Unbranded and home on the range.

Don Corleone is Laughing in his Grave.

The United Nations and other authorities are getting increasingly worried about the fact that the Mafia may have found the perfect storm to launder their $300 billion worth of dirty money – the global finance crisis. Banks desperate for cash to maintain liquidity are either bending the rules or looking the other way when mafia finance chiefs come calling, dangling their billions in front of them.

Don Corleone must be laughing uncontrollably in his grave.

Read more here: Mafia millions buoying banks: UN


Hat tip to Pact for the link.


Filed under: Exhaust, Ghetto

Good ole’ fashioned Canadian common sense

The Canadian banking and finance system. Yet another reason why we Canadians are just so cool and chill, and why everyone loves us. We’re safe, laid-back, liberal and yet conservative at the same time.

This is an article worth reading – from Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria.

Worthwhile Canadian Initiative

Canadian banks are typically leveraged at 18 to 1–compared with U.S. banks at 26 to 1.


The legendary editor of The New Republic, Michael Kinsley, once held a “Boring Headline Contest” and decided that the winner was “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative.” Twenty-two years later, the magazine was rescued from its economic troubles by a Canadian media company, which should have taught us Americans to be a bit more humble. Now there is even more striking evidence of Canada‘s virtues. Guess which country, alone in the industrialized world, has not faced a single bank failure, calls for bailouts or government intervention in the financial or mortgage sectors. Yup, it’s Canada. In 2008, the World Economic Forum ranked Canada’s banking system the healthiest in the world. America’s ranked 40th, Britain’s 44th.

Canada has done more than survive this financial crisis. The country is positively thriving in it. Canadian banks are well capitalized and poised to take advantage of opportunities that American and European banks cannot seize. The Toronto Dominion Bank, for example, was the 15th-largest bank in North America one year ago. Now it is the fifth-largest. It hasn’t grown in size; the others have all shrunk.

So what accounts for the genius of the Canadians? Common sense. Over the past 15 years, as the United States and Europe loosened regulations on their financial industries, the Canadians refused to follow suit, seeing the old rules as useful shock absorbers. Canadian banks are typically leveraged at 18 to 1—compared with U.S. banks at 26 to 1 and European banks at a frightening 61 to 1. Partly this reflects Canada’s more risk-averse business culture, but it is also a product of old-fashioned rules on banking.

Canada has also been shielded from the worst aspects of this crisis because its housing prices have not fluctuated as wildly as those in the United States. Home prices are down 25 percent in the United States, but only half as much in Canada. Why? Well, the Canadian tax code does not provide the massive incentive for overconsumption that the U.S. code does: interest on your mortgage isn’t deductible up north. In addition, home loans in the United States are “non-recourse,” which basically means that if you go belly up on a bad mortgage, it’s mostly the bank’s problem. In Canada, it’s yours. Ah, but you’ve heard American politicians wax eloquent on the need for these expensive programs—interest deductibility alone costs the federal government $100 billion a year—because they allow the average Joe to fulfill the American Dream of owning a home. Sixty-eight percent of Americans own their own homes. And the rate of Canadian homeownership? It’s 68.4 percent.

Canada has been remarkably responsible over the past decade or so. It has had 12 years of budget surpluses, and can now spend money to fuel a recovery from a strong position. The government has restructured the national pension system, placing it on a firm fiscal footing, unlike our own insolvent Social Security. Its health-care system is cheaper than America’s by far (accounting for 9.7 percent of GDP, versus 15.2 percent here), and yet does better on all major indexes. Life expectancy in Canada is 81 years, versus 78 in the United States; “healthy life expectancy” is 72 years, versus 69. American car companies have moved so many jobs to Canada to take advantage of lower health-care costs that since 2004, Ontario and not Michigan has been North America’s largest car-producing region.

I could go on. The U.S. currently has a brain-dead immigration system. We issue a small number of work visas and green cards, turning away from our shores thousands of talented students who want to stay and work here. Canada, by contrast, has no limit on the number of skilled migrants who can move to the country. They can apply on their own for a Canadian Skilled Worker Visa, which allows them to become perfectly legal “permanent residents” in Canada—no need for a sponsoring employer, or even a job. Visas are awarded based on education level, work experience, age and language abilities. If a prospective immigrant earns 67 points out of 100 total (holding a Ph.D. is worth 25 points, for instance), he or she can become a full-time, legal resident of Canada.

Companies are noticing. In 2007 Microsoft, frustrated by its inability to hire foreign graduate students in the United States, decided to open a research center in Vancouver. The company’s announcement noted that it would staff the center with “highly skilled people affected by immigration issues in the U.S.” So the brightest Chinese and Indian software engineers are attracted to the United States, trained by American universities, then thrown out of the country and picked up by Canada—where most of them will work, innovate and pay taxes for the rest of their lives.

If President Obama is looking for smart government, there is much he, and all of us, could learn from our quiet—OK, sometimes boring—neighbor to the north. Meanwhile, in the councils of the financial world, Canada is pushing for new rules for financial institutions that would reflect its approach. This strikes me as, well, a worthwhile Canadian initiative.

© Newsweek 2009


Filed under: Current Affairs, Leadership

Why is ISNA so messed up?

I’ve just about had it with ISNA’s housing division.

They say its an interest-free housing plan …. “mainly because of faith.”


Mainly? So whats the other part?

To start, a lot of people within the community for years have felt uneasy with ISNA”s service offering. There’s just something wrong but you can’t put your finger on it. Maybe its about how when you mix together two or three legitimate contracts, you can actually end up with something illegal and haraam. But it was an option, and it was all that was available when we bought our house through them nearly eight years ago.

Recently because of some unexpected bills, I fell into three-month arrears. ISNA was gracious enough to keep things flowing as I got back on my feet and resumed regular payments, while also negotiating with them to reduce and finish the deficit. Then, ISNA hit a new low that shocked us so badly we didn’t quite understand it at first.

On a call with Tahir Qureshi at ICHC, the housing arm of ISNA, we were discussing a mutually acceptable deficit-reduction schedules. Year-end was coming up for ISNA and they didn’t want to show any deficits on their books when the auditors dropped by. Either because of that or because he really doesnt understand that ribaa is such a major sin, he asked us why we didnt just take a loan from the bank to cover the deficit.

There was immediate silence from our end because we didn’t understand what he was saying. We asked him to repeat and clarify.

He said we get a loan from a regular bank to fulfill the deficit and then pay them back in installments as per their loan repayment rules.

My mom tore a chunk out of him on the phone, sharply criticizing him as much as possible while yet maintaining her dignity. “Get a loan from a bank?!! THEN WHY DID WE COME TO YOU IN THE FIRST PLACE?!!! If we could have just gone to any bank?!!”

Mr. Qureshi had no reply.

I wonder what ISNA would tell someone who wants to get married to protect their eeman? Just go grab a slut and drag her into bed! What if a highschool kid is feeling the pressure of exams and peers? Go snort some powder, beta! Looking for a good halal drink after a long day at the office? Why don’t you just hop down to the nearest bar and go bottoms up until you pass out on the floor, puking from all the alcohol? As long as ISNA’s stamp of approval is on it, you’ve got nothing to worry about!

What the hell is this crap?

Filed under: Exhaust