Monthly Archives: March 2007

Why is BMW not listed in the U.S.?

A question from Yahoo! Answers:

How come BMW is not traded as an adr on the NYSE or Nasdaq?

Because BMW management refuses to publish accounts according to U.S. GAAP. Daimler Benz, which listed its ADRs in the U.S. long before the Chrysler merger, used to be one of the favorite study subjects in comparative accounting; their earnings computed according to U.S. GAAP would invariably be way more volatile than earnings computed according to the German Commercial Code. BMW management does not want anyone to know how volatile their earnings are…

But the title of the most opaque company, in all honesty, should go to Porsche; those guys even refuse to publish quarterly accounts, insisting that semi-annual accounts are good enough.

Forced sterilization by Nazis

A question from Yahoo! Answers:

Did the ‘Nazis’ castrate male communists,homosexuals and others?

Not systematically. The primary target of German sterilization policy as mandated by the “racial hygiene” laws were mental patients (by and large German) of both sexes. It is estimated that between 300,000 and 400,000 mental patients (both men and women) were sterilized between 1934 and 1945.

Sterilization of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and people of mixed African and German parentage was not mandated by law, but was sometimes carried out on a limited scale as a local initiative. Dr. Horst Schumann, for example, conducted numerous chemical sterilization experiments on Jewish and Gypsy women imprisoned in Auschwitz and Birkenbau. About 500 Afro-German teenagers (the offspring of French colonial troops stationed in the Rhineland in the early 1920s) were sterilized by secret order in mid-1930s.

Does history focus on the negative?

A question from Yahoo! Answers:

How is it that western history focuses on the negative as opposed to moving forward and learning?

can someone give me examples from western history when the negative was focused on heavily?

when i say negative, i mean how history tends to focus a lot on the bad side of events as opposed to the good that came out of it…..

Traditionally, history was an enterprise sponsored by the ruling classes (hence, the famous expression, “history is written by the winners”). Traditionally, the ruling classes have been the military aristocracy and the priesthood. Put these two together, and you get a history with a strong emphasis on war and religion. Only in the 20th century, after fighting many a bitter battle among themselves, have the historians been able to shift some of the emphasis away from war and religion to culture, economy, demographics, environment, gender issues, age issues, etc. These days, almost every major history department is a battlefield between “military historians” and “cultural historians”, with each group trying to win the greatest possible number of academic appointments for its adepts.

But back to your question. A lot of the “negative” you talk about was considered positive back when it happened. Take the religious wars, for example. Today, we think of tolerance as a virtue. Back then, tolerance was considered a form of aiding and abetting heresy…

What does the U.S. export?

A question from Yahoo! Answers:

What are some items that the USA exports?

See for yourself:…

If you want the skinny, U.S. exports in 2006 were a little over $1 trillion. The exports are broken down in 139 categories, only three of which (semiconductors, vehicle parts and accessories, and civilian aircraft) exceed $40 billion. Another four categories (computer accessories, passenger cars, industrial machinery not elsewhere classified, and pharmaceuticals) accounted for $30-40 billion each. These seven categories put together account for slightly more than a quarter of U.S. exports…

An ideal Daoist goverment?

A question from Yahoo! Answers:

What kind of government do you think Daoists would consider ideal?

Minimally sufficient and founded on consent rather than force. To quote from Lao Tsu:

Whenever you advise a ruler in the way of Tao, counsel him not to use force to conquer the universe. For this would only cause resistance. Thorn bushes spring up wherever the army has passed. Lean years follow in the wake of war. Just do what needs to be done. Never take advantage of power… Force is followed by loss of strength. This is not the way of Tao. That which goes against the Tao comes to an early end.

(verse 30. tr. Gia Fu Feng)

Shareholder, Stakeholder, and Stockholder

A question from Yahoo! Answers:

Which are the main differences between Shareholder , Stakeholder , and Stockholder? Any clue?

Shareholder and stockholder are the same; they own shares of the company’s stock. Stakeholder, in the context of corporate control, is any person or organization interested in the affairs of the company. Typically, the most important groups of stakeholders are thought to be shareholders, creditors, management, employees, customers, suppliers, local government, and the local community at large.

Is moral progress unstoppable?

A question from Yahoo! Answers:

Is moral progress in society unstoppable?

The moral progress of humanity is unquestionable: From ancient societies based on slavery (when huge numbers of people could be unjustly killed, tortured, imprisoned for no reason), to feudalism (when serfs were given some limited rights and freedoms), to modern societies (in which most people enjoy some basic protections from arbitrary murders, torture, etc. The discrimination against minorities is slowly but surely disappearing in most developed countries. At first, women, then African-Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities, and now gays and lesbians have been gradually moving more and more towards total equality. All of this constitutes moral progress.

So why do conservatives think that they can stop or slow down this moral progress of society? And why do they want such thing anyway?

The “moral progress” you’re talking about is mostly economics in disguise. Shift from killing prisoners of war to enslaving them occurred only when it became possible to ensure that slaves can produce more than is necessary for their survival. Ancient languages have kept this memory. In ancient Egypt, for example, the literal translation of the word “slave” was “the living killed”.

Back in 1960s, Evsey Domar, an American economist born in Manchuria to Russian parents, wrote a now-classic paper (Evsey D. Domar, “The Causes of Slavery or Serfdom: A Hypothesis,” The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Mar., 1970), pp. 18-32), in which he pointed out that if you look at history you notice that out of three things (free farmers, abundant land, and landed gentry) only two, any two, can exist simultaneously for a long time; situations where all three exist are unstable and usually end up either with the gentry enslaving the farmers or the gentry that can’t live off the land and actually starts to work for a living, or the land becoming scarce.

So here’s your answer: many conservatives either are de-facto landed gentry, or aspire to be landed gentry, or sympathize with landed gentry.

Where did the name Nissan come from?

A question from Yahoo! Answers:

Where did the name Nissan for Japanese cars originate?
Does anybody know the meaning of it?

Is it a Japanese word?


Nissan is an abbreviation of the official name “Nippon Sangyo” (“Japan Industries”), under which the company was founded by Yoshisuke Aikawa in 1928. Until 1933, Nissan did not produce cars, but manufactured mainly vehicle parts. (As a side note, at the time Nissan also owned Hitachi.)

As to the the Jewish calendar, the month’s name is spelled “Nisan”, with one “s”.

Indexing vs. active management

A question from Yahoo! Answers:

Do index funds really work better than an actively managed portfolio?

Not exactly. They work better than the MAJORITY of actively managed portfolios that ONLY contain the index’s member stocks IN THE LONG RUN.

There are a few managers who seem to consistently outperform the market through security selection or market timing (some charge fees that exceed their outperformance, so they only outperform on before-fees basis, but not on after-fees basis). There are also managers who can enhance returns by investing in securities that are not included in the benchmark index (this is called “investing outside the benchmark”).

One of the simplest and best known ways to enhance the performance of an index portfolio is the so-called “buy-and-write strategy”: you continue to hold your index portfolio, but also write a not-too-far-out-of-the-money call option on it and invest the proceeds in the same index you are holding.

Another is “portable alpha”; instead of buying the index, you buy futures on it and invest the remaining cash in high-grade commercial paper and soon-to-mature Treasuries and high-grade corporate bonds while simultaneously short-selling Treasury bill futures. The resulting portfolio returns whatever the stock index returns plus the yield spread between the bond portfolio and Treasury bills minus commissions and fees.

HYIP again…

A question from Yahoo! Answers:

Is hyip a scamp?

Maybe, maybe not. But the label is definitely deceptive. Most HYIP (“high-yield investment programs”) promoters actually advise you to invest in assets that have no yield. When you read descriptions of what these guys purport to do, you can see that the return on investment in those programs is expected to come from short-term capital gains. Now, would you trust an “adviser” who doesn’t understand the difference between income and capital gains?