Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Dear friends ,
As you know we have no "safe area" in Ein Tzurim caravilla site in which for our children to seek protection during the siren alerts when the rockets explode and fall. The Pikud HaOref has as of yesterday, closed all the nurseries, kindergartens and schools in the area and in nearby areas, probably all this week and perhaps some of next week as well.
We would like to bus between 30 -40 children of Netzer Hazani-Gadid community in Ein Tzurim (ages about 2.5-3yrs until about 13) for daily trips to various communities who will be willing to host entertainment for the children and perhaps some of the parents who are not working . Perhaps youth in the host community or parents could prepare activities in various age groups , perhaps local musicians , actors etc. could help ---an outdoor trip in your area ---anything your community can think of that will make the day pleasant for the kids and parents --would be great!
We have two people in our community trying to coordinate such activities so please, if you have any ideas or would like to organize people in your community to try and help them lift up this glove that would be amazing -- for any ideas suggestions or willingness to do this one day
please contact Anat Meller 054-2562609 in the morning..
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
There is a must read article in the Telegraph sent in by alert reader DG which discusses this issue. Christopher Booker speaks the truth in his assessment of what has happened with the GW hysteria. "First, all over the world, temperatures have been dropping in a way wholly unpredicted by all those computer models which have been used as the main drivers of the scare. Last winter, as temperatures plummeted, many parts of the world had snowfalls on a scale not seen for decades. This winter, with the whole of Canada and half the US under snow, looks likely to be even worse. After several years flatlining, global temperatures have dropped sharply enough to cancel out much of their net rise in the 20th century.
Ever shriller and more frantic has become the insistence of the warmists, cheered on by their army of media groupies such as the BBC, that the last 10 years have been the "hottest in history" and that the North Pole would soon be ice-free – as the poles remain defiantly icebound and those polar bears fail to drown. All those hysterical predictions that we are seeing more droughts and hurricanes than ever before have infuriatingly failed to materialise."
I have mentioned many times that I remember growing up and reading Time magazine and they had a cover story on a new Ice Age, that was approaching. Can you explain to me how in 20 years we can go from an Ice Age to Global Warming? 2 reasons. 1- If you are an environmentalist/anti-capitalist, the facts don't matter. What matters is finding any way to redistribute wealth and blame capitalism for all that's wrong with the world and how without more government controls, humans will destroy the planet. 2- For rational thinkers the answer is that human effect on temperatures is nil. Oceans, sun spots, volcanoes all play a much bigger role, than my using Right Guard spray deodorant. For people to think that humans are the cause of warming or cooling is just plain arrogance. Believe it or not, the planet has been around a lot longer than certain Nobel Prize winners, and will continue to be around long after they pass from this world.
Funny how death comes into the argument. It sure seems to me that for many, environmentalism is a religion. I'm not saying that we need to be marauders of the environment but a little perspective is needed. Here in Israel we just concluded the Chanukah holiday, and as usual there we calls for people to light less candles, so as not to contribute to GW. This is insane. In fact instead of attacking religion, maybe if they embraced their own religion the environment would be in better shape. Just a thought but instead of holding out on candles, I propose that no one drive their cars on the Sabbath. Something tells me that the amount of exhaust and emissions produced by 100,000 cars does more damage to the ozone layer, than a few candles lit for 8 days.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Special thanks to D&D for hosting all of us. I know it wasn't easy, but you did a great job. I once mentioned a new cookie business( it's my sister in laws in the interest of full disclosure) that had sprouted up, and I was able to sample some of the goodies this Shabbos, and ....Giddy up! That was some good eatin'. Nothing like playing Apples to Apples while eating oatmeal cherry cookies. For those who want more information click here.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Well, we finally arrived, a full 2.5 hours late, but the kids were all in pretty good spirits, all things considered.
Special thanks to my brother and sister-in-law for hosting the family party. It's always great when we all are able to get together, and with so many kids it's certainly not easy to host such a gathering. Thanks to both of you for opening up your home, everyone had a really good time. It was also a special event as it marked the first time all of the siblings were together for Chanukka in about 31 years, and the first time ever in Israel. Let's hope brother AIK decides to settle in the holy land.
BTW- Our family was never big on giving presents for Chanukka. Mother In Israel has a great post about the custom(?) of hanging stockings for the holiday.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Why has it taken a week for the city to clear major arterials of snow? It wasn't because they were unprepared rather, the City of Seattle refuses to use salt to clear snowy and icy roads. Why you ask? Because Seattle is the hub of the environmental movement, and the greens are worried about what salt runoff would do to Puget Sound(which happens to be salt water.)
According to an article in the Seattle Times: " The icy streets are the result of Seattle's refusal to use salt, an effective ice-buster used by the state Department of Transportation and cities accustomed to dealing with heavy winter snows.
"If we were using salt, you'd see patches of bare road because salt is very effective," Wiggins said. "We decided not to utilize salt because it's not a healthy addition to Puget Sound."
By ruling out salt and some of the chemicals routinely used by snowbound cities, Seattle has embraced a less-effective strategy for clearing roads, namely sand sprinkled on top of snowpack along major arterials, and a chemical de-icer that is effective when temperatures are below 32 degrees."
It's not as if Seattle is like Minneapolis or some other city which is hit with snow all the time. It rarely snows more than once or twice a winter. How could a little salt cause any environmental damage? Is it worth citizens being stuck at home, and elderly potentially starving or freezing to death because of some ridiculous environmental claim? What could a little salt possibly do to the environment?
I think that the end of the article makes it clear: " Although the city had plowed 29 of its 36 major routes, "nothing is clear," Kuck said late Monday afternoon. "This is a difficult and challenging situation that's going to take us a long time to recover from."
Wiggins, of Seattle's transportation department, said the city's 27 trucks had plowed and sanded 100 percent of Seattle's main roads, and were going back for second and third passes.
"It's tough going. I won't argue with you on that," he said. But here in Seattle, "we're sensitive about everything we do that impacts the environment."
Maybe that's the problem with the environmental movement. They mean well, but have no perspective. They are so 'sensitive to the environment' that they have lost common sense!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
What would you say if I told you that there was a company that developed GPS-like technology for the human body? You’d probably say that that is really cool. Well leave it to Israeli ingenuity and creativity to create such a cutting-edge technology. In fact it’s such an interesting technology that St. Jude Medical(STJ) has bought the Israeli company for $300m.
In a market with very little M&A, this makes 2 acquisitions of Israeli companies in as many months. Johnson & Johnson(JNJ) bought Omrix Biopharmaceuticals(OMRI) as well. This shows that multi-nationals would rather outsource their R&D than develop it in-house. if this trend continues, it could get very interesting for Israeli hi-tech.
MediGuide was founded in 2000 by Gera Strommer, president and CEO, and Uzi Eichler, vice president technology, as a spin-off from Elbit Systems (Nasdaq: ESLT), which owns 41.3% of the company, and with backing from Israeli venture capital fund Vitalife.
According to Globes: “MediGuide has developed technology and products for minimally invasive navigation and tracking within the human body. Its devices are for use in cardiac procedures and catheterization. The system consists of sensors mounted on a catheter introduced into the body, with the locating done on the basis of the distance of the sensors from several sources of magnetic radiation, with an accuracy of fractions of a millimeter.
The information from the sensors is combined with an image of the interior of the body, in a way that is similar to the way locating using a GPS device works. Since in catheterization or other invasive procedure, the human body undergoes changes, the device measures physiological indications from the body breathing, EKG, and so on and amends the picture accordingly.”
What will they think of next?
Monday, December 22, 2008
I can't stand the Vikings, mostly because two of my friends, HH and DB are from Minnesota and I wouldn't want to give them the satisfaction of me liking their team. But way to go Zygi. Lighting the Menorah at the proper time, and then having it displayed for the whole nation to see is the true Mitzvah of publicizing the Chanuka miracle.
With all eyes on Jewish fraudster Bernard Madoff, it's definitely refreshing to see a Jew do something positive.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Nice, Tzipi, very successful on all fronts.
Now you expect us to believe that you and only you can stop the Hamas. Gimme a break!
According to the Jpost: "The people of Israel are threatened, missiles are falling," she said. "I won't say what moves should be made. There is no calm in Hamas controlled Gaza. Israel, and a government under my leadership, would topple Hamas in Gaza with military, economic and diplomatic means."
What nonsense. Hello, Tzipi. Aren't you already the chief diplomat of Israel? You have failed in your role as FM, and now you want us to believe that that makes you qualified to be head of state?
I don't think voters are that gullible.
Friday, December 19, 2008
We all remember the headlines about the Jewish Michael Jordan, Tamir Goodman. Well forget about him because we now have an orthodox Jewish female, who is creating a buzz of her own. Naama Shafir, an Israeli from around Tiberias, is the freshman star of the University of Toledo women’s basketball team, and the first Orthodox Jewish female to ever get a sports scholarship to an NCAA school.
According to a feature in the Jewish Week: "As a Sabbath-observant, kosher-eating minority of one on the Toledo campus, Shafir is providing an education about the customs and requirements of Orthodox Judaism, and the team is serving as a model of religious tolerance.
Her favorite food, according to a player’s profile in the Rockets’ media guide, is “kosher food.”
“My teammates ask a lot of questions,” Shafir says. “I explain.”
Alerted to the symbols of kosher certification, the other young women on the team, Christians, many of them African Americans, go out of their way to find products with the Orthodox Union’s OU symbol when buying snacks, she says.
With the guidance of her rabbi in Israel, who advised her when she was the sole Orthodox girl on her national team a few years ago, she has worked out an MO that allows her to follow Jewish law while playing at the highest level of college hoops."
I think this is very cool. She is a great role model for Jewish girls in the US. Not quite your typical JAP! What's so interesting is that the Israeli media hasn't picked up on the story. When they do, I can't wait to hear the reaction; especially from the Orthodox community. I can imagine that while some will be proud and supportive, there will be many other prominent Orthodox Jewish leaders who use the word 'disgrace' 'not modest'- just to name a few.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
The Gov. Paterson of NY, presented his tax increase plan which is thought to raise over $121 billion in revenues, and taxes everything under the sun.
According to the NY Post: " The Draconian plan calls for:
* An "iTunes tax" of 4 percent on videos, music or pictures downloaded from the Internet.
* A 4 percent tax on taxi, limo and bus rides. That means a $10 cab ride would cost 40 cents more.
* A 4 percent entertainment tax on tickets to movies, concerts and sporting events. That would add nearly 50 cents to a $12 movie ticket or $1.80 to the cheapest $44.50 seat at a Knicks game.
* The tax on beer increases 24 cents per gallon, or more than double the current rate, which means about 30 cents a case.
* An 18 percent tax on non-diet soft drinks, which aims to reduce child obesity. A $1.50 can of Pepsi would then cost at least 25 cents more. "
Hello. My hunch is that much of the planned increase revenue take will never materialize. I bet that someone will find a way to get around the download music tax. What about the tax on non-diet soft drinks? People will start drinking diet drinks.
For New York, which has seen people leave the state in droves, this new tax increase plan will function like a kick in the b***. Why on earth would someone want to stay there.
I hate to think what will happen if this brilliant plan becomes national policy during an Obama administration.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Now with the Madoff fraud, we are going to hear calls of more regulation of the securities industry. But is that going to solve the problem? It's sort of stupid to legislate more laws, when those on the books are not being enforced. After all, the SEC should have been all over Madoff Securities long ago, but they dropped the ball.
Regulation is not the answer. There is more than enough regulation to discourage anyone from setting up a securities company. What is needed though is for the current regulators to actually do what they are mandated to do.
Monday, December 15, 2008
The blogesphere has been filled with Anti-Semitic posts, blaming everything from the September 11 terror attacks, to the collapse of the global financial system on the Jews. I decided not to link to anyone of these blogs, as I don't want to help their traffic. Needless to say, Jews may be in for some hard times.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
The Wall Street Journal online says: "During golf-course and cocktail-party banter, Mr. Madoff's name frequently surfaced as a money manager who could consistently deliver high returns. Older, Jewish investors called Mr. Madoff " 'the Jewish bond,' " says Ken Phillips, head of a Boulder, Colo., investment firm. "It paid 8% to 12%, every year, no matter what."
The article continues, " Mr. Madoff handled investments for the Judy & Fred Wilpon Family Foundation, which distributed about $1 million a year in 2005 and 2006 to charities, according to its most recent federal tax returns."
The fallout from this scandal is going to be far reaching, and unfortunately for Jewish organizations who are already reeling from a slow global economy, this is another nail in their fundraising coffin.
Friday, December 12, 2008
In a report on Marketwatch: "Madoff counted several large hedge fund investment firms as clients, along with some European banks, so if his firm has lost more than $50 billion, the impact could be widespread.
On Wednesday, Madoff told two senior employees that he was "finished," that he had "absolutely nothing," that "it's all just one big lie," and that it was "basically, a giant Ponzi scheme," federal prosecutors said in their statement.
According to a criminal complaint filed on Thursday and cited by the Journal, Madoff "deceived investors by operating a securities business in which he traded and lost investor money, and then paid certain investors purported returns on investment with the principal received from other, different investors, which resulted in losses of approximately billions of dollars."
Madoff also said his business was insolvent, and that it had been for years, estimating losses to be at least $50 billion, prosecutors alleged, again citing the two unidentified employees.
According to the complaint, Madoff told one of his senior employees that clients were seeking about $7 billion in redemptions and that "he was struggling to obtain the liquidity necessary to meet those obligations." The employees believed the firm had about $17 billion under management."
Investors should stick to stocks, bonds, mutual funds and work with their financial advisers, check your statement and pay attention to what you own.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Hum.... Sort of like wanting to attack Gaza, after doing nothing as Foreign Minister.
BTW- Tzipi, what do YOU beleive in?
Globes is reporting on the annual Google Zeitgeist survey, and the word 'games' takes the top spot: "After "games", the most frequently used search words by Israeli surfers were Walla, Nana, Mekusharim (an Israeli social network), and YouTube. The most frequent query in Israel in 2008 was the "Big Brother" reality show, followed by Channel 10, the song "Matai Nitnashek" (When will we kiss), the "Survival" reality show, and iPhone."
Maybe next year we will get words like: Get hair out of your eyes, I'm Right You're Wrong, Achmanidejad RIP. Just a thought.
To understand this concept more easily, we first need to define the meaning of diversification. Diversification is an investment technique that uses many varied investments within a single portfolio. The idea behind it is that a portfolio of different kinds of investments may, on average, yield higher returns and pose a lower risk than a single investment. Diversification tries to smooth out volatility in a portfolio caused by market, interest rate, currency and geopolitical risks. In laymen’s terms, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. It’s important to remember that diversification does not assure against a loss.
If you include bonds or FDIC-insured Certificates of Deposit (CDs) in your stock portfolio, it may take away some of the volatility of the portfolio, allowing for potentially, more stable returns over the long run.
Keep you eyes glued to your long-term goals. It’s important to remember that markets go up and down, and if you made a financial plan, it would have taken this type of market volatility into account. The worst thing you can do as an investor is panic and sell everything and then wait for the market to recover. The market tends to recover very quickly. Large market gains often come about in quick and unpredictable spurts, and missing just a few days of strong market returns can substantially erode long-term performance. Remember the famous investing principle of buying low and selling high. Investors who panic often end up selling low.
The third principle is for investors to update or rebalance their investment portfolios. Rebalancing is necessary for two main reasons. First of all, it keeps your asset allocation in line with your risk level and, secondly, it keeps your portfolio in line with both your short- and long-term goals and needs.
According to the JPost: "Keith Dayton, the US army general who is overseeing the training in Jordan of the Palestinian Authority's National Security Force for the West Bank, has praised the new recruits as "the most capable Palestinian security forces that have ever been fielded here," and firmly played down the notion that they might one day come to turn their weapons on Israel."
Israel can't even deal with the un-capable force and soon will have deal with US trained 'capable forces? Oy.
Dayton appears to be living in Kansas. Of course the Palestinian forces will never turn against Israel. It's just like they would never use the 40,000 guns we gave them to shoot at us, or the famous Shimon Peres line that when Arafat spoke about Jihad, he meant a Jihad for peace!
At least the Iranians will never get THE BOMB!
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
With all the money that Israeli taxpayers throw at the education system, not only does it continue to stink but it's actually getting worse. According to a report on Israeli test scores that's in the JPost: "In September, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a group of Westernized countries that measures growth and modernization around the world, placed Israel near the bottom of its report on the state of education systems around the world.
Now the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) exams have placed Israel 24th out of 49 nations, five places lower than its ranking in 2003. In an additional round of science exams, Israel was placed 25th, two spots lower than it had been ranked in those tests previously."
Of course all those who are truly concerned about social justice are out there crying for even more money. Let's face it; the Israeli education system has turned into a black hole.
What's the solution? I am full agreement with the ideas put forth by Dan Ben-David, director of the Taub Center for Social Policy Research and an economics professor at Tel Aviv University. He says, "You're not going to get any results without reform," Ben-David said. "And the reforms we need fall into three categories: teachers, curriculum and management. We need teachers who are qualified to teach, meaning teachers should get a BA in whatever field they plan on teaching and then learn how to teach, not the other way around. We need to go back to the basics on our curriculum, which means kids need to learn the basic skills they will need before going out to the workforce - reading, writing, math; then we can talk about medicine."
Regarding management, "once you have good teachers teaching the right things, you need to give them incentives to continue and try harder. Reward good teachers... for their efforts," Ben-David went on.
"But we're really far away from that," he said. "And until we enact these reforms, don't expect any surprises in test results. There can't be any more shortcuts."
Thanks to Nefesh B'Nefesh and the Russell Berrie Foundation, your dream could turn into a reality. The Aliyah organization, which works in cooperation with various government offices, will bring over 1,000 newcomers to the North over the next few years. You can check out more info. on this project at www.gonorth.org.il.
I always find it amazing that private organizations are able to accomplish so much more than the government can do. We have been hearing about government plans to build up the Negev, southern Israel for years and years and it's just talk. Nothing of significance has been done. Now you have an ambitious private organization, who is able to team with a foundation that has a similar philosophy regrading western Aliyah to Israel, and voila! You have have a program in place ready to start.
Way to go NBN!
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
First of all I have a friend DB, who works for a large Jewish philanthropic organization and he tells me that historically, during economic slowdowns, donations don't drop off that much, as the large donors are asked to fill the void of mid size and small donors who tend to tapped out on giving.
Ruth Cheshin of the Jerusalem Foundation has a really interesting op-ed in Globes on this topic. She says, "The global economic crisis is already being strongly felt by NGOs and philanthropic foundations. Major donors, who have lost substantial amounts of money, are in no rush to commit to new contributions. Nobody knows what the future holds, so even those who still have millions in their pockets, prefer to be cautious. Medium and small-scale donors, who were in the past able to contribute, are hesitant about answering the call to give in these times. For those who are not eager, the economic crisis represents an excellent excuse for no longer giving.
Whatever the reasons there is one conclusion: the number of potential contributors has been greatly reduced, and with it the money set aside for philanthropic aims. Consequently, NGOs and philanthropic foundations can expect to feel a substantial fall in the volume of donations, and the first to be hit will be the welfare NGOs assisted by these important donations."
I think that there are 2 things that can be done to help ease the pain for these non-profits.
1- Cut costs. There is no reason that these organizations can't be run like businesses. they need to trim the fat and get trimmer. I am not sure how ethical it is anyway for non-profits to pay out exorbitant salaries and provide great perks to their workers. Ultimately these expenses come out of the donation, so the donor ends up giving far less than was intended. Part of this maybe to bring in financial people on a consultant basis to make sure the finances are in order. Let's not forget that non-profits are run by people who want to do good, they may not necessarily be the best in business.
2-Try teaming up with local business. In the US we see non-profits doing joint ventures with companies and members of the business community. It's beneficial for both sides. It's good for corporate involvement in the community, and it's a good source of financial support for the non-profit. Why don't we see that happen in Israel.
Obviously there are more steps that can be taken, but tackling these 2 issues will go a long way in surviving the current economic downturn.
According to Globes: "Sources inform ''Globes'' that Hirsch Media Ltd., owned by Shlomo Ben-Tzvi, has suspended publication of the Hebrew edition of "Businessweek", beginning with next Thursday's edition. Ben-Tzvi is also seeking to sell the franchise of the US weekly. Alternatively, he may go ahead with the launch with a partner.
Hirsch Media has published the Hebrew edition of "Businessweek" for just under a year, after signing a contract with the publisher of "Businessweek" for a Hebrew edition of the weekly 18 months ago."
It's a shame that this is happening as there are few well written Hebrew business magazines. Let's hope that a solution can be found to get this back in print.
According to the Jpost: "The Likud was, the Likud is, and the Likud will remain a right-wing party that will isolate Israel in a corner and return us to times that we wanted to escape from," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "If Bibi, Begin, Ya'alon and Feiglin come to power, it will cause significant diplomatic damage to Israel."
"Today it was proven that the Likud never ended its quota system for Sephardim and has pushed them back from their natural place," Shas chairman Eli Yishai said.
Yep, exactly. Why is it that Shas always needs to place the race card? I'm sorry PM Olmert, I didn't realise that you have left us in a situation of diplomatic strength!
The fact is that Feiglin failed in his attempt to hijack the Likud. He had no political coattails, and placed 20th. Can any of you tell me who is number 20 on the current Kadima list?
The fact is that rival parties are well aware that they may well crushed during the upcoming elections, and trying to scare the public is the only chance they have at keeping some electoral power.
I guess we are lucky that we live in a democracy, and we enjoy the right of spending 2 hours in line to cast a vote. many people of the world would literally kill for that opportunity. While it was certainly inconvenient, we should give thanks that we enjoy these freedoms.
Monday, December 8, 2008
His cynical use of a checklist with questions the like of: " What percentage of the time that you set singles up do they actually get married?
a) Less than 1 percent
b) More than 1 percent
c) A monkey could do just as well
This is just a slap in the face to those who try. So what if your success rate isn't so hot? How high is the author's success rate with women that he just asks out. The answer: zero, he is still single.
I assume that the author is still single. Why the hatred towards those who want to help men and women find each other and get married?
"Since shadchanim [matchmakers] and shidduch [matchmaking] groups as a whole have been doing such a remarkably efficient and successful job, our community and its leaders continue to tout more of each as the primary solution to the "shidduch crisis."
Does the author really believe that there is no 'Shidduch crisis?' How does he explain the thousands and thousands of unmarried men and women. Have we ever had so many older singles in our history?
As an amateur matchmaker I am offended by this article. It's like he is spitting in the face of those just trying to do a kind act. I am just trying to help. If the author doesn't want my help, or that of other matchmakers who volunteer their precious time, then I wish him all the luck.
According to a report in Haaretz: "The barbed comments came after Livni put out a statement Saturday night, following a weekend in which Palestinians fired nine Qassam rockets and several rounds of mortar shells from the Gaza Strip, saying Israel should "respond with fire" to the shelling and calling on the government to reassess the lull. A meeting will take place Wednesday to discuss the matter."
Just one question for Tzipi; Where have you been the last few years? Aren't you the FOREIGN MINISTER? Hello????
There have been 14,284 trading days since January 1, 1950. On 33 of those days, the market fell 4% or more. On 35 of those days, the market rallied 4% or more. So there have been 68 moves out of 14,284, showing such days are very rare occurring just 0.4%of the time. 28 of those 68 rare event occurred over the last three months. That's a whopping 41% of all these very rare events since September. No wonder we feel so tired.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
According to a report in Globes: "Shorter trading days in March and April, which resulted from a labor dispute, showed that trading volume did not fall despite the shorter hours. As a result TASE CEO Ester Levanon appointed a committee to examine the issue. Levanon said, "A review by the committee showed that most stock exchange members support a shorter day, and see it resulting in lower costs and employee satisfaction. Exchange members do not expect a drop in trading volume, nor of foreign investor activity."
I guess something good actually came out of a labor dispute!
Trading in Tel- Aviv will start at 9:00 am instead of 8:30 am, and will end at 4:00 pm. Welcome back 'Bankers hours!'
Many individuals who invested all their savings with this firm are now unsure whether they will recover anything. Dazzled with the promise of unrealistically high “guaranteed returns,” many of these unfortunate victims decided to invest, and they may now end up with nothing.
Remember the old saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”? Whether it’s that letter you just received in the mail saying that you won $5 million in a lottery that you never entered, or someone promising very high “guaranteed” investment returns, the consumer needs to realize that building wealth is a long-term process. There are no quick fixes.
In today’s western society, the concept of instant gratification is constantly being reinforced. Whether it’s our increasing dependence on fast food or the notion of getting rich quick, we have lost the virtue of patience.
The local media is filled with advertisements pitching various real-estate opportunities both in Israel and abroad. They often make very seductive claims, such as a minimal investment with returns of over 200% within three years, or a “guarantee” of a particular return. But how do we know if such claims are legitimate or not?
The first rule is always: buyer, beware. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The second rule is to read the fine print carefully. Oftentimes the small print on the bottom of the advertisement makes it very clear that the “guarantee” comes with many strings attached, and there is a reasonable chance that you can indeed lose some or all of your money. The third rule is to always ask detailed questions, and never let the salesman off the hook. Ask pointed and specific questions to get a better understanding of the investment. Always inquire if there are any risks, and what they entail. If the answer is, “there are no risks,” or lip service is paid to explaining the risks, there is a good chance that you are not getting the full information about the investment, and you should think twice about investing.
This highlights why investors should work with licensed investment professionals. They are very much limited in their use of the word “guarantee,” which is only used for an investment guaranteed by the U.S. government. For a licensed investment professional, inappropriate usage of the word “guarantee” is against the law, and regulators take this issue very seriously.
In reality, it is virtually unheard of for a person to accumulate wealth overnight. Rather, it’s a process that takes many, many years. If you are looking to build wealth for the long term, you should start investing as soon as possible. Using an expert will help you decide how to invest your savings, but you should first have a firm handle of your short and long-term goals and needs. Therefore, before you meet with an investment adviser, broker, or other investment professional, it’s a good idea to map out your financial goals. Do you have children or grandchildren to marry off? Are your elderly parents in need of care? Do you need some supplemental income to make it through the month? You need to determine your own budgetary needs and your ability to tolerate risk first. Then, you should ask your adviser what kinds of investments would best fulfill these goals. Use your adviser as a sounding board. The adviser can tell you if your goals are realistic, and if not, you can work together to come up with objectives that can be achieved.
You have worked hard to save money, and it would be a shame to lose it on a dubious “get rich quick” scheme.
Aaron Katsman is President of Global Investments at Profile Investment Services. He is a licensed financial professional both in the U.S. and Israel, and helps people who open investment accounts in the U.S. Securities which are offered through Portfolio Resources Group, Inc. a registered broker dealer, Member FINRA, SIPC, MSRB, SIFMA. For more information, go to www.profile-financial.com or call (02) 624-2788 or (03) 524-0942, or email email@example.com
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Say it isn't so. I always thought that the UN was a balanced, rational organization that treated all people as equals. Could it be that that's not the case?
According to a piece in the JPost.com: "I welcome the evacuation by Israeli security forces of approximately 200 settlers from a house in Hebron yesterday," Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process said. "I condemn the ensuing violence and attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians and the destruction and desecration of Palestinian property, mosques and graves, as well as settler attacks on Israeli security forces."
Funny, I missed the report condemning the firing of missiles into Israeli cities, and the strong condemnation against continued terror attacks against Israeli targets.
It couldn't be the UN, it must be me. I guess I need to read the paper more often and I am sure I will find the even handedness of the UN.
Friday, December 5, 2008
What this means is that 3 men with zero experience are going to try and lead a substantial voting bloc in the Knesset. Good luck. Who is going to vote for these guys? Too bad because a unified right wing bloc would garner decent electoral support, but not with a bunch of no names on the ticket.
What I find interesting is the irony with all of this. Zevulun Orlev who was a major force behind this new party basically was responsible for the demise of the Mafdal, and now was basically shown the door by his new party. Maybe he should take the hint.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
According to the Jpost.com: "Minutes after police entered the building, protesters began to come out. Some walked out, while others were dragged or carried by security forces. Demonstrators at the scene said that at least ten people had been injured just ten minutes into the operation. Channel 10 reported that one person had been seriously wounded."
The fact that this building was purchased legally and the buyer was never given a chance by the activist Israeli Supreme Court to prove his acquisition didn't seem to sway Barak. Clearly trying to shore up waning support, ironic that he is doing the evacuation on the day of the Labor party primaries, Barak is flexing his muscles against his own people. And we wonder why the Jewish people keep facing more and more tragedy.
According to Barak and his cronies, Jews are not allowed to purchase property in their own country and evacuating these ideologues is more important than stopping missile attacks on Israeli cities like Sderot. Is that warped thinking or what?
According to Politico: “I can't overstate the impact she had down here,” Chambliss said during an interview Wednesday morning on Fox News. “When she walks in a room, folks just explode,” he added. “And they really did pack the house everywhere we went. She's a dynamic lady, a great administrator, and I think she's got a great future in the Republican Party.”
Palin got a bad rap in the press, and she was clearly kept under wraps by the failed McCain campaign, but there is just no doubting that regular people are drawn to her. Even towards the end of the presidential campaign she was drawing huge crowds wherever she went.
It appears that her position as a power player in the Republican party as guaranteed.
According to the report in Globes, the Ministry of National Infrastructures director general Hezi Kugler spoke at a conference and said: "The Ministry of Finance wants us to stop and assess the economic gain that alternative energies are likely to generate. Surveys in other places show that the public is willing to pay 20-30% more for alternative energy. We can supply energy from the resource that we have here (the sun) and increase our energy security. These are the right considerations. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Finance is doing everything it can to stop this going before the cabinet because they know there won't be a single minister who will vote against it."
Clearly the Finance Ministry is unreasonable in wanting to 'assess the economic gain that alternative energies are likely to generate.' Mr.Kugler , give me a break. First of all, you tell me who would be happy to pay an extra 20-30% for their energy? I wouldn't be happy to part with that money, and I don't know many others who would be doing cartwheels to pay a lot more either. Second, do you actually have the nerve to see it as being unreasonable that the Ministry ofFinance wants to see if there will be any actual economic benefit from this whole project?
The Finance Ministry deserves a lot of credit on this issue in protecting the Israeli taxpayer from being burned by the alternative energy hype.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Buy Low/Sell High
According to an old investment adage, one should buy when prices are low and sell when they are high. Although there is no sure way to declare that a fall has reached its end, the market would definitely be cheaper after a 45% decline than it was before. In other words, the market is somewhat “on sale.” No one likes buying retail, and with the recent market pullback it could even feel as if the investor is buying wholesale! This could be compared with when a local supermarket runs a “45% off” sale. In this situation, shoppers would be lined up around the block to have a chance to make purchases at rock bottom prices. One classic investment strategy is ''buying the dips.'' An example of this would be to wait for a pullback of at least 10% in prices, and then the investor will make his purchase. This strategy often beats chasing sudden hot streaks that can result in overpaying or worse, buying at the top. And as for those “market timers” who want to see “for sure” that the market is moving back up before they buy, they often never get to enjoy the subsequent rebound.
One of the biggest risks of trying to “time” the market is the potential of "missing" the market. This occurs when an investor, thinking the market will go down, reallocates his investments and places them in more conservative investments. But while the money is on the sidelines, the market shoots up. The investor has, therefore, incorrectly timed the market and "missed" the best performing months. Studies have shown how much an investor can lose by being out of the market. According to research by DALBAR, the numbers are telling. For example, when looking at the returns of mutual fund investors over the 20-year period 1986-2006, we see that the average market timer return was -2%. During this same time period, the S&P 500 Index returned 12%. Additionally, during the 10-year period of 1997-2006, the S&P 500 Index achieved an annualized return of 8.4%. If an investor missed just the top 20 days during this entire period, his return fell to -4%. Keep in mind that historical returns are no guarantee of future success.
Oftentimes the market recovery is so swift that by the time investors have made up their minds to invest, it’s too late. The market will have already recovered most of its losses. We have witnessed those types of upward moves over the last few months. We have seen the market move up by as much as 9% in one day.
Many young couples put their wedding money into the bank, where it accrues virtually no interest. Even at that point, however, it is important to start thinking about the future. How will they be able to afford paying for their children’s weddings in 20 years’ time if their savings do not grow? In this situation, it is a good time to make whatever money you have work for you now. To get started, a young couple will find it very useful to consult with a financial adviser, who will help them to define their financial goals and needs. From this, an investment plan can be drawn up to try to achieve these goals and meet these needs.
If this money is left lying around, doing nothing, there is little chance of growing enough interest to use it to its full potential. Investing is a good option, and the recent market drop may well be in your favor. If you buy at a discount now, this increases the chances of potential success.
Aaron Katsman is President of Global Investments at Profile Investment Services. He is a licensed financial professional both in the United States and Israel, and helps people who open investment accounts in the United States. Securities are offered through Portfolio Resources Group, Inc. a registered broker dealer, Member FINRA (formerly NASD), SIPC, MSRB, SIFMA. For more information, go to www.profile-financial.com or call (02) 624-2788 or (03) 524-0942, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The problem, as both agents explained to me, is that the sellers still will not budge. They refuse to lower prices. At some though, they will capitulate and drop prices and then we may very well see prices in sought after neighborhoods drop but 10-15%.
If there is a silver lining in the economic slowdown, first time home buyers may be able to finally afford to buy an apartment in the nation's capital.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Nehemia Shtrasler writes in Haaretz: "It will be interesting to see where else Benjamin Netanyahu goes in his eager pursuit of voters' hearts. He wants so badly to sit in the prime minister's chair that he is even willing to scrap his entire economic worldview and masquerade as Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini."
He says that Netanyahu has given up his ideology in order to get elected. Calling for a broad pension safety net, increasing child allowances and a large increase in government spending, Bibi has basically moved his policies to be in line with those of national labor chairman Ofer Eini.
I am not a big fan of Shtrasler but he does make some good points. Instead of calling for more spending and basically abandonding budgetary discipline, Netanyahu should be out there championing lower taxes, and incentivizing entrepreneurship. After all, the real engine to economic growth is not bailing out billionaires, but it's by encouraging small and and mid-size business creation.
As for the pension safety net, Shtrasler is correct on the facts but wrong on the safety net. He says, " He knows that this "safety net" is a regressive, antisocial policy that no other country has adopted. And who knows better than he that the people have not lost anything in the provident funds, but have in fact earned a profit? From 2003 through 2007, these funds posted a very nice profit - 66 percent. Only this year have there been a loss - 20 percent. In other words, the gains far exceed the losses. So why should we be transferring money to people who made a profit?"
No question that much of this discussion is based on zero facts. Most pensions increased handsomely since Bibi opened up the system. I am not for a broad safety-net. We need to follow the Chilean pension model. Chile faced a bankrupt pension system, and they decided to privatize the system by allowing people to have individual savings accounts. But for those approaching retirement they were given a choice. Accept the new system or you could take a guaranteed pension from the government. Basically a safety net for those close to retiring. That's exactly what we should do here in Israel. For those 5 years away from retirement, give them the choice of accepting a guaranteed government pension, or letting it ride in a private account.
This is the kind of policy we need Netanyahu to speak about. We don't need him encouraging building a road or bridge that no one needs.
Some of the tips she gives are:
- Speak Less, Listen More - People don’t want to hear about you they want to talk about themselves.
- Don’t Be a Know It All - Even if you do know everything you don’t have to prove it.
- Be Engaged - Looking at your watch, over someones shoulder or checking your cell is not engaged.
A someone in business who has a lot of meetings, it's really true that if your counter-party violates any of these rules, the chemistry is shot and little will come out of the meeting. I am unable to count how many meetings I have where the person sitting across from me keeps checking his watch or even answers his cellphone to take a call.
I would say that aside from not being particularly smart as far as business goes, it's also not very polite. People want to be treated with respect and by doing any of these aforementioned things, you end up showing a tremendous dis-respect from the person you are sitting with.
How about some common courtesy?
Monday, December 1, 2008
Barak spent most of his time pleading for a greater role for government in the economy. From raising taxes, to ending budget discipline by advocating more and more government spending. He spoke about "piggish capitalism" and the need to end it, and a new focus on social and economic justice (Code words for Socialism?) I guess he knows about the evils of capitalism, buying a multi-million dollar apartment and making millions in speaking fees and as a large investor in an Israeli satellite company that went public. Hypocrite?
Livni, as she is capable of doing, basically said nothing. She spoke about the status quo and continuing need to grow the economy. She did blame the pension mess on Netanyahu. Funny didn't she vote for his reforms? Sounds a lot like her Lebanon fiasco. Blame the other guy even though you had responsibility in it.
Netanyahu basically, reiterated his calls fro lower taxes as the foundation to any economic recovery. He also stressed the need for education reform and said that he is the most qualified to lead this type of reform as he already led the economic reform that basically saved Israel from economic collapse. He also called for investing in infrastructure, roads and highways.
It's no secret that I am a fan of tax cuts and that we need much less government intrusion into our lives. Based on those principles it would seem at first glance that Netanyahu has the strongest economic policy.
Rediff.com has a description of how the terrorists treated the hostages: " Asked specifically if he was talking of torture marks, he said: "It was apparent that most of the dead were tortured. What shocked me were the telltale signs showing clearly how the hostages were executed in cold blood," one doctor said.
The other doctor, who had also conducted the post-mortem of the victims, said: "Of all the bodies, the Israeli victims bore the maximum torture marks. It was clear that they were killed on the 26th itself. It was obvious that they were tied up and tortured before they were killed. It was so bad that I do not want to go over the details even in my head again," he said."
So the Jews were singled out once again.