Friday, 12 December 2008

David's analysis of 2008 and how we can prepare for 2009

The South African Reserve Bank finally started reducing interest rates by .5%. You can read the full SARB report at http://www.reservebank.co.za/

Here is some food for thought:
(perhaps a conspiracy theory?)

THE SUBPRIME CRISIS:

During the past decade the United States firstly told Freddie and Fannie, their two biggest mortage lenders to lend money to people who shouldn't be loaned money, i.e. people with bad credit records; people who couldn't get credit; bankrupt people etc. This money to be used for buying houses.

These people are called sub-prime borrowers. On March the 8th this year I wrote a detailed Blog entry called: Sub Prime Crisis; renewables; the price we pay; what you can do.

Then they reduced interest rates to 1%. At 1% people bought houses and maybe were paying $83 per month on a $100,000 house. (Compare that with South Africans who would have been paying $1250 per month at 15%).

Remember these people are already on the edge.

Then the government increases interest rates rather quickly to 5.25%. So now the payment has gone from $83 to $435.75. Now these people don't have the money, but the banks say "don't worry, your house price is increasing, so we'll take the extra out of the equity and you can pay us over a longer term." But things got out of hand and there was a mighty crash.

Now the banks got $3 and lent $100 because of their reserve ratios. In South Africa banks can lend 20x. In the USA 30%. In the olden days, NBS (Natal Building Society) had a 17.5% reserve ratio meaning they could lend 5.7x AND they required a 25% deposit, so if things got bad everyone was covered and it took a long time for repossessions to occur.

But the poor blighter in the USA has no deposit, so no buffer time.

House prices dropped 3% and the banks liquidity was wiped out! Remember they only had $3 on which they lent $100. Now the banks have to start selling to recover their investment so they start with selling all their foreign assets. Shares, Gold, etc. In the meantime the US government says: "we'll guarantee 100% of the cash you put into US treasury bills." So besides the US banks and companies who by now are also seeing red buying $ and selling forex, foreign banks and people start doing the same thing. This leads to an almighty US$ rally which we have seen in the past 6 months when the USDX (US $ Index) went from 78 to 86. See http://www.kitco.com/glossary/usd.html.

The Rand, Pound, Euro, Yen, etc, all crash against the US$.

But the fundamentals haven't changed. The US is still printing massive amounts of cash. 9.9% money supply in the past year = minimum 9.9% inflation. The USDX is still on a long term down trend. Gold as the world's real reserve currency is still on an uptrend. Central Banks have been selling Gold for over a decade. 100's of tons per annum. To keep the price down! But the price has continuously gone up because high net worth individuals and China are buying this gold.

My interpretation:

The US and other central banks decided for reasons only known to themselves that credit markets were out of control and therefore instead of telling the banks to increase their reserve ratios they increased interest rates. Only the Bank of China increased reserve ratios over the past few years. Increasing reserve ratios takes liquidity out of the system without damaging existing home owners and investors positions.

This dramatic 525% increase in the US damaged the lending and capital market so much that they stopped functioning. People and companies couldn't pay their loans. This upset the apple cart and banks started going insolvent. 22 so far in the US alone this year. Iceland is bankrupt. Take a look at an up to date list at http://www.fdic.gov/bank/individual/failed/banklist.html

So it would appear that the governments of the world caused this crisis.

Now IMHO, the crisis turned out to be much much worse than they had hoped for. Credit markets didn't slow down. They failed entirely. So central banks started reducing interest rates. The UK by up to 33% at a time, yes from 4.5% to 3% in one shot. That would be like SARB reducing from 15% to 10% in one shot. At the same time governments started printing masses of cash AND offering bailouts to banks to get the banks to lend. BUT the banks aren't lending. They are just using the money to shore up their balance sheets. The central banks haven't learned from this and instead of redirecting the funds to pay peoples mortgages they continue to give money to banks.

Let's add a bit of flavour to this discussion:

OIL:

Oil is languishing around $40 and "the cartel" want to increase this to $80 but they don't want people to complain, so they push up prices to $147 and then allow them to fall to $80. The idea being that oil prices will take 3 years to go from $40 to $80 (via $147) and because most people have short term memories and because newspapers especially have short term memories, they will say "oil has gone down from $147 to $80." In the meantime oil has actually taken 3 years to go from $40 to $80 instead of 10 or more years.

The public is misled into believing that "speculators" are pushing these prices up, but that is untrue. The masses of oil contracts on the open market are bought and sold, in fact traded like at an auction, by the oil majors themselves, the oil pipeline and anyone else like governments who buy oil for their armies or their power stations. They are all in on the action.

But what happens. The sub-prime crisis unfolds and everything is sold, including oil. So instead of oil going up, it is actually going down and may go under $40 in the near future and stay there for a long time. It is currently close to $50 and that by itself is pretty amazing. The oil barons are upset because they are losing close to 10 Billion a day, but so what. At $147 they were making 20 Billion a day. If they spent it on fancy islands in the gulf and the tallest building in the world and now they don't have money, that's their problem. I read somewhere that when people start talking about building "the tallest building in the world" and that building is twice as high as anything that has gone before, then that is the time to start going defensive, ie buying gold; selling property and selling shares.

Buying gold:

BTW, if you want to buy some gold and don't want to store it under the bed, buy the Gold ETF (Exchange Traded Fund) on the share markets of the world. You usually get 10 "shares" for every ounce of gold, so you can start with as little as R800. On the South African Share Market it is called NEWGOLD. There are also organisations outside share markets like Goldmoney and e-Gold that hold gold on behalf of investors.

ETF's allow one to buy all manor of things like Gold, Silver, Oil, Wheat, that one wouldn't normally be able to buy and invest in without being a bank or a large investor. Indexes like the top 40 index and others are similar to ETF's.

Back to the story:

Just in case you are gloomy at this point, I should state that since 2002 our top 40 has grown by 18% compound annually, even though it has crashed 45% this year. Shows how much greed there was in the market - and also how much internet money was sloshing around. I call this internet money, because it really doesn't exist. The central banks just make it available by building aircraft carriers and running big wars and less cynically by major infrastructure projects like stadiums and other white elephants. This requires payments and eventually this money filters its way to you and me.

Think of it this way: why can't the Olympics always be held in the same place? Or why can't three places be chosen? eg the UK, USA and China? They are all pretty central. They all have loads of hotels and infrastructure. My answer: because the governments of the world need to keep pumping unnecessary money into the system to keep the apple cart from falling over. Of course this increases inflation which hurts you and me and the governments pretend its our fault and increase interest rates.

CARS:

So now we get to the big three car manufacturers: Chrysler, Ford, GM. In the 1990's, the Californian government started a program where they said that a large percentage of cars should be electric. This forced the big three to start investing in electric car manufacture and for a number of years they built these cars. But they didn't sell them. They put them out on lease.

Then these same companies, supported by the oil Czars, took the case to the California high court and the Federal Courts and won their case. ie California doing what they did was "illegal." The big three then recalled their cars and crushed them. Yes, crushed them. If you think I am mad and have nothing else to do except write long blog entries, you might be right, but also read http://www.electrifyingtimes.com/ev1crush.html and http://www.pluginamerica.org/saveev1.htm or search for crushing electric cars in Google.

Recalling these beautiful electric cars and crushing them made the big car and oil barons laugh as they were increasing their income at the expense of our beautiful world. They don't deserve to be supported!

Now their businesses are bleeding $5 billion a month and they don't have long before they declare bankruptcy, so they fly from Detroit to Washington in their Gulfstreams at a cost of $20,000 per trip whereas they could have flown first class for $900 or economy for $300. This shows that they don't care, but in any case they ask for $25 billion. The US Congressional Committee and Fed laugh at them and tell them to come back in a month with a better proposal and they better not come in their jets. In fact they would be wise to ground their jets.

So these three show up and ask for $25 billion and they are given $15 billion. They promise to clean up their act and start producing more efficient cars and electric cars!!! Remember that in America the average car size is 4 litres. They just love their V8's. In the rest of the world, I wouldn't be surprised if the average car size is 1.6 litres.

Worse than this, these guys have a net wealth of over $25 billion, so they could bail out their own companies. But unlike us, they aren't interested in doing this. Why? IMO, because they see their businesses going out of business in any case, so why take the risk.

Note that I think that the directors of every company or bank that central banks lend money to should immediately be stripped of all their assets and should earn the same money as a normal factory employee. Their assets which the governments can hold as collateral until the markets improve, can then be sold to defray these massive trillion dollar investments.

Big business have been selling too much oil, cars that are too big and unnecessary, eg SUVs like X5s and ML63 and Porsche Cayennes and others. It is so unnecessary to drive a 4+ litre car but it has been promoted. My 1.4 litre Renault Clio has more than enough power for what I need and if I need to go off road, I'm sure that I could find an adequate car in the 2 to 3 litre range. Plus governments should put rules in place stating that off road vehicles must be used off road at least 30% of the time to avoid a 50% petrol tax.

Note that the big three might just be able to pull off an additional 3 to 6 months of operations, giving them enough time to save their businesses, because they already have the plans and production lines to make the electric cars. And they have had them for decades!! But people must not buy any more new petrol cars until we see electric vehicles being produced at prices we can afford. Electric cars are currently sold at a premium to normal cars, but in fact perhaps cost a 1/3rd to 1/2 as much as petrol cars and use no petrol.

SO WHERE TO NOW?

Start investing in your future. Start doing what you have always wanted to do. Don't spend your money frivolously, but if you see that there is a better future work towards it. This is what I am doing with my new renewable energy business.

Try to understand what is happening in the world as I am trying to. And share what you have learned.

Be there for your friends some of whom are suicidal right now and don't know what to do. Ask every one of your friends if they are ok and tell them you are there for them 24 hours a day. If they live in a R2m house which is now worth R1.2m, tell them it is not their fault. The banks with their lawyers, actuaries, chartered accountants, lawyers, etc, knew exactly what they were doing when they lent this money, when they gave 120% mortgages without deposits. Tell your friends that they are protected by the new credit act and that credit consultants can be appointed to help them.

Tell them that the best thing to do might be to walk away from their current nightmare scenario, keep their family and their job and perhaps have their income paid to a friend. The bank can sell the house, the car, the private jet. After all, these people only had the illusion they owned them. All the bank wanted was the interest and ownership of the assets - they have both of these - if the assets aren't worth what was lent, it is the bank's fault, not the borrower's fault! For decades they got it, but instead of investing for a recession or a rainy day, they spent most of the money, including doing the most stupid thing of all time, buying back their own shares, which increases the share price, thus giving the directors their huge profits on their share option packages. Well none of that is working anymore.

The private person knows what's going on.

PREPARING FOR 2009:

Read The Goal; The Power of Intention; The Power of Now. Watch The Secret DVD; the Majan Calendar prophesies. Go for long walks with your families and spend time off line with your friends. Facebook just isn't the same as a good hug and conversation over a coffee or a glass of wine.

If you can, keep paying your bond. If you cannot afford it, but can afford 25% less, renegotiate with the bank. They'd rather have you paying something than paying nothing for six months and then repossessing the house. Under normal circumstances they would repossess, but under these circumstances they can't sell the house, so they'd rather keep you in it.

It seems to me that the reason the SARB are holding our interest rates artificially high compared with the rest of the world whose interest rates are close to 1% is that the South African stock market has not been entirely destroyed yet. We have been resilient because South Africans are the most resilient people on the planet. We have been protected by exchange control, by FICA and by the Credit Act. Believe it or not, but we have. So we aren't falling apart.

However, there has been a slowdown. Jobs have been lost. Bonuses have been put on hold. Companies are making losses. Salary increases have been deferred. So there is pain in sunny South Africa. Many companies in South Africa have strong balance sheets and incredible employees, so we can and will survive. Strong balance sheets mean that companies can make losses for a few years and still survive. Making losses isn't the main problem. The main problem is cash flow. A strong company can still have a positive cash flow whilst making losses - and therefore survive.

I believe that decreasing interest rates in South Africa will not increase inflation in the current environment! The reasons are: people aren't getting bonuses or salary increases and many are already at the limit of their borrowing, so decreasing interest rates by up to 5% (30% less than now) will help people to balance their budgets and also allow businesses to balance their budgets. It will help food, clothing and other prices to go down, thus meaning that things get cheaper. This is not an inflationary environment. Inflationary concerns with respect to interest rates shouldn't be a factor in South Africa at the moment.

But if the big three car companies go out of business or if there is a major restructuring of production from petrol to electric vehicles, millions of jobs worldwide will be on the line. Although in the broader scheme of things this will be temporary (under 5 years) as "structural unemployment" means that people will get retrained to build electrical cars instead of petrol ones and that micro-power will become the norm, so we cannot be complacent in South Africa.

MICRO-POWER and RE (Renewable Energy):

We need interest rates at 5%. We need 50% rebates on personal "micro-power" power stations like in Germany. We need Feed In Tariffs at R4.20, not R2.80 as the government is talking about and we need them NOW. Note that these rebates and feed in tariffs are much less than what the government would spend on nuclear and coal powered power stations which we don't need. (Read my essay on The Nuclear vs Renewables Debate to see how I got to R4.20)

Green Rebates and Feed In Tariffs have been available for almost 30 years worldwide. If the government was really serious about this, they could pass the legislation in February 2009 instead of who knows when. They could copy from Germany or Australia and just change the words Germany or Australia to South Africa and change Euros or Dollars to Rands. Simple and it won't cost the taxpayer millions in wasted parliamentarians time and huge legal bills for drafting new legislation AND worst of all, delayed time as our blue planet rapidly goes black.

We need business confidence to be restored in South Africa. In my humble opinion, only business confidence determines the long term exchange rate. If foreigners believe that South Africa will make it they will invest here. If they see a favourable economic climate with low real interest rates they will invest here.

If at the same time the government should slap a 100% tax on every private vehicles above 2 litres that will force people not to buy these vehicles. People who need them for some reason will be able to apply to government before buying these vehicles explaining why they need them, e.g. to pull a horse box or for farming. 4x4 trails which damage our mountains and beaches and cause unnecessary pollution should be outlawed. Kyalami and Killarney race tracks should be closed except for vehicle testing. Electric vehicles should be given state subsidies and taxes should be reduced to zero on these vehicles. The Joule should be ready in 2009, not 2010. I'd like to buy one. See http://blog.wired.com/cars/2008/10/south-african-e.html. South Africa must not lose this technology. Please.

If you are worried about Formula One, consider that Honda has stopped their formula one program and others will follow soon. See http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/Business/Honda-Pulls-Out-Of-Formula-One/Article/200812115172879?f=rss

South Africa has invented helicopters, electric cars, the thin film solar panel (the greatest invention ever in South Africa), and so much other equipment and yet we sell this technology to foreigners and then pay them royalties to use our own inventions. What stupidity. This must be stopped.

INVENTIONS:

Inventions made in South Africa, even with foreign investment, must be kept local. This will create millions of jobs. Our interest should be in making and keeping our home, in South Africa, beautiful and unspoiled. SASOL should be closed down as soon as it is practical to do so, for example in 10 years time once 1/3rd of our cars run on electricity. SASOL's main output is carbon dioxide. It produces oil as a by product! If SASOL wants to remain open, they need to take the huge "super-profits" and redirect it to eliminating the carbon dioxide emissions. Internet sites state that Secunda is the world's single biggest emitter of carbon dioxide. This bears thinking about and resolving.

TREES:

The government's program of cutting down our natural protected forests like Silvermine, Tokai, Cecilia, etc, must be stopped immediately. This is NOT protecting the environment. These trees cannot be considered to be aliens. They are as natural to Cape Town as the 5 million people who live here. These trees, planted by our great grandparents and in many cases 100's of years ago by people with incredible foresight, are natural monuments. They don't use water. The water they get is from rainfall. Our drinking water comes from dams in the Hottentots Holland mountain range East of Cape Town. Trees leach toxins from the soil. They bind the soil together and prevent erosion. They provide shade for beautiful mountain walks and picnics. The have an incredible fauna and flora. They absorb carbon dioxide which is stored in the trees and they release oxygen which we need to breath. Cutting them down is a crime against humanity. Humanity will and is dying without its trees. Worldwide.

Intuitively I feel like the world's seasons and weather patterns are changing and becoming more extreme, not just because of global warming and pollution, but because of cutting down trees! I wish I could prove it.

WHAT IS SUCCESS?

Success should be defined as "living off grid" or "becoming carbon-negative." Success shouldn't be defined as living in a fancy house, or driving a luxury vehicle or owning a rolex. If you are off grid already, then being able to buy these things is a bonus.

LOVE:

I wish you everything of the best for 2009 and let us go forward together restoring our world to its beautiful climate and keeping it green for our children.

Love
David

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

The Nuclear vs Renewables Debate in South Africa

I wrote this when I heard that the new South African Nuclear Power Station has been put on hold:

The cost of the stopped nuclear power station was going to be R100 Billion (R100,000,000,000) and for this amount we could take more than 200,000 houses completely off the grid, paid for by the government and with minimal running costs and almost zero decommissioning costs. This at R500,000 per house (*1)

The R100 Billion nuclear plant would have produced 3,400 MW. So the cost is R29 per watt. The biggest wind turbines are 6MW. This would need 567 wind turbines plus a factor of 20% for wind free days = 681 turbines. Large Wind Turbines cost in 2002 was R20 per watt (*6) which means that a 6MW turbine costs R120m Rand. Multiplied by 681 = R80,720,000,000 (R80 billion). Meaning we have money left over if compared with R100 for a Nuclear Power Station. This R19.3 Billion could possibly be used to add more wind turbines giving us a spare capacity of close to 50% which is more than adequate for wind energy. Plus if one or two wind turbines fail or are out of action we lose 12MW. If the nuclear power station is down, we lose 3,400MW. Spare wind energy can be used to pump water from the bottom dam to the top dam free of charge, for example in the Steenbras Dam system, so that the water can run down when there isn't enough wind energy. The wind turbines would also be placed in the most likely places around South Africa where there is a high chance of there being wind. If it isn't windy in one place, then it will be windy in another place. Wind energy can be predicted, so if there will be a shortfall Eskom could tell us well before it happens, whereas when a base load power station goes down, it usually does so without warning. A base load power station is down somewhere between 8 and 20% of its available time, which is why one needs the 15% reserve margin with base load power station planning.

Alternatively for the government to pay to take 200,000 houses off the grid, the government doesn't need to pay anything up front at all. They could simply provide us their public with worthwhile feed in tariffs (FIT). If they provided FIT of say R2.28 (current proposal by the parliament feed in tariff committee (*5)) per kwh which includes the reduction in one's normal bill, eg if I reduce my bill from 1500kwh to 500kwh per month, then I should still get the FIT on the 1000KWH saved, then at R2.28 per kwh, I get R2280 per month x 12 x 10 because it takes 10 years to build a nuclear power station = R273,600. Divided into R100,000,000,000 equals 365,000 houses. Note that in order to get a 10 year pay back on my system, I would need R4.20 per kwh excluding interest charges. R4.20 per kwh is 200,000 houses off the grid. This could be done in as quickly as 2 to 5 years. (*1) Note these numbers are for micro-generation at an installed cost of R200 per watt. As you have seen above, large costs renewable systems can be as low as R20 per watt.

Germany adopted FIT in 1990 and 214,000 people are employed in their renewables sector (*3). I understand that they have 800,000 houses off grid so far.

To make money on the long investment in nuclear requires the power station cost to be (US) 30c/kwh plus delivery costs (*2). This is R3 per kwh. Add the cost of delivery and we are very quickly at R4.20 per kwh or more. If I am being charged 57c per kwh for my electricity, then assuming it is all from nuclear, the government is currently already paying R3.63 per kwh incentive (tariff) to the nuclear power station! The FIT's should be at least R3.63, not R2.28! Plus in many cases the cost of storage of the nuclear waste and decommissioning the power station are not included in these costs.

Plus I read that cement manufacture lets off as much carbon dioxide every year as all the passenger cars on the planet (*4). Remove the massive concrete and steel requirements needed by a nuclear power station and the carbon credits will add up quickly. Plus we have to wait 10 years for a nuclear plant to become operational! Renewable plants can become operational in weeks and be ramped up to the nuclear capacity in long under 10 years with the right will power and statutory environment. With nuclear or other base load such as coal or hydro we need to wait for the power station to be complete or the dam to be full before we start getting electricity.

Lastly an element that seems to have been ignored the people (staffing) issue. Nuclear engineers and nuclear workers are few and far between. 40% of those at US plants are eligible for retirement within the next 5 years, and only 8% are younger than 32. 40% of France's nuclear reactor operation and maintenance staff will retire by 2015. Meanwhile since 1980, US nuclear engineering university programs declined from 65 to ~29 and have trouble attracting new students. In 2002, the UK had no undergraduate course in nuclear engineering. The number of German academic institutions with nuclear courses is expected to drop from 22 in 2000 to 10 in 2005 to 5 in 2010. (*2)

Some of the stats above from:
(*1) These are calculations done by the author of this letter, DH Lipschitz;
(*2) "The Nuclear Illusion" by AB Lovins and Imran Sheikh, 27 May 2008;
(*3) "Feed-In Tariffs - Boosting Energy for our future" by World Future Council;
(*4) Cape Times Business Times "A Collection of facts and figures by The Globalist" - Monday 8th December 2008;
(*5) Suggested "Feed In Tariff Bill" presented by Dr Ruth Rabinowitz (IFP), Gareth Morgan (DA), Lance Greyling (ID), Judy Chalmers (ANC). Section 9.2 (b). I have used Wind Power as the base. My electricity cost is 57cents per kwh. So 4*57c is R2.28. The Solar Power feed in tariff is 5*57c = R2.85. Note that everyone's cost per kwh is slightly different, so each person's feed in tariff would be different.
(*6) See http://www.macgen.com/windpower/windfarms/About_Wind_Turbines.html

Documents labelled (*2) and (*3) were handed out at the Feed In Tariff meeting at Cape Town parliament on 19th November 2008.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Tikkun Jacob Forum: Making the world whole

Dear all

The following essay below (Subject: FW: What would you do????) shows mans humanity to his fellow man. I use it to ask you all if there is anyone who needs your humanity and support right now in the middle of the worst economic crisis since 1974 and perhaps since the great depression? If so, call them and offer your help without delay. Even if you don't know that they need your help, tell them you are there for them a a friend, 24 hours a day.

I wish you all a happy festive season and no matter what happens in the economy next year, I wish us all G-dspeed as we navigate our businesses, lives and relationships in the troubled waters in which the world finds itself.

We have had our modern day flood of rising paper money, or actually invisible internet money and it has caused massive inflation in stock markets, house prices, and food and cost of living. The illusion that goes with that is of prosperity, but when the dam bursts and the flood recedes, vaste damage is done and seen.

According to Majan prophesy, we are moving from the age of power to the age of ethics. This is actually happening. This can be seen all over the place, but unfortunately not yet by most of our governments who are pumping worthless internet money into major banks and huge car companies who really don't need that money. The people who need the money are the homeowners who can't pay their bonds and tax relief for people who can't afford to buy food or who are out of work. It is not their fault they are in this mess. The lenders have economists, chartered accountants, actuaries, lawyers, and others who know exactly what they are doing. The fault lies with them. There have been warnings that this would happen since 2001. The big three car companies have asked for $25 billion. Why don't their executives who have much more than that in net wealth lend their own money to their businesses?

My new motto is:
Successful people are carbon negative.

Although I'm not there yet, I'm working on it hard and diligently. It's not the usual motto that marketeers use, ie "Successful people drive expensive cars or wear rolex watches."

When you come to my house and see my solar panels, my wind turbine and my power station and you see that I am trying to be carbon negative and may even achieve this status next year, you will know that I am a successful person.

What are you doing right now to become successful?

Are you recycling? Do you have a worm factory? Do you have a grey water system? If you have more than an acre of ground, do you have a black water system? Have you replaced your greater than 2 litre car with a less than 2 litre car? Do you have a solar hot water heater? Are you cooking with gas instead of electricity? Are you installing solar or wind power? Do you switch off your appliances at the plug when you are finished using them so that you don't use standby electricity? Can you answer yes to at least one of these questions?

I will write again another day showing why micro-power is actually more efficient and more reliable and cheaper than huge base load power stations.

Love
David



Subject: FW: What would you do????

What would you do?...you make the choice. Don't look for a punch line, there isn't one. Read it anyway. My question is: Would you have made the same choice?

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves learning-disabled children, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question: "When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?"

The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued. "I believe, that when a child like Shay, physically and mentally handicapped comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child."

Then he told the following story:

Shay and his father had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, "Do you think they'll let me play?" Shay's father knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but the father also understood that if his son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

Shay's father approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, "We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning."

Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. His Father watched with a small tear in his eye and warmth in his heart. The boys saw the father's joy at his son being accepted. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as his father waved to him from the stands. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.

At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.

However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact. The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.

The game would now be over. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.

Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out of reach of all team mates. Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, "Shay, run to first! Run to first!" Never in his life had Sha y ever run that far, but he made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.

Everyone yelled, "Run to second, run to second!" Catching
his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base. By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball ... the smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head. Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

All were screaming, "Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay"

Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, "Run to third! Shay, run to third!"

As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, "Shay, run home! Run home!" Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team.

"That day", said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, "the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world".

Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making his father so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!

AND NOW A LITTLE FOOTNOTE TO THIS STORY: We all send thousands of jokes through the e-mail without a second thought, but when it comes to sending messages about life choices, people hesitate. The crude, vulgar, and often obscene pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion about decency is too often suppressed in our schools and workplaces.

If you're thinking about forwarding this message, chances are that you're probably sorting out the people in your address book who aren't the "appropriate" ones to receive this type of message. Well, the person who sent you this believes that we all can make a difference. We all have thousands of opportunities every single day to help realize the "natural order of things." So many seemingly trivial interactions between two people present us with a choice: Do we pass along a little spark of love and humanity or do we pass up those opportunities and leave the world a little bit colder in the process?

A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats it's least fortunate amongst them.

You now have two choices:
1. Delete
2. Forward
May your day, be a Shay Day.



BUT REMEMBER THE FIRST QUESTION, WHAT CHOICE WOULD YOU HAVE MADE ???

Preventing Load Shedding (Power Failures)

Dear all

There are a few very simple ways of preventing load sheeting and potentially preventing the building of any more power stations in South Africa:
1) Switch off all appliances at the plug including computers, tv's, etc, when they are not being used. If it is inconvenient to get to the plug, use an extension cord from the wall and plug the plug in the wall into the extension cord. You can then unplug the plug at any time.
2) Don't run more than one of the following appliances at the same time: washing machine, dish washer, iron, lawnmower, kettle, microwave, kitchen mixer, oven/stove.
3) Switch off your playstation when it is not in use; same with your DSTV decoder. Both draw almost as much power when they are on standby as when they are on, so if you only watch 3 hours of TV a day, you are wasting electricity for the other 21 hours.
4) Try to use a laptop instead of a PC. Laptop's can save up to 95% of the electricity that PC's use.
5) If you use air-conditioning, don't reduce the temperature to less than 20 degrees Celsius and if it is a very hot day over 35%, set the temperate to 10 degrees less than the outside temperature where possible. You will still feel the cool air and reduce your electricity bills and start saving the environment.

These first 5 items are easy to implement and the more people do them, the less the risk of load shedding. They will dramatically reduce the peak loads on power stations, thus potentially allowing our power stations to reduce their output and also increase the reserve margin from 5% to maybe as high as 25% if everyone gets involved. A 15% reserve margin is required to guarantee no load shedding. Our power stations all currently run at maximum power most of the time. This means that all the maintenance that should be done isn't done. This makes the risk of power outages higher and also requires the building of open cycle gas turbines like the 9 turbines at the Atlantis Ankerlig Power Stations which use diesel.

6) investigate getting a "load shed relay" so that when you switch on the oven or hob, the geyser heater switches off. You should be able to get one for under R1000 plus fitting it. Cheaper than buying a solar geyser.

Number 6 is the first place where you need to spend more than R50.

7) When you can afford it, buy a solar geyser.
8) Start investigating ways of getting off grid, eg by using gas for heating and cooking. Gas saves 0.19kg of CO2 per kwh compared to using electricity per kwh. Electricity pumps up to .6kg of CO2 into the atmosphere for every kwh you use.

Think every day: "how can I save electricity? how can I save money in a recession? how can I protect the environment? how can I leave the world a better place for my children?"

Read http://www.earth.org.uk/saving-electricity.html as an example of someone who has saved up to 90% of his electricity consumption.

Feel free to forward to everyone you know.

Regards
David

----

Evil flourishes when good men do nothing (Edmund Burke)

Water Quality in Cape Town and South Africa

Dear all

The recent articles and letters in our local newspapers re water quality have all dealt with one individual and seem to be missing some facts.

On the 5th June 2008, our Ward Forum was presented with a "Cape town Catchment, Stormwater, River Management: Coastal and Inland Water Quality Report" for the 12 month period ending March 2008. Here are some of the findings:
Coastal: "The long-term trend still indicates a decline in water quality. The significant low compliance for the False Bay is again noted" and "Reasons for non-compliance of [various] bathing areas include sewerage water ingress into the stormwater system due to aged infrastructure, and the spate of load shedding that has led to power outages and sewerage spillages."
Inland: "Overall compliance remains unacceptably low."
For example of our 14 rivers in greater Cape Town and with regard to E-coli measurements, 4 are over 80% compliance with government guidelines which is considered good; 2 are 50%+; and the rest "bad". The worst is the Salt River with 1% compliance and the best Schusters with 100% compliance.
The last section deals with "Compliance of Final Effluent (treated sewerage) with Required Standard" and says "there has been a decline in the compliance as compared with the previous two quarters ending September and December 2007. Overall compliance remains unacceptably low."

I hope these statistics will show that the government is aware of the situation and that therefore reports from experts, especially ones who show how we can fix the problem, should be welcomed and not suppressed. I conclude with part of Dr Turton's conclusion in his report: "If Kennedy could commit his nation to putting a man on the moon in a decade, why can we, as a ‘nation’, not commit ourselves to overcoming impediments to the quality of life that each South African citizen deserves?"

David Lipschitz
Blaauwberg Ward 4 Forum Committee Member

Friday, 28 November 2008

Friendship, Noah and The Flood, Toldot

28th November 2008; 1 Kislev 5769

Dear all

In this recessionary time, people need each other more than ever.

Many people are contemplating suicide as a way out of their predicament. Some have already taken this step. Their families may never understand.

Please please share your problems with your friends and family. Take your spouse for a walk and tell them there is a problem. If you need money, tell your family and friends. If you need to talk, then just talk. If you've told your local school that you can't afford the fees and then go and buy an expensive pair of jeans or go on holiday, please keep your problems to yourself!

And to the friends. Keep all your friends' confidences. If someone tells you something that you think they shouldn't know, say "I didn't know."

One of the reasons for sharing is so that you can get help to step out of your vicious circle of worry and see things from a different angle.

Especially at this depressing and recessionary time, our friends and families are truly going to need us. As a healer, I find myself in the firing line and I am happy that I know how to protect myself, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I have made myself available to visit the dying in hospitals and to go to funerals when the relatives aren't nearby. I am also available in my capacity as a healer to do treatments or simply to talk. If you don't know me personally and wish to pay for my services, we can negotiate something.

To everyone who is reading this, tell all your friends and family that you are available for them, 24 hours a day. If they are drunk and need a lift home from a party, you are available. If they can't sleep and need someone to talk to a 3am in the morning you are there. And please remember that what people tell you is in confidence, never to be told to anyone, even if someone tells you something that you think they shouldn't know, say "I didn't know that."

In the time of Noah, there was heavy rain. It caused a flood. Rabbi Mirvis, our Kabbalah Rabbi, compared this last week in a class, with The Flood. The Flood can be compared with the huge surge in share prices and property values, ie the huge surge over the past few years in invisible paperless internet money.

And now as the flood subsides, there will be pain. We need to find our values and we need to get away from the instant gratification we get by borrowing, borrowing.

Rabbi Mirvis said: "The shrinkage is the process of coming back to reality. There is a way out, a takanah, a solution. The person must take himself out of his situation. We are coresponsible for each other. ... The flood is subsiding, but there are still sharks. ... The problem is shame. People are ashamed to even speak to their spouse. ... Why did Noah land his Ark at the top of a mountain? So that he could see the big picture. Why was he brought an olive branch? Because although the olive is bitter it can be processed into olive oil and can make fire. ... Water is a symbol of wisdom, knowledge, intuition. Fire is a symbol of understanding, practical, logic. ... Leaving the Ark requires courage and the winningness to want to change. There is no change in the Ark."

My dear friends. If you are suffering. If you have problems. Please let your closest family and friends know.

And don't be ashamed to tell your spouse and children that there will be no new clothes for a while or no holidays. They will understand. And where-ever you live, there is nothing like a holiday at home.

Interestingly the Parashah of the week is Toldot. In Genesis, Chapter 25 vs 28, we see the following: “Now Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison; and Rebekah loved Jacob.” The word “because” has importance for me. It means that Isaac loved Esau because of something Esau did for him, but Rebekah simply loved Jacob. One of the most difficult things one can do in this life is to love someone simply for being who they are, ie to love unconditionally. Not for any particular reason.

When I pray I always ask for unconditional loving, understanding, happiness and health. And this is what I pray for all of us today.

Shabbat Shalom.

with love
David

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Nitzavim 26 September 2008 (West Coast Temple Israel Anniversary)

26th Elul 5768

Here are the first two paragraphs from my talk I did at our West Coast Temple Israel anniversary dinner on Friday 26th September 2008. If you'd like to read the rest please let me know. email david at orbital dot co dot za

Tonight is Shabbat Nitzavim where we read Deuteronomy Chapter 29 vs 13 to 14 which says: “Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath; but with him that standeth here with us this day before the L-rd our G-d, and also with him that is not here with us this day.” And further on we are commanded to choose life and to circumsize our hearts that we mayest live.

These passages are significant as we celebrate 10 years of being together in our West Coast community. We stand here together with the people who have joined and left, those who are still here, with all the strangers who have come into our midst and become our friends, and with those who will be here from today onwards. We have circumsized our hearts, ie we have formed a disciplined body of people, praying together, sharing together, obeying G-d together, welcoming all those of all persuasions to join us as we share in an incredible past and share together in a more exciting future.

Shoftim 6th September 2008

This Shabbat we read Shoftim which translates as Judges. It refers to a passage in the Torah at Deuteronomy Chapter 16 vs 20 which says: "Justice, justice shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."

Justice in Hebrew is Tzedek. Tzedek is the root of the word Tzedaka which is commonly translated as charity, but Tzedek also means righteousness and justice. Therefore charity can be equated with justice.

Charity not only includes giving money or time, but in a wider sense includes being charitable to another person. Being charitable in this sense involves giving the other person the benefit of the doubt, or perhaps listening more carefully to what they have to say, or enquiring after the other person’s health and wellbeing. This is a just way of behaving, ie a way that is guided by truth, reason, justice and fairness (ref http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/just). Being just in this way leads to life (“that thou mayest live”). So in order to live, one must be just and charitable. Note here that I am referring to really living, not simply surviving. Really living for me means constant striving to be and remain “Israel” and achieving self-actualization as defined by Maslow. This self actualization includes the basics of life plus safety, loving/belonging, self esteem, respect of self and others, morality, creativity, spontaneity, lack of prejudice, etc.

The next thing that is referred to is the land that though mayest inherit. Besides the land of Israel which we often think of as the country Israel, there is another land. Part of my thesis is that Jacob became Israel in Genesis 32:29. So could it be that the land being referred to here is also the emotional, mental, and spiritual states that our bodies can attain as we move from being Jacobs (unenlightened) to becoming Israels (enlightened)?

Therefore in order to live a full and rewarding life, one should pursue Tzedek and Tzedaka. One should not accept the status quo, but constantly seek to make one’s world a better place, thus leaving one’s world and the wider world better than when one entered it.

If you’d like more information about Jacob becoming Israel, please email me on david@orbital.co.za.

Love and a peaceful weekend and Shabbat
David

David Lipschitz

Thursday, 29 May 2008

The effect of privatisation

When I did my MBA at Cranfield University (then called Cranfield Institute of Technology) in the UK in 1991/1992 I said that electricity and other infrastructure like railways should NEVER be privatised. And that competition should be allowed. No one listened to me. I was only 28 years old and privatisation was in fashion!

The reason that they should not be privatised is because private enterprise seeks to make a quick return and "knows" that if it leaves infrastructure alone, eventually the government will have no option but to renationalise those assets to pump in the required investment. Another reason is because of something called "externalities." This is where one person pays for someone else's travel. eg I go from London to Birmingham on the express. A small part of my ticket pays for a train to run on a line in the North West of England. I'm happy to pay that because one day I might need to use that line. This happened to me twice a year when I lived in England.

On the other hand, a privatised railway cuts the "inefficient line" and the losers are the commuters.

Another reason I don't like privatisation is because the public pay for the company in the first place, so the public own the industry/company. Then the industry/company gets sold to private investors who pay for it again, but often at a substantial discount to its real value because government tends to pay less than private enterprise (although this is changing) and because government "companies" tend not to make a profit - and those selling companies will tell you that profit is (usually) very important when you want to sell a company. Also when a company is renationalised, the public end up paying for it again. And sometimes costs are pushed up by 60%! Sound familiar. Even in South Africa, where the government owns 100% of Eskom, for the past decade, profits have been key to management thinking, so directors and senior management rather paid themselves big bonuses instead of investing in infrastructure. So now at a time when Eskom is being "renationalised" the directors keep their bonuses and huge salaries and the man in the street, you and I, pay for their mistakes and for new equipment.

Two years ago when we had our first load shedding, I did a comparison of South Africa's energy infrastructure compared with Israel's. We are told that a country needs a 15% power margin. Israel had that. But Israel had something even more important. 30% more manpower per megawatt. This costs money and reduces bonuses!!

In my ideal world, public transport and electricity would be free (at least for work related travel) and would approach 100% efficiency if possible. This would allow commuters and business to know that their staff will always be on time. 96% efficiency on the Northern Line when I lived there meant that about 10,000 people were late every day amounting to Billions of lost revenue for the Tax man and / or stress for the commuter costing the British government more in Health and hospital payments. Look how the health system has started crumbling since privatisation took place there.

In my ideal world, government would deregulate industries so that companies like Telkom and Eskom have competition, instead of being monopolies. Barriers to entry would be reduced and the only problem would be capital, not "laws" as well!! We really need this now as people like me put in solar panels and wind turbines and would love to supply energy to the grid, perhaps on a small scale. But perhaps I have enough money to pay for all the houses in my neighbourhood to have solar and wind power and therefore I can run a "power station." Laws should not prevent me from doing this.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Calling oneself a religious person

Written on Lag Ba-omer, the 33rd day of the Omer (the days between Pesach and Shavuot), ie Friday 23rd May 2008

On Pesach the Israelites had their deliverance from Egypt. In our modern time, our Egypt (Mitzrayim) is the dark places we sometimes find ourself, and we are mentally released from our bondage if we work at it and wish it to be so.
On Shavuot the Israelites accepted the Torah (the 5 Books of Moses) into their lives and heard the world of God as a community, a revelation. If we wish it to be so, then today we can hear the voice and know that there is more at stake then instant gratification and what we can have today.

Every time I hear of a Jewish person doing something irresponsible, I cringe.
Every time I hear of a Christian person doing something irresponsible, I cringe.
And for Muslims, Hindus, etc.

By this I am talking of people who are happy to call themselves Jews, Christians, Moslems, Hindus, etc. The ones who go to Synagogue, Church, Mosque, Temple, regularly. The ones who observe the holidays and remember the Shabbat. I know there are lots of ways of being Jewish, Christian, Moslem, Hindu, etc, and I throw all these people into the same pot.

I will concentrate on using the words Jew and Jewish below, but my essay relates to all people.

Jewish people are meant to set an example by their behaviour. I’m not saying everything must be done by the book. Sometimes one needs to go out on a limb to try something new or invent a new technology that will help our polluted world to become less polluted.

But when I read the newspaper and I find Jewish people who have robbed pension funds, or I read of Jewish Bank owners who have gone out of business and their depositors have lost their money, or more mundanely, when I see Jewish people disobeying the easy laws of our countries, then I cringe and am sad to call myself a Jew.

Some of these mundane things are: talking on the cell phone while driving without a hands free kit, especially when doing it in an expensive car; speeding which poses accident risks and pollutes the environment more; driving unnecessarily big cars which definitely pollute the environment more; developing buildings illegally; supporting illegal guest house owners in their crimes; stealing time and money from neighbours and residents associations; not being involved in community; not identifying the strangers in our midst and doing what we can to engage with them and love them.

I am happy to be a Jew. To me a Jew is a responsible person. To me a Jew is someone who should set an example. To me a Jew is someone who lives a Jewish life, trying in his or her humble way to observe the 10 Commandments, to honour the Bible, to live and walk with the ancients.

In the Jewish Calendar, today is Lag Ba-Omer, the day we observe two important events:
1) Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai died on Lag Ba-Omer. Rabbi bar Yochai lived in the 2nd Century, survived persecution by the Romans, yet was the first to publically teach the mystical dimension of the Torah known as the Kabbalah, and is the author of the Zohar, the basic work of Kabbalah.
2) Lag Ba-Omer was the end of a plague where 24,000 of the great sage, Rabbi Akiva’s, disciples died according to the Talmud: “because they did not act respectfully towards each other.”

In modern times, Lag Ba-Omer is celebrated with bon fires which symbolize the fire of the Torah and the fire that surrounded Rabbi bar Yochai.

Bearing in mind the terrible atrocities that are being committed by South Africans against fellow South Africans and strangers or foreigners in our midst, whether they are legally living here or illegally living here, we should remember Lag Ba-Omer’s significance. We need to be respectful to each other. If there are illegal immigrants here and we wish to get rid of them, there are legal ways of doing this. We are a democracy. We elected the government. If the government isn’t representing us, then we must elect new local councilors and a new government.

I hear more and more complaints by my neighbours, local residents, friends who complain about the “sad state of affairs in South Africa” and who are considering immigration or have already immigrated, yet these same people do nothing about the situation. They say there is nothing they can do. So they sit back until one day these things happen to them.

As a residents association committee member, former chairman and Ward Forum member, I am continuously saddened that our councils don’t do what is right and that criminals in our midst are constantly given rights which we aren’t given. I read recently a letter from a lawyer representing an illegal developer stating that the Milnerton Residents Association doesn’t represent Milnerton Residents because there are only 30 members. There are 110 members, and we do represent residents, but you get the point! There are 2000 potential members. At R50 per year we need more members!! Yet, we don’t have enough new people and the time comes for experienced members of these committees to move on.

For myself, I am resigning from these committees to pursue my dream of finding ways of making my carbon footprint less, of finding ways of leaving the world a better place than I found it, both physically and spiritually.

Everyone: for whatever reason you have chosen to live where you live. Find ways of making it a better place. Get involved in your local communities, residents associations, charities. Don’t leave it to other people.

Love
David

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Renewables


Dear all

I wrote this on 26th April 2008, but only had time today (18th May 2008) to upload it.

I wish all my Jewish friends a Chag Sameach this Pesach.

I wish all my Christian Orthodox friends a Happy Easter this weekend.

Further to my previous email, my Renewables research continues at a pace. I attach a slide that I am using as a basis for my research. Click on the image for a bigger version.

I would welcome anyone who wishes to get involved with a number of projects that I will be hosting over the next few months including:
solar water heating: buy or make?
photovoltaics: buy or make?
wind turbine: buy or make?

There is a lot of research that still needs to be done.

Besides this I will be buying some of the "toy" kits that are listed in the slide. If anyone would like to build them with me, please let me know.

I am looking for a school (or schools) that might be interested in learning about solar energy and I need some land for experiments, eg building a geodesic dome and building grey water systems. If anyone is interested, please let me know.

I am also looking for funding to fund these projects. Again, please contact me if you are interested.

I also need electricians, electronics experts, welders, gardners, etc. Please volunteer your time or services.

Love
David

Monday, 10 March 2008

Essay written in November 2007 - note how things have changed

Hi all

We are witnessing world history and who knows what effect this will have on our businesses. I thought you might be interested in the following:

Gold is almost at R5,500 an ounce with the Rand pretty stable and currently R6.48 to the US Dollar. Gold is currently $838.35 an ounce (up 2% so far today) = R5,432 an ounce. Silver is currently $15.87 (up 8% so far today- but been trailing gold somewhat lately) = R102.84. Both all time highs in Rands.

USDX (US$ Index, a measure of the US $ in terms of 5 other major currencies, eg Yen, Pound, Euro, etc) still plummeting after following through its 30 year baseline at 80 (currently 75.324) in September when Bernanke (the Governor of the USA Reserve Bank, called the "Fed" (Federal Reserve) over there) dropped interest rates because of the sub-prime problems and record housing foreclosures in the USA. For the first time in many years internal politics superceded external politics.

We are almost at gold's (nominal) all time high around $850 set in 1980! But gold's all time high in real terms is $2,278 (accounting for USA inflation since 1980) which is potentially R15,000 if the Rand Dollar doesn't change! (See http://www.zealllc.com/2007/cpigold2.htm for more information.)

Although South African gold shares are suffering, internationally the HUI (unhedged gold index) is at an all time high. The Gold-Oil ratio is at about 8.8. Oil is at $95.38, an all time high. The average long term Gold-Oil ratio is 15.3 ($838.35/$95.38), so theoretically gold should be $1,459. This tells us the amount of gold one needs to buy a barrel of oil.

The international oil stocks index (XOI) and oil are at all time highs, but this is due to a speculative driven parabolic increase since early 2007 (up about 90% in one year), so oil is due for a correction, possibly down to its 200 day moving average around $70, which is still a 40% increase this year. Interesting though, the price of petrol in Rands is up "only" 20% from R5.66 to R6.76 since January 2007 which shows the real strength of the Rand increase this year compared with the Dollar. If the Rand had stayed where it was, we'd be paying R10.75 per litre.

Notes

An ounce is roughly 29 grams, so gold at R5,500 per ounce is roughly R159,000 per kg. Gold mines usually quote income and costs in kgs.

HUI (unhedged gold mining companies index): What does it mean?

The hedge book represents sales at a "forward" (future) price of gold, eg 40% of production sold at $400 an ounce is not good if gold is at $850 an ounce, but the hedge is important if you are starting a new mine as the lenders want to ensure you get a "lowest price." Major gold miners have been dramatically reducing their hedge books for the past few years so that they can immediately feel the effect of gold price increases. The main reasons South African gold shares haven't increased as much as their counterparts overseas is the depth we need to mine at; the cost of labour, especially in terms of labour strikes (come on guys, pay your people more); and the huge cost increases in terms of machinery, etc. But the machinery cost increases have effected miners worldwide, so should not be the major reason for blame in South Africa! Note that small miners or newly listed miners usually need to hedge part of their production to satisfy the lenders that there is a minimum price that they will get for their commodity, eg gold.

Sub-Prime:
This is not about lending at 3% under prime, but rather about lending to people with bad credit histories, eg people who have been blacklisted or bankrupt or where with .5% interest rate increases won't be able to repay their mortgages! Huge increases in bond interest rates in the USA from 1% to about 5% (a 500% increase in repayments) in the past couple of years required to prop up the Dollar and prevent foreigners from dumping Dollars led to huge internal problems in the USA. Bernanke had to make the tough decision to reduce interest rates to save the average American knowing that foreigners would sell Dollars. The benefit of this though is that this makes USA goods cheaper which should make USA cars cheaper than their equivalent European cars in South Africa.

Note that I have tried to deal with the facts and leave out my own opinions on where the current situation might lead us.

Please note that I am not a financial adviser or trader and am not giving you this information to suggest that you buy or sell shares and or commodities. I am simply a spectator on the world stage, trying to make sense of the bigger picture at work here. Those of you who know me personally will know that I have no idea who the South African rugby teams are or who will win Big Brother. I did however enjoy the world cup and kept watching out for hookers but didn't see any Any decisions you make as a result of reading this email are entirely up to you.

Regards
David

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Sub prime crisis; renewables; the price we pay; what you can do

Dear friends

For those of you who don't know, the sub prime crisis is where banks and other financial institutions lent money to people with bad credit records or people who couldn't otherwise get loans. These loans were then "securitised", i.e. packaged as triple A rate loans and then sold off to other investors. How does this happen? Well lets suppose you are the bank. You lend money to someone who can't pay or who might not be able to pay. You lend R1 million. You then take all these loans and put them into a big loan of R1 billion which you then sell to another investor. OK, it's not a loan from your point of view. It's a BOND because you are asking someone else to lend you the money so that you can lend it to the person who can't afford the repayments. The other investor sees that you are selling GOOD DEBT because YOU (the bank) have a good credit rating! The small print says that you will only pay interest on this debt if your customers pay you. Further small print says that this is never going to happen because if it does happen you will get your money back because you will sell the houses. The buyer gets their money back or walks away no worse off and without any debt and the bond holder gets their money back. All good and well if house prices are going UP!

I watched the congressional hearings in the USA about this problem last night on Bloomberg where they interviewed the top 7 (I think there were 7) CEO's about their companies performance and executive pay.

I was shocked that 18% (EIGHTEEN PERCENT) of new home owners with new mortgages did not make their first month's repayment in 2006. Yes, you read that correctly, almost 1/5th of people could not afford to repay the bonds that were given to them - from the very first month onwards.

I was also shocked that these directors earn between $100 million and $200 million per annum regardless of how their companies perform!

I was also shocked that only 5% of the USA's working population receive the benefits of proper inflation adjusted salaries and that the other 95% are effectively earning less and less every year. Sounds like South Africa - and is a potential recipe for another "French Revolution."

I was also shocked that in a separate news report, the USA has lost over 130,000 jobs in January and February this year, yet the unemployment statistics have gone from 5% in December 2007 to 4.8% in February 2008. The reason for this we are told is because of people leaving the employment system and other "structural adjustments", e.g. retirees.

More shocking news is that besides the bailouts that the American and European governments have given their banks and the huge write-downs that banks are writing down (Citigroup, an American bank, wrote off the value of ABSA AND STANDARD BANK last quarter which gives give you some idea of the scale of the problem), the US government is giving "tax rebates" to the population and the cheques will be arriving in May and June this year. The total "rebate" is $150 billion; that's $500 for every adult and child in the USA. When Mugabe does this it adds to inflation. What do you think happens when this happens in the USA. It adds to inflation!

If you don't believe me read: http://www.moneyweb.co.za/mw/view/mw/en/page55?oid=185098&sn=Detail

And eventually people are taking trillions of their currency to the local shop in wheel barrows to buy a loaf of bread. Sound far fetched? It happened in Germany in the 1930's. It happened in Yugoslavia in the 1990's. Its happening in Zimbabwe in the 2000's. It's called hyper inflation and is something we need to protect against.

The USDX which is the US Dollar Index which is the US$ against a number of other major currencies dived below 80 for the first time in 30 years in August 2007. In December 2007 Gold in US$ went above $800 an ounce. Gold is almost at $1000 an ounce and is expected to rise substantially this year.

See gold and USDX graph at http://www.zealllc.com/2007/goldusdx.htm

There is an inverse relationship between the gold price and the Dollar. This used be the case for the Rand.
See: http://www.zealllc.com/2005/glogold.htm This is a bit of an old graph, but you get the picture.

The price of oil "seems" high because the US$ is falling. If South Africa had electricity our rand would be climbing with most of the rest of the world's currencies, but because of the electricity crisis the rand is falling fast.

So whilst the price of petrol in Europe and Australia is constant, the price of petrol is going up dramatically in South Africa.

At the same time we are told that this is inflationary and that therefore the interest rate in South Africa has to go up again. However with electricity costs expected to go up 25% this year; fuel costs 30%; interest rates already up 26% (14.5% / 11.5%) a huge amount of discretionary spending is leaving the South African economy. The total value of house sales is already down and car sales are plummeting. We have been brainwashed into believing that interest rates are the ONLY way of taking excess liquidity out of the market, yet petrol price increase; electricity price increases; interest rate increases; all take money out of the economy. However, if at the same time the government prints money to pay of its huge industrial expansion program including things we need like railways and traffic intersections and things we don't need like new stadiums, then interest rates ALSO need to increase. However, why should we pay for the government's mistakes? The reason is because we voted in the government and therefore we are taxed in all sorts of ways that whilst we THINK we are free, in fact, we are spending a vaste amount of OUR money on taxes in one way or another. These taxes make our government rich and perhaps don't make our country as rich as it should be. This isn't only a South African phenomenon, but since the Magna Carta arrived which said that the king had to share his wealth, this is how the redistribution has happened.

So I hear you say: is there a way out of this mess?

Before I answer this question let me talk about what you owe on your house and your psychological situation: if you have a house valued at R1.3 million and a bond at R1.5 million, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. It is the bank's fault. They have the staff who know what the future will bring and they know what you can afford now and in the future. The big four banks in South African have provided for something like 20 Billion Rand in their balance sheets for EXPECTED defaults. They realise that people are going to default. How do they know this? THEY lent the money!! And they knew what you earned when they lent it to you. In South Africa one has been able to borrow 20% more than the value of one's house for many years. The reason we are told is that house prices always go up. But there are cycles when they go up and cycles when they go down. If you happen to need to sell your house during a down cycle and you want to sell the house for 1.3 million, but you owe 1.5 million then you need to find the other R200,000 somewhere. That somewhere might be your pension money or borrowing from a friend. Over the past few years I have lent R40,000 to friends. I am happy to do this. I know that I may never get the money back. In some cases, I have bartered to get something back instead of the money.

Mirjana and I are careful and spendthrift. We don't miser our money, but nor do we waste it. We got out of the rat race, explained below, long ago and whilst it looks like we don't have much, we don't have much debt and that is the main thing. We are all brainwashed into believing that we need to leverage our assets by borrowing, but all that borrowing does is stress us out and cause us to spend less time with our families and more time for ourselves and our children(!) in hospital. Think about it. You might seem to be richer than the guy next door, but what is your net debt position at any time? Or perhaps more positively what is your net cash positive position at any time? Are you cash positive? Do you have credit card debt where you are charged interest on your credit card? Do you have overdrafts that you cannot pay tomorrow? Did you just INVEST in that expensive new suit, watch, camera, car, house, lawnmower, holiday, that you possibly did not need, but want to keep up with the Jones's? If your friends expect you to keep up with them, THEN THEY ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS. Your friends are the people who like you the way you are. Be that in a small house or a big house. And maybe because your friends know that you can't go to the fancy restaurant or don't have the money to entertain them, then the "well off" friends pay for you to spend time with them because they love you unconditionally.

Absolutely. All we need is a very small, yet very big, mind shift. Yes, everything happens in Paradoxes.

We have been trained to believe that we need to spend money on important things like new cars (the bigger the better); expensive Mont-Blanc pens (yes they are nice); designer clothes and watches, etc. We are also constantly bombarded with news that nuclear is safe and that nuclear is unsafe. Yes we have heard very little over the past few years about renewables. These are the renewables: solar water heating; solar energy provision using photo-voltaic cells which convert solar heat from the sun into electricity; wind power; geo-thermal (from the ground); hydro-electric; where we take the heat from the ground and use it to heat our houses or convert the heat into electricity; wave energy (we have a big ocean with huge power potential). In Milnerton all the wind is wasted on a windy day!

My neighbour drives around in his brand new Mercedes which is possibly costing him R8000 even if he paid cash for it. Yes, there is something called "COST OF CAPITAL." Even if you pay cash for something you should consider it's cost of capital, ie what you would be expected to pay if you borrowed the money. Why? Because you are effectively borrowing the money from yourself.

We have been conditioned into believing that renewable energy is EXPENSIVE. But what is more expensive? Polluting our beautiful planet with SCARCE resources called oil, methane, food which is converted into energy thus dramatically increasing our food prices and adding to massive worldwide inflation; buying cars when we really don't need to car; etc? Or paying for renewals to get ourselves of the national grid?

Base load power stations will always (for the next 100 years) be needed to power industry and shopping centres. But we can power our own houses NOW using renewable energy which if you look at the bigger picture is MUCH CHEAPER than oil energy. Cheaper than Nuclear Energy! Cheaper than COAL energy! How is this possible?

All these NORMAL energies pollute our very very small, beautiful and fragile planet. It takes a massive amount of energy to give you your petrol for your car. It takes a massive amount of energy to give you the car! That is why energy hungry industries get cheap electricity. It is so that that can make you cheap products that use expensive consumables which then make the owners of these companies money.

And the shareholders of these companies are the owners. And all they want is profits, share growth and dividends. They aren't interested in saving the planet! How do I know this? Warren Buffet said "the only think that is important for a director is to be beholden to his shareholders". If this bankrupts a country or puts people out of work or gives us inferior products or gives us poor quality products or pollutes the environment, it is subordinate to keeping the shareholders happy!

If I changed my mind a very small amount and decided that I should spend my money on renewal power at say R4000 per month instead of spending that R4000 on something else, then all of a sudden renewable power becomes cheap. If someone finds a way to give you the ability to make your own solar panels and wind turbines or provides a kit for you to do the installation, then it might be only R1000 per month to take yourself off the grid. I and some of my colleagues and friends are working on this as we speak.

People in "THE KNOW" say that wind power is very inefficient as it only produces power for 18% of the time assuming that it is erected properly and is in an area which has the proper wind speeds. However, this 18% is misleading because a normal base load power station which runs 24 hours a day, 365 or 366 days a year is only 30% efficient!!! The reason for this is because the turbines are only 30% efficient. If an engineer could make the turbines 60% efficient, we wouldn't need any new power stations for the next 20 years. And getting this energy from the North of the Country to the South of the Country along high energy transmission lines is also wasteful, so perhaps by the time we get the energy we only get 25% of the coal power burnt. Note that Koeberg currently provides less than half of Cape Town's power needs.

Another thing to consider: if everyone was happy with their cars in South Africa and everyone who needed a car bought second hand cars in the next 2 years, there would be enough cars to go round in South Africa. There are hundreds of thousands of used cars available all over South Africa. This means that power can be taken away from car produces and given to companies and individuals where the power is needed the most. Think about it. Note that where-ever power is reduced people are going to lose jobs. If managed properly, the government would take R100 billion and make it available to the end user or consumer or home owner or person who lost their job instead of given it to the inbetween bank or company to enhance their balance sheets. South Africa can really do this if WE want it badly enough.

Let me end by telling you about a dream I have had for the past few years. It is called the CASTLE project.

I will write about it soon.

Feel free to forward this to all your friends.

Regards
David

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Evil flourishes when good men do nothing (Edmund Burke)

Repair Yourself / Repair Jacob

To my dear long term friends and new visitors, who hopefully will become long term friends:

In 2004, I created a group of people called the Tikkun Jacob Forum because I hypothesised that each of us need repair and that our oldest book, the Bible, could lead us to this repair.

Tikkun means repair. In the Bible Jacob becomes (is renamed) Israel (Genesis 32 vs 29). Jacob is renamed Israel by God after he strives to find God. I believe that we are all on an iterative path from Jacob to Israel, ie I move from Jacob to Israel in my understanding and then seek to enhance this understanding by moving from Jacob to Israel again and again in a process of rebirth or enlightenment or in my way of life or in my behaviour. I liken this to an Olympic athlete who achieves his best place of 4th in a race, but is satisfied with this place knowing that it is his personal best and he can do better. Even when the athlete achieves Gold, he can still do better, and so he tries to find other ways of bettering himself, either training harder, finding a new costume, finding a different exercise, practicing other skills so that he can enhance himself as an Olympic athlete. I understand that athletes cannot compete without judges and justice and that justice, righteousness and peace go hand in hand. I understand that a judge should always seek to find a compromise solution as this will always be the best path forward in the give and take and potential win-win nature of life.

I now extend this "I" to "we" and make the assumption that this is something that everyone wants to do. So please reread the second paragraph substituting I for we and me for our.

In the process a group of people was formed and I now wish to turn these discussions into a blog so that I can share what we have learnt with a wider audience.

In Hebrew, Peace is translated as Shalom. Shalom is used as a form of greeting meaning Hello and Goodbye. Shalom comes from the world Shalem which means whole. In achieving Peace we achieve Wholeness. It is my ambition in this Blog that we achieve Shalom and Shalem. Note that GoodBye is an abbreviation for God Bless You. I bless you in your coming and your going and pray that you will return to share in this mission of Repairing your personal world again and again.

This blog will also deal with issues related to how we can make our homes better places; our friendship circles better places to be in; our living environments better places and eventually our very small, unique and beautiful world a better and more beautiful place.

I will sign using Love instead of Regards and extend unconditional love to everyone who arrives at this blog.

If you wish to read more about me and some of the things I am interested in, please go to http://www.orbital.co.za/text/whatwedo.htm and http://www.orbital.co.za/text/davidsthoughts.htm.

Love and Goodbye
David