Thursday, 24 April 2008

more boring stuff on economy

similar thoughts as to what i wrote about yesterday:

from the website:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008
The Greenback: Toward A New Monetary Policy

"As we transit to a world of resource depletion .. what is the proper monetary and currency regime? Clearly, not the existing fiat/credit currency, which depends entirely on financing present consumption by discounting future growth that may never occur..
Instead, I believe we should implement a monetary system that uses renewable, "green" energy as a benchmark.."

imagine.. for the sake of simplicity at an individual's level:
you would only be allowed to take on debt to buy a new car, if its either an environmentally friendlier one than the usual gas guzzlers, OR you can buy your gas guzzler if you can prove (somehow) that you saved energy somewhere else..
its not easy to imagine in practice, but the idea sounds good

why the hell do I care ?
im pretty sure we will destroy ourselves before we have the wisdom to stop

and im now also refraining from commenting on an acquaintance who despite living a single life (against her will most likely), having no family to carry around, using asphalt roads in 99.9% of the time is driving a 3ton 4x4 for reasons having to do with image and so on.. i wont comment. im refraining.
although i would love to ask her, "why do you keep destroying my planet? you could carry your fat ass around in a smaller car as well"
ok, i didnt refrain.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

mess ..

i have ingeniously managed to screw up. at work that is.
you see my job in an ideal world would be to intelligently guess things and then profit from things unfolding the way i imagined. the devil is in the details however, and while i may be right, i may be also wrong at the same time. how, you ask ?
because the time horizon of my guesswork is uncertain at best. you know something will happen, but you are not sure when. and between now and when your imagined scenario becomes a certainty, reality might turn out to be completely different. that different reality then, might then influence your actual guess.. this is what George Soros calls reflexivity. the feedback mechanism through which history drifts in an unpredictable way.

my view now ?
well.. let me start with a quote from a cleverly written website article i found:
"The insidious and dangerous unspoken corollary to all this: Financial pain is now unacceptable. Those in trouble demand to be rescued, and the government seems to agree that the "creative destruction" component of capitalism must not be allowed to do its work. It's a sad irony that as former communist countries embrace capitalism, we seem to be headed in the other direction."
what the hell does this mean ? that we live in a world where we sacrifice a lot to shield us from bad decisions taken in the past, at the cost of future pain, that is now not yet visible or clear.

you want an example? pollution is a good one.. we pollute because a lot of the comfort in our life comes from turning the planet into a junkyard. and while the forward looking solution would be to cut back pollution by limiting the use of fossil fuels, it would be too painful to do it, so we keep on polluting just because its too hard not to..

but not only that, we keep increasing the amount of pollution. eventhough there are efforts to be more green, the reality is that emerging countries like China or India keep increasing their pollution so that the standard of living in those countries can catch up with the 'Western' world.

and now here is another thing.. debt
debt - which has so many names is essentially a way to increase current consumption at the cost of giving up some future consumption. why only some? because debt can be used to let creative ideas come to fruition, which could benefit us, and maybe even improve our lives. or even reduce pollution.
suppose i have a great idea to turn undrinkable water into drinkable, but i dont have the dough to build my funky machine that does that. i can go and borrow money, invest it in my idea, and eventually pay the debt back. its a win-win for mankind.

nevertheless a lot of the debt is used to purely consume and therefore:
debt can create an artificial increase in the demand for non-renewable energy.
the simple evidence is inflation of energy. a dollar will buy you a lot less oil then it used to. since debt is in dollars (or other paper money) the continous borrowing versus the constant amount of oil on the planet creates a situation where paper money keeps eroding in value againt the value of oil, or to put it another way; the value of oil keeps getting dearer expressed in paper money.

lets suppose you can keep borrowing for ever, what will the result be ?
the value of paper money goes to zero (as it has many times in the past) and the value of commodities soar. much like now. do you know that the price of wheat (flour), rice, corn, soybeans..etc has double or in some cases tripled just in the last 2(!!) years. not the last 20 or 50 or 100, but in the last 2 years !

my bottomline: there is too much debt. commodities is just one example how too much debt - in my opinion - can cause distortions and risks but the same point can be made with house prices too, in fact anything of which there is a limited supply.
so either the authorities let the debt pile shrink causing pain now, or we will end up with a bigger crisis of the system at some stage. either because paper money goes to zero, or because the decision to take the pain will come later, when there might be more debt and hence more pain to be taken.

right now financial markets are of the view that the debt machine can hum along and everything stays hunky-dory. my view is that things are likely to collapse under their own weight. why? because the confidence to see enough returns (in paper money) to service and repay debt or just to keep consuming at current levels is shaken given how expensive food, energy, raw materials are. even if the emerging countries like China, India..etc have a lot of catchin up to do, it seems likely that their fortunes are still tied to the consumer in the 'West' who is beginning to understand the need to scale down consumption.

so overall I think the world ought to enter a phase of retrenchment which should cause a a repricing of financial market assets, like stocks for example.

hi ho

Monday, 21 April 2008

Planned bike trips (sadly all within Israel):

From North to South:
this should be a beautiful trip, except for the fact that route 358 is not really ready.
20 - 44 - Bet Shemesh - 38 - Tzomet Nechusha 35 (towards Hebron) - 358 - 31 - Tzomet Lehavim 40 (North)

From South to North
Gaza route
Dead Sea 31 - Tzomet Lehavim 25 (West) - 232 - 4
Beer Sheva - 25 - 232 - 4

Bet Shemesh/358 route
Dead Sea - 31 - 358 - 35 - 38 - Bet Shemesh
358 aint open..

Northern Trip
is it safe to go north from the Dead Sea on road 90 ?

longer version
Jerusalem 1 - Dead Sea - Bet Shean - 71 (Afula) - 60 (Nazeret) - 79 - Haifa - Kwish HaKhof

shorter version
Jerusalem 1 - Dead Sea - Bet Shean - 71 (Afula) - 60 (Nazeret) - 79 - 77 - Tzomet Yishai 75 - Kiryat Tivon - 722 - 70 - Zichron - Kwish HaKhof

Friday, 18 April 2008

be humble

so I had a great year so far in terms of the profit produced with my activity. so like most of us would do, I became arrogant as hell.

so now, after giving up 25% of my year to date profit (its not my profit, its my employers but since its produced by me entirely its felt as being the same) im forced to walk off to eat humble pie

have to get back to work now, and take things seriously. i therefore began to read again and use my brain. whats left of it.
so expect my thoughts here on global currency, equity, bond..etc markets soon.

happy passover
G-d bless you all

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Drive to win

Everybody has one, even you. I know. Are you prepared to share it ?

A guide to driving in Israel

How to drive a la Israeli:


You are on your own, everybody is against you

You are special, so others will move out of the way. They are lesser beings than you, therefore are below you in the hierarchy of the universe

Focus on the car in front of you. He is your number one ennemy.

Your sole objective is to take everybody over on the road, one by one. You start with the car in front of you

Dont let yourself get distracted by cars in other lanes, or traffic signs, traffic lights.

If the car in front of you, your ennemy slows down, sound your horn. Make your presence felt. This will induce fear, which will help in overtaking him.

Sound your horn randomly, for the same purpose as above

Another efficient technique for inducing fear facilitating your overtake is to drive as close as you can can to the car in front of you.
This works best on motorways at high speeds.

Next to your steering wheel there is a stick on the left hand side. Its called an indicator. Ignore it! Its a flaw in the design.

Pedestrians are a subhuman life form. Aim to rid the world of them!

When stopping at the traffic lights, try to get as much as you can into the intersection. This will help you gain valuable milliseconds in your journey. Pedestrians crossing the street should crawl under you, where they belong

You should never feel alone while driving. Stay in constant contact with others through your mobile phone.

Social cohesion is very important. If you see a friend walking or driving by, dont hesitate to stop and have a chat.
Those behind you can use this time to philosophise about the creation of the universe.


You are a ghost.

You are invisible. You can sneak past everything and ride everywhere.

Ride on the kerb if the road is busy.

Ride against the flow of traffic in a one way street, if you feel that riding in the proper street will lengthen your journey

Ride with your feet dangling off the bike. This looks cool. So does the cast, when you get an open fracture of your lower legs.

Other scooter riders are only imitations of the real thing: You

The smaller the engine of your scooter the more you need to show a 1000cc racing bike that you are not afraid of taking him on.

When stopping at the traffic lights, try to get as much as you can into the intersection. This will help you gain valuable milliseconds in your journey.

Pedestrians are a subhuman life form. Aim to rid the world of them!

Smoking while riding makes you feel more relaxed and is a great way to enjoy the ride.

You should never feel alone while riding. Stay in constant contact with others through your mobile phone.

If you carry any passenger on your 50cc scooter make sure you ride in the inner lane at low speed.

If you carry a female passenger on your 50cc scooter make sure she has half her bum out.


You are the King

The world was created for you. Its all yours

Study and apply vigorously all the techniques of the regular car driver

If you need to stop to pick up / drop off a passenger there is a very elaborate manoeuvre you need to master:
cut through the lanes without slowing down
do not indicate
dont stop parallel to the kerb, rather with an angle. this will slow down the traffic behind you and create a safety bay for your passenger

You can stop wherever you want, remember the world was created for you


You are the King

You are the Law

Walk proud, drive proud

Dont bother showing a good example, your time is way too precious for that.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

We at the Fed ..

.. are still optimistic. Not so because we believe there is reason to be, but because this is pretty much the only thing we can help you with. Giving you verbal support and friendly pats on the back. Things will be fine.
How and why may seem a mistery to you, and well, pretty much to us as well, but being in the optimistic business these days means not digging to deep and for sure not asking too many questions. Just keep smilingand breath deeply

We started out in early 2007 as rookie optimists. We used to be neutral you see, not optimistic, not pessimistic. When things werent going well we wouldnt try to convince people otherwise, or when things went well we smiled and nodded modestly. Nowadays, however you need a bit more marketing. Otherwise how you gonna get 10 bucks for selling your memoires, or let alone a consulting job when you leave the Fed. The CV wont do it, and we understood that in 2007, when this whole pile of debt that the American consumers piled up started to behave as debt normally does, a burden for the future. So when it became clear that our lifestyle and consumer culture is facing a rupture we decided to try to maintain a poker face and keep telling everybody that things will be fine. We went out Junk Debt Mountain, stared down into the abyss and didnt like what we saw. So we walked back to our ivory towers, and decided to pretend nothing happened. As if none of us really saw, what we saw. Im hearing that Tim (New York Fed Vice Chairman) and Richy (Dallas Fed) are still having nightmares.

So we sat there telling everyone that things are fine, until the proverbial hit the fan in August, and since then its been mayhem. We kept our pokerface even with all the casualties around us, and hope that if we pokerface and bluff a lot then eventually the cards will turn in our favour. They didnt .. we though this can only happen to others not us. Think about it.. since the 90's things were going well for us. Official inflation was low (and when it was not we introduced some statistical gimmickery to make it look lower), and the stock market did well. Thats pretty much what counts. The fact that the Average Joe Americans didnt actually get much benefit from the prosperity is disturbing but I guess they just need to work harder, like 20 hours a day in an unlit sweatshop. Its not our fault our folks got so lazy. We gave them cheap mortgages so they can pay for overvalued homes. This way we get to make mone money, and let them think that one day they actually will own a half a million buck property financed by a 40k per year income. We call this, the American Dream. Now its turning into the American Nightmare unfortunately (we are considering removing this sentence from the printed version)

By November it became clear that we are all sitting in a big pile of .. you know .
so we switched to Plan B; we remain optimistic, pokerface but throw all manner of central banking caution to the wind to try and save our banking buddies. We got afraid that if we dont save them, it will bring down the whole system that we so carefully built. We decided to use public money to save them, and if thats not enough we let some of our friends in the Middle East and China buy up our financial institutions. We dont feel ashamed of it at all, its all done for the common good. Our common good.

Since late last year, we managed to make the dollar a total pariah among currencies and in exchange we got ..ehhmm.. well we rescued a few of our banking buddies. The fact that the dollar is toast, somewhat questions are determination to stick to our mandate to ..ehhmm.. maintain the purchasing power of the currency.
Cutting rates hasnt done much either. For an average fellow to borrow money is still done at the same interest rates as a year ago. Provided someone is willing to lend them at all. Some mortgage lenders are rumoured to use man eating giant spiders inside their branches to try to discourage new customers.

However, we are scared to suggest that perhaps some banks or investors ought to go bankrupt because this is how things work in capitalism. We much more like this new Socialism, Socialism For The Rich, where the poor keep bailing out the rich.

We are in April now and things are finally looking up. We arranged a deal between JP Morgan, the bankrupt Bear Sterns, and us whereby JP Morgan gets Bear Sterns for a few bucks, a used blowdryer and packet of cigarettes. If things wont work out, we will guarantee any financial commitments Bear Sterns might be unable to honour. Its fine, because we are also operating as a pawn shop now (24 hours a day) whereby we take half-defaulted zombie mortgage loans, hedge fund manager yachts, and golden cufflinks as collateral to provide funding to the banking system.

We are not sure this will do the trick. We are hearing that fewer Americans have jobs. Those who have, dont want to borrow money to buy ropeless jumping ropes, 300 inch plasma TV's or the new Grand Cherokee SUV with a built in Surface to Air Missile (for our fellow patriots in the Bible Belt).
They are still puking the last meal. No point offering them a cheese and bacon burger after they have had 3 pounds of raw minced beef stuffed down their throat.

We may need to cut interest rates to zero, and offer a free DVD and a Miami condo for anyone brave enough to borrow money to invest in anything other than gold. Its a bit embarassing to admit that gold is at a record high, it kind of shows that there is a bit of a distrust in us being able to maintain the value of paper money. But if you cant beat them join them, so Im off to hit my second day job which I need in order to be able to feed my kids.
Im using my saved up money to buy gold and fresh water supplies.

Hang in there
The Fed