Thursday, April 19, 2007

Conservatives on Abortion Decision

Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Conservatives Celebrate Ban on Abortion Procedure
Posted by: Matt Lewis at 5:16 PM

It's fair for the conservative movement deserves a lot of credit for today's Supreme Court decision to uphold the ban on partial birth abortion. We worked to elect a president who would make good Supreme Court picks -- and he did.

Here's what the Washington Post has to say:

The dramatic decision delivered to abortion opponents the promise of a more conservative court as reconstituted by Bush, who praised the majority's rejection of what he called an "abhorrent procedure" and suggested that he would continue working for greater restrictions on abortion.

The ruling marked the first time that the court has upheld a ban on a specific abortion procedure. It also marked a departure from the Supreme Court's past practice of requiring a "health exception" in laws governing abortion to allow the procedure when a woman's health would otherwise be at risk.

Granted, he needed our help to avoid Harriet Miers (yes, I opposed her nomination from the beginning). Of course, we cannot say, for sure, how she would have voted on upholding the partial-birth abortion ban. But I, for one, feel a lot safer with Roberts and Alito -- don't you?

And we can definitely use something positive to celebrate right now. Here's what Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council wrote today:

After three very dark days for our nation, those who cherish life rejoice in the news that the Supreme Court no longer endorses the senseless killing of innocent, partially-born babies.

In a week where the effects of violence have been so keenly felt, we applaud the U.S. Supreme Court's decision today upholding Congress's statute that ends the bloodshed of the unborn by the horrific partial-birth abortion procedure.

I've been saying for a long time now, that conservative bloggers and activists deserve credit for our current Supreme Court. Here's what a liberal blog, Save the Court, wrote back in January of '06:

In what he calls an underreported story, Matt Lewis, author of a guidebook for effectively communicating with GOP voters, writes in Human Events that “Conservative bloggers, pundits, and activists stopped the Harriet Meirs nomination,” and if Alito is confirmed “much of the credit will rightfully belong to the conservative movement.” Calling this “truly an historic accomplishment,” Lewis also claims credit for doing “the President a huge favor by saving him the embarrassment of a disastrous confirmation hearing” by opposing Harriet Miers.

Tonight, we rightly celebrate the ruling. After all, imagine what would have happened today if we hadn't worked hard to get good judges on the bench ...

The Partial-Birth Abortion Decision

Father Knows Best. Dr. Kennedy's magic prescription for indecisive women.
By Dahlia Lithwick

The key to comprehending the Supreme Court's ruling today in Gonzales v. Carhart upholding the federal partial-birth abortion ban is a mastery not of constitutional law but of a literary type. Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion is less about the scope of abortion regulation than an announcement of an astonishing new test: Hereinafter, on the morally and legally thorny question of abortion, the proposed rule should be weighed against the gauzy sensitivities of that iconic literary creature: the Inconstant Female.

Kennedy invokes The Woman Who Changed Her Mind not once, but twice today. His opinion is a love song to all women who regret their abortions after the fact, and it is in the service of these women that he justifies upholding the ban. Today's holding is a strange reworking of Taming of the Shrew, with Kennedy playing an all-knowing Baptista to a nation of fickle Biancas.
As a matter of law, the majority opinion today should have focused exclusively on what has changed since the high court's 2000 decision in Stenberg v. Carhart. Stenberg struck down a Nebraska ban that was almost identical to the federal ban upheld today. That's why every court to review the ban found the federal law, passed in 2003, unconstitutional. What really changed in the intervening years was the composition of the court: Sandra Day O'Connor, who voted to strike down the ban in 2000, is gone. Samuel Alito, who votes today to uphold it, is here.

What hasn't changed is that Anthony Kennedy finds partial-birth abortion really disgusting. We saw that in his dissent in Stenberg. That's what animates and drives his decision. His opinion blossoms from the premise that if all women were as sensitive as he is about the fundamental awfulness of this procedure, they'd all refuse to undergo it. Since they aren't, he'll decide for them.

Kennedy halfheartedly attempts to distinguish Stenberg from Gonzales. Sparing us his usual lofty opening sonnet to freedom and liberty and truth and good lighting, he opens with the terse insistence that this case is not Stenberg: The act is both "more specific" and "more precise" than its Nebraskan precursor. The court can uphold it without revisiting Stenberg. That's nice for Kennedy, since he is one of the authors of the famous peaen to precedent in Casey that was the basis, in that 1992 case, for upholding Roe v. Wade.

Rather than admitting that his opinion today is at odds with Stenberg, Kennedy walks his reader through the horrors of the intact dilation and extraction procedure Congress has banned. This discussion goes on for five pages, and includes, for balance, an "abortion doctor's clinical description" of the abortion at issue, and that of a nurse who witnessed the procedure being "performed on a 26 1/2 week fetus." (The nurse's version: "the doctor stuck the scissors in the back of his head and the baby's arms jerked out, like a startle reaction, like a flinch, like a baby does when he think's he's going to fall.")

Kennedy contends Congress fixed the problems with the Nebraska ban in two vital ways: by making factual findings, and by narrowing the definition of the procedure such that doctors of "ordinary intelligence" know which operations will be illegal and which will not.

And then Kennedy quickly returns to the business of grossing us out. With a stirring haiku about how "respect for human life finds an ultimate expression in the bond of love the mother has for her child," the justice interpolates himself between every one of those mothers and every child she might ever bear. Without regard for the women who feel they made the right decision in terminating a pregnancy, he frets for those who changed their minds. ("It seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained.") (The "infant," not the "fetus.") As both the dissenters and my colleague Emily Bazelon have pointed out, this portrayal of a rampant epidemic of regretful women may or may not be scientifically accurate. (The American Psychological Association doesn't think so.) But even if the numbers of women who would truly choose differently if they could choose again are larger than most of the medical literature indicates, one might question whether such women should be the pole star of national abortion policy.

Nobody disputes that whether or not they decide to go through with an abortion, women face a heart-wrenching choice. But for Kennedy only those women who regret the decision to abort illuminate some deeper truth. And Kennedy's solution for these flip-flopping women is elegant. Protect them from the truth. "Any number of patients facing imminent surgical procedures would prefer not to hear all details," he concedes. "It is, however, precisely this lack of information concerning the way the fetus will be killed that is of legitimate concern to the state." In Kennedy's view, if pregnant women only knew how abhorrent the procedure was, they'd always opt to avoid it. But as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg points out in dissent, Kennedy doesn't propose giving women more information about partial-birth abortion procedures. He says it's up to the Congress and the courts to substitute their judgment and ban the procedures altogether. ("I'm sorry Bianca, there is a procedure out there that may be safer for you, but some day, you will thank me for sparing you from it.")

Then Kennedy sorrowfully returns to the Indecisive Women. "It is self-evident that a mother who comes to regret her choice to abort must struggle with grief more anguished and sorrow more profound, when she learns, only after the event, what she once did not know: that she allowed a doctor to pierce the skull and vacuum the fast developing brain of her unborn child, a child assuming the human form."

One core proposition that's held true from Roe v. Wade to Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Stenberg was that abortion regulations, in order to be constitutional, required an exception if the mother's health was in danger. For the first time today, Kennedy determines that a court's factual determination about whether some procedure may be necessary to protect the mother's health can just evaporate in the face of "medical uncertainty." That turns both Casey and Stenberg on their heads. After today, "medical uncertainty does not foreclose the exercise of legislative power." And even where some of the building blocks of that "uncertainty" are patently untrue. Henceforth if there is uncertainty about the health consequences of the ban, the tie will go to the banners.

Kennedy devotes the remainder of his opinion to taking cover under standing doctrine. "Standing" to bring suit is the Roberts court's trapdoor to keep pesky litigants away from the courthouse. On this front, too, Kennedy turns Casey and Stenberg on their heads with nary a backward glance. His opinion pretty much unfurls a roadmap for states seeking to enact broader bans on abortion. As Ginsburg points out in her dissent, the court's rationale for upholding the ban on intact D&Es would support a ban on the (far more common) nonintact D&E as well.
It's hard to fathom why Kennedy has so much more sympathy for the women who changed their minds about abortions than for those who did not. His concern for Inconstant Females might be patronizing in any other jurist. Coming from him, it's brilliantly ironic. Kennedy is, after all, America's Hamlet. The man who famously worried that "sometimes you don't know if you're Caesar about to cross the Rubicon or Captain Queeg cutting your own tow line," will long be remembered as the living incarnation of agony and indecision, And today he seamlessly rewrites his Stenberg dissent as a majority opinion that blasts his earlier Casey vote to its core.
I'm no psychologist but in light of today's Gonzales opinion one has to wonder: Is all of Kennedy's tender concern over those flip-flopping women really just some kind of weird misplaced justification for his flip-flopping self?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Short Note On Women in the Sciences

Alex Tabarok at Marginal Revolution

The Patriarchy at Work
Many studies have shown that women are under-represented in tenured ranks in the sciences. We evaluate whether gender differences in the likelihood of obtaining a tenure track job, promotion to tenure, and promotion to full professor explain these facts using the 1973-2001 Survey of Doctorate Recipients. We find that women are less likely to take tenure track positions in science, but the gender gap is entirely explained by fertility decisions. We find that in science overall, there is no gender difference in promotion to tenure or full professor after controlling for demographic, family, employer and productivity covariates and that in many cases, there is no gender difference in promotion to tenure or full professor even without controlling for covariates. However, family characteristics have different impacts on women's and men's promotion probabilities. Single women do better at each stage than single men, although this might be due to selection. Children make it less likely that women in science will advance up the academic job ladder beyond their early post-doctorate years, while both marriage and children increase men's likelihood of advancing.

You can see the whole paper by clicking through Marginal Revolution

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Jackie Robinson and the Re-Written Check

The media world is buzzing over the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's first appearance in a Major League baseball game. According to Ian O'Connor of Fox Sports, Robinson's first game was "the most important event in the history of American sports."

And it was.

There is a strong argument that the two most important events in American history have been emancipation from slavery and the overturning of racial segregation. Like Brown v Board of Education, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Freedom Riders, the Poor People's March on Washington, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Robinson's first game as a Dodger is tremendously significant because it was a signal event in the overcoming of racial segregation.

But why is the overturning of segregation so important to American history?

First, overcoming legal segregation made life better for millions of black people in the United States. Most fundamentally, the basic rights of African-Americans to vote, hold office, serve on juries, and exercise free speech and freedom of assembly were recognized. Likewise, black people were integrated into business, education, and civic institutions and a large black middle class came into existence. Because baseball was a prominent civic institution, the integration of baseball helped advance the cause of integration in other spheres as well.

Second, overcoming segregation began a long process of redeeming American society from its legacy of white supremacy. One of the important things about the celebration of Jackie Robinson's baseball career is that all Americans now identify with Robinson's triumphs over racism--against the initial rejection from some of his teammates, the taunting from baseball racists like Phillie manager Ben Chapman, and the abuse from hostile fans. In much the same way that Martin Luther King became an icon for all Americans, Jackie Robinson has become everyone's hero while his racist antagonists are seen as being so un-American that it's like they came from another country.

In his "I Have a Dream" speech, Martin Luther King claimed that:

"[W]e have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

King underestimated the significance of his actions. The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence was indeed a check, but a check that guaranteed "the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" only for white men. Jefferson and Madison did not recognize inalienable rights for black people any more than Roger Taney would in the Dred Scott decision of 1857. What King and other civil rights figures did was "rewrite" the founding documents to guaranteed rights for all rather than rights for white people. In doing so, King was retrospectively redeeming the American Revolution and the Constitution from the legacy of white supremacy. King created a Constitution for us all and then pushed the country to cash in on that promise.

Jackie Robinson was one of the first figures to cash in fully on the promise of an integrated society in the African-American rewriting of the American promise. In doing so, he paved the way for all of us.

Interracial Marriage: 40 Years After

40 years after ruling, interracial marriage flourishing
By David Crary
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The charisma king of the 2008 presidential field. The world's best golfer. The captain of the New York Yankees. Besides superstardom, Barack Obama, Tiger Woods and Derek Jeter have another common bond: Each is the child of an interracial marriage.

For most of U.S. history, in most communities, such unions were taboo.

It was only 40 years ago — on June 12, 1967 — that the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down a Virginia statute barring whites from marrying nonwhites. The decision also overturned similar bans in 15 other states.

Since that landmark Loving v. Virginia ruling, the number of interracial marriages has soared; for example, black-white marriages increased from 65,000 in 1970 to 422,000 in 2005, according to Census Bureau figures. Factoring in all racial combinations, Stanford University sociologist Michael Rosenfeld calculates that more than 7 percent of America's 59 million married couples in 2005 were interracial, compared to less than 2 percent in 1970.

Coupled with a steady flow of immigrants from all parts of the world, the surge of interracial marriages and multiracial children is producing a 21st century America more diverse than ever, with the potential to become less stratified by race.

``The racial divide in the U.S. is a fundamental divide. ... but when you have the 'other' in your own family, it's hard to think of them as 'other' anymore,'' Rosenfeld said. ``We see a blurring of the old lines, and that has to be a good thing, because the lines were artificial in the first place.''

The boundaries were still distinct in 1967, a year when the Sidney Poitier film ``Guess Who's Coming to Dinner'' — a comedy built around parents' acceptance of an interracial couple — was considered groundbreaking. The Supreme Court ruled that Virginia could not criminalize the marriage that Richard Loving, a white, and his black wife, Mildred, entered into nine years earlier in Washington, D.C.

But what once seemed so radical to many Americans is now commonplace.

Many prominent blacks — including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, civil rights leader Julian Bond and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun — have married whites. Well-known whites who have married blacks include former Defense Secretary William Cohen and actor Robert DeNiro.

Last year, the Salvation Army installed Israel Gaither as the first black leader of its U.S. operations. He and his wife, Eva, who is white, wed in 1967 — the first interracial marriage between Salvation Army officers in the United States.

Opinion polls show overwhelming popular support, especially among younger people, for interracial marriage.

That's not to say acceptance has been universal. Interviews with interracial couples from around the country reveal varied challenges, and opposition has lingered in some quarters.

Bob Jones University in South Carolina only dropped its ban on interracial dating in 2000; a year later 40 percent of the voters objected when Alabama became the last state to remove a no-longer-enforceable ban on interracial marriages from its constitution.

Taunts and threats, including cross burnings, still occur sporadically. In Cleveland, two white men were sentenced to prison earlier this year for harassment of an interracial couple that included spreading liquid mercury around their house.

More often, though, the difficulties are more nuanced, such as those faced by Kim and Al Stamps during 13 years as an interracial couple in Jackson, Miss.

Kim, a white woman raised on Cape Cod, met Al, who is black, in 1993 after she came to Jackson's Tougaloo College to study history. Together, they run Cool Al's — a popular hamburger restaurant — while raising a 12-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter in the state with the nation's lowest percentage (0.7) of multiracial residents.

The children are homeschooled, Kim said, because Jackson's schools are largely divided along racial lines and might not be comfortable for biracial children. She said their family triggered a wave of ``white flight'' when they moved into a mostly white neighborhood four years ago — ``People were saying to my kids, 'What are you doing here?'''

``Making friends here has been really, really tough,'' Kim said. ``I'll go five years at a time with no white friends at all.''

Yet some of the worst friction has been with her black in-laws. Kim said they accused her of scheming to take over the family business, and there's been virtually no contact for more than a year.

``Everything was race,'' Kim said. ``I was called 'the white devil.'''

Her own parents in Massachusetts have been supportive, Kim said, but she credited her mother with foresight.

``She told me, 'Your life is going to be harder because of this road you've chosen — it's going to be harder for your kids,''' Kim said. ``She was absolutely right.''

Al Stamps said he is less sensitive to disapproval than his wife, and tries to be philosophical.

``I'm always cordial,'' he said. ``I'll wait to see how people react to us. If I'm not wanted, I'll move on.''

It's been easier, if not always smooth, for other couples.

Major Cox, a black Alabamian, and his white wife, Cincinnati-born Margaret Meier, have lived on the Cox family homestead in Smut Eye, Ala., for more than 20 years, building a large circle of black and white friends while encountering relatively few hassles.

``I don't feel it, I don't see it,'' said Cox, 66, when asked about racist hostility. ``I live a wonderful life as a nonracial person.''

Meier says she occasionally detects some expressions of disapproval of their marriage, ``but flagrant, in-your-face racism is pretty rare now.''

Cox — an Army veteran and former private detective who now joins his wife in raising quarter horses — longs for a day when racial lines in America break down.

``We are sitting on a powder keg of racism that's institutionalized in our attitudes, our churches and our culture,'' he said, ``that's going to destroy us if we don't undo it.''

In many cases, interracial families embody a mix of nationalities as well as races. Michelle Cadeau, born in Sweden, and her husband, James, born in Haiti, are raising their two sons as Americans in racially diverse West Orange, N.J., while teaching them about all three cultures.

``I think the children of families like ours will be able to make a difference in the world, and do things we weren't able to do,'' Michelle Cadeau said. ``It's really important to put all their cultures together, to be aware of their roots, so they grow up not just as Swedish or Haitian or American, but as global citizens.''

Meanwhile, though, there are frustrations — such as school forms for 5-year-old Justin that provide no option for him to be identified as multiracial.

``I'm aware there are going to be challenges,'' Michelle said. ``There's stuff that's been working for a very long time in this country that is not going to work anymore.''

The boom in interracial marriages forced the federal government to change its procedures for the 2000 census, allowing Americans for the first time to identify themselves by more than one racial category.

About 6.8 million described themselves as multiracial — 2.4 percent of the population — adding statistical fuel to the ongoing debate over what race really means.

Kerry Ann Rockquemore, professor of African-American studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago, is the daughter of a black father and white mother, and says she is asked almost daily how she identifies herself.

The surge in interracial marriage comes at ``a very awkward moment'' in America's long struggle with racism, she says.

``We all want deeply and sincerely to be beyond race, to live in a world where race doesn't matter, but we continue to see deep racial disparities,'' Rockquemore said. ``For interracial families, the great challenge is when the kids are going to leave home and face a world that is still very racialized.''

The stresses on interracial couples can take a toll. The National Center for Health Statistics says their chances of a breakup within 10 years are 41 percent, compared to 31 percent for a couple of the same race.

In some categories of interracial marriage, there are distinct gender-related trends. More than twice as many black men marry white women as vice versa, and about three-fourths of white-Asian marriages involve white men and Asian women.

C.N. Le, a Vietnamese-American who teaches sociology at the University of Massachusetts, says the pattern has created some friction in Asian-American communities.

``Some of the men view the women marrying whites as sellouts, and a lot of Asian women say, 'Well, we would want to date you more, but a lot of you are sexist or patriarchal,''' said Le, who attributes the friction in part to gender stereotypes of Asians that have been perpetuated by American films and TV shows.

Kelley Kenney, a professor at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, is among those who have bucked the black-white gender trend. A black woman, she has been married since 1988 to a fellow academic of Irish-Italian descent, and they have jointly offered programs for the American Counseling Association about interracial couples.

Kenney recalled some tense moments in 1993 when, soon after they moved to Kutztown, a harasser shattered their car window and placed chocolate milk cartons on their lawn. ``It was very powerful to see how the community rallied around us,'' she said.

Kenney is well aware that some blacks view interracial marriage as a potential threat to black identity, and she knows her two daughters, now 15 and 11, will face questions on how they identify themselves.

``For older folks in the black community,'' she said ``it's a feeling of not wanting people to forget where they came from.''

Yet some black intellectuals embrace the surge in interracial marriages and multiracial families; among them is Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy, who addressed the topic in his latest book, ``Interracial Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity, and Adoption.''

``Malignant racial biases can and do reside in interracial liaisons,'' Kennedy wrote. ``But against the tragic backdrop of American history, the flowering of multiracial intimacy is a profoundly moving and encouraging development.''

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Specter of Violence for Feminist Bloggers

In order to argue effectively against the blogger code of conduct, it’s imperative to say that bitches are crazy

Published by Amanda Marcotte April 12th, 2007 in Interblog

Markos doesn’t think death threats are real. Granted, they are a lot less common in my experience than rape threats, but I don’t imagine he thinks those are real, either.

Noteworthy: Markos is not a woman.

When I first started blogging here, I had a hell of a time running around deleting my home address out of the comments of the blog here. That is a death/rape threat. Very rarely do people threaten to kill you outright, but they simply imply it. Your address in your comments=”I know where you live.” My boyfriend at the time certainly picked up on the implied threat that other people would pretend they don’t get and talked about getting a large dog. He didn’t have an interest, I guess, in pushing the idea that women who complain about sexism online are just being hysterical.

But I suppose a woman’s word is not proof, of course, or even evidence. And hey, maybe it’s rare! Or it was just that one time.

I dunno, we deleted this one from comments yesterday, aimed at a blogger that isn’t me but is, as you can imagine, female:

I am a regular reader of this blog, and would like to float a question by you and your readers. We are toying with the Idea of offering rape insurance here at Allstate in Cananda. We offer home owners insuracnce that covers other crimes, we are thinking of exanding Our home owners along with indidual rape policies.

Do you think this would be something that might interest any of you?

He signed it Thomas J. Wilson, who is the president of All State, but that’s clearly not who he is. His IP is I suppose that’s not “proof” or even evidence, since we deleted the comment, but what can I say? I don’t let dickwads threaten my friends in comments. I suppose you could say that it’s not a threat to suggest that someone get insured against rape. Which is basically why men like this threaten like this, through implication, with a coat of plausible deniability. But the message is there and it is received by its intended audience for what it is. Surely liberal bloggers who know all about dog whistles in politics can admit they are there in other communications. And sliding in, harassing a woman, and sliding out is SOP for sexist pigs—you pinch when no one’s looking, because you know she won’t be believed if she complains. You scream at the woman from the car driving by so that she can’t catch your face and know who you are. You make sure at all times to take advantage of the “bitches are crazy and flatter themselves” stereotype.

You could say that Kathy Sierra is overreacting, and you might have a case there. I tend to assume that the vast majority of asswipes won’t follow through on their unhinged emails that either are threatening or mostly just the clear products of the minds of men who probably would rape if they had a chance. No telling. I don’t know the whole story, but she may have reason to think the threats are real. She does work in a male-dominated industry, and attempts to harass and assault women until they give up is pretty standard in these situations. But she might be overreacting. If you’re under an onslaught of abuse from threatened men, it can sometimes be a tad overwhelming and makes it hard for you to see that most of them are basement dwellers too scared to leave the house to follow you.

Even assuming that 99% of the wacked-out misogynists spilling violent fantasies at real women online don’t have the wherewithal to follow through, there’s always that 1%. Once glance at the statistics involving terrorism against doctors who perform abortions should put to rest doubts that some men are so invested in preserving male dominance they’ll gladly resort to terrorism. It does well to remember that for a lot of men, hating women is all they have.

The truth of the matter is that law enforcement does have reason to believe that these kinds of guys can turn dangerous. It does well to remember that John Hinckley was obsessed like this and did manage to go so far as to shoot the President. Not that I blame Jodie Foster or anyone for that, but once in awhile men with these obsessions do go off the deep end and it isn’t always easy to tell who it’s going to be.

I and several feminists were harassed and threatened by a man from England a few years ago. This man had sent me a death threat via e-mail. He said he was going to “slit my fucking throat”. He also annoyed me with his repeated messages that he thought were anonymous, but I was able to track down his real identity with a few Google searches. I never felt threatened by him because I live in Massachusetts and he lived in London. Plus I get annoying and sometimes harassing comments on my blog and in e-mail all the time. I have a high tolerance for tripe. However, other feminists who were at the receiving end of his messages did feel threatened. He had also posted anonymously to comments on my blog and on other feminist’s blogs. Several feminists who felt threatened reported him to Scotland Yard. I was contacted by Scotland Yard to inform detectives of what this man had sent to me. It turned out that he was about 18 years old and lived with his mother. He had a history of mental problems. I know he was convicted of communications harassment, but I don’t remember how he was sentenced.

Not to say that the criticism about the blogger code of conduct is wrong, of course. I think that it’s naive to think that’s going to work, but again, the tech blogging crowd may be old hat at this. But you can engage in a criticism of that without trotting out the tired stereotype that women are hysterical and paranoid.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

More on Imus

The Wit and Wisdom of Don ImusA guide for Washington's power crowd.
By Timothy Noah

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 (where Nobile tracked Imus' show) for the quotes that appear below.

On blacks:
"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.)

On Jews:
"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.)

On women:
"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.")

On Japanese:
"Old Kabuki's in a coma and the market's going up. […] How old is the boy? The battery's running down on that boy." (Reference to Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, who died the following week.)

On gays:
"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.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Don Imus and Racial Stereotypes

MSNBC drops Imus for 2 weeks amid Rutgers flap

NEW YORK -- MSNBC will suspend its television simulcast of radio shock-jock Don Imus' morning talk show for two weeks after the host called members of the Rutgers University women's basketball team "a bunch of nappy-headed hos," the network announced Monday.
Despite apologies from Imus on Friday and Monday, the suspension will start April 16, the network said in a written statement.

"Don Imus has expressed profound regret and embarrassment and has made a commitment to listen to all of those who have raised legitimate expressions of outrage," it said.

"In addition, his dedication -- in his words -- to change the discourse on his program moving forward, has confirmed for us that this action is appropriate. Our future relationship with Imus is contingent on his ability to live up to his word."

Two of the nation's biggest media companies -- CBS Corp. and NBC Universal -- will ultimately decide the fate of Imus' daily program.

After a career of cranky insults, Imus was fighting for his job following one joke that by his own admission went "way too far."

Imus apologized Monday, both on his show and on a syndicated radio program hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who is among several black leaders demanding his ouster.

Imus could be in real danger if the outcry causes advertisers to shy away from him, said Tom Taylor, editor of the trade publication Inside Radio.

"Everyone is on tenterhooks waiting to see whether it grows and whether the protest gets picked up more broadly," Taylor said.

Imus isn't the most popular radio talk show host -- the trade publication Talkers ranks him the 14th most influential -- but his audience is heavy on the political and media elite that advertisers pay a premium to reach. Authors, journalists and politicians are frequent guests -- and targets for insults.

He has urged critics to recognize that his show is a comedy that spreads insults broadly. Imus or his cast have called Colin Powell a "sniffling weasel," New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson a "fat sissy" and referred to Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado, an American Indian, as "the guy from `F Troop."' He and his colleagues also called the New York Knicks a group of "chest-thumping pimps."

Imus: We went way too far

On Sharpton's program Monday, Imus said that "our agenda is to be funny and sometimes we go too far. And this time we went way too far."

The Rutgers comment has struck a chord, in part, because it was aimed at a group of young women at the pinnacle of athletic success. It also came in a different public atmosphere following the Michael Richards and Mel Gibson incidents, said Eric Deggans, columnist for the St. Petersburg Times and chairman of the media monitoring committee of the National Association of Black Journalists, which also wants Imus canned.

"This may be the first time where he's done something like this in the YouTube era," Deggans said. Viewers can quickly see clips of Imus' remarks, not allowing him to redefine their context, he said.

On his show Monday, Imus called himself "a good person" who made a bad mistake.

"Here's what I've learned: that you can't make fun of everybody, because some people don't deserve it," he said. "And because the climate on this program has been what it's been for 30 years doesn't mean that it has to be that way for the next five years or whatever because that has to change, and I understand that."

Imus' radio show originates from WFAN in New York City and is syndicated nationally by Westwood One, both of which are managed by CBS. CBS Radio just replaced chief executive Joel Hollander with Dan Mason. With Imus' radio show reaching an estimated 2.5 million people a week, his future could conceivably be decided by CBS chief Leslie Moonves.

CBS has denounced Imus' remarks and said it will monitor his show for content.

The show is simulcast daily on MSNBC, where it reached an estimated 361,000 viewers in the first three months of the year, up 39 percent from last year.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson and about 50 people marched Monday outside Chicago's NBC tower to protest Imus' comments. He said MSNBC should abandon Imus and MSNBC should hire more black pundits.

Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP board of directors, said it is "past time his employers took him off the air."

"As long as an audience is attracted to his bigotry and politicians and pundits tolerate his racism and chauvinism to promote themselves, Don Imus will continue to be a serial apologist for prejudice," Bond said.

Imus was mostly contrite in his appearance with Sharpton, although the activist did not change his opinion that Imus should lose his job. At one point Imus seemed incredulous at Sharpton's suggestion that he might walk away from the incident unscathed.

"Unscathed?" Imus said. "How do you think I'm unscathed by this? Don't you think I'm humiliated?"

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Singing Black

Over at the L.A. Times, the great music critic Ann Powers has written an interesting examination of the ways that Joss Stone has been criticized for her "black" style of singing. For those of you who don't know, Stone was born in Dover, England, is 19, white, and sings like the second coming of Gladys Knight. After two albums of slavishly faithful attempts to re-create the sound and vibe of classic soul, Stone's new album, "Introducing Joss Stone," was meant to herald the arrival of "the real" Joss Stone, as she took a more hands-on approach to writing and recording the music. The so-so album sounds a lot like her older work (a funny thing to say about someone so young), but it's already on the verge of being deemed a failure in England due to it's low chart placing. As the always insightful Powers explains, part of the album's problem is the way that, even on an album designed to represent her, Stone seems incapable of transcending the soul tradition she's so strongly influenced by: "If there's one fault on 'Introducing,'" writes Powers, "it's that Stone's comfort level with that tradition remains too high. Throughout the album, she sings in a voice she learned from those soul albums; the lilt of coastal England never surfaces."

Powers goes on to write that Stone's "refusal to see [her] identity as artificial" has singled her out for criticism regarding the "right to sing in a black style." It's a great point: Stone's unwillingness to pay fealty to the idea that she's some sort of cultural culprit makes her a target for certain critics -- some of whom have even gone so far as to label her a "freakshow." But isn't the argument that only certain types of people have the "right" to sing certain types of music hopelessly reductive? Should only poor white people play punk music? Do Northern-born blacks have less purchase on the blues than those born in the South? Can someone from California honestly play bluegrass? The truth may be distasteful, but scholars and critics like Nick Tosches, Eric Lott and Greil Marcus have shown that, for better or worse (and I firmly say it's the former), popular culture is one long story of cultural alchemy. Call it exchange, call it theft, call it what you will, but without the interplay between cultures, our world would be radically different.

This kind of cultural appropriation conversation gets kicked up every couple of years -- Eminem and "The White Rapper Show" being recent examples -- but it never seems to come closer to a resolution. As Powers points out, the facts of white privilege and the unequal economy of cultural exchange will always render Stone's blatantly appropriative style of music-making an intellectually and emotionally fraught proposition. I'm just not sure how the right-to-sing conversation can ever be resolved in a constructive or satisfactory way. Am I being too glib or pessimistic? Let me know your take on Stone specifically and cultural appropriation more generally. Post your answers in the comments section.

-- David Marchese