Daily Archives: September 27, 2008

Chicago Muslims devastated by investment scam

Between the prayers that fill the holy month of Ramadan, during the long fasts that stretch from dawn to dusk, Muslims have been meeting to discuss the disappearance of Salman Ibrahim.

The respected businessman persuaded up to 200 Pakistani and Indian immigrants to contribute their savings and mortgage their homes to finance real estate deals.

But Ibrahim vanished in August, leaving his investors with losses that could total $50 million – in some cases their life’s savings.

“The scale of impact that this stands to have on a lot of people in the South Asian and Muslim communities is potentially very drastic,” said attorney Salman Azam, who filed a petition last week to force Ibrahim’s company, Sunrise Equities Inc., into bankruptcy. “There are a lot of very, very sad stories and dire financial situations.”

But it’s the loss of trust that has really shaken people along Devon Avenue on Chicago’s North Side, home to one of North America’s largest South Asian communities.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, Islam, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Stock Market

Paul Newman RIP

Ten-time Oscar nominee Paul Newman, creator of iconic movie anti-heroes in “The Hustler,” “Cool Hand Luke” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” has died after a battle with cancer.

The 83-year-old screen legend with the piercing blue eyes died Friday at his farmhouse near Westport, Conn., said publicist Jeff Sanderson. He was surrounded by his family and close friends.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Movies & Television

WSJ: Troubled Wachovia Seeks Out a Merger

Wachovia Corp. has entered into preliminary talks with a handful of possible buyers — the latest in a parade of banks to look for safety in the arms of a suitor amid concerns that the weak economy is pushing them deeper into peril.

The talks came as Washington Mutual Inc.’s late-Thursday failure rattled the shares of other troubled banks. Shares in Wachovia fell 27% on Friday as investors fretted about its massive mortgage portfolio.

Investors are growing concerned that a host of banks nationwide, both large and small, could come under fresh pressure to either raise more capital or else find someone willing to buy them. The trouble stems in part from the fact that a broad range of borrowers, not just mortgage holders, are now starting to default on their debt. For instance, about 2.4% of payments on credit cards are more than 90 days overdue, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the highest level since 1991.

Read it all from the front page of this morning’s Wall Street Journal.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy

Marketplace–The Big Story: Bailout plan's wild ride

KAI RYSSDAL: Been a heck of a week, hasn’t it? The deal was on. Then it was off. The economy was collapsing, but not yet it seems. We’re going to take a couple of minutes here and try to digest all that’s happened.

Katie Benner’s with Fortune magazine. David Leonhardt’s at The New York Times…

RYSSDAL: David, do you get a sense of anger out there when you do your reporting?

LEONHARDT: I definitely do, and I was talking to a friend of mine who does more reporting out in the country, as opposed to in Washington and New York, and he said that he thinks there’s a good chance that people in Washington and, to some extent, New York, are underestimating the level of the anger there. And I think, to some extent, that is a criticism of Bernanke and Paulson, because I think they’ve done a good job of explaining the stakes here to members of Congress; I don’t think they’ve done a good job at all of explaining to the public what they’re afraid of. And so, in the end, this really does feel like a Wall Street bailout to a lot of people. Which it is, to some extent, but it does not feel like something that the Fed and the Treasury feel that is necessary in order to stem a credit crisis that very much will affect Main Street.

RYSSDAL: Katie, what stands out to you about the way this whole thing has evolved, from a week ago yesterday when Bernanke and Paulson had that first meeting up on Capitol Hill?

BENNER: The crushing speed with which things have unfolded, and it sort of feels like that moment after Enron, where people were piling in to try to create legislation, or to create rules, to stem a problem because people were angry. This is that times a thousand, and we’re not even sure what they’re doing. Nobody really understands the plan.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Politics in General, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package

Shields, Brooks Weigh in on the Week's Dramatic Bailout Debate

I mean, so that — if you say — just say for purposes of argument that the poison was put in by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, by putting them in subprimes, and they were not a good investment.

Well, they just spread like a virus, like a global virus, by the securitization of them and selling them as securities. And so now you’ve got all these other financial institutions who have a stake in them.

And David’s point about, what do you price them at? I mean, if there’s one place where the government ought to be able to exercise some leverage, it’s establishing what the price is. I mean, they ought to be able to go in. I mean, they ought to be able to go in low.

DAVID BROOKS: With one bidder, it’s hard to get a price. Steve Pearlstein of the Washington Post had a good observation, which is you can either punish Wall Street or you can stabilize Wall Street. You can’t do both. We all want to punish Wall Street, but we just can’t do it.

And I think the argument for Republicans is, “You may hate this. A lot of people hate this. But serious people like Bernanke, who are not prone to nationalizing industries, think they’re in a panic.”

And the other thing that’s happening today, by the way, is a lot of community banks are calling up their House members. And the tide of opinion may be against this, but among the bankers and increasingly local businesspeople, they are calling up and saying, “You guys better do something.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Politics in General, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package, US Presidential Election 2008

S.E.C. Concedes Oversight Flaws Fueled Collapse

The chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, a longtime proponent of deregulation, acknowledged on Friday that failures in a voluntary supervision program for Wall Street’s largest investment banks had contributed to the global financial crisis, and he abruptly shut the program down.

The S.E.C.’s oversight responsibilities will largely shift to the Federal Reserve, though the commission will continue to oversee the brokerage units of investment banks.

Also Friday, the S.E.C.’s inspector general released a report strongly criticizing the agency’s performance in monitoring Bear Stearns before it collapsed in March. Christopher Cox, the commission chairman, said he agreed that the oversight program was “fundamentally flawed from the beginning.”

“The last six months have made it abundantly clear that voluntary regulation does not work,” he said in a statement. The program “was fundamentally flawed from the beginning, because investment banks could opt in or out of supervision voluntarily. The fact that investment bank holding companies could withdraw from this voluntary supervision at their discretion diminished the perceived mandate” of the program, and “weakened its effectiveness,” he added.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Politics in General, Stock Market

Noah Pollack: CNN’s Poll vs. CNN’s Spin

CNN’s poll of debate viewers blares a puzzling headline: “Round 1 in debate goes to Obama, poll says.”

But the poll itself actually doesn’t say that. This is blatant editorializing on the part of CNN….

Read the whole thing.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Media, US Presidential Election 2008

A Transcript of Last Night's Presidential debate

It really is worth the time.

I see over on Intrade this morning that Obama is at 55.8 and McCain 42.1.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

McCain vs. Obama: Dueling temperaments, no defining moment in first debate

With little more than five weeks to Election Day, they may not have persuaded many voters to change their minds or helped undecided ones make a choice.

Despite the absence of a defining moment, the debate showcased the dueling candidates’ temperaments and, particularly on foreign policy, highlighted their policy differences.

However, if voters were looking for a signal on how either would handle the economic meltdown as president, they were disappointed. Neither offered up a thoughtful prescription for addressing the worst economic meltdown in generations, or even much analysis on the proposed $700 billion government bailout.

“I wish they had. They were very cautiously evasive,” said Michael Kevane, chairman of the economics department at Santa Clara University. “They were not very forward-looking. I wanted to hear how they thought the $700 billion should be divvied up.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

Bryan Owen: Lancelot Andrewes

Good to remember him on his feast day.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

Andy Crouch: Creating Culture

I wonder what we Christians are known for in the world outside our churches. Are we known as critics, consumers, copiers, condemners of culture? I’m afraid so. Why aren’t we known as cultivators””people who tend and nourish what is best in human culture, who do the hard and painstaking work to preserve the best of what people before us have done? Why aren’t we known as creators””people who dare to think and do something that has never been thought or done before, something that makes the world more welcoming and thrilling and beautiful?

The simple truth is that in the mainstream of culture, cultivation and creativity are the postures that confer legitimacy for the other gestures. People who consider themselves stewards of culture, guardians of what is best in a neighborhood, an institution, or a field of cultural practice gain the respect of their peers. Even more so, those who go beyond being mere custodians to creating new cultural goods are the ones who have the world’s attention. Indeed, those who have cultivated and created are precisely the ones who have the legitimacy to condemn””whose denunciations, rare and carefully chosen, carry outsize weight. Cultivators and creators are the ones who are invited to critique and whose critiques are often the most telling and fruitful.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Religion & Culture

ABC Nightline: A Sting Operation to Catch Internet Predators

Parry Aftab, an Internet security and privacy lawyer, said the most important thing parents and adults can to is teach children good judgment and that “the most important filter is the one between their ears.”

“Teach them the people who are too good to be true are too good to be true and if an adult wants to meet them it’s not for love and affection and to marry them some day — they’ve got one thing in mind and one thing only and not all kids come home in one piece & out of a body bag,” Aftab said.

It’s a horrible topic but one that cannot be ignored. Read it all being aware that the subject is disturbing.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to at KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, Children, Law & Legal Issues, Sexuality

David Brooks: Thinking About McCain

Do I wish he was running a different campaign? Yes.

It’s not that he has changed his political personality that bothers me. I’ve come to accept that in this media-circus environment, you simply cannot run for president as a candid, normal person.

Nor is it, primarily, the dishonest ads he is running. My friends in the Obama cheering section get huffy about them, while filtering from their consciousness all the dishonest ads Obama has run ”” the demagogic DHL ad, the insulting computer ad, the cynical Rush Limbaugh ad, the misleading Social Security ad and so on. If one candidate has sunk lower than the other at this point, I’ve lost track.

No, what disappoints me about the McCain campaign is it has no central argument. I had hoped that he would create a grand narrative explaining how the United States is fundamentally unprepared for the 21st century and how McCain’s worldview is different.

McCain has not made that sort of all-encompassing argument, so his proposals don’t add up to more than the sum of their parts. Without a groundbreaking argument about why he is different, he’s had to rely on tactical gimmicks to stay afloat. He has no frame to organize his response when financial and other crises pop up.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

Bush and Reid Offer Assurances on Bailout Talks

President Bush and Congressional leaders tried to assure Americans on Friday morning that lawmakers and the administration would be able to come together and reach an agreement on a proposal to rescue the country’s financial system.

“We are going to get a package passed,” Mr. Bush said, a day after an earlier agreement dissolved amid a flurry of political rancor. “We will rise to the occasion. Republicans and Democrats will come together and pass a substantial rescue plan.”

A short time later, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, made similar assurances. “We’re going to get this done and stay in session as long as it takes to get it done,” Mr. Reid said.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package

LA Times: Public isn't buying Wall Street bailout

As congressional leaders struggled to craft a bailout plan for the nation’s troubled financial system Thursday, angry protesters mobbed Wall Street, telephones rang off the hook in House and Senate offices and a group of prominent economists sent off e-mail blasts critiquing the proposal.

Numerous opinion polls taken this week came to wildly varying conclusions about the level of support among Americans for the Bush administration’s $700-billion plan. But the increasingly loud roar coming from all corners of the nation shows that the idea of a bailout has touched a particularly sensitive nerve among the public.

A spokesman for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said her five offices had doubled staffing to deal with the constantly ringing phones. Through late Thursday, Feinstein’s offices had received a total of 39,180 e-mails, calls and letters on the bailout, with the overwhelming majority of constituents against it. The spokesman said the volume was as great as during the immigration debate and at key points during the war in Iraq.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Politics in General, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package