Friday, January 30, 2015

Modigliani, accessible

Lithography, 495 prints, selling each for 4400 sheqel (1,100 dollars).

Nice, but I cannot buy this decadent Jewish porn art because it would cause a scandal in the family. I am still hiding some decent primitive paintings brought from Peru that our Moral Police has forbidden.).

Republica Bolivariana

Simon Bolivar led the liberation wars of Northern half of Latin America (the other half was liberated by Jose de San Martin). Before dying, both expressed doubts about the racial mix of the Criollos, that seemed incapable of civilized self-rule after the Spaniards had been expulsed. The current situation of Venezuela (the Republica Bolivariana) proves Bolivar's opinion: 95% of its foreign exchange depends on the export of oil, and the country imports 70% of its consumer goods including food.  The country is bankrupt and having lost half its income (collapse of the price of the oil) now cannot feed its population. Caracas's faucets are dry and shops are empty. Unfortunately, the current generation has totally lost the habit of work. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Pagan Winter Mass in Minsk

Why the prices of apartments in Israel are so high? They are higher than in New York. The obvious reason is prosperity. For example, in the month of January 2015 (and it is not yet its end) several technological startups were sold to American corporations for a total inflow of 1,000,000,000 dollars. The price of Israel imports - oil and other raw materials - fell fifty percent. There are pressures on the Bank of Israel to follow Switzerland's example, and let the sheqel to oscillate freely and reach its "market" value of 2 or 3 sheqel a dollar (now it is four). Part of the windfall is being invested in real estate. 

Here, the Government plans carefully the sale of public lands and granting building permits to maintain a stable housing market. The population needs about 20 - 30 thousand new apartments per year, and that is what is being built. The unpredicatable "speculative" demand is not taken into account as neither is the phenomenon of foreign purchasers. About a third of the sales is to non-residents, many of them prosperous Israelis in America and French Jews that want to have a pied-a-terre in Israel. It does not mean that they intend to make aliyah, simply, those who bought five years ago saw their investment doubled and more. Lately, New York real estate companies have established a presence in Israel, selling bonds in TASE and investing in rental properties here and in America. I dont know how this business works, but it is big and growing. 

About the Ukrainian girls communing with a holy tree (pic) I'll say nothing; let them dance as they have enough troubles already. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Encouraging Development

At long last, after seventy six years of feeding, housing, healing, educating generations of Palestinians, the UNRWA (United Nations) announced that it has run out of money and cannot continue caring for the exploding masses of Palestinian refugees. This is an excellent development, because it incentivates these people to start looking after themselves, as does everybody else on this earth of red dust. If continued, this may be end of the "insolvable" Palestinian refugee problem.  From the net:
Dozens of protesters Wednesday tried to storm the Gaza headquarters of the United Nations after the UN announced it lacked funds to rebuild the war-battered Palestinian territory. Approximately 200 people demonstrated outside the U.N. compound in Gaza City, burning tires and throwing stones. A Hamas official has warned the coastal territory could become a breeding ground for extremism. 
(What are they, moderates? They were bombarding us with everything they had, those moderates.) 

Dr Wolfgang Schäuble: We have handed over a great deal

German Finance Minister Dr Wolfgang Schäuble plans to force Greece out of the euro if the left-wing Syriza government repudiates the terms of the country’s €245bn rescue. "Europe cannot be blackmailed."   Greece will follow Argentina's default. Already is paying an usurious 18% interest  rate and its debt repayment is unsustainable. If it leaves the Euro, will reintroduce the worthless new drachma. What is ironic is that the German imposed austerity program is successful and today, Greece has a balanced budget and even a surplus. But the Europeans, except the disciplined Germans, are rebelling, they cannot bear a 20% unemployment for long. The stress of austerity is also showing in other European countries, and the traditional parties are losing popularity to left (anti-capitalist) and right wing (anti-immigrant) movements. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Joy of Yelling at Bureaucrats

Last Thursday I had a "disagreement" with Dr I.A., the elderly widow chief regulator in a town South of Tel Aviv. A client of mine is receiving large fines and menacing letters from her legal department. He went to face her and let the phone open on the table for me to participate. At one point my client went violent and I - from afar - was impolite to her. Yesterday, a junior member of her team sent a letter with some minor observations with the message to submit a slightly modified presentation, all will be right. The observations refer to some new information required, that was not demanded at the time.  The yelling depressed me and since then (five days) I am doing little work. My client and his team took all the above with no emotion. They continued planning without a comment and without the slightest change in their tone of voice. I'd love to be so cold and unemotional: after all, shouting at indifferent public employees happens every day.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Guy Rolnik Warns

The finance writer Guy Rolnik warns about the financial bubble like in America. To understand what he is saying and to clarify my thinking, I'll note it down for myself Apartment prices in Israel are very high (nominal average prices in the graph). People is taking mortgages to buy real estate to the rate of 50 billion sheqel in 2014 (4 sheqel = 1US$). Inflation is zero, basic interest rate is 0.25% (bank = 3%). Bank of Israel (BOI)  fears collapse if interest rates in the world increase, or apartment prices start falling in Israel. To protect the mortgage banking sector from this risk, BOI is packaging mortgages and selling it to pension funds. Rolnik says that this is transferring the risk from the wealthy and connected to the working
What wealthy? Rolnik says that most of the buyers are tenured teachers, public employees, employees of public monopolies like the Electric Company, Mekorot, career soldiers, etc. This "rentier" sector rents the apartments to the "exploited" that is young people, single mothers, etc. without reliable incomes that would allow them to take mortgages. So the risk transfer is between (a) established middle class families and (b) the precarious proletariat. Not exactly rich and poor.

About 65% of Israeli families own their homes. 35% pay rent. Rents represent a yield of 3 - 4% of the capital, so I dont think it is exploitative.

Rolnik is confusing the American bubble - bad mortgages mixed with good ones and all turning toxic - and the BOI action of protecting the banks. He is a chantapufi

Who benefits?

Europe is trying to egress deflation by printing a trillion euros. It is a policy already tried by Bernanke and it works. It works? Yes, the cheap money finds its way to the stock exchange and lifts it. Who owns the stock exchange? Pension funds, and wealthy individuals. It can be said, then, that it is a transfer from the working class to the rentier class.

Who benefits from war? Not the rentier class, because stocks and real estate lose their worth (as consequence of instability and uncertainity). Who wins? War extracts the most productive workers from production, demand of workers become intense and salaries increase. Unemployment evaporates. As Malcolm X said, Hitler did the most for American Negroes: He forced Detroit (then synonymous with the auto industry) to hire colored people at good salaries.

There is a permanent conflict between the capital owner "rentier" class, and the working class whose only resource is its production capacity.

Is robotization going to weaken the working class? No. Workers will not be needed in production, but will be in demand for "human" tasks, that can go from dog-walking to voting for the caudillo. Throat singers and marathon runners will find jobs.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Upside Down World of TASE

The Regulator (pic) has gone amok and is maniacally attacking right and left. A year ago she ordered Nochi Dankner to divide up his corporation and sell half of it, causing the immediate collapse of its financial structure. That powerful building erected in two lifetimes is worth now a quarter of its former worth. Since then the Regulator has been biting every "tycoon" and corporation in sight, sending the two largest food retail chains (Mega and Super) spiralling into bankrupcy. Tnuva, the dairy giant, has been ordered to sell at loss and to subdivide into small dairies. To crown it all, the police is frenetically persecuting the politicians, closing their bank accounts, safe deposits, computers and phones. The police chief was kicked out today for a secret office romance.

Pisgot (a mutual fund) offered the best investment advice to survive this period: Avoid the shares of prominent companies and of sectors in the headlines (such as food and real estate). Go to obscure, grey, uninteresting areas that may avoid the fury of the Regulators and the media. Those are the companies that may survive these days of rule of violent, deranged, armed demented morons.

Michelle Mon Amour

Michelle! Each day she is looking better! Mother Nature did not favour her with good looks, but she manages to be phantastic! The photo op: The girl from an "underserved" neighborhood won Ms Berkovici's (right) price for endurance in studying dance (eight years!). Michelle is so natural! So comfortable in her skin! So well dressed! She never makes a mistake!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Old Friend Found on the Net

Fifty years since I last met him, but time is nothing. Jorge Arturo Bekerman was, in high school, my best friend (but I am not sure if I was HIS best friend). He went to study medicine in the UBA, dissected feline brains, married a Jewish girl, went to a Freudian psychoanalyst and made a career of it. Parents were Polish Communist Jews who survived the war in Russia. I remember mentioning some unknown Warshaw writer, Bashevis Singer, in his home, and my surprise at her mother's familiarity with his stories. At that time no one had heard of Singer, known only to a few survivors, and she did not think he was a respectable, cultured, writer. Singer's universe is full of primitive superstition and twisted sexuality - "We Warshaw Jews were nothing like that."

 Bekerman's book can be read free on the net (in Spanish), although I didn't read it. (Stopped at the part when he explains that the nature of a person is determined by the mother's adolescent dreams... pic). I could  never find sense in French post-Freudian psychological verbiage (of the Lacanian orientation).  The drawings in the book are cute.

The Weekly Chapter: Abraham at 75

The Lord said to Abram, Go forth from your native land and from your father's house to the land that I will show you.
2 I will make of you a great nation,
And I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
And you shall be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you
And curse him that curses you;
And all the families of the earth
Shall bless themselves by you."

4 Abram went forth as the Lord had commanded him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. 5 Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother's son Lot, and all the wealth that they had amassed, and the persons that they had acquired in Haran; and they set out for the land of Canaan. When they arrived in the land of Canaan, 6 Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, at the terebinth of Moreh. The Canaanites (pic left)  were then in the land.

7 The Lord appeared to Abram and said, "I will assign this land to your heirs." And he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him. 8 From there he moved on to the hill country east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and he built there an altar to the Lord and invoked the Lord by name. 9 Then Abram journeyed by stages toward the Negeb.

Reb J's Commentary:  Haran is none other than Urfa (Edessa) in East Turkey aka Kurdistan. When Isaac needed a wife, they sent for one in Haran. Having reached the settlement of Elon Moreh, the old man continued walking the Israel Trail towards Eilat. Having reconnaitred the land, he signed alliances with the natives and playing one against the other, he systematically took over  their lands. The locals appealed to the ICJ which sent a factfinding mission  and the report is available in the ICJ archives.