Showing posts from April, 2005

Speaking Of Poverty...

The previous post reminded my of one of my favorite and least-likely-to-ever-gain-any-traction ideas.

Poverty is mostly a matter of money (duh!). Therefore, poverty can be eradicated if a sufficiently large source of money can be found. I know of a large global expenditure which is totally unnecessary and if those funds were shifted to a fight to end poverty, they would suffice several times over.

The world cosmetics industry is a business with revenues in the hundreds of Billion annually. Cosmetics are totally unnecessary because they are nothing but an arms race among women. Everybody does it only because everybody else does it. If all cosmetics were eliminated tomorrow, the better looking women would remain better looking and the less so the less so.

At some point in time cosmetics may have been a significant differentiating factor in that so few could afford them that rich women who could were able to jump a few rungs on the attractiveness ladder. This is clearly no longer the case a…

U2 can do better!

At a concert in Vancouver, Bono stopped the music for 5 minutes to talk to the crowd about ending poverty in the world. He flashed Prime Minister's number on a giant screen and encouraged the crowd to call the number to remind the PM of his promise to increase Canada's donations to the less developed countries to 0.7% of the GDP. One of the fans said "He (Bono) totally empowered us last night ..."

Huh? He empowered you how? Took $100 from your wallet and told you to call the Prime Minister? I did not hear of him saying he will give 1/2 or 3/4 of the ticket proceeds to eradicate poverty.

Instead of working on the fans Mr. Bono should work on where the money is - himself and the other entertainers who take enormous amounts of money for just doing what they claim they would do anyway - sing, act, play basketball.

There are the Mother Theresa's and there are Bono's. My thing will always be with Mother Theresa's who actually live the way the people live who they…

Where are all the editors?

A headline from today's National Post - "House Prices Skyrocket 50% in 10 years: Study". Does anyone actually read what they write before publishing it and where are all the editors? To say that prices have "skyrocketed" over 10 years 50% is ridiculous. A gain of 50% over 10 years is equal to annual compounded rate of 4.07%. Would anyone write a headline - "Your time deposit at the bank has skyrocketed 4.07% p.a. for 10 years." And yet the result is the same - a 50% appreciation over 10 years.

Another item, this one from a newsletter says this about oil: "Global demand is rising exponentially, global supply is dwindling." How can anyone get so many things wrong in so few words? First of all, global supply of oil is neither dwindling or diminishing, it is growing and nobody disputes that. The question is whether it is keeping pace with rising demand and on that score does the writer know what "exponential growth" means? Would anyone …

Value of Human Life

For a long time I have been wondering about the difference in perception of the value of a human life which depend on circumstances, culture, cause of death, geopolitics and who knows what else.

I find the numbers and the relative attention paid to them to be beyond rational explanation. Every year 5,000 coal miners die in China in coal mining accidents. Amnesty International reports that in 2004 there were 3,797 known executions in the World (of which 3,400 were in China). If the resources of Amnesty International were devoted to improving mining safety in China would that not save the most lives? (Coal mines in other parts of the world are much much safer therefore it is not a matter of attempting the impossible, it is a matter of transfer of technology and safety practices.)

Latest estimates of the death toll from Boxing Day tsunami are of 217,000 deaths. The number of victims of genocide in Rwanda is estimated at anywhere between 500,000 and 1 Million with a kind of a convergence nu…

Report on Intelligence Failure

Well, the report is in and the conclusion is that the intelligence community was "dead wrong".

To me the two most interesting conclusions are that first, all insinuations that the Administration knew there where no chemical and biological weapons but pretended otherwise to continue with the policy objective of regime change were dead wrong too. They did not know, nobody did, it was the world's greatest head fake.

Which brings me to the second point and that is that the intelligence community was wrong because if followed what was being said among Iraqi politicians and the Army. When they intercepted radio conversations of Iraqi military talking about use of chemical weapons, the intelligence services did not know that those same Iraqi soldiers were being deceived themselves. Until the very last day they believed that they will crush the invading Americans with their secret weapons which, it was intimated to them, were there.

So when some of them defected or offered informat…

Veracity vacuum

For a while I have been wondering about what makes certain societies / cultures more receptive to a veracity vacuum. One such society is Russia where everyone simply expects, but also goes along with, the idea that most of what they hear (from the government, from the media, from others) is not true. The default option is to assume it is not true and somehow this is OK.

Another example is the Arab countries where the public at large seems to be curiously accepting of the most preposterous of lies. Or at least is not challenging them. Examples that come to mind are many. The "mother of all wars"; the Iraqi Information Minister; the widely held belief by the "man in the street" across the Arab world that 9/11 was really work of the CIA (and the shock that followed recent admission by Bin Laden in a video that they did it).

The most recent example are rumblings in Arab media about what the "reasons" were for the tsunami disaster in Asia. Some of the choice lun…