Wise words

My favourite financial blog, Alphaville (link), reiterates some simple and sound financial advice:

“In his 2002 treatise, Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel, [Scott Adams] laid out one of the most sensible and succinct approaches to financial planning:

  • Make a will.
  • Pay off your credit cards.
  • Get term life insurance if you have a family to support.
  • (*)Fund your Pillar 3 account to the maximum
  • Buy a house if you want to live in a house and you can afford it.
  • Put six months’ expenses in a money market fund.
  • Take whatever money is left over and invest 70% in a stock index fund and 30% in a bond fund through any discount broker and never touch it until retirement.”

(*) Note that the original advice here was “Fund your 401(k) to the maximum” and “Fund your IRA to the maximum”, but these are valid for the US; Pillar 3 is, more or less, the Swiss equivalent.

On the road to crisis

Από τους Financial Times, διαβάζω τα παρασκήνια πριν την κρίση (Φεβρουάριος 2010) από τον Geithner, τον υπουργό οικονομικών των ΗΠΑ.

Αυτά που αναφέρει ότι ειπώθηκαν από τους Ευρωπαίους για την Ελλάδα είναι αποτρόπαια. Η πρώτη μου σκέψη μόλις τα διάβασα ήταν “ωραία αλληλεγγύη από τους Ευρωπαίους !!!”.

Όμως η αμέσως επόμενη, η οποία έρχεται αβίαστα, ήταν “πόσο σκ*** τα κάναμε για να έχουν τέτοια μανία ώστε να θέλουν να τιμωρήσουν όλη τη χώρα ;;;”.

Ο κύριος λόγος που ήταν έξαλλοι ήταν η “διόρθωση” του ελλείμματος που έκανε η κυβέρνηση, η οποία τουλάχιστον εν μέρει έγινε για εσωτερικούς πολιτικούς λόγους –βασικά για να δικαιολογήσει ότι δεν μπορούσε να μοιράσει τα λεφτά που είχε υποσχεθεί προεκλογικά. Και μην ξεχνάμε ότι αυτό ήταν η δεύτερη φορά που συνέβαινε, η προηγούμενη κυβέρνηση όταν ανέλαβε είχε κάνει το ίδιο !!!

Μ’ άλλα λόγια, για εσωτερικούς πολιτικούς λόγους κάναμε την εξωτερική μας εικόνα μαντάρα ! Τόσο χάλια ήταν η γνώμη των Ευρωπαίων για μας, που ειπώθηκαν πράγματα όπως αυτά που θυμάται ο Geithner :

“I said at that dinner, that meeting, you know, because the Europeans came into that meeting basically saying: “We’re going to teach the Greeks a lesson. They are really terrible. They lied to us. They suck and they were profligate and took advantage of the whole basic thing and we’re going to crush them,” was their basic attitude, all of them….”

“But the early premonitions of that were in that initial debate. They were lied to by the Greeks. It was embarrassing to them because the Greeks had ended up like borrowing all this money and they were mad and angry and they were like: “Definitely get out the bats.” They just wanted to take a bat to them.”

Πλήρες άρθρο: http://blogs.ft.com/brusselsblog/2014/11/11/draghis-ecb-management-the-leaked-geithner-files/

On the decision of the supreme court of India

Two months ago, on the 11th of December 2013, the supreme court (that is, the highest judicial authority) of India came to a decision (full text here in pdf format) on a very important case: to invalidate or not an earlier (2009) decision from a lower court, that held a 150-year-old law (from the British collonial era) as invalid.

The case is important because the old law, called “Section 377”, although ambiguous was interpreted to mean that homosexuality in India is illegal. The 2009 decision then, which invalidated 377, was hailed as a victory for sexual freedom.

The supreme court on December 11th overturned this decision. This has been received by the Western press with anger and claims of homophobia by the court. See here (“shocking decision”), here (“Supreme Court says gay sex is a criminal offence”) and here (“A surprising disappointment from judges with a progressive record”), among many many others.

I’m writing this post because this view is completely wrong.

The judgement cites various sections of the Indian constitution, for example:

Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.

(1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them

They also cite a book on the constitution :

popular morality or public disapproval of certain acts is not a valid justification for restriction of the fundamental rights under Article 21. Popular morality, as distinct from a constitutional morality derived from constitutional values, is based on shifting and subjecting notions of right and wrong. If there is any type of “morality” that can pass the test of compelling state interest, it must be “constitutional” morality and not public morality.

The argument of the learned ASG that public morality of homosexual conduct might open floodgates of delinquent behaviour is not founded upon any substantive material

Does this sound like a decision driven by homophobia ? Not really !

Why did they reach this decision then ? Here’s why:

while the High Court and this Court are empowered to review the constitutionality of Section 377 IPC and strike it down to the extent of its inconsistency with the Constitution, self restraint must be exercised and the analysis must be guided by the presumption of constitutionality. After the adoption of the IPC in 1950, around 30 amendments have been made to the statute, the most recent being in 2013 which specifically deals with sexual offences, a category to which Section 377 IPC belongs. The 172nd Law Commission Report specifically recommended deletion of that section and the issue has repeatedly come up for debate. However, the Legislature has chosen not to amend the law or revisit it. This shows that Parliament, which is undisputedly the representative body of the people of India has not thought it proper to delete the provision.

[…]

In view of the above discussion, we hold that Section 377 IPC does not suffer from the vice of unconstitutionality and the declaration made by the Division Bench of the High court is legally unsustainable.

In plain english, they say that only the parliament, and not the courts, have the right to create and change laws. The parliament has thought about the issue, but did not change or delete the law; therefore if they were to invalidate the law, the courts would be overriding the parliament. And that’s not right in any democracy.

Even so, they practically beg the parliament to delete the law forever:

While parting with the case, we would like to make it clear that this Court has merely pronounced on the correctness of the view taken by the Delhi High Court on the constitutionality of Section 377 IPC and found that the said section does not suffer from any constitutional infirmity. Notwithstanding this verdict, the competent legislature shall be free to consider the desirability and propriety of deleting Section 377 IPC from the statute book or amend the same as per the suggestion made by the Attorney General.

That’s a judge’s way of saying “guys, seriously now, about time you scrap this law, isn’t it ?” as directly as possible.

Signs that you need a coffee, #1

You go to the office coffee maker.

You press the button to start the machine.

While the coffee is dripping, you open a sugar bag.

…and then you throw the sugar to the trash can, and the bag into the coffee 🙂

If you do that more than once in a sigle morning, just take the day off. You’re not gonna get any work done anyway !

Do-It-Yourself:…

Do-It-Yourself: Cappuccino Freddo — Rev. 2

Almost 6 years ago, I posted a guide on how to eas­ily make “cap­puc­cino freddo” cof­fee at home and accord­ing to my web stats, it’s still a very pop­u­lar post. Since then how­ever, I have sim­pli­fied and improved my tech­nique and I think it’s time to refresh the guide.

Reblog from George Adamopoulos : a great guide on how to make the famous greek-style cold coffee, Capuccino Freddo. It’s a must 🙂

http://blog.adamopoulos.net/blog/2013/06/do-it-yourself-cappuccino-freddo-rev-2/

Software, Greece, Switzerland. And coffee. LOTS of coffee !