a different side of Israel

Tag: recession

What the Wall Street protests are all about

Alan Grayson clearly describing the issues that are driving the Wall Street protests across the US (Bill Mahr):
“They’re complaining about the fact that Wall Street wrecked the economy three years ago and nobody’s been held responsible to it.”

Tough To Kill: Israel’s Economy and the Global Economic Collapse

“When it comes to U.S. military résumés, Silicon Valley is illiterate. It’s a shame. What a waste of the kick-ass leadership talent coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan.”


AzrieliAlthough it goes humbly un-boasted – perhaps due to antisemitism and worldwide Zionist bashing – Israel has managed to thrive during the recent global economic crisis. Actually Israel’s economy “has the highest concentration of innovation and entrepreneurial ism in the world today”.

What is at the root of Israel’s steadfast success? Is it because a country of G-D’s Chosen people in their homeland is bound to kick ass? Is it the subtle socialist shadows, inspired by the likes of Theodore Herzl, which are still sort of cast over a competitive and modern national work ethic, which encourages capitalism?

These factors may play a role, but upon recent analysis done and expert consensus, the main factor seems to be its very unique government policies having to do with immigration, disproportionate research and development spending and last but not least its universal military training and national service program.

While teenagers in other countries, namely the United States are sweating over which college they can get accepted to, Israelis are racking their brains to be accepted to one of the country’s top military units. In fact, in Israeli culture, the most elite military units are the equivalent of the Ivy League, in the United States. In the Jewish country, which brigade and what duties an applicant was involved with in the army holds the most weight and is the most influential factor in a job interview.

An 18 year old British navy veteran named Gary Shainberg, who is now the vice president of technology and innovation for British Telecom said:

There is something about the DNA of Israeli innovation that is unexplainable. I think it comes down to maturity. That’s because nowhere else in the world where people work in a center of technology innovation do they also have to do national service.”

Ever since the State of Israel won its independence in 1948, the future of its existence has been in question. Such a threat has an amazing effect on an economy and gives individuals a psychological incentive to succeed. Life in Israel is fast-paced in every sector of secular culture; therefore ideas get drawn up faster and put into execution faster.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 45% of Israelis have a university education, which is among the highest percentages of nations worldwide; this data goes without mentioning an even higher percentage of military experience among citizens, nearly unanimous, which also has a positive influence on the economy’s attitude.

According to a recent study in theIMD World Competitiveness Yearbook, Israel was ranked 2nd out of 60 developed nations on the criterion of whether “university education meets the needs of a competitive economy.”

To date, Israel’s economy has the highest concentration of innovation and entrepreneurial ism in the world. She is the world leader in the percentage of a nation’s economy which is spent on research and development, and the pay back is huge.
In 2008, when the recession was beginning, per capita venture investments in Israel were 2.5 times greater than in the U.S.

That’s more than 30 times greater than in all of Europe, and 80 times larger than in China; while 350 times bigger than in India.
Currently there are a total of 3,850 successful start-up companies in Israel. That’s one for every 1,844 Israelis. More Israeli companies trade on the NASDAQ than companies for all of Japan, Korea, China, India and Europe, put together!

World Wide Suicide

Former Maccabi Tel Aviv manager Moni Fanan is not unique in his tragic suicide. The last year, characterized by the current recession, has been responsible for countless other suicides and tragic incidents.

Ronan Bell, a 35-year-old Venice man from Venice, California, killed himself last month at a beach pier, when his financial debts drove him insane.

On April 16, a pharmacist opened fire on the Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, in California. He killed two co-workers before turning the gun on himself. An article in China View says about this particular incident, that Police cited the “tension going on in our society” as a contributing factor.

William Parente, a New York lawyer, who had lost roughly a collective 27 billion dollars for his clients, killed his wife and his two daughters, before killing himself in his Maryland Hotel Room on April 19.

David KellermanThe most famous suicide report in the last year was that of Freddie Mac CFO, David Kellerman, who was found hanging in the basement of his Washington home on April 22.

A report done by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exposed that in Los Angeles alone the suicide count went from 695 in 2007 to 805 in 2008.

Americans have nothing to compare this era to except for the Great Depression, in which, suicide rates rose from 14 to 17 for every 100,000 Americans from 1929 to 1933, as unemployment rates soared from 3.2 per cent to 24.9% in the same period.

An article in China Views says that, “Based on previous experience, researchers predict that suicide rates will go higher if the economy continues to deteriorate.” We all pray that this will not be the case, as we all can realistically expect lay-offs and unemployment to increase yet slightly more, as the economy does begin to pick itself up off of the floor.

The chief of psychiatry at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Steven Garlow said, “There is very clearly a relationship between macroeconomic conditions and suicide…in times of financial hardship, financial distress, upheaval, there is an increase in suicide.”

Since the recession does not only hurt the United States, but the whole world, the suicide back lash is also being observed globally. France Telecom, a bankrupt, state-run, French company has already lost 25 employees to suicide. The company has laid-off 22,000 workers between 2006 and 2008.

Africa Israel Can’t Pay its Debts

A second Israeli giant is on his way down. After Arkadi Gaydamak, the Russian billionaire, unceremoniously fled the country with his tail between his legs and renounced his Israel citizenship after a miserable failure of an attempt to run for mayor of Jerusalem by courting the Arab vote, Lev Leviev, another Russian billionaire and owner of Africa Israel, is suffering. The company lost over 1.3 billion shekels in the last quarter, and stock in his company has plummeted. He recently announced that the company will not be able to repay their debts starting in 2011. His biggest mistake? Investing in the US.

Leviev2009 debts are about 600 million, with 2010 being about one billion shekels, which they will be able to meet. After that, it all depends on where the global economy stands.

In big trouble from this crisis is Bank HaPoalim, which has significant investments in Leviev’s company, and if Africa Israel indeed can’t repay what they owe the bank, then the Israeli banking system could take quite a hit, as HaPoalim is the lead domino in what could be a continuous fall. Commission paid to banks in Israel is high as it is already, and HaPoalim has lost a lot of money in recent years. Just wait until Leviev’s drop comes around and then see what happens to bank fees. It’s not going to be pretty.

The encouraging news is that Israel is one of the first countries to officially exit the global recession, with economic growth small, but measured in the last quarter. Hopefully, it will be enough to offset this, and perhaps the giant can recover in time for the upswing. Until such is determined, it will be an interesting next few years. Is it ever not?

I wonder who the next Russian billionaire to get some stress will be. Leviev has admitted to flowing a billion shekels of his own money into the company to keep it afloat, and tells of working 20 hour days recently in a frantic frenzy to keep above water.

GM’s muscle cars are not going “belly up”!

It finally happened; and the company personified with everything America and the UAW stands for, sought protection of the courts by filing Chapter 11, otherwise known as application for bankruptcy. General Motors, the company us baby boomers grew up with, and whose cars most of use owned at one time or another, finally faced reality and came to the sad conclusion that the cars it’s 5 divisions make (8 if you want to include Hummers, Swedish Saabs, and the mysterious Saturn) decided that it’s cars just couldn’t compete with better made and more reliable Japanese ones as well as luxury models like Lexus and Infinity (also hailing from the Land of the Rising Sun). Whether they be cheap Korean Daewoo made ones with Chevy logos on them, or 4 X 4’s with a Buick or Cadillac crest, stuff that either local or foreign GM plants slam together, just don’t cut the mustard besides Hondas, Toyotas, Nissans and even Mazda, for that matter.

GM muscle carsIt’s taken the American auto giant more than 35 years to realize that it’s present line of cars are not like the ones made in the late 1960’s when names like Chevy’s Z-28 Camaro, Pontiac’s GTO and Firebird, Oldsmobile’s Cutlass, and of course, the all fiberglass Corvette Stingray. Those were cars, and we “boomers” loved them – especially with premium gasoline only going for 36 cents a gallon. I remember my first Chevy, a 1956 Bel Aire that my mom had previously driven, and my dad let me buy for only $300. I had torn two transmissions out of that car; the second one I had to pay for. I later moved up to a ’66 Pontiac GTO with the Jan and Dean 389 engine but with a 4 barrel carburetor instead of “3 duces”. It also didn’t have a “4 speed stick shift” transmission, but still moved down the road well with a 3 speed, floor mounted automatic.

GM’s fall from grace began in the mid 1970’s; about the time a new kind of gas, unleaded, began to be used. The quality of the cars also underwent a lot of changes, and many people still remember horrible ones like the “X” frame ones, which were a bad dream; or the earlier models of the Pontiac Sunbird. While Detroit automakers built cars on the idea of “planned obsolescence” Japanese companies in Kyoto, Kobe and elsewhere built cars that needed leas maintenance and could be driven for more than five years (GM’s and other US automaker’s maximum car lifespan).

GM’s more recent decision to outsource some of it’s Chevrolet models to Korea hasn’t worked out that well either, as all they did was to take over a Korean car company that was in bankruptcy itself (Daewoo) and simply attach the ubiquitous Chevy) logo to the products, along with a few minor cosmetic changes. Daewoo itself had tried to produce it’s version of one of GM’s German products, the Opel Kadett, which although cheap was poorly put together. GM also enlisted the assistance of a Japanese automaker, Suzuki, to assist in GM’s GEO line, which also wasn’t a real success story.

Over here in Israel, people are buying a lot of these little Chevys, but only because they’re low priced compared with better made Hondas, Toyotas, and that standard bearer of many high tech company employees, the Mazda 3. A lot of older GM cars are available on used car lots too; including Chevy Cavaliers, a much inferior car to Japanese models, as well as plenty of Daewoo made Opel clones.

But one thing Detroit’s largest auto maker was good at (in former years anyway) was making muscle cars, like the “Vets” Z-28’s, Firebirds and GTO’s noted above. Maybe this might eventually be the company’s salvation; and not tiny, boxy little electric cars like it is now planning to produce (some are calling them “Obamabiles”), after undergoing a major “restructuring” that will involve closing numerous auto assembly plants and car dealerships, resulting in the laying off of thousands of employees. Why not bring some of these dreamboat cars back; albeit modernized a bit, and designed to run on bio-fuels make from corn and seaweed. We baby boomers will appreciate this gesture, and may even buy some of these cars to try to recapture memories of our lost youth.

If we have the money to buy one, that is.

Rioting Peasants Shake Up the Royal Court

Benjamin IThe Israelite king, Benjamin I, was deeply troubled. Following his economic decrees from the Royal Court in Jerusalem, his loyal subjects were on the verge of rioting – even to the point of marching on the Royal Palace with buckets of tar and sacks of feathers.

“What have I done to deserve this outrage?”, he moaned as he peered out at the crowds massing in the square below his closed window, which had to remain closed to prevent the continuing barrage of eggs and rotten tomatoes from entering the room where he stood, together with his wife, Queen Sarah-li; who appeared to be more interested in a reality TV program going on (Run for the Millions) than the commotion going on below.

“The peasants keep clamoring for bread. Don’t they realize that these new decrees are for their own good? Don’t they understand that they can find other work, good work, as chimney swifts, if our royal treasury can no longer give them largess?” he continued.

“Don’t worry my dear, if they don’t have bread or pitas to eat, let them eat cake”, his queen said, apparently thinking of something else.

“Cake! Did you say cake?” he fumed. “Marie Antoinette, Louie’s wife, said the same thing, and look what happened to both of them! Maybe we should throw our subjects a bone – like allowing them, especially the older ones, to be given an extra penny on their pensions per month. That will enable them to go purchase…..”

“Nonsense!”, the Queen screamed. “Are you becoming weak in your old age? We have to be strong with these people or the next thing you know they’ll be raiding the royal henhouse. Then they’ll even throw those eggs at us!”

“I’ll deal with them, especially their leaders, personally. I have my list of people to get even with, now that you are king again” she cooed, kissing his cheek.

“That won’t work like it used to” he moaned. “The peasants are too strong now. They’ll burn down our palace like the French peasants burned down the Bastille. Maybe we should cut a deal with them, like give their wives free maternity care.”

“Free maternity care?” she hissed. “That’s how we got into this mess in the first place. Also by hiring those alchemists to turn lead into gold. If you would have listened to me, we would have them convinced to do their patriotic duty and pay even higher taxes for the good of the Motherland.”

“I’ve got it! ” the king exclaimed suddenly. “We’ll tax more those knights who received a horse from their “employer” in order for them to get to and from the jousting tourneys. I was going to hike the tax on oats by 10%, but just levying a “horse tax” sounds much easier.

“Oh my king, thou art truly wise,” Queen Sarah-li said. “Now, let’s go eat lunch – the royal butler advised me that the lamb chops, and the caviar should be especially good today.”

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