Most of what I know about CNN I get from watching it when I’m on the treadmill at the gym. There are four TVs above the treadmills, two fixed on CNN and two on ESPN. You might think that with four TVs we could have four different channels, but as it turns out, CNN and ESPN are the only two channels that people on treadmills could possibly be interested in watching. Or at least that is the view of Bally Total Fitness. When you look at it that way, having four TVs is an extravagant luxury.
I don’t have any interest in ESPN, which appears to be a channel that talks a lot about sports without ever showing any actual sporting events. (Is this frustrating to sports fans? I would think so.) So instead I watch CNN, which I have some interest in, but only if I’m not at the gym during Lou Dobbs’ show. Lou Dobbs is a cranky-looking man who is very angry all the time about two things: illegal immigration, and the fact that some people are not as angry about illegal immigration as he is. He decided a while back that the only way to really make America safe is to build a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border. This will solve the problem of illegal immigration, and it will also stem the tide of illegal drugs flowing into this country. It will also be an enormous financial boost to the struggling chain-link fencing industry.
Logically, it is possible to agree with Lou Dobbs about the need to eliminate illegal immigration while also believing that there are better ways of going about it than building a 700-mile fence. However, this does not compute with Lou Dobbs. It makes his cranky-looking head explode. In his mind, there are two possibilities: Either you are in favor of building the fence, or else you don’t want America to be safe.
I had gleaned this much from watching him talk about the fence every chance he got, always with great passion and enthusiasm, like the fence sort of turns him on a little. But he really clarified his point of view a couple weeks ago when he had Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) on his show to talk about the fence. Thompson is the chair of the Homeland Security Committee in Congress, and his position is that building a fence is fine, but he wants it to be done in accordance with the laws governing land-use, private property rights, environmental impact, and so forth. Lou Dobbs, on the other hand, wants those laws waived, no matter what they are, and the fence built ASAP, tomorrow if possible. If we have to stop outside Home Depot and pick up a truckload of Mexicans to help us build it fast and cheap, so be it.
Since Thompson wants to move a little more carefully and meticulously on a project as massive as a 700-mile fence, Lou Dobbs takes this to mean that the congressman does not want the borders secured at all. Those were his words, in fact: “Coming up … the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Congressman Bennie Thompson, on why he doesn’t want our borders secured.”
Thanks, Lou Dobbs. You’re a sack of crap.
The interview with Thompson went the way of most political “interviews” on TV, in that the interviewer did a lot more talking than the man he was supposed to be interviewing. The discussion soon turned to another subject, the matter of cargo entering the United States. Right now, very little of it is inspected, which makes it a significant security risk. As you know from watching TV and movies, cargo ships are an excellent way of sneaking amnesiac superheroes and Russian sex slaves into and out of the country. Thompson said that under his watch, Congress has passed a law that will have all cargo being inspected within five years. I don’t know why it will take five years to reach 100 percent. I guess if currently they’re only looking at 5 percent of it, it’ll take time to build up the manpower to look at all of it. Also, everything in government takes five years.
Anyway, Lou Dobbs is not happy with that. He wants the Mexican border walled up NOW, and he wants all cargo entering U.S. ports inspected NOW. The reason he wants all of this NOW is September 11. He mentioned September 11 three times in the interview with Thompson. Of course, the September 11 attacks had nothing to do with the unsecured Mexican border, nor with unscreened cargo coming into the United States. But if you mention September 11 a lot, it helps you make your point much more dramatically and convincingly, and no one can really argue with you. September 11 is the new Hitler.
For example, you might have this conversation with your buddy.
YOU: Hey, pal, I need you to lend me a hundred dollars.
YOUR BUDDY: What for?
YOU: Well, it’s because of September 11.
YOUR BUDDY: Oh, OK. By all means, then.
(Gives you one hundred dollars. End of scene.)
The immigration problem has a lot of facets. One of the issues that people get very upset about is bilingualism, or in other words, a reduction in illegal immigration will also mean not having to hear so much of that damn Spanish they’re always speaking. Recently at the airport I saw a young guy wearing a T-shirt featuring Uncle Sam pointing out and saying, “I want you … TO SPEAK ENGLISH!” Uncle Sam is fictional, but I’m pretty sure that’s a bastardization of what the character really stands for. Yet the sentiment is frequently echoed, particularly in areas with large Hispanic populations. People complain about signs being in two languages, as if having to even SEE a foreign language is somehow degrading. So the sign’s in English and Spanish. So what?! Read the part you understand and ignore the part you don’t. Or, if you’re a curious person, compare the two versions and learn how to say something in Spanish. Here’s a sign on a door that says “PUSH / EMPUJE.” Apparently “empuje” is how you say “push” in Spanish. There, you just learned something. That didn’t hurt, did it?
Or you hear this complaint all the time: “All the automated phone systems say ‘For English, press 1’! I shouldn’t have to press anything for English!” Oh, boo-hoo. You have to push one extra button. Just listen to yourself! You’re conducting your business affairs entirely from home using only a telephone and a computer. You live in the future! Just 20 years ago people would have been thrilled to have to press 1 for English! To quote my dad, people who complain about stuff like that need more problems in their lives.
Speaking of important problems, and coming back around to Lou Dobbs, it’s very frustrating to be on the treadmill — a captive audience — and have only two choices in my programming: either “The Lou Dobbs Hour of Fear-Mongering” or “Guys Who Used to Play Football Talk About Sports.” I’m going to tell the gym’s management that their refusal to put the TVs on any other channels can only mean that they want me to cancel my membership. I see no other possible explanation, especially after September 11.
Every time I try to type "Lou Dobbs," it first comes out as "Loud Dobbs." Just FYI. A transcript of the show where he interviewed Thompson is here. You have to scroll down a bit.
Another thing that annoys me about Dobbs, though I can't exactly say why, is that almost every time he mentions China, he refers to it as "Communist China." Not just China -- Communist China. Why? Is he worried we'll think he's talking about a different China? Or does he think it's still the 1950s and the word "communist" is automatically terrifying to people? Of course, if his regular audience is the average age I think they are, i.e., 80, then maybe it works.
For some reason, the phrase "illegal immigration" is very hard for me to pronounce properly unless I really pay attention. It does not roll off my tongue easily. All the L's in "illegal" sort of swallow each other. This made for some fun times in recording the SnideCast.
SnideCast intro: "Immigrant Song," Led Zeppelin; outro: "God Bless the U.S.A.," Lee Greenwood.