Political MoJo

Sloppy Media Coverage in the Wake of Virginia Tech Shootings

| Thu Apr. 19, 2007 8:56 PM EDT

In the wake of the media blitz surrounding the Virginia Tech shootings, some are appalled at the airing of the videos, claiming insensitivity. Others may be wondering why the media has reported on the possibility of a backlash against Asians. Why has the media conjured up a scary threat of possible hate crimes with none forthcoming?

I think part of this answer lies in the media's attempt to address the fears of the post 9/11 climate. Many of us who are of Asian background waited with bated breath when the killer was identified as "Asian." That's a pretty damn big category: "Asian" could mean East Asian, South Asian, or Southeast Asian. And for South Asian Americans, vivid memories of post 9/11 backlash loom. People of South Asian descent were the first victims of deadly hate crimes. And just last month, Kuldip Singh Nag—an Indian American who is an Iraq war veteran—was assaulted by the police in Joliet, Ill., for being a "fucking Arab" and a "fucking immigrant."

So media outlets dutifully remind that entire communities cannot be held responsible for atrocities committed by a lone gunman, but meanwhile they are busy constructing and stereotyping the "Korean American community." Take for example this LA Times article. To its credit, the article points out that there is a history of minorities having to bear the brunt of collective punishment (think World War II). It also highlights how some Asian Americans are irritated that their so-called "community leaders" are falling over themselves to "apologize" and voice their "collective guilt." Minorities in this country shouldn't have to "represent" and "distance" themselves from every act that someone who resembles them commits.

But then, the article goes on to say:

For Korean Americans, the sense of shame may be particularly acute because of their cultural commitment to interdependence. "Here in America, we think of ourselves as much more separate and autonomous," said Stanford University professor Hazel Rose Markus, an expert in cultural psychology.

"Foundational to Korean thinking is the sense that you need to … adjust yourself to expectations. It's very, very important that you protect your family face and reputation, recognize that whatever you do has consequences not just for you, but for others as well."

"Korean thinking"? Wasn't the idea to suggest that you cannot make generalizations about the presumed thinking of entire peoples? The "Korean community" is no more cohesive and homogenous than the "Muslim community" or "South Asian community." When the shooters of Columbine went on a rampage, no one in major media outlets quoted "experts" saying, "You see, foundational to white thinking..." They didn't go looking for loosely defined "white community leaders" to gauge the white community's collective response. Describing "Korean thinking" and treating the 1.3 million Korean Americans as a uniform group that has informal "representatives" who speak for them is just sloppy.

—Neha Inamdar

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Carnage in Iraq? Bush Miffed at Criticism; Gates in Israel.

| Thu Apr. 19, 2007 4:54 PM EDT

Is this a farce?

Yesterday was the deadliest day in Iraq since the security surge began. Despite the military's attempts to barricade the Sadriya market, a car bomb there killed 135 people. The total death toll for the day was 230. Defense Secretary Gates was in Israel, and promised that troops would "persist." Meanwhile, back at the White House, President Bush became "visibly angered" when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told him, in the Washington Post's paraphrase, that he was pursuing a lost cause at the cost of American troops in order to protect his legacy. The truth hurts, doesn't it?

Young Hawks

| Thu Apr. 19, 2007 4:44 PM EDT

If young people are supposedly more idealistic, then idealism has nothing to do with pacifism. People in their twenties, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll, approve of the Iraq War more than their grandparents. And more youth approve of the invasion than disapprove. Janet Elder writes:

Forty-eight percent of Americans 18 to 29 years old said the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, while 45 percent said the United States should have stayed out. That is in sharp contrast to the opinions of those 65 and older, who have lived through many other wars. Twenty eight percent of that age group said the United States did the right thing, while 67 percent said the United States should have stayed out."....
"I think old people tend to want to solve things more diplomatically than younger, more gung ho types," said Mary Jackson, 28, a homemaker from Brewton, Alabama. "Younger people are more combative."
Younger people are also more optimistic. Forty-nine percent of them said the United States was either very likely or somewhat likely to succeed in Iraq, while only 34 percent of older people said the same thing.

For a more realistic young idealist, meet Ava Lowery, the Southern homeschooler whose antiwar videos get 30,000 hits a day.

New Hampshire to OK Civil Unions

| Thu Apr. 19, 2007 3:56 PM EDT

Earlier today, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch said he will sign legislation legalizing civil unions in the state. Lynch explained, ''I believe it is a matter of conscience, fairness and preventing discrimination.'' The measure hasn't yet cleared the Senate, but is expected to do so with ease. Even so—surprise!—state Republicans were outraged. Fergus Cullen, the state Republican Party chairman, told the AP, "The Democrats are going too far, too fast, and Governor Lynch is going along with them. These are not the actions of a moderate governor." The Dems had a pretty handy comeback: ''It's never going too far when you give people their rights," said Democratic state Rep. Bette Lasky.

New Hampshire will make a New England trifecta, joining Connecticut, Vermont and New Jersey among states with legal civil unions. Massachusetts, of course, has legalized gay marriage.

For an economic defense of gay marriage, click here. For an explanation of why the religious right is hellbent on opposing it, click here.

Gonzales: I Didn't View Job Performance Before Firing US Attorneys

| Thu Apr. 19, 2007 3:13 PM EDT

Wanted to point out an important moment from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' ongoing testimony on the Hill. After telling multiple irate senators that he was not intimately involved in the firing of the eight U.S. Attorneys (he claims he relied on the judgment of his senior staff), Gonzales admits that he was so out of touch that when it came to actually approve the recommendation of those senior staffers to fire the eight USAs, he didn't bother to examine the USAs performance on the job.

The factors he used in lieu of something as inconsequential as "job performance" go unstated.

Two U.S. Attorneys Fired for Not Prosecuting Cases on... Porn?

| Thu Apr. 19, 2007 11:18 AM EDT

For real. And the cases were "woefully deficient" to boot. Check it out.

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Is There a Breach of Nat'l Security Protocol in the Wolfowitz Girlfriend Scandal?

| Thu Apr. 19, 2007 10:57 AM EDT

Sidney Blumenthal has an excellent article in Salon today about the Wolfowitz girlfriend scandal. The outrage this far has focused on these facts:

In 2006 Wolfowitz made a series of calls to his friends that landed [his girlfriend, Shaha Ali Riza] a job at a new think tank called Foundation for the Future that is funded by the State Department. She was the sole employee, at least in the beginning. The World Bank continued to pay her salary, which was raised by $60,000 to $193,590 annually, more than the $183,500 paid to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and all of it tax-free. Moreover, Wolfowitz got the State Department to agree that the ratings of her performance would automatically be "outstanding." Wolfowitz insisted on these terms himself and then misled the World Bank board about what he had done.

Okay, old hat, right? Well, not exactly. In order to get the job Riza got at the State Department, she'd need a security clearance. And those aren't given to foreign nationals who formerly worked for international aid organizations. Riza is "a Libyan, raised in Saudi Arabia, educated at Oxford, who now has British citizenship" and according to Blumenthal, "Granting a foreign national who is detailed from an international organization a security clearance, however, is extraordinary, even unprecedented." Did Paul Wolfowitz compromise national security just to get his lover a job?

Blumenthal is calling for an investigation. It would be downright Al Capone-esque if the disgrace that finally rid us of Paul Wolfowitz's nefarious influence came about NOT because of the ill-advised and disastrously-executed war he schemed up, but because he gave away a few too many perks on the way to the bedroom.

Hour 150 of the Stanford Hunger Strike - Now With Video

| Thu Apr. 19, 2007 10:37 AM EDT

Stanford students fasting for a real living wage for workers on their campus have been providing us with regular updates on their progress -- both the progress of their health and the progress of their negotiations with the university administration. You can find all of that here.

As the students try to survive day six without food, we've added video. You can see one such video below, visit their collection on YouTube, or visit the regularly updated page linked to above.

Gonzales to Testify Today on U.S. Attorney Firings

| Thu Apr. 19, 2007 10:07 AM EDT

Alberto Gonzales will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, where he can expect harsh questions from Chuck Schumer and others about the U.S. Attorney firings. Even though Gonzales is expected to be extremely apologetic, he will continue to insist, "I know that I did not, and would not, ask for a resignation of any individual in order to interfere with or influence a particular prosecution for partisan political gain. I also have no basis to believe that anyone involved in this process sought the removal of a U.S. attorney for an improper reason." The quote is from an advance copy of the prepared text of his opening statement.

Frankly, I don't know what administration gains from dragging America through this any longer. Gonzales certainly isn't a superstar worth paying a heavy price to save, and have no doubt about it, the administration pays a heavy price by prolonging the USA scandal and the speculation about whether or not Gonzales will resign. In keeping the scandal alive, they are giving Democrats an open-ended opportunity to dig for more dirt, and they are crippling their own ability to make law enforcement policy. Gonzales has been prepping for this testimony for days, if not weeks -- he certainly isn't getting anything done in respect to his real duties as AG. That's obviously not in America's interest. I'm wondering how it's in the Administration's.

Update: The American Prospect has 14 questions the Senate Judiciary Committee should ask Gonzo. Read them in you need to bring the scandal into focus.

Mental Health Care Funding May Finally Get its Due, Probably Not

| Wed Apr. 18, 2007 9:53 PM EDT

That Cho Seung-Hui was on medication and was entered for a time in two mental facilities is telling, as it reveals what most people thought of the unknown gunman, that he was mentally unstable. That there were several authority figures who were alerted to this fact before the shootings, the school counselor, the campus police, the Blacksburg police, is of interest but what should they have done exactly? The school could have expelled him, I guess, but for writing a play with violent content? For being anti-social? The stalking thing? Probation maybe, but there was no way to lock the guy up, the woman called him "annoying," not a sociopath.

One problem this exposes is that we aren't a prevention-oriented society. We put people on meds rather than into counseling. And we address problems after they manifest, not before. Which is why we'll soon see Bush changing his commitment to school violence prevention funding, which he recently proposed cutting by $17.3 million.

Mental health always gets short shrift in funding circles because it is seen as relatively invisible in terms of illness. The mental health of young people, and I'll say this again, of the troops returning from Iraq, is something we can ignore for only so long. Incidents like this jolt us into reality. What happened in that classroom building is every day in Baghdad for thousands of young men and women, some of whom came from unstable backgrounds to begin with.

And at some point we are going to have to get back to the everyday reality of mental illness and finding ways to address what we all realize now is deadly serious. And we're also going to have to realize that we're still at war, a war that this month alone has meant the deaths of 63 U.S. soldiers, and that we just can't afford to stray and linger on any one rampage for too long.