Thursday, June 02, 2005

Lost in the Blogosphere

30,000 children die every day from poverty-related issues in Africa. If this were happening on any other continent, it would be the most debated subject on the internet. The topic spans all the favorite talking points, politics, religion, money. Yet the issue's most attention-grabbing event in twenty years hits the airwaves, Live 8 - The Long Walk to Justice, and NOTHING makes its way into the "citizen press". Atrios, Kos, TPM, even the General have all ignored the major announcement of a worldwide event aimed at bringing attention to the upcoming G8 Summit and the ability of 8 men to change the destiny of millions. The MSM covered it because celebrities are involved, but the blogosphere has given it a pass.

I am so disturbed by this lack of coverage, I could scream, but maybe I shouldn't be surprised. The blogosphere is similar to the rest of the world, where a few major players decide what games are to be played, what the rules should be. Africa remains a forgotten subject, while children in the thousands continue to die from hunger and disease.

What can we do to make a difference? Here are three suggestions:

1.) When you cruise the blogosphere over the next day, week, month, advertise! Post on your own blog, make comments on others, get people talking, even the wingnuts. Remember, all publicity is good, so long as they spell the name right.

2.) Visit the Live 8, the One Campaign and Make Poverty History sites. Read up on the subject, decide for yourself that the issue is important.

3.) Do what you can to make poverty history, both in Africa and around the world. There are children in America who go hungry and without healthcare, who need and deserve our help. Be pro-active, get involved, help get the message to the world's leaders and vote.


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

A Hemorrhage of Jihadists

Under a headline of "Terror strategy under review" Susan Glasser of the Washington Post explained recently that the Bush administration is revising their efforts to battle world terrorism. This is my favorite paragraph:

"Much of the discussion has focused on how to deal with the rise of a new generation of terrorists, schooled in Iraq over the past couple of years. Top government officials are increasingly turning their attention to anticipate what one called 'the bleed out' of hundreds or thousands of Iraq-trained jihadists back to their home countries throughout the Middle East and Western Europe. 'Its a new piece of a new equation,' a former senior Bush administration official said. 'If you don't know who they are in Iraq, how are you going to locate them in Istanbul or London?' "

Why didn't I think of that? I wrote a little song about it, because I know you all love my songs. This one is to the tune of Come Monday by Jimmy Buffett, songs I know by heart.

Come Friday

Headin’out to my mosque in London,
For the Bank Holiday weekend jihad.
I’ve got my Quran by my side,
And a schematic plan of the Underground.
Habibi, I didn’t know,
That Allah was missing me so.

But come Friday, it will be alright,
Come Friday, I’ll blow London sky high.
I’ve spent four Iraqi years,
Amid sand, blood and tears,
Now I just want to be by His side.

Yes it’s been quite a summer,
Kidnappings, downed helicopters and planes.
And now we’re off to Europe,
Some things I dare not explain.
Pakistan it won’t be quite then,
I may never see home again.

Cuz come Friday I’m going to die,
Come Friday, I’ll blow Paris sky high.
I’ve spent four Iraqi years,
Amid sand, blood and tears,
Now I just want to be by Allah’s side.

I’ve got plenty of money,
To buy the things that I need.
I learned a lot from Zarqawi,
For my brothers I’d kill anywhere.
Tell my family it’s my time to go,
By Monday, my mission you’ll know.

Come Friday, Islam will be alright,
Come Friday, we’ll blow the world apart.
We’ve spent four Iraqi years,
Amid sand, blood and tears,
Inshallah, we’ll be by His side.


Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Blowing Bubbles

Over the past few weeks it has been impossible to follow any news outlet at all and remain completely in the dark about the looming financial crisis...dun dun dun... the housing bubble. Doesn't sound very scary and economists are mixed about the timing, damage estimates and economic impact. But like a California earthquake, ready or not, here it comes.

Economic blog Calculated Risk links to several excellent articles if you are interested in trifles like housing vs. renting ratios, foreclosure rates and advance-buying, all indicators of financial trouble ahead. My own information is more anecdotal in nature. I noticed a few years ago how well people seemed to be living compared to me. As our household income is fairly average by industry standards, and we live in an industry town, it was a puzzle. At the time I had never heard of interest-only loans. In fact five years ago, neither had anybody else; they accounted for less than 2% of mortgages. Today they are the loan of choice nationwide. 60% of all mortgages are either flat-rate interest-only, or adjustable-rate balloon-payment type. Either way it spells trouble for the country when so many people are living above their means.

In San Francisco the average home price is $500,000. To afford a home, most have to take out yearly interest-only loans and then refinance. Interest rates are low, so it is doable, keeping the cost of housing inflated. Here's the problem: what happens when interest rates rise? People can no longer afford even the interest-only loans and must sell quickly, before they are foreclosed upon. When this happens the market gets flooded, prices drop and no one can sell for anywhere near the purchase price. The Chinese have been supplying our insatiable desire for cheap money the same way the OPEC has historically met our need for oil. Times they are a changing.

The fed started manipulating interest rates to stave off inflation five years ago, just after the tech bubble burst. Cheap interest fueled housing starts, jobs and consumer spending. Despite nagging unemployment figures, things look okay on paper. When asked about the housing bubble, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan claimed there is no single bubble, just little pockets, bubblets, around the country - California, NY, DC and Florida. Pretty big bubblets, if you ask me. And I told you, it's happening here in Houston too.

I stole this line from somewhere, can't remember, and I only remember the last line. Cream rises to the top, but scum does too, in the form of lots of tiny little bubbles.