The Daily Banter Headline Grab. From Huff Post:
A Republican-controlled committee in the Virginia State Senate voted 8-7 on Thursday to block Democrats’ efforts to repeal a new mandatory ultrasound law and a set of regulations that could shut down many abortion clinics in the state. The committee also voted down a new anti-abortion bill that would have prevented Medicaid from paying for low-income women’s abortions in cases where there is a severe fetal anomaly.
Virginia Republicans attracted national criticism in early 2012 when they proposed a bill requiring women to undergo invasive, medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound procedures before having an abortion. Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) later helped Republicans revise the bill to require only external, “jelly-on-the-belly” procedures, and he signed that version into law.
State Sen. Ralph Northam (D), the only physician in the senate, proposed a bill that would repeal the mandatory ultrasound law because he says it violates the privacy and sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship. “I am giving you the opportunity to right the wrong committed last year,” he told committee members on Thursday.
Mission Impossible? Romney Now Needs to take Florida, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Iowa and Colorado to Win
Obama is holding on to his commanding lead in Ohio – he’s up by 4 points. Richard Adams at the Guardian points out, for Romney to win, he has to take Florida, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Iowa and Colorado.
Romney’s increasingly narrow path to the Presidency
To get the latest updates and inside info on the Presidential election, check out our live blog.
Mitt Romney repeatedly seemed to question whether President Barack Obama believed in the American dream in an energetic campaign speech Tuesday, calling his rival’s approach to leadership “foreign” and accusing him of trying to change “the nature of America.”
“President Obama attacks success and therefore under President Obama we have less success, and I will change that,” Romney told more than 1,000 cheering supporters at an oil and gas services company in suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, after the president told a Virginia audience Friday that all Americans benefit from government investment in infrastructure and education.
Breaking a hiatus of several days without a public campaign event, Romney attacked his rival for what he called Obama’s wish to attack individual success and give government credit for the accomplishments of individual Americans.
“It is changing the nature of America, changing the nature of what Democrats have fought for and Republicans have fought for,” Romney said, adding: “celebrating success instead of attacking it and denigrating it makes America strong.”
“That’s the right course for this country,” Romney continued. “His course is extraordinarily foreign.”
By Chez Pazienza: I didn’t want this to turn into a public back-and-forth, but when I wrote a piece last week for this site on the double-standard when it comes to how news outlets cover crimes which are racially motivated or have the potential to be racially motivated, I knew I might be opening a Pandora’s Box. So with that in mind, and after my good friend and podcast partner Bob Cesca penned a response to my original column here a few days ago, I feel like I want to clarify and expand on my views a little.
First of all, I really do hate the fact that even though my motives are much different and I have to believe more noble than theirs, my opinion gets to be lumped in with the likes of Bill O’Reilly and Bernie Goldberg. I don’t like that it looks like I’m defending them when I’m simply defending a point they’ve made — again, regardless of why they made that point. It should also go without saying that I hope I’m not labeled some kind of racist — or a latent racist, unaware of my own racist feelings, a charge that’s almost impossible to defend against — by those who disagree with me on this. I want to make it clear that while O’Reilly and Goldberg seemed to suggest an equivalence between the incident in Virginia and the Trayvon Martin shooting, I did nothing of the sort; they’re completely different cases and they should have been treated differently by the press.
The issue, though, is larger than an unfair comparison between two separate and distinctive events.
I’m not saying that the media don’t report black-on-white crime. Of course they do. Jesus, in a lot of places — mostly local news markets — it’s almost all they do. The difference — the double-standard — occurs when it comes time to tag a crime as racially motivated or to acknowledge a racial component within a crime. When there’s a possibility of labeling a crime racially motivated, the burden of proof is much higher in a black-on-white crime than it is in one that’s white-on-black. I understand completely the history involved — which Bob outlined nicely — and how and why that can come into play, but I’m still not sure that makes it right from the standpoint of journalistic ethics. From what I’ve seen, it would take a person or a group literally shouting “I hate white people” while kicking somebody’s ass for many in the media to report that a black-on-white crime had racial overtones — and if it didn’t appear at first glance to have overt racial overtones they almost certainly wouldn’t go looking any deeper for them.
Again, I do understand the lengthy and incontrovertible history that deserves consideration, but a group of white people beating up on a black person is automatically very suspicious — as it damn well should be — while a group of black people beating up on someone of another race or ethnicity is deemed, what? Business as usual? Just the way things are? Doesn’t the refusal to even acknowledge the racial element in a story like that — particularly when the coverage would be far different were the roles reversed — speak to Goldberg’s claim that the media may be trying to play a paternal role in protecting a minority community from the bigots who’d automatically label them savages or criminals? If so, is it the media’s job to play that paternal role?
There’s no denying that a news organization can often be influenced, sometimes very quietly, by factors not related to the goal of practicing journalism. On my site I’ve written often about the subtle pressure exerted on news producers to be cognizant of any possible liberal bias within their work — a product of years of accusations and strong-arming by the right — and how that can often lead a news department to overcompensate. True objectivity goes out the window in an effort to ensure that conservative critics are appeased — in other words, in the pursuit of the appearance of objectivity. Likewise, there’s an interesting guideline in place in many newsrooms — occasionally unspoken but often discussed openly — that tips its cards to the incredibly delicate way the press handles the subject of race and minority crime. It works like this: If a crime has been committed and the only description you have of the suspect is, say, a black male, 5’11″, wearing a white t-shirt, you don’t air or publish the description. Why? Well, because obviously that would mean police are currently on the lookout for six thousand people; the description is worthless. But its vagueness and consequent lack of value isn’t really the reason the description wouldn’t be run; there have been quite a few times throughout my career where it’s been acknowledged in my presence, and admittedly even affirmed by me, that a non-specific description of an African-American suspect is unfair to the black community.
True, a sketch of a suspect that ambiguous would likely be left out of a story regardless of that suspect’s race or ethnicity, but special attention was always paid to those who were wanted by the police and who happened to be black, often in an effort to avoid inflaming racial tensions or giving fuel to bigots. Of course, again, there’s a history to be considered here, a history of black people being unfairly targeted as suspicious due to nothing more than the color of their skin — see, yes, Trayvon Martin — and maybe it does in fact show journalistic responsibility and an acquiescence to the realities of the world to take that into consideration when publishing or airing a news item. I think this is the argument Bob was making in his piece and he could very well be right. But from a perspective that I hope is as dispassionate as it can be, the question of fairness and paternalism again comes up: Is it the job of a journalistic organization to favor one group over another or to treat one group differently in their coverage — to show it special dispensation or handle it with kid gloves not applied when dealing with anyone else?
One final thing before we hopefully put what I think has been a healthy debate to rest: By talking about this issue I want to make it clear that I’m not at all personally outraged about the double-standard in black-vs.-white press coverage nor am I crying that I’m being racially persecuted, as O’Reilly and Goldberg most certainly were. I’m a white guy living in the United States of America — I’ve got it fucking great. I’m merely pointing out that the double-standard exists and that there’s a very strong argument to be made that it does actually defy the rules of a responsible and unbiased press. Am I hedging a little because of the sensitive nature of this subject — wearing those kid gloves, as it were? Sure am. Is it somewhat cowardly to allow any kind of potential pressure or backlash to influence what I say or the way I say it? Perhaps.
But that was sort of the point I was initially making. Or at the very least, the question I was asking.
By Bob Cesca: Last week, my friend and podcast partner Chez Pazienza wrote a piece for The Daily Banter about a case involving several African American youths in Norfolk, Virginia who allegedly beat up a pair of reporters from The Virginian-Pilot newspaper, Dave Forster and Marjon Rostami. Forster happens to be white and Rostami is Iranian. I hastened to mention the races of everyone involved because it applies to the rest of the story. The incident went largely unnoticed in the press, mainly because The Virginian-Pilot only published news of the incident in the form of a opinion piece, written by Michelle Washington two weeks later. There’s another reason it wasn’t covered by the Pilot, and I’ll get to that shortly.
Washington’s opinion piece reached Matt Drudge’s yellow-journalism desk and BOOM! Drudge posted a link to the op/ed with the predictably misleading headline: “100 Black Teens Beat White Couple in Norfolk… Media Bury Attack.” Every angry right-winger looking for an excuse for their ridiculous false equivalences about white racism versus “black racism” had a brand new hobby horse to ride. On Fox News Channel, Bill O’Reilly issued one of his personal jihads against The Virginian-Pilot, sending his creepy stalking danger-boy, Jesse Watters to Virginia to accost the editor of the paper, Denis Finley, and find out why he was obviously helping to oppress the white majority. Why would the newspaper wait for so long before publishing the story? Why won’t this newspaper get its boot off the neck of white people?! Why does the news media hate white people?! I’m paraphrasing, of course. But that was the subtext of O’Reilly’s segments.
During one segment, O’Reilly and contributor Bernard Goldberg, in a fantastically propagandized illustration of the wealthy white majority playing the oppressed victim, lamented what they considered to be a journalistic “double-standard.” The Trayvon Martin case, a white-on-black crime, received and continues to receive ample media attention while the reportedly black-on-white Forster/Rostami case was only given an initial opinion page write-up two weeks later (there have since been numerous stories about the assault).
Chez, in his column here, defended Bill O’Reilly and Fox News Channel for saying that there’s a double-standard at play: on one hand the press and, specifically, cable news continues to be outraged by the Trayvon Martin case, while, on the other hand, the The Virginian-Pilot case didn’t receive any attention at all, thus ignoring a black-on-white crime and illustrating some sort of double-standard epidemic. (I should note here that this column isn’t necessarily a refutation of Chez’s piece. Consider this another point of view on double-standards.)
In a way, both O’Reilly and Chez are correct. In a way. There’s absolutely a double-standard because the crimes — the Trayvon Martin case and the Forster/Rostami case — are vastly different in almost every way and should, therefore, be treated with vastly different coverage. They’re different in terms of outcome, they’re different in terms of details and each have very different historical and contemporaneous contexts.
The truth is, not every white-on-black crime is given Trayvon Martin-level coverage. Not by a long shot. So why was there so much outrage swirling around Trayvon?
Let’s do the list.
First, Trayvon was a kid walking through a white neighborhood armed with nothing but snacks. Second, Trayvon was shot and killed — possibly hit in the back, indicating that he was running away rather than confronting Zimmerman. Third, and most suspiciously, law enforcement released George Zimmerman without charging him with any crimes, and Zimmerman was allowed to keep his firearm. Fourth, there’s a sinister gun violence meets gun control meets NRA component here. Fifth, there appeared to be details that the Sanford police were withholding from the public, making it seem like yet another example of whites covering-up a white-on-black crime. Sixth, there’s evidence of racial profiling by Zimmerman. And finally, and most importantly, the historical context is far more complicated when it comes to white-on-black crime, as well as the white presumption of African American guilt when the racial roles are reversed. More on that presently.
Meanwhile in Virginia, even though the attack was clearly traumatic for Foster and Rostami, they weren’t hospitalized nor did they receive medical treatment for their minor injuries. There’s no evidence of racial profiling — in other words, there’s no evidence that the attack was racially motivated and it probably wouldn’t have happened at all if Forster hadn’t jumped out of his car to confront the youths. Even though a rock hit Forster’s car window, the window doesn’t appear to have been shattered. And the police have already arrested a kid for throwing the rock, while there are warrants out for another assailant. Again, while traumatic, it’s a far cry from the ugliness and inexplicable mysteries of the Trayvon case. No potential cover-ups. No fatalities. No serious injuries. The initial characterization by Michelle Washington and Drudge that “hundreds” of black teens wantonly beat a white couple (only “a handful” were involved), hospitalizing them, while their car was “trashed” appears to be highly exaggerated because, if true, the injuries wouldn’t be nearly as minor and, as it turns out, the reporters drove their own vehicle home that night and voluntarily declined to be named in a news story. Police chief Sharon Chamberlin said, “This is a situation where you had a whole bunch of [movie theater] events let out all at once, you had a lot of people on the street, you had an assault occur and that was isolated with a small number of people.” So another major question here: is this even newsworthy? Perhaps it would be in a small town police-scanner rag, but Norfolk is not a small town.
Chez wrote: “O’Reilly may be a pompous buffoon, but I dare anyone to challenge his assertion that were the races reversed in the case in Virginia — had it been a group of white people who attacked an African-American man and woman in their car — it would’ve been the lead on Al Sharpton’s MSNBC show every night since the day it happened.”
Given the details and the minor “simple assault” nature of the fracas, and contrary to what Chez wrote in support of O’Reilly, it’s questionable whether Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson would care about it at all. It’s a relatively nothing case, especially contrasted against the gory details of the Trayvon Martin shooting.
So to compare the Forster/Rostami case with the Trayvon Martin case is a glaringly false equivalence and two different standards of judgment have to be applied.
But let’s say, yes, if the incident in Norfolk had been more serious, maybe with a fatality, and let’s say the races had been reversed — a group of whites fatally attacking an African American couple — the coverage would probably have been appropriately huge. And here’s why. In addition to the hypothetically fatal crime itself, there’s a considerably wicked history in America of white racism, oppression and violence against black people, which, to an extent, continues today. It’s the historical and contemporaneous context that ultimately changes how these stories are, and should be, covered.
Blacks are thirteen percent of the American population — therefore members of the minority race beating up two members of the majority race is quite different in a societal sense than a member of the majority race shooting the minority race in apparent cold blood. White-on-black crime comes from a position of power. The opposite — the minority oppressing the majority — is impossible.
Beyond the demographics, and beyond the oppression, or even the stripping of cultural identity and the enslavement of African Americans prior to the Civil War, the last 150 years have witnessed countless examples of blacks being villainized, oppressed, lynched, tortured and segregated by white people. Even after the slaves were freed, the effort to reconstruct the nation led to the North and South agreeing upon a common enemy to blame for the war and the subsequent hardships it caused: blacks became a national scapegoat as society embraced the Lost Cause Mythology and the absolution of the South for seceding. Blacks, they said, were responsible for 600,000 dead Americans; blacks nearly destroyed the nation; blacks began to seek power over white people, so they had to be held down and persecuted. They were portrayed in pop culture — silent films, minstrel shows and cartoons — as lazy, shiftless rapists. Soon, neo-slavery cropped up in the south whereby blacks could be arrested for nonsense crimes like “vagrancy” — being unemployed, basically — then disappeared and sold into secret chain gangs dotting the countryside where they would live out their lives without trial or connection to their families. Jim Crow laws, prevalent into the 1960s, and even modern purges of voter registration lists in Florida and elsewhere have disenfranchised blacks and relegated them to second class citizens. Harassment, lynchings and beatings from mobs of white people in white hoods forced blacks to live in fear and inferiority. Law enforcement and the judicial system was stacked against blacks, and when this system wasn’t selling blacks into neo-slavery, it was sending large numbers of blacks to prison and the electric chair. Even today, the Republican Party engages in Southern Strategy politics — demonizing blacks in order to motivate angry white voters, not unlike what Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and others often do to pump up their ratings.
Additionally, when corporations, industry and jobs bugged out of the cities for the suburbs, and, eventually, for cheap labor overseas, corporate abandonment left our urban centers stranded and without anywhere to turn for legitimate work. City housing and education crumbled, money was scarce and, regardless of the ethnic group, drugs and gangs began to spring up out of a sense of despair and desperation. And, once again, urban blacks were immediately blamed for the crime and the blight indicative of joblessness and desperation, even though it was the loss of jobs and industry that poisoned American cities. Now, with the exception of some efforts at gentrification, cities remain in constant turmoil which has only been exacerbated by the financial crisis. By the way, white conservatives have tried to blame black people for the recession, too — all of those easy mortgages handed out like candy and squandered by blacks who couldn’t afford the payments.
These injustices are the context for the activist-perception and reporting of crimes like the Trayvon Martin killing and it only just begins to explain why there was such outrage generated around those proceedings. The Trayvon shooting and the handling of the case by law enforcement smelled all too familiar, and the past must not be repeated here. And so a line was drawn in the sand by activists and media personalities. Not again. Not now.
To be clear, none of these historical realities exculpates the crimes committed in Norfolk or Sanford or wherever. A crime is a crime and the people responsible for attacking Forster and Rostami should be arrested and charged (one person is already in custody). But this exhaustively lengthy context begins to explain why the crimes occur and how/why they’re covered. If the press is a little tentative about covering black-on-white crime, especially when it’s a minor non-fatal assault like the Forster/Rostami case, we can begin to understand why with the proper background. We can also understand, given all of these reasons, why a white-on-black crime might harken back to any of the countless atrocities committed against blacks by the white-dominated American power structure and, subsequently, we can also understand why African American activists like Al Sharpton and others are outraged when it happens. It makes complete sense given the prologue of the past.
Yes, there’s a double-standard. And until there’s full equality and the long slow process of racial healing is completed, the double-standard has to remain.
As for the media allegedly ignoring what appear to be black-on-white crimes, ask anyone associated with the coverage of the O.J. Simpson case if that’s true.
By Chez Pazienza: Every once in a while I apparently like to see to it that my progressive street cred takes a huge hit and, well, I guess it’s that time again. The line to angrily show me the error of my ways forms to the left — just, please, not the face, eh?
In case you haven’t been watching Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox recently — and I can’t in good conscience suggest that you do — his latest indignant crusade involves the search for answers in the beating of a pair of Virginia newspaper reporters by an angry mob a few weeks back. The two reporters were white; the people who attacked them, throwing rocks at their car and eventually sending both of them to the hospital, were reportedly all black. What got O’Reilly’s dander up was the fact that the paper the victims work for — the Virginian-Pilot — ran the story not as a news item but as an opinion piece two weeks after the attack. It never bothered to report the initial story; it only chose to comment on it well after the fact and when it did, it stated only that the reporters were beaten by a mob, with no mention of what seemed to be a glaringly obvious racial component. O’Reilly even sent his own little Renfield, intrepid professional asshole producer Jesse Watters, down to the Pilot’s offices to confront the paper’s management about what he sees as an intentional oversight and ran an interview with at least one man in the neighborhood where the attack happened who claimed that anger over the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida might have played a role in the beating.
To top it all off, a couple of nights ago O’Reilly brought on Bernard Goldberg — who by the way is probably the most impressive surrogate for Fox’s audience of embittered old white people from among its stable of regular guests — to discuss how liberal media bias contributed to the unwillingness to broach the subject of race in the story. From Mediaite, here’s what Goldberg had to say:
“Here is what it is really about. It goes beyond journalism, it’s a much bigger issue. It’s about white, usually white liberal paternalism where they say, ‘Well, we really can’t hold black people up to the same standards as we hold white people up to. That’s why we are not putting it in the paper. They are different.’ So two things happen after that. One, the newspaper, the media, they don’t want to air that kind of dirty laundry because it’s kind of embarrassing for the black community. And two, they don’t want to give ammunition to the bigots who probably would say, you see, that’s how they all behave. Now look, we hate, we detest the bigots. But a newspaper has a responsibility to cover legitimate news.”
O’Reilly himself then went on to bring up what he calls an undeniable double standard when it comes to the coverage of the Virginia attack: “You can’t tell me that MSNBC, if it were reversed, wouldn’t be every show, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, on and on and on,” he said.
Now make no mistake: Bill O’Reilly isn’t the least bit concerned with justice, fairness or, most assuredly, journalistic integrity — he’s just throwing red meat to his viewers to feed their white resentment, persecution complexes and the overall delusion that they’re the victims of “reverse racism.” Here’s the thing, though: He’s right about this. And so is Bernie Goldberg. Intentions be damned, almost across the board they’re both right.
Was flat-out racism really a factor in the decision by a large group of black people to attack the Virginian-Pilot’s two white reporters as they sat in their car at a red light? I don’t know, and neither does anyone else at the moment. But to not acknowledge at all the racial component of a story like this requires powers of self-deception — or at the very least the ability to twist yourself into a pretzel of rationalization — that border on superhuman. Again, no one should be claiming that race played a role in the attack, but it’s entirely fair to ask the question why so few in the media are willing to question whether it did — and to do it seemingly as part of a general rule about bringing up race when it’s a black-on-white crime. O’Reilly may be a pompous buffoon, but I dare anyone to challenge his assertion that were the races reversed in the case in Virginia — had it been a group of white people who attacked an African-American man and woman in their car — it would’ve been the lead on Al Sharpton’s MSNBC show every night since the day it happened.
I want to stress one more time, because it’s that important: I have no idea whether race played a role in this recent attack and I won’t immediately jump to the conclusion that it did. But it’s a news outlet’s job to dispassionately report the facts, even if it’s to impress upon the public that not enough is known about a news item to make a judgment call. But the press generally doesn’t do that when it comes to issues of race and violence, not when the victim is white and the assailant is black. As Goldberg says, they’re holding the two groups to different standards when it comes to what they’re willing to say about them without unequivocal evidence. When a power-drunk white guy in Florida shoots an unarmed black teen, it’s asked whether the attack was racially motivated. And it should be. When an angry mob of young black men and women attack a couple of white reporters, trashing their car and sending them to the hospital, the possibility that the attack was racially motivated isn’t even discussed, out of fear of offending anyone or fueling an ugly stereotype. And, again, it should be.
Why? Because that’s a news outlet’s job.
Newt Gingrich finally ended his Republican presidential candidacy Wednesday, unbowed and with a backhanded endorsement of the party’s presumptive nominee.
Flanked by members of his family at a suburban Virginia hotel, the former House speaker said he would work to elect Republicans at all levels this fall.
“As to the presidency, I’m asked sometimes, ‘Is Mitt Romney conservative enough?’ And my answer is simple: ‘Compared to Barack Obama?’ You know, this is not a choice between Mitt Romney and Ronald Reagan. This is a choice between Mitt Romney and the most radical, leftist president in American history,” he said.
Technically, Gingrich “suspended” his candidacy, allowing him to turn his attention to retiring a campaign debt of more than $3 million. The announcement wasn’t news, since he had said last month that he would be doing so, after running out of excuses to keep going. His second and last primary victory was almost two months ago, in his former home state of Georgia.
Gingrich choked up once, briefly, at the outset, when he recalled a familiar line about his grandchildren, Maggie and Robert, being his best debate coaches. The youngsters stood alongside him on a small stage before several dozen supporters and aides.
The 68-year-old former Georgia congressman called his campaign “a truly wild ride,” adding, “I could never have predicted either the low points or the high points.”
Read more at the LA Times…
Exclusive: Work-place and college-campus slaughters have become a regular feature of America’s harsh economic landscape the past few decades, as Ayn Rand-style policies sharply divide the nation into a few heroic “winners” and many hapless “losers,” a factor Mark Ames examines in the latest college bloodbath.
I was working on an article about last month’s rampage massacre in Afghanistan that left 17 villagers dead, when news hit of this past Monday’s massacre at an Oakland, California, religious college, leaving seven dead. In both cases, the shooters survived and face a possible death penalty — which is rare: Usually these rampage killings end with self-inflicted bullet in the mouth.
These “going postal” rampage killings like the one that just took place at the Oikos University campus so often and with such relentless rhythm, a lot of people might easily assume that these mass-shootings at American schools and workplaces have always been with us.
It’s not true, of course — as I wrote in my book Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion — it’s an exclusively American phenomenon specific to our time. The first post office rampage killing took place in Edmond, Oklahoma, in the mid-1980s, at the height of the Reagan Revolution’s war on the American worker.
Those post office massacres quickly migrated into private workplace massacres by the end of the 1980s, where they’ve become a regular rhythmic staple of our murder culture ever since – and from the adult workplace, the massacres migrated to our schools.
We’ve had mass-killings before; and every now and then, you’ll read about a rampage killing in some other country. But only in America, and only since the mid-1980s, do American employees attack their own workplaces and offices, and middle-class students attack their own schools, with such consistency, year after year.
It was only after the crash in 2008 that some Americans began to accept the obvious: That the cruelty, predation and concentration of wealth and power introduced by the Reagan Revolution sparked a new type of murder that has more in common with insurgency violence or rebellious peasant violence than, say, the psychopathology of a serial murder.
Like so many school rampage killers, last Monday’s alleged murderer, One L. Goh, was reportedly bullied and mistreated at his nursing school program at the small Korean Christian nursing program he enrolled in. Bullying also was blamed for the high school rampage killing a few weeks ago in suburban Cleveland that left three students dead and five wounded.
The gruesome details about the way Goh is said to have lined up and executed his victims, the way he apparently singled out women, make hard not to caricature him as a monster, a demonic psychopath — and yet, without excusing Goh’s killings, one should try to make sense of what happened to him, the downward-trending bleakness, the slow water-torture of low-five-figure debts, the broken marriage, the $23,000 tax bill owed to the IRS.
In the Naughts, One L. Goh helped run a construction company. But construction collapsed as an industry in 2006-7; and unless you were Countrywide Financial CEO Angelo Mozillo, you’d have nothing to show for the few good years.
In late 2007, Goh moved into the Yorkview Apartments complex in Hayes, Virginia — a bleak, prefab looking structure in a rural corner of Virginia. By the following summer, One L. Goh found himself unable to cover his $575 rent payment two months in a row. He was evicted; but before they evicted him, creditors took his car
The future rampage-murderer took it all stoically, even politely, according to one of Goh’s apartment complex neighbors, Thomas Lumpkin. Goh “was always neat, wore nice clothes,” Lumpkin said. “You would never expect it out of him. He just don’t seem like that type of person.”
Lumpkin also recalled the day Lumpkin was evicted, saw his Nissan pickup repossessed and departed by cab. I tried to imagine what that cab ride felt like for One L. Goh, a pudgy 40-something Korean-American dweeb, stewing with resentment, in his nice neat clothes. How far did he go in that cab — and where to?
Eventually he wound up with his father on the West Coast. Goh’s father lives in an Oakland housing project for senior citizens run by a Christian non-profit. Goh found work in a San Mateo warehouse, he doubled as a mover.
It’s not a good place to be if you’re a middle-aged failure: San Francisco has so much obscene wealth, and smug beauty — to be a fat 40-something nerd working with your father in a grocery store in Daly City, in the shadow of San Francisco, is some kind of Hell, a Hell for failures.
And then last year, Goh’s brother, an Iraq War veteran and Special Forces hero, died in a freak car accident when his Toyota slammed head-on at 70 mpg into a “multi-ton” boulder lying on a Virginia road. The photos of the accident scene look almost unreal, almost staged. The news was a blow to One L. Goh’s mother; she died within a few months after the brother.
This is the backdrop to Goh’s fateful decision to pull himself out of a years-long rut, and to start a new career for himself as a nurse. It may have been the shock of the back-to-back deaths in the family — or maybe it was his father who encouraged him, or the experience of living with his father in a building for the elderly.
Whatever the case, his widower father supported his son with a $6,000 loan to pay for the vocational nursing school tuition. But after a few months, One L. Goh was out of the program, bitter and vengeful, dead set on murder; and his father was out $6,000, thanks to his son’s bad bet.
Ignition to a Massacre
What set Goh off? Why did he leave the nursing school so early? Most reports say he was teased by his classmates for his age, 43, and his accent. Which is odd, considering most of the students are foreigners and Koreans.
(Another Korean-American rampage-killer was teased over his voice: Virginia Tech killer Cho Seung-Hui. As another Virginia Tech student told reporters back in 2007, “As soon as [Cho] started reading, the whole class started laughing and pointing and saying, ‘Go back to China.’”)
Goh enrolled in what must have been one of the very worst nursing programs in the entire state of California: the vocational nursing program at Oikos University, a fundamentalist Korean-American Christian school in Oakland.
The school’s nursing program is accredited, which is important of course if you want your for-profit school program to make money. To comply with the accreditation, Oikos U. had provide a “2010 Performance Sheet” summing up its students’ performances both on the national nursing exam and, once licensed, in the job market.
The “performance” is abysmal, to the point where you almost wonder if it’s even statistically possible to fail as spectacularly as Oikos University’s nursing students. Of the programs 28 graduates from the Spring 2010 – 2011 term, only 11 of those 28 managed to pass the national nursing exam. That’s a 29 percent pass rate, almost unheard of.
According to a spokesman for the California Department of Consumer Affairs, it makes Oikos among the state’s very worst programs — the average success rate for graduates of other programs is 75 percent. (An Oakland Tribune article puts Oikos U’s exam pass rate at 41 percent of students who took the test, but the actual Performance Sheet gives a lower 29 percent pass figure — either way, both are awful).
Oikos University failed to prepare its students for the test, and it failed those who passed when they turned to the job market. According to the same Performance Sheet, of the school’s 11 students who passed the exam, eight found paying jobs as nurses, with salaries ranging as low as $5,000 per year to the one lucky top salary earner who earned up to $35,000. That’s in the Bay Area, the most expensive region in America.
In sum: One L. Goh could not have chosen a worse nursing program to pin his personal hopes on. This nursing program was all but guaranteed to fail him.
One thing Oikos University does fairly convincingly is fundamentalist evangelical Christianity for Korean-Americans. Students at Oikos U. are required to attend regular church services; the pious language of evangelical Christianity frames everything.
The school’s president, Rev. Jongkin Kim, says his goal is “to foster spiritual Christian leaders who abide by God’s intentions and to expand God’s nation through them.” Under the university’s “Our Vision” it reads:
“The vision of Oikos University is to educate emerging Christian leaders to transform and bless the world at every level – from the church and local community levels to the realm of world entire.”
And then there’s the reality, revealed in a lawsuit filed last month by a former staffer of Oikos University named Jong Cha, who says the school cheated her out of $75,000 in salary and expenses, and stiffed her on a $10,000 loan that she personally gave to the Christian college in 2008.
Viewed from this angle, One L. Goh might have come to the conclusion at some point that he’d taken scarce funds from his poor old widower father, and handed it over to religious hucksters running the Golden State’s worst nursing program.
One thing to keep in mind here: It’s easy to see why Oikos University introduced a nursing vocational program. If you get it accredited, these nursing programs are guaranteed cash-cows. Most of the big for-profit education predators like Kaplan Inc. (which owns—and subsidizes— the Washington Post) are in on the vocational nursing for-profit gig.
You can charge students insane tuitions, hire hacks as teachers, pocket the difference, and dump the unpaid loans on the government in exchange for 100 cents on the dollar.
The Reverend who founded Oikos University certainly understood this — his good friend told the New York Times that Rev. Kim “had established the nursing school to support the school’s department of religion.” The cash must have rolled in quickly, because within a year after launching its nursing program, Oikos doubled its size — meaning doubling revenues.
And yet even with all those new revenues coming in, the school couldn’t figure out a way to raise its graduates’ test results out of the failure category. The school appears to have stiffed one of its top staffers out of her pay and her loan, suggesting, in the words of the Oakland Tribune, “that the school may have fallen on hard times.”
I wonder if this is what set off One L. Goh a few months after he enrolled — the realization that he’d been fleeced, that he enrolled in the wrong program on his father’s money. The year 2011 had already taken his brother and his mother.
A Dashed Last Hope
There is something in between the lines that suggests his plan to become a nurse, worked out with his father’s assistance a kind of desperate last attempt to turn everything around in the proverbial One Bold Swoop.
He would do something practical, and morally good, helping the elderly, people like his father — and earn a steady income that would allow him, at last, some dignity and some chance to start paying off his debts.
It was as though Goh pinned everything on this plan to reinvent himself as a nurse — and according to all our cultural propaganda, all the Hollywood movies and newspaper bromides, Goh would be rewarded for undertaking this self-transformation. It was guaranteed to change everything.
And for a brief while last year, Goh’s mood was transformed, he really did think he had a great future ahead of him. One of Goh’s former employers at a food warehouse described Goh as “upbeat” when he ran into him last year in Oakland — a change from the usually quiet, sullen Goh he’d known.
This new “upbeat” One L. Goh boasted to his former employer “about how he had returned to school to become a nurse and help elderly people.”
The idea that you can reinvent yourself, that your fate is in your own hands, that you have the power inside of you to make yourself a winner (and if you fail, it’s all your own fault) — this may be America’s most toxic cultural snake-oil. And yet it never fails to find takers.
Of course, nothing changed — except that Goh had been conned out of his dad’s money. As his former employer put it: “Not many people go back to school at that age. He was trying something new and it wasn’t working.”
It didn’t take long for him to figure it out. Just a few months after enrolling, One L. Goh dropped out of the Oikos University program. When he dropped out of the program, he asked them to refund his father’s $6,000 that he paid for tuition. He was denied. He fought with the administrators, but they didn’t budge. This was what made him snap.
The administrator, whom Goh fought with for his tuition refund and whom he came to kill that day, has now come forward. Her name is Ellen Cervellon. She was gone on the day of the massacre because she also teaches nursing to students at California State University at East Bay.
Now she will have to wonder, why didn’t she just approve the refund to a desperate man? What if she had approved it? Her argument was that he’d already spent several months in the program. According to a friend of Ellen Cervellon’s, Linda Music, she even denied Goh his last reasonable request, to prorate the refund.
As Matthai Kuruvila reported at SFGate.com, Goh had asked Ellen Cervellon for a full refund of his tuition and when he was denied suggested prorating the tuition refund. Cervellon said no, Music said.
That meant he threw his father’s money away: He had nothing to show for the $6,000 given to the university; he would never be able to pay his father back; and he would never be able to borrow a sum like that from him again. That was it, the final act. The jig was up for him.
Lack of Empathy
Why? Why couldn’t Cervellon meet this desperate failure half-way? What was in it for Cervellon? What’s with the Ayn Randian lack of empathy in this country among the non-oligarchy caste?
Cervellon seems to be asking herself this same question: “In talking to several of the students and faculty who were there, I think he was looking for me. I have that weight on my shoulders and I don’t know what to do with it,”
School officials have been painting a portrait of One L. Goh as a psycho and a freak, using phrases like “behavioral problems” and calling him “angry” and “paranoid.” There must be truth to that; nice, normal people in a healthy state of mind don’t rampage-massacre others.
But the intended target, Ellen Cervellon, disputes that: “He was never forced out, he showed no behavioral problems, and he was never asked to leave the program. He decided on his own to leave the program.”
The depressingly familiar dead-end life that One L. Goh found himself in — surrounded by petty scams as revealed in the ex-staffer’s lawsuit and the bleak performance of the school’s graduates, combined with the back-to-back deaths of two family members — could make a lot of sane people desperate and enraged and suicidal. Not to mention the larger context of an inequality-ravaged America where opportunity and dignity are scarcer and scarcer.
On top of all this, as he complained often, students at the nursing program wouldn’t talk to him. That could be traumatizing even under better circumstances, but under his conditions, being mocked and ignored by fellow fundamentalist Christians for being an aging loser, would be devastating.
One of Goh’s teachers continued criticizing Goh even after the massacre: “I always advised him, ‘You go to school to learn, not to make friends.’” More great advice from the Oikos University folks.
After quitting the nursing program, One L. Goh spent the last few months working with his father at the Daly City supermarket. He was back at square one: A failure, swindled, condemned to work in a shitty job beside his struggling father whom he’d let down.
You might say that One L. Goh snapped because for once, he saw things as they really were, stripped of hope, stripped of fantasies about self-improvement or self-transformation.
He failed at everything; he was one of those faceless, anonymous losers. But there was one thing he could still excel at, something that could get him attention, something that this country perversely celebrates: mass murder in a blaze of anti-glory. So long as you’re ready to make that transformation-of-character into a death row inmate, that option is always available here.
Last Monday, according to police accounts, One L. Goh armed himself with a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol and showed up at the Oikos school for his final act. But the plan failed from the start: The administrator he was after was gone. So the target became the entire setting, Oikos University, as it so often happens in these “going postal” rampage killings.
There’s a section on the Oikos University website about the 11 beliefs that the University holds to — they call it their “Doctrinal Statement” and it’s the last belief, Number 11, that sums up the malevolence of it all:
“We believe in the existence of a personal, malevolent being called Satan who acts as tempter and accuser, for whom the place of eternal punishment was prepared, where all who die outside of Christ shall be confined in conscious torment for eternity.”