October 31, 2005


Posted by mbowen at 06:00 PM | TrackBack

October 30, 2005

Shelby Steele & The Rejection of Economics

There are plenty of interpretations going around regarding Shelby Steele's recent op-ed in the WSJ.

Shelby Steele impressed me once. A long time ago basically with his one article in Harper's "The Content of our Character" - long before the book was published. Since then, not. I haven't reviewed his work and probably won't. Interestingly enough, I dismissed him much in the same way some liberals have attempted to dismiss me, through a rationale that said he had 'problems' with being black. Then again, I was a Progressive myself at the time, and I had not yet started to play fast and loose with black identity.

I happen to know that Shelby's twin brother is Claude Steele, the originator of the theory of 'Stereotype Threat' and that colleagues of mine in the academy rapped with him. It was through this part of the Kwaku Network that I discovered that Shelby... well he got slapped on the back of the head for having a name like Shelby. Of course, this is entirely unfair, but that's how identity politics works - first determine that 'authenticity' of the messenger...

In the end, I tended to dismiss him on the basis of his comparitively lame academic career as an associate prof at a state school, and thus headed into the long and troublesome romances with Cornel West and Bell Hooks (er excuse me) bell hooks.

Steele's mojo is, of course, assuaging white guilt. I would bet that he's halfway right. But since I don't like his style, I pay him little mind. He's too squishy anyway. If it aint hardball politics and economics, I'm not particularly interested.

Steele writes:

The broad white acknowledgment of racism meant that whites would be responsible both for overcoming their racism and for ending black poverty because, after all, their racism had so obviously caused that poverty.

This is a perfect thumbnail description of white liberalism of the sort that is like thumbnails on the chalkboard to me. And it is because Shelby Steele attacks this obvious (to me) fallacy almost exclusively, he is relatively worthless.

One of the places I start is with Glenn Loury's thesis, which is that colorblindness is insufficient to correct the legacy of white supremacy. The (to borrow a term) STRUCTURAL RACISM of the construction of ghetto plantations, puts many blacks in a hole. Just because nobody is digging new holes doesn't mean the playing field is level. There are still lots of blacks in the hole. Colorblindness doesn't fill the hole.

Steele's dialect fails to acknowledge that there are better reasons to fill the holes in the ghetto. It doesn't matter who lives or lived in New Orleans, the dikes should be repaired, the neighborhoods rebuilt, the holes filled up. But continuing the trope of white guilt and black responsibility begs questions of black economies and white economies, as if it were America's business to keep two separate balance sheets.

Steele concludes somewhere strange and unusual:

And our open acknowledgment of our underdevelopment will clearly give whites a power of witness over us. It will mean that whites can hold us accountable for overcoming inferiority as we hold them to accountable for overcoming racism. They will be able to openly shame us when we are not fully at war with our underdevelopment, just as Bill Bennett was shamed for no more than giving a false impression of racism. If this prospect feels terrifying to many blacks, we have to remember that whites witness and judge us anyway, just as we have witnessed and judged their shame for so long. Mutual witness will go on no matter what balances of power we strike. It is best to be open, and allow the "other's" witness to inspire rather than shame.

This is an argument that obviously has some currency in the annals of 'race relations' but what it is supposed to mean is completely alien to me. What blacks owe themselves is the willingness to understand their capacities under the premise of liberty that citizenship grants. How much of this effort is wasted in matters of exorcising ghosts of whitefolks' assessments can only be testament to internal demons best explained by psychiatrists. That any of this touchy feely accounting translates into political influence is testament to all the things that are wrong with identity politics be they white or black. So no prescriptions or adjustments to such psychic ledgers are going to get us any closer to the nation needs. We need people with houses not made of the strawmen of racial identity politics, but of the bricks of bankable skills bound by the mortar of our educational and economic infrastructure.

Methinks Shelby Steele doth huff and puff too much.

Posted by mbowen at 08:14 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

The Sambo Paradox

This week Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, a man I respect and admire, was called a 'sambo' because of his association with Gov. Erlich of Maryland. The rationale behind a particular nasty smear of Steele was given as follows:

In an e-mail interview with The Sun, Gilliard said he considers Steele a traitor to his race because he initially dismissed news that his political partner, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., held a golfing fund-raiser this year at the Elkridge Club of Baltimore, which at the time had never admitted a black member in its 127-year history.

"Generally, it is an accurate depiction of Steele's groveling, lackey behavior," Gilliard said of the image. "It is 2005, and such an institution [as the Elkridge Club] should not exist, nor should a governor with as many black people as the state of Maryland attend a function at such a place.

I've been thinking about causality recently vis a vis the permanence of the American black ghetto. The first is the issue of ghetto brain drain. Does the black ghetto fail to flower because all of the talented people leave and integrate the mainstream leaving nobody capable of improving the place? Or do the young, gifted and black leave the ghetto because it is such a failure and holds no promise for them? A difficult question indeed. Connected with that question is whether it is in the interest of the getting investment is good for the ghetto. Is it better for poor people to retain the benefits of lower cost housing which is affordable for their low pay jobs? Or should they deal with the challenges of gentrification as proof of a higher standard of living?

These questions are tricky to plumb, but I think I've found one that is not. That is the question of blacks and Republicans. I'll quote an argument that is very common. In fact, a thoughtful person emailed me such an argument just this morning:

The failure of the politics of conservative thought in the Black community has never been a surprise for me I have always known that black people are very astute in rejecting backward ideas, underdeveloped thoughts and philosophies. The media fiction that the GOP and conservative principles are gaining a new foothold with Black folks is nonsense and is nothing more than the exaggerated press releases of GOP balloon blowers and black apologists seeking affirmation from conservative whites as they mine the lucrative cottage industry of black conservatism.

Even absent the bloviation and my claim that such propagandists wouldn't know Hayek from a kayak, there is one thing clear. Most African Americans have looked upon the GOP as a white bastion and have decided to steer clear. Let's assume for the sake of argument that the vaunted '98%' of blackfolks who have recently polled in opposition to GWBush were even more - say 99.9%, and presume that the GOP was in fact, 99.9% white. It would be very easy to see how a top official in the GOP like Governor Erlich of Maryland would be attending all-white clubs and functions. So here's the tricky question.

Are such GOP functions all-white because of white racism or are they all-white because '99.9%' of blacks refuse to join?

Everybody knows, or should know as black Republicans daily attest, blacks are more than welcome into the GOP. Nothing quite speaks to this fact as the Senate campaign of Michael Steele itself which brought heavy hitters in the GOP to raise over $400,000 recently. He is their best chance to swing the state of Maryland, so this race is key. But if the identity component of some black politics is to have its way, Steele and other African American candidates, movers, shakers and grass roots Republicans will never be considered legitimately black. So despite their presence in the GOP, for cynics like Steve Gilliard a reverse one-drop rule is in effect. If you're black and you have one-drop of Republican blood, then you are considered white. And as long as such twisted logic is taken seriously by black voters, the GOP's 'whiteness' remains an implacable stumbling block.

I have argued in 'The Worst Case Republican Scenario' that if there is any good to be had with influence in America's majority party, then African Americans ought to shed their fears and cross that Pettus bridge into the heart of the GOP. But in this crossing they won't be met with billy clubs, or at least not from Republicans. It seems that black Democrats are the ones with the biggest axes to grind.

You will note that here at Cobb, there are no advertisements. I've gotten a free hotel room for speaking at a conservative function, but even though C-SPAN was there, they didn't even turn on the camera at our session. If that's a cottage industry, I'm still at the curb. But I am fully in the Republican party and doing my part to do Republicanism the way my experience and values dictate. I don't happen to think that this is a very courageous or dangerous operation. I endured being called a 'sambo' in highschool.

I'll paraphrase Gilliard to show the flaw in his logic. In 2005 a whites-only political party should not exist, nor should a country with as many black people as America allow such a place to exist. So who is involved in integration, and who is making racist threats against those who cross the lily-white line?

Others Weigh In

  • Diktat
  • Q&O
  • Malkin

    Posted by mbowen at 07:53 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack
  • October 29, 2005

    It's Not Far-Fetched

    From Newsbusters:

    Declaring “it's not far-fetched,” movie director Spike Lee affirmed on Friday night’s Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, that he believes Louis Farakhan’s allegation that a levee was destroyed in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in order to flood the nearly all-black ninth ward.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:08 PM | TrackBack

    Black vs Negro: A Note

    I am very influenced by the understanding that black consciousness was created in order to liberate the Negro from his mental condition of servitude. It was an intellectual achievment of significant dimensions not only here in the US but in Africa, the UK and Brazil as well.

    Black isn't a color, it is a concept. However the meaning of that concept has become degraded. Some Negroes think everything they do is Black. Not so. I say there are some very precise definitions that were generated by Black Nationalism that remain useful today and that much of what goes by the term 'Black' is only derivative of that. I'm also saying that there were some very foolish and shortsighted ideas in Black Nationalism that need to be dumped. My purpose in black conservatism is to separate the good stuff from the junk using an historically accurate and realistic assessment of African Americans and their liberation movements, culture, religion and bearing. All that is what I call the Old School.

    I start with what I call the Old School Core Values, and get more detailed from there. This is the project of Cobb.


    So from the perspective of a very basic understanding that 'every brother aint a brother' I have no more problem in making distinctions between African Americans than in distinguishing Catholics from Methodists. There have been occasions when this discrimination has been misinterpreted because I am active with Republicans, that my distinctions flow from some anti-black pathology. (as if they owned black and accurately represented) In fact it flows from the same school of public self-criticism engaged by Bill Cosby and Booker T. Washington.

    So yeah, the kitchen is hot.

    When I speak of 'blackfolks', I am talking about average African Americans of no particular stripe. The same counts of 'whitefolks'. African American and European American sounds so demographic and precise. I don't always want to be that formal.

    When I speak of 'Negroes' it is casually derogatory and should be interpreted in the context of some particular African American who has somehow lost sight of the benefits of Black mental liberation. A 'Negro' may be a fine person but they are not reaching their full human potential primarily owing to a condition of using whitefolks as their existential model. The Negro is provincial and not directed towards self-improvement. And that's way more than I needed to say about that because I almost never use the term. Nevertheless it is useful to recognize that I considered all African Americans (with the possible exceptions of Garveyites) to be Negroes during the period between Reconstruction and WW2.

    I bring up this definitional note in reference to a discussion held elsewhere over a prior post of mine "Who Owns Black", which I consider to be both a cultural and political provocation.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:03 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    October 28, 2005

    Wynton Marsalis: A Hero for the Old School

    I've always thought of Wynton Marsalis as a standard-bearer. I just found a very cool piece on him:

    "We're blues people. And blues never lets tragedy have the last word." This is an utterly characteristic statement by Wynton Marsalis, the trumpeter, composer and jazz impresario. He spoke those words in a television interview shortly after Hurricane Katrina devastated his hometown of New Orleans. Within days he was playing in gigs to raise money for Katrina victims, including a huge benefit concert, "Higher Ground," produced by Jazz At Lincoln Center, of which he is the artistic director. It has raised more than $2 million. Bob Dylan once remarked that a hero was "someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom." By that measure, Marsalis is a hero bona fide.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:15 PM | TrackBack

    A Conversation With Myself Circa 1994

    Getting tired of political battles, I've begun to look at culture and was looking for some old hiphop music reviews I may have written in the good old SCAA days. Instead I found one half of a socratic dialog.

    (from the archives May 1994)

    mellow mike (mbo...@panix.com) ever so cleverly scribbled: : somewhat less tho' than a manifesto...

    : the deal begins here.
    : after world war two, america got rich. we transformed our
    : simple minded society to the modern thang. consider the
    : autobiography of an ex-colored man as i speak of pre-war
    : self sufficiency. a black man, pre-war self sufficient was
    : much like the woman who calls herself miss abagail, 106 years
    : old if you are watching the stand. i also think of characters
    : from sula and the color purple as well as those who lived past
    : those times to become ernest j. gaines characters. this is all
    : a rural thang. bottom line was that blacks in the south had all
    : of the skills necessary as farmers and workers to be completely
    : self sufficient. all that was needed was the basic civil rights
    : enforcement that we generally got, and boo ya. equality.

    : most everywhere else the industrialization of america created
    : new classes of people. when we speak of the middle class today
    : we speak of people with access to skill sets as employees which
    : will get them what they need to survive in the city. segregation
    : in the cities is much more easily and rigidly enforced (like
    : redlining, etc) than where people settle and live on land for
    : generations. to make things short, to be middle class you need
    : access to kaplans so that you can score on the sat so that
    : you can get to the right college so that you can get the
    : right job so that you can get the right mortgage... definitely
    : modern, not organic. so self-suffiency (even as mr. grossman
    : knows) has everything to do with one's abilities to shop for
    : the right politics, books etc. (well that's more post-modern)
    : my drift is that what america has become for the most part
    : as an industrial nation post ww2 has created a floating set
    : of middle class values.

    : those particular middle class values *follow* the economic
    : plan. only particular cultural groups of 'minorities' can or
    : will ignore mainstream middle class values as their 'moral'
    : center, largely because in one way or another adapting these
    : 'values' will have no real effect on their economic position.
    : as a cultural person i am either too rich or too poor to care
    : about middle-class values. it is not generally a moral choice
    : although i think it should be.

    i am particularly hip to all this because of my particular history but that is another long story. in short, i did the gifted child thang, the urban youth thang, the prep school thang, the teamster thang, the wannabe thang... i traveled a mix of classes and cultures and recognized the thresholds of middle-class identity from political economic, social and regligious perspectives. most importantly i recognize how much america *wants to be* middle class. the very idea of a mainstream is that. 'what makes this country great is it's large middle class'.

    now take black folk.
    despised and all that, the historical quest for equality, achievement
    and excellence takes on the twist of things racial. considering
    the educational perspective of 'raising up' the race, or individual
    members of the race, you see extra efforts being made. but these
    energies could be spent on anything. the question is, what is the goal?
    that depends entirely on the social context. the difficulty is that
    in order for white supremacy to work, whatever that achieved goal is
    for black folks, it must remain subsidiary to that of white.

    the history of this country amply demonstrates that there is no
    consistant standard of social standing for blacks. *apart* from the
    fact of the changing mainstream, blacks who achieve middle class goals
    in whatever economic environment are still not socially equal. one
    need only consider the 'white advantages' thread. these persist
    over time.

    there from a black perspective, is reason to question the validity
    of middle-class goals, and a black reason to read thorstien veblen and
    other critics of the american middle class. richard wright took his
    cue from h.l. mencken. xxx inherently took that role early in
    life, then tossed even that context in a search for africa.

    what then, if one accepts being black, is an appropriate measure of
    success? why should it automatically be inclusion in the middle class?
    certainly the white person who asks from the perspective of someone
    whose family has always encouraged them to be those very middle class
    things must be puzzled when asking 'what do black people want'?
    certainly it must be disconcerting to xenophobic patriots to see
    african americans attracted to brazilian blacks in their religious
    traditions. voodoo is not mainstream.

    if blacks truly consider themselves capable of anything, then there is
    no reason that they should choose, given their abilities, american
    middle class values over any other except for the social forces which
    would invalidate their alternative choices. the african american who
    remains in an existential battle *proving* herself (as we all
    are subject to from time to time) to be worthy is damaged by those
    social forces.

    so, what is an appropriate goal? and what is the context of your
    evaluations of value choices that you have? i see the contrast (as
    a dialectic thinker for this particular flavor of intellect) between
    the modern and the organic. the modern is given values and validated
    externally by powers beyond his individual control. his identity is a
    gift of the system and his values are those of the system in which he
    participates. his moral concern is for the fairness of the system: its
    ability to deliver the most benefits to the greatest number of people.

    the organic on the other hand identifies with a system of his own
    creation into which he fits by his own design. his moral concern is with
    his integrity which then redefines the system around him. that's the
    nits and grits of it.

    the american middle class, primarily economically defined, is maintained
    by its institutions. it is large and powerful and individuals within it
    at present have a wide variety of choices. so wide, that in fact it can
    seem to be organic. we even have 'youth culture'! but its constraints
    are the national interest of the united states which then must engage
    in certain activities which preserve that system. the incredible irony
    is that these activities which serve and preserve the middle class are
    hidden from the middle class under the pretext of national interest. this
    dilutes democracy substantially.

    organics which find their values not supported by these mainstream
    institutions must deal with the consequences of thier choices. and since
    they are organics more concerned with their own personal integrity than
    that of any system of institutions, they feel the weight of these choices
    moreso than moderns who by and large go with the mainstream flow.

    it has been clear that in american history, the particulars of citizens
    of african descent has bee relegated to the margins and institutions which
    support and define the mainstream have only very recently been supportive
    and defining of blacks. blacks, by their own need to survive have often
    been organics although perhaps not so explicitly aware of this dialectic in
    non-racial terms.

    to recoup black history implies organic purposes, although there is value
    in teaching black history to any and all. most americans swallow the
    post-ww2 modernity and thus expect all institutions to be inclusive for
    the sake of mainstream middle class institutions with integrity. it is
    a very middle class thing not so much to integrate institutions with
    'minority' presence but to expect that these institutions will thus change &
    accomodate. but now we see, as i bring it down to cases such as these
    the difficulty in accomplishing such tasks. (this is why i refrain from
    using the 'd-word') i am not so much concerned with the state of the
    integrated intstitution (except as it promotes democratic stability)
    -- or perhaps i am conflicted. nevertheless, blacks must represent
    themselves as 'credibly black' when they expect that their presence
    modifies the institution for the better, yet the very act of this expectation
    sits them squarly as a modern and as middle-class. which are both
    positions which are in america, historically anti-black!

    'so what are you african or american?' that's where that question comes
    from. when i previously asked the question of 'influence vs control'
    this is more of what i was trying to get at. modern vs organic. i suspect
    that my generation is largely both though most of us who were around in
    the 60s started fully organic by default. in black collective memory
    there are those forced to be organic against the massiveness of modern
    america, and some of those organics we truly treasure.

    to be middle class, requires a principled rejection of the organic
    perspective. those who have black history ingrained in them sense the
    conflict in racial terms vis a vis integration, crossover etc etc.
    the question of 'buying in' has replaced that of 'selling out' because
    as time goes by, we forget or ignore the organics among us. the modern
    surroundings help one to forget the power of the organic integrity. to
    be bourgeios and expect bourgeois brotherhood from americans is to
    use the modern power and privilege. but it also forces one to follow
    and support the mainstream system.

    i draw these out to make one aware of the *moral* distinction. without
    the moral context it doesn't really matter which road you choose. but
    i challenge any african american who seeks to self-identify as black
    to consider their options wisely. what does your blackness *mean* as
    a modern, middle-class american and is that everything blackness can
    be? what is your moral authority as a modern, middle class american of
    african descent? what is your moral standing? on what principles do you
    separate yourself from the mainstream? how does the recovery of
    black history affect you? what does black cultural expression mean to
    you as a modern, middle-class american? how do your political alliances
    square with that of the american political majority and how are you
    reconciled to this? how does your spiritual and religious life put you
    in harmony and conflict with the mainstream? are you forgetting something?

    are you forgetting something?
    did you ever know?

    Posted by mbowen at 09:23 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Two Falls, Two Swords

    It appears as though the Whitehouse has managed to avoid getting beaned by any of the three curveballs that were pitched last week.

    Harriet Miers has taken herself out, and now Scooter Libby has resigned under a cloud of indictment. What is most fascinating about this turn of events is that it has been pressure from within the Republican Party that made these things happen. No amount of Democrat carrying-on has made a dent in the ironclad partisanship of the Bush Whitehouse, but conservative calls for blood have produced results.

    From my perspective the failure of Miers is not so good as the resignation of Libby. I would have liked to have seen somebody from outside of the beltway get onto the Supreme Court, and at the outset, this is the single most attractive thing about Miers. But there's no way I would like to see someone without the legal fire to bring some substantial gumption to the bench, and this is what I percieve Miers to have lacked. If she couldn't handle the introductions to Senators...

    Libby's demise is, on the other hand, relatively good news. Something has always stunk about this whole Plame game, and it has always been worth a high level head. Even if Libby is taking the heat to save Cheney, this result is better than endless fudging and stonewalling. Scott McClellan must be relieved, because his babbling had gotten completely obscene.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:20 PM | TrackBack

    Conservative Brotherhood Portal

    It's an auspicious week to begin real discussion about where blackfolks on the right of the political spectrum are coming from and going to. So at long last The Conservative Brotherhood has a new website supporting an open forum and a host of features to support community. I have high hopes for the site, and since we're just getting started, the potential and possibilities are wide open.

    Go! Join! Bring it!

    Posted by mbowen at 10:37 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    October 26, 2005

    Katrina Retrospective: God & Tragedy

    It's interesting to hear an expatriot view of the American South. I mean there you have the full litany that comes with the turf. If you must speak of blacks you must speak of it in this way, right?

    Where are the men? Well for a start, nearly a million of them are in jail. There are roughly as many African-American men in prison as there are in college. Numbers of federal prisoners have doubled in the past 10 years, most of it down to the "war on drugs" and three-strike automatic prison sentencing. In some notorious cases, prisoners have received life sentences for stealing food. The land of the free keeps more of its people in jail than any other. And, of course, the people jailed are disproportionately black. In fact, black men are locked up at seven times the rate of white men. In more than a dozen states, black men arrested on drugs charges are 57 times more likely to be sent to prison than white men on the same drug charges.

    In short, many black men are sent to jail because they're black. During the early 1960s, my father was one of them. Of course, as with all racism, it's hard to prove conclusively that a white judge sentenced you because you were black. So my Dad fled the country and was exiled for 40 years. His crime? He joined nine white scholarship students at the LSE for a year, and asked the Georgia parole board (who considered draft-referral applications) to address him the same way they addressed his white peers - using the prefix "Mr". They jailed him instead.

    It was a rule of Bible-belt bureaucracy that all blacks were addressed by their first name (like calling them "boy"), and all whites were addressed as "Mr". In asking for the same rights as whites, in a similar way to Rosa Parks on the buses, my Dad was challenging the whole edifice of white rule. So they punished him - hard. And yet after decades locked out of his home, the government told him he could never return unless he could prove the most obvious, yet least provable fact: that he was jailed because he was black.

    I thought he would never go home, and that I would always be sent to Georgia, like I was as a child, to represent him at funerals and family gatherings. And then a miracle happened, a once-in-a-lifetime get-out-of-jail-free card. In fact, it was a letter from the 96-year-old white judge who sentenced him, addressed to President Clinton. It said, "I jailed him because he was black." And so my father got a presidential pardon, and Jim Crow's stranglehold on our family was finally broken at the beginning of the 21st century.

    I don't see how I can talk about these politics without being political. Certainly I can't be there to tell the story the way I would, but what constantly annoys me is the totality with which such tales are wrought. Black is black and white is white without having changed an inch in generations.

    Growing up in California and having family both from New Orleans and New England, it is difficult for me to associate the personal & family connection to the pain and suffering subtext of this tale of woe. I only have a vague sense of what it means to be inextricably tied to a deterministic past by the physical walls of a ghetto town chained to Jim Crow. For my family, the chains were broken and the place of imprisonment deserted.

    Except for my New Orleans grandparents, the story is of flight to freedom, a narrative as old as slavery itself. And interestingly enough what brought my nana back was a crime. What I was told was that my mother's mother was a creature of habit and fierce discipline who took her life savings and her young daughters to California in the 40s. She was to start a business here but trusted the wrong man. What was thousands of dollars became nothing and she was forced to take any job to save enough to return to New Orleans. And there she stayed the rest of her life, never to travel again.

    I know how a single injustice can defeat a life, but I wonder if it is fair that we capture the import of those lives in retrospect as the victims of injustice. It is not why they lived and loved and bore children - not to be subjects of a tragic morality play which launches us in political directions. The history of struggle is never so clear, unless we have determined to make it so for our own purposes.

    Even in my own mind are soundbites of loss attending those setbacks encountered by friends and family this time. Who is supposed to be prepared for hurricanes? Are they no longer considered acts of God? It shows the change in the locus of our chains of recourse. Where we once looked upon other men as simply men answering to the divine within them, with stronger or weaker character based upon their ability to let goodness shine through them, we now look at them as conpiratorial arbiters of our fate, whose machinations bind us to better or worse destinies as determined by the color of our skin. And perhaps it is not skin but some other dimension on the axis of identity that we percieve to be the determining factor. But how is it that men become the reason and that men's behavior becomes the answer? It is a loss for the dialog between self and the divine - it is an absence of God.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:21 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

    October 25, 2005

    My Bit for Sister Rosa

    I added a bit of (hopefully) clarifying information about the flexible nature of the colored section of buses in Montgomery this evening over at Wikipedia. It is a fact I recall vividly, but not quite as vividly as where I learned it.

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

    Frapprs Represent!

    Spence has found a gem of an application. It's called Frappr, and it allows any to create a pinboard on a map of the USA. There's clearly some Google Maps stuff under it. He's created one here for black bloggers.

    Excellent! The site will probably be slashdotted within the week.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:32 PM | TrackBack

    Lofty Ambitions

    News from Doc. He's engaged in revitalizing Downtown LA:

    Lofty Ambitions is an ongoing campaign I'm engaging to increase the quality of life of those of us who choose to make downtown LA home.

    As you know LA is in the midst of a huge residential transformation in which HUWs (Hip urban whites) are moving back into the city center en mass. Currently 500,000 people work downtown, but only 50,000 live here full time.

    Downtown is the New inner city and it's success will serve as a model for how best to create an economically heterogeneous community w/in city's core.

    The first of my Lofty Ambitions is to bring a Trader Joe's downtown. Currently there are no grocery or speciality gormet food stores downtowm. A Bristol Farms, Wholefoods market...etc would all do well here.

    November 1-15 i'll initiate a petition to bring Trader Joe's into town. I will leave sign up forms in the lobbies of a few residences.

    I spoke with the company and now the people have a chance to register their interest...stay tuned

    Sounds delicious.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:41 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 07:10 AM | TrackBack

    A Conservative Review of Black Identity Politics

    I've just had a bracing experience in one of the other realms of cyberspace, a webchat forum. It reminded me of the good old days which in the end weren't so good. But like many of our cherished memories, we didn't know how poor we were.

    It's certainly because of this experience which I'm fairly certain was witnessed at least in part by Dell Gines (whose blog is currently undergoing a rather queer thematic change from 'urban conservatism' to 'adequate defense') that this post emerged at Booker Rising. Subsequently to that, Ms. Manhdisa registered a few axioms at her site.

    Like with the Gay Banana Split, I am fairly convinced that what black conservatives want to achieve and express has little to do with what black progressives and liberals want to hear. So as well-meant as this coaching might be, I think it addresses a point that doesn't need to be made. In fact, I believe that a bit of combat is perfectly well in order precisely because entanglement isn't necessary. Then again I'm only speaking for conservatives like me.

    In my case, I found it rather sad that the cat engaging me was literally screaming for the answer to the question - What is the Republican plan for helping blacks in the ghetto? The quick answer to that question, any conservative will tell you in well rehearsed soundbites: We need you to help yourself out of the ghetto - it's a plantation of dependency from which you must escape. Of course when you get down into the details there's much more nuanced stuff to say, but there is one basic undeniable point on which most all on the Right will agree. America is not responsible for solving the ghetto dysfunction. In the infamous post-Katrina phrasing: "You're on your own".

    This really sounds harsh to progressives, who are looking for ways to improve life through innovation and reform in government. It sounds downright evil to liberals whose expectations of government are to manage the problems of the relatively indigent. To conservatives, it sounds bracingly honest, forthright with a minimum of BS. It is the political equivalent of spinach, an ugly vegetable that actually is good for you and makes you stronger.

    But here's where it get's particularly ugly - we inject race into it. And with race comes identity. As soon as you say 'black progressive' or 'black conservative' you've raised the complexity and volume of this simple ideological conflict. Here's why.

    The Black Nationalist movement sought to, and very successfully wedded black identity to political struggle. In moving from Negro to Black, African America enjoined a broad redefinition of itself in the immediate post-Civil Rights America to push harder for those rights and privileges long denied. It was a brilliant idea and it worked. But what it has failed to do since then is adapt to new economic realities, new crossover influence and new multicultural perspectives, not to mention a Republican majority. But its greatest failure has been to evade the trap of identity politics that it laid for itself. If I were more scholarly, I would adequately qualify the separate and distinct influences of Black Consciousness, Pan Africanism, Black Power, Black Arts and Black Nationalism in this mix but I'm shortcutting that. Suffice it to say, that's a lot of blackness in a lot of different directions and it left very little room for any African American to assert any other kind of identity.

    The very invention of the term 'African American' was largely due to the problems created by this monolithic identity. In the 1980s we needed within 'the black community' to realize that we weren't all one community. Further, we needed the rest of America to recognize that too. We had to transcend the boundaries of Black and yet be true to history as well. So while the term 'African American' connoted a little afrocentricity, it also allowed us to compare and contrast ourselves to Irish Americans. It put us here in America and there in our land of origination equally, like other ethnics. That was an excellent change. And yet blackness persisted in ways both good and bad.

    Just as with 'Negro' in 1968, you'll find people today who can't stand the idea of giving up 'Black' for a new term. People are invested in blackness for an entire spectrum of reasons. The most important is one of identity and positive self regard. Unfortunately very close behind that is the reason of political struggle. 'Black' is potent political stuff. And as many have written, matters of authentic identity are very often entangled with political positions. Both are important, but they are also independent, and I worry that only a few (especially those of us who were born Negro) recognize the difference. People tend to forget that black political/cultural nationalism was an invention, and it's orientation to America was an invention as well. It can't be uninvented, but the pieces must be separated.

    For the purposes of my discussions, I have used the example of Nikki Giovanni's Poem to illustrate the difference between mental liberation and political liberation.

    I maintain that black mental liberation in the classic Carter Woodson sense is still a necessary component of African American life. African Americans still suffer the deprivations of self-doubt and identity crisis among the hobbling portrayals and racial stereotypes. 'Knowledge of self' is still crucial. It's not hard to get, but it's still crucial.

    I further maintain that having achieved this one is free as anyone. And yet the presumption persists that any African American who is truly liberated must only select from a narrow selection of political ideologies. Conservatism is not one of them. Why? It's not because those people we idolize as leaders of the Movement weren't conservative, but because they didn't initiate anything that could be called 'black conservatism'. In the pantheon of black creations of the 60s and 70s there was no 'Black Conservatism'. And so black conservatism is percieved largely as a new invention rather than simple conservation of African American traditions that predate Blackness. Well, that's partially black conservatism's fault for calling itself black - a practically no-win situation.

    So the first major problem with black identity poltics is that it's static and monolithic. The second major problem is the rhetorical device I call the 'Black Human Shield'.

    When confronted with a conservative opinion which appears to be or is actually in conflict with the expressed or assumed interests of 'the majority of black people', progressives and liberals tend to respond not only in an attack agasint the opinion, but of the blackness of the conservative himself. So deeply ingrained is the notion that the fate of all blacks are tied to that of a few that this attack is inevitable.

    Let me be clear in saying that this black human shield phenomenon works both ways based upon the racial myth that the fate of all is sealed by the fate of a few. Black conservatives make the mistake of thinking their exceptionalism can save the race. Black progressives and liberals make the exact same mistake. Where the conservatives tend to speak for themselves as arbiters of advancement for the race, progressives and liberals tend to speak of themselves as spokesmen for the downtrodden whose advancement speak to the advancement of the race. Progressives and liberals have one thing going for them, if the masses of African Americans suffer or gain, more or less as statistical abstracts of them present, they do have the legitimate claim that 'the race' is moving in one direction or another. But they run double the risk of not actually being of the people for which they speak and that there is actually a disjoint between progress for certain blacks and real progress.

    For example, law and order conservatives generally draw a hardline on illegal drug use. Progressives and liberals have long argued for decriminalization of marijuana and liberalization of crack cocaine laws because of sentencing inequities between blacks and whites. Liberals and progressives take up the black human sheild of convicted black drug users and say that conservative opposition to liberalization and decriminalization is against the interests of the black race. They engage these positions even though they don't actually advocate drug use and know it to be destructive of black families. So here you have conservatives facing off with others taking polar opposite positions on matters with both claiming the interests of blacks.

    This is where the great divide lies between black conservatives, liberals and progressives - over the fate of black communities. And here's where I simply must reiterate what I've said earlier.

    Just as for all other Americans, African Americans' greatest responsibility is to their families, not to politically ineffective, overburdened and outdated notions of black cultural nationalist unity. In other words, they should pursue happiness. After all, they're free.

    I find it fascinating that I got into this kind of mess precisely coinciding with the battle that Robert George has gotten into. It's personal.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:22 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

    October 24, 2005


    Posted by mbowen at 07:38 AM | TrackBack

    October 23, 2005

    Harriett Miers: Certifyable Lightweight

    This headline is too juicy to pass up. Unfortunately, the lawyers over at Volokh are too circumspect to back this up and I don't have time to go chasing all over the 'sphere for evidence to back me up. But Deet was able to find a slam in the LAT the other day which documented an elephant-sized goof in her understanding of the Equal Protection Clause.

    As part of this curveball, it appears that there are three camps. The Hewitt camp, loyal to the end; the Buchanan camp, ideological spoilers; and those without much of a position dodging the flying dishes. But with the news of doom and gloom from the Senate as reported by Byron York, I am becoming convinced that perhaps the diehards should die hard. It isn't Miers so much as her being part of a triple threat to the Bush Whitehouse, that's pushing me over a tipping point towards a real dislike for the way W's running things I haven't felt since before his entry into Iraq.

    Yes it's Plame, no it's not 2,000 dead soldiers, yes it's my lack of confidence in his administrative abilities. But boy oh boy is it ever Lawrence Wilkerson. More on him later. It's clear that I'm boxing the Christian Right through Karl Rove and blaming Rove for things that clearly Cheney and Rumsfeld were masterminding. But the matter of secrecy and loyalty oaths simply don't belong in the presidency of this republican, and this Republican is just about fed up.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    In Da Club

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

    October 22, 2005

    What Do We Not Know?

    And how much is it worth to know it anyway?

    Tim Burke still sends a decent amount of traffic my way, and while I'm not sure he supports trackbacks, I ought to reciprocate. He concludes:

    The cost of higher education worries me enormously. It appears unsustainable as well as unjust. It is aggravating a problem that is somewhat separate in its causal underpinnings, the increasing degree to which universities are exacerbating the reduction of economic and social mobility in the United States. But I’m not sure what to do about it. I think at the least that some of the people most aggravated about it are going to need to get real about what it is that they’re asking for: curricula that are pared down radically to what external funders judge valuable and thus heavily biased to technical subjects with immediate professional payoffs, and institutions with few if any meaningful services beyond education. It would be interesting, at any rate, to see an institution of higher learning built on those principles start up in this marketplace, at least one that wasn’t built around online education, and see how it fares (and just how low it could get tuition).

    There is a certain difficulty to be found in attempts to rise above your station via intellect. If a society is not shaped by a fairly restrained idea of intellectual merit, then you end up with the equivalent of tens of millions of monkeys on their respective typewriters. And who is to say which of them is approaching Shakespeare?

    This started out to be a thoughtful post, but I've downshifted because of some other recent matters. I'll pick it up if you do.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:07 PM | TrackBack

    Too Black, Too Strong

    I've been manning the guns over at AfricanAmerica.org which has a very healthy debate over black politics and domestic affairs. They have an engaged group of folks and a good volume. It is somewhat reminescent of SCAA in the good old days.

    Also found is the Ascent Blog which is fairly new.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:08 PM | TrackBack

    Those Who Know Don't Say

    Posted by mbowen at 12:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Curveballs for Bush

    Here come three.

  • Miers supports Affirmative Action.
  • Syria was behind the Hariri assassination.
  • Powell's man drops bombs on the White House.

    It's going to be an interesting week.

    On the first item, it's going to be another straw on the camel's back. I think Bush will keep careening the nomination into a brick wall. I'll watch the fragments like a particle physicist watches the results of an atom smasher, hoping to get some clue as to the inner workings of the Bush ethos. We already know what to expect from his brain, but his soul is more interesting.

    On the second item, wouldn't it be interesting if some US planes just happened to accidently bomb a Syrian embassy. Well, the old maps excues has already been used. I'll use the opportunity to rub peaceniks noses in the dirt. See if they care about this revelation as much as they cared about the Downing Street Memo.

    On the third item, the most hay to make is here, because it strikes to the heart of GWBush's control of the party itself. I've said it was a good thing that the Neocons overproduced in the Bush Administration, but I know that as a general rule it could be said that Bush brokered no dissent. Probably because he was outgunned in the brains department. I think the man has enforcers and that Karl Rove is gun number one. But hopefully Rove's star descends as the 'can-do' people emerge. The question is whether the right can-do people are battling the wrong ones and it's decided that fewer can-do people are necessary in the White House.

    I wonder if the GOP has the capacity to field the right team for 08. There are many years to figure that out, but it looks like this may be the beginning of the end.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:36 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
  • October 21, 2005

    Shack[le] Attack

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

    Cobbski Luv

    I love it when ya call me big Cobbski.

    If I can do, and it turns out that I might can do, I would play George Clinton and say "shine the spotlight on 'em" all about the Black Blogosphere. So now that I've got some paperwork done and survived a self-imposed Tivo marathon of "Invasion", I'm in the mood to take it light. But I'm also still into the flavor and shape of that thing I alternatively call 'The Darkside' and 'The Kwaku Network'.

    I do really want to start the Carnival of the Darkside and get that rolling. So I've bookmarked this joint. I'll figure it out and let you all know. But basically, it's the black blogosphere. The Kwaku Network is less structured but also more well known. I named it after the swahili word for 'Wednesday' as in, the Black Meeting on Wednesday Night. You know, where we all go to get our black information. Of course there is no black meeting on Wednesday night, but who among us has not heard about the Willie Lynch Letter? And where did that come from, huh?

    Either way, I am recalling that two of the coolest brothers online call me Cobbski, and one used to call me 'Tuvok', which is also very cool.

    So without going through all the trouble of segregating my blogroll, I wanted to offer a brief shout out / reference to those I consider the best of the black blogosphere, from my own personal perspective, although in no particular order:

  • Jimi Izrael
  • Bomani Jones
  • Prometheus6
  • Vision Circle
  • Faye Anderson
  • Kim Pearson
  • Negrophile
  • Mac Diva
  • Byron Crawford
  • Afro-Netizen
  • In Search of Utopia
  • Lynn D Johnson
  • Listen To Leon
  • EJ Flavors
  • Dell Gines
  • I'm not saying I read y'all on the regular, but I think anybody who doesn't know about you, doesn't know the half. I'm purposefully leaving out The Conservative Brotherhood, because I think they're seminal and that goes without saying.

    Now I get my RDA.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:26 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    October 20, 2005

    Lust, 1971

    Search your feelings. You know it to be true!

    Posted by mbowen at 09:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Tuskeegee vs Tookie

    According to the folks at Wikipedia:

    By the end of the study, only 74 of the test subjects were still alive. Twenty-eight of the men had died directly of syphilis, 100 were dead of related complications, 40 of their wives had been infected, and 19 of their children had been born with congenital syphilis.

    According to the folks at Streetgangs.com:

    Thus far nearly 400 members of both sets have died in the last 20 years and that does not include the bystanders caught in the cross fire. Also keep in mind that many of the decedents expired as a result of non-gang related circumstances such as car accident, suicide, natural causes and conflicts outside gang membership.

    You learn something every day.

    Posted by mbowen at 04:34 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack


    Posted by mbowen at 02:46 PM | TrackBack

    The Black Dragon Fighting Society

    OK this guy is the ultimate badass. Check it:

    Count Dante personally went to Muhammad Ali's (Cassius Clay) house on the south side of Chicago and challenged the Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the world. Count Dante' also challenged the World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion and the World Heavyweight Judo Champion. Count Dante personally entered the contest and defeated all the comers. The December 1970 issue of Mr. America magazine praised Count Dante for his attempts to update the science of self-defense. In the same article, featured in the August 1971 issue of Official Karate magazine, Count Dante proved the inferiority of the traditional martial arts as they were being practiced at that time. In this book, "The Worlds Deadliest Fighting Secrets", the Count elaborated on the shortcomings of all the present day defense systems. In both this book and his "Karate is for Sissies" article, Count Dante stressed the weakness of the martial arts systems as concerns their use and practicality on the street, and stressed that the self-defense arts should become FIGHTING ARTS. This book and article completely changed the structure, attitude, and application of the martial arts, and since that time most top martial arts leaders and publications have stressed the STREET APPLICATION of their arts and articles much as if they had conceived the idea themselves.

    What makes this guy particularly interesting is this comment:

    " ...Special note: Proper emphasis on courage, aggressiveness, and actual training hall and street application of effective fighting techniques, is the most serious lacking segment in modern day karate and kung fu schools... most karate schools place little emphasis on courage or "guts fighting" and aggressiveness and usually even frown on it. They also do not permit body contact in their self-defence and sparring practice. This makes for a safe training hall but does little to help develop the body to withstand strike punishment and actually hinders the student when they are forced to use it on the street."

    Fascinating. Are we really learning practical matters in our strip mall Karate Dojos? This is the other side of the coin that I will be exploring today when I talk about higher education.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:35 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    The Whoopi Litmus

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

    October 19, 2005

    A Casual Review of the Digital Divide

    I realize that I don't go buck wild quite as much as I used to in these pages. I've become so bloody serious. I need to write some more comics and get those other humours flowing through the veins.

    At any rate, since I'm bent beyond recognition and dedicated to living on the bleeding edge of my passions, its difficult for me to redact the mix of characters that pushed me to this vector. So I guess I may as well make all concerned aware of some crudely frank yet strikingly correct original positions by way of the following links.

  • The Death of the Digital Divide
  • Race, Cyberspace & The Digital Divide
  • Computer-Show.com
  • PeoplePC
  • And now to the serious summary which is what I used in Greensboro - the following string of axioms.

  • There is no Digital Divide. The Digital Divide is a proxy for cultural dissonance.

  • My favorite show on television is Dirty Jobs. Our civilization doesn't depend on white collar work, so the digital revolution wasn't supposed to be about blue collar folks.

  • The internet is what people who use the internet say it is, and it is way, way too big for anybody to say. People talk about white males being 75% of the internet as if anybody could possibly make sense of 1% of the internet.

  • When Russians build rockets to leave Earth's gravity they call the thing they're in 'the Cosmos'. When Americans do it, they call it 'Space'. Therefore the Russians will always win the Cosmos Race and the Americans always win the Space Race. So that begs the question. Who wants to be in the 'Blogosphere'? I say everybody who wants to be there is there. If people are there for different reasons, who is to say that they're not happy? If people aren't there, who's to say they're missing out?

  • Last year, a black guy came out with a blog and said he was the first black blogger from Detroit. Only he wasn't. He was at least two years too late.
  • So what we're essentially dealing with is the question of the value of information which has been abstracted onto the net. There is a false presumption that the form and content of information that has value for an arbitrary group of people defines:
    A) What the Internet is all about.
    B) The stuff of value that Others have to get.

    Those who push the concept of digital inequality basically have to take their fight to exotic locales, because every town that has a Wal-Mart has cheap computers for little budgets.

    All of this is easy for me to say because I recognize various classes of people, and I don't make it a habit to second-guess blackfolks in particular. So if there are 34 million blackfolks who don't spend any time online, it doesn't concern me. I've been online since there has been an online, and I'm sure there hasn't been 100,000 blackfolks who have seen my work. I'm cool with that. If I suddenly discover:

    [African American] Internet usage: 61%. Percent who regularly go online for news: 25% (up from 16% in 2000)

    I'm cool with that too.

    Now there was a time, in my progressive days, that I had a certain amount of serious concerns about getting IT to the 'hood. In those days I approached a young woman named Micheline Wilcoxen who was at the time Program Director for a joint called Breakaway Technologies. This was fairly early on. It turned out that her big problem wasn't money, but the kind of bureaucratic fights she had to enjoin just to get access to public school kids in the 'hood. I met Micheline at the African Marketplace many years ago and we talked a few times about computers in the 'hood. I was especially interested because Breakaway was located around the corner from where I grew up near Crenshaw & Jefferson in Los Angeles.

    Understand that Breakaway had its own building, all the computers they needed, funding and staff. But the public school teachers would not let them on campus - basically because they would be showed up. The existence of Breakaway made public schools look bad, so they refused to let the kids learn. Yeah. I was shaking my head too.

    I have no idea what it takes to become certified as an afterschool program, but I got the distinct flavor at the time that the whole situation was mostly politics and mostly impossible. So I didn't volunteer.

    Apart and separate from that, I spent a lot of time trying to talk to community groups of various sorts to put their information online via bulletin boards in the days before the net and on the web in the days after. Notably I spoke to Haile Gerima about making a QuickTime version of his film Sankofa and making it available on CD for community groups. This was in the days just after the Power Mac was born and people were nuts about this thing called 'New Media'. Gerima dismissed the notion out of hand. I asked him why, and he looked at me like I was crazy. It's all about the big screen, he said. And he went on to reminesce about the great experience he had when his film debuted in Germany. For Gerima, it wasn't about getting a message to people in the 'hood, it was about filmmaking. Macs aren't film. They're low budget devices.

    Of course I wasn't the only black person with such ideas about low cost distribution of black mental liberation. There were plenty of pioneers back in the day, but for all kinds of reasons, there was something we couldn't see. The thing I couldn't see in 1993 was demand. I thought that good ideas provided their own juice. It's something of a naive belief, but I had plenty of company in that regard. I still thought that "If you build it, they will come." It's not true. You don't know who 'they' are until they show up. And if you think 'they' are the target market, the black, the poor - those for whom so much rhetoric and moral suasion is invested these days, you will be sorely disappointed. It's only a question of how quickly you'll be disappointed.

    So when I was trying to figure out why the cats at Netnoir were so upscale and shiny, whilst my partner and I were focused on serious black history, what I didn't really want to accept was that everything needs a business plan, and that communications is big business - even on the web. Generally speaking, you can't reach millions without spending millions, and millions aren't just lying around waiting to be spent.

    There are too many reasons to be online and to remain offline for anyone to suggest they have a handle on them when it comes to African Americans. So the Digital Divide is a theory ever in search of a target, and as time moves forward it adjusts again and again. There may be a new Digital Divide theory that evades every criticism I've laid down here. Maybe the Digital Divide is in Somalia today. I can't say. I don't study it.

    The joy I get out of computing and computer mediated communications is practically boundless. I've been playing and working with computers since 1974. Everything here has always made perfect sense to me, but I don't have a hard time recognizing that lots of folks don't get it and don't need to. I think the barriers against those who want to experience the joy are negligible. Even water's not free, but I don't think any real divide is keeping Americans from quenching their digital thirst.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Admit It

    Posted by mbowen at 11:07 AM | TrackBack

    A Black Day

    The kids are home from school. I'm on the beach. I have some expense reports to complete but otherwise I am free to indulge the braincells. So here's what I've decided to do.

    I'm going to have a Fishbone marathon on the iTunes and read something from every black blog on the Negrophile blogroll. I am therefore going to create, my own instant Carnival of the Darkside.

    For some reason, I have a creeping sense of claustrophobia in the black blog world. I tried to get a million people to pay attention to the fact that John Conyers was online, and nobody cared. Or so it seems. OK so let me plumb the depths and see what I come up with. In the italics will be the Fishbone song which may or may not have anything to do with the blog excerpt of the minute.

    Subliminal Fascism
    (damn that was quick)

    Bonin' in the Boneyard
    When was the president really going to fire Karl Rove, asks Blackprof.

    Jai has got some kickin' gear. Portable DAT. Me like.

    Mighty Long Way
    Allison bemoans life in NYC. But at least there's De La Soul and Lauryn Hill.

    I'm not sure what to make of Faye Anderson. Is she turning into another bitter and ineffective clone of Julianne Malveaux? This week she's full of piss and vinegar. Nobody meets with her satisfaction. She just cries out for outrage. Yeah well I have those weeks too.

    Shana cracks me up with her parody of Kirk Franklin. I've had those weeks as well.

    Hey Ma & Pa
    Now I know what the baldheaded dude was all about when I cruised through Oprah yesterday. Thanks Rod.

    Pouring Rain
    The Brotha Code is dead. Don't bother.

    Chippla is all over the world. Too deep for me.

    Dell Gines wrestles with a moniker. I hope he keeps conservative, for a number of reasons that I won't go into. I like his stuff a lot.

    Ghetto Soundwave
    There's a huge group blog Global Voices which ain't black but brown. What to make of it? Too much to tell. Just know it's there.

    Dare Obasanjo hipped me to upcoming.com. Cool stuff

    Love & Hate
    Mz Powderpink is partying with Brey-Brey and also putting hilarious words in GWB's mouth. Damn. My eyes hurt after reading that blog.

    Cool photos at Bluemoaner.

    The Humanity Critic tracks the faded careers of Da Brat, Saigon and Royce da 5'9.

    Somethings just defy my sense of the real. One of those things is that it might be actually possible to write down a recipe for gumbo. I'm looking at it, but I just don't believe it.

    OK it doesn't matter what Honeysoul has to say, just check out the mugs on the sidebar. Damn, where was the blogosphere when I was single?

    Obsidian Bear explains 'hasbiens'.

    Planet Grenada is in the same place as I am. Time to review what the blogosphere is.

    Wait a minute... I just realized how huge the Negrophile blogroll is. I'm never going to finish this. I guess that's going to have to suffice for the moment. Maybe I'll update some more later today. My head is starting to swim...

    Posted by mbowen at 09:33 AM | TrackBack

    Kevlar in Kemet

    Posted by mbowen at 08:58 AM | TrackBack

    October 18, 2005


    It's the battle of the Jesses!

    Jesse Lee Peterson, et al., v. Jesse Jackson, et al. (BC 266505) will go to trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court after a ruling last week by Judge George H. Wu. Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit against Jackson, his son Jonathan, and others on behalf of Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, who was the victim of a physical and verbal assault at an event hosted by Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. in December 2001.

    I know there is a God and that he has a sense of humor. He put these two against each other for our amusement.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:16 PM | TrackBack

    Conyers Alert

    Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Rep John Conyers is blogging this and next week.

    For me, the journey into blogging started with the Howard Dean for President campaign. That campaign's groundbreaking use of the internet made many of us stand up and take notice of a new generation of progressive activists, dissatisfied by the corporate mainstream media (or the "MSM" as they call it. These activists also shared with me a dissatisfaction with the passive politics as usual that has -- at times -- become a modus operandi for the Democratic party.

    After the Dean campaign, I began to talk with many of the architects of this internet strategy, most often with Joe Trippi, about whether the Dean model could be used to benefit congressional Democrats. Trippi was emphatic that it could.

    I think this is probably a first, and Conyers needs a bit of props for stepping into the void. So if you're in the neighborhood, go give him a shout and tell him what's on your mind. What was on my mind was, what the hell took you all so long. Hmm. It couldn't be the myth of the Digital Divide could it?

    See for yourself.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:04 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Who are the Real RINOs?

    “During the 18 years I served in the Senate, Republicans often disagreed with each other. But there was much that held us together. We believed in limited government, in keeping light the burden of taxation and regulation. We encouraged the private sector, so that a free economy might thrive. We believed that judges should interpret the law, not legislate. We were internationalists who supported an engaged foreign policy, a strong national defense and free trade. These were principles shared by virtually all Republicans. But in recent times, we Republicans have allowed this shared agenda to become secondary to the agenda of Christian conservatives. As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around.” — John Danforth, moderate Republican and former U.S. Senator and ambassador.

    Is this the turning of the tide? Is this the comment that finally strikes at the heart of the evangelical Christian camels who have infiltrated the Big Tent?

    I've long placed the blame on Karl Rove for his master strategems and his overplaying of niche manipulation. He's the one whose campaign tricks have made the Christian Right feel that it is more central to Republicanism than it actually is. But I have not been willing up to this point to place blame on the President, primarily because of his righteousness on Iraq and the War on Terror. But I think I'm coming around to a more concrete sense that his agenda is less secular than it seems and that his steadfast refusal to veto any appropriations from Congress is a serious problem.

    It's not so important that Republicans get their way as it is that the nation is run properly, and now is the time for all good Republicans to look to the health of the nation. Bush's domestic agenda has been crippled since birth with a singular inability to manage sprawling bureacracies with vision or discipline, and while neocons like myself have been searching the horizon for signs of progress, few things seem to have been going well domestically.

    Since I fundamentally believe that life is like a crap sandwich (the more bread you have, the easier the crap goes down), I haven't sweated the domestic agenda. But I'm trying to think hard about what it is that GWBush has done for the country, as opposed to the national interest on the world stage, and I'm coming up blank. So I think that I am returning back to the kind of skepticism I had back in '03. The little things are starting to add up, starting with Plame.

    GWBush may be the president that proves that if you don't mind bankrupting the country, there's little that America can't accomplish. Is that going to be the cost of putting AQ down? It better not be, and I see dark economic clouds on the horizon.

    And while these economic worries are at the front of my concerns, I'm starting to think that perhaps this Miers nomination is more than it appears to be. The word today is that she's against all sorts of abortions. Whether or not it should be, it's going to be the handle on which her nomination swings and I can clearly see GWB running this nomination train straight into a brick wall.

    So the question is whether this Bush understands where the soul of America is, and what kind of Christianity is the Christianity of this Christian nation. It's the Christianity of Christmas. The Christianity of Norman Rockwell and a moment of silence. It's the Christianity of the 'C' in YMCA. It's not the Evangelical Christianity of those awaiting the Rapture or those of the Chick tracts. It's not the Christianity of Operation Rescue, and like it or not, it is not the Christianity of political opportunity. So I have to ask very seriously if this president sees himself as the leader of the Republican Party or of a Born Again Nation, because a lot of us are not ready to blur the line between Church and State. Not for anyone under any circumstances. If it is faith that's calling the shots in the White House, then maybe we have to go back to pre-Kennedy skepticism.

    I understand and respect that George W. Bush has a good heart. That's not enough. I understand and respect that he has his priorities in the right place, but he clearly is not managing effectively, and the shortcuts and favors he seems to be cutting for people is starting to smell to me like something other than incompetence. Bush has done everything I have needed him to do as President except resolve the Plame mystery. Now he's got to be on the defensive with me as regards the economy, his responsibility in pandering to a loud minority Christian sect, and the effectiveness of his domestic agencies.

    Here's the score:

    EPA: C
    Homeland Security: D
    Interior: C
    Defense: B
    Health & Human Services: Fail
    Federal Reserve & Treasury: B+
    Energy: C-
    Transporation: Who?
    State: B+
    HUD: Who?
    Education: C
    Commerce: Who?
    Iraq: B+
    Trade Deficit: D
    Veteran's Affairs: B
    Agriculture: B

    That's not good. It's adequate. But my priorities have not been domestic. Now I'm turning that way and it doesn't look good for this crop of Republicans. The more happy evangelicals are with their influence on the GOP, the less happy I am.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:56 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    A Million Tiny Daggers

    I heard there was a large Farrakhan event a few days ago. I didn't get the memo.

    More precisely, I haven't been through the 'hood in several weeks so I hadn't been informed of the matter. I can't say that I listen to any black radio seeing as I own all the music I want to hear. As for BET, well I was gone around the time of Donnie Simpson. So how does Farrakhan get half a million people to congregate in one place? It ain't magic, it's logistics. And apparently, it is a logistical miracle that passes some of us by. Needless to say, the event went off without a hitch - a hitch being arrests and violence sufficient to spice up whatever ordinary distortions get covered by the media.

    The good thing about Farrakhan is that he knows when to show up, which is rarely. But every time he does, it makes a big splash. You got to give the man some props for that. As much as people like to blast Farrakhan as an anti-Semitic blowhard, he has never crossed the line and broke the law. The Nation of Islam always gets busted for what its lunatics do, be they Khallid Abdul Muhammad or Tony Muhammad. But Farrakhan remains in the calm eye of the storm, somehow at peace with his complicity in the death of Malcolm X, and yet at a safe distance from the madness of some loud fraction of his clerics. Like other conservatives before me, I occasionally feel a strong resonance with Farrakhan's message of die hard self-reliance. He's a black separatist, pure and simple. He doesn't believe in integration, nor does he believe in superiority. Rather, he represents the evolution of survivalism. But instead of being in the backwoods like white survivalists, he's deep in the urban ghettos, jails and prisons with black survivalists. He is at peace with permanent non-violent conflict between the races, but unlike those at the fringe, Farrakhan always says, "I don't want to fight you, just get out of my face." Of course he knows better. There are plenty of Americans who would volunteer to have Farrakhan deported or worse for no good reason. Louie may occasionally be screwy but he ain't stupid. You'll never hear him singing 'I fought the law and the law won.' He knows which battles to engage.

    There aren't many if any prominent Muslim clerics we Americans know in America which is a shame. So Farrakhan takes the heat from all black muslims although most American blacks are Sunni - which tends to be more modern and less conservative than Shia, from what I've learned. Still, for all the extraordinary venom and fire that has come from this brand of radical talk, there has been very little violence directed at 'devils'. It doesn't take long to hear some taste of the nasty vibe when listening to Ice Cube's NOI tinged opus 'Lethal Injection'. You'd think that a million fans of that million seller album would be a nightmare black American jihad waiting to explode. But American taste for violent themes far outstrips our willingness to go there and so it holds for "the followers of Farrakhan / Don't tell me that you understand / Until you hear the man", as Chuck D said.

    I've had several friends in the Nation, and it isn't a cult. It's more like a religion where you go to church every day. In the NOI, they watch each other every day all the time. A brother like me would suffocate within a week. But if you buy the premise, that nobody, especially white Christians, has the interests of blackfolks at heart except blackfolks and that American Christianity is corrupt beyond redemption, then you could do worse than the NOI, especially if you're a prisoner.

    The Nation has a surfiet of flaws that escapes nobody's attention. There isn't a mistake they've made that hasn't found its way to publication thanks to the surveillance of various watchdogs. It's nice to know that while he's not dismissable, he has been dismissed. How many years have I had to answer for him? More than I care to remember. Admittedly the blogosphere is a more sophisticated space, and the Culture Wars have calmed down significantly as well. So it's been a while since I've had to whip out the disclaimer. So in that context, it's useful and interesting to see what the presence of Louis Farrakhan augers for black politics. He's the one with the organization that brings the bodies.

    I'll be keeping my ears open for inflections in black politics owing to Farrakhan's words. I don't expect much, but I'm still listening.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:28 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    October 17, 2005

    It's Only Baseball

    Posted by mbowen at 03:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Bono's Double Standard

    Check this out:

    The Irish rock star, Bono, has been angered by Senator Hillary Clinton’s use of a U2 concert this week to raise funds for her political campaign coffers—even though he is a good friend of her husband, Bill.

    “U2 concerts are categorically not fund-raisers for any politician. They are rock concerts for U2 fans,” said his close associate, Jamie Drummond, who runs Data, the Third World advocacy group set up by Bono with Sir Bob Geldof.

    “If any political fund-raising events take place at a U2 concert, it is without the involvement or knowledge of Data, U2 or Bono.”

    Mrs Clinton, the frontrunner to be the Democrat candidate for the White House in 2008, is charging 18 guests $2,500 (£1,400) a head to join her in a luxury box for the sold out show in Washington on Wednesday. Despite U2’s public criticism, she is pressing on with the fund-raiser, which will bring in $45,000 for an outlay of about $7,000 on the box, and her staff are unapologetic.

    So let me see if I have this right, if you make millions with lyrics like "There are no Russians and there ain't no yanks / Just corporate criminals playing with tanks."; then your concerts can't possibly be a place for politics? When in life have I ever heard anything so hypocritical? Never.

    I couldn't invent this.

    Oh God I hope this becomes a trend. What I wouldn't give to see some political opportunism become so wedded to Hollywood that actors start saying things like "Hey I'm just entertainer, I don't want to be involved with party politics in any way." It would be a dream come true. And to think, it took somebody like Hillary Clinton, the scapegoat of first resort, to kick it off. I watch people burst blood vessels over Clinton with bemused befuddlement, but this has got to be the first time I really like what she's done.

    Crank up the volume. Garafolo standup is next.

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

    A Little Smacking of Cornel West

    Cornel West wrote 'Unmasking the Black Conservatives' in 1986. In looking for online literature, I came across it. Interesting.

    The importance of this quest for middle-class respectability based on merit rather than politics cannot be overestimated in the new black conservatism. The need of black conservatives to gain the respect of their white peers deeply shapes certain elements of their conservatism. In this regard, they simply want what most Americans want -- to be judged by the quality of their skills, not the color of their skin. But surprisingly, the black conservatives overlook the fact that affirmative action policies were political responses to the pervasive refusal of most white Americans to judge black Americans on that basis.

    Firstly, I think that those folks I call 'Carbon Copy Conservatives', although I can't say that I know any personally, are doing exactly what West says they don't - which is seeking acceptance with white peers strictly on the bases of party affiliation. This is exactly what Condi Rice was accused of. Liberal critics of Rice suggested that she was a parrot and that it didn't matter what her skills were that she was in the White House to do the bidding of GWBush because her politics which were indistinguishable from that of white Republicans.

    I think that there is an honest contingent of black Conservatives who are conservative in ways indistinguishable from their white colleagues who rightly take pride in party partisanship.

    Nobody overlooks that fact that Affirmative Action helped lots of blackfolks, it's simply discounted. Even though West's article is 19 years old, it's fascinating in how centrally it locates the matter of Affirmative Action as a point of contention.

    The new black conservatives assume that without affirmative action programs, white Americans will make choices on merit rather than on race. Yet they have adduced absolutely no evidence for this: Hence, they are either politically naïve or simply unconcerned about black mobility. Most Americans realize that job-hiring choices are made both on reasons of merit and on personal grounds. And it is this personal dimension that is often influenced by racist perceptions. Therefore the pertinent debate regarding black hiring is never "merit vs. race" but whether hiring decisions will be based on merit, influenced by race-bias against blacks, or on merit, influenced by race-bias, but with special consideration for minorities as mandated by law. In light of actual employment practices, the black conservative rhetoric about race-free hiring criteria (usually coupled with a call for dismantling affirmative action mechanisms) does no more than justify actual practices of racial discrimination. Their claims about self-respect should not obscure this fact, nor should they be regarded as different from the normal self-doubts and insecurities of new arrivals in the American middle class. It is worth noting that most of the new black conservatives are first-generation middleclass persons, who offer themselves as examples of how well the system works for those willing to sacrifice and work hard. Yet, in familiar American fashion, genuine white peer acceptance still seems to escape them. In this regard, they are still influenced by white racism.

    This is so loaded that it's difficult to know where to start. I'd simply suggest that West's entire article be examined with the benefit of almost 20 years of hindsight. What's astounding to me is the extent to which he's correct about the failures of black liberal politics to deal with the change in the global economy, and how much that global economy, especially in my field of IT has pretty much demolished the white racist middleclass barriers to entry.

    I would be quite happy to see some study which might tell us what effect a regime of Affirmative Action has had on the attitudes within the targetted industry on black employment. I would suspect that the overall effect would be positive. What needs to be disambiguated however, is the effect of actual black success vs the ethos of equal opportunity. That is to say, in the US Armed Forces, how much of the relative ease with which black are accepted into the ranks is due to black power established within the organization (presumeably from Affirmative Action but not necessarily) vs white liberal guilt (for lack of a better term) vs pure colorblind merit?

    My gut tells me that black power and personality is the greatest influence. Moreover, I am convinced that once established the question of Affirmative Action stigma becomes moot. There is an interesting kind of tokenism at work that is not necessarily bad. Just as Michelle Wie gets a shot at being 'the next Tiger Woods', a sterling example of minority breakthrough can be positively influential on expectations of succeeding generations. The important thing to note is that Affirmative Action is not necessary to accomplish this, but black excellence is. Once black excellence has been established it is it's own 'affirmative action', one completely devoid of the political backlash actual Affirmative Action created.

    In the end I think how you fall out on this depends upon what proclivities you assign to whitefolks. To suggest that might be a fixed relationship or dominated by some hegemony is a grave error. It is the error West makes and it is why his focus on white racism has done little to address the economic problems facing blackfolks.

    West goes on to say this:

    My aim is not to provide excuses for black behavior or to absolve blacks of personal responsibility. But when the new black conservatives accent black behavior and responsibility in such a way that the cultural realities of black people are ignored, they are playing ‘a deceptive and dangerous intellectual game with the lives and fortunes of disadvantaged people. We indeed must criticize and condemn immoral acts of black people, but we must do so cognizant of the circumstances into which people are born and under which they live. By overlooking this, the new black conservatives fall into the trap of blaming black poor people for their predicament.

    What's the first thing that pops into mind? Cosby. Black Conservatives are saying that Cosby is right, and moreover that Moynihan was right. What are the 'circumstances into which people are born and under which they live' which tells them Marriage is not a reasonable choice? This takes us back through Bennett to the rather uncontested assertions of Stephen J. Levitt:

    Race is not an important part of the abortion-crime argument that John Donohue and I have made in academic papers and that Dubner and I discuss in Freakonomics. It is true that, on average, crime involvement in the U.S. is higher among blacks than whites. Importantly, however, once you control for income, the likelihood of growing up in a female-headed household, having a teenage mother, and how urban the environment is, the importance of race disappears for all crimes except homicide. (The homicide gap is partly explained by crack markets). In other words, for most crimes a white person and a black person who grow up next door to each other with similar incomes and the same family structure would be predicted to have the same crime involvement. Empirically, what matters is the fact that abortions are disproportionately used on unwanted pregnancies, and disproportionately by teenage women and single women.

    (emphasis mine)

    In other words, outside of crack and murder Moynihan was right, and Black Conservatives are right to criticize this moral failure not just in black communities but as a general principle that applies equally to whites.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    No Black Conservatism: What the Wiki?

    It turns out that until today, there was no entry in Wikipedia for 'Black Conservatism'. Imagine that. So I've gone ahead and started it. Hold on to your hats.

    I'm sending out a blast today to get everybody jumping on it. I'm interested to hear all kinds of reasonable and some unreasonable reactions to what Black Conservatism is all about. Partially to reckon with the perceptions of other conservatives with black conservatives as well as those of blacks who are not conservative themselves. Start here.

    How do you define Black Conservatism?

    I'm also going to put in a lot of food for thought in this exercise:

  • Walter Williams - Capitalism & The Common Man
  • Walter Williams at Wikipedia
  • Lee Walker's Definition
  • Emanuel McLittle - from 2003
  • Mumia Abu Jamal says
  • Project 21

    (more later)

    Posted by mbowen at 10:23 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
  • October 16, 2005

    Thoughtless Crap for Fun

    I am:
    "You listen to a lot of AM talk radio, don't you?"

    Are You A Republican?
    Posted by mbowen at 03:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Shepherd: It Figures

    You scored as Shepherd Derrial Book. The Preacher. Out here, folks need a minister, if only to remind them that God hasn't forgotten them. It isn't about making them worship, it is teaching them to do right by themselves and other people. Why is that so hard for some to understand?

    Shepherd Derrial Book


    Zoe Alleyne Washburne


    Simon Tam


    Capt. Mal Reynolds


    Kaylee Frye


    River Tam


    Inara Serra


    The Operative


    Jayne Cobb


    Hoban 'Wash' Washburne


    Which Serenity character are you?
    created with QuizFarm.com
    Posted by mbowen at 02:52 PM | TrackBack


    Tony Scott's latest film, Domino, is a disappointment. Maybe it's because I fell asleep too many times and missed the details that would have kept me into the film. In fact, I'm pretty sure of that and that it has something to do with a baby.

    Like most action flicks, this one had a killer trailer. I had every expectation that this was going to a smashing film. Instead it got bogged down as a failed poser flick mired in the wasteland halfway between 'Natural Born Killers' and 'Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels'. It looks good, and has its moments, but those moments are not enough to get one through the twisty narrative. Somehow it just doesn't work.

    I can see Scott's torture. He's got scenes that are so pulverizingly gritty and close-ups on Mickey Rourke and his costars that are so compellingly delicious that it's almost impossible to want to cut them. And so at an overlong two hours, you have a pile of hardcore music and video, that alternatively pumps up the adrenaline and then abruptly switches gears leaving you nowhere. The pace of the film is jerky, like the camera and the colors and the music - but that's what we expect from Scott and he's in good form here.

    We get Mickey Rourke in full on degeneracy and nasty hotness from Keira Knightly. We get Delroy Lindo doing Delroy Lindo which is always a treat, but we don't have any bad guys. Or at least we don't seem to have any baddies that make us want to root for the relatively un-bad guys. But maybe I fell asleep on that part too.

    Either way, you've got to see it on the big screen, because like Sin City, it's about the visual experience. Take it to the next stage Scott. Make an opera.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:20 AM | TrackBack

    Malkin Extends Her Rant Against Kwanzaa

    I've got one gripe with Michelle Malkin, and that's her vendetta against Kwanzaa, which is little more than a broadside against Ron Karenga which is nothing more than a continuing insult to people who celebrate the holiday. Every opportunity she gets to slander the festivities is just another kick in the groin to honest, decent people who find many reasons to recall and rededicate themselves to fine values and a young but growing tradition.

    There can be no denial that Karenga himself had plenty of trouble with the law, some of it his own doing. But that is the price paid for having the audacity to assert a black cultural revolution. However as I've patiently explained, Karenga wasn't the only one who saw the usefulness of the idea, nor did it blossom based upon his example alone. Suggesting that Kwanzaa celebrants are somehow bound to the conduct of Karenga is irresponsible and mean-spirited.

    I wonder how Malkin would react to someone who suggested that the Japanese Tea Ceremony was the product of murdering, suicidal Kamikzes, and therefore anyone who drinks tea with any reference to it is morally and intellectually suspect. If she's going to keep up her tirade against Kwanzaa, she's going to have to review her logic. From where I stand, it stinks.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:35 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    October 15, 2005

    A Black Conservative Response to James Thindwa

    Somebody I don't know, named James Thindwa is talking about 'black conservatives', that monolithic poltical boogie man. So, departing from my usual dismissal of all things written in The Black Commentator, I respond briefly. He doesn't know me, so we're equal.

    First off he starts with dealing with Star Parker's attitude towards welfare. I think he does so without even knowing that Star Parker was on welfare, and everything she says about it comes from her personal experience and repulsion by it. I think Star Parker is at least as credible on the evils of welfare as any ex-convict is about the evils of the criminal justice system. But I've also met her personally and I know she has class. So I tend to defend her as a matter of principle, just, I suppose as some people defend Mumia Abu Jamal.

    Thindwa says:

    Minimum Wage and Living Wage: Black conservative opposition to raising the minimum wage and rejection of living wage proposals across the country puts them squarely at odds with the vast majority of black people who are stuck in low-wage jobs.

    This is an old species of argument I call using the black race as a rhetorical human sheild. You bring in the spectre of a 'vast majority' of African Americans and suggest that their political interest is singular, and any opposition to that interest is not just wrong but anti-black. You therefore evade the fundamental economic argument. This black conservative says that the minimum wage is a species of wage inflation that works against employment. Thomas Sowell made the argument 20 years ago and the economics are still the same. You can have more low skill jobs with no minimum wage or you can have fewer low skill jobs with minimum wage. There's no two ways around it. Given a preference, I say the culture of work is better served by eliminating the minimum wage. Wal-Mart aint bad. I know, I've had worse jobs myself.

    Thindwa says:

    Speaking out against racism: Black conservatives seem unable to instinctively convey revulsion over racism or its vivid manifestations. When a James Byrd is dragged behind a pickup truck, crosses are burned in front of black homes, or a Trent Lott or William Bennett utters racially offensive rants, black conservatives need to be as resolute as Jesse Jackson in criticizing it.

    Thindwa is just not informed. 'Instinctive revulsion' makes me think about dog vomit, not a policy against racism. But instintive revulsion is not a bad idea when it comes to reaction to racist incidents. The question is whether or not we sit around in dog vomit all year round. People have better things to do. The man who killed James Byrd was the first white man to be sentenced to death for lynching. Justice was swift and appropriate, so why is Thindwa using that example? As for acting like Jesse Jackson... puhlease. That was another generation.

    This black conservative has gone to great lengths to differentiate degrees of racism and appropriate responses to them. It is not a binary matter and one shouldn't simply flip the racism switch that sounds the siren at full blast. Anyway. This site is replete with examples. Search for yourself if you're not lazy.

    Thindwa says:

    African Americans respect intellectual and political independence: Right or wrong, black conservatives are often seen as defenders of, and apologists for white racism.

    Would somebody give me a nice Latin phrase for this kind of logical fallacy? You know, that 'right or wrong there is this perception that..'. Aside from all that, Thindwa is back into the dog vomit.

    This black conservative has no tolerance for white racism, and I've never met one who had it. What I have seen, however, is a stunning lack of props for those white conservatives who stand against white supremacy. Then again, I don't often go there. Here's the reference, you tell me if you've seen it before or if you're still tripping off Chuck D's "..the KKK wears three piece suits." What a brother know? As for Mr. Bennett, really. Get over it.

    Thindwa writes:

    Affirmative action matters to black people. The knee-jerk references to “merit” and “qualification” made by conservatives every time affirmative action is debated lack credibility, especially now when the Bush administration is stacking government bureaucracies such as FEMA with incompetent friends. In light of such obvious cronyism, opposition to affirmative action is seen merely as a conservative strategy for maintaining white privilege.

    Huh, what? FEMA? Malcolm X found fault with affirmative action, and this black conservative does for the same reasons. But I'm really not going to do battle over this tired little point. It would be nice for Bositis or somebody to give us all a little statistic about what difference in unemployment continuing Affirmative Action makes. Then we could all say it's ump-de-ump jobs and be done with it. My guess? 10k per year total. Which might be something like a tenth of a percent in overall narrowing of the unemployment gap between black and white. An economic drop in the bucket. Affirmative Action isn't black power, it's integration.

    This black conservative defends Affirmative Action weakly
    . With nuance and skill, I might add. But most importantly with an eye on reality and not cosmic justice.

    Thindwa pontificates:

    The environment and workplace safety matters: Environmental racism is a reality. As long as black conservatives are seen as defenders of an unfettered free enterprise system that disregards the environment and public safety, no one in the black community will take them seriously.

    Remember that old joke when the patient comes to the doctor and says, "It hurts when I do this?" C'mon, you remember. The doctor says, all together now "Don't do that." Is there anybody on the planet who doesn't know that it hurts to live in the ghetto?


    This black conservative is a defender of social mobility and the freedom for blackfolks to move anywhere in the country. If blackfolks are unwilling to vote with their feet, I'm not going to load them up in boxcars and send them someplace I think is appropriate for them. If there were no toxic waste anyplace in the state of Utah, would Thindwa advocate that blackfolks move? Moving to the burbs is cheaper than cleaning up the hood. This is basic economics.

    Thindwa has the unmitigated gall to say:

    Katrina has deepened black opposition to the Iraq War: Regardless of its merits, the failure of the government to respond to Katrina’s victims has deepened black opposition to the Iraq War and exacerbated an already palpable backlash.

    Conservative rule number one: DONT RELY ON THE GOVERNMENT. Hello?

    Black conservatives were here before Katrina and will be here afterwards. There's really not a cogent response to be made to this rather incoherent argument. But if you have to go through New Orleans to get to Iraq, then I say go through General Honore. This black conservative and son of a US Marine says, quit whining. And while we're at it, I'm looking forward to the liberal whining about Jamie Foxx's upcoming role as a sargeant in Iraq. I hope he brings back memories of Lou Gossett Jr. We can hope.

    Thindwa writes a couple piddly sentences about health care that don't bear repeating. Everybody knows that the American health care system is broken.

    Thindwa completely ignores Glenn Loury, probably the most reputable black conservative around by scribbling:

    Historical racism: Any analysis of the present black condition that denies its link to historical racism, seeks to locate the “black problem” wholly within the individual and denies the presence of structural barriers to social and economic mobility will not be taken seriously.

    Even if you start with Massey and Denton, a great place to start, you realize that the greatest structural component of racism is residential segregation. IE, living in the all-black ghetto, is the most dangerous component of the legacy of slavery. The legacy of slavery and Jim Crow is written in the walls of the buildings that were there since those days. Let's make that clear and accept that premise.

    If you leave the ghetto and live in communities that don't have a history of segregation, because they were built after the Civil Rights Movement, then you have elminated the very tallest walls that hold blackfolks back. There is no legacy of slavery in Cerritos, CA, the home of Tiger Woods. It was built after Jim Crow was defeated. If you refuse to leave the ghetto, then it's your fault.

    So the proposition I continually pose to progressives and liberals who claim that Afrocentrism and other cultural tools are effective in countering the legacy of slavery is this. If it works, then the failure of the ghetto is the failure of the appropriate sirens of healing blackness to reach their own experimental subjects people. If it doesn't work, then the failure of the ghetto is economic. Your choice. Don't blame black conservatives. We didn't create the plantation, we escaped. Come on over, the water's fine.

    Thindwa continues:

    Foreign policy for the people: Black conservatives’ uncritical support for trade deals such as NAFTA and CAFTA that have played a role in the de-industrialization of American cities will win them no allies in black communities. And black people view with suspicion conservative attacks on leaders such as Hugo Chavez of Venezuela that do not acknowledge the source of his popularity: the largest share of the county’s oil revenue goes to fight poverty.

    I have a hard time believing that the black masses are putting 17 and 34 together and coming up with a prime number which is the key to foreign policy. Blackfolks know about Hugo Chavez because he's a loudmouth pseudo-socialist, and as such he resonates with a goodly number of other loudmouth pseudo-socialists who spend a lot of time condescending to black people in a ghetto near you. When America is ready to elect a socialist president or even a socialist city council member, I'll pay attention. Meanwhile, I say whatever to this argument. Sheesh. Hugo Chavez.

    Thindwa crunches out the following massive conspiratorial sentence:

    Racial discrimination is a reality: The wave of successful class-action suits in recent years (against the FBI, Denny’s, Wal-Mart, and so on), funding inequities in education, disparities in the criminal justice system (17 black inmates have been released from death row in Illinois, vindicated by DNA evidence), discrimination in employment (ironically, with the exception of Fox News Sunday, Sunday morning TV news programming in the “liberal media” is now off-limits to black commentators and opinion makers), all conspire to undermine black progress.

    Back to the dog vomit, this time with overtones of hegemony. All pretty heavy stuff considering the fourth word after the colon. One of these days we'll actually hear about the caseload from the EEOC and talk about the disposition of cases. Until we get to that detail, I'm really not going to trouble myself with the 6 thousand blackfolks who have been walloped by racism serious enough to merit a civil lawsuit.

    Thindwa accuses:

    Attacks on black leaders: No matter what they think of Jackson, Sharpton, Representatives Maxine Waters, John Lewis and others, black conservatives’ vitriolic attacks on the black civil rights leadership will never work. Whatever the merits, when Star Parker, Armstrong Williams, Larry Elder and other conservatives attack black leaders in a personal way (as opposed to reasoned, honest and constructive engagement), they are seen by many black people simply as attack dogs for the white Republican establishment.

    To this I say stuff it. You simply have to take it as a given that black people disagree. Vehemently. To the death. In politics as in life, anger, frustration and denial are reality. That's what it's all about. We don't like you and you don't like us. Get over it. Fight an honorable battle, but don't complain that you have to fight. God what a wuss. You want to call us dogs for the white Republican establishment, go have a field day. Here, I'll even give you some better names.

    How about this: "a graduate of the Amos 'n Andy Institute of Tomcoonery and Porch Monkeyology".

    Whatever. Jesse Jackson is dismissable. Say it, believe it and be liberated.

    Thindwa ends on a hopeful note:

    I have offered these views in the hope that black conservatives who are truly interested in changing the lives of black people for the better take another look at why their ideology has not taken root in the black community. It might comfort some to blame the “liberal media” for ignoring them. But let me suggest that black people have heard the black conservative message. They just don’t like what is being said and how it is being said.

    Thindwa is welcome to correct his misrepresentations and step out of the dog vomit. Somewhere somehow, he has come to the conclusion that black conservatives are a pure product of white Republican propaganda, and his message to black people reinforces whatever ignorance is out there that believes the same thing.

    My suggestion to Thindwa and anyone who buys his argument is twofold. The first is to ingest a healthy dose of Cobb on the regular. The second is to attempt, seriously, to understand the history of black conservatism. Not in the light of Katrina, or Bill Bennett or any of the reactionary stuff that was news in the past three months, but in terms of black history itself. Black conservatism is real and multivariate and here to stay. It exists on its own, and independent of Sean Hannity and whomever else everybody watches on television. Most clearly and importantly it exists here in the blogosphere and is being expounded by real people with real names living in the real world - not the false fantasy world of self-loathing, ass-kissing and ignorance he paints for the poor souls over at The Black Commentator ghetto.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:32 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

    More Death!

    (Evil Cackle!)

    I have just come up with a sinister thought which satisfies my bloodlust and my disdain for bleeding hearts. So it's a bloody good idea one way or another. But maybe I've been watching too many Tony Scott movies. More on that later...

    The question is, how do you drive a liberal-minded public defender apeshit? The answer is, assign him to a death penalty case:

    Don't forget about the extra experts that are needed in such a case, just for penalty. You need to look at the organic history of the person (do they have brain damage, mental retardation, other mental, psychological, psychiatric or physiological problems?). This may require things like shrinks, doctors, MRIs, PetScans and other potentially expensive tests. The state (ie - you, the taxpayer) pays for this. The DA's office probably needs extra resources on all of these cases, I don't know first hand, but I can guess extra investigators, attorneys, paralegals, and other resources. They'll also need to conduct their own testing if any of the defense testing shows anything of consequence.

    Human life is precious, but I wonder if it's worth a quarter of a million bucks to save one. At times like this I truly wonder if our country is not already truly and irrevocably off the deep-end. Here's a subject for Stephen Levitt, what is the price of killing, and what is the price of life-saving and what do those costs say about the market for life?

    I mean, here's the case of an obvious nutcase who tries to kill himself by parking his car on the train tracks and then kills 11 innocents and survives. His depravity is clear, so how does it come to be that he is suddenly worth all of this defense. What elevated the value of his life such that now he gets all of this attention? Our society is being blackmailed by the criminally insane, and the justice system is the bagman. We're going to have to lower the cost of the death penalty somehow, because there is no way that this can stand.

    Perhaps we could modify the system for the sake of a speedy trial and create a new kind of tribunal. A jury of peers with a minimum of bureacratic overhead - something slightly more organized than the Jerry Springer Show, where you can get summary judgements from the people on the cheap. Let them bring their own pitchforks, torches and stones to cast. Every fiftieth trial goes to the Kangaroo Kourt. Just us is served. Better than football.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:31 AM | TrackBack

    Harriet Miers and the Triumph of Identity Politics

    Are you a Christian? Are you doing what Christ wants you to do? Are you going to do that in the Supreme Court? Are you a woman? Are you going to act in the best interests of women?

    This is the line of idiotic questioning that seems to be driving the entire controversy over Harriet Miers. We seem to have lost the ability to understand or recognize that people are anything but fixed vessels capable of adaptation. The fixedness of litmus tests and identity tests is the problem, and unless and until we can nail a character to a type, we're unable to make any clear decisions.

    What is lacking here, of course, is a clear understanding of what is required of a candidate for the job. It's entirely a matter of political horse-trading, and therefore anything at all can become an 'issue'. To evade that problem, the White House or the Congress or the Press will have to dig deep and get beneath the surface characteristics of judicial nominations. But it's not in their interests to do so? You lose numbers, eyes glaze over.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:12 AM | TrackBack

    Blackprof & Residential Integration

    It's about time.

    I found Blackprof just in time. This is the website I've been looking for as I get weary of the attitudes, obscurantism and namecalling of some of my progressive interlocutors.

    A typical para from Blackprof shows they live in reality, have respect for history and aren't afraid of going there:

    Studying race is like studying entomology in that one cannot understand—or even champion effectively—the fortunes of one group without understanding the forces that drive the fates of others. At some periods in history—for example Reconstruction—blacks made great gains while society was systematically depriving Mexicans of their ancestral lands and herding the last surviving Indians onto reservations far from where their ancestors were buried. During World War II, blacks and Latinos registered great gains while Japanese Americans were herded into concentration camps.

    At Blackprof, we start out with a subject near and dear, residential integration. If anything I've done approaches something worthy of a graduate school researcher, it would be some of the time I've spent looking seriously at demographics and race in places to live in this country. I've always felt, and still do, that I have the kind of big city fungible skills such that I could live anywhere in the US that I wanted to. So I live where I want. But I've done some of my own Freakonomic studying before I go. This is why I take the Greensboro folks seriously, among other reasons. I enjoy checking out cities.

    The subject was David Brooks, whose championship of social mobility is right on target. I wrote:

    Brooks is right and has been right for a while. His observations, coincide with mine as we have both been informec by the writings of Joel Garreau.

    When you look at the economics of neighborhood formation, you'll find a great number of variables that go into the decisions of where to build and why.

    I believe many blackfolks limit their social mobility purposefully - that there is an equivalent of 'tipping' on the demand side for new housing. Blacks who are economically capable of moving into new integrated communities will second-guess that decision with as much seriousness as whites on a racial basis. Here in California, my observation is that the resistance to move is lower, but in Georgia it is higher. Surely Massey & Denton have the full scoop, but I believe that given the choice between the old 'hood and the new 'burbs, there are racial reasons to stay among blacks that afford to go.

    I'm looking forward to some interesting insights from these guys that don't make my head hurt.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:46 AM | TrackBack

    October 14, 2005

    A New Orleans Footnote

    The ever wonderful Negrophile reminds us about the old paper bag tests and the complexity of African American cultures.

    According to the AP article which has made it's way to MSNBC too, Nagin isn't actually part of the Creole culture. I say he could pass for it if he wanted to at a certain level.

    This is the kind of revelation that generally goes under the heading of 'dirty laundry', which means that it is a well-reasoned critique of some blackfolks and some of their traditions. For a number of reasons, none of them particularly good, blackfolks seem to be particularly brittle to such criticisms these days. Surely it's Bennett and Katrina according to traffic I'm seeing on the Kwaku Network. (This morning it was something purportedly from Maya Angelou)

    There is some concern that jazz is endangered because of the destruction, but we out here in the Creole diaspora know better.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:00 AM | TrackBack

    October 13, 2005

    Odd Man

    Posted by mbowen at 04:42 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    October 12, 2005

    In His Image

    One of the difficulties of being arrogant, as I am, is that it takes some measure of arbitrariness to decide whom is worth hearing out. Since I am on a constant quest for wisdom, I don't often hear out evangelists. I figure I already know what they are going to say. I am reminded of this today by an (arbitrary) collision of three interesting things.

    The first is conversation / apology I had with Mickey which George alludes to on his blog. The second is this thread of memory from the Evangelical Outpost. The third is a referral that I got today on my old post about The Gospel of Thomas. Tangential to that is a search I am on for 'Mel'.

    When I finish up here - and who knows when that will be. I intend to begin looking at America (the world is too big, I think) strictly from a moral and philosophical standpoint. As I do so, I anticipate a great number of conflicts to be initiated and hopefully resolved with Christians, Agnostics, Atheists and Buddhists of all stripes. But right now there is a powerful idea that I cannot resist, and that is the idea of God creating man in His own image, coupled with my interpretation of the Forbidden Fruit, the value of Earthly Works and Predestination.

    It essentially boils down to this:

    If human beings have free will, then God has endowed us with His own sense of Good and Evil.

    The implications of this are as about as profound as I can imagine anything being. In the context of mathematics and philosophy, I am saying that man's sense of his morality is complete. Another way of thinking of it is that if salvation were a matter of picking out the colors of the rainbow, God has insured that human eyes all see blue as blue and green as green. Our sense of morality is innate and perfect. It is the same as God's own. Without it, we physically could not understand God's message, or our purpose.

    Having a sense of something, even a perfect sense of something, is distinct from having an understanding of something. You may know something to be blue, but you may not understand its significance or what exactly to do about that percieved fact. But the underlying fact remains. All non-defective humans develop this moral compass just as surely as they develop eyesight. Morality is our seventh sense.

    The first place to take this idea is to the heart of the Protestant Revolution. But I'll not do that today. What I'll do today is explain a little bit why certain things trouble me about church. They trouble me because I believe that any man is capable of gaining understanding of their moral and spiritual purpose without the assistance of formal theology or the community of Church. However I give a great deal of credence and respect to theology and spiritual community. The difficulty is found in the conflict between the three. They force a considerate person to make choices which can be rather upsetting.

    It is the upsetting nature of these choices that have me at odds with various orthodoxies, notably the fundamentalist nature of Christian evangelicals in the American public, and the libertine progressivism of various sects regarding the matter of Holy Matrimony. I am between two rocks, neither of which are particularly comfortable. Above and beyond this is the practical nature of the original Gospel and the ways and means by which this information comes to us through various instruments of theology and tradition. Whatever happened to the Sacred Feminine? Was Jesus' decentralization of Judaism a device appropriate to the times or a model for all time?

    These are all things I would imagine I could engage some friendly theologian over time, and perhaps one day I will have the luxury to invite such an individual over for a regular Sunday dinner. It's an Old School dream of mine - I should live so long. In the meantime, I have faith that I'll be doing enough good, so as not to pollute my chances with the vanity of knowing for certain. I'm not in a rush to figure it out.

    But I sure wish I knew the answers.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:40 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

    Ronnie Talk to Russia Before It's Too Late

    You remember that Prince song. What about the line where Reagan says "We begin bombing in five minutes"? Why didn't the world end?

    It still continues to amaze me that people consider Iraq to be such a huge thing, although I will certainly admit that it's more interesting than Central America. Iraq is not that huge. I said so 11 months ago.

    Was Ronald Reagan a pacifist and a diplomat as compared to George W. Bush, or is squawking about Iraq just par for the alarmist course?

    Posted by mbowen at 06:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


    My critics have been losing their cool and their minds recently. I've been called all kinds of names by people who should know better. Most recently, I've discovered that I'm supposed to be an admirer of 'Bulworth'. So I dug this out...

    (from the archives - October 1998)

    12770. boohab - Oct. 23, 1998 - 5:16 PM PDT bulworth is, in the end, the movie that we go to when we want to see how clueless whitefolks have matured since 'grand canyon' which it now replaces as the stupidest movie on the racial subjects in memory.

    i had managed to miss this movie as it passed through the various distribution channels, but a long conference in dallas set me up for a bunch of free time in front of spectravision. and so i got bulworth. as some of you may recall, i made a wild guess at the scope of the film with a quote from james baldwin as a review, giving bulworth no benefit of the doubt. not only was i right about the story's level of pathos, but the film gives me reason to suspect that warren beatty and everyone else associated with the film are grossly pathetic as well. i must say it makes me honestly feel sorry for halle berry, who has basically been dealt a one, two punch. with this and the film baps, to her 'credit', i'm starting to take david justice' side in the divorce.

    the plot for this bomb is disgustingly simple. a corrupt politician decides to end his life by arranging his own assassination. but before the deed is done, he gets a case of jungle fever. he then decides to rap his campaign, and in a fit of insomniacal delerium, paints himself 'black' through a campy set of encounters with the most incredibily one dimensional parade of black ghetto stereotypes i have ever seen on film. ever. and i do mean ever. what's worse, is that everybody seems to take this seriously. this film's ideas are perverse, bankrupt, self-righteous, self-parodying and idiotic all at once.

    12771. boohab - Oct. 23, 1998 - 5:18 PM PDT bulworth is useful as a litmus test on racial perceptions in the same way that real dicks and pussies would be in inkblot. reasonable and sane people would look and seriously question the ethics and sense of the person administering the test, not to mention utter lack of imagination. but right now i'm more interested in seeing how and which critics have been bulworthed into saying something profound about this shitheap of a message movie.

    it gets a 55%, which should clarify my percentage scale, everything below 50% means it's not worth seeing.

    Though I'm no longer the notorious boohab, as far as the flick is concerned nothing has changed.

    (Link added)

    Posted by mbowen at 02:38 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    The Republican Freak-Out

    I've been too much on the side of making friends rather than influencing people (and just plain working) to pay much attention to the hash over Nominee Miers. It seems that the summary judgement is that she's both Mediocre, and Not Clearly Against Abortion. And for this some Republicans have their lederhosen in a twist.

    Over at NeoNeocon, the subject has raised my pique and so I'll repeat something in writing that I mention in passing last week in Greensboro. The problem with the Republicans is that they don't know very well how to be a majority party. This is the central problem which has made the party subject to the excesses of ideologues. They really aren't leading the nation, they are aggregating loud minorities. Their wedge issues and marginalia don't work. So let's be straight about some weaknesses.

    1. Tax Abatement as Principle
    The Republicans have done an extraordinary job of communicating that everything government does costs, and it's a good idea to be skeptical of allowing spending. But it hasn't stopped the Bush Administration, nor has it really stopped any Republican administration in decades. What gives the idea the most credibility is that spending on certain things is bad and the discipline is applied ideologically. There's a punt to the ideologues. I can accept that this was a necessary punt, but it has become something of a liability when considered in the context of the confusion between Republicans and Conservatives.

    As a moderate Republican, my middle name is supposed to be 'fiscal conservative', but I'm also a strong Nationalist and so I say damn the torpedoes when it's wartime. I'm not sure that New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are worth 60 billion, and GW probably squandered and opportunity to make some sticking points on the Ownership Society in his haste. Then again it's not as if any of Kanye Wests' fellow travellers were listening. And as recent events has shown, they're more interested in what they dream that Bill Bennett is dreaming.

    So on the whole Republicans are getting no props for fiscal conservatism, and their lack of imagination when it comes to tax abatement has long worn thin. Still, I'm not giving my tax refund back.

    2. Abortion & The Christian Right
    I'm sure I've said this better elsewhere but there is nothing so craven as Republicans' pretending that every whiff of 'judicial activism' is making us into a godless commie country. Rove's coddling of the Christian Right is overblown and that very presumption that the Christian Right controls the Republicans is a self-fulfilling prophesy and circular argument.

    We're lucky that Roberts was such a good choice, and whining over Miers is really beneath what I think Republicans ought to be about.

    Here we have a majority in the House, Senate, the White House, the Supreme Court and probably the Governors as well, and yet there's turmoil over Miers. All this smacks to me of a minority party trying to purge itself in order to make a radical choice clear. That may be useful for what I'm doing against black progressives and black liberals, but fer chrissake, grow up GOP. You're supposed to be leading America, and you're not.

    That it empowers McCain and his Gang of 14 is just what's to be expected.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:22 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

    October 11, 2005

    2 Cops, 1 Night, Alright

    My loyal opposition reminded me today that he has had something on the order of 21 DWBs in the 'burbs. I had one tonight, or did I?

    My brother Doc, the LAPD cop, came to pick me up at 8:30 this evening. I was just indoctrinating my daughter with the Western scientific method and helping her understand which way the wind would blow on a hot day at the beach. Once she figured it out, Doc and I headed downtown to pick up the Batteram.

    Pops old Dodge Ramcharger has been in the family since I don't know how long. Now it's time to cycle to me, since we are now in the unenviable position of being a one-car suburban family. How do we face the Joneses? At any rate, it hadn't been started in about three weeks so we had to jump it. The location? Top level of the police garage downtown LA.

    As we pulled into the structure, I noticed the large SWAT truck parked under the bright lights over near the mechanics' bays. Doc swung the El Camino in and parked at an erratic angle, jumped out and went to get some jumper cables from the on-duty mechanic. I sat in the passengers seat of an obviously illegally parked car as officers of all descriptions rolled in and out of the garage. I suppose I'm more or less used to it, but it was an unusual situation.

    On the way downtown, Doc complained about illegal immigrants, blackfolks in New Orleans, the black man whom he stopped for speeding in an AMG Mercedes who called 'DWB' although he had burned rubber at two successive intersections. He told Doc, 'they didn't hire you for your winning personality did they'. Doc replied, 'please sign the summons'. Doc vented some of his frustrations and gave me his theory about violence. Violence, he says, is the inevitable result of people who refuse to back down in arguments with people they can't stand. Makes sense to me. Crime, he says, is the result of individuals who have no skills to work within the economy. They simply use force instead of skills, then force becomes their skill, unless I do my job.

    But what stuck with me most was his understanding of the problem of homelessness. The real problem is joblessness, says Doc. But there's an embedded bureacracy that provides homes and shelter for people who don't work. They therefore have no incentive to work. It's not a police problem, but a problem of political will. So around skid row, where he works, it manifests itself in a municiply sponsored permanent underclass. When the Olympics came to Los Angeles, there were no bums on Skid Row. We clean up for foreigners, but not for ourselves. Ourselves, we have no law enforcement against people who crap on the streets. You see, there is no city department chartered to clean human wasted from the sidewalk. It's classified as a biohazard, so it's illegal to hose it down the sewers. The Fire Department won't do it. So it sits. Nobody wants to be responsible for doing the right thing, and would-be educated people obfuscate and say there is no right thing to do.

    These were some of my thoughts as the mechanic fashioned jumper cables out of an old battery charger.

    We drove up to the top floor and found the Batteram on a clear fall evening. Doc pointed to the red lights on the top of his highrise apartment near Bunker Hill. But then he walked me over to one of the training areas. There were cones and a couple of squad cars in one corner of the roof of the parking structure. He showed me the basic changes in police policy since the Devin Brown shooting. What officers now do takes them more out of harm's way in a felony stop. They take different tactical positions around their vehicle and better understand the dynamics of what damage a stopped vehicle might do if the suspect decides to use it as a weapon. Cool stuff.

    The Ram turned over on the third try, we moved the needle 1/8 of the way off E with $20 of regular and I dropped him off home. I then headed back to the beach amazed that it's going to cost me 90 bucks to fill up that beast, plus it needs a new battery, an oil change and the registration needs to be updated. Well, at least the truck itself was free. Can't complain.

    I got used to the gears and found myself oddly comfortable in the behemoth 4WD beast, sitting up in the air grumbling down the Harbor Freeway at 55 mph. It was just about 10 something when I noticed a cop noticing me about a mile from my house. He took his time and then lit me up after sitting behind me in the left turn lane four blocks from my crib.

    I spoke to the youngish officer through the windlet, the main windows don't roll down. So he asked me to open the door and turn off the engine. I told him I can't because then I couldn't get it started again. No registration, I know. No proof of insurance I know. I just got it from my brother and I'm taking it home. He said he pulled me over because my registration was over in March. I said I thought it was February, he said 'same difference'. I handed him my license and answered one or two other questions. I tried not to think about the fact that I couldn't see his partner although I knew he was there somewhere. Immediately it reminded me of something Doc said about officers' orientation at stops. We're predators, we keep things in our sights. Officers stay behind stopped drivers so they can see everything the suspect does, but the suspect cannot see the officers.

    I got my license back and the officer told me not to park on the streets. I could get a ticket. "I'm not going to give you a ticket but somebody else might, even if it's not street cleaning day." That was the end of it. I drove home and parked it on the street. If I have to bump start it in the morning, I have some hill to roll down. Now I really have to go to Firestone.

    As I told the spousal unit why I was late, it occured to me to write this blog entry. I realize that some people would think that this evening was utterly remarkable for a black man. I think that such people don't have a very good idea of what a black man is. But that's the country we live in.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:39 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Woolworths Then & Now

    On my way to the first day of the ConvergeSouth conference, I snapped a couple photos of this interesting joint. It turns out that this is one of the living monuments to one part of the Civil Rights Movement. The plaque bears the names of the college freshmen who had the nerve to do what others said blacks shouldn't do. So this is the Woolworths of legend. Plans are in progress to make it a museum.

    According to Wikipedia:

    In 1960, four black college students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College sat down at an all-white Woolworth's lunch counter, and refused to leave when they were denied service. Hundreds of others soon joined in this first sit-in, which lasted for several months. Such protests quickly spread across the South, ultimately leading to the desegregation of Woolworth's and other chains. The original Woolworth's counter and stools now sit in the Smithsonian Museum, but a Sit-In Museum is being planned for the old Woolworth's building where the event actually occurred.

    When I reflect upon the many of the various discussions I've had about Affirmative Action, it is Woolworth's that comes to mind. And specifically, I recall Malcolm's objection to the concession of retail jobs in exchange for calling off the street demonstrations. Today, blackfolks reject the economic infrastruction of a whole super Wal-Mart on the grounds that there simply isn't enough money in it for them. But perhaps the greatest irony is that Woolworth's has disappeared from the scene in its former shape and now exists as one of the most blackified employers in the country, Foot Locker.

    And now you know, the rest of the story.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:26 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Triangulation & Greensboro Wrapup

    This week, having spent more time in close proximity and spirited debate with liberals that I have in quite some time, I have a new way of understanding our differences. The good conservative, like the good programmer, is lazy. The good liberal is tireless. Liberals appear to us to be like dogs chasing their own tails, or visionaries on a quest for the impossible, and I find myself thinking (but not saying) when do you have time to bring up your kids? But all that is beside the point. Debating current events is always great fun, and if I like you, I like you no matter how wrong and foolish you are.

    I mentioned something during introduction the other day that I suppose makes me a bit more unique, and I only got to explain it at length to George Entenman. That was the fact that I run both a Progressive blog, over at Vision Circle as well as a Conservative League. My views, are more clearly conservative and I think that conservatives have more to offer, but that takes a little explaining. You see, as far as the politics of blackfolks are concerned there is a progression from that of human rights - fighting against slavery and lynching. After those battles were won, the Negro proceded to work for Civil Rights and beyond that to Black Consciousness. I say that the battle for Civil Rights is won and needs marginal defense and now that the edge of the struggle is for social power. The politics of social power are what certain classes of African Americans are engaged in, but for the overall population, the politics are in transition. My aim here is to make the differentiation between Liberalism, Progressivism and Conservatism clear such that it shows that that what is in the interest of certain blackfolks is not in the interest of all. If we are not to accept a racist reduction of the complexity of black life, then we cannot say one size of politics fits all. Too many Americans don't understand that.

    My session went very well. I had about 30 people in the studio. I didn't think that many folks were going to stick around for the last sessions on the last day, but they did. It turned out that I got a chance to cover all kinds of things that were fairly well recieved. Stewart caught me in a pose I've never seen of myself which proves something uncanny about photobloggers that I hope draws more attention to their work.

    It turns out, much to my surprise, that I was on. Days before the conference, I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do. It turned out that I had a couple of evenings that rival the last time I was on. And have been in that groove, make more of an impression than I thought possible. So at this time, I'd like to explain any elbows thrown, but also clarify in general how it is that I bridge the gap between black conservatism and black progressivism.

    What I think it's difficult to understand about my perspective is that I am in the business of helping people make decisions. So I first find out what is important to them and then try to find all the information relevant, then apply the necessary discipline to a sound decision-making process. Finally, I give them some perspective on what others before them have discovered, especially in the process, then I turn them loose into the undiscovered country. It's not all about me being right, it's about injecting confidence into what many percieve as a shaky system - because they haven't been using the system correctly or with the experience of a veteran. It's what I do professionally, and it's what I do in my online writing. I am a facilitator of analysis. Personally, it means I'm in the business of attacking people's conclusions based on the lack of discipline I am able to percieve in their thought process and scope of data. But since it's not all about me, I attack with subtlety, 'like a splinter in your mind'. Basically, I like to accellerate people to their destinations, wherever that destination may be. So I wish all earnest people success, I just don't always want to go there with them.

    Triangulation is not really what I'm all about, I'm seeking clarity and differentiation, not so much a Third Way. Still, it's a good way to approach the subject.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    October 10, 2005

    Nevermind the Humans

    I picked up the following from Slashdot:

    dylanduck writes "How do you defend a ship against torpedoes? According to the US Navy, you line the hull with loudspeakers and blast the incoming missile with such a devastating blast of sounds that it explodes." When asked about the possible ecological effects on marine life the military had no comment.

    Sometimes no comment is the best answer. Of course, some people need to be reminded in terms that their own tiny minds recognize. Ie that when you sink a battleship or a nuclear sub, it might take some plankton with it.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:41 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Post-Mortem on the Drug Wars

    Nobody had the cojones to come straight out and say so in direct language, but I have read between the lines and divined the true anger at the back of the conspiratorial mind over recent comments by Bill Bennett.

    For those of you not blessed with this sort of precognition, I think I have picked it up virally by reading too many of the crystal ball interpretations of Bennett's comments. It's contagious. While I still have this dubious gift, I'll relate the vision it has implanted in my third eye.

    Bill Bennett was the sinister architect, in his role as Republican Drug Czar, of the War on Black Men. He was responsible for that genocide that went under the guise of the 'War on Drugs'. Since black men are born and bred to do just the opposite of what Whitey says, when Nancy Reagan said 'just say no' we even ignored De La Soul's 'say no go' and all took crack and angel dust. So we were suckers and ate up all the crack that the CIA strategically dropped from their cargo planes into every black neighborhood in America. And because of this, under Bennett's master plan we were all carted off to jail. Millions upon millions of us. So successful was this genocide that there are now fewer blackfolks living in America than ever before, according to the US Census.

    But wait! I'm being sarcastic.

    Sooner or later, intelligent people are going to recognize that there is not going to be a reversal of the way things work in America. There are too many millions if not billions of people around the world who wish it might be so, and they have been powerless to change America. I'm sure every Soviet Premier has wanted to. I'm sure every leftist dictator in Central America wanted to. I'm sure that the most successful Communist in world history, Fidel Castro wants to. I'm sure every half-witted Imam on the wrong side of Islam wants to. But none of them have, none of them can and none of them will. So what makes anyone think that the kind of politics that makes illiegal drug users into representatives of some great African American political revolt is going to be successful in changing the ways and means by which blackfolks will attain power and success in America?

    Write them off.

    Everyone who has served jailtime for illegal drug use in America, whether or not their sentence was overly harsh or their arrest was done by the books or not has first and foremost has made a choice that put themselves and their family at risk. Anyone too ignorant to know that weed or crack is illegal has no business representing anything as important and precious as the fate of African America. If indeed anyone is going to use the argument that the individual choices of the individual drug user 'is not hurting anyone', then why should their incarceration be seen as a drag on African America? Either they are a part of the solution to black ills, or they are not. You can't have it both ways. If they are not (and I say hell no they ain't), then we can only feel for them as [poor, idiot] victims, but not as leaders, and not as part of a positive political base.

    So I shed no tears for the man who gives up his vote for a toke. I shed no tears for the man who loses his family because he got arrested for possession. I have no political sympathy for them whatsoever. I recognize that if that's up to 20% of the black nation, then it most clearly has to be the 20% that does us no good, considering what good they've done themselves and their family thus far.

    If. If only it happened to me, maybe I wouldn't feel the same way. But it didn't and I don't. Even if it had, eventually I would think the same way. A bad man knows he's bad. He doesn't get out of jail and then try to run for president. He tries to get his life back in order, and if he has truly learned anything he tries to keep others from making the same mistake. That is if he can help himself from making the same mistake.

    I'm not here to defend the criminal justice system's sense of proportionality. I'm here to question the wisdom of making the fate of drug users the source of our political values. I'm here to suggest that any ammo spent on Bill Bennett because of his zeal in the War on Drugs (which I have yet to quantify) is ammo wasted. I'm here to remind everyone, who seems to have forgotten, that there are some people we cannot afford to deify and others who don't merit demonization. I don't know why some folks can't get it through their heads that the strong black family persists. Let the devil take the hindmost. We can afford it. What we cannot afford are voices in support of folks not worthy of our respect.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:29 PM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

    What A Difference A JPG Makes

    There's a rainbow before me.

    So Stewart asks me if I know beFrank, the blog of course. And I think for a moment and realize he's not talking about Barney Frank or Joe Frank. I say no. But now I do know and I'm glad of it. I have discovered photoblogs.

    When I was a kid, Pops bought the whole Time Life series on photojournalism and cinematography. If he hadn't sent me into the closet so often with his bulk film loader, I might have had enough interest in the subject to have become a fearless photog. Alas, I fell for the charm of a different kind of technology, but I did learn how to properly pronounce Henri Cartier-Bresson. So I've always had an attraction to the power of the lens.

    In Boston 12 years ago, there was an exhibit at the Central Library that reminded me, once again, of the power of the photograph. Much of that which caught my attention was war photography. There was so much of it, and each shot was so vivid, that it gave me the idea of a cable war channel. If we had a cable war channel with photojournalists covering every hot spot on the planet, it would leaven our understanding of conflict. It would add a dimension to our understanding of our civilization. Instead, the axciom of war being the thing that teaches Americans geography is laden with guilt because we only follow our own wars. We forget how many people die in the world for no good reason, or for good reasons other than our own. There is no such thing as a senseless death. Human brutality is laden with human meaning, it's just that we don't pay much attention and are all to often illiterate of it. That's why it's so easy in the United States to sustain protests of outrage over war. We are not so consistently moral and pacifist as we are mortified by violence - like children wandering into the wrong bathroom would be seeing the raw sex of their peers not knowing it is the focus of human behavior. We need to know how much death goes around, and that's why Michael Yon is something of an inspiration to me.

    I imagine that Yon would be an inspiration to the photobloggers as well. They are subsumed into the action of the moment. Behind the lens they become fearless. It is their instrument. These are the kinds of people we need to be behind. If citizen journalism is to be and the blogger base will eventually provide cover and support, there has got to be more than just writing in the mix. Check out and support photobloggers.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    October 09, 2005

    A Sense of Small Places & The Shape of Diversity

    There are a number of observations that I have made upon reflection of my recent trip to Greensboro. The first has to do with the big city fantasy of small city life.

    Out here on the Coast, we're all scrambling around - most of us on the upper edge of the middle class anyway - to find that million dollar idea or deal. We say, once we attain that we're going to chuck it all. All the stress and the traffic and competitiveness that we thrive on that occasionally overwhelms us, we say we'll leave the city for some peace and quiet. Maybe finally learn how to play acoustic guitar or fish with our sons. And since we recognize the huge distortions in the value of real estate, we look outward across the country in search of an idyllic place where our tract house mortgage could afford us a mansion and a yacht. And so by consensus, the location of choice seems to be Asheville, NC.

    They say that Asheville is growing, that it's progressive and that it's a very nice place. They say the schools are good, the people are friendly and it's up against the mountains in a beautiful location. They say that 400k can get you a 4,000 square feet house on an acre of land in the better 'burbs. They say that there's an airport nearby and the cable modem service is top notch. I'm sure that there's enough branches of Starbucks around to make you feel as though you're never far from civilization. Sounds like paradise.

    In Ravelstein, among the many ideas presented is that there is a reason that solitary confinement is the worst punishment. We humans are social animals. We need each other desparately. We'd go mad without each other. So the very idea of retiring to the woods is foolish. And yet that fantasy persists. Somewhere along the scale, with New York at the upper end and Timbuktu near the bottom, there is the right level of crowds we need for our mental health and well being. Maybe a small American city has that level, but there's a problem and that problem is the mix.

    As a big city creature, there's a certain level of cunning and wariness I have among crowds. There's a lot to expect from people when there are millions of them in close proximity. Living in LA and NY has made me come to expect just about anything from just about anyone. It's the characteristic of the large set. But when you downscale, you reduce variety by definition. And so I am coming to appreciate that there are various flavors of diversity. Growing up in Southern California, sure you speak a little Spanish, but you also learn to distinguish Veitnamese from Japanese from Chinese from Korean from Philipino. I can't say I'm so good differentiating Indians from Pakistanis, but I'm not completely inept. Point? It's more than just 'Asians'. And let's not even get started on 'Hispanics'.

    In Greensboro at the conference there were many testimonies of pride in their own diversity, but there was not one Asian in the whole joint. I haven't seen one during the whole trip, not even at the airport. As far as I can tell, Greensboro's diversity is a species of black and white. And so, I may very well imagine, is the case for other Southern cities of its size and shape.

    When I spoke to Jill Williams with a skeptic air at the Flatiron over the fate of her Truth & Reconciliation Commission, I did so from the perspective of the impact of 5 murders in the global scheme of things. But I also did so as a race man on the far shore, across my own lake of fire. Anti-racist activism is an absolutely necessary yet relatively thankless task, and it's a hard thing to face that success doesn't often resonate as globally as it might seem. I think it's a function of the relative size and shape of our diversity.

    I want to live in a neighborhood like Aycock. There are several like it in South Pasadena. It's the big house with the big trees and the big porch and the wide street with not much traffic. It's the warm glow of lights on in the evening in wide open windows. It's the free traffic of children and food from house to house and neighbor to neighbor. In all of us lurks the dream of the beloved community. South Pasadena is very very expensive. It draws from a huge metropolis, and so while supply is low, prices are high. Those that got, get, and in LA there are lots of ways to get and consequently a bigger kind of diversity in its cozy places. This is to be expected of a world city.

    I checked IBM's website for jobs. There are none of my description anywhere in the entire state. Troubling. I think we have Jefferson Pilot as a customer, but I didn't find out what the other big employers are in the area - most likely the schools. Of couse the ultimate goal would be to keep my big city salary and live with the small town economy like a big fish in a small town. I could make a difference. I could connect with the city patrons and do. There's a great deal of attraction in that.

    But what troubles me is my own commitment to the small - to the close up and the lost ability to escape. In the big city, I can be conservative easily. That's because the alternative is so large and ungainly. But in the small town one needs to be liberal, because the narrow becomes stifling. The size of the diversity is smaller and therefore embedded with more meaning. A diversity of black and white means little in Los Angeles County. A diversity of black and white is a big deal in the town where the Woolworth Sit In took place.

    I don't mind good old boys, tractor pulls, NASCAR and trailer parks. It's a small part of my big world, and so I can tolerate it. I don't mind slow church folk, and quiet. I can always go to where the action is. It's a balance I've been able to achieve living in my big cities. So the fantasy persists and I'm still attracted to the small, and yet I remember the feeling of isolation when I recognized that even in Atlanta, there were days when I missed the big oceans of humanity I grew up and thrived in.

    Not quite 9 months ago, I was studying Mandarin and poised to head to Beijing. Things change. I've got a lot more thinking to do.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:25 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

    October 08, 2005

    NC Shoutouts

    Here is my carnival of shoutouts to my new friends met in Greensboro.

    First I have to thank Ed Cone for inviting me to Greensboro. It's clear that he's the man, and in many ways the kind of enabler I would hope to be.

    Shoutouts go to my three new families, the folks that made me feel comfortable by putting up with my big head througout the weekend. Dan & Janet from down the Peninsula way. We cracked some good jokes and had some good drinks. Janet, there was nothing wrong with your eye. Dan, it's a good thing we didn't have to close down that bar, I was getting a bit wobbly. You would have had to deal with the Army Shirt, yourself. Dave & Jinni from Aycock. I'm not going to forget your hospitality and you have definitely put Greensboro on the relocation map for me. One of these days we're going to have to have a kid's concert. In the meantime I'm going to get you postage so you can get me some pork. Also David and Lisa hanging out after dinner. Good convo - I wish we could have brought it back around to Diebold code and dogs, but I imagine that we would have sooner or later. I dig you all's passion but I was getting worn out.

    Other shoutouts, to my hometown homie Cutler. To Jill and Joya, more power to you. See you after victory, which is no doubt coming soon. To Mickey, thanks for your gracious offer. It turns out that I have a 10:30 flight anyway, but I look forward to the day when we can get fairly deep into our questions. Maybe before Lucifer Jones.

    To Duncan & Mathew: Conquer Mexico! It's absolutely shocking to me that you got over 500 comments. It is like a strange disturbance in the force. Anyway. Death to post-modernists, and explain why you suggest VDH is not worth reading.

    Shoutouts go to Tiffany for keeping a level head during a semi-hijack. You handled it like a pro. Also thanks for the plug. Christy, sorry about the mixup and thanks for the correction. A toast to real mountains. George, thanks for stopping by, it's always good to hear from engineers. To Michael, I didn't get to follow up on your Panthers theory of literature. Some people don't know when to shutup. To Chris Nolan for injecting some much needed skepticism and some historical perspective. To Stewart for the flavor of repetitive motion and to Chris for the interview. Thanks a million - hey can I get a copy of that tape? BTW, now you know that I give better soundbites than Sharpton. tsk tsk tsk.

    Shoutouts also go to Arthea, Ms. Rose and the other gracious staff at NCA&T. You guys have got it going on, and your students are unsung heroes for their tech support. To Chaka for finding my schwag and to JC for the lift.

    A special recgonition and thanks goes to all of you who showed up at my session. You know I could have kept talking forever... Thanks for your questions and all the directions we went. Remember to trackback!

    Also shouts to Bora, Napolitano, Roch, Shu, Lex (dinner was the bomb), and a double shout out to Dave Hoggard for the hugs and hospitality. I had a blast.

    The people and community of Greensboro are lucky to have all yall, and I guess I've gotten out of here with just enough reality to keep my vision of Greensboro properly romantic. Next time we'll do the full tour. Oh yeah and who called 'Miles Ahead' Blues and Jazz? Man you can keep that folksy stuff.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:31 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

    ConvergeSouth - Blog Marketing Seminar

    This short blog entry contains a link to the reference material I presented on Satuday afternoon. So if you missed the extraordinary presentation and the great audience, at least you have a Powerpoint.

    Download file

    If you're one of those guys who hates MS and has Open Office, I think it converts .ppt files. Mac I'm not so sure about.. I think I can convert it to a Postscript thingy..

    Posted by mbowen at 11:45 AM | TrackBack

    What Difference Does Blogging Make?

    Dave Winer threw in the monkey wrench yesterday afternoon by asking this question. The short answer is "It makes a difference to me, so who cares what you think?"

    The long answer is an extension of the same. But let me bring in a tangent from a German dude who put a question to Ambra re: my blogmeme about 100 things:

    I don't want to be a killjoy here, but what is the American obsession with America? I may be German, but my dialog rarely has anything to do with Germany as an entity. My contact with Americans has mostly been through online forums, so this may not reflect the reality, but it seems to me that Americans are very self consious. If anyone mentions some 3rd world country, an American liberal will pipe in - it's Americas fault, we armed the militia, we supported the junta or something similar.

    If an issue of race, for example in South Africa, is brought up - some American will immediately draw the conversation back the race issues in _your_ country. Most Americans, even those that hate America, seem to think that the world revolves around America.

    I've never been there. My sister was, and she said she went on a train, arrived somewhere, and there were ONLY black people there. That was shocking. That a single city can be so segregated that areas are only of one ethnicity. That's the one thing I hate about America, and love about Germany. We blacks in Germany are like chocolate sprinkles on a vanilla cake - spread out everywhere, but in small quantities.

    Jay Rosen says that the ethics of blogging starts with the way that people establish trust. There are a set of expectations between the writer and the reader that once established are an organic set of ethics. Where he was leading with this didn't get completely spelled out but as the conference has moved forward, I have come to some preliminary conclusions.

    One of those conclusions came today in the 'Outsider Blogging' seminar, one that got sidetracked a bit by a touch of obnoxiousness. But one of the many points that was made, one that stood out was that the 'blogosphere' itself is something of a problem. That is to say, as I've mentioned in The Mystery of the Black Blogger, that there is resistance to concept of blogging and the environment of the blogosphere by outsiders because what they want from the internet tools are different than what 'white males' may be using for currently.

    So the issue is that blogs are blogocentric. And in the context of an America-fixated America, there is a great deal of lost potention with regard to attention spans. We are all talking to ourselves about ourselves, and because we all think we are somebody, that's good enough for us. The blogosphere is a mirror, an American mirror, and who gets a word in edgewise? Few.

    But you know what? That's OK, which is the short answer above. Which raises the question about why the question was raised. That goes to Dave Winer.

    I've decided that Dave Winer is an ass. He's not a dumbass and I don't think he's a smartass, but the assness is clearly evident. He has an uncanny ability to speak the obvious in such a way that it makes him appear to be unthoughtful, where he clearly is a thoughtful man. After having heard him jump into about 4 different conversations, often unbidden, it is clear to me that in group situations, he rubs me the wrong way. I'm not the only one. Perhaps it is that he thinks the rest of us are not quite as thoughtful... whatver. If he has a redeeming quality it is that at least he's not a pompous ass. I've known that Winer is a voodoo doll, a magnet for criticism, and now I'v met the man, I'm going to have to read it. I made the damned fool decision to suggest that he might be interested in coding XRepublic. What was I thinking? That's beside the point, if I were really so dedicated to it, I'd be coding instead of blogging, which I am not. Blogging, for the moment, is what's important.

    I understand that the primary problem with blogging is that it is not collaborative. It doesn't generate consensus. But that's about it. How much consensus do we need mediated by computer spaces? We've gotten along fairly well without it for the history of humanity. Nobody knows how to properly abstract all of this monologuing anyway. It's all so much reading material - a new library. Nobody would suggest that libraries be limited until one finds a way to summarize and parse the facts presented therein. And so there you have it. Blogging is a writer's domain and it works for the readers. That's all it needs to be.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:02 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    October 07, 2005

    Greensboro NC - Day One - Afternoon

    Shu is the 'Blog Hunter'. He tells me that Drupal and CivicSpace mak a good combination for a community portal. This is his platfrom for putting together some support for the VFW.

    The Ethics of Blogging
    Quote of the day "Big media tells you 'Trust Me', a blogger says 'Don't trust me, here's what I think, find out for yourself.' The hilarity contained in that from the POV of an ex-New Yorker, is that 'trust me' translates in yiddish to 'fuck you'.

    Nothing else from the afternoon stands out particularly. My experience of Rosen's lecture was sidetracked by the burning question in my head that was deferred until the end - although it didn't dry up like a raisin in the sun.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:18 AM | TrackBack

    Greensboro NC - Day One - Morning

    Two minutes, she said. Ten minutes later, I realized that she must have thought that I was driving. But I walked the distance from Downtown to NCAT where the conference got started. I was hoping to make it in time to get some sausages and orange juice. As it turned out, I found a nice lady, Ms Rose who was driving over to the conference center from the office of University Relations that I just happened by.

    So I got here. But there were no sausages.

    I caught the ending part of the opening session, and it became even clearer to me that this conference is definitely of some benefit to the NCAT students who comprised about a good third of the audience.

    Voices from Iraq
    Two young ladies spoke about their experiences with communicating with American soldiers. There wasn't a great deal of surprises in their stories. They were stationed in Baghdad inside the Green Zone and were decidedly about blogging about the lives of the soldiers. By avoiding the politics of the siutation, they tried to humanize the situation. Me, I need some hardball politics to get me interested, but there were some interesting revelations.

    My quersion was bout the character of reporting and the contrast between American journalists vs foreign journalists. They said that they never left the Green Zone, and quite frankly I couldn't see either of these two young women wanting to even if they could. But that there were a good number of foreign correspondants who were going to the badlands.

    After the sessions, a guy from the local Fox affiliate gave me a 5 minute interview. He had recorded some of my keystrokes for the audio track, and then asked me a few questions. Being the guy from Los Angeles helped, not to mention my photgenics. So watch Channel 8 tonight. You might see me.

    Community Building
    I know that I like Dave Hoggard for a number of reasons, but I can't remember the reasons. It doesn't matter because he's here, I'm here and we're happy to be here together. Tonight he's got the BBQ going, so I'll be happy to be there too. His was the first presentation in the Community Building forum. Dave is one of those people for whom 'guileless' applies nicely. His honesty is refreshing, and that's why he's the man giving the party. It turns out that there were people from all around who threw a party for his family to raise funds to help meet some cancer bills. Talking about a family member's cancer is not the easiest way to make friends, but one whiff of Dave's enthusiasm shows that he deserves it.

    I think I finally understand Carnivals. I never even bothered to check it out. But now, thanks to a guy named Bora, I understand. I'm going to have to figure out how to get a few going.

    It turns out that Bora is doing some interesting work to hookup people in the sciences through his connection to Tangled Bank. So the trick about Carnivals is that a different blogger will host a linkfest and rotate on a regular basis. You submit your best blogpost and that works anthropologically. Hmm.

    Quote of the day "Glenn Reynolds is standing in the middle of the merry-go-round with his hands up."

    I got into it a little bit about our conversation with each other that the blogosphere is enabling, very much in line with what I said in Las Vegas. Fortunately, Dave Winer piped up with the monkey wrench of the day. Unfortunately it happened at the end of the session just when time was about up, and then the room spilled over into his corner instead of to the dais. Since I have a bit to say on the matter, I'll take it up in a separate post. His question - "What difference does it make?"

    A cat named Doug recorded a touch of our conversation. Winer's idea that died at the 'Altamont of blogging conferences' was about a couple of respectful disagreements as a blog. Left vs Right with respect. I could do that, and I believe that's what's going on at Begging to Differ. So while I grant Dave is not being disingenuous, I'm not sure what a public display of civility is going to do. Will people care?

    Posted by mbowen at 09:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    October 06, 2005

    Greensboro NC - Day Zero

    I'm sitting ate gate C27 in Chicago belching up the last remnants of hotdog and Coke, wondering if I actually have a hotel room. It's not that Ed hasn't been organized, it's just that I don't have my normal emailed itineraries downloaded. I know the hotel is supposed to be cozy and funky, but I don't know the name of the hotel.

    I'm a bit scribbleheaded but glad to be out of the ordinary grind. I won't miss that air-conditioned supercomputer center much, but at least I had fallen into a groove. Greensboro is going to be free-form, loose, give and take. I'll speak, I'll listen. It will be good. I'm into the entire improvisational mood of it already; my flight is an hour late and that's OK.

    Tomorrow is the journalism part of the conference. Tonight when I get to my room, I'll sit up and blog some more and map out a strategy for my session which I think is an hour. An hour is no time at all, really. I need to come up with a distinguished soundbite and several useful anecdotes. The difficulty in the timing of all this is that I'm doing a complete review of multiculturalism in reading Hanson, Heath and Thornton. It's taking me back to my strong defense of Allan Bloom in the 80s and my original affinity for Bill Bennett. To the extent that Identity is part currency of blogging and some of the subject of my presentation, I'm going to be more provocative than persuasive. Identity and politics mix, but in the abstract they raise conflicts with classic ideas and modernism. In other words, does it matter who you are (vis a vis multiculturally privileged categories) when blogging. Yes and no. But which ways should it matter and which ways shouldn't it?

    You can see this may be difficult, considering I have stopped being a black Republican and am only a Republican. There are no existential goodies left, only politics, values, principles and flux.

    My seminar is entitled (something to do with branding). I am branding with my face, with my byline and through various devices. But mostly, I beleive that I am read because of the Socratic and analytic nature of my writing. Which is dead spot on with regard to Hanson et al. And yet, in fighting for and defending the Old School, I am doing a bit of identity blogging too. I am very aware of this knife edge, let's see if I get cut. Some of the branding is mechanical as well. Blogrolling, tactical trackbacking, folding in email sources, participation in surveys, blog leagueing, getting into blogstorms, and topics of the day, technorati keywording, typekey registration, RSS feeding... did I forget anything? But if you put me into a naked pyramid, I'd confess that it's all about the writing, and the fundamental relationship forced upon a conscientious person who has readers.

    Tonight, I'm going to add a new entry to Cobb's Rules. "Eventually, you get the audience you deserve." Right now, it's time to get on the plane. See you in 3 hours...

    Posted by mbowen at 04:56 PM | TrackBack

    Holla South

    If there is anybody I know, or even vaguely know out in North Carolina, won't you give me a shout. I'll be in Greensboro starting tonight through the weekend. It's always nice to put faces and bodies and narratives in place with cyber abstractions. Send me an email or text me at 310 872 7373 (which is also my mobile). I'll be liveblogging Greensboro and taking a hatload of high quality pictures - the kind I wish I had taken in New Orleans.

    After this weekend, I'll be back off the road and that means the comic will return.

    I'll then begin focusing on The Conservative Brotherhood, which is going through some changes as we speak.

    BTW, if any of you got the LATimes yesterday and read the story about dumping indigents on Skid Row, you probably saw a picture of Doc, my brother. It was from the rear, which was a trip because although I couldn't see his face, he was clearly recognizable to me.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:29 AM | TrackBack

    October 04, 2005

    Thinking about Greensboro

    Finally, things are starting to wind down and I can begin to focus on my trip to Greensboro. I checked out the 'Ahead of the Curve' piece and the opening jazz and the easy pace of it got me in the mood to meet some fine folks, have some good food and enjoy some stimulating conversation. I'm thinking of a tree and a breeze and a smile on my face as I take a couple of days vacation from this crazy world I'm hooked into right now, to connect with some other human beings on a level not directly tied into... whatever it is I do 9-5. Or should I say 7:30 to 9, as it has been for the past 3 weeks.

    I actually heard something on that video that I don't think I've ever heard before: 'Local Blogosphere'. The very idea that a city has a concept of a local blogosphere is a fairly great development. It's making me think that we're going to find out something about people power from the smaller cities and towns where 100 people can make a difference. I've been thinking about this concept for at least 20 years, or at least since the advent of the free bulletin board service and the $75 modem. I first proposed it to Theresa Hughes, who was then just about to be appointed to the California Public Utilities Commission. At the time, it must have been around 1987, I wondered if she'd mind setting up a computer and having all of her issues and schedule on it for the public to see. Little did I know at the time, there would hardly be any public to look. The idea never really got off the ground, but the City of Santa Monica did some experimenting back in those days. I suppose it wasn't until MoveOn.org that any real online politicking got noticed, but that really skipped over the municipal. I think it's got to go back.

    I want to get a flavor that when I head back east in a couple days. I'll report back.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:55 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

    Deet Reviews Serenity

    My brother Deet has the scoop:

    Ever since I was a kid, I've been drawn to science fiction. I remember being spellbound as a kid reading "Martian Chronicles" by Ray Bradbury. I didn't understand most of it at the time but that book had a profound effect on me.

    Now that, I'm an adult, I still find myself drawn to the genre. I still buy Michael Crichton novels and I'm currently reading Phillip K. Dick's "A Scanner Darkly", the book Keanu Reeves' next film is based on.

    It's very rare that I buy DVDs. They have to strike me as so incredible, I would never think of trading them in. One look through my collection says a lot about what appeals to me: Terminator 3, The Matrix, the Star Wars Trilogy, Lord of the Rings, Contact, Minority Report...sense a trend here?

    Well, earlier tonight I saw another very good film, Joss Whedon's "Serenity". I'll be honest, before seeing the film, I had no idea who Whedon was and that he gained quite a following from his TV Series, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly---a series that was the genesis of many of the characters in Serenity. But I thoroughly enjoyed the film, especially Whedon's terrific writing and great characters.

    The film chronicles one Captain Mal Reynolds' renegade crew of rebels that fight against an evil intergalactic government called the Alliance that doggedly pursues a gifted young girl the crew has rescued. I thought the film had excellent humor, great action sequences and a hero who battles evil and holds a rag tag crew together for the fight of their lives. The young girl, River Tan, they've taken on to protect has psychic powers and fights like...well, combine Beatrix Kiddo from "Kill Bill" with Trinity from the Matrix and you'll come pretty close.

    We've come a long way since Ray Bradbury and I'm glad to witness our science fiction's progress first-hand.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:43 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    Tuesday Fragments

  • Despite the 'failure' of public education, Americans still win Nobel Prizes.

  • Sun + Google are going to be announcing something today. What could it be? What do I hope? The Google Operating System.

  • Nick Cage is great in 'The Lord of War'. Excellent grownup movie. Firefly DVDs are flying off the shelves.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
  • Lining Up on Miers

    Already, people seem to know so much. That's always disturbing to me.

    I honestly don't care one way or the other who is nominated to the Supreme Court much like I don't care who is the lead programming architect at Microsoft. That job is so complicated that I don't want to engage in the conciet that I know anything substantial about it. Nor are my interests so particular or strong that they must in some way be validated by concurrence.

    Miers strikes me as emminently qualified, and qualified in a unique and different way. I like that she's not a judge and that she breaks the mold. I like what Kay Bailey Hutchinson said about her on the radio yesterday. I like that Bush's antagonists can't stand her because she is close to him, and the thin pretense of that. I like that she's a she, for what it's worth, and I like that she's a Texan.

    As you can see, I'm basing this generally positive assessment without knowing, or much caring 'where she stands on the issues'. I don't have any issues so I don't have to care. But this is a different species of not caring than apathy. It is the species of not caring related to not giving oneself a headache over something inevitable. In that regard, I am looking to Boyd who says that in order to be free one must be rich or reduce one's needs to zero. What do I need from the Supreme Court? Just about zero.

    But I am not free of the Supreme Court any more than I am free of the price of gasoline. Still, I can walk between the redrawn lines of the law whatever they may be, just as I may conserve gasoline.

    I'll be a happy spectator on this one, watching the reactions of the fans rather than the strategies and tactics of the player herself.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:19 AM | TrackBack

    October 03, 2005

    100 Things I Love About America

    I've never been one for starting a blogmeme, but I think I'd like to see this one grow. In no particular order. Do it and trackback!

    1. Watching kids fix their bikes.
    2. Gumbo.
    3. Spring Break.
    4. Easter Egg hunts.
    5. The John Muir Trail.
    6. Frequent flyer miles.
    7. Johnny Cash
    8. Liquor stores.
    9. Magazine Racks
    10. Leather furniture.
    11. Malls with Ice Skating Rinks.
    12. Midwestern plain spokeness.
    13. Budweiser.
    14. Blue lights in the basement.
    15. ATM Machines
    16. Blockbuster Movies
    17. Public Libraries.
    18. Charity car washes.
    19. Farmer's Markets.
    20. Chinese delivery.
    21. Flavored toothpaste.
    22. Six Flags.
    23. Rotating restaurants.
    24. Sumptuous lobbies with receptionists.
    25. Wal-Mart.
    26. Free seminars.
    27. Science fairs.
    28. Speakers on a dais.
    29. Dog shows.
    30. The new fall season.
    31. Treehouses.
    32. Trout fishing.
    33. Extreme sports.
    34. Elections.
    35. Top Ten Lists.
    36. 'New and Improved'
    37. Western movies.
    38. Roadhouse blues.
    39. The Great Salt Lake.
    40. Mt. Rainier.
    41. The Pacific Coast Highway.
    42. The Fort Pitt Bridge
    43. American River - South Fork
    44. Menemsha Bight
    45. The Back Bay Fens
    46. The D Train.
    47. 7th Avenue Park Slope
    48. South Pasadena, CA.
    49. 1957 Corvette Convertible.
    50. Air Shows.
    51. Martin Luther King.
    52. The Gentlemen's Club
    53. Jim Beam Rye.
    54. New York Strip.
    55. Corn
    56. The Bacon Cheeseburger.
    57. Laptop Computers.
    58. Roadside Hotels.
    59. AAA
    60. The Boy Scouts.
    61. Harley Davidson.
    62. Denim.
    63. Cotton Candy.
    64. John Phillip Sousa.
    65. George Clinton
    66. Thelonius Monk
    67. Humphrey Bogart
    68. Catholic School
    69. The Breakfast cereal aisle.
    70. Christmas
    71. Picnics
    72. Memorial Day Weekend.
    73. The School Play.
    74. The Wall Street Journal.
    75. PBS
    76. HBO
    77. Muhammad Ali
    78. Vodka Martini
    79. Oysters Rockefeller.
    80. Lemon Meringue
    81. Fallingwater.
    82. Mark Twain.
    83. Tupelo Swamp.
    84. Carnegie Hall
    85. Ohio Stadium
    86. The Rose Parade
    87. The Three Stooges
    88. RJ45
    89. Rent a Cars.
    90. REI
    91. Bean Bag Chairs
    92. Whiteboards
    93. Hardware Stores.
    94. KFC
    95. Amazon.com
    96. Taking the family to Church on Sunday
    97. Thanksgiving
    98. Birthday Parties
    99. Highschool Reunions
    100. Leisure Time.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:17 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

    Stats and Morals

    A long time ago, I used to deal with the Angry White Male phonomenon in a confrontational manner. Today I saw some statistics that reminded me of those bad old days:

    6. Black Men Are Disproportionately Incarcerated 5 million: Number of men of any race who have ever served time in state or federal prison in 2001 1.9 million: Number of black men who have ever served time in state or federal prison as of 2001 704,000: Number in 1979 630,700: Number of white men in prison or jail 818,900: Number of black men in prison or jail 195,500: Number of black men ages 18-24 in prison or jail 17: Percentage of black men who have ever served time in prison

    But before I deal with any puny fractions here, I want to make a note of the difference between a statistical concern and a moral concern. As followers of the Bennett controversy should know by now, what is rational in utilitarian terms is not always rational in moral terms. The reverse is true as well. What is dismissible in utilitarian terms is not always dismissible in moral terms.

    Still, I'm going to stress the stats.

    As we have long known, those of us who follow Ellis Cose, blackfolks who have nothing to do with crime or criminality are always being unfairly asked to be accountable for the legendary disproportionality. Whenever I hear that argument I say that in order to be consistent, black should be disproportionately commended for the good. It usually it doesn't work, but it depends upon the aim of the interlocutor. Just as this 17% figure tends to show up when the subject is crime, I like to shoot back the 30% figure with regards to black enlistment in the armed forces. 'We' may be overrepresented in jail, but our overreprentation in patriotic duty is way more impressive, statistically speaking. Of course it never seems to have the moral sway it should with the sorts of folks who bring up the 17%. I wonder why.

    Even so, it should be a cursory bit of knowledge that there are about 36 million or so blackfolks in this country now, roughly half of which are men. So while it's fun to toss around the idea that 17% of prisoners are black, those 17% are only (given the figures above) about 4.5% of black American males. In other words, 95.5% of us aren't. So when has 4.5% of a population become the responsibility of the rest, or justified some characterization of the rest?

    Let me put it this way, let's take a similar statistic about gay men.

    Only 6 percent of men in the NCHS study reported engaging in oral or anal sex with another man during their lifetimes, while the percentage of men reporting same-sex sexual behavior in the CUNY-Queens College study fluctuated over the years between 3.5 and 5.5 percent.

    So imagine that I as a man asked for advice about my marriage, and you know that since about 4.5% of men are homosexual, you start talking about what gay men do. It's something I think very few people would suggest, but the relative statistics are the same. This is why I tend to get incensed when matters of African American politics and culture touch the waters of jail and crime stats. Let's see if this rhetorical device works for me in the future.

    In the meantime note that while the statistical percentages suggest that this problem be pushed off to the side, there is a larger moral issue at hand - which is the issue of crime and punishment itself. Surely only a few of any society are criminal, but they will continue to get a disporportionate amount of our political attention, and rightly so.

    So the next time I say bah and humbug to any discussion about black crime, understand where I'm coming from. I don't even *know* any black men in jail.

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

    October 02, 2005

    Confessions of a Street Addict

    (from the archives: July 2002)

    I reviewed Jim Cramer's book.

    there are a lot of folks who have discovered plenty of reasons to hate jim cramer, but if you are a more pedestrian or heaven forbid, emotive person who happens to be interested in high finance, jim cramer could be your hero, and this book shows you why.

    i should say that i have been a part-time hack investor for about 17 years. i am not employed in the financial industry, i'm a software guy. as a software guy, i appreciate a rowdy sense of irreverence and an ability to get to the nitty-gritty of a problem with a minimum of foo-foo. and after years of putting up with rukeyser's waspy effete mannerisms and cornball puns, guys like cramer are a godsend. when i think of all the years that i listened to lou dobbs and paul kangas before we got to the likes of david faber and joe kernen, i shudder. finally, here's a book about wall street for people not born in the hamptons.

    jim cramer is the bill clinton of financial commentary. all brains and ego and no tact. so right away you love him or hate him. reading this book (i swallowed it whole in one weekend) is a raucus journey straight to the heart of obsession. cramer has got the money bug in his blood and you can tell he thrives on his business just as some of the extreme folks in the software industry are fiends for their craft. you can taste his desire and you can also feel his anxiety. his is the story of a man who found he had a knack for something he never expected and the nerve not to let wealth change the fundamental kind of crusty individual he was. he's a straight-talker in a world where people paint themselves in muted pastels all the while participating in the most brutal of zero-sum games, hedge fund trading.

    if puritans are right in their edicts to never a lender or borrower be, cramer's story fleshes out the cautionary tale. nothing makes for villification like theft, but cramer shows how even association with theft or being a victim of theft can quickly destroy a reputation. he also shows how honest mistakes feel like theft when you're the investor. wall street is shown to be close but not clubby. implicit in every transaction is "i'm the one who is making you rich/poor and don't you forget it." given the stochastic nature of the stock market, clearly one needs nerves of steel, a great deal of luck and exhaustive research and great communication to succeed. considering the hate mail cramer obviously gets, it's clear how harshly individuals can suffer at the hands of those who obviously never forget it.

    do i feel sorry for cramer? no. he's a sympathetic character for the arc of his journey and the boldness with which he pursued it, not because he's a nice guy. he lived and died by the sword over and over and that's fair. his industry has given him all the rewards and punishments he deserved. i find his story admirably honest in a self-serving way, and in this book you are treated to an insider's view with perspective. yet he doesn't speak out of school or punish people in his pages. you get the feeling that there is a great deal more that he knows but didn't say (and shouldn't)

    there is no question that this book is about cramer by cramer and crammed with cramer, but it also offers insight into what it *feels* like to be on the line every day trying to make things happen with other people's money. it shows the kinds of rules wall streeters must live with and how integrity is deeply part of the business. i've read nothing which illustrates it better than the section dramatizing the run on cramer berkowitz as a collateral effect of the fall of long term capital management. it's a real nail biter.

    i wrote a review about the inside game on IPOs in 2000 and basically said that you'd be a fool to try and play that game. i've been a month-trader but never a day-trader. i think my review got panned because i said those who thought they were joking by calling themselves 'fools' would find the joke on them and it's funny looking back on that now. i also had the good fortune to meet one of the principals of sanford c. bernstein co and he suggested subtly that 'irrational exuberance' was an understatement. i thank cramer for being out there with a loud, cranky voice that speaks passionately about the investment world with the level of energy that the gaining and losing of career sized chunks of fortune deserve.

    in these days of enron and worldcom, americans will be thankful that mouths and brains like cramer are out there with the inside scoop on the wallstreet culture. on the other hand, maybe i just think louis rukeyser is a crashing bore.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:49 AM | TrackBack

    October 01, 2005

    Decline and Fall

    If you let your children watch this. Please keep them away from mine.

    Posted by mbowen at 03:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Ofra Bikel's Journey

    Americans think they know America. The only people who really look closely are the ones who don't feel quite American. That would include myself and Ofra Bikel. Bikel has returned to OJ Simpson in her new PBS documentary. A thoughtful person forwarded this information to me and so I am considering the nature of journeys pursued in search of each other in America.

    I know that I am a special brand of American, and I'm particularly proud of that brand, which is why I spend hours pontificating here in the 'sphere. I recognize that, no matter how clear, comfortable and obvious I appear to myself, family and friends, that there are millions upon millions of America who simply don't get it. And so I write. But I am also compelled to listen more closely and try to make sense of this complex society, its politics, values, philosophical and existential dilemmas. I love the very idea of cultural geography - that where you live makes you something different.

    So this country must seem all that and then some for those fascinated by it around the world. And those who come to live in our cities and towns must find it remarkably strange that we don't even know ourselves very well. And it's true - we don't.

    For me, this discovery goes back to Marshall Blonsky's American Mythologies and his investigation into the signs and symbols of American wealth, power, privilege and taste. Where they come from, what they actually mean and how people interpret and give meaning to them. I was rather shocking to me that much meaning is invested in a thin veneer of respectability that once punctured leaves people drifting aimlessly and then clutching more tightly to other symbols and signs.

    This was particularly difficult for me to deal with, given my own profile as a successful professional in a new field of endeavor, computer science, that had never before had a class of successful professionals. When I moved to New York City, everyone told me I wore the wrong kind of shoes. When I flew to Logan Airport with West African print pants and no luggage, the FBI agent told me that I looked like a drug courier.

    But this is not about the existentials of 'being black', this is about a journey of discovery in a nation beside itself with confusion, and how we are emerging into a new world of classes and philes even as old ones are being clutched in desparation.

    As human interest goes, there are few things as compelling as matters of life and death, war and peace, justice and injustice. So it comes as no surprise that we might find investigations into matters which have implications in all three dimensions as most worthy of getting the attention of television producers. After all, as Whoopi noted, television is the only place where you can have a million friends and still be considered a total loser. The economics of attention are what they are. So if you are on a journey to discover black Americans, there are few places to go in television journalism but to matters of the Justice System, and what better symbol of all that than the OJ Trial.

    I can't tell you how tired I am of the story. I was tired of it when the Bronco Chase interrupted the ballgame I was watching that night in a bar on 7th Avenue in Park Slope. I was tired of it when my pager beeped me with the verdict however many months later. I was focused and exasperated because within the sense of a collective fate, so many millions were hoping and praying for a sign, a symbol that Justice was present in their homeland.

    I wrote a poem about that whole thing, and I'd say it's one of my better poems. It made the pages of HotWired's Net Soup back ten years ago. The effort made to write that and this other piece about OJ the Black Male Image was about all I cared in that particular direction. It was all a part of the effort to convey ones humanity in a nation too large and too preoccupied to care beyond symbols. And so I wrote, before the verdict came down:

    As for O.J., either one hopes against hopes that O.J. will be freed and that symbolically the black man will be free or, like me, we continue to laugh at the punk. Whether or not he gets a fair trial is beside the point, because only the jury and the court officers and the appellate knows for sure. One can have faith, but I think there are much better things to have faith in. The point of us looking at this trial anyway, I have already described. We are to learn a lesson about spousal abuse. It doesn't matter what happens with O.J., what matters is that we were supposed to learn a lesson. Either way the jury decides, all the legal followup on the technical merits of the case will take place for the benefit of the legal community. America doesn't pay attention to that. The question for America is does the wife-beater get away or not? Either way, the black male face is imprinted on this cautionary tale. But that is the manipulation. The individual black male has nothing to do with it. But we knew that before, didn't we? So after all, this is really nothing to get excited about. Unless of course, you are some kind of orphan.

    The OJ trial was racialized because OJ represented something to blackfolks as we are, in our own way, trying to make sense of our emergence in America. Wealthy, powerful or famous blacks are not role-models so much as they are crash-test dummies to us. We want to know if, how and when they will be destroyed and on what terms. We expect that nobody makes it, that there is some kind of inevitable pain associated with black greatness. It might be the relative poverty and powerlessness of Hank Aaron, the greatest baseball player alive. It might be or the bullet reserved for Colin Powell if he were to announce his candidacy for president. It might be the ignomy faced by Paul Robeson. We all want to be the Emperor Jones, but we still hear dem drums. We are paranoid climbers on the great mountain of America and no matter how high we get, we keep looking down.

    Because we keep looking down, we look down upon each other and we allow others to look down upon us. And somehow all blackfolks end up in some kind of collusion when the subject of attention (economics being what they are) centers around the least fortunate of our brothers. Everybody has to 'keep it real', and so all of our fates are tied to the fates of prisoners, crack dealers, pimps, whores, thugs, theives and the occasional, assimilated, well-off, suburban dwelling moral miscreant. There is no such thing as black success, it is only a figment of the imaginations of real successful blackfolks - you know, the kind you never see on television.

    Never is a harsh word. Of course blackfolks are doing OK. Otherwise all the cities would be burning down, right? African Americans have nothing to complain about, right?

    There is no Negro Problem of substance any longer. One cannot stand in the United Nations or have a conference in Bandung declaring the plight of the American Negro as uniquely poignant in the world. The loss of the Negro Problem has left many of us perplexed. How exactly should we see blackfolks? What are the appropriate symbols? How can we deal with the obvious differences in how we all think and view the world? What are some fungible sources of information? It's an enormous problem because the race problem has become too complicated, and there's no simple way to discuss all we have to discuss at a distance. There has arisen no appropriate vocabulary to contain all of the hopes and concerns of a liberal impulse to share. It was so much easier back in the 60s when your average privileged graduate student could say it all in a couple paragraphs. Yet even by 1971 it was too late. All we could do was cross-over and be polite, but the questions remained. Who are you people? What do you want? That question can and never will be answered in the abstract. Who blackfolks are depends entirely upon your direct relationship to them. If you have none, it's your fault. Go read a book blog or something.

    Last night I listened to a Beach Boys song whose refrain was 'I wanna go home'. I never heard the recording before, but I distinctly remember somebody white in my distant past trying to get us kids to sing it at camp or someplace. All the lyrics seemed, both then and now to be ridiculous. Immediately before that song on the radio last night was Aretha Franklin's song, R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Everybody knows that song, or at least I think so. The lyrics still make sense to me today, though I pity the fool to whom they were originally directed. Music might be a way to know America. It's a good start, I suppose. From my perspective, it gives human beings the dignity of distance not afforded by curious strangers who dare to bound the boundaries of daily discourse.

    There's no upscale black neighborhood. There is no old black downtown. The dream and the paradigm of the pre-integration Talented Tenth caring for our own has been shattered by a new integration and a new economy. There's no place to gather a thoughtful collection of black middle class Americans to see where we were, are and are going. That town hall does not exist. You pretty much have to take individuals' words for a consensus that defies practical reality. If Cosby speaks, then it's Cosby. But nobody elected him. We want to listen, we want to believe, but in the end there is no mutual binding contract. We're just free. We're just free.

    Black freedom has taken away our metaphors. It has wrecked havoc on our symbols. There's too many of us going in too many directions at once. All that remains certain of black is that it is the color of would-be aborted babies to lower crime, or would-be savages rampaging maniaclly at the Superdom, or would-be victims of injustice, persecution and oppression. With 38 million of us, you're bound to find plenty who fit the profile. Perhaps that's all anybody needs to do. Perhaps that's all anybody needs to know. And yet, in the shadow of that monolith are those of us who are what we are, just as materially unaffected by stupefying poverty as the rest of the world who watches PBS, yet with the same thoughtful curiousity and human empathy as those who have the budget and time to knock door to door at Robert Taylor Homes, or wherever the hot getto mess is this week.

    They say that all it takes for evil to triumph is for men of goodwill to turn away. I feel that. In that same way I feel that all it takes to undermine the image of strength is to promote an image of decay. I feel that troubling investment everywhere, because I personally feel like a character from Thomas Mann. The great loneliness of thoughtfulness and discipline is my companion. So I too journey through America. My journey is to find justice and harmony. And when I get there, bounding over boundaries, it takes a while. And then the people there discover that I too speak English, and then they start opening up and talking.

    If I could put out a couple of symbols for our negotiation, I would suggest that there is a conservative black America and a liberal white America, both with deep roots. Both are trying to get what the other has. One is an emerging force of righteousness and confidence, the other is a disillusioned force of guilt and confusion. And yet the guilty force has the resources the confident force lacks. I don't know when those powers will be balanced and righted, probably not in my generation. But it is strange how our paths cross these days.

    So now we look back at the OJ Simpson verdict ten years later. Where are those black and white Americas going? I don't know, maybe I'll talk more about it.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:23 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    Bennett's Glorious Example

    I'm through being mad about Bill Bennett. In fact, the way I see it, he has gone from being a hapless victim to a stellar hero. But that only depends on how long and hard you are willing to think about what he said. I'll give you a shortcut to understanding.

    Imagine you were a radio talk show host and you wanted to make a point about the value of morals vs the value of economics. The subject is abortion and your position is that abortion is wrong and there can be no economic justification for it. You'd be right where Bennett was just recently.

    So you search your brain for an example of this logic that is so compelling that as soon as you say it, you'll have millions of people understanding that the value of morality is much greater than the value of economics.

    "Abort all black babies to lower crime".

    Bennett is a genius. He was able, with just a few short sentences to bring a level of uproar so powerful, so resonant with the American psyche that people still can't get the idea out of their heads. The concept encapsulated in those seven small words is so powerful, so earthshatteringly dangerous that it has turned our world upside down. It is so morally contemptuous that people have come out of their homes screaming in the streets. By simply naming it, he has brought the public to attention to a concept which is universally reviled.

    And we will do everything possible to see that such a thing never happens in America.

    Why? Because Bill Bennett is right. There can be no economic justification, no matter how large, to induce people to favor abortion. Americans will stand together toe to toe to see that there is no lost generation. Everyone who has rushed to have an opinion and the moral outrage of those seven words has proven that money doesn't matter when it comes to questions of unborn babies. Economics can't trump morality and we won't stand for it. There are certain things that you just don't do, no matter what the economic benefits might be.

    Go ahead and tell me that's not the point.

    Sista Toljah got it right.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:25 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

    Of Assimilated Negroes, Cabbages and Kings

    The thing that you should not first do is start reading this negro and not finish the wonderful post I am about to write. After all he did call my blog poop. Not intentionally, but he should have known that it would get back to me. Such is the uncanny claustrophobia of the Kwaku Network. Sooner or later you get to meet everyone except Zadie Smith. Oh why didn't I meet Zadie Smith?

    On the other hand I can't blame you if you do want to sneak a peek over thataway because I've been a serious dorkwad for too long over here. Katrina sucked most of the humor out of me and I've been working too many 12 hour days. Plus a friend of mine has disappeared, or just kind of gone to that place where all friends who drift apart go - into the zone of civilized nonchalance. If I see my friend again, I'm sure to get a handshake. Big Whoop. And so for a plurality of reasons (Oh snap, I owe Ambra a happy birthday and an essay on pluralism) it's all coming to a close, but I don't know if it will be glorious or not. 'It' being the dreary outlook and lack of comics.

    I've been thinking about my BMW again. It has been a long time since I've driven my own beemer and I'm starting to become frumpy again. I can tell. I haven't worn the Hollywood Suit in months and I haven't had a good straight razor shave in a coon's age. I can feel the biorythmic convergence coming - it's just around the corner, the day when my phone rings off the hook from people I actually want to speak to.

    Yet tonight, spending the first weekend away from the crib in memory, I'm catching up on my blogging only to find myself getting sucked into discussions which are beneath me. So I wander around the 'sphere and discover that I haven't updated my Blogger profile - not that I really care, but now that I have Audioscrobbler / LastFM, I really can answer with some accuracy what my favorite music is. This time I actually remember my favorite books too, and most of them are fiction. I discover that I need the edification of a good fiction, and I haven't had one since Baudolino, which was a good two years ago. Tsk.

    So there's Martin Amis, whose latest adventures left me dead flat, and there's his Wikipedia page which cite him as influencing Zadie Smith and Will Self. It turns out that Will Self's 'Great Apes' was a smashingly great book - and I felt that I would get in trouble for liking it, yet I read this for Amis:

    Amis's raw material is what he sees as the absurdity of the postmodern condition and the excesses of late-capitalist Western society with its grotesque caricatures. He is the undisputed master of what the New York Times has called "the new unpleasantness."

    Fuckin' A! That's where I'm at. I've gone all political and lost my sense of humor but not of the absurd. It's got me bending my ear towards Hitchens instead of Amis. And what about my old buddy T. Boyle? Maybe he's got something up his sleeve that's not entirely to cynical. But then there's Zadie. Zadie Zadie Zadie. I don't know why I wait so long. I haven't read an inch of her, I just collapsed at her photo. Well, who wouldn't? All the cretins I'm sweeping off my porch that's who. And it's no wonder Memer isn't posting here so often.

    Anyway, I have the rest of this weekend to make a supercomputer jump through the appropriate hoops. As enticing as that sounds (I've time-travelled a memory of an earlier me into the present just to show me how much we've progressed) on the whole I'd rather be curled up with a good..Zadie. But that life has been cast aside. The good news is that my boy made the football team. I should be home for that but that too will come in due time.

    In the meantime, we ought to spend a bit more time sending hostile subliminal messages to Hugo Chavez instead of beating up on Bill Bennett. I haven't felt rogueish enough lately, but am feeling more and more certain that my uppity elitism needs some sharpening. Perhaps I can find a good P.J. O'Rourke at Borders tomorrow before I check out the new Cronenberg. Oh wait. I've got that damned supercomputer thing to do.

    I named the big one Potter and the little one Hagid. We're running benchmarks from Snape. Potter is a temperamental one, doesn't like my 32bit text editor and won't synch IDs from my database to the Deployment Server, so that when the applets go a-calling, they get rejected out of hand. But Potter hasn't given me a real fit like Hagid did this evening. Three tests. One gives 40% errors I can't explain. The next one goes flawlessly. Then I change one little parameter and the whole craptard goes zombie. This, ladies and gentlemen is why NT sucks, no matter how hefty the hardware. I've got 300 databases running simultaneously and the agent freezes. Can I kill the zombies all at once? Noooooo. NT has no such animal as a kill -9 (the lung ripper). It just sits there and divvies up the full weight of 8 3GHz Xeons burning 100% across 300 processes that I've got to kill one by frikken one. With a mouse and four clicks. Warning, killing this process may cause system instability. Are you sure?

    Anyway. Next time I'll keep Load Runner throttled and not try to launch 300 databases all in the same second. Lesson learned.

    Monday night I had a way-too-expensive dinner. It looked like a fairly ordinary upscale steakhouse, but I underestimated. The cheapest a la cart entree was 29 bucks, a fairly decent prime rib. And wait, they didn't even have anything as low class as Pellegrino. The waiter is doing this elaborate dance in refilling my glass with sparkling water that comes in a container that looks like a cross between a bank vacuum canister and a lava lamp. I order the oyster appetizer for 12 bucks. I get these tiny things that are the size of quarters in a chopped up bed of seaweed and tiny diced tomato on a platter the size of Venus. I must be in California.

    So the rest of the week I use my suite hotel to my advantage. I went grocery shopping. I picked up a package of clams, two bottles of Powerade, some beef jerky, a couple cans of corn, some Zatarains, some Rice a Roni, a bag of frozen shrimp scampi in fettucini, frozen mixed vegetables, a bottle of Sutter Home White Zinfandel, a half gallon of whole fat milk (whoohoo!) a dozen Krispy Kreme glazed, a bowl of heat & eat clam chowder, and one box each of popcorn shrimp and breaded clam strips. I couldn't find any decent maki and I forgot to get some lox, but I did get a fourpack of Red Bull. All told $60.

    It turns out that the breaded seafood shouldn't be microwaved, so I ended up at Wendy's tonight. I swear.

    It took talking with my colleague to discover that I really do count Creole cuisine among my favorites. My mother didn't truly enjoy cooking for the lot of us brats, surely we made it more of an industrial chore than a gourmet experience for her. But when she did throw down the down home cooking - lookout. So I guess I'll always love red beans and rice. That's for Saturday night, if I get out of the lab before 9pm.

    That's the news from 95014. See ya.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:37 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack