Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Are Our Presidents a Picture of Perfect Health?

By Glenda Westerfield, Esq.

I found the Newsweek article, “Picture of Health” (referenced below), extremely interesting, and I also have empathy. I have never done anything as important as lead a nation, but I do fully understand the concept of having to hide illness and trying to function in a professional setting while on heavy doses of narcotic that it was necessary to have just to be able to stand up. Been there, still doing that. I think the question is, when does it become ones moral obligation to step aside when too sick? I gave a majority of my cases to other attorneys back in March when I came to the realization that I could not in good conscience call myself an advocate if I was taking pills and getting shots just to be able to function at a pedestrian level each day....much less having to do my best at fighting for someone's life and liberty. I was late for court, losing what little hair I had, looked like a walking skeleton, and had judges pulling me to the side asking if there was a problem.

These Presidents made the choices to hide their illness "in the name of the country" but I believe, because once again, been there done that, that there is also selfishness involved. I hid my sickle cell until I could no longer because I wanted to finish college and law school (a dean once asked me why I kept coming back to school if I was ill...not knowing that my alternative was to lay down and die), and then again because I wanted to keep my shiny new law firm job, and I did not want anyone to doubt that I could do it.

Hell, I hid my illness during my grade school to high school years (many of my friends never knew until I was about grown, but now say that it answers a lot of strange things that they were wondering about me...kinda the "OHHHH, so that's what that was about, makes sense to me now") because I did not want others to think less of me, or ask questions.

I hid my degenerative disks in my back and taught my law classes seated or wearing house slippers to avoid my classes being cut back or taken from me. Some days I was in so much pain, I had to go in the bathroom, cry, compose myself, and come back out to teach.

Even now, I am hiding my cancer from my neighbors to avoid the stares, the "pity parties", the questions, and the barrages of bad potato salad, pies, etc. brought to the house like I am dead (my daughter slipped and told one neighbor who told everyone else, I no longer go outside unless I have to). In the beginning stages of my treatment, I hid my cancer from my kids to keep them from worrying, but also selfishly to shield myself from their worry about me.

Sometimes, like the past few days, I even avoid going to the doctor when I am ill because I get tired of being poked and prodded, but also because unfortunately, due to what I believe can only be racism. If a sickle patient needs meds, they are given a speech about narcotics addiction and not given refills on the scrip (which in turn leads to me having to call the doctor for each refill, which makes me look like a fiend begging for drugs). Whereas, since I have been a cancer patient, I can ask for those same exact drugs with no questions asked, no speeches about addiction or questions about if I really need the meds, and there are refills on the bottle. Both are horribly painful diseases, with some of the same symptoms (which is why I believe my cancer was not caught earlier...the docs all thought it was the sickle cell), yet the one that affects minorities only is the one with the drug addict stigma attached to it. To have an illness is tough by itself, but to admit to it is even harder...

Newsweek Article: Picture of Health

Some U.S. presidents have gone to great lengths to hide their physical and mental illnesses. Is that kind of deception necessary—or even possible today?

By Anne Underwood

Newsweek Web Exclusive

Updated: 2:05 PM ET May 24, 2008

Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, released 1,173 pages of personal medical records this week. Such candor in politicians is a recent development. Dr. Jerrold Post—director of the political psychology program at George Washington University and author of "Leaders and Their Followers in a Dangerous World" (Cornell University Press, 2004)—has studied the history of presidents and their health problems. He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Anne Underwood.


NEWSWEEK: John McCain has been candid about his health. Does that represent a break with the past?

Jerrold Post: There has been increasing pressure for candidates to reveal information that was once considered a personal matter. Today, you have to give up that privacy to run for the highest office.

But even in recent years, not all candidates have been that honest. I'm thinking of Sen. Paul Tsongas, who competed against Bill Clinton to be the Democratic nominee in 1992. That was a cover-up. He indicated that he had had non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He and his doctor attested that, because of his bone-marrow transplant, his prognosis was as good as anyone else's. But at the time the statement was made, he had already had a recurrence of the cancer that wasn't made public. That kind of information needs to be revealed.

The public is demanding more information today. But are people also more forgiving, now that better treatments exist?

Yes and no. Part of the distinction has to do with what kind of illness it is. Dwight D. Eisenhower had a heart attack in 1955, an abdominal operation in 1956 and a stroke in 1957. People were sympathetic after the heart attack, because it was clear that it was mild and he would survive it. But the stroke, which temporarily affected his speech, raised the specter of a president who was unable to communicate. People look to their leaders for wisdom, strength and clarity of speaking.

What about cancer?

In France, François Mitterrand was an interesting example. When Mitterrand came to office, he swore that his would be an open presidency. But on his first day in office in 1981, he called in the presidential physician, Dr. Claude Gubler, and told him that his prostate cancer had spread to his bones. Mitterrand solemnly declared, "We must reveal nothing. These are state secrets." He led for 14 years with the constant and painful companion of metastatic cancer. How could that not have affected his decision making?

What about depression? There used to be such a stigma attached.

Depression is interesting. In 1924, just after Calvin Coolidge's nomination to a second term, his favorite son, Calvin Jr., developed a blister after playing tennis on the White House grounds without socks. He developed septicemia and died three days later [at the age of 16]. This was before antibiotics. Coolidge was called a do-nothing president, but it was probably as a consequence of a severe grief reaction from which he never recovered. After that, he spent 11 hours a day sleeping. His work day shrank. He was irritable and disinterested in affairs of state.

Today much of the country seems to be on anti-depressants. Aren't we more tolerant now?

In 1972, George McGovern [the Democratic candidate] chose Sen. Thomas Eagleton as his running mate. But when it was revealed that Eagleton had had electroconvulsive therapy for depression years earlier, it created a huge uproar. There was such a fear of shock therapy and the possibility of a mentally ill president [if McGovern should die in office] that Eagleton had to step down. Interestingly, Eagleton returned to the Senate, where he had an excellent reputation. We can tolerate a history of depression in the Senate, but not in the highest office.

What are some of the more intriguing cases of presidents who have concealed information about their health?

Grover Cleveland [who served as president 1885-1889 and 1893-1897] was brushing his teeth one morning, when he noticed a lump in the roof of his mouth. He called in his dentist, who summoned a head-and-neck surgeon. The surgeon diagnosed the lump as a carcinoma of the roof of the mouth. Cleveland thought it would cause an economic crisis if the information was released that he had cancer, so during the night, he smuggled an anesthesiologist, nurses, his dentist and the head-and-neck surgeon onto the presidential yacht under the guise of a pleasure trip on the Hudson River. During the trip, they removed the roof of his mouth up to his left eye, and inserted a rubber prosthesis internally. People were suspicious, but it wasn't revealed until 15 years after his death what had happened.

In more recent years, after the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, how cheered we all were when he waved from his window at George Washington University Hospital. But what people didn't know was that Reagan was only alert for one hour a day. The nightly news regularly showed clips of a vigorous Reagan in good spirits. But in fact, these moments were carefully chosen. When he went back to the White House—Bob Woodward conveyed this vividly in his book "Veil"—he showed only brief intervals of lucidity and vigor. This was only the beginning of the Reagan presidency, but according to Woodward, his aides were afraid it would end up as a crippled presidency, like Wilson's caretaker presidency.

You're referring to Woodrow Wilson after his stroke. In the fall of 1919, Wilson had a disabling stroke while he was on a train trip across the country to mobilize support for his cherished League of Nations. The public knew he was ill, but they didn't know how ill. Only Edith Wilson, chief of staff Joseph Tumulty and his personal physician, Cary Grayson, were allowed to see him. Issues were brought in, and decisions would come out. We talk today about the possibility of having the first woman president, but we effectively already had one in Edith Wilson. After her husband partially recovered, Mrs. Wilson said, "I don't know what you men make such a fuss about. I had no trouble running the country when Woody was ill."

I guess Franklin Roosevelt would be the most famous example of a president who concealed information about his health. His polio was well known—and it humanized this aristocratic man—but the press was respectful. There were only two or three pictures of him in a wheelchair. What wasn't so well known was how ill he was when he went to the Teheran summit with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin in 1943. He came back quite ill. The White House doctor, [Vice] Admiral Ross McIntire, directed cardiologist Howard Bruenn, a Navy [lieutenant] commander, to examine Roosevelt. Bruenn was alarmed at the gravity of Roosevelt's illness. He diagnosed congestive heart failure, hypertension, acute bronchitis and longstanding pulmonary disease. McIntire told Bruenn, you must not tell the president and his family the extent of his illness, and you certainly cannot tell the American public. He issued a reassuring communiqué to the effect that, for a man of his age, Roosevelt was in remarkably good health. But Franklin's son, James Roosevelt, later said he'd never been reconciled to the fact that his father's physicians allowed him to run for a fourth term. It was his death warrant. At the Yalta summit in 1945, Churchill's physician said that Roosevelt looked old and drawn and sat staring ahead with his mouth open. He intervened little in the discussion. He died shortly after the summit of a massive cerebral hemorrhage.

President Kennedy had Addison's disease. Yes, but it was only in Robert Dallek's 2003 biography of John Kennedy that we learned the extent of Kennedy's illnesses, which he concealed and which his family continued to conceal after he was assassinated—colitis, duodenal ulcers, osteoporosis and Addison's disease, which is a life-threatening insufficiency of the adrenal glands, requiring twice daily steroids. By 1950, he had constant back pain from vertebral collapse. From the mid-1950s, he was taking powerful narcotics like Demerol and methadone. He took barbiturates for sleep and tranquilizers for anxiety—as many as eight medications a day. There's some indication that he may have abused amphetamines. Before press conferences, he often required injections in the back to control his pain. Throughout his career, he concealed his illnesses.

If elected, John McCain would be 72 when sworn in. Is age an issue?

The first generalization is that one shouldn't generalize. There are some highly creative individuals who function well into their 90s. Konrad Adenauer [who served as German chancellor until the age of 87] was one. Having said that, the danger is that one may attempt to force a new situation into a template from the past and draw false parallels. With the passage of years, there can also be an increased sense of urgency that makes you want to accelerate the pace of change and fit a political timetable to your own. In China, the Cultural Revolution was related to Mao's realization that his time was short and his desire to fully consolidate the revolution before he died.

Legal Disclaimer: This site provides information about the law designed to keep readers informed of pertinent legal matters affecting the African-American community. But legal information is not the same as legal advice -- the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a lawyer in your specific location if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Day of Reckoning for the Juice

By Leland C. Abraham, Esq.

O.J. Simpson, a former NFL great and Canton-enshrined National Football League Hall of Famer, was convicted of 10 counts on October 3, 2008 and sentenced on December 5, 2008. Most of the counts that Simpson was convicted and sentenced will run concurrently. Perhaps, the most serious of the counts was attempted armed kidnapping. Nevada State judge Jackie Glass expressed that the sentencing would not reflect Mr. Simpson’s prior case in California. If you did not know, 13 years ago, O.J. Simpson was tried and acquitted of double murder in the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Most media outlets have been calling for his head ever since. Many felt that the 9-33 year sentence that he received last week may be retribution for the acquittals 13 years ago.

An examination of the case speaks that O.J. Simpson, along with five other people, robbed Bruce Fromberg and Alfred Beardsley at the Palace Station Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in September 2007. Simpson is alleged to have taken items including footballs with his autograph on them. Simpson claims that he was attempting to retrieve personal memorabilia. Whatever the story, a gun was introduced at some point which elevated the attempted retrieval to a punishable felony. Simpson stated during his sentencing that he was not aware that he was committing a crime. Unfortunately for Simpson, the reports from the incident state he, along with the other men who accompanied him, locked the door to the hotel room and then introduced a gun. Because the alleged victims did not have a way to escape the situation, this is considered to be kidnapping in most prosecutorial circles. Many may think that the sentencing of Simpson is retribution for the acquittal in the murder case. However, a review of the sentencing guidelines for kidnapping alone would lead to a different conclusion. In some jurisdictions, kidnapping is considered a capital offense. These crimes usually carry the traditional “25 to life” sentence. In most of these cases, the defendant will have to serve at least 15 years before he is eligible for parole. The minimum that Simpson may serve on this count alone is five years.

The next question may be “should there have been a first-degree kidnapping charge in the original indictment?” According to authorities, once Simpson and the men who accompanied him burst into the hotel room, Simpson is heard on an audiotape saying, “Don’t let nobody out of this room.” This is undoubtedly where the kidnapping charge stems from. This would be all the prosecution would need to secure a conviction of kidnapping because Simpson and his acquaintances entered the room with a weapon and Simpson is heard directing the others to not let anyone out of the room. Because members of Simpson’s team were armed and because he secured five other people, the events that occurred were premeditated, meaning Simpson planned them. The next mistake was directing his team to not let anyone leave the room.

The notion that he thought he was taking what was rightfully his reminds me of the traditional law school scenario. It typically goes, “You lend your favorite watch to your friend with the understanding that he is supposed to return the watch on Wednesday. It is now Sunday and the friend has not returned the watch. You go by his house and no one is home but you peek through the window and see the watch on the coffee table in your friend’s living room. Is it okay to go into your friend’s house to retrieve your watch?” The answer of course is “no.” This would be breaking and entering your friend’s house and depending on the prosecutor, it could be larceny as well. The proper thing to do would be to speak with the friend to get the property back. If that does not work, call a sheriff or other law enforcement officer to see if you can retrieve the property that way. If all of these things fail, you can sue your friend for the return of your property. As the latest Simpson case has shown, when you take matters into your own hands and have your own form of vigilante justice, you end up serving the time.

Legal Disclaimer: This site provides information about the law designed to keep readers informed of pertinent legal matters affecting the African-American community. But legal information is not the same as legal advice -- the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a lawyer in your specific location if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Proponents of Gay Marriage Have No Legal Argument Under Loving v. Virginia

By Syreeta L. McNeal, CPA, JD

Recently, proponents of gay marriage in California are protesting the passage of California’s Proposition 8. California Proposition 8 amended the California Constitution to restrict the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman.[1] Proponents of gay marriage have been making the argument that their struggle is equivalent to the struggle of African-Americans in seeking their civil rights in the 1960’s. One case that proponents of gay marriage readily equate their struggle to is Loving v. Virgina.[2] This article is intended to debunk the legal argument purported by proponents of gay marriage and show that this case does not embrace recognition of gay marriage on a state level.

Overview of Loving v. Virginia

On June 12, 1967, the United States Supreme Court held that Virginia’s statutory scheme to prevent marriages between persons solely on the basis of racial classifications held to violate the Equal Protection and Due Processes Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.[3] Listed below is the issue, relevant facts, relevant law and analysis by Chief Justice Warren in rendering his opinion:


  • Whether a statutory scheme adopted by the State of Virginia to prevent marriages between persons solely on the basis of racial classifications violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment?[4]

Relevant Facts:

  • In June 1958, two residents of Virginia, Mildred Jeter, a Negro woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were married in the District of Columbia pursuant to its laws. [5]
  • Shortly after their marriage, the Lovings returned to Virginia and established their marital abode in Caroline County.[6]
  • At the October Term, 1958, of the Circuit Court of Caroline County, a grand jury issued an indictment charging the Lovings with violating Virginia's ban on interracial marriages. [7]
  • On January 6, 1959, the Lovings pleaded guilty to the charge and were sentenced to one year in jail; however, the trial judge suspended the sentence for a period of 25 years on the condition that the Lovings leave the State and not return to Virginia together for 25 years.[8]

Relevant Law:

  • Section 20-58 of the Virginia Code (1959): "Leaving State to evade law. If any white person and colored person shall go out of this State, for the purpose of being married, and with the intention of returning, and be married out of it, and afterwards return to and reside in it, cohabiting as man and wife, they shall be punished as provided in 20-59, and the marriage shall be governed by the same law as if it had been solemnized in this State. The fact of their cohabitation here as man and wife shall be evidence of their marriage."[9]
  • Section 20-59 of the Virginia Code (1959): "Punishment for marriage. If any white person intermarry with a colored person, or any colored person intermarry with a white person, he shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by confinement in the penitentiary for not less than one nor more than five years."[10]
  • U.S. Const. 14th Amend. Sec. 1: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Analysis by Supreme Court

Violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment:

  • There can be no question but that Virginia's miscegenation statutes rest solely upon distinctions drawn according to race.[11]
  • The statutes proscribe generally accepted conduct if engaged in by members of different races.[12]
  • Over the years, this Court has consistently repudiated "[d]istinctions between citizens solely because of their ancestry" as being "odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality." Hirabayashi v. United States, 320 U.S. 81, 100 (1943).[13]
  • At the very least, the Equal Protection Clause demands that racial classifications, especially suspect in criminal statutes, be subjected to the "most rigid scrutiny," Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214, 216 (1944), and, if they are ever to be upheld, they must be shown to be necessary to the accomplishment of some permissible state objective, independent of the racial discrimination which it was the object of the Fourteenth Amendment to eliminate.[14]
  • There is patently no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which justifies this classification.[15]
  • The fact that Virginia prohibits only interracial marriages involving white persons demonstrates that the racial classifications must stand on their own justification, as measures designed to maintain White Supremacy.[16]
  • We have consistently denied the constitutionality of measures which restrict the rights of citizens on account of race.[17]
  • There can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the Equal Protection Clause.[18]

Violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment:

  • These statutes also deprive the Lovings of liberty without due process of law in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.[19]
  • The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.[20]
  • Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival. Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942). See also Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190 (1888).[21]
  • To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law.[22]
  • The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations.[23]
  • Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.[24]

Differences between Loving v. Virginia and California Proposition 8

First, the California Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage does not violate Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U. S. Constitution. In 1959, the Lovings were charged with a state crime and incarcerated for marrying interracially in the District of Columbia and moving back to Virginia to reside. A white heterosexual couple could marry in Virginia without violating the law in 1959. A black heterosexual couple could marry in Virginia without violating the law in 1959. Only an interracial heterosexual couple could not marry in Virginia without violating the law in 1959. As a result, the U. S. Supreme Court considered the Virginia miscegenation statutes a direct violation of the due process of law for interracial heterosexual couples to exercise a basic right to marry in 1959.

In contrast to what occurred to the Lovings in 1959 in Virginia, currently the law does not penalize or incarcerate California citizens who choose to engage in same sex marriage in other states. California Proposition 8 amended the California Constitution to not recognize gay marriage from another state. What California has done is replicate what 47 states have done in their state constitutions. They defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman. This is not a penalty to California citizens like what Virginia did in 1959 to the Lovings. If a California citizen chooses to go to Massachusetts and get married and come back to California to live, they would not be incarcerated for the act like the Lovings had happen to them in 1959. The California amendment banning gay marriage is similar to what 47 states have done to their constitution by not recognizing gay marriage.

Second, the California amendment banning gay marriage does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U. S. Constitution. There are three levels of scrutiny that the court uses to review cases brought under the Fourteenth Amendment. Strict scrutiny is the highest level of constitutional review and it forbids state law from discriminating on the basis of race, ethnicity or natural origin. The second level of constitutional review is intermediate review which forbids state law from discriminating on the basis of gender. The last level of constitutional review is rational basis and a court will uphold a state law if it appears to be one that is reasonably related to the end of protecting the health, safety and welfare of its residents. In Loving, the Virginia miscegenation statutes in 1959 were scrutinized under strict scrutiny because the state law discriminated on the basis of race.[25] In California, the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage is not discriminating on the basis of race. Also, it is not discriminating on the basis of gender either. All the amendment is doing is following what 47 states did to their constitution and define marriage as the union between a man and a woman. So, it is illogical that the argument purported by the proponents of gay marriage should equate their struggle in California to that of Loving v. Virginia. That is why I am proud that 70% of the African-American citizens in California as well as the other citizens in California who did not fall for the delusional argument advocated by proponents of gay marriage. If proponents of gay marriage want to equate their struggle to the cases of the civil rights movement in the 1960’s, they need to dig a little bit deeper because Loving v. Virginia is not applicable.

Legal Disclaimer: This site provides information about the law designed to keep readers informed of pertinent legal matters affecting the African-American community. But legal information is not the same as legal advice -- the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a lawyer in your specific location if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Proposition_8_(2008)
[2] See Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967).
[3] Id.
[4] Id. at 2.
[5] Id.
[6] Id.
[7] Id. at 3.
[8] Id.
[9] Id. at 4.
[10] Id.
[11] Id. at 11
[12] Id.
[13] Id.
[14] Id.
[15] Id.
[16] Id.
[17] Id. at 12.
[18] Id.
[19] Id.
[20] Id.
[21] Id.
[22] Id.
[23] Id.
[24] Id.
[25] Id. at 8.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Personal Finance in an Economic Crisis

By Leland C. Abraham, Esq.

With the volatility of the US financial markets, many investors do not know whether it is wise to invest or to just keep money in regular savings accounts. When someone stashes away cash, there is not much thought given to the risk involved because in the times we are in, liquid cash is safer than shares in an investment company.

With the financial conditions being what they are, many investors want to make sure their money is tucked away in a safe haven. Which of the cash alternatives meet this requirement? Not as many as one would believe. Even money-market funds are not as safe as you would have assumed. There has also been a scare in cash alternatives which are geared toward investors who seek to realize higher yields than traditional cash accounts can provide. An example would be ultra-short bond funds. These funds invest in debt securities with extremely short maturities, which will usually range from three months to one year. In theory, this should put them above money-market funds on the risk scale. Money-market funds hold securities with average maturities of 90 days or less. Ultra-short bond funds are designed to yield a little more than money-market funds, but with only a little extra risk. The average ultra-short bond fund has lost about 5% over the past year versus a 2.6% average gain for the taxable money funds. Some portfolios have even seen outright disasters.

So, how is it possible that the relatively low risk bond funds lose as much as stocks? Well, the answer will provide a nexus between the bond funds and the rest of the funds that have experienced a decrease in yields. In an effort to boost yields in a low interest rate environment, many of these portfolios invested in securities backed by subprime mortgages. When the subprime mortgage market began to tank last year, many of these funds began to sink into the red. When the funds began to sink into the red, many investors fled and this only worsened the losses because managers were forced to sell these securities at reduced values in order to come up with enough cash to meet redemptions.

This leaves investors with the questions, “where can you still find safety and a decent yield?” Alternatives to cash alternatives are Bank CDs and money-market accounts. For absolute safety, you can’t beat the guarantees on CDs and money-market accounts managed by banks (money-market accounts are different from the previously mentioned money funds which are managed by mutual fund companies). Even if the bank goes under, the investor will be covered for losses up to $250,000 per person per financial institution.

Other alternatives are stable-value funds. Chances are, if you have a 401(k), you have stable-value funds. Stable funds usually invest in high-quality short to intermediate-terms bonds. These are usually guaranteed by insurers against loss, as well as interest bearing contracts from insurance companies. While there is no guarantee that these funds won’t be burned by mortgage securities, the investments are backed by insurers which minimizes the overall risk.

Legal Disclaimer: This site provides information about the law designed to keep readers informed of pertinent legal matters affecting the African-American community. But legal information is not the same as legal advice -- the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a lawyer in your specific location if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

U.S. Public School System: What’s Going On?

By Syreeta L. McNeal, CPA, JD

Recently, I had the privilege of tutoring a student for one of her weekly social studies exam. I wanted to do this because while I was in school, I did very well in social studies and felt I could provide keen insight to help this student do better in this course. One reason why I did well in social studies is not because I had a high IQ, it was because at an early age, my father and my school system taught me various special study techniques like SQRRR (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review) or the Textbook Comprehension method to help me do real well in courses like social studies. I utilized these special study techniques to get an advance outlook on what the teacher would teach in class and be able to use repetitive tactics to be prepared for whatever course exam I had to take for. The reason this was helpful for me is because these methods helped me realize that the textbook, not the teacher or professor, was the actual teacher of the course. My job as a student was to anticipate what the textbook would convey as the most important sections for me to focus on and use that knowledge to do real well on the exams given in each class.

What I found troubling is that this student I was tutoring did not know any of the special study techniques I had learned in any variation. I learned that her school did not expose her to any of these techniques. The student’s parent confirmed this to be true. Also, the student tells me that her teacher does not emphasize any preparatory reading of the textbook before attending class. Finally, her public school system informs the students that the books are not their property and they don’t need to use them to do well in the class.

So, I look at what I was exposed to and what our children in this day and age are given in terms of educational opportunities and I ask these questions for you to blog about to give feedback so we can see if other places are experiencing the same lax standards in educational training of our youth in the public school system:

  • Does your public school teach you special study techniques at an early age?
  • Does your public school inform the kids and parents that they can’t keep their textbooks due to lack of funds?
  • Does your public school system have more money allocated to administrative offices instead of teachers and supplies for students?
  • Is there a productive forum for parents and students to voice their concerns and see positive action take place or is it status quo as usual?

I look forward to your insight. After we receive it, I intend to write an article looking at some positive ways and examples each of you in your community can utilize to improve our student’s ability to do well in the U. S. public school system. As Malcolm X says, knowledge is power. Our ancestors, who had limited access to education, sacrificed for us to get knowledge to improve our capability to garner wealth, not redistribute it. Let’s continue to fight for what is right.

Legal Disclaimer: This site provides information about the law designed to keep readers informed of pertinent legal matters affecting the African-American community. But legal information is not the same as legal advice -- the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a lawyer in your specific location if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.

And Justice For All

By Leland C. Abraham, Esq.

Not many people are aware of this, but a Manhattan judge convicted Rev. Al Sharpton and seven others of disorderly conduct stemming from protests over the police shooting death of Sean Bell, an unarmed black man.

The officers accused of the shooting were acquitted of no wrong doing. In response to what many consider to be a miscarriage of justice, Rev. Al Sharpton led a demonstration in which he and others blocked intersections, bridges and tunnels in New York City. Criminal Court judge Larry Stephen issued the verdict in early October, 2008 in which he sentenced the participants to time already served. In Sharpton’s case, this was 5 and ½ hours and each was ordered to pay a $95.00 surcharge. In a statement after the sentencing, Judge Stephen said, “If you decide to take a bullet for the team, you should not complain about the consequences that flow from that.” This statement reeks of irony as they were protesting in response to the “not-guilty” verdicts of the officers involved in the shooting death of an unarmed black male. Whatever your views about Sharpton, it is very telling of a justice system that will hand down a conviction to a group of people protesting the exoneration of officers involved in firing 50 bullets in the death of Sean Bell. Those who take the bullets for the team should account for the consequences, but who is exactly taking the bullets?

Certainly the statistics support the assertion that black males are the recipients of the vast majority of acts by police officers that result in lethal force. It has been evident within the black community that there is a difference in how the authorities value the lives of whites and blacks. This was at the very heart of what Sharpton was trying to show during his protest. He stated to Judge Stephen, “I would hope the city thinks about how the pedestrians who couldn’t walk and the drivers who couldn’t drive were no different than the young men who sat in the car that night and were shot at.” Do protests like these really change the plight of the black male and female in the justice system, or is the problem more systemic, meaning that racism is ingrained in the process of justice that attorneys, judges and juries automatically consider race, although it is not an element of the crime considered?

Over 250 protesters were arrested last May when the verdict of the officers was announced. While most cases involving the protesters had been dismissed, Sharpton and seven others insisted on a trial. In my opinion, it is very telling when an injustice can occur in America and the main response is disgust that Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson are involved in reporting the injustice. It would appear that the very presence of these two individuals at the epicenter of an injustice takes away from the value of the injustice and the media and political pundits focus on Sharpton and Jackson’s past indiscretions. I hope that Sean Bell’s case does not get mired by the presence of Al Sharpton.

Sharpton said that his civil rights organization, National Action Network, would pay the court costs for all defendants. He also said that he would pay $50 bills to symbolize the 50 shots that were fired at Bell and two of his friends.

Legal Disclaimer: This site provides information about the law designed to keep readers informed of pertinent legal matters affecting the African-American community. But legal information is not the same as legal advice -- the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a lawyer in your specific location if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.

Monday, October 13, 2008


By: Leland C. Abraham, Esq.

Recently, America has seen a crisis arise in its financial market. One of the first companies to have trouble was American International Group, Inc. (AIG). When AIG showed signs of financial collapse, the federal government decided to lend AIG $80 billion to stabilize the corporate giant. Generally, those who feel that government should not get involved softened their stance when it came to AIG as most people realize if AIG goes under, all Americans will have to pay for it in some form or another. One of the most curious aspects of the AIG debacle is that the federal government decided to use mortgage backed securities as collateral for the $80 billion loan. This is a questionable tactic in an already volatile real estate market. The next eight (8) months to two (2) years will be very telling for our federal government’s decision to do this.

While AIG in America has experienced significant difficulty, AIG in Africa has seen stability despite the volatility of the global market. Specifically, AIG Uganda Ltd. maintains that is has been able to remain adequately capitalized and able to meet its obligations to policy holders, including payment of claims.

Insurance policies written by AIG Uganda are obligations of the locally registered company attempting to break the grip of a worsening global credit crisis. In contrast, the Federal Reserve stepped up its action last week by pumping billions into the financial markets in the U. S. and abroad. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, in two separate operations, injected $55 billion into temporary reserves in the United States. This move was aimed at easing a financial system in danger of freezing up.

While it has not yet been determined why AIG Uganda has been insulated from the global market crisis, the answer is most likely in the lack of borrowing that occurs in the African market. The U. S. economy runs on a deficit and it appears to borrow money at an increasing rate. This makes the stability of the U. S. market volatile as investor confidence in the stability of the market decreases as the country continues to borrow. The unfortunate factor in this situation is that America needs to borrow money in order for the economy to function properly. The U. S. spends billions per month for the war in Iraq. Generally, war has been a good thing for the American economy. However, this has not been the case for this recent war in Iraq. Under the Bush administration, the federal government spending has increased without any increase in revenues to offset the spending spree. The federal government, especially with the inclusion of quasi-government and now fully government run Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac who are at the heart of the subprime mortgage crisis along with AIG, has placed too much of a burden on the federal government and as a consequence the American taxpayer. While Africa does have wars that take place within its county, it does not borrow a lot of money to fight these wars. Most of Africa’s wars involve local governments that are fighting against rebel militias. This lessens the sophistication of the war and the fact that Africa is not involved in any significant conflicts outside of its borders has allowed them to refrain from significant borrowing.

Legal Disclaimer: This site provides information about the law designed to keep readers informed of pertinent legal matters affecting the African-American community. But legal information is not the same as legal advice -- the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a lawyer in your specific location if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Repeal the Community Reinvestment Act, a Cancer on the American Economic System for Home Ownership

By Syreeta L. McNeal, CPA, JD

Historian and writer James Truslow Adams coined the phrase "American Dream" in his 1931 book Epic of America:

"The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position."[1]

Now we are in 2008 and I have been hearing many pundits, including Fox News Contributor Lamont Hill, state that home ownership should be a constitutional right for all American citizens, especially those underserved in America. So, is homeownership a constitutional right for all American citizens, including those who are underserved in America? In my opinion, the answer is a resounding NO. Here are my reasons stated below.

As it relates to rights to real property (e.g. home ownership), an American citizen has a right to peaceable use, enjoyment, and possession of real property[2] Possession means that people have the option to lease real property or own real property outright. Each state has laws reflecting this dichotomy. The states, not the federal government, have jurisdiction over rights to real property. States allow its individual residents to enter into whatever relationship they want as it relates to real property.

One relationship that exists is the landlord-tenant relationship. In a landlord-tenant relationship, an individual (e.g. tenant) leases real property (e.g. apartment) from another person (e.g. landlord). In a lease, the landlord has actual ownership of the real property, not the tenant. In contrast, an outright sale of real property to a person or entity creates a contract where one party gives consideration (e.g. money) in exchange for getting complete ownership of real property (e.g. home). There are benefits to each relationship. But, the key point to remember is that there is no mandate for one person to have over the other.

Unfortunately, America is faced with the federal government mandating that low income and less credit worthy Americans have a right to home ownership. In 1977, Congress and President Jimmy Carter passed into law the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA).[3] The CRA is a United States federal law that requires banks and savings and loan associations to offer credit throughout their entire market area and prohibits them from targeting only wealthier neighborhoods with their services, a practice known as "redlining." [4] The purpose of the CRA is to provide credit, including home ownership opportunities to underserved populations and commercial loans to small businesses.[5]

In 1977, the CRA was passed into law by the 95th United States Congress as a result of national grassroots pressure for affordable housing, and despite considerable opposition from the mainstream banking community.[6] The CRA is enforced by the financial regulators (FDIC, OCC, OTS, and FRB).[7] The bill encouraged the Federal National Mortgage Association, commonly known as Fannie Mae, to enable mortgage companies, savings and loans, commercial banks, credit unions, and state and local housing finance agencies to lend to home buyers.[8] It also encouraged the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, commonly known as Freddie Mac, to buy mortgages on the secondary market and sell them as mortgage-backed securities on the open market.[9]

Since the passage of CRA, we have had two financial crises related to homeownership: (1) Savings and Loans (S&L) crisis of the 1980’s and 1990’s and (2) subprime mortgage crisis of 2000’s. The savings and loans crisis of 1980’s and 1990’s primarily came from unsound real estate lending.[10] In an effort to take advantage of the real estate boom (outstanding US mortgage loans: 1976 at $700 billion to 1980 at $1.2 trillion) and high interest rates of the late 1970s and early 1980s, many S&Ls lent far more money than was prudent, and to risky ventures which many S&Ls were not qualified to assess.[11]

Now with this subprime mortgage crisis coming to a head in 2008, it appears that history is repeating itself. So, it is my opinion, along with other economic experts, that the root cause of this financial mess is attributed to the 95th Congress and President Jimmy Carter’s passage of the CRA in 1977. Look, I have to tell you as a previous initial home owner who purchased my home from proceeds I received in a car accident, I am not a fan of President Jimmy Carter and the 95th Congress’s sponsored program, the CRA, at all. Socialists, communal activists and Robin Hood charlatans who want to give from the rich to the poor in the American capitalist system are not helping the matter at all when they advocate for the continuation of the CRA. Regardless of whether you like America or not, our economic system is based on capitalism. It embodies the principle of laissez faire (self-interest). Yes, I agree there needs to be some checks on this system as implemented by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930’s. But, in my view, this financial mess we are experiencing once again is a result of mixing water (capitalism) with oil (socialism) as it relates to the housing market. As oil and water don’t mix, neither does the CRA as created by President Jimmy Carter and Congress in 1977 with our capitalist run markets and option to possession for state's residents. This legislation has created two financial crises and the latest one, the subprime mortgage crisis, is the latest one the American people have to clean up.

Trust me, America will get back on track. America did so after the Great Depression of the 1920’s and 1930’s. Also, America got back on track after the Savings and Loans crisis of the 1980’s and 1990’s. Also, America got back on track after the financial collapse related to the September 11, 2001 attacks. But, I think the American people need to advocate that we need to completely remove this CRA legislation from the federal government books once and for all.

Now, I know most socialists will be very upset that I am advocating this position. But, state law, not the federal government, allows American citizens to either rent or buy a home. That is a choice, not a mandate. If you can’t afford a home, the American government should not give you one with no down payment and high interest payments that you can’t afford financially. That is not the American Dream as outlined in 1931. Financial accountability comes from making long term plans such as savings to purchase a home that you can afford if you are unable to have an unexpected event (e.g. gift from a family member, proceeds from a car accident) to give you the money to make a down payment for a home to make it affordable for you to keep in the long run. Maybe you don’t need to purchase that mink coat or Mercedes outright to impress people that you're living the American Dream. You have choices. Maybe instead of trying to impress people by what you wear or drive which depreciate in value, it is more appropriate to invest in purchasing something that you can afford that will always create value.

What the CRA has done is create an American nightmare for all Americans because we are mixing two systems (capitalism and socialism) that do not mix as it relates to home ownership. Homes have always been perceived as assets that can appreciate in value. With the CRA, it has shown through two financial crises that it has created a cancer on the American economic system as it relates to home ownership. How many financial crises do we have to endure to finally realize that the CRA has created the cancer and we need to remove it completely before we continue to have more financial crises ruin the American economy as a whole? Band aids as was implemented after the S&L crisis in the 1980’s and 1990’s is not the answer. Complete removal of the cancer, the CRA, is the only solution to the American economics regarding home ownership. Therefore, the federal government needs to repeal the CRA after it addresses the financial crisis in 2008.

Legal Disclaimer: This site provides information about the law designed to keep readers informed of pertinent legal matters affecting the African-American community. But legal information is not the same as legal advice -- the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a lawyer in your specific location if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.

[1] http://memory.loc.gov/learn/lessons/97/dream/thedream.html
[2] Farm Credit Bank of St. Paul v. Brakke, 483 N.W.2d 167 (N.D. 1992). See also Gregory v. Sanders, 635 P.2d 795 (Wyo. 1981).
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_Reinvestment_Act
[4] Id.
[5] Id.
[6] Id.
[7] Id.
[8] Id.
[9] Id.
[10] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savings_and_Loan_crisis
[11] Id.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

CNN: U.S. Supreme Court stays Georgia execution

JACKSON, Georgia (CNN) -- The U.S. Supreme Court granted a last-minute reprieve to a Georgia man fewer than two hours before he was to be executed for the 1989 slaying of an off-duty police officer.

Troy Anthony Davis learned that his execution had been stayed when he saw it on television, he told CNN via telephone in his first interview after the stay was announced.
He said he was "thankful to God" for the news that came during an emergency session the U.S. Supreme Court convened.

Davis said "everyone should pray" for the slain officer's family.

The 39-year-old also said that he is "very grateful for everything that everyone is doing" for him and that he would "accept" whatever decision the Supreme Court rendered in the coming days about his case.

At the Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, a crowd of Davis' supporters, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, erupted in cheers when Sharpton announced the stay. Some shouted "Hallelujah!"

For more information, view the following link: http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/09/23/davis.scheduled.execution/index.html

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Democratic “Do-Nothing” Congress’s Answer to the Financial Market Crisis: Nothing!

By Syreeta L. McNeal, CPA, JD

United States Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stated that “No one (in Congress) knows what to do” regarding the financial market crisis caused by the subprime mortgage debacle.[1] So since the Democratic led Congress has no clue what to do, they believe that they should adjourn and leave the crisis to the Department of Treasury and other federal agencies.

Let me get this straight, our elected officials of both parties in Congress don’t believe they can hold congressional hearings to discover the root of the problem and then allow financial experts to give solutions, on the record, so the American public will see that their tax payer’s dollars are being used effectively?

Something is fishy with Congress’s lack of trying to be proactive and address the financial issue at hand. This should not be a partisan issue between two warring parties. This is a financial crisis where people should not be going on vacation. Leaders should proactively address the issue before them and give a variety of solutions to have people act on them and pass legislation that will minize the crisis. Congress should have congressional hearings to actively have people testify about the root of the financial problem. Congress can use the power of subpoena to investigate and get solutions, on the public record. This will show that Congress is working for the American people and not just wasting our tax payer’s dollars.

Congress can have the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and other federal agencies crack down on these issues and hold the accounting firms auditing these companies like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, American International Group, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual, and others accountable. From various news reports, it looks like the subprime mortgage debacle is actually a fraudulent pyramid scheme that needed oversight and regulation by the federal government agencies and Congress. But, when you have congressional members such as Senator Chris Dodd, Senator Barack Obama, and Senator John Kerry who were the top three largest beneficiaries of financial donations from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, I understand why the Democratic led Congress does not want to hold hearings. Most of the congressional members will have to recuse themselves from participating in the hearings because of their own conflict of interest with these companies. As a result, it would probably be impossible for enough congressional members to hold a hearing.

So, the Democratic version of the Do-Nothing Congress is still in effect. This is not leadership at all. This is not what people elected this Congress in 2006 to do. The ones who are suffering ultimately are the American people. May God help us all.

Legal Disclaimer: This site provides information about the law designed to keep readers informed of pertinent legal matters affecting the African-American community. But legal information is not the same as legal advice -- the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a lawyer in your specific location if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Its the Statement of Cash Flows, Stupid!

By Syreeta L. McNeal, CPA, JD

Should the United States federal government bailout companies like Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and American International Group (AIG) or should some level of responsibility be given to the executive leadership of these companies?

Every time I view the latest news on our federal government's bailout of these companies, I wonder what mess is our government covering up on how they failed to regulate unethical business practices.

It appears that the Enron, Worldcom and Arthur Andersen saga of 2000 is happening all over again. In response to this prior fiasco, the federal government passed The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. This legislation was intended to establish standards for all U. S. public companies' board, management, and public accounting firms. The caveat is that this legislation does not apply to privately held companies. The legislation established the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) overseeing, regulating, inspecting, and disciplining accounting firms in their roles as auditors of public companies.

As recent news reports show that Balance Sheet manipulation occurred with the growing list of companies seeking bailout from federal government, bankruptcy protection or for companies to acquire them to stave off financial ruin, it is time for the federal government to finally advocate emphasis on a company's Statement of Cash Flows as the basis for investment and financial strength for companies.

Most accountants know that analysis of a company's Statement of Cash Flows is the only way to ensure financial stability. However, most companies and investment analysts want to emphasize the amount of revenue generated on the company's Income Statement or the amount and value of assets they have listed on their Balance Sheet. Generally, a company's Income Statement and Balance Sheet is where manipulation can occur by key executives and in my opinion, these financial instruments do not truly show the financial strength of a companies operating business.

If the federal government really wants to protect the tax payers from having to bailout faltering company's manipulation of the public's confidence, it is time for the federal government to start emphasizing to companies and Wall Street that the Statement of Cash Flows will be the basis of analysis for investment purposes. But, will the federal government do this? I am not betting on it, but hopefully advocating for it. As tax payers, we should too.

Legal Disclaimer: This site provides information about the law designed to keep readers informed of pertinent legal matters affecting the African-American community. But legal information is not the same as legal advice -- the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a lawyer in your specific location if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sabotage of Obama Chances by Senator Biden? You be the Judge.

Biden: 'Hillary might have been a better pick'

Sept. 10: Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden tells a New Hampshire audience that Hillary Clinton "might have been a better pick than me" for vice president.


Please post your thoughts on this blog.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Oprah's Refusal to Host Governor Sarah Palin On Her Show: Good Move?

Syreeta L. McNeal, CPA, JD

The Drudge Report announced today rumors circulating whether Oprah Winfrey would allow Republican Vice-Presidential Nominee Sarah Palin to be featured on her show. (Check the link: http://drudgereport.com/flash3os.htm) Well as the rumors circulated, Oprah stated the following in her official statement:

"The item in today's Drudge Report is categorically untrue. There has been absolutely no discussion about having Sarah Palin on my show. At the beginning of this Presidential campaign when I decided that I was going to take my first public stance in support of a candidate, I made the decision not to use my show as a platform for any of the candidates. I agree that Sarah Palin would be a fantastic interview, and I would love to have her on after the campaign is over."

I want to ask you, was this a good move for Oprah?

Oprah has publicly endorsed and campaigned for Senator Obama's presidency. She did receive a backlash from her largest consumers, white women, for her perceived shunning of Senator Clinton's presidential race in the Democratic primaries.

Does her refusal to feature Governor Palin worsen the divide that exists with her and her consumer base of white women or make it worse for Senator Obama's presidential ambitions?

Please post your comments on this blog.

Update: Media's response to Oprah's decline to interview Republican VP Nominee Sarah Palin

Is Oprah Biased? Host Won't Interview Palin

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Re-enactment of CNN’s Cross-Fire: Obama-Biden v. McCain-Palin

By Syreeta L. McNeal, CPA, JD

I miss the good old days of CNN’s Cross-Fire. CNN’s Cross-Fire was a political show that allowed representatives from the Right and Left to debate issues affecting the American people. I love for people of different views to get into a vigorous and intellectual debate where they are able to share their views highlighting facts and draw the necessary conclusions to score points with the viewing public.

But, I think what people fail to understand is that if someone is infatuated with a topic, like politics, they enjoy to research it and stay current on the matters affecting the topic daily. I love history and politics not just because I am in the legal arena, but because I find it a duty to be learned in the topic so I can bring current facts to an intellectual discussion or debate with another individual. As an Attorney and Certified Public Accountant, I must take continuing education credits annually to stay current on my skill set and meet my license requirements. I apply the same logic to broaden my political understanding of this year’s presidential and vice-presidential candidates and issues that exist for the parties when I debate with an individual about the general election.

There is no doubt that a change is coming to America in the presidential arena. But, what people failed to realize in thinking that Senator Obama, being the first African-American male presidential nominee of the Democratic National Party, is the only change that America was looking for. The large number of votes for Senator Clinton (18 million as a matter of fact during the democratic primaries) indicated that the American people are yearning for the glass ceiling to break as applicable to women in the candidate selection of President or Vice-President as well. Senator Obama chose not to honor this urging with his vice-presidential pick of Senator Biden, a 65 year old, white male, Washington insider.

However, Senator McCain and his campaign knew that the electoral landscape and Senator Clinton’s historic run is calling for a historic first for women as well. Women will make up roughly 55% of the electoral vote and will decide the election in 2008. These voters are not monolithic in their vote, but they have a variety of reasons why they vote for a candidate. President Bush beat Senator Kerry in 2004 over 10% points with the women vote.

So, it is not a coincidence that with Senator Obama declining to select Senator Clinton as his running mate, Senator McCain seized the opportunity to select Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate for the Republican Party. She is the first woman to be the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee. Talk about breaking down all historic racial and gender barriers in one presidential election cycle in America. After the economic and foreign policy disaster that President Bush and Vice-President Cheney has done for the past 8 years, Obama’s Campaign, in my humble opinion, let McCain seize the moment, play checkmate in this presidential chess match, stay in the game and possibly win the election.

Here are the results of this pick. Obama’s historic speech was put on the back burner of the media coverage to focus on the unknown Alaska Governor Palin the following day. CNN, MsNBC and other media analysts with slants to Obama’s coverage where caught off guard on who McCain would pick as his running mate leading to the suspense. The Republican conservative base is fired up and ready to go as has been reported on Politico.com and the people have contributed $4.9 million in online contributions to McCain’s campaign website in one day with this pick.

Now, it is the time for Obama-Biden to show that he can win the prize in the Super Bowl game of their lives. He has all the backings as the Patriots had for their perfect regular season record for the National Football League. However, as the New York Giants proved in their historic matchup against the New England Patriots, that even the perceived favorite can be defeated against an underdog with grit, determination, strategic maneuvering, risk and a tinge of good luck.

I have told my friends that the Republicans are no joke and never underestimate your opponent. McCain-Palin is a gutsy move but one that is doable to reach the goal of Presidency and Vice Presidency especially with the American electorate that exists in 2008. I predict that the election will be decided in states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and West Virginia. These states appeal to those rural values that McCain-Palin appeal to with her selection and that Senator Obama has had trouble courting in the democratic primaries and in the latest polling.

Alaska Governor Palin adds executive experience and the Obama campaign, Democrats and media critics favoring Obama are focusing on the wrong line of attack against her. She is not there to attack Senator Joe Biden on foreign policy. She is there to compliment McCain’s foreign policy experience by giving him executive and economic experience especially in using Alaska’s natural resources for our current energy crisis which represent 20% of the United States untapped resources.

Senator Obama is perceived by analysts to lack both economic and foreign policy experience and with his pick of Senator Biden he is addressing only one of his weaknesses, foreign policy experience. Well, this is our version of Crossfire, Obama v. McCain for the Presidency and Biden v. Palin for the Vice-Presidency. The main issue will be the top of the ticket in this debate. Let the political debate for which I love to be apart of begin.

Legal Disclaimer: This site provides information about the law designed to keep readers informed of pertinent legal matters affecting the African-American community. But legal information is not the same as legal advice -- the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a lawyer in your specific location if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Change Will Come to America: Meet the Republican VP Nominee, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin

Sarah Louise Heath Palin (IPA: /peɪlɪn/) (born February 11, 1964) is the current Governor of Alaska, and the 2008 Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States.[1] She will be the first female Vice Presidential candidate representing the Republican Party and the second female Vice Presidential candidate representing a major political party. She will be the first politician from Alaska to be nominated for Vice President. Palin was born in Idaho and raised in Alaska. In 1984, she was the runner-up in the Miss Alaska pageant, receiving a scholarship that allowed her to attend the University of Idaho, where she received a degree in journalism. After working as a sports reporter at an Anchorage television station, Palin served two terms on the Wasilla, Alaska, City Council from 1992 to 1996, was elected mayor of Wasilla (population 5,470 in 2000) in 1996, and ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor in 2002. Palin was elected Governor of Alaska in 2006 by first defeating incumbent governor Frank Murkowski in the Republican primary, then former Democratic Alaskan governor Tony Knowles in the general election. She gained attention for publicizing ethical violations by state Republican Party leaders.

Early life

Palin was born in Sandpoint, Idaho, the daughter of Charles and Sally (Sheeran) Heath.[3] Her family moved to Alaska when she was an infant. In Kindergarden, she was nominated the person most likely to be a VP[4] Charles Heath was a science teacher and track coach.The Heaths were avid outdoors enthusiasts; Sarah and her father would sometimes wake at 3 a.m. to hunt moose before school, and the family regularly ran 5k and 10k races.

Palin was the point guard and captain for the Wasilla High School Warriors, in Wasilla, Alaska, when they won the Alaska small-school basketball championship in 1982; she earned the nickname "Sarah Barracuda" because of her intense play. She played the championship game despite a stress fracture in her ankle, hitting a critical free throw in the last seconds. Palin, who was also the head of the school Fellowship of Christian Athletes, would lead the team in prayer before games.

In 1984, after winning the Miss Wasilla contest earlier that year, Palin finished second in the Miss Alaska beauty pageant which won her a scholarship to help pay her way through college.[4] In the Wasilla pageant, she played the flute and also won Miss Congeniality. Palin holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Idaho where she also minored in politics.
She briefly worked as a sports reporter for local Anchorage television stations while also working as a commercial fisherman with her husband, Todd, her high school sweetheart.One summer when she was working on Todd's fishing boat, the boat collided with a tender while she was holding onto the railing; Palin broke several fingers.

Pre-gubernatorial political experience

Palin served two terms on the Wasilla City Council from 1992 to 1996. In 1996, she challenged and defeated the incumbent mayor, criticizing wasteful spending and high taxes. The ex-mayor and sheriff tried to organize a recall campaign, but failed.Palin kept her campaign promises by reducing her own salary, as well as reducing property taxes by 60%. She ran for reelection against the former mayor in 1999, winning by an even larger margin. Palin was also elected president of the Alaska Conference of Mayors.

In 2002, Palin made an unsuccessful bid for Lieutenant Governor, coming in second to Loren Leman in a four-way race. After Frank Murkowski resigned from his long-held U.S. Senate seat in mid-term to become governor, Palin interviewed to be his possible successor. Instead, Murkowski appointed his daughter, then-Alaska State Representative Lisa Murkowski.
Governor Murkowski appointed Palin Ethics Commissioner of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, where she served from 2003 to 2004 until resigning in protest over what she called the "lack of ethics" of fellow Alaskan Republican leaders, who ignored her whistleblowing complaints of legal violations and conflicts of interest.After she resigned, she exposed the state Republican party's chairman, Randy Ruedrich, one of her fellow Oil & Gas commissioners, who was accused of doing work for the party on public time, and supplying a lobbyist with a sensitive e-mail.[8] Palin filed formal complaints against both Ruedrich and former Alaska Attorney General Gregg Renkes, who both resigned; Ruedrich paid a record $12,000 fine.[4]


In 2006, Palin, running on a clean-government campaign, executed an upset victory over then-Gov. Murkowski in the Republican gubernatorial primary.Despite the lack of support from party leaders and being outspent by her Democratic opponent, she went on to win the general election in November 2006, defeating former Governor Tony Knowles. Palin said in 2006 that education, public safety, and transportation would be three cornerstones of her administration.
When elected, Palin became the first woman to be Alaska's governor, and the youngest governor in Alaskan history at 42 years of age upon taking office. Palin was also the first Alaskan governor born after Alaska achieved U.S. statehood. She was also the first Alaskan governor not to be inaugurated in Juneau, instead choosing to hold her inauguration ceremony in Fairbanks. She took office on December 4, 2006.

Highlights of Governor Palin's tenure include a successful push for an ethics bill, and also shelving pork-barrel projects supported by fellow Republicans. Palin successfully killed the Gravina Island Bridge project that had become a nationwide symbol of wasteful earmark spending. "Alaska needs to be self-sufficient, she says, instead of relying heavily on 'federal dollars,' as the state does today."

She has challenged the state's Republican leaders, helping to launch a campaign by Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell to unseat U.S. Congressman Don Young[13] and publicly challenging Senator Ted Stevens to come clean about the federal investigation into his financial dealings.
In 2007, Palin had an approval rating often in the 90s.[12] A poll published by Hays Research on July 28, 2008 showed Palin's approval rating at 80%.

Energy policies

Palin's tenure is noted for her independence from big oil companies, while still promoting resource development. Palin has announced plans to create a new sub-cabinet group of advisors, to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions within Alaska.
Shortly after taking office, Palin rescinded thirty-five appointments made by Murkowski in the last hour of his administration, including the appointment by Murkowski of his former chief of staff Jim Clark to the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority. Clark later pled guilty to conspiring with a defunct oil-field-services company to channel money into Frank Murkowski's re-election campaign.[18]

In March 2007, Palin presented the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act (AGIA) as the new legal vehicle for building a natural gas pipeline from the state's North Slope.[19] Only one legislator, Representative Ralph Samuels, voted against the measure,[20] and in June Palin signed it into law. On January 5, 2008, Palin announced that a Canadian company, TransCanada Corp., was the sole AGIA-compliant applicant.

In response to high oil and gas prices, and in response to the resulting state government budget surplus, Palin proposed giving Alaskans $100-a-month energy debit cards. She also proposed providing grants to electrical utilities so that they would reduce customers' rates. She subsequently dropped the debit card proposal, and in its place she proposed to send Alaskans $1,200 directly and eliminate the gas tax.

Social issues

Palin is strongly pro-life, a supporter of capital punishment,[28] and belongs to Feminists for Life.[9] Also has stated hunting mooses for a past time, and promotes rifles as collector's items.
She opposes same-sex marriage, but she has stated that she has gay friends and is receptive to gay and lesbian concerns about discrimination.[9] While the previous administration did not implement same-sex benefits, Palin complied with an Alaskan state Supreme Court order and signed them into law.[29] She disagreed with the Supreme Court ruling[30] and supported a democratic advisory vote from the public on whether there should be a constitutional amendment on the matter.[31] Alaska was one of the first U.S. states to pass a constitutional ban on gay marriage, in 1998, along with Hawaii. Palin has stated that she supported the 1998 constitutional amendment.

Palin's first veto was used to block legislation that would have barred the state from granting benefits to the partners of gay state employees. In effect, her veto granted State of Alaska benefits to same-sex couples. The veto occurred after Palin consulted with Alaska's attorney general on the constitutionality of the legislation.

Matanuska Maid Dairy closure

When the Alaska Creamery Board recommended closing Matanuska Maid Dairy, an unprofitable state-owned business, Palin objected, citing concern for the impact on dairy farmers and the fact that the dairy had just received $600,000 in state money. When Palin learned that only the Board of Agriculture and Conservation could appoint Creamery Board members, she simply replaced the entire membership of the Board of Agriculture and Conservation. The new board, led by businesswoman Kristan Cole, reversed the decision to close the dairy. The new board approved milk price increases offered by the dairy in an attempt to control fiscal losses, even though milk from Washington was already offered in Alaskan stores at lower prices. In the end, the dairy was forced to close, and the state tried to sell the assets to pay off its debts but received no bids.


In the first days of her administration, Palin followed through on a campaign promise to sell the Westwind II jet purchased (on a state government credit account) by the Murkowski administration. The state placed the jet for sale on eBay three times. In August 2007, the jet was sold for $2.1 million.

Shortly after becoming governor, Palin canceled a contract for the construction on an 11-mile (18-kilometer) gravel road outside of Juneau to a mine. This reversed a decision made in the closing days or hours of the Murkowski Administration.

In June 2007, Palin signed into law a $6.6 billion operating budget—the largest in Alaska's history. At the same time, she used her veto power to make the second-largest cuts of the construction budget in state history. The $237 million in cuts represented over 300 local projects, and reduced the construction budget to nearly $1.6 billion.

Commissioner dismissal

On July 11, 2008, Governor Palin dismissed Walter Monegan as Commissioner of Public Safety and instead offered him a position as executive director of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, which he subsequently turned down. Monegan alleged shortly after his dismissal that it may have been partly due to his reluctance to fire an Alaska State Trooper, Mike Wooten, who had been involved in a divorce and child custody battle with Palin's sister, Molly McCann. In 2006, before Palin was governor, Wooten was briefly suspended for ten days for threatening to kill McCann's (and Palin's) father, tasering his 11-year-old stepson (at the stepson's request), and violating game laws. After a union protest, the suspension was reduced to five days.
Governor Palin asserts that her dismissal of Monegan was unrelated to the fact that he had not fired Wooten, and asserts that Monegan was instead dismissed for not adequately filling state trooper vacancies, and because he "did not turn out to be a team player on budgeting issues." Palin acknowledges that a member of her administration, Frank Bailey, did contact the Department of Public Safety regarding Wooten, but both Palin and Bailey say that happened without her knowledge and was unrelated to her dismissal of Monegan. Bailey was put on leave for two months for acting outside the scope of his authority as the Director of Boards and Commissions.

In response to Palin's statement that she had nothing to hide, in August 2008 the Alaska Legislature hired Steve Branchflower to investigate Palin and her staff for possible abuse of power surrounding the dismissal, though lawmakers acknowledge that "Monegan and other commissioners serve at will, meaning they can be fired by Palin at any time." The investigation is being overseen by Democratic State Senator Hollis French, who says that the Palin administration has been cooperating and thus subpoenas are unnecessary. The Palin administration itself was the first to release an audiotape of Bailey making inquiries about the status of the Wooten investigation.
Wooten and the police union alleged that the governor had improperly released his employment files in his divorce case. However, McCann's attorney released a signed waiver from Wooten demonstrating that Wooten had authorized the release of his files through normal discovery procedures.

Personal life

Palin's husband, Todd, is a Yup'ik Alaskan native. Outside the fishing season, Todd works for BP energy corporation at an oil field on Alaska's North Slope and is a champion snowmobiler, winning the 2000-mile "Iron Dog" race four times.The two eloped shortly after Palin graduated from college; when they learned they needed witnesses for the civil ceremony, they recruited two residents from the old-age home down the street. The Palin family lives in Wasilla, about 40 miles (64 km) north of Anchorage.

On September 11, 2007, the Palins' eighteen-year-old son Track, eldest of five, joined the Army.[53] He now serves in an infantry brigade and will be deployed to Iraq in September 2008. She also has three daughters: Bristol, 17; Willow, 13; and Piper, 7.

On April 18, 2008, Palin gave birth to her second son, Trig Paxson Van Palin, who has Down syndrome. She returned to the office three days after giving birth.Palin refused to let the results of prenatal genetic testing change her decision to have the baby. "I'm looking at him right now, and I see perfection," Palin said. "Yeah, he has an extra chromosome. I keep thinking, in our world, what is normal and what is perfect?"

Details of Palin's personal life have contributed to her political image. She hunts, eats moose hamburger, ice fishes, rides snowmobiles, and owns a float plane. Palin holds a lifetime membership with the National Rifle Association. She admits that she used marijuana when it was legal in Alaska, but says that she did not like it.