Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Stupid, It Burns Us

There's got to be some kind of award out there to give USA Today's DeWayne Wickham for sheer number of thinking people offended by his gobsmacking article comparing Rick Warren to (and I shit you not) Booker T. Washington.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Washington was one of this nation's most influential black leaders. His willingness to try to find common ground with whites who viewed — and treated — blacks as an inferior race made Washington someone presidents reached out to.

Theodore Roosevelt, especially, turned to Washington for advice on "the Negro problem." Taking counsel from "the great accommodationist," as Washington was called, was an act of steam control by the Republican president at a time when the racial divide was undeniably this nation's most explosive problem.

"In all things purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress," Washington said in an 1895 speech that established him as a black leader who was willing to temper the demands of blacks for racial equality.

Recently, Warren — who, like most evangelical leaders, disagrees sharply with Obama on social issues such as abortion and gay rights — sounded a similar note when he sought to assuage the concerns of those who question why he was asked to give the invocation.

"You don't have to see eye to eye to walk hand in hand," he said in a speech to a group of Muslims in California.

I don't know where to start, but let's go with this: Booker T. Washington stood up to and worked with a notoriously bigoted man in President Teddy Roosevelt, because even Roosevelt realized that the world was permanently changing in a post-Civil War industrial era. Somehow, that's exactly like Obama picking the notoriously bigoted Rick Warren out of raw political expediency!

Look folks, no matter what Obama does to reach evangelical voters, he won't get them. Not that he should stop trying to reach them: he is President of the entire United States. But Rick Warren is just a terrible attempt...and this article comparing him to one of the most influential black leaders in history manages to even be worse.

Walk Softly And Carry A Big Clinton

BooMan takes a look at the NY Times story on the future of diplomacy. Hillary Clinton is already pushing for a much more powerful State Department role in Obama's foreign policy apparatus.
Democrats are more culturally attuned to the State Department, but Carter and Clinton had weak secretaries. Hillary Clinton is not going to be a weak secretary. She is looking to expand the job and take over as much turf as possible. Ordinarily that might be a bad thing, but her power is going to be coming at the expense of the Defense Department (and to an indeterminate degree, the Treasury Department). Secretary Gates is voicing his support for an expanded diplomatic service, and his lame duck status and Republican roots make him institutionally incapable of competing with the former First Lady.

Why do I see this as good? Because it will mark a restoration of the State Department as the premier department of government. And that means that we won't shoot first and ask questions later. It means we will put a kinder face forward to the rest of the world. It means that State Department will regain its morale and that they'll be able to recruit the best minds. It's just good overall.

I happen to agree with BooMan on this one. The Times story makes it clear that a new era is dawning at Foggy Bottom.
As Mrs. Clinton puts together her senior team, officials said, she is also trying to carve out a bigger role for the State Department in economic affairs, where the Treasury has dominated during the Bush years. She has sought advice from Laura D’Andrea Tyson, an economist who headed Mr. Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers.

The steps seem intended to strengthen the role of diplomacy after a long stretch, particularly under Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, in which the Pentagon, the vice president’s office and even the intelligence agencies held considerable sway over American foreign policy.

Given Mrs. Clinton’s prominence, expanding the department’s portfolio could bring on conflict with other powerful cabinet members.

Mrs. Clinton and President-elect Barack Obama have not settled on specific envoys or missions, although Mr. Ross’s name has been mentioned as a possible Middle East envoy, as have those of Mr. Holbrooke and Martin Indyk, a former United States ambassador to Israel.

The Bush administration has made relatively little use of special envoys. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has personally handled most peacemaking initiatives, which has meant a punishing schedule of Middle East missions, often with meager results.
Again, having the State Department run diplomacy and foreign relations is a good thing, and certainly a step in the right direction over Colin Powell's lies to the UN to justify invading Iraq and Condi Rice's frenetic scrambling that continues to accomplish nothing, both acting on the whim of the VP's office.

Then again, Clinton is still a war hawk and always will be. Although she's a definite improvement over Powell and Rice, that's just not saying much. Any competent diplomat would meet that low criteria. We need somebody committed to diplomacy and compromise, not Kissinger in a dress. It still remains to be seen if she'll actually promote Obama's policy...or worse, she will promote Obama's policy, and it turns out Kissinger in a dress is exactly what he wanted.

The Center of A Viper's Nest Indeed Contains A Serpent

While the Madoff case rages on, another case involving bank regulation is developing, this time a federal regulator has been removed from his job for pulling the strings behind IndyMac Bank.
The Office of Thrift Supervision has removed its west region director as a result of an inspector general's investigation into the collapse of IndyMac earlier this year, according to correspondence made public today by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA).

Darrel Dochow was fingered by the OTS inspector general as having approved a backdated capital infusion of $18 million into IndyMac by its holding company to stave off a downgrade in the rating assigned to the bank. A downgrading in its level of capitalization would have triggered additional regulatory restrictions on IndyMac, according to a letter to Grassley from OTS Inspector Eric M. Thorson.

This isn't the first time Dochow has been the regulator involved in a major banking collapse. A generation ago he resisted calls to shut down Charles Keating's Lincoln Savings and Loan before its collapse, which became notorious thanks to the Keating Five scandal.

Dochow's approval for the backdating came in early May and was intended to buttress the bank's capital position as of the end of the first quarter, March 31. The plan -- some details of which, Thorson concedes, remain unclear -- was discovered by the inspector general for the FDIC in documents held by IndyMac's auditor, Ernst and Young, and were turned over to Thorson's office.

So a former Keating Five figure was covering for a bank to the tune of $18 million instead of regulating it. Gee, that's not SOP for the Bushies. And the best part? There's even more of these back-dated capital infusions floating around still being investigated.
Thorson's investigation, which is ongoing, found that OTS allowed other thrifts to similarly backdate capital infusions, but the letter provides no additional details about those other cases.
If you've done something bad enough in the Bush administration in order to actually lose your job, then you're in serious trouble.


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