Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Lou Dobbs Watch, Episode 1

(With due deference to "Russert Watch" featured in the Huffington Post)

Lou Dobbs is the most dangerous demagogue in the United States today. An example was the broadcast of "Lou Dobbs Tonight" aired yesterday, April 25, 2006.

Before Dobbs' broadcast, the following story was filed by the Reuters News Agency:

"LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- Prominent Latino leaders in California Tuesday played down death threats apparently sparked by the divisive debate over illegal immigration.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told reporters Monday that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante had both been targets of "disturbing and hateful death threats."
"Hate, racism and intolerance are never accepted in our public debates," said Schwarzenegger, himself an immigrant from Austria. "That is not what California stands for. The greatness of California is its rich diversity."
Police are investigating the threats, which came in postcards, e-mails and an Internet posting following appearances by Villaraigosa and Bustamante at mass protests in Los Angeles last month against proposals to criminalize the nation's estimated 11-12 million undocumented immigrants.
Bustamante later received an anonymous postcard saying "the only good Mexican is a dead Mexican." Bustamante's spokesman, Steve Green, said such threats were part of the job and that the lieutenant governor's security had not been stepped up.
"It is not going to change our convictions. We will continue to speak out about it," Green said Tuesday.
Villaraigosa, son of a Mexican immigrant, said threats "come with the turf" and has also not increased his security.
"There is nothing to worry about. ... You can see by my face that I'm not concerned about that," Villaraigosa told reporters."

In spite of the high risk of headache and nausea I find that accompanies each viewing, I decided to watch Lou Dobbs last night after reading this story. The threats against Villaraigosa and Bustamante clearly implied that the overheated rhetoric regarding the dangers presented by immigrants might be inspiring an ugly, and potentially dangerous mood of racism in the anti-immigrant community. As the nation's most visible immigrant-basher, I was curious what Dobbs might have to say about these incidents.

The answer was absolutely nothing.

As he usually does, Dobbs led with a story on illegals, this time opening with coverage of what Dobbs snidely referred to as President Bush's "so-called immigration reform proposals." Dobbs castigated the president for trying to salvage a guest worker program during a meeting with senators. "The question is," Dobbs intoned before going to video, "is this leadership?" (I thought the question for Bush was, "Is we educating our children? " But that's another matter.)

Later in this episode, Dobbs displayed his approach to "truthiness." Dobbs presented a story on economists' testimony on the impact of illegal immigrants on the American economy. The viewer sees two sound clips from Harvard economist Richard Freeman and Barry Chiswick of the University of Illinois:

"Freeman: So, there are parts of the country where the jobs that we might think now as, oh, those are for low-level immigrant workers, they are being filled in parts of the country where there are immigrants by Americans. And that means that Americans are willing to work at these jobs. They may not be willing to compete with an immigrant at very low wages, particularly when the immigrant may be getting paid illegally off the books.

Chiswick: Low-skilled immigrants make greater use of government benefits and transfers than they pay in taxes. So, in terms of the public coffers, they serve as a net drain. Whereas high-skilled immigrants have the opposite effect. 

In the earned legalization program that some people are talking about, just a euphemism for amnesty, these individuals will eventually be getting full benefits from government income transfer systems."

After one more sound bite stacked against immigrants, Dobbs growled, "And incredibly, not a single economist you heard took the position of being against illegal immigration despite the clear cost."

The costs aren't that clear and Dobbs knows it. Let's be clear, the immigrants paid slave wages in American agriculture, industry and the service economy are brutally exploited as are the American workers unwilling to take jobs below a livable American wage. But the bad guys aren't the immigrants. They are the greedy American businesses that participate in this modern system of slavery.

Regarding the economic impact of immigrants in the U.S., most economists argue that the effect is probably neutral - immigrants offset the cost of lower wages and the level of social services they consume (which Dobbs and others exaggerate) through the economic activity they stimulate. As the Winter 2005 issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center's "Intelligence Report" notes, many economists believe that immigrants have an overall positive impact on the economy:

'Although Dobbs has steered clear of the racist comments that some of his guests have made elsewhere, he has warned of 'illegal aliens who not only threaten our economy and security, but also our health and well-being,' according to Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a media monitor. In 2003, FAIR added, a reporter on Dobbs' show grossly mischaracterized a National Academy of Sciences report. The report found that immigrants provided a net gain of $1 billion to $10 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product, but the CNN reporter said the report had found the economic impact of immigrants worked out to a net loss of up to $10 billion."

Similarly, Dobbs misrepresented the results of survey presented on his April 25 show. During the program, political analyst Bill Schneider At the beginning of the program, Dobbs teased Schneider's segment thusly:

“Bill Schneider reports on a new opinion poll that shows, among other things, strong support for penalties against employers of illegal aliens.”

There were some other findings Dobbs chose to completely ignore. Here's the segment:

"SCHNEIDER: The immigration debate is about three issues. The first is controlling the border. On that, the public's priorities are clear. 

BUSH: The American people are right in saying to the government, enforce the border.

SCHNEIDER: How? Well by increasing penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants. That's something the bill that passed the House of Representatives would do. More than two-thirds of Americans approve. 

The bill proposes adding 700 miles of fence along the border with Mexico. How does the public feel about that? Split. People are not sure the fence will work. And the views of Americans who live in border states? They are also split.

The second issue is citizenship for the more than 11 million illegal immigrants already here. The bill being considered by the Senate would allow illegal immigrants whose have been in the U.S. for more than five years to earn U.S. citizenship. More than three quarters of Americans say fine. Isn't that amnesty?

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: That is not amnesty because the undocumented aliens will have to pay a fine. They will have to pay back taxes. They will undergo a thorough background investigation. They will have to learn English. They will have to work for six years.

SCHNEIDER: The third issue is a guest worker program.

BUSH: Doesn't it make sense to have a rational temporary worker plan that says you don't need to sneak across the border?

SCHNEIDER: The public is not sure. Why?

DR. BARRY CHISWICK, ECONOMIST, UNIV. OF ILLINOIS: When the guest worker period is over, how does one get them to leave the country?

SCHNEIDER: Do Republicans follow the president's lead on this? A little, but even Republicans are not enthusiastic about President Bush's guest worker plan. 


SCHNEIDER: We asked in December which has higher priority, stopping the flow of new illegal aliens or allowing current residents to become U.S. citizens. And the answer was, stopping the flow of new illegal aliens by 56 percent to 41 percent -- Lou. "

One of the most significant findings of the poll is that three-quarters of the American people, in spite of the alarmist warnings of people like Dobbs favor opening citizenship for illegals, something Dobbs repeatedly opposes, claiming his position has the support of the American people. That's one of the clearest majorities in the survey, unlike support for building a Berlin Wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which draw an evenly divided response. Dobbs also implies that there is a populist groundswell for building a wall. Dobbs chooses to ignore the findings of the survey and the clear widespread opposition to his anti-immigrant extremism when he questions Schneider directly.

"DOBBS: And irrespective of this poll's findings, as interesting as they are, Bill Schneider, it is pretty clear in certainly the reaction of our audience, in the feedback that we're getting, the e- mails and letters from our audience, as well as every poll I've seen, that there -- there just aren't many Americans who are more interested in an amnesty program than four and a half years after 9/11 securing our borders and our ports. What is going on in your town down there that makes that such a difficult concept to understand?"

You are lying, Lou. Schneider's survey just showed that 75 percent of the people want citizenship open to illegals currently in the United States, which is amnesty, whatever you call it.

One issue Dobbs also deliberately ignores: the open racism of many of the anti-immigrant activists he hails as patriots. I'll return to the SPLC's "Intelligence Report":

". [T]he anchorman has . . . repeatedly decline[d] to present the evidence that links these groups to racism, calling the very idea "mind-boggling." On his July 29 show, he called the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which he said he liked in other ways, "despicable" and "reprehensible" for saying otherwise.

Consider some of what Dobbs has failed to report, despite the fact that in almost every case these developments were reported widely elsewhere:

GLENN SPENCER, head of the anti-immigration American Patrol, has been interviewed at least twice on the show, on Jan. 7 and June 4, 2004. Spencer's Web site is jammed with anti-Mexican vitriol and he pushes the idea that the Mexican government is involved in a secret plot to take over the Southwest -- facts never mentioned on Dobbs' show. Spencer's group is regarded as a hate group by both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. Spencer has spoken at least twice to the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, which has described blacks as "a retrograde species of humanity," and once to American Renaissance, a group that contends that blacks are genetically inferior to whites. Dobbs has never reported those ties, or mentioned Spencer's more wild-eyed contentions, such as his prediction that "thousands will die" in a supposedly forthcoming Mexican invasion. His CNN colleague Wolf Blitzer, on the hand, featured Spencer on his own show but reported Mexico's official response and SPLC's hate group designation.

In late 2004, it was revealed that the new head of a national advisory board to Protect Arizona Now, an anti-immigration organization, was a long-time white supremacist who was also an editorial adviser to the racist Council of Conservative Citizens. Although VIRGINIA ABERNETHY's controversial selection was reported prominently in virtually every Arizona paper -- and despite the fact that Dobbs heavily covered the anti-immigration referendum that Protect Arizona Now was advocating -- Dobbs never mentioned the affair at all.

A man named JOE MCCUTCHEN was quoted last April as part of a feature on the Minuteman Project, described by Dobbs as "a terrific group of concerned, caring Americans." No mention was made of the fact that McCutchen, who heads up an anti-immigration group called Protect Arkansas Now, had written a whole series of anti-Semitic letters to the editor and given a speech to the Council of Conservative Citizens -- facts revealed the prior January by SPLC, causing Arkansas' Republican governor to denounce McCutchen's group.

. . .This August, BILL PARMLEY, a Minuteman leader in Goliad County, Texas, quit the group because of what he described as widespread racism. Similarly, in September, newspapers reported that another Texas Minuteman, Janet Ahrens, had resigned because members "wanted to shoot the taco meat." Dobbs never mentioned either of these people, who were featured prominently elsewhere."

Dobbs is also ignoring the racism his brand of journalism may be helping to fuel. To return to the question I opened with, did Dobbs mention the death threats against two highly-placed California government officials? The story was not referred to until almost half-way through the show and it was not brought up by Dobbs, but Wolf Blitzer, who was teasing "The Situation Room," which follows Dobb's program. Dobbs and Blitzer chatted after the tease, but the death threat story never came up. Dobbs preferred to chat about Tony Snow being appointed the new White House Press Secretary. Here's the segment and the inane chatter that followed:

BLITZER: Feeling the heat over gas prices? President Bush rolling out his plan to try to provide some relief at the pump. We'll look at how that may play with voters. 

And Senator Ted Kennedy, my guest here in THE SITUATION ROOM. 

Plus, immigration death threats -- the mayor of Los Angeles and a top state official are targeted. Now Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is vowing to crack down. We have the story. 

Also, the New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, does he have a plan to run for the White House? I'll ask him. 

And a Fox News anchor might become the next White House press secretary. Jack Cafferty is taking your e-mail on the relationship between television and politics. 

All that, Lou, coming up right at the top of the hour. 

DOBBS: What do you think of Tony Snow being a White House press secretary? 

BLITZER: I like Tony Snow a lot. He's actually been an old friend of mine. I think he's going to be really good. He's very smart. He's clearly got his strongly held views, but I think he will be a very strong White House press secretary because he knows the press. He knows the administration, and to be a good White House press secretary, you have to know that interaction. He understands it, and I'm encouraged. 

DOBBS: Jeez, Wolf, I just asked what you thought. He's a class guy. And I think it's an interesting choice, if that turns out to be the choice. 

Thanks very much, Wolf Blitzer."

Anti-immigrant backlash took a much uglier turn after this Lou Dobbs episode. I'll let the Associated Press tell the ugly story:


By JUAN A. LOZANO, Associated Press Writer Fri Apr 28, 2:51 PM ET

HOUSTON - Prosecutors say they won't seek hate-crime charges against two white teens accused of brutally beating and sodomizing a 16-year-old Hispanic boy, who was clinging to life after being left for dead.

The two attacked the boy after he tried to kiss a 12-year-old girl at an unsupervised house party Saturday night in suburban Spring, authorities said.

The attackers, both of whom have juvenile criminal records, apparently were offended at the age difference between the victim and the girl, who is also Hispanic, and shouted racial slurs at him during the 10- to 15-minute attack, investigators said.

Authorities said the two dragged the boy from the party and into the yard, where they sodomized him with a plastic pipe from a patio table umbrella.

County prosecutor Mike Trent said the boy also had high levels of toxins in his organs, indicating the attackers may have poured bleach inside the pipe used to sodomize him. Doctors believe the boy, who was in critical condition Friday, passed out quickly and was unconscious for most of the attack.

"After they got him down on the ground, they stomped his head with (steel-toed) boots," Harris County Sheriff's Lt. John Denholm said. "They actually kicked the pipe further into him with the boots."

Trent described the pipe as being sharpened at one end. At one point, the teens tried to carve something on the boy's chest with a knife, he told CNN Friday.

"I don't know that the very beginning of the attack was racial," Trent said, "but there's no question that they were venting quite a bit of hatred in their hearts."

Trent said that adding hate-crime charges to the aggravated sexual assault faced by David Henry Tuck, 18, and Keith Robert Turner, 17, would have no legal effect.

Even if the victim dies, the charge would be upgraded to capital murder because of the sexual assault, making Tuck eligible for the death penalty. Turner is too young to be eligible for execution.

Both are charged with aggravated sexual assault, which carries a maximum of five years to life in prison. They were being held in the county jail. Charles Hinton, Tuck's attorney, did not return a call seeking comment. It was not known if Turner had an attorney.

If the two are convicted of aggravated sexual assault, jurors will be told during sentencing about the ethnic slurs used during the attack, Trent said.

"Whether it is one or isn't a hate crime, and it may be, that will make no difference here," Trent said. "This is already a first-degree felony and it can't be elevated any higher. There's nowhere to go beyond this, unless the victim dies."

The Anti-Defamation League wants prosecutors to add hate-crime charges even if it won't add to the penalties. "We want the public to accept and understand that this was a hate crime," regional director Martin Cominsky said.

The victim lay behind the house for more than 10 hours before he was found and someone called an ambulance. Trent said the attackers threatened partygoers with harm if they cooperated with the investigation.

The victim was a popular football player at Klein Collins High School who also posed for a fashion layout in the school yearbook, the Houston Chronicle reported. Because the boy is a juvenile sexual assault victim, The Associated Press will not identify him.

Dozens of postings from friends on the victim's page send wishes for recovery in styles ranging from Bible verses to obscene, rap-like poems urging violent ends for the attackers. The boy's last posting was Saturday, the day of the attack."

Something tells me Dobbs won't devote a segment of his show to anti-immigrant violence. He's the Charles Coughlin of our times, much slicker than open fascists like drug-addled Limbaugh or his buddy Sean Hannity. Remember that the doors to immigration were fatally closed to Jewish immigrants during the Holocaust. Already, one immigrant a day dies trying to cross our border. Let's hope there is no more blood on Dobbs,' and our, hands.

Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

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