LEFT OF DAYTON

Time for Bank Rationalization [Gaurdian UK]

February 4, 2009
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Time for Bank Rationalization

By Dean Baker Guardian(UK)

February 2, 2009

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/feb/02/obama-bad-bank-plan

Leaks in the media indicate that the banks are about to inhale another helping of taxpayer dollars. This round is likely to be considerably larger than the $350 billion that they swallowed in the bailout last October.

The leaks from Obama administration officials without names suggest that the money will provide a further subsidy to bank executives and shareholders and may not even resolve the banks’ financial crisis. In other words, the banks may yet come back for more.

The rumored plan is for the government to buy up hundreds of billions of dollars of bad debt from banks and place it in a “bad bank.” The bad bank would then resell these assets for whatever price it could get from private buyers.

The basic problem with this sort of plan is that it requires that the government overpay for the bad assets. If we just pay Citigroup, Bank of America, and the rest what their assets are worth, then they would be bankrupt. They have taken enormous losses on these assets. If they had to own up to their losses, it would wipe out the capital of many, if not most, of the banks in the country.

Recent estimates from Goldman Sachs and Nouriel Roubini put the cumulative losses to the banking system at around $2.0 trillion. There is a lot of room for guess work in such estimates, but there can be little doubt that this number is in the right neighborhood.

We are in the process of losing $8 trillion in housing bubble wealth. Most of this will be absorbed by homeowners, but if just 10 percent of this loss accrues to banks, that would be $800 billion. In addition, banks have lent $3 trillion to support a bubble in commercial real estate. If one third of these more speculative loans go bad, and half of that loss is incurred by banks, that gets us another $500 billion. Add in $200 billion each in losses on credit card debt, car loans, and small business loans, all of which are now far shakier because borrowers no longer have home equity as a backdrop, and you get to the $2 trillion neighborhood.

This $2 trillion loss compares with bank capital of just $1.4 trillion, a large portion of which is rapidly disappearing “goodwill.” In other words, the losses to the banking system will almost certainly vastly exceed its capital. This is why the banks need to tap our wallets.

If we go the bad bank route and pay too much for bad assets, then taxpayers are effectively subsidizing bank shareholders, who would otherwise be wiped out, and bank executives, who would otherwise be looking at big pay cuts or unemployment.

But it gets even worse. There is no reason to think that the bad bank route will be sufficient for resolving the banks problems, at least not in Round I, because they may not come clean with all their bad assets.

It is important to remember that these banks are run by people who could not see an $8 trillion housing bubble. It is likely that they still don’t know the full seriousness of their problems. (The same can be said of Treasury Secretary Tim Geitthner and National Economic Advisor Larry Summers, the bad bank’s designers.)

Many of their loans have not yet gone bad. For example, underwater mortgages that are still current. The bad news on these loans will come when homeowners have to make short sales, which could leave banks with losses of $100k, or more, per loan. This means that the “bad bank” created under this plan will have to be an ongoing business, handing out more taxpayer dollars for the banks’ junk over the next several years.

There is a simple alternative, which can be called “bank rationalization” in order to avoid the “n” word. Under this scenario, the government would take possession of insolvent banks. This is not interference with the market, it is the market. Bankrupt banks go out of business, but due to their importance to the economy, we can’t let them be tied up in bankruptcy proceedings for years.

Dealing with the matter all at once can both allow for a quicker fix to the financial system and also ensure fairer treatment of bank creditors. First, the shareholders of bankrupt institutions must be forced to eat their losses. However, we may not want to honor all the debts of the banks at 100 cents on the dollar, which has been current practice.

While the government has guaranteed most deposits, it has not guaranteed the bonds and commercial paper of the banks, nor their commitments on credit default swaps (CDS) and other derivative instruments. If it takes possession of all the bankrupt banks at once, it can apply a uniform policy. For example, it could honor bonds at 90 cents on the dollar or only pay off full CDS obligations to those who actually own the bond that was being insured against default.

To force banks to own up to insolvency, bank rationalization can apply punitive terms to banks that fail subsequently and allow their creditors to hold bank executives personally liable for their losses. Such rules would lead to more truth telling from our bankers.

In short, bank rationalization is both much fairer and better for the economy than the bad bank plan. If only the people who missed the housing bubble can be forced to recognize this fact.

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Afghan War: A Time of Great Discontent Looming: Obama’s Wars

January 7, 2009
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The true measure of a man is what he does with the promises
he makes. During last years presidential race I remained
skeptical about all of the candidates. Heard it, seen it
 before. Would Obama be a further disappointment as well?
His unwavering& uncritical support for Israel and a
willingness to escalate the US military involvement  in
Afghanistan have particularly troubled me. It really sounds
simplistic, but really, war is NOT the answer. In today's
NY Times the columnist  Bob Herbert writes about The Afghan
Quagmire [http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/06/opinion/06herbert.html?th&emc=th]
and, on the Huffington Post, Tom Hayden offers an even
broader perspective.Will Obama piss of theprogressive/populist/left
base that helped put him in office? I hope not. At the same
time we cannot simply sit back and not be critical of
looming errors in judgment that could derail a much broader
agenda of hope and change.

Afghan War: A Time of Great Discontent Looming: Obama's Wars
By Tom Hayden
January 6, 2009

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-hayden/obamas-wars_b_155669.html

On January 21, President Barack Obama will take
personal responsibility for the wars in Afghanistan and
Pakistan launched under President Bush. The Afghan-
Pakistan war is uniquely Democratic in origin, however.
Since John Kerry's 2004 campaign, hawkish Democratic
security and political consultants have asserted that
Afghanistan is a good and necessary war in comparison
with Iraq which they label a diversionary one.

This argument has allowed Democrats to be critical of
the Iraq War without diminishing their standing as
hawks who will employ force to hunt down Al Qaeda. As a
result, the rank-and-file base of the Democratic Party,
and public opinion in general, remains divided and
confused over Afghanistan. As a result, opponents of
the Afghanistan escalation remain at the margins
politically for now, although backed by a healthy
public skepticism given the Iraq experience. (more…)

President Obama’s Foreign Policy: The Change We Really Want?

November 27, 2008
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After nearly 40 years on the left side of the political spectrum I’ve come to expect disappointment and betrayal from the Democratic party. I am a skeptical member of that party. I want to have “hope”  for a better vision of the world my kids will grow up in.. I was impressed by Obama’s campaign and the outpouring of street level support for him. I was impressed with his speech at 5th Third Field. On the other hand John McCain was anathema, definitely not a good choice for President, so I voted for Obama. I did so knowing full well Obama is not the “democratic messiah”
So what do we do now? How does the amorphous movement of people
Maintain influence with the new President? What is the best path for progressives to follow? The article re posted below is one vision, focused on the critical question of what Obama’s foreign policy is going to look like. It’s long, but well worth the time. Expect more on this important debate.
_____________________________________________________________________________
November 26, 2008 By Joanne Landy jlandy@igc.org
Source: New Politics
Joanne Landy’s ZSpace Page

With the election of Barack Obama, millions in the United States and around the world are hoping for relief from the dangerous arrogance and destructiveness of George Bush’s foreign policy. President Obama is expected to take important positive initiatives — like closing Guantanamo and lifting the rule denying international organizations receiving U.S. aid the right to let women know about abortion. When the inevitable right-wing reaction to these initiatives comes, it will be crucial for us in the peace movement to defend them. On some broader questions, there is a chance that with strong continuing popular pressure — from both within and outside the United States — the pre-election hopes of many Obama supporters can be realized on issues such as an end to the war in Iraq or stepping back from Bush’s attempt to install “missile defense” in Poland and the Czech Republic. (more…)


THE FOX IN THE CHICKEN COOP/WHITHER THE “BAILOUT”??

November 22, 2008
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Speculation and suspicion about what political position the “most liberal” Senator, now President Elect Barack Obama, will assume once he arrives in office abounds. I understand the need to “hit the ground running”, especially considering the dire circumstances of the economy. At the same time, from this distant post,it starting to look like  the new administration is going to epitomize the line out of the old Who song, Won’t Get Fooled Again…”meet the new boss, same as the old boss…”
Hillary at State, Gates still guarding the coop at Defense. OMG. Really?
One unrepentant hawk, Gates, and saber rattling Hillary.
k, maybe Obama can focus them on HIS vision. Maybe.
With those two  he risks alienating the left even more on policy toward Iraq & Afghanistan.
He wants to stay; she’s never regretted her vote [“thought the prez was going to use diplomacy….]

And for the  Treasury post  we have the president of the New York Fed, Timothy F Geithner, from the District Bank most linked to Wall Street. Partnered with Current Treasury Secretary Paulson and Fed chairman Bernake, Geithner has been one of the architects of the current Bailout fiasco.
How well has THAT worked??? Trying to save the Monopoly Capitalist system before main street totally collapses has proven to be a task beyond the capabilities of our current technicians.

I don’t pretend to have answers but a couple of things seem clear. “saving” the big 3 looks to me like a better bet than giving Billions to banks so they can buy other banks, pay off dividends and golden parachutes and hold half million dollar weekend junkets.

Dayton’s economy is so far down the tank [the view from this post on Main Street] that another blow coming in the form of closing local GM facilities, may be one that it takes years [if ever] to recover from. With some three million direct &  related jobs on the line nationally,  the fallout in cities with GM plants and suppliers will absolutely be devastating.

And oh yes, the “big 3” did it to themselves, anyone with a brain can see that. There are cars in Japan that get 50 miles to the gallon of gas. Detroit, with the help of DEMOCRAT legislators like the recently deposed John Dingell, has resisted higher fuel & emission  standards, further digging itself in the hole as it produced various SUV behemoths that just increased USA dependence on foreign oil.

Maybe some form of nationalization is what we need.
Dump the guys who so very stupidly flew to Washington in separate corporate jets.
Implement a “Manhattan Project”  for cars?
Because giving the fox access to the chicken coop is NOT working

Some pertinent viewpoints:

Honeymoon: Left Cuts Obama Slack for Now

By: Ryan Grim and Glenn Thrush
November 21, 2008 02:41 PM EST
<http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1108/15845.html>
_____________________________________________

Dingell Loses to Waxman and Auto Stocks Dive
Call It What It Is: Corruption

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
Posted on November 21, 2008
AlterNet
<http://www.alternet.org/story/107974/>


This is Change? 20 Hawks, Clintonites and Neocons to Watch for in Obama’s White House

November 20, 2008
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My worst fears about the forthcoming Obama Presidency seem to be coming true. Readers will recall my skepticism during the primaries vis a vis Obama’s rhetoric about the middle east and his willingness to use “bomb” diplomacy in places like Pakistan and Afghanistsan.  I really really hoped that he was going to be a different kind of democrat, that his early anti-war stance was really about “change”, that we were not re-electing the Democratic Leadership Council [DLC]. Reading the article reprinted from the weblog Alternet that is posted below made me very depressed. Is there really a new direction in national politics or is this really just more of the same?

This is Change? 20 Hawks, Clintonites and Neocons to Watch for in Obama’s White House


By Jeremy Scahill, AlterNet
Posted on November 20, 2008, Printed on November 20, 2008
http://www.alternet.org/story/107666/
U.S. policy is not about one individual, and no matter how much faith people place in President-elect Barack Obama, the policies he enacts will be fruit of a tree with many roots. Among them: his personal politics and views, the disastrous realities his administration will inherit, and, of course, unpredictable future crises. But the best immediate indicator of what an Obama administration might look like can be found in the people he surrounds himself with and who he appoints to his Cabinet. And, frankly, when it comes to foreign policy, it is not looking good. (more…)

IS THE FUTURE REALLY OURS? TWO VIEWS OF BARAK OBAMAS IMPACT

November 6, 2008
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Where have I been? Here it is November and the country I know of as America is a much different [changed] place. For me survival in a tough retail environment became ALL.
The recorded music biz is NOT what once was and realignment became the order of the day, requiring nearly all my energy

We are now faced with a uncertain future led by a man anointed as the next big thing by the American people. Republicans are out, Democrats are in. But what does this really mean? Sara Robinson offers one view, wherein progressives have won an ally who generally shares their view of the world. Larry Pickney, a former Black Panther and a contributor to the Black Commentator, offers a starkly different perspective in his essay More Of The Same, Only Worse .

I find myself somewhat in the middle, or muddle, as it were. I really  want to believe that the future IS going to be better due to  the leadership of this man, Barrack Obama.
I am of the 60’s, a disillusioned Vietnam Vet remembering and recognizing the ongoing collusion of the national [ and state and local] Democrats with conservative and  right wing forces. Yes there has been progress, but at what cost. How any Democrats voted for the Bush tax cuts, for the Iraq War authorization,  for the Patriot Act? The list is long and disgusting.

I am a democrat, small d. That does not mean being blind to reality.
We shall see whether the new shaman can pull it off, whether he can actually mobilize the American people in a new populist & progressive direction. I am waiting with bated breath…

The two articles cited follow:

All good movements turn into organizations turn into businesses turn into rackets.
—Old organizers’ saying

I don’t think any of us expected to get so far so soon.

Back in 2003, when Bush was southern-frying the Dixie Chicks and the Iraq War was propelling millions into the streets and progressive blogs consisted of a small handful of folks writing in their pajamas under esoteric banners like “Eschaton” or “Orcinus” or “Daily Kos,” anybody who suggested that America might someday return to its liberal Enlightenment roots was right up there on the wack-o-meter with those who dreamed that the country might someday abolish private property and adopt socialist utopianism. Nobody serious thought it was remotely possible. Amongst ourselves, we told each other that ousting the conservative juggernaut would probably be the work of a couple of decades. Or maybe even a whole generation. Or maybe it was a fool’s errand that wasn’t even possible at all any more. (more…)


OBAMA SLIDES DEEPER INTO GRIP OF ISRAELI LOBBY

June 23, 2008
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Reuters,
June 20, 2008

Jacksonville Fla

US presidential candidate Brack Obama said that

Israel is justified in providing for its security amid the “extraordinary
threat” posed to it by Iran.

He spoke after the *New York Times* quoted unnamed U.S. officials as
saying that Israel had carried out a large military exercise this month
that appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran’s
nuclear facilities.

Obama, a Democrat who is running against Republican John McCain in the
November election, was asked at a news conference in Jacksonville, Florida
whether Israel was right to carry out the exercise.

“Without access to the actual detailed intelligence, I want to be careful
about characterizing what was done and whether it was appropriate or not,”
Obama, an Illinois senator, said.

But he added that the Jewish state was right to be concerned about the
anti-Israel comments of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and about
Tehran’s support for Hezbollah and Hamas.

“And so there is no doubt that Iran poses an extraordinary threat to
Israel and Israel is always justified in making decisions that will
provide for its security,” Obama said.

http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSN20400368

What Bullshit.


As his over the top support for the Ethanol lobby [read agribusiness] shows [and McCain opposes], Obama’s spine is a weak as any Dummycrat in Congress when comes to really standing up the most powerful lobbyists he has so “firmly rejected”. By further fanning the flames of fear regarding the potential for a “necessary” surrogate military strike by Israel against Iran, Obama shows his true political position.

Yes, there are other serious differences between him and McCain, but his recent pro militaristic Israeli comments [re:AIPAC speech] show him firmly slipping into the pocket of those who would lead us into a potential World War III. Perhaps his next move is going to joing McCain ina duet on “Bomb bomb Iran” as in the YouTube clip??

What ever happened to the open diplomatic approach so loudly espoused during the primary campaign?? Mr Obama’s swing to the center right was to be expected in the general election. But, parroting the likes of Bush, Cheney and McCain on policy toward Iran is hardly a position that looks even remotely “progressive”.

Oh, and Mr Obama also opposes Impeaching the War Criminals Bush and Cheney…too much of an “unnecessary distraction”…
We need DIPLOMACY, not jingoistic posturing!!

 

Whiners, Poor Losers and Why Hillary Shouldn’t Be Barack’s VP/By Dave Lindorff

June 4, 2008
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Whiners, Poor Losers and Why Hillary Shouldn’t Be Barack’s VP

By Dave Lindorff

It’s kind of bizarre reading about supposed “feminists” who are reportedly claiming they’ll vote for McCain rather than Obama, now that “their” candidate, Hillary Clinton, is out of the running for the presidential nomination.

First of all, John McCain is clearly the candidate of the anti-abortion crowd, but that’s not the half of it. He’s also the candidate who says Anthony Scalia, John Roberts and Sam Alito are his kind of judges. We’re talking here about guys (yeah, guys) who think a woman’s place is in the home, and who only recently ruled that if she’s discriminated against on the job, and doesn’t learn about it for a decade or more, a woman can’t do anything about it, because the original offense of underpaying her happened more than 180 days ago. McCain is also the guy who, after his wife suffered a serious car crash and became disabled, dumped her for a younger, richer woman. A feminist’s dream, this guy.

And how about Hillary Clinton? When she was supposedly getting her “White House experience”—you know, the “co-presidency” she was supposedly part of during the eight years her husband was president and she was First Lady—she and Bill oversaw the “end of welfare as we know it.” What that fine piece of legislation did was limit people to five years on the dole. That’s for life. It doesn’t matter what misfortune befalls you later on.

Now many single women left to raise kids by fathers who either ditch them or who never stepped up to the plate as fathers in the first place, have a hard time, between lack of adequate child care facilities and discrimination on the job, keeping the rent paid and food on the table. Many of them need government assistance well beyond that five years—a period of time not long enough to even get one kid into full-time school, much less two or three. That didn’t matter to Hillary, the great champion of women. She and Bill were busy triangulating and figuring out how to keep their White House position, and that meant selling out poor people, and especially poor women with kids. Welfare had to go.

Even on abortion rights, Clinton has been a waffler. In 2000, running for Senate in New York, she said she would be a staunch defender of the right to choose. But by 2004, she was saying abortion was a “tragic” choice, and was supporting parental notification laws for minors seeking abortion—a position she continues to hold. But abortion isn’t a “tragic choice” for everyone. For some women—rape and incest victims, or women who are victims of abuse come readily to mind—abortion may be a blessed relief. For some, it may be no more tragic than an appendectomy—and it should be no harder to get, or to pay for than one either. There is a reason why the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) voted unanimously to endorse Obama, who has said abortion rights are about more than just women’s right to control their own bodies, but are about basic issues of equality.

What the cries of “McCain, McCain!” by disappointed Clinton backers really represent is an example of sour grapes, as well as of a certain perhaps hidden element of racism. It is as if blacks, had Obama been the loser in this nomination battle, were to say, “That’s it, we’re voting for McCain!”

Obviously, African-American candidates have had to endure this problem for years. When their candidate, whether it was Jesse Jackson, or Shirley Chisolm, or Ted Kennedy, was defeated, they have had to look to their broader interests and decide whether to vote Republican, sit out the election, or just shrug and vote for the winning Democrat. Consistently, they have chosen the third option, disappointment after disappointment.

Blacks are supposed to stick with the Democrats, no matter what. Clinton backers, however, don’t feel handcuffed in this way. Some of them, apparently, feel free to abandon all their liberal principles and vote for a right-wing, anti-abortion, fundamentalist Christian-coddling warmonger if they don’t get the candidate they want from the Democrats.

If these grousers and poor losers in the Clinton camp thought honestly about it for even a moment, they’d realize that had Clinton won the most delegates, and if African-American and liberal, educated white backers of Obama, in response, were to adopt their position and bolt to McCain, Clinton would be a historical asterisk, with no chance of being elected.

In the end, I suspect that most of the whining and the threats to switch to McCain represent only a small, if vocal, minority. The truth is, in the course of 54 primaries, Obama won a majority of female voters—a point rarely made in media reports on this contest. The same can be said of those “white—hard working white” voters who supposedly went for Hillary Clinton in states like West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In fact, numerically speaking, Obama won more of those white, working class voters than did either John Kerry or Al Gore before him. Meanwhile, many of those male voters who voted for Hillary Clinton are probably people who were going to vote Republican in the fall anyhow. There was an organized campaign, after all, by Republican activists, to throw the election to Clinton, who was seen as being easier to defeat in the fall than Obama. That effort almost certainly gave Clinton her narrow win in Indiana, and padded her margins in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

As for Clinton’s fallback position of trying to make herself the vice-presidential candidate on a “dream” Obama-Clinton ticket, Obama would have to be crazy to go for it. Clinton brings nothing but disaster to the Obama campaign. He doesn’t need her to win New York, New Jersey or California, all of which he will win by a landslide without her in November. He doesn’t need her for Illinois (her home state, whatever efforts she made to try to pretend she was a rural Pennsylvanian during that state’s primary). She certainly doesn’t help him in the south, with the possible exception of Florida. She doesn’t bring any “balance” to the ticket, given that both senators have almost identical voting records on domestic issues. And as for the swing states—Virginia, Wisconsin, Colorado, New Mexico, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, etc.—she may do more damage than good, given the number of independents and Republicans who have been drawn to Obama, but who have negative feelings about the Clintons. Moreover, with the right vice-presidential candidate—and it’s not Clinton—Obama may even have a shot at not just Virginia, but also North Carolina and even Mississippi—states where the percentage of black voters is high enough that, with an energized black voter turnout, the liberal Democratic vote could be enough to turn the trick.

The Hillary Clinton campaign has all along been about entitlement. She began her race for the White House acting as though it was a coronation—something she deserved after enduring eight years in the White House as second fiddle to husband Bill. Now, having been defeated, she’s acting like she deserves second fiddle. But the truth is, Clinton, by her shabby appeals to racist voters, by her resort to red-baiting of her opponent, and finally by her refusal to denounce and apologize for her shameless and calculating backing for the invasion of Iraq, has rendered her unfit for a spot on the Democratic ticket.

Obama can do much better than that. Yes he can.
____________
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net


LANNY DAVIS, CLINTON APOLOGIST, BAKED AND FILLETED

May 28, 2008
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Burned out by the Clinton-Obama primary battle ? I have to admit to feeling more than a bit fatigued, and I think of myself as a political junkie, type AAA. Regular readers will note an absence of posts over the last few weeks, mostly due to the above mentioned campaign fatigue,

I am just as suspicious of Barack Obama’s connections to the power elite as I am Ms Clinton, and have re-posted several well written articles regarding those connections on this blog. However, as time wear on , Ms Clinton’s rhetoric, and that of her husband, has grown increasingly shrill, and most regrettably, seemingly coming out of a Karl Rove Republican playbook. Maybe individually the remarks can be parsed and explained, but the low road, once taken, is hard to get off of.You can only bring up “white voters”, parrot bogus gas tax relief schemes [in agreement with McCain…] and imply entitlement so many times before the veneer of respectability wears off. If he wins, I sincerely hope Obama does not give into sharing his presidency with the Clinton’s…

One of the most obstinate and tenacious defenders of Clinton has been one Lanny Davis, who, armed with more “facts” than any three other interviewees, ardently believes that Clinton can make no mistakes . Nothing she says could possibly be interpreted as anything but righteous She is the perfect, entitled Democratic party nominee.
My opinion of this pugnacious and rude huckster….very low.

The article posted below is somewhat long and detailed, but it clearly lays out the fallacies in Davis’s wishful fantasies.

Adventures in Lannyland

Lanny Davis, annotated:

Here are two important neutral principles that should guide the Democratic National Committee’s Rules Committee when it meets May 31 to decide whether to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations — and, if so, how to allocate them between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

One principle is based in law, the second in pragmatic politics. Both principles result in the same solution: in some rough approximation, honoring the results expressed by almost 600,000 Michigan Democrats and more than 1.7 million Florida Democrats, who turned out in record numbers though they were told their votes didn’t count, were not responsible for the rules violations, and don’t want to be disenfranchised.

Record numbers? Not in Michigan. According to the Michigan Bureau of Elections, the record for participation in a Democratic Presidential Primary came in 1972, when 1,588,073 Michigan Democrats cast ballots. That is nearly one million more ballots than were cast this year. (On the other hand, had Michigan held an “official” primary, and had the voters had behaved approximately as they did in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Ohio, about 2,000,000 voters would have cast ballots, easily breaking the record).

The legal principle supporting that solution is pretty simple. In U.S. contract law, the party breaching a contract usually has the right to “cure” the violation during the term of the contract. But if the other party stands in the way of that cure, the breaching party cannot be further sanctioned — and certainly, as a matter of fairness, the party preventing the cure should not stand to benefit.

If the breach in question is Michigan’s decision to advance the date of its primary beyond what the DNC permitted, it would seem that the parties to that dispute are (i) the Michigan Democratic Party (MDP), and (ii) the DNC. Therefore, if the MDP sought to cure the breach (that is, hold a do-over election), the principle that Davis articulates would suggest that the “breaching party” — a.k.a. the MDP — could not be further sanctioned.

It is unclear, however, what any of this has to do with the Clinton and Obama campaigns. At best it is an argument for seating Michigan’s delegates. It isn’t an argument about how to seat them. (more…)


The All-White Elephant in the Room/By FRANK RICH

May 8, 2008
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The New York Times


May 4, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist

The All-White Elephant in the Room

BORED by those endless replays of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright? If so, go directly to YouTube, search for “John Hagee Roman Church Hitler,” and be recharged by a fresh jolt of clerical jive.

What you’ll find is a white televangelist, the Rev. John Hagee, lecturing in front of an enormous diorama. Wielding a pointer, he pokes at the image of a woman with Pamela Anderson-sized breasts, her hand raising a golden chalice. The woman is “the Great Whore,” Mr. Hagee explains, and she is drinking “the blood of the Jewish people.” That’s because the Great Whore represents “the Roman Church,” which, in his view, has thirsted for Jewish blood throughout history, from the Crusades to the Holocaust.

Mr. Hagee is not a fringe kook but the pastor of a Texas megachurch. On Feb. 27, he stood with John McCain and endorsed him over the religious conservatives’ favorite, Mike Huckabee, who was then still in the race.

Are we really to believe that neither Mr. McCain nor his camp knew anything then about Mr. Hagee’s views? This particular YouTube video — far from the only one — was posted on Jan. 1, nearly two months before the Hagee-McCain press conference. Mr. Hagee appears on multiple religious networks, including twice daily on the largest, Trinity Broadcasting, which reaches 75 million homes. Any 12-year-old with a laptop could have vetted this preacher in 30 seconds, tops.

Since then, Mr. McCain has been shocked to learn that his clerical ally has made many other outrageous statements. Mr. Hagee, it’s true, did not blame the American government for concocting AIDS. But he did say that God created Hurricane Katrina to punish New Orleans for its sins, particularly a scheduled “homosexual parade there on the Monday that Katrina came.”

Mr. Hagee didn’t make that claim in obscure circumstances, either. He broadcast it on one of America’s most widely heard radio programs, “Fresh Air” on NPR, back in September 2006. He reaffirmed it in a radio interview less than two weeks ago. Only after a reporter asked Mr. McCain about this Katrina homily on April 24 did the candidate brand it as “nonsense” and the preacher retract it.

Mr. McCain says he does not endorse any of Mr. Hagee’s calumnies, any more than Barack Obama endorses Mr. Wright’s. But those who try to give Mr. McCain a pass for his embrace of a problematic preacher have a thin case. It boils down to this: Mr. McCain was not a parishioner for 20 years at Mr. Hagee’s church.

That defense implies, incorrectly, that Mr. McCain was a passive recipient of this bigot’s endorsement. In fact, by his own account, Mr. McCain sought out Mr. Hagee, who is perhaps best known for trying to drum up a pre-emptiveholy war” with Iran. (This preacher’s rantings may tell us more about Mr. McCain’s policy views than Mr. Wright’s tell us about Mr. Obama’s.) Even after Mr. Hagee’s Catholic bashing bubbled up in the mainstream media, Mr. McCain still did not reject and denounce him, as Mr. Obama did an unsolicited endorser, Louis Farrakhan, at the urging of Tim Russert and Hillary Clinton. Mr. McCain instead told George Stephanopoulos two Sundays ago that while he condemns any “anti-anything” remarks by Mr. Hagee, he is still “glad to have his endorsement.”

I wonder if Mr. McCain would have given the same answer had Mr. Stephanopoulos confronted him with the graphic video of the pastor in full “Great Whore” glory. But Mr. McCain didn’t have to fear so rude a transgression. Mr. Hagee’s videos have never had the same circulation on television as Mr. Wright’s. A sonorous white preacher spouting venom just doesn’t have the telegenic zing of a theatrical black man.

Perhaps that’s why virtually no one has rebroadcast the highly relevant prototype for Mr. Wright’s fiery claim that 9/11 was America’s chickens “coming home to roost.” That would be the Sept. 13, 2001, televised exchange between Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, who blamed the attacks on America’s abortionists, feminists, gays and A.C.L.U. lawyers. (Mr. Wright blamed the attacks on America’s foreign policy.) Had that video re-emerged in the frenzied cable-news rotation, Mr. McCain might have been asked to explain why he no longer calls these preachers “agents of intolerance” and chose to cozy up to Mr. Falwell by speaking at his Liberty University in 2006.

None of this is to say that two wacky white preachers make a Wright right. It is entirely fair for any voter to weigh Mr. Obama’s long relationship with his pastor in assessing his fitness for office. It is also fair to weigh Mr. Obama’s judgment in handling this personal and political crisis as it has repeatedly boiled over. But whatever that verdict, it is disingenuous to pretend that there isn’t a double standard operating here. If we’re to judge black candidates on their most controversial associates — and how quickly, sternly and completely they disown them — we must judge white politicians by the same yardstick.

When Rudy Giuliani, still a viable candidate, successfully courted Pat Robertson for an endorsement last year, few replayed Mr. Robertson’s greatest past insanities. Among them is his best-selling 1991 tome, “The New World Order,” which peddled some of the same old dark conspiracy theories about “European bankers” (who just happened to be named Warburg, Schiff and Rothschild) that Mr. Farrakhan has trafficked in. Nor was Mr. Giuliani ever seriously pressed to explain why his cronies on the payroll at Giuliani Partners included a priest barred from the ministry by his Long Island diocese in 2002 following allegations of sexual abuse. Much as Mr. Wright officiated at the Obamas’ wedding, so this priest officiated at (one of) Mr. Giuliani’s. Did you even hear about it?

There is not just a double standard for black and white politicians at play in too much of the news media and political establishment, but there is also a glaring double standard for our political parties. The Clintons and Mr. Obama are always held accountable for their racial stands, as they should be, but the elephant in the room of our politics is rarely acknowledged: In the 21st century, the so-called party of Lincoln does not have a single African-American among its collective 247 senators and representatives in Washington. Yes, there are appointees like Clarence Thomas and Condi Rice, but, as we learned during the Mark Foley scandal, even gay men may hold more G.O.P. positions of power than blacks.

A near half-century after the civil rights acts of the 1960s, this is quite an achievement. Yet the holier-than-thou politicians and pundits on the right passing shrill moral judgment over every Democratic racial skirmish are almost never asked to confront or even acknowledge the racial dysfunction in their own house. In our mainstream political culture, this de facto apartheid is simply accepted as an intractable given, unworthy of notice, and just too embarrassing to mention aloud in polite Beltway company. Those who dare are instantly accused of “political correctness” or “reverse racism.”

An all-white Congressional delegation doesn’t happen by accident. It’s the legacy of race cards that have been dealt since the birth of the Southern strategy in the Nixon era. No one knows this better than Mr. McCain, whose own adopted daughter of color was the subject of a vicious smear in his party’s South Carolina primary of 2000.

This year Mr. McCain has called for a respectful (i.e., non-race-baiting) campaign and has gone so far as to criticize (ineffectually) North Carolina’s Republican Party for running a Wright-demonizing ad in that state’s current primary. Mr. McCain has been posing (awkwardly) with black people in his tour of “forgotten” America. Speaking of Katrina in New Orleans, he promised that “never again” would a federal recovery effort be botched on so grand a scale.

This is all surely sincere, and a big improvement over Mitt Romney’s dreams of his father marching with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Up to a point. Here, too, there’s a double standard. Mr. McCain is graded on a curve because the G.O.P. bar is set so low. But at a time when the latest Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll shows that President Bush is an even greater drag on his popularity than Mr. Wright is on Mr. Obama’s, Mr. McCain’s New Orleans visit is more about the self-interested politics of distancing himself from Mr. Bush than the recalibration of policy.

Mr. McCain took his party’s stingier line on Katrina aid and twice opposed an independent commission to investigate the failed government response. Asked on his tour what should happen to the Ninth Ward now, he called for “a conversation” about whether anyone should “rebuild it, tear it down, you know, whatever it is.” Whatever, whenever, never mind.

For all this primary season’s obsession with the single (and declining) demographic of white working-class men in Rust Belt states, America is changing rapidly across all racial, generational and ethnic lines. The Census Bureau announced last week that half the country’s population growth since 2000 is due to Hispanics, another group understandably alienated from the G.O.P.

Anyone who does the math knows that America is on track to become a white-minority nation in three to four decades. Yet if there’s any coherent message to be gleaned from the hypocrisy whipped up by Hurricane Jeremiah, it’s that this nation’s perennially promised candid conversation on race has yet to begin.


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61 Y/O VIET VET WORKING FROM THE LEFT OF CENTER

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