Friday, March 14, 2008

Immigration irrationality

-- by Dave

The real hallmark of the right-wing rule America has endured for the better part of the new century has been its reliance on persuading the public to believe things that are factually false. The Iraq War -- in which the nation was induced to believe provably false "facts", thanks largely to a mendacious administration and a prostrate media eager to sit on its lap -- is only the most infamous example. The list -- running from the Plame affair to the Katrina debacle to Social Security and the economy, to civil rights and gay rights, to consumer-protection and environmental policy -- is not merely long, it touches nearly every facet of American governance and the public discourse.

And we can add the immigration debate to that list as well. For that matter, it's rapidly becoming the most prominent current example of the American right persuading the public to launch into another monumental clusterfuck on the basis of provably false information. And just as in those many other instances, the nation's media are playing an outsize role in helping it happen.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Immigration Irrationality

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

The real hallmark of the right-wing rule America has endured for the better part of the new century has been its reliance on persuading the public to believe things that are factually false. The Iraq War — in which the nation was induced to believe provably false "facts", thanks largely to a mendacious administration and a prostrate media eager to sit on its lap — is only the most infamous example. The list — running from the Plame affair to the Katrina debacle to Social Security and the economy, to civil rights and gay rights, to consumer-protection and environmental policy — is not merely long, it touches nearly every facet of American governance and the public discourse.

And we can add the immigration debate to that list as well. For that matter, it’s rapidly becoming the most prominent current example of the American right persuading the public to launch into another monumental clusterfuck on the basis of provably false information. And just as in those many other instances, the nation’s media are playing an outsize role in helping it happen.

A couple of weeks ago word began leaking out out about polling done by a coalition of progressive immigration-reform groups that was meant to help inform internal strategy for political candidates looking to change the shape of the discourse so far. Some of the conclusions reached along the way raise some serious red flags — particularly the possibility that liberals might simply reinforce right-wing frames along the way — but the poll itself (which was kept confidential) made for some fascinating reading.

One aspect of the polling — which I’ve received permission to discuss publicly from the groups involved — really stood out as a prime example of how deeply right-wing bullshit infects the public discourse.

An early page in the poll, headlined "Biggest Concerns About Illegal Immigration," featured the public responses to a set of concerns that were identified by the pollsters as the most common issues raised in focus groups, letting the poll respondents say what their "one or two biggest concerns about illegal immigration today" might be. They ran thus:
Immigrants receiving free public services such as health care (48%)
Immigrants not paying taxes (35%)
Takes jobs from Americans and lowers wages (20%)
Too many immigrants aren’t learning English (20%)
Weakens our security against terrorism (18%)
Causing crime problems in many communities (17%)
If you look down that list, something stands out: Each item reflects a fear based either on outright false information or on gross distortions from a highly selective set of facts.

Readers of our earlier discussions of the immigration debate will already be familiar with the groundlessness of most of these concerns, but it’s still worthwhile going through them, and getting the requisite reality checks, so we can see just how far astray from anything rational we’re wandering in this debate.

A. Immigrants receiving free public services such as health care

Reality Check 1
Just a small fraction of America’s health care spending is used to provide publicly supported care to the nation’s undocumented immigrants, according to a RAND Corporation study issued today.

Overall, immigrants to the United States use relatively few health services, primarily because they are generally healthier than their American-born counterparts, according to the study by the nonprofit research organization.

The report – which appears in the November edition of the journal Health Affairs – estimates that in the United States about $1.1 billion in federal, state and local government funds are spent annually on health care for undocumented immigrants aged 18 to 64. That amounts to an average of $11 in taxes for each U.S. household.

In contrast, a total of $88 billion in government funds were spent on health care for all non-elderly adults in 2000.
Reality Check 2:
Health care expenditures are substantially lower for immigrants than for US-born persons. Our study refutes the assumption that immigrants represent a disproportionate financial burden on the US health care system.
Reality Check 3:
Despite the important role that immigrants play in the U.S. economy, they disproportionately lack health insurance and receive fewer health services than native-born Americans. Some policymakers have called for limits on immigrants’ access to health insurance, particularly Medicaid, which are even more stringent than those already in place. However, policies that restrict immigrants’ access to some health care services lead to the inefficient and costly use of other services (such as emergency room care) and negatively impact public health.
B. Immigrants not paying taxes

Reality Check 1
Between one-half and three-quarters of undocumented immigrants pay federal and state income taxes, Social Security taxes, and Medicare taxes. And all undocumented immigrants pay sales taxes (when they buy anything at a store, for instance) and property taxes (even if they rent housing).
Reality Check 2:
As the debate over Social Security heats up, the estimated seven million or so illegal immigrant workers in the United States are now providing the system with a subsidy of as much as $7 billion a year.
Reality Check 3:
[The Texas] Comptroller’s office estimates that state revenues collected from undocumented immigrants exceed what the state spent on services, with the difference being $424.7 million.
C. Takes jobs from Americans and lowers wages

Reality Check 1
Rapid increases in the foreign-born population at the state level are not associated with negative effects on the employment of native-born workers, according to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center that examines data during the boom years of the 1990s and the downturn and recovery since 2000.

An analysis of the relationship between growth in the foreign-born population and the employment outcomes of native-born workers revealed wide variations across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. No consistent pattern emerges to show that native-born workers suffered or benefited from increased numbers of foreign-born workers.
Reality Check 2:
In 2005, immigrants overall represented more than a fifth of low-wage workers—those earning less than twice the minimum wage—and almost half of workers without a high school education. Unauthorized workers were nearly a tenth of low-wage workers and a quarter of low-skilled workers. The number of low-wage and low-skilled native-born workers fell between 2000 and 2005, due to improvements in their educational attainment but also due to decreasing labor force participation.
D. Too many immigrants aren’t learning English

Reality Check 1
Nearly all Hispanic adults born in the United States of immigrant parents report they are fluent in English. By contrast, only a small minority of their parents describe themselves as skilled English speakers. This finding of a dramatic increase in English-language ability from one generation of Hispanics to the next emerges from a new analysis of six Pew Hispanic Center surveys conducted this decade among a total of more than 14,000 Latino adults. The surveys show that fewer than one-in-four (23%) Latino immigrants reports being able to speak English very well. However, fully 88% of their U.S.-born adult children report that they speak English very well. Among later generations of Hispanic adults, the figure rises to 94%. Reading ability in English shows a similar trend.
Reality Check 2
Hispanics by a large margin believe that immigrants have to speak English to be a part of American society and even more so that English should be taught to the children of immigrants, according to recent surveys conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center.

The endorsement of the English language, both for immigrants and for their children, is strong among all Hispanics regardless of income, party affiliation, fluency in English or how long they have been living in the United States.
Reality Check 3:
Within ten years of arrival, more than 75% of immigrants speak English well; moreover, demand for English classes at the adult level far exceeds supply. Greater than 33% of immigrants are naturalized citizens; given increased immigration in the 1990s, this figure will rise as more legal permanent residents become eligible for naturalization in the coming years. The number of immigrants naturalizing spiked sharply after two events: enactment of immigration and welfare reform laws in 1996, and the terrorist attacks in 2001.
E. Weakens our security against terrorism

Reality Check 1
Using a database created from the biographical data of 373 terrorists, we have established a number of significant findings. Over forty percent of our database is made up of Western Nationals. Second, despite widespread alarms raised over terrorist infiltration from Mexico, we found no terrorist presence in Mexico and no terrorists who entered the U.S. from Mexico. Third, we found a sizeable terrorist presence in Canada and a number of Canadian-based terrorists who have entered the U.S.
Reality Check 2:
Nearly half of all the unauthorized migrants now living in the United States entered the country legally through a port of entry such as an airport or a border crossing point where they were subject to inspection by immigration officials, according to new estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center.

As much as 45% of the total unauthorized migrant population entered the country with visas that allowed them to visit or reside in the U.S. for a limited amount of time. Known as “overstayers,” these migrants became part of the unauthorized population when they remained in the country after their visas had expired.

Another smaller share of the unauthorized migrant population entered the country legally from Mexico using a Border Crossing Card, a document that allows short visits limited to the border region, and then violated the terms of admission.
F. Causing crime problems in many communities

Reality Check 1
Although the undocumented immigrant population doubled to about 12 million from 1994 to 2005, the violent crime rate in the United States declined by 34.2% and the property crime rate fell by 26.4%.2 This decline in crime rates was not just national, it also occurred in border cities and other cities with large immigrant populations—such as San Diego, El Paso, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Miami.
Reality Check 2:
Crime Rates Have Declined as Immigration Has Increased:

Even as the undocumented population has doubled to 12 million since 1994, the violent crime rate in the United States has declined 34.2 percent and the property crime rate has fallen 26.4 percent.

Cities with large immigrant populations such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Miami also have experienced declining crime rates during this period.

Immigrants Have Lower Incarceration Rates than Natives

Among men age 18-39 (who comprise the vast majority of the prison population), the 3.5 percent incarceration rate of the native-born in 2000 was 5 times higher than the 0.7 percent incarceration rate of the foreign-born.

The foreign-born incarceration rate in 2000 was nearly two-and-a-half times less than the 1.7 percent rate for nativeborn non-Hispanic white men and almost 17 times less than the 11.6 percent rate for native-born black men.

Native-born Hispanic men were nearly 7 times more likely to be in prison than foreign-born Hispanic men in 2000, while the incarceration rate of native-born non-Hispanic white men was almost 3 times higher than that of foreign-born white men.

Foreign-born Mexicans had an incarceration rate of only 0.7 percent in 2000—more than 8 times lower than the 5.9 percent rate of native-born males of Mexican descent.

Foreign-born Salvadoran and Guatemalan men had an incarceration rate of 0.5 percent, compared to 3.0 percent of native-born males of Salvadoran and Guatemalan descent.
It isn’t possible for these misconceptions to spread without the willing complicity of the press, particularly ratings-mongerers like Lou Dobbs, who haven’t yet found a right-wing nativist claim against immigrants they aren’t willing to parrot as fact.

One of these, as it happens, is the claim that most Americans are up in arms about illegal immigration — something that Dobbs repeated for his audience yesterday. But as Media Matters explains in detail, most polls found that only between 4 and 7 percent of various poll respondents consider it among their most pressing political issues.

The spread of afactual garbage into the mainstream is indeed a widespread media problem. And if they’re not going to clean up their act, perhaps the blogosphere can do it for them.

The ugly reality

-- by Dave

I've pointed out previously that the people demanding the deportation of all 12 million undocumented workers in this country are probably not prepared for the monstrousness of the consequences that will result. There's a reason for that:
Many right-wing critics of American immigration policy are fond of saying that current policies would work just fine if the government would "just enforce the laws that are on the books."

It seems never to occur to them that the main reason the government doesn't do so, at least not on a massive scale, is simply that the laws as written are largely unenforceable -- or perhaps more to the point, that enforcing them actually creates larger problems, to the point of atrocities, than those they were intended to address.

Besides the brutal treatment that often occurs in the course of rounding up immigrants, and the fact that in order to make mass roundups work you have to build concentration camps, there are inevitably going to be incidents like this:
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - A woman being held as an illegal immigrant spent four days forgotten in an isolated holding cell at a courthouse with no food, water, or toilet, authorities and the woman said.

Adriana Torres-Flores, 38, appeared in court last Thursday and pleaded not guilty to a charge of selling pirated CDs, but a judge ordered her held because she is in the country illegally, Sheriff Tim Helder said.

Bailiff Jarrod Hankins put her in the cell to await transport to jail, and she was forgotten. Because of heavy snow, few staff members were in the courthouse to hear her cries and pounding later Thursday or on Friday and through the weekend.

The cell had two benches, a metal table and a light that Torres-Flores could not turn off. She slept using a shoe to cushion her head, she told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, with 14-year-old daughter Adriana acting as an interpreter.

"She was feeling like she was going to die," Adriana said.

Torres-Flores had not eaten Thursday before going to court. She had a jacket but still was cold in the cell.

"She had to use the bathroom on the floor," her daughter said.

"It's a horrible, horrible situation," said her attorney, Nathan Lewis.

Expect a lot more of these if we continue to emphasize "enforcing the laws on the books." Until we reform those laws, enforcing them is ineluctably going to produce travesties like this.

Via Jabbering Stooge.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fine reading

-- by Dave

Normally when I link to another piece, I try to add value here by offering at least some brief commentary on it.

But Meteor Blades' post yesterday on Mississippi politics really was in a class all by itself, and I haven't anything of worth to add. Just read it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dobbs, Obama, and deportation

-- by Dave

So tonight on Wolf Blitzer's show, Lou Dobbs went after Barack Obama, who had earlier slammed Dobbs and his kindred spirit, Rush Limbaugh, for their Bill the Butcheresque attitudes on immigration:
OBAMA: When I hear Rush Limbaugh or, you know, Lou Dobbs, or some of these people talking about how we need to send them all back. We're not going to send them all back.


BLITZER: All right. Go ahead and respond.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Go ahead and respond. What is he thinking about? This is a guy who says he wants to be president of the United States. Now Rush Limbaugh doesn't need any defense. But as far as I know, he's never called for deportation of illegal aliens but let me tell you. I certainly have not.

He is either - his people are either misinforming him or he's simply not informed and I think one of the primary characteristics of anyone seeking to lead this nation should be they're well informed and the other part of that is, which he obviously is not, and secondly, these people and referring to illegal aliens as 'them' in some sort of condescending way. I mean this is to me an atrocious moment for a senator who is trying to pander on the issue of illegal immigration.

Let me tell you what Senator Obama. May I take a moment and talk to Senator Obama directly?

BLITZER: You have 15 seconds. Go ahead.

DOBBS: Fifteen seconds. I raise you one on pandering Senator Obama. You say you won't send them all back? I wouldn't send any of them back. Now it's your turn.

This is a good ol' Lou Dobbs twofer: one outright falsehood, complemented by a Bizarro-style attempt to slam Obama that instead highlights his gross hypocrisy.

First, the falsehood: As it so happens, you need only go back to less than a year ago to find an example of Dobbs advocating the deportation of all illegal immigrants -- while disingenuously claiming he's not:
Lesley Stahl: But I wonder if you think that we can possibly deport all those people.

Dobbs: I've never called for their deportation. But at the same time, when this president and open-borders, illegal-alien-amnesty advocates say, ‘You can’t deport them,’ my answer is, ‘You wanna bet?’ Because this is the United States."

Stahl: Can you even find them? How are you going to round them up, if you think it’s possible? How’s it possible?

Dobbs: I think this country can do anything it sets its mind to.

Note the neat rhetorical trick of denying he's advocated something he then immediately advocates -- sorta like saying you've never supported genocide but by God this is America and we can do anything we put our minds to doing.

And in fact, rhetoric indicating he favors such a solution has been a standard feature of his reportage on illegal immigration since he started out.

On Nov. 17, 2003, for instance, just as his immigration reportage was getting started, he put it this way:
Ten million illegal aliens live in this country. But many politicians--in fact, most--business leaders and union leaders are silent about this critically important issue.

It's not particularly clear he's advocating deportation in this instance, but it's clear that the fact these people are living here is a problem in his eyes.

The next day, Nov. 18, 2003, he reported:
There are an estimated 10 million illegal aliens in the United States, and federal agencies are doing little to investigate and apprehend them.

On Sept. 30, 2003, he lectured his guest by decrying the fact that we're not deporting illegal immigrants:
We've got nearly approximately 700,000 illegal aliens crossing our borders every single year. It continues unabated despite the national security interest in this war on terror. We have not been deporting illegal aliens. As a matter of fact, you just used the expression 'undocumented worker.' They're illegal aliens. The niceties of language--it's sort of interesting to hear how there's been this language shift, from 'illegal alien' to 'undocumented worker' to 'guest without status.' I mean, where does the nonsense end?

Dobbs further attacked the use of "illegal immigrants" in favor of his own preferred term, "illegal aliens":
You've added the word 'immigrant' rather than 'illegal alien,' which is the point we're talking about. And, really, there's quite a major, important distinction, do you not agree?

Well, legally speaking, there is in fact virtually no distinction between the terms. However, there is in fact a meaningful distinction, but not one that favors Dobbs: "illegal alien" rather nakedly demonizes the subject, which was part of the intent of the coinage of the term, which originated with the anti-Asian agitation of the 1870-1930 period. (It largely arose first during the push for the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Asian Exclusion Act of 1924, both of which were in many ways the founding pieces of legislation for today's obviously dysfunctional immigration laws.) "Illegal immigrant" is widely considered the more generic alternative, which is why most press organizations (such as the Associated Press) insist on its preferred use.

Moreover, there is an important syntactical distinction: "illegal immigrant" somewhat accurately refers to an act -- that is, it means someone who immigrated illegally. Conversely, "illegal alien" only describes a person -- that is, it defines another human being in distinctly (and purposively) nonhuman terms and defines their essence as an "illegal."

Maybe Dobbs is still licking his wounds over the gashing Laura Flanders gave him over insistence on using the term. But it's downright weird that Dobbs, without any apparent irony, attacks Obama for referring to "illegal aliens" "in a sort of condescending way," when in fact Dobbs' incessant use of the term has no "soft of" to qualify it: Not only does it condescend, it is contemptuous. It belittles and demonizes.

Finally, as to Limbaugh, he merely says things like this, which achieve the same effect:
So invasive species like mollusks and spermatozoa are not good, and we've got a federal judge say, "You can't bring it in here," but invasive species in the form of illegal immigration is fine and dandy -- bring 'em on, as many as possible, legalize them wherever we can, wherever they go, no matter what they clog up. So we're going to break the bank; we're going to bend over backwards. The federal judiciary is going to do everything it can to stop spermatozoa and mollusks from coming in, but other invasive species? We're supposed to bend over and grab the ankles and say, "Deal with it." Well, the mollusks may be brought in against their will. My point is they don't know where they are, and they, frankly, don't care. So if you ship them out -- but we can't ship 'em out. It's not that we can't ship 'em out. We're not going to be able to bring 'em in now, but invasive species that, say, on their own power and of their own desire and volition cross the border and come here, we can't say diddly-squat about it.

This is classic eliminationist rhetoric, of course -- something Dobbs indulges as well. And it's something Obama must be getting tired of hearing.

As they say back home: Good on him. And shame on Lou Dobbs.

[HT to Dover Bitch.]

How to win on immigration

-- by Dave

We've all become aware, I think, that adopting the xenophobic rhetoric of the nativists hasn't exactly proved to be much of a winner with the electorate.

After all, Tom Tancredo rapidly foundered, Mike Huckabee went nowhere, and Ron Paul recently all but closed up shop, and then once again hinted at a third-party bid. The guy the Republicans wound up nominating, in fact, has one of the more thoughtful public positions on the issue.

But the recent congressional election in Illinois' reliably Republican 14th District to replace former House Speaker Dennis Hastert provided a stark example of how Democrats can not only turn that hateful rhetoric on its head but -- as we've been advocating here for some time -- can craft a powerful and effective liberal or "moderate" position on immigration.

Because the Democrat in the race, Bill Foster, did just that. And not only did he win, 53%-47%, but it's a huge win with powerful implications for Democrats and Republicans alike.

Most significantly, immigration was the focus of much of the campaign rhetoric, largely because it has been one of Republican Jim Oberweis' pet issues for a long time now. And Oberweis' approach -- the video atop the post gives you some of the flavor of this -- was largely as extreme as you could find.

Foster, in stark comparison, offered an immigration platform that was humanitarian in its overall thrust -- positive and nuanced, ensuring voters he too favored "secure borders" and the "rule of law," but wants the law changed so that it can be effective too.

Archpundit has more:
Oberweis staked out the hardcore send back 12 million people immediately and no exceptions kind of policy and not only embraced the position, but embraced fairly radical anti-immigrant activist organizations.

Most amazing is that John McCain, long a reasonable voice on the immigration debate embraced Oberweis as McCain’s flip flop to the dark side of several issues continues.

Oberweis is a Board of Director for NumbersUSA which is one of the leading right wing anti-immigration groups.

He’s spoken at Illinois Minutemen meetings such as this one on May 6, 2006 mntmn017.wav

And despite railing on the businesses using undocumented workers, Oberweis Dairy never wondered why the company cleaning for them could afford to do the work they were doing. Turns out the contractor were paying below minimum wage for undocumented workers.

It's worth understanding the electoral dynamic at work here, too. Illinois' 14th in the most recent gerrymandering was drawn to protect Hastert's status as House Speaker -- that is, it's been a rock-ribbed Republican district for many years.

But in recent years, it has also become home to a large and rapidly growing immigrant population -- mostly Latinos and Asians. Their numbers climbed from 131,000 in 2000 to 189,912 in 2005; the immigrants and their children now constitute about 30 percent of the population. And most significantly as far as voting patterns go: naturalized citizens rose in numbers from 25,224 to 40,159.

Obviously, Oberweis wasn't exactly doing himself any favors with the largest bloc of new voters in his district. Republicans waved off concerns about that, noting that Latinos had largely supported George W. Bush in previous elections. Obviously, though, those same voters were repelled by Oberweis' overt nativism.

To counter it, Foster chose not to take the "enforcement first" approach promoted by too many Beltway Democrats. Instead, he offered nuanced solutions to immigration issues: His language stressed phrases like "workable compromise," "humanitarian," "comprehensive," "nation of laws" and "border security". He reached out to immigrant advocates and Latino community leaders.

And obviously, it worked. Hopefully, other Democrats will sit up and take note.

[The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights has more, and has followed the race since its inception.]

Journalistic standards redux

-- by Dave

I somehow missed Glenn Greenwald's piece Saturday pointing out the utterly prone position of the Beltway press corps nowadays, quite adroitly. It sprung off some comments by Tucker Carlson, who had the gall to lay into a British journalist for publishing Samantha Power's "Hillary is a monster" remark.
CARLSON: What -- she wanted it off the record. Typically, the arrangement is if someone you're interviewing wants a quote off the record, you give it to them off the record. Why didn't you do that?

PEEV: Are you really that acquiescent in the United States? In the United Kingdom, journalists believe that on or off the record is a principle that's decided ahead of the interview.

Just for the record: It's a basic component of Reporting 101 that every person you talk to in the course of your work is On The Record, and that if they wish to speak Off then that needs to be arranged beforehand.

Obviously, Carlson is like so much of the pundit class, frankly: unaware of this because they have never been reporters. So perhaps his ignorance of basic journalistic standards is excusable in one sense, though his failure to meet them ultimately is not -- and neither is his continued employment on a major cable news network. That abysmal lack ought to be why his show is being cancelled, though I fully expect it is not.

In any event, Carlson went on:
CARLSON: Right. But I mean, since journalistic standards in Great Britain are so much dramatically lower than they are here, it's a little much being lectured on journalistic ethics by a reporter from the "Scotsman," but I wonder if you could just explain what you think the effect is on the relationship between the press and the powerful. People don't talk to you when you go out of your way to hurt them as you did in this piece.

That first line gave me a big, long, belly laugh.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Journalistic standards

-- by Dave

I'm not really surprised by this Reuters piece pointing out that only about 22 percent of the populace reads political blogs -- considering that less than half that same populace reads a daily newspaper, and just over half even look at one during the average week. (What I would like to know is what percentage of newspaper readers also read blogs, but I'd guess that's not in the framework for the poll.)

But I also noticed this line:
Unlike traditional, mainstream media, blogs often adopt a specific point of view. Critics complain they can contain unchecked facts, are poorly edited and use unreliable sources.

And this distinguishes them from the mainstream press exactly ... how?

The hate also rises

-- by Dave

We've been reporting here for quite some time that the immigration debate has become the major recruitment front for far-right racists, as well as one of the main conduits for transmitting far-right ideas and talking points into the mainstream, thanks to the Lou Dobbses of the world.

Now it's come home to roost: the SPLC's latest survey of hate groups is out today, and it records that we're now seeing nearly half again as many American hate groups:
Led by three states on the southern border, the number of hate groups operating in America has swelled by 48 percent since 2000, a staggering increase mainly attributable to the anti-immigrant fervor sweeping the country, according to the "Year in Hate" issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report released today.

The latest annual count by the SPLC found the number of hate groups operating in America rose to 888 last year, up 5 percent from the 844 groups in 2006 and far above the 602 groups documented in 2000.

At the same time, new FBI statistics suggest a 35 percent rise in hate crimes against Latinos between 2003 and 2006. Experts believe that such crimes are typically carried out by people who think they are attacking immigrants.

"Hate groups continue to successfully exploit the immigration debate to their advantage, even though the immigration issue has largely disappeared from the presidential debate," said Mark Potok, editor of the SPLC's Intelligence Report, an investigative journal that monitors the radical right. "The fact is that they've been aided and abetted by mainstream pundits and politicians who give these haters a platform for their propaganda."

The greatest growth in hate groups came in California, Arizona and Texas, which had jumps of 27 percent, 70 percent, and 22 percent, respectively.

The Intelligence Report piece on the survey has more details:
Although there were some signs that nativist hatred may be starting to abate, you wouldn't know that by listening to the furious rants of many groups. "America is being destroyed from within by a modern version of Genghis Khan's army," the Emigration Party of Nevada, listed by the SPLC as a hate group, said. The group's leader, Don Pauly, wants to send government "sniper teams" to the border and forcibly sterilize Mexican women after a first child.

"If the Jew government waits, and hell breaks out here in the USA, our citizens will not be asking to see any documentation," added Michael Blevins, the Florida state leader of the neo-Nazi American National Socialist Workers Party. "They will go after anyone they think an illegal alien based on race first."

The growth of these groups is being helped by conspiracy theories and other racist propaganda about immigrants that is being spread by mainstream politicians and pundits. While theories about a secret plan to merge Mexico, Canada and United States into a single country began in radical groups, for instance, many key figures have endorsed them. Indeed, 18 states' houses of representatives have now passed resolutions opposing the "North American Union" — an entity that does not exist and has never been planned, but nonetheless inhabits nativists' nightmares.

Promoting such theories, coupled with a history of ties to white supremacist groups and ideology, is what caused the Southern Poverty Law Center to add a major anti-immigration group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), to its list of hate groups last year. FAIR has also promulgated the theory that Mexico is involved in a secret plot to "reconquer" the American Southwest.

"You need to understand that WE ARE AT WAR RIGHT HERE IN AMERICA," is the way another nativist group, the Nebraska-based United Citizens of America, put it. "We are being invaded by a foreign country and we are being betrayed from within. Our government, from top to bottom, is being controlled by global elites. They have infiltrated our government at ALL levels."

The IR also has a fascinating set of profiles of some of the individuals leading this wave of hate. One of the more revealing, I thought, was this item about Jerome Corsi of "Swift Boat" fame, which ends with this note:
But Corsi soldiers on. In January 2007, he was recruited to serve as the senior political strategist for, a major conservative effort meant to serve as a right-wing At press time, the project had yet to take off.

I was unaware of, but I always sit up and take note when "mainstream" right-wingers adopt for their own purposes organizational names long used by the racist right.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Empowering the extremists

-- by Dave

The Republican empowerment of the far right -- especially the so-called "Patriot" movement folks whose anti-government extremism wreaked domestic havoc in the 1990s -- has for the most part been a systemic, ideological phenomenon: adopting ideas and talking points that originate on the fringe and gradually adopting them as "mainstream" positions that help the GOP maintain a distance that allows them a kind of plausible deniability about their relationships to these factions.

Evidently, Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons has no such compunctions:
Nevada's new Agriculture Department director is no fan of environmentalists or the federal government.

Tony Lesperance, a Paradise Valley rancher and former Elko County commissioner, was a vocal member of the Jarbidge Shovel Brigade that, back in 2000, marched down the tiny northeastern Nevada town's Main Street in defiance of the federal government, according to reports at the time.

The man taking charge of a major state office today once nearly got into a fistfight with a fellow commissioner in the dispute over a flooded-out road leading to a rural campsite. He told a national magazine, "We will rebuild the road, come hell or high water," and vowed never to compromise.

Lesperance is a real piece of work, as a Mother Jones feature about the Jarbidge brigade makes clear:
Long angered by federal restrictions on everything from water access to grazing rights, county officials and anti-federalists across the West seized upon the obscure road as a symbol of their discontent. "We will rebuild the road, come hell or high water," declared Tony Lesperance, an Elko County commissioner. The demonstrators, met by dozens of law enforcement officers and media cameras, paraded down Main Street, brandishing their shovels and singing "The Star Spangled Banner." An all-terrain vehicle pulled a trailer decorated with a tombstone reading "U.S. Forest Service." A teenager's sign declared "Tree Huggers: the other red meat." When they reached South Canyon Road -- a dusty, dead-end track leading to a campground -- they wrapped ropes around a four-ton boulder blocking the way and heaved it aside.

Their exploits made the evening news. "The major media practically engulfed us at times, trying to out-quote each other and line up for photo ops," one participant noted gleefully. It was a classic fin-de-si├Ęcle American protest: a staged telegenic moment steeped in Western symbolism.

The protests have not been confined to assaulting boulders on federal land. In recent years, Elko has gained a reputation as the most lawless county in the West. In 1995, on the same day a bomb exploded in a Forest Service building across the state in Carson City, a detonated pipe bomb was discovered in an outhouse at a campground near Elko, the county seat. Federal employees and their families have been harassed and threatened by local residents, prompting one top-ranking Forest Service official to resign. Snowmobilers venture into protected habitats, ranchers "trespass" their cows on pastures set aside as off-limits, and residents take firewood from federal lands and forests without permits. In Jarbidge, even local politicians have abandoned civility and due process. The week before I visited, two county commissioners feuding over floor time at a public meeting had to be physically separated by the sheriff, and the former publisher of the local paper expressed his civic spirit by shooting an officer's dog in the middle of town.

... "We gave up too damn much," says Tony Lesperance, a rancher and one of the commissioners who was stopped by the sheriff before getting into a fistfight with a colleague during a discussion of the issue. Lesperance is willing to fight the feds in court, despite the tremendous public cost and the shaky legal ground.

"I can't go on with extinguishing our rights," he says. "It's a line we cannot cross. To people who say, 'How are we going to pay for it?' I say, 'Go to hell.'" Once the lawsuit is filed, he adds, many supporters "will be willing to put their shoulder to the wheel" to help pay for it.

So now Nevada has as its agriculture chief a radical who believes in gutting the government, and who thinks a fistfight is the proper way to settle a political dispute.

Ah, nothing like right-wing governance, is there?

[HT to Myrna Minx.]