January 27, 2006

Piling On Joel Whatshisname

I was actually in my car listening to this squirrel on the Hugh Hewitt show last Friday. It was yet another of Hewitt's masterful disembowelings, I am coming to expect. One of the things that captivated me about the interview - which is something finally I think Hewitt may come to embody - is Hugh's recognition of the value of work. I mean work in the modern sense of the word, not as his subject thinks, in the post-modern sense. A columnist at the LAT whose editor passed no contextual judgement on a weekly thousand words or so is not working in the modern sense. He is filling space.

In many ways I am coming to think of editors of newspapers like the LA Times rather like I think of the old business development blueshirts of Silicon Valley who 'monetized clicks'. Check out this dialog:

HH: Do you honor the service that their son did?

JS: To honor the service their son...now this is a dumb question, but what do you mean by honor? That's a word you keep using. I'm not entirely...maybe that's my problem. But I'm not entirely sure what you're...

HH: Honor usually means gratitude and esteem. Are you grateful for and esteem what he did? Honestly?

JS: Honestly? I admire the bravery. I don't...you know, I feel like he did something I could never do, so I'm kind of in awe on some level. Am I grateful, that I feel like he protected me? Um, no I don't.

HH: And so, do you think he died in vain?

JS: Yeah. I do. And that's why I'm so horrified by all this, and why I don't want empty sentiments prolonging the war.

Empty sentiments? This guy has a lot of nerve talking about empty sentiments considering what he calls working for a living.

Perhaps it doesn't seem fair that half the blogosphere, or at least a significant portion out here on the West Coast has gone knocking on this guy's forehead looking for evidence of a soul, but I think we all should. So I am piling on in hopes that at some point in our history we will be able to look back at people who drink whiskey and know that we're not just doing it to offend the non-smoking PC crowd. We drink because it actually hurts our heads to listen to such claptrap. Has all honest reporting gone to sportswriting? If only Frank DeFord could edit the LA Times.

I haven't really opined on the matter tangential to this which is the destiny of the Disney Company and brand under the influence of Steve Jobs. In many ways he is a great master of the post-modern. Apple Computers are great silly machines that make people millionaires, but don't do any real work. The real number crunching power in the computing world happens in software like Oracle and SAP and in databases like DB2 and Teradata. Apples play music and drive millions of colors onto large flat panel screens in service of software applications like 'Garage Band' and a hundred different i-somethings. He has monetized clicks, and his next bombshell is getting these same slack jawed audiences who find his style irresistable to put down good money in order to buy music videos from the iTunes Music Store. Yes. Now you can pay to watch Gorillaz. Just wait until U2 creates an iTunes only release of a music video that costs 2 bucks to see.

Part of me says that Joel Whatshisname is not representative of our young minds, and yet I know that kids are getting obese and that the very idea of a 'Man of Action' seems vaguely offensive to the new squirrel voiced sensibilities Gerard so aptly sees as neutered. And yet I am so acutely aware of the fact that so many 'persons' in our society are calling themselves 'guys'. I am not raising my son to be a guy, a homie, a dude, or some sort of male specimen. Can you imagine asking Joel 'what kind of man are you' and getting a straight answer? (double entendre not intended). No, you can not.

Although it was the point of Hewitt's discussion, this is not only pertinent to matters of responsible journalism and supporting troops, but to the very value of doing something substantial and getting the respect integrity deserves. It is more than simply disheartening that we live in an mediasphere populated by squirrels. Their daily mincing of words and garbling of concretes in spin is a direct threat to the level of discussion we citizens engage. If it is up to the blogs and the well connected radio personalities to fight the good fight, it won't be enough. We all need to reject the empty posturing of the Joel Whathisnames of the world, lest we lose sight of reality in a semiotic swamp.

Look at that Malcolm X video again. What you will hear is straight talk. We owe it to ourselves and our nation to bring about the change that will bring straight talk back to the center of our communications with each other. Until then, this is not America and we are not men and women.

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January 18, 2006

Chocolate Milk

Nice going Ray. Any time you suggest that whitefolks won't be in charge, you're going to get killed in the media. It doesn't matter what you really meant. Join Bill Bennett.

"I don't care what people are saying Uptown or wherever they are. This city will be chocolate at the end of the day," he said. "This city will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be."

After the statement, he insisted he wasn't being divisive.

"How do you make chocolate? You take dark chocolate, you mix it with white milk, and it becomes a delicious drink. That is the chocolate I am talking about," he said. "New Orleans was a chocolate city before Katrina. It is going to be a chocolate city after. How is that divisive? It is white and black working together, coming together and making something special."

He's still my boy.

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December 20, 2005

Obligatory Seriousness on Black History Month

The most potent argument in support of Black History Month is that it establishes a sense of knowledge of self in African Americans who would otherwise believe those idiotic and racist things said about them. In that regard and in the spirit of Carter G. Woodson the target of Black History Month is not America nor the rest of the world, but black people themselves. Somehow I think the lesson was lost, perhaps as early as the time it started being called 'Black' instead of 'Negro' History Month.

Black History Month is one of those vague traditions that's supposed to be good for everyone but ends up repeating the same thing over and over. There are only so many Ken Burns documentaries we can stomach. There are only so many times watching people attacked by dogs serves as a useful lesson. If we might have some new angle on black history, I think everyone would welcome it. Americans like new. Black History Month is a rehash. But there is so much of American history that we are discovering anew. Take the following story for example..

WILMINGTON, N.C. -- Violence in 1898 that resulted in the only known forceful overthrow of a city government in U.S. history has historically been called a race riot but actually was an insurrection that white supremacists had planned for months, a state commission concludes.

The violence in Wilmington, which resulted in the deaths of an unknown number of black people, "was part of a statewide effort to put white supremacist Democrats in office and stem the political advances of black citizens," the 1898 Wilmington Riot Commission concludes in a draft report.

Afterward, white supremacists in state office passed laws that disfranchised blacks until the civil rights movement and Voting Rights Act of the 1960s.

Now that's something I've never heard before, and I didn't have to wait for Black History Month to find out about it.

I don't have to read more than the headlines to know that Morgan Freeman's recent comments will be misinterpreted. There will always be a class of ignorant and reactionary Americans for whom a bit of unconventional wisdom rocks their world, or allows them to voice some of their baser instincts. None of that really matters. What matters is that our best and brightest come to a nuanced and thorough understanding of American history and that from time to time they publically stand up and speak to it. I am confident that they will. After all, nobody asked for Carter G. Woodson in the first place. He saw the need and he filled it, and he didn't work on it only during Februaries.

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October 18, 2005

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 12, 2005

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.

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September 30, 2005

Suffering with Bennett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


People who got it wrong:

Bomani Jones

David Schraub
Booker Rising
Steve Barnes

People who got it right:
Jeff Goldstein

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

September 13, 2005

On Data Mining

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

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

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

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

Seth Grimes notes:

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

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

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

Posted by mbowen at 06:58 PM | TrackBack

September 05, 2005

On Kanye West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 10, 2005

Bombs in London

Every year in the United States of America, 5000 people die of food poisoning. There is a lot of buzz going around that about 50 people died in London from a dose of Al Qaeda madness. I'm going to keep washing my chicken and not being chicken of terrorists.

As you've no doubt heard before, the terrorist wants the ugliness of the act to outweigh the actual seriousness of the act. In order to be successful, the terrorist must outrage and therefore twist the political system. Sure the AQ thugs want to pump up the islamofascist recruiting machine too, but really. Nobody is afraid of the irregulars. We smashed the Mahdi Army, we'll smash any new one they can come up with. In fact, I think a lot of us in the blogosphere ought to register our disgust and lack of fear of all these AQ fanatics and note their pinpricks on our civilization with little more than disdain.

Here's my open letter to whichever of you AQ pricks can read English. We will talk among ourselves when Yet Another Wahabist Nutcase murders an innocent civilian, but... YAWN, whatever. We want all you AQ punks to know that you are less dangerous to our society than unwashed chicken. We wipe our feet on your manifestoes. We listen to talk radio discussing your bombings while we drive to work in the morning in our big fat expensive cars with automatic transmissions. We're drinking Starbucks coffee. We fall asleep to the 11 oclock news on our big plasma televisions while the newscasters tell us about your 'insurgent' attacks. We make movies about aliens from space who do more damage in 2 hours than your whole movement makes in 3 years. And we're belching on the popcorn and CocaCola.

You sniveling wretches. Do you really think you scare us? Puhlease. Know this, we've buried legions of enemies 10 times as frightful as you and made their surviving children our best friends and trading partners. The only Islam that will survive will be the true Islam - the Islam at peace with the free world. All righteous muslims disclaim your idiotic and suicidal heresy. You want to know something else? We don't know any of your names and we don't care. We leave your body bits in the gutters and hose down our streets of your filth. YAWN. Whatever.

I am no longer angry. I am no longer outraged. I know you for what you are, another foolish criminal gang among the world's history of crooks and crazies. You are not feared. You are a simple pest, and you will be terminated.

Posted by mbowen at 10:26 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 21, 2005

On The Downing Street Memo

I haven't followed this controversy at all, but I can already guess the salient phrase:

Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.

What I find interesting at this moment in history is that anybody with a vote can probably deliver a soundbite reason for every war we've engaged in the past 60 years. And of course at least half of America would say without equivocation that Lincoln fought the Civil War 'to free the slaves'.

As far as I know, the American body count remains under 2000. So we can consider my Murder by Numbers and Supersize Me. This level of casualties simply doesn't phase me. If this level was considered unsustainable, we'd certainly hear louder squawking from the appropriate parties. In that silence roars the self-appointed 'blue' folks.

I'm afraid this is all still beneath my radar.

Posted by mbowen at 11:11 AM | TrackBack

May 15, 2005

On Dave Chappelle

There's an old saying that people who talk don't know and people who know don't talk. The weird thing about Dave Chappelle is that I'm not sure I know what I know, but I feel compelled to talk. The more that I think I know what I know, the less I want to say, because it's better to say things to people face to face anyway.

This is all about two extraordinary evenings, one that I had with someone I know for sure is very close to Chappelle, and one with a man I remember as Dave himself, only I can't be positive. Let's start with the first.

Just a couple of months ago I had one of those lightning rod evenings where everything falls into place. I may have actually written something about it. And one of the dudes at the table was an extremely bright and level-headed young brother. A lot of things about him suggested to me a great deal of conscious reflection. He had something which reminded me of this thing I called 'programmers dyslexia'. When you ask a programmer or somebody with a sophisticated understanding of a complex system a seemingly simple question, they slow down their speech and give tentative kinds of answers. You can just see the gears whizzing in their heads as they try to answer just right, and suddenly a new idea springs into their head as if there was a new solution and the act of consideration changes things. And they have to try and settle on one answer with respect to the dynamic. In the end it looks just a little clumsy, especially if you have no idea of what the variables are. This cat was like that, except for the soul. When he rose to talk about relationships between people, you could tell that he was more perceptive than he let on and very respectful about what he said. In him I saw that quality of overthought when it came to people's souls.

Since I happen to know for a fact that this man is close to Dave, I am very secure in the knowledge that there is at least one person on this planet for whom Mr. Chappelle has someone who seems a good sounding board. On the other hand, sometimes decisions need to be made by someone with a strong stomach and instinctual courage. All circumspection aside, sometimes ass kicking is in order.

Of course it's impossible for someone at my distance to see if such an ass-kicking is necessary, and I'm not likely to find out. But if my interpretation of African American history is appropriate, as well as my appreciation of the existential dilemmas of the blackfolks of my generation, I think that somewhere there is an asshole that needs shutting down even if he's just a spectre inside of somebody's head. When, in fact, an ass-kicking must be delivered, it is absolutely essential that you have someone who overclocks their empathetic reasoning. And so for that reason, I knew that Dave Chappelle was never far from the influence of well-considered sanity.

And while there were certain visual clues to suggest that this extraordinary individual might very well be muslim, the explicit subject didn't arise. But in the wake of yesterday's Time article, I have put two and two together.

The second evening takes me back to New York in the 90s at 42nd and Lex. The Houlihan's which is basically like a TGIFriday's was the spot for the young, well-dressed and black that evening. I my particular frame of mind, I'd rather just have a beer. At some point, in alien-observation mode, me and another cat sitting across the way simultaneously busted out laughing at the parade of characters heading downstairs to the dance floor. For some unknown time, solidified in the ambers of memory, we started crackin' on people in the club, blackfolks in general, and hell just about everything. We busted each other up laughing half the night.

He told me he was a standup comic doing the New York thing. I knew he had the gift. I remember that man as Dave Chappelle. I only wish I had a diary entry to confirm it, because we were 'right there' in terms of the connection.

The other day I was listening to a black radio station and on it was a conversation between some editor/publisher of a magazine I think was called 'Sister Sister', the DJ and some black comic celebrity. They, like everyone else in that world, were sustaining the conversation about how impossible it is for 'everybody' to deal with black entertainers who have money. The conversation seemed to me incredibly stuck-up, paranoid and self-serving, and not the least because the participants defended Lil Kim's idiocy. As well, they remarked about Gerald Levert, who evidently has his own problems with the courts. I gather it is difficult for people who know very well that it is now KKBT who has incorporated 'Dont get it twisted' into their call sign shout out / motto, to see black entertainers as mere dismissible human beings. You've got to wonder what it is that keeps people buying the piss-boy's albums. (I heard his latest song that same day 'The Closet Part Two' - it was like a bad soap opera on wax.) Sometimes too many people don't realize stupidity is just stupidity.

There are two lessons that must be balanced. The first is: Give the people what they want. The second is: Sooner or later you get the audience you deserve.

I think of what discipline is in view of scarcity. I mean I don't have a hard time not running around being a fool playboy because I drive a Chevrolet. It's all I can afford. Can I honestly say that if I had that Porsche that I want, that I wouldn't find myself cruising Sunset Boulevard? I strongly believe that I have the discipline, but maybe I don't. It's not the kind of test I've been given.

So when I think of Dave's dilemma with regard to doing the kind of work he wants, it's difficult to say what kind of money makes the difference. On the one hand, he's paid to be at the top of his game, and now is the time to wrest some permanent scratch from the machines that deliver cashflow from ever changing demands of disposable income. It's good enough to be proud that machine works. On the other hand, Dave has already bought the farm, so to speak. He's made the move Bobby Brown found impossible to make, which is to throw down some cash and get property back off the road so deep that you never hear the booming jeeps. Why put yourself in the middle of drama city if you are truly a man of peace? Chappelle has proven that he knows when to walk away and call a spade a spade. On the other hand, who is he standing up in front of?

I've written more times with less depth on Chappelle than I recall, as I use the old search engine on myself I find the following.

  • Chocolate Covered Fish
  • Curses
  • Rick James, Bitch
  • Chappelle

    So I guess I'm one of those people who wonders when Chappelle is going to give up hiphop and the shallow crowd that worships it. I mean just look at the comments I get from 'Rick James Bitch'. The power is in the honest, funny vulgarity. But how long do you feed that monster, and who owns whom? That's why you have to be a pilgrim. You have to form a kind of detachment that allows you to go anywhere. That's when you know you transcend. When you can let go of something for 3 years and then come back. Just keep that farm.

    I'm going to go on some more about this, but honestly I've got sick computers, restless children, a plane to catch and a huge meeting tomorrow.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:32 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
  • April 26, 2005

    Peeking Under the Radar

    I'm one of those guys for whom all the anchors on the 6 O'Clock News are indistinguishable. Perhaps Lippman is spinning in his grave, but I really don't pay attention to the 'integrity' of journalism that follows the dictum "If it bleeds, it leads." Today, there seems to be a bit of a buzz over such trivial crimes in the blogosphere. I hearby reiterate and underscore my callous disregard for such matters by making an exception and commenting on these ugly trivialities.

    The first blip under the radar involves the rape of a retarded black girl at some joint called Mifflin. Apparently, some kids decided it was a good idea to sexually assault her and called forth an audience as well. The oglers were warned not to fink or they would be beat up. The principal was notified and she decided not to call the cops or otherwise interrupt the meeting she was having. She has been sacked and her assistants have been suspended for 10 days.

    Somehow this has become a black story.

    The second blip under the radar involves some white girls who got beat up by some black girls at some Christian college somewhere. The black girls were yelling 'black power' and 'white crackers' and one was even heard saying 'Martin Luther King'. If I read the 6 OClock anchors properly, the beatdown was prompted by a faked email from a homesick black girl. This girl wanted to go home so bad that she spoofed a white supremacist attack on herself, and her buds reacted by throwing down on innocent white girls.

    This is a much more interesting story. But already I'm bored.

    I suppose that there are plenty of Americans who can take some comfort or solace or wisdom from these kinds of incidents. I consider it the background noise of the society we have become. There is little to be done that two or three good people couldn't have handled, and yet such apocrypha becomes the starting point for all kinds of discussions about Race and Crime in America.

    Since I'm on Occam's side of the Razor, I dismiss all conspiracy theories and simply suggest that those who would bother to make examples of these misfit miscreants and their pathetic dramas, ought to be in the same neighborhoods with them. As for me and mine, we'll ignore the peasants.

    Except this one time.

    Posted by mbowen at 10:56 AM | TrackBack

    April 22, 2005

    Obligatory Seriousness on the Bolton Nomination

    To the extent that the UN is what it is, a troubled organization beset by scandal and in dire need of reform, I'm not convinced that the US should get bent out of shape over the nomination of its Ambassador to the UN. Bolton clearly doesn't have the support of enough people to get in without a struggle, the question is whether or not this is a fight worth fighting. I think I'm going to take a pass on this one.

    I haven't bothered to investigate Bolton, and I'm not sure that the outcome of this battle is so very significant. In fact, it reminds me exactly of the one over Wolfowitz' appointment to the World Bank, inasmuch as it simply offers the enemies of Bush yet another pin to stick into their voodoo fetishes. If and when he gets in, what he does will disappear under the radar of the Blogosphere and the MSM, just like it has for the past big nominations, Porter Goss, Bernard Kerik / Michael Chertoff and Alberto Gonzales.

    I cannot imagine exactly how much leverage the US might have over reform efforts at the UN given that Annan isn't likely to be pushed around. We're not going to strong-arm China, and while Condi has been giving Putin a nice verbal slapping recently, I just don't see any of that as useful ammo for UN reform. It begs the bigger question of what the UN should do in the future. That's a debate for another time. For the moment, I think Republicans are just walking head down into yet another burning building.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    March 24, 2005

    On DRM: Three Hacks

    When it comes to digital rights management for music, I think it will always be hacked if the price isn't right. As a geek, I have certain expectations of my computers which I won't allow to be crippled. Some of that might be considered illegal, but I'm just subverting a business plan which I think stinks. It's not my fault that the 'right' issue can make Congress work on the weekend. When it comes to music, the average Joe has it pretty good. It can all be hacked.

    I think that the biggest problem with P2P is that it's too big. Which is to say that a peer network of real people that actually know each other could use fairly simple methods to go beneath the radar of RIAA scrutiny and work around the 'theivery' argument. I'm going to start doing that tomorrow. My peer? The public library.

    Anybody on any day can walk into a public library, get a music CD, take it home, rip it and have those tracks absolutely indistinguishable from any track they purchased on a CD from the record store. If DRM means that I have to register the serial number of every music CD that I purchase and rip, then let it be. I hope the economics of that idea breaks the record companies, because anything short of that is going to fail to stop the Library Hack.

    The second hack requires a bit more thought and a little hardware, but can be easily accomplished. This involves recording the signal you get on digital cable. This one is unquestionably legal and it's a loophole nobody really cares about. That's probably because nobody has yet made a popular client, and you do need the hardware. But in every town with digital cable, there are music channels that broadcast music 24/7. It wouldn't take long to fill up your hard drives with that signal.

    Apple has proven exactly what I've been saying for years, that Hollywood just was too thick to understand the technology and too retarded to work up a good business model. The Apple Music Store, iTunes and iPod are the market they are because... well because Hoolywood is stupid when it comes to IT. The fact that Apple has done all this in a relatively closed system rather obviates the need for DRM in music, you need skill to wrassle them musical dogies, not lawyers. And the right skill is technology product marketing. Apple hacked the music business too.

    Posted by mbowen at 07:12 AM | TrackBack

    February 18, 2005

    Pitchfork for Mr. Gannon

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

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

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

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

    Posted by mbowen at 06:02 AM | TrackBack

    January 18, 2005


    On this MLK Day, I don't have much to say. What do I think he would be doing?

    I think MLK would be on the board of trustees for the World Health Organization. I think that his last big domestic agenda would have been about the Contras, and that during the 80s he would have started going abroad and done Nobel style peace work very much like Jimmy Carter.

    King would have made some stink about Florida 2000, but it would have been a press release we all would have ignored.

    When I think of MLK on a typical day, I see him chillin' with Desmond Tutu. When is the last time Americans paid attention to Desmond Tutu? Exactly.

    The most important difference King would have made in todays society is that he would have diminished the significance of all of his second fiddles, except Ralph Abernathy.

    Posted by mbowen at 01:13 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    January 08, 2005

    Obligatory Seriousness on Armstrong Williams

    I still sometimes confuse Armstrong Williams with Larry Elder, but I shouldn't. It should be easier in the future. One of them will still be on the air.

    I expect that there's going to be a fairly large number of African Americans focused in a new type of scandal and crime over the next decade. It only proves that we're still moving on up. In some ways, it could be considered an honor to be a paid shill. But I think the vote is unanimous that Williams displayed bad form. Whether or not his blunder is illegal I haven't parsed the news that closely to see, but it's clear that he wasn't getting the best advice.

    So bear witness to the new wave of black crime, the new money faux pas. You know, I think Armstrong Williams ought to have invested some of his money towards membership in the right club. If he were hobnobbing with the right kind of people, he would have never shown such bad form.

    What do you do when the Department of Education asks you to pub up something of theirs that you actually believe in? My guess would be that you do a Public Service Announcement. Is a plug on the Armstrong Williams Show worth a quarter million? Undoubtedly so. Where were his producers and legal department, hmm? Or did he thoughtlessly cut them out of the loop?

    Either way, what's done is done. No harm, no foul. It's not as if he landed himself at Betty Ford or left his wife for a 15 year old Vietnamese girl. Everybody pipe down.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:38 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    November 30, 2004

    Mfume's Departure

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted by mbowen at 04:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    November 22, 2004

    Obligatory Seriousness on DeLay & Ethics

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

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

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

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

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

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

    November 17, 2004

    Obligatory Seriousness on Pat Oliphant's Cartoon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    November 16, 2004

    Obligatory Seriousness on Foreign Born Presidents

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

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

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

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

    October 03, 2004

    Obligatory Seriousness About Shark Tale

    If I were over 25 and in the hiphop business, I would be embarassed by Shark Tale. In fact, there's a fish in there that I know is Missy Elliot and I know she's going to go uncredited. Quite frankly, I think Osmosis Jones will stand the test of time a little bit better.

    This is not a classy flick. It's a silly flick, but it does have enough genuine emotion to make you care a little, enough comic timing to make you laugh a little and enough stereotypes and product placements to make you puke a little. Is it worth the money? Yeah sorta. It doesn't stink.

    It starts out of the blocks entirely too predictably and feels like its about to self-destruct within 10 minutes, and then it saves itself. On the other hand, if you're the kind of person who thinks Will Smith is a complete punk, then you really don't want to face this movie. It thankfully doesn't try to double-entendre its way into parents hearts. On the other hand, boy does the music suck.

    OK here's the analogy. A duplicate of a ripoff of a cover of a print of a sample of a song that's been done to death. It's like somebody trying to funkify a New Kids on the Block ripoff of a Motown song - without having ever heard the Motown song. It's really a twilight zone. Or better yet why don't I just give you a real example: Will Smith doing MC Hammer. Nuff said. Kids under 15 won't know the difference. You will and you will wince your eyes out of your socket. Then again, your kid is having a ball. So get over yourself.

    Since I did a fair share of wincing, I can see how folks from the uplifting black images school are going to have a handwringing time over this film, which is why this one goes into the obligatory seriousness column. It's no Soul Plane, but it aint Sounder either. And since I'm 43 years old, it feels completely like a black and Italian movie straight outta Brooklyn. Everybody can say it's just fish, but it aint. So half the time I'm thinking about people who complain about the Sopranos and I wonder if they are as embarrassed about the Italian types as my father would be about the black types. I don't know the answer to that question, but since everybody (I predict) is going to go apeshit over the black thing, we'll never find out.

    I don't know if being thick skinned is a blessing or a curse, especially since I am sensitively observant and I see these things. But I'll give a big whatever to that, and suggest as I usually do that there are a hundred worse movie (many of whom star Humphrey Bogart as my Tivo showed me last night "All Through The Night") and a hundred better books.

    I'm sure I could have spent my 42 bucks more wisely, but it would have required me to spend more mental and physical energy this weekend, and I simply don't have it. Besides, the kids enjoyed themselves.

    Posted by mbowen at 06:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    September 13, 2004

    Obligatory Seriousness on Rathergate

    So that's what everybody was talking about.

    I find it rather amazing that so much blather can be actually summed up better in one minute piece on NPR than in 15,000 blogs. Summaries are not what we do well here.

    I think it is notable, and perhaps I've said this before, that blogs represent the excess intellectual capacity of our nation. For everyone who is not an editor in a newsroom, yet has the ability to be one, blogs can make real talent that would otherwise remain trapped in 10000 brains. Instead 10000 blogs flower and big media sneezes. But it's not just journalism whose inefficiencies will be exposed, but those of every other industry people will choose to blog about.

    This is not really new, but it is the strange relationship between journalism and computer mediated communications that brings it to our attention. Certainly before blogs, online communities performed the same function. We only heard about the Well because so many there were journalists. We only heard about Salon because they dared to call themselves a journal.

    Over here, I've been invested in CMC for so long that I honestly haven't watched Dan Rather for 10 minutes straight since he covered the LA Riots.

    Aside from all that derivative nonsense is the derivative nonsense which is the material focus of this 'scandal'. Note to self, if it has a -gate, it's not worth your attention. The election season is too long, it's like Christmas ads in September. If you don't know what you want, then you watch more television and pay more attention. The only people that benefit from this length are the political consultants and others who profit from the massive size of campaigns these days. Certainly not thoughtful people who don't need voter registration drives and television news to get a thoughtful political response out of us. No doubt Michael Moore will usher in a new era of spending. You heard it here first, 527s will go from 30 second spots to short films to feature length.

    I find it an appalling waste of the heretofore mentioned excess capacity that so many minds are occupied with such minutia. But since so many people spend so much energy and money on such picayune matters, they end up mattering. I'm not one to tell you what an historian might notice but I fail to see how the zillion pages of blogging over this could possibly amount to anything referenceable 20 years from now when one of us bloggers runs for office. I've often wondered what it is that hapless graduate students must put up with when they decide to research and how many of us will ultimately merit the attention of one miserable PhD candidate. Short of that how is anyone to displace professional journalists, warts and all? Rather isn't making a mistake, nobody should be paying this much attention to this amount of trivial detail. We are below the limit of causality here, it's all informational Brownian Motion. We're not seeing the forest for the seedlings.

    Posted by mbowen at 08:24 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    July 15, 2004


    First, let's talk terminology. I'm buying into the Chris Rock lexicon and extending it a little bit.

    Affluent: You can live large, occasionally.
    Rich: You can buy anything you want.
    Wealthy: You can buy anybody you want.
    Powerful: You can destroy anybody you want.

    Denzel Washington is rich, Bill Gates is wealthy. Dick Cheney is powerful. Wealthy people make other people rich. Powerful people set the rules for containing and controlling wealthy people and their wealth. Since this is America, it is possible to achieve power without being wealthy or even rich so there are interesting social equivalents of rock paper scissors. Whoopi getting fired is the example of a flimsy piece of paper covering a mighty rock.

    OK maybe Whoopi is not a mighty rock, but I like her because she's friggen weird. And you cannot be that weird and that outspoken for as long as she has been without having learned a whole lot about herself and people in general. Something evil inside of me is telling me to say that Whoopi is the black Shirley McClaine. So much for discipline. But you can't boss weirdos around, they live in a parallel dimension, especially rich weirdos.

    If Whoopi died tomorrow she'd be a saint. I think she knows that, and that's why she doesn't give a rat's ass. She's large. She doesn't have to care. She's completely off the chain. She made The Color Purple and that movie gets larger every time I watch it. So what if some diet food fools don't like her because she doesn't like bush, er.. Bush that is? She jokes.

    Remember that Ted Danson thing? What was that all about? Who remembers, who cares? Whatever Whoopi Goldberg does is alright with me, so long as she remains true to form.

    That's half my point. The other is this, for what it's worth. I am tired of hearing Americans freak out over what Large blackfolks say. We are all going to have to get used to it. Let's try to remember that an Illinois senatorial candidate married 6 of 9 and tried to get her to do the wild thing with him in titty bars. Do we need any more reminder of what kind of people we grow up here.

    America is a superpower. That means there is so much wealth here that you can get rich doing just about anything. That means some pretty kooky people are going to end up rich. I'm glad its Whoopi and not more jagoffs like Robert Wilson, or this guy. Remember him?

    Posted by mbowen at 08:58 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

    June 30, 2004

    On Michael Moore

    I will take it on faith that Michael Moore's film is humorous propaganda. As lefty humorous propaganda goes, I tend to prefer that of Al Franken. From the Right, I prefer that of Dennis Miller. So when is Dennis Miller going to make a movie?

    Who cares?

    I find it disheartening that the Left does itself in so simplemindedly by trumpeting this kind of tomfoolery as serious polemics. Then again it most certainly speaks to the level of thought and gut responses many people take to their political views. What can I say? There are certainly those among the blogosphere whose reputations would suffer by quoting Cobb's wit and wisdom. I'm happy to be on the blogrolls of many an august writer out there but I don't expect all that many trackbacks from all of those who even link here permanently. My point is that everyone has their level of seriousness, and it's a disappointment that my ideological antagonists stoop so low for aid and comfort. Then again who am I?

    I am someone who refuses to be taken in by Moore, and I'm rather ashamed that it has come to this - faux documentaries. Then again, our side has Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity. Celebrity Deathmatch anyone?

    Posted by mbowen at 06:09 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

    June 12, 2004

    On Assault Weapons

    I note in passing, this diatribe against the Clinton Assault Weapons Ban.

    If I were president, I would have the language amended to conform with our own military's assessment of the lethality of the weapons against regular troops if deployed by militias. I think that by now in our Iraqi occupation, we know what's dangerous and what's not. Yes we should keep assault weapons out of the hands of the civilian population.

    Gun control is impossible, but it's a good idea. Doesn't the failure to find WMDs prove that? It does to me.

    As far as I'm concerned with regard to the right to bear and keep arms for a well-regulated militia, the contingency is fully accounted for by the National Guard and Reserves. If we're going to have a Civil War in this nation, there will be plenty brothers and cousins on the wrong side of the fence with access to National Guard Armories, and plenty of black market trade to supply any American rebellions. There is absolutely no need for citizens to defend themselves from their own government which needs Constitutional protection. Demanding that concession is like requesting unfettered access to 'protest zones'. The Constitution in that regard is a clue, not a guarantee.

    The suppression of gun crime is a different matter altogether. I have few ideas on that matter which go beyond the thinking given to any night's episode of 'The Shield'. Street gangs do enough damage with knives and drugs. We're back to the axiom that it's not the gun, it's the sick mind. True.

    Just in case you're wondering, I love battlefield sims, cloak and dagger work and all that stuff. Had I a bit more disposable income, I might have become something of a paintball warrior in my youth. I've fired a real gun and I wouldn't mind owning one for the fun of target shooting. But I also hate revolution and I think a lot of militant blowhards are not only full of caca but one eighth as lethal as they think they are. Suppress 'em.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:29 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    May 19, 2004

    On Sarin

    Sarin is found in Iraq. AHawk says it all.

    Lastly, if you're pleased with the use of Sarin against anyone, anywhere, because it helps you score political points, you're a monstrous excuse for a human being, and should kill yourself at the earliest possible convenience. Preferably with Sarin, for that extra bit of irony that the kids are all into these days.

    Posted by mbowen at 12:58 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

    May 04, 2004

    Obligatory Seriousness About Pat Tillman

    The first idea that popped into my head about Tillman was something to the effect that who cares if this guy died? He's a soldier. Soldiers die. What came out of my keyboard was a lot more cynical than the man deserved. So then I tried to think of ways to badmouth the people who thought he was making a great sacrifice. I began to repeat the post I wrote when they wanted to make statues out of 9/11 firefighters (I was against it). That didn't work either. There has been no angle that I could come up with that sounded right.

    So instead of weighing in on the negative side, I should probably state instead what I think a military hero is all about.

    The other day I heard that some British journalist got a medal for dragging some of his wounded guardians from the scene of a mortar attack. But that's not really military heroism. That's being lucky for not being a complete sitting duck and running on instinct.

    All in all I wish we had some authentic commando-type heroes to talk about. Somebody who makes a calculated risk between military tactic A and B, where B yeilds the greater victory over the enemy but is considerably more dangerous. Heroism is about initiative in action, not "He was a great guy and he'll be sorely missed." That applies to all soldiers, regardless.

    I'm not hanging my hat on Tillman's hook. He did a stupendously patriotic thing in giving up the money to serve. His country didn't really need him, and yet he volunteered. That's a great leap of faith. Yet, my gut is to second-guess him. How do you arrive at the NFL draft and then decide you took the wrong career path? Logic suggests that he expected the enlistment to be a quick side trip, or that football and warfare are more than simply symbolically similar. Neither speaks well of his judgement. But I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he considered himself a natural-born warrior - he damned well looks the part. Maybe he really was on his way to fulfill his destiny and football was the closest he could come to it in peacetime. That being the case, I say right on. If he had served his time, led his squad, saw some action, it would have been a chapter out of a fantasy playbook when he came back to the NFL. Sounds cliche doesn't it? Now perhaps you have that same kind of queasy feeling I have about this whole hero business.

    It only takes a moment's consideration at the 'war heroism' of John Kerry to prove that what we've been making of heroism is less than meets the eye. What we are not hearing about these men, even John McCain, is something to the effect like, "Were it not for the actions of Joe Hero, the allies would never have saved London", or a hospital full of children, or the Bridge at the River Kwai. I'm sure that has as much to do with the way our media 'reports' as anything, but it seems to me that a military hero is a hero to the military. When they start teaching what you did at the War College, that's when you're a military hero. That's something you can't walk away from or trade for press & political kudos.

    When Tom Clancy wrote 'Every Man a Tiger' about the air war over Iraq, I learned about Chuck Horner. Chuck Horner is a military hero. He masterminded the use of air power and delivered victory to the allies and save thousands of lives in the process. That's what I'm talking about. A military hero is somebody without whom our military doesn't function as well. A military hero is a strategic asset, you're not only glad he's on our side, you're counting on it.

    I hope that clears things up.

    Posted by mbowen at 09:08 AM | TrackBack

    April 04, 2004

    On Air America

    I have been pleasantly surprised by the depth of seriousness of Al Franken and have snorted at Randi Rhodes with such derision I have practically deviated my septum. So is Air America of questionable value? No it is objectively miraculous, for the moment.

    Within one week, I've heard Richard Clarke, Joe Biden, Pat Buchannan speaking seriously on this radio network. It's got clout to swing. Despite the amateurish production values, the miserable fidelity of AM broadcasts, and the retarded mattress commercials which tend to interrupt conversations at random intervals, Air America is a breath of fresh air and a dash of salt to boot. Right now they are turning heads and they've got the jump on all media. This salutory effect is very useful for all of us, no matter what side of the fence we stand.

    The best thing about Air America right now seems to be their ability to say what 'The Liberal Media' cannot. They do so with aplomb and not a small amount of style. Let's hope they don't get smug.

    Posted by mbowen at 11:14 AM | TrackBack

    December 31, 2003

    Obligatory Seriousness on the Question of Israel

    Israel. Middle East. Palestinian. Intifada. All keywords I shut out. Why? Because they fall below the level of one Lynch Factor. In a short time, however, it is likely to exceed a matter of 3000 deaths. But that doesn't change how many dBs the volume has been turned up on every injury sustained in that part of the world.

    I am upset and I will continue to be upset at the focus maintained upon Israel and Palestine. American media coverage of their problems wildly distorts the perspective of injuries. We know, with Mad Cow precision, when every Israeli dies in this interminable conflict. But we have no equal in covering other nations. This is intolerable for me not because I believe 'jews control the media' but because it is a distortion of the priority in matters of human rights throughout the world in the interests of the American Empire and its role in global pacification. We have focused too long and a problem we have been unable to solve multilaterally, unilaterally or ass-backwards. If 100 people die in Liberia tomorrow, we won't hear about it. If 100 people die in the Gaza Strip, we'll hear about it for weeks. We will send billions to Israel and save no lives the IDF couldn't save themselves. We send nothing to Liberia where thousands of lives might have been saved. The math is simple 1 soul = 1 soul. Where are we saving souls? Certainly not in Israel or Palestine.

    We used to hear about the Bakaa Valley as a harboring ground for terrorist. It used to be this way in Beirut, Lebanon. Hmm, maybe that was because Israeli forces were there.Now we don't care. My complaint is simple. The focus is undeserved and it distorts our world view.

    I understand that my willingness to dismiss the prospects for Israel and Palestine will be met with fury. So I will say this once loudly, I have no reason to be anti-semitic in this stance, that is not the reason and you may conspire as many theories as you please to justify such a label. I refuse it and I barely have the patience to digifiy it here.

    During my entire passive consideration of the questions of Middle East Peace it has always been the case that I believed in the appropriateness of a two state solution. Of course Israel has a right to exist. Nationalism is the paradigm and people have every right to soverienity. That right extends to the Palestinians as well.

    However recently, try as I may to ignore this, I am confronted with a twofold reality. The first is in sympathy with the prosecution of occupation over lands Palestinians claim. I have few doubts that in the main, the IDF is being as reasonable and civilized as possible given their overwhelming military superiority. I think as well, that their achievement of assassinations can be justified on a strictly military basis. Politically, I think it stinks to high heaven and is an absolute disgrace. But I understand that keeping collateral damage to an absolute minimum is precisely equivalent to murder for hire. Wouldn't we like to know how the Israeli parliament picks such military targets? Ick! So on the whole, if you are at war with people, you might as well do it like the Israelis because on the whole, over the years they've killed only a few thousand Palestinians which is lightweight by any national standard.

    The second part of this reality is that the Palestinians cannot, whether by attrition by the militant occupation or by inconsequential international support, or by reason of a lack of pacifist will, muster a standing government which is capable of handling diplomatic issues, controlling radical elements or a solid majority of factors necessary to move beyond (dare I say it?) tribalism. Of course it's more complicated. But what's Hamas, an NGO?

    Hate me for the paragraphs OK, but it's all I can stand to think about the situation.

    I hold Israel to a higher standard than the PLO. I would like to hold Israel to the standards I hold for any democracy, better yet, nuclear power. But I cannot. They don't deserve it in my eyes. I can go look for specific reasons, and something tells me that I may have to start reading all of the missives I've been getting from my subscription to Bitterlemons lo these many months. But I'm sure it will only depress me further. Perhaps it is better to be depressed and right, than willfully oblivious, especially if I'm going to have to answer to comments at Cobb.

    I have said, jokingly, that I would rather have three Jewish states than one. We could aid one, bomb one and ignore the third. (I did so in a comic, and so therefore cannot find it in a text search.) But there is only one Israel and wishing it were not so doesn't help matters. So the combination of these two factors makes me think that perhaps between the Israelis and the Palestinians they could come up with one state.

    Given that I have little faith that between them they would be able to negotiate a permanent peace between them as states, perhaps they might do so as citizens. It seems impossible to me that as nations they could ever resolve the property disputes between them without war, and while it is almost certain that Israeli law would give little or no recourse to nationalized Palestinians dispossessed of their properties, in the long run that may be preferable to war. If Israel were to grow up and grandfather the Palestinians what are the chances that they would continue their current course as a Civil War? On the other hands what are the chances that they would grant Palestinians full and equal civil rights?

    This is something the Israelis have no impetus to do at the current moment, and it is for this reason that I heap shame upon them. But they are within their rights as a nation. Yet Arab Israelis certainly feel second-class pressures upon them as their families are split across the lines drawn and redrawn as checkpoints.

    I believe a one state solution requires Israelis to be more respectful of Palestinians than they ever would be otherwise. I wonder if they could maintain their national conscription if it meant arming Palestinians. So long as there is a border, there are xenophobic excuses for civil rights abuses.

    Mr. Sharon, tear down that wall.

    Posted by mbowen at 05:48 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack