|From: LindyBill||6/10/2007 4:09:56 AM|
|McCain Without Money|
By Robert Novak
WASHINGTON -- George W. Bush's 2004 campaign fund-raisers and contributors are being bombarded with appeals for money by Sen. John McCain's heavy-spending, money-short 2008 campaign.
McCain is concentrating heavily on the rich target of lawyers and lobbyists in Washington, D.C. They have been invited to multiple McCain fund-raising events held in the nation's capital, currently a $1,000-a-ticket reception June 26 at the Capitol Hill Club with a potential "event co-chair" asked to raise $50,000. A large percentage of the Bush fund-raising team remains uncommitted, a signal that the Republican establishment is not satisfied with the present field seeking the party's nomination.
McCain's money-raisers are hard put to reach the $10 million goal set for the second quarter of 2008 by the June 30 deadline, after collecting $12 million in the first quarter. McCain raised $2 million in April and $3 million in May, and is expected to reach $2-3 million in June -- falling short of the $10 million goal and of what his opponents have raised.
Washington super-lobbyist Ed Gillespie is prepared to step aside as state Republican chairman of Virginia after only six months if asked to join President Bush's senior staff as director of communications holding the Cabinet-rank of counselor.
Dan Bartlett, brought from Texas by Bush in 2001, has announced his resignation from the communications slot. There has been speculation about the difficulty of finding anyone to enter a White House under attack.
Gillespie, Republican National chairman during the 2004 Bush re-election, took the Virginia party position last December after a succession of Democratic statewide victories. However, friends of Gillespie say he feels it would be his patriotic duty to accept the White House post if offered.
Fred Thompson came close to alarming his pro-life constituency for his prospective Republican presidential candidacy on Fox's "Hannity & Colmes" program Tuesday when he expressed doubts about "criminalizing" abortion.
After asserting he "always thought Roe v. Wade was a wrong decision," the actor-politician said: "I would not be and never have been for a law that says, on the state level, if I were back in Tennessee voting on this, for example, that, if they chose to criminalize a young woman, and -- ." Co-host Sean Hannity then interrupted: "So, states rights for you?" Thompson replied: "Essentially, federalism. It's in the Constitution."
Although Thompson in his first Senate campaign in 1994 said the decision to have an abortion "must be made by the woman," he built a solid pro-life voting record during eight Senate years that has generated presidential support for him among social conservatives.
Veteran California Republican political operative Ken Khachigian, a speechwriter for Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, has signed on with Fred Thompson's prospective Republican presidential candidacy.
Khachigian supported Sen. John McCain in 2000 but has not been a part of his 2008 effort. As a Nixon aide, Khachigian worked closely with Thompson in 1974 when he was Republican counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee.
A footnote: Tim Griffin, an expert at opposition research who performed that function at the Republican National Committee for the 2004 election, is being asked to join the Thompson campaign. Griffin served briefly as U.S. attorney in Little Rock, Ark., this year but stepped down amid controversy over President Bush's appointments of new federal prosecutors.
Billionaire supermarket investor Ron Burkle, conservative publisher Rupert Murdoch's potential competitor to purchase The Wall Street Journal and its parent Dow Jones and Co., is a close friend of Bill Clinton and a generous contributor to Democrats.
In the first quarter this year, Burkle gave $50,000 to Democratic congressional campaign committees -- $25,000 to the House and $25,000 to the Senate. Burkle has contributed $1.5 million to politics during his lifetime, with 98 percent going to Democrats.
The main union of Dow Jones employees enlisted Burkle to block Murdoch's bid for their company.
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|From: LindyBill||6/10/2007 4:14:21 AM|
Be Careful What You Sue For
The Islamic Society of Boston loses its libel case, and its reputation.
BY FLOYD ABRAMS
Sunday, June 10, 2007 12:01 a.m.
Pursuing a libel or slander suit has long been a dangerous enterprise. Oscar Wilde sued the father of his young lover Alfred Douglas for having referred to him as a "posing Somdomite" and wound up not only dropping his case but being tried, convicted and jailed for violating England's repressive laws banning homosexual conduct. Alger Hiss sued Whittaker Chambers for slander for accusing Hiss of being a member of the Communist Party with Chambers, and of illegally passing secret government documents to him for transmission to the Soviet Union. In the end, Hiss was jailed for perjury for having denied Chambers's claims before a grand jury.
More recently, British historian David Irving sued American scholar Deborah Lipstadt in England for having characterized him as a Holocaust denier and was ultimately so discredited in court that an English judge not only determined that he was indeed a Holocaust denier but an "antisemite" and "racist" as well.
On May 29 of this year, the potential vulnerability of a plaintiff that misuses the courts to sue for libel once again surfaced when the Islamic Society of Boston abandoned a libel action it had commenced against a number of Boston residents, a Boston newspaper and television station, and Steven Emerson, a recognized expert on terrorism and, in particular, extremist Islamic groups. In all, 17 defendants were named.
Those accused had publicly raised questions about a real estate transaction entered into between the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the Islamic Society, which transferred to the latter a plot of land in Boston, at a price well below market value, for the construction of a mosque and other facilities. The critics urged the Boston authorities to reconsider their decision to provide the land on such favorable terms (which included promised contributions to the community by the Islamic Society, such as holding lectures and offering other teaching about Islam) to an organization whose present or former leaders had close connections with or who had otherwise supported terrorist organizations.
On the face of it, the Islamic Society was a surprising entry into the legal arena. Its founder, Abdurahman Alamoudi, had been indicted in 2003 for his role in a terrorism financing scheme, pleaded guilty, and had been sentenced to a 23-year prison term. Another individual, Yusef Al-Qaradawi, who had been repeatedly identified by the Islamic Society as a member of its board of trustees, had been described by a U.S. Treasury official as a senior Muslim Brotherhood member and had endorsed the killing of Americans in Iraq and Jews everywhere. One director of the Islamic Society, Walid Fitaihi, had written that the Jews would be "scourged" because of their "oppression, murder and rape of the worshipers of Allah," and that they had "perpetrated the worst of evils and brought the worst corruption to the earth."
The Islamic Society nonetheless sued, claiming both libel and civil-rights violations. Motions to dismiss the case were denied, and the litigants began to compel third parties to turn over documents bearing on the case. In short order, one after another of the allegations made by the Islamic Society collapsed.
The complaint asserted that the defendants had falsely stated that money had been sent to the Islamic Society from "Saudi/Middle Eastern sources," and that such statements and others had devastated its fund-raising efforts. But documents obtained in discovery demonstrated without ambiguity that fund-raising was (as one representative of the Islamic Society had put it) "robust," with at least $7.2 million having been wired to the Islamic Society from Middle Eastern sources, mostly from Saudi Arabia.
The Islamic Society claimed it had been libeled by a variety of expressions of concern by the defendants that it had provided support for extremist organizations. But bank records obtained by the defendants showed that the Islamic Society had served as funder both of the Holy Land Foundation, a Hamas-controlled organization that the U.S. Treasury Department had said "exists to raise money in the United States to promote terror," and of the Benevolence International Foundation, which was identified by the 9/11 Commission as an al Qaeda fund-raising arm.
The complaint maintained that any reference to recent connections between the Islamic Society and the now-imprisoned Abdurahman Alamoudi was false since it "had had no connection with him for years." But an Islamic Society check written in November 2000, two months after Alamoudi publicly proclaimed his support for Hamas and Hezbollah, was uncovered in discovery which directed money to pay for Alamoudi's travel expenses.
To top it all off, documents obtained from the Boston Redevelopment Authority itself revealed serious, almost incomprehensible, conflicts of interest in the real-estate deal. It turned out that the city agency employee in charge of negotiating the deal with the Islamic Society was at the same time a member of that group and secretly advising it about how to obtain the land at the cheapest possible price.
So the case was dropped. No money was paid by the defendants, no apologies offered, and no limits on their future speech imposed. But it is not at all as if nothing happened. The case offers two enduring lessons. The first is that those who think about suing for libel should think again before doing so. And then again once more. While all the ultimate consequences to the Islamic Society for bringing the lawsuit remain uncertain, any adverse consequences could have been avoided by not suing in the first place.
The second lesson is that in one way (and perhaps no other) we should learn from the English system and award counsel fees to the winning side in cases like this, which are brought to inhibit speech on matters of serious public import. Because all the defendants in this case were steadfast and refused to settle, they were eventually vindicated. But the real way to avoid meritless cases such as this is to have a body of law that makes clear that plaintiffs who bring them will be held financially responsible for doing so.
Mr. Abrams, a partner in the law firm of Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, represented Steven Emerson in the case discussed in this op-ed.
Copyright © 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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|From: LindyBill||6/10/2007 4:24:01 AM|
By STEPHEN J. DUBNER and STEVEN D. LEVITT
The New York Times
June 10, 2007
The Cash-Back Mortgage
Imagine for a moment that you are looking to buy a first home for yourself, your spouse and your 1-year-old darling. Now imagine that you are doing this in Italy.
The housing market in Italy is quite different from ours. It’s harder to get mortgage credit, and you can typically borrow only 50 percent of the purchase price. Moreover, the loan might have to be repaid in just 10 years. So before buying your first house, you’ll probably have to spend a lot of years saving up your salary for a down payment. As a result, you may well end up living with your parents (or — gulp — your in-laws) until you are deep into your 30s.
In the United States, meanwhile, mortgage credit flows like milk and honey. By putting down just a fraction of the purchase price, you can move your family right in, with 30 years to pay off the mortgage.
But what if you can’t scare up the cash for even a small down payment? Without it, you fall firmly into the category of what are now infamously known as subprime borrowers. There are plenty of options for subprime customers, but most of those options, as noted in the small type on the contracts the borrowers sign, aren’t very good.
As is the case with any worthwhile goal, some people employ the most time-honored solution for getting what they don’t quite deserve: they cheat. In some cases, the cheating involves an illegal sleight-of-hand maneuver known as the cash-back transaction. As one of the trickiest forms of mortgage fraud — there are many others — the cash-back transaction is hardly unknown among real estate insiders, but it has largely escaped academic scrutiny. Until now.
Itzhak Ben-David, a Ph.D. candidate in finance at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, fell into the subject while pursuing a drier one: the degree to which housing prices efficiently incorporate anticipated tax increases. (Disclosure: one of this column’s authors, Steven Levitt, sits on Ben-David’s dissertation committee.) A 36-year-old Israeli, Ben-David had served for four and a half years in the Israeli Army, studied industrial engineering and accounting and worked at a real estate company in Britain. He thought he knew pretty well how the world operated. But as he immersed himself in Chicago real estate for his dissertation research, he came to wonder how well he and his fellow academics truly understood the market.
For instance, as he interviewed mortgage brokers, real estate agents and bank loan officers, he heard regular mention of a mysterious kind of deal in which the seller gave the buyer a cash rebate without noting this transaction in the mortgage paperwork. (It is illegal for buyers and sellers to transfer cash or assets without properly notifying the lender.) Of course, none of the people that he interviewed copped to this practice. But sometimes the signs of a cash-back transaction were, quite literally, out in the open for all to see, on banners hanging from for-sale properties or in printed real estate ads.
How does this kind of deal work?
Pretend that you want to buy a house that costs $200,000 but don’t have $20,000 to make the 10 percent down payment that would get you a decent mortgage. The seller’s real estate agent offers a solution: let’s make the official purchase price $220,000 instead of $200,000, he says — but in return, the seller will give you $20,000 in cash. This rebate will be a separate transaction, the agent explains, which doesn’t need to be written into the mortgage paperwork. (A seller can legally offer a cash-back incentive, but it would have to be reported to the bank — which would negate the advantage of having the bank think that the buyer already has the cash.)
Voilà! Suddenly you have the $20,000 in cash necessary to get a good mortgage, and the seller still nets his original price of $200,000. The only difference is that the bank records the sale of the house at an inflated $220,000. And, instead of borrowing 90 percent of the value of the house, you have in fact borrowed 100 percent. “In short,” Ben-David writes, “a buyer can purchase the property with no down payment.”
It was all well and good for Ben-David to have learned, anecdotally, how cash-back transactions work — but how could he isolate such behavior in the data? Since the transactions were illegal, they wouldn’t be recorded. So using the data from nearly 300,000 Chicago-area home sales, he began to play detective, seeking out telltale signs of the scam.
First he built a dictionary of 150 keywords in real estate ads — “creative financing,” for instance — that might signal a seller’s willingness to play loose. He then looked for instances in which a house had languished on the market and yet wound up selling at or even above the final asking price. In such cases, he found that buyers typically paid a very small down payment; the smaller the down payment, in fact, the higher the price they paid for the house. What could this mean? Either the most highly leveraged buyers were terrible bargainers — or, as Ben-David concluded, such anomalies indicated the artificial inflation that marked a cash-back deal.
Having isolated the suspicious transactions in the data, Ben-David could now examine the noteworthy traits they shared. He found that a small group of real estate agents were repeatedly involved, in particular when the seller was himself an agent or when there was no second agent in the deal. Ben-David also found that the suspect transactions were more likely to occur when the lending bank, rather than keeping the mortgage, bundled it up with thousands of others and sold them off as mortgage-backed securities. This suggests that the issuing banks treat suspect mortgages with roughly the same care as you might treat a rental car, knowing that you aren’t responsible for its long-term outcome once it is out of your possession.
At first glance, these cash-back transactions, while illegal, might seem a victimless crime. After all, the seller gets his house sold and the buyer gets to move in with his family. The real estate agent, the mortgage broker, the attorney and the appraiser are all paid their commissions or fees. Even the bank that made the loan comes out ahead, since it earned its fees on the transaction before passing along the mortgage to investors.
But Ben-David argues that there are at least two potential losers. The first is the honest buyer who won’t take a cash-back offer and therefore can’t buy a house — all while the illegal cash-back transactions are artificially driving up home prices in his neighborhood.
The second loser is the investor who bought the mortgage-backed securities. If a house purchased with a cash-back transaction goes into foreclosure, it is soon discovered that the home is worth less than the value of the loan. This, plainly, is not good for the shareholders of such assets. While people who hate rich people may get a thrill from the idea of wealthy shareholders being swindled by a bunch of small-time mortgage hustlers, keep in mind that mortgage-backed securities are the sort of conservative investment widely held by pensioners and other regular folks.
There’s a third potential loser as well: the subprime buyer who does accept the cash-back payment but still ends up defaulting on the loan. Although his criminal act will probably never be prosecuted, he stands to face an even harsher sentence: moving back in with the in-laws.
Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt are the authors of “Freakonomics.” More information on the research behind this column is online at www.freakonomics.com.
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|From: LindyBill||6/10/2007 4:39:34 AM|
|Not Exactly a Secret|
Regarding the May 23 Metro article "Rachel Carson Bill From Cardin on Hold":
I'm a knee-jerk liberal, but sometimes I find myself sympathetic to conservatives who see bias in The Post.
Does The Post lack the reportorial resources to confirm whether Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is a physician? The story reported Coburn's opposition to a resolution to honor environmentalist Carson on the 100th anniversary of her birth, and his pithy rationale, "junk science."
The next paragraph began: "Coburn, whose Web site says he is a doctor specializing in family medicine, obstetrics and allergies . . . ." The Web site attribution of such an easily confirmed fact seems intended to cast doubt on the senator's medical credentials. Would you report, "Sen. Barack Obama's Web site says he attended Harvard Law School"?
-- Philip Evans
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|From: LindyBill||6/10/2007 7:22:53 AM|
|The Political Economy of Immigration|
By George Borjas
There's been remarkably little research about what determines the shape of U.S. immigration policy. An important exception is the work of my Harvard colleague Claudia Goldin. Claudia looked at the factors that influenced how House members voted on a bill mandating a literacy test for immigrants in 1915. She found that economic factors helped determine how particular Congressmen voted: if wages were growing slowly in his district, the Congressman was more likely to vote for immigration restrictions.
This has me wondering: How in the world can one explain last Thursday's collapse of the "comprehensive immigration reform" legislation. How could a bill with such intrinsic liabilities get so far in the pipeline and collapse so quickly? Why did President Bush decide to alienate and, at least once, even publicly insult a big chunk of his dwindling base? Why did so many Republican senators follow the President down a path that so clearly antagonized many of their constituents? Why did so few Democratic senators defend the economic concerns the labor movement raised about the guest worker program? What cost-benefit calculation could have led these legislators to adopt the positions they adopted? Or translated into economics jargon: what kind of regression could we possibly run that would provide a sensible explanation of what we have seen?
There's another factor that probably played a crucial role in the denouement of the legislation--a factor that wasn't around in the period covered by Goldin's study. A huge technological shift allows the masses to be heard--even if the MSM conventional wisdom dominates the airwaves, magazine covers, and newspaper headlines. Would the "grand bargainers" have gotten their way if it wasn't for conservative talk radio and the Internet?
Bill Quick of DailyPundit has an interesting hypothesis:
"...it was the opposition of the American people (running 100% counter to the instincts and desires of the elites purporting to represent them) that killed this bill...The right blogosphere as a whole did an excellent job of revealing and mobilizing this sentiment...Ten years ago, this bill would have been passed and signed by the president before most Americans were even aware that it existed. Those days are over."
I think there is an element of truth to this hypothesis. I don't know how one would go about testing it, but it sure would make for a very interesting study. Imagine a world where policy takes a more "populist" turn and is more closely aligned with what the people want than with what the "experts" think is the right answer. (Remember William Buckley's famous quip: "I would rather be governed by the first 200 names in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty.")
Immigration is not the only policy issue where there is a disconnect between the elites and the American people (look at trade, for instance). I don't think the technological shift will affect all policies the same way--not many things get people as riled up as an amnesty for illegal immigrans. But the potential is there to influence outcomes on a select number of issues. There seems to be a new player in town, and this player can be deafening when circumstances warrant.
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|From: LindyBill||6/10/2007 7:24:58 AM|
| Click Here! |
By Roger McShane
Posted Sunday, June 10, 2007, at 5:55 AM ET
The Washington Post leads with American military officials envisioning a small, long-term presence in Iraq. The idea guiding the plan is that "the United State should leave Iraq more intelligently than it entered." The Los Angeles Times leads with a severe crackdown on domestic dissent in Iran. The New York Times leads with the Bush administration's shift in policy toward Microsoft. Unlike its predecessor, this administration has repeatedly defended the company against accusations of anti-competitive behavior.
The White House recently floated the idea of a long-term military presence in Iraq, but the Post lead differentiates itself from previous reports by looking at the idea from the perspective of the military. Officials see the presence having four major components: about 20,000 troops responsible for securing the Iraqi government and assisting Iraqi forces; 10,000 troops to train the Iraqi military and police; a "small but significant" special-operations unit to fight al-Qaida in Iraq; and more than 10,000 troops to deal with logistics and supply.
Officials claim to be thinking more soberly about Iraq, and the Post piece is chock-full of grave reflections on the war. Officials now dismiss the 2004-06 years, when the military ineffectively tried to turn responsibility over to the Iraqis. "We had previously 'transitioned' ourselves into irrelevance, and the whole thing was going to hell in a handbasket," said one senior official. Even the elections in December 2005, long viewed as a success for the occupation, are now seen as having contributed to sectarian violence.
The Post makes another interesting point—even if opponents of the war get their way, a total pullout from Iraq would take almost a year to execute. According to one official, any withdrawal would have to go through southern Iraq (to Kuwait), and it would take "at least 3,000 large convoys some 10 months to remove U.S. military gear and personnel alone."
Iraq was also one of the topics discussed by President Bush and Pope Benedict XVI yesterday. In private talks in the papal palace at the Vatican, the pope raised his concerns about "the worrying situation in Iraq." Across town, tens of thousands turned out for anti-Bush protests that turned violent.
Everyone seems to be a target of Iran's crackdown on internal dissent. The government has clamped down on the media, stepped up enforcement of Islamic dress codes, tightened restrictions on banks, and harassed anyone who might challenge its policies. The LAT does note that young people have confronted the morality enforcers in some neighborhoods. But that only acts as a reminder of how long the West has been waiting for Iran's youth to rise up and seriously challenge the clerical regime.
The NYT concludes its lead story with a suggestive quote from a professor who says "[t]he generous and noncynical view" is that the change in policy toward Microsoft reflects the administration's general philosophy when it comes to regulating business. But the Times hints at a more cynical view throughout the piece, not least by noting that Microsoft spent $55 million on lobbying activities from 2000 to 2006. It also points out that the top antitrust official at the Justice Department, Thomas Barnett, previously worked as an antitrust partner at one of Microsoft's favored law firms.
The NYT fronts the increasing influence of Hispanics on the Democratic presidential primary. That the Democrats are courting Hispanic voters is not exactly news. But with roughly two-thirds of the nation's Hispanic population living in nine of the early Democratic primary/caucus states, most of the campaigns have already ramped up their outreach efforts. Compare this with John Kerry, who waited until five months before the general election in 2004 to set up a Hispanic outreach and media operation.
The immigration debate is obviously a motivating factor for Hispanic voters. But the NYT fronts another piece on how the reform bill inspired others to become politically active and mount a grass-roots campaign to defeat it. The Times features one opponent of the bill, who seems to have an amazing knack for spotting illegal immigrants—she notices them mocking her on the street and using food stamps in the grocery store. Unfortunately, the paper doesn't ask her how she knew these people were illegal. (Maybe they just didn't look patriotic enough.)
The WP reports that after weeks of talks senior Democrats have reached an agreement with the National Rifle Association on new gun-control legislation that would strengthen the national background check system.
The NYT fronts the fascinating story of five men from western China's Uighur ethnic minority who were released from Guantanamo Bay and given asylum in Albania. Unfortunately, they think Albania is nearly as bad. The Times dryly notes that "[m]any American officials privately describe the Uighurs' plight as one of the more troubling episodes of the Bush administration's detention program."
Vladimir Putin, barred by Russia's constitution from running for a third term as president, won't rule out running again in 2012.
Peace activist Cindy Sheehan will sell her land near President Bush's Texas ranch. A radio talk show host from California plans to buy it and turn it into a peace memorial.
To sir, with love … The NYT notes that the president mistakenly referred to the pope as sir yesterday instead of using the normal honorific of Your Holiness. The gaffe was fussed over by the Italian media, but TP imagines the American press had some version of this story written weeks ago.
Roger McShane writes for the Economist online.
Article URL: slate.com
Copyright 2007 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC
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|To: greenspirit who wrote (208182)||6/10/2007 7:30:50 AM|
|From: Tom Clarke|
|Welcome to Connecticut Michael! To better understand our Motor Vehicle Dept., you should understand there has been an agreement between the two parties that the DMV is controlled by the Democrats as a place to park their patronage positions. In return the Republicans get to use the Metropolitan District Commission (water company) as a place to put their people. Everybody's happy and nobody complains.|
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|To: LindyBill who wrote (208240)||6/10/2007 7:48:36 AM|
|From: John Carragher|
|i wonder if irs would be interested in these kickbacks as gifts and subject to federal tax.|
"Anyone is allowed to make non-taxable gifts of $11,000 (or less) per year per person. For a transfer to qualify as a gift, the person who makes the transfer (donor) may not receive any value in return. Property does not have to be given to another outright in order to qualify as a gift; giving someone limited rights to property may be a gift. Any gift over the $11,000 annual exclusion amount is taxable"
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