Power And Dollar

象白圍黑皆先手

2013.11.01

過了好半天才回答了另一個「為什麼我們要這樣拿棋」的問題。正是我要回去談談棋理,又來另外一個童聲可稚的問題:「為什麼我們要黑棋先手?我們為什麼不讓白棋先走?」 我正要說白棋王和黑棋王傳說的標準教科書答案的時候,我改變了主意了還明知故問: 「為什麼要白棋先走?」 「國際象棋是白棋先走。」 「為什麼國際象棋是白棋先走,而不是黑棋?」 「不知道。」於是,我開始了: 「 那白象徵什麼?那黑是什麼意思?」跟着是預期的沉默,「那黑色讓你想起了什麼來了?」我可樂了- 終於輪到我來問問題了。

「黑暗。」「如果你說黑色讓你想起黑暗,那白色像什麼?」 「光明」「 好了,你不覺得先手的話更容易贏嗎?」許多不同的「係」,「對」,「是」,「예」,「はい」應運而來。

沒錯。白棋先走是象徵光明戰勝黑暗。當然,沒有人想要永恆的黑暗。但如果還記得奧斯陸的午夜太陽的話,一個永恆的光明還是蠻累的。如果光明真的是可貴於黑暗的話,那只是因為人明白黑暗的可怕。

白色和黑色也很像正義與邪惡,十分神聖的。我們希望正義勝利。但是,那是因為我們對不公義的厭惡,並非對公義的渴求。沒有邪惡,我們將對正義一無所知。並且,沒有邪惡,正義便成為邪惡。人也不會期盼正義的勝利。因為左為惡[1],所以右才為義[2],而且我們寧願有雙手而不是光一隻右手。如果只有正義,那麼人將不會有正義,正如「人若賺得全世界,便失去所有。」[3]有正義,正是因為這個世界有邪惡。出於這個原因,圍棋先賢不得不提醒我們,黑棋先走:正義不僅是值得我們珍惜,更需要奮鬥爭取的。因此,讓我們學會戰勝黑棋永恆的優勢。

蔑视邪惡,就是自以為是。正是自以為是,才會我是人非;成王敗寇。這就是為什麼殺–贏不了圍棋。這不僅是因為沒有帥給殺,而是殺得再多也會輸。事實上,在圍棋可以勝不而殺。王道之棋就是圍空而不殺,兵不血刃。這和「不戰而屈人之兵」不是一個巧合,而是因為這是更有效的戰勝辦法。不殺是王道。這不是要提醒人無敵才是最寂寞,而是寧要左右共活,不必一手獨存。

正因為公義是「熊掌亦我所欲也」,因此在印度左手是用來承托右手手腕,從來不會單獨用右手,來接受禮品的。

看著這些家長的臉,看來今天不會有家長來多多指教了。

[1] Sinister – Latin for both the direction of left and improper

[2] Dexter – δεξιτερός which later in Latin for both the direction of right and proper

[3]路加福音Luke 9:25

October 14, 2015 Posted by | Current Events | Leave a comment

耶誕與中庸

2011.12.01

所有的孩子都為即將到來的耶誕而興奮,並不斷談論他們即將收到的禮物。我的孩子們終於明白,他們的一些同學不慶祝耶誕,而是慶祝修殿節。這細微的差別挑起了他們的興趣:“我們慶祝耶誕嗎?”“你為什麼要問?”他們的好奇只為涉及他們的利益:“如果我們不慶祝耶誕?那麼我們的禮物怎麼辦?”

 

正因為耶誕禮物為孩子們帶來的興奮,修殿節超過其宗教淵源的重要性。孩子需要感到成為社會的一部分。孩子需要感到被接受。提供孩子在隆冬中接受禮物的儀式只是一種同化。那麼在形式上的拒絕耶誕禮物只會導致孩子們只在物質上接受這個禮物,變為精神上接受耶誕。因此,修殿節是非常成功的,從維持猶太文化意義上說,它提供了機會,提供了服務,讓孩子們把期望禮物和慶祝一個猶太節日結合在一起,而不只是讓孩子們慶祝基督教節日。

每個國家也都去發掘自己的英雄和神話以提供國家認同,以提高一個民族的凝聚力。美國的創世神話取自華盛頓的故事。富蘭克林在美國獨立的貢獻在歷史教科書上有相當的表述?黃興又如何?神話,這種不相稱歷史的表述,是為了維護一個民族的凝聚力。為了猶太文化的傳承,他們用一個宗教價值非常小的修殿節取代耶誕。我們為我們的孩子在這基督教社會中做了什麼以提供自我認同的機會?

 

“我們慶祝冬至,”我告訴他們。 “這是一年之中黑夜最長的一天。這一天之後,黑暗退去,白昼延長。這一天是冬季的中間。因此,每一個人都回家團圓。”他們的臉告訴我,他們理解為一個嬰兒的出生。然後,我記得這次談話的要點 – 禮物,所以我說,“我們然後交換禮物”。孩子們歡呼相隨。

 

我正向他們解釋一些人慶祝修殿節,而不是耶誕,我的老大終於發現人有不同的慶祝活動,問道,“為什麼要慶祝冬季的中間?為什麼中點這麼重要?”

 

居中始終是重要的。我們沒有用子夜區分一天的開始,和慶祝修殿節的人也沒有什麼不同。我們每天有十二個單位。每天第一個時間單位是子時。子時以子​​夜為中心提前一小時開始,結束於子夜後一小時。正如一天的中午,於正午開始前一小時始,於正午後一小時終。

 

這不科學嗎?我寧願把它稱為陌生。正如達羅毗荼人把一日分成六十個時辰。科學只是眾多獲取知識方法之一,特別是滿足以下兩個條件:可推理得之,可傳授之。因此,經驗性知識並不是可以通過科學方法取得的知識一部分。然而,中國的學問一直以來就是為了量衡知識,科舉。科,以斗量禾也。然而,要以團結於中,必須測量此中。因此,執行中道需要測量,有恆,溝通和記錄能力。所以儘管知道一日始於子夜,子時仍始於子夜前一小時。

測量時間是一件不容易的事情,不僅因為時間是一個虛無縹緲的概念,並且需要製造不是一個而是多個相同的設備,隨著時間的推移還有維修,工程經驗,數學和除此以外,人的管理。平均分配一天成十二個抽象無實的單位容易嗎?是否一日十二份不科學呢?二十四份科學嗎?為什麼人要痴迷地用十二的倍數來測量時間而非十的倍數?十二非單是一年的月數,並且使用此數即包含日月陰陽於其中。人的一切文明活動:日出作,日入息,春耕秋收,孰未嘗受天象管轄?所以,人竭盡所能地以達到天人合一: 測、度、量時間只是這個想法的反映。為什麼日本以五行日月翻譯命名一個星期中的七日?難道希臘人的24(=12×2)個字母是巧合?還記得梵文有七對(七長七短)韻母嗎? 如果認為人總是想討好神靈,那麼我寧願補充,人總是想與天象保持一致,以好上承天運。

 

科學,只是一種方法,而不是目的。科學產生的結果是知識,仍是人的工具。人一直在運用知識,使人的生活對應蒼天,而不是取悅神,也不是以使人的生活科學化為目標。

 

我們響往中庸是因為了解到“天人合一” 。古人認為成功的行動總是與天象一致。我們寧願環繞中心以類聚(合一),而不是以中心來群分。不可避免的是,一旦以中來分,一個社會,立即撕裂成二。如果我們希望生活在一個和諧的社會,就必須有凝聚力、包容力,那麼我們將不得不走中道、中庸。因此,午時正中均分地包容日麗中天的時分,子時正中均分地包容兩日之界,冬至正中均分地放在冬季正中。而不是以子夜來分兩日、冬至來分兩年。年雖是天運,新年却是俗立以別年。更何况要冬至、耶誕和新年三環相扣並置取的正是黑暗已盡、光明將至的意思:要人新的一年充滿希望。

 

如果不是因為朱熹的努力把佛教融入中國文化,唐武宗可能不是中國最後一個滅佛的皇帝。從白馬寺始,至朱熹止,中國花了超過一千年來整合佛教。如果不是因為如哲學家革利免等主動地將基督教與希臘哲學整合而成為羅馬社會的一部份,基督教能在短短的二百八十年(米蘭赦令)成為羅馬國教?中國整合佛教的時間是基督教整合希臘文化從而成為國教的三倍!這中間經歷了漢唐。試問中國又有幾個漢唐?又內耗了多少精力?將來是一齣基督教戰勝另一個政府的戲、中國再一次漢化異族宗教、抑或是又一場長達一千年政教相爭的戲碼?主持詮釋者, 可主宰以無意義的數字來代表一個星期的六日和以禮拜日來代表自己希望的訊息,或是真確無誤地剖視一星期七日的原義(如日本)。主持詮釋者,主宰受訊人。中國是既如以往的受訊人,或是新的詮釋者?

 

難道只有我們慶祝的春節才重要,冬至不重要?尤其是其他人已在以其他名義慶祝冬至、傳達自己的符號、加強自己的烙印、延續自己的文化,中國為何在冬季缺席?是讓中國人的消費能力去維護、延續一個希臘化的基督教符號?基督教在一年最黑暗的時間,以一個新生嬰兒 – 總是希望最好的象徵 – 為世界提供了希望的訊息。在一年中最黑暗的時刻,中國有論述、傳達、延續任何自己的符號和價值、以貢獻於世界思想史之上?

 

修殿節 – Hanukkah,猶太教節日。

米蘭赦令 – 耶元 313年。

科學 – “可推理得之,可傳授之” 是亞里士多德的定義。與近代定義有別。

革利免 – 基督教早期神學家。常被稱為亞歷山太的革利免(Clement of Alexandria)。他將基督教信仰融合希臘哲學思想,使哲學思想成為基督教的思想工具。

冬至來分兩年 – 冬至後第三日的日照時間比冬至當日延長了第一分鐘。新年是置於耶穌出生滿七日後割禮之日。割禮的重要性與彌月相仿。

October 14, 2015 Posted by | Current Events | Leave a comment

萬聖與光明

2011.11.10

美國是一個多元文化的國家。印度的光明節剛過,美加的 萬聖節隨後便到。因為萬聖節越來越近,孩子們試穿自己的萬聖節服裝,幾乎成了最近這幾天的例行公事。今天,他們又在試穿自己的鬼怪萬聖節服裝時,突然問我:光明節是什麼呢?,這一刻令我恍然大悟: 我不僅要告訴孩子,還要告訴各位,关于光明節的事,還有萬聖節和我們-人的事。

不管萬聖節是從諸聖日或蓋爾的“夏季結束節” 演变而来,他們都传递着要我們尊敬離別的訊息。好好的準備這個節日之後,我們也就已經好好的準備渡過冬季的空虚和死寂。現在,我們當然喜歡這個節日 – 全因为怪异服裝和糖果的樂趣。有趣的是,充滿鬼怪的萬聖節讓兒童笑走了對漫長黑暗冬天的恐懼。看到有趣的鬼怪帶給我們渡過冬季的勇氣。

光明節也沒有什麼不同。火光可能是人類對大自然的第一个探索成果。它帶給我們的不僅是光明,更重要的是走出黑暗。恰當的是,光明節的神話是克里希納神戰勝了黑暗的邪惡。紀念光明節是以亮燈取代將會來臨的黑暗,以帶給我們勇氣度過長冬。

萬聖節總是在陽曆的10月31日。光明節每年節期不一。但它不是無序的。和萬聖節一樣,光明節佈置在有序的一天,只是我們大多數人可能已經遺忘了。光明節是在中國農曆十月初一,這個日子是取決於對朔望週期的計算。

噢,奇怪嗎?似曾相識啊﹗朔望週期?久違了﹗也許只是我們再不常使用朔望。事實上,我們也做奇怪的事情。還記得復活節彩蛋嗎?復活節就像光明節一樣,相對於陽曆而言是同樣的飄忽,也一般的有序—— 復活節是每年中國農曆三月初一後的第一個星期日。為什麼要這麼奇怪的慶祝復活節?其實,人也並不總是使用陽曆的。剛剛定下復活節時,人們還在用希臘的陰陽合曆,就像中國人和印度人一般如出一轍。事實上,當時有更多的人使用五花八門的陰陽合曆。

中國人也慶祝只固定在陽曆上的節日。冬至就是在12月22日。在這一天,家家团圆,因為作為全年白昼最短的一天,最好的事情就莫過於团圆帶給我們的溫暖。這是人性。

是的,耶誕幾乎是一樣的。耶穌真的是在格列哥里曆的12月25日出生嗎?幾乎沒有任何人認同這日期是準確的。牛頓也認為耶誕是故意放在12月25日,因為一個冬至後三天的一天, 黑暗已經後退三天了的一天, 將更完美地傳遞一個由嬰兒給人帶來最積極的訊息,對未來充滿希望。

復活節是“周而复始, 万象更新” 的節日,因為它正是春天的時候。清明節也總是 4月5日。清明節提醒我們,時間長河和我們的血脉延绵不断。履行我們“思遠”的職責後,我們就可以“复始” 、“更新”了。

畢竟,復活節在第一個星座白羊座是有其原因的。

我們慶祝不同的節日,不是出於不同的原因。而是人類認識到,万物有时、物事有期 。古人明白到能夠順天應人,才能事半功倍,所以天運一時、地隨一候,而俗立一節、人作一事。這些現象地不分南北,時無远近;同樣的現象,對跨文明。節日獲得不同的彰顯,只是體現的人以不同的符號,表達相同的情感,和對天地的體會罷了。古人只是用節日來提出這些和“天人合一”的訊息,因為人,不論是前之古人,抑或是後之來者,都共享人性。

光明節—— Diwali 或譯屠妖節, 印度第一大節。

克里希納——Krishna,維護神毗湿奴的第八化身。

蓋爾——Gaelic。

October 14, 2015 Posted by | Current Events | Leave a comment

符號中國人

何德鄰                                2014.05.07

所有語言和文字,都是一大堆符號去指義的。但是,所有的字母語言都是象音,而音才是符號。因此,法國大革命後,法國定國語是巴黎方言[1],從眾多方言和語言來統一國家。事實上,當普魯士入侵阿爾薩斯和洛林[2]保護「德國人」時,語言就是國籍。當時,誰才是德國人?操德語也。

如果黃帝建立了中國,那麼中國實際上是小得可憐。如果秦始皇建立了統一的中國,是因為秦統一了字、幣、度、量、衡、軸,那為什麼不統一語言?難道當時沒有方言?或者是未明白方言的弱點麼?非也。事實上,古人早早就懂這個弱點了。所以孔子才設法編理詩經的緣故 – 古人學習詩經,是因為詩經中所載的字是唯一所有國家從西周以降共用的字和音。人必須學習詩經的字、音、義和語法來和其他人溝通。它不記載的字就音義無定了。所以才會「楚言而出[3]」。因此,方言的弊端在春秋時已明明白白了。

這帶來另一個問題:為什麼秦沒有統一語言?如果只是秦之過,那為什麼唐,宋,明,甚至清沒有統一語言?過而能改善莫大焉[4],過而不改是謂過矣[5]。但是,所有這些朝代並不認為這是錯誤!

國界依據於語言分佈。所以德國當時才找到了藉口。但真的只有這條路?約旦或敘利亞的邊界是根據老主子的心情而畫的。一旦舊勢力一去不復返了,這些界限自然不可執行了。印度就有二十七種聯邦法定語言,還不包括省確認的語言或方言。是什麼讓印度統一的?宗教。美國和加拿大共享相同的語言,什麼使之分離呢?理想,對共和與君主制的堅持。

但是中國的情況與此不同。當中國從東南亞接收了華僑,是因為他們講一星半點的普通話?如果他們會說閩南話以外的方言,那他們最有可能說的是李小龍的廣東話。語言的區別有妨礙他們承認自己是中國人或中國承認他們是中國人嗎?現在北京治下的臣民認為新加坡的華人是中國人嗎?為什麼同樣的人不認為新加坡的馬來人是中國人呢?

因此,問題歸結到什麼符號才讓人識別自己作為中國人呢?如果不是語言,那是宗教還是理想?秦始皇實際上給了最好的答案:字!

現在,究竟有多少以英語為母語的人能輕鬆地讀莎士比亞的第一份作品亨利六世(1588年)或者最後一份作品两貴親(1614年)?又有多少以中文為母語的人可以輕鬆地讀三國演義(1323年)?中文的三國演義比英文莎士比亞的作品早了兩百多年出版,但仍可以七年百年後輕鬆地讀!是什麼讓這可能嗎?不循口語變化,直接指義的文字!語言在人的生命中變化頻繁,常常大幅度的變化詞彙和用法。由於中文是獨立於口語的,文字拖慢了語言的變化速度。這就是為什麼人仍然可以讀三國演義,但莎士比亞艱澀。語言幾十年一變。文字幾百年一變。

道德,民風,甚至是神話的變化都依賴於人的棲息地。神話讓後人接受其載着的各種理想,精神和價值觀,從而增加生存概率。這就是為什麼智慧是中國洛水出,希臘橄欖長了。

語言和文字是一個文明所有的思想、理想、精神、價值、氣質的載具,無論國界,超越時空。語言文字伸展文明,不僅超越政治邊界,並且超出了其軍事影響力。這就是為什麼魁北克和加拿大如此之近,但又如此之遠;和巴黎如此之遠,但又如此之近;新西蘭和英國在世界舞台有同樣的精神;美國人追逐英國,而不是丹麥或比利時王室的每一個細節。難道在美國的平民百姓和英皇有共同利益?原因很簡單,阻力最小的符號 – 同語同文 – 把英國人從仇家變成親家。

北京治下的臣民可能會想到很多海外華人不想作中國人。其實是人發現中國的符號已被壟斷砍斷 了,也很難認同這些被砍斷了的符號。他們放棄了。他們愛這個符號,但意識到他們不能參與這符號的將來,使之哀莫大于心死。他們拒絕了這不能參與其將來的符號,以維護符號所代表的一切。

為什麼這個符號被壟斷,不能共享?文字的分裂是單方面的更改。就是因為李密那麼不願承認晉朝的合法性,所以《陳情表》的孝心才會這麼感人,傳頌千年。既然漢城也變成汉城了、反正漢也不漢了,那何不首爾一下?反正韓國人現在都用諺文了。外國人用羅馬字。漢字只有中國人才用。如果中國人都去漢時,韓國人又何必苦惱?繼續跟着中國而中國化,倒反而琉璃王看不懂自己寫的黃鳥歌[6],祖先無法找到自己的牌位!

以屈原作為一種文化遺產,韓國其實視此跟荒路拾遺無異。如果首爾是文字壟斷的結果,並以行動赋予了新生命,那麼保護屈原是比保護首都名字有更大的意義。當利益都不能改變人的向背時,那麼就是形而上了!

那符號更好?「人必自侮然後人侮之[7]」。當人慶幸台北還有故宮博物院時,反應應該是「歸還」還是「可以維護嗎」?就是因為人重視禮和義,所以人才不希望自己的孩子節省两秒來寫礼和义。因為印度每隔數百年就改變其文字,所以佛教現在變成化外之物。如果不是因為基督教接收了蘇格拉底,西方文化將在每一文明興衰中孕育了一個又一個的蘇格拉底。如果中國數百年改變一下文字,滿洲人就不會接收中文和孔孟這些雲飛煙滅亡國奴的文化。巴比倫留給了後人什麼?安息國又怎麼樣?之所以反對核電和服貿,是全為了工作機會和利益?還是一個形而上的身份認同問題?

縱觀幾千年來,中國經歷了無數的戰爭,朝代的變化,但它的文化藉着文字尚未中斷、萬世一系。因為它的文字,中國文化成為一個豐富的醬缸[8],鄰近文化以前常來借用。

當韓國人都看不懂中國人印刷韓國人自己寫的黃鳥歌時,那漢字還有什麼用處呢?為什麼不跟著越南放棄儒字[9]?事實上,當越南轉用羅馬字時,就是因為不得不減少中國文化對越南文化的影響。出於同樣原因,日本不得不強用諺文,以削弱清韓的紐帶,擴大漢韓之間的文化差異。

今天,簡體字正幫日軍達成佔領韓國時的目標。當有一天,連見錢眼開、笑貧不笑娼的香港人會放棄金錢來保護文化符號、咬文嚼字地重兩制,譬如嘲笑殘體字,的時候,那真的值得研究是什麼因素推動這些「香港人的非理性」行為。也值得研究什麼才可以拉近被寬一百四十米的深圳河隔離大陸與香港的差距。畢竟,台灣海峽的寬度是深圳河的一千倍,一百八十公里。

[1] 1794年

[2] Alsace和Lorraine。 1870年普法戰爭

[3]春秋左傳•庄公二十八年

[4]春秋左傳•宣公二年

[5]論語:衛靈公: 30

[6]韓琉璃王於耶元前十七年以中文寫黃鳥歌

[7]孟子•離婁上

[8]柏楊《醜陋的中國人》

[9]韓國事實上比越南早放棄中文

August 4, 2014 Posted by | Current Events | Leave a comment

Is New Japanese Ambassador To China Sinking Your 401k?

Japan just named its new ambassador to China without much notice in the States.  But do you own Japanese companies’ stocks?  How much does China affect Japanese manufacturers who have factories in China?  Current ambassador Uichirou Niwa (丹羽宇一郎) will be replaced by Masato Kitera (木寺昌人).  Shortly after the announcement of the appointment, Euro started appreciating against Japanese Yen from 102 to 102.50 similar to US’ appreciation against Yen from 74.40 to 74.85 in 30 minutes. Although US’s currency strength maybe explained by the better than expected unemployment data.  However, USD was actually depreciating against EUR at the same time when JPY was depreciating against all currencies.

So, if Kitera’s appointment has anything to do with the JPY depreciation, what was the rationale in the market at the time?

Kitera has no diplomatic experience in China.  Neither can he speak the language.  It is certainly not an advantage for a diplomat.  However, this is also a reverse to the earlier policy of Japanese Prime Minister Noda (野田 佳彦) to use civilian (current ambassador Niwa is not a civil servant) instead of foreign ministry’s bureaucrats for Japan’s ambassador to China.  Is this a signal interpreted by the market that Prime Minister Noda influence is waning?

Kitera’s career has been mainly related to international organizations, such as foreign aid (Grant Aid Division of Foreign Ministry), Minister to UN and WTO etc.  What does say about the intent of Japan in its relations to China amid the recent controversies over the island dispute?

His skills of cooperation with many different entities are certainly valuable.  Are there no suitable candidates who have host country knowledge and diplomatic skills to smoothen the relationship?  Is this appointment part of the upcoming lower house election calculation? 

If former, then it may show some distrust of the political elite over the close relationship between the bureaucrats with China.  If latter, then this is a clear signal that Japan may become more aggressive against China over the island dispute, despite the US public announcements toward a more peaceful environment during the US election season.  As a stretch, this appointment may enlarge the diplomatic battle field since Kitera may be able to draw his knowledge in the international institution areas.

If Japan actually cannot feel confident about the diplomatic abilities among the China experienced bureaucrats, then this appointment further shows the talent shortage of Japan, now reaching a higher level of the civil servants than previously thought. 

Since 1995, Japan ambassador to China has been around 60 years old, compared to US to China around 57 and China to Japan around 54.  Japan’s labor force has aged tremendously over the two decades without back fill.  The death of Nishimiya (西宮 伸一), the Japan to China ambassador to be, certainly was an accident, although indicative of Japan’s talent pool.  This appointment may serve as an additional indication that Japan is running out of candidates to manage its complicated affairs against a rising power.

This may further affect its trading strength in its future trade negotiation against China in the China, Korea and Japan trilateral relationships.  Export heavy companies in Japan will be further negatively impact, such as auto manufacturers.

October 5, 2012 Posted by | China, finance, Investment, Japan, opinion, politics, stock, trading | Leave a comment

Lay Taxes To Those Not Buying Guns? NRA Must Be Grinning

John Roberts acknowledges that the Obamacare is unconstitutional in the commerce clause.  However, Roberts upholds the Obamacare because it is constitutional to lay taxes to those who do not buy health insurance.  So, using John Roberts formula, can the federal government lay taxes on those not buying guns? 

It seems like John Roberts’ formula is: if it is unconstitutional to X and it is constitutional to lay taxes to X, then it is constitutional.  Better yet, can the federal government impose taxes to finance the rendition program? Or lay taxes to finance the eaves dropping?  To impose taxes if you do not perform birth control?  To impose taxes if you do not perform abortion?  To impose taxes if you do not send your children to public school (this is already in practice)?  To impose taxes if you do not send your children to home school (this is not in practice)?

If John Roberts’ formula has to be supplemented by the general welfare clause, then not much difference it would make, as Richard A. Epstein (professor of law at New York University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution) suggests in NYTimes on 2012.06.29: Congress has the power to “lay and collect Taxes” only in order “to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.” The congress still can impose taxes if you do not buy guns since gun ownership contributes to the general welfare, if you agree that more guns around means we will have less criminals around.  The newer formula can still apply to anything the Congress sees fit. 

Isn’t the case that whenever something is unconstitutional to anyone element of the Constitution, then it is constitutional?  Benjamin Franklin said: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”  John Roberts reversed (or the converse) the reasoning and we get a wonderful universal health care.  At what costs?

June 29, 2012 Posted by | activism, advocacy, america politics, Current Events, Democrats, opinion, politics, Regulation, Republican, Thoughts | , , | Leave a comment

Obamacare Makes Labor Market More Favorable To Small Businesses

 

Republicans champion capitalism, especially “the pursuit of happiness”.  For that, Republicans consider businessmen to be their safe constituents.  Is enabling small businesses to compete more effectively against the mega corporations something Republican look forward to?  Interestingly enough, Democrats are doing that this time instead of Republicans.  And that is through this Obamacare.

Extending health care to all is the idea of Obamacare.  Having this barrier to health care obviously gives an edge to someone.  In terms of politics (or policy), the question is always about who gets the advantage (or the disadvantage).  Prior the Obamacare days, the advantage is to the employers who can afford the administrative cost of providing a health care insurance to its employees, thus giving them an overwhelming advantage in recruiting and retaining the human resources they need.  This disadvantage suffocates small businesses and self employed.  Ultimately, innovation is sacrificed. 

Plenty of employees make employment decisions based on the health care package.  Many people give up their business dreams and stay as an employee because of the fear of not having health care for their families.  Almost everyone will be covered when Obamacare becomes effective.  Yes, the operating cost is higher for small business owners, however, this increase cost will draw the small business owners much closer to the advantage enjoyed by the mega corporations than if they acquire the health package alone.  In fact, only 38% offer health insurance to employees among the small business owners in 2009 versus 61% in 1993 (read here). 

If America’s small business owners’ talents for success are not willing to move to them and continue to stay in General Motors, ATT and like, then where is the next Google?

March 23, 2010 Posted by | activism, advocacy, america politics, Current Events, 美國, Democrats, economics, Election 2010, health care reform, nonprofits, obama, opinion, politics, Thoughts, US politics, wordpress-political-blogs | 1 Comment

Are These Obama Health Insurance Stocks’ Price Level Sustainable?

Shortly after Obama’s health care reform announcement on 2010.02.22 M, the health care industry stocks started to fall.  Even at closing, google still shows they are down.  However, health care insurance sector, such as Cigna (NYSE: CI http://www.cigna.com) and Aetna (NYSE: AET http://www.aetna.com), recovered very quickly and in factor closes better than yesterday 2010.02.19 F.  Who got the short straw in this latest round of Obamacare drama?  Why?  Didn’t Obama say job is his number one priority in the State of the Union?  Is this some kind of ideological fixation he has? 

If you need more information than CNN gives, then try this summary page.

The google health care index is down because the drug companies’, such as Merck (NYSE:MRK http://http://www.merck.com) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ http://www.jnj.com), stocks are falling.  Obama’s donut-hole fix will affect these drug companies’ financial performance.  On top of that, a lot of their patents are expiring. 

Health insurance companies are doing well because this round of reform is perceived to be creating demand for them.  Anti-discrimination is written in the announcement.  However, it is to “prohibit pre-existing condition exclusions, and prohibit discrimination in favor of highly compensated individuals” (the CNN does not say this.  You have to look it up from the summary link above).  In terms of “pre-existing condition”, that can translate to underwriting, i.e. if an applicant has to be accepted or not.  What it does not say is this: can the pricing of the same product be different to different individuals based on pre-existing condition?  Or based on zip code?  Based on county?  Based on race?  Which health condition is race related have you heard of lately?  Some explanation about “discrimination in favor of highly compensated individuals” is obviously needed. 

Obama knows health care reform did not work in the legislature.  He more likely than not knows his magic does not work on the Republican senators.  Does he believe his proposal will get some moderate Republicans?  If he wants to work getting moderate Republicans, then he would be work on them individually behind closed door.  And we will end up seeing a big announcement with some of these congressmen.  Instead, we see Obama’s proposal.  So, this is HIS proposal.  The other guys are missing.  So, he is making a political move to show to the electorate he has done his homework and tries to paint that the other guys are the real road blocks. 

Yes, they are.  And we have known it for a quite while.  And in fact, they have been encouraged by the voters to be road blocks.  Therefore, Obama better have planned a second move after Republicans’ predicted uncooperative stand.  If you truly believe that the Republican road blocks will not make Obama’s proposal work, then you should ask if these price levels sustain.

February 22, 2010 Posted by | Current Events, Election 2010, health care reform, obama, politics, US politics, wordpress-political-blogs | 1 Comment

What Do You Care About Greek Default? Or Andrew Jackson?

My employer has no business ties in Greece.  I have nothing Greek: no property in Greece, no mutual fund based in Greece, no IRA fund based in Greece, relatives in Greece.  So, what do I care about Greek?  You got to be kidding me.  Eh…. Do you care about the US recovery?

Greece is part of Euro.  A fiscal instability leads to the instability of Euro, or more precisely the depreciation of Euro.  Now, that is the beginning of problems.  First off, US exports get more expensive in the Euro land, i.e. the continental Europe that Rumsfeld called the Old World.  Euro’s depreciation is no good if it happens when US wants to export more.  But then, where can US export?  China?  Even when Chinese are buying Walmart products, how does that help US unemployment rate when those products were made in China to begin with?  Of the products that are US made, how many of them can be sold in China without violating either US embargo (regulated high tech products) or Chinese sanctions (produced by companies who sell arms to Taiwan)?  Do you think US can sell solar panels to China when China is the largest solar panel producer (by footage) in the world?  How many jobs can be produced in the US if Chinese eat more MacDonald’s?  It certainly gives a higher return for your pension funds, your 401k funds and IRA funds.  But jobs? No. 

Secondly, it is not a good idea when US wants to sell assets in Europe and the bring cash home.  It will either make the sale less appealing to the buyer if the seller wants it to be a US dollar deal, or it will make the sale less appealing to the seller if the buyer wants it to be a Euro deal. 

GM for sure will not be happy since they are selling SAAB.  Although the deal for SAAB is in US dollars, it certainly makes it more difficult for the buyer to finance the deal.  And if you have bought a house before, you may recall that the deal is often contingent on funding availability. 

Third, it certainly makes US assets more expensive to Euro investors.  NYSE (or NASDAQ) stocks are looking for more expensive to Euro investors now, although US and/or UK assets may have to become the safe harbors for the time being.  But they certainly are looking more expensive. 

The value of a currency (Euro or USD) has a great deal to do with the expectation how well that currency’s assets are.  The assets in Greece, i.e. Euro, are not looking good due to Greek fiscal policies.   A comparison of Greece in Euro land has been made to California.  While that may resemble somewhat in economics sense, I tend to think of this crisis as the early United States where the federal government was still responsible to foreign debts incurred during the Revolution War but all the states retained their rights to print currencies.  European Union has long been criticized as an elitist creation.  Voters mistrusted it in Ireland (2008), France (2005), Denmark (2000).  Urbanite/merchant Hamilton created the central bank to monopolize monetary power and ruralite/agrarian Andrew Jackson removed it.  As a result of multiple currency issuer and each currency has its own exchange rate (inevitably), interest rate, and ultimately credibility, the United States became worthless monetarily.  

The striking difference here is US were debating about the monopoly of monetary power whereas Europe already got their monopoly of monetary power.  Is this a lesson where Europeans have to reflect on their European federalism or a lesson where urban elitist (in the sense of Sarah Palin’s “East Coast Elites”) creations, European Union, never work?  The answer will prevail if Brussels elites managed to figure it.

February 11, 2010 Posted by | banking, Current Affairs, Current Events, politics, US politics, wordpress-political-blogs | Leave a comment

Did Obama Plagiarize Glass And Stegall?

Did Obama’s Volcker’s Rule announcement contribute to the drop of DJ?  Did Obama plagiarize Glass and Stegall?  Pundits all over the place say that is the result of the Volcker’s Rule.  One, Volcker’s Rule alone did not necessitate the fall.  Two, who among these pundits actually read what the White House press release, and not the Bloomberg announcement, is about?  Three, Volcker’s Rule is not “new”.  Volcker’s Rule is actually a re-tro.  Four and finally, what is the implication/impact (theoretical or academic) of Volcker’s Rule?  What can we learn from Geithner’s opposition to this Volcker’s Rule?

Yahoo (of all places) actually hit it right: there are plenty of reasons for DJ to fall.  Realizing the profits from Massachusetts Senator election is quite a good reason already.  In fact, the rise of DJ on Tuesday contradicts the fall of DJ on Thursday: DJ rose because the market expected that having 1 more Republican in the Senate would derail the agenda of Obama.  If investors believed in that, then the investors could not have believed Obama’s Volcker’s Rule would become law.  So, Volcker’s Rule alone did not create the fall.

The White House press release regarding Volcker’s Rule actually gives very little information.  And luck would have it that everything covered by Obama’s 01.21 announcement is already covered by H.R.4173 – Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009.  Quite possibly, nothing is new. 

Worse, nothing is new: Glass-Steagall Act probably covered everything Volcker’s Rule is about.  Since Volcker’s Rule is not in the legislation form, no comparison can be done.  In fact even Volcker calls it “in the spirit” of Glass-Steagall Act.  It further proves that Obama named it Volcker’s Rule for political purposes: to show he is doing something to punish the bad guys (banks) for the rest of us. 

Preventing banks from having private equity funds, hedge funds et etc do decrease profits of the banks.  However, these funds make up 5% of revenues of Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), Citi (NYSE: C) and the like.  Yes, it does strengthen the point that this rule is for show, especially after the Massachusetts’ loss.  However, Volcker’s insistence on this issue has a point: it takes 5% of their revenue.  However, these banks are using depositors’ money to play these large bets, using FDIC’s insurance to back themselves up, and twisting their risk adjusted return on capital (RAROC).  Here is an example:  How much can $1000 bet if you were to trade on currencies?  Answer: with $1k, you can trade the equivalent of $100k of Japanese yen, British pound, Euro and so on.  If the currency fluctates 1%, the $1k is already gone.  If the market swings more than 1%, the bank has to lose all of its money (the $1k depositors’ money) and more.  So, these banks are misappropriating depositors’ money (which would be illegal in insurance laws), making taxpayers pay for their risk, and presenting themselves before the eyes of investors. 

What it really does is to draw out a lot of hot money from the market: less money will change hands on a daily basis.  That affects all industries.  Investors (institutional espeically) will have to play with real money, if this works.  Retail investors will make up a greater proportion of money in the market than before.  Market will be more difficult to be manipulated than before by a few players.  Will that shrink the whole market? Probably.  However (or hopefully), it will mean everyone will be trading with a saner head since no one will be playing with free money.

January 25, 2010 Posted by | banking, Current Events, Investment, legislation, market, Money, obama, opinion, Palin, politics, Thoughts, trading, US politics, wordpress-political-blogs | 3 Comments