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Archive for December, 2008

Peter Schiff gets a little more blunt in this video. He states “the government is manufacturing these numbers”. 

Peter Schiff is asked point blank on how far the Dow will drop. Peter hesitates, but then explains that it also depends on what the dollar will be worth. His answer for me makes sense with the high posibility of inflation or even hyperinflation which could easily skew the actual meaning of the rise and fall of the Dow.  Peter later though explains that he feels that the Dow is more appropriately to be explained in terms of bars of gold. He later states that the Dow will soon be worth one ounce of gold.  Currently, he states that gold is worth 900 dollars an ounce. 

Try assimilating the video from 3:03. The other speaker has stated that Peter has been a bear since 2002, when the market was a lot lower. Peter then replies that the market is really lower now in terms of real money. He says that one should look at the Dow in terms of gold, euro’s, australian dollars, canadian dollars.

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I found a perfect encore to my recent reference to the scandalous ponzi scam of Bernard Madoff: Natalie Angier of the New York Times recently described evidence that deceitful behaviour is a product of evolution:

Deceitful behavior has a long and storied history in the evolution of social life, and the more sophisticated the animal, it seems, the more commonplace the con games, the more cunning their contours.

In a comparative survey of primate behavior, Richard Byrne and Nadia Corp of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland found a direct relationship between sneakiness and brain size. The larger the average volume of a primate species’ neocortex — the newest, “highest” region of the brain — the greater the chance that the monkey or ape would pull a stunt like this one described in The New Scientist: a young baboon being chased by an enraged mother intent on punishment suddenly stopped in midpursuit, stood up and began scanning the horizon intently, an act that conveniently distracted the entire baboon troop into preparing for nonexistent intruders.

Biologists distinguish between such cases of innate or automatic deception, however, and so-called tactical deception, the use of a normal behavior in a novel situation, with the express purpose of misleading an observer. Tactical deception requires considerable behavioral suppleness, which is why it’s most often observed in the brainiest animals.

See more of this fascinating take here.

So lying Madoff was no low-life scum–he was the worst and best example of human development.

For me this begs the larger question: if deceit is an ability gained through evolution, then honesty is a primitive attribute? If so does this place evolution on a moral compass? We are evolving to a propensity for less ethical or immoral behaviour?

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British anthropologist Desmond Morris recently paid an essay tribute to Charles Darwin, who coined the theory of evolution by natural selection. An excerpt from his essay on the DailyMail which I recommend you read for greater appreciation of Darwin:

What kind of a man was Charles Darwin? To the naive mind he is sometimes pictured as a giant intellect of Victorian England, with his long, flowing white beard and his solemn expression, the product of a brilliantly studious education and intense academic application.

Well, no. In reality he was a mess, both physically and mentally, which makes his gigantic contribution to human understanding even more extraordinary.

An interesting part of Morris’ essay is his description of the on-going debate between evolutionists inspired by Darwin’s work and the Creationist camp largely composed of religious fundamentalists:

The point is, Charles Darwin was one of those rare individuals who devoted themselves entirely to the pursuit of knowledge, to the detriment of everything else in their lives. He was, and remains, one of our greatest ever thinkers  -  a man whose discovery changed the way we see the world.

As a lifelong naturalist myself, he is not only a personal hero but the root from which all my own professional studies stemmed. Which is why I feel it so important to celebrate the anniversary of his birth  -  if only because I fear many of his core discoveries are in danger of becoming muddled through the prism of modern spiritualism.

For there are plenty of people today  -  not all of them religious fundamentalists  -  who seem to think Darwinian evolution cannot explain why, for the most part, humans are a uniquely civilised species.

After all, they posit, how can Darwinism explain empathy, charity or self-sacrifice? How can it explain the ‘good deeds’ of humans, whether religious or not?

With its emphasis on ‘the survival of the fittest’, isn’t Darwinism simply an excuse for rampant capitalism and personal greed?

To answer this attack, we need to take a closer look at the biology of our species. In our ancient past, when we were evolving as a tribal species, the competition between individuals had to be tempered by a greatly increased urge to cooperate with our companions if our tribe was to flourish.

By a division of labour and by assisting one another, we also helped ourselves to succeed. And one of our great survival weapons was our ability to communicate with one another in much greater detail than other species.

We are not helpful to one another because of some sophisticated moralising, but because we have evolved that way. It is as much a part of our animal nature as is our urge to compete with one another.

That is the way we are, and there is no need to introduce the pious teachings of the Church to make us good  -  it is already in our genes.

Creationists will have none of this, and insist that all of nature is the work of what they now call an ‘intelligent designer’.

If such a being existed, this monstrous designer would have to accept the responsibility for having created all the wonderful life forms we see around us, and then of cruelly inventing countless unspeakable agonies for them in the shape of leprosy, cholera, cancer, syphilis, plague, malaria, AIDS, fevers, parasitic worms and the rest.

What a charmer this designer must be; creationists are welcome to their hideous creation.

Do check out the rest of Morris’ critique in his essay. Meanwhile, I join him in his salute to Darwin and as a perfect companion to his essay, here is a video clip on Darwin by biologist Richard Dawkins which is just as entertaining and thought-provoking:

Meanwhile, the above clip as well as parts 2 and 3 can be viewed in my personal blog here.

Cheers to Charles Darwin for his extraordinary contribution to science and critical thinking.

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Found a great reflection by orDover on reconciling the idea of death and what happens after death (e.g. heaven, hell, life after death) from a religious and atheistic perspective.

An excerpt from his post:

Heaven is a romantic fantasy indeed. But I have to wonder, why does Wolstenholme stop there? Wouldn’t it be equally as comforting to tell children that their dead loved ones aren’t dead at all, but that they just went on a vacation and will be back some day? Or we could tell them that their dead loved ones turned into magical fairies who constantly sit at their shoulder, offering guidance and protection. There is no end to the silly yet incredibly comforting myths we could think up to help children deal with death, and yet, I believe that if I seriously suggested my fairy model that people, even religious people, would decry the purposeful delusion. This is because heaven has what my ghost faries lack: a large population of believers. It doesn’t seem so bad for an atheist parent to hypocritically teach something that they believe to be a lie to their children if the majority of the world actually believes said lie. Regardless of the argument ad populi, I do not believe teaching children a supernatural lie, even a comforting one, is a good way to help them cope with the reality of death.

The central issue I glean from the article is the use of myth or story as a comfort for the sensibilities (in the case of the article: to comfort children about death). For me it raises an important question about truth-seeking–is it preferable to acknowledge a comfortable lie than to see the truth?

orDover’s article drew a lot of comments, and one of them was interesting:

That was very well written! It is so sad that the main theme of almost every religion is fear. Fear is the main underlying method used to control the mind. Fear that if you doubt you will be punished.

We have discussed here before how religion is borne out of fear or simply a psychological tool to cope with reality. To this, orDover’s critique is succinct:

I think that before anyone decides to lie to their children in order to give them comfort or protect them from the harshness of reality, they should question whether such lies actually give comfort, or if their comfort is as mythical as that which they espouse.

Of course, whether to prioritize comfort over truth–is an individual decision.

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In this clip, Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute and Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital explain why the new mortgage reform bill wil hurt housing market and economy. The discussion hints at restrictive regulations in the wake of irresponsible actions of the U.S. government.

Government intervention is contrary to the principles of free market capitalism and the new proposed regulations impinge on individual rights which the essence of a free economy.

In his article: The High Cost Of Washington’s Price Manipulation Policy, Dr. Brook expounds on his view of the need to remove government intervention particularly in the mortgage and housing markets in order to allow capitalism to resume its healthy flow:

Maybe it’s time for a new approach. How about we start thinking of ways to address this crisis by getting the government out of the business of price manipulation–and let prices, from home values to interest rates, be determined by people’s free choices and the law of supply and demand?

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An interesting panel: Peter Schiff author of “Crash Proof”, Dr. Yaron Brook from the Ayn Rand Institute, Victoria Barrett associate editor for Forbes Magazine, and Gary Kaltbaum of garyk.com. The panel criticizes the actions of the U.S. government, Federal Reserve, and discusses the future of the economy.

Watch Peter Schiff plug in Ron Paul and Yaron Brook remind the audience of what should be government’s core functions with regard to individual rights under capitalism.

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The Ayn Rand Institute is an organization which provides material on the author Ayn Rand’s works and philosophy: Objectivism. Dr. Yaron Brook is part of the Ayn Rand Institute and along with his Objectivitst colleagues, a vocal critic of the U.S. government’s actions to date in response to the economic crisis.

Dr. Yaron Brook explains that the only way government can help the economy is to liberate us from “environmentalist restrictions on oil drilling and energy production”, Sarbanes-Oxley, the “semi-socialization of the health-care market”, the Federal Reserve, and “other forms of government spending”, not “stimulus packages”.

More of Dr. Brown’s thoughts in this interesting article:  Stop Blaming Capitalism For Government Failures

This is just the latest example of a pattern that has been going on since the rise of capitalism: capitalism is blamed for the ills of government intervention–and then even more government intervention is proposed as the cure. The Great Depression? Despite massive evidence that the Federal Reserve’s and other government policies were responsible for the crash and the inability of the economy to recover, it was laissez-faire that was blamed. Consequently, in the aftermath, the government’s power over the economy was not curtailed but dramatically expanded. Or what about the energy crisis of the 1970s? Despite compelling evidence that it was brought on by monetary inflation exacerbated by the abandonment of the remnants of the gold standard, and made worse by prices controls, “greedy” oil companies were blamed. The prescribed “solution” was for the government to exert even more control.

Visit the Ayn Rand Institute here.

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Jim Rogers on Solution to Crisis

According to Jim Rogers in this video, the Japanese had a similar bailout scenario 18 years ago. The Japanese government refused to let Japanese businesses fail and Alan Greenspan had advised them to let the businesses fail. Why aren’t the Americans following Greenspan’s advice now?

Betty then asks if there is a middle ground in the bailout scenario without letting all the companies involved in the bailout fail. The answer of Jim Rogers to that struck me since Peter Schiff, another believer of letting the businesses fail would probably have a similar argument. Jim claims that it is bad morality since the companies who are sound should be right now taking advantage of the situation and taking market share of the companies which should be failing. He continues to explain that with a bailout this would not be happening. With a bailout, the government would be taking the money of the competent banks and give them to the incompetent banks to compete with the competent banks. Jim even says “it’s horrible morality but it’s horrible economics too.”

Goodness, in this film clip (3:50) Jim even says “he’s bailing out his friends”.

In the earlier film clips which I have posted of Jim Rogers, he has been quite civil, and blames bad government decisions with ignorance, but with the above statement, one can’t help but wonder what Jim Rogers had in mind.

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Is it really time to get out of the U.S. dollar?

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Remember the guy who was right on the housing bubble? The guy who predicted this crisis as far as two years ago. Until recently he was basically correct on just about everything except two things. He claimed gold would rise and the dollar will crash. Both had not happened until now. 

Here he is again, really excited that his last two predictions may really come true. If this guy is right, the United States economy is in deep trouble to say the very least.

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