Tuesday, November 25, 2008

You can't rely on borrowed money alone

I like this mess. Everybody is scrared, screaming, clinging on to cash, not understanding what the hell happened. Well, reality struck back.

For the past 20-30 years most of the "gain" of economy has been built on borrowed money. Companies borrowed more in order to increase the ROI. Private persons could borrow more and more as the value of their housing rose and the credit in general became available everywhere. Why not by a 42" plasma TV, I don't need to pay it until next year! Why not buy a car, the bank is willing to give me the money!

This is not economic growth, this is living on money that does not exist. Well, sure, right then you could have made a fortune selling your house, but you never did. So did that money ever exist, really? I'm not going to go as far as some left-wing people claiming it's all fake money, that most of the money we see is not real. Look at "The truth about Central banks oppression" and "Failing monetary system" for some loony examples. But sure enough, they have a point, after all.

You can't rely on borrowed money alone. As long as everything goes well it's not a problem. But since much of the value in the system actually isn't real (somebody says your house is worth a million, but if you don't sell it, how do you know?). The bank trust you to borrow a certain sum of money only because they think you could get that much for it if you sold it. But if they suddenly, for whatever reason, don't believe you can get it, you're in trouble. Because the whole system relies on trust. There used to be silly amount of trust, banks etc were just throwing money at you. But now suddenly there is no trust left at all. Not anywhere. But has anything really changed? No.

The only thing that happened was that the trust died. Well, it didn't die totally. After all the whole monetary system is based on trust, so if the trust totally died money would be worthless. We'd be back in a barter trade system. Now, that would be a disaster!

We're nowhere near such a disaster, though. We only see a correction of the values, down to more reasonable levels. Finally!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Richard Dawkins - The God delusion

This is the book to read for any one that persists on believing on a God, or just wants to make up his/hers mind. The case is just too thin - after reading this book it's amazing that any one actually has ever believed in the crap. I mean, the Japanese saw through it centuries ago (see The japanese art of war for some eye-opening views on Christianity). I guess the only reasons why people still cling on to these silly ideas are to be found in our brains (see Stumbling on happiness for fascinating facts about how our brains deceive us).

For those wanting arguments against deism, please read this book.

In the preface to the paperback edition Dawkins mentions another reason why people cling to religion: "...that they have been let down by our educational system and don't realize that non-belief is even an option. This is certainly true of most people who think they are creationists. They have simply not been properly taught Darwin's astounding alternative."

On page 28 Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, is quoted: "When one person suffers from delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from delusion it is called Religion."

Darwin writes about Einstein, known for sayings like "God does not play dice". On a quick glance it might look like Einstein was a believer, but Darwin claims otherwise. Back in those days (even today in many parts of the world) it wasn't possible to say you were a non-believer and still be taken seriously, and Einstein played along, using God in his sayings only metaphorically.

Dawkin is quite upset with the fact that religions get undeserved respect. Blame it on your religion and you can say basically anything (p41). Religious wars (Northern Ireland, Iraq) are referenced as "ethnic" or other terms, just to avoid saying it's all due to different believes (in the same God, strangely enough). It includes killing and all kinds of criminal acts. Any kind of "hurt" or "offence" can be blamed on religion too. The Islamic world got all upset when a few cartoons were published in Denmark. On page 49 the journalist Andrew Mueller is quoted: "If any of you clowns out there are right about anything, the cartoonists are going to hell anyway - won't that do? In the meantime, if you want to get excited about affronts to Muslims, read the Amnesty International reports on Syria and Saudi Arabia."

Gore Vidal (p58): "The great unmentionable evil at the centre of our culture is monotheism. From barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal - God is the Omnipotent Father - hence the loathing of women for 2,000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates."

Another person is brought up and argued to have been an atheist, Thomas Jefferson (p64). He said things like "Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man". Continuing (p65): "All the Founding Fathers, whatever their private religious believes, would have been aghast to read the journalist Robert Sherman's report of George Bush Senior's answer when Sherman asked him whether he recognized the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists: 'No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.'"
Being an atheist in the USA seems tough, and rare, but in fact they are numerous. And one of the main things Dawkin wants to achieve is for the atheists to dare to "come out of the closet".

In the chapter "The poverty of agnosticism" Darwin expresses his dislike of the indecisive, those that are too week to take a stand. After all, the proof clearly indicate that it is much more likely that a god does not exist rather than he does.

It's very funny to read how Dawkins totally ridicules the religious ideas: That a single entity would have created the whole universe? If you think the universe is complicated, imagine how complex the one who created it must be! It simply doesn't make sense (p147). And prayers? Why would any God consider any one man more important than the others? Where is the logic? (The logic, of course, is to fool the people to believe in this idiot idea, so he shuts up, does his prayers and does what you want him to). And miracles??? Saints? There are earnest investigations going on to discover whether any miraculous cures can be attributed to prayers offered up to people thought of to be declared saints (p84). Can you believe this shit??? And how about people who claims to have seen Him or heard Him in his head (p112)? These "experiences" are of course made up. Again, read Stumbling on happiness to see how the brain constructs things based on what we know. If we think it might be possible that God is talking to us, our brain might actually make us believe this is what is happening, when in fact only the cat walked by or something. Sam Harris, in The end of faith:

"We have names for people who have many beliefs for which there is no rational justification. When their beliefs are extremely common we call them 'religious'; otherwise, they are likely to be called 'mad', 'psychotic' or 'delusional'... Clearly there is sanity in numbers. And yet, it is merely an accident of history that it is considered normal in our society to believe that the Creator of the universe can hear your thoughts, while it is demonstrative of mental illness to believe that he is communicating with you by having the rain tap in Morse code on your bedroom window. And so, while religious people are not generally mad, their core beliefs absolutely are."

In the chapter "The argument from scripture" (p117) Dawkins points out that the bible is nothing but ancient fiction. And ancient as it is, it is filled with stories about killings and incest and rape. No wonder people are fighting in the name of religion, and doing all kinds of atrocities. Not to mention how women have been oppressed. Chapter 7 is filled with vicious stories, and commands to kill in the name of God, from the bible, making it very hard to believe that any one can believe anything in that book.

Woody Allen (p144): "If it turns out that there is a God, I don't think that he's evil. But the worst that you can say about him is that basically that he's an underachiever. "
The bottom line in Dawkin's book is that every thing can in fact be explained by Darwin's theory. It is in fact the only way to explain how such unbelievably complex organisms as us humans could have been "created". Sure, there are gaps in science, things still unknown, but this is very natural. The sad thing is that e.g. creationists claim these gaps prove they are right, filling them with 'intelligent design' theories.

Chapter 5 - The roots of religion - mentions some reasons why such silly ideas have been able to pursue (pretty much the same as in Stumbling on happiness); such as Darwinian side-effects and indoctrination.

In chapter 6 - The roots of morality - the pure evilness of some religious people are shown in death-threats against people with other views. The chapter clearly shows morality has nothing to do with religion. It shows eg that people exposed to different religions, or none at all, all share the same basic values of good and evil. Some religious people claim that without religion there would be no good, everybody would be evil. Just as if they are good themselves only to suck up to God! As Einstein said: "If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed." In fact, looking at crime data in the USA (p262), it shows that states and cities that are Republican (conservative Christians) are more troubled than others.

Chapter 8 starts with George Carlin saying: "Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man - living in the sky - who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry for ever 'til the end of time ... But He loves you!"

On page 329 Dawkin talks about abortion and how some religious people can't see the difference between a living man and a blump of cells, killing doctors performing abortions, in the name of God. Sick people. They have arguments such as an abortion could have made Mozart never to have been born. If that is your level of reasoning, then an abortion could have stopped Hitler too... Then Dawkin comes to the subject of religions fostering fanaticism, how some people would be happy if New York would be eliminated in a nuclear blast, as they would see it as Armageddon, the return of Christ. Basically he says that just accepting things without thinking is a very good way to become a fanatic.

Chapter 9 is about advanced child abuse - religious schools - and how hard it is to escape from the claws of religion. It ends by saying that an atheistic world doesn't mean that the bible would be burnt and forever forgotten, but that we can still be in touch with a treasured heritage.

Page 403 shows how weak the religious reasoning is. This is the "proof" that purgatory exists: "If the dead simply went to heaven or hell on the basis of their sins while on Earth, there would be no point in praying for them. 'For why pray for the dead, if there be no belief in the power of prayer to afford solace to those who as yet are excluded from the sight of God.' And we do pray for the dead, don't we? Therefore purgatory must exist, otherwise our prayers would be pointless!" Another "argument" says there must be a God, because if there were not, life would be empty, pointless, futile... Un-fucking-believable...

Ok. After reading this book, I am proud to call myself an atheist. And just to piss some people off, I call myself a radical atheist.

Time to give up?

I never give up. But if I ever would, now seems to be a very good time. When the "capitalistic" governments are reintroducing socialism just to save bad business. At the same time the true socialism, where you care about the people, is dying all over the world. The biggest problem of them all - the climate change - is coming faster than anticipated. Politicians do nothing but giving the people a bad consciousness. Companies do a little - if they see any money to be made. A major system change is needed ASAP but nothing, absolutely nothing, is done.

The capitalism of the USA has fostered a country of egoists. Just as if this wouldn't be bad enough, this same attitude is spread around the world. If 300 million Americans don't care is manageable, but if you add most of Europe to that and 1,3 billion Chinese, we face a serious fucking problem. The National Geographic's China issue says this is the case. The communists have made people think about themselves only, just as the government of the USA, only to stay in power. It is claimed that the Chinese care about their own business, their own family, but nothing beyond that - politics, environment... If this is the case I'd say we're screwed. The climate change has to be targeted now, strongly, but having people and their governments not caring in the amounts of billions is just too tough.

Reading the Economist I saw an article about green protests, how people are using the Internet in order to make others aware of how the environment is destroyed. This is great, really, but imagine all the damage done that is not cared about! Knowing from other fields, it's likely that just a fraction of the damage is noticed, and of those rare cases even fewer are actually stopped. So, the vast amount of protests just shows how very much is being destroyed, by companies, governments and people alike.

Now I read, in The Economist again, what I'd say is the certain proof of a nation in decline - suddenly education is no longer important! As India and China spits out millions of engineers and, I guess, a great deal of PhD:s, then innovation and education is no longer that important. Now it's the ability to cash in on inventions that is important, so MBA:s are better than PhD:s. And the global companies (from the USA) can find innovations and commercialize them. Sure, but a country that relies on the rest of the world for educated people, for innovations and also the production - how stable is such an economy? I'd say it's hanging on to a very, very thin rope. The bad thing is that Europe tends to sniff America's arse, so maybe these dangerous thoughts will get here as well.

Now, this is bad. But if we use our imagination a bit and look forward: What will the only remaining superpower do when it finds it complicated to feed its people? And is running out of money? Beg? Help the billions drowning and starving around the world? Help stabilize the utter chaos that the climate change will bring? Give land to the refugees? Stop using cheap energy? Of course not.

Fuck it, I say. I've given up being a vegetarian already. I never stopped flying. I never started those economy studies. Right now I think the smartest thing would be to save up some cash, buy a piece of land far enough from the rising see and watch our civilisation go under. Goodbye

Don't bail out the loosers

Now when everybody is running around scared of the big bad wolf it's easy to use these upset feelings for your own good. So companies are trying to get money from governments to bail them out, not having to take the full responsibility for bad business.

This is very bad news - the basic functionality of market capitaism is ruined. If you do good business you are rewarded, if you do bad business you die. Changing this you have socialism and no longer any working markets.

So, let GM apply for Chapter 11, and let people who can do business take over the crumbs. Scrap the rest. It might sound tough, but remember that you get what you deserve. The GM leadership deserves nothing but a big hit on their heads. The employees will survive, after all the good parts of GM will survive in some way. In a way that is sustainable.