Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Friday, May 08, 2009
Jeff Sessions: Man of the Old South
The GOP's pick for ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee has a rather colorful history when it comes to race... the recollections of a former Sessions subordinate, a Black man named Thomas Figures, are particularly interesting:

Figures recalled one occasion in which the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division sent them instructions to investigate a case that Sessions had tried to close: "We had a very spirited discussion regarding how the Hodge case should then be handled; in the course of that argument, Mr. Sessions threw the file on a table, and remarked, 'I wish I could decline on all of them.'"

All of them, according to Figures, meant civil rights cases generally. As he explained at one point: "[T]he statement, the manner in which it was delivered, the impression on his face, the manner in which his face blushed, I believe it represented a hostility to investigating and pursuing those types of matters."

Figures said that Sessions had called him "boy" on a number of occasions, and had cautioned him to be careful what he said to "white folks. "Mr. Sessions admonished me to 'be careful what you say to white folks,'" Figures testified. "Had Mr. Sessions merely urged me to be careful what I said to 'folks,' that admonition would have been quite reasonable. But that was not the language that he used."

In response to these allegations, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) asked him if he'd ever objected to this behavior. Senator "Did you ever say anything to them? Did you ever say, knock it off, or quit it?"

Figures admitted he hadn't: "Senator, I felt that if I had said anything or reacted in a manner in which I thought appropriate, I would be fired. I always felt that my position was very tentative around Mr. Sessions."

Yep. The GOP has had it.

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posted by JReid @ 2:05 PM  
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Post employees distance themselves from the monkey cartoon
From the Huffpo:
On Wednesday, an employee of the paper told the Huffington Post that the phone lines had been inundated with complaints over what was interpreted as a racially charged jab at Obama. "As they f--king should be," said the source.

Today, meanwhile, the Post's Associate Editor, Sandra Guzman, sent out an email to other reporters distancing herself from the paper's cartoon and acknowledging that she has talked to management about her disapproval.

"Thank you for your feedback," reads the email. "Please know that I had nothing to do with the Sean Delonas cartoon. I neither commissioned or approved it. I saw it in the paper yesterday with the rest of the world. And, I have raised my objections to management. --Sandra Guzman."

Meanwhile, Robert Gibbs doesn't spend much time reading the New York Post??? Well what the hell is he doing all day, then?

Al Sharpton led a protest today (of course he did!) and is calling for a boycott of the Murdochian paper.

And the cartoonist, Sean Delonas' website is temporarily down. I suppose it does take time, pulling down all of one's previously offensive cartoons, doesn't it...

Oh, and before the wingers fall too hard for Sean, you might want to check out this one.


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posted by JReid @ 3:43 PM  
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Bill, be nice
Just as Chris Matthews discovered the perils of going on too salty about a female candidate (and bashing her daily, and seemingly obsessively...) Bill Clinton has apparently learned a lesson about throwing Jesse Jackson references around in reference to his wife's African-American challenger: just say no. The NYT writes: Nice Bill is back.

Meanwhile, Jesse Jackson says he wasn't offended by Big Bill's reference to him winning South Carolina, just like Barack. Hell, he's probably happy to be compared to the Democratic phenom who is taking the presidential field by storm. And Jackson had some words of wisdom for Obama in a telephone conversation the two had after South Carolina:
In his conversation with Mr. Obama on Saturday, Mr. Jackson said, “He told me what Bill had said. And I said to Barack, as a tactical matter, resist any temptation to come down to that level. There may be temptations, especially when the media keeps saying ‘Barack is black,’ and they never said ‘Dukakis is white’ or ‘Hillary is white,’’ he said, referring to Michael Dukakis, who won the Democratic nomination in 1988.

But, Mr. Jackson said, “Bill has done so much for race relations and inclusion, I would tend not to read a negative scenario into his comments.” He said his chief concern was that Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton not “bloody themselves” so much that they can’t unite against the Republicans in November.
Well said, Rev. Hey, he was also the guy who told us to "stay out of the Bushes..."

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posted by JReid @ 4:50 PM  
Sunday, January 20, 2008
How the frontrunners stole my joy

It has finally happened. For the first time in my thirty ... something ... years ... I am sick -- I mean really sick -- of politics.

No, scratch that.

I still love politics -- the sport of it, and the import of it. What I'm sick of is this presidential campaign, at least on the Democratic side. The nasty, no-holds-barred trench warfare between camps Clinton and Obama is wearing me out. Hell, I didn't even blog about the Nevada outcome (Hillary won, did ya hear?) And that's just not like me.

But I didn't, because I'm sick of the both of them. I'm sick of hearing about how one is a liar and a dishonest, racist reprobate (and her husband, too) and how the other is a phony who really wasn't against the war. I'm tired of the back and forth charges, including everything from voter intimidation and suppression to ... oh hell, whatever.

I'm sick of the Congressional Black Caucus fighting with one another over which side of history they ought to be on.

For that matter, I'm sick of the increasingly polarized racial politics surrounding the Democratic primary.

I'm sick of hearing (and saying) how pathological Chris Matthews' hatred of the Clintons appears to be.

I'm really sick of John Edwards. Would someone please yank that son-of-a-mill worker into a back room and billy club him until he agrees to drop out of the race? Dude, you aren't going to be president! Get over it already. Jeez... (Oh, and Politico? How can Edwards be king maker if he has no freaking delegates with which to make a king!!!????) God, just stop giving him attention, it just encourages him!

Damnit, I'm just sick of this primary season.

For god's sakes, can one of the frontrunners win the damn thing already and put the other on the ticket, heal the party, and get on with campaigning against John McCain ... or Mitt Romney ... or whoever...? Just wake me when it's over, will you?

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posted by JReid @ 11:30 PM  
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
The MLK Day truce
Not that their staffs have gotten the memo, but the Clinton and Obama camps have reportedly called a truce on the race issue, just in time for tonight's Las Vegas debate. Good move, particularly for Barack, who has benefited from finally marshaling the Black vote based on the dust-up (which helps him in South Carolina, big time,) but who doesn't want to fight the entire primary on that ground. For her part, Hillary gets out of hot water, and gets to send her hubby home to Chappaqua.

Winner: Obama.

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posted by JReid @ 7:38 PM  
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Way to go
When you get to be a certain age, sometimes its best to leave the commentary to your memoirs. Memoirs, you can edit.

James Watson, who headed the U.S. part of the Human Genome Project, and who is credited with discovering the DNA double-helix, has retired.
Dr. Watson, who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for describing the double-helix structure of DNA, and later headed the American government’s part in the international Human Genome Project, was quoted in The Times of London last week as suggesting that, overall, people of African descent are not as intelligent as people of European descent. In the ensuing uproar, he issued a statement apologizing “unreservedly” for the comments, adding “there is no scientific basis for such a belief.”

But Dr. Watson, who has a reputation for making sometimes incendiary off-the-cuff remarks, did not say he had been misquoted.
Editing, old fellow ... editing... Watson's statement upon his retirement. His flight from Britain is documented here.

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posted by JReid @ 10:44 PM  
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Big Mouth strikes again
Bill O'Reilly is shocked ... SHOCKED! ... that an upscale soul food restaurant in Harlem isn't a scene out of a BET music video! Said Orally:

"I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship. There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming 'M-Fer -- I want more iced tea.' " Oh, my God.
What's worse, Orally made the comments while talking with Juan Williams, an otherwise perfectly respectable commentator. ... yeesh...

Now that Bill is reaping the whirllwind for his stupid comments, he's not getting mad, he's getting FURIOUS ... at Media Matters...
Maybe next time, Juan should take Bill-o on a field trip to see some Black children playing ... he'll be pleasantly surprised to find they're not playing tag with AK's...!

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posted by JReid @ 7:31 PM  
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Out come the crazies
I by no means think that most White Americans are racists. In fact, I would guess that the majority of White folks are embarassed by the kind of throw-back, red-neck, bigotry that is on display in LaSalle Parish, Louisiana. I say this, despite the fact that I truly believe that most Whites, while not actively racist, harbor an inherent sense of privilege, which is inculcated in them almost from toddler-hood; a notion that they have ownership and dominion over this country, its resources and benefits, and that they have an inherent right to judge and exert authority over other nations (like Iraq for instance), other people, other ethnic groups, and other value systems. On that, I don't hate the players, but I definitely hate the game...

That said, there are some Whites who are so unreconstructed and backward on the issue of race, that I puzzle at how they manage to get up in the morning, knowing that they live in a world where every facet of life, every job category, every major sport (save hockey and NASCAR, and even that is changing...) every form of entertainment, and damned near every other aspect of life is infused with people of color. How do these throwbacks manage to turn on a TV set without recoiling in abject horror?

So now, we have a few troglodites who have come out of the woodwork, not to merely hang nooses, with the implied threat of lynching, but to actually call for the lynching of the Jena 6, and to go a step further: a neo-Nazi outfit has published the addresses of the Jena 6 families on its web-ste (the site has been down this morning, so I'm assuming the ISP took action, due to the criminal probe now under way...) The organization behind the posting is the National Socialist Movement -- a Hitlerian operation fronted by a guy, aptly called Bill White -- has gone underground since CNN broke the story of the postings, and White himself may face criminal charges, if the federal and state authorities can manage to get their acts together on such a clear hate crime. One hopes that the FBI's level of urgency on this matter will be an improvement upon the flat-footed, slack-jawed reactions to the original nooses hung under the "Jena tree" by the district attorney, Reed Walters, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana Donald "See no hate crime" Washington, and by the babbling, useless governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Babineau Blanco.

Rev. Al Sharpton and others have called for federal marshals to be sent to LaSalle Parish to protect the Jena 6 families. At the least, the state should provide for, and pay for, round the clock protection (Blanco has pledged to have state authorities "investigate" -- not good enough, dear, but then again, that phrase seems increasingly to apply to everything you do...) These families are living in a parish where the district attorney goes to high schools to threaten Black students, where he over-prosecutes them while letting whites who point shotguns at, break bottles over the heads of and hang nooses with the implied threat to lynch black teenagers go unpunished, and where a judge holds a 17-year-old boy in jail, even after the case against him has been thrown out of court. This is not an American city or county in 2007 -- it is a pre civil rights movement-era Dixie, where there apparently is no justice, and no protection, for Black citizens.

So will the federal government step in ? We shall see. Meanwhile, it seems that the Black community -- and people of good will in the White community -- can and should coalesce around a simple set of demands, and should begin considering a series of consequences if those demands are not met:

First, the judge in the case of Mychal Bell should recuse himself, or be removed from the case.

Second, the district attorney, Mr. Walters, should be investigated by the Louisiana Bar for his comments made in that high school gynmasium, that he can "end your lives with the stroke of a pen," before any charges were filed against the Jena 6, and for his refusal to prosecute the White student who pulled a shotgun on Jena 6 member Robert Bailey and two friends (instead, Bailey, who wrestled the gun away and took it home, was charged with theft of a firearm, second degree robbery and disturbing the peace,) not to mention failure to prosecute the students who hung those nooses, and the person who broke a bottle over Bailey's head at a party in December 2006.

Third, Governor Blanco should immediately convene her pardon board to request consideration of an order vacating the charges against all six Jena defendants.

Fourth, state police and/or federal marshalls should be sent to Jena to protect the Black families who have now been threatened by an organized, racist group, as well as by individual White citizens in Jena and in Alexandria, Louisiana.

Fifth, the remaining Jena 6 cases, if not vacated, should and must be moved out of LaSalle Parish.

If no action is taken along these lines, I would venture to say that it's time for Americans of good will -- of all races --to begin an economic and tourism boycott of the state of Louisiana, which has shown no interest in protecting its Black citizens -- either from natural disaster, in the case of Hurricane Katrina, or from racist attacks by organized groups and individuals harboring clear race-based malice.

In addition to that, if Kathleen Blanco runs for reelection as governor, she does not merit, and should not receive, a single Black vote, or for that matter, a single vote by anyone who cares about competent government that serves all citizens equally.

Can I get a witness?

By the way, major big-ups to the Afrosphere, which pushed and continues to push, this important story. Key links:
Culture Kitchen
Afrosphere Bloggers Association


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posted by JReid @ 2:52 PM  
Friday, September 21, 2007
The State of Louisiana vs. the 21st Century
Why won't the State of Louisiana release Mychal Bell? His conviction on aggravated battery charges has been thrown out of court by an appeals court. The bulk of the sane world sees that the prosecutor, and clearly the judge, in this case, are determined to railroad young Mr. Bell and the other members of the group now known as the "Jena 6" into prison for a substantial portion of their lives. The reason why seems equally clear, given the retrograde racial canons of Jena, Louisiana. But will all of the protests, the abysmal publicity, and the incredible public pressure now on that backward state, and its even more backward system of "justice" -- and I put that term in quotes quite on purpose -- the judge and prosecutor seem to be working hand in hand to retain custody of Mychal Bell no matter what.


Meanwhile, purse, unadulterated ignorance is still in fashion in Jena (would that it would only be there...) A picture of the latest nooses to grace that backward town (which the AP managed to portray as Mayberry in its slanted report of today) is below:

Smart move, rednecks. I guess you haven't figured out that prosecutors -- even in LaSalle Parish, Louisiana, now HAVE TO charge you with a crime for doing some stupid stuff like that...

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posted by JReid @ 3:34 PM  
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Wear black today in honor of the Jena 6
I did a quick check of some of the major left wing blogs to see if any of them are covering the Jena 6 case. Wanna guess whether or not they've got stories up? After checking several popular left-of-center sites: Daily Kos, ThinkProgress, Talking Points Memo, MyDD, Democratic Underground, RawStory and the Huffington Post, this post on the HuffPo was all I found.

Some 60,000 people are headed to the town of 3,000 to 4,000 people for a peaceful protest. Mychal Bell, the first of the Jena 6 to be tried, by an all-white jury, by the way, and with his court appointed attorney calling no witnesses, was to be sentenced this morning at 9:00. That won't happen now that his conviction has been vacated by an appellate court. But the underlying problem in Jena, Louisiana -- one of racial bigotry -- and the larger problem in the country -- racial bigotry combined with national indifference -- remains. The mainstream media is treating the Jena 6 story as an afterthought, much as they are doing with the unbelievable West Virginia torture case. Meanwhile, it's all about O.J., and the media is indulging in an orgy of revenge journalism. Sure, the MSM will cover the Jena story today, because of the massive protest. But where have they been for the past nearly a year, as this case has dragged on ...?

What is wrong with this picture?

If you're still not up on the Jena 6 story, this column by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! from back in July should help.

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posted by JReid @ 6:47 AM  
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Quick take headlines: the war on terra
Let's start with Iraq. The government there has moved to expel the mercenary contrator firm Blackwater USA from their country, following a shooting incident that killed eight Iraqis. Now, the scoop is that such an expulsion could complicate any plan to pull U.S. troops out of that country.

Closer to home, the Liberty City Seven trial is under way, with jury selection having started yesterday. We spoke with the attorney for one of the men on the show this morning, and I'll be watching this one. In my opinion, this is as clear cut a case of government railroading in order to prove that there really is a war on terror (requiring us all to be surveilled) as I've ever seen.

What's hot on the blogs? Taser Guy (of course, it all happened in FLORIDA!) He's out of jail now, but some people -- myself included -- are asking: why the hell didn't John Kerry stop talking and do something??? Meanwhile, the wingers, including Drudge and Breitbart, are on the war path against Andrew Meyer. The hot phrase of the day: "Don't tase me bro!"

Why won't the major GOP presidential candidates debate in front of a Black audience at Morgan State? The debate will be broadcast live on PBS and hosted by Tavis Smiley, and now Republicans are starting to worry that their party appears not to be interested in pursuing the Black vote. Cornel West? Please advise.

And finally ... it's one thing not to believe in evolution ... that's retrograde enough. But to not be sure whether the world is flat or round? Damn!

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posted by JReid @ 9:43 AM  
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Now we're getting somewhere
Finally, a major New York paper (The New York Times) delves into the issue of Rudy and race. It's long, but worth the read.

The Times has also annotated a number of its stories on the former New York mayor and his dicey relationship with Black New Yorkers, starting from the moment he announced against then-mayor David Dinkins, whom Giuliani termed a "Jesse Jackson Democrat."

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posted by JReid @ 7:41 PM  
Friday, June 22, 2007
Where is Stepha Henry

With all the stories of missing young women in the news, you'd think that a missing college graduate, bound for a law career, in America's southern playground, Miami, would be worthy of saturation coverage of the kind given to Natalee Holloway. But while the case of Stepha Henry has made some news, it hasn't been of Natalee proportions. USA Today's blog makes it plain:

Stepha Henry is still missing. But since yesterday, Google News has indexed just three stories that mention the 22-year-old black New Yorker who disappeared two weeks ago in Miami.
During the same period, the site found 525 stories that mentioned Kelsey Smith, the white girl who was kidnapped and killed in Kansas, and 6,581 news stories that mentioned "Paris Hilton," the celebrity who is famous for being famous. (Even Natalee Holloway, the Alabama girl who went missing in Aruba two years ago, earned more mentions than Henry.)

WABC-TV, one of the few news outlets that appears to be covering the case, reports that Henry's parents have traveled to Florida in search of their daughter. "Stepha, I love you very much, and you know I need you home," Sylvia Henry tells the ABC affiliate. "And I would like you to please, if you could even talk, wherever you are, tell someone to call your mother or call someone and we'll come get you."

Detectives in Miami-Dade say she was last seen inside a night club, and telephone records indicate that she last checked her voicemail at 4:13 a.m. on May 29. They are looking for a man in a black car who may have come in contact with Henry around the time she was last seen.
As we reported last week, MSNBC canceled segments on the Henry case in favor of wall-to-wall coverage of the Hilton saga that was then unfolding in Hollywood.

This raises an age-old question: Why do some people get more coverage than others? John Ridley thinks he knows the answer: "We've gotta tread carefully here because race is not a factor in the cases of these women gone missing. But race clearly is a factor to the media and in regard to the news they chose to report."
More on the cancellations on the Miami Herald's crime blog, dateline June 8. The reporter is David Ovalle:

I'm livid. I agreed to conduct a last-minute interview with MSNBC about the case of missing Stepha Henry, the 22-year-old college grad who went missing May 29 from Miami-Dade. I rushed to MSNBC's studio but a few minutes before the interview, I was told that it was off -- Paris Hilton coverage was more important.

Turns out, I'm not the only one. Miami-Dade police lead spokeswoman Linda O'Brien was canceled by MSNBC the hour before me. She tells me:

"I am upset because MSNBC called me and asked me to go to their studio in Broward County, 30 miles away from my office. I was there for a total of 45 minutes, was already seated and had the mic ready for the interview. As I waiting to be interviewed, I was listening to the Paris Hilton coverage to include discussion to the effect if anybody had seen or knew the whereabouts of her Chihuahua.

"Then they tell me they have to cut the piece, cut my interview because they’re doing constant coverage of Paris Hilton. I’m appalled that a missing woman cannot get even 60 seconds of air time because the priorities of MSNBC was to have footage of the front gates of Paris Hilton’s house. They asked me to come to the interview and I’m going out of my way to do every interview to keep in the public eye that Stepha Henry, a bright beautiful woman, is missing and we need help in this case."
I’m through with cable TV news. It’s a joke.

America's Most Wanted has also picked up the story, and their profile of Stepha is here.

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posted by JReid @ 9:59 AM  
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
The affirmative action conundrum
This morning we had a couple of guests on the morning show to talk about the issue of affirmative action, broadly defined as prohibition against discrimination against minorities and women, and more controversially characterized by target percentages of same within educational institutions, corporations and the like. We had on a guy named Dr. Claude Anderson, a friend of my co-host, and Professor Walter Williams, an economics professor at George Mason University, and a known opponent of affirmative action (both are African-American). I'm still not clear on what Anderson's point is, other than that the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and the subsequent executive orders by LBJ and Nixon did "nothing" for Blacks, who are, in his words, "permanent, institutional losers" in American society, and of course, always will be, because those amendments and executive orders were "whitewashed" to include other minorities, and women, who really don't deserve such protection because they weren't slaves. Oh, and we should live in separatist compounds away from white people.

The other guest, Professor Williams, argued that the free market, and not government mandates, will correct social stratification (something I'm not sure is true, and even if it is, we don't have a true free market system, because our government leans on the scales to aid corporations, sort of like the way China does...) He also argued that Blacks are set up for failure when they're simply given positions (in college, or on the job) based on race, and not on merit, and he cited the experience of Black students who under affirmative action had high admission rates and low graduation rates.

I'd argue that today, that's not necessarily the case. Black students are graduating at higher rates from elite "white" institutions than from historically Black colleges. And when I was at Harvard, this issue was tackled head on, and Black student scores coming out of high school were found to be higher than our white counterparts.

For the record, I support affirmative action. But I disagree with its use to hand opportunity to those who have not been prepared to make the most of it. Affirmative action was supposed to prevent discrimination of the qualified, not to hand out freebies to the underqualified. When the latter happens, what you create is villification, resentment, and a sense of unfairness in the minds of the excluded (whether that's other minorities or whites.) The problem with affirmative action has been in its application by some, whether well meaning or not, and in the failure of societal institutions, particularly K-12 education systems, to properly prepare young African-Americans for success (throw underperforming parents in there, too...)

The goal should be to have no question that we have both diversity and merit -- where everyone has a shot, but we all agree that everyone who got a shot deserves to be there.

Don't know if that's possible.

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posted by JReid @ 9:48 AM  
Monday, April 23, 2007
McGuirk fired, too
CBS fires Don Imus' perennially offensive longtime producer and sidekick, Bernard McGuirk, more than a week after Imus got the boot. McGuirk, who started the whole "ho" diatribe, will have to do his Ray Nagin and Cardinal O'Connor impressions elsewhere. Meanwhile, Jason Whitlock is publicly cool to the idea of replacing Imus at the FAN. ... the operative word being publicly. I know how hard it is to get a radio job, let alone a nationally syndicated show. If Whitlock has half a brain, he's seriously considering. ...


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posted by JReid @ 8:12 AM  
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Now wouldn't THAT be ironic...
CBS Radio is reportedly interviewing Jason Whitlock, an African-American sports columnist for AOL Sports and the Kansas City Star, to take Don Imus' old spot on WFAN as a syndicated national radio host. Conventional African-American Wisdom: That's great!

Um. .... you DO know I mean this Jason Whitlock:
Jason Whitlock, the columnist for the Kansas City Star and AOL Sports, has been one of the most vocal opponents of the effort to get Don Imus taken off the air for calling the Rutgers women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos." Whitlock isn't defending what Imus said, but he is saying that in many respects, Imus's critics are worse than Imus.

And in an appearance on Tucker Carlson's show on MSNBC, Whitlock lashed out at Imus's two harshest critics, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Whitlock said, "I would say to CBS, don't negotiate with terrorists...
Conventional African-American Wisdom: damn ...

Meanwhile, the KC Star has Whitlock playing it coy. And CBS Radio sues an L.A. radio station for its defiant airing of Imus reruns.


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posted by JReid @ 9:20 PM  
Monday, April 16, 2007
Hypocrizzles on the dizzle
Two people who should never, ever, ever, ever say another word about Imusgate: Snoop d-o-double-jizzle and Bob "BET" Jizzle. Read on, if you have a strong stomach...

Fresh from his plea of no contest to gun charges, Snoop Dogg has added his two cents to the Imus debate, stating that the broadcasting legend should indeed have his job yanked for calling the Rutgers University basketball team “nappy headed hoes.”

The rapper has referred to women as “b**ches” and “hoes” in his music since his first album, “Doggystyle,” in 1993. But the Long Beach MC says there’s a difference between the sexist terms used in hip hop and the way Imus said it last Wednesday during his broadcast.

"It's a completely different scenario. (Rappers) are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports,” said Snoop, according to the Web site Female First. "We're talking about hoes that's in the 'hood that ain't doing s**t, that's trying to get a n**ga for his money. These are two separate things.”

"First of all, we ain't no old-ass white men that sit up on MSNBC going hard on black girls,” he continued. "We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel. I will not let them muthaf**kas say we are in the same league as him. Kick him off the air forever."

Ugh ... wait, wait, there's more...

Meanwhile, BET has been accused of perpetuating the use of “ho” by airing rap videos that contain lyrics and images that are brutally misogynistic. The network’s founder, Robert Johnson, was a guest on MSNBC Thursday in the space that had been occupied by “Imus in the Morning” just 24 hours earlier - before the cable channel canceled the radio simulcast late Wednesday.

David Gregory asked Johnson via phone: “You are the founder of Black Entertainment Television, which over the years, has been a platform for hip hop artists and videos – particularly late at night, which are graphic, which feature this kind of language – the word ho, the b-word, the n-word – that sexualize women, black women, white women. You provided that platform. Do you think there’s something different about that in this case?

Johnson responded: “I absolutely do. As I said David, when you look at artistic expression, you look at creative freedom, it’s coming from artists who are expressing their particular content. …And for the record, I think if you call anybody in the record industry, they will tell you that as the founder of BET and the person responsible for putting on music videos, I absolutely encouraged every artist and every record label to tone down the sexuality, tone down the misogynistic lyrics, to provide content that was appealing to everybody. But as I said earlier, in this kind of debate, if it’s going to have any traction in all, we’ve got to recognize artistic freedom. We’ve got to recognize creative expression. …I make a clear distinction between a comedian saying something in a comedy platform, an artist saying something in an artistic platform, versus a political commentator talking to the power elite of this nation and feeling because he engages with the power elite, he can say things against a disadvantaged class with impunity.”

Here's a thought. Why don't the both of you go away, and never speak publicly about this subject again.

Meanwhile, Rev. Jesse Jackson has been high fiving all over the place about having ousted Imus. He and Reverend Al Sharpton have also been fielding death threats. Sharpton was supposed to be here in South Florida over the weekend to lead a march by groundskeepers and janitors at Nova Southeastern University, who have been the victims of what looks like a major league case of union busting. He was a no-show, and we heard that death threats may have played a part (although the official reason for the cancellation was scheduling conflicts.)

Gwen Ifill is taking a bit of the school marm route, appearing on the Sunday chat shows to tisk tisk her fellow reporters for not committing to never, ever speak to Don Imus on the air again. This story is thick with hypocrisy, and the moralizing and high horsedness on the part of some, by no means all, African-American pundits is starting to become grating.

And then there is the potential for Imusgate snowballing into the tit-for-tat silencing of voices that cause discomfort. From Frank Rich's recent NYT column:

What Imus said about the Rutgers team landed differently, not least because his slur was aimed at young women who had no standing in the world of celebrity, and who had done nothing in public except behave as exemplary student athletes. The spectacle of a media star verbally assaulting them, and with a creepy, dismissive laugh, as if the whole thing were merely a disposable joke, was ugly. You couldn’t watch it without feeling that some kind of crime had been committed. That was true even before the world met his victims. So while I still don’t know whether Imus is a bigot, there was an inhuman contempt in the moment that sounded like hate to me. You can see it and hear it in the video clip in a way that isn’t conveyed by his words alone.

Does that mean he should be silenced? The Rutgers team pointedly never asked for that, and I don’t think the punishment fits the crime. First, as a longtime Imus listener rather than someone who tuned in for the first time last week, I heard not only hate in his wisecrack but also honesty in his repeated vows to learn from it. Second, as a free-speech near-absolutist, I don’t believe that even Mel Gibson, to me an unambiguous anti-Semite, should be deprived of his right to say whatever the hell he wants to say. The answer to his free speech is more free speech - mine and yours. Let Bill O’Reilly talk about “wetbacks” or Rush Limbaugh accuse Michael J. Fox of exaggerating his Parkinson’s symptoms, and let the rest of us answer back.

Liberals are kidding themselves if they think the Imus firing won’t have a potentially chilling effect on comics who push the line. Let’s not forget that Bill Maher, an Imus defender last week, was dropped by FedEx, Sears, ABC affiliates and eventually ABC itself after he broke the P.C. code of 9/11. Conservatives are kidding themselves if they think the Imus execution won’t impede Ann Coulter’s nasty invective on the public airwaves. As Al Franken pointed out to Larry King on Wednesday night, CNN harbors Glenn Beck, who has insinuated that the first Muslim congressman, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, is a terrorist (and who has also declared that “faggot” is nothing more than “a naughty name“). Will Time Warner and its advertisers be called to account? Already in the Imus aftermath, the born-again blogger Tom DeLay has called for the firing of Rosie O’Donnell because of her “hateful” views on Chinese-Americans, conservative Christians and President Bush.

If that happens, then Don Imus, who is already rich, near retirement age, and thus set for life, won't be the only loser.

Rich makes another great point about the "free speech" argument, the "let's talk about race" platitudes, and about the perennially identity challenged MSNBC:

corporations, whether television or radio networks or movie studios or commercial sponsors, are free to edit or cancel any content. No one has an inalienable right to be broadcast or published or given a movie or music contract. Whether MSNBC and CBS acted out of genuine principle or economic necessity is a debate already raging. Just as Imus’s show defied easy political definition - he has both kissed up to Dick Cheney as a guest and called him a war criminal - so does the chatter about what happened over the past week. MSNBC, forever unsure of its identity, seems to have found a new calling by turning that debate into a running series, and I say, go for it.

The biggest cliché of the debate so far is the constant reiteration that this will be a moment for a national “conversation” about race and sex and culture. Do people really want to have this conversation, or just talk about having it? If they really want to, it means we have to ask ourselves why this debacle has given permission to talking heads on television to repeat Imus’s offensive words so insistently that cable news could hardly take time out to note the shocking bombing in the Baghdad Green Zone. Some even upped the ante: Donna Brazile managed to drag “jigaboo” into Wolf Blitzer’s sedate “Situation Room” on CNN.

If we really want to have this conversation, it also means we have to have a nonposturing talk about hip-hop lyrics, “Borat,” “South Park” and maybe Larry David, too. As James Poniewozik pointed out in his smart cover article for Time last week, an important question emerged from an Imus on-air soliloquy as he tried to defend himself: “This phrase that I use, it originated in the black community. That didn’t give me a right to use it, but that’s where it originated. Who calls who that and why? We need to know that. I need to know that.”

My 22-year-old son, a humor writer who finds Imus an anachronistic and unfunny throwback to the racial-insult humor of the Frank Sinatra-Sammy Davis Jr. Rat Pack ilk, raises a complementary issue. He argues that when Sacha Baron Cohen makes fun of Jews and gays, he can do so because he’s not doing it as himself but as a fictional character. But try telling that to the Anti-Defamation League, which criticized Mr. Baron Cohen, an observant Jew, for making sport of a real country (Kazakhstan) and worried that the “Borat” audience “may not always be sophisticated enough to get the joke, and that some may even find it reinforcing their bigotry.”

So if we really want to have this national “conversation” about race and culture and all the rest of it that everyone keeps telling us that this incident has prompted, let’s get it on, no holds barred. And the fewer moralizing pundits and politicians, the better. ...

Great points.

At the end of the day, I remain a libertarian when it comes to speech. As Rich said, there's no constitutional right to have a radio show, and Imus suffered the vicissitudes of advertisers and shareholders, even if that meant that his considerable audience didn't have their views taken into account. But if there is a demand for what he does, he'll come back. And if not, some other peddler of vulgarity will take his place. And that's the way it's supposed to work. The last thing we need is some team of reverendly and media schoolmarms becoming the gate keepers of what can and connot be on the air. Because believe me, if the right has its way, it won't just be racially offensive speech that goes down the chute, it will be inconvenient political speech too. As Scott Long at the Juice Blog puts it:

Those that are joyous of [Imus'] downfall should be really careful about thinking that the next few targets will be as quick and easy, as the backlash will get stronger when they go after the next groups on their list.
Like, maybe, the violent, misogynistic strains of hip-hop, perhaps?

Don Imus is a dinosaur, who apprently didn't see the ice age coming. But he has spawned a generation of foul talking smart mouths who are now the core of talk radio. The only difference with Imus is that he became politically important and he sold tons of books for people, sort of like a demonic version of Oprah.

I would love to see the hip-hop community, the comedy community, et. al. clean up their act and lay off the Black jokes. But I want to seem them do it because they get that the world has changed, rather than because they're being forced to do it.

And by the way, questions over whether the Imus death penalty was, in fact, overkill, aren't just being asked by white people:

I know that I personally don't carry the weight of black America on my shoulders, since every racist comment (vs. blacks) is not directed at me - similar to the way white citizens don't carry the burden of history on their shoulders and an insurmountable sense of guilt.

The Imus situation would be very different if he blatantly said "black women are nappy-headed hos who deserve to die" (sounds remotely Chappelle-esque), and in that instance of course Sharpton would be warranted in attacking Imus. The Rutgers incident is solely between the women of the Rutgers basketball team and Imus - he apologized and they accepted. Granted, he only apologized once the media firestorm began, but at least he apologized to whom he insulted.

In order to be successful in life, you have to be comfortable with yourself. I know that people's racist comments have only hurt me when clearly directed at me (far beyond stereotypes and generalizations), and the Imus situation seems like another case of an individual's commentary affecting more than his intended "target" thanks to the media exacerbating commentary that I never would have even heard in the first place.
Well... she does have a point...


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posted by JReid @ 7:32 AM  
Friday, April 13, 2007
My troublesome doubts
The "I'm sick of the Imus story rant" Part One:

The question of whether hip-hop culture, and its characterization of women, is as damaging -- if not more so -- than Don Imus' petty tirade against the Rutgers womens' basketball team, is now center stage. With Imus gone, the white folks whom Blacks would like to see finally "get it" on the subject of why racial insults are so hurtful, are in reality saying "are you freaking KIDDING me??? The guy gets fired for some stupid comment??? Give me a break!" Many are also crying hypocrisy, since the Black community that has declared itself so mortally wounded by a geriatric misanthrope with a microphone and a really poor imitation of "cool", routinely tolerates the debasement of African-American women in music, films, comedy, magazines, and on and on.

I am among a very small minority of Black folk who are not interested in doing a victory dance over Imus' ouster. I'm not exactly crying over his firing, either, mind you. People get fired in talk radio all the time for saying or doing stupid things that get their stations or networks in hot water. Imus must live by the same rules. I also think the National Association of Black Journalists, and its vocal membership, including people like Gwen Ifill and Al Roker, had every right to press their case with NBC and CBS News. If I were still working at NBC, I would have been in those meetings saying exactly the same thing -- namely, that as a journalist, I had no interest in working under the same roof with a non-journalist shock jock who feels free to spew that kind of vitriol against a bunch of college girls. I would have wanted MSNBC to do something, quickly! ... before we turn into Fox News! I in fact, am fully in support of the NBC cable network's cancellation of his simulcast. What was good for Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh, who were canned by, or resigned from, respectively, MSNBC and ESPN after going over the line of taste, is certainly good for Imus. Hell, I'm for pulling the equally race-baiting Glenn Beck off of CNN Headline News, after his slaps at Keith Ellison and others. But the yanking of Imus' show from CBS is, in my opinion, another matter. That was not about punishing him for crossing the line. That was about shutting him up entirely, or proving that "we" could "get him." Somehow, I'm just feeling kind of queasy about that.

I know I'm going to get slammed for saying this, but I think the vehemence of many in my community to "get Imus" lacked a certain, how shall I say, sense of the larger picture. Okay, so Imus is gone. Now what? Do we debate the cultural setting that made him feel comfortable aping what he clearly thought was hip, Black slang as a way of denegrating the looks of a bunch of girl athletes? Do we ask where a geriatric white man gets the term "nappy headed ho," if not from Black slang? Do we ask whether BET is broadcasting far worse denigrations of Black women every freaking day? While we're at it, should we seek the firing of Bob Johnson, for abusing our sensibilities with "butt naked" videos for 20 years? What about the other shock jocks? Do we fire them too? Do Asians get pumped up to fire Rosie O'Donnell for disparaging them on the public airwaves? Will there be anybody left to fire when we're through? Would Imus, thoroughly cowed, have been more useful on the air, forced to confront the issue of race seriously, rather than as a punchline? Like the question about the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop, the world will never know.

And I'm really growing weary of watching television personalities of the Caucasian persuasion doing the obligatory hang-dog look and "Imus' comments were racist and wrong" tagger before launching into whatever it is they really want to say. I just don't buy that most white people really "get" what it is Black folks are so riled up about. Some do, and are equally riled (Keith Olbermann comes to mind...) but most of them are uber-liberal and reacting to a very general sence of outrage over everything that smacks of an 'ism. More generally, I happen to believe that most white people are embarassed and disgusted by the idea of racism and don't want to be associatd with it, and thus, don't want Imus hanging around stinking up the joint. That said, I think that if you promised never to tell the P.C. police on them, most white people also think Imus was the victim of a bunch of high horse Christians who don't happen to quite believe in forgiveness, and the mob that followed them to church...

I think the more sincere white talking heads on the tubie are those like Craig Crawford, David Gregory and Joe Scarborough, who, after doing the obligatory "Imus' comments were racist and wrong" mantra, actually admit to being baffled as to why a chastened Imus could not have been allowed to remain in his job after serving his two week banishment and perhaps giving a healthy donation to a Title IX charity, and why there had to be a jihad against his very employment in this world. Or those like Bill Maher and Pat Buchanan who are calling the Imus flap "ridiculous" and overblown and an attack on free speech. Call me cynical, but I suspect that the Imus flap won't bring about better healing and racial understanding. It will touch off a cross current of wars against liberal talkers, conservative talkers, unacceptable white talkers, unacceptable black talkers, and possibly, a renewed sense of terror over the existence of Youtube. At least until some bubbly starlet strokes out in rehab, adopts a Malawian child or wins American Idol...

The "I'm sick of the Imus story rant" Part Two:

My sister and I just had a long telephone conversation about this, which is why I'm riled up enough to blather on about it. After talking with her for nearly an hour, (I feel the need to reveal that she's an actress, and wears her hair natural, which makes for a double dose of adventure in her life...) I finally hit on what's really bugging me about this whole exercise. I keep wondering if it's at all helpful to see those Rutgers girls paraded across the national consciousness as victims, so delicate in constitution that they were ready to crumble upon hearing, second hand, that some old geezer called them a name? (What ever happened to "your MAMAs a nappy headed ho!?" Okay, maybe that wouldn't have sounded as good in that one hour presser...) And then, to have those same, "pretend outraged-but not quite getting why they're supposed to be" white commentators, not to mention Mrs. Imus, declare breathlessly -- and daily -- that after all, the girls really, really ARE pretty, aren't they? Just look at their perms! Sorry, but somebody please pass the air sickness bag. These girls are powerful, tough athletic and academic stars. They don't need a weeping nation to approve of their fresh new perms, and white people to tell them they're really so very beautiful, do they? Have we gotten that soft? Is this the same community that survived slavery, lynching and Jim Crow? (Okay, sorry, I guess that was the savvy P.R. way to handle the situation, and I applaud Rutgers for their strategery ... oh, and Oprah was a nice touch -- beyond that, the girls have been hermetically sealed from media...) To illustrate my point, Condi Rice has said she's glad Imus was fired for his "disgusting" remarks. But then she said this:

Asked how she handled racist, sexist comments directed her way, Rice laughed and
replied: "I'm a big girl. I can take care of myself. And I really don't care because, you know, I'm a mature woman."

Exactly, Condi. Shouldn't we be encouraging these girls to be as tough as you are?

If we're going to have a conversation about assaults on the femininity of Black women -- something which goes back, not to Don Imus, but to the very formation of this country -- let's have that conversation. Don Imus was taunting those girls because in his mind (just like his buddy Stu's reduction of the Williams sisters to "animals") tall, athletic, dark skinned women aren't really women, and definitely aren't feminine or attractive. You really need to look as much like a white woman as possible if you want to make it around here, dear... We could have had that conversation with Imus in his chair. I really woudn't have cared. But that conversation would have had to include a whole lot of Black men, too.

Meanwhile, the possibility that the jihad will turn next on the hip-hop nation has riled up the MTV generation. Russell Simmons released this statement today, after Snoop Dogg and other artists started getting calls from media on whether Don Imus was, in fact, pimping their ho's. Said Simmons (and his Hip Hop Summit Action Network partner Dr. Ben Chavis). I've put the glaring ironies in bold italics...:

"Hip-Hop is a worldwide cultural phenomena that transcends race and doesn't engage in racial slurs. Don Imus' racially-motivated diatribe toward the Rutgers' women's basketball team was in no way connected to hip-hop culture. As Chairman and President of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN), respectively, we are concerned by the false comparisons some in the media are making between Don Imus and hip-hop. We want to clarify what we feel very strongly is an obvious difference between the two.

"HSAN believes in freedom of artistic expression. We also believe, with that freedom, comes responsibility. Don Imus is not a hip-hop artist or a poet. Hip-hop artists rap about what they see, hear and feel around them, their experience of the world. Like the artists throughout history, their messages are a mirror of what is right and wrong with society. Sometimes their observations or the way in which they choose to express their art may be uncomfortable for some to hear, but our job is not to silence or censor that expression. Our job is to be an inclusive voice for the hip-hop community and to help create an environment that encourages the positive growth of hip-hop. Language can be a powerful tool. That is why one's intention, when using the power of language, should be made clear. Comparing Don Imus' language with hip-hop artists' poetic expression is misguided and inaccurate and feeds into a mindset that can be a catalyst for unwarranted, rampant censorship."
Pardon? Are these artists seeing THAT many bitches, tricks and ho's around them?

Damn, the streets are tough! And how's this for poetic expression (editorial on: the pic above is of Snoop, and please don't post a comment pointing out that the lyrics below are not his... they're from Ludacris, and I know he has a song out about runaways, k? editorial off.):

Shake your money maker
Like somebody's bout to pay ya
Don't worry about them haters
Keep your nose up in the air

You know I got it
If you wanna come get it
Stand next to this money
Like - ey ey

[Verse 1]
Shake, shake, shake your money maker
Like you were shaking it for some paper
It took your momma 9 months to make ya
Might as well shake what your momma gave ya
You, you lookin good in them jeans
I bet you'd look even beter with me in between
I keep my mind on my money - money on my mind
But you's a hell of a distraction when you shake your behind
I got *** on my right side pourin' some cups
My whole hood is to my left and they ain't givin a fuck
So feel free to get loose and get carried away
So by tomorrow you forgot what you where saying today
But don't forget about this feeling that I am making you get
And all the calories you burn from me making you sweat
The mile highpoints you earn when we taking my jet and
How everywhere you turn I'll be making you wet

... [Verse 2]
Switch, switch, switch it from right to left
And switch it till you running right out of breath
And take a break until you ready again
And you can invite over as many friends as
You want to but I really want you and just
[ these lyrics found on ]
Be thankfull that Pharrel gave you something to bump to
Luda - I'm at the top of my game
You want my hands from your bottom to the top of your frame
And I - just wanna take a little right on your curves
And get erotic giving your body just what it deserves and
Let me give you some swimming lessons on the penis
Backstroke, breaststroke, stroke of a genius
Yepp call me the renissance man get up and
I stay harder then a cinderblock man
Hey I;m just a bedroom gangster
And I've been meaning to tell that I really mus thank ya when you

Shake your money maker
Like somebody's bout to pay ya
I see you on my radar
Don't you act like you're a faker


You know I got it
If you wanna come get it
Stand next to this money
Like - ey ey

Yep. Pure poetry, bitches. And now that CBS has purged itself of Donald Imus, they can get back to squeezing big bucks out of their Viacom unit's hit VH1 spin-offs of "The Flavor of Love"...

Now, keeping it real, I blame myself along with everyone else. I happen to like the above song. Great track. And I love and listen to hip-hop -- have done for most of my life at this point. And I know that there are still great artists out there putting out music with real lyrics, and no bullshit. But there's also a pervasive culture of degradation, and we can't run away from it, just as the majority culture has to deal with its drunk and disorderly starlets, Girls Gone Wild sluttiness and promiscuity cults, and various other cultural ills we all share. But denying that there's any connection between the culture we create and the culture others absorb, when we share this county in increasingly close quarters, is just damned disengenuous.

How much hypocrisy can you fit into one story???

Related: The Times Alan Davieson has some 'advice for whitey...'

Also related: The Hatemongers over at Wizbang ... no, that's really their name ... also are tired of the hang dog cable news white people ... and they remember the forgotten victims on the Tennessee women's basketball team (talk about having your 15 minutes stolen...)

The University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers ... the ones who actually won the tournament...

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posted by JReid @ 7:52 PM  
Anatomy of a takedown
The Wall Street Journal gives all the gory details of the step by step disintegration of the Imus franchise.

Meanwhile, Pat Buchanan assails what he calls the hypocrites and charlatans who orchestrated the take-down.

Tom Delay (who has about zero credibility and really shouldn't be talking in public anymore) says they got Imus, now, let's get Rosie. Now, I can't stand Rosie, let's stipulate to that. If the righties are successful on this one. That said, the Imus take-down might be this year's impeachment, starting a never ending war of political tit for tat. Here we go!

The girls, by the way, have accepted the Imus apology, which came in person in a meeting just after he learned of his firing by CBS. What the statement that they're "working on forgiving him" means, is puzzling, and a little saccharine. I blame the university and their spokespeople for that one, not the girls.

Oh, and wanna buy a "nappy headed ho" T-shirt, teddy bear or infant bodysuit for your baby? No, seriously...


Update: Condoleezza Rice weighs in.

And next stop, hip-hop? The debate begins, Snoop plays the ass, and after demanding the head of Don Imus, Reverend Al will settle for dialogue with hip-hop MCs...

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posted by JReid @ 5:41 PM  
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Shocker jock

How many times can I be wrong on one story? CBS has fired Don Imus. Wow. You can look at this one of two ways: either its a victory for decency, or an example of extreme corporate quizzling. It could also be proof that the broadcast networks, both on television and radio, as well as their free cable incarnations, are far too timid to play the game the way a coarsening society has configured it. That could mean big bucks for paid media, which could mean XM will be to radio what HBO and Showtime are to television.

(Or it could mean far less: one old misanthropic bully (and goes down, heads back to ranch, curses the world...) I assume he'll be taking his even more racist executive producer with him...

At the end of the day, it's clear that a right to free speech is not an entitlement to a seven figure job on the radio. Imus can still exercise his rights, wherever he's able to find employment (I'm still betting on XM, but then again, I'm not a good predictor on this story...) but I do think that the result of his firing won't be a giant Kum-ba-ya over the American airwaves, with decency reigning over rancor. It will be a "they got Imus, now we'll get them" game of gotcha that could reignite the red-blue culture wars. From now on, I'm going to operate on the assumption that Radio One is being watched closely, with some angry I-man fans just waiting for somebody to slip up... That, and a couple of Black folk will get temporary pundit gigs on MSNBC. ... hey, that reminds me, I need to get my bio package updated...

One question does still hang out there: will there still be a meeting between Imus and the Rutgers girls? And will he take the road of conciliation, or revenge? We shall see...

Update: Question answered. Imus is reportedly meeting with the Rutgers girls at the governor's mansion in New Jersey. That according to NBC News. Classy move, Imus. And I don't think anyone disagrees that these young women have come out of this tragedy as role models of the first order. Great group of young women. We should all be proud of them.

Meanwhile, as we begin choosing winners and losers here, count Rutgers women's basketball, and the university itself, among the winners. They'll be getting a Hillary audience on Monday. Can a Barack visitation be far behind.

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posted by JReid @ 5:50 PM  
Imus falling
So his MSNBC simulcast is gone, his CBS show is hanging by a thread, but hey, Imus still has his charities. The annual telethon went on as planned today, sans TV. And from what Drudge is reporting (though his reporting is a bit dubious these days,) he's getting on with some attitude on the air, saying "the bastards" got him, but they "didn't catch him asleep," whatever that means... Imus is said to be very upset about the goings on, particularly the fact that NBC didn't give him a chance to have his meeting with the Rutgers girls. That's the market, Don. They lose money, you lose gig... Here's the transcript, according to Drudge:
Patrick Gavin with FISHBOWLDC reports on Imus's radio show this am...

Barely 12 hours after being fired from MSNBC...

6:12 AM: On Imus' radio program (no longer simulcast on MSNBC) this morning, Chris Carlin, who covers sports for the program, discussed yesterday's dismissal of charges against the Duke lacrosse players.

(rough transcript)

DON IMUS: When will Al Sharpton be apologizing to them?


CARLIN: I'm unaware of such a press conference.

IMUS: I'll be darned...

UPDATE 6:28 AM: After a station break, Imus came back to discuss MSNBC's decision. He said he was recently chatted with "another big time broadcasting executive" who was "complaining that [MSNBC] had cancelled the simulcast twelve hours before we were getting ready to conduct this radio-thon for these three charities."

Imus: "My position on all of this is not whining about the hideously hypocritical coverage from the newspapers -- from everybody -- or the lack of support, say, from people like Harold Ford, Jr. who I had my life threatened over supporting and all these kind of things. It all began, and it doesn't make any difference -- like [James] Carville said -- stop talking about the context, it doesn't make any difference. If I hadn't have said it I wouldn't be here. So let's stop whining about it...You gotta stop complaining. I said a stupid, idiotic thing that desperately hurt these kids. I'm going to apologize but we gotta move on."

UPDATE 7:37 am. IMUS: "The hypocrisy is absurd...Everybody knows what the deal is. And this is not over. This story does not end here."

Meanwhile, the Rutgers girls are Oprah bound today, and 37 percent of nearly 180,000 respondents to an MSNBC online poll say the I-man shouldn't have been fired -- he's a shock jock, after all.

Rosie O'Donnell is looking over her shoulder for the thought police.

In the public debate, I think that today, the question now officially turns from racial insensitivity to the policing of thought vs. free speech. Time asks the question this way: "who can say what?"

Drudge claims Sharpton puts it this way:
'It is our feeling that this is only the beginning. We must have a broad discussion on what is permitted and not permitted in terms of the airwaves'...
More from the TIME article:
our culture has experienced an almost psychotic outburst of -isms in the past year. Michael Richards and "nigger." Isaiah Washington and "faggot." Senator George Allen and "macaca." Mel Gibson and "f__ing Jews."

But we also live in a culture in which racially and sexually edgy material is often—legitimately—considered brilliant comment, even art. Last year's most critically praised comedy, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, won Sacha Baron Cohen a Golden Globe for playing a Kazakh journalist who calls Alan Keyes a "genuine chocolate face" and asks a gun-shop owner to suggest a good piece for killing a Jew. Quentin Tarantino has made a career borrowing tropes from blaxploitation movies. In the critics-favorite sitcom The Sarah Silverman Program, the star sleeps with God, who is African American and who she assumes is "God's black friend." And the current season of South Park opened with an episode about a Michael Richards-esque controversy erupting when a character blurts the word niggers on Wheel of Fortune. (He answers a puzzle—N-GGERS—for which the clue is "People who annoy you"; the correct answer is "naggers.") ...

...Imus crossed a line, boorishly, creepily, paleolithically. But where is that line nowadays? In a way, the question is an outgrowth of something healthy in our society: the assumption that there is a diverse audience that is willing to talk about previously taboo social distinctions more openly, frankly and daringly than before. It used to be assumed that people were free to joke about their own kind (with some license for black comedians to talk about how white people dance). Crossing those lines was the province of the occasional "socially conscious artist," like Dick Gregory or Lenny Bruce, who was explicit about his goals: in Bruce's words, to repeat "'niggerniggernigger' until the word [didn't] mean anything anymore."

Now, however, we live in a mash-up world, where people—especially young people—feel free to borrow one another's cultural signifiers. In a now classic episode of Chappelle's Show, comic Dave Chappelle plays a blind, black white supremacist who inadvertently calls a carload of rap-listening white boys "niggers." The kids' reaction: "Did he just call us niggers? Awesome!" The country is, at least, more pop-culturally integrated—one nation under Jessica Alba, J. Lo and Harold & Kumar—and with that comes greater comfort in talking about differences.

But that's a harder attitude for older people—who grew up with more cultural and actual segregation—to accept or to mimic. Part of the problem with Imus' joke was that it was so tone-deaf. "That's some rough girls from Rutgers," he said. "Man, they got tattoos ... That's some nappy-headed hos there." The joke played badly in every community, raising memories of beauty bias (against darker skin and kinkier hair) that dates back to slavery. Tracy Riley, 37, of Des Moines, Iowa, who is of mixed race, said the incident was among her four kids' first exposures to overt racism. "Our kids don't see color the way we do," she said. "They don't see it as much. 'You're my friend or not, but it's not about race.'"
And then there's this idiot from Pennsylvania. How stupid do you have to be to get yourself fired from your radio show for mimicking Imus AFTER he got canned?

And should Imus lose his job at CBS, something I still doubt will happen -- I guess I'm just an iconoclast -- and he doesn't choose to take $100 million to go to satellite radio, I'm thinking his next gig might be prime minister of England...

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posted by JReid @ 11:50 AM  
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Imus circling the drain?
The Don Imus horror show continues to escalate in drama, with MSNBC making the decision to drop the shock jock's simulcast today. Imus reportedly saw it coming. Having worked for an NBC affiliate, I can't say I'm surprised that the company whose execs throw around the phrase "six sigma" brought the hammer down hard. NBC doesn't play with its corporate image (remember the time they hired that psycho Michael Savage to host a show? No, you probably don't. It didn't last long ...)

It seems that the final straw for NBC management was when employees, Black and white (including Keith Olbermann) voiced loud objections to sharing the network, and their credibility, with the "I-man." But I would think the advertisers jumping ship had something to do with it, too.

NBC News President Steve Capus said he made the decision after reading thousands of e-mails and having countless discussions with NBC workers and the public, but he denied the potential loss of advertising dollars had anything to do with it.
Capus has been all over T.V. talking about the decision, and he looks more pained each time... After all that has gone on, I have to say that at this point I think MSNBC did the right thing. They couldn't force their news staff to share the stage with that program any longer. I haven't been on the "fire Imus" band wagon, but from NBC's perspective, his show probably wasn't worth the trouble. They're supposed to be a news outfit, after all.

Meanwhile, Imus has been shedding advertisers, and friends (I actually called in to the Sid Rosenberg show today, after listening to as much of it as I could stomach. He was distancing himself from the Imus comments, and I felt compelled to remind him that he was very much a part of the parade. He brushed off my reminder of his Venus and Serena "National Geographic" slurs, which he said forced his firing and "public humiliation" six years ago, before adding, "so what?") with even white commentators who you can tell really think this is overblown take pains to separate themselves from the remarks. Even Craig Crawford has capitulated, though Joe Scarborough is refusing to back down, along with resident iconoclast Bill Maher.

Meanwhile, righties are having a field day reprinting the lyrics of popular songs that use the n-word, and that liberally use the terms "bitches" and "hos" -- not to mention promoting violence.

It seems that Imus will continue to be roasted on a spit. But if you think this will somehow heal the country or the world, don't count on it. This will polarize us even more, as many whites foam at the very sight or mention of Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson, who will be accused of hounding an old geezer out of his gainful employment, if it goes that far for Imus with CBS radio, and Blacks continue to seethe with rage over the comments, that apparently were simply the last straw from a show that had numerous violations in the past. One wonders whether anyone will take up my question (shared by Keith Olbermann) of when it will be Neil Boortz, Bill Bennett, Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh, John Gibson or Glenn Beck's turn on the spit. If they are given a free pass, what, then, has been the piont? Likewise with the hip hop nation, which can continue to fulminate about bitches and ho's with impunity, right?

If we're looking at the culture, shouldn't we actually look at the culture? Or are we just sating ourselves with Don Imus this week, only to move on to somethng else the next? I think we all agree that Don Imus is a bully and an ass.

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posted by JReid @ 11:04 PM  
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Imus problem turning into a 'gate'?
Members of the Rutgers women's basketball team at a press conference Tuesday

Late breaking news on Imusgate: Keith Olbermann reported tonight on Countdown that Staples, Bigelow Tea, Procter and Gamble and several unnamed clients of major advertising carrier Carat USA have pulled out of the Imus in the Morning show broadcast on MSNBC...

The worm has turned... I'm ready to admit I was wrong about this thing going away. This guy is in trouble...

More on the backlash here.

I rarely go into the personal on this blog, but I have to admit that I am truly torn on this issue. As I said in my now revised initial post on the issue, my first reaction to the Imus story was that it was another case of an old white geezer trying to be funny by tagging along on what he thought was "cool" Black slang and failing miserably. I have occasionally listened to Imus, and while I don't find him objectionable in the way I do Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or Michael Savage, I tend to turn the dial as soon as his executive producer, Bernard McGuirk, or his, in my opinion, viciously racist occasional sports guy Sid Rosenberg (who has his own show here in Miami on 790 The Ticket) gets going. Imus strikes me as a generally harmless old crank, and his comments were offensive, rude, and yeah, racist, but again, my initial reaction was, f^^ him. Why give him more power or influence than his words deserve? He was going after those girls because they are big female basketball players and not "attractive" in his opinion. He should apologize, take his suspension, aand get bent...

And in a way, I guess I'm frustrated that so often, African-Americans get all fired up about issues like this, but can't be brought to life on such weighy issues as the violence in many of our communities (particularly in Miami right now), the degradation of voting rights, not to mention our women, within our own comedy, movies and music, etc. Clearly, there are much bigger fish to fry in this country than one stupid old radio guy.

At the same time ...

Don Imus clearly played the bully here, going after a team full of outstanding young women who were not his typical political or public targets. These girls didn't deserve to be slimed that way, in a way that was clearly meant to be mean, based on their looks. And the basis for his and his co-host's negative assessment of their looks really was, at base, racist -- because they are big, dark skinned and their hair isn't blowing in the wind. Imus touched a racial third rail, and he deserves the opprobrium he's getting. I feel great sympathy for these girls and their families, and I think Imus' back tracking today, and his new sense of self riteousness, makes him look even more like a jerk.

What has really been extraordinary to watch is the vast difference between how white and black people have reacted to this story. Almost to a man, white commentators (with the exception of opportunist hacks like Limbaugh and the people at Fox News) have said that Imus is a "good guy" who made a mistake and we should all move on since he has apologized. That includes people I respect, like Bill Maher and Craig Crawford. And almost to a person, whites have responded to Imus' behavior by lashing out at Al Sharpton and -- surprise -- the Tawanna Brawley incident. Blacks meanwhile, including most of the callers to our radio show, are livid. The disparity says all you need to know about race in America. We live in very different words.

And right now, I am torn between actually feeling guilty about not being personally insulted by his remarks, and wondering if it's because I simply don't care what white people think, or whether I'm just frustrated that we are spending too much time on this issue, when there's a war on that's killing U.S. troops, the Bush administration is running roughshod over the constitution, poverty and violence continue to increase across this country, and only half of Black kids are graduating from high school, and no one seems to care enough to call for a march.

Does Imus deserve to be fired? I guess when you put it in the context of those ten young girls, and how much these comments humiliated them: sure. Especially since so many other radio and television personalities have lost jobs under similar circumstances. I definitely think his producer should be canned. But at the same time, I can only predict that if he were to be fired, Imus would simply wind up on another network or on XM in a blink. And very little would change. White people just don't approach the issue of race in the same way that Black people do. Whites will invariably call this issue overblown, and will continue to fire off these kind of remarks when 'we' are not around. Black people see this as nuclear, whites simply don't. We're so far apart on our conceptions of issues like this that it's almost impossible to have a single conversation with both groups simultaneously on this issue. Hell, it's almost impossible for me to have a conversation with myself about it at this stage...

So again, I'm torn. If I don't give a damn whether Imus stays or goes, does that make me an insensitive person? Or am I just not willing to elevate the guy to such a high status in my life, or the lives of Black people? Damned if I know...

Okay, that's enough emoting. Back to the news:

The presidential candidates are weighing in...

Not surprisingly, the racially divisive Rudy Giuliani says he'll still be a guest on Imus. BTW he also said that flying the confederate flag is a "states rights" issue... nice.

Baghdad John is defending Imus, too and says he'll still appear...

Mike Huckabee says Imus is still OK with him...

This is fascinating. Imus is generally considered not too friendly to Republicans, and now that he's tagged as a racist, the GOPers are rallying around him.

So far, Romney and Obama are non-commital about appearing again (Romney's people used the "he hasn't been invited back' line...) Hillary condems the remarks but hasn't said whether she'll be on the show again, and Edwards, Biden were out of town on Easter holiday.

Meanwhile, Earl Ofari Hutchinson is much more articulate on the subject than I.

And only Fox News would want to know what Ann Coulter thinks...


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posted by JReid @ 9:26 PM  
When you've lost Al Roker...
NBC's goofball weather man brings down the hammer on Don Imus for picking on those Rutgers girls.

I, for one, am really tired of the diatribes, the “humor” at others’ expense, the cruelty that passes for “funny”. Don Imus isn’t the only one doing this, but today he’s the one in the hot seat.

What he said was vile and disgusting. It denigrated an entire team and by extension, a community and its pride in a group that had excelled.

...The “I’m a good person who said a bad thing” apology doesn’t cut it. At least he didn’t try to weasel out of this by hiding behind alcohol or drug abuse. Still, he said it and a two-week suspension doesn’t cut it. It is, at best, a slap on the wrist. A vacation. Nothing.

The general manager of Cartoon Network resigned after a publicity stunt went wrong and caused a panic in Boston. He did the right thing. Don Imus should do the right thing and resign. Not talk about taking a two-week suspension with dignity. I don’t think Don Imus gets it.
Roker makes the very valid point that if Imus must go, so should the continually offensive Bernard McGuirk, his executive producer and sidekick, who egged Imus on and participated in the conversation. In fact, a transcript of the now infamous broadcast makes it clear that there were three -- not one -- people involved in insulting the Rutgers women (in my opinion, as a slap against their looks with clarly racial undertones):
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.

IMUS: Yeah.

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: I don't know if I'd have wanted to beat Rutgers or not, but they did, right?

ROSENBERG: It was a tough watch. The more I look at Rutgers, they look exactly like the Toronto Raptors.

IMUS: Well, I guess, yeah.

RUFFINO: Only tougher.

McGUIRK: The [Memphis] Grizzlies would be more appropriate.
McGuirk was the instigator of the "hos" line, and Rosenberg, true to form, took it to new depths. So where are the calls for McGuirk's job, and for the head of the eternally racist Rosenberg (famous for calling the tennis phenom Williams sisters "animals," who would stand a better chance of posing on the cover of National Geographic than Playboy, and then joking about his past slurs when Serena was called a nigger at a recent match in Florida) to be thrown off his show on South Florida's 790 The Ticket?) Fair is fair. If Imus should be canned, so should they.

That said, let me go on record as saying that I agree with all of those who are calling Imus' comments stupid and offensive. This was a crochety old geezer and serial bully attempting, and failing, to be funny by picking on a bunch of young girls who are doing what we, as a society, have admonished them to do: go to school, get good grades, and pursue positive activites. It was also symptomatic of the out of control insult culture we have developed in the popular media. Not to mention the equally out of control vogue of degrading women and demeaning Blacks as so many niggers, hos and gangstas... (a vogue Black folk created ourselves...) We should take steps to change those things if we don't like them, but I seriously doubt Imus will get the axe. Getting driven onto XM? Perhaps. Marginalized by some mainstream pols? Very likely. But finished as a radio host? I doubt it.

What is clear is that Imus owes those young woman a serious apology. They should get it, and then we should move on. There are bigger battles to fight...

Meanwhile, the Rutgers team got their chance to speak out today, for about an hour long presser. They've also agreed to meet with Imus and consider accepting his apology, although some of them are preemptively raising doubts that such acceptance is at hand. And, probably to Imus' chagrin, the story has gone global.

Sidebar: I think that while folks are on a roll, they should also demand the resignations of other racist radio and television personalities, including Bill "kill all the Black babies" Bennett, Rush the "ho" Limbaugh, Neil "ghetto slut" Boortz, Glenn "prove to me you're not a terrorist" Beck, psychotic Michael Savage and others... why stop with Imus?

Update: Gwen Ifill weighs in and slams the I-man.
Update: Imus slaps back...

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posted by JReid @ 3:15 PM  
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Whither the Blackosphere...
I've wondered about this myself ... namely, why is it that the left end of the blogosphere is so overwhelmingly white? I know there are a number of us "Black bloggers" out there (although I must admit I don't write about race, per se, all that much...) but we seem not to have been able to traverse to the deep end of the pool. Meanwhile, the Kosworld is a rather snow-white one. Why is that? Blogger Francis Holland dares to asks the question, and gets mugged over at MyDD. Hat tip to African-American pundit. Hm. Maybe it's time to finally start posting to my MyDD diary? Aw hell, who has the time...

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posted by JReid @ 2:06 AM  
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Race is the case
Two Black fraternity members have been sentenced to two years in prison for "felony hazing" in Florida. Meanwhile, four white frat guys get charged with a misdemeanor, for the same thing. What's wrong with this picture? We talked to the lawyer in the Black frat hazing case this morning, and he's filing motions calling on the judge to step down, saying she was biased toward the prosecution from the get-go. Circuit court judge Kathleen Decker said the two Black men -- one a pharmacy major and the other an engineering major -- needed to be made an example of. Hm... Doesn't sound biased to me.

Meanwhile, a Florida farm boss gets 30 years for running a virtual slave camp -- recruiting homeless Black men from Miami and then putting them to work in his cesspool of a camp, where money for booze, cigarettes and even crack cocaine -- which was sometimes stuffed in their meager paychecks -- was deducted from the workers' pay, sometimes leaving them with just 30 cents on the dollar. The guy's wife and son were also convicted in the case. Read the unbelievable story and the Herald's investigative work on the subject here.

Staying on the race topic, a new study says that the lighter you are, the more money you make, and that goes not just for African-Americans, but also for immigrants from ... well ... anywhere.

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posted by JReid @ 9:48 AM  
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