Monday, September 29, 2008
The Real Culprits In This Meltdown
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY
Monday, September 15, 2008
Big Government: Barack Obama and Democrats blame the historic financial turmoil on the market. But if it's dysfunctional, Democrats during the Clinton years are a prime reason for it.
Obama in a statement yesterday blamed the shocking new round of subprime-related bankruptcies on the free-market system, and specifically the "trickle-down" economics of the Bush administration, which he tried to gig opponent John McCain for wanting to extend.
But it was the Clinton administration, obsessed with multiculturalism, that dictated where mortgage lenders could lend, and originally helped create the market for the high-risk subprime loans now infecting like a retrovirus the balance sheets of many of Wall Street's most revered institutions.
Tough new regulations forced lenders into high-risk areas where they had no choice but to lower lending standards to make the loans that sound business practices had previously guarded against making. It was either that or face stiff government penalties.
The untold story in this whole national crisis is that President Clinton put on steroids the Community Reinvestment Act*, a well-intended Carter-era law designed to encourage minority homeownership. And in so doing, he helped create the market for the risky subprime loans that he and Democrats now decry as not only greedy but "predatory."
Yes, the market was fueled by greed and overleveraging in the secondary market for subprimes, vis-a-vis mortgaged-backed securities traded on Wall Street. But the seed was planted in the '90s by Clinton and his social engineers. They were the political catalyst behind this slow-motion financial train wreck.
And it was the Clinton administration that mismanaged the quasi-governmental agencies that over the decades have come to manage the real estate market in America.
As soon as Clinton crony Franklin Delano Raines took the helm in 1999 at Fannie Mae, for example, he used it as his personal piggy bank, looting it for a total of almost $100 million in compensation by the time he left in early 2005 under an ethical cloud.
Other Clinton cronies, including Janet Reno aide Jamie Gorelick, padded their pockets to the tune of another $75 million.
Raines was accused of overstating earnings and shifting losses so he and other senior executives could earn big bonuses.
In the end, Fannie had to pay a record $400 million civil fine for SEC and other violations, while also agreeing as part of a settlement to make changes in its accounting procedures and ways of managing risk.
But it was too little, too late. Raines had reportedly steered Fannie Mae business to subprime giant Countrywide Financial, which was saved from bankruptcy by Bank of America.
At the same time, the Clinton administration was pushing Fannie and her brother Freddie Mac to buy more mortgages from low-income households.
The Clinton-era corruption, combined with unprecedented catering to affordable-housing lobbyists, resulted in today's nationalization of both Fannie and Freddie, a move that is expected to cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.
And the worst is far from over. By the time it is, we'll all be paying for Clinton's social experiment, one that Obama hopes to trump with a whole new round of meddling in the housing and jobs markets. In fact, the social experiment Obama has planned could dwarf both the Great Society and New Deal in size and scope.
There's a political root cause to this mess that we ignore at our peril. If we blame the wrong culprits, we'll learn the wrong lessons. And taxpayers will be on the hook for even larger bailouts down the road.
But the government-can-do-no-wrong crowd just doesn't get it. They won't acknowledge the law of unintended consequences from well-meaning, if misguided, acts.
Obama and Democrats on the Hill think even more regulation and more interference in the market will solve the problem their policies helped cause. For now, unarmed by the historic record, conventional wisdom is buying into their blame-business-first rhetoric and bigger-government solutions.
While government arguably has a role in helping low-income folks buy a home, Clinton went overboard by strong-arming lenders with tougher and tougher regulations, which only led to lenders taking on hundreds of billions in subprime bilge.
Market failure? Hardly. Once again, this crisis has government's fingerprints all over it. *In the original version of this editorial, the Community Reinvestment Act was mistakenly listed as the "Community Redevelopment Act".
... unfortunately the facts tell the other side: more than two-thirds of Republicans and 40 percent of Democrats opposed the bill.
Democrats control the Senate and the House ... if the Democratic party were together on an issue, it would ALWAYS get passed without the Retardicans.
Blaming them and not being honest. Barney Frank. Centerpiece to this economic meltdown in more ways than one.
Liar lair pants on fire.
"CAIRO, Egypt - An Egyptian appeals court on Sunday upheld a guilty verdict against a newspaper editor who wrote stories questioning the president's health and sentenced him to two months imprisonment."
Well, actually Senataor Obama, there is only one way to look at abortion. Either God a) doesn't care / and or it is not a life, and you are fine with this position, or b) He does mind and this is a serious issue that transcends simple politics.
Imagine Obama winning - and believing that morality is up to the individual. That is basically what DuBois is saying.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
A few people are beginning to understand and recognize the threat China poses to the world. It is by no means at that stage yet, but it is fast approaching critical mass.
From treatment of ethnic Chinese (Han) to the human rights violations of nearly everyone else - Tibetans to everyone, and anyone - in China and outside. From Tiannemen Square to the farmers and villagers at the gorges dam. From their criminal behavior - poisoned toothpaste, poisoned pet food, lead covered toys, tainted pharmaceuticals, to a devastating milk tainting - China is operating on a feudalistic level armed with nuclear weapons and modern technologies.
It bullies and threatens, and buys up whatever and whomever may object to its actions.
It is now buying up African countries, whether they want it or not.
Why is this different than the French or English - neither the French nor the English have threatened nuclear attacks on other countries, nor did England and France support regimes that are armed with or desire nuclear weapons. China does and China does not care.
PETER HITCHENS: China's new slave empire
By PETER HITCHENS
27th September 2008
I think I am probably going to die any minute now. An inflamed, deceived mob of about 50 desperate men are crowding round the car, some trying to turn it over, others beating at it with large rocks, all yelling insults and curses.
They have just started to smash the windows. Next, they will pull us out and, well, let's not think about that ...
I am trying not to meet their eyes, but they are staring at me and my companions with rage and hatred such as I haven't seen in a human face before. Those companions, Barbara Jones and Richard van Ryneveld, are - like me - quite helpless in the back seats.
If we get out, we will certainly be beaten to death. If we stay where we are, we will probably be beaten to death.
Our two African companions have - crazily in our view - got out of the car to try to reason with the crowd. It is clear to us that you might as well preach non-violence to a tornado.
At last, after what must have been about 40 seconds but that felt like half an hour, one of the pair saw sense, leapt back into the car and reversed wildly down the rocky, dusty path - leaving his friend behind.
By the grace of God we did not slither into the ditch, roll over or burst a tyre. Through the dust we churned up as we fled, we could see our would-be killers running with appalling speed to catch up. There was just time to make a crazy two-point turn which allowed us to go forwards and so out-distance them.
We had pretty much abandoned our other guide to whatever his fate might be (this was surprisingly easy to justify to myself at the time) when we saw that he had broken free and was running with Olympic swiftness, just ahead of pursuers half hidden by the dust.
We flung open a rear door so he could scramble in and, engine grinding, we veered off, bouncing painfully over the ruts and rocks.
We feared there would be another barricade to stop our escape, and it would all begin again. But there wasn't, and we eventually realised we had got away, even the man whose idiocy nearly got us killed.
He told us it was us they wanted, not him, or he would never have escaped. We ought to be dead. We are not. It is an interesting feeling, not wholly unpleasant.
Why did they want to kill us? What was the reason for their fury? They thought that if I reported on their way of life they might lose their livings.
Livings? Dyings, more likely.
These poor, hopeless, angry people exist by grubbing for scraps of cobalt and copper ore in the filth and dust of abandoned copper mines in Congo, sinking perilous 80ft shafts by hand, washing their finds in cholera-infected streams full of human filth, then pushing enormous two-hundredweight loads uphill on ancient bicycles to the nearby town of Likasi where middlemen buy them to sell on, mainly to Chinese businessmen hungry for these vital metals.
To see them, as they plod miserably past, is to be reminded of pictures of unemployed miners in Thirties Britain, stumbling home in the drizzle with sacks of coal scraps gleaned from spoil heaps.
Except that here the unsparing heat makes the labour five times as hard, and the conditions of work and life are worse by far than any known in England since the 18th Century.
Many perish as their primitive mines collapse on them, or are horribly injured without hope of medical treatment. Many are little more than children. On a good day they may earn $3, which just supports a meagre existence in diseased, malarial slums.
We had been earlier to this awful pit, which looked like a penal colony in an ancient slave empire.
Defeated, bowed figures toiled endlessly in dozens of hand-dug pits. Their faces, when visible, were blank and without hope.
We had been turned away by a fat, corrupt policeman who pretended our papers weren't in order, but who was really taking instructions from a dead-eyed, one-eared gangmaster who sat next to him.
By the time we returned with more official permits, the gangmasters had readied the ambush.
The diggers feared - and their evil, sinister bosses had worked hard on that fear - that if people like me publicised their filthy way of life, then the mine might be closed and the $3 a day might be taken away.
I can give you no better explanation in miniature of the wicked thing that I believe is now happening in Africa.
Out of desperation, much of the continent is selling itself into a new era of corruption and virtual slavery as China seeks to buy up all the metals, minerals and oil she can lay her hands on: copper for electric and telephone cables, cobalt for mobile phones and jet engines - the basic raw materials of modern life.
It is crude rapacity, but to Africans and many of their leaders it is better than the alternative, which is slow starvation.
It is my view - and not just because I was so nearly killed - that China's cynical new version of imperialism in Africa is a wicked enterprise.
China offers both rulers and the ruled in Africa the simple, squalid advantages of shameless exploitation.
For the governments, there are gargantuan loans, promises of new roads, railways, hospitals and schools - in return for giving Peking a free and tax-free run at Africa's rich resources of oil, minerals and metals.
For the people, there are these wretched leavings, which, miserable as they are, must be better than the near-starvation they otherwise face.
Persuasive academics advised me before I set off on this journey that China's scramble for Africa had much to be said for it. They pointed out China needs African markets for its goods, and has an interest in real economic advance in that broken continent.
For once, they argued, a foreign intervention in Africa might work precisely because it is so cynical and self-interested. They said Western aid, with all its conditions, did little to create real advances in Africa, laughing as they declared: 'The only country that ever got rich through donations is the Vatican.'
Why get so het up about African corruption anyway? Is it really so much worse than corruption in Russia or India?
Is it really our business to try to act as missionaries of purity? Isn't what we call 'corruption' another name for what Africans view as looking after their families?
And what about China herself? Despite the country's convulsive growth and new wealth, it still suffers gravely from poverty and backwardness, as I have seen for myself in its dingy sweatshops, the primitive electricity-free villages of Canton, the dark and squalid mining city of Datong and the cave-dwelling settlements that still rely on wells for their water.
After the murderous disaster of Mao, and the long chaos that went before, China longs above all for stable prosperity. And, as one genial and open-minded Chinese businessman said to me in Congo as we sat over a beer in the decayed colonial majesty of Lubumbashi's Belgian-built Park Hotel: 'Africa is China's last hope.'
I find this argument quite appealing, in theory. Britain's own adventures in Africa were not specially benevolent, although many decent men did what they could to enforce fairness and justice amid the bigotry and exploitation.
It is noticeable that in much former British territory we have left behind plenty of good things and habits that are absent in the lands once ruled by rival empires.
Even so, with Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Uganda on our conscience, who are we to lecture others?
I chose to look at China's intervention in two countries, Zambia and the 'Democratic Republic of the Congo', because they lie side by side; because one was once British and the other Belgian.
Also, in Zambia's imperfect but functioning democracy, there is actual opposition to the Chinese presence, while in the despotic Congo, opposition to President Joseph Kabila is unwise, to put it mildly.
Congo is barely a state at all, and still hosts plenty of fighting not all that far from here.
Statues and images of Joseph's murdered father Laurent are everywhere in an obvious attempt to create a cult of personality on which stability may one day be based. Portraits of Joseph himself scowl from every wall.
I have decided not to name most of the people who spoke to me, even though some of them gave me permission to do so, because I am not sure they know just how much of a risk they may be running by criticising the Chinese in Africa.
I know from personal experience with Chinese authority that Peking regards anything short of deep respect as insulting, and it does not forget a slight.
I also know that this over-sensitive vigilance is present in Africa.
The Mail on Sunday team was reported to the authorities in Zambia's Copper Belt by Chinese managers who had seen us taking photographs of a graveyard at Chambishi where 54 victims of a disaster in a Chinese-run explosives factory are buried. Within an hour, local 'security' officials were buzzing round us trying to find out what we were up to.
This is why I have some time for the Zambian opposition politician Michael Sata, known as 'King Cobra' because of his fearless combative nature (but also, say his opponents, because he is so slippery).
Sata has challenged China's plans to invest in Zambia, and is publicly suspicious of them. At elections two years ago, the Chinese were widely believed to have privately threatened to pull out of the country if he won, and to have helped the government parties win.
Peking regards Zambia as a great prize, alongside its other favoured nations of Sudan (oil), Angola (oil) and Congo (metals).
It has cancelled Zambia's debts, eased Zambian exports to China, established a 'special economic zone' in the Copper Belt, offered to build a sports stadium, schools, a hospital and an anti-malaria centre as well as providing scholarships and dispatching experts to help with agriculture.
Zambia-China trade is growing rapidly, mainly in the form of copper.
All this has aroused the suspicions of Mr Sata, a populist politician famous for his blunt, combative manner and his harsh, biting attacks on opponents, and who was once a porter who swept the platforms at Victoria Station in London.
Now the leader of the Patriotic Front, with a respectable chance of winning a presidential election set for the end of October, Sata says: 'The Chinese are not here as investors, they are here as invaders.
'They bring Chinese to come and push wheelbarrows, they bring Chinese bricklayers, they bring Chinese carpenters, Chinese plumbers. We have plenty of those in Zambia.'
This is true. In Lusaka and in the Copper Belt, poor and lowly Chinese workers, in broad-brimmed straw hats from another era, are a common sight at mines and on building sites, as are better-dressed Chinese supervisors and technicians.
There are Chinese restaurants and Chinese clinics and Chinese housing compounds - and a growing number of Chinese flags flapping over factories and smelters.
'We don't need to import labourers from China,' Sata says. 'We need to import people with skills we don't have in Zambia. The Chinese are not going to train our people in how to push wheelbarrows.'
He meets me in the garden of his not specially grand house in the old-established and verdant Rhodes Park section of Lusaka. It is guarded by uniformed security men, its walls protected by barbed wire and broken glass.
'Wherever our Chinese "brothers" are they don't care about the local workers,' he complains, alleging that Chinese companies have lax safety procedures and treat their African workers like dirt.
In language which seems exaggerated, but which will later turn out to be at least partly true, he claims: 'They employ people in slave conditions.'
He also accuses Chinese overseers of frequently beating up Zambians. His claim is given force by a story in that morning's Lusaka newspapers about how a Zambian building worker in Ndola, in the Copper Belt, was allegedly beaten unconscious by four Chinese co-workers angry that he had gone to sleep on the job.
I later checked this account with the victim's relatives in an Ndola shanty town and found it to be true.
Recently, a government minister, Alice Simago, was shown weeping on TV after she saw at first hand the working conditions at a Chinese-owned coal mine in the Southern Province.
When I contacted her, she declined to speak to me about this - possibly because criticism of the Chinese is not welcome among most of the Zambian elite.
Denis Lukwesa, deputy general secretary of the Zambian Mineworkers' Union, also backed up Sata's view, saying: 'They just don't understand about safety. They are more interested in profit.'
As for their general treatment of African workers, Lukwesa says he knows of cases where Chinese supervisors have kicked Zambians. He summed up their attitude like this: 'They are harsh to Zambians, and they don't get on well with them.'
Sata warns against the enormous loans and offers of help with transport, schools and health care with which Peking now sweetens its attempts to buy up Africa's mineral reserves.
'China's deal with the Democratic Republic of the Congo is, in my opinion, corruption,' he says, comparing this with Western loans which require strong measures against corruption.
Everyone in Africa knows China's Congo deal - worth almost £5billion in loans, roads, railways, hospitals and schools - was offered after Western experts demanded tougher anti-corruption measures in return for more aid.
Sata knows the Chinese are unpopular in his country. Zambians use a mocking word - 'choncholi' - to describe the way the Chinese speak. Zambian businessmen gossip about the way the Chinese live in separate compounds, where - they claim - dogs are kept for food.
There are persistent rumours, which cropped up in almost every conversation I had in Zambia, that many of the imported Chinese workforce are convicted criminals whom China wants to offload in Africa. I was unable to confirm this but, given China's enormous gulag and the harshness of life for many migrant workers, it is certainly not impossible.
Sata warns that 'sticks and stones' may one day fly if China does not treat Zambians better. He now promises a completely new approach: 'I used to sweep up at your Victoria Station, and I never got any complaints about my work. I want to sweep my country even cleaner than I swept your stations.'
Some Africa experts tend to portray Sata as a troublemaker. His detractors whisper that he is a mouthpiece for Taiwan, which used to be recognised by many African states but which faces almost total isolation thanks to Peking's new Africa policy.
But his claims were confirmed by a senior worker in Chambishi, scene of the 2005 explosion. This man, whom I will call Thomas, is serious, experienced and responsible. His verdict on the Chinese is devastating.
He recalls the aftermath of the blast, when he had the ghastly task of collecting together what remained of the men who died: 'Zambia, a country of 11million people, went into official mourning for this disaster.
'A Chinese supervisor said to me in broken English, "In China, 5,000 people die, and there is nothing. In Zambia, 50 people die and everyone is weeping." To them, 50 people are nothing.'
This sort of thing creates resentment. Earlier this year African workers at the new Chinese smelter at Chambishi rioted over low wages and what they thought were unsafe working conditions.
When Chinese President Hu Jintao came to Zambia in 2006, he had to cancel a visit to the Copper Belt for fear of hostile demonstrations. Thomas says: 'The people who advised Hu Jintao not to come were right.'
He suspects Chinese arrogance and brutality towards Africans is not racial bigotry, but a fear of being seen to be weak. 'They are trying to prove they are not inferior to the West. They are trying too hard.
'If they ask you to do something and you don't do it, they think you're not doing it because they aren't white. People put up with the kicks and blows because they need work to survive.'
Many in Africa also accuse the Chinese of unconcealed corruption. This is specially obvious in the 'Democratic Republic of the Congo', currently listed as the most corrupt nation on Earth.
A North-American businessman who runs a copper smelting business in Katanga Province told me how his firm tried to obey safety laws.
They are constantly targeted by official safety inspectors because they refuse to bribe them. Meanwhile, Chinese enterprises nearby get away with huge breaches of the law - because they paid bribes.
'We never pay,' he said, 'because once you pay you become their bitch; you will pay for ever and ever.'
Another businessman shrugged over the way he is forced to wait weeks to get his products out of the country, while the Chinese have no such problems.
'I'm not sure the Chinese even know there are customs regulations,' he said. 'They don't fill in the forms, they just pay. I try to be philosophical about it, but it is not easy.'
Unlike orderly Zambia, Congo is a place of chaos, obvious privation, tyranny dressed up as democracy for public-relations purposes, and fear.
This is Katanga, the mineral-rich slice of land fought over furiously in the early Sixties in post-colonial Africa's first civil war. Brooding over its capital, Lubumbashi, is a 400ft black hill: the accumulated slag and waste of 80 years of copper mining and smelting.
Now, thanks to a crazy rise in the price of copper and cobalt, the looming, sinister mound is being quarried - by Western business, by the Chinese and by bands of Congolese who grub and scramble around it searching for scraps of copper or traces of cobalt, smashing lumps of slag with great hammers as they hunt for any way of paying for that night's supper.
As dusk falls and the shadows lengthen, the scene looks like the blasted land of Mordor in Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings: a pre-medieval prospect of hopeless, condemned toil in pits surrounded by stony desolation.
Behind them tower the leaning ruins of colossal abandoned factories: monuments to the wars and chaos that have repeatedly passed this way.
There is something strange and unsettling about industrial scenes in Africa, pithead winding gear and gaunt chimneys rising out of tawny grasslands dotted with anthills and banana palms. It looks as if someone has made a grave mistake.
And there is a lesson for colonial pride and ambition in the streets of Lubumbashi - 80 years ago an orderly Art Deco city full of French influence and supervised by crisply starched gendarmes, now a genial but volatile chaos of scruffy, bribe-hunting traffic cops where it is not wise to venture out at night.
The once-graceful Belgian buildings, gradually crumbling under thick layers of paint, long ago lost their original purpose.
Outsiders come and go in Africa, some greedy, some idealistic, some halfway between. Time after time, they fail or are defeated, leaving behind scars, slag-heaps, ruins and graveyards, disillusion and disappointment.
We have come a long way from Cecil Rhodes to Bob Geldof, but we still have not brought much happiness with us, and even Nelson Mandela's vaunted 'Rainbow Nation' in South Africa is careering rapidly towards banana republic status.
Now a new great power, China, is scrambling for wealth, power and influence in this sad continent, without a single illusion or pretence.
Perhaps, after two centuries of humbug, this method will work where all other interventions have failed.
But after seeing the bitter, violent desperation unleashed in the mines of Likasi, I find it hard to believe any good will come of it.
threat to the west
threat to Africa
threat to the world
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Contact: Jessica Robinson, 573-751-0290
Gov. Blunt Statement on Obama Campaign’s Abusive Use of Missouri Law Enforcement
JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Matt Blunt today issued the following statement on news reports that have exposed plans by U.S. Senator Barack Obama to use Missouri law enforcement to threaten and intimidate his critics.
“St. Louis County Circuit Attorney Bob McCulloch, St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, Jefferson County Sheriff Glenn Boyer, and Obama and the leader of his Missouri campaign Senator Claire McCaskill have attached the stench of police state tactics to the Obama-Biden campaign.
“What Senator Obama and his helpers are doing is scandalous beyond words, the party that claims to be the party of Thomas Jefferson is abusing the justice system and offices of public trust to silence political criticism with threats of prosecution and criminal punishment.
“This abuse of the law for intimidation insults the most sacred principles and ideals of Jefferson. I can think of nothing more offensive to Jefferson’s thinking than using the power of the state to deprive Americans of their civil rights. The only conceivable purpose of Messrs. McCulloch, Obama and the others is to frighten people away from expressing themselves, to chill free and open debate, to suppress support and donations to conservative organizations targeted by this anti-civil rights, to strangle criticism of Mr. Obama, to suppress ads about his support of higher taxes, and to choke out criticism on television, radio, the Internet, blogs, e-mail and daily conversation about the election.
“Barack Obama needs to grow up. Leftist blogs and others in the press constantly say false things about me and my family. Usually, we ignore false and scurrilous accusations because the purveyors have no credibility. When necessary, we refute them. Enlisting Missouri law enforcement to intimidate people and kill free debate is reminiscent of the Sedition Acts - not a free society.”
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Wed Sep 24, 2008 12:47pm IST
By Raissa Kasolowsky and Lin Noueihed
DUBAI (Reuters) - Sex on the beach or drunken trysts may not raise eyebrows in many cities, but a recent case in Dubai has exposed a growing cultural divide between native Muslims and Western residents seeking fun in the sun.
The story of a British pair facing possible jail terms on charges of having drunken sex on the beach made headlines around the world, but in Dubai, reports are frequent of hapless foreigners falling foul of local laws that strictly control drinking and ban homosexuality or kissing in public.
Dubai's foreign population has expanded rapidly in recent years, dwarfing the native population, as the Gulf Arab trade and tourism hub tries to put itself on the international map with a promise of tax-free earnings and year-round sunshine.
But balancing its Muslim identity in what remains a deeply conservative Gulf Arab region with the lifestyles of expatriates who comprise over 90 percent of its population is no mean feat.
"Everybody who lives in this country, whether they are citizens or expats, can sense how massively difficult it is to be a minority in your own country and feel such pressure on your habits, your language, your religion," said Abdel-Khaleq Abdullah, an Emirati political scientist.
Residents from the Indian subcontinent, mainly labourers, almost certainly comprise the largest group in Dubai but the issue is so sensitive that the government of the United Arab Emirates did not release a breakdown of national origins in the results of its last census.
"We are at the point where we need to talk about this frankly," said Abdullah. "We feel that our identity and all its components are under threat... The fundamentals of the entire growth model need to be rethought to fit our demographic needs."
Dubai has nurtured an image as a glamorous, cosmopolitan city with ambitious projects such as the world's tallest tower, yet its 80,000 or so nationals feel their values are eclipsed.
Expatriates live and work on three-year visas, with little prospect of ever attaining citizenship or political say. Many Westerners work in free zones that are akin to economic enclaves and live in newly developed suburbs, rarely mixing with locals.
The contrasts are stark. Nationals receive free housing, education and healthcare in what analysts say is a tacit understanding whereby rulers redistribute oil wealth in return for political loyalty. The UAE held limited elections to an advisory body in 2006 but is still ruled by dynasties.
Bikini-clad tourists sunbathe on the beach, watched by women draped in black robes.
"There are now so many foreigners they feel they have collective security. Western behaviour has become the norm and does not fit in with the culture of the indigenous population," said Durham University's Christopher Davidson, author of two books on the United Arab Emirates, which includes Dubai.
"Though the indigenous population is small ... it is only them who matter politically."
The differences in the lifestyles of Dubai's divergent communities are visible all over the city.
Muslims are banned from drinking, non-Muslims who carry the right licence can buy alcohol from special shops, yet at weekends the beach bars and open air clubs heave with hard-drinking revellers.
Use of synthetic drugs like ecstasy is also rising in Gulf nations, according to a recent United Nations report.
The British couple arrested on the beach had met at one of the many champagne brunches held in Dubai's top hotels on Friday, the Muslim holy day. They now face possible jail terms when they return to court for the next hearing on Oct. 7.
"The problem is that people are ignorant of the laws here," Hassan Mattar, the British pair's lawyer, told Reuters. "This is an Islamic country and the problem is not with the law, but with the people."
Yet the more such cases make headlines outside the UAE, the more it raises concerns for Dubai's efforts to keep growing its economy and population.
The British man charged with having sex on the beach came to Dubai to start a business, abandoning his plans on his arrest. Tourism, a fast-growing sector which according to the World Travel & Tourism Council is expected to contribute more than 20 percent of the UAE's economy in 2008, may also be affected in a city promoting itself as a luxury destination.
"These cases are greatly damaging to Dubai's economy," said Durham University's Davidson. "They make people ask themselves 'why go to Dubai for a sun and beach holiday if you can get arrested for kissing?' Just go to Florida instead. There are so many alternatives."
Yet nationals who already feel like foreigners in their own city do not want Dubai rules relaxed, saying police already turn a blind eye to all but the most blatant transgressions.
If the law changed to suit Westerners, said one Emirati woman, it would be her who lost her freedom. She already forbids her daughters from going to Dubai's malls and hotels.
"It is up to the person who comes here to be informed," said the woman, who like most declined to be named on a topic which they feel is too sensitive to discuss in public.
"If there is an open trading system which draws people from all over the world, it is not fair to ask why they are not free. You have to follow the rules of wherever in the world you go."
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Obama drew large crowds. One was very large 50,000 - 70,000.
As I recall the reporting on that crowd, it went something like;
- tens of thousands waited to hear Obama speak
- thousands were cheering
- the crowd was ecstatic
- the crowd was young and jubilant
Then contrast that with the 60,000 who showed up for Palin in Florida:
The Villages, a vast, upscale planned community [CODE WORD FOR OLD] north of Orlando, has about 70,000 mostly adult residents -- many of them military retirees ...
60% of Voters Say Supreme Court Should Base Rulings on Constitution
Friday, September 05, 2008
Thirty-two percent (32%) of likely voters say the Supreme Court is doing a good or excellent job. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 20% give the Honorables poor ratings.
These approval ratings for the Supreme Court are essentially identical to those found in the last survey conducted in mid-August.
Earlier this year, perceptions of the court improved after it issued a popular opinion upholding the Second Amendment while striking down a Washington, DC law banning handguns in the city.
During his acceptance speech last night at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota, John McCain told the audience, “We believe in a strong defense, work, faith, service, a culture of life, personal responsibility, the rule of law, and judges who dispense justice impartially and don't legislate from the bench.” Most American voters (60%) agrees and says the Supreme Court should make decisions based on what is written in the constitution, while 30% say rulings should be guided on the judge’s sense of fairness and justice. The number who agree with McCain is up from 55% in August.
While 82% of voters who support McCain believe the justices should rule on what is in the Constitution, just 29% of Barack Obama’s supporters agree. Just 11% of McCain supporters say judges should rule based on the judge’s sense of fairness, while nearly half (49%) of Obama supporters agree.
In terms of how the Supreme Court currently makes decisions, just 42% of voters think the justices rule from what is in the Constitution. Thirty-percent (30%) say they are guided by a sense of fairness and justice.Democrats are more likely than Republicans and unaffiliated voters to believe the justices base rulings on the Constitution.
The survey also found that 65% of voters think the Supreme Court justices have their own political agendas. That number has changed little over the past month. Just 18% believe the judges remain impartial when making decisions.
Nearly all voters believe the selection of Supreme Court justices by the president is important. The majority (63%) believe it is very important. Just 8% think the selection process by the president is not important.
British minister says Palin is 'horrendous'
Sep 20, 2008
A British government minister attacked Republican US vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin as "horrendous" at the Labour Party conference on Saturday.
The outburst from Communities Secretary Hazel Blears threatens to undermine Prime Minister Gordon Brown's determination for the British government to maintain a neutral position in the US presidential election.
Speaking at a fringe meeting of the centre-left party during its annual party conference in Manchester, Blears said Palin was capitalising on people's disillusionment with regular politics.
"I just think there is so much anti-politics -- not just in this country but around the world," Blears said.
"One of the reasons why Sarah Palin has been such a phenomenon is because she's anti-politics, anti-Washington.
"Her politics are horrendous, but actually she's struck a chord with people -- 'I'm a maverick, I'm not part of those powerful people' -- and people identified with that."
Palin, the strongly anti-abortion governor of Alaska, has boosted Republican candidate John McCain's fortunes since being named his surprise choice as running mate.
She has previously remarked that US soldiers in Iraq were being sent on a task from God.
Earlier this month, Brown denied favouring either McCain or Barack Obama in the US presidential race, despite writing an article in which he appeared to back the Democrats. He rejected allegations of bias after a magazine article in which he said it was "the Democrats who are generating the ideas".
A Minister said the above statements. You begin to wonder, actually, no, I do not begin to wonder, I am certain - how does the system function with such illuminous individuals congregating at the top.
I don't care that Brown made the comments in an article - typical. he will be toppled as leader and will fail in the next election. He will be sent back to Scotland with his suitcase.
Palin - God - and Iraq. Go listen to her speech to the troops prior to leaving for Iraq. She said each of them was off to Iraq, and doing what was right for this country and that it was God's plan. She did not say IT WAS GOD'S PLAN ... she said that the people should pray that our leaders do God's will.
And what is wrong with that? Would you rather not consider the rightness of your actions and base them solely on Machievellian ideas. Even if we do not believe in God, would it not be preferable that people consider their actions in light of His desire rather than their own selfish purpose.
And she is horrendous because of her God statements?
Or is it her anti-abortion position?
Come on Minister Blears ... it is one or the other, for she does not say a lot that is reported in London.
She opposes abortion. You support it. For that she is horrendous. Her view, her belief is of no consequence to you? Well then why should she consider your view when making decisions?
You are unworthy of your position Ms Blears.
It is catchy.
By Sebastian Rotella and Janet Stobart, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
September 20, 2008
LONDON -- It's a rare day when finance officials, leftist intellectuals and ordinary salespeople can agree on something. But the economic meltdown that wrought its wrath from Rome to Madrid to Berlin this week brought Europeans together in a harsh chorus of condemnation of the excess and disarray on Wall Street.The finance minister of Italy's conservative and pro-U.S.
government warned of nothing less than a systemic breakdown. Giulio Tremonti excoriated the "voracious selfishness" of speculators and "stupid sluggishness" of regulators. And he singled out Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, with startling scorn.
"Greenspan was considered a master," Tremonti declared. "Now we must ask ourselves whether he is not, after [Osama] bin Laden, the man who hurt America the most. . . . It is clear that what is happening is a disease. It is not the failure of a bank, but the failure of a system.
Until a few days ago, very few were willing to realize the intensity and the dramatic nature of the crisis."In an interview Thursday in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Tremonti drew a comparison to corruption-ridden Albania in 1997, when a nationwide pyramid scheme cost hundreds of thousands of people their savings and ignited anarchic civil conflict."The system is collapsing, exactly like the Albanian pyramids collapsed," Tremonti said. "The idea is gaining ground that the way out of the crisis is mainly with large public investments. . . . The return of rules is accompanied by a return of the public sector."
[to read the rest of the article click on the title link - and there is a lot more good stuff from the Euros on this issue, in the article]
I do not dispute the greed factor. The dot.com bubble was all about greed. The billions made (personal wealth on Wall Street) between 1996 and 2000 ... greed that made the 80s look downright altruistic.
Greenspan - fine, blame someone. Of course Europeans would blame him - he is Jewish. You love scapegoats.
But to mock the US Treasury for its offer to assist other nations and their banking systems ... a little bit petty of them. Very small of them. Jealous much.
Without the reasons why this all fell apart - and greed is a piece of it. Beginning with mortgages, then banks, and institutions betting on mortgages (why this even happened I do not know) ... we find ourselves in the trouble we are in ... here. So why has Russia melted down. Why did London nearly collapse. Why has the world economic system teetered on collapse? If they have not given out mortgages that due to declining home prices, lost value, yet still forced to pay mortgages for at a higher rate given the value of their home, and then foolishly bet on the mortgages - why is their economic system teetering on collapse? Why is European unemployment (EU average and country specific) 4-5% higher than in the US? Why is their growth not considerably better than that which the US is currently doing during these economic difficulties.
One very good reason - the global interceonnectedness of our economies. For this, I support the anti-globalists. I prefer small units. Not large. Go back the way it was, we can still do the trade, we can still do everything we do now ... without the interconnectedness.What they just do not get, because we whine and complain so much, is we can do it because ... we can. They couldn't if they even wanted to, which they would never want to do.
The world hears from us how in debt we are and think - well, they have no money yet they spend like they have it. Yes, and ... so what? Their dollar is valued less than ours and they think they can ... yes, and so what? They are in murky waters, and they think they can offer us a source to reach for funds from ... yes, and so what? Oh, but the world buys your debt (China) and if you were so economically well off, you'd be able to handle it yourself ... yes, and so what?
Try not to over tax yourself (literally and figuratively) ... we will be just fine, and it will not be because you saved us, it will be because we over came these issues, and rose above.
Imagining Europe as anything but what it is - an indignant, pontificating pot of annoyance, would be far too taxing, and would require me to enter the realm of science fiction and fantasy.
Our economic woes need to be addressed (less spending) and they will be, but that will not change the fundamental nature of our system, even if the Euros would prefer Obama - he has a more internationalist approach to the US economy - place our fate in the hands of the twits in London or Europe. It will not happen. Our economy is too large. And for all the threats that the dollar will lose its position - please, better bet - bet that a meteor hits you as you read this post, you would be more likely to win the bet.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
If I had a quarter for every time it was insinuated or outright stated, that Republicans were racists, while Democrats were open minded and tolerant ... I would have my student loans paid off, my mortgage paid off, and I would have a moat and wall around my property.
If I had a quarter every time it was insinuated or outright stated that Democrats were smarter, brighter, better able to reason and analyze than Republicans, I would have all remaining debts paid off, a second story added to my home, and a new pool.
Our story begins where stories usually begin ...
Nothing funny about Obama losing, funnyman Woody Allen says
Sep 19, 2008 AFP
US filmmaker Woody Allen, best known for such comedy classics as "Annie Hall," says it will be no laughing matter if Barack Obama fails to win the race for the White House.
"It would be a disgrace and a humiliation if Barack Obama does not win," he told Spanish journalists at the ongoing 56th San Sebastian film festival, where his latest film "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" is being screened.
"It would be a very, very terrible thing for the United States in many, many ways," he said. Democratic hopeful Obama, Allen said, is "so much better" than Republican rival John McCain, and "represents a huge step upward from (the) incompetence and misjudgement" of the Bush administration.
"It would be a terrible thing if the American public was not moved to vote for him, that they actually preferred more of the same."
On Thursday, Spanish-born Hollywood actor Antonio Banderas, who is also in San Sebastian, said he is backing Obama for the sake of his daughter acknowledging, however, that he cannot vote as he is not a US citizen.
Woody Allen is best known in the US for something I hope, other than, Annie Hall - that was 1977. I would proffer Allen's fame has arisen from his pedophilic (there is no word -pedophilic, but, if you know anything about academia, they make up their own words and I for one do not believe they should be the only entitled to make up words) tendencies, not his films - any longer. Only in Europe where their sexual 'openness' includes a deep regard for the sexual identity of children, do they still consider him a god.
It would be a disgrace if Obama did not win - says the child molester. It would be a very terrible thing for the United States if Obama does not win.
Why - because a McCain win continues the incompetence and misjudgement of the Bush administration.
Based on what evidence? Amazingly - when you make these sweeping idiotic statements, you do not need evidence, just feelings - and the Molester says so when he says he hopes that the American people are moved to vote for Obama. MOVED to vote for someone - emotionally driven to select someone / vote for someone you may not otherwise support.
Acting on emotion has always worked for me! That is the best way to select someone - for Mayor, Senator, President, spouse - based upon how you feel at any given moment. Our country needs more emotional decision making.
And if the country, by a close margin do not select Obama, then what Mr. Molester? Are they all rednecks and racists? Does it bode ill for the world? Well .... you will not have to look much further than ... your own party.
Poll: Racial misgivings of whites an Obama issue
Sep 20, 2008
By RON FOURNIER and TREVOR TOMPSON
Associated Press Writers
WASHINGTON (AP) - Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks—many calling them "lazy," "violent" or responsible for their own troubles.
The poll, conducted with Stanford University, suggests that the percentage of voters who may turn away from Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the final difference between the candidates in 2004—about 2.5 percentage points.
Certainly, Republican John McCain has his own obstacles: He's an ally of an unpopular president and would be the nation's oldest first-term president.
But Obama faces this: 40 percent of all white Americans hold at least a partly negative view toward blacks, and that includes many Democrats and independents.
More than a third of all white Democrats and independents—voters Obama can't win the White House without—agreed with at least one negative adjective about blacks, according to the survey, and they are significantly less likely to vote for Obama than those who don't have such views.
Such numbers are a harsh dose of reality in a campaign for the history books. Obama, the first black candidate with a serious shot at the presidency, accepted the Democratic nomination on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, a seminal moment for a nation that enshrined slavery in its Constitution.
"There are a lot fewer bigots than there were 50 years ago, but that doesn't mean there's only a few bigots," said Stanford political scientist Paul Sniderman who helped analyze the exhaustive survey.
The pollsters set out to determine why Obama is locked in a close race with McCain even as the political landscape seems to favor Democrats. President Bush's unpopularity, the Iraq war and a national sense of economic hard times cut against GOP candidates, as does that fact that Democratic voters outnumber Republicans.
The findings suggest that Obama's problem is close to home—among his fellow Democrats, particularly non-Hispanic white voters. Just seven in 10 people who call themselves Democrats support Obama, compared to the 85 percent of self-identified Republicans who back McCain.
The survey also focused on the racial attitudes of independent voters because they are likely to decide the election.
Lots of Republicans harbor prejudices, too, but the survey found they weren't voting against Obama because of his race. Most Republicans wouldn't vote for any Democrat for president—white, black or brown.
Not all whites are prejudiced. Indeed, more whites say good things about blacks than say bad things, the poll shows. And many whites who see blacks in a negative light are still willing or even eager to vote for Obama.
On the other side of the racial question, the Illinois Democrat is drawing almost unanimous support from blacks, the poll shows, though that probably wouldn't be enough to counter the negative effect of some whites' views.
Race is not the biggest factor driving Democrats and independents away from Obama. Doubts about his competency loom even larger, the poll indicates. More than a quarter of all Democrats expressed doubt that Obama can bring about the change they want, and they are likely to vote against him because of that.
Three in 10 of those Democrats who don't trust Obama's change-making credentials say they plan to vote for McCain.
Still, the effects of whites' racial views are apparent in the polling.
Statistical models derived from the poll suggest that Obama's support would be as much as 6 percentage points higher if there were no white racial prejudice.
But in an election without precedent, it's hard to know if such models take into account all the possible factors at play.
The AP-Yahoo poll used the unique methodology of Knowledge Networks, a Menlo Park, Calif., firm that interviews people online after randomly selecting and screening them over telephone.
Numerous studies have shown that people are more likely to report
embarrassing behavior and unpopular opinions when answering questions on a computer rather than talking to a stranger.
Other techniques used in the poll included recording people's responses to black or white faces flashed on a computer screen, asking participants to rate how well certain adjectives apply to blacks, measuring whether people believe blacks' troubles are their own fault, and simply asking people how much they like or dislike blacks.
"We still don't like black people," said John Clouse, 57, reflecting the sentiments of his pals gathered at a coffee shop in Somerset, Ohio.
Given a choice of several positive and negative adjectives that might describe blacks, 20 percent of all whites said the word "violent" strongly applied. Among other words, 22 percent agreed with "boastful," 29 percent "complaining," 13 percent "lazy" and 11 percent "irresponsible."
When asked about positive adjectives, whites were more likely to stay on the fence than give a strongly positive assessment.
Among white Democrats, one-third cited a negative adjective and, of those, 58 percent said they planned to back Obama.
The poll sought to measure latent prejudices among whites by asking about factors contributing to the state of black America. One finding: More than a quarter of white Democrats agree that "if blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites."
Those who agreed with that statement were much less likely to back Obama than those who didn't.
Among white independents, racial stereotyping is not uncommon. For example, while about 20 percent of independent voters called blacks intelligent" or "smart," more than one third latched on the adjective "complaining" and 24 percent said blacks were "violent."
Nearly four in 10 white independents agreed that blacks would be better off if they "try harder."
The survey broke ground by incorporating images of black and white faces to measure implicit racial attitudes, or prejudices that are so deeply rooted that people may not realize they have them. That test suggested the incidence of racial prejudice is even higher, with more than half of whites revealing more negative feelings toward blacks than whites.
Researchers used mathematical modeling to sort out the relative impact of a huge swath of variables that might have an impact on people's votes—including race, ideology, party identification, the hunger for change and the sentiments of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's backers.
Just 59 percent of her white Democratic supporters said they wanted Obama to be president. Nearly 17 percent of Clinton's white backers plan to vote for McCain.
Among white Democrats, Clinton supporters were nearly twice as likely as Obama backers to say at least one negative adjective described blacks well, a finding that suggests many of her supporters in the primaries—particularly whites with high school education or less—were motivated in part by racial attitudes.
The survey of 2,227 adults was conducted Aug. 27 to Sept. 5. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.
DEBKAfile Special Analysis
September 20, 2008, 1:30 PM (GMT+02:00)
Euphrates pipes for destroyed Syrian reactor designed to be part of Iran's military program
Russia, China and Germany refuse to countenance tougher sanctions against Iran notwithstanding the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report from Vienna that its inspections of suspect activities and covert projects were stalled by Tehran’s non-cooperation.
Diplomats for the five permanent Security Council members and Germany, meeting at the State Department Friday, Sept 19, therefore failed to agree on a new round of sanctions ahead of their foreign ministers’ meeting at UN Center next week.
The meeting avoided discussing the timing and content of a fourth round of sanctions, only broadly calling on Iran - for the umpteenth time after numerous rejections - to accept the incentives on offer for halting uranium enrichment and cooperating with UN inspections.
The nuclear watchdog reported that Tehran had stalled its efforts to establish whether or not Iran was developing nuclear warheads, enriching uranium for military purposes, testing nuclear explosives or building nuclear-capable missiles.
Tuesday, Sept 16, the UN watchdog gave a closed meeting of the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency photos and documents proving Iran had tried to refit a long-distance Shehab missile to carry a nuclear payload. The also produced calculations and diagrams from Iranian missile and nuclear experts’ computers on nuclear detonations and how to build nuclear-capable missiles.
The next day, Wednesday, CIA chief Michael Hayden disclosed that the destruction of the Syrian reactor - as a result of intelligence collaboration with a “foreign partner” who first identified the facility’s purpose - spoiled a project “that could have provided Syria with plutonium for nuclear weapons.”
He did not name the foreign partner, but the reference to Israel was obvious. He also said the reactor was similar to the North Korean model.
"We were able last year to spoil a big secret, a project that could have provided Syria with plutonium for nuclear weapons," Hayden said, adding: “When pipes for a massive cooling system were laid out to the Euphrates River in the spring of 2007, there would have been little doubt this was a nuclear reactor."
The Bush administration released all this data in order to back up the IAEA report and tell the international community that the US and Israel were furnished with more intelligence confirming Iran’s covert nuclear projects and the clandestine partnershipn between Tehran, Damascus and Pyongyang. North Korea was also made aware that Washington had not missed its preparations for re-activating its nuclear reactor.
Nuclear watchdog officials asked Tehran to explain why its experts were busy making calculations for military projects, claimed to be non-existent. No answer has been forthcoming as yet. The Iranian representative only said the materials had been forged by certain parties as a provocation.
Nonetheless, Russian, Chinese and German diplomats attending the IAEA board meeting last Tuesday insisted that the evidence they saw did not prove Iran was engaged in developing nuclear weapons.
Despite the fact that leading world powers have tied themselves in knots to avoid keeping nuclear weapons out of Iran’s hands, Israel’s prime minister Shimon Peres plans to deliver a speech at the UN General Assembly next week announcing that Israel is against resorting to military action against Iran and relies on sanctions.
DEBKAfile’s political circles stress that the Israeli government has never confirmed the position embodied in his address.
Ahead of his address to the General Assembly, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, grandstanding as always, challenged the American presidential candidates to a public debate "over global issues, in the presence of the media at the UN. He also said that while "some say the idea of Greater Israel has expired, I say the idea of lesser Israel has expired, too."
Refusing to accept the US intelligence is immaterial to the facts available - from the IAEA / UN which show that Iran is not complying with international demands - ergo - sanctions are permissible to bring someone into compliance. Yet, Russia and China and Germany say - they cannot support sanctions because there is no evidence Iran is making nuclear weapons.
THAT you dumb stupid shit heads is NOT why you impose sanctions. You impose sanctions because Iran is refusing to comply with international demands (UN).
Whether they are or not is a mute point - Iran says it will develop weapons. It is quite funny - the only ones who say Iran does not want nuclear bombs, it seems, are Russia, China, and Germany.
AND IT IS NOT BECAUSE THEY ARE UPHOLDING THE MORAL VIRTUE OF OUR TIME. They are not the moral arbiters - ... why?
Because China, Russia, and Germany have oil contracts with Iran. Even while the West whines about no bid contracts, some countries sell exclusively to specific countries - like China, Russia, and Germany ... but even more interesting ... to get back at the US over issues of NATO/Ukraine/Poland, and Georgia, Russia aids Iran. Same with China.
Petty? Absolutely, but it is the way the world works and Senator The One, will never change this behavior by sitting down and talking to them - never.
It is now worthless - $4.00 a share. I did not receive any lobbyist funds. My mistake was an idiot and fool who should be fired from Wells Fargo Investments.
Anyway - remember Obama, different than the rest, going to kick the lobbyists out of Washington ... well, guess who has his fingers in the pots he intends to clean out?
First story -
Pelosi, in her most recent financial disclosure form, reported that her husband owned between $250,000 and $500,000 of stock in AIG, which ceded majority control to the U.S. government this week in exchange for $85 billion of loans.
Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, disclosed that his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, had more than $2 million of AIG stock at the end of 2007, when shares were worth $58.30. AIG has fallen 85 percent this week to close yesterday at $2.69. The lawmakers' aides didn't respond to calls seeking comment.
Altogether, 56 senators and representatives had stakes in AIG, Lehman, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bear Stearns Cos. or IndyMac Bancorp Inc. -- some of the biggest casualties of the market bloodbath -- according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The most recent annual disclosure filings list investments as of Dec. 31, 2007, and reveal the size of holdings only within a range of values. Lawmakers may have sold shares since then.
AIG: Government Bails Out a Heavy Hitter
Published by Lindsay Renick Mayer on September 17, 2008 10:06 AM
The Federal Reserve announced today that it's coming to the rescue of American International Group (AIG) to the tune of $85 billion. The nation's largest insurer, which asked the Fed for emergency funding in the midst of financial hardships, hasn't had trouble over the years giving money to lawmakers, however. AIG is on CRP's Heavy Hitters list, which profiles the 100 all-time contributors to federal candidates and committees. Of all of the companies facing major transitions over the last week, lawmakers owned the most stock in AIG. Twenty-seven lawmakers owned stock in AIG last year, worth between $6.4 million and $20 million. Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.), one of the richest members of Congress, was at the top of the list of congressional investors, owning stock worth between $2.8 million and $11.5 million, while Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) followed with stock valued around $2 million. Of all the companies making headlines this week, AIG has been the most nonpartisan in its contributions, splitting evenly the $9.7 million it has contributed over time. Sen. Chris Dodd, chair of the Senate banking committee, has racked up the most from AIG, with a total of $281,400, while Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of both the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, takes second with $116,400. Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama collected $103,000 and $82,600 from AIG, respectively.
WALL STREET Shake-Up - Personal for lawmakers
Wall Street's grim news has plenty of people worried about their pocketbooks. Lawmakers are among them, not only concerned with how to boost the economy but with their own personal finances tied to companies that are struggling. The richest members of Congress seem to be the most invested in the companies at the center of the Wall Street shake-up. According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, nine lawmakers have between $785,900 and $1.8 million of their own money invested in Merrill Lynch, the brokerage firm that agreed over the weekend to sell itself to Bank of America for $50 billion after facing tens of billions of dollars in losses. Because Bank of America offered to buy the company at a 70 percent premium over the company's closing price on Friday, those who own stock in Merrill Lynch stand to gain from the transaction. Two of the richest members of Congress owned the most stock in the company. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) reported holding between $500,001 and $1 million on his most recent personal financial disclosure, covering 2007, and Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) owned between $250,003 and $601,000 in stock. (Lawmakers disclose their finances in ranges, annually, making it difficult to determine their assets' precise values.) Merrill's white knight, Bank of America, which, comparatively, seems to be managing just fine in today's sour economy, is a far more popular investment for members of Congress. Fifty-four lawmakers who held stock in the company in 2007, worth between $1.9 million and $5 million, are probably breathing easier, knowing that Bank of America is buying--rather than having to be bought. Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.), another one of the richest members of Congress, owned between $865,004 and $1.8 million in stock in the company, while Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), yet another of the richest lawmakers, owned between $201,004 and $465,000 in stock. Seven lawmakers, led by Kerry, owned stock in both Bank of America and Merrill Lynch. The weekend's headlines also laid bare the state of investment bank Lehman Brothers, which filed for bankruptcy Monday after the federal government refused to bail it out and the company was unable to find a buyer. Eight lawmakers owned stock in Lehman Brothers at the end of 2007, valued at between $102,170 and $184,160. Rep. Jane Harman's stock in the company was worth the most at between $5,001 and $100,000. Harman, a California Democrat, was the wealthiest member of Congress in 2006.Of all of the companies facing major transitions, lawmakers owned the most stock in American International Group (AIG), the nation's largest insurer, which has asked the Federal Reserve for emergency funding as it faces financial hardships. Twenty-seven lawmakers owned stock in AIG last year, worth between $6.4 million and $20 million. Hayes was at the top of the list of congressional investors, owning stock worth between $2.8 million and $11.5 million, while Kerry followed with stock valued around $2 million. The 2007 reports are the most recent available for Congress, and they represent snapshots of members' finances at the end of that year. Lawmakers may have sold off these investments in the last eight months, as the outlook for companies darkened. In addition, CRP does not yet have the personal financial disclosure data for about 50 lawmakers who received extensions on the annual reports.Before the Fall, Companies Were Major ContributorsAs these companies struggle to stay afloat without bringing the economy crashing down around them, the government has said it won't bail them out, but will instead leave Wall Street to straighten out the mess. This is the sobering message that has been delivered to companies that are among the top contributors of all time to federal politics. Since the 1990 election, Merrill Lynch's PAC and employees have given $14.7 million to federal candidates, parties and committees. The company leans heavily Republican--64 percent of the brokerage's total donations have gone to GOP candidates and committees. All three of its top recipients have been (or still are) presidential hopefuls this election cycle. Republican John McCain received $394,300 from people associated with Merrill Lynch, making the company his top contributor. Democrat Hillary Clinton collected $290,650, and Barack Obama got $229,100. The company's favorite non-presidential candidate is Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of both the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. He has received $226,150 in this election cycle. Bank of America's PAC and employees have given $16.6 million, also favoring Republicans, though less sharply. About 54 percent of the company's contributions over time have gone to the GOP. Obama is the top recipient of contributions from employees at Bank of America, with $263,500 in donations. McCain has brought in $177,500, making him the fourth-largest recipient. Sen. Chris Dodd, chair of the Senate banking committee, has collected $144,650, while congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer (both Democrats) and John Boehner (a Republican) are all among the company's top 20 recipients over time. Lehman Brothers has given $9.2 million through employees and its PAC since 1989, with 54 percent of that going to Democrats. Clinton and Barack Obama top the list of all-time recipients for the company, collecting $410,000 and $395,600 respectively. Schumer hauled in $181,450, while Dodd has collected $165,800. The top recipient of PAC money from Lehman Brothers has been Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), a member of the House Financial Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over banking and the securities industry. Castle has collected $38,500 from Lehman's PAC since 1993.This election cycle, Lehman employees have given about $1.3 million to presidential candidates. Only fellow financial giants Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley have given more to the presidential hopefuls this election cycle. Lehman employees have made their firm one of the top contributors to both Obama ($370,500) and John McCain ($117,500) this election cycle. (For a full list of recipients of Lehman contributions, see this post from Friday.)Of all the companies making headlines this week, AIG has been the most nonpartisan in its contributions, splitting evenly the $9.7 million it has contributed over time. Dodd has racked up the most from AIG, with a total of $281,400, while Schumer takes second with $116,400. McCain and Obama collected $103,000 and $82,600 from AIG, respectively.
The point is not to say - oh look, Obama took it but McCain took a few thousand more ... rather, Obama has made anti-lobbyists the center of his campaign along with anything else remotely connected to change.