A Parable for Religious People

October 19, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Religion 

I am staunchly secular and so are most of the people I know.  I respect other peoples’ choice to follow a religion as long as they do not try and force their beliefs onto me.

One of the most powerful polemic pieces on mainstream religions I have ever read is the parable named “Kissing Hank’s Ass“, written by James Huber. The story uses simple down-to-earth language, but indirectly addresses many philosophical concepts, such as:

  • Identifying circular arguments
  • Occam’s Razor
  • Pascal’s Wager
  • Evidence for the afterlife
  • Contradictions in religious scriptures
  • Religious restrictions on sexual behaviour

Check it out.

The Great Short-Selling Swindle Explained

The recent decisions by major market regulators to reduce market volatility by restricting short-selling have generated much controversy.

Most media coverage has sought to educate the public as to what short-selling is and debate whether the growth of the practice is a cause or merely a symptom of the financial crisis gripping the world. Questions have also been raised as to whether it should be permitted or not.

Despite this, I have not seen anybody attempt to explain how short-selling has been abused in the last year to lead us to the situation we have today.

This article aims to uncover how short-selling has been abused as a tool of market manipulation and deception on the Australian Markets (the ASX). Before continuing, it is essential that you understand the following terms: short-selling, hedge fund, short-position, long-position, margin calls and stop-loss order.

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Tips for Singing Karaoke

October 5, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Music 

For some, Karaoke is a way for drunk people to take the piss out of songs by singing them badly. For others, it is a way of releasing their inner ambitions and displaying latent performing talent. The fact is that good karaoke will be enjoyed by all.

When I was travelling alone in the USA, I found singing Karaoke a good way of generating a good vibe and meeting people. Here are a few tips I picked up along the way:

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How to Take Advantage of the First Home Saver Scheme

The Australian Government does not concern itself much with the affairs of young people these days – we have an aging population and the young person’s vote is not considered important, but every now and again, it throws a token gesture their way.

By this, I am talking about the First Home Saver Scheme, which commenced last Wednesday, the 1st October.
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Satirical US Election Campaign Videos

I found these satirical US election propaganda videos earlier today. The first, I’m Voting Republication,  was released by Democrat supporters a while ago. The latest video, I’m Voting Democrat, was released in response by Republican supporters a few days ago.

For those of us outside the USA, we can poke fun at both sides.

The US needs a Bailout, not a Sellout!

Last night, the US Congress correctly rejected the proposed $700 Billion Sellout package for the troubled Financial sector. It is my opinion that American taxpayers simply do not want tax dollars, generated through their own hard work, to be used to absolve greedy financial firms of their irresponsibility and recklessness, without asking for something in return. Anything else would set a bad precedent and allow the problem to recur in the future.

The US Democratic Senator for Ohio, Dennis Kicinich explained his own reasons for rejecting the bailout in an interview with the community media network, Demoracy Now!.

I agree with the need to stabilize the market, but it should be done in a way that is fair to the American public. Just as when a criminal is released on bail, he or she is subject to stringent conditions, so should the corporations being bailed out.

If a corporation wishes to receive some kind of Government assistance, e.g. the Government taking over its bad debts, there is no way that they can be permitted to keep any of the ‘booty’. Possible conditions could include the following:

  • NO payouts for executives that choose to resign or retire
  • Cancellation of all outstanding stock options issued to executives
  • Any stock issued to executives in the last 5 years should be returned to the corporation
  • Confiscation of personal assets purchased with bonuses awarded to executives over the last 5 years

This of course should happen independently alongside a comprehensive investigation of all lending and risk management practices with criminal charges laid against those suspected of fraud.

Tribunal Awards $12,500 to Lesbian Women Offended by Anti-Gay Bumper Sticker

September 24, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Australian News 

The Queensland Anti-Discrimination Tribunal ordered a man named Ron Owen to pay $12,500 in damages to three lesbian women, who lodged a complaint over a bumper sticker displayed on his car.

The bumper sticker read “Gay rights? Under God’s law, the only rights gays have is the right to die.”

I can understand people being offended by the inciteful language on this sticker, but I do not support the awarding of damages to these women, as the message was not directed at them specifically.

In my opinion, the only proper outcome would be an order to remove the bumper sticker, print an apology in a local newspaper and refrain from displaying similar messages in the future.

ASIC Bans all Short Selling in Australia

In a surprise move last night, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has banned ALL short selling in Australia – both naked short selling and covered short selling. This came as a surprise to many people [including myself] considering their previous statements that expressed their satisfaction with their previous restrictions, which only affected naked short selling.

The ban commences from the start of trading this morning (Monday 22nd September).

In their statement, ASIC expressed concern that short selling bans that have recently been enacted in a number of markets around the world may result in hedge funds moving their activities to Australia and increasing “unwarranted activity” here.

These new restrictions are more extensive than those enacted elsewhere, which have generally only targeted financial stocks.

Short Selling Bans Imposed in UK and USA

In response to the recent unprecedented volatility in the financial markets, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the UK Financial Services Authority (FSA) have both imposed temporary bans on the short selling of financial stocks.

For those not in the know, short selling is the act of selling stock one does not own, with the aim of buying it back at a lower price and profiting from the difference. This strategy is used to make money in a falling market, or when one expects a fall in the near future.

Large hedge funds have been blamed for abusing short selling to manipulate the market and contributing to the deterioration of world stock prices. 

The US ban applies to 799 stocks, and will initially last for 10 days, but may be extended. The UK ban applies to 32 companies and will last until the beginning of January 2009.

In Australia, our own so-called regulator ASIC has stated that we already have restrictions on short selling. Many people would consider this laughable.

I have an article that’s been sitting on the back-burner concerning my opinion of the role of short selling in the world stockmarket turmoil. It will follow next.

Selling Australian Uranium to India

September 16, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Australian Foreign Policy, Australian News 

India is upset with Australia because we refuse to sell them Uranium. We currently have a ban on selling Uranium to all countries that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Australian reserves hold 30-40% of the World’s Uranium, so this business is very lucrative for the country.

In principle, I support the sale of Uranium to India – they are a rapidly growing economy and they face huge increases in domestic demand for electricity. They are a democracy and I consider them to be a peace-loving people.

I presume that India is hesistant to sign this treaty due to their ongoing disputes with Pakistan, and as a counterbalance to their large nuclear-capable neighbour China.

The NPT is certainly important, but it should not be the only factor in the decision.

Last year, during the APEC summit, former Prime Minister John Howard signed an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin to sell Uranium to Russia. Unlike India, Russia is a signatory to the NPT and under the terms, Australian Uranium would not be used for military purposes or exported to third parties.

BUT as other people astutely pointed out – with Australian Uranium, Russia can divert its own domestically produced Uranium to weapons use, and sell it to hostile countries like Iran, whilst keeping within the terms of the NPT. Is this a desirable outcome?

Perhaps we can negotiate some other sort of agreement with India which would commit them to using Australian Uranium purely for nuclear electricity production, with some sort of Australian supervision. If such a thing can be done, this surely would provide a better outcome for all.

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