* We here at CityBeat bristle any time a mob forms and calls for someone's head after something horrible comes out of that someone's mouth. So protective are we of speech-offensive or otherwise—that we bend ourselves into pretzels attempting to defend the perpetrator. Besides, we like to know where the bigots are; if they're forced underground, we can't identify them.
When the offensive speech happens in the private sector, discipline will always be a business decision. Take the Don Imus controversy: Last week, he jokingly referred to the Rutgers women's basketball team, which is composed mostly of African-Americans, as “nappy-headed ho's.”
The corporate honchos at CBS, which syndicates Imus' radio show, and MSNBC, which simulcasts it for television, are primarily white, so they're not going to have the visceral reaction they'd have if more of them were black. The bottom line will always be the focus. That's why “boycott” is such a scary word. We know—we've heard it wielded against us.
Imus says he's really sorry; he went 'way too far.' But he has a history of racial slurs. He famously called black journalist Gwen Ifill a 'cleaning lady.' But other journalists have continued to appear as pundits on Imus' show, because they believe it's in their best interest to do so. So do politicians and everyone else who has an image or service to market.
We would not call for Imus to be fired, but we wouldn't protest if his employers did so. Nor can we blame the Rev. Al Sharpton and others for urging Imus' ouster. The question we need to keep asking ourselves is this: Why does this kind of 'humor' remain so popular? We have a long way to go.
* Speaking of offensive speech, President Bush, desperate for a rationale for continuing his catastrophic war in Iraq, is once again trying to link the war to Sept. 11, 2001. Facing questions last week about the Democrats' stance favoring a pullout, Bush repeatedly invoked the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., without much resistance from reporters who know Iraq and 9/11 have nothing in common. And he continues to suggest, illogically, that leaving Iraq would invite terrorists to attack the U.S., again mostly free of hard follow-up questions. Unacceptable.
* Still speaking of offensive speech, San Diego City Councilmembers Toni Atkins, Tony Young and Ben Hueso spent about 40 minutes of valuable council meeting time on Monday jabbering about how hard they work. They were prompted by government watcher Carl DeMaio, who was arguing against a pay raise for council members and proposing a 50-percent cut in the size of council staffs—and is likely preparing a run for City Council District 5.
We know you work hard, folks. And, to your credit, even though you might be underpaid, you're savvy enough to know that it's wrong to accept a pay raise the same week Mayor Jerry Sanders is vowing to lay off hundreds of city employees. But you'd come off better if you refrain from yammering on and on about the demands of the job. Just some friendly advice.
* Moving on to useless speech, reporters in San Diego should ignore Sanders until he lays out concrete budget proposals. Sanders' communications team, led by Fred Sainz, have this habit of wasting everyone's time by gathering the media, plopping Sanders in front of a microphone and having him say little more than that the budget will be announced over the next few days. A simple e-mail would suffice, Fred, until such time as the mayor gives us something we can respond to.
* We're not opposed to measures aimed at reducing train-horn nose in downtown San Diego, but at some point, the price tag becomes an issue. As reported by the Union-Tribune's Jeanette Steele on Monday, the original estimate for so-called 'quiet zones'—in which new safety mechanisms would be added to rail crossings, decreasing the need for loud horns-was $3.5 million. In just two years, that estimate has risen to $16.7 million. There's only so much money we're able to support going to reducing noise for downtown residents and hotel patrons, who should know that urban centers are noisy places. This project should be considered anew.
Even less necessary is the proposed suspension bridge Steele reported on in the same story. The estimated cost of the bridge, which would cross over Harbor Drive and the railroad tracks and connect the convention center to Park Boulevard, has risen from $12.8 million to $22.8 million in the same two-year span. This sort of thing is fine for cities swimming money. This city isn't. Conventioneers can cross at Fifth Avenue and walk to the ballpark; the exercise will do them some good. Take this thing out back and shoot it in the head.
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