Saturday, May 12, 2007

'Far better reporting'

I dunno about you, but I was really taken with Lou Dobbs' defense of the bogus leprosy numbers he has been broadcasting -- besides just the charming combination of self-absorbed cluelessness and sheer arrogance, there was this:
"And the fact that it [the number of leprosy cases] rose was because -- one assumes, because we don't know for sure -- but two basic influences: unscreened illegal immigrants coming into this country primarily from South Asia, and secondly, far better reporting."

Now, Dobbs is obviously trying to suggest that a sudden improvement in medical reporting of these cases will transform the 296 actual cases of leprosy on record at the Center for Disease Control over the most recent three-year period on record into some 7,000 cases. This would be a remarkable feat indeed, especially considering that there is no particular reason that medical reporting on leprosy or immigrant diseases in general would be significantly improved in recent years, particularly not by a factor of 200.

But then, in the defense he later erected on CNN, it became clear that he and Christine Romans, the reporter upon whom he depends for this information, have one single source for their claim: the late Madeleine Cosman. That's right: someone whose figures for the questionable (and non-peer-reviewed) journal article that Dobbs and Romans cite appear to have been made out of whole cloth, considering the scope of the actual statistics.

It's not enough to call Cosman a nutcase, though clearly that particular shoe fits like Cinderella's slipper. It's helpful, perhaps, to sample a full dose of the paranoiac fantasizing of which she was capable. Here's a sound bite from one of Cosman's speeches, this one on the sexual proclivities of male Mexican immigrants:

A transcript:
Recognize that most of these bastards molest girls under age 12, some as young as age 5, others age 3, although of course some specialize in boys, some specialize in nuns, some are exceedingly versatile, and rape little girls age 11, and women up to age 79. What is important here is the psychiatric defenses. Why do they do what they do? [Mockingly] They do not need a jail, they need a hospital. They are depraved because they were deprived in their home country. But more important is the cultural defense: they suffer from psychiatric cognitive disjuncture, for what does a poor man do if in his home country of Mexico, in his jurisdiction, if rape is ranked lower than cow-stealing? Of course he will not know how to behave here in strange America. This is thoroughly reprehensible.

This is the woman who is not just the primary but apparently the sole source of Dobbs' claim. Whatever "better reporting" she found appears to have been cooked up by her attempts to wade into medical statistics -- something inadvisable for PhD. in English.

In any event, it's hard to get across the full flavor of this rant without listening to it. Because there's something oddly ... familiar about all this.

The grotesque distortion. The obscene fantasization. The sneering mockery of the straw-man liberal she creates and immolates. The brittle, twitchy delivery. Where have we seen that before?

But of course:

We recall that Ann also enjoys a special place in the heart of Lou Dobbs and Christine Romans, who have similarly helped broadcast Ann's afactual fantasies.

Must be that "far better reporting."

Friday, May 11, 2007

Lou Dobbs: Making up racist shit

The eliminationist meme connecting immigrants to disease leapt forward about five quanta this week thanks to CNN's Lou Dobbs.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that Dobbs is spreading the tale that immigrants are bringing leprosy to America, and concocting numbers out of whole cloth in the process:
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) today urged CNN to acknowledge that anchor Lou Dobbs has been spreading false information about the prevalence of leprosy and its supposed links to undocumented immigrants.

"We're not talking about a newscaster who simply made a mistake — we're talking about someone with a national platform who cites wildly inaccurate data to demean an entire group of people and who, when confronted with the truth, simply repeats the lie," said SPLC President Richard Cohen. "It's outrageous, and CNN should do something about it immediately."

In a letter sent today, Cohen asked CNN/U.S. President Jonathan Klein to take prompt action to correct the misinformation.

On "Lou Dobbs Tonight" this past Monday, Dobbs said he stands "100 percent behind" his show's claim that there had been 7,000 new cases of leprosy in the United States over a recent three-year period, and he further suggested that an increase in leprosy was due in part to "unscreened illegal immigrants coming into this country."

Dobbs' endorsement of the claim came after CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl challenged the leprosy figure during a profile of Dobbs on "60 Minutes" this past Sunday. Stahl cited a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services document that reported 7,029 cases over the past 30 years -- not three.

... The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the number of leprosy cases diagnosed in the United States peaked at 361 in 1985. The figure reported on Dobbs' show is easily refuted with just a few minutes of research on the Internet.

Where did Dobbs get his numbers? Unsurprisingly, from a far-right nutcase named Madeleine Cosman:
In addition to writing about the prevalence of leprosy, Cosman, who died in March 2006, told an anti-immigrant conference in 2005 that "most" Latino immigrant men "molest girls under 12, although some specialize in boys, and some in nuns," a variation on a speech she has given elsewhere. The Winter 2005 issue of the SPLC's quarterly magazine Intelligence Report also contained a profile of Cosman, a lawyer who advised wealthy doctors on how to sell their medical practices and a member of the far-right Jews for the Preservation of Firearms. The piece pointed out that Cosman had lied about having a 1976 book she wrote nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.

... Madeleine Cosman's false claim that there were 7,000 cases of leprosy diagnosed in the United States from 2001 to 2004 was included in her article, "Illegal Aliens and American Medicine." More than once, "Lou Dobbs Tonight" reporter Romans repeated Cosman's statistic, saying, "Suddenly, in the past three years, America has more than 7,000 cases of leprosy."

Cosman's piece was published in the Spring 2005 issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, published by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, which represents private practice doctors. The journal is known as a right-wing periodical whose science has been the subject of harsh criticism.

Though the article notes her Ph.D., it does not say that the degree is in English and comparative literature. Cosman had no medical training other than as a medical lawyer.

In the article, Cosman provides no source for her claim of 7,000 cases of leprosy, also known as Hansen's Disease, in three years — presumably 2001 to 2004, given the article's publication date.

The claim has no basis in fact.

But is Dobbs at all apologetic about being called on his journalistic malfeasance? Um, no:
On Dobbs' show Monday, during a conversation with Romans, Dobbs said: "Following one of your reports, I told Lesley Stahl, we don't make up numbers, and I will tell everybody here again tonight, I stand 100 percent behind what you said." He later added, "And the fact that it [the number of leprosy cases] rose was because -- one assumes, because we don't know for sure -- but two basic influences: unscreened illegal immigrants coming into this country primarily from South Asia, and secondly, far better reporting."

... In the "60 Minutes" piece, Dobbs told Stahl, "Well, I can tell you this. If we report it, it's a fact."

"How can you guarantee that to me?" Stahl asked.

"Because I'm the managing editor, and that's the way we do business," Dobbs replied. "We don't make up numbers, Lesley. Do we?"

When it comes to Lou Dobbs -- yes, he does.

Not only does he make up numbers and "facts," he obtains those "facts" from extremist sources whose far-right agenda his "reporting" propagandizes. That is, in fact, his established track record.

The most infamous instance of this came when Dobbs ran a graphic about "Aztlan" that not only was pure fantasy, it was taken from the white-supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens' Web site. And then there has been his ongoing promotion of the Minutemen, which has similarly indulged afactual bashing of immigrants.

Dobbs, in fact, is beginning to make Don Imus look positively benign. Unfortunately, it's increasingly clear that CNN is running hard right in the cable-news wars, so it's unlikely that Dobbs will be affected unless, once again, CNN is hurt where it counts: with the advertisers.

UPDATE: Video added atop post.

UPDATE II: Phoenix Woman points out that Dobbs is only one of many media fabricators.

UPDATE III: Media Matters has more.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

That law-enforcement approach

The jihad-mongers of the right blogosphere have been so busy congratulating themselves for finally having proof -- proof, dammit! -- of their long-running thesis that Muslims are secretly plotting everywhere in America to engage in terrorist attacks, namely, the Fort Dix gang that purportedly was planning to attack an Army base.

The claims about the actual threat these fellows posed have reached quite a fever pitch, as have the claims about the role of citizen "John Does" -- heavily touted by Michelle Malkin -- in the arrests. Suffice to say that the evidence so far does not suggest that this gang was any more likely to actually succeed than the Tri States Militia, which planned a similar attack on Fort Hood, Texas, back in 1997.

But what does stand out about the case is that it was in fact predicated on a long and careful investigation by the FBI -- one that took, in fact, 16 months to put together.

That is to say: These arrests were based upon the law-enforcement approach to terrorism.

Funny that the chief cheerleaders for declaring this case a model of the Future of Terra in America haven't acknowledged that fact.

Malkin provides a nice, clear example. In previous posts, she has complained about "the limitations of the law enforcement approach to terrorism", and sneered at Democrats for supposedly adopting "the Clinton law enforcement approach to terrorism" (a sneer repeated here). She also has approvingly cited NRO's Andrew McCarthy saying that
the law enforcement approach to terrorism, where terrorists get the advantage of our generous due process standards (including discovery about informants), is nuts -- we have to tell the bad guys too much.

Well, we've said it many times:
The Bush approach has been to treat terrorism as though it were a phenomenon mostly related to unrest in the Middle East, the product of brown-skinned fanatics for whom the only adequate response is the full force of American military might. This approach largely treats terrorism as though it exists only in conjunction with a handful of states -- the "Axis of Evil" -- that support it, and containing it means bombing and killing its supporters out of existence.

This was, in essence, the rationale for invading both Afghanistan and Iraq. In the case of Afghanistan, certainly a military response is fully justified, since the state connection to terrorism is clear and unmistakable. In the case of Iraq, however, that connection remains far from clear; though at one time I thought evidence existed to suggest such a connection, it has become painfully clear since that any Iraqi sponsorship of terrorism, particularly al Qaeda, was thin at best.

More to the point, however, is the fact that by making the "War on Terror" primarily a military operation and only secondarily (at best) a matter for law enforcement and intelligence, the Bush administration is focusing on only a rather narrow part of the terrorism spectrum. (Even on those terms, as Matt Yglesias has ably demonstrated, Bush's execution of the "war on terror" has in fact largely consisted of smoke, mirrors, shock and awe.)

The reality: Terrorism is a global phenomenon. It takes the shape not of a singular or even related ideology, but the idiosyncratic form of whatever extremism gives it birth. It is amorphous, and highly corpuscular, sometimes effectively emanating from extremely small groups or even individuals. And it is every bit as alive and well in America as it is in the Middle East.

This has many ramifications, not the least of which is that emphasizing the military component to any effective assault on terrorism -- and there are instances, such as Afghanistan, when a military solution indeed is required -- has an extraordinarily negative effect, particularly if military operations are undertaken through fraudulent circumstances, as in the invasion of Iraq. ...

Any kind of serious War on Terror needs to have the flexibility to respond proportionately and nimbly to various terrorist threats as they manifest themselves, and in this respect a military emphasis is simply too musclebound to be effective. A comprehensive approach will emphasize intelligence and law enforcement -- especially global law enforcement, the very concept of which is anathema to the Bush administration -- while reserving its military options, fraught as they are with multiple collateral hazards, solely for the rare circumstances that warrant them.

You'd like to think the right-wing bloggers might at some point develop enough self-awareness to recognize this. But since we're talking about a right wing that is single-mindedly predicated around naming the Enemy and then scapegoating it, that doesn't seem likely.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A journalist in Kafka's court

The case of Bilal Hussein, the Iraqi photographer for the Associated Press who has been detained by military authorities -- whose captivity has been ardently promoted by Michelle Malkin as part of her ongoing campaign against reporters she suspects (on notably thin grounds) of being in cahoots with the insurgents -- is back in the news:
WASHINGTON -- Representatives of two journalists detained by the U.S. military said Tuesday the government should charge them or set them free.

The U.S. has been holding Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein in Iraq for a year. Sami al-Hajj, a cameraman for the Mideast news network Al-Jazeera, has been detained since late 2001 and is currently at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

While U.S. officials allege that Hussein took photographs synchronized with explosions, indicating he was at a location ahead of time, Kathleen Carroll, executive editor of the AP, said he was "simply the unlucky fellow who happened to be the photographer for the world's largest newsgathering organization in a difficult province."

Carroll said the AP had examined 900 of Hussein's photographs and there was no indication he was on the scene before attacks occurred.

Well, so much for Malkin's chief claim against Hussein -- that his photos indicated he was at the scene in advance of insurgent attacks, and that they displayed a general "coziness" with the terrorists. As I noted at the time, all they really indicated was that Hussein was very good at his job.

But note the Kafkaesque quality of the system into which he has become enmeshed:
Paul Gardephe, the lawyer handling the case for the AP, said the military recently acknowledged to him that it has no evidence to support earlier allegations that Hussein was involved in a plot to kidnap two other journalists.

Carroll said, "The sort of rolling set of allegations that arise and then disappear without the benefit of a trial ... or any kind of an official court proceeding is what is distressing to all of us here." She spoke during a panel discussion in connection with World Press Freedom Day.

Officials have what they believe to be information that links Hussein to insurgent activity, but most of the evidence is classified and cannot be released publicly, said Col. Gary Keck, a Pentagon spokesman.

Imagine being caught a system of justice in which you can be detained by the government on accusations of plotting against it, but they don't have to produce any evidence of that because it's secret. That's what has befallen Bilal Hussein.

Journalists -- real journalists -- everywhere should stand against this obscenity and raise a stink about it. As for Michelle Malkin, well ...

Domestic terror all around

The right-wing blogosphere needs to take a shower or something. They've been positively creaming their jeans over the arrest of five suspected Islamist terrorists who are charged with plotting to attack soldiers at Fort Dix. Malkin, of course, is leading the pack, but it's seen as Vindication Day throughout the whole "John Doe"/Jihad Watch right, including Little Green Footballs and Der Perfesser.

Funny how little attention any of them have paid to the mirror-image case down in Alabama involving the militiamen who were reportedly plotting to bomb and gun down Mexicans in a nearby town. In fact, the only place I could find mention of it was at Outside the Beltway, and that was a post questioning the need for the arrests.

Well, since they don't seem to be so interested, I'll try to keep you all up to date. Chellen Stevens at the Huntsville Times has a fascinating profile of the five suspects. Raymond Dillard, the apparent ringleader, is a classic case in which extremist beliefs spiral out of control along with their lives, as we see in his interactions with a neighbor:
Gunnin felt sorry for him.

"He was hungry a lot," Gunnin recalled. She began to feed him.

But a few months ago, when Dillard attempted to appoint Gunnin as the nurse for his militia, she had ceased feeling sorry for him. Gunnin grew annoyed when he dropped off medical manuals: She had been the director of nursing at Huntsville Hospital in the 1970s and didn't need his textbooks.

"I tried to get him to tell me the name of his organization. He said, 'We're just a group that will be here after the government falls apart,' " she said.

Eventually, Gunnin grew wary. Dillard often carried an old Army-issue 9 mm pistol. He could be persuasive, and she had heard him talk vaguely of weapons and organizing.

Then, a couple of months ago, he began speaking against Mexican immigrants. Gunnin banned him from her home. She wanted him off her property but didn't know what to do.

All along, the racial resentment played a central role in the simmering anger:
Things grew tense a couple months ago over a game of soccer.

Joanne Gunnin had given a group of Guatemalans permission to play soccer on an unused field she owned across from Dillard's camper. They began to tend the field.

According to neighbors, James McElroy, alleged to be a private in the militia, yanked a Hispanic man from a mower there. The player ran away.

Wayne Dunn, who lives behind the field, said his nephew called police. McElroy gave the lawn mower back to the soccer players before police arrived, according to Dunn and another neighbor.

But Dillard later delivered a message to Dunn's 16-year-old nephew.

"He needed to make up his mind whose side he wanted be on, the Mexicans or Americans," Dunn said. "The main thing (Dillard) always told me was there was going to a war between the Mexicans and whites."

What's disturbing about this group -- unlike, say, the militiamen who plotted to blow up a propane facility near Sacramento, who almost certainly were not competent enough to pull off the job -- is that their plan was easily within their rather limited reach: basically just mayhem and violence not far afield from what we saw recently at Virginia Tech.

But it's at least worth noting that the evidence of the alleged plot has so far been pretty thin:
The sergeant major turned out to be a government informant.

And the informant reported to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that the Free Militia was making and stockpiling grenades.

The indictment lists numerous other charges, including possession of a machine gun, a homemade silencer, a short-barreled shotgun, 68 homemade explosive projectiles and about 100 marijuana plants.

... The informant reported that Dillard tried to sell him some of the homemade hand grenades. He also reported that he and Dillard went to a military surplus store in Bynum to buy 12 grenade hulls and later packed them with powder and hid them under rocks by a dead tree in the woods.

The informant's affidavit does not mention plans to attack Hispanic groups.

But at a bail hearing Tuesday, ATF agent Adam Nesmith introduced the idea that the Free Militia was planning to gun down Mexicans in the small town of Remlap northeast of Birmingham.

All this will be played out in court, of course, as will the charges against the five alleged terrorists at Fort Dix. The veracity of the accusations remains an open question until then, though you will be hard-pressed to persuade any of the amateur sleuths of the right blogosphere of that in the latter case.

In the Alabama case, well, that appears to be a different story. It's evidently not even worth acknowledging. After all, we all know what real terrorists look like, right?

As for someone planning to shoot people who look like that, and who according to leading right-wing pundits might be terrorists -- well hell, that's a hero.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The immigrant plague

vpltz at DKos brings us the hair-raising account of a fine Texas Republican legislator who wants to blame illegal immigrants for everything from cancer to his bad hair day:
A Texas State Representative called for a "challenge" to the 14th Amendment and blamed illegal immigrants for increases in communicable diseases following debate on a border security bill in the Texas House of Representatives Monday night.

State Rep. Leo Berman (R-Tyler), who made national news late last year for introducing a slew of anti-immigrant legislation — including one bill which would strip legally born children of immigrants of rights to state services including public education — made the comments during a point of personal privilege following the passage of House Bill 13, a border security bill which passed to engrossment 140-5.

"This is probably the only time you are going to hear anyone talk about illegal aliens on the floor of the House of Representatives because we've been shut out of this bill at every turn," Berman said.

During his remarks, Berman railed against Rep. David Swinford (R-Dumas), chair of the House State Affairs Committee, and said that Swinford "unilaterally decided no illegal alien legislation would be heard on the floor of the House this year."

... Berman also waxed nostalgic about the olden days of immigration in America.

"In the early part of the century when my parents came through Ellis Island, they were given a physical examination. If anything wasn't right, they were put on the boat and sent back. Note I say 'immigrant,' because they are the people who...assimilate into our culture and pay their taxes and eventually raise their hands and become citizens."

Berman then proceeded to claim that illegal immigrants were bringing Polio, the plague, leprosy, tuberculosis, malaria, Chagas Disease and Dengue Fever to the United States in alarming numbers.

Well, it's not like we haven't heard that before. You may recall that the Washington Times and Michelle Malkin both propagated the notion that immigrants were responsible for bringing disease to America, as did anti-immigrant activists in Colorado a short while later.

It is, of course, a classic eliminationist gambit: link your target to disease and vermin and filth, thus rendering them ripe for elimination. As I noted at the time:
All this has a familiar ring to students of American history. The very same kind of associations -- equating immigrants with pestilence -- were part and parcel of previous nativist outbreaks in the United States, particularly those in which the targets were Asians. ... The same kind of charges of being spreaders of disease appeared early in the campaign against Japanese immigrants, at the turn of the century ...

In any event, Berman predictably proceeded to spout more eminently debunkable nonsense about the costs of immigration, with again a predictably eliminationist solution:
Berman also claimed that the El Paso Independent School District was being forced to hold a $290 million bond election all as a result of an influx in illegal aliens to the school district.

Berman also alluded to his bill which would have denied legally born children of illegal aliens any state benefits including education saying that the original legislative intent of the 14th Amendment was that it would not apply to "foreigners."

"I thought it was time for us to challenge the 14th amendment because we are creating more than 350,000 new U.S. Citizens a year and I believe they are being created erroneously."

Ah yes -- the nonexistent anchor baby problem, for which the nativists of the right want to amend the Constitution -- not to mention blame them for abortion. Nothing like scapegoating children for your lousy immigration policies.

But then, that's par for the course from this crowd.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Hiding our shame

While the creation of a concentration camp by the government to detain illegal immigrants -- a program already rife with consequences for immigrant families -- has resulted in very little fuss in either the media or the halls of officialdom, it has at least raised some eyebrows on the international level:
(AP) DALLAS -- A planned United Nations visit to a highly criticized central Texas center for detaining immigrant families was never approved by federal immigration officials, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman said Thursday.

ICE didn't immediately respond to questions of why the visit by Jorge Bustamante, the Human Rights Council's independent expert on migrant rights, wasn't approved.

Bustamante had been expected to tour the T. Don Hutto facility on Monday. The U.N. human rights office in Geneva announced late last month that he was going to tour the former prison in Taylor, as well as two border areas where U.S. officials say they will crack down on people illegally crossing the border.

ICE spokeswoman Ernestine Fobbs said no tours of Hutto are scheduled.

Bustamante still plans to discuss migrant issues with government officials, campaign groups and immigrants during a mission this month that includes stops in Tucson, Ariz.; Austin, Texas; Fort Myers, Fla.; New York; and Washington, D.C.

Bustamante, who is from Mexico, is expected to present his findings to the 47-nation rights council at its next session in June.

Civil liberties and immigration advocates sued federal officials in March on behalf of several children detained at Hutto, which typically houses about 400 non-criminal immigrants awaiting deportation or other outcomes to their immigration cases.

The groups contend families at Hutto are subjected to psychologically abusive guards, inadequate medical care and inhumane conditions in a facility run like a prison.

What, we have to ask, does the ICE have to hide?

If a preplanned visit by international migrant-rights experts is not permissible, why not? Doesn't the public have a right to know how this "detention center" is being run? Do they really expect us to take them at their word that everything is on the up and up?

The problem with centers like the Hutto facility, as I've explained previously, is that they remain ripe for all kinds of abuses. And their existence and expansion are almost guaranteed by the course we're taking:
So it seems almost inevitable that we will be seeing more of these mass detention centers, particularly as Bush's announced plan to arrest more illegal immigrants takes full effect. The almost certain byproduct will be that we will see more and more of them designed to accommodate whole families, including citizen children, and the record so far indicates that the conditions will once again be those of a concentration camp.

The law of unintended consequences is arising here. In their determination to arrest illegal immigrants, the government -- acting, in the end, at the behest of nativist agitators -- is potentially putting itself in the business of splitting up families, since many of these illegal immigrants are the parents of citizen children. So to avoid that outcome, the only solution available is to incarcerate those children alongside their parents. The end result: concentration camps -- euphemistically designated "family detention centers" as part of an effort to "secure our borders."

At some point, the public is going to have to start paying attention to what's going on in Texas. A travesty is in the making, and we're asleep at the switch.

[Hat tip to Jesse.]

Facing the shadows

Alex Spillius at the Telegraph has become the first mainstream journalist to raise the question (already raised here) about the role that white supremacists may play regarding Barack Obama's campaign for the presidency:
Barack Obama has been placed under round-the-clock protection at his own request, raising fears of a white supremacist plot to halt his bid to become America's first black head of state.

It is the earliest that the US secret service, which safeguards the president, vice-president and other dignitaries, has provided protection to a presidential candidate.

Usually guards are only allocated after the parties have selected their contenders, which will be early next year for the Nov 2008 election.

While Spilius couldn't confirm that such a threat existed, it's clear that something has been afoot:
It is not clear if a direct threat has been made to the charismatic 45-year-old Illinois senator, who has electrified the race for the Democrat party's nomination and is closing in on the favourite Hillary Clinton.

According to a senior law enforcement official, the extra security was prompted by general concerns about the safety of a prominent black candidate. Several factors raised concerns, including some racist talk on white supremacist web sites.

The New York Daily News quoted a contributor to a white power website: "Our world will become unbearable with him as President. Maybe there will be someone who would take [a] chance and do a Lincoln on him? Is that our only hope?"

Abraham Lincoln was shot in 1865 by John Wilkes Booth, an actor and Confederate spy outraged at the president's plan to give blacks the vote.

Race remains an extremely divisive issue in America, and the Right-wing Insight magazine criticised the senator last week for his lack of security, accusing him of "almost courting this tragic and historically predictable result".

Yes, especially when that "result" is almost being invited by magazine articles emphasizing the lack of security around Obama.

I wouldn't be too fast to assume that a "conspiracy" exists against Obama, though if any sector of American society is likely to engage in one it would be the extremist right. What is far more likely is that some "lone wolf" will attempt to act out the murderous fantasies imbued in him by others.

In either event, Americans do need to be vigilant about the existence of this kind of lurking rage, especially given the levels of rhetorical bile that have been at flood stage in recent years. And not merely Obama may be affected, but probably every candidate, particularly those on the left side of the ledger.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The other kind of terror

Last week I discussed the case of the Alabama militiamen who were arrested on a variety of weapons charges, and suggested at the time that perhaps it wasn't that serious a case, since there was no indication at the time the men were planning anything amiss.

That all changed in the week since, as subsequent news reports made clear that not only were they planning a lethal attack, the intended victims were Mexican immigrants:
Five members of a self-styled militia were denied bail Tuesday after a federal agent testified they planned a machine gun attack on Mexicans, but a judge approved bail for a sixth man.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Armstrong said at a hearing in Birmingham federal court he could not grant bail to the five because of the agent's testimony and the amount of weapons - including about 200 homemade hand grenades - that were seized in raids Friday in DeKalb County.

"I'm going to be worried if I let these individuals go at this time," he said.

Adam Nesmith, an agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, testified that the five - Raymond Kirk Dillard, 46; Adam Lynn Cunningham, 41; Bonnell Hughes, 57; Randall Garrett Cole, 22; and James Ray McElroy, 20 - planned a machine-gun attack on Mexicans in Remlap, a town just north of Birmingham, and went there on a reconnaissance mission April 20. The agent provided no further details.

During the raids last week, agents recovered 130 homemade hand grenades, a grenade launcher, about 70 hand grenades rigged to be fired from a rifle, a machine gun, a short-barrel shotgun and 2,500 rounds of ammunition, authorities said.

According to at least one of their neighbors, they'd been feeding on a steady diet of immigrant-bashing that they readily regurgitated to everyone in sight:
James Craig, 63, of Collinsville, said Dillard visited him and his wife, Shelia, a few weeks ago and talked to them about how the Hispanics were taking over the country.

"I told him I didn't want to hear it, and I asked to leave and not to come back," he said. "He just respected me and walked off. If I had known he had all those explosives around his house, I might have been nicer to him. You never know who your neighbors are."

For the time being, it's probably best to be circumspect about this case; it'll be necessary to assess the FBI's evidence at trial and see to what extent these men had proceeded in their plans, and what the likelihood of their actually having pulled it off would have been, and whether the evidence in fact substantiates the FBI's claims. However, from outward appearances, the likelihood appears high that the case is solid.

If it does all pan out, then this case could prove to be a significant warning sign that the agitation against immigrants of the past several years, particularly the emphasis on vigilante action embodied by the Minutemen, is metastasizing into actual brownshirt thuggery to which the label "fascist" fully applies.

As I noted awhile back:
You see, vigilantism always claims to be about law and order and preserving "traditional values." And yet historically, real extremism has always expressed itself thus. This is because vigilantism is always, in the end, about the brutal imposition of mob rule without regard to the humanity of its targets. The proof, in the end, lies in the strange fruit it inevitably produces.

Fortunately, the authorities were able to nip this act of domestic terrorism in the bud, before anyone was harmed. The next time we may not be so lucky.