Friday, April 13, 2007
My last word on Imus.
I’ve seen so many of his defenders say “so nappy is now just the same as nigger?” And they also seem to keep pointing to the word “ho” and saying how many times rappers use the word, as if this somehow excuses it’s use. For the record, most people who have criticized Don Imus, (including Al Sharpton) have also lead concerted efforts to get record labels and rappers to not exploit misogyny for profit.
However, Don’s words in this particular instance, taken as a whole, are racist.
I don't think you can parse his words and say it's not racist. It seems everybody wants to debate each word individually. If you read the transcript, and don't understand why it's racist, you really are living in denial.
IMUS: So, I watched the basketball game last night between -- a little bit of Rutgers and Tennessee, the women's final.
ROSENBERG: Yeah, Tennessee won last night -- seventh championship for [Tennessee coach] Pat Summitt, I-Man. They beat Rutgers by 13 points.
IMUS: That's some rough girls from Rutgers. Man, they got tattoos and --
McGUIRK: Some hard-core hos.
IMUS: That's some nappy-headed hos there. I'm gonna tell you that now, man, that's some -- woo. And the girls from Tennessee, they all look cute, you know, so, like -- kinda like -- I don't know.
McGUIRK: A Spike Lee thing.
McGUIRK: The Jigaboos vs. the Wannabes -- that movie that he had.
IMUS: Yeah, it was a tough --
McCORD: Do The Right Thing.
McGUIRK: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Imus and his cronies racism has been well documented. He fired a guy for saying that Venus and Serena Williams were more likely to end up in National Geographic than Playboy. Then Imus hired the guy back.
When talking about Hillary Clinton speaking at a black church, they said she was gonna start wearing cornrows and gold teeth. Obviously an attempt at humor of her trying to "be black" because according to Imus and his cronies, that's what black people do.
In addition we have this little nugget from an interview with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes March 31, 1997.
Imus: Give me an example--give me one example of a racist incident.
Wallace: You told Tom Anderson, the producer, in your car, coming home, that Bernard McGuirk is there to do nigger jokes.
Imus: Well, I've nev--I never use the word.
Anderson: I'm right here.
Imus: Did I use that word?
Anderson: I recall you using that word.
Imus: Oh, OK. Well, then I used that word. But I mean, of course, that was an off the record conversation.
I’ve heard repeatedly from Imus defenders that black comedians do the same types of jokes that Imus does, and yet they have not faced the criticism that Imus did.
Imus defenders seem to have no understanding of the difference between a joke that speaks to a particular race, and a racist joke.
The problem with Imus brand of humor is that he's using racial stereotypes to make his jokes. The jokes aren’t funny to members of that race, they’re just funny to “the majority” because white people tend to view non-whites through stereotypes.
For instance, Chris Rock does a long routine about how he “hates niggers.” Imus defenders seem to think this is somehow racist. First, let me ignore the argument that a member of the minority, making fun of the minority isn’t racism, which seems to be the argument most Imus defenders understand least, but use the most, and address the real issue.
Chris Rock doesn’t use the term “nigger” to describe “all black people.” Let me say that again, Chris Rock doesn’t use the term “nigger” to describe all black people. He uses it as a term of derision to mock black people who “shoot at the screen in theatres” who “rob people.” He even repeats the phrase “I love black people” over and over again, to make his point. However, Chris Rock has received a significant amount of criticism for his routine, so for Imus defenders to claim this is selective hypocrisy, is ridiculous.
Imus and his cronies on the other hand uses his jokes to denigrate the entire race. There is a big difference from what Chris Rock and most black comedians do.
His on air buddies say things like "if it wasn't for the grace of god (snoop dog) would be eating monkey carcasses in Africa." They regularly "parody" black leaders by using cartoonish Amos n Andy type voices. Imus admitted that they do "nigger" jokes. He called Gwen Ifill a "cleaning lady" and William C. Rhoden a "quota hire."
His brand of humor is the same kind that was used to keep black people in a subservient position and to denigrate their achievements. Just like he did with the Rutgers Basketball Team. There was nothing funny about what he said about them. That is why people are outraged. That is why he deserved to be fired. They should have done it a decade ago.
Now they need to fire Bill O’Reilly for calling Mexicans “wetbacks” repeatedly, and they need to fire Rush Limbaugh for his “blacks can’t swim” type comments and regular racist bullshit. And there's about 5 other jackass conservative commentators that should be held to the same standard.
So keep in mind, when you hear a joke that is based on race, sexual orientation, or gender, ask yourself this question, is the comic using stereotypes to denigrate the entire group? Is the stereotype used to denigrate the achievements of an entire group of people? If it is, it’s most likely racist, sexist, homophobic and shouldn’t be on the air.
Just my thoughts...
Hugs and Kisses,
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Everybody has known about IMUS. Here's a story from 2000. Why has the mainstream pressed ignored Imus and his racist crew for so long?
May 16, 2000 The New Gentleman's Agreement
Philip Nobile is the editor of Judgment at the Smithsonian, which printed the banned Smithsonian script on the 50th anniversary of the Bombs of August in 1995.
Prominent journalists and not-so-prominent journalists come on your show. So they -- and I can't pretend to be neutral about this since I'm one of them--we don't seem to have a problem with that [i.e., "racially offensive stuff."]
Jeff Greenfield to Don Imus on "Larry King Live," February 24, 2000
Jeff Greenfield, CNN's senior political analyst, is not reputed to be racist. Unlike his friend and benefactor, Don Imus, he probably does not use "nigger" in private conversation. Nor would he publicly defame sportswriter Bill Rhoden as a "New York Times quota hire" or PBS anchor Gwen Ifill as a "cleaning lady." No doubt, too, Greenfield would bite his tongue before calling the black players on the New York Knicks "a bunch of thugs," "chest-bumping pimps," and "the New York Crips," as they are known on Imus in the Morning. Yet Greenfield gladly associates with Imus and avidly defends his bigotry, which extends to gays, foreigners, and amputees.
Consider Greenfield's lapdog interview with Imus on "Larry King Live!" last February 24. I was an interested party in the event. A few hours before showtime, I faxed Greenfield a copy of my February 22 Newsday op-ed column attacking Imus and the gang of straight, white journalist-guests who mistook him for H.L. Mencken (Tom Brokaw, Tim Russert, Dan Rather, Cokie Roberts, Howard Fineman, Frank Rich, Jonathan Alter, Maureen Dowd, Jeff Greenfield et al.) I had also highlighted some of Imus's maledicta toward blacks and gays and wagged my finger at New Yorker editor David Remnick for accepting a $50,000 Imus Book Award for King of the World.
I wrote on the fax: "To prove you're not in Imus's pocket, ask him about the racist & homophobic material on show." Greenfield took half of my advice and brought up the matter of race:
Greenfield: I mean, there's a piece in Newsday I think today or yesterday that says your show just engages in racial humor of the most stereotyping kind. Every one of the black political figures that you parody sounds like something out of an Amos and Andy radio show. Do you cop to this at all? Do you do racially offensive humor?
Imus: Well, I don't think so. I mean, has there been racially offensive stuff on the air? Yes. But do we make a practice of it? No, I mean, I don't think so.
Normally, a journalist would pounce on such a revelation. Here was the most powerful political talk-jock in the media--one of Time magazine's "twenty-five most influential Americans" and host to presidential candidates John McCain, Bill Bradley and Al Gore--confessing on live television that he deliberately broadcast racist content. The occasion demanded basic follow-ups like--What stuff? How often is not a "practice"? Why do it at all? Do you have any black staff? Black friends? With my Newsday piece in hand, Greenfield simply could have read the quotes about Ifill and the Knicks and sought an explanation. That is standard operating procedure. In fact, that is what Mike Wallace did when he confronted Imus's David Duke slop on "Sixty Minutes" (March 31, 1997):
Wallace: This one about black rapper Snoop Doggy Dog.
McGuirk: But for the grace of God, he'd be eating monkey carcasses in Africa.
Wallace: Bernard McGuirk is the producer of the show. He glories in the role of the resident bigot. Bernie jokes about Ebola virus, Africans' eating monkey. It's sophomoric, and adolescent. It's as smart as the dickens. It's on top of politics. It's dirty and it's sometimes racist.
Imus:Give me an example--give me one example of a racist incident. Wallace: You told Tom Anderson, the producer, in your car, coming home, that Bernard McGuirk is there to do nigger jokes.
Imus: Well, I've nev--I never use the word.
Anderson: I'm right here.
Imus: Did I use that word?
Anderson: I recall you using that word.
Imus: Oh, OK. Well, then I used that word. But I mean, of course, that was an off the record conversation.
Wallace's j'accuse should have ruined or seriously soiled Imus's career a` la Al Campanis, Jimmy-the-Greek, Bob Grant, the Greaseman, Fuzzy Zoeller, and John Rocker. But Imus is protected by a Gentlemen's Agreement. A bodyguard of media bigfeet and elite sponsors like the New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq, the New York Times, New York Daily News, Jeep, Mercedes Benz, Barnes & Noble, and Newsweek help to perfume the odor. Rather than a national scandal, Imus's racist speech and cowardly lie on "Sixty Minutes" was erased from national memory. Evan Thomas neither mentioned the "Sixty Minutes" episode nor explored Imus's problematic race relations in his subsequent Newsweek cover story (January 18, 1999) headlined "The Savvy Ringmaster." Without seeking response from the target class, Thomas whitewashed Imus's ugly act in three sentences:
Imus uses McGuirk, who can be wickedly funny, to push an edge with an impersonation of a black pro basketball player. Imus routinely has to protest that he is not a racist. He plays Martin Luther King Jr.'s entire 'I Have a Dream' speech, on King's birthday, over the objections, he archly insists on the air, of the radio station's "Jewish management."
Likewise on Larry King, Greenfield pulled back from the full-Wallace. Tailoring his journalism to fit friendship, he did not squeeze Imus on his startling admission. Instead, he allowed the Q&A to become sidetracked on the issue of voice parodies:
Greenfield: There are some folks who now will not come on your show because of this.
Greenfield:And the question is, why do so many other people accept it? I mean when Bob...
Imus:I think if you sit down and listen to it, I mean, it's not -- I am not a racist. It's not -- are there things that get said on the program that that shouldn't be said? Yes, absolutely. So, but I mean....
Greenfield:But what's your take on that? I mean, you could obviously stop it if you wanted to. You could just say to Bernard, and Charles and yourself --and not do the recording bits with Al Sharpton or Vernon Jordan.
Imus: Have you ever listened to an Al Sharpton essay? I mean, they're brilliantly written, intelligent essays, but we're parodying Al Sharpton's voice, why is that offensive? [Click here to read a transcript of a sample Sharpton parody.]
Imus:But nobody complains when we parody, you know, Walter Cronkite or Andy Rooney or...
Greenfield: What some folks have said is that every black voice you do...
Imus: ... Ross Perot...
Greenfield: ... every black voice you do sounds the same.
Imus: Well, I don't agree with them.
Imus: It's not true.
Greenfield: Let's take a call from San Francisco. Nonetheless, Greenfield was on to something. A few black voices, written and performed by Imus's troupe, have a demeaning Amos 'n' Andy ring (e.g., Vernon Jordan, Betty Currie, C. Vernon Mason) while others do not (e.g., Maya Angelou, Mike Tyson, and Al Sharpton). Les Payne made this distinction in his Newsday column (October 18, 1998): "It is fair game to satirize, say, O.J. Simpson in a voice approximating his grainy baritone as a self-possessed golfer, a schmoozer, a bad actor, a dummy, a murderer even. It is quite another matter to satirize Simpson as a generic blackman with an Amos 'n' Andy voice."
Regrettably, Greenfield mangled the point and let Imus off the hook. A sharper interviewer would have noted that the parodies of Cronkite and Andy Rooney are likable imitations and more vehicles of commentary. After all, both men have appeared on the program and have cordial relations with the host. In contrast, the black voices tend to blow back on the imitated. Imus's Al Sharpton is a lout. Here is the show's Al Sharpton on the invisibility of blacks at Imus's Spina Bifida roast last October in Washington D.C.: "Even if some black celebrities had been axed to your roast, I don't think they would have gone neither, especially seemin' as most of them I know was back here hanging out with your lady at your apartment."
Given Greenfield's long history with Imus--he has been doing the show for ten years--the fix was in on Larry King. Greenfield candidly gave the game away, not only expressing solidarity for Imus's "racially offensive" shtick (see below), but even worse, providing cover for it. Threaded with dishonesty, disingenuousness and gobbledygook, the dialogue below indicates the difficulty that white apologists like Greenfield have rationalizing the racist humor on the show--e.g., witty word portraits of Patrick Ewing as "Mighty Joe Young" or Secretary of Defense William Cohen as "Bill (Jungle Fever) Cohen" a` propos his black wife, Janet Langhart, who is risibly called a "ho."
Imus: ... I mean, some of the black voices we do and some of the essays -- I mean, we don't write essays that make black people sound stupid or make Ross Perot sound stupid or -- I mean, if people are offended -- I mean -- I can't -- get over it. I mean, we're just trying to be funny. Everybody thinks it's funny until it's about them and then they get hysterical. So -- but, I mean, I'm the first to say that we've done things that's inappropriate? Absolutely. But, I mean, we -- you know -- we try to do better, so...
Greenfield: It is interesting to me, though, that when Bob Grant, a radio personality in New York referred to the former mayor, an African-American, as a washroom attendant, he was fired by ABC. [For the facts, click here.] And yet, on your show, people like Anna Quindlen, Senator Bill Bradley, the vice president of the United States, Joe Lieberman, people -- prominent journalists and not-so-prominent journalists come on your show. So they -- and I can't pretend to be neutral about this since I'm one of them. We don't seem to have a problem with that.
Imus: Well, I've never referred -- I mean, we don't say things like that to -- if we -- if something like that gets said -- and I don't think something like that hasn't been said, but it's an attempt to be humor -- to be funny. Now, it may not be an appropriate attempt to be funny, but it isn't a -- you know, if Bob Grant -- whatever he said -- I mean, if he's serious about it and it's a serious talk show and the guy is not trying to be funny, well then, that is offensive. You know, if people think that you're serious and you're making some serious pronouncement about the mayor being a washroom attendant, well, that is offensive so ...
Greenfield: The fact it's said in fun, it's like a friar's roast?
Imus: But I mean -- I don't know whether -- it would depend.
Greenfield: But that's what it seems to me like. It's like a friar's roast. It's one of those things where you -- political correctness is the enemy.
Imus:You can cite two or three examples over 30 years. Thirty years I've been on the radio -- of stuff that's been offensive. I mean -- or that's been -- you know -- so I mean -- they're going to have to get over it. Because, you know, I got black kids with cancer coming out to this ranch in New Mexico who don't think I'm a racist. And the people who are accusing me of being a racist haven't give and dime to any charity in their lifetime and -- I mean, so it's outrageous. I mean, it offends me, and I'm not going to put up with it. I don't put up with it. It's silly.
Greenfield: We'll be back in a minute.
Summing up Imus's position--funny is funny, three exceptions in three decades, contrition is bullshit, I'm-nice-to-black kids with cancer, drop dead. Consistency is not Imus's strongest suit. Last March 4, perhaps when Greenfield was out of range, Imus said quite the contrary on his program:
Imus: Maybe I'm getting too old to do this. There's no reason to hurt people's feelings. In some cases I have, and I'm not going to do it anymore.I get accused of being a racist all the time, but I'm not. I realize that we do things here that are misconstrued and frankly I regret it. People have criticized me and they're right.
What spawned this short-lived burst of compunction? The context of Imus's apology was the Greaseman controversy that shook up shock-radio in February of 1999. Doug Tracht, a wiseguy disk jockey at Washington D.C.'s WARW-FM with the monicker "Greaseman," had cracked on the Texas truck-dragging murder of James Byrd Jr. After playing a Lauryn Hill song, Tracht said, "Now you understand why they drag them behind trucks." Predictably, Tracht pleaded slip of the tongue, said sorry for the pain, and denied that he was a racist. Nevertheless, Tracht was fired, just as Disney had terminated Bob Grant in 1996 for wishing death on Commerce Secretary Ron Brown via WABC-AM in New York. (Greenfield was wrong about the cause of Grant's firing. Prior to Disney's takeover, ABC management allowed him to slur Mayor Dinkins as a "washroom attendant.") Whether Imus was hearing the hoofbeats of conscience in March of 1999 or merely pressure from his bosses at CBS (which owns both WARW and WFAN-AM), the effect wore off quickly.
But two or three examples of racial horrors in thirty years? Who was Imus kidding? A few minutes earlier, he had conceded offending blacks on Imus in the Morning but said it was not a "practice." Now he remembered only three such transgressions, all unidentified, in his entire radio span. This discrepancy slipped by Greenfield who had already pardoned his pal under the Friars Roast exemption.
Greenfield's analogy was weak. The Friars-style roastee is always in on the gag and laughs along with the roasters, as Imus did at the Spina Bifida event. But Imus's targets are ridiculed at a distance with hostile remarks that are not remotely amusing unless one chuckles upon hearing Johnny Cochran called "Chicken-wing Johnny Cochran," Sammy Davis Junior "a one-eyed lawnjockey," or Venus and Serena Williams "two booma-chucka-big-butted women." Imagine how Ifill, daughter of a prominent preacher with a splendid multimedia career and five honorary degrees, must have felt when she read the "cleaning lady" insult in Lars-Erik Nelson's 1998 column in the New York Daily News: "Isn't the New York Times wonderful? It lets the cleaning lady cover the White House." Despite Ifill's achievements, she was just another "nigger joke" to Imus.
Assuming that Ifill knew about the epithet, made in 1992, Nelson implied that she was a Tom for continuing to appear on the program. As NBC News congressional correspondent, synergizing with Imus's MSNBC simulcast, she had phoned in a couple of reports during Monicagate in 1998. However, Ifill told me that she had been blissfully unaware of Imus's comment when she was working for the Times in 1992. Her friends told her contemporaneously that Imus had said something about her, but none had the nerve to repeat it. Doubly embarrassed by Nelson's column, Ifill quietly refused to do the show again. (Why make a stink when her then NBC bosses--Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert--were leading members of Imus's posse?)
Despite Greenfield's roast mentality, he would surely draw the line at McGuirk's lowroad tribute to Mike Breen on the occasion of the latter's January exit from Imus's sportsdesk. Parodying the voice of Clyde Frazier, Breen's polysyllabic partner on the Knicks broadcast team, McGuirk dared to rap: "Mike always ubiquitous, precocious, promiscuous in the Knicks' locker room. Often times you hear someone shout, What's Ewing doing? And you hear back, He's doing Breen in the latrine. Go behind the shower screen. Yeah, Mike pleasin' the missing link by bending over the sink. Mike takin' his leave from the morning show to spend more time bein' Ewing's ho." Doing Breen? Missing link? Bending over the sink? Ewing's ho?
Before imputing bad faith to the roast excuse and concluding that Greenfield was intellectually dishonest, I sent him a copy of this article in February. (I have subsequently revised and updated some passages.) Specifically, I asked him to review the Imus Guest Bigotry Memo, that is, to rate the Imus transcripts according to his Friary standards. To me, these snatches of dialogue are prima facie evidence of a racist, homophobic, xenophobic loudmouth waiting for his Joseph Welch close-up. If Greenfield thinks otherwise, if he can read these vile words without feeling shame for his Imus ardor, journalist-to-journalist, let him explain why. To date, he has stonewalled my request, along with two other Imus stalwarts--Anna Quindlen and Frank Rich (who was named columnist of the year by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.)
Although Greenfield is Imus's number one ambassador in the press, several peers have sold their reputations to the show. In addition to the aforementioned Brokaw, Russert, Rather, Roberts, Fineman, Alter, Cronkite, Rooney, and Remnick, there are Steve Brill, Judy Woodruff, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Bob Schieffer, Fred Graham, George Stephanopoulos, Howard Kurtz, Howell Raines, Thomas Friedman, George Vecsey, Walter Isaacson, Mike Lupica, Joe Klein, Jeffrey Toobin, Laura Ingraham, Andrea Mitchell, Ken Auletta, Lloyd Grove, and Tony Kornhieser.
It is no accident that black journalists are missing from Imus's media A-list. The only blacks advertised as "regular guests" on Imus's MSNBC webpage--Gwen Ifill and Clarence Page--are actually boycotting the program. "Out of respect for Gwen, a friend and colleague, I also am reluctant to re-appear on Imus's show until I hear an apology or, at least, a proper disclaimer of some sort for those whom he has offended," said Page. "So far, I have not heard, either."
Oddly enough, Ed Bradley neither saw nor heard about Imus's "nigger" lie and subsequent admission on "Sixty Minutes" in 1997. As an aficionado of NPR, Bradley was unfamiliar with Imus in the Morning, which accounts for Bradley's spring 1998 appearance. But after catching up on selected quotes, he, too, decided against another visit. "Until reading your letter, I was unaware of the comments you attribute to Imus and his crew," he emailed me last summer. "If they are true, I would not appear on his broadcast." Stanley Crouch read the same Imus quotes and reached the same conclusion.
Why did all thirty-plus straight, white journalist-guests of Imus, whom I contacted blow off the bigotry and the boycott, yet four-of-four previous black journalist-guests did not? Maybe Bernard Shaw, Greenfield's CNN brother, can tell him why.
The Ugly Truth About Imus, Power and the Press
April 11, 2007 - The fallout from Don Imus’s racist and misogynistic remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team has led to one of those periodic and quintessentially American paroxysms of disapproval, contrition and repentance. But the response of the mainstream media—and CBS radio and MSNBC, in particular—is as hypocritical as it is revealing. [Late Wednesday, MSNBC announced that it will no longer broadcast the Imus radio show].
Using stereotypes—about blacks, Jews, women, and gays and lesbians—has been a part of Imus’s act for decades. I first listened to his show when I moved to New York in 1989 as a 22-year-old writer for NEWSWEEK. His comedy skits were often the subject of water-cooler discussion, so I felt Imus was must-hear radio. But I soon discovered his blatantly racist skits made my skin crawl. His “jokes” in the 1980s and ‘90s included skits in which the radio host and his sidekicks mimicked African-American public figures with deeply offensive stereotyped voices or called them racial names—like “bugaloo” for Johnnie Cochran, or “cleaning lady” for reporter Gwen Ifill.
Former Newsday columnist and editor Les Payne began writing about Imus’s racist invective as far back as the 1970s. And the liberal Web site TomPaine.com’s archive is full of “Imus Watch” items detailing his racist, sexist and homophobic remarks over the years.
In a May 23, 1993, column, when Imus was “on the verge of national syndication,” Payne wrote: “No advice on good taste breaks through the studio din, where, like David Koresh in his tower, Imus works surrounded by a choir of white male sycophants doing backup singing….Black female celebrities, such as Oprah Winfrey and Aretha Franklin, are invariably put down as ‘black hos.’ Funny? I don’t think so. Rumors of a relationship between Whoopie Goldberg and Ted Danson struck [producer Bernard McGuirk], to the roar of the white male locker room, as ‘jungle retardation.’ Upon hearing his boss cite a black woman defending Imus against my criticism, McGuirk, in his best Amos ‘n’ Andy voice, mocked, ‘You ain’t no racist, Mister Imus, nah suh. No, thank you, I don’t want no watermelon!’"
The greatest hypocrisy of the Imus controversy is that Imus's description of the Rutgers teams was just a mistake. No. This is who Don Imus is—at least as a radio personality. For more than 30 years, he has been part of comedy skits on his radio show that are in bad taste and often racist. Imus himself said as much on the "Today" show on Monday: “This program has been, for 30 or 35 years, a program that makes fun of everybody.” The media establishment figures who appear on Imus know this.
Despite that fact, Imus has grown into a bona fide member of that establishment. As NEWSWEEK’s Evan Thomas wrote in a Jan. 18, 1999, profile, “The Ringmaster,” Imus was by then “as, if not more powerful than, a network anchor,” with “Washington groveling at his feet.” It was already clear why. “[Imus] can talk a book onto the best-seller list,” Thomas wrote. He also made journalists feel like celebrities, said Thomas, drawing them into a snug complicity in which they felt like they were dishing with the cool bad boy in junior high school.
Indeed, NEWSWEEK is among the most frequently represented publications on Imus’s show (NEWSWEEK's Web site is published as part of a technology partnership with MSNBC.com). But the list of Imus’s guests and regulars include some of the most respected names in journalism: Tom Brokaw, Tim Russert and Thomas himself. That African-African Congressman Harold Ford, former U.S. senator Bill Bradley and female journalists like The New York Times’s Maureen Dowd and NBC’s Andrea Mitchell appear on Imus shows, in part, shows that his racist behavior has been tolerable, if distasteful, to politicians and our industry.
For that reason, I am skeptical that all the current gnashing of teeth will have a lasting impact on Imus or the mainstream media. This story is about the assault on the dignity of the young women of Rutgers. But it also about the difference in perspective between white and black America, and what’s acceptable to those who run mainstream media, who, with few exceptions, are white. It is even a story about how those of us who are of color in this business react or fail to react to perceived injustices and outright bigotry.
The Imus imbroglio is also about the power of those who oppose the status quo. The role of the National Association of Black Journalists was crucial. NABJ’s quick call for Imus’s resignation this time fed the brushfire of outrage. But in these crises of contrition and expiation, the aggrieved have a rare, but fleeting, opportunity. For that reason they have rushed to extract as many concessions as they can. Jesse Jackson noted that Imus had never had Jackson on his show. “This is a political show … and we are, by and large, locked out.” In ceding some of his power and at the same time acknowledging it, Imus said that he thought he should have a black guest every day once he comes back from his two-week suspension in order to have a balanced perspective. “And me and the rest of white America ought to understand what’s going on in the black community and I’ll make an effort to do that,” said Imus on his show. “I will do that.”
It sounded like an epiphany. But why did it take more than 30 years for the radio powerhouse to have it? And why did it take a sustained public outcry? Because we in the MSM, as bloggers call the mainstream media, tolerated—indeed, encouraged—his “pushing the envelope.”
For most African-Americans, Don Imus’s racial stereotyping has never been funny. Now race has become yet again one of those predictors of how people respond to Imus, like the O.J. verdict, often trumping politics. On CNN’s "Situation Room," for example, the liberal pundit Paul Begala argued Imus should keep his job, while “conservative commentator” Amy Holmes, Sen. Bill Frist’s former speechwriter and an African-American Republican, insisted that a two-week suspension was not punishment enough.
Many of Imus’s supporters point out that Jews, Catholics and other minorities come in for insensitive ribbing too. Others say it was just Imus being Imus. But as Jeff Greenfield of CBS (and until recently CNN) said on Imus’s show this week, there’s a notable one-note “nineteenth- century mushmouth minstrel thing” about Imus’s mocking of African Americans. Greenfield admitted on the CBS “Early Show” on Wednesday that the white journalists who regularly appear on Imus have been insensitive to the racist nature of his humor.
Nonetheless, the inevitable backlash against the backlash has begun. (Take a look at the responses on MSNBC.com to Al Roker’s calling for Imus’s removal or resignation.) Imus’s supporters and those who merely believe this controversy—and whining, they say—has gone on for too long have started to argue that Imus is being crucified. They say too much is being made of this by blacks who exploit victimization. They charge Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson for hypocrisy over their own insensitive remarks in the past. Indeed, Imus himself said on his radio show on Tuesday that he would stop apologizing at some point and start attacking those who attack him. Clearly, contrition has its limits.
The mainstream media is making much of the fact that hip-hop and rap also use demeaning terms to describe women. (“That phrase didn’t originate in the white community, it originated in the black community,” said Imus lamely of his most recent slur.) But most of the press had no idea that Essence magazine, the leading magazine among black women readers, as well as all-female Spelman College, a historically black school, have led a campaign directed at empowering women and listeners of rap music to address offensive images of women in music for years. Most journalists don’t know about the campaign because, typically, the mainstream media hasn’t covered it.
I do not mean to say there is no genuine defense of Imus. Republican Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor now running for president, and Democratic strategist James Carville have both said that they will not abandon a friend merely because he “said something stupid.” And even the Rutgers team captain, Essence Carson, an impressively mature college junior, was pragmatic enough to say that politicians have to get their message out and Imus has millions of listeners the pols want to reach. “You cannot blame them for that,” said Carson.
But it was revealing on "Today" on Tuesday when Imus told Matt Lauer that he “never said anything about Gwen Ifill.” Calling her a “cleaning lady” was part of “a comedy routine, where we make up the news, which we’ve been doing since 1968 on the radio….It was comedy,” said Imus.
Lauer had the good sense to ask Imus whether, in spite of his apology, he could be trusted to “clean up his act” since he initially didn’t think there was anything wrong with his racist insult and failed to apologize for two days. “Perhaps I can’t [be trusted], then,” said Imus before claiming he had a 35-year history of “keeping his word.” But Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page had extracted a promise from Imus that he would desist from making racist remarks seven years ago and Imus broke it.
Frankly, I don’t care if Imus is a racist. Racists and racism are a part of life. What is significant is that Imus’s brand of offensive racist, sexist and homophobic humor has been accepted by the mainstream for years. Imus did not trot out his harshest caricatures when establishment journalists were on, engaging them instead in playful—sometimes playfully abusive—banter and substantive discussion about foreign policy, politics or social issues. What the denouement of the Imus controversy will show is whether the standard of acceptable speech has changed.
The Imus controversy—like the O.J. verdict—shows that we are still different today, blacks and whites in America. We often have opposite perspectives and we have different levels of tolerance for racist “humor.” That is true here at NEWSWEEK like everywhere else. I have, to my recollection, never spoken to any of my many NEWSWEEK colleagues who appear regularly on Imus’s show, about how repugnant I find his “comical” act, though, as Gwen Ifill noted in an op-ed in The New York Times on Monday, I do feel a particular responsibility as the only black editor at NEWSWEEK.
But like African-Americans and other members of minority groups, and women, I pick my battles. When the nation’s standards or the media’s had changed, Imus would be reigned in, I believed. Until then there was no point in my complaining about it. For the same reason, I never voiced opposition to any of my NEWSWEEK colleagues’ appearing on Imus. That was their decision to make and it still is.
Similarly, most African-American journalists, with the notable exception of Les Payne, have long ignored Imus or seethed in quiet anger. Like me, most of them didn’t see the point of doing otherwise. The Rutgers incident has changed that for many black journalists—like Roker, who said on his "Today" blog on Tuesday that “enough is enough.”
Imus has a right to make offensive speech. What the limits of speech are, when those remarks are made on the federally regulated airwaves, is a continually evolving debate, however. There are commentators on talk radio more offensive than Imus, who offend more often. The difference is that he has power that few of them do and his humor is more baldly derogatory and has been for more than 30 years.
Already some advertisers, including Procter & Gamble and Staples, have pulled their ads from Imus’s simulcast on MSNBC. But Imus’s ultimate fate will tell us whether such racial “humor” is no longer acceptable in American mainstream media. Or if the old bargains of power and prejudice still hold.
"The Surge" is working. Ummm... Ok.... Maybe Not.
QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA | AP |April 12, 2007 09:20 AM EST
The blast in the parliament building came hours after a suicide truck bomb blew up a major bridge in Baghdad, collapsing the steel structure and sending cars tumbling into the Tigris River, police and witnesses said. At least 10 people were killed.
The bomb in parliament went off in a cafeteria while several lawmakers were eating lunch, media reports said. In addition to the two dead, state television said at least 10 people were wounded.
After the blast, security guards sealed the building and no one _ including lawmakers _ was allowed to enter or leave.
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said no Americans were hurt in the blast.
The bombing came amid the two-month-old security crackdown in Baghdad, which has sought to restore stability in the capital so that the government of Iraq can take key political steps by June 30 or face a withdrawal of American support.
One of the dead lawmakers was Mohammed Awad, a member of the Sunni National Dialogue Front, said Saleh al-Mutlaq, the leader of the party, which holds 11 seats in Iraq's legislature. A female Sunni lawmaker from the same list was wounded, he said.
A security official at the building said a second lawmaker, a Shiite member, also was killed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
But Mukhlis al-Zamili of the Shiite Fadhila party said the second dead lawmaker was a Kurd, adding that six of those wounded were members of the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc.
Al-Zamili also said he believed a suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest was behind the attack.
Another member of the National Dialogue Front, Mohammed al-Dayni, also suggested a suicide bomber was behind it.
"I am standing now at the site of the explosion and looking at the severed legs of the person who carried out the operation. If this tells us anything, it tells us that security is lax," al-Dayni told Iraq's Sharqiya television.
Earlier in the day, security officials used dogs to check people entering the building in a rare precaution _ apparently concerned that an attack might take place.
The brazen bombing was the clearest evidence yet that militants can penetrate even the most secure locations. Masses of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers are on the streets in the ninth week of a security crackdown in the capital and security measures inside the Green Zone have been significantly hardened.
The U.S. military reported April 1 that two suicide vests were found in the heavily fortified region that also houses the U.S. Embassy and offices of the Iraqi government. A militant rocket attack last month killed two Americans, a soldier and a contractor. A few days earlier, a rocket landed within 100 yards of a building where U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was holding a news conference. No one was hurt.
Khalaf al-Ilyan, one of the three leaders of the Iraqi Accordance Front, which holds 44 seats, said the attack was "aimed at everyone _ all parties _ our parliament in general being a symbol and a representative of all segments of Iraqi society."
Al-Ilyan, who is in Jordan recovering from knee surgery, said the blast also "underlines the failure of the government's security plan."
"The plan is 100 percent a failure. It's a complete flop. The explosion means that instability and lack of security has reached the Green Zone, which the government boasts is heavily fortified," he said.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Lou Fintor said its officials were "investigating the nature and source of the explosion. No embassy employees or U.S. citizens were affected."
Hadi al-Amiri, head of the parliament's security and defense committee, said the explosion shook the building just after legislators ended their main meeting, and broke into smaller committees.
"A few brothers (fellow lawmakers) happened to be in the cafeteria at the time of the explosion," al-Amiri told Al-Arabiya television. "But had they been able to place this bomb inside the meeting hall, it would have been a catastrophe."
Al-Amiri added Iraqi forces are in charge of security in the building, and that explosives could have been smuggled in amid restaurant supplies.
A television camera and videotape belonging to a Western TV crew was confiscated by security guards moments after the attack.
Attacks in the Green Zone are rare.
The worst known attack inside the enclave occurred Oct. 14, 2004, when insurgents detonated explosives at a market and a popular cafe, killing six people. That was the first bombing in the sprawling region.
On Nov. 25, 2004, a mortar attack inside the zone killed four employees of a British security firm and wounded at least 12.
On Jan. 29, 2005, insurgents hit the U.S. Embassy compound with a rocket, killing two Americans _ a civilian and a Navy sailor _ on the eve of landmark elections. Four other Americans were wounded.
In addition to killing 10 people, Thursday's bombing of the al-Sarafiya bridge wounded 26, hospital officials said, and police were trying to rescue as many as 20 people whose cars plummeted off the span.
Waves lapped against twisted girders as patrol boats searched for survivors and U.S. helicopters flew overhead. Scuba divers donned flippers and waded in from the riverbanks.
Farhan al-Sudani, a 34-year-old Shiite businessman who lives near the bridge, said the blast woke him at dawn.
"A huge explosion shook our house and I thought it would demolish our house. Me and my wife jumped immediately from our bed, grabbed our three kids and took them outside," he said.
The al-Sarafiya bridge connected two northern Baghdad neighborhoods _ Waziriyah, a mostly Sunni enclave, and Utafiyah, a Shiite area.
Police blamed the attack on a suicide truck bomber, but AP Television News video showed the bridge broken in two places _ perhaps the result of two blasts.
Cement pilings that support the steel structure were left crumbling. At the base of one lay a charred vehicle engine, believed to be that of the truck bomb.
"We were astonished more when we saw the extent of damage," said Ahmed Abdul-Karim, 45, who also lives near the bridge. "I was standing in my garden and I saw the smoke and flying debris."
The al-Sarafiya bridge is believed to be at least 75 years old, built by the British in the early part of the 20th century.
"It is one of Baghdad's monuments. This is really damaging for Iraq. We are losing a lot of our history every day," Abdul-Karim said.
The al-Sarafiya bridge has a duplicate in Fallujah that was built later and made infamous in March 2004 when angry mobs hung the charred bodies of U.S. contractors from its girders.
"This bridge is linked to Baghdad's modern history _ it is one of our famous monuments," said Haider Ghazala, a 52-year-old Iraqi architect.
"Attacking this bridge affects the morale of Iraqis and especially Baghdad residents who feel proud of this bridge. They (insurgents) want to demolish everything that connects the people with this land," he said.
Before the al-Sarafiya bridge was destroyed, nine spans across the Tigris linked western and eastern Baghdad.
The river now serves as a de facto dividing line between the mostly Shiite east and the largely Sunni west of the city, a reality of more than a year of sectarian fighting that has forced Sunnis to flee neighborhoods where they were a minority and likewise for Shiites.
Baghdad's neighborhoods had been very mixed before the war but hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced since then as militants from both Muslim sects have sought to cleanse their neighborhoods of rivals.
There have been unconfirmed reports for months that Sunni insurgents and al-Qaida in Iraq were planning a campaign to blow up the city's bridges. U.S. military headquarters near the Baghdad airport and the Green Zone, site of the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi parliament and government, are both on the west side of the river.
Also Thursday, the U.S. military said its troops killed two suspected insurgents and captured 17 in raids across the country.
Associated Press Writer Lauren Frayer contributed to this report.
By Andrew Miga
Thursday, April 12, 2007; A12
A librarian who fended off an FBI demand for computer records on patrons said Wednesday that secret anti-terrorism investigations strip away personal freedoms.
"Terrorists win when the fear of them induces us to destroy the rights that make us free," said George Christian, executive director of Library Connection, a consortium of 27 libraries in the Hartford, Conn., area.
In prepared testimony for a Senate panel, Christian said his experience "should raise a big patriotic American flag of caution" about the strain that the government's pursuit of would-be terrorists puts on civil liberties.
He said the government uses the USA Patriot Act and other laws to learn, without proper judicial oversight or any after-the-fact review, what citizens are researching in libraries.
A recent report by the Justice Department's inspector general found 48 violations of law or rules in the FBI's use of national security letters from 2003 through 2005. Some congressional critics want to tighten legal safeguards on the letters.
" 'Trust us' doesn't cut it when it comes to the government's power to obtain Americans' sensitive business records without a court order and without any suspicion that they are tied to terrorism or espionage," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on civil rights.
Under the Patriot Act, the FBI can use the letters to acquire telephone, e-mail, travel and financial records without a judge's approval. Letter recipients are not allowed to disclose their involvement in a request.
Prosecutors have said secrecy is needed to avoid alerting suspects.
In July 2005, the FBI issued a national security letter to Christian and three other Connecticut librarians. The letter sought computer subscriber data for a 45-minute period on Feb. 15, 2005, during which a terrorist threat was thought to have been transmitted. A gag order prevented the librarians from talking about the letter.
The librarians refused to comply with the FBI's request.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a legal challenge on behalf of the librarians but did not name them.
A judge ruled that the gag order should be lifted, saying it unfairly prevented the librarians from participating in debate over how the Patriot Act should be rewritten. Prosecutors appealed, but in April 2006 they said they would no longer seek to enforce a gag order.
Last year, authorities dropped their demand for the records, saying they had discounted the potential threat that led to the request.
Cheney lied. Again.
CARL LEVIN, a Democratic senator from Michigan, is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
April 12, 2007
TO PARAPHRASE President Reagan, there he goes again.
On Rush Limbaugh's radio program last week, Vice President Dick Cheney spoke about Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi and stated: "He went to Baghdad. He took up residence there before we ever launched into Iraq, organized the Al Qaeda operations inside Iraq…. This is Al Qaeda operating in Iraq and, as I say, they were present before we invaded Iraq."
It is incredible that more than four years after the invasion, the vice president is still trying to convince the public that Saddam Hussein's regime was connected to Al Qaeda and that Zarqawi's presence in Iraq was evidence of a connection.
While the vice president doesn't say directly that there was a tie between the two, his clear purpose is to blur the line between Al Qaeda — the perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks — and the Iraqi dictator in order to justify the war in Iraq.
The problem is, that's simply not supported by the facts or by our intelligence community — and everyone except the vice president acknowledges it. In September, for example, the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded in a bipartisan report that Hussein was "distrustful of Al Qaeda and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from Al Qaeda to provide material or operational support." And the CIA reported a year earlier, in October 2005, that the Iraqi regime "did not have a relationship, harbor or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his associates." As the Intelligence Committee report noted, the Iraqi intelligence service was actually trying to capture Zarqawi, who was in Baghdad under an alias. Is the vice president willfully ignoring what the rest of the government has concluded? Or does he have access to information he hasn't shared with us? If so, he should produce it.
The vice president has a clear, documented pattern of overstating and misstating information with regard to Iraq. He also, for instance, continued to claim that 9/11 terrorist Mohamed Atta may have met with an Iraqi agent in Prague — long after the intelligence community believed otherwise. Again, his obvious purpose is to link Hussein's regime with Sept. 11, even though the rest of the world has concluded that no such link exists.
The vice president has made so many outlandish statements that the country barely raised an eyebrow at his false statement last week. The public has stopped believing the words of a man who promised, before we invaded Iraq, that we would be "greeted as liberators" and reassured us nearly two years ago that the insurgency was in its "last throes."
But his comments continue to erode our credibility with the international community, which has already been severely damaged by our rush to war with Iraq with little international support. If, in the months ahead, we face a crisis over Iran's weapons programs and need to rally the international community, we may find that the world has little interest in trusting an administration that misstates facts.
By all accounts, Dick Cheney is one of the most powerful vice presidents in our history, if you define power as influence over policy. We need to ask ourselves: What does it mean for our country when the vice president's words lack credibility, but he still wields great power?
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Bush Seeks New Scapegoat... er... War Czar. Bueller? Bueller?
Bush Seeks Overseer For Iraq, Afghanistan
By Peter Baker and Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, April 11, 2007; A01
The White House wants to appoint a high-powered czar to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with authority to issue directions to the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies, but it has had trouble finding anyone able and willing to take the job, according to people close to the situation.
At least three retired four-star generals approached by the White House in recent weeks have declined to be considered for the position, the sources said, underscoring the administration's difficulty in enlisting its top recruits to join the team after five years of warfare that have taxed the United States and its military.
"The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going," said retired Marine Gen. John J. "Jack" Sheehan, a former top NATO commander who was among those rejecting the job. Sheehan said he believes that Vice President Cheney and his hawkish allies remain more powerful within the administration than pragmatists looking for a way out of Iraq. "So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, 'No, thanks,' " he said.
The White House has not publicly disclosed its interest in creating the position, hoping to find someone President Bush can anoint and announce for the post all at once. Officials said they are still considering options for how to reorganize the White House's management of the two conflicts. If they cannot find a person suited for the sort of specially empowered office they envision, they said, they may have to retain the current structure.
The administration's interest in the idea stems from long-standing concern over the coordination of civilian and military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan by different parts of the U.S. government. The Defense and State departments have long struggled over their roles and responsibilities in Iraq, with the White House often forced to referee.
The highest-ranking White House official responsible exclusively for the wars is deputy national security adviser Meghan O'Sullivan, who reports to national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley and does not have power to issue orders to agencies. O'Sullivan plans to step down soon, giving the White House the opportunity to rethink how it organizes the war effort.
Unlike O'Sullivan, the new czar would report directly to Bush and to Hadley and would have the title of assistant to the president, just as Hadley and the other highest-ranking White House officials have, the sources said. The new czar would also have "tasking authority," or the power to issue directions, over other agencies, they said.
To fill such a role, the White House is searching for someone with enough stature and confidence to deal directly with heavyweight administration figures such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. Besides Sheehan, sources said, the White House or intermediaries have sounded out retired Army Gen. Jack Keane and retired Air Force Gen. Joseph W. Ralston, who also said they are not interested. Ralston declined to comment; Keane confirmed he declined the offer, adding: "It was discussed weeks ago."
Kurt Campbell, a Clinton administration Pentagon official who heads the Center for a New American Security, said the difficulty in finding someone to take the job shows that Bush has exhausted his ability to sign up top people to help salvage a disastrous war. "Who's sitting on the bench?" he asked. "Who is there to turn to? And who would want to take the job?"
All three generals who declined the job have been to varying degrees administration insiders. Keane, a former Army vice chief of staff, was one of the primary proponents of sending more troops to Iraq and presented Bush with his plan for a major force increase during an Oval Office meeting in December. The president adopted the concept in January, although he did not dispatch as many troops as Keane proposed.
Ralston, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was named by Rice last August to serve as her special envoy for countering the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a group designated a terrorist organization by the United States.
Sheehan, a 35-year Marine, served on the Defense Policy Board advising the Pentagon early in the Bush administration and at one point was reportedly considered by then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He now works as an executive at Bechtel Corp. developing oil projects in the Middle East.
In an interview yesterday, Sheehan said that Hadley contacted him and they discussed the job for two weeks but that he was dubious from the start. "I've never agreed on the basis of the war, and I'm still skeptical," Sheehan said. "Not only did we not plan properly for the war, we grossly underestimated the effect of sanctions and Saddam Hussein on the Iraqi people."
In the course of the discussions, Sheehan said, he called around to get a better feel for the administration landscape.
"There's the residue of the Cheney view -- 'We're going to win, al-Qaeda's there' -- that justifies anything we did," he said. "And then there's the pragmatist view -- how the hell do we get out of Dodge and survive? Unfortunately, the people with the former view are still in the positions of most influence." Sheehan said he wrote a note March 27 declining interest.
Gordon Johndroe, a National Security Council spokesman, would not discuss contacts with candidates but confirmed that officials are considering a newly empowered czar.
"The White House is looking at a number of options on how to structure the Iraq and Afghanistan office in light of Meghan O'Sullivan's departure and the completion of both the Iraq and Afghanistan strategic reviews," he said. He added that "No decisions have been made" and "a list of candidates has not been narrowed down."
The idea of someone overseeing the wars has been promoted to the White House by several outside advisers. "It would be definitely a good idea," said Frederick W. Kagan, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. "Hope they do it, and hope they do it soon. And I hope they pick the right guy. It's a real problem that we don't have a single individual back here who is really capable of coordinating the effort."
Other variations are under consideration. House Democrats have put a provision in their version of a war spending bill that would designate a coordinator to oversee all assistance to Iraq. That person, who would report directly to the president, would require Senate confirmation; the White House said it opposes the proposal because Rice already has an aid coordinator.
Some administration critics said the ideas miss the point. "An individual can't fix a failed policy," said Carlos Pascual, former State Department coordinator of Iraq reconstruction, who is now a vice president at the Brookings Institution. "So the key thing is to figure out where the policy is wrong."
Bush Adminstration: Political Viewpoint More Important than Expertise.
Grads influential in Justice Dept.
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- The title of the course was Constitutional Law, but the subject was sin. Before any casebooks were opened, a student led his classmates in a 10-minute devotional talk, completed with "amens," about the need to preserve their Christian values.
"Sin is so appealing because it's easy and because it's fun," the law student warned.
Regent University School of Law, founded by televangelist Pat Robertson to provide "Christian leadership to change the world," has worked hard in its two-decade history to upgrade its reputation, fighting past years when a majority of its graduates couldn't pass the bar exam and leading up to recent victories over Ivy League teams in national law student competitions.
But even in its darker days, Regent has had no better friend than the Bush administration. Graduates of the law school have been among the most influential of the more than 150 Regent University alumni hired to federal government positions since President Bush took office in 2001, according to a university website.
One of those graduates is Monica Goodling , the former top aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who is at the center of the storm over the firing of US attorneys. Goodling, who resigned on Friday, has become the face of Regent overnight -- and drawn a harsh spotlight to the administration's hiring of officials educated at smaller, conservative schools with sometimes marginal academic reputations.
Documents show that Goodling, who has asserted her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to avoid testifying before Congress, was one of a handful of officials overseeing the firings. She helped install Timothy Griffin , the Karl Rove aide and her former boss at the Republican National Committee, as a replacement US attorney in Arkansas.
Because Goodling graduated from Regent in 1999 and has scant prosecutorial experience, her qualifications to evaluate the performance of US attorneys have come under fire. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, asked at a hearing: "Should we be concerned with the experience level of the people who are making these highly significant decisions?"
And across the political blogosphere, critics have held up Goodling, who declined to be interviewed, as a prime example of the Bush administration subordinating ability to politics in hiring decisions.
"It used to be that high-level DOJ jobs were generally reserved for the best of the legal profession," wrote a contributor to The New Republic website . ". . . That a recent graduate of one of the very worst (and sketchiest) law schools with virtually no relevant experience could ascend to this position is a sure sign that there is something seriously wrong at the DOJ."
The Regent law school was founded in 1986, when Oral Roberts University shut down its ailing law school and sent its library to Robertson's Bible-based college in Virginia. It was initially called "CBN University School of Law" after the televangelist's Christian Broadcasting Network, whose studios share the campus and which provided much of the funding for the law school. (The Coors Foundation is also a donor to the university.) The American Bar Association accredited Regent 's law school in 1996.
Not long ago, it was rare for Regent graduates to join the federal government. But in 2001, the Bush administration picked the dean of Regent's government school, Kay Coles James , to be the director of the Office of Personnel Management -- essentially the head of human resources for the executive branch. The doors of opportunity for government jobs were thrown open to Regent alumni.
"We've had great placement," said Jay Sekulow , who heads a non profit law firm based at Regent that files lawsuits aimed at lowering barriers between church and state. "We've had a lot of people in key positions."
Many of those who have Regent law degrees, including Goodling, joined the Department of Justice. Their path to employment was further eased in late 2002, when John Ashcroft , then attorney general, changed longstanding rules for hiring lawyers to fill vacancies in the career ranks.
Previously, veteran civil servants screened applicants and recommended whom to hire, usually picking top students from elite schools.
In a recent Regent law school newsletter, a 2004 graduate described being interviewed for a job as a trial attorney at the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division in October 2003. Asked to name the Supreme Court decision from the past 20 years with which he most disagreed, he cited Lawrence v. Texas, the ruling striking down a law against sodomy because it violated gay people's civil rights.
"When one of the interviewers agreed and said that decision in Lawrence was 'maddening,' I knew I correctly answered the question," wrote the Regent graduate . The administration hired him for the Civil Rights Division's housing section -- the only employment offer he received after graduation, he said.
The graduate from Regent -- which is ranked a "tier four" school by US News & World Report, the lowest score and essentially a tie for 136th place -- was not the only lawyer with modest credentials to be hired by the Civil Rights Division after the administration imposed greater political control over career hiring.
The changes resulted in a sometimes dramatic alteration to the profile of new hires beginning in 2003, as the Globe reported last year after obtaining resumes from 2001-2006 to three sections in the civil rights division. Conservative credentials rose, while prior experience in civil rights law and the average ranking of the law school attended by the applicant dropped.
As the dean of a lower-ranked law school that benefited from the Bush administration's hiring practices, Jeffrey Brauch of Regent made no apologies in a recent interview for training students to understand what the law is today, and also to understand how legal rules should be changed to better reflect "eternal principles of justice," from divorce laws to abortion rights.
"We anticipate that many of our graduates are going to go and be change agents in society," Brauch said.
Still, Brauch said, the recent criticism of the law school triggered by Goodling's involvement in the US attorney firings has missed the mark in one respect: the quality of the lawyers now being turned out by the school, he argued, is far better than its image.
Seven years ago, 60 percent of the class of 1999 -- Goodling's class -- failed the bar exam on the first attempt. (Goodling's performance was not available, though she is admitted to the bar in Virginia.) The dismal numbers prompted the school to overhaul its curriculum and tighten admissions standards.
It has also spent more heavily to recruit better-qualified law students. This year, it will spend $2.8 million on scholarships, a million more than what it was spending four years ago.
The makeover is working. The bar exam passage rate of Regent alumni , according to the Princeton Review, rose to 67 percent last year. Brauch said it is now up to 71 percent, and that half of the students admitted in the late 1990s would not be accepted today. The school has also recently won moot-court and negotiation competitions, beating out teams from top-ranked law schools.
Adding to Regent's prominence, its course on "Human Rights, Civil Liberties, and National Security" is co taught by one of its newest professors: Ashcroft.
Even a prominent critic of the school's mission of integrating the Bible with public policy vouches for Regent's improvements. Barry Lynn , the head of the liberal Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said Regent is churning out an increasingly well-trained legal army for the conservative Christian movement.
"You can't underestimate the quality of a lot of the people that are there," said Lynn, who has guest-lectured at Regent and debated professors on its campus.
In light of Regent's rapid evolution, some current law students say it is frustrating to be judged in light of Regent alumni from the school's more troubled era -- including Goodling.
One third-year student, Chamie Riley , said she rejected the idea that any government official who invokes her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination could be a good representative of Regent.As Christians, she said, Regent students know "you should be morally upright. You should not be in a situation where you have to plead the Fifth."
Sweet Jesus. Don Imus doesn't get it at all does he?
I guess this is the "everybody's doing it" defense.
I like how he also says that black women are demeaned by "their own black men" as if black women belong to black men.
This fucker really is a fossil.
Bill O'Reilly really is a moron. Facts and Reality Obscure O'Lielley's attempt to link immigrants to crime.
Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera got into a screaming match about an illegal alien accused of manslaughter. Is there a link between illegal aliens and crime?
By Alex Koppelman
Apr. 10, 2007 | It was the video that burned up the Internet on Friday -- Fox News hosts Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera, normally amicable foes, if not allies, screaming at each other on the set of "The O'Reilly Factor" with such ferocity they seemed likely to come to blows. At issue was the case of Alfredo Ramos, an illegal immigrant who allegedly killed two teen girls while driving drunk in Virginia Beach, Va. O'Reilly argued that the two teens would not have been killed had Ramos been deported, while Rivera contended that O'Reilly was "obscuring a tragedy to score a cheap political point." Rivera also claimed that "illegal aliens commit crimes at a lower rate than citizens do."
On Monday, Salon spoke with professor Robert J. Sampson, chairman of the sociology department at Harvard University and most prominent member of a new school of academics who say that, contrary to widespread public belief, immigrants may actually be the secret to decreasing crime in the U.S. Sampson et al. believe their research shows immigrants are less likely to commit crime than native-born Americans, and that immigration itself may actually play a role in lowering the overall crime rate. Salon asked Sampson to rate O'Reilly and Rivera as debaters, and to explain what his research says about immigrants and Americans' perceptions of them.
What did you think of Bill O'Reilly's arguments?
Well, I wasn't terribly surprised -- I think it's emblematic of a larger way in which these incidents are often perceived, and I think he was thrown off by being confronted with what I thought was a pretty logical argument on Rivera's part ... So basically the way I would interpret it is as follows: [O'Reilly] was interpreting this particular incident, which, of course, is horrible, only from the lens of thinking about the person as an illegal immigrant, rather than actually confronting the data, which show that in fact immigrants, illegal aliens, are disproportionately less likely to be involved in many acts of deviance, crime, drunk driving, any number of things that sort of imperil our well-being. And so what he was doing was starting with the category of the person -- illegal -- and inferring from that things that don't follow.
In my opinion, this is sort of typical ... unfortunately, for many Americans it seems that the old adage has basically been turned around. Believing is seeing. And I think in this case O'Reilly has a particular perception and belief [about a] category [of person], which then influenced the way he saw and interpreted this particular event, and Rivera called him on it, and he got upset, obviously.
But on some fundamental level, doesn't O'Reilly have a point -- this wouldn't have happened had Alfredo Ramos not been living in this country, right?
That's true. And you can follow that logic out for a lot of different things; when I teach my crime classes, I often say, "Well, we can basically eliminate crime, right? If we really wanted to, we could abort all male babies. That would reduce the crime rate to pretty much zero in the future."
So yes, you can think of counterfactuals -- if a category of persons were not actually here, then yes, the crime would not have been committed. But let's extend that logic: If the majority of people who are in the category of producing most drunk-driving homicides or deaths were not in the country then by definition the rate of drunk-driving deaths would be reduced. So who is that? Well, they're young people, disproportionately male, disproportionately white, mainly suburban ... The perception and the stereotype is what's driving the argument, not the data.
What have you found in your research about the relation of immigration to the crime rate?
In our research, which is based on over 10 years of data collection and analysis of a long-term study in Chicago, our findings tend to be quite similar to other research showing that first-generation immigrants have lower rates of crime, particularly violent crime. In particular, first-generation immigrants, that is, people born outside the country, are much less likely to commit violence, in our data about 45 percent less likely than third-generation immigrants. In turn, second-generation immigrants are about a quarter less likely to commit crime than third-generation.
So, in other words, native Americans, those born here and whose parents are born here, are the most violent and the most criminal. And that's not just our data, this is other data. Immigrants are less likely to be imprisoned relative to their numbers; Latinos, in particular, even though they enter the country being disproportionately poor, which would signal, based on everything else we know, that they would have a high risk for all sorts of negative outcomes, including [poor] health, low-birth-weight babies, incarceration, violence and so forth, [are less likely to be imprisoned]. They are doing rather well in many dimensions, and this has led to what is known in the literature as "the Latino paradox." And the paradox is just that -- even though they are disproportionately poor and have all kinds of risk factors, they are doing better in many dimensions. So that particular finding in our data I think is consistent.
Then one can look at all kinds of other data. I would point to two broad trends. One, if you look at the crime rate or the violence rate, or in particular, one which we can measure very well in the United States, let's take homicide, where in almost all cases there's a body, so we know how to measure it pretty well. Immigration was exploding, literally, in the United States, going up by the millions -- no one disputes this -- in the '90s. I've produced charts showing that as that was going up, violence was going down at a very rapid rate. In fact, the two lines are pretty much inverse to each other. Now, that doesn't prove causation, but it certainly shows that the common perception that as immigration goes up that crime will also go up is just not true.
And then if you look at the cities that are by all accounts immigrant inflows, or border cities in particular, such as El Paso [Texas] or San Diego, Tucson [Ariz.] or other cities, they are not our leaders in violence by any means. In fact, those cities have done quite well. It typically, historically, continues to be cities with high proportions of native Americans that have the high homicide rates, whether it be Baltimore, Detroit, Atlanta or Washington, D.C.
Do the trends for immigrants hold true for illegal aliens in particular? Was Geraldo Rivera right about illegal aliens committing less crime?
It's hard to break out that precise figure, because of the uncertainty. First of all, we're not even allowed, because there are certain restrictions placed on our research, to ask about someone's immigration status.
But ... it certainly would track in our data, in most data. If you think about it, the national trend, an over 50 percent increase in immigration flow over the last 10 or more years, has also been highly correlated with the influx of illegals, so you're finding an influx in both and so the pattern would be similar, and that's my read of the data. Similarly, in Chicago, the neighborhoods we studied that were immigrant enclaves, they were also where you found illegal immigrants ... So to the extent that the patterns hold that link immigration to lower crime, then I think it would also hold for illegal immigrants.
What is it about immigrants, do you think, that makes them less likely to commit crime?
There are several things that I would point to. One is just a simple selection factor, as we would call it in the academic literature. What that means is that the pool of people that are coming into the country are selected on certain characteristics, such as wanting to get ahead in the United States, and that's associated with working hard, keeping out of trouble, keeping their heads down. Then it's not terribly surprising, if you think about it, that people who are coming here to better their lives would not necessarily be picking up and doing crime right away. It's a selection factor that makes a lot of sense.
And this is not just from Mexico, but if you're thinking about immigration from around the world. That's another factor, I think, that in any story about immigration has to be emphasized, that this is now something that is going on in all ethnic groups.
Secondly, and related to it, there's less incentive to commit crime, and greater sanctions, because of course one can be deported, and one doesn't want to draw attention to oneself.
Third, I think there's a family structure relationship here, in that the immigrants, at least in our data, are much more likely to be in intact families. In Chicago, for example, the Mexican-Americans are more likely to be married even than whites, and family structure is related to the risk of certain outcomes among offspring in our data and [that of other researchers]. So the fact that there are more intact families is, I think, part of the explanation, which of course also points out an irony in the anti-immigrant onslaught from the far right. David Brooks has written about this. If one views family intactness as "family values," then one would be actually in favor of more immigration. That's an interesting irony there.
Fourth ... increasing immigration has been associated with changes in cities in particular. We've seen this rebuilding and economic boom in part, I believe, due to immigration. That is something that would lead to lower crime.
And lastly, which is a little bit more speculative on my part, but I think it's an interesting hypothesis to consider, is that a lot of violence in American cities is associated with subcultures of honor. The notion [is] that a lot of homicides, in particular, derive from disputes over honor and a sense of perceived insult. And that sort of honor system or cultural system, if it exists, then to the extent that is diluted by immigration, then one would expect lower crime rates. At the very least, you would think that immigrants are less exposed to that, because of the tendency to settle in immigrant enclave areas. And in fact another irony in all of this is that there are many scholars who attribute the subculture of violence and honor of violence in American society to Scottish-Irish dueling culture that was brought over centuries ago. Now, that's also sort of a speculative hypothesis, but there are a lot of people who buy into it, the notion that the culture of violence is brought over by the white immigrants, the Scots-Irish, who settled in the South, South Carolina and other areas, and then diffused into the inner city.
Have you looked back at previous immigrant groups and seen whether they had similar patterns in terms of crime?
Yeah, the data are pretty consistent with this, and if you look back at the criminological literature, even going way back, you can see this as well, where first-generation kids were doing better.
So again, it's not a new finding, and that's why I think that the question really as to why this is generating the kinds of responses that you see, and that this video kind of captures, the fury, the question really is why the fury?
I've argued, and some of our data on another topic, really, but it bears on this, shows that there are these deep perceptions that are linked not just to immigrant groups but also to racial minority groups in the United States. [These perceptions] are tenacious, and they hold regardless of what the data actually tell us. So, for example, we've done studies where we've videotaped very slowly, going down the street, each side of the block, videotaping the amount of disorder -- for example, the number of people drinking in the street, or the number of broken windows, graffiti, vacant houses and so forth -- and also measured the crime rate in the community, and then asked people about their perceptions of the exact same thing that we're looking at, and we can objectively measure through videotapes.
What we find is huge, huge effects of the racial and immigrant composition of the population and what people perceive to be a problem. The way it works is that the more there is a concentration of blacks, Latinos and immigrants, the more people perceive disorder to be a problem. That's pretty interesting, and a bit sad.
Furthermore, we found that [perception] to be true [among] all groups. This is not a story about, "Oh, whites are the bad guys who perceive these groups to be linked to disorder." All groups, actually -- Latinos and blacks and whites, Asians -- were all exposed to the cultural stereotypes in the society, and so what's happening, I think, is that there's this implicit and deep-rooted sense [among all groups] that low-income and immigrant groups are inevitably associated with certain characteristics.
What's the reaction been to your research?
It's kind of been all over the map. I've gotten gratifying support and confirmation in the sense of scientific data from other studies, and I've been able to give a number of talks and I think present the data in a way that has hopefully shed some light on the beliefs in the country that have, I think, gone some ways toward counteracting some of the stereotypes. And of course I've gotten lots of angry diatribes as well from people who are angry, don't believe the data, think that it's untrue, that I have some kind of sinister agenda. I've gotten vile e-mails, hate mails, threats, that kind of stuff as well. So that's not been pleasant, of course.
Is it that they just don't want to believe that what you're saying could be true?
I think that's the biggest part of it. There's almost a sense of outrage because it's obviously not true, and therefore how could I say it? That's the feeling among some.
I'm talking about serious reactions. I've gotten reactions on the order of somebody who wrote something like, "You need to pass your research out so Mexicans can wipe their asses in the streets where they're shitting." That kind of stuff, you can't take that seriously.
A guide for Washington's power crowd.
By Timothy Noah
Posted Tuesday, April 10, 2007, at 6:59 PM ET
Don Imus' long-standing acceptance by the political establishment is a contemporary illustration of 1940s socialite Perle Mesta's famous advice about how to draw Washington's power set to a soiree: "Hang a lamb chop in the window." Politicians like John McCain and Barack Obama, and famous TV journalists like Tim Russert and Cokie Roberts, are no more standoffish than their predecessors; the only difference is that the lamb chop has been replaced by a microphone. For some years now, the broadcast industry has conducted, via talk radio and reality TV, a series of experiments to gauge precisely how much personal humiliation the species Homo sapiens will consent to endure. The most surprising finding is that even people with constant access to the media will make themselves available to interviewer-comedians like Sacha Baron "Ali G." Cohen or Steven Colbert—performers whose sole aim is to get laughs at these celebrities' expense. If there's an outer boundary to what a famous journalist or politician will put up with, science has yet to find it.
In the direct-humiliation department, Imus falls well short of Colbert or Ali G. Imus in the Morning is a variation on the experiment, wherein the belittling is indirect. Here, the research question is how long respectable journalists and politicians will associate themselves with a radio host who spews continual invective based on race, ethnicity, and religion. Without exception, every political and journalistic celebrity who appears on Imus' show is diminished. Yet they keep coming back. Is it because they don't know what Imus says when they aren't around? That's what they tend to claim. "I don't listen to the show," McCain told journalist Philip Nobile in June 2000. In an April 9 appearance, Tom Oliphant told Imus, "Solidarity forever," but later covered his ass by saying, "I don't know beans about hip-hop culture or trash-talking or, what do you call those things where you run on forever? Riffs." One person who can't claim ignorance about Imus is Evan Thomas, who on April 9 told the New York Times' David Carr that it would be "posturing" for him to refuse to go on Imus' show after Imus got dinged for calling the Rutgers women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos." Thomas puffed Imus in a 1999 Newsweek cover profile ("The Ringmaster"). "With his quick takes and sense of the absurd," he wrote, "Imus is the perfect voice for an age that prizes irony over solemnity." The Newsweek piece made only glancing reference to Imus' penchant for uttering racial and ethnic slurs on the air, overlooking, for instance, the shock jock's admission the previous year on CBS News' 60 Minutes that he'd once told a colleague he hired producer Bernard McGuirk to tell "nigger" jokes. ("That was an off-the-record conversation," Imus protested to Mike Wallace.)
In the unlikely event that McCain, Oliphant, and others don't know who they're dealing with, let's review some of Imus' remarks (if you prefer, riffs) from the past. This stuff isn't hard to find. Many thanks to the Web sites Media Matters for America, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, and TomPaine.com (where Nobile tracked Imus' show) for the quotes that appear below.
"William Cohen, the Mandingo deal." (Former Defense Secretary Cohen's wife is African-American.)
"Wasn't in a woodpile, was he?" (Responding to news that former black militant H. Rap Brown, subsequently known as Abdullah Al-Amin, was found hiding in a shed in Alabama after exchanging gunfire with police. Imus is here alluding to the expression "nigger in the woodpile.")
"Knuckle-dragging moron." (Description of basketball player Patrick Ewing.)
"We all have 12-inch penises." (After being asked what he has in common with Nat Turner, Malcolm X, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Latrell Sprewell from the New York Knicks, and Al Sharpton.)
"Chest-thumping pimps." (Description of the New York Knicks.)
"A cleaning lady." (Reference to journalist Gwen Ifill, possibly out of pique that she wouldn't appear on his show. "I certainly don't know any black journalists who will," she wrote in the April 10 New York Times. The Chicago Tribune's Clarence Page used to appear, but after he made Imus pledge not to make offensive comments in the future, he was never asked back.)
"I remember when I first had [the Blind Boys of Alabama] on a few years ago, how the Jewish management at whatever, whoever we work for, CBS, or whatever it is, were bitching at me about it. […] I tried to put it in terms that these money-grubbing bastards could understand."
"Boner-nosed … beanie-wearing Jewboy." (Description of Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post, a frequent guest.)
"That buck-tooth witch Satan, Hillary Clinton." […] "I never admitted it when I went down there and got in all that big jam, insulting Bill Clinton and his fat ugly wife, Satan. Did I? Did I ever say I was sorry for that?"
On Native Americans:
"The guy from F-Troop, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell." (This is a reference to the zany Indian characters on the 1960s TV sitcom F-Troop. They had names like "Roaring Chicken," "Crazy Cat," and "Chief Wild Eagle.")
"I didn't know that Allan Bloom was coming in from the back end." (The homosexuality of the author of The Closing of the American Mind became widely known when Saul Bellow published Ravelstein, a novel whose protagonist was based on Bloom, who by then was deceased.)
"The enormously attractive [NBC political correspondent] Chip Reid, I can say without being accused of being some limp-wristed 'mo."
On the handicapped:
"Janet Reno's having a press conference. Ms. Reno, of course, has Parkinson's disease, has a noticeable tremor. […] I don't know how she gets that lipstick on (laughter) looking like a rodeo clown."
Every one of these statements came directly out of Imus' mouth on his program. That's striking because Imus usually leaves it to other show regulars (especially McGuirk, the aforementioned point man on "nigger" jokes) to say the most offensive stuff, with Imus feeding them straight lines. It's safer that way.Timothy Noah is a senior writer at Slate.