Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Lou Dobbs: Is the Man Nativist, Xenophobic or Truly Heroic?

Advocacy journalism can get you into trouble with America’s gatekeepers. Just ask CNN anchor Lou Dobbs of Lou Dobbs Tonight. Dobbs who has won numerous prestigious journalism awards has increasingly come under heated attacks over the past few years as he has emerged as a national leader. In recent months, he has been the target of The New York Times, The Washington Post, 60 Minutes, Democracy Now!, and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Some of these attacks have been editorials and others have come from “friendly” invitations from other network hosts ostensibly giving him an opportunity to promote his new book, Independents Day: Awakening the American Spirit.

What sometimes happens is an attempted mugging, in which Mr. Dobbs is asked to give an account of three serious misdeeds lifted from the scores of shows that he has hosted over the past few years. Usually, the mistakes cited were committed by one of his correspondents or by one of his producers who failed to ask a guest contributor if they were connected either directly or loosely with any politically incorrect groups or positions. What has happened recently has been frontal assault by the SPLC that has accused Mr. Dobbs of giving airtime to people connected with white supremacist groups.

Let’s look closely at some of these “serious” misdeeds and their implications.

Misdeed 1: Dobbs claimed that a “third of the prison population” in America are illegal aliens. In fact, the number is 6 percent.
Twenty-seven percent of federal prisoners are criminal aliens. What makes this statement inaccurate is that Mr. Dobbs rounded off the number and neglected to say “federal” prison population. Mr. Dobbs has apologized for his mistake. A 2005 Government Accounting Office report estimated that the federal government’s cost of incarcerating criminal aliens and their reimbursements to state and local governments “totaled approximately $5.8 billion for calendar years 2001 through 2004.” Moreover, the Bureau of Prisons “cost to incarcerate criminal aliens rose from about $950 million in 2001 to about $1.2 billion in 2004.” whether it is federal, local or state, the number of criminal aliens and their costs to an already overburdened criminal justice system ought to be a cause for some concern.

Misdeed 2: Dobbs has had individuals with white supremacist ties appear on his show without disclosure that they were allegedly white supremacist. Among the cited examples were the guest appearances of Chris Simcox co-founder of the Minutemen Project and Glenn Spencer leader of the American Patrol, groups that the SPLC has labeled as hate groups.

As an expert on white nationalism, I can attest to the fact that many individuals that I consider white nationalists have no formal ties to organizations. And some of the organizations now labeled as hate groups by the SPLC are ones that I would quibble with, such as the Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR). The SPLC clearly has a political agenda that encourages it to use a broad brush that ensnares many organizations and high profile individuals who disagree with its liberalism.

Many of us believe in free speech and vigorous intellectual dialogue. If Mr. Dobbs were to succumb to his critics and censor his guests, he would lose what makes his show unique. We, the viewers, would be left with the same politically correct talking heads that already dominate mainstream media.

Misdeed 3: Dobbs agreed with one of his correspondents who stated that 7,000 new cases of leprosy have occurred in the U.S. over the past 3 years, when the National Hansen’s Disease Center in Carville, LA reports 7029 cases since 1976.

Leprosy is not a disease that we expect to see in modern day America, no matter how few the cases. A 2006 report produced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Reports states that the majority of U.S. cases have appeared since 1980, and it places the number of registered cases at the end of 2005 at 12, 025. In the era before political correctness none other than the venerable New York Times published a December 4, 1983 article titled “Immigration Brings More Leprosy to the United States.”

According to the article, there were 193 new cases of the disease reported in the first nine months of 1982 and it placed the number of U.S. leprosy patients at between 4000-5000. Clearly, the existence of the disease is troubling. The good news is that it is now curable if it is caught early enough. Perhaps the focus on the disease brought about by the attack on Mr. Dobbs might actually save lives if it causes people to become more aware and to seek early treatment.

How should we feel about Mr. Lou Dobbs? Is he a menace to society or is he the truth speaker that America needs to hold her politicians, corporate leaders, and other elites accountable?

I believe that Mr. Dobbs is a man of integrity and courage who genuinely cares about his country. Through the vehicle of Lou Dobbs Tonight, he has awakened many of our eyes to corporate greed, out of control borders, dangerous products from communist China, illegal immigration, unresponsive politicians and racism of all stripes. To fully understand why this man is under attack, one need only watch his show and read his several books.

Clearly, this is a man that has thought long and hard about his country and his Constitution. To me, he is truly an American hero: a man willing to do battle on behalf of millions and millions of ordinary people like the ones we see in our grocery stores. I write these words as a person who has been a contributor to his show. I have met the man. I have seen the man speak in public forums, and I consider the man one of the most compelling voices of our times.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Shall We Celebrate or Cry? : The Looming Release of Thousands of Crack Cocaine Offenders

December 13, 2007

Shall We Celebrate or Cry?: The Looming Release of Thousands of Crack Cocaine Offenders

By Carol M. Swain

Christians often say to one another, “Be careful what you pray for.” Right now, there is a strong possibility that thousands of mostly black federal prisoners (86 percent) incarcerated for crack cocaine convictions will seek early release. On December 12th, The U.S. Sentencing Commission unanimously decided to retroactively apply their new sentencing guidelines to roughly 19,500 inmates serving time in federal prisons for such violations. . The Commission’s decision came one day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kimbrough v. U.S. that federal judges can offer more lenient sentences in cases involving crack cocaine.

What impact will the return of so many ex-convicts have on communities around the country? I’m afraid that unless our leaders do some careful planning and resource allocation, the retroactive application of the changes in sentencing could be a recipe for further neighborhood disintegration. Before considering what could become quite ugly, let’s discuss what I see as the good and bad emanating from this well intentioned decision.

As early as next year, thousands of affected prisoners could be back home, re-entering communities that lack support networks and infrastructures needed to successfully reintegrate them back into society. Their families and loved ones will suffer the consequences of no good deed going unpunished.

It is good that the both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Sentencing Commission decided that enough is enough. It was time to end the blatant disparity in the criminal justice system that may have made sense in the 1980s, but was no longer defensible in the wake of Jena Six and recent protests.

For more than a decade, civil rights leaders have called the mandatory minimum sentencing laws racist. These laws have forced Federal judges to punish crack cocaine dealers much more harshly than those trafficking in powdered cocaine. What made sense in 1986 and 1988, was an embarrassment in 2007. If someone convicted of having five grams of crack cocaine faced a mandatory sentence of five years in prison and 10 years for 50 grams; whereas, powdered cocaine convictions, mostly associated with white offenders, required 500 and 1000 grams to trigger the same sentences.

Forgotten, in the name-calling and suspicions of racial motivations, were how these disparities became law. Tougher laws against crack cocaine dealers were passed in the late 1980s with the full blessings of the Congressional Black Caucus and white Democrats concerned about drug wars and violent crimes that were wreaking havoc in many urban black communities.

It is a bad that it took so long for corrective measures to occur. Meanwhile, the minimum sentences were responsible for the steady, unrelenting removal of thousands of marriageable, young black men from their communities and the families that loved them and had to carry on in their absence.

The ugly is yet to happen. It looms. The ugly could occur if thousands of formerly incarcerated men are released from prison into communities not adequately prepared for their return. Needed will be group homes (preferably faith-based), job training, educational opportunities, drug rehabilitation, anger management programs and more law enforcement personnel and jail space for the recidivist. Without the necessary support networks, the newly released ex-cons will find themselves in the same hopeless situations that lead to their initial downfall.

This time the newly-released prisoners will find themselves in a radically changed environment where thousands of legal and illegal immigrants will hold many of the low-wage, low-skilled dishwashing and landscaping jobs unskilled laborers once banked on. As problems and frustrations mount, some people will hear a faint reminder in the distance, “Be careful what you pray for.”


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Fishes and Loaves: The Rise of Mike Huckabee

I welcome you to what I hope is the first of many blogs covering a range of topics. I hope to blog regularly, so please check back often.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an opinion piece about the hypocrisy of Pat Robertson’s endorsement of Rudy Giuliani and I concluded my piece by stating, “If conservative leaders are true to their purported values, their only real choice is between Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, who withdrew from the race, and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who trails in the polls because of the failure of Christian leaders like Robertson and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council to embrace him.” Since then, Mike has surged in the polls and gotten the endorsement of many Christian leaders. No doubt Pat Robertson rues the day that he made his endorsement. A wiser and more chastened Robertson has turned over the leadership of CBN’s 700 Club to his son Gordon.

For some people, it is a miracle that Mike Huckabee is leading in the Iowa poll despite being an underdog candidate with only a fraction of the funds of the leading Democratic and Republican contenders. He is truly David up against Goliath and his campaign funds brings to mind the miracle of the 2 fishes and five loaves of bread that Jesus multiplied to feed the 5,000 (Matthew 14:13-21).

Although I am an independent, Mike excites me in a way that I have not been excited since I was a child enamored with Robert F. Kennedy’s campaign for the presidency that ended tragically with his assassination hours after his winning the California primary on June 6, 1968. I like Mike because he strikes me as a man of substance and virtue who is willing to unshakably stand for his deeply held principles. Here is a man who is not ashamed of his Christian roots and beliefs and shows evidence of attempting to practice what he preaches.

Huckabee is pro-life and pro-heterosexual marriage as would be expected of a former Baptist pastor and a conservative Christian. However, he is not mean-spirited or driven by a single issue or desire to transform America into a theocracy. Instead, he strikes me as a populist candidate with genuine compassion and concern for ordinary Americans, a rare breed of Republican with a proven ability to garner the votes of blacks and Hispanics.

A recent column by David Broder makes the case for a McCain/Huckabee ticket. Reverse it, and Huckabee/McCain would be the ideal ticket for me. A few people would reject this ticket solely because of the candidates’ previous stances on immigration. Immigration reform is important for me and for millions of Americans who value and respect the rule of law and would like to see something done about illegal immigration and porous borders. Many of us recognize that, at the end of the day, there will be a compromise on this issue. Whatever we do as a nation must pass muster with a now galvanized public. I believe that the political system itself and the influence of leaders such as CNN’s Lou Dobbs can and will force drastic change upon the political system.
2007 Carol M. Swain. Web design by CSP