Sunday, 02 December 2007
SHOULD WE FEAR A WEAKER DOLLAR?
The ceonomy is roaring. 4.9% growth last quarter. Inflation is
low. Joblessness is low. Sounds great.
But that dollar! The Euro is worth almost 50% more than it is
now. The Canadian Loony? Worth more than the dollar for the first
time in 31 years.
The sky is falling! The sky is falling!
Or is it?
Well, Investor's Business Daily doesn't think so. And here's why:.
Don't Fear The Weaker Dollar It's Keeping The Economy
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY
| Posted Friday, November 30, 2007 4:30 PM PT
The plunge in the dollar has turned
normally calm voices strident and fearful. A weak currency, they say, spells
catastrophe for the U.S. economy.
But like much conventional wisdom, this isn't
true. Nor is it true that the dollar, to use one favorite recent word, has
You wouldn't know it, however, from recent
headlines. This week's Economist magazine, known for its cool-headed discussion
of economic events, has this on its cover: "The Panic About the Dollar."
Others see in the dollar's slump a metaphor for
America's future one of decline and waning influence in the world.
To be sure, the dollar is down almost 40% against
the euro since 2001. Against the pound, it's off almost 44%. It's even down
against the yen, by nearly 13%.
But put in perspective, these declines are neither
dangerous nor even undesirable. Over the long-term, the dollar is well within
normal bounds. After years of rallying due to massive flows of investment into
the U.S., the dollar has simply come down to Earth.
To say it has "collapsed" or "plunged" is simply
wrong as the chart above shows.
Look at the dollar weighted against all its
trading partners, not just a cherry-picked few, and you see the dollar hasn't
plunged at all. It's about where it was 10 years ago during the Internet
It rose sharply in the late 1990s, thanks to the
outsized returns offered in the U.S. markets compared with elsewhere. Today,
after the Nasdaq meltdown in 1999 and 2000, a recession and 9/11, the flood of
investment isn't as great.
True, the dollar has weakened against specific
currencies the euro and yen are recent standouts but that weakness must also
be put into context.
The dollar strengthened in the late 1990s due to
Mexico's peso crisis, the Asian financial crisis and Russia's market meltdown
and ruble collapse. All of these sent capital fleeing to the U.S.
Meanwhile, U.S. stock markets were roaring. Anyone
anywhere with surplus cash protected it by investing in America.
Those who think a strong dollar means a strong
economy have to explain why, from 1997 to 2002, a time of record dollar
strength, the U.S. economy experienced a number of problems including a stock
collapse and recession. Those conditions no longer prevail today.
Reccently, the U.S. also has been cutting interest
rates, while the central banks of Europe and Japan barely have budged. So far
this year, the Fed has cut its benchmark rate by 75 basis points. By contrast,
the European Central Bank has raised rates by 50 basis points. So the spread has
widened by 125 basis points in just 11 months.
This means, all things equal, dollar-based returns
on interest-bearing investments are lower. Surprised the dollar's
Add to this concerns over a crumbling U.S. housing
market, a shaky bank system and foreign central-bank rebalancing of dollar-heavy
investment portfolios and the dollar's relative decline isn't
Nor is it unwelcome.
The weak dollar already has led to a powerful
surge in industrial activity across America's heartland. In fact, if the U.S.
avoids falling into a recession in 2008, we may have the much-maligned dollar to
Recent revisions to third-quarter GDP data showed
growth of 4.9% vs. an initial estimate of 3.9%. The reason was an 18.9%
annualized jump in net exports, which boosted GDP by a full 1.4 percentage
points. That more than offset the decline in housing.
Fueled by the weaker dollar, exports were much
stronger than expected. Goods exports alone increased a whopping 25% while
imports rose just 4.3%.
Those who fret about the trade deficit which
will exceed $700 billion this year will get to watch it shrink in coming years
as this export boom continues.
What's more, this will continue to feed through to
the U.S. economy, boosting domestic activity. The dollar's drop already has had
an enormous hidden impact on the factory sector and corporate
Most economists today believe that U.S. economic
growth will be far weaker in the fourth quarter of this year and the first
quarter of 2008.
But there already are signs of weakness, such as
corporate domestic profits, which actually fell 4.2% during the third period,
according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Ordinarily that would be a disaster. But today,
31.5% of all corporate earnings come from foreign sources. Thanks to the weak
dollar, foreign profits of U.S. companies are healthy. In the third quarter they
surged 20%. So despite the decline in domestic profits, U.S. companies' net
profits actually rose 1.2% in the July-September stretch.
The dollar should continue to bolster the economy
at least through next year and maybe longer. Many economists expect the domestic
economy to falter this quarter and in the first three months of 2008. But the
weaker dollar will continue to underpin industrial activity.
American manufacturing already is booming. Since
2002, despite warnings of "deindustrialization" and a "hollowing out" of U.S.
manufacturing, U.S. factory output of durable goods the sector most sensitive
to changes in the dollar's value has surged more than 25%. Overall, factory
output is up 16%.
Even so, some complain that the dollar's decline
will lead to our currency being abandoned in favor of the euro. Or the yen. Or
some other currency. It is true that central banks are even now selling some of
their dollar holdings to balance their portfolios.
That is a wise and prudent thing to do, given that
some of them like China, which has almost $1 trillion in dollar-based
investments have massive exposure to U.S. markets.
But the world's GDP is about $55 trillion in size,
and the U.S. makes up 25% of it. Absent a sudden and inexplicable refusal to
trade with the U.S. which buys and sells some $4 trillion in goods and
services with the rest of the world each year other countries will have to
keep large amounts of dollar-based reserves.
As the Times of London's Gerard Baker recently
noted, "Between 1985 and 1995, the dollar declined by 43% against the word's big
currencies. . . . That period was also marked by dire proclamations of the end
of U.S. economic power. But it turned out that in those years the foundations
were laid for the strongest period of U.S. economic growth in the past 35
What about the euro, used by 25 nations in Europe?
No doubt, it will be increasingly used by others as a reserve currency. But
remember, it's only 8 years old. Just four years ago, stories similar to those
today about the dollar wondered, "What's wrong with the euro?"
The weak dollar, by making U.S. goods more
competitive overseas, will sow the seeds of future growth through booming
exports, more domestic jobs and a new surge in investment from overseas to snap
up bargains in the U.S.
That's not a cause for concern, but of
I'm no economist. One look at my checkbook would tell you that.
But I have to say that what I'm reading from IBD makes a lot of sense to
What do you think?
THE COLORS OF RACISM
Here, courtesy of the Associated Press, is additional proof that racism comes in
more than one color. The bold print is mine:.
Black Alabama political groups split
|12/1/2007, 4:32 p.m.
By PHILLIP RAWLS
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) Alabama's major black
political groups have split their endorsements for president, with the Alabama
New South Coalition giving its support to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama on
The Alabama Democratic Conference, the black wing
of the state Democratic Party, endorsed New York Sen. Hillary Clinton in
Obama received the majority of the votes when the
predominantly black Alabama New South Coalition met Saturday to make its
endorsement. Coalition officials did not disclose the exact outcome of the
U.S Rep. Artur Davis, state chairman of Obama's
campaign, said he was pleased the group put aside doubts, expressed by some
black political leaders, about whether a black candidate could get enough white
votes to be elected president.
"That doubt, that cynicism could have been written
to prevent every piece of progress we've had in our lifetime," said Davis,
Before the endorsement vote, Perry County
Commissioner Albert Turner praised Obama's qualifications, but urged the group
to support Clinton.
"The question you have to put forth to
yourself is that whether or not in this racist country a black man named Obama
when we are shooting at Osama can win the presidency of the United States?"
Turner said Clinton is the Democrat most
likely to win in November "because of her husband and because of some other
things, mainly because she's white."
When the Alabama Democratic Conference endorsed
Clinton in October, leaders cited long-standing friendships with Clinton and her
husband and voiced concerns about whether white voters would support a black
Byrdie Larkin, a political scientist at
historically black Alabama State University in Montgomery, said the coalition's
endorsement of Obama gives his Alabama campaign "a sense of credibility" and
shows the black vote is not monolithic.
She said the competing endorsements should
increase interest in Alabama's primary and help boost turnout on Feb.
Traditionally, blacks make up 40 percent or more
of the Democratic primary vote. In statewide polling of likely Democratic
voters, Clinton has consistently led Obama.
But with New South's endorsement, "his chances
just got a lot better," said state Sen. Hank Sanders of Selma, the coalition's
Sanders' family is emblematic of the division in
the black vote.
At the endorsement meeting, Sanders' wife, Selma
attorney Faya Rose Toure, urged the group to endorse Clinton. Their daughter,
Malika, favored Obama. After the endorsement vote, Toure said she would support
the group's endorsement, which she attributed to enthusiasm over the prospect of
electing the nation's first black president.
"Never in history has an African-American
come so close to the presidency, and people in the New South could not ignore
it. The reality is race did play an issue, and that's all right," she
Obama's campaign has been highly visible in
Alabama in recent weeks, opening campaign offices in Montgomery and Birmingham
and planning another opening Monday in Tuscaloosa. That gives the campaign more
offices than any other Democrat in the state. .
Interesting, isn't it? The endorsements of some Black individuals and
groups go to Hillary and some go to Obama. Nothing wrong with that.
But what is the basis of the endorsements? All
it's just the way the writer put this article together. Maybe the people she
quoted had something to say about the candidates other than skin color. But taking it as
it is written? There is one issue. Race. Period.
One of the pundits said it this week, and he's right. If Hillary
Clinton is "inevitable" as the Democratic presidential nominee, she can't lose
primaries. She certainly can't lose the FIRST primary, can she?
Well, if you believe the polling, she now officially behind in Iowa to Barack
Obama. And that ain't good.
So now we see the real Hillary. The real Clinton. to be more
accurate. And that ain't pretty.
The New York Times, which seems to have decided Ms. Clinton is no longer
their Queen, does the reporting in today's paper:
December 2, 2007, 3:12 pm
Battered by Poll, Clinton Hits
DES MOINES Hillary Rodham Clintons aides went
to bed Saturday night with the bad news from the new Des Moines Register poll on
their minds, and they woke up Sunday and quickly pounced on the polls new No.
1, Barack Obama, with teeth bared.
Clinton aides made three hits on Mr. Obama within
just a few hours on health care, campaign spending, and candor yet denied
that they were acting out of concern about the new Register poll, which showed
Mr. Obama in a statistical dead heat with Mrs. Clinton with less than five weeks
to go until the Jan. 3 caucuses.
Mrs. Clintons spokesman, Howard Wolfson, appeared
on CBSs Face the Nation with Mr. Obamas strategist, David Axelrod, and
engaged in some warmed-over jousting about the candidates health insurance
plans (they have been skirmishing for two weeks now about whether the respective
plans would cover everyone). Then Mr. Wolfson threw a days-old story in Mr.
Axelrods face: That the Obama campaign used an Obama political action committee
to spread around money in states that hold the first primaries and caucuses.
Mr. Wolfson accused the Obama campaign, with the
PAC, of taking in money from lobbyists despite the fact he said he doesnt take
money from lobbyists, taking in money from lobbyists and giving money out to
candidates in New Hampshire and Iowa to support his presidential
I would call on David David, will you shut
down Senator Obamas slush
fund? Mr. Wolfson said.
Mr. Axelrod said that he did not think there was
any money left in the PAC, but did not address head-on whether there was
anything wrong with the way the PAC money was used.
What Mr. Obama has done spending a portion of
the remaining funds from his winding-down leadership PAC in a way that helps his
campaign appears to stay within the letter but not the spirit of campaign
finance rules. Although his actions seem to comply with Federal Election
Commission rulings, he has in effect drawn on a second pool of political
contributions to make payments that benefit his presidential
Of course, before the campaign officially began
all the serious presidential candidates used such political action committees to
make similar payments to build good will in pivotal states. Not all, however,
continued to tap their political action committees that way through
A few hours later, the Clinton campaign accused
Mr. Obama of re-writing history by saying that he had not been planning for
years to run for president like some of the other candidates. The campaign
included news articles and statements of friends or relatives of Mr. Obama
saying that he had been thinking of running for president for at least a
Mr. Obama, speaking at a news conference in Des
Moines today, shared his view about the Clinton onslaught.
I think that folks from some of the other
campaigns are reading the polls and starting to get stressed and issuing a whole
range of outlandish accusations, Mr. Obama said. Everything that weve done is
in exact accordance with the law. .
Well well well. Suddenly the controlled, scripted Hillary is
gone. Suddenly the formulaic image-driven Hillary is replaced by the
fanged and bare knuckled variety.
There have been rumors throughout this campaign that Hillary has things on
Obama. And if she does, don't doubt for a minute that they will come
out - or that it will be made to look like Hillary had nothing to do with
This is the Clinton way. It has worked before. Count on it being
BUT...DID THEY GET TO KISS THE BRIDE?
We have this delightful story from the Agence France Presse:.
|4 Taleban killed at Wedding
|Sunday, 02 December 2007 |
Agence France Presse
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -
Four Taleban rebels were killed when their ammunition exploded
during a wedding party they attended as special guests in a southern
Afghan village, police said on Saturday. Eight other rebels were injured in the blast in
southern Zabul province late on Friday, the provincial police chief said.
"There was a wedding party and a group of
Taleban was also attending as special guests. For some reason an explosion
took place in the room they had gathered," he said. "In that blast four
Taleban were killed and eight others were injured." Police were
investigating, he added.
The Taleban, ousted from power under a
US-led invasion months after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on US cities, are
waging a bloody insurgency which has intensified this year.
There are about a dozen end-lines to this story that I could plunk in here
right now. But I think the territory is sufficiently fertile to let you
supply your own. Feel free.
THE NEW REPUBLIC FINALLY ADMITS THE LIE
You have to hand it to those journalistic pros at The New Republic.
They are unwaveringly dedicated to truth, especially when writing about the war
Remember Scott Beauchamp, that soldier who was sending secret reports to them
detailing atrocity after atrocity? The one who, it turned out, was
Well, hell, it only took a half year for The New Republic to admit it - to
admit that everyone else knew - other than people who hate Bush, the USA and our
war effort so much that they didn't want to know.
Here is the last section of The New Republic's admission (which is far too
long to copy in its entirety). This is the only part where they admit
anything, so it really is all you need
I pulled it from the www.sweetness-light.com site, and have
included their bold print, and their reactions at the end (in blue):.
Beauchamps writings had originally
appealed to us because we wanted to publish a soldiers introspections.
We still believe in this journalistic mission, especially as the number of
reporters embedded in Iraq dwindles. But, as these months of controversy
have shown, telling the story of what is happening in Iraq through a soldiers
eyes is a fraught project
For the past four-and-a-half months, weve been
reluctant to retract Beauchamps stories. Substantial evidence supports
his account. It is difficult to imagine that he could enlist a
conspiracy of soldiers to lie on his behalf. And they didnt just vouch for
himthey added new details and admitted gaps in their own knowledge. If they
were simply lying to protect him, they likely wouldnt have alerted us to
Beauchamps Kuwait mistake. Furthermore, our conversation with Cross confirmed
important underlying premisesthe existence of bones, Bradleys running over
Finally, we had obligations to the writer,
whatever anxieties we might have had about these pieces. For long stretches, the
military prevented Beauchamp from defending himself against his accusers
Beauchamp has lived through this
ordeal under the most trying of conditions. He is facing pressures that
we can only begin to imagine. And, over the course of our dealings with him,
weve tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. Ever since
August, weve asked him, first though his wife and lawyer and later via direct
e-mail and phone calls, to personally obtain the sworn statements that the
military had him draft and sign on July 26. And, ever since then, he has
promised repeatedly to do just that. We are, unfortunately, still waiting.
In retrospect, we never should have
put Beauchamp in this situation. He was a young soldier in a
war zone, an untried writer without journalistic training. We published
his accounts of sensitive events while granting him the shield of
anonymitywhich, in the wrong hands, can become license to exaggerate, if not
When I last spoke with Beauchamp in early
November, he continued to stand by his stories. Unfortunately, the standards of
this magazine require more than that. And, in light of the evidence
available to us, after months of intensive re-reporting, we cannot be confident
that the events in his pieces occurred in exactly the manner that he described
them. Without that essential confidence, we cannot stand by these stories.
So this seemingly endless (the original occupies 14
online pages) and surely gutless apologia finally peters out with these
two pathetic sentences:
And, in light of the evidence available to us, after
months of intensive re-reporting, we cannot be confident that the events in
his pieces occurred in exactly the manner that he described them. Without that
essential confidence, we cannot stand by these stories.
Occurred in exactly the manner described? How about
admitting that Mr. Beauchamp lied his head off?
Beauchamps writings had originally appealed to us
because we wanted to publish a soldiers introspections
Right. The ever-patriotic and pro-military New Republic
was just trying to support the troops in their fashion.
In retrospect, we never should have put Beauchamp in
this situation. He was a young soldier in a war zone, an untried writer
without journalistic training.
Oh, my sides. It would seem that Mr. Beauchamp lied just
like an old pro. In days before the internet he would have won a Pulitzer.
(Hell, he still might.)
I hadnt worked with Stephen Glass, who made up stories
out of whole cloth, but I knew the lessons derived from that
Sure you did, Mr. Foer.
Sure you did. .
Do yourself a favor. Don't hold your breath waiting for mainstream
media to do feature after feature on the dishonesty of Beauchamp's reports, the
journalistic malfeasance in printing them or the inexcusable time period it took
to admit they were fraudulent.
TIMOTHY RUTTEN OF THE LA TIMES REAMS CNN
Now here's something you don't see every day.
The following is an article by Timothy Rutten, who writes "Regarding
Media" for the Los Angeles Times.
Like me, Mr. Rutten was appalled by the fraudulent Republican "debate" on
CNN. But unlike me, he has a major newspaper to vent in. And vent he
Here is what Mr. Rutten wrote. If you're looking for diplomacy, you'll quickly
see you have come to the wrong place:.
CNN: Corrupt News Network
A self-serving agenda was set
for the Republican presidential debates.
THE United States is at war in the Middle
East and Central Asia, the economy is writhing like a snake with a broken back,
oil prices are relentlessly climbing toward $100 a barrel and an increasing
number of Americans just can't afford to be sick with anything that won't be
treated with aspirin and bed rest.
So, when CNN brought the Republican
presidential candidates together this week for what is loosely termed a
"debate," what did the country get but a discussion of immigration, Biblical
inerrancy and the propriety of flying the Confederate flag?
In fact, this
most recent debacle masquerading as a presidential debate raises serious
questions about whether CNN is ethically or professionally suitable to play the
political role the Democratic and Republican parties recently have conceded
Selecting a president is, more than ever, a life and death business,
and a news organization that consciously injects itself into the process, as CNN
did by hosting Wednesday's debate, incurs a special responsibility to conduct
itself in a dispassionate and, most of all, disinterested fashion. When one
considers CNN's performance, however, the adjectives that leap to mind are
corrupt and incompetent.
Corruption is a strong word. But consider these
facts: The gimmick behind Wednesday's debate was that the questions would be
selected from those that ordinary Americans submitted to the video sharing
Internet website YouTube, which is owned by Google. According to CNN, its staff
culled through 5,000 submissions to select the handful that were put to the
candidates. That process essentially puts the lie to the vox populi aura
the association with YouTube was meant to create. When producers exercise that
level of selectivity, the questions -- whoever initially formulated and recorded
them -- actually are theirs.
That's where things begin to get troubling,
because CNN chose to devote the first 35 minutes of this critical debate to a
single issue -- immigration. Now, if that leaves you scratching your head, it's
probably because you're included in the 96% of Americans who do not think
immigration is the most important issue confronting this country. We've got a
pretty good fix concerning what's on the American mind right now, because the
nonpartisan and highly reliable Pew Center has been regularly polling people
since January on the issues that matter most to them. In fact, the center's most
recent survey was conducted in the days leading up to Wednesday's
HERE'S what Pew found: By an overwhelming
margin, Americans think the war in Iraq is the most important issue facing the
United States, followed by the economy, healthcare and energy prices. In fact,
if you lump the war into a category with terrorism and other foreign policy
issues, 40% of Americans say foreign affairs are their biggest concern in this
election cycle. If you do something similar with all issues related to the
economy, 31% list those questions as their most worrisome issue. As anybody who
has looked at their 401(k) or visited a gas pump would expect, that aggregate
figure has increased dramatically since Pew started polling in January. Back
then, for example, concerns over the war outpaced economic anxieties by fully 8
to 1. By contrast, just 6% of the survey's national sample said that immigration
was the most important electoral issue. Moreover, that number hasn't changed in
a statistically meaningful way since the first of the year. In other words, more
than nine out of 10 Americans think something matters more than immigration in
this presidential election.
So, why did CNN make immigration the keystone
of this debate? What standard dictated the decision to give that much time to an
issue so remote from the majority of voters' concerns? The answer is that CNN's
most popular news-oriented personality, Lou Dobbs, has made opposition to
illegal immigration and free trade the centerpiece of his
neonativist/neopopulist platform. In fact, Dobbs led into Wednesday's debate
with a good solid dose of immigrant bashing. His network is in a desperate
ratings battle with Fox News and, in a critical prime-time slot, with MSNBC's
Keith Olbermann. So, what's good for Dobbs is good for CNN.
words, CNN intentionally directed the Republicans' debate to advance its own
interests. Make immigration a bigger issue and you've made a bigger audience for
That's corruption, and it's why the Republican candidates had to
spend more than half an hour "debating" an issue on which their differences are
essentially marginal -- and, more important, why GOP voters had to sit and wait,
mostly in vain, for the issues that really concern them to be discussed. That's
particularly true because that same Pew poll reported findings of particular
relevance to Republican voters, the vast majority of whom continue to support
the war in Iraq.
According to this most recent poll, a substantial number
of Americans believe the surge is working. As Pew summarized their findings,
"While Iraq remains a deeply polarizing issue across party lines, there has been
improvement in how both Democrats and Republicans view the war. At the lowest
point in February, barely half of Republicans (51%) said things were going well.
Today, 74% of Republicans say the same. And while Democrats remain far more
skeptical than Republicans, the proportion of Democrats expressing a positive
view of the Iraq effort has doubled since February (from 16% to
"Independents' assessments of how the military effort is going
remain far closer to the views of Democrats than of Republicans. Currently, 41%
of independents offer a positive assessment, while half say things are not going
well. In February, 26% of independents expressed a positive view of the
situation in Iraq."
Those are significant swings of opinion, yet the poll
also found that more than half of Americans still favor withdrawing American
troops. That disconnect is a real issue for the GOP candidates, all but
one of whom support the war. Unless we're going to believe that the
self-selecting YouTube questioners were utterly different from the rest of
American voters, it seems pretty clear that CNN ignored these complex -- and
highly relevant concerns -- for an issue that served its ratings interests --
immigration -- or ones that made for moments of conventional television
conflict, like gun control, which doesn't even show up in surveys of voters'
THIS is intellectual venality, but it
pales beside the wickedness of using some crackpot's query about the candidates'
stand on Biblical inerrancy to do something that's anathema in our system -- to
probe people's individual religious consciences. American journalists quite
legitimately ask candidates about policy issues -- say, abortion -- that might
be influenced by their religious or philosophical convictions. We do not and
should not ask them about those convictions themselves. It's nobody's business
whether a candidate believes in the virgin birth, whether God gave an oral Torah
to Moses at Sinai, whether the Buddha escaped the round of birth and rebirth or
whether an angel appeared to Joseph Smith.
The latter point is relevant
because CNN's noxious laundering of this question through the goofy YouTube
mechanism quite clearly was designed to embarrass Mitt Romney -- who happens to
be a Mormon -- and, secondarily, to help Mike Huckabee -- who, as a Baptist
minister, had a ready answer, and who happens to be television's campaign flavor
of the month.
Beside considerations like these, CNN's incompetent failure
to weed out Democratically connected questioners pales.
In any event, CNN
has failed in its responsibilities to the political process and it's time for
the leaders of both the Republican and Democratic parties to take the network
out of our electoral affairs. .
That, folks, is a reaming. A major league reaming. And it was
about as well deserved as one can be.
I congratulate Timothy Rutten for having the guts and the honesty to say what
should have been said. Good for him.
ANOTHER RACIAL HOAX
This happens over and over again. And every time it happens, it makes
people more skeptical about subsequent claims of racism - even the real ones
(and there are plenty).
Here, courtesy of the the Baltimore Sun, is what I am talking about:.
Firehouse incident with noose was a
Firefighter admits placing rope, note
By Justin Fenton
December 2, 2007
A firefighter who reported finding a knotted rope
and a threatening note with a drawing of a noose in an East Baltimore station
house last month had placed the items there himself, city officials said
The man was suspended last week for
performance-related issues and will likely face additional punishment, fire
officials said. Sterling Clifford, a spokesman for the Police Department and for
Mayor Sheila Dixon, said the man admitted to the hoax and will not face criminal
Officials identified the firefighter who they say
acknowledged writing the note as Donald Maynard, a firefighter-paramedic
apprentice who is black. Maynard could not be reached for comment.
The rope incident sparked outrage two weeks ago
and prompted a federal investigation into possible civil rights violations. It
was the latest in a series of incidents that have cast the Fire Department in a
poor light over the past year, including the death of a recruit in a training
exercise and accusations of racism.
The news of the hoax came a day after a report
released by the city's inspector general found that the top performers on two
recent Fire Department promotions exams likely cheated amid lapses in testing
A black firefighters group had called accusations
of cheating racially motivated after union officials questioned the test scores.
But the investigation found that five African-American firefighters had studied
by using a 2001 exam, which is against test protocol.
On Nov. 21, a handwritten note and a rope were
discovered about 1:30 a.m. by two Fire Department employees - one black and one
white. It read, "We cant [sic] hang the cheaters but we can hang the failures.
NO EMT-I, NO JOB." A small stick figure with a noose and the word "Stop" were
drawn below the message.
The note appeared to refer to the cheating
investigation and a push by top fire officials to compel emergency medical
technicians to become certified as paramedics. Maynard was among those whose
jobs were at risk.
In a written statement yesterday, Fire Chief
William J. Goodwin Jr. said Maynard had admitted to "conducting a scheme meant
to create the perception that members within our department were acting in a
discriminatory and unprofessional manner."
"If the department upon investigation found Mr.
Maynard's alleged claims to be factual, I would have acted swiftly and
severely," said Goodwin, who said last month he would step down at the end of
the year. "I will do the same thing regarding Mr. Maynard's unfortunate act of
Kevin Cartwright, a spokesman for the Fire
Department, said that Maynard's punishment had not been determined but that he
could be fired.
Clifford, the spokesman for Dixon, said she was
"pleased to find out that, in fact, there wasn't a threat of that nature made at
the firehouse." He said the mayor is disappointed in the firefighter.
"It's a terrible thing to be worried that
firefighters are treating each other that way, and it's good to know they're
not," he said.
Yesterday, the leaders of the two city fire unions
denounced Dixon, whose initial reaction to the reported incident was to deplore
what she called "an act of hatred and intimidation."
Stephan G. Fugate, head of the city fire officers
union, said Dixon's reaction contributed to racial tensions. He said members of
the community became hostile toward firefighters after the mayor "came out and,
in effect, said racism is running rampant."
Union leaders also criticized the local chapter of
the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Vulcan
Blazers, a group that represents black firefighters, saying they, too, provoked
racial tension by rushing to judgment.
"To put it mildly, this time we're not going to
let it go," said Fugate. "The reaction from the NAACP, the mayor and the Vulcan
Blazers was sickening, and we're going to demand an apology."
But Marvin L. "Doc" Cheatham, president of the
NAACP's Baltimore chapter, said the fact that such an incident could occur shows
that pervasive racial problems persist in the department.
"It really saddens us to hear that evidently
things have reached a stage that even an African-American does an injustice to
himself and his own people as a result of a negative culture in that
department," Cheatham said when asked to respond to the unions.
Henry Burris, president of the Vulcan Blazers,
when informed that the incident was a hoax, said, "I'm extremely upset, as well
as hurt. I believed the person who told me [that the incident was legitimate]
was telling the truth." .
It is genuinely disspiriting to read this. From several
-It is outrageous and disgraceful that Donald Maynard perpetrated this
-It is a virtual guarantee that if enough such racist hoaxes are
perpetrated, real racism will be disregarded and trivialized.
Genuine victims will be laughed at and/or sneered at, while the racists who
committed acts against them will get away with it;
-Hoaxes like this cause some - not all - civil rights leaders to
choose between calling it what it is or making idiotic statements
to rationalize the hoax.
Let's think about that third point a bit more. You have two civil rights
leaders quoted. One, Henry Burris, is "upset" and "hurt" because Maynard
made a fool of him. I don't blame Mr. Burris one bit.
Then we have Marvin "Doc" Cheatham of the Baltimore NAACP, who whines out
that the phony accusation of racism is racist against the guy who phonied up the
If that is hard to understand, read Cheatham's exact quotes again.
I assure you they're 100 times less lucid than what I just said - and I was
trying to be confusing.
Now that we've put this one to rest, when do we hear about the noose at
Columbia University? Didn't they review the tapes? Why are they
clammed up about what those tapes showed?
Is it just me, or do you share my suspicion that Donald Maynard has
a counterpart in the Ivy League?