Clem’s Chronicles: Gates, The President and Race/NJ Corruption/Foreclosure Scams

By Clem Lane

Jul 23, 2009 9:44pm

howdy gang-Clem Lane here with another evening editorial note. Here's what's going on:

HENRY LOUIS GATES, PRESIDENT OBAMA AND THE ISSUE OF RACE-Last night’s presidential press conference focused almost exclusively on health-care reform, but it was a comment made by the President in response to a question on the Henry Gates matter that became today’s lead story. Dan Harris, filing for WORLD NEWS, noted in his open that “President Obama has tried to bridge the racial divide in this country, but based on the ferocious response to his comment last night, he may have opened up a new chasm.” A quick recap of President Obama’s comments last night. Asked his thoughts on the Henry Gates story, President Obama said in part “the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home.” Today the policeman at the center of the storm, Sergeant James Crowley was unapologetic in an interview with Boston radio station WBZ saying of the President “I think he is way off base wading into a local issue before knowing all the facts as he himself stated before he made that comment.” And Sergeant Crowley had back up. Dan Harris, filing for WORLD NEWS, noted that “Crowley’s colleagues and his boss today rushed to his defense….The head of a nearby police academy says that Sergeant Crowley was hand-picked by a black police official to teach a class on racial sensitivity.” Boston’s radio airwaves “were aflame” today noted Harris with passionate proponents on both sides. Harris included a quote from Charles Wilson, the head of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, who while admitting that President Obama could have chosen his words better, had this blunt assessment of the historical relationship between minorities and law enforcement: “The institution of policing is and always has been inherently biased against people of color and low income, and you must accept that as a fact.” While some may dispute Mr. Wilson’s “fact”, it does seem apparent that the debate is far from over. Harris noted in his close: “As Henry Louis Gates said himself the other day, ‘the only people who live in a post-racial America are the Obamas in the White House.”

TERRY MORAN & A DAY IN THE LIFE OF PRESIDENT OBAMA-Terry Moran spent the day with President Obama today. Moran asked the President about his comments last night. The President stood by his remarks. "I have to say I am surprised by the controversy surrounding my statement, because I think it was a pretty straightforward commentary that you probably don't need to handcuff a guy, a middle-aged man who uses a cane, who's in his own home," Obama said.  “I think that I have extraordinary respect for the difficulties of the job that police officers do," the president told Moran. "And my suspicion is that words were exchanged between the police officer and Mr. Gates and that everybody should have just settled down and cooler heads should have prevailed. That's my suspicion." That said, the President’s main focus continues to be health care reform. And he got a chance to talk it up far from the political divides inside the Beltway. Terry Moran, who was with the President in the Midwest, noted in his WORLD NEWS live open that “(here in Shaker Heights, Ohio), the President’s goal here was simple. Try to convince Americans that the health-care system the country’s got right now is simply unsustainable and urge them to open their minds and their lives to the changes he’s advocating.” “Opening their minds” seems to be something the President himself is doing in dealing with the fact that his August recess deadline will come and go with (at least) no Senate vote. When asked by Moran “how much of a setback that was”, the President seemed resigned to the fact: “You know, given the progress that I’m seeing made, as long as everybody is working steadily, as fast as they can, and particularly the Senate Finance Committee, which I think is the committee that a lot of folks are waiting for. If that gets done before the August recess, I feel pretty good.” You can see the full fruits of Moran’s day with President Obama on tonight’s NIGHTLINE.

NJ CORRUPTION STING:  Federal officials rounded up more than 40 public officials – including the mayors of Hoboken, Secaucus and Ridgefield, New Jersey, two New Jersey state assemblymen and five rabbis –in a corruption and money laundering sting spanning New Jersey, Brooklyn, Israel and Switzerland. “In all 44 public officials – taken down by one cooperating witness working undercover for the FBI.  He posed as a developer and allegedly bribed government officials in parking lots, diners, basement boiler rooms – even bathrooms,” Pierre Thomas reported on WORLD NEWS.  The informant bribed politicians and other officials to get approval for buildings and other projects in New Jersey.   Thomas continues: “Police say the same cooperating witness discovered the corruption was just as bad in New York.  Rabbis there are accused of laundering millions of dollars in illegal profits in exchanged for substantial fees.  The investigation also turned up a Brooklyn man accused of selling human kidneys.”  Federal officials say the network laundered tens of millions of dollars through Jewish charities controlled by rabbis in New York and New Jersey.  The investigation – which began in July of 1999 – has resulted in more than 48 convictions of public officials.  The FBI has not revealed the identity of the informant, but tonight the New Jersey Star Ledger reports it is real estate mogul Solomon Dwek,  who was charged with bank fraud in 2006. (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

CALIFORNIA SPENDING CUTS:  California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced huge spending cuts – $15 billion in total – to help prevent the state from sliding further into debt.  California legislature is due to vote on the controversial plan this evening which, if passed, will affect public services across the board. Mike von Fremd reports: “Public education will be hit the hardest…the California State University system will have to cut enrollment by 40,000 students…an estimated 3000,000 uninsured children will have their access to health care cut.  And 230,000 of the state’s employees will be told don’t come to work three days a month…because you won’t be getting paid.”  Another highly disputed part of the plan involved cutting the inmate population by 27,000 and reducing the amount of time convicted criminals spend in prison to help lower costs.  Voting on that provision has been delayed for a month due to disagreements amongst legislators.  Results on tonight’s vote are expected Friday. (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

FORECLOSURE SCAMS:  Despite some bright spots in the housing market, there are a host of Americans still facing foreclosure on their homes.  And the number of scams targeting vulnerable homeowners seems endless. Brian Ross has been looking into the scam operations, including one known as The Nation’s Housing Modification Center:  “…their mailings come in a brown envelope with a Capitol Hill address, on Pennsylvania Avenue. Hundreds of homeowners took the bait….But ABC News found that the Washington, DC address was just a UPS store on Pennsylvania Avenue. A mail drop…The firm's actual location is across the country… outside San Diego… Inside, a classic telemarketing boiler room where employees read from a script tailored for desperate homeowners.” So who are these scammers Brian?  “the San Diego operation is being run by three men with criminal records…  One of them went to prison in 2003 for his role in a mortgage fraud scheme in Baltimore.”  So what’s a homeowner faced with foreclosure to do?  Brian spoke with the head of the Federal Trade Commission, Jon Leibowitz, and tells us: “The FTC chairman offers (this) advice to avoid being scammed. If they're asking for money in advance, if they claim a 100 per cent success rate, if they say pay them instead of your mortgage, or if they say they're connected to the government-forget about it and hang up the phone.”  (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)

WALL STREET GAINS-Maybe there’s something to this whole “rally” thing-the Dow continued its’ march upward today. The stock market's best-known indicator shot up almost 190 points Thursday to 9,069.29, its highest level since November. Fueling today’s rise? News that existing home sales rose in June for the third straight month and by a higher-than-expected amount. Dan Arnall notes that while the median price of homes continued to fall-$181,800 down 15.4% from a year ago-“foreclosure and distress sales made up about a third of sales in June, down significantly from the sales mix from earlier this year. At one point during the first quarter it was almost fifty-percent.” This latest buying spree has now lifted the Dow 923 points, or 11 percent, in just nine days. AP notes that “on paper, U.S. stocks have gained $1.2 trillion in value” in that time frame. And it’s not just the Dow. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 22.22, or 2.3 percent, to 976.29. It hasn't traded or closed above 1,000 since early November. The Nasdaq composite index rose 47.22, or 2.5 percent, to 1,973.60, its 12th straight advance. The Nasdaq hasn't had a rally that long since a streak that ended Jan. 8, 1992. To show how broad this latest rally is-about five stocks rose for every one that fell. And before you go assuming your 401K is going to return to its original $ize, remember there’s a long road ahead- the Dow is still far off its peak of 14,165 set in October 2007.

BUEHRLE PERFECT-Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle threw a perfect game this afternoon vs. the visiting Tampa Bay Rays, only the 18th time that’s happened in Major League baseball history.  Buehrle may just want to buy White Sox center fielder DeWayne Wise a  grape Nehi for his help. After entering the game in the top of the ninth as a defensive replacement, the fleet-footed Wise ran full-steam back to the wall, leapt and made a spectacular juggling catch robbing Rays outfielder Gabe Kapler of a home run to keep the perfect game intact. Buehrle is no stranger to MLB pitching feats-he threw a no-hitter in 2007 against the Toronto Blue Jays. First Fan-In-Chief Barack Obama phoned Buehrle to praise his “awesome achievement” shortly after the game ended.

OTHER STUFF-
OBAMA’S HEALTH CARE AUDIENCE-Those nice folks at Nielsen tell us that 24 million people plus watched the President’s health-care reform-centric press conference last night on 11 networks for a combined household rating of 16.3. (Brian Hartman)
LAST LONELY EAGLE FLIES NO MORE-John “Marmaduke” Dawson, co-founder of the band New Riders Of the Purple Sage ,has died at the age of 64 from stomach cancer. The New Riders were an off-shoot of the Grateful Dead whose members Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh and Mickey Hart played in both bands. Formed in 1969, the music was less psychedelic than the Dead’s late sixties output and more “American Beauty”-style country rock or what would later be referred to as “americana”. The band released eight albums on Columbia Records from 1971-1976 and I would venture to guess that anybody who went to an Eastern prep school or college in the seventies owned a copy of the Riders “Adventures of Panama Red”, the band’s first and only gold record. Dawson co-wrote the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil” as well as N.R.P.S. classics “Glendale Train”, “Last Lonely Eagle” and “Garden of Eden”. R.I.P. Marmaduke!

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