Kuta Beach

Kuta Beach

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Food for the Starving

Food aid has been criticized by some. Many believe that handing out food reduces any incentive for aid recipients to make food for themselves. It creates a psychology of dependence.

I have a solution to this problem. Before giving food aid to an individual, measure his or her height with a ruler, measure his or her weight, calculate the body-mass-index (BMI) and if the BMI is less than 20, the individual is most likely starving, which means you give him food. If the individual has a BMI over 20 then do not give him food.

Whether 20 is the right number is in dispute and maybe medical experts may think another number is preferable. Nevertheless, using the BMI is an excellent way to quickly and simply discriminate between the truly hungry and the moochers.

By rationing food in this way, more food can be saved for people who desperately need it. Severe starvation begins when a person has a BMI less than 16. If an aid organization wastes too much food resources feeding a fat man with a BMI of 30, all that food is wasted because it could have saved the life of someone with a BMI of 16 or less.

Saving food means that less food needs to be purchased. This means that more money is saved. More money saved is very important because hunger is not really caused by a lack of food but by poor distribution of food. The reasons for poor distribution of food is mainly political, e.g. wars and corruption. With the money saved from not feeding those who don't really need food, extra money can be put into soldiers, cars, and guns needed to transport the food. Extra money can also be put into lobbying for powerful governments to restore peace in warring areas through the deployment of peace keepers.

Friday, 28 December 2007

The Voice of the Poor

Around about now is the third anniversary of the Indian Ocean Tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people. Immediately after this disaster, aid organizations were swamped with money.

The major fear I have with aid organizations is whether they are doing a good job. There are sites like Charity Navigator that rates charities based on the proportion of money going towards helping and feeding the poor rather than being wasted on administration. This information comes from tax returns. The problem is that even if a charity gives 95% of donations to the poor, the money may not be used well. The aid workers may not know what they're doing.

For example, there has been news that Save the Children built environmentally friendly houses in Indonesia after the Tsunami that were untreated. Because of this, the houses were quickly eaten up by termites and subsequently they had to be destroyed.

There needs to be a way to force greater accountability onto charities. I have a solution.

If you give money to, say, Oxfam to help some Indonesians, you want Oxfam to make the Indonesians happy. The best way to know if the Indonesians are happy is to ask them. The problem with charity or philanthropy is that often the poor people who need help don't get to tell donors which charity they prefer. There is no democracy in the system.

When I have enough money, I will set up an organization. This organization will send people into poor areas. Workers will go around randomly asking poor people which aid organization they believe is the best. The information is then published on a website.

After a disaster like the Indian Ocean Tsunami, workers would go to places affected like Aceh, Indonesia, and randomly ask people questions. On the questionnaire the subjects are shown some logos and names of aid organizations working in the area. The subject then identifies which aid organizations he or she likes most. Once the results are tallied, they are published on the Internet. This allows donors and philanthropists to identify which aid organizations have the greater support among the poor.

One potential problems with this idea is if there is fraud. A worker from Oxfam may dress up as a World Vision worker and start hitting people to defame World Vision.

Hilton Gives to Charity

There are many super-rich who give generously to charity, e.g. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Ted Turner. Now Paris Hilton's grandfather Barron Hilton is donating 97% of his net worth to charity. The move might leave less money to Paris and Nicky Hilton.

The money will go to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. The website says the following: "Be ever watchful for the opportunity to shelter little children with the umbrella of your charity; be generous to their schools, their hospitals and their places of worship. For, as they must bear the burdens of our mistakes, so are they in their innocence the repositories of our hopes for the upward progress of humanity."

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

The Seal Clubbers

I have just read an opinion piece titled Who Will Defend the Seal-Clubbers?

As you can probably tell from the title, the author defends seal-clubbing. He claims that it's okay because there are so many seals in the world and that they eat too much fish. It is okay to kill them then. By not killing them you are dooming the fish to extinction because seals are fat consumers of fish.

I suppose when Adolf Hitler II comes along and starts killing humans because we are using up too much resources like oil then the author of this opinion piece will support the killing of humans too.

Then the author talks about how seal clubbing is nothing compared to the many cows killed for meat everyday. He then talks about China and how organs are harvested there. I suppose if other people do it, it must be okay. According to Wikipedia this is a fallacy, a red herring (see Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right).

Who's to say many people aren't appalled at the actions of the Chinese government or the actions of farmers?

Further Reading:
Protect Seals (Humane Society USA)
Clubbing Baby Seals (Warning: disturbing video from PETA)

Monday, 17 December 2007

Plant Your Own Trees Online

If you feel bad about polluting the world with your car you can buy carbon offsets, which reduce carbon dioxide emissions by investing in technology or by planting trees.

Some people believe that there are many companies out there that take your money but don't actually do anything.

This is why I believe that there needs to be some accountability. What would be a great idea is a firm that carbon offsets by planting trees but, to allow customers to verify that everything is legit, the customers can walk into the plantation themselves to look at their own trees. Each tree will have on its trunk a label with the customer's name written on it.

I have been searching on the Internet and there does seem to be some sites that allow you to do this. E.g. at Rainforest Rescue.

Giving customers an opportunity to inspect for themselves in person I believe will wipe away any doubts about legitimacy.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Santa Claus is Un-Christian

I have heard many Christian say that Santa Claus is part of their religion, and they must teach their children about Santa. This is not true.

Before we start, we must agree on some fundamental things. Firstly, we agree that Santa Claus is a lie. No reasonable adult will believe that there exists a fat man who speeds around the world in a sleigh powered by flying reindeers. Once we can agree on the obvious fact that Santa is a lie, then we can get to the biblical stuff.

Colossians 3:9-10 says, "Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator."

These verses alone state that Santa is sinful. Santa is a lie. Lies are sinful because they go against the Word of God, and hence Santa is sinful and un-Christian.

Some atheist parents agree but like to lie to their children about Santa. They believe then that Christian children should not be taught to give away this secret to other children and spoil Christmas for the atheist children. But the bible says otherwise.

Matthew 18:15 says, "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over."

James 5:19-20 says, "My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins."

Some Christians agree that lying is sin but they reason that we are all sinners and that we are not perfect. They also say that Jesus is forgiving and that Christians will be forgiven of our sins. This is not true. Consider Hebrews 10:26-27, which says, "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God."

Sure, sin is tempting, but we must try not to sin. Imagine if you're a woman and your husband saw a sexy girl and thought to himself, "I know I shouldn't sleep with her, but we all sin so never mind, I'll just sleep with her."

Some say that Christianity promotes love, faith, and generosity, which are values Santa teaches, so it's okay to preach about Santa. But Scientology teaches all those things, and I don't think your priest or pastor is going to recommend you tell your kids about that religion.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

The Ethical Hedge

The Genocide in Darfur is very worrying. Over 200,000 people have been killed and several million are at threat. The genocide is carried out by the Sudanese Government, which is funded mainly by PetroChina.

The Save Darfur Coalition is urging people to divest or sell stock in PetroChina (see Divest for Darfur). It is also urging people to get their fund managers to divest from unethical companies as well.

If we assume that the firm was accurately priced to begin with, if many ethical people divest from PetroChina, it would become undervalued and unethical people would spot a cheap stock and start investing in the firm, thereby reaping the profits. Divestment or negative screening then effectively causes a transfer of wealth from ethical people to unethical people.

What I suggest is that ethical people keep their money in PetroChina and buy even more stock. As the firm's price-earnings ratio increases, unethical and self-interested investors will steer clear thereby keeping much the profits of the company in the hands of ethical investors. These ethical investors then donate dividends to a charity that acts against the unethical firm, e.g. the Save Darfur Coalition.

As the unethical company starts to perform badly, its earnings drop, its share price drops, your profits drop, and your donation to the charity drops, and so this system self-corrects. The severity of immorality caused by the firm is proportional to the amount going to the charity that combats the immorality and so you have effectively hedged against it.

The Ethical Hedge, as I call it, can be done not only on PetroChina but other unethical firms such as those found in the Vice Fund.

This idea will work if the charity chosen is effective. There is some controversy over the effectiveness of the Save Darfur Coalition.

Update: Even though I'm Australian, I have been reading up on the American Elections and interestingly Barack Obama invests in the Vanguard FTSE Social Index Fund. He invested in this after divesting from a fund that invested in companies that fund the genocidal Sudanese government. At the Sudan Divestment Taskforce, arguments are made that targeted divestment can be effective. The argument I made was that if ethical people divested, the firm would be undervalued and unethical value investors would spot an undervalued stock and start investing in it. However, would these unethical value investors invest in the stock if they believe that the divestment program would continue to reduce the stock price? Buying stock and then having the price fall is not what investors want.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Rudd Signs Kyoto

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, leaving the U.S. as the only country left out. I think this is a good move. Some people I talk to do not like it. Here are some of their arguments.

Big polluters China and India don't have to cut their emissions by much.
Climate change is like 200 kids urinating into a pool that they all eventually swim in. Each individual deciding not to pee in the pool isn't going to make much difference, but it is going to make the pool slightly cleaner. But if everyone has that attitude, no one is going to stop. Rich countries much stop first because developing countries will literally die if they stop. Most of the energy used in India and China is used for necessities like transport and food preparation. In Australia and America it is mainly used for luxuries. I think it is fair therefore to ask for higher reduction from richer countries.

I also think this should apply for individual within a country. That is, rich people within Australia should cut back more than poor people within Australia. For this to be achieved, I suggest the government tax all sources of energy, from natural gas to oil to coal, and then once this happens we all pay more for energy thereby forcing all of us to conserve energy. To stop poor people from paying too much, simply give them means-tested energy vouchers they can use to buy energy. For example, for every dollar you earn less than $30,000 per year you receive x kilojoules of free energy.

Australia is a small country. It won't make a difference.
It will make a difference. Even a small difference is a difference.

The economy will suffer because businesses will have to pay more for energy inputs.
The economy might slow down if we cut cardon emissions. But consider this. The economy will be boosted if we allow an Australian child sex industry to develop.

In fact, that is a good analogy. In many places all over the world the child sex industry is still going strong, but leaders of some countries have put their foot down and stopped it. It may not make that much of a big difference to stop child abuse in one small country if you consider child abuse all over the world, but it is a difference. These countries suffer economically from the lack of a child sex industry.

If I happen to save one child from sexual abuse, cynics may say that saving one child will make no difference because one child is abused every 13 minutes. If I save one child, another child will be abused 13 minutes later and so on ad infinitum. While this is true, I think it's better to save one child than to save no child.

I read in the news yesterday that, now that it is signed, the price of groceries, electricity and petrol are expected to go up dramatically.
Of course, that's expected. I would hope petrol prices go up because that will stop people from polluting too much.

I suggested vouchers for poor people who will be hit with higher energy bills. This will ensure that most of the cost burden will be on the rich.

Food prices going up may also be due to Americans producing less food to eat because they are instead using that food to make biofuels to run their cars. Apparently they want to rely less on Middle Eastern oil. The price hike may also be caused by instability in the Middle East, demand from Asia, and even the exchange rate. So don't blame everything on environmental regulation.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Is Hair Trade Fair Trade?

There is a piece today in The Age talking about whether the international hair trade is fair.

Firstly, let me say that I hate getting my hair cut. I do it only because I have to. I have to cut my hair because when it get too long it gets into my eyes. Having hair strands stabbing at surface of your eye is not pleasant.

It surprises me therefore that some people are willing to pay money not to remove hair from their head but to have hair put on them! Most people pay barbers to remove hair. Hair is like rubbish and the barber is like a rubbish collection. A person who wants hair extentions then is like a person who wants to pay money for rubbish. As they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure.

What troubles me is that The Age is going on about how hair in Australia doesn't actually come from Europe and that most of it comes from Asia! But wait, what is so horrible about that? Hair is hair. Why does it matter where it comes from? The article then goes on about how they are worried that people in Asian countries, especially in India, China, and Russia, are being exploited. Some children as young as 12 give their hair.

This I don't think is a major problem. When I was 12 my parents made me go to the barber to get my hair cut. Most parents would do this because long hair is hard and costly to maintain (e.g. you have to use more shampoo). It is actually more economical to cut your hair when it grow to a certain length. So if children are going to have their hair cut anyway, why not sell it and make some money from it? Why not? This money can be used to buy education and health products for the kids.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

When Women Complain about Having it All

Time after time we see studies showing that women do all the housework, all the child rearing, and so on. Even career women who work juggle career and family. Every time I see women read these studies they always complain. They complain that the man does not do enough.

What I find strange about this phenomenon is that the women themselves are complaining about something they choose to do. No one is forcing women to cook, to clean, or to raise the children. We do not live in a theocratic Islamic or Christian society where traditional norms are etched into laws that bind our day-to-day lives. We are free to live however we want. Yet surprisingly many women choose themselves to cook, to clean, to take care of the children, and to work. If they choose to have it all, why complain?

Sometimes women marry men who they think are kind people. Then it later emerges that they are lazy men who don't want to do any work. The solution to this problem is simple. Just get a divorce. Some women may not like doing all the cooking or cleaning, but maybe the man is providing so much to the family that she cannot possibly get a divorce. For example, if the man is earning one million dollars a year and is funding a luxurious lifestyle for the woman, then this woman may feel like she has to return some of the generosity.

Some men do not like doing the housework maybe because they think it makes them look less manly. Most women like manly men, so they shouldn't complain about a man who doesn't want to cook or clean. In fact, they should be happy that he is being a lazy manly man. For those women who want a man who cooks and cleans, then it is the woman's responsibility to filter out lazy men before marriage. This filtering out process can be achieved simply by asking the man if he would cook or clean. E.g. say, "Fred, if we get married, will you cook and clean for me?" It is like a job interview. I the man breaks his promise, there is always divorce. In most free country, leaders try to deregulate the marriage market as much as they try to deregulate the labor market.

Friday, 7 December 2007

The Democratic Ethics Fund

Socially Responsible Investments are investment funds that invest in ethical companies. For example, a fund manager may choose not to invest in companies that sell tobacco or harm the environment.

I believe the main problem with most SRI funds is that it is difficult to know what is ethical and what is not. That is why I suggest the creation of a democratic ethical fund.

Those who invest in this fund have the right to vote for the company the fund invests in. What is ethical then is defined by those who put money into the fund. This means that firms, if they want to receive capital, will need to appeal to the people.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Howard's Baby Bonus is Pure Upper-Class Welfare

Tabloid trash The Herald Sun is going on and on about how there is a baby boom in Australia that has raised total fertility rate to 1.85 babies per woman, the highest in Australia's history.

Birth rate increased from 1.76 babies per woman to 1.85 babies per woman (according to The Herald Sun). The Baby Bonus costs taxpayers $1 billion.

One billion dollars to produce 0.09 more babies per woman!

Remember you need 2.1 babies per woman to prevent population decline. Total fertility rate of 1.85 is not even close to enough! As a comparison, in Niger the average woman has 8 babies.

Economists at the Centre of Independent Studies believe this increase in birth rate of 0.09 is just random fluctuation, kind of like how the temperate changes over time during a day.

Why would Howard/Costello put heaps of money into something that doesn't work?

Given that this Baby Bonus is only available to a woman who earns over $50,000 a year, this smells like upper-class welfare!

Internet Users Around the World Help Feed the Poor

Link: Fight Hunger Click-to-Feed Map

Feeling cynical about human nature? The link above might help. At the United Nation's Fight Hunger Website, where a simple mouse click can generate a meal for a starving child, you can see in real time through Google Maps where each of the clicks are coming from in the world.

What surprised me most was the diversity of locations--Norway, Argentina, Spain, India, America, and so on. Looking at this is a reminder to me that not everyone is cruel and heartless.

Make sure you read One-Click Charity Sites to see my list of one-click charity sites.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Don't Listen to Bogle and Diversify Across Countries

American index fund guru John Bogle warns that you should not own too many funds. He also believes you shouldn't hold international funds, i.e. non-US funds. He said the following:
I am not persuaded that international funds are a necessary component of an investor's portfolio. Foreign funds may reduce a portfolio's volatility, but their economic and currency risks may reduce returns by a still larger amount. The idea that a theoretically optimal portfolio must hold each geographical component as its market weight simply pushes me further than I would dream of being pushed. (I explore the pros and cons of global investing in Chapter 8.) My best judgment is that international holdings should comprise 20 percent of equities at a maximum, and that a zero weight is fully acceptable in most portfolios.
This piece of advice from Bogle I think is a huge mistake. Picking countries, and especially having a bias towards your own country, goes against the point of indexing, which is to capture all returns from the market.

In the same way that you buy an index fund to get broad exposure to the market without having to risk selecting stock, so too investing in many countries gives you broad exposure to the world market without the risk of selecting countries. Why select your own country and not another? Rational investors cannot be patriotic.

Asset class diversification, e.g. investing in shares, property, fixed interest, and cash, can protect you when, say, the share market starts to go wobbly. Your holdings in fixed interest and cash will stabilize your investment. Diversification across countries helps when a shock occurs that is specific to one country. Suppose you live in Iraq just before George Bush declared war against Saddam Hussein. You wouldn't want to keep all your money in Iraq.

Update 4/12/07:
I've found evidence on the Bogleheads forums that Bogle has recanted his old position:
....consider having a large chunk of foreign equity in the portfolio. I'm well-known for ignoring overseas investments--I thought they were too expensive and too full of speculative accounting practices. However, I'm worried about the US economy now--our excessive borrowing for costly wars, an underfinanced pension system and the dollar's weakness. In the next few years, I'm planning to put as much as 20% of my equity holdings into foreign stocks. That includes 10% in developed countries and 10% in emerging markets.
The US economy is not the be all and end all. As I always say, a rational investor cannot be patriotic. Patriotism is irrational. Patriotism should be listed alongside framing, loss aversion, etc as a cognitive flaw in behavioral finance textbooks.

Bogle always warned us to buy and hold and not try to time the market. If we do time the market what happens is when a company is going well we buy and miss out of the gains. If the company does poorly we sell and miss out on the rebound. Bogle seems to have done the same thing with countries. He is country timing! When the US is doing well relative to non-US shares, buy US shares. But when the US is doing poorly relative to non-US shares, sell US shares. Same thing.

Some people love Bogle. I admire Bogle a lot. I am not anti-Bogle. The man is a true financial heavyweight whose advice has saved many investors from the greedy hands of financiers. But I think it's important not to idolize him as a God. When you research financial advice you should diversify across many advisers.

Many of my friends who invests in focused portfolios gave the following quote to me:

"Diversification is a protection against ignorance. It makes very little sense for those who know what they're doing." ~Warren Buffet

Oh, Warren Buffet! The prophet has spoken! Many people interpret this as an argument against diversification, but I see it as an argument for it. How do you know what you're doing? How does your fund manager know what he's doing? If you truly believe the market is efficient then you can't really know anything that the market already knows. So you diversify because of ignorance and don't pretend that you know something.

What if you really think you do know something the market doesn't know and because of this you can beat the market? Well then become a day trader and forget about indexing.

Toys Not Made in China

Many parents have been worried about traces of lead in toys that come from China. Even though the Chinese Communist Government is nominally communist, its economy is largely capitalist to such a high degree that some call China an anarchist society. Because there is so much specialization, it is very difficult to keep up with where which component came from. One city in China specializes in buttons, another city in China specializes in fabric, etc.

Many parents believe they can avoid dangerous toys simply by looking for toys that are not made in China. The belief here is that quality standards in America or Australia are superior to those in China. However, this is not the whole story. Although the dangerous toys were made in China, they were made there by American companies. They were subsequently imported into America for domestic consumers. American toy companies failed to pick up the problem and after the toys were imported into America, Government health regulators failed to pick up the problem as well. This then is evidence of total failure by many parties.

Another difficulty is that many products made in the USA or made in Australia actually use components that are made in China or made elsewhere. Take a good like a car. Even though the car itself may be assembled in Australia, the engine may come from America, the tires may come from China, and so on. Even though the engine may come from America, the components used to make the engine may not come from America. E.g. the spark plugs may comes from Italy, the pistons may come from Thailand, etc. This difficultly is seen in candy manufacture:
Country-of-origin labeling is one thing but ingredients in many foods come from multiple nations—making it impossible for even an investigative foodie to know what he or she is eating. Take candy for instance. Although you most likely won't find a "Made in China" label on any of the sweets you find in the candy aisle of your neighborhood store, it's a given that at least one ingredient in your favorite treat was sourced from China, a former FDA official told a North Carolina daily. Chocolate bars, marshmallows, soft drinks, gumdrops, and chewing gum are just some of the items containing flavoring agents and preservatives such as carageenan, gum arabic, and vanillin (vanilla flavoring) that are Chinese imports.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Perth's Property Boom

At work a co-worker was telling me that she wanted to go to Perth because property prices there were booming. She told me that she planned to move there in one year and that after she moved there she and her family would become "very rich."

I said that there are worries about bubbles in the Chinese sharemarket. For example, PetroChina's price to earnings ratio, which was about greater than 80 suggests the firm is overpriced.

She said, "But that doesn't affect house prices."

But it does. Economic boom in Perth is mainly driven by the Chinese buying iron ore from the Western Australians. Miners, engineers, etc move to Perth, and when they get there they have to live somewhere, which generates demand for houses, which leads to higher house prices.

Ron Woods in a piece titled Mining Boom Teeters shows how well correlated Perth house prices are with base metal prices. He says that the mining boom in Perth looks to be over mainly because of recession in America. What has America got to do with China? Just about everything sold in America is made in China. If the Americans are spending less because of recession and sub-prime worries, that reduces demand for Chinese goods, which reduces demand for the factor inputs that make those Chinese goods, which includes base metals from Australia.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

The Powerlessness of One

My dad, a Liberal voter, claims that he would vote for the Liberal Party because he thinks that John Howard's decision to not ratify the Kyoto Protocol along with the U.S. was the right move. He claims that because China and India pollute so much, any reduction in emissions by Australia would have negligible effect.

He is right. Australia ratifying Kyoto will have negligible effect. In fact, there are six billion people on this earth and if any one of us considers cutting carbon emissions, it will have negligible effect. You are just one individual out of billions.

This then is a prisoners' dilemma problem. If everyone cooperates, we can win, but if everyone expects no one else to cooperate, they don't have an incentive to cooperate and as a whole everyone is worse off.

Although China is the world's biggest polluter in aggregate terms, that is simply because of their massive size. China's population of 1 billion people dwarfs Australia's 20 million. However, in per capita terms, Australians are the biggest polluters in the world. A reduction in Australian pollution would mean the average person would forego luxuries like SUVs. For the Chinese, however, a reduction in pollution may be difficult because the average Chinese is still poor.

Liberal voters claim that each person's greenhouse emission is insignificant compared to the greenhouse emissions of everyone else, and so nobody should bother trying. However, the same argument can be made about voting. Each individual vote from a Liberal at an election makes negligible difference compared to the votes of everyone else, so if the Liberals truly believe ratifying Kyoto is pointless then they should also believe voting is pointless.

What a pity voting in Australia is compulsory. If it weren't, Liberals wouldn't vote.

Children: The Ultimate Luxury Good

I have seen many families whose parents are proudly thrifty, telling everyone just how cheap they are.

The guy at The Simple Dollar, when reviewing a book called The Tightwad Gazette, gives the following advice:
Introduce frugality to your kids (p. 536) If you’ve introduced them to money, frugality is easy. If they want gummy fruit treats, show them how much cheaper real fruit is. If they want juice boxes, show them how much cheaper juice is in bulk even if you buy a reusable container to drink it out of. Not only does it teach the child how to think frugally, it can cut down on junk food, too.
What I don't get is if the mum or dad are so concerned about saving money, why did they have children in the first place? Children are not really necessary and many people happily live without them. Children are a drain on your resources. Having children is like driving a gas-guzzling 4WD. In fact, most parents who have children do drive 4WDs, so that's a double whammy in terms of costs.

If you have children, don't pretend to be frugal. To have children is to be anti-frugal.

Image: Gep

Matthew's Gospel on Porn Consumption

Is it un-Christian to look at porn? Based on the following, probably not:

Matthew 15:11 says, "It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man."

This suggests that watching porn is okay so long as you don't actually mimic what you see.

However, that would be contradicted by another verse from the same book.

Matthew 5:28 says, "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

Monday, 26 November 2007

Malcolm Turnbull a Libertarian?

I hate so-called social conservatives, people who go around telling you how to pray, how to have sex (or not have sex), what you can look at on the Internet, and so on.

After the 2007 Election, the Liberal Party was annihilated by a rejuvenated Labor Party led by Kevin Rudd. Liberal leader John Howard was beaten in his own seat of Bennelong. Peter Costello, who was expected to take over, refused to lead the party. Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, and Brendan Nelson have all expressed interest in the job. I don't know anything about Nelson, so I won't say anything. Tony Abbott unfortunately is a social conservative, a hard-core Catholic (aka the "mad monk") who has tried to prevent abortion pill RU486 from being available. Malcolm Turnbull, on the other hand, seems to be admired by the LDP, Australia's libertarian party:
John Quiggin is predicting the end of the Liberals. While it would certainly be interesting to see a new party form out of the ashes of the old, I don’t think that is likely. I think they will continue, but the bigger question is which direction they will take. Will they continue with Howard conservativism (Abbott, Downer), shift towards the libertarian position (Turnbull) or take the UK Tories approach of going moderate (Nelson, Bishop)? How much influence will the religious right have in the new party? I don’t know… but it will be interesting to watch.
John Humphries from the CIS says the following: "Turnbull has consistently called for lower tax and was apparently a fan of my 30/30 paper. He is friends with libertarians (Peter Saunders, David Russell) who sugget [sic] to me that he is one of the good guys (relatively speaking). He also apparently agrees with gay marriage."

There seems to be some more evidence on the Internet that Turnbull is a libertarian. On his blog he says the following: "I have a little bit of the inner libertarian dog in me."

Further Reading: Liberals and the LDP

Is Christianity Anti-Inquiry?

Many have asked: Is it sinful to doubt or criticize Christianity?
Is it sinful to criticize Christianity?

Is it sinful to doubt Christianity and try to explore other truths?

Is it sinful to attempt to try solidify your faith by opening it up to interrogation, even if by doing so there is a risk you may lose your faith?
Many may say it's okay for a Christian to, e.g. read some atheist books for curiosity, books like Richard Dawkin's The God Delusion.

But I think I have found a pastor who believes that this is not the case. Listen to this guy: Should Christians Watch Movies?

This guy argues that Hollywood movies are filled evil worldly and sinful things (e.g. violence, sex, materialism, etc), so much so that we should not even watch them because they will fill our mind with sinful thoughts, and sinful thoughts can cause us to become sinful ourselves. This idea seems to be backed up by the bible. Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

So if it is forbidden for a Christian to watch movies then why wouldn't it be forbidden for Christians to read atheist books?

A Tribute to John Howard

Yesterday John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia for 11.5 years, was defeated in a landslide by Kevin Rudd.

I have always believed John Howard was deception, lying, and corrupt. But this is politics and perhaps lying is necessary. As John Roskam says, John Howard's racism may be necessary to defeat racism itself.

When economies are integrated in a process known as globalization, there are winners and there are losers. Losers are usually angry and envious of the winners. Bashing immigrants or foreigners is a way these people can release their anger and though focusing on characteristics like skin color or any other characteristic other than money and income, they can feel as if they are united with the ruling class.

When Pauling Hanson came along in the late '90s with a plan to reduce Asian immigration, John Howard could have easily denounced her loudly. But this would only make the losers (or Battlers) more angry and more and more of them would vote for Hanson. Instead, John Howard pretended to accept Hanson's views, so much so that the Hanson voters switched votes to the Howard Government. Under his leadership, Howard ran the largest, most open immigration program in Australia's history, turning Australia into a highly diverse country. People in Australia started to get used to the diversity. Even though Howard increased immigration, only 30% of Australians thought immigration was too high, compared to 70% before the Howard Government existed.

Because of John Howard, Hanson's support waned and her party imploded.

Even as Howard sent immigrants in, even as his seat of Bennelong was filling with Asians, he kept pretending to be racist. In an attempt to mimic Paulie Hanson even further, he had a go at Africans and Muslims.

And in 2007 he was destroyed as the battlers and Asians struck back at him. The very people he sent into the country were voting against him. Howard must have known the immigrants would vote against him but he continued to send them in. This I suspect then was an act of self-sacrifice. Pauline Hanson represented sin and John Howard represents Jesus. Howard sacrificed himself so that Australia could become a better country.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

The People Don't Trust the People?

This I think is interesting:
For one thing, although the Chinese don’t elect their leaders, they trust their government more. According to recent World Values Surveys, 96.7% of Chinese expressed confidence in their government, compared to only 37.3% of Americans. Likewise, 83.5% of Chinese thought their country is run for all the people, rather than for a few big interest groups, whereas only 36.7% of Americans thought the same of their country.
Source: http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/shiller40

Sunday, 18 November 2007

How Immigration Can End African Poverty

Jeffrey Sachs believes the reason why Africans are so poor is because of their unfortunate climate. The country is hot, and this causes problems with malaria, etc. There are also very few coastlines compared to land area, which means most Africans cannot trade with the outside world via ships.

Others believe the problem lies in the lack of institutions, like courts, police, etc. The governments presently in Africa are accused of corruption.

Either way, the libertarian/capitalist ideology provides a solution to the problem. The problem is that the African people are living in an area that is not good. If immigration were completely free then the African people can move to better climates where there may be better institions, e.g. to Europe or to Asia via land or to America via sea. The decrease in the number of people in Africa will lower land prices. Industries will then move into Africa to exploit not only natural resources but also cheap land prices. Africa then will become a new industrial continent, specializing in that area in which it has a comparative advantage, i.e. producing materials.

The essense of libertarianism or capitalism is that there is freedom for economic inputs like labor or capital to move to where it is most productive. Freedom of immigration then is not only an essential Human Right but an important prerequisite for economic efficiency.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Greens Pollute the Most?

According to NowPublic, wealthy inner-city suburbs pollute more:
People living in Australia's wealthiest inner-city suburbs are responsible for more than double the amount of greenhouse pollution than households in less affluent areas, because of their high levels of consumption....

The Consumption Atlas shows households in areas straddling the harbour in inner Sydney and the banks of the Brisbane River in Queensland are the country's biggest greenhouse polluters. These areas are closely followed by the inner suburbs of Canberra; Woollahra and Mosman in Sydney; Southbank and Docklands in Melbourne; and Fortitude Valley and Newstead in Brisbane. The lowest greenhouse polluting Australian households are in Tasmania, in the Derwent Valley, Kentish and Brighton areas.
So Southbank and Docklands are the highest polluters in Melbourne.

However, looking at the results of the 2004 election we find that the people who vote for the Greens tend to be wealthy inner-city people. Only in wealthy inner-city electorates do Greens votes reach double digits (i.e. over 10%).

In Melbourne (including the CBD, Southbank, Parkville, Kensington, Docklands, etc) 18.98% voted for the Greens. In Melbourne Ports (Williamstown, Port Melbourne, St Kilda, etc) it is 14.10% In Higgins (Armadale, Malvern, Toorak, etc) it is 11.35% and in Kooyong (Kew, Hawthorn, Balwyn, Canterbury, Camberwell, etc) it is 12.54%

All the other electorates farther from the city, and even in the Liberal mortgage belts, have single-digit percentages of Green voters. E.g. Aston (4.86%), Ballarat (6.73%), Batman (6.93%), etc.

So what can we conclude from this? It seems as if Greens voters pollute the most.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Review of Anne of Green Gables

Link: Anne of Green Gables (Librivox)

Anne of Green Gables is about a couple, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, who plan to adopt a boy with the intention of using him around on the farm. By mistake a little girl is sent to them. Marilla is not happy and intends to send her back to the orphanage, but after spending some time with the little girl, Anne Shirley (Anne with an E), they decide to keep her. This story, by Lacy Maud Montgomery, is very nice. The main character Anne talks a lot, and she is very vain.

After the Cuthberts decide to keep Anne, the story moves into descriptions of her time at school. Anne also gets up to many antics around Green Gables. If there is anything wrong with this book it is that after Anne is adopted the story read like a journal of someone's childhood. The rest of the chapters are a series of small events that are quite typical of children and teenagers, such as exams and boyfriends. There is not much substantial things that happen. But otherwise, it was an enjoyable book because Anne is a very likable character.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Free Rice Vocab Game



Anyone who is literate should go to Free Rice and use your vocab skills to get free rice for poor people.

Image: Kayray

Fraser on Howard's Economic Qualifications

Link: History Backs Keating's Claim

Many people I talk to think Howard's Liberal Party has stronger economic credentials, but former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser claims otherwise. Fraser was Prime Minister when John Howard was treasurer. Fraser claims Howard produced little reform.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Insurance Against Exam Failure

There's an insurance for car theft, so why not have an insurance for exam failure?

Suppose a student were nervous about whether he would fail or pass can exam. To insure himself against loss of future income from failure of an exam, he can insure himself. If he fails, the insurance company pays him.

I proposed this to someone and they said, "Why do that? Why insure yourself? Why not just study?"

The same can apply to taking out an insurance to protect yourself from car theft. You could take measure to prevent the theft, such as buying a lock or an immobilizer for the car. Even so, any crook can damage the car, and if such a thing happen you'd want to be insured. Likewise, for an exam you can study extra hard, but sometimes there are just random things you cannot control, such as the kinds of questions that will come up, whether you will be sick on exam day, etc.

Someone else told me that if there were exam insurance then someone can just take out the insurance and then deliberately fail the exam to get the payout. But this problem exists in any insurance. It is called moral hazard. Actuaries have come up with ways to fix this problem, such as making the client pay a portion of the payout.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Killing Okay if it Saves Many More Lives

Link: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22694359-2703,00.html

The man who bombed Hiroshima believes what he did was great and noble because, by killing 160,000 innocent people, he forced the Japanese to surrender early thereby preventing a long, drawn-out war as seen in Germany. He claims it's okay to kill innocent people if more lives are saved.

I suppose that means I am allowed to kill that man and then, using his blood and organs, donate them to several sick kids. He wouldn't mind that.

If what he says it correct then it's okay for me to go around killing innocent people on the streets so I can harvest their organs and give these organs to sick people.

This is illegal in most countries because it goes against individual rights. An individual's right to his own life is more important that the interests of "society." Ironic then that the Hiroshima bomber fought for America, the land of the free, whose constitution claims that all men are endowed with rights for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Asian Gender Imbalance Not a Problem

Link: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601039&sid=a9R.dwXkar1U&refer=home

The guys at Bloomberg are claiming that the surplus males in India and China will have terrible effects on the economy. Normally there are more females than males because men tend to die off. This is what we see in most countries like America and Australia. However, in India and China, for whatever cultural reasons, parents prefer males over females, and so it is estimated that in China alone there soon may be 20 million men who won't be able to find a wife.

This all assumes that women will only have one husband, which may be a reasonable assumption. The article also assumes that these Chinese men who are likely to be very rich in the future, won't be able to find wifes overseas. China, after all, is right next to Russia, where many mail-order brides are. Chinese men could find wifes or girlfriends from Japan, Thailand, Australia, or anywhere.

Some might argue that Chinese men will not want non-Chinese women because of cultural differences. But all individuals have different ways of behavior and unless you marry your sister your girlfriend or wife is not going to be very similar to you. But there's nothing wrong with differences. In fact, most people like differences. Nobody wants to marry their sister (almost nobody).

If there is a scarcity of females then the price of females will go up to reflect this scarcity. If we are to apply libertarian policies to address this issue, we should simply allow the marriage market to freely operate and to make it more dynamic and competitive the Chinese government should open its borders and allow for free immigration and emigration, which will correct any excess supply or excess demand of women around the world. Females will move from one country to another to arbitrage their sexual and non-sexual services.

The Bloomberg article claims that sexual frustration from Chinese males will harm the economy. I disagree. If anything, I believe it will improve the economy. Why? Most people (most men at least) work and make money only for the sake of sex. Men make money so they can invest in status symbols like luxury cars or imported watches. With status symbols the men signal to females their reproductive fitness. Suppose females are scarce. This scarcity means they will demand a higher price. Instead of each Chinese female demanding her man drive a Ford, she may want a man who drives a Mercedes. This increases competition among men, which means more work, which means more economic growth.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Tea Preparation as Status Symbol

I laughed so hard when I read this:
In Britain and some Commonwealth countries, the order in which the milk and the tea enter the cup is often considered an indicator of social class. Persons of working class background are supposedly more likely to add the milk first and pour the tea in afterward, whereas persons of middle and upper class backgrounds are more likely to pour the tea in first and then add milk. This is said to be a continuing practice from a time when porcelain (the only ceramic which could withstand boiling water) was only within the purchasing range of the rich - the less wealthy had access only to poor quality earthenware, which would crack unless milk was added first in order to lower the temperature of the tea as it was poured in.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Women's Equity Fund

Link: http://www.womens-equity.com/

Here is a mutual fund that specifically attempts to battle sexism.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

The Artificial Child

I've been thinking about Stephen Spielberg's movie Artificial Intelligence. In that movie, a mother and family buy an artificial child and then desert the child when they realize it is defective.

Like many people, I have a desire for children. I believe this desire is a natural instinct preserved through many generations of human evolution. However, children are very expensive. You have to buy a bigger house, bigger car, pay school fees, university fees, and then pay for costs like clothes, food, medical care, etc. The child can distract you from your job and thereby cost you a promotion or lower your salary because you work less to spend more time with the child.

How fantastic would it be then to have access to an artificial child, a child whose features are accurate enough to satiate evolutionary instincts for paternalism or maternalism while still being cheap and disposible? An artificial child is an area of consumer demand that is so far untapped by business. I suggest building an artificial child.

What will this child look like? The child will be just like a human. It will have a head, two arms, and two legs. Whether this child will look like a human child or whether it can be made to look like cute non-humans like teddy bears is yet to be decided. One thing that I think is good is the ability to grow. The artificial child can easily have limbs that grow over time. Of course, it is probably impossible for a small baby-sized machine to grow to the size of an average adult, which is why growth will need to be capped off at a certain point. The artificial child will not be able to grow to adulthood but will remain a child.

There are three inputs to the artificial child: (1) vision, (2) audio, and (3) movement. Vision is what the artificial child can see. The child has a camera where its eyes are and can see its environment. The images picked up will be sent to a computer. Audio acts the same way as vision except the microphone picks up sound. There will be voice recognition software so that the child can understand human speech. Movement comes from its limbs. Parents like to touch their baby and move the baby around. When the customer touches and moves around this artificial child, the movements have to be received, digitalized, and then transmitted to the computer. For example, if the child is picked up, the baby will have to recognize this.

There are two outputs: (1) audio and (2) movement. The child can talk through speakers. The child can move its limbs. It can walk around, point, etc.

How do you coordinate output and input? What comes to most people's minds is artificial intelligence. However, this isn't necessary. No AI is needed for this artificial child to be lifelike. My solution is to take a real child and then monitor its life. Whatever the real child experiences it sotred into a database. Careful attention is paid to the three inputs and two outputs and especially how output reacts to certain inputs. The aim is to make the artificial child mimic the behavior of the real child. The actions or output of the artificial child will depend on probability and the probabilities will come from the real-life data collected from monitoring of the real child.

Suppose you pick up an actual baby. You do this many times. You notice that when you do this the baby receives no resitance from its feet and arms but it does sense touch on its back and bottom. After picking up a real baby hundreds of times you also notice that, say, 70% of the time the baby laughs and, say, 80% of the time it flails its arms and legs around. All this data is put into a database and stored in the memory of the artificial child. When the artificial child realizes that it is being picked up through its three inputs, i.e. there is no resistence to its feet, someone is touching its back and bottom, etc, then the artificial child will recognize this and then with 70% probability will laugh (by playing the audio) and with 80% probability will flail its arms and legs around.

More than one real baby can be monitored and the data can all be averaged out. The more real babies you monitor the better your data and the more life-like your artificial child will be.

It is important for the artificial children to act their age, so obviously if the artificial child is one year old it will not mimic the behavior of a real 10-year-old child. That would ruin the illusion.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Review of Scribble

I've been playing this game for a few weeks now and I have finally won the whole game!

Scribble is a game in which you have to construct walking paths for little black creatures called blots to walk on. You have to direct them to the ending and stop them from being killed by dangerous things.


Games at Miniclip.com - Scribble
Scribble

Help the Ink Blots get to the finish flags.

Play this free game now!!

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Review of A Little Princess

Link: A Little Princess (Librivox)

I have pretty much no time to read novels nowadays. It's a pity because I used to love reading when I was little. Now that I'm a uni student I find that I just don't have the time. My bedroom has been rearranged and there is no lamp near my bed anymore, so I cannot read just before going to bed. When I walk around with my backpack I like to travel light and so try not to carry around too many books, which means that I only bring the essentials. Furthermore, I find reading tiring on my eyes. I already have textbooks and lecture notes to read, and so reading a novel is like overworking my eye.

I now listen to novels with my MP3 player. I purchased an LG UP3 MP3 player from oo.com.au for only $40 and it's amazing how many free public domain audio books you can find online, especially at Librivox. Why pay for anything when there are so many great free things?

A Little Princess, written by Frances Hodgeson Burnett, is about a wealthy little girl named Sara Crewe. Her wealthy father puts her in a boarding school. Miss Minchin, the headmistress, treats her well because of the father's wealth. But then when the father dies, Sara is treated badly. It's a sad and really sweet story at the same time. I have read Burnett's biography and learned that she herself lost her father and had to endure poverty. This story then is probably an autobiography to a degree.

I forgot to mention that another reason why I like to read audio books is for privacy. A big tall young man reading A Little Princess on the train is not attractive, but when listening to an audio book using earphones, people just assume you're listening to music, and they can't hear what you're listening to.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Vanguard LifeStrategy High Growth Fund

Link: Vanguard LifeStrategy High Growth Fund

One investment fund I am interested in now is Vanguard LifeStrategy High Growth Fund. Its MER (management expense ratio) of 0.9% is kind of high for an index fund, but it provides very good diversification across domestic and foreign shares, listed property, and (although the InvestSMART page doesn't say so because it is not up-to-date) it also invests about 3% in emerging markets.

InvestSMART even says that 70% margin lending is available.

20 Timeless Money Rules

Link: 20 Timeless Money Rules

Here are 20 rules about money, all of which I pretty much agree with. The rules are all illuminated with cool quotes from famous people.

Rule 3 says I should have an emergency fund. I keep about $500 in a savings account that gets about 6% per year, but I find that it's quite easy to withdraw out from this account. What I plan to do in the future is save up $10,000 and then buy a shares ETF. Buying an ETF gives me liquidity so that I can get the money as I need it. It also allows me to keep the money in shares thereby fulfilling Rule 2. I will buy the ETF through a discount online broker, and so I will need a password to log in. I will write this password on paper and then put it somewhere that is hard to get. This artificially creates illiquidity, which is necessary for self-control.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Review of Mortgage Meltdown

Link: Mortgage Meltdown

Because it is tangible, many people have the impression that property is a safe investment. Also, the recent property boom suggests to many people that property will continue to go up forever and that they need to get in fast to ride the wave and cash in. The ABC's Mortgage Meltdown shows that things are not so rosy. The boom in international property has been described by The Economist as "the biggest bubble in history." The lesson to be learned is to be conservative. Don't gear too much and diversify into other asset classes like domestic shares, international shares, emerging markets, etc.

Image: Jory'z Shotz

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Review of Silversphere

Link: Silversphere

Silversphere is a puzzle game. You control a silver sphere and you must find ways to reach a blue pool-like vortex to win the level. I have managed to get to level 16 so far, but it took me 75 minutes to do it. Below are the password I have managed to get so far:

2. Metallic
3. Linear
4. Fortress
5. Active
6. Islander
7. Gauntlet
8. Lateral
9. Obstacle
10. Guidance
11. Pathway
12. Sandbar
13. Patrol
14. Capture
15. Confusion
16. Consequence

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

The Virtues of Child Sponsorship

I've been reading a New Internationalist (i.e. Communist) article titled Why You Should not Sponsor a Child. They say child sponsorship is horrible because of a number of reasons. Chid sponsorship is expensive because of all the letters and photoes that need to be sent back and forth as well as other paperwork. But what this paper ignores is that giving money to aid organizations is not something many people are comfortable with because they do not know how much of that money is going to corrupt politicians or aid workers. By sponsoring a child you get to see the child and see how his body size changes over time (to see whether he is being fed well). You can even visit the child and see in person how the child is doing. This I think is a good way of checking to see if the aid organization is actually doing something other than funneling the money into buying Ferraris. Through child sponsorship the aid organizations are accountable to the donors.

Child sponsorship may cost more but these extra costs are monitoring costs necessary because of the corruption of human nature. Communist is more cost-effective than democracy. If the communist government wants to build a hospital it gets it built straight away. Any objectors will be shot dead. Democracy is tougher. To get a hospital built you have to negotiate with different state governments, zoning regulators, and so on. You need approval from the voters. It's expensive and costly. But it's more transparent. It fosters confidence in the system. Child sponsorship is the same. It is no wonder then that New Internationalist, the communist site, is making this argument against child sponsorship.

This is why I believe child sponsorship is good. If you live in Australia and want to sponsor a child, go to the sites below:

Plan Australia
World Vision Australia
Compassion Australia (Christian)
The Salvation Army
Child Fund

Update 23/12/2007: I've been reading about some crazy ecologist named Paul Ehrlich who believes that food aid should stop completely and people in poor nations should starve to death! What an evil person. Anyway, Ehrlich predicted in the '70s that there would be a massive famine that would hit the world and that millions of people would die. In reality, worldwide poverty went down. The world has more than enough food to feed everyone. The problem is politics. Even if food is shipped from rich countries to poor countries, the government in poor countries often don't care and won't bother to deliver the food. This is another reason why I think child sponsorship is important. Suppose you give $100 to some aid agency. That aid agency may buy $100 worth of rice and then dump it on an airport in Sudan and then nothing happens. If you sponsor a child, that aid agency has to move its butt into the country, into the forests or into the deserts, to find the child so that they can give food and make sure the child writes back to the sponsor. Growing demand for child sponsorship will make aid organizations search for more children.

One-Click Charity Sites

I click on each of these links every day. I remember simply by using Memo to Me, which sends me an e-mail every morning with a list of the links below. When company advertising shows up, you should click on their links to show your support for what they're doing.

MANY CLICKS
http://www.freerice.com/

TWO CLICKS
http://www.povertyfighters.com/

ONE CLICK
http://www.fighthunger.org/
http://www.thebiblesite.org/
http://www.thehungersite.com/
http://www.thechildhealthsite.com/
http://www.theliteracysite.com/
http://www.theanimalrescuesite.com/
http://www.therainforestsite.com/
http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/
http://www.ripple.org/
http://www.care2.com/click2donate/
http://www.landcareniagara.com/

How Wealth Actually Destroys People


"And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." --Matthew 19:24

Based on the graph above, there seems to be a strong negative correlation between wealth and total fertility rate. Correlation does not suggest causation, but we can imagine how wealth can lead to lower fertility. Basically, if you are poor and only earn, say, $5 an hour at work, then taking care of a child for an hour will mean that you don't get to work for an hour, hence you lose $5. For a rich person who can ear $1000 per hour, taking care of children is expensive because that hour you take care of the child could have been spent working.

There are many other explanations as well, such as welfare and child labor, but it seems clear that as you get more wealthy you breed less. Attempts to bribe parents to produce babies in France and Australia has increases fertility rate, but the increase is usually small. Australia's fertility rate increased from 1.7 babies per woman to 1.9 babies per woman after the Government started to pay $2000 to couples to have babies.

This trend seems to apply even within countries. For example, those who are wealthy within a country tend to breed less than those who are poor. Many people claim that AIDS was natural justice by God designed to punish those who engaged in pre-marital sex as well as homosexual sex. This fertility outcome could be interpreted similarly. Wealthy populations who we will assume are sinful because they tend to engage in the sins of pride and gluttony, are being destroyed by God and replaced with the poor people.

Chess: The Subtle Sin!

Never mind the well-addressed question Should a Christian play dungeons and dragons? A better question would be:

Should Christians play chess?

It has an obvious theme, in the traditional White against Black sides, good versus evil. The symbology of the good guys is obvious:

King - Secular Leader, but with the Church close on his side (King's Bishop)

Queen - All the King's secular forces combined into a powerful tool of his administration. Starts at his side, to show His dominance. Straight and Diagonal movement shows the ability to apply to all problems and situations.

Bishop - liaison between Man and God, the administration of the House of the Lord on Earth. Keeps to one color, to show that the church has limitations in its applicability, BUT there are TWO Bishops, one for the Church, one for the Congregation, and between the two of them, they can get anywhere. Shows the transparent MYTH of Separation of Church and State.

Knight - The Special Forces, able to attack from unseen angles, and retreat across obstacles. The 90-degree component seen by many to symbolize the duality of God's Might and Man's Will.

Rook - Portrayed in most modern sets as a castle, examination of early structures leads many to conclude it is actually a church, historically. Either way usually exemplifies a building made of Stone, and "On this stone I shall build a church."

Pawn - All the multitudes of Man, serving God best by stepping blindly forward.

Of course, the Black side, the Evil, has the same components. Considering that the Dark One has his followers and his Bishops, we know what God has stated about False Religions: "As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."

This makes it seem that someone playing chess, especially on the White Side, is acting out a morality play, attacking the forces of Darkness and crushing them under his heel. There lies the trick that ensnares millions of innocent souls every year.

Evil has, mathematically, as much of a chance to win as Good. The only restriction between the colors is that White moves first. In reality, The Good side should have more power than the evil, for the Lord has said, regarding HIS believers: "Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you." Unfortunately, the 'powers' given to the individual units of a chess set are evenly matched by their direct opponents.

Anther problem is the power of the Queen. She is clearly portrayed as the King's wife, but granted greater power and maneuverability. She travels and works independently of the King, if nominally at his 'bidding.' This directly conflicts with MANY biblical verses, to wit:

"...and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee."
"But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God."
"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church."
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing."
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord."
"Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing."
"Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands."
A further heresy implicit in the play of Chess, is that of returning lost souls to play. If a simple pawn makes it unmolested to the final rank of the enemy's side, he can be transmuted to any other piece of the game. In this manner, lost pieces can be regained. The bible clearly shows that there is only one event of importance following an individual's death, and that is the judgement. After that, the soul is sent Heavenwards or dropped into the Lake of Fire. Reincarnation is the devil's idea.

In addition to problems with the rules, certain conventions of game play are offensive to any True Christian that has seen the Truth. It is possible, if care is not taken, to move the Knight in such a manner that the outline of a Pentagram is described on the board, an incontrovertible sign of Satan.

Most frighteningly, throughout most of the game, the mechanism of capturing a piece results in removal of the lost piece. In the final move, of EVERY chess game, the King is not captured. Instead, the losing player lays his King down on the board, mimicking a ritualistic HUMAN SACRIFICE!

Does it still sound like a simple 'Game?'
Continued at http://elephanticity.250x.com/xianches.html

Experts on Home Renting v. Buying

Denis Orrock, the general manager of InfoChoice, crunched the numbers based on sales and rental figures for the average home in a mid-ring suburb of Sydney and Melbourne.

Disregarding rates and maintenance costs for the homeowner, and tax for both the owner and the renter, over a five-year period renting comes out tops by a margin of $38,000 in Sydney and $7170 in Melbourne. However, if the house grew in value by an average of 8 per cent a year, rather than 6 per cent, the homeowner would be in front by $40,206 in Sydney and $47,818 in Melbourne.

The final outcome will depend on personal circumstance, the property you buy or rent and the relative returns of property and shares over the life of your investment.

However, Australia's most vocal renter, IBISWorld chairman Phil Ruthven, is in no doubt about the best course of action. Ruthven says it takes exactly double the rate of household income to buy the average Australian home today compared with 20 years ago.

With average household income approaching $108,500, and the cost of an established home about $475,000 across the country, it takes 4.4 times average anual household income to fund the purchase. In 1987 it took 2.2 times average household income to buy a home, while a multiple of three is generally regarded as affordable.

But that's only half the equation. Using national averages again, the average rent is under $300 for an established home, or $15,600 a year, which equates to 3.3 per cent of the value of the average house.

"Why pay an interest rate of 8.3 per cent to buy the same house before you even start repaying the capital? [Renting's] a no brainer," Ruthven says.

Property enthusiast Edward Chan of Chan Naylor Accountants suggests a better strategy is to buy a home with an interest-only loan. "Interest-only is similar to paying rent but the capital [value of the house] is increasing in the background. It's better than paying rent," he says.

"I'd go as far as saying it's better to buy your own home and pay interest only and use the amount that you would otherwise put towards the principal to fund a negatively geared investment property. It's better than paying down the mortgage - I've done the numbers."

Ruthven says that investment returns are better elsewhere. He estimates the net capital gain on the average house is about 5 per cent a year after deducting maintenance, rates and selling costs, compared with long-term net returns from shares of 12 per cent.
Source: Wake up to a New Australian Dream, Brisbane Times.

With Environmental Apocalypse Near, Reproduction is Futile

If the environmentalists are to be believed, in the future there will be rising temperatures, loss of wildlife, and no energy. The future is bleak. Many people probably don't care. "It's not my problem," is what I hear people say, usually with a shrug. Why is it then that so many people have children? These children will be the primary victims of today's gluttonous consumption. Many parents say they love their children, they want to make their lives as good as possible. But how is this consistent with environmental apathy?

No More Oil at 2057

At the moment most of my money is put in Australian shares and the energy sector makes up about 5 per cent of the ASX200. If energy companies fail, what effect would this have on my investments or my super fund?

On Wikipedia is a graph of US Oil Production and Imports. Oil production in the USA peaks at about 1970 when 9.5 million barrels were made. At 2000 that had reduced to 6 million barrels. Taking these two points and performing a simple linear extrapolation, I calculate that US oil production will end at 2057, which is 50 years away.

If you sell your energy stocks before 2057 and put it into another sector, that is no guarantee you'll be safe because almost all industries are reliant on oil. For example, mobile phones are made from plastic whose production and transport is reliant on oil.

Christians Should Embrace the Terrorists

Link: Should we Kill Muslims?

Christians should embrace the terrorists. This is what Reverend David Murray says.

In his sermon, he teaches that the passages in the bible about the slaughter of Canaanite men, women, and children was an act justified by God because of the sins of the Canaanites. The pastor argues that given the wickedness in today's Western society (divorce, pornography, abortion, pre-marital sex, etc) then we ourselves deserve to be slaughtered and instead of hating the terrorists we should thank them.

"And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them." --Deuteronomy 7:2

Sunday, 7 October 2007

The Internet as Cost-Efficient Education

I've just been looking at Children International. One of the things that saddens me most in this world is child poverty. Many people who give money to these children put money into things like education, but I am skeptical about the effectiveness of traditional education. Kids may go into classrooms with a teacher and not much learning can happen. I believe that the most productive education involves the child learning the very basics of literacy and numeracy before the child is given access to Broadband Internet, which allows the child to learn for himself or herself anything that comes to mind.

Update: Looks like someone has already come up with my idea. See the $100 Laptop by MIT. Also see the Wikipedia article about the $100 Laptop. It will have Internet access, but I don't know if it will be free. I'm starting to want one if it's so cheap because I use a desktop computer and don't actually have a laptop.

Compulsory Euthanasia for Old People

In most developed country there is a problem with ageing population. The problem is that old people suck out lots of money from government funds. We have costs of health (e.g. Medicare) as well as pension costs. The problem is made even worse because developed countries tend to have lower fertility levels, which means less people work, which means lower tax revenue. Immigration can easily fix population decline but it is uncertain whether it has much effect on age distribution.

One solution that will defintely work is simple killing of old people. When an old person is, say, fifty, they will be required to die by taking a tablet. This of course would be very unpopular. Even young people may not agree to it because they would dread the thought of having to die once they grow old.

Another solution would be to take away welfare and let those who can't take care of themselves die. Once against this is very cruel and by bringing it up I am only playing devil's advocate. But many people argue that foreign aid should not be given because "we need to take care of ourselves first." So if people within a country can refuse assistance to those outside a country, why can't those who are capable of taking care of themselves refuse assistance to those who can't take care of themselves?

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Bogle an Active Investor?

Some people have blamed Bogle for being against ETFs (exchange traded funds), many of which have lower management expense ratios than traditional index mutual funds. But I have read an old article in BusinessWeek about how Bogle has most of his money in actively managed funds rather than passively managed funds. See Where Vanguard's Heavy Hitters Put Their Money.

Liberal Party's Nationalistic Profiling

They used it as an instrument of fear very successfully during the Tampa incident, but now the Liberals, in a desperate attempt to lift popularity among a working class that has rebelled against Liberal IR laws, are having a go at Africans, claiming that they will reduce the number of Africans coming into Australia because they were having problems integrating.

First of all, why integrate? Most marriages end in divorce, most people don't save up enough to retire, most people don't get into university, and so on. If you are forced to do what the majority is doing, you are going to turn out to be a loser.

Another problem I have with this idea is that it profiles people based on nationality or continent. It may be that African people as a whole are less likely to integrate, but does that mean all Africans should be punished for it? Some say yes. But consider this. Men are more likely to commit crime than women. Therefore, should all men spend one year in prison? Poor people are more likely to be involved in crime than rich people. Should poor people be locked up? Suppose we wanted hard-working people in Australia. Billionaires are more hard-working than non-billionaires. Therefore, if you are a millionaire, does it mean you should not be allowed in?

Judgment needs to be made at an individual level otherwise anyone can be accused of anything.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Dollar Cost Trading


Link: Dollar Cost Trading

We've all heard of Dollar Cost Averaging but Steve Navra has a trick called Dollar Cost Trading. Basically, he screens out horrible firms from the ASX200 and then uses a secret algorithm to buy stocks when prices do down heaps and sell stocks when prices go up heaps. The traditional buy-and-hold strategy relies on long-term rises in stock prices, but Dollar Cost Trading allows you to make money even when there is a gradual decline in prices. The profits come from exploiting short-term volatility. There is a tendency for humans to sell when stock prices go down heaps and to buy when stock prices go up heaps. DCT profits from exploiting these people's losses. This strategy then requires enough irrational or panicky people around. Once people start to realize that money can be made from a contrarian approach to investing, the profits from contrarian investing will diminish.

Looking at the graph above, it seems pretty simple what is happening. Even though I'm sure Navra will not release the algorithm, you can pretty much construct your own. Buy if stock prices go down at rate x and buy if stock prices go up at rate y.

What really impressed me were the fair fees: "NavraInvest is unique within the funds management industry in their approach to fees: they only charge fees if they perform! The basic goal of their funds is to provide performance significantly above the ASX200 index (for the Blue Chip Australian Funds). Indeed, if they fail to perform better than this index, they will not charge any fees at all. Most other fund managers will charge a fee regardless of their performance (or lack thereof), but NavraInvest are so confident in their ability to perform that they are willing to commit to maximising the returns of investors by only charging for out performance."

Review of The Retail Investor


Link: The Retail Investor

There is a lot of shoddy investment advice on the Internet and on television, and this site tries to give readers sane advice. Some interesting lessons is that real estate doesn't go up that much in value. Recently in the United States there has been a property boom but who is to say this will continue forever? Historically, property prices in America have been all over the place, but property seems capable of beating inflation.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Howard Government's Internet Filter Very Good

When it comes to free protection from Internet nasties, I have always recommended people use K9 Web Protection. The Australian Government however has been promoting some other Internet filters. They provide three internet filters for anyone in Australia to download for free. If you don't want to waste bandwidth you can even have CDs sent to your home for free. The program I tried was Optenet Web Filter PC 9.6. It's like K9 but seems to have more features, such as the ability to set how many hours per week someone can use the Internet. By default the filter blocks nasties like pornography, violence, racism, and some other peculiar things like Anonymizers.

Are Borders Established by God?

Christianity is very confusing. What does God say about national borders? Are they made by man or are they made by God?

Acts 17:26 says, "And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation."

All people are made of one blood and they are divided into nations. God has determined where they will be. He has set the "bounds of their habitation." This is the reason why illegal immigrantion is immoral because a migrant is moving into someone else's boundary. According to GotQuestions.org, "Illegal immigration is the breaking of a governmental law... Therefore, it is a sin, rebellion against God, to illegally immigrate into another country." The article goes on to say the following: "What should the United States government do with all the illegal immigrants that are currently in the country? For the most part, this is not a Biblical question. The Bible does not command how governments should respond to every type of illegal action." But what about this line from Leviticus 19:33? "When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong."

Of course, you would think that if God has established borders and nations then nations like those of Saddam Hussein are established by God and we must observe them and not interfere with Saddam's government. Romans 13:1-7 states, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong." Therefore, if you dare say mean things against Saddam Hussein, you are rebelling against God. Since God established Iraq and put Saddam in power, that must mean that the War on Iraq was immoral. In the same way that illegal immigrants from Mexico going into the United States are not respecting national borders, so too the American Military's invasion of Saddam's Iraq is disrepect toward's Saddam's Iraqi government. Yet Conservative Christians are the biggest backers of the Iraq War!
Of the major religious groups in the United States, evangelical Christians are the biggest backers of Israel and Washington's planned war against Iraq, says a new survey released here Wednesday by a politically potent group of fundamentalist Christians and Jews.

Some 69 percent of conservative Christians favor military action against Baghdad; 10 percentage points more than the U.S. adult population as a whole.

And almost two-thirds of evangelical Christians say they support Israeli actions towards ''Palestinian terrorism'', compared with 54 percent of the general population, according to the survey, which was released by Stand For Israel, a six-month-old spin-off of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ).
Another puzzle is if borders are established by God and not men then why are borders always changing and why is there differences in opinion over whether a border exists or not. For example, during the Korean War the border between South Korea and North Korea changed back and forth. Does Taiwan belong to China or not? It depends who you ask. If God established the national borders, we have to ask ourselves, how do we perceive national borders? We perceive national borders from maps. Who drew these maps? Men drew these maps. Were they inspired by God? Borders change all the time after war. Just as the winner writes history, the winner draws the borders. Border then seem to be the product of men. Which man has more power writes the border. Virtually all warring sides believe God is on their side.

To sum up, the bible says many things. Many, many people are Christians. Rulers want people to support them in war. With enough time, these rulers should be able to cherry-pick lines from the bible to convine any unquestioning Christian about the morality of a particular policy. The lesson here is to always ask questions and to always be skeptical of authority.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Will Christianity Help China?

I've stumbled across Bibles for China. If you're wondering why there are so many Chinese Christians around, remember that China has a huge population and that Christian missionaries are trying to tap into emerging markets. According to Bibles for China, the cost of the paper used in one bible is $1, which means that if you donate $20 to the American Bible Society you will provide bibles for 20 Chinese people. The website claims that the Chinese are "hungry" for bibles.

Of course, will spreading Christianity in China help them? Many agree that the Chinese people are oppressed by the Communist leaders, but the bible's teaching that everyone must submit themselves to the authorities means that Chinese people should not even fight Communism. One of my friends believes that giving bibles to China will help their economy grow more. Why would the Chinese want that? The Chinese Central Bank is trying to slow down growth because of fears the economy is overheating. Furthermore, how do Christian values promote economic growth? Wouldn't libertarian values do a better job? Christian values teaches that you should give money to others and Matthew's gospel says you should not worry about worldly possessions but instead focus on spiritual wealth. On the other hand, philosophies like Objectivism teach that greed and selfishness are good. Of course, does greed help the economy?

Either way, 60 per cent of China is atheist while probably 80 per cent of Americans are Christians, and these two countries will be the two major superpowers of the 21st Century, so rising Christianity in China might help create compatibility in moral values between the two superpowers. But what if atheism is rising in America faster than Christianity is rising in China? That will only speed up compatibility in moral values between the two superpowers. China is highly regulated. Sinful things like pornography is banned on the Internet by Chinese officials. On the other hand, pornography is rife in America. American evangelist Ted Haggard who spent his whole life going on about the evils of homosexuality was caught having sex with a gay prostitute. News from China is not easily obtained, so citing stories here and there is not wise because of availability bias.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Female Subordination and Biblical Communism

I was told in a sermon that in a Christian household the man is to rule. It is the man who makes the decisions. When I asked the pastor why this was so he pointed to the bible, which says that the woman should not speak against the man. Just as the church submits to Christ so too the woman submits to the man. The pastor then told me that the reason why the man must rule is because if the female has equal power then there would be chaos. If any group of humans wish to behave well then someone must be in charge. Wouldn't this then mean that Communism is a superior political system to democracy? Democracy in the household means everyone has a say in how the house is run, including the woman. Communism implies centralized control by the man. Therefore, is communism supported by biblical teaching?

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Using Freedom to Predict Share Market Returns

Most people invest in the country they live in. For someone in a small economy like Australia this can be worrying because of fears of lack of diversification. If you are going to invest outside Australia then where should you invest? One educated guess that comes to my mind is that countries that are economically free are better. If I can find a country that is economically free but has experienced low growth then I can buy shares in that country and expect lots of growth.

A measure of freedom is the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom, and in Chapter 4 of the 2007 Report they go on and go about how the index of economic freedom correlates to per capita GDP. So far so good. This means I can use the index of economic freedom to predict per capita GDP. However, just because the people are rich it doesn't mean there will be any share market growth. Unfortunately for me, Raymond da Silva Rosa from the University of Western Australia claims that the two are unrelated: "As it happens, the theory and evidence on the association between changes in share market prices and the economy do not support such an inference. There are at least three reasons why there is not a strong association between share market prices and economic growth: competition, market efficiency or rather inefficiency, and alternative sources of capital."