Sunday, January 23, 2005

Google's Next New Business?

It looks like Google might be working on a free internet telephone service. Their GMail service forced Yahoo and Hotmail to increase their capacity by 100 times. It will be interesting to see what happens if Google succeeds here.
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Super Bowl Matchup

I was more sure about my prediction of the Pats winning in the AFC championship than I was about the Falcons pulling out the upset, but I totally misjudged Philadelphia's ability much to my chagrin.

So it's New England v. Philadelphia as the oddsmakers had predicted and many had thought in the beginning of the season. I hate both teams and think I will be less interested in the Super Bowl than I have been for a long time. I am sure I will watch it, but not sure who I will go for. The way the Patriots have owned the Bills as of late has made me dispise them, but at the same time, the Eagles' dissing of the 90s Bills by saying they didn't want to be like them by losing the NFC Championship game four straight years, despite the fact the Bills actually got there, annoyed me significantly as well. Also, their owner is a giant tool.

Hmm.. probably will root for the Eagles relunctantly...

Oh well... at least we are closer to the off-season and I can try to get hopeful for the Bills' season next year.
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Orioles Off-Season Woes

It's been tough for Baltimore Orioles fans the past seven years. Since winning the AL East in 1997, this once-proud franchise has had a losing season in each of the subsequent seven seasons. It has not been a pretty sight. I remember reading once in SI that the Orioles had less than seven losing seasons in their entire existence before 1998. The following records show has that Angelos initial improvement of the Orioles has become a disaster:

Year Wins Finish in AL East
97 98 1st
98 79 4th
99 78 4th
00 74 4th
01 63 4th
02 67 4th
03 71 4th

There was more hope this past season when they signed Miguel Tejeda, brought back Sidney Ponson, and signed Javy Lopez and Rafeal Palmeiro. They struggled mightly in the first half, being mired in last place in the AL East but were able to get hot at times in the second half of the season and almost reach 500.

04 78 3rd

This offseason, considering their lower starting payroll due to having the contracts of Segui, Daal and Cordova off the books, it was thought that they would be a big player in this off-season and bring in the players that would bring them over the hump. They struck out on trying to bring in Carl Pavano (signed with the Yankees), Richie Sexson (signed with the Mariners) and Tim Hudson (traded to the Braves). One of the final targeted players, Carlos Delgado appears to be making his decision in the coming week. Many have speculated that Angelos has been tight-fisted because of the new Washington franchise and the negotiations he has with MLB on compensation, and others have put blame on Mike Flanagan and Jim Beattie, the GM/VP duo running personnel for the Orioles. In any event, although the Orioles are nominally in the running, it doesn't appear that Delgado will land there. Without him coming the team, barring some amazing development of their young players, I am doubtful the Orioles will be doing much challenging of the Yankees and Red Sox again this season.

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The left of center columnist Thomas Friedman criticizes European leaders for rooting for American failure in Iraq in order to give a petty "I told you so." As expected, considering his feelings, he doesn't spare the Bush administration from criticism either in this article

I can understand many American citizens opposing the war in Iraq. Looking in retrospect it may have been a mistake at THIS POINT. What I cannot understand is that some of these critics root for American failure there. They want the beheadings and slaughterings of the terrorists there to succeed in forcing us out. They think it is worth it to have some self-satisfaction and something to hold over Bush. This is shameful and inexcusable. It is not unpatriotic to criticize our leaders or our country's policies, but it is unpatriotic and treasonous to root for our failure. Last time I checked we weren't still there to kill Iraqis or steal their oil. We want to get out, but our staying in order to ensure a stable and prosperous Iraqi democracy. So if you are rooting for our failure there, not only are you betraying your country, you are also hoping for more death and misery for the people of Iraq.

Now let me get to France and Germany. Let's assume that they were right about the mistake of going into Iraq. Fine, they get a fucking gold star and maybe can hold their head up a little higher. But why are they not helping in the country right now? To punish us? It's not us that they are truly punishing but the people of the country that they nominally were looking to protect in all of this. It looks like to me that they truly did not give a shit about the Iraqi people. If they did, they would be trying to help stabilize the situation. Instead, they are sitting on their hands trying to feel superior. And if we fail? They will not be immune from the consequences. Terrorists will feel emboldened that they were able to intimidate a superpower and they will have a country of their own to control again. They will feel more justification and more confidence in using terrorist tactics against France, Germany and other European countries for any perceived grievances there. If these countries think that this is war on terrorism is just a war involving Americans, they are badly mistaken. Staying out of the Iraq situation and lambasting Israel won't save them.

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Saturday, January 22, 2005

What Haunts Me

When God judges our generation what will he say? What moral transgression that we have compromised with in our time will be our tragic sin?

150 years ago this country allowed slavery, for most of the time the majority in the North did not care or do anything about it. They simply lived with it, profited from it, compromised with it or thought they could do nothing about it. We look back at these people critically, wondering why they didn't do more to stop this abomination from existing in our union. This I do not decry, but what about us, what tough moral dilemma do we need to deal with? What trial do we need to face courageously? When do we need to decide to act with unselfishly morality? Is it abortion, poverty, tyranny ?

I am not sure of which of these issues we need face in such a way. I do know, though, that too often I see opinions on these issues being based on blatant self-interest rather than on true morality. Too often it seems that we take the easy way with these things. What benefits me the most? What is the status quo? What gets me laid?

Sometime in the future, I am certain that new generations will look at some of our sins and our wrongs and wonder how we could have tolerated such injustice and immorality. Maybe the ultimate judge will wonder as well.

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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Bush Protestors

I could write a long essay about this.. but let me just give me a brief statement.

Over the past year, I have read content from left-leaning web-sites, watched Fahrenheit 9-11 and listened to many rants and songs savaging Bush. I have become numb to it all, but curious about some aspects of this stuff nonetheless. Bush is Hitler, Bush is the number one terrorist, Bush lied, Bush attacked Iraq out of greed, Bush is a tool of the Saudi royal family, the Pentagon wasn't actually hit with a plane etc. ad nauseum. Three loaded questions to ask from this. Do they think that exaggerating the perceived sins of Bush to such a gross degree with falsehood and hyperbole actually convinces people to join their side or do they simply not care that they just polarize the other side? Are they so afraid that they lack a true command of facts or any sort of rhetorical skill that they have to fall back to personal attacks?** Do they care that they lose so much creditability when they talk in this way that people are tuning them or their more reasonable allies make any legitimate complaint of the Bush Administration?

Now I know this seems like a straw-man that I am creating here and the Left does not have a monopoly on irrational zealotry, but who are the vocal ones on that side? Who are the ones who dominate the opposition nowadays? I can find plenty of well-reasoned folks on the left-leaning side including many friends but their voices are just being drown out by these kind of people and I wonder why there isn’t more down to denounce these kind of people. (And no I am not trying to suggest curtailing freedom of speech, last time I checked, freedom of speech meant you could criticize others who criticize those in power as well).

When you take a step-back do you think that party affliation determines the level of your morality or whether you are evil or not? Do you think that one party affiliation really has monopoly on the Truth? I personally have my doubts...

So to end all this, three things: a hastily written missive from Historian Victor David Hanson, Peggy Noonan's critical take on the inaugurationspeech and also a link to an article very germane to what was said today:

“This is the first time that an American president has committed the United States to side with democratic reformers worldwide. The end of the cold war has allowed us such parameters, but the American people also should be aware of the hard and necessary decisions entailed in such idealism that go way beyond the easy rhetoric of calling for change in Cuba, Syria, or Iran-distancing ourselves from the Saudi Royal Family, pressuring the Mubarak dynasty to hold real elections, hoping that a Pakistan can liberalize without becoming a theocracy, and navigating with Putin in matters of the former Soviet republics, all the while pressuring nuclear China, swaggering with cash and confidence, to allow its citizens real liberty. I wholeheartedly endorse the president's historic stance, but also accept that we live in an Orwellian world, where, for example, the liberal-talking Europeans are reactionary-doing realists who trade with anyone who pays and appease anyone who has arms-confident in their culture's ability always to package that abject realpolitik in the highest utopian rhetoric. But nonetheless the president has formally declared that we at least will be on the right side of history and thus we have to let his critics sort of their own moral calculus"

Study on the roots of terrorism...

Peggy Noonan, former Reagan speechwriter, believes that Bush needs to more realistic.

**Note: Contrary to popular belief, creative uses of the word fuck and Bush and throwing snow balls do not actually count as evidence of rhetorical skill.**
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The New Apprentice, First Impresions

So.. I had no idea that they were doing a new Apprentice this quickly after the other one had ended. I decided to watch it....

All right, so Trump decided to divide the contestants into two groups, those with college educations and those with just high school education. He says he wants to know whether pratical experience is worth more than an academic education. Who does he think he is, Mortimer Duke?

Apparently the high school students have higher salaries than the college students despite being of the same average age and IQ according to the Donald. The same IQ? Did he really give them a test or what? What is he judging this on?

This is the first time I think I ever have heard of the phrase "cut by the juggler." Wait, is the same guy who just says that "street smarts" is the most important thing in business. Street smarts? In the real estate industry? I guess it's good to literally have street smarts as in it's good to know what street the house you are selling is on, but it's not like they are slinging crack out there.

Speaking of real estate, why are so many of these people involved in real estate? Is this because that's what Trump does or is it because that's where it's easier to be successful? It seems that all of these people are either in the financial industry, marketing, real estate or are lawyers. I guess producing something of value disqualifies you from being successful in Trump's eyes.

I have a feeling that the chip on the shoulders from the high school students and the superiority complexes of the college students will be increasingly annoying.

Others have mentioned this, but the after the fact voice-overs are really lame. I suppose it would be nice to be able to do that in every day life. You know that zinger you threw at me? Well I am dubbing a comeback after the fact.

Hmm.. that's a lot of jewlery for working at Burger King. You know, I could really go for a spicy chicken crisp.

I have learned that liking viking helmets disqualifies you from running a large company.

All right, that's 30 minutes, I have had enough.


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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Larry Summers Controversy

So the NY Times has begun to get into this issue with a little bit more depth a day after. It's worth a read to get a better picture of what happened the other day at the conference. Basically, he is asking is it strictly discrimination that is keeping women out of the academic positions in math and science or are there other factors as play instead or as well? Do women simply have different preferences whether they come from biological or cultural roots? Do women put a higher priority to starting a family rather than giving all to a career than men do?

I remember back in my freshman year in 2001, my intro to macroeconomics professor mentioned that Summers had gotten in trouble awhile ago for saying that developed countries should pay non-developed ones to take in their toxic and hazardous waste since the preferences of those living in poverty were significantly different than the ones of those in the developed countries. Basically, when you are struggling along, trying to survive, you might increase your risk of cancer, etc. in order to buy your kids some food and some shoes. Those who are richer are willing to pay significantly more to improve their environment as more immediate concerns are taken care of.

The prof loved talking about Summers since he was quite the Democrat and was convinced that there were some smart treasury secretaries under Clinton, including Summers, who were helping the economy flourish.

I was able to find out what I was referring to online. There is plenty of complaining about it. Here's one take on it.

In both cases I think people are getting a little too sensitive and I worry about shutting off debate and discussion about controversial issues and ideas. I am not saying that either positions are right or that people don't have a right argue against them, but it often seems that when someone makes a statement outside of the liberal side of controversy, activists immediately start gunning for the person's job. It creates a toxic atmosphere where people are too restrained to talk about things that need to be discussed frankly. I would argue the same for the controversy about Donovan McNabb created by Rush Limbaugh last year as well.
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Monday, January 17, 2005

NFL Divisional Playoff Round

Well, the Wild Card round was apparently just a lot of sound and fury. All of the top seeds advanced in the second round, no time with a bye lost. Despite the predictability of having all the top-seeds advance, people were probably surprised about three things that happened this weekend.

1. How badly the Colts played against the Patsies. Bill Belichick has a habit of derailing potent offenses. (See Bills in Super Bowl XXV, Flutie in 98 and Colts last few years). Why wouldn't they he be able to do it this time? Many picked the Colts to upset the Patriots considering how their offense was even better this year and the Patriots had so many injuries in the secondary, but we have seen this before. Belichick always has a new wrinkle, the personnel doesn't matter. Nevertheless, it surprised me how badly the Colts played. I had expected that if the Colts lost, they still would be able to score a couple more TDs, apparently not... In the conference championship, the game ended up being 24-14 in favor of the Patriots. I wonder whether the difference this time is New England's addition of Corey Dillon who allowed them to grind out the clock on a number of time-consuming drives.

I had to listen to the game on the radio as I was driving back home from NJ, so I missed this, wish I hadn't...

And thus, the pondering of Peyton's legacy began. It even spilled over to the CBS postgame show, where Boomer Esiason's blindside line -- 'He is this generation's Dan Marino' -- caused Marino to fix Boomer with a Pittsburgh Mob stare that ensures Boomer best come with bodyguards for the pregame show from Heinz Field next Sunday. Boomer's bomb at Marino set the stage for some tense postgame analysis. When Marino went to the 'How many playoff games did you win?' retort, I couldn't decide if Marino's 8-10 record, which includes a Super Bowl loss but is more dense with victories, trumps Boomer's 3-2, which also includes a Super Bowl loss.


2. The Jets keeping it close against Pittsburgh. Many thought the Jets got into the playoffs via the backdoor. They started out 5-0 and ended up going 5-6 the rest of the way. If it wasn't for a Bills choke job in their final game against Pittsburgh, the Jets would have been stuck at home. Then they beat the Chargers, which they got too little credit for. Everyone assumed it was just another Marty choke job, when it wasn't. The Jets were just a quality football team that was losing a number of close ones, they finally got it together against the Chargers. This week, though, they should have won another one. They blew two opportunities to win the game before OT and they made Big Ben look like just another rookie. Unfortunately for them, they will have to wait till next year.

3. The St. Louis Rams were completely blown out by the Falcons, when most thought it would be somewhat close and a few had picked them to upset. There goes my dream of an 8-8 team in a Super Bowl since this was coupled with a Vikings lost on Sunday.

Leading up to this week, Tuesday Morning Quarterback (Gregg Easterbrook), had pointed out the exceedingly high winning percentage that teams with a bye have in divisional playoff games.

These points against gambling made, are you still looking for a sure thing? Try the home teams in the NFL divisional round this weekend. Home teams in the NFL divisional round are the surest sure thing in sports. Since the current playoff formation was adopted in 1990, home teams in the divisionals are 45-11, an .803 winning figure. The home teams have just finished a bye week and relaxing in hot tubs as their opponents are out in the cold while being pounded. Usually the reason the home teams had byes in the first place is that they are better than the wild-card round teams. Home teams dominate the NFL divisionals, so check-mark them in your office pool. You don't even need to know which team is playing! Just go for the home team in the divisional round. A week later at the championship round, the home advantage dissipates. Since 1990, home teams in conference championships are 16-12, a .571 winning figure. That is nearly identical to the rate at which home teams win all games: During the 2004 regular season, home teams went 145-111, a .566 winning figure. At the championship round, nobody's had the previous week off and the Super Bowl is just one "W" away. Players leave everything on the field at championship contests. So at the next step the home team won't necessarily be the favorite.


His prediction proved right.

Going into the playoffs I had originally picked a Colts/Falcons Super Bowl. I thought picking the top seeds was too easy and I just felt that these were the most explosive teams and therefore had a good shot of making noise. Obviously, this matchup is no longer possible. So I am revising...

AFC Championship: Patriots 23, Steelers 10
NFC Championship: Falcons 24, Eagles 20

I cannot think of the last time that both home teams lost in the championship games in one year. I believe in Super Bowl 27 in the 92 Season, the Bills beat the Dolphins in Miami and the Cowboys beat the 49ers in San Francisco, but I cannot remember any time after that...

So it doesn't happen often, but I don't buy Philly without TO and I don't buy the Steelers with or without Big Ben. I am hoping for a Steelers-Falcons SB, but I am afraid the hated-Patriots will be on their way to another trophy after all.
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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Myth of the China Market

So a couple of articles recently have put some doubt as to whether or not our relationship with China is really that beneficial.


Here's a study by a partisan group about the job losses potentially cause by our trade with China.


On Sunday, the New York Times Magazine has done an article about how China has no respect for intellectual property and that trade my be severely damaging companies that deal with it. Think about our strongest companies, high tech and biotech. These have the most to lose in this situation.

Since the early 1900s, people have been salivating about China's large population and all those consumers. Yet, it is hard to see much in the way of payoff for being involved with them. I am a believer in free trade and think it almost always is mutually beneficial. The exception is when one of the countries, China, cheats the other countries out of its innovation and artificially pumps up its currency.

The only benefit we seem to get from our relationship with China is that they are so dependent on us economically they haven't been as bellicose as they could be considering the strength of their military. Cheap goods may be nice, but there are plenty of cheap areas of production outside of China to pick up the slack if we weren't trading with them.

It also seems somewhat hypocritical that we have this strong economic relationship with a corrupt, deceitful, oppresive regime in China but refuse to deal with a perhaps less oppressive regime in Cuba. I think we all know the reasons for this, but we shouldn't forget the inconsistency just because we can see the political expediency in acting this way.
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Monday, January 10, 2005

Iraqi Invasion Hindsight

The New York Times has an article on plans being drawn up on disengagement on Iraq.

This part of the article intrigued me:

"In classified strategy sessions, other administration officials say they are asking whether the sheer size of the American force, now 150,000 troops, is fueling the insurgency."

This is something I have been wondering myself lately. It could be that there is simply not enough troops there to keep the peace, but I wonder whether let's say we could double it, whether that would do much good. Troops can only guard so much. At some level they just become more terrorist targets. There's an underground in Iraq that is the real problem here. I wonder if more highly trained smaller groups of soldiers would handle the insurgency better. Changing the kind of troops in Iraq might allow both a lowering of the presence and also a more effective means at attacking the insurgency. Insurgencies are usually beat by dirty tactics, I don't know if our current troop deployments can do that.

It's interesting. If you went back five years ago and asked strategists whether it would be easier to occupy Afghanistan or Iraq, I believe most would say Afghanistan would be the more difficult one to control based on recent history. Yet, right now, Afghanistan is the more manageable situation. Perhaps it is because our expectations of success are so much different for that country. The Neocon argument for invading Iraq is that building a stable democracy there could then cause dominoes to fall in the other countries, hopefully improving the lifes of those living there and those reducing the use of terrorism. If we leave Iraq without a better country there, then the whole thing will be a failure. Not so the case with Afghanistan. There, as long as the terrorists have a harder time functioning (they basically had free rein in that country before 9/11) that operation was a success.

I think that if we were to invade Iraq all over again, that instead of trying to build a new society and government there basically from scratch, we should have just put in a more liberal dictator in. Hopefully, in that case, gradual change would occur with better results. See South Korea and Taiwan....

At this point, what I think Iraq needs is a Putin type character to take control. Basically someone who is strong and can lead the country forward even though he might have limited autocratic tendencies. At the moment, I don't believe Alwawi is that guy. There's always the hope that the elections will bring this sort of person to their fore....
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Thursday, January 06, 2005

Another Faithless Elector

Lost by many in the hoopla over the 2000 election, was the fact that there was a faithless elector, i.e. an elector who votes for a candidate other than the one her state chose, or someone who abstains from voting at all. In 2000, it was a DC elector who declined to vote for Gore out of protest of DC's lack of representation in Congress. If you have been to DC, I am sure you have seen those license plates...

Well one of Minnesota's electors apparently voted for John Edwards rather than John Kerry for president, cutting Kerry's total to 251. This time, though, reports indicate that it may have been an unintentional mistake caused by having two Johns on the Democratic ticket. (Note that Edwards got all 10 votes for VP indicating that someone voted for him twice).

I have mixed feelings about the Electoral College as I think it's unfortunate that the popular vote doesn't win out but I think it's important that candidates are able to carry a wide coalition of states to win. Besides, the small states will never approve the amendment needed to change things. What I do think should be done, though, is the removal of actual human electors. Perhaps, small states would go along with this. If someone wins a state, have the states electoral votes automatically be officially counted in the candidate's total. Skip this ceremonial voting by the electors. Nothing bad has come of it yet, just interesting stories, but one of these days it may change the course of an election.
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Some Interesting Opinions...

Are we a republic or a democracy? Walter Williams weighs in.

Of course, Fareed Zakaria made a book about a similar issue that is a good read. Here's the NY Times review of the book.

Speaking of older articles and books that people might find interesting... Harvard Prof Alberto Abadie did an interesting study on the relationship between freedom, poverty and terrorism. The results are worth a look.


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If Only Arnold Ran New York State...

So it looks like Gov. Schwarzeneggar is trying to enact redistricting reform in California. It would be nice if they did this in New York State so there could be some real accountability for those in the Senate and Assembly.

Of course, I think a key thing that we could do in this state is have a unicameral legislature so that if one party fucks up, the voters can easily cause direct change in the next election. The status quo blows and I argue it's one of the reasons why the upstate economy is so bad.
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No LA Colts...

I saw this earlier in TMQ, but I thought I would get more details on my own. Apparently the Indianapolis Colts extended their lease for another 30 years. The Fort Wayne Post Gazette gives the details...

I suppose this puts the kibosh on the real possibility of the Colts being the team that makes the move to fill the hole in the 2nd largest media market. This is bad news for me on two fronts. First, since the Colts aren't going to move, this increases the likelihood that the Bills will be the one to move. Their lease lasts a little bit longer, but the NFL WANTS a team in LA and they don't care if putting one there means moving it from a smaller market. Buffalo really is one of the smallest and getting smaller. The upstate NY economy sucks and less and less of each generation stays around. It wouldn’t surprise me if LA Bills rumors start back up in the near future.

Also, I think it's lame that the Colts name is in Indianapolis in the first place. For all the bitching by Browns fans, Baltimore was the originally most-screwed city by franchise movement. There was little public outcry, and the commissioner didn't step in and say we need to expand back to Baltimore with a new Colts like they did for the Browns. Nope, they just didn't have a team for 10-11 years. Now they have a new team, but I bet if you asked most of the people in the town, they will say they would much prefer to have the Colts name back. A move to LA might have facilitated this happening.
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Wednesday, January 05, 2005

I didn't really find this skit to be funny when I actually saw it on TV, but for some reason the text of the skit really cracked me up this morning

Christopher Walken has to be one of the best SNL hosts there has been. Many good actors, like Deniro, mail it in when they come on. Walken may mail it in as well, but he's actually funny while he does it.

By the way, this originally aired in 1999.
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Vet School Application Links Project

So, while I was at work, and have absolutely nothing to do. Oh wait, that's like all the time. But anyway, this particular time I was bored at work, I decided to start a little side project. It's basically a crappily made web site, done on Word, that is trying to collect all the decent information out there on Vet School applying and put it in one place.

When I was considering whether or not to apply for grad school in Economics, the site, EconPHD.net was a big help, so I thought I would try to mirror it in some small way. It's housed on Geocities now at http://www.geocities.com/qddvmguide.

If you know anything about the admissions process for Vet School or know of good links, please just send me some info. You know how to reach me....
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Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Tsunami Donations

Two good editorials on the controversy over the Tsunami Donations. One on the left side of the spectrum and one on the right.

On the left, New York Times editorialist Nicholas Kristof. You can read the entire column here, but I thought this point was worth considering:

The 150,000 or so fatalities from the tsunami are well within the margin of error for estimates of the number of deaths every year from malaria. Probably two million people die annually of malaria, most of them children and most in Africa, or maybe it's three million - we don't even know.

But the bottom line is that this month and every month, more people will die of malaria (165,000 or more) and AIDS (240,000) than died in the tsunamis, and almost as many will die because of diarrhea ( 140,000).

And that's where we're stingy.


And David Frum, author of the now somewhat infamous Axis-of-Evil phrase, addresses attacks on inauguration spending in the wake of the tragedy.

My humble opinion on any of the Tsunuami controversy is the following. I certainly am impressed with the out-powering of support that people have given the victims of this tragedy. The terrible and sudden magnitude of the tragedy is awful. It's unfortunate, though, that we haven't been doing more to address the everyday suffering of those living in the poorest of countries as much....

However, I am annoyed by the hypocrisy of some who criticize spending on this or that instead of using the money to help the victims of the tragedy. You could skip your hooker visit this week and send that 200 bucks to the Red Cross, but you aren't. You ain't selling your sweet new laptop for OxFam either. I also am not sure I think it's right that we expect our government to take care of our charity. How charitable is it to just exhort others to do their share? Why not make some sacrifice yourself? Well we all are greedy, selfish and hypocritical in our own way. I know I am.

Anyway, enough preaching.
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