Friday, May 23, 2008

Dobbs bare his nasty nativist teeth

-- by Dave

The other day, when the folks at Media Matters Action Network released their scathing report on the mishandling of the immigration debate on the news networks, I made one of those tomorrow-the-sun-will-be-up predictions:

However, I will also predict that the subjects of this critique will simply dismiss it out of hand because, well, that's what they do with their critics. MM, of course, is just a bunch of dirty Naziesque liberals funded by George Soros, right? And now, I'm sure we can expect to see "open borders crowd" added to the list of pejoratives.

Well, Lou Dobbs had MM's Paul Waldman on his CNN program last night, and he did not of course disappoint. His defense rested almost entirely on dismissing Media Matters as a "left-wing" and "open borders" organization.

But what was surprising was how ugly and vicious Dobbs got. In the video above, you can see him leaning towards Waldman, baring his teeth in barely suppressed rage. I thought he might reach over and bite him.

Let's go to the transcript:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Right Wants Race Riots In Denver

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

What is it with the wingnuts and their fantasies about riots in Denver?

The other night on MSNBC’s Hardball, Michelle Bernard of the right-wing Independent Women’s Forum chimed in on a discussion of Hillary Clinton’s hopes for winning the Democratic nomination resting on what might happen at the Democratic National Convention in Denver:
BERNARD: Hillary Clinton is going to become the Ron Paul of the Democratic party. There’s no way the super delegates can take this away from Barack Obama. There will be race riots in the streets if he wins enough super delegates—
Everyone interrupts at this point with laughter, but presumably Bernard was about to finish along the lines of "– and Clinton manages to still take the nomination."

Seemingly, Bernard was making this pronouncement from the vantage of actually being African American, though in reality, Bernard is as much a spokesperson for black people as her IWF colleagues Kate O’Beirne and Charlotte Allen are for women. As dnA at Two Sense observes, Bernard recently penned a column complaining about blacks’ use of the N-word and acidly notes:
My closest friends call me nigga all the time and it’s never offended me. But Bernard just called us all niggers on TV, and she didn’t even have to use the word.
But Bernard is in fact just parroting an increasingly common hope among Republicans and wingnuts generally — that the Denver convention will produce race riots if Obama is denied the nomination.

Back in January, the Ole Perfesser and the Spawn Of Lucianne were heard speculating along the same lines (ably limned, as always, by Glennzilla).

And then there’s Rush Limbaugh, who’s been running his "Operation Chaos" schtick with the intention of making that fantasy a reality.

And the only thing it tells us about the American right, really, is how they view black people.

Rick Perlstein likes to point out that one of the main reasons that movement conservatism is floundering right now is that its whole conception of liberals is based on an antiquated view of effete urban liberalism from the 1960s, embodied by former New York Mayor John Lindsay. It’s an image it was successful at selling for a long time, but it’s running aground on the rocks of reality in large part because today’s progressives no longer fit the description.

The same could be said of the stereotypes of African Americans the right is fond of propagating: violent, criminally inclined, likely to riot at a moment’s notice. A lot of those stereotypes were similarly built out of the 1960s, though many of them well precede that.

And not only are they antiquated, they were never true in the first place. But Republicans will cling to them all the way down into the political abyss.

The only real concern progressives should have about this is: What will the wingnuts do when they’re disappointed by the lack of riots in Denver? Knowing them as we do — and how in recent years they’ve become capable of anything — it wouldn’t surprise me if they tried to start their own.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The stupid it burns: Media fan the flames of immigation irtrationality

-- by Dave

[A note to my readers: My work at Firedoglake has been, unsurprisingly, awfully time-consuming these first few weeks, though things are starting to settle down a little. I apologize for my extended absence here, but I'll be posting here more now -- at the very least, I'll cross-post more now -- like the post following. In the meantime, I do hope you all are coming over to the lake to see what I've been cooking up there.]

It isn't exactly news in these quarters that the mainstream media have been playing a critical role in the otherworldly irrationality surrounding the immigration debate, particularly in their willingness -- no, eagerness -- to spread provably false information and distorted "facts" that demonize and dehumanize Latino immigrants.

Now Media Matters Action Network has done us all the public service of documenting and delineating the problem with a study titled Fear & Loathing in Prime Time: Immigration Myths and Cable News.

The study acknowledges it is in many ways only a sampling of what's out there, considering the breadth and depth of the problem. It focuses on the three most significant offenders: CNN's Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck, and Fox's Bill O'Reilly:

An examination of the rhetoric on immigration on these programs reveals the subtle and not-so-subtle ways these myths find their way into mainstream discourse and are validated by figures like Dobbs, O’Reilly, and Beck. On some occasions, the hosts repeat a myth’s key elements in explicit terms; at other times, they mention some of those elements but not others; and sometimes they bring up the catchphrases associated with those myths without elaborating. Through sheer repetition, they help propagate the myths. For instance, by airing dozens and dozens of segments on individual cases in which an undocumented immigrant committed a crime, Dobbs, O’Reilly, and Beck feed the misperception that these immigrants are responsible for a disproportionate share of crime in America, even if their comments about the specific case in question don’t stray from the facts. Finally, these programs, particularly Lou Dobbs Tonight, have hosted some of the most radical immigration opponents, offering them a national platform to disseminate extremist views.

The study essentially delineates the misinformation into two categories: the most common myths, such as those about crime and undocumented immigrants, and the costs of illegal immigration in social services and taxes; and the right-wing urban legends, such as the "Reconquista!" conspiracy theory, the "NAFTA Superhighway" tale involving creation of a tax-free roadway running from Canada to Mexico, and the claim that illegal immigrants are responsible for a mass wave of election fraud.

The first category involves a sometimes-subtle distortion of facts (such as the constant association of Latino immigrants with crime) while the latter, as we all know, is just straight-out wingnuttery that in nearly every instance actually has its origins as an idea with the most racist and hateful elements of the American right.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

For Lieberman, Only Brown Terrorists Matter

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

 Joe Lieberman lets the ideological cat out of his "terror" bag:
The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee today asked Google, the parent company of the popular online video-sharing site, YouTube, to “immediately remove content produced by Islamist terrorist organizations” from YouTube and prevent similar content from reappearing. However, the company immediately refused to comply with his request.

Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) made the request in a letter to Eric Schmidt, the chairman of the board and chief executive officer at Google, in which he said that YouTube “unwittingly, permits Islamist terrorist groups to maintain an active, pervasive and amplified voice despite military setbacks or successful operations by the law enforcement and intelligence communities.”

Lieberman asked the company not only to remove existing content but also identify changes that Google plans to make to YouTube’s community guidelines and explain how it plans to enforce the guidelines. Lieberman said removing such content should be “a straightforward task since so many of the Islamist terrorist organizations brand their material with logos or icons identifying their provenance.”
And what was the driving force behind his request?
Lieberman’s letter comes after his committee released a report, “Violent Islamist Extremism, the Internet and the Homegrown Terrorist Threat,” May 8 that said chatrooms, message boards and Web sites can play critical roles in recruitment, indoctrination into violent Islamist theology, linking radicalized individuals and providing information to independent terrorists unaffiliated with organizations. The report also said the government needs to develop a plan to counter terrorist groups’ increasing reliance on the Internet.
The most obvious problem with Lieberman’s request is its clear trampling of basic free-speech rights on the Internet in the pursuit of those evildoers from Al Qaeda. It gives us, as marktheshark at DKos observes, a preview of what Lieberman and his band of anti-terrorists have coming down the pike.

But it’s also a completely misbegotten approach to terrorism that assumes the only terrorists worth worrying about are brown Islamist extremists — while ignoring the fact that over the past decade and a half, the most consistent terrorist threat has come from our own homegrown white variety.

Annually, right-wing extremists within our borders are responsible for a siezeable number of crimes. These range, as Mark Pitcavage of the ADL points out, from "bombings and bombing plots to assassination plots and murders to weapons and explosives violations to hate crimes to massive frauds and scams (amounting in some cases in the hundreds of millions of dollars) to the myriad of lesser crimes." Even if you totaled up several years’ worth of criminal activity related to Islamic extremism, it would fail to come close to the levels produced by our own homegrown terrorists.

And their presence on the Internet is not only widespread, but their use of the Web has in fact been understood to be a serious problem for at least a decade and longer. Strange that Lieberman wasn’t eager back in 1998 to have the Internet censored for far-right content. Maybe it was easier for him to understand the free-speech implications of such actions. But he has a jihad going now.

We already had plenty of reasons to suspect that the "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007" working its way through Congress was anything but the attempt at a comprehensive approach to preventing domestic terrorism its sponsors liked to sell it as. Far more likely, in fact, is that it is likely to skew and misdirect the fight against genuine terrorism into an ideological witchhunt for brown-skinned "terrorists" — while ignoring the very real threat on our soil from homegrown white terrorists.

And we knew it was a problem because the man in charge of driving it through the Senate is — you guessed it — Joe Lieberman.

Monday, May 19, 2008

First Geneva, Now Helsinki: The FDA’s Slide To The Inhuman

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

As if invading another nation under false pretenses weren’t bad enough, I think most Americans believed their descent into the cesspool of global monstrousness — the alienation of the United States from basic norms of international law and human decency — had really reached its nadir with the official adoption of torture as acceptable government policy.

But no, it continues to get worse. Now we are in the process of adopting medical-testing practices on human subjects that are straight out of the Nazi handbook.

Bush’s FDA has just announced that it is going to scrap American participation in the Declaration of Helsinki — the major international accord on ethical principles guiding physicians and other participants in medical research on human subjects. This isn’t a decision involving mere medical bureaucracy — it in fact clears the way for ethics-free drug testing, especially beyond American borders, and it means people will die, sometimes horribly.

The shift in policy now makes it possible for American drug companies to conduct tests on human subjects (most often in Third World nations) wherein victims of particular diseases can, in the course of testing, be administered pure placebos that do nothing to help them fight those diseases, while being told they’re undergoing treatment. (The longstanding standards required such tests to administer the acknowledged standard treatment as the placebo.)

Integrity in Science reports
The new rule, which goes into effect next October, was pushed by drug and device manufacturers, but opposed by numerous public interest, patient advocacy, and consumer groups. The Declaration of Helsinki "is the standard-bearer for international research ethics and enjoys particular respect in the developing world," said Peter Lurie, deputy director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. Its rejection is "in line with other U.S. efforts to flout international mores."

… The change is likely to push more clinical trials abroad, where an estimated 35 percent of all trials submitted to the FDA in new drug applications now take place. Unlike trials conducted in the U.S., companies do not have to submit an investigative new drug application (IND) to the FDA before beginning research in foreign countries. The FDA estimates about 575 of the foreign trials submitted to the agency each year as part of new drug applications do not go through the IND process. The FDA rejected the notion that adopting the self-regulating GCP standard and eliminating references to the Helsinki Declaration "will hurt subjects in developing countries or result in less protection for subjects in foreign studies."
Back in 2001, the Washington Post ran a heartbreaking and devastating series about the consequences of these kinds of practices, titled "The Body Hunters." It’s a problem that exposure, obviously, did little to curtail.

Over at PAL, Sonia Shah, the author of a book on the subject, also titled The Body Hunters, discussed the consequences of the FDA’s decision at length:
With hardly a word in the mainstream press, the FDA has gutted the rules restraining drug companies from exploiting clinical trial subjects in developing countries.

With 80 percent of clinical trials failing to recruit sufficient numbers of test subjects on deadline, drug companies increasingly export their trials to developing countries, where sick, undertreated patients abound. It’s faster, it’s cheaper, and it’s easier to conduct the placebo-controlled trials that companies and the FDA prefer. There is precious little oversight of these trials.

Unlike for domestic trials, the FDA does not require advance notice before drug companies take their trials outside US borders. And with 90 percent of trials failing to gain FDA approval, a massive number of trials are conducted, fail, and then vanish with no agency review at all—and little public record, if any at all.

Until now, the FDA’s sole requirement for these overseas trials is that they adhere to the Declaration of Helsinki (or local rules, on the off-chance that they are more stringent). Signed by the United States and 34 other countries in 1975, the Declaration of Helsinki consists of several dozen pithy principles to govern ethical research on humans, and is widely considered the gold-standard in research ethics. Crafted and updated by the World Medical Association, a group representing dozens of national physicians’ organizations from around the globe, the Declaration of Helsinki (DOH) urges that participants’ voluntary informed consent be obtained, that independent committees to review and oversee trials be used, that investigators prioritize their subjects’ well-being, that research subjects be assured access to the best health interventions identified in trials, and that their societies enjoy a “reasonable likelihood” of benefiting from the results of trials.

… The FDA’s move against the DOH is more than a symbolic change. With drug companies rushing to countries where the domestic regulatory infrastructure is weak at best—India, where Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline have set up global clinical trial hubs being perhaps the prime example—and the FDA turning a blind eye, the business of protecting impoverished, sick, undertreated patients from exploitative experimentation falls almost entirely upon local people convened by clinics and hospitals to sit on FDA-required ethics committees. Theirs is a nearly impossible job, much of it shrouded in secrecy. Some, from India and South Africa, spoke to me, anonymously. They told me of how their clinics and hospitals desperately need the income drug-industry trials bring in. Of how, often, their bosses sit on the committees with them, pressuring members to approve as many experimental protocols as come in. They are overworked, underpaid, and poorly trained—if trained at all—in the principles of research ethics. Even the most courageous among them find it difficult to challenge problematic experiments and interrupt the flow of industry dollars.
I’m not sure the Bush administration can bring this nation any lower in the eyes of the world than it already has. It only has a few months left to do so. But obviously, it’s doing its damnedest.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Curious George And The Men In The Pointy White Hats

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

Well, if anyone had any illusions about Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy helping the nation get over its racial divide — especially if they thought it might finally bury the old racism that has stained the nation’s history — the past few weeks should finally lay that to rest.

As Glennzilla points out, it’s now evidently become acceptable for mainstream news organizations like The Washington Post to distribute "white supremacist cant about Obama’s ‘blood equity’ and ‘heritage’ " (in the form of a truly execrable Kathleen Parker column) for popular consumption to the rest of the nation’s papers. We’ve got assassination jokes and a panoply of dog whistles and race-baiting campaign ads.

It’s all indicative of a shifting national mood that seems to find open expressions of racism increasingly acceptable and even normative — thanks, no doubt, to a decade and half’s worth of right-wing yammerers essentially defending racism as being merely "politically incorrect." It’s manifested itself in Democratic voting patterns as well, and is embodied in the racism encountered by young Obama campaigners while on the campaign trail.

And then there is the bar in Georgia selling "Curious George" shirts with "Obama ’08" as the script:
The T-shirts are being peddled by Marietta bar owner Mike Norman at his Mulligan’s Bar and Grill in Cobb County. They show a picture of Curious Georgie peeling a banana, with the words "Obama ’08" underneath.

Rick Blake, a spokesman for publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which owns Curious George, said Wednesday that the company didn’t authorize the use of the character’s image, but hasn’t been in touch with anybody selling or manufacturing the shirts.

"We find it offensive and obviously utterly out of keeping with the value Curious George represents," Blake said. "We’re monitoring the situation and weighing our options with respect to legal action."

Norman has said he got the T-shirts from someone in Arkansas. He started selling them at his bar — known for the provocative, ultra-conservative political slogans often posted on signs out front — in April but said he has no plans to mass market them.

The sales came to light this week when a loose coalition of local groups called a protest of the T-shirts.

About a dozen protestors rallied against the shirts Tuesday afternoon, condemning them as racist and asking Norman to stop selling them.

Norman acknowledged the imagery’s Jim Crow roots but said he sees nothing wrong with depicting a prominent African-American as a monkey.

"We’re not living in the (19)40′s," he said. "Look at him . . . the hairline, the ears — he looks just like Curious George."
Comparing blacks to apes has been a time-tested favorite of the racist right, of course. It was a staple of both Nazi propaganda (Hitler called blacks "born half-ape") and the Klan over the years (a Klan speaker in Alabama, for instance, once warned: "Black apes in our high schools and elementary schools with our superior White children and forced them to mix. And the day a Black ape lays his Black paw on a little White girl, the Ku Klux Klan will move in and trim that paw back.")

Here’s a classic example: This was a flyer that was circulated around the Bellevue, Wash., area by someone from Matthew Hale’s then-organization, the National Socialist White Americans’ Party back in 1995. (Hale, you may recall, gained later notoriety by becoming the leader of the white-supremacist World Church of the Creator, eventually earning jail time for plotting to have a judge assassinated.)

The "Curious George" shirts are more than a mere dog whistle: they’re an outright resurrection of the ugly racism that was commonplace in America a century ago. No, we’re not living in the 1940s; but the right — including the Kathleen Parkers of the world and their enablers — sure wish we were doing so again.