Friday, September 26, 2008

Mice & Clerics

You sure have heard about that Saudi Cleric - Sheikh Muhammad Munjid - who stated that mice are the legions of Satan, and that all mice must die including Mickey Mouse. But wait a minute, let's first agree that nobody on earth is that stupid, and for sure this is not what the Saudi Cleric meant in the religious affairs program broadcasted on Al-Majd TV. I think what he meant was that according to Islam mice are malicious creatures and they must be killed, however the media nowadays succeeded in altering children's minds as they now love characters like Mickey Mouse which in fact is a mouse.

We now hove to answer many questions such as: Why on earth does someone talk about mice and whether they are legions of Satan or not? Aren't there any other important subjects to be discussed in such TV program except those Mickey Mouse matters? Why did the media focus on Al Munjid's speech, and at the end of the day he is just one cleric among thousands or may be millions of Islamic clerics?

First of all, I believe that such kind of Fatwas - Islamic Verdicts - are the product of a much older historic problem. Let's first agree that Islamic rules are mainly based on the Holy Quraan and Ahadith - Statements or Actions of The Prophet Muhammad Peace be Upon Him. And while the Holy Quraan was written during the Prophets life, the Ahadith were narrated and transfered from one mouth to another till they were written about 300 years later. And due to this many of the Ahadith are not that Authentic and to filter the Ahadith a dedicated Islamic Science has emerged which is responsible for studying the Ahadith and those who narrated them in order to tell the valid ones from the invalid ones. Now the problem started when some clerics decided that the Ahadith gatherd in one or two books are all authentic and no one is allowed to further investigate in their authenticity of the Ahadith written there. Also we need to know that the Prophet Muhammad Peace be Upon Him, beside being the messenger of God to humanity he was also a political leader and some of his statements were for the sake of community he lived in. And we can simply guess - I cannot tell by the way whether this Hadith is authentic or not - that such statement for example was meant to warn the people alive then from the harms and microbes rats and mice can transfer when they exist in their homes, and as you know Arabs then were not civilized enough, and even though people nowadays are aware of microbes transfered by mice for example, Arabs then were in need of such statements and such kind of awareness. So now the problem is that some of today's clerics may blindly repeat 1500 years old statements out of their original context.

One other problem here is conspiracy theories that are haunting people living in this part of the world. Through out this video it is clear that Al-Munjid is accusing the western media of affecting Muslim children's minds. As if Walt Disney was really aware of every single Hadith and decided to base his cartoon character on mice on purpose to alter Muslim children's beliefs tens of years later. Come on, conspiracy theories may exist but relating every single incident in our lives to them will turn us into the main target of the whole world's jokes.

Finally, Social Media and site like YouTube gave the individuals the appropriate tools to spread such kind of news easily. Few years ago nobody would have cared or reported a statement of a Saudi cleric on an obscure TV channel about Mickey Mouse like now. But now it's easier for such clips to be spread online. And I can imagine a Shiite Blogger in Kuwait or Iran for example writing about such cleric, for him it is a good chance to make fun of the foolishness of Sunni clerics. It's also a good chance for an Egyptian Sunni blogger to make fun of Wahabis or an American writer to make fun of Arabs and their stupidity. What I want to say here is that during the pre-internet era, the selection of published news were based on organizations and governments intentions, while now individuals intentions are a major component of the media game. And those individuals are capable of spreading such kind of news that used to remain in the shadow earlier. And guess what, sometimes those individuals now can even affect the publishing decisions of the major news outlets.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Possible USSA

It seems that the United States of America has got an extra "S" in its name to become the United Socialist States of America. You sure have heard about the major American insurance corporation AIG's (American International Group, Inc) financial problems and expected bankruptcy. And on Tuesday night, the Fed decided to lend AIG $85 billion, and the U.S. government will effectively get a 79.9% equity stake in the insurer. The loan is secured by AIG's assets, including its profitable insurance businesses, giving the Fed some protection even if markets continue to sink. And if AIG rebounds, taxpayers could reap a big profit through the government's equity stake.
The Federal Reserve Board on Tuesday, with the full support of the Treasury Department, authorized the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to lend up to $85 billion to the American International Group (AIG) under section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act. The secured loan has terms and conditions designed to protect the interests of the U.S. government and taxpayers.
The Board determined that, in current circumstances, a disorderly failure of AIG could add to already significant levels of financial market fragility and lead to substantially higher borrowing costs, reduced household wealth, and materially weaker economic performance.
The purpose of this liquidity facility is to assist AIG in meeting its obligations as they come due. This loan will facilitate a process under which AIG will sell certain of its businesses in an orderly manner, with the least possible disruption to the overall economy.
Source: Federal Reserve Board - Press Release
It's clear that the US government is doing this in order to save their own economy, especially that AIG is considered, according to the 2008 Forbes Global 2000 list, the 18th-largest company in the world. And It's a major component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average since April 8, 2004 [Wikipedia]. But what makes them that sure that the bailout is the optimum solution for this.
Like nearly all conservatives, I'm not happy with government bailouts in principle, but I'm afraid that the deal the Fed made to lend AIG $85 billion in exchange for an 80% stake in the company was necessary and prudent. The ripple effects of an AIG bankruptcy would have been enormous.
Source: Power Line Blog.
Anyway, all this makes me wonder, is the Insurance giant being Nationalized!?
My first reaction to hearing the news about AIG: what makes government officials think that they can run an insurance company efficiently? This may help short term, but what will happen over the long term? And what type of signal does this send to capital markets (not a pretty one, if the current stock market decline -300 points is any indication). Lastly, what type of signal does this send regarding government bailouts?
Source: Market Power Blog.
But some other bloggers don't see it the same way:
Is it a bailout? Is it a takeover? To me it looks more like bankruptcy by another name. Effectively it gives AIG some time to sell a lot of its assets--more than just the junk--and reorganize itself. In the meantime, its creditors will be made whole. Equity holders may properly bear some of the cost as the government has veto power over dividends. At the end of the 24 month period...hopefully...the company, in whatever form it takes, can resume something approaching normalcy. Assuming, of course, that it has any reputation left. Perhaps sometime during or after that 24 months a suitable buyer can be found. These are questions that no one can answer now.
Also many Bloggers and Blog Readers were debating if the American taxpayers should pay the bills for AIG executives faults.
AIG has no one to blame except themselves for this matter. The Board of Directors and the Executive Officers should be held accountable for their mistakes in this company. The American taxpayers should not have to foot any bill regarding this company, nor should banks take a risk to lend them money to keep them solvent
Source: Richard @ Blogging Stocks.
Any CEO that puts a business in that kind of debt not only needs to be fired but put in jail. The idea of paying a criminal ceo millions of dollars for destroying a business revolts me. They should have to pay back every cent they earned and the money should go into the pension plans for the employees they screwed.
Source: Rob @ Blogging Stocks.
The US has to let these useless corrupt institutions die take the pain and move on if you want a decent future for your kids. This present US government is the most fucked up corrupt bunch in a century led by a clueless idiot who´s only solution to anything is to bomb the shit out of 3rd world countries. Wake up people its payback time.
Source: Anonymous @ Bonddad Blog.
CDS (Credit Default Swaps) are considered the main reason for the collapse of AIG.
The firm’s sickly financial health was a prominent topic in weekend talks among Wall Street chieftains who gathered at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to discuss the potential collapse of the investment bank Lehman Brothers. A.I.G. had become one of the biggest underwriters of complex debt securities known credit default swaps, used as insurance for a wide range of products, including the mortgage instruments that have been the bane of Wall Street for the last year and a half.
Source: The New York Times.
And Blogging Stocks wrote about AIG/CDS too.
As I posted yesterday, the reason AIG got into such a mess is that it owed $14.5 billion in Credit Default Swap (CDS) premiums. "[CDSs] pay the buyer face value in exchange for the underlying securities or the cash equivalent should a country or company fail to adhere to its debt agreements," according to Bloomberg News.
Source: Blogging Stocks.
But, what is Credit Default Swaps, and why did some financial experts expected it to be the next crisis a while ago.
Credit default swaps are insurance-like contracts that promise to cover losses on certain securities in the event of a default. They typically apply to municipal bonds, corporate debt and mortgage securities and are sold by banks, hedge funds and others. The buyer of the credit default insurance pays premiums over a period of time in return for peace of mind, knowing that losses will be covered if a default happens. It's supposed to work similarly to someone taking out home insurance to protect against losses from fire and theft.
Except that it doesn't. Banks and insurance companies are regulated; the credit swaps market is not. As a result, contracts can be traded — or swapped — from investor to investor without anyone overseeing the trades to ensure the buyer has the resources to cover the losses if the security defaults. The instruments can be bought and sold from both ends — the insured and the insurer.
Credit default swaps were seen as easy money for banks when they were first launched more than a decade ago. Reason? The economy was booming and corporate defaults were few back then, making the swaps a low-risk way to collect premiums and earn extra cash. The swaps focused primarily on municipal bonds and corporate debt in the 1990s, not on structured finance securities. Investors flocked to the swaps in the belief that big corporations would seldom go bust in such flourishing economic times.
But as the economy soured and the subprime credit crunch began expanding into other credit areas over the past year, CDS investors became jittery. They wondered if the parties holding the CDS insurance after multiple trades would have the financial wherewithal to pay up in the event of mass defaults. "In the past six to eight months, there's been a deterioration in market liquidity and the ability to get willing buyers for structured finance securities," causing the values of the securities to fall, said Glenn Arden, a partner at Jones Day who heads up the firm's worldwide securitization practice and New York derivative.
Source: Time - Business & Tech.
Finally, to tell you a secret, the main reason that made me write all this is that I was lost in all those financial terms I came across while reading about this issue. So I tried to gather all those posts along with the possible explanation of the financial and business jargon used in them in order understand what those guys are talking about here :)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Muslim Massacre

Today's gaming consoles such as Playstation, Wii and XBox along with skilled game developers make use of the latest trends in computer graphics to come out with eye-candy and fun to play games. But wait a moment, what about those developers who are only skilled enough to create lame games with poor graphics that gives you the feeling of a twenty years old obscure game.

In fact, these guys only have two choices. They can shoot themselves dead, or give their tasteless games a controversial name such as "Muslim Massacre", and a mission to kill as many Muslims as you can including Allah Almighty. And instead of creating a respected piece of code, they can create a controversial piece of sh*t that is capable enough of attracting the media and like-minded gamers.

Here we go again, one more member of the chain reaction that started with those famous Danish Cartoons. But let me ask you, why do we really care!? Come on, how many one of you have ever heard about this computer game before!?

The issue here is not the game itself, it's that endless chain reaction that really scares me. The media, circumstances and fundamental Wahabis deeds started it a while ago, and they all succeeded in brainwashing peoples minds and created that evil Muslim stereotype in their minds. Then people like the Danish Cartoonists and this Computer Games Developer started to reproduce this stereotype and feed it back to the media and people around them. And frankly I can't tell how this endless loop will end. In fact some reasonable newspapers and TV channels in the west started to exert some efforts in order to stop all this, but it's now like an imp, once you get it out of its bottle, it's really hard to get it back there again.

Some people out there, even non Muslims, believe that there must be some regulations in the Internet, and even in this very case, some people are calling for the game to be banned and taken offline. But on contrary, I believe in the free Internet and the new Social User Generated Media. In fact, our only way to break those awful stereotypes is to make out voice heard. Many people here for example used to believe that Indians put on those ancient Maharaja clothes and use elephants for transportation and they also believed that people in central Africa live on trees in the forests and know nothing about modern technology, but now after today's communications evolution, it's only retarded people who still have such beliefs. I remember ten years ago that I met many ones from USA and Europe who used to believe that we live here in Egypt in tents and use camels for transportation. But I am sure that such image has gone now, and hope that the evil Muslims stereotype will vanish soon too.