Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Ten Commandments

OK, so the Supreme Court has confused us on what it's stand is on the Ten Commandments. It's OK as long as it's purpose is not to promote religion (and who exactly makes that call?) Well, I looked up the Ten Commandments, and here is what I came up with:
The ten statements
1. "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt..."
2. "You shall have no other gods besides Me...Do not make a sculpted image or any likeness of what is in the heavens above..."
3. "You shalt not swear falsely by the name of the Lord..."
4. "Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy"
5. "Honor your father and your mother..."
6. "You shall not murder"
7. "You shall not commit adultery"
8. "You shall not steal"
9. "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor"
10. "You shall not covet your neighbor's house..." (in Exodus, the text reads "... neighbour's house, ... neighbour's wife, nor his manservant..." etc. while in Deuteronomy, "thy neighbour's wife, ... thy neighbour's house, his field" etc.)

OK, let's go through these. (1) is a direct violation of Church and State, since people not of Judeo-Christian faiths do not believe it. Ditto with (2), which conflicts with my Hindu faith. Also, I'm curious what I am supposed to imply about the quality of justice I can expect from the court if I have happened to commit adultry. These stipulations are great for individuals, but I believe out of place in a secular court. What purpose do they serve, other than for Evangelicals to feel they have fought for their faith? (Incidentally, one of the drivers in the 10C movement is supposed to be (6), which they then want to use to ban abortion!)

Eminent Domain

OK, so I've been slacking off posting my views on many political topics, in part because I've been quite busy. But an e-mail from a friend pricked my blog consciousnes, so here are my two cents on recent Supreme Court decisions (this and the next post)

As you may know, the Supreme Court ruled that local goverments can seize personal property for private development. They could always get your property for building a new highway, but now they can force you to sell your property for the new mall or stadium. This is an outrage, and is un-American! Being an immigrant from a country where bureaucrats have far-reaching powers, I know all too well of the opportnuties for abuse. Why does the court insist on sabotaging our rights?

On a related note, do read about musician Ry Cooder, of 'Beuna Vista Social Club' fame, talking about his new project, Chavez Ravine, which highlights this precise abuse of power.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Greenspan on US-China Trade

On a friend's recommendation, I watched Greenspan's testimony before the Senate Finance Committee on US-China trade relations. Folks, if you want to watch the Maestro in action, this is as good as any. The link to the C-Span video, at the time of this message, is here. (The date of the video is June 24, 2005). While silly politicians focus on misleading the public, Greenspan argues why tarrifs on Chinese imports will not help US jobs industry. It was quite revealing to listen to his wonderful exposition on the nature of the relationship, as well as his wit. I would recommend "fast-forwarding" the meaningless speil of the politicians and go straight to the Greenspan testimony and then Q&A.

Wake up to Reality!

This story really had me chuckling, because of the suggestion from one esteemed professor that universities should de-link from the market, and strive to avoid a pay difference between an engineering professor and an English professor. Wake up and smell reality... any idea that suggests ignoring the marketplace violates basic economic principles, and is destined to FAIL HORRIBLY!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Two Great Blogs and One Super Site

OK, here are 2 blogs I love:

Postsecret is a fantastic idea - it's a project where people send in anonymous postcards sharing secrets they haven't told anyone else. Some seem so freaky, you almost wonder if they are real!

Chromasia is a wonderful photo blog. The pictures are breathtaking, and if you read the comments, you will get more details about the exposure, film, etc.

But my favorite site is ...
PhD Comics is a fantastic (make that FANTASTIC!) comic strip by a talented bunch at Stanford, and is a hilarious (and sometimes dangerously accurate) account of graduate school! OK, if you were thinking of coming to grad school, please do not visit this site!!

Truman Show

I watched 'The Truman Show' the other day. Very nice movie starring Jim Carrey. I enjoyed the deep underlying message and was wondering if others caught it too. If you watched the movie, please comment on the movie and the hidden message.

Viva la Honda!!

Being something of a Honda man myself, I found this article about Honda' s philosophy and obsession with gas mileage fascinating. It almost seems unbelievable that any company could be so committed to certain core values, even if they do not obviously result in greater profits!!

Friday, June 17, 2005

Welfare Europe

I received this as part of a daily investment newsletter I get. While I don't agree with all his views, especially on gold, it did make for an interesting read! I especially liked the one paragraph on Third World aid, which I have added emphasis to below.

Dear Friend,

It must pain my Berlin-born colleague to be on the sidelines during a big week for dynamic markets. From Brussels to Beijing, free markets are routing central planners and French socialists. But who will win the war over Europe's economic future, the planners or the Anglo-Saxon market dynamists?

It's great to be in London as the British and the French square off for another round in their centuries-long hate affair. The political match of the day is in Europe. But it wouldn't surprise me to see similar tensions in China by the end of the year. More on that later.

Here in Europe, French President Jacques Chirac is trying to distract the French people from his political failures by doing what any good Frenchman would do - blaming the British.

The whole argument revolves around the complex, arcane, and essentially socialist nature of the EU. France gets big farm subsidies from the EU. Chirac wants Britain to pay French farmers so that all of Europe might continue to enjoy inflated food prices. As an American who does not pay taxes to the EU and enjoys French food, my stomach tells me to side with France.

But as an advocate of free markets, less regulation and lower taxes, my head tells me to side with Britain. The French never expected to be having a debate over the future of Europe. The constitution was supposed to silently impose a massive bureaucratic super-state across the Continent, to be meekly ratified in those countries where citizens were actually trusted with a voice and a vote.

Now that the document is dead, Britain, which takes over the rotating presidency of Europe on July 1, can ask a much more fundamental question about "ever closer union" in Europe. Will Europe be a political union with a common foreign policy, common defense and a common, reflexively anti-American position? Or will it be a federal Europe that ensures national sovereignty in politics and foreign affairs but embraces freer trade and open markets?

The debate is going to be a doozy, mostly because leftist governments all over the continent have a lot to lose. The EU and the euro have not delivered the promised goods of integration, namely jobs and incomes. How could they, when labor laws and restrictions on competition in services remain in place?

Europe isn't growing economically because its political elites refuse to give up the dream of a socialist super-state. Whether their citizens agree with them is another matter. But the clash between the French and British over the European budget is surely just the opening skirmish in a summer-long battle over Europe's future course.

Specifically, Chirac wants the British to give back all or part of its $3.1 billion "rebate" from the European Union. Britain is a net contributor to the EU's budget, the second largest, in fact. But Chirac has shifted the debate to whether or not Britain ought to get a rebate. Blair has linked this with a renegotiation of Europe's common agricultural policy (CAP), which so generously benefits the French.

The entire affair comes as EU leaders meet in Brussels on Thursday to pass a seven-year budget. The EU wants to spend over 871 billion euros over the next seven years. Yet 42% of the annual budget currently goes to agricultural subsidies. That's right: 42% of the EU's budget goes to 5% of Europe�s population, one fifth of whom happen to be French farmers.

If that seems inequitable, that's because it is. France is certainly one of the breadbaskets of Europe. But how do massive agricultural subsidies in Europe, for example, relieve poverty in the Third World? Instead of debt relief, couldn't Europe and the United States do a lot more for the developing world by not subsidizing domestic agriculture? This would allow developing countries to compete and profit from agriculture, and it would lower global food prices.

Of course that would be pragmatic and effective. Much of what passes for policy in Europe is posturing and moralizing, which requires less real effort. Yes, politics is politics, whether it's Washington or Paris. Expect to hear a lot more heated rhetoric this summer. EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson is already calling the British "neo-Thatcherites", as if that were something to be ashamed of.

Will the whole European project unravel? Well, the individual national economies are certainly not going to disappear overnight. But the political bonds could. The real question is, what will happen to the euro?

Dollar bear that I am, I take two observations away from the euro�s recent plunge. First, the dollar is still the world�s reserve currency. It is far more likely that the euro will collapse in the next year than the dollar.

Second, currencies put forth by debt-loaded governments are bad investments, period. The euro's prospective doom is an object lesson for dollar bulls. Debt-backed paper currencies are not long for this earth.

Christoph might not agree with me on this one. But I don't think he'd grudge me saying that the best advice you can take from Europe�s trouble and the euro�s sad state is simple: buy gold.

Dan Denning

Friday, June 10, 2005

Maya, Step Aside!!

Well, I'm back, with my first posting in 112 days!! YOWSA! It's been a personally turbulent and yet very revealing time for me, and so, as much as I'm itching to discuss the horrendous economy of that obese welfare state, Germany, parental rights and many other political issues, this posting shall be about my own personal experiences in the last several months.

I was on a cruise when I noticed the captain executing a particularly sharp maneuver to avoid what seemed like an innocuos little piece of ice. My protestations on its size relative to the big ship we were on, were brushed aside by the captain, who informed me that what lay ahead was a huge iceberg, much larger than the visible nose above water. Unconvinced and sure my life was in the hands of an apparently drunk or incompetent captain, I flung myself overboard into the freezing waters.

Fiction? Well, not quite. In the face of adversity over the last few months, that is precisely how I behaved. Rather than trusting the Captain who charters the course for all our lives, I blinked in tough times and embraced depression, booze and cigarettes. Sled down a downward spiral. Promised never to go to a temple till He "fixed things". Allowed my mind to convince me that things sucked, people were bad, and life gloomy.

Until one day I realized such a life was not worth living. But no, I didn't contemplate suicide. Instead I fought, fought with my mind, refusing to accept its grim prognosis. Fought to hold on to the values I cherished.

In time, I came to learn of things I didn't know of, that made me exclaim, "Lord, you're a genuis!". That He may be. But what about me? I have experienced enough in life to always trust him, and yet I keep getting enticed by Maya, like a distracted saint dropping his rosary upon the call of a luscious woman. This is the only tragedy in our lives - from it springs all else. If only we could always focus on what's real ....

So I'm back from the abyss, vowing again to learn from my mistakes, promising to be stronger and more trusting. Promising to expect less from people, and leave it to Him to guide my life where it needs to be. Can I do it? Ah, that is the big question!

Footnote:The Hindu and Buddhist faiths believe that this material world is an illusion of our mind, refered to as Maya, that prevents us from realization that we are Perfect and Complete, indeed the verisame God that we worship. Our path to "eternal life" then is to quiet the mind and see our unity with the Supreme, to move past entrapment in this artificial world ... to wake up as the One, just as Keanu Reeves had to in the Matrix!