Sunday, September 19, 2021

Stock Market Crash

A little update on my investment portfolio ..it's now down $34.59 😭


My beginner's luck has quickly ran out.

In the time since my last post I've reassessed my plans a little though. I've realised that six months is really nothing -- or at least not enough to make a judgement. So I'm holding on to my stocks, effectively indefinitely. Unless there's something really dire that makes me want to sell some of them. I may even buy more (I've actually bought a little more since that last post).

So I'm looking more long term. I've also been learning about dividends, so that is now much more a part of my thinking.

Ironically, in spite of my downturn I think I'm now more invested than I was before. I'll keep updating periodically. I'm learning piecemeal, little by little.

My page can be found here for anyone that wants to know how not to invest:

Saturday, September 18, 2021

We Can't Have Euthanasia, We've Abused Abortion

The strongest argument in favour of abortion is the argument that it's merciful. Whether it's ever right to take life is always a moral conundrum, but even people who are strongly against abortion are generally sympathetic to this case.

(Leonardo da Vinci sketch of a
foetus in the womb)

It's thought a child will be born severely handicapped, to the extent that its life will only be misery. Or a foetus is deformed to the extent that it won't reach full term, or if it does the child won't survive very long once born. In circumstances like these it can be a lesser evil to end the pregnancy. In order to shorten any suffering that might be endured by the child.

Again, it's not easy to say what is truly right or wrong, and personally I'm not entirely sure what I would do as a parent in such a situation. I hope I'm never in that position. And of course every circumstance is unique, so it's difficult to draw lines and make blanket judgements. I can be fairly confident though that nearly all parents in such situations are heartbroken, and are thinking purely about what is right for their unborn child. What is best, or perhaps least worst, ..and nothing else.

This is how it should be. Parents love the unborn child. It is a precious life, and they try to do what they think (and hope) is right in its interests. Even if that means ending its life prematurely so it can avoid any needless suffering.

This however is quite different to abortion for wider social reasons:

"There are too many people on Earth."

"I'm putting my career first."

"We're not ready to start a family yet."

"We can't afford to have more children."

"Etc."

With all these examples the decision isn't made solely with regard to the interests of the precious being inside the womb. It's made for wider reasons. Reasons that are in the interest of the wider group.

An otherwise healthy foetus - that would've went on to live a normal human life - is sacrificed for the greater good. That is; for other people.

[Of course, people will often use the expression that it's only a "potential human life." However, all future life is only potential. I will potentially live another 50 years if I'm lucky, but if someone murders me that potential goes away. So what's the difference? Well, the reply often comes: "But a foetus is only cells - it doesn't suffer".

Okay, so what if someone murders me peacefully in my sleep tonight, in a way that causes no suffering to me? My potential years ahead are gone, and I didn't suffer. So again, what's the difference?

(And this is assuming that the countless abortions that take place are completely without suffering of course.)]

Anyway, you've probably guessed by now that I'm very much against abortion for wider social reasons. It's an act of sacrifice in my opinion, and I think it's wrong.

This brings me to another point in fact; and one that's often lost on people on all sides of this debate. You can deem something morally wrong, yet also deem it lawful. Just because you view abortion (in my case abortion for social reasons) as morally wrong, it doesn't mean that you therefore must usurp the power over that decision from a pregnant woman.

You can believe it's a woman's right to choose and believe it's morally wrong.

These things aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.

Personally I'm happy for there to be a balance between the mother's and the child's rights as far as the law is concerned. Obviously I don't believe people should have the right to abort babies far gone into pregnancy, but at the same time I can respect a woman's right to make such a decision up to a certain point in the pregnancy ..no matter how morally wrong I think it is that she's exercised that choice.

So I think we often get lost in the legal debate, and forget that we as individuals are entitled to have and to express our own moral viewpoints.

I'm not writing this to remove anyone's rights. I'm writing this to chastise people for the way they've exercised them.

This finally brings me to the title of this article.

Euthanasia, or assisted dying, is a very similar issue, and again, the best argument for it is that of mercy. That it's an act of kindness to help end someone's needless suffering. Like the argument for abortion at the start of this, it's an argument that everyone can sympathise with. No one wants to see unnecessary suffering, and few would hold it against someone if they sincerely helped a dying person to pass the final threshold of life more gently. Even those that are strongly against the idea in principle.

But..

..just look at how this sympathy has been abused with abortion.

How can we as a society be trusted to not take advantage of, or stretch, euthanasia laws for wider social reasons as well? Look at how readily we abort babies for these reasons.

In many ways it's been easier with abortion, as women's rights have been used as a wedge; - a counterbalance against the rights of the child. So it's a slightly more complex issue to navigate, as it concerns the rights of two separate, but intimately connected humans. It's not hard to imagine how euthanasia laws could likewise lead to a slippery slope too though. With the concerns of wider society overlapping so readily with the circumstances of the individual needing care.

People say "Of course we won't misuse this - it'll always be used purely in the interests of the person dying."

..but you already misuse abortion. It is rarely used in the interests of the child.

How on Earth can you be trusted with more leeway.

Monday, September 6, 2021

I'm A Capitalist Now.

Ooh, my Sainsbury's shares are up today.

Yes, shares. I recently opened an eToro account (!) I've invested £750, which is a lot for me -- almost a month's wages. This works out to be about $1000. So it feels like a nice round figure.

As this is a new little chapter for me it's probably a good time to post about it.

(I'm currently $14 up !!! - the powwwer!)

My philosophy so far is quite prosaic. I want tangible assets. So my basic thinking is essentially: "I can't afford to buy a house, so I'll do the next best thing and get a little piece of an actual real-world business."

I also think it's probably sensible to go with what you know. Hence Sainsbury's. Obviously I'm starting from a position of ignorance. 90%+ of the listed companies I've never heard of ..so for the time being I'll focus on what I know -- Amazon, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, Tesco.

It's not exciting, but I know these places; I use these places. I actually like them (yes, I like Amazon). I have real world experience of them, so I can be fairly confident they'll still be around going forward.

Saying that though, and slightly more excitingly, I've also invested in some mining companies too. I like metals. (I bought some actual physical gold this year as well, which feels incredibly miserly, but having miraculously saved up some cash I've been mindful of inflation. So you can see where my thinking has been heading this year.)

I'm largely in the dark though with these mining companies. Aside from reading a few articles and Wikipedia pages, and watching a few YouTube videos, my knowledge is zero. So we'll see where things go.

They are at least tangible things to invest in however, whatever risks I'm taking. In fact, this brings me to things like Bitcoin and meme stocks, which I'll be staying well away from. I think you can make money from Bitcoin, but ultimately I view it as a Ponzi scheme. I don't like the idea of putting a month's wages into blips on a computer screen. Something which only derives its value from the confidence other people place it in.

Of course, people will often say this is no different to standard paper currencies, which equally derive their value from nothing but confidence. However, this isn't true. These currencies have value because they're backed by states. As long as there are 300m+ Americans that need to pay their taxes and bills in dollars the dollar will always have value. Whereas no-one needs Bitcoin.

Plus, people aren't really using Bitcoin as a currency. They're just buying it as an asset.

Again though, as before, this isn't to say that you can't make money from Bitcoin. You most definitely can, and people most definitely are. At the moment there are always new people coming into the market wanting Bitcoin. People like me for example, that have recently opened something like eToro. They generally think;

"Ooh, Bitcoin is fashionable, and it's up in value, I'll get a bit of that in my portfolio."

So almost everyone (except me) has a little bit invested in it, and there's an endless stream of new investors coming in adding to the pot. Helping to raise the value in their own little way. So a Ponzi scheme. (At least in my opinion anyway -- it's possible I could be missing something. Feel free to leave a comment explaining what that is.)

Perhaps if I was craftier and smarter I'd invest and take advantage of this hype too, but I fear I'd end up being one of the dupes. Left holding a big parcel of nothing when the music stops.

Anyway, I've disappeared off on a bit of a tangent. Returning to my own little portfolio my hope is to make $100 over the next six months or so. Not so much for the money, but more as an indication. If I can make circa $100 then that shows I can potentially make money actively. So I'll then scale things up and plough more time and money in going forward. If not I'll probably hold on to the shares and watch what happens, but otherwise step back and focus my time elsewhere.

Plans could change as I learn more though.

Friday, May 28, 2021

The Real Cultural Prejudice of the English-Speaking World

Today I came across this song on YouTube.

(Claire Laffut - Hiroshima)

I really like it. I know most people reading won't necessarily have the same taste in music as me, so I understand if people think it's garbage pop music. That's not so much the point though. It's a really summery, well-produced song. The sort of thing you could easily imagine blaring out of speakers and radio stations over the summer months. However.. the song's not sung in English, so it probably won't be.

For all the cries of racist Britain and lowbrow inwards-looking Brexiteers this issue never really pops up. You'd think a Remainer may have chastised us all for this by now. After all, it is the one real cultural prejudice that runs right through the English-speaking world like a stick of rock ..but no.

No matter how good, catchy or beautiful a song is; if it isn't sung in our language it isn't getting in.

This is something that first really occurred to me back in the MySpace days. I remember coming across bands and artists from other countries, singing in their native language; some of which were really good. Up until that point I'd always just assumed that Europeans couldn't make decent music (seeing Eurovision didn't help that perception). Then I realised: "Oh right, if it's not sung in English it won't get played here, and I'm probably never gonna hear it."

Even countries with good records of chart success, like Sweden, needed to sing in English - be it their catchy pop like ABBA or Ace of Base, or their great bands like The Cardigans and The Soundtrack of Our Lives.

It's a bit unfair for them, but it's also quite boring for us. I like hearing stuff in different languages. It's interesting. It's a bit exotic. I have no idea what the song above is about at present, but it's still enjoyable; if anything it adds an element of mystique. (I don't understand what the birds outside are twittering about, but I still enjoy their song.) Plus, I've probably learnt more French from looking up what songs mean than I learnt from all the lessons I had at school.

We're denying ourselves all these fruits. We'll take the wine, and the food, and the clothes, and the cars, but not the music.

Weird that it takes a Brexiteer like me to make this point. Again, you'd think a few EU flag-wavers would have pulled us all up on this by now, but I guess they're just not as immersed in European culture as they seem to think they are ;)

Monday, May 24, 2021

Drink Driving, Compulsory Vaccination

Just a rough post.


We've seen in recent weeks arguments being made in the media that vaccination should become compulsory; with being unvaccinated compared to drink driving.

Obviously I'm quite against compulsory vaccination. The body is sovereign in my eyes, and I would hope most other people share this view. However, the mainstream media can be quite persuasive, and as almost all people support things like drink driving laws the comparison can be quite difficult to counter when first confronted with it.

[We've dealt with similar arguments over the course of this crisis. With other things, such as mask mandates, being compared to seatbelts and other restrictions placed on driving.


Ultimately, unless you're a total libertarian, where you draw the line on state infringements upon liberty will be a personal judgement. It's a balance, which we all weigh up slightly differently. However, some infringements are clearly more serious than others and you would hope that most people would be honest enough to at least acknowledge this.

Most people instinctively understand that compulsory vaccination is much more serious an intrusion than restrictions on driving a car whilst under the influence of alcohol. It can be hard to explain this understanding though when caught on the hop. Especially when the argument is reduced to a simplistic:
"Well, you accept this one infringement in the interest of public safety; therefore the argument is settled and you must accept this new infringement too."

 

A little list..

Anyway, I've been listing the reasons why the two things are different. In the hope that I can put together a simple and robust refutation.

For the time being it's fairly rough, but I'll note it down now as a springboard towards something a bit more neat and fully formed.

  • Being stopped from driving whilst drunk doesn't endanger you, whereas with vaccines there's a risk to health, however small.
  • It sets a precedent for other compulsory medication. Why not mandate flu vaccines for similar reasons?
  • Once the right to say "No" is removed it will result in diminishing standards (see the cake example below).
  • Cars are heavy machines that amplify human agency - meaning it's harder for an individual to choose to avoid an oncoming high speed vehicle. Whereas you can choose who you do and don't interact with.
  • Likewise the weight of a car makes death or injury highly likely. Whereas the risk of death or injury from walking past someone and potentially catching a virus is incredibly low.
  • It's almost impossible to prove that someone has caused death by infecting another person with a virus - especially when you take into account the fact that both people choose to interact with each other. Whereas if a drunk driver runs someone over culpability is obvious.
  • Restricting people's access to work, healthcare, supermarkets, etc because they're not vaccinated causes harm. Particularly if people are not free to set up their own healthcare, work, supermarkets, etc that do not require vaccination.

There are also some other, more politik reasons.

  • The people pushing this have lied from day one - sorry, I'll put that a little more kindly - have continually shifted the goalposts. "Three weeks to flatten the curve" .. and so forth.
  • Once adults have been forced, children will be next.
  • The conflation of vaccines with vaccine passports and apps means social credit systems and the like will become more realistic possibilities.

Returning to the idea that it's virtually impossible to convict someone in court of murder via accidental flu spread. It's conversely the case that people have been prosecuted for forcing medication on people against their will.

So to allow the latter to prevent the former is just absurd.

*******************

the cake example..

(click to enlarge)

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Facebook, and political opportunity

I haven't posted on here in a while. In fact, the reason I'm posting today has made me aware of how much my style of output has changed on here over the last 18 months. I seem to be posting individual article-style posts these days, when originally the intent was to do daily journal style entries.

Anyway, what's spurred me on is that one of my older posts received a comment. It was a post about the the last general election - particularly the Hartlepool seat. The commenter simply asking about one of the candidates.


Reading back the post reminded me of something I'd forgotten. Namely that in a few of the constituencies I was looking at independent candidates did quite well, and their relative success correlated well with their good Facebook showing. Indicating that they'd managed to get their votes by tapping into an avenue of self-promotion that the more mainstream candidates had failed to penetrate.

Politically active people tend to be a bit more Twitter focused. Whereas Facebook remains the domain of familial normality. The candidates had seemed to do well on Facebook by concentrating on local issues, and staying away from mainstream politics.

Reviewing all this at the time I suggested that there was a big possibility for mainstream parties if they could somehow tap into this way of reaching people. Obviously though it's hard for people affiliated with mainstream parties to detach themselves from national politics the way an independent candidate can. So it's difficult.

Facebook users tend to be quite conservative - and I don't mean politically conservative, but conservative in what they choose to like, share and discuss. As Facebook relates so heavily to real world social life, people have a tendency to avoid anything that looks 'weird' or 'controversial'. It's very much like a school playground where standing out is a major concern. Unlike say Twitter, where users can interact relatively anonymously with people they'll probably never meet in real life anyway.

So on Facebook it's very much mundane group think. With local gossip and 'keeping up appearances' being the mainstay of the interactions.

Consequently it can be difficult for political candidates to build up a base there. A person in a predominantly Labour area may vote Tory, but they'll refrain from liking a Conservative page for fear that others may see it and judge them. Likewise they'll be unlikely to share a post for similar reasons. Sensibly avoiding (from a social point of view) any controversy.

There's also the fact that many people find things like politics boring or annoying. So they don't want their timelines filled with a stream of political proselytising.

The local candidates seemed to do well by sharing 'local gossip' type stories on a regular basis - a new restaurant opening up, a shoplifter getting caught, a heart-warming story about some local football team - that type of stuff. In effect taking part in the local conversation, building up a following playing to that. Then cashing in on that reach come election time.

I should really have kept looking at this issue in order to develop some kind of 'Facebook strategy' for reaching people. However, the events of the last year have been something of a distraction. With local elections looming I should really try to refocus a little. In my area we have the Tees Valley mayoral election, and the election of the Police and Crime Commissioner coming up. I doubt too much can be gleaned from these contests. Still it might be worth paying attention.

The nearby Hartlepool by-election is also worth keeping an eye on.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

We Need A Zero-Butterfly Policy

A courtroom. A butterfly hovers in the dock.

Judge. "Butterfly, you stand accused of murder. You flapped your wings in Brazil, which led to a hurricane on the other side of the world..

(that's meant to be a butterfly in a courtroom
..sorry it's the best I could do)

Anyhow, I've recently heard quite a few real life anecdotes about people being pressured into having the vaccine. One in particular where an employee was basically told; if someone dies of coronavirus you'll be responsible.

I shouldn't really have to point out how obnoxious this is. Whatever your own personal views are about the vaccine this type of labelling is obviously quite extreme.

Of course, like with the butterfly above, it's all based on hypothetical cause and effect chains too. That you possibly had the virus. That you possibly spread it to someone else. The assumption that that person definitely died of the virus. It's all very flimsy.

Plus it also completely disregards the basic fact that in order to spread something to someone else both people have to meet up. So unless you're breaking into someone's home and literally forcing them to be in the same room as you you can't possibly be held solely responsible. That person chose to go to the rock concert, or to go for a meal, or to go on holiday. They chose to take the risk.

And these hypotheticals can be applied to absolutely anything once we get started too. If you choose to stay home and sit on your couch every day it's more likely you'll have a heart attack. If you have a heart attack you'll take up a hospital bed. If someone else can't get that hospital bed because of you you're therefore responsible.

By sitting on your sofa you are a potential murderer.

If you don't go for a bike ride you'll become unhealthy and be a burden on others. If you do go for a bike ride you may fall off, break your bones, and likewise become a burden on others.

There is risk in everything.

Returning to the vaccines. If the vaccines give full protection then why worry about other people who aren't vaccinated. If they don't give full protection then the vaccinated too are also "potential murderers" themselves. So they'll be in the dock as well. There's no way out of this door-less room.

Ultimately we are biological entities. We will never be completely sterile. We will always have bugs and viruses in our noses and throats. Which will always have the potential to kill. So once we abrogate the right to decide who we do and don't interact with to the government we may never get it back. As we may never be clean enough. There'll always be an excuse for us to be detained.

Every baby, by virtue of its first breath becomes a potential murderer. Guilty from birth, and only ever innocent in death.

Again, by surrendering our right to decide who we assemble with we risk creating a state-enforced caste system. If you fall foul of 'the rules' you must remain an 'untouchable' ..and I choose that label deliberately, because it's apt. Just think about it, how is it not apt. You're literally forbidden from hugging people.

Yes, there's nothing new under the Sun. The 'new normal' may just be the old caste system.

If you're 'well-behaved' (or if you have the money) you can enjoy certain privileges. If not, it's poverty, lack of mobility and disease ..and, like with lepers of earlier eras, the illness and disease brought about by such poverty will be used as a further excuse to shutter you away. A vicious cycle, all built on nothing more than a breath of air or a butterfly's wing.