Barry Freundel Ain’t Movin’ Out of His House

From the Forward:

The Washington, D.C. rabbi charged peeping at his synagogue’s mikveh has refused to move out of the synagogue-owned house where he and his family had been living, the congregation said in an email to congregants today.

The guy won’t move out. This is going to be fun. I propose a compromise between Freundel and Kesher Israel. I say, allow Freundel to stay in the house, on the condition that cameras are installed in his shower.

I don’t know who would watch, but it’s an idea, no?

BOTTLEGATE Sarah Netanyahu Busted for Scalping 13,000 State Bottles for 30 Agorot Deposit

Seeing this story brought me back to two low but high points in my life. The first was when I first got married. Always the frugal types, instead of going out on dates that cost money, my wife and I would walk around Givat Shmuel collecting bottles some nights. Before we had kids and before I had any kind of career. Eventually we collected enough for me to get a 600 shekel beer kit and I ended up brewing really bad-tasting Farbeer. I still have the buckets and still use them to collect rainwater. I fill the toilet tank with it sometimes.

These are sort of like Great Depression-era habits, like stories from people who grew up in the 30’s who do things like reuse plastic silverware because that’s what they did when they were 12 in 1933.

It was a low point because what kind of schmuck goes out collecting bottles with his wife. It was a high point because I am the kind of schmuck who would do that and she married me.

The other low-high point was when I was kidnapped into the army for 6 months. Instead of taking the bus from the bowels of Tzrifin to the front gate, I would do the 35 minute walk, collecting bottles on the way. There is no creature in the solar system that needlessly buys and throws away mountains of bottles and cans everywhere like an 18 year old pisher Israeli soldier jobnik. Every day I would collected close to 100, through the train station to Petach Tikva Segula to drop them off at the old חצי חינם in the dispenser and get my credit.

That’s about 30 shekels every day. A high point because it was a lot of money, a low point because what kind of schmuck in מדים goes on a train with a back pack full and 3 to 4 bags of cans? Me.

But what Sara Netanyahu did was really a low-low-low point, even for her. And my opinion of her ain’t so grand as you would guess. Because she gets enough tax money from me as it is. She really, really does not need 30 agorot more.

Apparently, for years, Sara Netanyahu would tell her housekeeping staff to collect the bottles from official State functions at the Prime Minister’s Residence, redeem them at supermarkets, and give her the cash. Wow. I’m speechless.

She did this for years, apparently, until the State Comptroller got word of it, started investigating, and then suddenly the money was returned via private Netanyahu family check (as “private” as private can be when dealing with the Prime Minister’s tax money) in May 2013 for a grand whopping insane sum of ₪4000, or 13,333 bottles.

I keep having this picture in my brain of a bunch of Oompa Loompas in the employ of Sara Netanyahu dancing out of the Netanyahu residence full of bottles and twirling and singing their way to the nearest supermarket.

I guess one could argue that if the state left the bottles at her house, then the money is hers. But on second thought, it’s just creepy.

GREEK HOPE Yanis Varoufakis Named Greece Finance Minister

BAM! Yanis Varoufakis was just confirmed as Greece’s new finance minister. I’ve been writing about Varoufakis since 2012. You can see all the posts I’ve written about him here.

First off, no he is not a libertarian. BUT he is genuine, he is not a politician (yet), and he’s got fire in his soul. That much I can tell. I’ve been fascinated with him for years because he has been the lone (and loan) voice of sense in the entire Greek mess. While he is not a libertarian and believes in government regulation, he does know and understand that the state is the entrepreneur’s biggest enemy. This much he said in a recent interview.

He’s articulate, speaks like a human being instead of in moronic soundbites and brainfarts that make you want to vomit, and his English is impeccable. And he doesn’t fake his conviction say, like Elizabeth Warren.

Oh, and he isn’t a fat disgusting lizard-looking slob of an embarrassment like his predecessor Evangelos Venizelos. (I only insult politicians for being physically repulsive.)

I mean really, which guy would you want to be a Finance Minister? This guy:

Evangelos Venizelos, Fat Lizard Man
Evangelos Venizelos, Fat Lizard Man

Or this guy:

Yanis Varoufakis
Yanis Varoufakis

No contest. He also understands how the current bailout setup is only bleeding private Greek citizens to the last drop.

What happens is this. A government spends too much money loaned to them by fractional reserve banks that are inherently unstable. The government then scares everyone into believing that if it defaults, the planet will explode. Therefore, private taxpayers are scared into giving up a bunch of money so the government can keep paying the banks their interest, which if they don’t get, could start a chain reaction of bankruptcies due to the inherent instability of fractional reserve banking. Meanwhile the private economy has no capital left to grow the economy because it’s all going to the government that keeps paying off the banks.

In the case of the Greek bailout, it is all of Europe’s taxpayers that has to finance the Greek government, so it’s much worse.

Varoufakis’s solution you can listen to here, which I wrote about almost 3 years ago. It’s a little nutty at the end where he wants to Europeanize the entire banking system which will have the effect of spreading out Greece’s government’s losses over the entire Eurozone. This will dilute the effect, but won’t solve the problem. It’ll just put it off for another decade or so until the entire continent’s governments collectively run up their debts even higher.

But in any case, it doesn’t matter. Varoufakis won’t get that far. He’ll insist on defaulting, which really is the only honest thing to do. Better say you can’t pay and go home than rob taxpayers even more just so you can keep paying interest payments a little longer while your debt keeps going up anyway. Am I sure it’s going up? Yes.

greece-government-debt-to-gdp

I’ll keep saying it, but once Greece defaults, there will be a crazy bond run on Italy. Italy will fall, and then the Eurozone will either split or collapse entirely.

But if anyone has the guts to push the default button and see what the hell happens, it’s Yanis. I’m totally psyched.

GO PUTIN Russia Freezing Spending In Response to S&P Cut

Putin’s getting smart. It’s nice to see a head of State do something that makes sense economically. All signs point to the fact that whoever is running Russia’s economy – and it probably is not Putin – really knows what he, or should I say she, is doing. I believe it is Elvira Nabiullina who’s really running the show, and so far, she’s awesome.

First of all, despite a gigantic Ruble collapse to 78 Rubles to the dollar from 33 earlier in 2014 (we are now at 67), Russia has added to its gold supply. When your currency is in free fall, you don’t generally buy gold. You sell it in order to prop up the value of your currency. But Russia did not do that. Instead, it ate through some of its paper forex, which is to be expected. Nabiullina is intent on keeping Russia’s gold. That is huge, and very good for the Ruble long term.

Second, in response to the S&P (those geniuses who can’t predict a single economic crisis and gave Lehman a AAA rating just before it collapsed) cutting Russia’s bond rating to junk status, Putin (with Nabiullina’s advice I assume) announced a total government spending freeze.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov announced Tuesday that the government has adopted an anti-crisis plan that will freeze the level of spending. The plan also sees the budget returning to a surplus as soon as in 2017 and the government preparing structural reforms “so that we do not burn recklessly through Russia’s sovereign reserves.”

Wow – a State actually freezing spending in response to an economic crisis instead of printing and bailing out. This is somethin’ else. I love it.

Russia may go through some turmoil until oil prices rise again, and they will, but Nabiullina, or whoever is really running the show, is setting Russia up to devour the West when its their currencies’ turn to collapse. With the ECB printing €50B a month and the US M2 money supply growing at close to 7% annually, oil will eventually turn back up.

When it does, the Russian bear will roar.  Right now its hibernating. But not for long.

For those interested in placing bets on Russia, the relevant ETF is RSX.

Greek Domino Effect – Does Italy Guarantee Greece Bonds?

There’s a Mises.org article circulating now about how the recent Greek elections could end up shattering the Eurozone. This really is uncharted territory because nothing like the Eurozone has existed before, with separate sovereign states sharing a fiat currency controlled by a central bank.

The article is titled “How Greek Default May Still Unravel the EU“. Despite a few strange contradictions between the beginning and the end of the article, what I found most interesting was this part:

Greece currently owes a little over 300 billion euros to various creditors. About 200 billion is owed to the Eurozone institutions, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), and the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), that raised funds based on Eurozone guarantees…Spain, Italy, and France have guaranteed about 50 percent of this debt. A default would mean an important increase in the debt load of each of these countries. This would likely be the tipping point for Italy which has a current debt to GDP level of over 130 percent and several decades of essentially no growth. Italy is too big to bail out.

I did some cursory Googling of anything about Italy guaranteeing any portion of Greek debt. I couldn’t find anything, but I didn’t really put much effort into the research. There are no footnotes to the article, so I see no source for this, though that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Let’s assume it is though. Tsipras and Varoufakis together are a pretty formidable force for getting out of the current debt stranglehold. Varoufakis wants to default and hates politicians. Tsipras wants to maintain his fiery appeal and may just be crazy enough (in a good way) to listen to Varoufakis, who is probably the only honorable person in the entire Hellenic Parliament to have any grasp of economics at all.

If Tsipras can’t get a good deal enough to appease his voters – and nothing will appease them because their expectations are ridiculous – then Varoufakis will egg him on to default within the Euro. Now, whether this actually increases Italy’s debt burden due to guarantees through the ESM and EFSF seems rather unimportant, because if Greece defaults, I’m willing to bet that Italian bonds are going to plummet the next day with Italian interest rates skyrocketing. That will be enough to push Italy overboard.

If Greece defaults at 175% debt to GDP with bond investors losing everything, Italy is not far behind at 133%. Nobody is going to want Italian bonds in the event of a bona fide Greek default. If Italy goes down, then so do the rest of the PIIGS – leaving Portugal, Ireland, and Spain. What happens then is really up in the air. Nobody knows.

But yes, a Greek default will fundamentally alter the Eurozone if not destroy it.

Agreeing with Norman Finkelstein on Charlie Hebdo/Der Sturmer

Norman Finkelstein used to disgust me back when I was an AIPAC Neocon groupie. As I turned more and more away from that crowd and indeed grew to turn my disgust on AIPAC itself instead, Finkelstein became irrelevant. Unlike some libertarian converts I never ended up loving the people I once branded as self hating Jews or otherwise anti Semites. I am still aware of the fact that something is seriously wrong with them. I just wasn’t bothered by them anymore.

So no, I don’t love Norman Finkelstein. But one thing he said a few days ago was actually pretty insightful. Or inciteful, depending on which side of the divide you fall on.

Remember Der Sturmer? That 1930’s anti Semitic magazine in Germany? In case you don’t:

Der Sturmer

Now, what if, some time before Krystalnacht in the 1930’s, 2 pissed off Jews armed with rifles stormed the offices of Der Sturmer and just shot and killed the whole staff?

Personally, had I lived in the 1930’s, I would have been happy. And admit it, you would, too. I don’t know if I would have celebrated, but I would be at least relieved. I would be horrified at “freedom of speech” rallies in support of the surviving Der Sturmer staff, and I would be really freaked out at millions of copies of Der Sturmer being sold in the aftermath on a 1930’s Ebay. I would certainly not wear an “I am Der Sturmer” button on my shirt.

Many will say that the Der Sturmer/Charlie Hebdo analogy doesn’t hold. I say it does, and perfectly so.

Mohamed

I am not Charlie. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Europe has its own anti Muslim Krystalnacht fairly soon.

And once again, no, they should not have been killed, and the murderers should be punished. But I’m not one to mourn the murder of Julius Streicher.

Politicians Playing Gay Ping Pong

By gay ping pong I don’t mean some lewd game at a gay bar. I mean Bayit Yehudi and Yesh Atid standing on two sides of a ping pong table and batting around the gay political ping pong ball. I’m trying to imagine if I would be offended assuming I were gay and have the same principles I have now. As it is now, I’m annoyed.

Bayit Yehudi is running some inane ad about how all their members did this and that to help prevent gay marriage and how important that is because if homosexuals were allowed to “marry”, then the whole world will erupt in an orgy of homosexuality by sheer compulsion.

I hear from a Bayit Yehudi party member that the guy in the 16th seat on the list, Ronen Shoval I think, actually said that if gay marriage were legalized, by which I mean gay couples got the privilege of being more heavily taxed like straight couples (thank God for taxes) then “more people would want it”.

I looked at the guy (a male) who told me this, and said to him, “I’m sorry, but regardless of whether gays can marry, I still wouldn’t find you in the least bit sexy.”

To the meat of it: I like Youtube cooking channels. So I’m watching a recipe, and I usually skip the ad. But this time it’s a big hairy guy, a massive hulking gorilla-looking man, dressed like a woman with a wig and makeup. I’m suspended in morbid fascination so I don’t press the skip button. S/He’s saying something about how s/he decided to become a woman because this is how s/he feels on the inside.

I’m fine with that, I really don’t care how people want to dress themselves or why. All the power to ya, whoever you are, really, do what you gotta do. But for some reason I’m supposed to vote for Pretty Boy Lapid because of this gorilla transvestite girl unfortunate enough to be born into a decisively manly testosterone-infested body?

So we have Bayit Yehudi telling me how great it is that all their guys are totally against gay people doing whatever it is they do, and then I have Pretty Boy Lapid telling me how great it is that he’s so totally supportive of hulkingly masculine cross-dressers.

Really, this is what politics is. These are the people that have the ability to start nuclear wars in my name. The ones bitching to each other about how much or little they support the right of transvestites to cross dress or marry other genderly confused people. They’re playing a game of gay ping pong and I don’t want to be in the stands.

OK, I’ll admit one thing though. As stupid as the transvestite clip was (I really have no idea why I’m supposed to vote Yesh Lapid because of a transvestite) this ad was better.

Basically, two women who decide to get married and have a baby by artificial insemination have to go through a parenting class before the baby that just came out of one of the women’s bodies is legally considered the baby’s mother. She has the baby, then must take a government class before being considered the legal guardian, even though she just gave birth to it. Now that is certainly messed up and should be changed.

However, something tells me that Pretty Boy Lapid won’t be changing squat about anything. He’s just playing a game of gay ping pong, and it’s his volley.