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 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.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report: Angry Black Supremacist Religious Movement is on the Rise

Aug 28 12:17 PM US/Eastern

MONTGOMERY, Ala., Aug. 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Thousands of black men and women who believe Jesus Christ is returning soon to kill or enslave white people, Jews, homosexuals and others have joined the racist fringe of the black Hebrew Israelite movement, according to the latest issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report, released today.

These black supremacist groups are growing more visible and militant, partly due to a magnetic young leader. In recent years, the movement, previously concentrated in inner-city neighborhoods on the East Coast, has spread to cities in Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Oregon.

"These groups have used bizarre interpretations of the Bible to justify their racist beliefs in much the same way that white supremacist groups have," said Mark Potok, editor of the Intelligence Report, a quarterly investigative journal that monitors the radical right and racial extremism. "What is most worrying is that their talk has grown increasingly militant in recent years, with predictions of a bloody demise for white people and a whole host of other enemies."

Most black Hebrew Israelites, while seeing themselves as the descendants of the Hebrews of the Bible, are neither explicitly racist nor anti-Semitic and do not advocate violence. However, videos posted on the Internet show preachers from the extremist fringe of the movement engaging in what one former adherent describes as "evangelical terrorizing" -- a form of street preaching that involves verbally violent confrontations with whites and Jews. "Every white person who doesn't get killed by Christ when he returns is going into slavery!" General Mayakaahla Ka, an Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge preacher, says in one video.
Also, in the Fall 2008 issue of the Intelligence Report:

  • "'Arming' for Armageddon" examines the apocalyptic movement Joel's Army. Numbering in the tens of thousands, members of this movement are breaking away in droves from mainline Pentecostal churches and embracing an ideology of theocratic takeover. The approach is so militant that one Christian ministry worries it may soon produce "real warfare with actual warriors."
  • "Anti-Semitism Goes to School" reports on anti-Semitism on university campuses, including strains that originate on the political left. Two examples -- extremist Muslims at a California campus and a once-"progressive" forum in Oregon -- serve to illustrate this phenomenon.
  • "Silver Lining" describes how a surprising number of white supremacists believe Sen. Barack Obama becoming the first black president actually would be a boon to their cause, driving millions into their ranks and possibly sparking a race war. Others on the racist right disagree.
  • "Legionnaire's Disease" describes the American Legion's latest campaign against illegal immigration, which includes a booklet full of false and defamatory immigration data, baseless claims and nativist propaganda. Latino veterans groups have described the campaign as "absurd and ignorant" and a slap in the face to Latino legionnaires.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a nonprofit organization that combats hate, intolerance and discrimination through education, litigation and advocacy. The Intelligence Report is a quarterly investigative journal that tracks the activities of hate groups and monitors militia and other extremist anti-government activity. For more information, visit

SOURCE Southern Poverty Law Center Copyright 2008 PR Newswire. All Rights Reserved.

Commander In Chief Test: Russia v. Georgia Conflict?

By Syreeta L. McNeal, CPA, JD

As reported on CNN, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused the United States of orchestrating the conflict in Georgia to benefit one of its presidential candidates. (see I wonder who could it be? Senator McCain or Senator Obama. Well, I think you know the answer to that one.

Well, lets look at the United States Constitution, Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 which states:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States, he may require the Opinion in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

Now, it was very interesting that Senator Obama was on vacation in Hawaii while this crisis occurred. Was Senator Obama the first to address this version of a 3:00 a.m. conflict? No. Senator McCain did.

But, should we be surprise that Senator Obama who does not have any military experience would have President Bush and his allies give him this test during the general election.

Well the impact was clear. Senator Obama's positioning in the polls weakened after this first 3:00 a.m. test as commander in chief. I just don't know if Senator Obama realizes what he is up against. People believe Senator Clinton was an insurmountable task. I beg to differ. The real test is to prove to America that in a time after 9/11 attacks, that Senator Obama can pass the Commander in Chief test. He and his campaign have their hands full. Because Russia is showing that they are willing to take President Bush on in showing their military might.

But, as we say in political warfare: Let the Games Begin.

Update: McCain's latest ad (

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, August 27, 2008

Obamapolis: The Greek Temple at Invesco Field for Obama's Acceptance Speech?

By Syreeta L. McNeal, CPA, JD

There is a time and a place for everything.

Okay, how is this suppose to demonstrate to white working class voters that you sympathize with their needs in critical battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan and other parts of the heartland to win in November 2008?

Senator Obama can do whatever he wants for his acceptance speech before the Democratic National Convention. However, we are not in Greece. America does not immortalize humans into gods. America, through its citizens, elect people to be President of the United States of America.

In my humble opinion, this is a bad move for Senator Obama and he is welcoming the attacks from Senator McCain, the Republicans, Independents, and other conservative outlets as he is being perceived as different than the average American, an elitist, a pop star, and not like the rest of Americans who want to elect a person who share in their same values attributed to the American Dream. Here are links to the attacks that are occurring:

If Michelle Obama did an exceptional job on Monday night painting her and her husband as ordinary Americans, this staged imagery at Invesco Field is not helping to keep the image Michelle Obama made on Monday night a permanent reality.

Actions speak louder than words.

You do not want to be perceived as a god or a king in this election. The American Revolution occurred because the colonists were fed up with the tyranny of King George I. I hope Senator Obama does not make the same mistake as King George I did. With the likes of this imagery at Invesco Field, I am not so sure.

Update: Dems fear Invesco acceptance speech effect (

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, August 24, 2008

Civil War II: Is the Confederate South Coming out of Hibernation?

I find it interesting that Newsweek has just published this story. Enjoy and post your comments below.

Southern Discomfort
A journey through a troubled region.

By Christopher Dickey NEWSWEEK
Published Aug 2, 2008
From the magazine issue dated Aug 11, 2008

For as long as I've been alive the old Confederacy has been a land without closure, where history keeps coming at you day after day, year after year, decade after decade, as if the past were the present, too, and the future forever. Cities grew and populations changed in the South, but the Civil War lurked somehow in the shadow of mirror-sided skyscrapers; the holocaust of slavery and the sweet-bitter victories of the civil-rights movement lingered deep in the minds of people on both sides of the color line. Yes there was change, progress, prosperity, and a lot of it. Southerners put their faith in money and jobs and God Almighty to get them to a better place and better times—and for a lot of them, white and black, those times came. The South got to be a more complicated place, where rich and poor—which is pretty much all there was before World War II—gave way to a broad-spectrum bourgeoisie with big-time aspirations. But as air conditioning conquered the lethargy-inducing climate and Northerners by the millions abandoned the rust belt for the sun belt, the past wasn't forgotten or forgiven so much as put aside while people got on with their lives and their business.

Now this part of the country, where I have my deepest roots, feels raw again, its political emotions more exposed than they've been in decades. George W. Bush and Barack Hussein Obama have unsettled the South: the first with a reckless war and a weakened economy, the second with the color of his skin, the foreignness of his name, the lofty liberalism of his language. Suddenly the palliative prosperity that salved old, deep wounds no longer seems adequate to the task.

Last month I set out driving through Tennessee, Georgia and the Carolinas, roughly retracing the deepest scar in the country—the blazing track of total war left by Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman in 1864 and 1865. After many years away I was exploring my own blood ties (which include an ancestor named after Sherman by his slave-owning-yet-Unionist parents), but also gauging the tenor of a region that has been critical to every U.S. presidential election since 1932, and may be again. "If you don't win anything in the South, you need 70 percent of the rest of the country," says Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta. "If you can win some of the South, that gives you breathing space." Polls suggest Virginia is in play. And the Obama campaign is approaching North Carolina and Georgia as if they might be, although like most people, Black (who is white, and from east Texas, which is deep in Dixie) thinks John McCain will win in both those states if only as the default candidate, the un-Obama.

The South I saw was troubled by changes that go well beyond this "change" election. A generation is growing up with traumas more immediate than those of the 1860s—or the 1960s. Shana Sprouse, 21 and white, and born and raised in Spartanburg, S.C., says she's going to vote for Obama because her 26-year-old boyfriend is racked with cancer and she and he have spent the last two years trying to find ways to pay for his treatment or, now, his hospice. Jobs are disappearing to places that are truly foreign, not mock-strange states like California. New immigrants are introducing brown into a color map that has long been dominated by black and white. There is a sense that a world is ending, maybe not this year but inevitably.

The election, and Obama's candidacy, have focused these anxieties like a lens. I found whites frustrated and indecisive about the campaign, families at odds, generations divided. Many who thought themselves beyond prejudice were surprised by their suspicions of the young black man from up north. Meanwhile, many slave-descended blacks, hugely supportive of the half-Kenyan, half-Kansan, Hawaii-reared Obama, seemed afraid to hope too much, inoculating themselves with pessimism about the chances that any man of color could win the presidency, even this man, even today, or that, if he does, he will survive. As I say, emotions are raw.

People remember what they want to the way they want to, and call it history. That much is true almost any place in the world. But in the South, if people aren't careful, history can start to run their lives, even put them at risk. My father's brother, Tom, was a case in point: in the basement of his split-level home in suburban Atlanta he stored tons of artillery projectiles he'd dug up on Civil War battlefields. Many of them were still live ammunition. "I do worry," he told me in the 1970s. "If this house ever caught on fire, it could do a lot of damage around the neighborhood. You'd hear the last shots fired in the Civil War." (After Tom's death from natural causes in 1987, the core of the collection, duly defused, went to the Atlanta History Center.)

I set off on this trip wondering if Obama's candidacy was helping to pull people in the South together, freeing them of their histories, or pushing them apart. The "postracial" Obama obviously hopes to alter the traditional narrative of race in this campaign and may in fact be doing so, in certain counties of certain states. But in the South, broadly speaking, the past is still too powerful a frame for him to escape fully. This isn't only about black and white, just as the Civil War was about more than slavery. Back then powerful political players in the South saw Obama's fellow Illinoisan Abraham Lincoln as a threat, and a reason for rebellion. All Lincoln's unifying message brought together was the white poor and the white rich, in opposition to him and the blacks whose freedom he sought.

Today the troubling inheritance of the Civil War has been turned into family entertainment. At The Point on Lookout Mountain above Chattanooga, I came across a small group of men who spend much of their spare time and disposable income re-enacting battles and reproducing camp life as it was in the 1860s. ("Civil Wargasms," one of the weekend Confederates at Lookout Point called them.) For many of the hobbyists the delight is in the details, right down to the paper cartridges in their muzzle-loading rifles and handmade buttons on their hot woolen uniforms. "We all know slavery was wrong," says Donald Davidson, whose day job is with the water department in Nashville. "War is not a nice thing. Hopefully we can show we can live together by reliving history like this."

But the subtext of old prejudices keeps creeping in even among the very young. Walking down to The Point one morning, a 12-year-old "private" in this particular Confederate unit told me what he'd heard tell in school about the elections. Next to nothing about McCain. But Obama? "There are too many chances we would take if he became president, you know what I mean?" I said I wasn't sure I did. "I don't know if it's a myth or it's true," said the boy, "but they say that they caught him trying to sneak Iraqi soldiers into the United States."

I remember all the things I heard tell in elementary school in Atlanta during the civil-rights movement of the 1960s, when the schoolyard talk was about a Roman Catholic running for president, and the threat that he'd be putting nigras (which is what you said if you were halfway polite) in Atlanta schools. Certainly much of the similar talk you hear now comes from the obvious suspects, people like Dent Myers, a relic collector and self-caricaturing bigot in Kennesaw, Ga., north of Atlanta. (His shop, Wildman's, is full of the crazy literature of the unreconstructed South, as well as guns, swords, Ku Klux Klan hoods and scurrilous bumper stickers.) Dent argues that when Southerners criticize Obama, "They say, 'He's a Muslim, he's a mulatto Muslim, or quadroon Muslim … [only because] they don't want to use the old N word."

Yet even a third cousin of mine in the mountains of North Carolina, an independent-minded Democrat who voted for Gore in 2000 and Bush in 2004, said he can't bring himself to vote for Obama, either. Why? "Because I believe he is a Muslim," said my cousin. Not so, I said. He was raised a Christian and is a practicing Christian. My cousin shook his head. "I just don't believe him," he said.

I couldn't take my eyes off the plastic baby. On a back road outside Monroe, Ga., a crowd of more than 100 people had gathered to commemorate the last mass lynching in the United States, which happened at a place called Moore's Ford, on July 25, 1946. Slowly an old Lincoln Continental rolled into view, only to be confronted by a pair of armed men ordering it to stop. Then out of the woods on both sides of the road, more gun-toting whites emerged. They pulled two black men out of the back of the car. The two black women inside screamed. One of the women told the attackers she knew who they were. Now she was pulled from the car, too, and the other woman with her. Struggling, screaming, crying, the four were wrestled down to a small clearing below the road and shot dead, and shot again, and again. Then, as another actor poured stage blood, a plastic doll was pulled from beneath the shirt of one of the women to represent the fetus said to have died on that killing ground with its mother. The tableau was repulsive, and riveting.

Blacks are no less susceptible to their history than whites in the South, only theirs is the memory of the civil-rights era—whereas Confederates say, "Forget, hell" their mantra is, "Never forget." Obama's candidacy is, wittingly or not, resurrecting the hope and fear and suspicions of those bloody years. The campaign's Southern strategy depends crucially on registering and getting to the polls hundreds of thousands of black voters. Enthusiasm is not a problem among African-Americans, whether in cosmopolitan Atlanta, the fields of Oglethorpe County or a raucous Baptist church in Savannah. The sense of opportunity, of dreams tantalizingly close to fulfillment, is overwhelming. But so is the skepticism, the knowledge deep within one's bones of the likelihood, if not the inevitability, of disappointment. Obama couldn't win, not in the South—or, if he could, they wouldn't let him. And that's the dark side of the hope: it's reminding people of their doubts about a white power structure that some think has never really atoned for its sins.

Bobby Howard, who was standing on the sidelines of the Moore's Ford re-enactment, has spent more than 40 years looking into the unsolved lynchings, "hoping that we can bring some kind of finality," as he put it. Many people in the area thought they knew the names of the culprits, at least four of whom are still alive, according to Howard. But "turning them in would be like turning in the fathers of the county," said Brian Arrington, managing editor of the local Walton Tribune. "If you walk around, the names of the streets are the names of some of the suspects."

The July re-enactment, sponsored by the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, was part carnival, part church service, part rally. Politicians invoked Obama's name again and again, always to applause. But he is a background to their cause, incidental to their narrative of pain, and they sometimes describe him in terms almost as condescending as affectionate. One called him "the little black boy who is going to be president of the United States [because] God has fixed it that way."

This narrative, too, resists change. Richard Rusk, son of former secretary of State Dean Rusk, is part of a committee that had a plaque erected at the corner of the road where the Moore's Ford murders occurred. He did not go to the re-enactment and was not happy with what he heard about it. The baby ripped from the womb is not a known fact, just a widespread, highly potent political rumor. "We want to stay with truth we can prove," he said. But Moore's Ford has created its own storyline now, its own truth.

Of course, it's easy to forget how much of what makes up the Southern mind, especially now, has nothing to do with race. At a Starbucks on Providence Road, in one of the richest neighborhoods in Charlotte, N.C., financial consultant James Ruane, 58, talked about the gleaming city he moved to from Pennsylvania 30 years ago. Charlotte is built on banking and financial service industries that started and grew as something self-consciously regional, he said. "After the Civil War, during the Reconstruction," said Ruane, "the North neutered this place." All the money was in New York. That's where Southern businesses had to go to get it, and often they weren't welcome, even a hundred years later. So the bankers of Charlotte—the founders of Wachovia and what's now called the Bank of America—set out to change that. And as they built their businesses they built their city, almost from the ground up.

Most Southern cities are, to all intents and purposes, new metropolises created by and helped to create the new white middle class in the region after World War II. For the first time, college educations started to be commonplace in the states of the old Confederacy. As incomes grew, suburbs sprawled. At the beginning of this trip, in fact, I almost got lost several times looking for the Dickey family homestead in north Georgia. Driving on roads that might once have led to the dangerous backwoods my father, James Dickey, wrote about in his 1970 novel "Deliverance," I came across vacation cabins and swimming pools instead; no outhouses, certainly, only a growing number of hot tubs and Jacuzzis. The river my father used to canoe in search of the wild in the early 1960s, the Coosawattee, is now mostly submerged beneath a lake, while its upper reaches and its main tributary, the Cartecay, are lined with housing developments. PADDLE FASTER, I HEAR BANJO MUSIC, say the T shirts that ominously reference the movie version of "Deliverance." Now, every summer weekend, kayakers and rafters clot around the rapids like rush-hour traffic on the once wild streams in these mountains.

Merle Black at Emory and his twin brother, Earl Black, at Rice University in Houston have argued in the several books they've published together that a rising business class was key to the South's transformation into a Republican bastion in the last half of the 20th century. The split-levels and ranch houses were filled with people who shared the attitudes and values of small towns and family farms. They mistrusted government, especially the federal government, and they resented any politician who might tax away their newfound prosperity. What the Black brothers call "the most spectacular example of partisan realignment in modern American history" came about because of the GOP's "Southern strategy," which dates back to Dwight D. Eisenhower and culminated in the re-election of Ronald Reagan in 1984. The idea was to appeal to the South's newly prosperous suburb-dwellers while using unsubtle talk about "states' rights" and "quotas" to touch nerves earlier galvanized by unreconstructed racists like Alabama Gov. George Wallace.

These white, Christian, middle-class Southerners, the core of Republican strength in the region, are as disconcerted as anyone by the country's current economic turmoil. But that doesn't make them any more amenable to change. While they may be unenthusiastic about McCain (in 10 days' traveling I did not see a single bumper sticker with his name on it), they are leery of Obama's liberalism if not his skin color. "They just don't believe him when he says he'll only tax the richest 1 percent," said Merle Black. Perhaps even more important, they belong to an aspiring class whose members imagine, or dream, they might yet make it into that stratospheric bracket. "Southerners," said Black, "don't identify with where they are but where they want to end up."

Too often for these voters' conservative tastes, the Democratic Party comes across as "preachy," according to Black. He cited a recent appearance by Obama in Powder Springs, Ga. A woman in the audience complained about having to deal with immigrants who spoke Spanish but no English. Obama said they'd learn eventually, but she ought to want an educational system that would teach her kids Spanish. Southerners, said Black, really do not like being told what they ought to want.

Even though the downturn is hitting the South hard—Wachovia Bank in Charlotte announced it will lay off more than 10,000 employees, while Volkswagen's recent decision to open a plant in Chattanooga was greeted with almost as much enthusiasm as the Second Coming—the allegiance of the white business and professional class to the Republican Party seems unshakable. "I think if there were a better economy more people would take a risk on Obama," said Patricia Murtaugh Wise, a lawyer from Nashville sightseeing with her kids at Atlanta's landmark Varsity Drive-In restaurant. Her friends are blaming Bush more than his party, she said. "I'm not sure people are saying, 'Because Bush got us into this, let's vote for a Democrat.' I think people are saying, 'Let's get a new person in there'."

If democrats have hopes for making serious inroads into this Republican bloc, they are probably long term. "As the society becomes more diversified, there's a huge opportunity for the Democratic Party," said Merle Black. Native-born Southerners are a shrinking part of the population, while the numbers of people who are foreign-born like those Spanish speakers, or foreign-born like Yankees, are growing.

" La migra! La migra! " shouted 6-year-old Brenda as I approached the dilapidated trailer where she lives with her mother and siblings and at least one cousin in upstate South Carolina. She thought I might be from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But nobody ran or hid, at least that I could see. Uber, a 22-year-old cousin, said the family had come up from Guadalajara, Mexico, over the last few years. They are among millions of immigrants, legal and illegal, who have moved to the South since the 1990s, heading to Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee for jobs in poultry processing, light manufacturing and construction. Brenda's family does yard work, cuts flowers. "The labor here pays more and it's not so heavy as in Mexico," her mother, Magdalena, explained in Spanish.

The seams in their mobile home were rusted. The driveway in front was covered with aluminum beer cans that one of the older sons flattened by rolling over them with a car, which makes them easier to store and sell as scrap. Brenda's family were among the poorest residents in the poorest section of a poor town. But Brenda and her 3-year-old brother, Kevin, were born in the United States and are American citizens. Brenda speaks English and is starting school. "First grade," she said from behind her mother's skirt. When the elections of 2020 roll around, she'll be able to vote.

Never in the last century and a half has the South been home to so many people who were born and who continue to live outside its history. A Census report estimated that the South's Hispanic population nearly tripled between 2000 and 2006, more than in any other U.S. region; nearly 60 percent of this population was foreign-born. These newcomers have little interest in re-enacting the Civil War, no reason to revive the emotions of the civil-rights movement. They did not move here for iced tea or a more leisurely pace of life. The South to them is future, not past.

In Savannah, Ga., I stopped a pair of women in saris and a young teenage boy pushing a stroller, who were reluctant to talk. Their English was not good and my Hindi nonexistent. They glanced over their shoulders at a young man on a bench who wore casual clothes and a neatly trimmed beard, their in-law. His name was Zuber Malik, from a small city north of Mumbai, he said. He was 29 years old and already had lived and worked in Rhode Island and Wisconsin "in the convenience-store business," when he saw a Dairy Queen franchise up for sale in Glennville, Ga. (population: 3,700). He'd read that Warren Buffett had bought the parent company "and I thought, 'Oh, yes!' " That would mean capital and advertising. His notional idea of the South appealed to him, too. In his hometown in India they still grew cotton. So he came, and then, he said, he prospered. His first child, less than a year old, was born an American. And Zuber, whose wife wears a hijab, or head covering, said he has no problems as a Muslim in the South. "We all believe in God," he tells people. "It says on our dollar bill we believe in God."

Piyush (Bobby) Jindal, the young governor of Louisiana whose parents were Hindu immigrants from India, is an obvious example of how fast assimilation can take place and success can follow for those with educational and economic advantages. At the same time xenophobia, fear of job competition and suspicions of "illegal aliens"—which translates as "criminals" pure and simple in many minds—all work against Hispanic peasants struggling to join the ranks of other upwardly mobile North Americans. Gladys, a 42-year-old maid from El Salvador who fled the war in her country in 1983 (and preferred that her last name not be published) spent most of the last two decades in the Los Angeles area before moving to North Carolina with her two teenage children in 2006. "There is a lot of prejudice," she says. "You hear it when you go to the market, you hear it in the post office. People say they don't want us."

It's not hard to find old-time tensions running very close to the surface. One Saturday last month, in the little town of Crawford, Ga., next to the old train station where the tracks have long since disappeared, cheerleading squads, tae kwon do teams and a troupe of aspiring 3- and 4-year-old ballerinas entertained local crowds at a rally. Whites, blacks and a handful of Mexicans strolled among stands selling barbecue and funnel cakes. Supporters of local political candidates handed out fans bearing their names. A black church group signed up prospective voters. A local schoolteacher and a retired college professor, both of them white, staffed a booth for Obama well supplied with posters and propaganda. (McCain's partisans as such, and as usual, were nowhere to be seen.)

Bill Fincher was working the crowd, as the Republican candidate for county sheriff. He described himself as "very much a conservative" and George W. Bush as his "idol." He'd also, Fincher said, been described as a racist. He was in drug enforcement for a while, and rounded up a crack-dealing network. Everybody in it was black. That was part of the problem. Then, a few weeks ago, a white supporter of his had hung up a noose near a road that leads into a neighborhood that's mostly black. "He had had a lot of property thefts, and he wanted to say any thief is going to be hung," Fincher said. About 175 people came out to protest, and the press got hold of the story.

Fincher, though, seemed genuinely affronted by the charge. "All it is is a ploy to try to get the African-Americans to turn on you," he said. He claimed he didn't really believe in partisan politics when it came to local offices. His mother was an elected county tax commissioner for 27 years, and she was a Democrat. He always voted for her, he said. "I wanted to eat at home!"

He also said that his parents worked hard and he was raised by a black woman, and now that she's old and ailing, he cooks Thanksgiving dinner for her. When an African-American woman who knew him walked by and said hello, Fincher threw his arms around her and gave her a big hug.

Those who have lived long enough to experience the Old South, the New South and the deeply uncertain present-day South know just how long it takes to move the society here. But they know, too, that it does move. William Carter Jr., was born in 1927 in North Charleston, S.C. He lived through the worst days of Jim Crow in the South, and he served in the segregated U.S. armed forces in World War II, which was a moment of awakening for so many black men. You learned not to be afraid, he said. "When you come back home you have the same feeling: 'I'm a man. I'm not a boy no more'." Carter worked as a TV technician for Sears and devoted himself to his duties as a deacon of the church. Now 80, he is president of the National Baptist Deacons Convention. Perhaps because he had seen so much of the past, had seen so much that had changed, and so much that had not, he was sanguine about the future of a black presidential candidate. "Obama is going to win," he said. And if he does not? "Then he is preparing the way for the next."


Little Known Victims of the War in Iraq

By Leland C. Abraham, Esq.

One group of victims of the War in Iraq seldom talked about is American Women. Not women at home, waiting patiently for their husbands to return from duty, but female soldiers who are fighting alongside of their male counterparts. The reports of military rape are staggering and it is rarely discussed by political analysts.

Like the Vietnam War, America is seeing an increased population of War veterans who are returning home with mental disorders. Because of the lack of funding as a result of the funds spent on the “War on Terror,” the vast majority of the soldiers who come home from Iraq are not given the opportunity to have counseling and treatment and are released back into the general population. Logic would conclude that if the government does not combat the problems that soldiers may have when they come home from Iraq, the government is probably not addressing the problems that are occurring in Iraq.

One case of the government’s inability or refusal to deal with the problem of military rape was that of Private Lavena Johnson. Private Johnson, a black, 20 year old Missouri native, died in Iraq in 2005. The official cause of death was listed as a suicide. When the army contacted Private Johnson’s family, the listed cause of death did not sit right with them. Her father in particular became suspicious of what the army told him. Private Johnson’s family demanded that the Army release the autopsy reports. While the Army may have baulked at the request, the Freedom of Information Act forced the Army to release the records. It was discovered that at the time of Private Johnson’s death, she had a “broken nose, black eye, loose teeth, burns from a corrosive chemical on her genitals, and a gunshot that seemed inconsistent with suicide.” This made Private Johnson’s family all the more suspicious.

Upon further investigation, many of the claims the Army made to the Johnson family have turned out to be inconsistent. The Army reportedly told the Johnson family that Private Johnson was found with a gunshot wound to the head in her barracks. There have been other reports that she was originally found in a contractor’s tent. The mysterious chemicals that were found on her genitals are also theorized to have been put there to cover up DNA evidence of a rape. Private Johnson was right handed. The gunshot wound was reported to be in the left side of her head and her hands tested negative for gunshot residue.

Whatever motive the Army has in sending inconsistent information to the Johnson’s family, the fact remains that there is a problem in Iraq that is rarely reported. In Private Johnson’s case, a concerned father’s questioning has forced the government to “look into” the case further. There are several cases of potential rape, however, that are not fully investigated. In late July, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on sexual assaults in the military and the way that the government is investigating and prosecuting these matters. Some statisticians state that rape in the military is becoming a serious problem with some 29% of veterans claiming that they have been sexually assaulted during their time of service. If these statistics are correct, women are more likely to be raped by fellow soldiers than killed in battle. The biggest question coming out of the hearings is, if the government won’t protect the Private Johnson’s of the world against rape by fellow soldiers, who will?

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, August 20, 2008

Tribute to Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones

By Syreeta L. McNeal, CPA, JD

Napoleon Hill states “lack of loyalty is one of the major causes of failure in every walk of life.” In representing her constituents in Cleveland, Ohio to being a strong advocate for Senator Clinton in her bid to be the Democratic Presidential nominee in 2008, no person can say that Ohio Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones did not embody the very essence of the word. I, like most of America, is saddened today with the news of Congresswoman Tubbs Jones suffering a cerebral aneurysm as she drove in her home district in Cleveland Heights, Ohio on Tuesday evening.

She was born in Cleveland, Ohio on September 10, 1949. Congresswoman Jones graduated from Cleveland's public schools. Also, she received her undergraduate degree from Case Western Reserve University, graduating with a degree in Social Work from the Flora Stone Mather College in 1971. In 1974, she received her Juris Doctorate from Case Western Reserve University School of Law. In 1981, Congresswoman Jones was elected judge of the Cleveland Municipal Court in 1981. Subsequently, she served on the Court of Common Pleas of Cuyahoga County from 1983 to 1991.

In 1990, she ran for Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio replacing Mary Cacioppo, the winner of the Democratic Primary, who withdrew for health reasons. She narrowly lost that race to Republican incumbent J. Craig Wright.

In 1998, she was the first African-American woman to be elected to Congress from Ohio. She has been reelected four times with no substantive opposition. Along with many other accomplishments, she is what Maya Angelou would call a Phenomenal Woman.

If you are listening in spirit, Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, we appreciate you and your work and hope people realize that exhibiting loyalty is not a curse, but a blessing for those who serve in the public and legal arena. May God bless you and keep you and your family in this tragic time.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Senator Obama v. Justice Thomas: Black on Black Hate?

Conservatives Slam Obama’s Answer About Supreme Court Justices at Saddleback Forum
Monday, August 18, 2008

A former law clerk for Clarence Thomas is leading a pack of critics who say Barack Obama’s comments about the Supreme Court justice reveal the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s ignorance and misunderstanding of the Constitution.

A weekend event at the 22,000-member Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., was meant to give both Obama and John McCain a chance to address questions of importance to the large evangelical community. Church Pastor Rick Warren, known for his bestselling book “The Purpose-Driven Life,” posed the series of questions to each candidate, which were aimed at getting to their personalities, foibles and leadership styles.

During the symposium, Obama said he would not have nominated Thomas to the bench because “I don’t think that he was a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation. Setting aside the fact that I profoundly disagree with his interpretation of a lot of the Constitution.”

Obama then added that he would not have nominated Justice Antonin Scalia because they disagree, not because of any intellectual deficiencies. Wendy E. Long, currently counsel to the The Judicial Confirmation Network, called Obama’s responses about the bench “ludicrous.” Long released a statement saying the remarks demonstrate Obama contradicts himself in his “own alleged criteria” for high court nominees.

”Obama started to say that Justice Thomas didn’t have enough ‘experience’ for the Supreme Court. In mid-sentence, when Obama realized that he himself has far less experience for the presidency than Justice Thomas had for the court in 1991, he shifted and said Justice Thomas ‘was not a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time,’” said Long, a former Senate aide whose conservative group works to get “highly qualified” justices confirmed to the bench.
“This is all reminiscent of (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid’s comment several years ago that Justice Thomas was ‘an embarrassment to the court’ and that his opinions ‘were poorly written’. Reid was exposed as the ignoramus then, and the Congressional Black Caucus asked him to stop using ‘stereotypes and caricatures,’” she continued.
Reid is among several critics who have called Thomas’ written opinions lightweight and suggested that he wants to abandon the principle of “stare decisis” — standing by precedent — and reinvent the wheel with every case.

The topic of several biographies, Thomas, who was confirmed to the court by a 52-48 margin, has also been described as disinterested because he does not ask questions during oral presentations before the court. The justice has defended himself against the criticism, it as an effort to demonstrate respect for the attorneys presenting their cases.

“Reasonable Supreme Court observers of all political stripes, who do not necessarily agree with Justice Thomas’ jurisprudence, consider his work to be scholarly and of top quality. And yet Senator Obama is, sadly, unable to acknowledge even that much about an intelligent, wonderful and kind man who broke racial barriers to rise to the very top of the legal profession,” said Helgi Walker, a former associate counsel to President Bush and former law clerk for Thomas.

Long and others said Thomas has repeatedly proven critics wrong about his intellectual capacity and repeated previous defenses that much of the criticism of Thomas is because he is a black conservative.

“Apparently, Obama can do no better than to recycle discredited statements of Harry Reid when it comes to Justice Thomas. Like other liberal elites, Obama cannot stand it when a black man strays from the ideological plantation and refuses to implement liberal policies through the courts. But Obama will never point out any intellectual deficiencies in Justice Thomas’s work, because he can’t. Justice Thomas’s opinions consistently reveal faithfulness to the Constitution, judicial modesty and deference to the will of the people in our representative democracy. That is opposed to everything that Obama and the liberals are trying to do in grabbing power from the people and giving it to the courts,” she said.

“It’s precisely because Justice Thomas has proven himself such a faithful steward of the Constitution that Barack Obama says he wouldn’t have nominated him,” said Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Policy Center and a former law clerk to Scalia. “If he is elected, Obama is a sure bet to appoint liberal judicial activists eager to invent farfetched constitutional ‘rights’ that entrench the left’s agenda on issues like same-sex marriage, stripping God out of the Pledge of Allegiance, child pornography, partial-birth abortion, and national security. It’s Obama who lacks the experience and judgment for the position that he seeks.”

Long did not offer comment to McCain’s response to the same question in which he said, “with all due respect,” he would not have nominated Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, David Souter and John Paul Stevens.

“Well, I think that the president of the United States has incredible responsibility in nominating people to the United States Supreme Court. They are lifetime positions, as well as the federal bench. There will be two or maybe three vacancies. This nomination should be based on the criteria of proven record, of strictly adhering to the Constitution of the United States of America and not legislating from the bench. Some of the worst damage has been done by legislating from the bench,” McCain said.

Left off both candidates’ lists were the nominal moderate in the court, Justice Anthony Kennedy, and the newest Justice on the court Samuel Alito.
The nomination of justices to the bench is one of the most important criteria for conservatives in the coming election, and several leaders on the right have said they will swallow their distaste for McCain’s record on other matters and vote for him because they know he will nominate conservative justices.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page also took jabs at Obama’s answer, noting both his and Thomas’ career at the time they reached the highest office of their ambitions. The editorial noted that Obama’s response may have been inartful.

“Even more troubling is what the Illinois Democrat’s answer betrays about his political habits of mind. Asked a question he didn’t expect at a rare unscripted event, the rookie candidate didn’t merely say he disagreed with Justice Thomas. Instead, he instinctively reverted to the leftwing cliché that the Court’s black conservative isn’t up to the job while his white conservative colleagues are,” the editorial board wrote.

Long warned that Obama’s response reveals the kind of judges Obama would appoint.
“Obama wants justices who will do his bidding, who will implement the preferred policies of the liberal establishment – not Justices like Thomas, Scalia, Roberts and Alito, who understand that the role of a judge is not to legislate from the bench,” she said.

She also slammed the candidate for saying that he would take the counsel from his wife and grandmother as well as former Sen. Sam Nunn and Sens. Dick Lugar, Ted Kennedy and Tom Coburn.

“Obama’s answer about the three wisest people in his life, upon whom he would rely heavily in his administration, also sheds light on the way he would choose Supreme Court Justices. Obama said he would consult his grandmother, his wife, and Ted Kennedy. This is unlikely to yield the highest quality judicial nominees who understand the Constitution and the role of judges in our constitutional democracy,” Long said.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

McCain v. Obama and the Mortgage Crisis

By: Leland C. Abraham, Esq.

As the campaign trail gets into full swing, one of the topics of great importance is the candidates’ stance on the mortgage crisis. If you are unaware, the adjustable rate mortgage crisis has severely affected the nation’s economy in the last five years. The places especially affected have been America’s coastal states, like California and Florida. The mortgage crisis has affected people from many walks of life.

According to interviews, the main reason why most people agreed to an adjustable rate mortgage was because they were promised that the rate would be fixed for a couple of years and then the rate would drop. This was more attractive than a 30-month fixed interest rate on a mortgage that would never rise nor drop. Unfortunately, mortgage companies made far too many of these loans and because of the Iraq War’s effect on the economy, the interest rates increased instead of decreased as predicted. Because of the change in interest rates, many debtors defaulted on these loans. The houses then were sold at auction for a price far less then the market value. This bottomed out the housing market and had an effect on the economy as a whole.

All presidential candidates promise to do things that will have a positive effect on the economy. Very rarely are these candidates able to deliver on their promises because the economy is not controlled by the president. However, this presidential election is unique in that there are some things that the candidates can do to affect the economy.

First, the real estate market will have to be corrected before America can see an upswing in the economy. Senator Obama stated that one of the things he plans to do in response to mortgage fraud is to boost funding for law enforcement programs aimed at housing fraud by $40 million. He also plans to establish a database of censured or debarred mortgage professionals, so borrowers can easily check the credentials of lenders. Will these measures solve the problem of mortgage fraud? Probably not. There will probably still be lenders that seek out first time buyers and convince them to sign contracts with interest rates that will balloon to a point where the borrower will not be able to pay the note. It may not stop the problem, but it is a start to fixing a problem that has spiraled out of control.

Senator McCain has some ideas pertaining to the Mortgage crises as well. One of the measures that he wants to implement is to create a Justice Department task force that punishes individuals or firms that either defraud innocent home owners or forged loan application documents. This task force would also assist state attorneys in investigating abusive lending practices. Again, probably not going to solve the problem overnight as there is much to fix, but a task force is a good start.

Both candidates have mentioned that they want to go after predatory lenders. In particular, Senator Obama introduced the STOP FRAUD ACT in the Senate and has made it part of his platform. Senator McCain has vowed to do all he can to stop mortgage fraud with his task force. Whether these measures will be successful remains to be seen. One thing that borrowers can do is educate themselves about mortgages and the lending process.

The first step would be to research the lender. The borrower will want to check to see whether the lender is involved in any litigation related to predatory lending or mortgage fraud. Because we now live in the internet age, this can be done online. Online research can be done for free at public libraries who have computer access. Also, when a borrower gets a lending agent, the borrower may want to check all credentials the agent has. The state licensing agencies are usually good with verifying certification information. There can still be things that slip through the cracks, but borrower due diligence will go a long way in fixing the real estate mortgage crisis.

Second, if you have a mortgage loan, please have a lawyer and/or accountant review the terms of the loan agreement for you before you sign. These trained professionals will be able to translate complex language in a contract that you will be able to understand. Also, they will be able to give you legal and/or financial advice to see if this type of investment in real estate is beneficial for you.

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.