Tuesday, March 27, 2007

You Too Can be an Armchair Microfinancier

This is not a phishing expedition, I promise. The problem of poverty is one that crosses all borders and nationalities, and I found a great, frugal solution for lending help. Even with a salary as small as mine, this is a site that creates the opportunity to help out with people that live in far worse conditions than I do in scenic, quiet, peaceful Seattle.

Basically you can become a microfinancier. Check out to find out what exactly that entails -but I can tell you it doesn't take much more than a little bit of money and a Paypal account.

If you have access to nytimes.com, you can also read Nicholas Kristof's editorial about Kiva in today's edition. That's how I heard about the service in the first place.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

It's All in the Signs

My friend Tim sent me this cool link, at which I composed the above image: http://www.warningsigngenerator.com/

Open up!

Production sharing agreements are what the oil industry wants to see more of in the Middle East, particularly a little place called Iraq, and they are getting help from our executive branch. The Bush Administration is pushing for these agreements, aggressively pursuing laws in the new Iraqi Parliament that will open things up over there. Whereas countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran have long experience deflecting Big Oil from their reserves, the fledgling government in Baghdad is vulnerable.

Sharing agreements are about just that -sharing. They can exact long contracts up to thirty five years and allow foreign companies to enjoy direct interest in oil production. ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron and BP are the world's largest and most powerful financial empires: they want something called the Iraq Hydrocarbon Law to be signed by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki; he and his parliament, such as it is, have proven resistant thus far, but the recurring chaos at the capital continues to wear down resistance and has proven to be a lever with which the foreign companies can exert their influence. Having the US military on their side doesn't hurt either.

The Iraq Hydrocarbon Law (have to love the euphemistic name, when they could have just called it "Gimme All Your Black Gold"), if passed, will hand over exclusive control of Iraq's oil fields directly to foreign interests. It will allow a major portion of revenues to go out of Iraq. Back in March of 2001, that so very innocent time when the worst we had to worry about was a stolen election, Vice President Cheney convened his national energy development group, the infamous Energy Task Force whose members included "Kenny Boy" Lay from Enron. At the end of their august deliberations, they gave out the recommendation that the US should support initiatives by Middle East countries "to open up areas of their energy sectors to foreign investment." That was six years ago. Today the minutes from those meetings are still classified. What's more, the CEO of Halliburton, the company VP Cheney used to head before going to the White House, is moving operations to Iraq's neighbor, Dubai; to be closer to the action, one can only suppose.

VP Cheney just the other day said that Congress is "undermining" our troops by refusing to support the President's one hundred billion dollar "surge". What exactly are we sending 21,500 more troops to protect?