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Bloggings: December 6, 2007

by Greg Siskind

Editor's note: Here are the latest entries from Greg Siskind's blog.

December 04, 2007


Martin Bashir is the British-born co-anchor of ABC's long-running Nightline news show. Bashir has a reputation not dissimilar to Barbara Walters, the legendary ABC news interviewer. Both have a reputation for being able to get their subjects to open up more than most others. Bashir, formerly of the BBC, is particularly known for the confessional 1995 interview with Princess Diana that shortly preceded the divorce of the royal couple. His 2003 interview with Michael Jackson was credited with leading police to investigate the singer for criminal activity.


The LA Times ran an important editorial over the weekend urging Congress to pass the Travel Promotion Act of 2007 which seeks to fund a nonprofit corporation to promote tourism to the US and explain entry procedures. It doesn't actually solve the slew of problems with the entry procedures themselves, but it is a place to start. Hopefully, this bill will pass and then momentum will build to address some of the more serious obstacles created by US government agencies that fail to realize that their mission is not to make America a giant fortress.


Great piece by Geoff Colvin of Fortune Magazine. Hat tip to reader "Legal and Waiting for the link.


LA Times media critic Tim Rutten's weekend column CNN: Corrupt News Network has apparently struck a nerve with Lou Dobbs, the main subject of the article.

Rutten notes in the article that CNN's coverate of the recent GOP YouTube debate was "corrupt and incompetent." Rutten notes

CNN chose to devote the first 35 minutes of this critical debate to a single issue -- immigration. Now, if that leaves you scratching your head, it's probably because you're included in the 96% of Americans who do not think immigration is the most important issue confronting this country.

Several recent polls have found that Americans rank the war, oil prices, health care and preventing terrorism as more important issues. Rutten draws this conclusion about CNN's motives:

So, why did CNN make immigration the keystone of this debate? What standard dictated the decision to give that much time to an issue so remote from the majority of voters' concerns? The answer is that CNN's most popular news-oriented personality, Lou Dobbs, has made opposition to illegal immigration and free trade the centerpiece of his neonativist/neopopulist platform. In fact, Dobbs led into Wednesday's debate with a good solid dose of immigrant bashing. His network is in a desperate ratings battle with Fox News and, in a critical prime-time slot, with MSNBC's Keith Olbermann. So, what's good for Dobbs is good for CNN.

In other words, CNN intentionally directed the Republicans' debate to advance its own interests. Make immigration a bigger issue and you've made a bigger audience for Dobbs.

Rutten is one of the most important media critics in the country and his call at the end of his article for Republican and Democratic Party leaders to "take the network out of our electoral affairs" should send a loud message to the few responsible people left at CNN who understand that ratings should not be the sole motivator at a network that holds itself out as being a leading journalistic organization.

Dobbs, of course, did not let the matter rest. As he has done on many occasions, he has devoted time on his show to blasting his critics, something that real journalists would never have done in years past. It's hard to imagine a Walter Cronkite or Mike Wallace doing such a thing. Media blog TVNewser had this to say about Dobbs' rant:

Wow. Lou Dobbs went off on LA Times media critic Tim Rutten, over Rutten's weekend column titled "CNN: Corrupt News Network." Dobbs spent three and a half minutes of his CNN program calling out Rutten, labeling him a "hack liberal advocate," a "liberal lily," "vituperative" and "elitist." Dobbs said "Rutten's tortured mind crushed his own sense of reason" when Rutten accused the network of spending too much time on the issue of illegal immigration during last week's CNN/YouTube debate.

Dobbs' diatribe was laced with sarcasm ("Mr. Rutten, please pay attention, these are called facts, a media critic doesn't have to deal with them often") and filled with polls to prove his point that illegal immigration is a hot topic for voters. It also happens to be Dobbs' cause celebre.

Kudos to the Rutten for calling Dobbs and CNN out.

December 03, 2007


MuskSouth African native Elon Musk is Inc. Magazine's Entrepreneur of the Year. Musk came to the US as a university student and later co-founded PayPal, a company sold to eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion. Now worth hundreds of millions of dollars, Musk is not resting on his laurels. He's the CEO and head rocket designer at SpaceX, an aerospace company with plans to begin launching astronauts to rendezvous with the International Space Station as early as 2011. It's more practical purpose is to launch satellites, something the company promises it can do for 25% of the cost of the current going rate.

He is the founder of electric car maker Tesla Motors, a company that Inc. calls "a rare bright spot in the otherwise troubled American auto industry." The company has already sold 600 vehicles at nearly $100,000 each. The company's snazzy Roadster can go from zero to sixty in just four seconds.

Musk is also the founder of solar panel system designer and installer SolarCity, another industry that is taking off as oil prices soar.

Oh, and in his personal life, Musk the father of triplets with five children under the age of 4.


A friend sent this amusing link to rabidly anti-immigrant web site VDARE (I read this junk so you don't have to!). Apparently, I'm part of the "Treason Lobby."

A lovely lady named Brenda Walker seems very threatened by my Immigrant of the Day column and has decided that the point of the column is negated if she mentions a few immigrants that were criminals. Among the lowlights of her column:

Actually, the ILW.COM column can be a hoot, because itís filled with people you never heard of and many you wouldn't want to know about. A recent offering (Nov 5) presented Andrew Grove, Hikaru Nakamura, Philippe Kahn, Isaac Larian, and Sonya Thomas. These are not exactly household names.

Now granted that I sometimes have fun with the column and pick offbeat people. Picking a Nobel Prize winner or Olympic athlete every day is possible, but it might get a little dull. So I'll give her Isaac Larian (the hottest toymaker in the country) or competitive food eater Sonya Thomas. But to say that Andrew Grove is not a household name tells me a lot about how ignorant Ms. Walker is. Grove is a founder of Intel and a Time Man of the Year. He's certainly one of the most powerful CEOs in the country and Ms. Walker's inane column probably was typed on a machine with an Intel chip.

And Philippe Kahn may not be a household name, but as the inventor of the camera phone, I'd imagine  most Americans would probably say he's worth a mention.

As for Hikaru Nakamura, I guess becoming the youngest chess Grandmaster in  American history is just a big joke.

Probably the silliest statement Walker makes is this one:

Einstein is the perpetual example - what if restrictionists had kept him out? They never seem to mention Al Capone?

Umh, 100 million people in this country have ancestors that entered during the wave of immigration that brought both Einstein AND Capone. Is Walker saying that on balance, the great wave of immigration from the beginning of the last century was a bad idea? If so, keep saying it lady. 'Cause collectively insulting 1/3 of the American public is a great way to sell your cause.

Incidentally, regular readers of my site know that I only list people who are living (hence, no mention of Albert Einstein even though he is one of my heroes). My goal is to show that immigration is not just a part of America's glorious past but as important today as ever.

See here


Thanks from a grateful nation...

Appreciate your alerting us to this, USC.


Surging GOP presidential contender Governor Mike Huckabee refuses to back off his defending measures to assist young immigrants who came to the US illegally as children. But like Romney, McCain, Guiliani and Thompson, he's being accused of toughening his broader position on illegal immigration to please a rabid party base.


The Washington Post has a good editorial on how Congress is guilty of non-feasance when it comes to dealing with the need for a workable agricultural guest worker program and to legalize the estimated 75% of the agricultural work force that is in the US illegally.

The farmworkers are just one on a long list of immigration issues needing addressing including

- dealing with antiquated quotas for both family and employment-based legal immigrants

- border security that is inadequately funded

- a border entry process that is considered the world's worst and is keeping US tourism depressed despite an historically cheap US dollar

- an H-1B cap that was set nearly two decades ago for a much smaller US economy

- legalizing millions of undocumented immigrants who have been here since a young age and who are completely acculturated in to the US

- a black out on immigration of nurses despite overwhelming evidence of a catastrophic shortage of RNs in this country and, of course

- 12 million unauthorized immigrants who are vital to the economy and who are not going anywhere

"As Congress Dithers" could have been the title of many, many stories regarding immigration.

December 02, 2007


90 year old actress Joan Fontaine and her 91 year old sister Olivia de Havilland were born in Tokyo to British parents and immigrated to America as children. The two are among the last great leading film actresses of the 1930s and 1940s and their careers have both included award-winning roles in many of the greatest films of the 20th century.

In 1941, Joan Fontaine was nominated for an Academy Award for lead actress for her role in Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca and won the following year for Alfred Hitchcock's film Suspicion.

Two-time Academy Award winner Olivia de Havilland is the last surviving star of Gone With the Wind. If you have never seen the movie, she played Melanie Wilkes, one of the four major roles in the movie. While nominated for Gone With the Wind, it was her roles in To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress  (1949) that earned her the Oscar statues. 

The two sisters have a reputation for being rivals and that surely was put to the test when Olivia de Havilland was also nominated for best actress the same year as her sister one (Olivia was nominated for her work in the film Hold Back the Dawn. Sadly, the two have been estranged for most of their adult lives.

Incidentally, while I have wanted to write about both of these actresses for a while, I happened to see the very funny George Cukor film The Women the other night which stars Joan Fontaine along with other legendary actresses like Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Paulette Goddard and Rosalind Russell. The all woman casted film is being remade for release next and starring a similar all-star list that includes Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, Debra Messing, Annette Bening, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Cloris Leachman, Bette Midler and Candace Bergman.


If you are easily offended, turn away now....