Posts Tagged ‘economy’

Nonprofit of the day: Kiva.org

Kiva.org, a San Francisco nonprofit with international reach, connects westerners with disposable income with entrepreneurs needing microloans — typically, a few hundred dollars to expand a home-based business. Kiva’s website features pictures of would-be recipients and allows would-be lenders to finance their projects. According to the group, ninety-seven percent of loans are repaid on time; the total default rate is less than 1%.

kyrgyzstan_farmersUntil this summer, Kiva focussed on lending (what in the U.S. are) small amounts of money for third-worlders (pictured at left, a group of farmers in Kyrgyzstan). Kiva was so successful that in December they actually ran out of people to lend money to and had to turn away lenders. So starting in June, the group began allowing American entrepreneurs to solicit money on the site. This has led to a backlash as some Kiva lenders protest that Americans don’t need the money bad enough.

Whatever. There are still plenty of deserving third world people on the kiva.org website who need your money, and will pay it back with interest.

Nonprofit of the day: Donors Choose

When I was a high school teacher in the mid-80s, each of the teachers was allowed x number of copies per semester. I had 5 classes of about 28 kids each. Want to know how many copies I was allowed to make for the whole semester? 150. That’s right. 150 impressions on the xerox machine. So I figured out how to run the ancient blue-chemical mimeograph machine in the corner of the Social Studies Resource Room.

Another vignette: One day during a summer school session, I broke up a fight in the hall. My shirt was torn, and frankly I couldn’t afford to buy too many shirts in those days. I went to the principal and reported the incident, and asked naively, “How do I get reimbursed for my shirt which was torn in the line of duty?” Instead of laughing out loud, the patient man said, “There is no budget for that, but tell you what: I’ll open up the supply closet and you can take a box full of stuff.” Yes, that was the compensation for my torn shirt: the principal unlocked the supply closet, which was normally shut tight. That’s the kind of poverty mentality that pervades the public schools. And if you think it’s gotten better since the 1980s, you haven’t been reading the newspapers.

So I’m a little ambivalent about the Donors Choose thing. On the one hand, it allows you to give direct help for specific purposes to classrooms in your town. And they are super good, almost too good, about accountability. Not only do you get an acknowledgement of your donation, you get pictures of the happy, happy kids using the art supplies or whatever you have donated.

On the other hand, there’s a certain pathetic quality about the requests. $200 for 70 copies of a book for kids to read. $250 for a set of math resource materials. $700 for a classroom set of dictionaries.

Dictionaries, people. There are elementary school classrooms in this country without enough dictionaries. How many millions of dollars did that Michael Jackson memorial cost? What the fuck are we doing as a country?

If you can see the website through your tears of rage, I suggest using it to find a worthy project, something you can make a difference on, and giving them money. And then, when you get back the thank-yous and the pictures and all, consider forming a permanent relationship with the school or the teacher you helped.

The truth is right behind the roller coaster at Great America

Master of the UniverseI went yesterday to ConspiracyCon, which is exactly what you’d guess it is: a convention of conspiracy theorists. UFO chasers, 9-11 deniers, tax protesters and this year’s big favorite, explainers of the current economic crisis.

Here are some of the things I learned:

  • Obama and his administration are pawns of the international banking conspiracy, and it’s all led by former Jimmy Carter National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and the many “secret societies” from the Trilateral Commission to the Bohemian Grove.
  • The reason Ron Paul supporters also have UFO conspiracy DVDs at their booth is because if the government let us know about and learn alien technology, it could go a long way toward solving our country’s energy problems.
  • No plane actually struck the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001; the damage was the result of planted explosives. This was vouchsafed to me by an extremely energetic and dedicated young man who was giving his DVDs away for free. He had a very elaborate set of xeroxed photographs with the “real” flight path of the airliner, a professionally-produced series of animated graphics which showed the difference between the fake flight path and the real one, and so on.
  • If you experience sudden headaches or body heating as you walk down the street, this is called “electronic harassment” and is the work of the NSA, which can read your driver’s license from space.

This last was given to me by a very sane-appearing man, who said it in the same tones you might use to explain how Twitter works for someone who’s never used it. Everyone was very nice, and very talkative. All I had to do was say to someone, “You seem to have a lot of literature here,” and they’d talk for five minutes without taking a breath.

The best moment was during a presentation by one Webster Tarpley, an animated gent who made a presentation on the conspiracy between Obama and the bankers. At one point he showed pictures of the heads of Citigroup, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs. When no one in the audience could identify all three, he began ranting, “These are the people who rule the world! Never mind the politicians, these are the real rulers! Maybe if you put down your UFO book and paid attention we’d be better off!”

ConspiracyCon continues today at the Santa Clara Marriott.

Recession around the Bay

stimulus!A friend visited the Emeryville branch of Borders Books and found it half-empty. Must be a little rough in Emeryville these days, considering that the big Circuit City there closed when that chain went down.

Also today, I was in Noe Valley and saw employees of the AAA storefront there literally carrying equipment out the door. A sign posted in the window said the branch was closing that day.

Meanwhile, the Chronicle carried an unintentionally funny story about how something called the Bay Area Council Economic Institute is meeting to split up funds from federal stimulus bills. Great quote:

“If we all work together in the next 66 days and get a great plan, we win,” said John Grubb, spokesman…

Yeah, that’ll definitely happen.

Vegas’s loss is San Francisco’s gain

After President Barack Obama Monday told an Indiana audience that companies should “not give out these big bonuses until you’ve paid taxpayers back. You can’t get corporate jets — (applause) — you can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers’ dime,” the investment bank Goldman Sachs announced it was moving a conference from Las Vegas to San Francisco. (Update: here’s a link to information about the conference in question.)

Not because San Francisco is cheaper, because it’s not. No, money was “not the driving reason behind (the decision),” a spokesman said. “The decision to relocate the conference is based on our best efforts to operate according to the requirements of the new landscape of our industry.”

Goldman Sachs got $10 billion in the TARP bailout last fall. Wells Fargo, based in San Francisco, recently canceled a trip to Vegas for some of its employees. They received $25 billion. (The bank, not the employees.)

Now Las Vegas’s mayor is demanding an apology from Obama for implying there’s something wrong with going to Las Vegas. “What’s a better place, as I say, than for them to come here,” Oscar Goodman told a Las Vegas TV station. “And to change their mind and to go someplace else and to cancel — and at the suggestion of the president of the United States — that’s outrageous.”

Pets are affected by economic downturn

Due to the economic downturn, many people are no longer able to keep their pets – either because they lost their job or have to move and can’t take their companion with them. For some, it comes down to choosing between feeding their family or their pet.

If you can’t find a way to keep your pet, or can’t find someone to adopt it, San Francisco Animal Care and Control (SFACC) will take it in without judgement and work to find it a home.

SFACC works with local rescues to find a home for your pet so the more information you can provide about your pet, the more likely that it will find a good and suitable home. Lastly, please don’t abandon your pet on the streets of San Francisco hoping someone will pick it up, it’s dangerous to your pet and the residents of the city.

On the flip side, if you are looking for a new pet to join your family, consider visiting SFACC. They are facing a 25% cut in budget and need all of the support they can get through donations and volunteering.

Here are some of the great dogs that are down at SFACC right now and need homes!

Stacey’s Books to close

This is a huge oh-no: according to SFist, Stacey’s Bookstore, a bastion of downtown time-wasting, browsing and expense account padding, will close in March.

Anybody’s who’s ever worked downtown has spent hours in the store, taking long lunches, avoiding going back to work, or searching for a technical manual or last-minute anniversary present. The 10,000+ square foot store has been an anchor of Lower Market for over 75 years. But now? Toast.

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