Archive for September, 2011

Talk radio show host howls with laughter when caller refers to Michele Obama as main character in Planet of the Apes

Monday, September 12th, 2011

When it comes to being insensitive toward minorities and women and others, sometimes the line between humor and insult is obviously in legitimate dispute, and, in any case, the best course for those offended is to ignore and move on.

But there are cases when, clearly, righties (and lefties) deliver racial slurs and other verbal assaults that I don’t want to sit there and accept as ok.

Here’s an example from the Jimmy Lakey Show, on KVOR-740 AM in Colorado Springs.

A caller says Michele Obama reminds her of “one of the main characters in Planet of the Apes.”

This comment sends talk-show host Lakey into complete hysterics, howling with laughter.

You really have to hear it to believe it. It’s only 30 seconds, and here it is if you’re interested:

I contacted Bobby Irwin, Operations Manager for Citadel Broadcasting, which owns KVOR, to find out if he agreed with me that Lakey’s behavior crosses the line.

Here’s Irwin’s response:

Thanks for the opportunity to respond for your blog.

Regardless of whether one is rightie or a leftie, the comment from the caller was unfortunate. Neither Jimmy nor the station could answer whether
his laughter following her Michelle Obama observation was out of humor or simply discomfort.

I know how I would have preferred him to respond, but our station can not dictate what callers say, and as long as our hosts are observing FCC
guidelines, we will not dictate how they are respond to callers.

Lakey could level some horribly indecent insults and remain within FCC guidelines, but Irwin is correct, isn’t he, that we don’t really know why Lakey is laughing. Maybe he’s uncomfortable. Or maybe he thinks it’s hilarious that Brenda said something so brazenly offensive. I mean, it’s possible.

The easiest way to know what he was thinking is to ask him. Maybe he’ll apologize.

I tried to contact Lakey, but he didn’t get back to me. Here’s an email address ( and phone number (888-285-4669) I found for him, if you want to try your luck. Please forward any response you get to me.

Powell’s suggestion of U.S. trials for Gitmo detainees lost in the media’s look back at 9-11

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Here’s a memory of 9-11 that, it’s pretty safe to say, you won’t be seeing in the media today.

Take a look at this YouTube of Colin Powell on Meet the Press back in 2007.

He said he would close Gitmo “this afternoon” if he could. What’s often forgotten is that he didn’t stop there. He went through and outlined the steps for transferring the detainees to U.S. civilian facilities that Obama tried to do but was blocked by Congress.

To my knowledge, nobody has asked Powell about that specific part of his recommendation or why he never spoke up when politicians started demagoguing the issue. He might have helped close the prison, but true to form, he shied away from a public fight. He’s being included in a bunch of 9-11 stories about Iraq, but they’re not going near Gitmo.

Bill Ritter, as much as people like to forget him, accepted that Colorado maximum security prisons could handle the detainees, and he was pilloried for it. If Bloomberg had that same courage, we’d be holding civilian trials in NYC, Gitmo would probably be closed, and America would be proud and respected for doing the right thing.

Don’t forget about the local public affairs programs on TV

Friday, September 9th, 2011

This falls in the category of small-minded media criticism, but when you consume the same TV and radio shows over and over again, the small stuff can start eating at your brain.

That’s what the introduction to KBDI Channel 12’s otherwise excellent public affairs show, “Colorado Inside Out,”  has been doing to me lately. The weekly show starts with:

“Welcome to Colorado Inside Out, the public affairs roundtable that brings together informed journalists, pundits, and activists to break down the issues that matter here in Colorado.”

What’s so bad about this, you might wonder. It has something to do with hearing the phrase, “informed journalists, pundits, and activists” over and over, especially since the line doesn’t give viewers any information that’s not immediately clear once the show gets started and the camera hits Westword’s Patricia Calhoun and the smirking Dave Kopel of the Independence Institute.

I reached the tipping point the other night, as I watched Calhoun deliver the intro, when she was subbing for regular host Raj Chohan. Calhoun has been around a long time and has managed to fight off staleness, and she looked like she was handing us petrified wood.

I dropped a line to Colorado Public Television Producer Dominic Dezzutti, and he replied that he’d been thinking of changing the opening line.

“The more elaborate open is an artifact of when the show was initially transferred from Peter Boyles to Raj Chohan,” he emailed me. “Frankly, it’s been an idea in my head recently to change or cut it.”

This puny criticism aside, Colorado Inside Out is the best of  bunch of excellent public affairs shows on local television. It manages to be both informative and entertaining.

Colorado Public Television’s regular lineup and specials reflects its commitment to public affairs programming.  Other shows on Channel 12 include  “Studio 12” and “Devil’s Advocate with Jon Caldara.”  (I have to admit that I enjoy this show, even though it absurdly presents the Independent Institute’s Caldara as the moderator, and it’s under-written by Caldara’s right-leaning organization.)

Other local public affairs prgrams are: KRMA Channel 6’s “Colorado State of Mind,” 9News’ “Your Show,” and  HarberTV’s  “Aaron Harber Show,” which often addresses national topics.

Fox 31’s “Zappolo’s People” addresses lots of public affairs topics, too.

Check them all out.

Thoughtful Interview on CO Public Radio addresses impact of 9-11 on Muslim Americans

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Colorado Public Radio’s Colorado Matters aired a great interview yesterday about the impact of 9-11 on Muslim Americans, as part of its thoughtful “Colorado Remembers 9-11” series.

Sahar Babak, who was a student at Rocky Mountain High School in Fort Collins, recalls how teachers, who were worried about angry students, suggested that she leave school on the day of the crime, even though she was upset and crying about the tragedy, like other kids. She took their advice and went home that day.

In the interview, CSU sociologist Lori Peek describes her conversations with 140 Muslim Americans about their lives after the 9-11. She’s just published a book about her research, titled Behind the Backlash, Muslim Americans after 9-11

Peek explained that one Muslim man had his car scratched, and he didn’t know if it was a hate crime or not. But his parents were so concerned, they wanted him to shave off his beard. Peek says this type of uncertainty is a hiden “burden” that a community under scrutiny deals with.

“Clearly the most violent acts of hate have tapered off,” Peek told Ryan Warner. “Using FBI hate crime data, there was a clear and dramatic spike in the first three months after 9-11. There was a 1600 percent increase in hate crime. And in the years since 9-11, those numbers have dropped off, even though they are three to five times higher than the pre-9-11 levels.”

But, citing data that made me sad as someone who endures the anti-Muslim bigotry on talk radio, she points out that national surveys show that Americans’ perception of Muslims has gotten worse since 9-11.

Listen to the interview here.

Bigotry against Muslims still seeths openly on talk radio

Monday, September 5th, 2011

Conservative talk radio is probably at its worst when bigotry against Muslims fills the air.

You don’t hear it all the time, or on all the Denver shows, but it’s out there.

I thought I’d see how long it would take me to find an example, and within an hour of looking online, there it was, in the form of Dr. Robert Greer, being interviwed by Doug Kellett, who was subbing for Jon Caldara on KOA Aug. 25.

With nothing but encouragement by Kellett, Greer said:

The way that the religion of Islam has been presented in our country, and unfortunately even with President Bush, who I admire, but in this case I think he made a mistake, is that it presented Islam as fundamentally a peaceful religion, and it was only the fringe elements, the extremists, that were the problem people, who we had to be concerned about. And therefore it left a false impression about this religion.

Kellett didn’t ask Greer what we should do about “the problem people,” but you do have to wonder, especially later when Greer tells us that the Quran leads Muslims to Sharia Law, which, in turn, leads to jihad, stoning, extreme subjugation of women, and more.

As I’ve discussed before, Muslim scholars refute this. They say literal interpretations of Sharia are practiced by extremists and tribalists, and that, in reality, Islam is much like other major religions, and the vast majority of the two billion or so Muslims worldwide are not extremists at all.

You’d never know this, if you listen to some talk radio, because differing views aren’t presented. That’s no surprise, and the one-sidedness of right-wing radio is frustrating to a progressive/socialist/bleeding heart like me.

But when bigotry is in full swing during a one-sided conversation on the radio, your feelings change from frustration to fear pretty fast.

That’s why the mainstream media shouldn’t overlook these subterranean views. Somehow I don’t think they’d be ignored if Judaism or Christianity were under attack in the same way, even on the radio.

Yet, when I searched for the word “Sharia” in The Denver Post, I came up with only one staff-written news story in the last year. Only twice has the word appeared in staff-written news stories in the last five years, and one of those was just a passing mention.

A few opinion articles addressed the Sharia topic, and it was mentioned in an excellent Post editorial and some columns by Ed Quillen.

The Post editorial, published after the GOP presidential debate in June, called out GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, who made anti-Muslim statements during the debate. He later sort of backed away from these.

But I particularly liked  The Post’s observation that, “Maybe the low point of the debate was that none of Cain’s rivals bothered to challenge him.”

This is exactly why news reporters should find ways to write about the undercurrent of anti-Islamic sentiment that’s out there. To air it out, so it can be challenged.

There are different ways to do to this, but one is to raise the issue when the Presidential candidates start traipsing through Colorado. If reporters have any access to them, that is.

Mitt Romney, for example, who’s coming through town this week, doesn’t condemn the Muslim religion. As he said in a 2007 speech:

Merely closing our eyes and hoping that radical Jihad will go away is not an acceptable answer. And American military action cannot change the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions of Muslims. Only Muslims will be able to defeat the violent radicals. But we can help them. And we must help them. For the consequences – for America and for all nations – of a radicalized Islamic world, possessing nuclear weapons, are unthinkable.

I’m not sure what Romney means here. He could be saying that there are hundreds of millions of Muslim jihadists out there. Or he could be saying there are hundreds of millions who are on the fence, who are potentially jihadists? Or, if we win the minds of these hundreds of millions, out of the worldwide population of over 2 billion, then we’ll stop the extremists. And, in any case, what’s Romney’s plan for winning the hearts and minds of Muslims overseas? I’m not sure what he’s thinking, but I’d like to know.

And what do he and the other GOP presidential candidates say to those bigots who denounce Islam and say that Muslims, not just extremists, are a threat to our country?

Radio hosts are silent as Coffman falsely accuses Obama of rushing illegal immigrants onto voter rolls to influence 2012 election

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

On the Caplis and Silverman show Aug. 19, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) accused the Obama administration of speeding up the citizenship process for illegal immigrants, so they can become U.S. citizens in time for the 2012 election.

Even in today’s world of nonstop political attacks, that’s a serious accusation.

It came as Coffman was discussing Obama’s decision to de-prioritize deportations of illegal immigrants who pose no security threat. This, Coffman said, was just “one piece of the puzzle.”

“There’s another piece of this puzzle,” Coffman continued. “What the Administration is doing, is taking a very aggressive move in the people that have illegal status and moving them through citizenship and waving all the fees and waving anything they can to get the process done in time for 2012. That’s something I would love to see the media focus on.”

I thought I’d take Coffman up on his request, since Caplis and Silverman let his salvo fly out the window unchallenged.

If you take two-minutes to glance at the basic guidelines for becoming a U.S. citizen, it’s immediatly clear that illegal immigrants need not apply to be citizens, much less get their immigration fees waived. With rare exceptions, you have to be a legal permanent resident (also known as a holder of a “green-card“), for three-to-five years to meet our country’s citizenship requirements.

So, unless I’m missing something, Coffman’s allegation about about Obama rushing “illegal immigrants” onto the voting rolls has to be a pure falsehood.

I also couldn’t find any proof that Obama is waiving fees to speed up the naturalization process for legal immigrants, in a secret effort to influence the 2012 election.

If Coffman were right about this, Obama’s co-conspirators would be found at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), the branch of the Department of Homeland Security that handles immigration, including fee waivers.

Asked whether her agency was speeding up the processing of citizenship applications in advance of 2012, Angelica M. Alfonso-Royals, Deputy Chief of the USCIS Office of Communications, stated via email:

The suggestion that USCIS has accelerated either the processing of citizenship cases or the processing of fee waiver requests for any reason is without merit. To this point, USCIS, back in 2009, solicited feedback and heard stakeholder concerns regarding a standard and consistent fee waiver policy. This feedback informed the creation of a new fee waiver form in 2010 that provides transparency and consistency, allowing us to better serve financially disadvantaged individuals seeking immigration benefits. That said, each individual case is unique and decided based solely on its merits.

Alfonso-Royals sent me figures showing that her agency, under Obama, has granted more fee waivers for people seeking to be full U.S. citizens than it did under Bush. So far this fiscal year, about 45,000 fees for the citizenship application (the N-400 form) have been waived , 19,000 were waived in FY 2010,  7,000 in FY 2009, 8,000 in FY 2008, and 5.000 in FY 2007.

The USCIS charges fees, which cover 90 percent of the USCIS budget, for lots of other immigration-related applications, not just for the application for naturalization. For example, there’s an application, with a fee, to obtain a green card. Waivers for all types of fees have increased during the Obama Administration (150,000 total waivers in FY 2011, 101,000 in FY 2010, 64,000 in FY 2009, 51,000 in FY 2008, and 35,000 in FY2007, according to the USCIS).

Fees are waived for individuals facing financial hardship and other criteria, including household income of below 150% of the poverty level. (Here’s the fee-waiver form. Prior to 2010, applicants could receive fee waivers, but there was no official fee-waiver application form.)

The increased number of fee waivers does not translate into more people actually becoming U.S. citizens with voting rights. The total number of people who went through the naturalization process has decreased during the Obama Administration (about 676.000 in FY 2010, about 744,000 in FY 2009, about 1,047,000 in FY 2008, 660,000 in FY 2007, and 702,000 in FY 2006), according to USCIS data.

Total Naturalized Citizens: Fiscal Years 2001-2010 (source: USCIS)
2010 675,967 2005 604,280
2009 743,715 2004 537,151
2008 1,046,539 2003 463,204
2007 660,477 2002 573,708
2006 702,589 2001 608,205

So in the comfort of the Caplis and Silverman Show, Coffman asked the media to spotlight his accusation about the Obama Administration swelling the voter rolls with illegal immigrants. The radio hosts didn’t do it, so I did, and no matter how you look at it, Coffman’s attack looks like misinformation, based on wrong or incomplete facts.

Caplis and Silverman should set their audience straight on this matter–and other reporters should air out this apparent misinformation further.

Here’s the audio clip of Coffman on KHOW’s Caplis and Silverman Aug. 19: