in the discussion that could name an oilfield in Iraq: Majnoon. And I was the only one in the discussion who knew that France and Russia had contracts with the Iraqi government for substantial portions of Iraqi oil. I was the only one in the discussion who knew that it will take many years and many billions to get them up to reasonable production levels.

    I was the only one in the discussion that read the Iraqi Constitution. One of my interlocutors does in fact believe that Iraqis are building their new Republic at the point of a gun.

    So I realize that I am in the company of people who are just not going to see anything my way. I only have one bomb to drop. So I ask them to tell me it means nothing that Iraqi women have voted for the first time.

    For that I get a stammer and a moment of silence. It was the best I could do.

    I have other very simplistic arguments at the ready, but we started in New Orleans. We had to go all the way to Iraq to prove Bush is a 'moron' so that I could be assured that he's lying about the 60 Billion, which he will never spend - or so I've been told. So I had to go to Iraq.

    So I ask. Let's say you have two choices. The US Army or the Israeli Army in charge of the Middle East. Whom to you choose? I even threw in a CIA assassination of Saddam as the third choice. The answer? Neither, of course. We shouldn't be over there, they say.

    Osama bin Laden, they say. What about him. How come they can't find him. The same reason they couldn't find Eric Rudolph or DB Cooper. Locals hid him. I didn't have the presence of mind to snark their presumed cooperation. So here's one for you of like minds. If a liberal asks you about finding bin Laden, ask them if they would hide him from George W. Bush. The answer I gave left nobody breathless. We found Saddam because we had thousands of troops looking for him. Where do you want to send the next 20,000? It would be too logical for them to admit.


    Posted by mbowen at 10:57 PM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

    Brazile Comes Correct

    Donna Brazile has shown herself to be a class act.

    On Thursday night President Bush spoke to the nation from my city. I am not a Republican. I did not vote for George W. Bush -- in fact, I worked pretty hard against him in 2000 and 2004. But on Thursday night, after watching him speak from the heart, I could not have been prouder of the president and the plan he outlined to empower those who lost everything and to rebuild the Gulf Coast.

    Bush called on every American to stand up and support the rebuilding of the region. He told us that New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast would rise from the ruins stronger than before. He enunciated something that we all need to remember: This is America. We are not immune to tragedy here, but we are strong because of our industriousness, our ingenuity and, most important, because of our compassion for one another. We are a nation of rebuilders and a nation of givers. We do not give up in the face of tragedy, we stand up, and we reach out to help those who cannot stand up on their own.

    There's not much to add to that. But read the whole thing just in case you think that's she's just making nice.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:28 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    Mon Parain

    In remeberance of New Orleans, this photo of my late grandfather.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:21 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    The Constant Gardener

    The Constant Gardener is one hell of a movie. But in fact it's only about 62 dead people.

    Long ago at the beginning of this blog, I set my sights on matters no less trivial than 3,000 deaths. I called it a Lynch Factor - essentially the sum total of all blacks who have been lynched since Reconstruction. I haven't been able to stick to that goal. The original reason for that was that I was sick to death about hearing about every rock thrown in Palestine, every Israeli exploded, every West Bank Palestinian sniped. The interminable skirmishes of the Middle East were the daily bread of NPR, and it was making me sick. Not because every life isn't precious, but precisely because of that, and we weren't hearing about other lives. Now I am convinced, especially with my newly found fascination with infants, that 3,000 is too high a number.

    'The Constant Gardener' is a film about the kind of privileged woman who gives me the creeps. She latches onto the cause of poor non-white destitute people and uses her every wile to draw people into her conspiratorial web. It is an archtypical story and one that makes me queasy. 'The Constant Gardener' the story in which passion and love are traded for the moral sanctimony of privilege.

    I once wrote about a day at the beach from the eyes of a lifeguard. He wonders how many he can keep from drowning. Maybe on the Fourth of July, out of a crowd of a million, only ten drown. That's a good day and that's a good number. It's the calculus you must apply if you're a lifeguard. Even if you aren't a lifeguard, ff you are bold enough, you take it upon yourself to make your own moral calculus and you move according to it. You gather the facts and become an arbiter of life and death. Whom do you let die so that others might live? Whom do you kill? Whose face do you avoid in order to keep your mind clear enough to support the purpose you feel in your heart to be the right purpose? How do you represent, and at what cost do you devote yourself to the institution of your ambition? In this film, it's all about a seemingly capricious woman who has dedicated her life to a calculus nobody fully understands.

    In one scene from the film, a woman, infant and child are walking. The white woman recognizes her and knows her village to be 40 miles away. She tells her husband to stop and give them a ride. He refuses. He tells his wife, I want to care for you more than I care for them. This makes the privileged woman furious.

    The privileged woman wants to care for them more than she cares for anyone, and decieves all of here privileged peers for the sake of undermining their calculus. She leaves her husband in the dark and tells him nothing of her many deceptions. She wrecks the lives of her intimates for the sake of the lives of strangers. She uses her privilege and access to be the spoiler, the spy, the subversive. She plays a sly game where the stakes are life and death, and for this all she offers is her love in return. Her love, her promises of sex, her attentions and smiles - these are the bits she dangles to keep all the players in play. These are the cards of the privileged woman, and she abuses and flaunts her role.

    She doesn't want to be the wife of a diplomat, she wants access to what the wife of a diplomat has access to, the bigger diplomat. Because all she sees are corrupt men, and she uses one to destroy another - the one responsible for the destruction of 62 lives. She proves it.

    What does the privileged woman know? She knows the depravity of her ilk. She wants the simple purity of those who don't conspire to the calculus of making global millions selling life-saving drugs. She just wants women to have babies.

    The Constant Gardener must tend to his privileged woman and her mission. He cannot walk away because he was in it for love. When she ends up dead, he cannot walk away because she was in it for life. She has the high hand, and now he must live within the parameters of her calculus. She looks from the bottom up, not from the top down. It is not about the company that might save 1000 lives, it is about the man who ordered the death of 62. So if she must sacrifice her own and her husbands and her would be lover for them, she will, and she does.

    This is what is so disturbing about this story. It's about the treacherous intimate who must latch on to drama greater than the value of family and friends. It is about the moral crusader who sees in every habit of her upbringing and peers, nothing but contempt.

    Who could love such a privileged woman? Ahh perhaps that's not so much the question as how could she possibly be avoided? The rebellious daughter of privilege. She goes where she wanna. Beware her intimacy, for her true love lies elsewhere and her ambition is without bounds. She wants the life or death decision in her hands. Don't sleep. For she will bring all the machinery to a halt and she will reduce all of the artifice and posturing to the rawest motivations. She will strip away everything until there is nothing but the brutal facts, and there they will lie in front of you.

    Can you handle the truth?

    This is also the story of meddling in Africa. Of taking advantage of wealth and power and the arrogance of benevolence.

    'At last he lays his head flat on the ground, close to my foot, and sets my other foot upon his head, as hea had done before; and after this, made all the signs to me of subjugateion, servitude, and submission imaginable, to let me know how he would serve me as long as he lived.' -- Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

    'The problem of internalizing the master's tongue is the problem of the rescued. Unlike the problems of survivors who may be lucky, fated, etc. the rescued have the problem of debt. If the rescuer gives you back your life, he shares in that life. But if as in Friday's case, if the rescuer saves your life by taking you away from the dangers, the complications, the confusion of home, he may very well expect the debt to be paid in full.' -- Toni Morrision, 1992

    The great danger of charity is that it has no public price tag. It is a debt that can only be negotiated one way and the grantee has no rights worth respecting. The grantee must remain a symbol of the grantor's largess. This is the moral calculus of charity. It's never enough to save one life. You have to save the village, you have to save the tribe, you have to save the whole teeming nation of unfortunates, and you have to crawl the globe looking for people who fit the profile.

    This is the hunger of sanctimony. It is as deadly as greed.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    September 16, 2005

    Black Catholics

    I went to Catholic school. Twice. My mother was raised Catholic in New Orleans. You don't often hear much about African Americans in the Catholic Church. Then again you don't often hear much about blackfolks outside of the main media scripts anyway. George handed me a URL this week from The Tidings which reminds me again, that we are not alone.

    Currently, I am an Episcopalian, but have considered moving towards either the Catholic Church or Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Much depends upon my future endeavors as Lucifer Jones, possible reforms to the sacrament of Matrimony and sense I make of the Gospel of Thomas.

    In the meantime, I found the Tidings article a pleasant read:

    African American Angelenos have a historical bond to the black families seen waving on rooftops, crowds of desperate blacks packed together outside the Superdome and the bloated black bodies floating face down in the flood waters that inundated New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities and communities.

    Ties run deep to Louisiana, starting with a migration in the late 1800s. Black Pullman porters on the Southern Pacific Railroad, who talked about a golden land out west, sparked a mass movement of southern African Americans who were desperate to leave behind the South's apartheid enforced by Jim Crow laws.

    Following World War II, many more blacks fled Louisiana and Mississippi to Southern California, looking for work in federally funded industries like aircraft manufacturing that promised good pay and benefits and, most important, the elimination of racial discrimination.

    Many of these African Americans --- especially from New Orleans --- brought with them their rich Catholic tradition. Mostly they settled in South Los Angeles and quickly enriched parishes, including Holy Name of Jesus, Transfiguration and St. Lawrence of Brindisi.

    My sister and I both attended Holy Name of Jesus School on Jefferson Blvd in LA. These days, Holy Name is one of the biggest mixed brown congregations in the city. They could use a larger sanctuary if you ask me.

    On occasions such as this, I wonder whatever has become of Bishop Stallings, but not too much because I am admittedly not particularly focused on ecumenical concerns. But maybe it's about time I started turning that corner.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    September 15, 2005

    Say Thank You, Dammit

    Now is the time for all good Reparationists to thank God for Katrina and thank George W. Bush for 60 Billion dollars.

    Over at Booker Rising, an interesting angle cropped up on the matter of Reparations and Republicans. But my angle is this: Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana are basically the heart of Dixie. Anybody and everybody knows that most of the blackfolks who live there represent those too unfortunate to migrate. I'll state it plainly. If you didn't get out in the Civil War and you didn't get out after the failure of Reconstruction, and you didn't get out during the Great Migration of the 1920s and you didn't get out in the Civil Rights Movement and you are still stuck in the South and poor and black...DAMN!

    Now let's say you didn't get out in Katrina either. Symbolically, is there anyone more oppressed and downtrodden and left behind than poor blackfolks who have, since Slavery, missed five generational opportunities to leave Dixie? I mean, DAMN!

    Now I'm going to jump on the rhetorical bandwagon of one of my idiot commenters for a moment to make a point:

    70 percent of New Orleans is African American. I don't know the stats, but I'm willing to bet that's more than any other city in this country, where the colored is the majority. I've been there once and despite the distractions of drunk women, packed bars, and loud music; I glimpsed the iron hot tin roof history of segregation being perpetuated in the old city. It was simple too, I simply noticed who was working where. At my hotel- the mariot in the French quarter- The receptionists, cashiers, and information clerks were all white. But the maintanence workers, all of them were black! I read in our local paper today that there are no hotel's in New Orlean's owned by African Americans and If you want proof of this fact ask me and I'll post another reply with the link.

    These are the people who are going to reap the benefits of SIXTY BILLION DOLLARS OF FEDERAL AID, FREE!. Those blackfolks from New Orleans typify the beneficiaries of those dollars that America just can't seem to give away fast enough. Unless Osama bin Laden drops a nuke on Harlem there is never going to be another opportunity for poor black people to get free Federal Aid on this scale for 100 years. THIS is Reparations. The more you have been saying that blackfolks are getting the short end of the deal, the more on the hook you are for recognizing what goods are coming. If Katrina was a hurricane of race, then blacks have to be said to be reaping the whirlwind windfall of Federal largess. There's no way around it.

    America has, unwillingly to be sure, looked at black poverty and squalor dead in the face, longer than anybody ever wanted to - for weeks on end. This isn't the OJ Simpson trial, this isn't about Rodney King, it's about destitute black faces on the air 24/7. Enough so that just about everybody freaked out and said something stupid. From Barbara Bush, to Kanye West to Wolf Blitzer to Randall Robinson, the gaffes just gushed. Why? Because nobody knew how to handle a black catastrophe - which is poor black people taking center stage in America's living room.

    Now it's done. And the President of the United States has said unequivicably that New Orleans is too important to abandon. He's giving away money. Let me repeat that. He's giving away money. You don't have a job? Here's $5000 for training. You don't have a house? Here's free government land so you can build a new one. You need a place to stay in the mean time? Here's $600 a month for 6 months. All that on top of unemployment insurance, Social Security and all the other entitlements. This, ladies and gentlemen is field day, and don't think that Conservatives aren't bitching under their breath.

    The same people who couldn't stand the idea of victims of September 11th getting government money, can't stand the idea of Katrina victims getting government money. I know that some Lefty blacks from the Coalition of the Damned can't take any pride unless they feel that their successes are costing whitefolks a pound of flesh. I assure you that teeth are gnashing. But that changes nothing. Step up to the trough ladies and gentlemen. It's feeding time.

    When I was in New Orleans this spring, I looked at the gorgeous old homes on Esplanade just south of City Park and I said, man I could live here. But I talked to my Uncle Clyde and he told me about the school shootings and the ugly side. And I thought what a pity.. if only.. Well, if only has happened and I'm thinking about it again. I know I won't go because I couldn't stand myself taking advantage of this blatant opportunity. But anybody who lives in New Orleans (not that you have your ID or anything) should be taking huge advantage. Git while the gittin' is good. This is shameless time.

    Anyway, this is what I'm thinking. Reparations is now. As they used to say around the way, if you're slow, you blow. You better recognize. And say thank you to your president, the Compassionate Conservative who cares about 60 Billion dollars worth.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:39 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

    Bush's Second Line

    This morning I thought about a situation in which some poor resident of New Orleans would return to Derbigny only to find some complete stranger getting paid 30 bucks and hour to build up what's left of his neighborhood. How could it happen that where there were no jobs, suddenly there is 60 billion dollars worth of government aided jobs? So then I hear:

    And to help lower-income citizens in the hurricane region build new and better lives, I also propose that Congress pass an Urban Homesteading Act.

    Under this approach, we will identify property in the region owned by the federal government and provide building sites to low-income citizens free of charge, through a lottery. In return, they would pledge to build on the lot, with either a mortgage or help from a charitable organization like Habitat for Humanity.

    It really doesn't get much more compassionate than that. Of course it won't satisfy the critics, but it satisfies me.

    Sir, Yes Sir!
    Since I'm a bit wrapped up in some partisanship here, I don't hesitate to comment about two things people have been shouting about. The first is high gasoline prices demanding price fixing and limits, and the other is a God Almighty response from the Feds. I won't belabor the first point which requires a little less snark than I am about to deliver. When the president said the following, I burst out laughing:

    Many of the men and women of the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the United States military, the National Guard, Homeland Security, and state and local governments performed skillfully under the worst conditions. Yet the system, at every level of government, was not well-coordinated and was overwhelmed in the first few days.

    It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces, the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice.

    I laugh because I know very well the axis of federal dependency. Sure Honore is a hero, but it's because he's military. If you want somebody to kick ass and take names at all times, to protect the innocent at all times to "make sure that this kind of thing never happens again", it means military control. That's the only way to live free of danger. And every liberal who has whined and complained about how much they wanted Bush to be there in New Orleans, is now going to have him, in the form of the above mentioned military and paramilitary forces dictating to state and local officials how to get with the New Discipline.

    So take this as a clue of turning the corner from "you're on your own" to "don't eyeball me soldier". You want Federal protection? You get Federal boots. Simple. Plain.

    Bomb the Ghetto
    'Bomb the Ghetto' has always been my solution since I confronted the facts as laid down by Glenn Loury. I haven't had much time to think about Loury lately, but again he is appropriate. There are only a few ways out of the ghetto, but the Bomb is the most effective. Katrina has bombed the ghetto, and there won't be another one built in its place. People don't have time for that and they shouldn't.

    Doc tells me that he's waiting to hear the stories about the poor blacks who left New Orleans and discovered themselves. I'm sure many will sink back into the same swamp of poverty and despair, but many will take this second chance for real. They will experience death and rebirth in a new city among new people, finding new warmth from Americans they never knew up close and personally. It's going to turn a lot of heads around. Here's to hoping we find those stories in due time.

    Meanwhile, I'd say the President struck the right chord, even though I certainly heard the most emotional part of the evening's speech. But that's fine. He can be depended upon to do the right thing, it's only too bad people hate him for it.

    Speaking of which, we'll probably hear a million empty words trying to search for ways to undermine the simple truth of the President's obvious paragraphs of the night:

    Within the Gulf region are some of the most beautiful and historic places in America. As all of us saw on television, there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region as well.

    That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action.

    So let us restore all that we have cherished from yesterday, and let us rise above the legacy of inequality.

    I simply let those simple, honest words speak for themselves, and let those who make a career out of twisting them, twist in the wind.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:04 PM | TrackBack

    September 14, 2005

    No Class

    So apparently Kanye West has been taken seriously. While I'm out here in Arizona, I have yet to find adequate time to peruse the news. Instead, I'm getting bits here and there. What I'm sampling is unsavory.

    Here's the thing. It's hard to estimate the gullibility of people who on the one hand say that the media is completely warped and then on the other hand give a bunch of credibility to what passes for commentary in the same media.

    When is the last time this happened? OJ Simpson. You got everybody trying to bring it down to a simple case of race without looking at any other factor. I don't know who is saying what in this matter but anybody who is not taking a bunch of things into consideration is wrong. So I have a couple of reactions:

    1. Nobody is accustomed to looking at poor black people on TV for days at a time. That in and of itself is just plain remarkable. The fact that it happens so rarely is testimony to the state of the big networks and their decisions. We know this, and we always say so. We said so when whatever her name is wound up missing in the Caribbean. If she was a poor black woman, it wouldn't have made CNN.

    2. Poor black people are a reliable scapegoat for dysfunction. BUT. The 'but' is that non-moronic people know that there are more whitefolks on welfare and there are a huge class of whitefolks who are slipping. Just this month there were new economic studies up saying that white poverty is increasing while black poverty was staying the same. Non-moronic people know that the crack epidemic is over and that we are in the middle of a meth epidemic. BUT. We're still overburdened with the same old ideas about the 'inner city'. SO, the guys at Vision Circle have hit upon an interesting conclusion which is that white supremacists are going to gain strength because of the focus on poor blacks at the expense of poor whites.

    3. There are no heroes in Congress.
    This is so patently obvious that it's almost a shame. Everything is focused on the President and there have emerged no heroes in Congress who have even said something we could all rally around.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:39 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Katrina Cleanup Jobs

    I have the following new information. I'll only leave the numbers on the website for a couple days as my experience tells me that people move quick and in volume:

    If you know any young men age 18 and up who are looking for work, Bishop Eddie Long, Pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA is offering $32.00 per hour for a team of men willing to go to New Orleans to help with the disaster and damage done by Hurricane Katrina. You can call the church at 770-696-9600 for sign up and more information.


    A Construction company is looking to hire 1000 people to help with
    hurricane clean up. $10/hr, 80-90 hrs weekly, food, lodging,
    transportation to area.

    Start immediately, could go on for 1-2 yrs. Anyone interested can call directly to LVI Svcs, 713-991-0480, 10500 Telephone Rd , Houston, Texas.

    Check them out yourself. I'm just passing on the information and have not checked it out.

    UPDATE: Here are some more links to resources.

  • Serve Alabama
  • Thingamajob Relief Jobs
  • Posted by mbowen at 10:32 AM | Comments (131) | TrackBack

    Good News Bad News

    Posted by mbowen at 08:14 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    September 13, 2005

    On Data Mining

    Data Mining is one of those technologies that lots of people talk about, few people understand and fewer still have actually done successfully. Now that this 'Able Danger' mess has revealed itself, people all over are piping up about whether or not it's dangerous.

    Like lots of things related to security and technology, you really cannot comment definitively unless you have an open discussion. It's highly unlikely that we're going to find out exactly how these probes work. However, we do have a good way of showing how useful, (or not) an arbitrary data mining technique might be. How? Use Google.

    For most of us, Google is the closest we lay people are ever going to get to sophisticated text searches. But it doesn't take long for anyone to realize Google's shortcomings. Google's original success was based upon the '6 degrees' idea. Results rise to the top depending upon how many links. But the right connections between them aren't always drawn. Here's an example.

    Google 'Cabbage Patch' and 'Smurf'. Now there are a lot of possible connections between those two which have nothing to do with a very specific connection I have in mind.

    Seth Grimes notes:

    While decision-making is still largely based on well-established methods for exploring historical data, we're starting to hear more about successes gained with predictive analytics that turn the gaze on the future. These methods offer data classification, clustering and forecasting to help organizations apply knowledge to operational decision-making and planning. Significant barriers remain. A big problem is that the algorithms are generally abstruse, designed by and for statisticians. The results often defy lay explanation.

    By the way, I was talking about dances. The contexts available for widely known data (there are millions of Americans who have danced the Cabbage Patch & the Smurf) are easy to come by. Nobody is trying to hide those facts, but drawin the right connections between individuals who are trying to hide their information is even more difficult.

    I wouldn't be so confident in data mining models I haven't lived with for years. Even then, it often takes a leap of intuition. It's all about the interpretation, and sometimes you just know.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:58 PM | TrackBack

    Writing about e-Writing

    irony's pressing
    cyberlife to the printed page flattens
    what's hyper here even in text
    to flipping sheaves, like autumn leaves
    preserved beyond their nature
    and what's a pseud without repute
    and who persists beyond reboot
    and who engages, who is mute
    and irl who gives a hoot?

    e-male cadaver primly plied
    nytrb crit-eyed is dried of wonder
    and torn amiss provides no lightning strikes

    ahh to be lower-case and whispered pop to pop
    to drag and drop a tasty phrase
    to while away the working days on aol
    to post and wrap
    to subtly trap a newbie netter courting praise
    about the courtyard coteries
    somewhere dot com
    yeah that's the bomb

    Posted by mbowen at 07:52 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Claudia Clubs

    I used to have dreams of being a novelist. Here is an excerpt from my book about ambition and tragedy in black Los Angeles: Jordan Crossing

    (from the archives, 1990)

    Thursday night after work. The sun is still out and the urge comes over Claudia to hit the town. It's been so long since she has been out. Looking over the papers on her desk she, cleans off the table with a brush. Producer was gone; she turned up the radio. Too many long nights preparing for weak stories. Here’s a story that's never told, the shit I go through to get a good time. I just cannot wait until tomorrow night, besides there are clubs happening tonight. She reecalled the days of 24K and Glitter on Sunset. Well tonight I'm gong to enjoy myself, she though. She leaned back in her chair and admired her office, the degree on the wall UCLA. Man that was hard, but I made it. Journalism. She felt sorry for all the English students she left in that major. What were they doing now? Slaving away on obscure black writers that the black community doesn't know and the academic community doesn't respect. What sense does it make? It’s obvious that these writers are great and knew exactly what they were talking about. Their points of view, essays and philosophies are complete. Enough to carry a whole society. It carried us and gave us the strength to compete at the 'predominantly white institution". She couldn't think of any of her real, down to earth college girlfriends who wasn't either deep into the real black writers. The rest were deep into denial. But those were the underclassman days. After that trip to Mexico, everything changed.

    Hmm. Her flashback surpised her, now as she took a second look around her office. What are you doing now, Mrs Williams-Precht? Hyphenated to a French director? Are you really getting those stories? She started for her pad, snatching a uniball from the art deco canister. The effects of black mexicans on the contemporary african american woman. Ahh. another time. Really. She placed the purple pad into her satchel, snapped and stood. Five foot eight and one half, she thought to herself, walking straight and proud.

    The cleaning people had already come into the building. Mexicans, she could tell. Not just latinos of every stripe but Mexicans and Mexican Americans. This was their shop. Their domain, quiet as it's kept. They are getting over in la vida sin corazon, vacuuming sucking up American dirt and turning it into food for their children. Food but not stories. For all of the million latinos in Los Angeles County there were no stories we ever heard, Claudia thought. Every once in a while, in her Volvo, she would hit the scan button on the radio instead of the one that tuned directly to her favorite soft hits. She would hit a Spanish language station, and then a Vietnamese voice would blare as the frequency numbers spun off every 5 seconds. It was an immigrant thing, Claudia couldn't understand. She watched the woman pushing her personal garbage can on through the maze of cubicles. She was young and tired and did not hum any spirituals. She sorted the white trash from the colored trash - the white to be recycled, the colored to be dumped. The woman was about five foot tall. Short. Always the short people working this shit. That is my great grandmother, Claudia thought. That woman is my great garandmother; America has not changed one bit.

    Downstairs, the underground parking structure. A professional woman's heels snapping to the pavement echoing against personalized stalls against the glass of imported vehicles in the sodium orange glow of security light is the ironic staccato of fear as it is the invitation to civilized love. This Friday night, trying to go back and feel a part of that black society which seems to be decaying under her feet are steps into vaguely familiar territory in strange shoes. She slammed shut the trunk over her satchel, containing her purple pad of truth. Secure - this automobile designed for the man of possessions holds her scribbled heart on dog eared stationery. Seated securly in the driver's seat, she turned the key, eyed the rear view.

    Her man, the one in possession of her attraction is drunk somewhere miserable over the truth of scarlet criticisms from staff. Minions with the nerve to talk back strike. Claudia knows from where their nerve springs.

    The 10 is a maze of metal and glass, the eternal pain in the ass it usually is still better than the chance of getting stuck in the surface soup between West Los Angeles and downtown. The distance is short, about the same as from Harlem to the Battery but like taking the Kennedy expressway at the wrong time. Everytime is the wrong time on the 405. Claudia heated when traffic slowed to a crawl. It made her feel trapped. Last week on the way to the valley she was caught in gridlock and a derelict walked, literally walked across the freeway. He wore a dark gray burlap duster, a man in his mid 40s hair matted and bleached by the sun. As he weaved between cars he left grimy handprints on hoods and stared down the drivers and passengers. He passed in front of Claudia's car loping sideways. His gait reminded her of the blurry filmclip of Bigfoot in the north woods. He appeared to be a blur, everything was blurry, slimy and sleazy at the moment and Claudia could feel her stomach twitch as if her bowels were about to fly open. The feeling of revulsion was complete and shameless. Everyone had caught this wave of nausea as if he heralded wormwood and sulfur. People were honking. Nobody honks in Los Angeles in gridlock but now here it was a storm of horns high beams and curses at dusk. The man whirled like Theloniuos Monk in a bio-pic she once saw, spinning as if he were trying to create a sterophonic effect with the blaring chorus. He grinned and leered as he spiraled towards the center divider, the center of attention at rush hour between the ranks of imported motorcars. Was he laughing or cursing back, through the tangle of hair and sooty face, it could not be determined. She turned up the air conditioning, flipped circulation to internal and tried to slam shut her sunroof, but it was electric. Suddenly she realized that her steel skin was too thin. The windows of her car were too transparent, her suspension was too taut. She didn't want to feel the street, she didn’t want to smell it, she didn’t want to see it.

    Claudia wanted to glide. At this moment on the 10 in slowing traffic she felt the apocalypse approaching. Why? Why now does civilization have to go down the fucking tubes just as we black professionals are taking our rightful place in America? Black people have more wealth than ever before so the banks fail. Blacks have more mayors in major cities but the cities are all going bankrupt. I have this great car and I'm stuck in gridlock, I might as well be on a pushcart in fuckin' Alabama. Where is my convertible? Where is my open road? Where is my freedom?

    The line was the first step back through time. Claudia thought of lines. Everyplace people are starved for something, they form lines. Here stood Claudia at the door of one of the few sophisticated black clubs in Los Angeles, downtown LA. Hangout of attorneys, police officers, civil servants, accoutants, engineers and military officers. The stock crowd of a middle class society anywhere in the Western world. Here in black, here in their element dancing in suits. America, is much like Russia in that sense, he we are starved for some middle class company, to prove still as we prove by our being and seeing that we are more than the sons and daughters of slaves. Starved still as we queue up to be inspected at the door by the arbitrators of our choices, bouncers. Embodiment of our secret fears of what white poeple might still see in us, the bouncers check the validity of dress, listen for accents in the voice, check the back of our necks for cuckabugs. Like a pledge line we are harassed and asked demeaning questions, searched and seized, frozen for the moment in the cultural fascism of our own creation. But we stand for it, moreover, we stand in line for it, for this is a monster we know. We know the rules for we created them. We push them and have no respect for them because we created them. We enforce them because more often then not we pass the velvet ropes and are invited in, for 15 dollars. The price we have set to set us apart, we hope from those lower class niggers and hoods, the likes of which never grow up to be anything more than security guards. Or bouncers.

    Hair weaves, of course, jheri curls, one on a Hollywood looking brother with no tie who will not pass muster, so sorry homes but he does look fine. Heels and pumps becoming increasingly uncomfortable, it will be nice to get off my feet and enjoy a drink. Oh, but what I will have to go through to get just a drink. Good thing I have money. The LA attitude creeps in. The voice raises pitch, eyes eye dresses a bit tight, heels a bit high, makeup a bit thick, hips a bit swivelly. Too, too much harshness, minds in a critical frenzy. Here tonight are party people, those who seem to inhabit this place and would be churching here monthly Fridays. The queue shortened in front of her and she reached the door. Two women directly in front of her were gabbing about some movie yet as the line moved froward their words lost intelligibility in the beat echoing through the open red leather padded door. She produced her license to the bouncer, black shirt thin tie curled up mouth, bushy moustache. He nodded, mouth open gapped teeth, spotted tongue chapped lips. She moved inside and handed a 10 to the girl behind the glass. Red black and green 3 inch fingernails scissored the bill and plucked a pale blue ticket through the aperature. Claudia handled it as if it were dirty, turning away and trialing her arm and Arden gloss behind her, sliding the ticket across the counter as she moved into the joint. She eyed the crowd, full volume and handed the ticket to the smiling brother on the barstool on the far side of the entry vestibule, checkpoint number three. He rips the ticket and leans toward her ear, "Thank you for coming", and grins. He is mentally eating booties all night, just sitting there telling every woman that he is their personal friend, with his tight slacks and pointy boots. She looks back to see him play off his staring. It gave her a wonderful rush, yeah you know you want this... The swell of blackness gloved her and she wailed internally from the swoon. She was Fay Wray, diggin’ the moment, playing her pecuniarliy augmented feminity off the dark mirrors of the negro night club. This was her playground, cause funk is a thang she knows. And baby...

    She moved over to the bar, sat smoothly and ordered up a scotch and soda. Why waste time? Claudia budgeted out the number of dances she might allow, hmm maybe tonight is a six dance night. As the cuts revolved and the crowd seemed to move in slow motion. Claudia could imagine every conversation in lurid detail. She felt alien but in command as if someone had handed here a CIA dossier on every individual in the club. That one over there, in the three peice suit still hasn't realized that the 80s were over, because his lines were still operational.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:44 AM | TrackBack

    September 12, 2005

    Eyewitness Nutshell

    Tubbs was there:

    No one (the state police, the army guys) knew anything. Buses came and left, half of them empty. No one could tell us where to wait for them or when they would come. So we stood in the trash where the buses had come for a while, then moved over near the medical tent because it was (a little) cleaner. Everywhere just smelled like sweet rotting and piss.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:53 AM | TrackBack

    September 11, 2005

    Caring about Black People

    In his now classic book, Faces at the Bottom of the Well, author Derrick Bell writes a scenario in which white survivalists decide to take up arms against the government of the United States for not caring about black people. He has his character, a black man, rescued by such a cult. By drawing this picture, Bell begs the question of whether blacks care more about fighting anti-black racism or black solidarity. At the time of the books' publication, there was a great deal more fear and discussion about white survivalist groups than there is today, especially in black political circles. These were the days when hammer skinheads were making the news as the new vanguard of militant white supremacy.

    From Bell:

    "We call ourselves White Citizens for Black Survival or WCBS. Our program has two prongs. First, the policy phase we call 'racial realism.' Then the activies phase, in which we aim to build a nationwidew network of secret shelters to house and feed balck people in the event of a black holocauset or som other all-out attack on America's historic scapegoats."

    Not that there's anything so dramatic outside of the Race Traitors that I know of, I bring this up because there are at least a couple of folks with significant blogs and conservative followings who have been keeping it right. John Hawkins and XRLQ are manning the battlestations this week against Steve Sailer of VDare.

    I used to be on the iSteve mailing list, and I forgot exactly how that happened. Very likely I was keeping track of Peter Brimelow and the various groups of white whiners like Jared Taylor and AmRen. Basically, these are the guys who constitute the forefront of the political movement on the ugly implications of The Bell Curve. They've been at it for years - trying to keep white hope alive.

    It has been quite a while since I've seen anything that they've done online. So it's an interesting time to consider what this battle looks like, especially if you're one of my new readers this week who think all black Republicans are Toms. Here you have an opportunity to see right wing Republicans do battle with white supremacists. It's almost as good as Celebrity Deathmatch.

    But seriously, the disconnect between these soft-core white supremacists and the blogospheric right is significant. They're not chummy as some paranoid lefties would have you believe. There is really no love lost. Since the effect of white supremacist activism diminishes over time, this may be a unique opportunity to watch mainstream Conservatives diss them like David Duke who is probably doing his best to energize his cronies in Louisiana.

    Speaking of which, here's one of my favorite paragraph from the news today:

    Mr. Reiss acknowledges that shrinking parts of the city occupied by hardscrabble neighborhoods would inevitably result in fewer poor and African-American residents. But he says the electoral balance of the city wouldn't change significantly and that the business elite isn't trying to reverse the last 30 years of black political control. "We understand that African Americans have had a great deal of influence on the history of New Orleans," he says.

    Of course there are plenty of loudmouth bad guys in the mix too. Nobody is suggesting that there isn't plenty of racist hate online. I just happened to drop by SCAA's 700-post long thread 'Shoot Looters!'. People I hang out with tend to be stunned into silence when they see it. Those of us who have sunk into the depths to fight know how ugly it gets. After a while we get the thousand mile raceman's stare.

    Anyway, aluta continua.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:49 PM | TrackBack

    'Nola' Speaks

    I don't have a nickname for my close auntie. She's my mother's sister and the one whom I've mostly be sweating about in the past week. She asked me to publish her letter to us in the family. I will but will call her my darling auntie 'Nola'.

    Dear Family,

    I have never felt more connected to all of you than I do at this moment. I am deeply touched by your love and generosity at this time of crisis.

    My departure from New Orleans was totally spontaneous. I was not listening to my rational mind. It was on Saturday, and a day when very few people were seriously thinking of leaving. Even those of us who drove toward Baton Rouge as I did, did not find any long delays in traffic. I fully intended to be away no more than 48 hours.

    I left without such essentials as telephone numbers, personal papers and not even the barest essentials. I found myself responding purely on intuition for the next six days on the road. The worst part was the endless back roads I took; especially thru Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi. I was so grateful that I am pretty proficient at reading maps and used to driving the blue lines on the map. I was surely operating on automatic for long hours.

    The traffic was horrendous on all paths leading out of the Gulf States. The gasoline lines in some places stretched over a mile in both directions leading into a station. Each day at sunset came the arduous task of trying to find a room; preferably two since I was traveling with 'Cousin B' and I desperately needed the privacy to follow the news into the night as I fell asleep and the first thing in the morning as I prepared to leave. Each day I checked from one station to another trying to find a clear channel on the radio (which was difficult on the back roads).

    I began to not recognize the haggard face I saw in the mirror and even more disturbing was the feeling of “being an observer” of this haggard stranger that spoke and acted in a monotone, and that the stranger was me.

    One afternoon in Tennessee I went to Wal-Mart to pick up some essentials and I found myself inside of my car and totally ignorant about what had happened to my purchases. After frantically searching the parking lot for my basket, I finally checked the trunk of the car. I had loaded my purchases “on automatic” without remembering.

    That feeling of disorientation continued. It was a relief when I was finally able to cry after the fourth day. I have not cried like that since I was a child. I was totally overwhelmed with grief.

    All of the above said, I am well aware how blessed both [your cousin B] and I are. I am also happy that in some way, my leaving as I did inspired 'Uncle C' to convince his daughter 'GG' to leave with him and with her four children on Sunday morning.

    Even in the middle of it all, my mind kept returning to an inner dialogue of how I can help. I believe that I will go back as soon as it is safe to do so. The work that I have been involved in for the past 10+ years has given shape and meaning to my life. I cannot “not go back”.

    In the meantime, I’m here and I’m taking one day at a time. This is only the end of Week 1 and I already feel the effects of a “time slow down” that happens in times of crisis.

    I love all of you!

    I’ll stay in touch,

    Milwaukee, WI

    PS Please copy this letter on the web to everyone. Thanks!

    We are surely blessed.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:17 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    September 10, 2005


    Posted by mbowen at 02:51 PM | TrackBack

    September 09, 2005

    A Conservative Defense of Ray Nagin

    250px-Hurricane_Katrina_President_Bush_with_New_Orleans_Mayor.jpg I like Ray Nagin and I won't apologize for it. Somebody is going to have to do an awfully good job of convincing me that he's as wrong as many claim. I think he's a scapegoat of blind partisans and is not getting the credit he deserves.

    The problem with having an analytical mind and not a general dispensation towards advocacy is that this blog is not as popular as it might be. But as thoughtful readers have reminded me, that's a good thing. And so I'm going to be analytical again. The interesting thing is that I feel that I must advocate for Nagin because my analysis raises point I haven't seen discussed. Furthermore, it's because I like the guy and I see knees jerking all over the joint.

    In my opinion, Nagin is the target of convenience for a lot of people who are shouting because shouting is what they do best, but any thoughtful and nuanced accounting will show that he acted selflessly in defense of his police force & staff, and most importantly the people of New Orleans. Furthermore, I contend that he did so with an unvarnished sense of realism without unrealistic expectations about the ability for government agencies to handle a crisis.

    I am getting as my primary sources of information:

  • Wikipedia
  • Rightwing Nuthouse Timeline
  • City of New Orleans Emergency Preparedness Website
  • I'd like to bust up a couple myths:

    Myth #1 - Ray Nagin is a typical liberal black Democrat, and that his 'failure' stems from fundamental ideological problems.

    Junkyard Blog says:

    If we let Ray Nagin, Jesse Jackson, RFK Jr and the rest of the leftist mob define Katrina and tell us what went wrong, the coming big bang will be dangerous. These are dangerous people. They taste the air and sense blood. They feed on misery. They must be answered, they must be pushed back, or they will win.

    First thing's first. Who is Ray Nagin? Well if you listened to Hannity or Limbaugh today and yesterday you would have heard him lumped in with the 'Democrats' and/or 'black leaders'. This is just appalling to me because the first thing I noticed about the guy was that he is not a career politician. He was a business executive at Cox Communications and a Republican in his life before becoming mayor of New Orleans. This seems to have escaped everyone's notice but mine in the tirades against him.

    Furthermore as a Democrat, he campaigned for a Republican candidate for Governor, Bobby Jindal, whom I like for the some of the same reasons I like Nagin. The new professional face of the Republican Party these two could be, if people would stop and think for a minute.

    Indeed much of the criticism of Democrats and of New Orleans talks about black mayors and cronyism. Yet Nagin campaigned on a reform platform. He came out swinging:

    Mayor C Ray Nagin has defied the conventional wisdom from the beginning of his political life. His surprise victory in the New Orleans mayoral election in May 2002, proved that New Orleanians were looking for the city’s leadership to take bold new steps to protect their future. He became the first New Orleans Mayor to rise to the post in nearly 60 years without holding a previous elected office. Ray Nagin put his career in business on hold to lead the city where he was born.

    Shortly after he was elected, Mayor Nagin revealed that he would not tolerate the atmosphere of political corruption that had pervaded city government. He instituted a criminal and administrative probe with the help of the New Orleans Police Department and the Metropolitan Crime Commission – an area watchdog group - that resulted in the arrest of 84 city workers and the restructuring of the New Orleans utilities department. Mayor Nagin is resolved to erase the image of New Orleans as a place where graft is part of the old-world charm.

    Myth #2 - Nagin Didn't Follow the Plan
    This is a kind of tail wagging the dog and rather typical of internet nonsense. First somebody finds dramatic pictures of buses underwater and then decides that this is a problem. Then they went to find out where it had to be part of a plan that the buses were to be used. Given that buses could be identified as part of a plan, somebody must be to blame, Nagin has become the goat. The biggest promoter of this reversal of logic is the Junkyard Blog in an attempt to lay blame on Democrats and deflect criticism of the Bush Administration.

    I have three rebuttals, the first of which is what I see as the backwards logic of finding a picture on the internet and then a clause somewhere that justifies the importance of that picture. This is clearly a meme gone awry.

    The second rebuttal makes use of the nature of the plan. The evacuation plan clearly places the overwhelming majority of the responsibility for evacuation on the citizens themselves. One cannot logically parse the volume of information presented by Nagin's office and conclude that any government entity, city, county, state or Federal would bear significant responsibility for getting people out of harm's way. In statement after statement Nagin has explained clearly that the Superdome was a 'shelter of last resort'.

    Junkyard Blog attempts to cite chapter and verse from the Emergency Plan:

    They just didn't follow it. So they were planning to fail. By "they," I mean pretty much every government official in Louisiana, and by "plan," I mean a signed-off set of procedures they were supposed to follow in the event of a catastrophic hurricane. You know, like the one that just hit. And by "fail" I mean complete catastrophic failure.

    Here's the southeast Louisiana evac plan supplement, most recently revised in 2000. Go to page 13, read paragraph 5. It states:

    5. The primary means of hurricane evacuation will be personal vehicles. School and municipal buses, government-owned vehicles and vehicles provided by volunteer agencies may be used to provide transportation for individuals who lack transportation and require assistance in evacuating.

    I've bolded that first sentence in paragraph five. What part of that is ambiguous? Most people were to be responsible for their own evacuation and that is exactly what most people did. The Red Cross (see below) has tracked a maximum of less than 100k out of a city of 500k, which means at least 80% of New Orleans evacuated, at the order of the Mayor, under their own power. This is what was expected and this is what happened, according to plan.

    We know however, that there were a maximum of about 30,000 individuals at the Superdome, but not how many thousands refused evacuation until the approval of the use of forced evacuation. But nobody was as clear on the shortfall of evacuation as the Mayor, when he went on the air and called for assistance.

    Thirdly, no plan survives contact with the enemy. I see nowhere in any of the documented evacuation plans that people would be rescued by boat. In fact, thousands of people were rescued by boats manned by the New Orleans Police and obviously deputized volunteers. This is clearly the rescue operation that saved the most lives and yet Nagin has been given no credit or even benefit of the doubt for the sake of this bus story.

    Myth #3 - Nagin's Unused 'Motor Pool' Would Have Saved Lives
    This is actually not a myth. It's a fact, but the significance of this criticism depends entirely upon the number of lives lost because of a failed evaucation of navigable roads. The precise number of lives it could have saved would be all of those people who died within access to roads that school buses could use. Right now since the New Orleans death toll stands under 200, the deaths that could have been prevented maxes out at about 2 buses. But I'm willing to bet that only a couple dozen of those died on the side of the road. And considering the number of police vehicles available, buses weren't necessary to save lives.

    The Red Cross has registered about 94,000 survivors from Louisiana. As of today they providing shelter for about 55,000 in over 200 locations. Assuming that the New Orleans death toll goes to 1,000 (and today there are only 118 confirmed by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals as of September 9th.) the most plausible explanation will be drowning because of the levee flooding, in which case the buses would have been of no use vis a vis evacuation.

    It is more correct to assert that use of buses could have made the relocation process more expedient and greatly contributed to the comfort of evacuees at the Superdome.

    I want to make some other points very clear here about the use and availability of buses that have could have been used to ease congestion and overcrowding at the Superdome.

    1. Nobody could have predicted which of the levees would burst or how badly. Their bursting was not inevitable, nor was the combination catastrophe of multiple failures and failures of pumping stations. The severity of the need to evacuate after the passing of the storm was caused by this flooding, which is the same factor that disabled the buses. I will show below that this resulted in the loss of only relatively few lives anyway.

    2. Nobody could have predicted that Highway 10 would have failed aross to Slidell. With that route closed, evacuation from the East became impossible. No buses could help from that direction.

    3. If you haven't read it already, read The Anchoress on the first 100 hours.

    The following negative and positive points are those I have considered in defending Nagin. You may assign different weights to them. In the end, I say Nagin ends up in the plus column or breaking even depending upon how many lives are lost. Considering that this was the greatest catastrophe to befall any American city since the Civil War, that kind of context must be maintained.

    Minus Points (Goat Factor)

    GF #1 - Nagin's Cops Quit
    Nagin's police force bugged out on him, and as many as 200 have reportedly abandoned their posts and gone AWOL. The responsibility for the morale of the PD falls squarely on Nagin's Administration. With a force of 1500, that is a huge failure. This may have been the best way to get rid of the marginal cops and weed out the losers, but it's a huge divot. Nagin's leadership of his police force was not what it could have been.

    GF #2 - Nagin Sent Cops to Vegas
    This should have been kept on the QT. One week of pure hell duty and fungus infections on the feet merit time off in anybody's book, but such matters should have been kept quiet if possible. This was a pure press disaster.

    GF #3 - Nagin Failed to Cooperate with Blanco
    Nagin's antipathy to Blanco evidenced itself in his ignorance of what Blanco's plans were to engage the National Guard and other disaster plans. It can't be determined whether Blanco was refusing to communicate with Nagin or vice-versa which mitigates this factor.

    Plus Points (Hero Factor)

    HF #1 - Nagin Blew the Whistle at Great Political Risk to Himself
    Whatever you think about Nagin's November 1 radio broadcast - love it or hate it, there is one thing that is perfectly clear: Nagin sounded the alarm in an emotional way that is risky for a politician. Depending upon your point of view, you either love this kind of demeanor or you hate it in a politician but there was no doubt that he was willing to take that risk in order to bring attention to the crisis he faced. He wasn't afraid to say he needed help, and he did it in an unselfish way.

    Nagin gave credit where credit was due to George Bush for sending in General Honore to oversee the developing crisis. He called for centralized authority, but didn't demand it for himself. From the first we heard of Honore, Nagin was perfectly willing to give the general full control.

    HF #2 - Nagin Upheld Civil Liberty

    Whatever you think about the looters or what it may signify, one thing you have not heard is any charges of police brutality. Nobody was shot by accident. No great numbers of innocent people were arrested.

    HF #3 - Nagin Redirected All Police Efforts towards Safety.
    When it became apparent that shooting was taking place in the city and gangs of junkies (as far as we can tell there was only one sniper, however) and thugs, Nagin took the risky move and redirected his entire police force from rescue to safety. Nagin clearly understood that no rescue could take place if rescue workers had to fear for their own safety. This was a smart move and the right thing to do. He didn't hesitate, he didn't half step.

    Non Points (No Factor)

    The following points I don't think merit serious consideration in regards to an evaluation of Nagin. Either they are trifling and petty or they are things beyond the reasonable control of any human being or bureacracy during a catastrophe.

    NF #1 - Squallor at the Superdome
    Long before the Superdome situation degenerated into typical refugee camp status, Nagin called for resources to help move people out. It is this context that gives whatever credibility could be assigned to the weight of the lost buses. Nagin also directed evacuees toward other refuges such as area hospitals and the airports. There were no such reports of squallor. At no time can it be said that people were safer on the streets than in the Superdome. Americans may be squeamish about the way it is in refugee camps, but that's the way it is. If the Red Cross gives any weight to the suggestion that conditions at the Superdome ran below what they typically see, then this moves to the negative column. Remember that according to the plan, the Superdome was the refuge of last resort, it being the only building certified to withstand Category 3 in New Orleans.

    NF #2 - Nagin's Use of Profanity
    That's a weak ass argument. Dismissed. But seriously, you cannot support General Honore and diss Mayor Nagin on the question of cursing.

    NF #3 - Nagin Overreacted & Exaggerated the Number of Potential Dead
    I say this one balances out to zero. While it's true that lots of people may have panicked at the news, most unfortunately the cowards on his own police force, it's better on the whole to say that the sky is falling than it is to say everything's under control.

    Add all these things to what I've said prior and I think Nagin comes off as well as anyone could expect under the circumstances. I certainly welcome retorts, corrections, and broadsided criticisms. I'm willing to admit where I am biased, but I think an objective view of the situation leaves Nagin less damaged than some people have wrongly tried to make him.

    I say he breaks even. He made some tough calls and they were all correct and timely. He may have lost his temper, but I say that's a good thing when lives are involved, so long as it's not counterproductive. There are some plusses and minuses to be considered, but at the end of the day Nagin is the man who called for and oversaw the most complicated and largest evacuation of a major American city in history, a city of 500,000, while only losing 118. That's commendable. He did his job.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:26 PM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

    The Crisis is Over, But

    The search and rescue mission in New Orleans is over and Michael Brown is out on his keister. My fellow Americans, pat yourselves on the back. The storm is finally passed.

    In my schema, we are on to the second R from Rescue to Relief. The last R of Recovery is going to be the long term deal, and there's going to be 60 billion plus dollars in that. Since I understand the liberal impulse, we are going to find out all of the contractors who win bids that have any connection whatsoever to any of the Bush team. Hold your noses, it's just a couple weeks away.

    Meanwhile I'll be focusing on the displaced in their new places and praying that I find one of them blogging, because if I see another TV broadcast with stray dogs I'm going to vomit. Not that dogs ain't cute, it's just that they're always misinterpreted and we really never get the straight story from them. I think we will hear a more useful and gratifying response from bloggers.

    The political consequences of this great displacement will very much be like that of 9/11. For me personally, it has been much more emotional. I'm at a high point today, which feels almost like normal, but over the past 10 days I've been operating with one emotional wheel in the sand. I have a couple predictions about political repercussions.

  • Libertarians are going to have a harder time everywhere.
  • The FEMA conspiracy theorists of the days of Waco are finally going to get the fisking they deserve.
  • Moderate Conservative Republicans like myself are going to gain. Think Giuliani & Whitman.
  • The death toll & the actual consequences of the watered down buses will be substantially lower than screamers have asserted.
  • Nagin breaks even. Blanco loses, and obviously Brown goes down in flames.
  • Katrina bloggers will emerge.

    Add these two fragments:
    Quote of the Day:
    "There are no atheists in foxholes, and no Libertarians in Louisiana."
    -- Prometheus 6

    A Purity Test for Limousine Liberals.

    That's all for now. I gotta get back to work.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:30 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack
  • September 08, 2005

    Dream Center Success

    dream1-1.jpg I got the following from Pops and Deet this evening. They've been pulling weight.

    deet came by this afternoon with a LOAD of clothing items. i took the to the unity center and, although they were grateful, they said they had enough clothes and were now looking for toiletries. the lady suggested i go to the dream center where a large number of folks were sent. i went and WOW!! the place is buzzin' with activity. a line of cars waiting to drop off all kinds of things. 2 dudes and a woman unloaded the avalanche post haste. they were polite and grateful (the big surprise is that they are l.a. folks!!) anyway, while i was there, "monique" from tv drove up in that big red benz in the foto. a bunch of folks flocked to her car to get autographs. she was all smiles. the dude came back to the avalanche and said magic johnson and sugar ray leonard had been by earlier. he then flashed a super grin and said oprah is coming, too!! pickup-1.jpg although i was just the delivery dude, i left with a real good feeling. the woman (whose back you can see in the unloading flick) said the need right now is for baby items. so, i will seriously deal with that tomorrow.

    king deet called tonight and came up with a (typical king deet) good idea: go to the center and pick up a family and take them out to dinner! that got my mental wheels turning. take some folks to church or bowling or the beach or a park or (drum roll) the mountains. the kids would probably love meeting other kids, the possibilities are as endless as the caring of the human heart...............

    if any of you can think of other ways to simply be involved and being decent to our new orleans/mississippi brothers and sisters (of whatever color or kind), lemme know.........or contact the king of deets!

    I'll forward any ideas of course. Remember. It's all about DO!

    Posted by mbowen at 10:15 PM | TrackBack

    Why Hast Thou Forsaken?

    Posted by mbowen at 10:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    LA Charities: Katrina's Closet

    The folks at Blackweekly are doing a bang-up job. They are supporting the Katrina's Closet drive. Here's the scoop.

    Below is a list of drop-off locations. We are currently seeking drop-off locations in Long Beach and Orange County. If you have a storefront, business or home that can serve as a Katrina's Closet drop-off location in one of these areas, please email Fleace' Weaver. We are also looking for people with large trucks to pick up the donated items from our brothers and sisters in Long Beach and Orange County.

    If you have time on Sunday, we could also use your help in sorting the donations. If you will like to help sort, please contact Wanda Johnson at .

    Thank you for your support and for reaching out to others in need.

    Drop off locations:

    Addco Party Rentals
    8411 S. LaCienga (between Florence and Manchester)
    Hours: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
    310 672.4977
    (this is also the location for Sorting of donations on Sunday)

    Merry Maids
    961 N. La Brea Ave
    Hours: 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

    Alisa Robinson
    12912 Daventry Street
    Pacoima CA. 91331
    Hours: Anytime after 9:00 a.m.
    818 601-8974

    More locations will be listed at

    Event drop off locations:

    Wednesday, September 7th
    John Hensley's Flypoet Showcase
    The Conga Room
    5364 Wilshire Blvd.
    7 p.m. to Midnight

    Thursday, September 8th
    As Powerful As You Want To Be
    A PR and Mentoring Bootcamp
    The Le Florence Gallery
    3351 W. 43rd St.
    (LA's Leimert Park)
    6 p.m. - 9 p.m.

    Saturday, September 10th
    Harlem Nights
    Zita Trattoria & Bar
    825 9th Street (James Wood Blvd.)
    Downtown Los Angeles
    8 p.m. - Midnight

    Other Needed Items

    Baby wipes
    Baby food
    Baby aspirin
    Toilet paper
    Sanitary napkins
    Portable radios with batteries
    Plastic forks, knives, and spoons
    Cotton balls
    Cotton swabs
    Hydrogen peroxide BUT NOT rubbing alcohol, because that is flammable
    Band aids
    Shaving cream
    Male AND female razors
    Air mattresses
    Pillows and pillow cases
    Gift cards for gas
    Wal mart or Target gift cards
    Garbage bags
    Cleaning supplies
    Toothpaste and toothbrushes
    Books for children, including coloring books
    Books for adults

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

    More Independent Charities

    I've got another set of information passed to me through the Kwaku Network. I can't vouch for all of the organizations and since I got some wrong info on the Dream Center, I've hesitated in posting. But I trust Cobb readers ain't fools. I post it whole cloth with no edits. Relief Fund
    PO Box 803209
    Dallas, TX 75240
    OR you can make an online donation by going to
    This fund has been set up by nationally syndicated radio
    personality TOM JOYNER

    NAACP Disaster Relief Efforts

    The NAACP is setting up command centers in Louisiana,
    Mississippi, and Alabama as part of its disaster relief
    efforts. NAACP units across the nation have begun
    collecting resources that will be placed on trucks and
    sent directly into the disaster areas. Also, the NAACP has
    established a disaster relief fund to accept monetary
    donations to aid in the relief effort.

    Checks can be sent to the NAACP payable to NAACP Hurricane
    Katrina Relief Fund
    4805 Mt. Hope Drive
    Baltimore, MD 21215

    Donations can also be made online at:

    FYI, the NAACP, founded in 1909, is America's oldest civil
    rights organization Set up by native New Orleans rapper Master P and his wife Sonya Miller

    You can mail or ship non-perishable items to these
    following locations, which we have confirmed are REALLY
    delivering services to folks in need....

    Center for LIFE Outreach Center
    121 Saint Landry Street
    Lafayette, LA 70506
    atten.: Minister Pamela Robinson

    Mohammad Mosque 65
    2600 Plank Road
    Baton Rouge, LA 70805
    atten.: Minister Andrew Muhammad

    Lewis Temple CME Church
    272 Medgar Evers Street
    Grambling, LA 71245
    atten.: Rev. Dr. Ricky Helton

    St. Luke Community United Methodist Church
    c/o Hurricane Katrina Victims
    5710 East R.L. Thornton Freeway
    Dallas, TX 75223
    atten.: Pastor Tom Waitschies

    S.H.A.P.E. Community Center
    3815 Live Oak
    Houston, Texas 77004
    atten.: Deloyd Parker

    Five things you can do to help immediately:

    1. Duplicate what we are doing elsewhere in New York City,
    in your city or town, on your college campus, at your
    church, synagogue, mosque, or other religious institution,
    via your fraternity or sorority, or via your local civic
    or social organization.

    2. Cut and paste the information in this eblast about

    Items needed by survivors of the New Orleans catastrophe:
    ? Monetary donations
    ? Where you can ship non-perishable items
    ? Alternative media outlets
    ? Five things you can do to help immediately

    and share this information, as a ONE SHEET, with folks
    near and far, via email, or as a hand out at your event,
    religious institution, and with your civic or social

    3. Voice your opinion to local and national media, and to
    elected officials, via letter, email, op ed article, or
    phonecall, regarding the coverage of the New Orleans
    catastrophe, as well as to the federal government's
    ongoing handling of the situation.

    4. Ask the hotel you frequent, such as the Marriott or
    Holiday Inn, to give your hotel points to an individual or
    family in need of a stay for a night, a few nights, or
    longer, depending on how many points you have. Be sure to
    get confirmation that your points have been applied in
    that way. Encourage others to do the same. Also inquire if
    your airline Frequent Flyer mileage can be used for hotel
    stays as well.

    Finally, either offer to pay for hotel rooms, or encourage
    others to do so, including your place of employment or
    worship or your organization.

    5. Dare to care about other human beings, no matter their
    race, gender, class, sexual orientation, religion,
    geography, culture, clothing, hairstyle, or accent or
    language. Like September 11th, the New Orleans catastrophe
    is a harsh reminder that all life is precious, as is each
    day we have on this earth.

    AND REMEMBER that our attention and response to the New
    Orleans catastrophe needs to happen in three
    stages...DISASTER, RECOVERY, and REBUILDING. We need you
    for all three stages.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:01 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    September 07, 2005

    A Simple Message to Governor Schwartzenegger

    Don't you dare sign it.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:39 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

    Freak Accidents & Municipal Budgets

    It's almost an axiom that wherever you find tornados, you find trailer parks. And every time we see that poor white woman tell us in her twang that "it sounded like a train coming" we secretly laugh at her foolishness just for living there. Some of us laugh more openly, but the same harsh question persists.

  • Why do people in Malibu live on the edge of the mountain if they know there are mudslides?

  • Why do people in the Oklahoma panhandle live there if they know that tornados are going to hit?

  • Why do people on the Florida coast put up with hurricanes year after year.

  • Why do people live in California at all, much less in high rise buildings when they know that the Big One is going to come?

  • Hell, why are any of us living outside of Alaska when we know global warming is coming? That's a question I ask of all tree huggers, and sometimes I wish I could buy them the plane ticket.

    We've seen this before. You and I still remember the movie, now out on DVD called 'The Day After Tomorrow'. There is nothing quite so arrogant as a lone scientist who bets his career on a once in a lifetime event. That's the whole Michael Moorian point dramatized via the swell-headed actor who gets to blame the Administration for not paying attention to science.

    Last night I heard the most hate-filled screed against the 'Bush Crime Family' on the radio. This jerk wanted nothing more than the full wrath of a hurricane to land directly on the head of Michael Chertoff. It was an astoundingly furious tirade. You could just imagine that if he could control the weather, he'd order a Category Five to order. Except it can't be done. And we all know it.

    Ask yourself right now, how much money are you spending on insurance. Do you have flood insurance? Earthquake insurance? Tornado insurance? People are rational aren't they? Then how is it that people who have no health insurance spend money on a car and car insurance when a car is more likely to kill them than anything else they own?

    People take risks.

    Furthermore taxpayers make priorities. And the priority is clear. We Americans don't save money for a rainy day. We don't take our municipal budgets and spend them on infrastructure. We don't think that the work of the Army Corps of Engineers is glamorous or deserving of our political attention.

    I don't have to tell you that there are people who would like to conjure up genies and spend money in retrospect. It's not going to happen. The people have voted with their feet.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:54 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    September 06, 2005


    One of these days, who knows when and not that I pay much attention, some news organization is going to bring you a story from a street called Derbigny. I'm not going to do you a favor by pronouncing it for you.

    One of the marvelous tools that has arisen from the creativity of the geniuses that be is the Google Maps overlay at Scipionus. I've been checking it regularly in order to get information about the water level in my aunt's neighborhood. Generally speaking, I've been able to make a decent determination. But there's a problem with this technology, which is that only a certain class of people are going to benefit from it. Period.

    I wrote, during my trip to New Orleans this spring:

    Poverty is the same where ever you go in America. It's instantly recognizeable. You get off the grid and suddenly people are hanging off stoops where the houses have no A/C. The day after rain, the curbs are still flooded where the pavement turns to dirt.

    I took Canal up to Rampart Street and took it out to where it splits off with St. Bernard. By there I was in the heart of somebody's hood. So I took Elysian Fields north to Claiborne and flipped some circles around there and hit ghetto. It was around Derbigny that I dropped off the precipice into that 5th Ward Houston look and feel, three classes below the middle where the streets ain't paved. Sure enough the horse cart clops by.

    So as I was checking out the Scipionus map I wondered if anybody had used it to update the status, or even post the basic status, of some houses in the 'hood, the ghetto or the projects. No such luck. In fact, there's a huge empty space on the grid, much larger than I've indicated here, right smack in the middle of poor black New Orleans, where there are no markers.

    Of course there are thousands of people who know these neighborhoods very well, and they know exactly what's going on there. But they are not showing up on our radar. The Lafitte Projects are definitely underwater. Derbigny is underwater. But Derbigny was underwater long before the storm. Those were the faces at the bottom of the well.

    It's uncomfortable for people to look at this stuff in the face, especially when it's not usually seen. But in America, right now, in your city, you know where the poor blackfolks in the projects live. And you know that place hasn't changed in three generations. It was poor and black when MLK was marching and it probably still is today.

    I've rather had my fill of people second guessing the state and local officials in this matter. I'm sure we'll all have our long knives and lawyers at the ready when investigation season opens. If I watched TV, I could probably tell you by now which CNN reporter is going to make a Greta Von Susteren-style career out of the Tragedy of the Century. But I simply bring up this entire point of Derbigny to bring it home to you. Where is the Derbigny Street in your town and how many tax dollars are you ready to get off of in order to save them from a once in a century freak accident?

    I thought so.

    I'm going set a calendar date in my Palm to remind me to bring this post up again 6 months from today. And I want to ask again where is our commitment in tax dollars to the least of our brothers. It's not a generally 'conservative' thing to do, but I know it's a Christian thing to ask, especially of the scribes and pharisees of the Katrina timeline - those of us who rub out hands in anticipation of dragging somebody in front of a committee and asking pointless but pointed questions about 167 buses approximately 1.2 miles from the Convention Center sitting in .76 meters of water. And what would you say if the bus drivers demanded to be in a union? What would you say then, oh compassionate one?

    Ask yourself, for New Orleans, how much moral outrage and finger-pointing would we be spared if we gave enough tax appropriations to the Commission for the Prevention of Levee Failure, The Emergency Bus Driving Authority and the Bureau of Satellite Phones. Sure we'll pay the 100 billion now. And somehow somebody is going to have to figure out how, in 2005, to build houses so cheap that people will spend the kind of rents they spent on 80 year old clapboard shotgun shacks on Derbigny. Wait. Isn't that called Affordable Housing? Eew!

    It's the bullet we all hate to bite because it goes straight to principles. There is no moral high ground to be had when it comes to the bottom line of "you're on your own". That, as they say of police who are supposed to do their jobe, is the way it's supposed to be. You get no praise for just telling it like it is. You get praise for the uncommon gesture, for going above and beyond the call of duty, for walking the extra mile. And as much as right ideologues hate it, it means expanding government services and providing some ironclad guarantees.

    I know a lot of people are going to make hay over the backhanded effects of government dependency. But somewhere between laissez-faire and 100 billion dollars in relief is a smart compromise. Moreover, when anyone, Republican or Democrat takes office, they damned well better be able to demonstrate some competence. It's the least we can expect from Americans. That means guarantees. In my industry we call it SLA for 'Service Level Agreements'. You don't get paid unless you can guarantee a certain level of service, and a contract is a contract. There was a time when Republicans weren't afraid to make contracts with America.

    I think it's about time again. You can start in your own backyard, but this time I don't mean old socks in your garage. I mean your state and local government. You have looked at the face of your fellow Americans in their time of need and know deep in your heart that we could have done better by them. Admit it. Now make it an issue in your next local election. Make a promise to your fellow Americans, and by God keep it. We must do better.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:48 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 06:45 PM | TrackBack

    The Old School is Grey

    It seems as if everyone in the 'sphere has read some part or all of Bill Whittle's extended paen to Courage. It is only a hair short of classic, and quite frankly it ought to be taught in high school.

    Even though here at Cobb I tend to be particularly analytic and give every angle consideration (especially in the comic), there are a set of core values that I'm not going to slip on. I have found this particular catastrophe more personally devastating than 9/11 for a number of reasons I won't get into right now. And so I'm a lot more likely to ask questions and analyze than try to be right from the perspective of values. And I think a few too many of us have been a bit too quick on the moral pontification. What Whittle brings home and settles down for us is the fact that there is nothing new about character in crisis. And when it comes to facing disaster, no value is more central than Courage.

    I think it's very useful then, for me to reiterate the values of the Old School which were born of courage. And it is precisely because of these values that I talk about the Old School as its own kind of tribe rather than assuming that all blackfolks are going to have them. While many Old School values were exemplified in the best of the Black Nationalist, Black Consciousness, Black Arts and Civil Rights Movements, not everybody emerged with the full set intact. It's why we draw the distinction. We recognize that every brotha ain't a brother.

    They are right on the homepage of the Conservative Brotherhood:

    Old School Core Values:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Each of these values requires sacrifice. You have to be pretty damned sure of yourself in this world if you're going to stand up for things you believe in, with the additional nerve that others ought to be about the same thing. Each of these values requires integrity. You can't be wishy washy about it. Each of these values is hard to stand by, but worth it. And they come from deep within the life lessons learned from a people who didn't get the benefit of the doubt, to say the least.

    It's worth saying, from time to time, that you stand for something greater than yourself, and it's worth re-affirming your dedication and commitment. That's all this is, and I thought you should know.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:03 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

    Tuesday Fragments

    I'm completely stressed out but I am hearing good news from my compadres. Light blogging this afternoon as I am at a new customer site, but I'll catch up tonight.

  • Without a link, I'm shocked to find out about Blanco's 24 hours to think about it delay. Checkout Whizbang for that news. Nagin finked on her. Somebody needs to make them kiss and make up, on the other hand, Nagin is a stealth Republican...

  • One pal of mine has airlifted somebody with his private plane. Way to go Tim. You're the man.

  • The response to the Dream Center pickup has been overwhelmingly great. Christine thanks everyone who has called and asks for a break. So I've pulled her phone number. Don't call, she's swamped.

  • I have word that the Van Nuys Airport has something of a private airlift going on as well. There is an Air National Guard center there as many of us know. So if you contact them, there's a good chance that your garage goods can get to Houston for delivery to evacuees there.

  • Much love and thanks to all of you putting forth the effort. Everybody wants to know, including folks on the plane and at the airport for my biz travels today. I'm exasperated about the politics, although still engaged, but much bouyed by the private efforts trickling through to those who need it.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:42 PM | TrackBack

    September 05, 2005

    Pick Two

    Posted by mbowen at 02:34 PM | TrackBack

    Heartbreak Arrives

    I don't know what's wrong with me. I cannot get away from this computer. This has got to be the worst Labor Day Weekend ever. I'm emotionally drained and just really can't take it any longer. This is about the third time this weekend that I've just broken down in tears and I'm not sleeping well and I need to take a shower. I'm going to go out and get some sunshine and try to recover. I know I'll be back here tonight...

  • Rush Limbaugh gets it right on race. I'm a little bit surprised, but not entirely. I like his rant.

  • Ann Rice recalls the flavor, and shames America's slow response.

  • David Brooks says:
    Reaganite conservatism was the response to the pessimism and feebleness of the 1970's. Maybe this time there will be a progressive resurgence. Maybe we are entering an age of hardheaded law and order. (Rudy Giuliani, an unlikely G.O.P. nominee a few months ago, could now win in a walk.) Maybe there will be call for McCainist patriotism and nonpartisan independence. All we can be sure of is that the political culture is about to undergo some big change.

    Oh man I agree with that. Here's where we talk about leadership. Ask yourself in all seriousness, in New Orleans, what would you expect from a man like Tom DeLay? Nothing. Exactly.

  • Bob Herbert says what Kanye West thought he was saying. Both of their bashing is an embarrassment.
  • Posted by mbowen at 12:09 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack


    I haven't really looked at my break from Liberalism from the perspective of accepting Moynihan as having been right all along, but I have accepted that the ghetto paradigm is ignoble and needs to be beat down by Old School values.

    I know that we're supposed to hate Moynihan. We blackfolks are supposed to believe that if only the jobs could be imported into the ghetto then family life would be restored to normal. When Moynihan said that the black family was broken we're supposed to say "Stop blaming the victim." But I haven't said any of those things in a long time. I believe that the ghetto is caustic and there's no reason to stay - that if there are no good jobs there then the priority is to go where the jobs are. I say if you can't give your 'African Queen' a wedding ring, then you're no better than the slave trader. I say family first, and where would I be without one?

    Like a lot of folks, I migrated to Atlanta as the 'Black Mecca'. My two daughters were both born there at Northside Hospital. I was somewhat disappointed in that Mecca partially based on my experience in New York and Los Angeles. Atlanta was perfectly suitable for family life, but for the sophisticated life I and the wife preferred, it still felt like a small town. The surprise of Atlanta was the clarity with which African Americans distinguished themselves by class. Out on the coasts, there was lots of support for the revelry and sometimey hooliganism of the infamous 'Freaknic' spring break. But in Atlanta proper, middle class families like ours simply spit. It definitely matters which end of Cascade Road you lived on and black Atlantans had no problem splitting the difference. The effect on me personally was that instead of feeling like a bigger part of a black Mecca, I felt more like a somewhat embattled minority within a minority.

    It was this notion of home that dominated my thinking about family and community in the South. It was all about getting into the same neighborhood as Gladys Knight, Evander Holyfield and the pro sports players - the outcrop of tract mansions on the southeast corner of town. Everybody else was po' folk and you had to beware of your rich hiphop star neighbors' bad habits.

    Contrast this with the situation in Brooklyn which is a huge mass of fairly working class blackfolks. Brooklyn is much more cohesive and well-adjusted to itself. It has a sort of gritty pride and is ready for anything. Brooklyn cannot feel put upon, but it is decidedly blue collar and while not entirely antagonistic towards the upwardly and downwardly mobile African American, it refuses to budge from its primary orientation. Brooklyn is the home to a million around the way girls and flyboys. You don't get the impression that will ever change. It's OK to live on the high side in Ft. Greene or on the bottom side in Brownsville, but Brooklyn is still what it is. They call it 'The Planet', and Brooklynites feel they encompass the scope of black life. Boastful but wrong. As I was trying to find my crowd in Brooklyn I asked numerous times, where is the upscale black community? The answer was consistent: on Long Island. Which implies, as is the case with Los Angeles, that more upscale blacks are geographically discontiguous with others.

    I bring up these two examples, (and I would talk about Los Angeles, but won't for brevity's sake) in order to review the sentiments in various African American communities which could lead into political distinctions between blacks. I think it depends upon the particular black community. And notably I think geography, ie physical separation between the various classes of African Americans is a strong indicator of political diversity.

    The roads in and out of Moynihan's arguments have been well-paved and reinforced during the Culture Wars of the 80s. But I think now is a good time to rip up some of that asphalt and reroute the discussion. In particular, as a representative of the Old School and black Republicanism, I find his arguments more compelling over time. This is not only particular to Moynihan, but to other criticisms and alternatives to the nuclear family. Not only are unwed mothers and fathers objects of criticism, but same sex couples. However there is an important caveat which is central to this discussion, and that is the mobility of economics.

    I used to say that God makes no mistakes in the design of the human body, and if teenage pregnancy is so awful how is it that teenage girls can biologically get pregnant? The biology isn't wrong, it's our economy which is wrong. We're going to have a great deal more success changing our economy than we are the human reproductive system.

    I similarly hold a great deal of respect for the ways that humans have evolved to organize themselves. As I recently wrote of poor blacks in Louisiana:

    There's a reason that police cannot disband gangs overnight. There's a reason that churches survive for generations, that's because human teamwork is non-trivial. Even if people are poor and destitute, and perhaps moreso, they are going to organize some kind of way. Illegal immigrants from Mexico find a way to get here against all odds and border patrols. So people are expressing their will and organization at all levels of society. Looking at welfare and Medicaid and all that from an economic point of view, as well as the dynamics of extended and single parent families is a great study. The question isn't whether Moynihan is right or wrong per se, the question is whether the families we sustain are compatible with the economies we sustain. The reason it's so easy to point at the dysfunction is because the mainstream middleclass standard is so clear, but dual income families are more the norm now than in Moynihan's time. What would he have made of soccer moms who work? My point is that whatever ugly socioeconomic niche the poor black survivors inhabited, it can't be undone simply and it's wrong to suggest that it could be. Nobody knows this like rich cousins of poor cousins.

    Especially here in immigrant inundated Southern California, we have to pay close attention to how our system does or does not accomodate the deep values of people who live here. In other words, whether the issue is Welfare Reform or any kind of government economic incentive, we need to take responsibility for the outcomes. Is the baseline mainstream American economic model tailored for the dual-income family? If so, what does that imply for family values? If not, what has gone wrong with the economy, since that's what it takes to make ends meet? One needs to ask very seriously and rethink Moynihan with regard to what is economically feasible. What comes first, family or economy? If economy comes first, the trend for middle class stability might have us all living like Vietnamese where not only two parents work, but a couple of teens too.

    When it comes to the black family, the choice is clear, but the results are not. Two parent families are a must and intra-family support is critical. Without both, the path to stability is one of profound risk. However the context of labor has changed drastically since Moynihan's day. Corporations do not employ people for life, they outsource rather than train. The global economy is real, the virtual corporation works. Telecommuting is a fact of life and pensions are, by and large, a thing of the past. Many of the benefits of middle class life require a financial sophistication heretofore unnecessary, and the job market for people without college education is much more restricted than before. African Americans have integrated into a society that delivers things other than what was promised when the quest for integration began.

    Moynihan was right, but he is nowhere near enough.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:39 AM | TrackBack

    On Kanye West

    Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get any bootlegs off the net to find out what is so brilliant about this hiphop artist. I've only seen the 'Golddigger' video, which is typical low-rent nonsense whose only redeeming quality is the unscripted clip at the end, where the video ho shows some aggravation about where her butt is supposed to be placed.

    So just about all I have to go on are the rave reviews for his first album of which I've probably heard nothing. Still, I'm sure I've seen him on Chappelle's Show, or perhaps that was Wayne Brady. Now I'm looking at his now infamous video clip. As soon as I saw the set I started laughing.

    What an embarrassment. Now I understand why people were saying they felt sorry for Mike Meyers. Sorry, I have to laugh again.

    This was clearly an impromptu rambling rant. I get the distinct impression, counter to my earlier guess, that he had absolutely no idea what he was going to say from one second to the next. But that gives his critics a more biting indictment. He was speaking from his heart and that's what he really believes. This is right up there with Trent Lott, sorta.

    My initial take was that he was coming off [faux]-militant and posturing, which led me to believe that he figured he was talking to his crew, his demographic, his fans. But that's not entirely true. He's just another political Hollywood wack-job. And to think I gave him as much credit as Susan Sarandon. Sorry Susan, at least your mendacious hypocrisy and Bush bashing is well thought out.

    So is a racist idiot or a idiot racist? I think he'd crap his pants if he thought what he said would alienate whitefolks, but that he actually believes what he said about Bush. That puts him right with Trent Lott. Except that Trent Lott matters and Kanye West does not.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:02 AM | Comments (34) | TrackBack

    Evacuees to Arrive at LA's Dream Center

    From Christine Price & Joel Bronson

    As some of you might know already and some might not know, 300 New Orleans/Mississippi evacuees are on their way here to Los Angeles and should arrive here sometime today. They will be housed at the Dream Center (which has been converted into a homeless shelter). Besides the evacuees, I also have a friend whose family has lost everything in Mississippi and they are also on their way here as well.

    The organization that is taking in the New Orleans/Mississippi refugees is called the Dream Center. (Not Good Samaritan hospital)

    The dream Center is run out of the Old "Queen of Angeles Hospital".
    2301 Bellevue Ave. Los Angeles Ca. 90026

    What I am asking from my fellow coworkers and friends are donations. I am asking that we donate clothes (men's, women's and children), toys, toiletries and etc. I will personally come and pick up the donations from you and I will personally deliver the donations to the hospital as well. I will keep doing this as long as the donations come in. I would like to start taking stuff over this week.

    For people local to Los Angeles: You can either contact me at (

    Regardless of our political views or feelings. Lets band together and show that we Californians do care and welcome these people to our city.

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

    September 04, 2005

    Sunday NOLA Fragments

    The economics and geopolitics of why New Orleans must be rebuilt. It is a port of tremendous significance to the American economy. And guess what, it's not about the oil.

    Archpundit speaks common sense about the practicalities of evacuation. Apparently, everybody who keeps thinking that Nagin could have materialized busses for the overflow at the Superdome have never been on an overbooked plane flight. The same class of logistical problems kept the National Guard from getting *to* New Orleans. Similar details are at American Digest.

    An excellent timeline is available over at Rightwing Nuthouse. I'm following this to verify my gut that Ray Nagin is not a goat but a hero of these trying days.

    I've pulled the story about Good Samaritan Hospital. It was submitted by a friend but there are some corrections to be made.

    An all-purpose broadside at the local officials can be found in withering detail at From the Swamp. Mindbogglingly, the Governor asked for a grand total of $9 million in Federal Aid, and the Nagin Motor Pool is posterized. No plan survives contact with the enemy.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    If Kanye West Is Racist

    If Kanye West is racist, then so is every reader of Dean's World.

    As the founder of The Conservative Brotherhood, and being something of an intellectual evil genius, I often have some strange feelings about being less popular in the blogosphere than I believe I should be. As well, I concern myself with the ability of the blogosphere to be an adequate broker of information of concern to Americans. The root of my problem devolves to one essential fact - whites are too popular. In short, no matter what you choose to make of it, there are white owned and operated blogs that will continue to be more effective in disseminating information about blackfolks and black culture than those which are black owned and operated. This unfortunate fact is not, however, racist.

    For the sake of brevity, let's call this reasoning existential. All things being equal, people choose bloggers to read because at a personal level, they connect with the writer. They do so because they hear a voice, and that voice speaks to them in the way they want to be spoken to. Even though they may not always agree, it is that tone of voice they adhere to.

    So let's consider this axiomatic and evaluate what has just gone down with respect to the great temptation for somebody to call somebody racist, in the context of the New Orleans catastrophe. I submit to you that many of us, drawn to the subjects of race, could have but very few of us should have and that Kanye West is the wrong target. Dean has succumed to the temptation, and draws an interesting loop of logicians attending the discussion.

    One theme of this disaster, quickly and easily identifyable by those of us on the Right, is the relative wisdom of depending on government for one's well-being. And my Brotherhood mates were quick to point this out, but not without some considerable hesitation. Nobody sane wants to appear to be callous with regard to the fate of those people suffering greatly in New Orleans. But their is no way to avoid that singular principle of Left vs Right. The very suggestion that Nagin or anyone would tell the poor blackfolks of NOLA, "you're on your own" is either an article of faith (for the Right) or an abandonment of duty (for the Left). And yet the very severity of this crisis has made that matter unavoidable. By definition, those poorest, weakest, blackfolks were inevitably going to be hurt most by any disaster. What would be a poor excuse for anyone capable is going to be a fact of life for somebody else.

    I count myself as a member one of the many families who have seen the good and bad, but on the whole sad news that although all of us are accounted for, we have lost property - homes, jobs, pets. And if I would be so bold as suggest it, I would bet the majority of these families took one clue from Nagin "you're on your own" and got the hell out of Dodge with no further government assistance.

    I don't listen to Kanye West. But there is no question about the fact that his business is black cultural production. Hiphop is not all there is to black culture, far from it. But he was stating the truth, he just didn't qualify it the way a politician would. Is there anybody who would question whether or not GWBush listens to Kanye West's music? Of course he doesn't. Is there anyone who questions whether or not West's music has special appeal to blackfolks? Of course not. If there is any reality to the fact that West's primary audience are black and that they are not part of the Bush electorate? So why is it racist to acknowledge this - surely there are plenty of other reasons why West's people don't like Bush and vice versa.

    Hell I'm black and Republican and conservative and GWBush, as the head of the Republican party doesn't care about me. So really, how much of a stretch is West making? None. And there's nothing racist about it.

    What is anyone to make of the fact that GWBush mentioned Trent Lott's house in his first public statements? Why didn't he find the most troubled person from the ghettoes of New Orleans and say *their* house would be first to be rebuilt? One hardly need think twice to know that's exactly the kind of press conference that Bill Clinton would have staged? This is not in either case, West's or Bush's anything more that them speaking to their constituencies.

    If we cannot be comfortable in acknowledging that people are different without drawing it into simplfied racial terms, then we are not going to be able to deal with the real complexities of the underlying politics. Ultimately all Dean is saying by labelling West 'racist' is that West's politics are bankrupt and not worth any consideration. It's the end of negotiation. So now you have to dismiss that camp with prejudice. And who are the followers of Kanye West? A bunch of racists? Hardly.

    So this is where so many of the analysts of this issue fall flat. They don't give any consideration to how these constituencies are constituted other than a simplistic racial demographic. And it's simply black & white and not even mildly ethnic. What happened to the Latinos here?

    Now it doesn't surprise me that all the angles are taken into consideration. After all, I'm just jumping into the trackbacks now. I think my audience understands a bit more about this tricky territory.

    So I'll make a couple quick hits and take questions from the audience.

    I'm rather surprised that people don't seem to be ready to recognize that all the shootings we've witnessed in New Orleans this past week were probably going to happen anyway. Only this time the victims weren't the same 'poor black' folks in the ghetto, but rescue workers. New Orleans is a murder a day city, and its been like that for a long time. Nevertheless, McMillan's main thrust is well-taken. There is a special kind of poverty we have in America where thousands of people too obese to walk or work have motorized chairs subsidized by Medicaid. Now we're forced to look at them.

    Yet when Goldstein is ready to get into a verbal war over this, I don't think he realizes what he's getting into. What is Kanye West saying which is substantially different than 'Blame Bush'? And if we're going to bring Moynihan into the mix then it's clear we're headed straight into 'blame the victim' territory. That's difficult enough to negotiate in peacetime, which is one of the reasons I've had my piece on Moynihan in draft for over a month. It's going to be a very tough slog to bring all this weight over the dead floating bodies of poor blacks in New Orleans, and that's only going to hurt, not help.

    I'm finding lots of reason to enjoy RightWing Nuthouse, primarily because of the new timeline posted there. However Rick Moran has loaded up a big gun and is shooting it off in the air to get attention just like the ruffians in the ghetto. It may very well backfire for him as well. Remember I said so.

    Race isn't simply culture, it's class and politics too and until people start putting those three things together into identifyable quantities, blackfolks are going to get blamed for everything whitefolks want to blame them for, without specificity. There will always be one person to prove the point, which demonstrates how small a point it actually is.


    I find it mildly amusing that a few others who have blogged about West's apparent idiocy have never heard of him before today. That would include Dave and PunditGuy. Again, this underscores my point about who elect whom to speak for blackfolks. Just check out the comments at this joint

    Posted by mbowen at 06:54 PM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

    Russell Honore - The John Wayne Dude

    General Honore is a native of Lakeland, Louisiana. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Infantry and awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Vocational Agriculture upon graduation from Southern University and A&M College in 1971. He holds a Master of Arts in Human Resources from Troy State University as well as an Honorary Doctorate in Public Administration from Southern University and A&M College.

    General Honore has served in a variety of command and staff positions. His overseas assignments include tours in Korea and Germany. He served as Commanding General, 2nd Infantry Division in Korea; Vice Director for Operations, J-3, The Joint Staff, Washington, D.C.; Deputy Commanding General and Assistant Commandant, United States Army Infantry Center and School, Fort Benning, Georgia; and Assistant Division Commander, Maneuver/Support, 1st Calvary Division, Fort Hood, Texas. Most recently, General Honore served as Commander, Standing Joint Force Headquarters – Homeland Security, U.S. Northern Command.

    General Honore’s awards and decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with four Oak Leaf Clusters, the Bronze Star Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Army Commendation Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters.

    I'm going to spend a little time on the people who are doing the right thing. I've already settled on my first favorite, Mayor Ray Nagin, who stuck his neck out and became the exact right kind of squeaky wheel. The details are all at Wikipedia. The first clue I had about Nagin was that he basically said, hey if you don't want to give me authority, then give it to Honore, clearly implying that the general had some bureacratic BS to deal with in getting supplied as well. So let's follow Honore. His is the story I want to hear.

    According to CNN, Honore did the sensible thing (as opposed to Blanco who wanted to give shoot to kill orders) with respect to giving the evacuees some measure of dignity:

    "By-and-large, these are families that are just waiting to get out of here. They are frustrated; I would be, too. I get frustrated at the cash register counter when the paper runs out."

    Hundreds of National Guard and active duty troops are carrying weapons in the city. But the way they carried those guns was a concern to the general.

    He ordered all he encountered to point their weapons down, said CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr, who was with the general. Honore repeatedly went up to military vehicles, National Guardsmen standing sentry and even to New Orleans police officers, telling them to please point their weapons down and reminding them that they were not in Iraq.

    There's another article about him at the Stars & Stripes. He used to be the CO of the 2ID.

    So while people are making punching bags out of Brown and Chertoff, the praise is pretty much universal for Honore. Pump it up.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:12 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

    Century City

    Pops came across this old photo of my youngest brother. In the photo he's about 4 years old which would make this about 1972. At the time, the new city center of Century City was just being completed. It was the new headquarters of all of the agents and lawyers in the film and music industry.

    I very much vibe with what he was doing at the time, and I often do it myself as a father. That is to take my children to the sharpest places in the city and give them an intimate familiarity with it. My parents grew up in an America that didn't allow blackfolks to shop in the upscale districts without blistering police scutiny, if they were allowed to shop at all. The moment those walls came down, we were all over it. I can even see, in the casual flap of my baby brother's shirt a thumb in the eye of the System. My father's mother was nicknamed 'Miss Madam' because she was so excruciatingly proper. Such slovenly dressing would have never been allowed on a downtown shopping trip in her company. That I very much remember when I met her as a child. What is very well known, but not often said of the Civil Rights Movement was that it was the courage of youth who had not been beat down that gave parents the strength to pursue justice. How often we stand behind babies.

    We haven't heard much from young people in the matter of the tragedy of New Orleans. We will, eventually. But I am looking towards the day when there will be new buildings and new faces smiling in front of them. They will give us the courage to get past the ugly past even as they mark our hope for the future.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:35 AM | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 09:20 AM | TrackBack

    Bring the Guns Home

    Posted by mbowen at 08:55 AM | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 08:20 AM | TrackBack

    A New Way to Help NOLA

    I just found the perfect way for people who are far away from the crisis but want to use some computer skills to help, can help.

    Some enterprising folks have found a way to broadcast the FEMA radio transmissions over the web. They need people to listen in and transcribe them. Check out this website (which is good for a dozen other reasons) to get the details. You can learn the radio codes and be a part of the effort to communicate what's going on. Awesome.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:15 AM | TrackBack

    September 03, 2005

    On the Spot

    Posted by mbowen at 11:21 PM | TrackBack

    Again, with New Orleans

    My aunt made it to my cousin's house, a thousand miles away from the chaos. But she's beat, and probably more depressed than ever just listening to the radio all those miles.

    What we're going to find out which will be particularly disheartening will be the news about how the truly weak have suffered. The mentally ill, the disabled - people who need daily meds.

    Right about now I think we should be prepared to hear stories of cholera, gangrene and dysentery. I wouldn't be surprised to hear about stray dogs and gators munching on corpses. Yet at this moment, it appears that everybody who needs to be on the ground is there or in close proximity.

    I am growing fatigued from following all this news. But here's my first broad thought. Firstly, nobody should doubt American's resolve to help each other. I interpret even the most bitter complaint as a sentiment to help. We're all out here saying how we might do it better. We're minding each other's business. It is at this moment that I think the overwhelming majority of Americans would want us to have national IDs with RFID tags and a panoptical network of videocameras tied into all of our home PCs. Hundreds of people have been following the struggle of one ISP to keep his feed alive. Without a doubt, internet service is a utility, and Americans are finding more and more ways to make it useful in emergencies. Scipionus is a perfect example of that. We've got block level information on how high water is in various neighborhoods in New Orleans.

    Secondly, I've been thinking how much this tragedy mirrors the initial situation on the ground in Iraq. And because of that, I know that the National Guard ought to be in very good shape to handle the situation. This isn't Najaf, and people won't be using RPGs or mortars. They'll be trying to get food and a hot shower. All of the chaos will be over in a week. Let me also add that anybody who thinks we needed troops from Iraq is muddleheaded. This is what the National Guard is supposed to do, and so they've been learning lessons from Iraq, this is going to be small potatoes relatively speaking.

    As for Ray Nagin, I'm with him on this. If I had any criticism of Nagin, it was that his early quote of 'death in the thousands' was a bit alarmist. But his decision the demand a complete evacuation when the dikes burst was the right thing. I find it very interesting that he was originally a Republican when he was a corporate exec but changed to be a Democrat in order to get elected mayor, and I'm glad that he got his meeting with GWBush. Since they're cool with each other, I'm cool with the both of them. Again, I'm just not in an emotional place to start political criticism, and I probably won't be, but any politician who says to hell with press conferences, we've got a disaster on our hands is alright with me.

    As for the racial angle, what a surprise. All of the refugees were people who couldn't get out of Dodge when the word came down. Any and everybody I talked to in New Orleans this spring knew that the Superdome was going to be filled with people from the projects and people who take the bus. America might not be ready to look black poverty squarely in the eye, it's overloaded with symbolism. And it sure is uncomfortable looking at it day after day on the news. It's nothing new, give us a break with the wide-eyed astonishment.

    Tangentially, it comes as no surprise that Kanye West flipped the script. I really don't know why the mainstream media is so determined to stay away from the raw truth of emotion and pain. Their attempts to marginalize plain speakers will be their death. Not that West has anything deep to say.

    New Orleans, like South Central Los Angeles, will not survive it's bursting into the national consciousness in its true form. It will have been spun into new proportions by people who have never been there and don't know any of the people. There are only a few ways to reconcile that and I hope local bloggers do their share. Unfortunately, I don't know that there are any bloggers from the 9th Ward of New Orleans, nor that if there are, that they will be online anytime soon. I'll be looking out.


    As we watch the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we sit idly by wondering what we can do to have some impact on this situation. I am excited about the compassion National Society of Black Engineers members have exhibited concerning our assistance to our fellow NSBE members who have been devastated by this disaster. Many of you have called and emailed me asking what NSBE is going to do? At the very least, I am encouraging every member of NSBE to do the one thing that takes no money or energy. Pray.

    On September 5, 2005, use your Labor Day holiday as a time to reflect, focus, and do something to help someone else. Not to infringe on anyone's faith, your participation is voluntary. Specifically, remember the members of Regions 3 and 5 in your thoughts. Our New Orleans chapters are simply no longer existent as many students attempt to enroll in other universities. Pray that God comforts all of those who have lost loved ones and for the safe return on those who are missing in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Many of us have family in the affected areas.

    In addition to your prayers, I am asking that every go to NSBE Online and donate to the NSBE Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund. This fund is set up under the donations section. If you are not a NSBE member, you can click the button which says Make A Donation. We will be collecting these donations and disseminating to our members who were affected by this tragedy. Eligibility and requirements to receive funds will be posted on the website and sent via email shortly. While your contribution is voluntary, I hope that you are compelled to give. Offer your time by volunteering with many of the national organizations who need people to assist. Give blood volunteer at the shelters. Be Creative! If there is more that you can do, it would be greatly appreciated. So let us go out and show that we are committed to assisting our NSBE family! Be strong and keep the faith.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:47 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 09:46 AM | TrackBack

    September 02, 2005

    Not Just Bread

    Posted by mbowen at 07:15 PM | TrackBack

    Midday Friday

    I've been hearing tell of the mayor's valiant efforts to do right by his city. But it wasn't until I read his transcript over at Wonkette that I realized how fiercly he's pissed. I haven't watched any TV news in two days, and I usually don't nor do I need to. But I did see the press conference with the young blonde woman (whom I assumed was the mayor) and then the Governor of the state.

    The young woman just had fear and sadness in her eyes, and you could just tell how she was looking up to the Governor. But neither of them had the kick ass tone that spoke of the depth of seriousness of the situation. It was, however, from their tone that I took the first tact on the priority being towards rescue. I can see how their attitude may have affected the priorities and gave weight to the idea that the 'dome could just be packed to the gills with no further attention.

    Anyway, this mayor Ray Nagin is throwing down the gauntlet. The question now is how long will it be before we get some verbal overproduction. Me, I'm not going there. I'm even restraining the cartoon, because I've been thinking of some real zingers. Still, while I don't think time is right for finger-pointing, here's the man who was told that the cupboard was bare when he tried to be proactive on the matter of levee infrastructure. Nobody likes to think long-term, and now the cost is in life.

    Back on the homefront, Blackweekly LA has set up a portal to keep up with some input and commentary from our folks. I expect that this will be the beginnings of the benefit network which is sure to crop up. Everybody knows what the right thing to do is, now it's just a matter of coordination of us out here.

    Pops is coordinating donations with coworkers at his office in Marina Del Rey, and is planning to spend some of his spring sabbatical in New Orleans as a volunteer.

    I've also heard, for what it's worth, that there is a working payphone at Shiro's at the corner of Royal and St Roch.

    From Tom Joyner:

    The Hurricane Katrina disaster has displaced families across the Gulf Coast region. In cooperation with Reach Media Inc., The Tom Joyner Morning Show and, the Relief Fund will accept donations to provide resources to support families who are assisting those displaced by Hurricane Katrina. These funds will go to individual families who have opened their homes to families displaced by Hurricane Katrina, to supplement their personal households as the recovery efforts continue.

    When you make your donation, you can be confident that your contribution will go to families that are in need of assistance.
    You can make an online donation by going to, by mail at: Relief Fund
    PO Box 803209
    Dallas, TX 75240

    The Relief Fund is working cooperatively with churches in states neighboring affected areas to identify households in need of assistance.

    Posted by mbowen at 02:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 11:44 AM | TrackBack

    New Orleans As It Was

    I've gone back into my archives to bring back some photos of New Orleans as it was this past spring. One of the reasons I am drawn to this tragedy aside from the obvious is that I just spent a week there this past April. I wrote several entries here in the blog.

  • NO Diary - Day One
  • NO Diary - Day Two
  • NO Diary - Day Three
  • NO Diary - Day Four
  • NO Diary - Day Five
  • I am reminded as I re-read those, of how New Orleans has been a city of great revelry and extraordinary food. How it's blinding poverty and harsh racial lines are permanently etched in its shape. How it is a city of salty water and odd gentility. The music, the architecture - even the cemetaries are uniquely American.

    These are the things people are going to think about when the time comes to return. After the carpenters and electricians and waste disposers all make their loot, they'll want their old flavor back. So I thought I'd remind myself of all that.

    Photo_041305_009.jpg Clearly, these guys are up to their ears in work. I got lost somewhere near the Industrial Channel and I found this place. Somewhere around there is my late grandfather's house on Urquart Street.

    Photo_041205_011.jpg This house is burned into my mind about New Orleans, a beautiful color and a very shaky foundation. The color distracts you from the fact that it is too small and sitting in a ghetto.

    Photo_041305_021.jpg This is the church my mother's family grew up in. Who knows what shape it's in today.
    Photo_041305_033.jpg An uncle's house. Notice how high the porch is. Hopefully it's high enough to spare him a lot of damage...

    Photo_041305_035.jpg Same thing for my Aunt's house. Fingers crossed.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:58 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Updates and Rumors

    I've been hearing things about people on the ground from associates and friends. None of it is particularly good, nor particularly different. People have lost 'everything', job, home, car. So I'm trying to scope out a little charity budget and send a piece here and there. One of these folks is Cassandra Henry, one of the reviewers from Good writers. I'll be sending along a little something.

    I have heard that GMAC has not officially said to the victims "you don't owe us for your car". So people whose cars are under water still have to pay their car note.

    I heard that there is a guy who runs an underground ISP and has generators, He's trying to get some webcams up and running in the city.

    I think my aunt's house might not be too badly damaged, but the most recent satellite pictures confirm that there is no place in this town that was really spared. It's got to stink to high heaven out there now. Gators, dead bodies, god knows what all in that nasty water. Wednesday I kept having visions of people walking through the water barefoot and stepping on nails or wrenching their ankles in unseen potholes.

    While I still have a very hard time with the necessity for martial law, the notion that people can shoot at rescue helicopters and get away with it is crazy. If it take 1500 troops to put down that kind of insanity, do it. I heard snippets of panicky dainty journalists on the radio Wednesday talking about how they got out of Dodge and I really didn't appreciate that. (Especially considering Michael Yon). I've also made it clear that grabbing staples is justified.

    These refugees are so sorry looking it just breaks your heart. Quite frankly I think we Americans are a bit soft and I won't be surprised to see the numbers of dead approaching 2000. Clearly, there were a lot of people out there surviving before the deluge on the slim margins. What I was seeing was a visual manifestation of the poor health of many African Americans. One poor woman's grandfather couldn't survive without a steady supply of oxygen. One particularly rude cameraman got 8 seconds of footage of a little white dog without showing the faces of the two obese black women it was sitting between. There were people in the streets who looked as if they have been in death beds for a while.

    The NYT or the WaPo, I forget which, is covering the other angle on this matter which is that there are a dozen towns who haven't gotten the attention they deserve. In light of Bigfoot's story, it has become clear that people have to start misbehaving to get authorities to do. This is exactly what I was talking about two days ago when I said 'for shame'. The ridiculous media concentration on 'looting' has turned a bad situation into a distrustful one, and now people are suffering because of it. Somewhere between laying and waiting to dehydrate, breaking windows and shooting guns is what's necessary to get rescued. Let me say it plain and clear, the next reporter who tells a story about how scared people are from gunshots and looters is going to get poleaxed in this blog.

    Meanwhile out on my end, I've been tasked to find out how people from LA might get on board a volunteer train. Updates will be right here.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:23 AM | TrackBack

    September 01, 2005

    It's All About Do

    Yesterday, I was in a daze and a stupor over New Orleans and the damage done by . Today I have some purpose.

    Just about all of our folks and friends are accounted for, but that's just the beginning. There are friend and relatives of friends and relatives that are starting to come together in various ways and everybody's mind is on what we can do to help.

    So as plans come together today, consider this blog a New Orleans Relief station of sorts. I listened to Hugh Hewitt for the first time yesterday, and I have to say that he and his radio show are what I would do given the chance. So whatever bloglinking he's doing, I'm doing including links to Instapundit and paying attention to whatever is being said about to victims. Also NZBear is keeping track for us.

    This morning I got a phone call from another friend of the family who is now homeless. She was in better spirits than I was, and that's because up until that point I have been feeling relatively helpless to DO. Now that I can see some ways to contribute, I'm gaining focus, and I would suggest that is the only cure for whatever malaise and griping you might have. I tried to drown it in sake last night, but that didn't work. It has to be about resolution of the problem. Not speculation about what the implications might be, not complaints about what other people may or may not be doing wrong, but resolution of the problem.

    Here's my own idea, because my brother works for FedEx and I'm fairly certain that they are going to provide some airlift. Clean out your garage. All that stuff in there, those winter clothes, those old suitcases, that extra power drill. Box it. Send it.

    Here's to the New New Orleans. It's all about do, and we can do. If you want to send cash, do it here:

    If you contribute to the ERD, then log your contribution here and tell them Cobb sent you.

    I'll be updating this post all day when I hear tell of DOERS. Promises count.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:22 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack