Monday, September 26, 2011

A SOLUTION FOR THE GREEK ECONOMIC CRISIS

On Wednesdays my friend Andre and I have lunch at the Hungarian Old Age Home’s Cafeteria where a three course meal (Soup of the Day, Wiener Schnitzel with Home Fried Potatoes and Hungarian-style Cucumber Salad, and Dessert, PLUS a glass of the house red and a can of soda water that you can mix with the wine to make a fröcs) sets you back no more than $16, including tip.

We take our time over the meal and try to engage in meaningful conversation, such as:

Andre: I think I have a solution to Greece’s economic woes…

Robert: You don’t say! Tell me, tell me more …

Andre: Angela Merkel had it right – the Greeks should sell their gold reserves to the Germans …

Robert: They don’t have enough gold to cover the deficit …

Andre: I know …

Robert: So?

Andre: They should then start selling off their islands to the Germans and keep on doing so until they’ve made up the shortfall …

Robert: You mean like Mykonos, Delos, Santorini?

Andre: Yes, why not? And Crete if necessary – and the Greek part of Cyprus to the Turks …

NOW THAT’S A REFRESHING APPROACH!

Red lingerie to lure Hungarians online for census
BUDAPEST | Wed Sep 7, 2011 2:30 pm EDT

(Reuters) - Hungary has produced a provocative video advertisement to encourage more people to fill out its national census online next month.





In a video posted on social networking sites Wednesday, a topless young woman in red underwear, lacy black stockings and holding a whip opens the door to a census taker, who, realizing he has arrived at an inopportune moment -- offers her the option of completing the census online.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

THEATRE OF THE ABSURD

Chapter Three

Our race is called Homo Sapiens in Latin which literally translated into English means Man who Knows or, if you prefer Man who Thinks, or Man who has the capacity to Think.

Allow me respectfully to disagree. Homo Sapiens is a misnomer. We do not think – at least not logically!

Consider this:

The “Canadian Oil Sands”, North America’s largest recoverable oil deposit, a 54,000 square mile patch of oily sand (popularly referred to as ‘tar’) in the Athabasca basin of Alberta contains between 1.7 trillion and 2.5 trillion barrels of oil. With today’s technology, recoverable reserves stand at 178.6 billion barrels.

That makes it the world’s second largest oil reserve, second to Saudi Arabia.

Currently, there aren't enough pipelines to supply hungry markets in the U.S. and Asia. That lack of pipeline capacity is holding back full-bore oil sands production. But last week, the U.S. State Department gave its approval to the Keystone XL pipeline.

This giant, 1,700-mile pipeline would run from Alberta, across the Great Plains to Houston, Texas. It would double the volume of oil we currently export to the US to 4 million barrels per day. That's about 44% of U.S. oil imports.

Unfortunately, the process of extracting the oil from the tar sand involves pumping steam – lots of it – through the sand. The steam then turns into contaminated water that, in turn, poisons the Albertan aquifer.

Not to worry: water is a renewable resource – right?


This assumption is false. At some time in the near future, water bankruptcy will result. A United Nations study says that by 2025 – only 14 years away – two-thirds of the world will be "water-poor."

The consumption of water is doubling every 20 years, twice the rate of world population growth.

The underground aquifer that supplies one-third of the water for the continental United States is being depleted eight times faster than it is being replenished.

Saudi Arabia is a net exporter of wheat using non-renewable water reserves. Saudi Arabia is expected to exhaust its water reserves in 50 years.

Meanwhile what are we Canadians doing?

Depleting our non-renewable oil reserves to ‘help’ our economy while, at the same time, poisoning our precious non-renewable water reserves – that’s what.

We will be hearing much more about water in coming months and years. And if wars of the future will be fought over water – which they will be – Canada will be in the thick of the battle.


Monday, September 5, 2011

WHAT PRICE PEACE OF MIND?

“US Government Asset Seizures on the Rise”

…or so claimed the headline of an article in the Wall Street Journal last week. This set me to thinking about what the dickens to do in case the fur really began to fly.

Then I came across an article written by Bill Bonner in the Daily Reckoning, a newspaper with an admittedly alarmist penchant, that contained the following piece of advice I thought I should share with you in spite of its decidedly exaggerated tone.

Here is what Bill Bonner wrote:

I’ve long advocated for an internationalization strategy: diversifying various assets and interests overseas so that no one single government has total control over your livelihood.

Store your gold in Switzerland. Open a bank account in Hong Kong. Register your company in the BVI. Establish a ‘backup’ residency in Chile. Expand your business in Brazil. Get a better job in Singapore. Obtain a second passport in Malta. Open a brokerage account in the Cayman Islands.

This approach is NOT just for the super rich.

Taking some simple steps to protect yourself will give you extraordinary peace of mind. You’ll know that, without doubt, you have some savings socked away that NOBODY can touch. You’ll know that you have a solid emergency backup plan. You’ll know that everything you’ve worked for won’t vanish in an instant.


Bill Bonner is not exactly an optimist. He went on to relate the following story:

I had dinner at a London pub last night. My companion was Dylan Grice, an analyst with Societe Generale.

The subject of discussion was Yeats’ poem — ‘Sailing to Byzantium.’ We agreed that whatever Yeats intended, we saw it as a farewell to the growth economies of the Western World — including Japan.

I said ‘They are all fastened to a whole herd of dying animals. An archaic social welfare model. Debts that cannot be paid. Promises that cannot be kept. The declining marginal utility of oil. Zombies everywhere — including in education, finance, healthcare, defense and other major industries. De-leveraging in the private sectors. Impending bankruptcies in the public sectors. Insolvent banks. Corrupt and incompetent governments.’

WHAT A CHARMING AND ATTRACTIVE PICTURE OF THE WEST!

Monday, August 15, 2011

THEATRE OF THE ABSURD

Chapter Two

The shenanigans, posturing and waffling in Washington resulted, as predicted, in major pressure on the world’s stock markets where the price of securities fluttered up and down world-wide like the eyelids of a maiden attempting to inveigle her paramour into giving her a substantial gift – perhaps a $4.3 Million apartment in Manhattan, a la George Soros.

Interesting man, Uncle George, and very true to form. (Most Hungarian men, whatever their age, consider not soccer, but skirt-chasing, the Hungarian national sport).

Also true to form as a contrarian, was Uncle George’s decision to bail out of gold. (In May he called the metal the ultimate bubble, but recently he moderated this observation by saying that “I called gold the ultimate bubble which means it may go higher but it’s certainly not safe and it’s not going to last forever.”).

Regardless, he lightened his Soros Fund Management LLC’s holdings of gold and closed this immensely successful hedge-fund to ‘outsiders’, announcing that, henceforth, he will manage only his own money and not that of others. He then proceeded to pay everybody out and predicted that “we are on the verge of an economic crisis”.

So what else is new?

Meanwhile back at the ranch – at the bull ranch that is – Angela Merkel suggested to the Spanish and Greek governments that they sell their gold reserves to pay down their countries’ debts.

You can imagine how these Macho legislators welcomed this suggestion, especially since it came from a woman.

While Rome is burning (as are Lisbon and Madrid and Athens) the Americans are having a Tea Party in Washington, and Libyans, Syrians, Iraqis and Afghanis are bathing in blood.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

THEATRE OF THE ABSURD



Most of the time people call this building “the US Capitol”.

Today, many characterize it as The Theatre of the Absurd, or The Kabuki Theatre.

Why?

Because, in its hallowed halls, members of the Senate and of Congress are presently behaving as if they were performing at Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival.

I am a Canadian with no ax to grind. Like everyone around the world, though, I watch, perplexed, as the globe’s most powerful nation clumsily stumbles toward shooting itself in the foot by destroying its AAA Credit Rating, thereby probably precipitating yet another world economic crisis of unimaginable proportion.

Don’t the ‘wise’ US legislators realize that they have already undermined the power of the US Dollar to the point where oil-producing countries have begun not to accept payment for their products in US Currency, that the Russians, the Europeans and the Chinese are in the process of creating a “currency” based on a basket composed of a mixture of Euros, Rubles and Yuans or some other mix designed to replace the US Dollar as the currency of international debt settlement?

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting that the fur will suddenly hit the fan on August 2. The US will not default on its obligations on that date, whether or not the Bill to raise the debt limit becomes law. The Americans will muddle through for a month or even two, but, if the legislators don’t address DEFICIT REDUCTION then…watch out … gold will double in its value vis-à-vis the US Dollar (may be to as high as US $3,000 per ounce), Mr. Chavez and his Middle Eastern colleagues will stop accepting US Dollars in payment for petroleum products, gas will cost US $8 a gallon at the pump, and interest rates will rise sharply thereby stifling world-wide any meaningful economic recovery.

In summary, unless US legislators come to their senses and start acting responsibly SOON the US’s economy (supposedly the strongest in the world) will start resembling that of Greece.

You might well ask what qualifies me to make such a sweeping series of predictions. My answer is: ‘been there done that’.

I was there when gold was US $35 per ounce and silver $7 (the year I became a Chartered Accountant after having graduated from McGill University with a Major in Economics.)

I was there when the Hunt Brothers drove up the price of silver to US $48 an ounce almost overnight.

I was a Bankruptcy Trustee, liquidating banks in the Cayman Islands when the 1973/74 world-wide liquidity crisis impacted on the planet’s economies thereby ruining a number of large banks.

I spent over a decade chasing after money launderers in the Western Hemisphere.

I watched with alarm the shenanigans of Wall Street Merchant Bankers whose cavalier approach to leveraging precipitated the last crisis and I was happy to be living in a country – Canada – where banks were more strictly regulated than in the US.

I am now watching the US Treasury trying to lift the US out of the economic hole in which it finds itself by printing more and more money to pay for entitlements with little regard to whether or not the country’s economy can afford them.

As a consequence, I am now also witnessing the decline in value of the US Dollar vis-à-vis gold AND THE CANADIAN AND AUSTRALIAN DOLLARS.

And last, but not least, I am watching in amazement the upward trend in EMIGRATION of US citizens to Canada in the North and Belize (and other similar ‘safe’ havens) to the South.

Let’s face it, one does not have to be a genius to start, after having connected the dots, worrying about what is happening in the good old US of A.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

GOLD RUSH


This is what I wrote in 2005 about the villain (Mike) of my fourth novel, FATAL GREED:

Mike spent the following week revisiting the coin dealers he had contacted … and gave them individual lists of gold coins he wished to purchase, figuring that with gold at three hundred dollars an ounce, for seven hundred thousand dollars he would have to purchase about two thousand four hundred gold coins, weighing approximately seventy kilos in total.

Mike planned to hide the coins on board his yacht and leave England for Costa Rica where he figured he’d chill out for a while.GOLD AT $300 AN OUNCE – SIX SHORT YEARS AGO!Today it’s above $1,500.

So what happened?
The US Treasury started printing money like crazy, that’s what happened.

The idea behind this move is the belief that printing more money would help the US to finance itself out of the present economic crisis.

Problem is that the oil-producing nations have begun thinking seriously about not accepting US Dollars anymore in payment for their petroleum products.

In other words, the US Dollar is in danger of losing its status as the currency of international debt settlement. Instead Europe, Russia and China are proposing a ‘basket’ of currencies which they might call the ‘Banko’ with which they intend to replace the petro-dollar.

And when this happens, watch out – gold will shoot up to US $3,000 per ounce.

The rush for gold is already on. People are concerned about the economic uncertainty to the point where they want to hold the metal itself, not the certificates.

Which means that the places where you can leave your metal for safekeeping are becoming more and more hard to find.

As if all this were not bad enough, let me tell you the following story:

A jeweler’s heirs are fighting the United States government for the right to keep a batch of rare and valuable “Double Eagle” $20 coins that date back to the Franklin Roosevelt administration.

Philadelphian Joan Langbord and her sons say they found the 10 coins in 2003 in a bank deposit box kept by Langbord’s father, Israel Switt, a jeweler who died in 1990. But when they tried to have the haul authenticated by the U.S. Treasury, the feds, um, flipped.
Source: Yahoo



More from the Associated Press:

Treasury officials charge that the never-circulated “double eagles” were stolen from the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia in 1933. They could be worth $80 million or more, given that one sold for nearly $7.6 million in 2002.

The coins come from a batch that were struck but melted down after President Franklin D. Roosevelt took the country off the gold standard in 1933.

Two were preserved for the Smithsonian Institute. But a handful more mysteriously got out.
The daughter and grandsons of Israel Switt, a jeweler and scrap metal dealer on nearby Jeweler’s Row, say they discovered 10 of them in his bank deposit box in 2003.

Joan Langbord of Philadelphia and her sons went to the U.S. Treasury to authenticate the coins, but the government instead seized them. Authorities noted that the box was rented six years after Switt died in 1990, and that the family never paid inheritance taxes on them.

What’s more, the Secret Service has long believed Switt and a corrupt cashier at the Mint were somehow involved in the double-eagle breach.

While the Treasury’s position is understandable with regards to the coins being stolen, unless they have direct evidence of these specific coins being linked to theft and Switt’s involvement (which is circumstantial at best) then these coins belong to the Langbord family.

Author: Mac Slavo
Date: July 7th, 2011

Sunday, July 3, 2011

FOOD, FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD…

I am happy to report that my work takes me to Spain often and that this gives me the opportunity to indulge in one of my great hobbies … eating well in good company.



And nobody knows how to eat (and drink) better – and more – than the Spaniards.

I was thrilled to discover that the owners of the hotel in which I usually stay in Toledo decided to renovate and to create a gourmet restaurant on the ground floor.

They did not forget the icing on the cake, so to speak. The restaurant is “equipped” with A FIRST CLASS, IMAGINATIVE, YOUNG CHEF!



That’s him, sitting with us after our having consumed a delicious dinner, a dinner that lasted about two hours and a half and ended at midnight. (The Spanish eat very late at night.)

Friday, June 24, 2011

DOUBLE PLAY AT CHAPTERS/ INDIGO


Last Saturday I spent the afternoon in Montreal selling my book, Havana Harvest, at the Chapters store on St. Catherine Street. On Sunday I headed for the Indigo store on McGill College Avenue to do the same thing.

I met some amazing people and had a great time.

When I saw the guy with the black Fedora I accosted him and asked where he got the hat. We started a conversation in English and he told me he was from Haifa, Israel. “But where from originally?” I asked. “From Hungary.”

“So why don’t we speak in Hungarian?” I asked in Hungarian.

He cracked up. “We’re everywhere, aren’t we?”

Needless to say, I made a sale.

Then I saw a couple coming toward me, holding hands. “How sweet…” I said and the man laughed. He turned out to be a TV Show producer at the Montreal studios of CTV and I promptly chatted him up.

He kindly volunteered to talk about me to some of the Channel’s production people both here and in Toronto – next day I found that he did.

Merci beaucoup.

Perhaps I’ll realize my dream: to be interviewed on TV by Mitsumi Takahashi and then, perhaps, to be invited onto the week-day Canada AM Show.

The next visit was with a lovely young lady from Mexico who bought a copy of my book for her Dad for Fathers’ Day. Here she is with her Mom and her sister.





My friend Pierro (originally from Rumania) and his lovely wife Debra dropped by to say hello and they brought along Ivan Smith who took all these terrific pictures.




My final sale was to a woman dressed in white. She, too, was there to buy a book for her Dad and he wrote to me next day to say “thank you”.

Guess what. He is also Hungarian.
Pretty cool mix of people overall, wouldn’t you say?


But nothing can beat the picture that shows me having dinner at the Bloody Words literary event in Victoria BC a couple of weeks ago with – I kid you not – a LION-TAMER.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

National Crime Writing Month

On Location with Robert Landori

A Good Memory is a Shortcut to Great Locations
I wrote my very first book on a dare, for a girl-friend whom I had indelicately criticised for reading trash. She had reposted with: “All right smart aleck, if you’re so intelligent why don’t you write me a book that’s better?

Within a year she was reading my first novel.

I hurried to finish the book because I had bet her a dinner that I could perform within twelve months. So I had to look for short-cuts and there was no time for researching “locations”. To solve this problem I delved into my memory banks and chose the venues I knew intimately: Montreal, the Laurentian Mountains, the hospital in which I had worked to earn money as an undergraduate at McGill, the countryside around the English public school I had attended, Georgetown near Washington etc…

I am a lucky man. My work has allowed me to travel far and wide, and to visit enough locations to “situate” at least ten novels.



Galindo’s Turn
(my first novel)
Before he became Robert Lonsdale his name was Bernard Lands.

He lived with his wife, Andrea, in a remote area in the Laurentian Mountains near Montreal. (Picture 1). Islamic terrorists, tipped off by a mole inside the CIA as to his real identity, attempted to assassinate him while he was cross-country skiing, but only managed to wound him.

He was treated at the Royal Victoria Hospital (Picture 2) where the assassins struck again, missed once more, but killed his wife.

Land fled to the Washington area and entered the CIA’s Employee Protection Program where they gave him a new name, a new face and a new identity. He became Robert Lonsdale an obscure analyst with the US Environmental Agency. He bought himself a condo in Georgetown (Picture 3) and started to work for the Agency’s super secret Counter-Terrorism and Counter Narcotics Division (Picture 5).


It took him a year to identify the mole who had betrayed him and whom he then hunted down and neutralized at Frensham Ponds in Surrey, England (Picture 4).

Robert Landori went to school in England, France, Switzerland and Hungary; of necessity he learned eight languages in the process. He completed his education at McGill University in Montreal, became a Chartered Accountant then traveled for over twenty years in the Caribbean and South America as an exporter‑importer, business consultant and trustee in bankruptcy.

Charged with espionage in Cuba, he spent sixty-six days in solitary confinement, and was eventually ‘let go’ without explanation. His experiences in prison prompted him to write his fifth book, Havana Harvest (a story about a Cuban general, condemned to death by the Castro regime).

His first book, GALINDO’S TURN, was the result of a challenge, twenty-five years ago, by a girlfriend to “write an intelligent book within a year”.


Shh... "The Agency’s super secret Counter-Terrorism and Counter Narcotics Division"