Apparently some aspect of the LDS temple ceremony will be portrayed on HBO’s Big Love (tonight?). Here’s a picture that was forwarded to me, apparently from TV Guide:
Mormons are decrying this as sacrilegious and disrespectful, of course, but as one of thousands who was hoodwinked into going through the ceremony and socially coerced into accepting its secret oaths and tenets, I think that just about any public airing will help to diminish the power of the ritual. While I would hesitate to characterize Mormonism as a cult, the temple is where it gets the closest to acting like one. So this airing is a Good Thing. And it may be the first episode of Big Love I actually watch.
Microfinance is the lending and borrowing of (relatively) small amounts of money. Generally, the lender is a (relatively) rich Westerner and the borrower a poor citizen of a developing country. And I don’t mean relatively poor; I mean abject poverty, where $25 to buy a goat means the difference between being able to feed your children and death. 95% of the world lives on less than $1.25 per day. 95% of the world lives on less than most Americans spend daily on a cup of coffee. I say relatively rich because most people consider themselves to be middle class and because “rich” is a very relative term (Can I make impulse buys? Absolutely. But when was the last time I gave a grant to fund education? Umm, how ’bout, not even thinking I might reach that in my lifetime.). I feel it’s necessary to define these terms & to use them, because generally speaking, they’re terms people are not comfortable with.
I have often heard that giving money and providing education to the world’s poorest women is the surest way to lift whole communities out of poverty. Some say that this is because they reinvest in their families (and certainly, an educated mother would be sure to continued to educate her daughters), but it may also be because women do the bulk of the unpaid work—making them necessarily more industrious, or because the means of wealth are often controlled by the communities’ men. Very often, minimal (Western) amounts can accomplish this: $10, $20, $50. Sometimes, however, more is needed: $1000 to start a small business, for example. And this is where microfinance comes in.
An entrepreneur goes to a local bank (sometimes with 3 additional borrowers as security for one another) and the local bank gets money from Western givers. This is a fantastic deal for the “microentrepreneur” and not a bad one for the knowledgeable Westerner. For the most part, these are “loans” to the borrower but “gifts” to the “lender”. The local bank gets the money and charges interest on it to cover overhead. The Westerner never sees their money again, but gets warm fuzzies.
I recently attended a conference where the founder of Kiva, a microfinance/social networking site, gave a talk about Kiva’s business model. The local bank charges between 20% and 30% interest (which someone put into perspective as being close to the 18% we pay for unsecured loans/credit cards), essentially pocketing the difference. Now, I’m as charity-minded as the next person, but I’m not currently in a position to give away money $1000 at a time.
I am, however, what most Western financial institutions consider a “micro” investor: I have less than $100 000 to invest (a lot less, but that seems to be the general cut-off). I see a huge market for putting my money (that I want to invest) to work in the hands of poor microborrowers across the world (or even here at home). I’m certainly not expecting 30% interest (although, wouldn’t that be great?) but would expect some kind of (at least anticipated) return. Calvert, the “socially responsible” institution my investments are with is considering diversifying into this field but as near as I can tell has not yet done so.
I’ve retired a number of blogs from my RSS reader, and I’m looking for some new ones to rotate in. Here’s a few gaps that I’m trying to fill:
- I’d like to find an intelligently written conservative political blog that pays attention to nuance and isn’t afraid to swim against the Republican mainstream. No, no–besides Andrew Sullivan. Basically, I’d like to read something that will challenge my liberal values (respectfully) and keep me on my toes.
- I’m going to continue to subscribe to my favorite feminist blogs, but I need to mix in some new blood. Sometimes Hugo Schwyzer is a bit too wordy and Pandagon and Feministe a little repetitive. I get my fill of Mormon feminism from Zelophehad’s Daughters, feminist Mormon housewives and the Exponent blog. Any out there with an interesting angle (I like the Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction), or with regular debate between different kinds of feminists (rather than between feminists and non-feminists)?
- This one may be a tricky one, but I’d really like to find a good blog that talks about the interplay between knowledge, technology and society–especially any that advocate open-collaboration, p2p sharing, IP law, and democratization through tech. I’m less interested in the technical details and more interested in the big ideas and the social and legal impact. This might include sites that regularly talk about things like the singularity and AI through massive networks and quote people like Bruce Sterling, Vernor Vinge and Cory Doctorow. Heck, I should start by Googling them.
- Maybe an astrophysics and/or biology blog for the SciAm or Nature crowd.
- Any great pop art or photo blogs? Or writing blogs (especially in support of SF writers)?
- Any other blogs you feel are well written, eclectic, and just plain fun to read.
I get a regular fill of the following: news, Quaker, religion, social reform, liberal politics, geek culture, Japanese pop culture, science fiction, philosophy, skepticism, web comic, graphic design, and general science. Though if you think of something exemplary in one of these categories, please let me know.