Commentary from a pro-reason, pro-egoism, pro-capitalism perspective
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Monty Python on Intelligent Design
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
US regulations continue to push companies away from our public markets:
Fourteen of the world's 15 biggest IPOs this year were listed outside of the U.S. Non-U.S. issuers have been wary of listing in New York because of stricter financial-reporting requirements, imposed by the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and the U.S. dollar's 30 percent drop in the past five years.
U.S. bankers aren't making it any easier. They have held the average fee steady at about 6.7 percent of the amount of the IPO since 2002, while European bankers charge about 3.2 percent, Bloomberg data show.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Froth in the Chinese Stock Market
This article provides a few interesting anecdotes suggesting that the chinese stock market is short-term overbought and getting quite frothy:
China's stocks are the most expensive among the world's major markets after a rally that's drawn record numbers of investors. The number of brokerage accounts topped 99 million this year, with more than 300,000 opened daily. Students, pensioners and maids -- many with scant investment knowledge -- are among those who are using their savings and even living expenses to play the market, according to Chinese media reports.And more here, including:
About 10 percent of maids in Shanghai have resigned because they make more money trading shares, the government-run Eastday Web site reported on April 24, citing a local employment agency.
A Shanghai training company has set aside half an hour twice a day for employees to play the market, the Oriental Morning Post reported on May 17, without identifying the company.
When a friend whispered several stock tips to Yan Caigen last year, the investor snapped up 30,000 shares in one of them, a cement company. The reason: the stock's auspicious ticker code, 600881, which contains a double-eight.
"I believe good codes will bring good luck," says Mr. Yan, who parks himself most days in front of a trading screen at a Shanghai brokerage, Shenyin & Wanguo Securities Co. Indeed, shares in Jilin Yatai (Group) Co., the cement company he bought, promptly tripled, earning him about $50,000. Mr. Yan gives credit for the performance to the two "8s" in the stock's numeric ticker symbol, which he considers a lucky combination.
Part superstition and part self-fulfilling prophecy, numerology is a basic trading strategy in China. The philosophy reflects the widespread belief in Chinese society that numbers contain clues to good fortune.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Protecting Us from Ourselves
This blurb appeared in May 10th's Wall Street Breakfast at SeekingAlpha:
L.A. "alternative investment" firm Oaktree Capital Management LLC announced it will raise nearly $700 million in an offering -- but the shares will trade on a private market constructed by Goldman Sachs rather than on a public exchange. Oaktree will sell roughly 13% of itself for $40-44 a unit. The new market, to be called "GS Tradable Unregistered Equity OTC Market," or GSTrUE, will be accessible only to institutions and sophisticated investors, and Oaktree will be its first issue. By offering shares on GSTrUE, Oaktree will sidestep the regulatory oversight that accompanies public share offerings. In addition, shareholders, unlike those of companies whose shares trade on public markets, will have almost no say in how the company's business is conducted. Oaktree has assets worth approximately $42 billion. Fortress Investment Group was the first hedge fund to go public in January, and private investment firm the Blackstone Group has an IPO pending. "We expect that many of our most significant competitors will soon become public," wrote Oaktree founders Howard Marks and Bruce Karsh in the offering memo. "...Choosing not to do likewise would put us at a major disadvantage."My guess is that we will see more and more of these types of trading vehicles and exchanges which, thanks to regulation, are forced to exclude most small investors. In fact, this is the only possible result of regulation intended to protect people from themselves, since regulators obviously can't make people more knowledgeable or self-reliant, they can only provide "protection" by eliminating their choices and opportunities (in this case ensuring that small investors remain small and poor).
Of course investors have always had the choice NOT to invest in something they didn't understand, but now even if they do their homework they're prohibited from acting on their knowledge and trying to improve their own situation. And similar arguments hold in all such cases, e.g. when the FDA decides how much risk a dying person can take with his own life and body, or when the government forbids you to invest your own social security funds, or when the FCC decides that you can’t listen to profanity, etc. etc. In all such cases you already had the choice to do what the government now mandates, i.e. you could decide not to try an experimental drug, or to hand your retirement accounts over to a financial advisor, or to turn your radio or tv off -- but with regulation you no longer have any other choice, even if with all things considered, you deem it best for your life to do something different than the all-knowing government has decreed you must.
It's easy to simply put the blame on regulators, but in reality the vast majority of our intellectuals and therefore most average Americans approve of and even encourage these types of restrictions, so once again, the battle must be fought not at the political level but at a more basic philosophical one, including defining what is the good and why.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Global Warming Doubters
Via Mike comes this article on the increasing number of scientists who doubt man-made global warming. And on a related note, Taranto's take on a weather forecast from Reuters:
More Alarmingly Unpredictable Weather!
That's the forecast for Reuterville:Temperatures and precipitation in the Midwest have an equal chance of being above or below normal in June, the National Weather Service said in its latest monthly forecast released on Thursday.We blame global warming!
That pattern could linger through August for the nation's key grain growing regions, U.S. weather forecasters said.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Some more evidence that diet alone won't lead to health, only a combination of exercise and diet can achieve it.
According to the data, people who maintain their weight through diet rather than exercise are likely to have major deposits of internal fat, even if they are otherwise slim. "The whole concept of being fat needs to be redefined," said Bell, whose research is funded by Britain's Medical Research Council.HT ADV
Without a clear warning signal — like a rounder middle — doctors worry that thin people may be lulled into falsely assuming that because they're not overweight, they're healthy.
Experts have long known that fat, active people can be healthier than their skinny, inactive counterparts. "Normal-weight persons who are sedentary and unfit are at much higher risk for mortality than obese persons who are active and fit," said Dr. Steven Blair, an obesity expert at the University of South Carolina.
For example, despite their ripples of fat, super-sized Sumo wrestlers probably have a better metabolic profile than some of their slim, sedentary spectators, Bell said. That's because the wrestlers' fat is primarily stored under the skin, not streaking throughout their vital organs and muscles.
The good news is that internal fat can be easily burned off through exercise or even by improving your diet. "Even if you don't see it on your bathroom scale, caloric restriction and physical exercise have an aggressive effect on visceral fat," said Dr. Bob Ross, an obesity expert at Queen's University in Canada.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Epidendrum 'Eternal Snow'
Friday, May 11, 2007
Crossfit Rest Day Links
A couple of links via today's crossfit rest day post. First some incredible gymnastics (they call it sports acrobatics) in the style of cirque du soleil tricks. I really love this stuff! Second, and totally unrelated, an article on the politicization of science by the IPCC (which I haven't yet read, but on a cursory glance looks worthwhile).
Update: I guess this should serve as a lesson to me to read any article before posting it! The Spiegel article is a disaster (as commenters have already noted) and I apologize for even having posted here.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
EconTalk with John Allison
Theocracy Watch: The Re-emergence of Religion in Europe
Dr. Leonard Peikoff, in his excellent 2004 DIM Hypothesis course, warns that the revival and rise of religion is inevitable given the current philosophical state of the world, culminating eventually in theocracy and a new dark ages. From time to time I'll post some of the signs and indications of this rise.
Here are some excerpts from a page one story in the WSJ from 4/12/07 (available at wsj.com, subscribers only), headlined "THE NEW CRUSADERS: As Religious Strife Grows, Europe's Atheists Seize Pulpit":
Passive indifference to faith has left Europe's churches mostly empty. But debate over religion is more intense and strident than it has been in many decades. Religion is re-emerging as a big issue in part because of anxiety over Europe's growing and restive Muslim populations and a fear that faith is reasserting itself in politics and public policy...
..."The battle over religion is restarting. It is going to be a difficult one," says Terry Sanderson, president of Britain's National Secular Society...
...Both atheists and their foes agree on one thing: God -- declared dead over a century ago by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche -- is making a comeback, at least as a focus of controversy. "Faith is on the public agenda in a way that is unprecedented in recent times," proclaimed the founding manifesto of Theos, a new British-based Christian think tank....
...Secular Europeans voice dismay at American religiosity and worry that faith-based reasoning is spreading in Europe, too....
...There is also deep suspicion of Poland, a devoutly Catholic new member of the European Union. Its deputy education minister late last year urged the teaching of creationism, the Bible-inspired alternative to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution...
...The most potent force driving activist atheism is concern that Islam, Europe's fastest-growing religion, is jeopardizing the principles of the Enlightenment -- and emboldening other religions to raise their voices, too, and re-fight old battles...
...Muslim activism is encouraging other faiths to be more assertive. University of London professor Anthony Grayling cites violent protests by British Sikhs that forced the cancellation of a play in Birmingham in 2004, and Christian protests against the television broadcast of a London opera that featured Jesus dressed in diapers. Christians and Muslims both campaigned vigorously, but without success, to torpedo elements of a new British law that bans discrimination against homosexuals. Such faith-based agitation, says Mr. Grayling, threatens a "dark ages for free enquiry and free speech."
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Muslims at UCI
LGF has coverage of the Muslim organization's vile demonstrations at the college closest to me, UCI. See minute 2:28 remaining for an instance of explicit death worship and 0:44 for threats of "another 9/11". Here is a letter condemning the campus events and the UC's implicit endorsement of them (for example by allowing their name as part of the events).
Why Gus Van Horn Blogs
A couple of days ago Gus posted an entry which included a sub topic "Why I Write". I sympathize and think it's part of the reason everyone should speak out to whatever extent they can and in whatever form, and/or support specialists to do it for them. From Gus' post:
Yesterday, my old, but perfectly road-worthy car failed a state emissions test. I'll decide today whether it will be worth repairing it so it can pass or whether I should risk a ticket until I get a newer car. On returning home, my wife (a medical student) told me about a clever way she heard about for physicians to avoid being robbed of their life savings in court. Would someone please tell me why the hell I should have to worry about either of these things?
And then I walked a dog for a friend who is out of town, only to see that nearly every house in his neighborhood recycles. I remember when only hippies and the most annoying busybodies would waste their "nonrenewable" time sorting through garbage and then storing it like it was gold. Now, even in Texas, many communities have "mandatory" recycling, not that anyone needs to be forced to do it any more. Is it any wonder that global warming hysteria is taking hold?
Because the foolish beliefs of other people can easily and wrongly affect government policy, I get to: choose between wasting money on a car I don't want or breaking the law, worry about some parasite stealing my wife's money in court (if the state doesn't turn her into a government slave before that happens), and face the prospect of the generally lower standard of living that global warming legislation will bring about if enacted. And that's just what came up yesterday during about the four hours after 4:00 pm!
Other people think it's okay to use government force to order others around, including me, for purposes that will plainly make my life far less wonderful than it ought to be. I can't just sit here and take this silently. This is wrong and it is hurting me. I must do what I can to put a stop to it.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Eric Daniels has written an excellent editorial commemorating the founding of Jamestown. Included in it:
Though the Virginia Company found little gold and no sea route to Asia, they soon discovered something vastly more important--that economic opportunity lay wherever men were left free to work and create new wealth. In contrast to the rigid class structure and static economy of Jacobean England, America promised rewards based on individual merit. It was this spirit, and not the Puritan belief in cosmic predestination and unthinking duty to God, that attracted men to pursue their own earthly success in the New World.
"Here every man may be master and owner of his own labor and land," Smith noted in one of his many promotional books intended to attract new settlers to America. "If he have nothing but his hands," he boasted, "he may set up his trade, and by industry quickly grow rich." For Smith and the other early settlers of Jamestown, the profound significance of America lay in the possibility that a man could choose, pursue, and realize his own destiny--it lay in a new ideal of individual liberty.
By the late eighteenth century, under the growing influence of that ideal, the colonists began to resist and protest against British imperial controls on their economic and political freedom, which led to the American Revolution. In framing our constitutional government, the Founders put individualism into political practice by protecting individual rights against the claims of any cleric, monarch, or legislative majority. The new nation's founding ideals had emerged in opposition to the religious morality that entailed obedience to Biblical teachings and authority, conformity to the group, and condemnation of worldliness and material success.
Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the individualist spirit born in Jamestown brought countless millions to America, each looking to create a better life for himself. Through the years, that spirit has fostered untold prosperity by encouraging self-reliant innovators like Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie, or James J. Hill. Its legacy lives on in America today, in anyone who believes that each individual owns his own life and has an inalienable right to pursue his own happiness.
Reid Bryson on Climate Change
I enjoyed this article on, and interview with, the celebrated climatologist Reid Bryson. A few key excerpts:
“Climate’s always been changing and it’s been changing rapidly at various times, and so something was making it change in the past,” he told us in an interview this past winter. “Before there were enough people to make any difference at all, two million years ago, nobody was changing the climate, yet the climate was changing, okay?”I also enjoyed the fact that at age 86 he's still going strong. And here's why:
“All this argument is the temperature going up or not, it’s absurd,” Bryson continues. “Of course it’s going up. It has gone up since the early 1800s, before the Industrial Revolution, because we’re coming out of the Little Ice Age, not because we’re putting more carbon dioxide into the air.”
Q: Could you rank the things that have the most significant impact and where would you put carbon dioxide on the list?
A: Well let me give you one fact first. In the first 30 feet of the atmosphere, on the average, outward radiation from the Earth, which is what CO2 is supposed to affect, how much [of the reflected energy] is absorbed by water vapor? In the first 30 feet, 80 percent, okay?
Q: Eighty percent of the heat radiated back from the surface is absorbed in the first 30 feet by water vapor…
A: And how much is absorbed by carbon dioxide? Eight hundredths of one percent. One one-thousandth as important as water vapor. You can go outside and spit and have the same effect as doubling carbon dioxide.
This begs questions about the widely publicized mathematical models researchers run through supercomputers to generate climate scenarios 50 or 100 years in the future. Bryson says the data fed into the computers overemphasizes carbon dioxide and accounts poorly for the effects of clouds—water vapor. Asked to evaluate the models’ long-range predictive ability, he answers with another question: “Do you believe a five-day forecast?”
Clearly what those editors couldn’t fathom was that Bryson simply enjoys mulling over the reasons weather and climate behave as they do and what might make them—and consequently us—behave differently. This was immediately obvious when we asked him why, at his age, he keeps showing up for work at a job he’s no longer paid to do.HT: Art De Vany
“It’s fun!” he said. Ed Hopkins and Joe Moran would undoubtedly agree.
“I think that’s one of the reasons for his longevity,” Moran says. “He’s so interested and inquisitive. I regard him as a pot-stirrer. Sometimes people don’t react well when you challenge their long-held ideas, but that’s how real science takes place.”
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Onkar in the Orange County Register
The Commentary section of today's OC register is devoted to celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of Atlas Shrugged, and Onkar's editorial is the lead on the front page. Congrats Onk!
I came across MIT's OpenCourseWare site today, and though I haven't perused it to any degree, I thought it might be of interest to some readers here. From their home page:
Welcome to MIT's OpenCourseWare:
a free and open educational resource (OER) for educators, students, and self-learners around the world.
Is a publication of MIT course materials
Does not require any registration
Is not a degree-granting or certificate-granting activity
Does not provide access to MIT faculty