Thursday, May 29, 2014

Beyond Jill Abramson

WHEN JILL Ellen Abramson was dismissed from her position as executive editor of The New York Times on May 14, it sent shock waves through the media world almost immediately, not least of all because of the wild divergence of opinion as to why it happened. The reasons for her dismissal from what’s rightly regarded as the pre-eminent post in American journalism were all over the place:

She was by turns brusque and passionate, abrasive and dedicated; she was cashiered for being a poor newsroom manager; she was let go because she had the nerve to seek parity of financial compensation with her predecessor, Bill Keller.

What was and is disturbingly revelatory, though, is how her ouster from The Times has cast a light on the emerging role of women in positions of power; how their ascension in the places that matter has rankled the status quo — and how, for women and minorities alike, that climb to power is complicated by almost interchangeable assumptions that have little or nothing to do with talent and everything to do with historical precedent.

It’s not just Jill Abramson, and it’s not just women. Intransigence in the halls of power is an equal opportunity experience.

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Abramson’s departure was sweet schadenfreude for those of a conservative bent. DGinCT, commenting on Ken Auletta’s piece on Abramson in The New Yorker, said:

“Gotta love it when liberals get hoisted on their own petards. She should know by now that highly positioned progressives may bleat about equality, equal rights, etc. -- but when it comes to their own conduct, it is strictly do as I say, not as I do. Sounds like how the left reacted when Monica Lewinsky came forth -- every stereotypical name and sexist female cliché were trotted out.”

Gloria Steinem had a different perspective. “It's obvious it is a double standard — a huge, huge double standard,” said Steinem, a co-founder of the Women's Media Center, on the radio show produced by the Center. Steinem, the founder of Ms. Magazine, lamented newspaper editors’ central-casting emotional trait of being difficult, The New York Times' Abe Rosenthal as a case in point.

Steinem said that “people expect better behavior” from The Times. “[They] are going to engender much, much more anger and outrage and disappointment than other news organizations.”

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THIS OUTRAGE has a history that makes Steinem’s comments more than idle complaint. In 1972, Nan Robertson, one of the Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters and author of “The Girls in the Balcony” (1992), mounted a class-action lawsuit against the paper for bias against its female employees, a suit settled favorably for the plaintiffs in 1978.

But Steinem made the implicit assumption that Rosenthal’s mercurial management style was somehow universally embraced at The Times just because he was a man — and it wasn’t. Rosenthal was disliked at the Gray Lady for being an equal opportunity shit disturber. This consistency with the in-house perception of Rosenthal’s management style undercuts Steinem’s claims of institutional sexism.

(And for all her problems with the late Rosenthal now, it’s been forgotten or certainly overlooked that, in June 1986, when The Times joined the modern world with acceptance of the honorific “Ms.,” Steinem herself brought flowers and a thank-you note to Rosenthal for making the change in Times editorial policy.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A bundle of issues: AT&T, DirecTV and what you watch

WHEN COMCAST announced plans to buy Time Warner Cable on Feb. 13, for $45.2 billion in stock, it was a Godzilla announcement in the business world, one that fully declared Comcast’s intention to dominate in cable like no company ever had before. The deal proposes to combine the country’s two biggest U.S. cable companies into one inescapable media behemoth.

“This leaves Comcast as the sole king of the cable hill,” said Richard Greenfield, an analyst with BTIG LLC, to Bloomberg. “This is a game changer for Comcast.”

Now comes Game Changer #2. On May 19th, AT&T and DirecTV Group Inc. announced a proposed $48.5 billion merger, a monster mashup that would combine the nation’s second-largest telecommunications carrier and the undisputed 8,000-pound gorilla of satellite broadcast television.

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The AT&T-DirecTV deal will require the blessing of the Federal Communications Commission and either the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission. But pending the necessary chin-pulling by regulators, the television landscape may be about to undergo its second big shift of the year.

Bloomberg reported that the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable nuptials could face up to a year of scrutiny, but would “probably will end in approval after regulators secure pledges the combined company won’t harm Internet users.” We’ll certainly get the same pledge that AT&T/DirecTV won’t bend satellite subscribers or mobile customers over too far. At least not yet.

But layoffs are another matter. If previous mergers and acquisitions are any guide, and they are, they’re almost inevitable. Count on it: Thanks to the ruthless operational efficiencies that are basic to the economies-of-scale diktat of modern business, an unknown number of people will be filling Bankers Boxes with everything in and on their desks under the watchful eye of large security guards before it’s all said and done. You watch.

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WHILE THIS proposed deal has attained the breathless PR frisson of something new, we might have seen this coming. Visitors to the AT&T web site have long been invited to “Shop DIRECTV satellite TV bundles from AT&T, featuring packages with High Speed Internet, Wireless, and Home Phone services.”

This customer convenience takes on a new significance. AT&T and DirecTV have been in a kind of joint-venture status since AT&T announced it would market and sell co-branded DirecTV services back in January 2009 — in what looks now to have been a protracted courtship before the engagement just announced.

It’s this clout through consolidation, and its impact on consumers, that’s already the biggest concern for lawmakers in Washington. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) expressed his worries on May 19.

“With this latest proposed merger, I am concerned that the telecommunications marketplace is trending even further toward one that favors big companies over consumers," said Leahy, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times. Leahy also suggested “that his panel would bring in top company executives for a hearing as well,” The Times reported.

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THE INDUSTRY needs more competition, not more mergers,” John Bergmayer, senior staff attorney at public-interest group Public Knowledge, said in a statement excerpted on the CNet web site. “The burden is on AT&T and DirecTV to show otherwise.”

In a conference call reported by CNN, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson sought to calm the waters, saying that benefits to AT&T and DirecTV customers will be obvious “right out of the gate,” with new bundles becoming available right after the deal closes, whenever that is.

“The merger with DirecTV would triple AT&T's cable and TV customer base, providing service to more than 30 million people, adding to the company's wireless subscriber base of about 100 million,” CNN’s David Goldman reported on May 19.

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But that breadth of coverage could give AT&T and DirecTV more power over content providers — the networks whose programs you watch. DirecTV's contract with Disney channels, including ESPN and ABC, for example, expires at the end of the year. With a bigger pool of customers beyond the 20 million it has now, a post-acquisition DirecTV would wield fresh leverage over Disney and other networks in a way that doesn’t necessarily work to consumers’ advantage.

Remember what happened in January, when The Weather Channel was blacked out by DirecTV over a dispute over fees and content? “Most consumers don’t want to watch a weather information channel with a forecast of a 40 percent chance of reality TV,” DirecTV said in a statement.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

GOP, the Tea Party and the cage match to come

THE TEA Party movement has been dying by degrees  for years now. Its long defiance of the horticulture of politics — any movement that’s an inch deep and half a mile wide doesn’t really have the deep roots it needs to grow very far — is finally catching up to it.

If what just happened in North Carolina is a sign of what’s to come, the more traditional elements of the Republican Party that spawned the noisy, combative distillation of its most vituperative conservative adherents are ready to put the Tea Party movement behind it, and get on with the business of politics. Starting with the business of winning.

Thom Tillis, the speaker of the North Carolina House, won his Republican Senate primary on May 6 with 45.7 percent of the vote, kicking to the curb his weak challengers: Libertarian/Tea Party darling Greg Brannon (27 percent) and Charlotte pastor Mark Harris (17 percent).

Tillis was the beneficiary of the open checkbooks of stalwarts such as American Crossroads (the ATM directed by turdblossom generalissimo Karl Rove) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He’ll face down Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan as part of the GOP’s wider strategy to regain control of the United States Senate in November.

Now the stage shifts to primary contests in Kentucky and Georgia on May 20 — a week from today. The outcome of those races could determine whether the North Carolina vote represents a trend for the Republicans, or just more of the philosophical gridlock that’s defined the GOP for the last five years.

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One thing’s unmistakable: Republicans want a winner. If North Carolina’s rejection of Brannon is a bellwether for anything, it’s a signal that Republican patience for heretic outliers — Todd Akin in Missouri, Sharon Engle in Nevada, Ken Buck in Colorado, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware — has worn thin.

Republicans want a winner. That may be what lies behind a series of claims and counterclaims made by Mark Fisher, Tea Party candidate for governor in Massachusetts, and the state Republican Party. On Thursday Fisher claimed that Mass GOP offered him $1 million to drop a lawsuit seeking to let Harris force his way onto the September primary ballot — basically, to quit his own campaign.

Quite understandably, Mass GOP denies this, claiming that it was Fisher who demanded $1 million to drop his suit and name from the party ballot. The Boston Globe and WGBH reported on this last week.

Whatever really happened will all come out in the wash, but you can envision a scenario in which Mass GOP, reading the national tea leaves — and the dwindling national support for Tea Party candidates — decided that cutting Harris out of the herd now would increase the chances of a mainstream Republican to win the September primary, without having Tea Party votes siphoned away from that candidate. With what’s at stake, Mass GOP may have privately reasoned, $1 million was cheap at twice the price.

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THERE’S EVIDENCE that something approaching pragmatism has lifted the scales from the eyes of Republican voters. Politico counted them up state by state, the mainstream Republicans who prevailed in various races.

Rep. Renee Ellmers in North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District beat back a challenge by a conservative radio host. In the North Carolina 7th, Former state Sen. David Rouzer won the GOP primary with the backing of the U.S. Chamber. And in the Ohio 14th, GOP Rep. David Joyce stopped Rep. Matt Lynch, who was supported by the libertarian nonprofit FreedomWorks.

The internal split to be negotiated by Republicans in the coming months is all boiled down in what Ashley Van Wormer, of Cary, N.C., told the News & Observer last week. “We need some change in North Carolina,” said Van Wormer, a Tillis supporter, who called for “conservative values but not too far conservative. We need to elect somebody that can win.”

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But Tillis’ victory may nothing more than “something approaching pragmatism.” The ultimate Republican strategy may be more sleight of hand. After he won, Tillis made all the right noises, promising to “work across party lines to pass an agenda focused on generating growth and opportunities for middle-class families and small businesses.”

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Coming soon: ‘Benghazi the Opera’ (the Sequel)

THANKS TO the GOP’s ruthless political efficiency, we’re getting a preview of two campaign strategies at once right now. With the loss of the Affordable Care Act as a stigmatizing weapon against the Democrats, and with no breakout shining stars to cultivate for 2016, the Republican playbook for the midterms and the presidential election will be filled with one word written in rhetorical highlighter: “Benghazi.”

For many months, defeating Obamacare was the hill Republicans were ready to die on. The Republicans tried to make their opposition personal, using a strategy that was more ad hominem than it should have been, targeting the president himself by way of condemning the closest thing we have to universal health care. But the GOP never found the traction necessary to successfully make that an all-in, overarching election issue (despite Obamacare itself still not having fully gained the critical mass that it needs).

What’s a party in the wilderness to do? As they’ve done before, the Republican leadership will try to reanimate the corpse of the non-scandal we know as “Benghazi.” On Thursday the Republican-led House passed a bill (in a thoroughly party-line vote) to convene a select committee for yet another investigation of the just-as-thoroughly investigated terrorist attacks on Americans in September 2012. The word goes forth among the faithful: The road to the White House will, at least briefly, require a legislative side trip to a port city on the Libyan coast.

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A lot’s being made of the composition of the proposed House Benghazi panel: seven Republicans and five Democrats — an imbalance that guarantees gridlock before the first gavel comes down. To lead the committee, House Speaker John Boehner tapped South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, a second-term conservative and a rhetorical pitbull on the floor of the House.

The obvious political overtones have led House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to consider boycotting the panel, Politico reported Wednesday. “She was backed by South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, the assistant Democratic leader, and Rep. Steve Israel, the New York Democrat who chairs the party’s campaign arm.”

For the last 18 months, the name of the Libyan city has been appropriated as a meme of the howling class of the Republican base and the chattering class of the party’s intelligentsia. It’s the latest attempt to call Clinton’s judgment and her leadership style into question, and to push back against the growing perception that, if she runs in 2016, Hillary Clinton would be the presidential frontrunner with a capital F.

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CLINTON WAS secretary of state when Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service Information Officer Sean Smith, and CIA contractors and former Navy SEALS Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed on Sept. 11, 2012, in an attack at the American diplomatic mission by still-unknown assailants. Clinton herself appeared at a January 2013 Senate hearing on the Benghazi attacks — one of the 13 hearings and 50 congressional briefings conducted into the matter.

There are risks for Democrats as the hearing unfold. If they follow Pelosi’s lead and walk away from the hearings altogether, the Democrats would be conceding the field to the Republicans, who’d no doubt run riot over the proceedings (which they’re likely to try to do anyway).

And frankly, it’d send the wrong signal to Democrats looking for a principled resistance to Republican bullying — not exactly what the Democratic leadership wants to communicate to an electorate already expected to be a no-show in November.

But for Republicans desperate for political advantage in the near term, and with no one even close to waiting in the wings as a viable prospect for 2016, pursuit of this backward-looking strategy is their only option right now, and for as long as they can string it out. Benghazi is a new hill to die on, and Steve Schmidt, at least, partly understands the downside in doing it.

The veteran political analyst and McCain ’08 seer told MSNBC this week: “The danger for Republicans here — and this is true of all oversight and investigative committees — is that there is a thin line between a select committee and a kangaroo court. The reality is, it’s usually the overreach that results from investigations like this that hurts the people doing the investigating ... the Republicans have a thin line to walk here.”

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But that’s not entirely right. Fact is, the Republicans crossed that thin line a while back. A new select committee would be an extension of the overreach on Benghazi that the Republican House has all but institutionalized for the last 18 months, under California Rep. Darrell Issa. The committee itself would be the overreach Schmidt warns about, more of what White House press secretary Jay Carney recently called “a conspiracy theory without a conspiracy.”

This new old Republican idée fixe is problematic in ways that dangerously dovetail with the two elections to come. The first is the known unknown of what the Benghazi attacks mean to a midterm electorate. With the economy sputtering back to life, and a number of social and economic issues simmering in various legislatures, midterm voters will be more focused on state and local races — and more predisposed to candidates that focus on state and local concerns.

Given the cratering opinion polls for Congress, those voters aren’t likely to shift their attention to another blatantly political hearing to re-litigate a largely settled matter. There’s simply too much to deal with that’s right in front of them.

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WHICH LEADS to the second problem, the one reserved for 2016. Republicans have already hinted that they’ll do everything they can to prolong the committee hearings, to drag the thing out indefinitely (“Benghazi,” Now Playing Again at the Congressional Opera House! Extended Run!). If they do, they run the risk, in a presidential election year, of exhausting the patience of voters eager for new policy prescriptions and fresh thinking from a party that needs both, and badly.

And they’ll be locking themselves into the very image of rear-view obstructionism they need to overcome to win. A presidential election is, by definition, a referendum on the future. It will be hard as hell for the House Republicans to build credibility as a party of the future while maintaining the obsession with the past that the Benghazi inquiry represents. There’s a price to be paid for driving with your eyes locked on the rear-view mirror.

The third problem for the GOP: The longer it plays out, the more a new Benghazi inquiry will likely reveal the standing schism between moderates and the last of the Tea Party dead-enders — a Republican Party divided with itself. Russell Berman of The Hill reported that Democrats will play on “intraparty tensions in the GOP, arguing that Boehner’s [selection of Gowdy] is a slap at [Issa], the Oversight Committee chairman who has courted controversy in his probe of the Benghazi attack. A Democratic House aide also pointed out that Boehner made the move at a time when he has feuded with conservatives over immigration, and amid positive reports on the job market and the president’s healthcare law.”

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None of this will matter to the Republican leadership in Congress. They can’t help themselves. This partisanship is the itch that must be scratched. But some in the GOP have sent an early warning already.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who’s up for re-election this year, said as much Sunday on CBS's “Face the Nation.” “If we're playing politics with Benghazi, we'll get burned,” Graham said, and he should know. The senator suffered third-degree political embarrassment last year after he signed on — body and soul — to a CBS “60 Minutes” report that largely (and erroneously) laid the blame for the Benghazi assault on the al-Qaeda network.

The panel almost certainly won’t release its report for tree-ring time to come. Texas Republican Mike Conaway told Bloomberg News that “I’d be stunned” if the investigation ends any time this year.

If that’s true, we can thank the GOP for its ruthless thoroughness in Getting to the Bottom of the issue, even if it just means getting to the bottom of a barrel we’ve been to the bottom of before. The House panel on Benghazi may take until some time in 2015 to decide if there is substance to their suspicions — if there’s any there there. Between now and then, whenever “then” is, the American public may well have decided the same thing about the Republican Party.

Until then ... take your seats. The House lights are going down. The show is about to begin. Again.

Image credits: Benghazi inferno: via Mother Jones. Stevens: public domain. Clinton: via You Tube. Issa: ABC News. Graham: CBS News. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Our predictable outrage:
Donald Sterling and America

THE MATTER concerning Donald Sterling — for now the billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, maybe for always the aspirant to a plantation of his very own — has its origins in the world of professional sports, which is littered with examples of similar cultural intransigence.

From Kenesaw Mountain Landis (the culturally obstinate commissioner of baseball for 24 years) to Marge Schott (the former Cincinnati Reds owner whose racist virulence was couched in the benign package of the grandmother next door), from George P. Marshall, the one-time owner of the Washington Redskins (who refused to hire black players) to the inartful comments of Al Campanis and Jimmy the Greek — there’s been more than enough stupid to go around when it comes to sports figures dealing with race matters.

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But stop me if you haven’t heard this before: A master of some particular universe, smug and rich and secure in his own world, makes a comment or comments of pure unalloyed racial insensitivity — or worse. Said wizard of finance is immediately put in the hopper of the outrage machine of modern media, where the wealthy one is excoriated, reviled, lampooned and chastised. In due time, he’s made to walk some public trail of tears; the tumbrel carries him to the point of his final comeuppance: a fine, a settlement, a punishment, a mea culpa on television. All apologies.

Satisfied with the pound of flesh extracted from the guilty one, we — our media, our politics, society at large — circle back to the torrent of lunacies and tragedies that regularly comprise the news. Crisis averted. We’ve done the right thing. And then it happens again, in some other part of the national life.

This is the vicious circle of our racial conversation. This is why the Sterling matter isn’t really about sports, it’s about America. This is why, at the end of the day, the flap over Donald Sterling says more about us than it says about Donald Sterling.

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BY NOW you’ve heard or heard of the secret audiotape that emerged on TMZ on Friday, in which Sterling arguing with a woman identified as his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, over her appearance with basketball legend Magic Johnson, whom Sterling knows personally, in a photograph posted at Instagram. On the tape on which Sterling later admitted speaking, he says,

"I've known him well, and he should be admired. And I'm just saying that it's too bad you can't admire him privately. And during your entire fucking life, your whole life, admire him -- bring him here, feed him, fuck him, I don't care. You can do anything. But don't put him on an Instagram for the world to see so they have to call me. And don't bring him to my games. OK?"

This breathtaking rhetorical callosity, specific to Magic Johnson, turned into something more panoramic elsewhere in the conversation:

STERLING: Why should you be walking publicly with black people? Why? Is there a benefit to you?

V. STIVIANO: Is it a benefit to me? Does it matter if they’re white or blue or yellow?

STERLING: I guess that you don’t know that. Maybe you’re stupid. Maybe you don’t know what people think of you. It does matter, yeah! It matters. How about the—how about your whole life, every day, you could do whatever you want? You could sleep with them. You could bring them in. You could do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that, and not to bring them to my games.

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Well, the NBA didn’t take kindly to Sterling’s impromptu complexion-based game-admission policy. On Tuesday, in a statement thick with drama, Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner three months on the job, banned Sterling “for life” from the NBA, barred him from any Clippers team activity or appearances at any Clippers facilities. Silver also imposed on Sterling a $2.5 million fine, the maximum under the NBA Constitution. Silver also said he would urge the NBA Board of Governors to force a sale of the team.

Silver’s for-life ban of Sterling from professional basketball raises the stakes on other NBA owners, and by extension other owners of any professional sports teams in any league. As a way of putting owners on notice that there’s a price to be paid for actions (as he put it) “contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect,” Silver’s ban wasn’t a shot across the bow, it was a blast through the hull.

Sterling’s censure by the NBA under Silver is one strong pushback against a deeply embedded behavioral trait: our willingness to equate fortune with wisdom, our inclination to attach an eccentric sagacity to those who acquire great financial wealth. It’s always been there in the culture, the assumption that the richer you are, the smarter you must be, the bigger your contribution to society ... and the more you can get away with. Henry Ford, for example. He was a genius of mass production and marketing who revolutionized the American way of transportational life. The fact that he was a notorious anti-Semite? Pffth. Just a quirk of personality.

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THE TRAJECTORY of Sterling’s descent, his not-quite Shakespearean downfall was both a case of following a familiar script and a departure from that script. It’s true that deep-pocketed team owners rarely get hoist this high on their petards of intolerance. But the storyline has been all too recognizable elsewhere.

It’s not just sports. It’s throughout our culture. It’s sure as hell in our politics. And it’s permeated our everyday discourse; just look at some of the comments of ordinary people provoked to a frothing CAPITALIZED RAGE when the story they comment on has anything to do with race.

There’s a self-satisfaction we enjoy over the resolution of such events, a self-satisfaction we don’t deserve. The unanswered question is just how real our societal satisfaction over the resolution of such controversies can be if we, as a society, don’t learn enough to keep from repeating the same mistakes.

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In August 2006, Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia was on the glide path to re-election to the United States Senate when he was videotaped using the word “macaca” to describe an operative of Allen’s Democratic opponent, Jim Webb — a man of East Indian ancestry. Allen’s use of the word “macaca” (which is both Portuguese for “female monkey” and a disparagement employed by French colonialists in Africa to describe the native black population) went viral. Allen’s campaign promptly went south. Webb won the Senate seat in Virginia for the Democrats. Allen went into the relative wilderness and hasn’t assumed a higher profile, despite more than a few mea culpas.

Paula Deen, the hustler empress of a saturated fat and cholesterol empire, was sued last June by a former employee of Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House, one of the restaurants Deen owned with her husband. Deen was sued for what Lisa T. Jackson, an Uncle Bubba’s manager, called racial and sexual discrimination. In a court deposition, Deen admitted using racial slurs, especially the N-word, in the past. After sponsors began to bail, Deen shed the required crocodile tears and pledged to improve. She’s been on the comeback trail ever since.

And of course, we can’t forget Michael Richards, the “Seinfeld” star who had an explosive and instantly rationalized N-word-laden meltdown onstage at a West Hollywood comedy club in November 2006. He’s still working — he stars in the TV Land sitcom “Kirstie,” and he’s done cameo appearances on TV. But Richards’ outbursts have largely sidelined him in the teleculture ever since, despite an emotional apology after the incident (on Letterman) and many, many apologies. He cited the onstage incident as his reason for getting out of stand-up comedy in 2007.

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IT’S LIKE whenever there’s jaw-dropping, irrefutable proof of someone’s racially insensitive commentary, the whole country gets caught up in a “Groundhog Day” experience. We know the drill: The automatic responses, the pat conclusions, the well-worn road map of these embarrassments from start to finish — it all fits a pattern of prefabbed outrage.

We know where these things are going from the minute we hear the news. And that predictability is exactly the problem. When outrageous behavior vis-à-vis race matters occurs repeatedly, the pat response to that behavior repeats itself too. Over time, the predictability of the arc of such events — the action, the reaction, the resistance, the sanctions, the humbling — has quietly inured us to ever getting beyond that arc.

In the minds of some people old enough to know better, that predictability reflects a selective denial about race matters, a cafeteria mentality about which racial problems are broad and nationally-felt, and which problems are someone’s own responsibility. Bill O’Reilly, that fount of wisdom on Fox News, said as much on Monday, as the Sterling debacle was exploding: “This is primarily Sterling’s problem, not the country’s problem. He’s shameful, but does not represent anyone other than himself.”

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That predictable five-point arc is the national comfort zone on race matters in the 21st century. And we’re fated to repeat what just happened if we fail to break out of that trajectory.

NBA Commissioner Silver’s action on Tuesday was a powerful, necessary first step to doing exactly that. And it’ll take more such principled stands to punch through our old habits, to work past our proven tendency to go just go far when we talk about race matters, to go just so far when we react to racial bias — and no farther.

So much of the national racial dynamic Is a matter of forgetting to remember. The Donald Sterling episode, its antecedents and the ugly revelations that are guaranteed still to come are now and will be sorry reminders of what we’ll do to remember to forget.

Image credits: Sterling: Associated Press. Sterling audio excerpt: via You Tube. Clippers logo: © 2014 Los Angeles Clippers/National Basketball Association. Deen: via
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