Galileo Blogs

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  1. Dae Jang Geum (2003-2005)

    SERIOUS SPOILERS FOLLOW - DON'T READ IF YOU PLAN TO WATCH THE SERIES ****
  2. Dae Jang Geum (2003-2005)

    I mean Objectivism. The only sense that I meant the leadership of America is that if America sinks, it is unlikely that Asia will stand alone and lead a Renaissance, although I wouldn't rule it out. The more I see in Asia, the more I admire, in terms of values and economic achievement.
  3. Dae Jang Geum (2003-2005)

    I am so pleased to see fellow Objectivists pick up Dae Jang Geum. As far as I know I am the one who first introduced it to Objectivists on another forum, HBL, and on my own blog. On this thread I have enjoyed the great still photos posted from the series, and the great commentary. I have only read part of it so far, but I will read the rest. Incidentally, I am just finishing my second complete watching of the series. In some ways it is even better the second time around. I pick up different details I didn't see before, although some of the original, nearly painful suspense is not there since I know what will happen. I find myself telling my girlfriend *not* to mention what comes next, even though I already know it. I gladly try to "evade" (ha, ha) the knowledge of what will come next in order to experience the maximum suspense! Jang Geum is my hero, Min Jeong Ho is my hero, Lady Han and Lady Jung are my heroes -- all of them. And my favorite evil characters are the three members of the Choi family, especially tragic Keum Young. In some ways, she is the most interesting character of the series. My favorite hero, though, is the writer of the series. She is a great Romantic writer. The emotional intensity of the conflicts and the Romantic scenes are almost unbearable. Each character is so perfectly drawn and clearly motivated. We know *why* they do what they do, and every action they take is consistent with their characters. The writer amazingly preserved such characterization throughout the length of a 54 hour series involving dozens of characters. I give her the title "Dae," just like her lead character, Jang Geum. Just like Jang Geum, she is Great. On a separate note, the fact that a culture can produce Dae Jang Geum in today's age infuses me with great optimism. It is a tangible demonstration of why the Asian cultures have risen so fast over the past 50 years. These cultures still need the leadership of America and the rational philosophy that Objectivism provides, but there are so many good values in their societies. Those values made Dae Jang Geum possible, but did not necessitate its creation. That required the individual genius of Dae Jang Geum's author. Three cheers for Dae Jang Geum!
  4. Merciless

    Yes, thank you, for all your stories. I especially liked this one and "Good Job, Mr. Teller." Emotionally, this is the type of justice I want to see in the world today.
  5. Negative savings rate -- How is economy sustained?

    It is the growth in value of homes that has enabled individuals to have a negative savings rate. What matters to any individual is their total wealth. That consists of cash in savings accounts and real property such as homes. Because homes (until recently) have been rising in value, individuals discover that they can stop saving or even spend their savings, and still experience a rise in total wealth. One could look at the growth in value of their homes as a form of involuntary savings. I suspect that if home prices continue their recent decline in value, individuals will step up their cash savings rate.
  6. Negative savings rate -- How is economy sustained?

    The answer is that consumer savings is only one source of capital. The other is cash retained by corporations, which has been growing. Here is a June 2005 paper by JP Morgan entitled "Corporates are driving the global savings glut" that has a variety of statistics showing the rise in "corporate saving". The other source of capital for investment in the U.S. economy is foreign investment. Positive net foreign investment in the U.S. is the flip side of the "trade deficit" that news outlets such as CNN are constantly carping about. So, there may be a draw from savings by individuals, but this is more than made up for by corporate retained earnings and foreign investment.
  7. Would you ever let the enemy escape?

    I am curious when this incident happened. If it happened near the end of the war, I would agree with this statement. That seems like the most likely explanation. Of course, one can't know without asking the German pilot. In a war, it would make all the sense in the world to shoot down every enemy plane, even if it was in battered shape and did not pose an immediate, direct threat. A highly trained, skilled pilot is a valuable thing to the enemy. By letting him go, he may shoot you down in a future aerial battle. As an act of humanity by a German pilot who may have either never had or lost belief in the Nazi cause, I find it to be a very moving story from that horrific war.
  8. California ready to ban industry

    I wish it were so. I live in New York, and we pay even more for electricity than California! Alas, we won't even benefit from that cheap coal power California won't use. It's too far away to reach here!
  9. California ready to ban industry

    Well, not so fast. Higher electricity prices means less money for other life-sustaining uses, such as medical care, food, etc. There is a direct relationship between wealth and health. By reducing wealth, the health of Californians will also be negatively affected. As for electricity prices, California already pays 50% more than the national average (as they have been since the 1980s). With the banning of cheap coal power, the disparity between what Californians pay for electricity and everyone else in the country will only grow wider.
  10. N. Korea Shares Nuclear Knowledge With Iran

    Bush stands by while Iran gets The Bomb. Meanwhile, he pushes for more troops to die in a senseless occupation of Iraq...
  11. Does Anybody Out There Understand Economics

    "Does Anybody Out There Understand Economics, Please Remind Me of Why I Voted for Bush" Well, I didn't vote for Bush. Bush's one major economic achievement as President was the reduction in taxes on capital gains and dividends. This is a far more effective tax cut than a reduction in other forms of taxes, because it directly reduces the taxes on capital. I would contend that a good deal of the economic growth we have experienced during the Bush Presidency (but by no means all of it) stems from these cuts. Unfortunately, the tax cut was temporary. It is likely that in 2010 this tax cut will transform into one of the largest-ever increases in taxes on capital gains and dividends if it is allowed to expire by a Democratic Congress, which seems likely. Bush could only make his singular achievement in taxes temporary while enacting a laundry list of more or less permanent destructive policies, because Bush was a contradiction from the start. He was a "compassionate conservative." That, combined with pragmatism, just made him the second in a new breed of ugly "big government Republicans." (The first modern-day "big government Republican" was Richard Nixon. A "laundry list" of his economic crimes does exceed that of Bush.) So, what is the rest of Bush's economic legacy? * enactment of a major new welfare entitlement, prescription drugs for the elderly; * a permanent major increase in business regulation (Sarbanes-Oxley), and entrenchment of a hostile, anti-business regulatory stance at the SEC and other agencies; * new subsidies for economically destructive and politically-connected producers of energy such as ethanol, wind power, solar and "clean" (read: uneconomic) coal power; * new regulation and subsidies for public education; * new tariffs on steel and other products, and stepped up enforcement of so-called "anti-dumping" laws on foreign trade; * failure to advance the cause of global free trade in recent global trade negotiations, in part due to his hypocrisy on this issue (see above); and * vigorous antitrust enforcement, blocking many economically beneficial mergers. While doing all of this, Bush never once raised his veto pen except on the religious issue of stem cell research. As a result, under his watch, * federal spending grew at an unprecedented rate, resulting in large budget deficits; and * federal "ear-mark" spending for pork barrel projects reached levels not seen in any Administration of either political party. Bush managed to distort the traditional Republican image as being avowedly pro-free market into one that is simply seen as corrupt. The Republicans aren't "pro-business" as such, they are simply supportive of their politically-connected business friends. The energy subsidies, run-away federal spending and corrupt ear-marks that Bush either actively encouraged or did nothing to prevent, fostered this image. But more important than the specifics of Bush's economic failures is the ideological damage he did to the Republican Party by saying he believed in "compassionate conservatism" -- and meaning it. This "compassionate conservatism" made the Republican Party safe for the likes of Governors Romney of Massachusetts and Schwarzenegger of California and their efforts to socialize medicine. Under Bush, "compassionate conservatism" has become "Big Government Republicanism" with the result that, on economic matters, the Republican Party is hardly any different than the Democratic Party in the minds of voters. Because of this tarnishing of the Republican Party, Bush helped pave the way for the Democrats to grab more power. Contrast Bush's economic record with that of his predecessor, Bill Clinton. Clinton was no friend of capitalism. Yet, faced with pressure from an energized Republican House, he passed welfare reform. Faced with the same pressure, Clinton enacted the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has been a boon to the United States, Canada and Mexico (especially the northern maquiladora region). Faced with Republican pressure, he did not enact any major new regulatory programs, even going so far as to say that, "The era of big government is over." As a result, the 1990s was a prosperous period. Which is worse? A "compassionate" Republican President with his own party controlling Congress, or a Democratic President with an energized Republican Congress in opposition? I contend that the latter combination produces better policies. Unfortunately, the magnitude of Bush's failure is such that we may end up with a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress. If that transpires, I would argue that it was Bush's contradictory root premise that attempted to combine Christian altruism with egoistic capitalism (and leavened with pragmatism) that paved the way.
  12. Rob Tracinski on "What Went Right?"

    I find the discussion about motives a distraction from a discussion of the content of Robert Tracinski's argument and Robert Mayhew's rebuttal. I am not a scholar of ancient philosophy or history and do not feel qualified to comment in an informed manner. As a layman, I will simply say that Mr. Tracinski's Part V piece was provocative and interesting. Dr. Mayhew's critique appeared well-reasoned and based on a deep grasp of Greek thought. Weighing the two arguments, Dr. Mayhew's was convincing to me, especially for the reason emphasized by John Lewis in his comment that Mr. Tracinski did not pay enough attention to the philosophical ideas that were implicit in Greek culture. From my reading of their comments, I do not think Dr. Mayhew or Dr. Lewis unfairly disparaged Mr. Tracinski. Rather, they presented reasons to support their position. I am interested in whether Mr. Tracinski's claim that significant cultural advances can occur independent of philosophy is true or not. I am not interested at all in dissecting some allegedly disparaging remarks about motive made by Dr. Mayhew or Dr. Lewis or anyone else, for that matter. To me, this is a very interesting and important debate. I expect there will be a lot more commentary from both sides. I look forward to spirited discussion of the ideas. (In particular, I would love to see Dr. Mayhew or Dr. Lewis expand their comments!)
  13. Rob Tracinski on "What Went Right?"

    Might I suggest you read Tracinski's piece and judge for yourself? The only portion that Dr. Mayhew is addressing is Part V and it is available here.
  14. Rob Tracinski on "What Went Right?"

    This analysis of Tracinski's Part V piece bears reading. It is by professor of philosophy and Objectivist Robert Mayhew, available here.
  15. It's 11:55 PM

    Yes, global warming - that is the war I would rather fight now than the terrorists. Hell, the terrorists haven't even personally attacked me, but I can feel this warm weather all around me. It's scary!
  16. India Poised

    India poised, China poised, and many other countries on upward planes, such as South Korea, Taiwan and much of Eastern Europe, to name just a few. All of it is very encouraging, and hugely beneficial to everyone. As an American, I revel in the new and cheaper products and services that are made available to me by the millions of liberated minds at work. I also revel in the injections of new and fascinating foreign culture into my life, such as Bollywood films or Korean historical dramas and comedies, and tasty new foods. To man!
  17. Perry Mason (1957)

    Three cheers for Perry Mason! He was my hero as a kid. He embodies reason: a complete dedication to facts, courage in the face of threats, a willingness to be a minority of one (or maybe two, including his client) and, above all, an uncompromising commitment to justice. His belief that justice would triumph was often stronger than his client's. He showed that the mind was greater than deception and the sword, and every week, he won that struggle in the courtroom. I agree with the comments above, in particular: On the last point, I will also say three cheers for (police Lieutenant) Burger and (Prosecutor) Tragg. They would never knowingly let an innocent guy go to jail. It is just that so often it took Perry Mason to show them who was innocent! One final thought: What gracious times the 1950s and early 1960s were, as depicted in the show! I was a "child of the 1970s". Quite a different era.
  18. Rob Tracinski on "What Went Right?"

    Thank you. I mis-spoke. I meant to say Part V.
  19. Rob Tracinski on "What Went Right?"

    Rob Tracinski has published Part IV of his above-named essay series. I received it on TIA Daily and do not know if it is yet available anywhere else. My initial impression of it is, "Wow." It is quite an interesting synthesis of history and philosophy. I intend to re-read it several times before expressing my opinions on it. I highly recommend anyone who is interested in his provocative viewpoint to read it.
  20. Wall St Confidential

    Follow-up thoughts on Cramer: I listened again to the above-referenced video where Cramer advocates spreading false rumors to manipulate stock prices for short-term trading profits. Cramer also states that the market is not about fundamentals. Interestingly, whenever Cramer talks about stocks (for example on CNBC), he references companies' fundamentals -- i.e., margins, sales figures, balance sheets, quality of management, etc. From what I can observe, Cramer has a very good handle on fundamentals, and uses them to guide his trades. Apparently, based on his own admission, he also spreads false stories to trading desks and reporters to manipulate stock prices in the short-term. Assuming my observation of him is correct, and taking him at his word on this video, I would applaud him for the former and condemn him for the latter. The latter action is similar to spreading false rumors about a person. It is lying. Interestingly, such actions, even by his own admission, are only effective for the very short-term. You cannot fight the fundamentals on a longer-term basis, since fundamentals -- reported profit levels, product sales figures, strategic moves by management, etc. -- determine a company's prospects and therefore its stock price. The lesson for investors is simple: study the fundamentals, and beware of all rumors. Cognitively, one shouldn't simply ignore rumors. Quite often, they turn out to be true on the principle of "where there is smoke, there is fire." However, you trade on them at your peril. The origin of that rumor could be a Cramer. I might add that from an economic point of view, rumor-trading most likely amounts to "noise" around the broader price movements of stocks. The stock market is efficient in that it reliably processes all the information brought to it by buyers and sellers. Company and economic fundamentals will move most of those trades and establish the pattern of the stock price over sufficiently long periods of time.
  21. My New Family

    Hang in there. Cats are always worth it. I have found that the "meanest" street cat eventually becomes the sweetest pussy-cat with enough patience and love.
  22. Wall St Confidential

    Cramer is a very intelligent man, but he appears to buy into the idea that making money is an amoral activity. As such, he believes that "anything goes." He is wrong. Enough said.
  23. Wall St Confidential

    Cramer's comments don't mean anything. The ultimate cause of any stock's value is the profitability of the company it is a share of. Short-term shenanigans are just that: shenanigans. In other words, objective value determines values in the stock market, contrary to any contrary impression Cramer desires to give. If it were otherwise, then actual value of a product to a customer would not matter. That cannot be true.
  24. Protectionism retaliation?

    This is an interesting discussion. My position is that the best response to foreign protectionism is to unilaterally open up our borders to unrestricted trade. All tariffs should be abolished. As an example, England did this successfully in the 19th century. Economically, if America eliminated import duties, Americans would benefit from more widely available cheap imported goods, just like we benefit from cheap goods that are already imported from China, Latin America, etc. Two interesting factoids with regard to trade with China (these are second-hand statistics from memory; I haven't independently verified them): I read that Wal-Mart is such a large importer of Chinese goods that if it were a nation it would be the 8th largest importer among all nations buying Chinese goods. I also read that Wal-Mart's cheap products are of such benefit to Americans that the mere existence of Wal-Mart has the equivalent effect of raising a household's income by approximately $2,700. Those are real benefits of imports from just one of our trading counter-parties, albeit a large one. As to whether unilaterally eliminating tariffs and other import barriers is practical, consider the example of England, who did exactly that in the 19th century. In 1846, England repealed its Corn Laws, which had imposed hefty duties on imported grains since 1815. England repealed the laws unilaterally, not as part of some scheme where other countries would simultaneously agree to reduce their tariffs. Following the repeal of the Corn Laws, England generally pursued a policy of minimal tariffs during the remainder of the 1800s. England's "unilateral free trade" contributed to an unprecedented expansion of its economy by every measure: gross domestic product, per capita gross domestic product, and trade volumes. I can't see any good argument for imposing tariffs as some sort of weapon to "force" a country we trade with to reduce their tariffs. First, I agree with the argument presented earlier that it is immoral to do so. No government has the right to impose unwanted conditions on free trade between two voluntarily consenting traders. Neither do governments gain any right to do so simply because one of the traders resides in a foreign country. Moreover, besides being immoral, it is impractical to do so. Raising tariffs often leads to trade wars, and tariffs that are raised for some strategic reason, often are never reduced. This happens because new vested interests spring up to defend the now-raised tariff. Consider the example of the steel industry or garment industry or farming, all of which in most years have been subject to huge tariffs. Members of these industries, even as they shrink in importance in our economy, spend huge amounts of money lobbying Congress to keep the tariffs or quotas in place. As for any potentially bad economic consequence from "unilateral" free trade, I cannot see it. Americans benefit from cheap imports. If there is a complete blockade on products exported from the United States, the other country will find its economy stagnating. Eventually, that country will no longer even have the ability to export goods to the United States. This would happen because the dollar would decline in value relative to that country's currency until imports from that country could no longer be sold at competitive prices in the United States. Ironically, the only way that country could put itself back into position where it can export to the United States would be by allowing imports of U.S. goods. Of course, if that country permitted Americans to invest in property or financial instruments, Americans would simply do that instead of exporting to that country. However, I find it hard to believe that any country that has such a restrictive, protectionist policy as to actually ban imports would permit "evil foreigners" to own assets in their country. So, that example does seem quite unrealistic. The bottom line: More-free trade is always beneficial, even if we are talking about "unilateral free trade" -- i.e., the case where the United States eliminates its import duties even while our trading partners keep theirs in place.
  25. Real Estate

    In a narrow, economic sense, "commodity" generally refers to something that is not only bought and sold, like houses, but is also fungible and capable of being standardized. For example, on the commodities exchanges such as the New York Mercantile Exchange or the Chicago Board of Trade, you will see products such as oil or grain or even pork bellies bought and sold. These commodities are sold in standardized, fungible contracts. The commodities sold on these exchanges, because they are valuable physical goods that can be bought and sold in the future (and often can be stored -- e.g.: oil, gold, natural gas), are excellent inflation hedges. They are real goods, whose real value exists independent of the nominal monetary price paid for them. Therefore, in times of inflation, they are a good investment, one whose value is preserved, unlike a financial investment consisting solely of nominal dollars. The great advantage of commodities sold on exchanges is that they can be bought and sold quickly. It is fast and easy to convert them into cash, and it can be done with a minimal transaction cost. So, if you invest in these items as an inflation hedge, it is easy to "get your money out" when you need it. Houses are also a great inflation hedge but because they are not fungible and standardized, they cannot be bought and sold easily. Like the commodities sold on exchanges, houses do not quickly depreciate. They hold their value well. However, one can easily get caught "holding the bag" if you want to "cash out" your house quickly and find you cannot sell it for many months. In a broad sense, I think you can call a house a "commodity", emphasizing the fact that it is a physical good, and a good store of value and hedge against inflation, and that it can be bought and sold, if not nearly as easily as the commodities sold on exchanges. Most people invest in a single house, the one they live in. It is costly and difficult to speculatively buy and sell additional homes. The reason is simple: houses require continual expenditures of labor and money to be maintained, and an empty house must be rented out. So, an investor in speculative houses (not the house you live in) should enjoy being a landlord, because that is what he is. (A good way to invest in real estate without the hassles of property ownership is through REITS, real estate investment trusts. They are publicly traded corporations that own portfolios of commercial and/or residential real estate. They usually pay hefty dividends and the best thing is, they take care of the property maintenance! Another advantage of REITS is that you can short them if you are worried about declining property values. It is a risky strategy, but it is something you cannot do at all with physical property, like a house.)