August 2008 Archives

Finally a reporter with some sense on the Ayers - Obama "relationship." Thank you, Linda Lenz!


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Above, some of the other members who were on the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge with Bill Ayers and Barack Obama

From left to right: Barack Obama, Dem. Presidential Nominee; Susan Crown, VP of Henry Crown & Co. Note that the Crown family has a $2 billion stake in General Dynamics, a defense industry contractor with which the family business, Material Service Corporation, merged in 1959; Arnold Weber, President Emeritus of Northwestern University and board member of Diamond Consultants, a management and technology firm; and Bill Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago.


From the Chicago Sun Times
30 August 2008
BY LINDA LENZ

Somewhere in the afterlife, Walter Annenberg must be shaking his head and wondering what in the world is going on in Chicago. First, the Sun-Times and the Tribune gave up precious inches of their dwindling news space to report that the University of Illinois at Chicago was refusing — and then later agreed — to release documents detailing Sen. Barack Obama’s role in a nonprofit education project "started" by William Ayers, a founder in the 1960s of the radical Weatherman group, which embraced violence as an anti-war tactic.

The project in question was the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a pairing of nonprofit organizations and schools funded by the late publishing magnate and mainstream Chicago foundations. Ayers had been one of the authors of Chicago’s proposal to get a slice of Annenberg’s $500 million multi-city school reform grant, and Obama was the project’s first board chairman.

The issue of Obama’s role arose when a blogger for National Review raised questions about his relationship with Ayers, a favorite election-year target of conservatives. The blogger felt quite sure that the pair were much closer than Obama intimated when he said he knew Ayers "from the neighborhood" where both live. The blogger hinted darkly that the pair were really ideological soul mates and that Obama was aligned "with Ayers’s radical views on education issues."

When the appointed hour arrived for release of the documents, reporters, camera operators and bloggers descended on the hapless university library staff to pore over hundreds of files of grant proposals, meeting minutes and reports — a "media frenzy," the Tribune called it.

And what did the muckrakers find? Horrors, Obama had attended meetings and retreats with the author of The Good Preschool Teacher and To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher. He had actually rubbed shoulders — can you believe it? — with a distinguished professor of education who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in early childhood education and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction. He had probably even shared a cup of coffee, as only a co-conspirator would, with this professor, whose writings describe good schools as places that are "organized around and powered by a set of core values" and "effectively meet students where they are and find ways to nurture and challenge them to learn."

In other words, Obama does, indeed, know Bill Ayers as more than just a guy from the neighborhood. So do a host of civic leaders in Chicago. For example, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge board included Susan Crown of the General Dynamics Corp. family; Patricia Graham, former dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Arnold Weber, past president of Northwestern University and of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago. Indeed, just about everyone active in Chicago school reform in the early days saw Ayers as a colleague. No one ever accused them of being radical because of their association with Bill Ayers.

Whatever one thinks of Ayers’ actions 40 years ago, there is nothing to condemn, and much to admire, about his leadership and commitment over the past 20 years in making schools better places to teach and learn. And there is nothing to condemn, and much to applaud, in Obama’s close association with those efforts.

Some of the reporters assigned to dig into the Annenberg archives felt a little silly about it all, I’m told. Their editors should too.

Linda Lenz is the founder and publisher of Catalyst Chicago, an education newsmagazine published by Community Renewal Society.


Michelle Obama's 2008 Democractic Convention Speech


TEXT VERSION

Originally published 11:04 p.m., August 25, 2008, updated 10:46 p.m., August 25, 2008
Text of Michelle Obama's speech at the convention
The Associated Press ASSOCIATED PRESS


Prepared remarks of Michelle Obama, partner of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, for her address to the Democratic National Convention on Monday night in Denver, as released by the Obama campaign:

OBAMA: As you might imagine, for Barack, running for president is nothing compared to that first game of basketball with my brother Craig.

I can't tell you how much it means to have Craig and my mom here tonight. Like Craig, I can feel my dad looking down on us, just as I've felt his presence in every grace-filled moment of my life.

At six-foot-six, I've often felt like Craig was looking down on me too _ literally. But the truth is, both when we were kids and today, he wasn't looking down on me _ he was watching over me.

And he's been there for me every step of the way since that clear February day 19 months ago, when _ with little more than our faith in each other and a hunger for change _ we joined my husband, Barack Obama, on the improbable journey that's brought us to this moment.

But each of us also comes here tonight by way of our own improbable journey.

I come here tonight as a sister, blessed with a brother who is my mentor, my protector and my lifelong friend.

I come here as a wife who loves my husband and believes he will be an extraordinary president.

I come here as a Mom whose girls are the heart of my heart and the center of my world _ they're the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning, and the last thing I think about when I go to bed at night. Their future _ and all our children's future _ is my stake in this election.

And I come here as a daughter _ raised on the South Side of Chicago by a father who was a blue collar city worker, and a mother who stayed at home with my brother and me. My mother's love has always been a sustaining force for our family, and one of my greatest joys is seeing her integrity, her compassion, and her intelligence reflected in my own daughters.

My dad was our rock. Although he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in his early thirties, he was our provider, our champion, our hero. As he got sicker, it got harder for him to walk, it took him longer to get dressed in the morning. But if he was in pain, he never let on. He never stopped smiling and laughing _ even while struggling to button his shirt, even while using two canes to get himself across the room to give my Mom a kiss. He just woke up a little earlier, and worked a little harder.

He and my mom poured everything they had into me and Craig. It was the greatest gift a child can receive: never doubting for a single minute that you're loved, and cherished, and have a place in this world. And thanks to their faith and hard work, we both were able to go on to college. So I know firsthand from their lives _ and mine _ that the American dream endures.

And you know, what struck me when I first met Barack was that even though he had this funny name, even though he'd grown up all the way across the continent in Hawaii, his family was so much like mine. He was raised by grandparents who were working class folks just like my parents, and by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills just like we did. Like my family, they scrimped and saved so that he could have opportunities they never had themselves. And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you're going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them, and even if you don't agree with them.

And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children _ and all children in this nation _ to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.

And as our friendship grew, and I learned more about Barack, he introduced me to the work he'd done when he first moved to Chicago after college. Instead of heading to Wall Street, Barack had gone to work in neighborhoods devastated when steel plants shut down, and jobs dried up. And he'd been invited back to speak to people from those neighborhoods about how to rebuild their community.

The people gathered together that day were ordinary folks doing the best they could to build a good life. They were parents living paycheck to paycheck; grandparents trying to get by on a fixed income; men frustrated that they couldn't support their families after their jobs disappeared. Those folks weren't asking for a handout or a shortcut. They were ready to work _ they wanted to contribute. They believed _ like you and I believe _ that America should be a place where you can make it if you try.

Barack stood up that day, and spoke words that have stayed with me ever since. He talked about "The world as it is" and "The world as it should be." And he said that all too often, we accept the distance between the two, and settle for the world as it is _ even when it doesn't reflect our values and aspirations. But he reminded us that we know what our world should look like. We know what fairness and justice and opportunity look like. And he urged us to believe in ourselves _ to find the strength within ourselves to strive for the world as it should be. And isn't that the great American story?

It's the story of men and women gathered in churches and union halls, in town squares and high school gyms _ people who stood up and marched and risked everything they had _ refusing to settle, determined to mold our future into the shape of our ideals.

It is because of their will and determination that this week, we celebrate two anniversaries: the 88th anniversary of women winning the right to vote, and the 45th anniversary of that hot summer day when Dr. King lifted our sights and our hearts with his dream for our nation.

I stand here today at the crosscurrents of that history _ knowing that my piece of the American dream is a blessing hard won by those who came before me. All of them driven by the same conviction that drove my dad to get up an hour early each day to painstakingly dress himself for work. The same conviction that drives the men and women I've met all across this country:

People who work the day shift, kiss their kids goodnight, and head out for the night shift _ without disappointment, without regret _ that goodnight kiss a reminder of everything they're working for.

The military families who say grace each night with an empty seat at the table. The servicemen and women who love this country so much, they leave those they love most to defend it.

The young people across America serving our communities _ teaching children, cleaning up neighborhoods, caring for the least among us each and every day.

People like Hillary Clinton, who put those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, so that our daughters _ and sons _ can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher.

People like Joe Biden, who's never forgotten where he came from, and never stopped fighting for folks who work long hours and face long odds and need someone on their side again.

All of us driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won't do _ that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be.

That is the thread that connects our hearts. That is the thread that runs through my journey and Barack's journey and so many other improbable journeys that have brought us here tonight, where the current of history meets this new tide of hope.

That is why I love this country.

And in my own life, in my own small way, I've tried to give back to this country that has given me so much. That's why I left a job at a law firm for a career in public service, working to empower young people to volunteer in their communities. Because I believe that each of us _ no matter what our age or background or walk of life _ each of us has something to contribute to the life of this nation.

It's a belief Barack shares _ a belief at the heart of his life's work.

It's what he did all those years ago, on the streets of Chicago, setting up job training to get people back to work and afterschool programs to keep kids safe _ working block by block to help people lift up their families.

It's what he did in the Illinois Senate, moving people from welfare to jobs, passing tax cuts for hard working families, and making sure women get equal pay for equal work.

It's what he's done in the United States Senate, fighting to ensure the men and women who serve this country are welcomed home not just with medals and parades, but with good jobs and benefits and health care _ including mental health care.

That's why he's running _ to end the war in Iraq responsibly, to build an economy that lifts every family, to make health care available for every American, and to make sure every child in this nation gets a world class education all the way from preschool to college. That's what Barack Obama will do as President of the United States of America.

He'll achieve these goals the same way he always has _ by bringing us together and reminding us how much we share and how alike we really are. You see, Barack doesn't care where you're from, or what your background is, or what party _ if any _ you belong to. That's not how he sees the world. He knows that thread that connects us _ our belief in America's promise, our commitment to our children's future _ is strong enough to hold us together as one nation even when we disagree.

It was strong enough to bring hope to those neighborhoods in Chicago.

It was strong enough to bring hope to the mother he met worried about her child in Iraq; hope to the man who's unemployed, but can't afford gas to find a job; hope to the student working nights to pay for her sister's health care, sleeping just a few hours a day.

And it was strong enough to bring hope to people who came out on a cold Iowa night and became the first voices in this chorus for change that's been echoed by millions of Americans from every corner of this nation.

Millions of Americans who know that Barack understands their dreams; that Barack will fight for people like them; and that Barack will finally bring the change we need.

And in the end, after all that's happened these past 19 months, the Barack Obama I know today is the same man I fell in love with 19 years ago. He's the same man who drove me and our new baby daughter home from the hospital ten years ago this summer, inching along at a snail's pace, peering anxiously at us in the rearview mirror, feeling the whole weight of her future in his hands, determined to give her everything he'd struggled so hard for himself, determined to give her what he never had: the affirming embrace of a father's love.

And as I tuck that little girl and her little sister into bed at night, I think about how one day, they'll have families of their own. And one day, they _ and your sons and daughters _ will tell their own children about what we did together in this election. They'll tell them how this time, we listened to our hopes, instead of our fears. How this time, we decided to stop doubting and to start dreaming. How this time, in this great country _ where a girl from the South Side of Chicago can go to college and law school, and the son of a single mother from Hawaii can go all the way to the White House _ we committed ourselves to building the world as it should be.

So tonight, in honor of my father's memory and my daughters' future _ out of gratitude to those whose triumphs we mark this week, and those whose everyday sacrifices have brought us to this moment _ let us devote ourselves to finishing their work; let us work together to fulfill their hopes; and let us stand together to elect Barack Obama President of the United States of America.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

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21 August 2008
By MARY KANE
The Washington Independent


This is the second in a two-part series. Part One, "Fraud Worsens Foreclosure Crisis," is here.

The foreclosure scams that have found a foothold in Prince George's County, Md., these days have a long history. Despite the wealth here, the county has for years been underbanked for its market, with an inadequate number of traditional financial institutions.

There has always been been an opening for predatory lenders, within and without the community, who count on a long-held mistrust of lenders to seal deals made outside the traditional banking system, said Doyle Niemann, a state legislator who represents Prince George's County and who sponsored the state's recent anti-foreclosure fraud law. That's why people sign loan papers brought to their homes; or rely, as many did here, on an ex-police officer turned foreclosure specialist; or trust in recommendations from a friend alone for a mortgage deal.

The mistrust has a long history. When the Federal Housing Admin. was created in 1930s, loans were specifically prohibited in integrated neighborhoods, and all during the New Deal, blacks were excluded from housing programs. In the 1960s, the civil-rights movement brought the landmark passage of the Fair Housing Act, outlawing discrimination in lending. But banks frequently refused to lend in minority neighborhoods throughout the 1960s and 1970s. This continued even into the 1980s -- when The Atlanta Journal-Constitution used federal mortgage data to document continued redlining.

But by the 1990s, access to fair housing and credit seemed on the upswing. The Community Reinvestment Act, created to counter redlining and ensure banks invested in their surrounding communities, was strengthened, and banks couldn't get mergers approved without showing they had complied with it. Other anti-redlining lawsuits and efforts grew, and credit became more widely available to minorities and to people with modest incomes.

In defiance of all that progress, the subprime mortgage crisis brought with it a form of reverse redlining -- in which lenders provided a glut of credit to neighborhoods once underserved by banks. Minorities also preyed on their own communities.

In Prince George's, mortgage brokers in the sizable Latino community routinely falsified incomes on applications without the knowledge of the borrowers, qualifying them for homes they could never afford. One loan listed two house cleaners as doctors for their occupations, said Mosi Harrington, executive director of the Housing Initiative Partnership, a non-profit developer in Prince George's that also counsels homeowners. "It's very sad," she said. "They thought they were doing the right thing, reaching for the American dream."

Now there are the foreclosure scams, a second wave of the reverse redlining. Within the black community, they are conducted on both large and small scales, employing different "levels of badness," as Neimann explains.

The most notorious case is the Metropolitan Money Store scam, a $35-million foreclosure ripoff of homeowners and lenders engineered by a Prince George's County couple, and the largest mortgage fraud case in Maryland history. The couple, charged in the case in June, had earlier thrown themselves an $800,000 wedding using equity stolen from foreclosed homes.

But what struck investigators most about the case was a kind of targeting authorities had never seen before. Usually, mortgage lenders use a whiteboard to keep track of a potential customer's name, address and phone number. In the Money Store case, however, the whiteboard listed the amount of equity to be had in a person's home.

"Predators knew where they were more apt to find their victims," said Rob Strupp, director of research and policy at the Community Law Center in Baltimore, which represents Prince George's County homeowners in mortgage and foreclosure fraud cases. "They knew what their target was."

The next level of fraud involves local people who use their community standing to run their scams, Neimann said. Sometimes it's the ex-policeman or trusted friend. They play on the solidarity of the neighborhood, using the pitch that "you can't trust them, but I can help you," and running deals under the table. On another level, the referrals are simply well-meaning, offered by the local clergy or community leaders who just want to help.

In Accokeek, the construction of new subdivisions beginning in 2005 is cited by many as the cause of the high foreclosure rates. Major lenders, from Countrywide to Washington Mutual, offered what Mosi Harrington described as a step-up style loan to the new homeowners. They sold the loans at an initial low rate and explained that while the rate would increase each year, so would the buyer's salary -- so the loans would remain affordable. But any salary increases couldn't keep up with the escalating costs of the loans.

When their loans go bad, people often come to The Barber's Chair to share their troubles, rather than seek help elsewhere. When the talk turns to foreclosures and where to get help, the conversation quickly yields the name of Frank Purcell, described around the shop as "a friend who helps families facing foreclosure." Give him a call, people say, and he can help you out.

According to Maryland court records, Purcell, a Prince George's County native, has three lawsuits filed against him over foreclosed houses and is currently under investigation by state fraud officials in the case of Laurie Lewis, whose family lost its Laurel, Md., home in a scam.

Lewis, 38, a mother of two, said she and her husband had health problems and ran into trouble keeping up the payments on their home. She turned to a long-time friend, Maria Hairston, who was also a real-estate agent in Accokeek. Hairston said she could help, and showed up at the Lewis home with Purcell. Hairston introduced Purcell as someone who works with people facing foreclosures, Lewis said. She learned much later that Hairston and Purcell are married.

Lewis' suit charges that Purcell promised to buy their home and keep it for a year, taking $32,000 in upfront rent payments and fees. The Lewis' were supposed to work on improving their credit and then buy the house back. Lewis quickly figured something was amiss when she learned Purcell had refinanced the home. He began ignoring her phone calls and asking for more money. She and her husband refused. By the end of the year, they had to move out because the house was being foreclosed on.

They now live in a cramped, two-bedroom apartment. "You never know who is really in one these scams," Lewis said. "You never think a friend would do that to you. I was shocked."

In an interview, Purcell, who once ran a real-estate company called America's Dream, said he still helps people try to save their homes, but he no longer buys them and promises to sell them back, because the new anti-fraud law enacted earlier this year makes it illegal. Instead, he refers to himself now as a "loss-prevention specialist.

If someone has missed a payment or two, he aids them in negotiating with the bank, though later in the interview he clarified that he does not do the actual negotiating. Instead, he helps them figure out how to do it themselves.

"If someone is at foreclosure's door, I can only help them if they are able to afford their house payment," Purcell said, "The question I ask now is, 'Can you show me that you can afford a $1,900 a month payment?' or whatever it might be. Because if you can't show me that, there's nothing I can do about it. The reality is that not everyone can be helped. I do turn people away."

As to the lawsuits and charges, Purcell said they are the result of personal disputes with friends he tried to help. In the Lewis case, he contended the family left with money in their pockets. He doesn't want to point fingers. "If that's how they feel, that's fine," he said. "You live and learn. They didn't really understand what it was."

Purcell said he continues to buy foreclosed houses -- which is allowed under the law. He thinks the new restrictions make it harder for people to keep their homes and instead benefit investors, who profited from bad loans in the first place and will be the ones to scoop up foreclosed homes at low prices. The foreclosure business is marked by "a lot of bad apples," he said, but he does not consider himself one. "Have I made money?" said Purcell, who lives in Accokeek. "Absolutely I have made money. I have no apologies for that."

Despite the new law, foreclosure scams continue. People charge for seminars on how to get into the foreclosure business without running afoul of authorities. One purpose behind the regulations was to push people into the marketplace, where the transactions can be regulated. But the law can't address the off-the-record arrangements that continue.

Neimann said the ex-police officer, whose foreclosure scams inspired the legislator to write the law, regularly shows up at legitimate community housing-counseling sessions to offer foreclosure help, peddling a Xerox copy of a booklet on foreclosure and trying to charge $100 for it.

The fallout from the scams and the subprime loans will have long-term effects in Prince George's County. Already, nationwide, homeownership rates among minorities have fallen -- which translates into a drop in overall wealth.

Minority communities, even upper-income neighborhoods, were hit hard because of the "shallow assets" problem, Harrington, the housing counselor, explained. First-generation black homeowners who got in trouble couldn't easily bail themselves out, without having built-up wealth to tap into. In her view, subprime and home-equity loans should come with some warnings about their side effects -- like losing your home -- in the same the way medicines are advertised on television.

She and others, however, weren't particularly surprised that predatory lending and foreclosure fraud continues. The targeting of black neighborhoods for all sorts of financial scams has gone on for years, and this latest wave is yet another unfortunate chapter in the long story of redlining, Squires of George Washington University noted.

The difference now is that many people think enough racial progress has been made that there's a level playing field out there. The foreclosure crisis in places like Prince George's proves that it's not.

As Niemann put it: "People don't recognize this for the scandal that it is."

Still, Niemann thinks the new law banning some foreclosure scams is a sign of progress -- proof that something positive is coming out of this crisis. If lenders step up to the plate to help restructure loans for troubled borrowers, he said, they can make a positive difference and create a new trust among residents.

So far, things aren't going that way. Harrington said that the lenders her organization works with increasingly are limiting the extent of mortgage loan restructurings to five, three or even two years -- instead of converting mortgages to 30-year-fixed loans. "I don't see how we're not going to be right back where we started in a few years," she said.

Until then, foreclosures and mortgages dominate the talk at The Barber's Chair. People in trouble keep coming in, looking for some way out.

"Freedmen Gain a Partial Victory in Appeals Court"

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Above: Marilyn Vann, Cherokee Freedman (l); Chad Smith, Principal Chief, Cherokee Nation (r)


1 August 2008
BY JERRY REYNOLDS, Indian Country Today

WASHINGTON - The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals on July 29 delivered a partial victory for the voting rights of Cherokee freedmen, as well as unvarnished triumphs for tribal sovereignty and sovereign immunity from lawsuits.

At the same time, the plain language of the decision placed Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma officials, among them Principal Chief Chad Smith, in legal jeopardy.

The appellate court overturned a lower court decision to the effect that the nation could be sued for making the disenfranchisement of freedmen voters a ''badge or incident of slavery,'' in violation of the U.S. Constitution's 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery in America.

But it interpreted an 1866 treaty between the Cherokee and the United States, re-establishing relations with the Union after the tribe had sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War, to promise ''all the rights of native Cherokees'' to the former slaves - and their descendants, ''who came to be known as freedmen.'' And it held that individual officers of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma ''cannot seek shelter'' from freedmen legal action within the tribe's sovereign immunity.

A lawsuit had been filed by Marilyn Vann and other freedmen, descendants of slaves and free blacks who lived among the Cherokee before, during and after the Civil War. They sued the Interior Department for recognizing the results of two 2003 elections in which the nation prevented the freedmen from participating and for failing to protect their voting rights, the nation arguing that its sovereignty to determine citizenship even of the freedmen is intact despite an 1866 treaty extending ''all the rights of Native Cherokees'' (including citizenship, the courts have found) to them.

The freedmen want the results of the election invalidated and their voting rights restored. The Cherokee Nation intervened to challenge the lawsuit, contending that its sovereign immunity, as a federally recognized tribal government, protects it from any lawsuit lodged without its consent.

Based on the narrow facts in the freedmen case, district court disagreed. But on appeal, the three-judge panel of July 29 opined that sovereignty is an inherent tribal attribute, predating the founding of ''the republic on the North American continent'' and unrelinquished then, subject to the will of a Congress that may ''whittle away ... as it sees fit,'' but not to be discarded lightly by common consent of the courts and so extinguishable only by ''explicit and unequivocal statement to that effect'' by Congress.

Sovereign immunity from lawsuit is an attribute of tribal sovereignty, not the thing itself, the appellate opinion maintains, concurring with the lower court. But the opinion found that Cherokee sovereign immunity from lawsuit has not been abrogated by the undoubted historical reduction of its tribal sovereignty over the freedmen.

''The district court is mistaken to treat every imposition upon tribal sovereignty as an abrogation of tribal sovereign immunity. ... Absent explicit and unequivocal language to the contrary, the imposition of substantive constraints upon a tribe's sovereignty cannot be interpreted as an abrogation of its sovereign immunity.''

Therefore, the freedmen lawsuit cannot continue against the tribe.

On the other hand, ''we hold that the suit may proceed against the tribe's officers.''

In statements issued to various media outlets after the decision, Smith seemed to repose confidence in the appellate court's remand order, directing the original district court to ''determine whether ... the suit can proceed with the Cherokee Nation's officers but without the Cherokee Nation itself.'' But the appellate court holding, ''that the suit may proceed against the tribe's officers,'' appeared to lighten the district court's burden.

Vann and Jon Velie, attorney for the freedmen, welcomed the decision in their own public statements, calling it an affirmation of tribal sovereignty and of individual civil rights.

''... The Cherokee Nation has lots of rights, but it does not have the right to expel former slaves,'' Velie had argued in court.

In response to the July 29 ruling, Vann added, as quoted in the Tulsa (Okla.) World and other outlets, that it means ''freedmen's treaty rights trump the right of our elected officials to oppress us.''

In Congress, where the Congressional Black Caucus has taken up the freedmen cause to the extent of threatening to withhold funding for Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma housing and health programs, Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif., characterized the ruling as ''decisive and powerful.''

''It gives the Cherokee Nation's leadership the opportunity to reverse its past discriminatory practices. But it also remains the right and responsibility of Congress to ensure the enforcement of and compliance to our nation's laws and treaties.''

Watson renewed her call to ''the appropriate committees of Congress'' to monitor the situation, even with the Aug. 3 congressional recess close at hand, the Democratic and Republican presidential nominating conventions on the horizon, and the most intense months of the presidential campaign season sure to consume the legislative calendar after that. ''The schedule of Congress should not become a vehicle to allow discrimination to take root.''

Members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation, some of whom have urged Congress not to act against the Cherokee until the courts have had a chance to settle the freedmen issue, could not be reached before press time.

"Running While Black"

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2 August 2008
By BOB HERBERT, New York Times

Gee, I wonder why, if you have a black man running for high public office — say, Barack Obama or Harold Ford — the opposition feels compelled to run low-life political ads featuring tacky, sexually provocative white women who have no connection whatsoever to the black male candidates.

Spare me any more drivel about the high-mindedness of John McCain. You knew something was up back in March when, in his first ad of the general campaign, Mr. McCain had himself touted as “the American president Americans have been waiting for.?

There was nothing subtle about that attempt to position Senator Obama as the Other, a candidate who might technically be American but who remained in some sense foreign, not sufficiently patriotic and certainly not one of us — the “us? being the genuine red-white-and-blue Americans who the ad was aimed at.

Since then, Senator McCain has only upped the ante, smearing Mr. Obama every which way from sundown. On Wednesday, The Washington Post ran an extraordinary front-page article that began:

“For four days, Senator John McCain and his allies have accused Senator Barack Obama of snubbing wounded soldiers by canceling a visit to a military hospital because he could not take reporters with him, despite no evidence that the charge is true.?

Evidence? John McCain needs no evidence. His campaign is about trashing the opposition, Karl Rove-style. Not satisfied with calling his opponent’s patriotism into question, Mr. McCain added what amounted to a charge of treason, insisting that Senator Obama would actually prefer that the United States lose a war if that would mean that he — Senator Obama — would not have to lose an election.

Now, from the hapless but increasingly venomous McCain campaign, comes the slimy Britney Spears and Paris Hilton ad. The two highly sexualized women (both notorious for displaying themselves to the paparazzi while not wearing underwear) are shown briefly and incongruously at the beginning of a commercial critical of Mr. Obama.

The Republican National Committee targeted Harold Ford with a similarly disgusting ad in 2006 when Mr. Ford, then a congressman, was running a strong race for a U.S. Senate seat in Tennessee. The ad, which the committee described as a parody, showed a scantily clad woman whispering, “Harold, call me.?

Both ads were foul, poisonous and emanated from the upper reaches of the Republican Party. (What a surprise.) Both were designed to exploit the hostility, anxiety and resentment of the many white Americans who are still freakishly hung up on the idea of black men rising above their station and becoming sexually involved with white women.

The racial fantasy factor in this presidential campaign is out of control. It was at work in that New Yorker cover that caused such a stir. (Mr. Obama in Muslim garb with the American flag burning in the fireplace.) It’s driving the idea that Barack Obama is somehow presumptuous, too arrogant, too big for his britches — a man who obviously does not know his place.

Mr. Obama has to endure these grotesque insults with a smile and heroic levels of equanimity. The reason he has to do this — the sole reason — is that he is black.

So there he was this week speaking evenly, and with a touch of humor, to a nearly all-white audience in Missouri. His goal was to reassure his listeners, to let them know he’s not some kind of unpatriotic ogre.

Mr. Obama told them: “What they’re going to try to do is make you scared of me. You know, he’s not patriotic enough. He’s got a funny name. You know, he doesn’t look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills, you know. He’s risky.?

The audience seemed to appreciate his comments. Mr. Obama was well-received.

But John McCain didn’t appreciate them. RACE CARD! RACE CARD! The McCain camp started bellowing, and it hasn’t stopped since. With great glee bursting through their feigned outrage, the campaign’s operatives and the candidate himself accused Senator Obama of introducing race into the campaign — playing the race card, as they put it, from the very bottom of the deck.

Whatever you think about Barack Obama, he does not want the race issue to be front and center in this campaign. Every day that the campaign is about race is a good day for John McCain. So I guess we understand Mr. McCain’s motivation.

Nevertheless, it’s frustrating to watch John McCain calling out Barack Obama on race. Senator Obama has spoken more honestly and thoughtfully about race than any other politician in many years. Senator McCain is the head of a party that has viciously exploited race for political gain for decades.

He’s obviously more than willing to continue that nauseating tradition.

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