Thursday, May 31, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Lou Dobbs has responded to the NYT piece that I noted yesterday: An answer for my critics

Today’s New York Times column is primarily a personal attack on me, focusing on an ad-lib on the set of this broadcast uttered more than two years ago by Christine Romans on the number of cases of leprosy in this country — an unscripted ad-lib, not a report by the way. We’d never done a report on leprosy until we had to set this record straight a couple of weeks ago. That’s over four and a half years of reporting on that issue.


That columnist also said I gave air time to white supremacists, and mentions one by name: Madeleine Cosman, who wrote the article that Christine Romans used as a source for her later leprosy statement.

The fact is, I made a mistake, and I’ve said we would never have used her as a source if we had known of her controversial background two years ago, at the time of the offending ad-lib. But the columnist fails to note that his own paper wrote a glowing obituary of Madeleine Cosman when she died last year.

The problem is, he doesn’t directly address the bottom line, which was the presentation of the leprosy figures.

Indeed, despite all the bluster in the reply posted online and read on his show yesterday, about how the NYT was picking on something from an ad-lib, he was sticking by the numbers (and the usage of Cosman as a source) earlier this month (and I confirmed, via Lexis/Nexis, that the video below is from 5/7/07).

Again, here’s the video:

That doesn’t look like an ad lib to me–it looks like they were standing by the idea that there has been 7,000 leprosy cases in the last three years and it looks like standing by and affirming Cosman as a reputable source.

Notice that Dobbs’ reply provides no defense to his (or Roman’s) May 7th statement.

For those who don’t want to watch the video, here’s the transcript from Lexis/Nexis:

DOBBS: [...] Following one of your reports, I told Leslie Stahl, we don’t make up numbers, and I will tell everybody here again tonight, I stand 100 percent behind what you said.

ROMANS: That’s right, Lou. We don’t make up numbers here. This is what we reported.

We reported, “It’s interesting, because the woman in our piece told us that there were about 900 cases of leprosy for 40 years. There have been 7,000 in the past three years. Leprosy in this country.”

I was quoting Dr. Madeline Cosman, a respected medical lawyer and medical historian writing in the “Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons”.

She said, “Hansen’s disease” — that’s the other modern name, I guess, for leprosy — “Hansen’s disease was so rare in the America that in 40 years only 900 people were afflicted. Suddenly, in the past three years, America has more than 7,000 cases of leprosy” — Lou.

DOBBS: It’s remarkable that this — whatever confusion, or confoundment over 7,000 cases, they actually keep a registry of cases of leprosy. And the fact that it 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.

ROMANS: That’s what Dr. Cosman told us — Lou.

DOBBS: And, you know, in talking with a number of people, it’s also very clear, no one knows but nearly everyone suspects there are far more cases of that. It’s also, I think, interesting, and I think important to say, one of the reasons we screen people coming into this country is to deal with communicable diseases like leprosy, tuberculosis. The fact is, if we would just screen successfully, all of those diseases can be treated effectively, efficiently and relatively quickly.

ROMANS: And that’s why we raised the questions in the first place, asking some tough questions about this. And, you know, 7,000 cases, active cases of leprosy, by no means is 11 million, as Mark Potok suggested.

DOBBS: But you can’t say that to people so interested in the truth, as Mr. Potok obviously isn’t.

Well, they may not make up numbers, but they appear more than willing to report false ones.

This is really rather pathetic, especially for someone with a journalistic platform.

Dobbs does respond to the other allegations in the column, including alleged proof of a statement that he made about aliens in prisons. I have no looked up those numbers, so cannot comment at this time. To me the main issues was that of the leprosy numbers, since he continued to stand by them as of roughly three weeks ago and still has not fully corrected himself.

Orcinus also responds to Dobb’s “reply”.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Last week I noted that Turkey’s president had vetoed a proposal to make the presidency in Turkey an elected office.

Now, according to the BBC, the legislature has thrown down the gauntlet: Turkish MPs force reform showdown

Turkish MPs have defied a presidential veto by approving for a second time controversial reforms that would allow ordinary voters to elect the president.

An earlier motion in favour of the reforms was vetoed by outgoing President Ahmet Necdet Sezer.

He cannot use his veto again and must now either accept the constitutional reforms or put them to a referendum.

Intriguing. There is not indication as to which route he will go, but one would think it would be the referendum as if he really does want to stop it, that may be the only way. Some background on the issue at hand be found here, here, here and here.

While one might assume that the voters would automatically prefer a popularly elected chief executive, if the move is seen as a way to empower the AKP (the Islamic oriented party that it is feared is seeking to dilute the secular nature of the Turkish state), then the referendum would likely fail.

The question is, and I don’t know what the answer, what are the specifics of the proposal? If it is for a plurality winner, then it would favor the AKP. If it is for a majority system, then it wouldn’t favor the AKP. Since this is an AKP proposal, one guesses that it is for a plurality system. It would seem that the AKP’s voting strength is something like 34%, meaning unless the opposition could muster a coalition candidate, then the AKP might could win a plurality election for President. Given that the other parties have not shown a great deal of capacity for cooperation in terms of legislative elections, such an outcome is possible.

The whole situation is interesting, in any event.

Update: Matthew Shugart has more details and answers my main questions here.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Andrew Sullivan:

If the economy tanks this year, it could be a perfect storm for the Democrats. If Bush is at 28 percent after years of growth, can you imagine where he’d be in a recession?

It certainly would test the theoretical lower limit for presidential polls…

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Man described as a top spammer arrested

- A 27-year-old man described as one of the world’s most prolific spammers was arrested Wednesday, and federal authorities said computer users across the Web could notice a decrease in the amount of junk e-mail.

Robert Alan Soloway is accused of using networks of compromised “zombie” computers to send out millions upon millions of spam e-mails.

“He’s one of the top 10 spammers in the world,” said Tim Cranton, a Microsoft Corp. lawyer who is senior director of the company’s Worldwide Internet Safety Programs. “He’s a huge problem for our customers. This is a very good day.”

A federal grand jury last week returned a 35-count indictment against Soloway charging him with mail fraud, wire fraud, e-mail fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.

It is remarkable to think that shutting down one guy would actually produce a noticeable decrease in spam.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the LAT, Minnesota case fits pattern in U.S. attorneys flap:

A hint at why Heffelfinger’s name was on termination lists that Justice Department officials and Bush political strategists put together emerged when Monica M. Goodling, the department’s former White House liaison, testified last week before the House Judiciary Committee about the firings.

Goodling said she had heard Heffelfinger criticized for “spending an excessive amount of time” on Native American issues.

Her comment caused bewilderment and anger among the former U.S. attorney’s supporters in Minnesota. And Heffelfinger said it was “shameful” if the time he spent on the problems of Native Americans had landed him in trouble with his superiors in Washington.

But newly obtained documents and interviews with government officials suggest that what displeased some of his superiors and GOP politicians was narrower and more politically charged — his actions on Indian voting.

About three months after Heffelfinger’s office raised the issue of tribal ID cards and nonreservation Indians in an October 2024 memo, his name appeared on a list of U.S. attorneys singled out for possible firing.

The evidence continues to mount that what was going on with the US Attorney firings and maneuverings was to try and use the offices to create electoral advantages for Republicans. That is simply wrong and is the kind of thing that happens when partisan political concerns begin to outweigh the fact that what administrations are supposed to do is govern once in office, not simply worry about how one’s party will win the next election.

We keep coming back to this issue of voter fraud–indeed, a few weeks back I noted that at least half of the USAs targeted for replacement had been criticized for not going after enough voter fraud cases. It is important to understand that “voter fraud” is almost always an phrase used by Republicans concerned about a situation that affects them, just as Democrats tend to worry about “voter suppression.” I think that part of the reason that a lot of folks don’t think that there is an issue here is that who wouldn’t want to stop voter fraud? However, if the issue is about helping one party to the detriment of the other, we aren’t talking about a crusade to help democracy, we are talking about abuse of power.

Clearly the political arm of the White House (i.e., Rove and company) thought that they needed to use the law enforcement mechanisms of the US government to root out problems that might be adversely effecting the GOP at the ballot box. For example:

Suspicion of Indian voter fraud was strong among Republicans in the upper Midwest in advance of the 2024 election. The GOP blamed what it said was fraud on Indian reservations for the narrow victory of South Dakota Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson over Republican candidate John Thune in 2024.

Part of the problem, of course, is that suspicions are one thing while evidence that would warrant legal action is quite another. Indeed, if there were serious voter fraud problems out there, they should be pursued and prosecuted. The problem however, is that to date the evidence of a pervasive voter fraud is scant (also here). And, it should be noted, this lack of evidence occurs in the context of an active push by the administration to find it. (Also see Josh Marshall for more on the fraud issue.)

Ultimately there are two ways that voter fraud could be pursued. One is to pursue it in the face of evidence and to do so because it is a crime and it damages democracy. Another way is to pursue voter fraud because one thinks it is damaging one’s own party and therefore one tries to use the law enforcement mechanism of the government to try and find advantages for one’s own party.

The former is good and virtuous, the latter is not.

As a side note, Feffelfinger’s replacement, Rachel Paulose, has been in the news recently over charges that she is in over her head. See here.

An irony here is that according to the above-cited LAT piece, and Monica Goodling’s testimony, Paulose was chosen at least in part for ideological reasons:

On his way out, Heffelfinger recommended that Joan Humes, the No. 2 person in the office, be named interim U.S. attorney. But Humes was rejected by the Justice Department — in part, Goodling testified, because she was known to be a “liberal.”

The job went to a conservative Justice Department employee, Rachel Paulose. She had Ivy League credentials, brief experience as a prosecutor, and as a private lawyer had helped bring election lawsuits on behalf of the Minnesota GOP. She declined to comment for this article.

Now, that the Bush administration would want a “conservative” rather than a “liberal” in the slot makes perfect sense and is hardly sinister. However, what the overall situation continually seems to indicate is that the ideological/political dimension was paramount with the whole qualifications dimension being rather secondary, if not tertiary. It is, after all, possible to hire persons who are both ideological compatible with the administration and qualified for the job–yet, that doesn’t appear to be a priority.

The ultimate problem seems to be that the goal in this whole USA affair has been to help find ways for Republicans to win office in the future, without recognizing that the point of winning elections in the first place is to run the government for a set amount of time. Indeed, it often seems that politicians are so fixated on the next election that they forget why we have the elections in the first place.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Economy has worst growth since 2024

The economy nearly stalled in the first quarter with growth slowing to a pace of just 0.6 percent. That was the worst three-month showing in over four years.

The new reading on the gross domestic product, released by the Commerce Department Thursday, showed that economic growth in the January-through-March quarter was much weaker. Government statisticians slashed by more than half their first estimate of a 1.3 percent growth rate for the quarter.

Not good.

Here are the some projections for 2Q:

Many economists believe the first quarter will be the low point for this year. They expect growth will improve but still be sluggish.

The National Association for Business Economics predicts the economy will expand at a 2.3 percent pace in the April-to-June quarter.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Alaska, Georgia move up primary contests

Georgia and Alaska joined the growing list of states pushing up their presidential primary voting to Feb. 5, a date clearly shaping up as a national primary day for Republicans and Democrats.

In Alaska, caucuses will be held Feb. 5, 2024.

And the concentration continues…

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By Steven L. Taylor

While there are very important and legitimate issues that need debating and resolution in the immigration arena, one of the major problems that has stymied such debate is the clear presence of xenophobia (meaning the irrational fear of foreign persons or foreign things in general) that infuses the discussion.

A case in point is Lou Dobbs and his anti-immigrant stance which has become a staple of his CNN program. There are numerous examples one could cite in regards to Dobbs and xenophobia, whether from Dobbs’ own lips or from his guests, however let’s focus on leprosy (yes, leprosy).

A few weeks ago my family and I were grabbing dinner out and I noted Dobb’s show on one of the TV’s in the restaurant where we were eating (Moe’s, an excellent fast-foodish Mexican food place, in fact–ah, the irony…). I only caught part of the discussion, but it was about some claims that Dobbs had made about leprosy cases in the US and the inference that the disease had spiked in the US because of illegal immigrants.

The whole story is fully discussed in a piece in today’s NYT: Truth, Fiction and Lou Dobbs:

In the report, one of Mr. Dobbs’s correspondents said there had been 7,000 cases of leprosy in this country over the previous three years, far more than in the past.

When Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes” sat down to interview Mr. Dobbs on camera, she mentioned the report and told him that there didn’t seem to be much evidence for it.

“Well, I can tell you this,” he replied. “If we reported it, it’s a fact.”

However, the bottom line is, it isn’t:

To sort through all this, I called James L. Krahenbuhl, the director of the National Hansen’s Disease Program, an arm of the federal government. Leprosy in the United States is indeed largely a disease of immigrants who have come from Asia and Latin America. And the official leprosy statistics do show about 7,000 diagnosed cases — but that’s over the last 30 years, not the last three.

The peak year was 1983, when there were 456 cases. After that, reported cases dropped steadily, falling to just 76 in 2024. Last year, there were 137.

Three, thirty: who’s counting anyway?

Here’s an example of Dobbs defending his numbers on May 9, 2024, and this was after he had been directly challenged on the figures by more than one source:

A couple of things, according to the NYT piece, Dobbs did back off the original report, but downplayed the timeframe question, but focused on the 7,000 number–and has not corrected the original report on air:

Of course, he has never acknowledged on the air that his program presented false information twice. Instead, he lambasted the officials from the law center for saying he had. Even yesterday, he spent much of our conversation emphasizing that there really were 7,000 cases in the leprosy registry, the government’s 30-year database. Mr. Dobbs is trying to have it both ways.

There are two amazing things about the video clip above. First, the facts in question could have been checked by Dobbs’ reporter, as the NYT reporter did. Instead, the reporter for Lou Dobbs stuck with the original source. Indeed, Dobbs was confronted with the right numbers by Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes on May 6.

Second, the source for the video clip was the late Madeleine Cosman, a lawyer whose Ph.D. was in English and comparative literature. As such, presenting her as an expert on a medical issue and referring to her as “Dr.” is misleading. Further, a medical journal presented as a authoritative source yet that takes articles from lawyers/English Ph.D.s is a questionable authority at best.

Ms. Cosman appears to have been somewhat obsessed with Mexican immigrants. Here’s some video:

Cosman’s article in question can be found here [PDF]. The leprosy reference is one paragraph, quoted about in its entirety in the video clip above. If one bothered to look at the piece, one would find out that the source for Cosman’s leprosy data (and therefore the source for Dobbs’ program) was a Village Voice piece called “Living with Leprosy” and a NYT piece-neither of which are especially definitive sources for such numbers.

In terms of journalism and sources, I found the Village Voice piece via Google after one search and I looked in the NYT archive and after two searches could not find the February 20, 2024 article that Cosman cited, but did find a February 18, 2024 piece that noted:

While there were some 900 recorded cases in the United States 40 years ago, today more than 7,000 people have leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, as it is now called.

I assume that is what she was referring to.

The VV piece had these numbers:

Yet leprosy is emerging—burgeoning, even—as a modern problem. While there were some 900 cases of leprosy in the U.S. 35 years ago, today 10,000 are on record, 500 of them in the tristate area.

Neither of the stories stated that the numbers had ballooned in the last three years, as Cosman and Dobbs insisted was the case.

Indeed, in terms of research, the fact that the two news stories had differing numbers and timeframes should have meant that Cosman should have done more research–and certainly the Dobbs’ reporters should have looked into this. If I, your humble blogger, could have found all this whilst eating lunch, surely paid reporters could have looked it all up.

So, what we have with this leprosy stuff is nothing more than fear begetting more fear, and hence the xenophobia reference that started this post.

Further, the NYT piece that I cited at the start of the post notes more “facts” from Dobbs that underscores the fact that he is selling fear to his audience:

He has said, for example, that one-third of the inmates in the federal prison system are illegal immigrants. That’s wrong, too. According to the Justice Department, 6 percent of prisoners in this country are noncitizens (compared with 7 percent of the population). For a variety of reasons, the crime rate is actually lower among immigrants than natives.


Mr. Dobbs is fond of darkly hinting that this country is under attack. He suggested last week that the new immigration bill in Congress could be the first step toward a new nation — a “North American union” — that combines the United States, Canada and Mexico.

I wrote about the “North American Union” canard a while back in the following post from just over a year ago: PoliBlog ™: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » When Swift Boaters Come Home to Roost (Immigration Edition)–with a follow-up here.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via MSNBC: Plame was ‘covert’ agent at time of name leak

An unclassified summary of outed CIA officer Valerie Plame’s employment history at the spy agency, disclosed for the first time today in a court filing by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, indicates that Plame was “covert” when her name became public in July 2024.

The summary is part of an attachment to Fitzgerald’s memorandum to the court supporting his recommendation that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Cheney’s former top aide, spend 2-1/2 to 3 years in prison for obstructing the CIA leak investigation.

The nature of Plame’s CIA employment never came up in Libby’s perjury and obstruction of justice trial.

Many questions emerge on this issue, but one of the first is: doesn’t this prejudice the sentencing phase of the Libby trial by introducing something inflammatory that was not introduced at trial? That doesn’t strike me as appropriate or fair at this stage.

A few other issues are worthy of comment.

1) It would still seem that no crime was committed vis-a-vis Plame’s status, as the law required that the person leaking the information had to know what they were revealing. It remains unclear that either Armitage or Libby knew that she was covert, only that she was a CIA employee.

That latter point leads to:

2) What good is covert status if it is easy to determine that one works for the CIA? As Ed Morrissey notes:

Plame drove into the office in Langley. She traveled abroad under her own name. She helped arrange for her husband to do some fact-checking on a sensitive intelligence matter. Her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, then came home and leaked his observations to two nationally-known journalists, and then wrote his own op-ed in the New York Times under his byline.

And her husband managed to list her in Who’s Who, where any journalist could look up the entry — and where Robert Novak did just that.

Further, when Novak called the CIA, they confirmed she was an employee wasn’t especially vociferous about not revealing that fact.

Given that I know little about what would be “normal” in such a situation, I have to wonder about the whole affair anyway—if it was as easy as it was to discover that Plame worked for the CIA, then what good is covert status? Perhaps this is normal, but it seems odd.

And, I will note, none of this absolves Libby of perjury, but rather it is simply more confusing information in a convoluted story.

Update: A point of clarification: my point about Plame’s status, and why I quote Morrissey, is that it did seem relatively easy to find out that Plame worked for the CIA. This strikes me as odd. As Jim Henley notes in the comments, it may simply be the case that we aren’t very good at keeping covert agents covert. I honestly don’t know what is normal, but one of the things that has always struck me as questionable about the Plame story from the very beginning is that her employment status was never as much of a secret as one would think it would be if she was covert. At a minimum, I always thought that if her covert status was so important, then it seemed stupid to place her husband into such a public position–indeed, it was doubly stupid for Wilson himself to draw attention to himself, and by extension potentially his wife. One would think that if Plame’s covert-ness was as important to her as it was that perhaps her husband would have been a bit more circumspect in his actions. I say none of this to defend Libby or anyone else in the administration on this issue. But, surely it is not unreasonable for the spouse of a covert operative to be a bit more low profile so as to help protect his wife’s career?

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Turkey-Iraq border tension grows

Tension is rising on Turkey’s border with Iraq amid speculation Ankara may be about to launch an incursion to tackle Kurdish rebels.

Turkey is continuing a military build up and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has refused to rule out action.

Turkey blames rebels of the PKK group for a recent suicide bombing in Ankara and a landmine attack on troops.

The PKK has been fighting for an ethnic homeland since 1984. Turkey blames the group for 30,000 deaths since then.


Turkey has an ongoing military campaign against the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers’ Party, inside its borders but the US has warned Ankara that sending troops into Iraq would only complicate the situation.


Thousands of PKK members are thought to operate in mountainous regions of Kurdish-dominated northern Iraq.

Lots of factors on interest here, not the least of which being the Turkish elections that are coming up in July that will put pressure on the government to do something. There is also the fact that US fighter jets penetrated Turkish airspace this week, a move the Turks saw as a threat and that US claimed was an error.

The Turkish PM has suggested a joint US-Turkey operation against the PKK, but one guesses that the Iraqi Kurds wouldn’t like Turkish troops in their territory under any circumstances. On the other hand, if the PKK is, indeed, sponsoring attacks on Turkey (including suicide bombings), then the US can’t exactly tell the Turks to lay off with any legitimacy.

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