If there ever was an article worth reading it is Holman Jenkins' "The Fed Can't Fix Home Prices" in today's Wall Street Journal. Jenkins articulates, far better, what I have been saying. The Fed is doing what it can to soften the blow but, in the final analysis, it is simply pushing on a string. The mortgage meltdown will play itself out in time. However, making taxpayers pick up the bill for irresponsibility on the part of others would be another amoral act by politicians who encouraged home ownership by those who, by any statistical measure, could not afford it as well as lending organizations and banks who threw caution to the wind.
Prolonged low interest rates created a lending and borrowing frenzy and pumping hundreds of billions into the economy by The Fed will probably exacerbate what never should have been. For sure their action has already heightened inflation and lowered the value of the dollar while mortgage rates remain immune.
Fred Burton reviews a series of "black bloc" attacks and leaves open the question whether they are linked. They do follow a pattern, are anti-social, anti-capitalist and anti-establishment in nature. (See 1 below.)
Some academics were prescient but not many regarding Hamas, Gaza and war with Palestiniansand they still refuse to see what is before their eyes. (See 2 below.)
One lonely Lebanese voice calls on Lebanese women not to raise children to see them die because politicians want to perpetuate sectarianism.
Lamentably, other Arab/Muslim mothers raise their children in the sick hope they will become martyrs. Something is very rotten, not in Denmark, but in the Middle East.(See 3 below.)
Five terrorists, one of whom may have planned the recent Yeshiva attack, have been hunted down and killed. The mood in Israel gets uglier and uglier and Israeli-Arabs are increasingly fearful. The vicious cycle of wanton killing is possibly on the verge of escalating. I am reminded of the saying: "An eye for an eye leads to blindness."(See 4 and 5 below.)
Samuelson chalks one up for OPEC! (See 6 below.)
Max Boot gives Admiral Fallon the boot. (See 7 below.)
1) Black Blocs: Upping the Ante At Protests
By Fred Burton
A small bomb exploded outside a military recruiting station in New York City’s Times Square in the early morning hours of March 6, causing minor property damage but no injuries. The New York Police Department said surveillance videos of the area show a single person arriving at the scene riding a bicycle and wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt. Police say the blast was caused by a crude device made from a small, green ammunition container filled with black powder. In the video, the attacker appears to be acting alone, suggesting the person who planted the device was also the bomb maker. There have been no credible claims of responsibility for the attack, though police have lifted latent fingerprints off of what they believe to be the bicycle used by the perpetrator.
Although bombings are uncommon in Manhattan, several unsolved incidents have occurred that could be related to the March 6 attack:
* Oct. 26, 2007: Two crude improvised explosive devices made of training grenades stuffed with black powder explode outside of the Mexican Consulate in New York City around 3:40 a.m. local time, causing some damage to the building but injuring no one. A person riding a bicycle and wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt is seen at the scene of the attack.
* May 5, 2005: A small device is thrown at a Manhattan building about 3:55 a.m., causing small-scale property damage. The device used is a training grenade stuffed with black powder. Although the building houses the British Consulate, corporate offices of Caterpillar also are located there. Witnesses report that a person wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt was seen leaving the attack site on a bicycle.
* Feb. 11, 2000: An improvised explosive device constructed using a green metal ammunition can filled with black powder explodes at the entrance to the Barclays Bank building on Wall Street at about 4:40 a.m. The blast causes damage in the immediate vicinity, but no injuries.
* Dec. 15, 1997: A coffee can filled with black powder explodes about 6:30 a.m. outside the Planet Hollywood restaurant in Manhattan. The blast, which had been placed outside of a window of the restaurant’s retail store, causes damage to the surrounding area, but no injuries.
* Nov. 9, 1997: A coffee can filled with black powder explodes just before 6 a.m. outside a window at the offices of Barclays Bank, located in a building owned by Merrill Lynch. The explosion causes minor damage to the building, but no injuries.
These incidents all bear striking similarities. They all caused small-scale damage, and they all occurred early in the morning when few people were around. This suggests the attacks were aimed not at taking casualties but rather at sending messages to the targeted businesses and government offices and gaining media attention. The devices used in each of the incidents involved readily available materials, and they were designed rather simply, although they did demonstrate a small degree of skill, given there is no evidence that any of the devices malfunctioned. Also, no known claims of responsibility were made or lists of demands issued in any of the cases. Moreover, each attack appears to have been carried out by an individual acting alone. If a more established group had been involved, the attacks likely would have been more spectacular.
At first glance, the targets appear to have been randomly selected and unconnected. However, on closer inspection, the choice of targets reveals that a specific ideology seemed to have guided the attacker or attackers. In addition, the bicycles and the attackers’ dark hooded sweatshirt in at least three of these cases might indicate a connection to certain protest groups. The tactics and target selection of the latest New York City attacks bear some similarities to the actions of black bloc groups in past protest activities.
The Black Bloc
A black bloc is a nebulous entity that has no centralized command and control structure, similar to organizations such as the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front. Instead, activists who join black bloc groups usually also participate in other more benign activist organizations and affinity groups. Because a black bloc is not a formal organization, there is no clear definition of its ideology. However, individuals who participate in black bloc actions are typically anti-capitalism, anti-globalization and anti-war and often identify themselves as anarchists. Overall, they oppose “authoritarianism,” which they believe is present throughout modern society.
Black blocs often are organized on an ad hoc basis to participate in larger protest activities, such as those at the 2003 G-7 meeting in Washington and the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Seattle. The black bloc activists participate in large protests and often serve as a tactical brigade — adding conflict to a given protest event. While there may be a large group of individuals participating in one black bloc, there also are smaller autonomous cells within the group that carry out unilateral action. These groups have engaged in a number of violent activities over the years, mostly involving the destruction of property, and they claim that engaging in small-scale violence and destruction is a legitimate political statement.
Members of black bloc groups often dress in dark clothing and wear masks and scarves to conceal their identity, making it difficult for law enforcement to track them down. During some protest activities, groups have been known to send out scouts on bicycles to conduct reconnaissance on police in the area. Using hand held radios, the scouts then alert others in the group to areas where the police presence is less robust or where security measures can be more easily breached.
Black blocs rose to prominence as a movement during the 1999 Seattle WTO meetings. During the protests, groups mostly of young men began burning trash cans in the streets and smashing windows of retail stores and restaurants, including Old Navy, Gap, Planet Hollywood and McDonald’s.
The New York Attacks
Although there are no definitive connections between black blocs and the series of New York City attacks, the targets reflect the elements of society that black blocs most oppose. Large and influential banks are a frequent target of anti-capitalist actors, and these same individuals would likely cite Planet Hollywood as an example of crass culture and globalization.
The October 2007 attack against the Mexican Consulate was likely related to the first anniversary of the death of journalist Brad Will, who was shot to death in Oaxaca, Mexico, allegedly by domestic law enforcement, while reporting on protests in the city. At the time of his death, Will was working as a reporter for Indy Media, a media outlet for radical activist causes. Following Will’s death, many activists called for blockades and other black bloc-style direct actions against Mexican consulates around the world. Similarly, the May 2005 attack against the offices of Caterpillar is likely related to the death of Rachel Corrie, a member of the International Solidarity Movement who was killed in the Gaza Strip in March 2003. Corrie died during an incident that involved a Caterpillar-made armored bulldozer operated by members of the Israel Defense Forces.
The recent attack against the military recruiting station follows the same pattern as seen in earlier attacks. Times Square is one of the ultimate symbols of American capitalism and popular culture, making it an attractive target for individuals involved with the black bloc movement. Additionally, many affinity groups and other more mainstream activist organizations have adopted an anti-war message, making the Times Square recruitment center a frequent location of protest activities. However, this incident also could have been connected to events in Berkeley, Calif., where activists affiliated with the anti-war group Code Pink are protesting the presence of a U.S. Marine recruiting facility in the town. The conflict has received widespread media attention, peaking Jan. 29 when the Berkeley City Council adopted a resolution that called the Marines “uninvited and unwelcome intruders.” It also is possible the attack was meant to coincide with the verdict in the case of Oakland, Calif., activist Briana Waters, who was convicted on two charges of arson in connection with a fire at the University of Washington. Waters is an alleged member of the Earth Liberation Front.
There is not enough evidence to suggest these unsolved attacks in New York are connected to one black bloc group, although that could be the case. At the very least, the person involved in the latest attack took a page from the black bloc play book.
2) Profs Hammer Israel, Fail to Predict Palestinian War
By Jonathan Schanzer
From the Egyptian border breach to indiscriminate rocket fire at Israel, the Gaza Strip currently poses serious threats to regional security. The Hamas terrorist organization controls this territory because it defeated the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in a six-day Palestinian civil war in June 2007. But a cursory review of history shows that the Hamas-PLO rivalry has been brewing since 1988, when Hamas first emerged on the scene. Despite clear signs of impending conflict, nearly every professor of Middle Eastern studies in America failed to see it coming.
Why did so few experts write about the internecine Palestinian war? Hundreds of Arabic-speaking professors and researchers have trekked through the West Bank and Gaza over the years, funded by U.S. research dollars.
Most were too busy lambasting Israel's defense policies to identify the gathering storm, but a few U.S. professors saw the writing on the wall:
Mahmood Monshipouri, a professor at Alma College in Michigan, published a prescient 1996 article in Middle East Policy entitled, "The PLO Rivalry with Hamas." He recognized the potential for conflict a full 11 years before the Gaza Coup of 2007.
Don Peretz at the State University of New York in Binghamton also foresaw that the splintering of Hamas and the PLO during the 1987 intifada would have lasting effects. He predicted that the two groups could only "paper over their differences temporarily," and hence, "internecine conflict will very likely erupt among them when the time comes for the Palestinians to determine their political future."
But Monshipouri and Peretz were the exceptions during the 1990s.Virtually all of their colleagues lavished praise on Palestinian "civil society" as the cornerstone of a budding democracy, or skewered Israel for cracking down on the suicide-bombing terrorist groups that killed scores of Israeli civilians. After the outbreak of a new campaign of Palestinian violence, commonly termed the "intifada" of 2000, academics shifted their focus to an Israeli self-defense tactic they grossly mischaracterized as "apartheid," with a particular focus on Israel's security barriers around the West Bank and Gaza Strip that prevented nearly 100 percent of attempted Palestinian suicide bombings and other acts of Palestinian violence.
Over the past seven years, the Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA)-the academic umbrella group to which nearly every American professor in the field belongs-has remained focused on these tired topics, but has failed to produce a single paper that broke ground on the internal Palestinian discord and the civil war in the making.
As media outlets in the region began to openly report on the Hamas-PLO clashes in 2003 and 2004, only a few professors chose to note it. Fawaz Gerges of Sarah Lawrence College, often criticized for his Islamist apologia, noted in the Washington Post that, "a danger exists that the further radicalization of Hamas will not only mean an escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians but also the risk of intra-Palestinian civil war."
This dose of reality was the exception, not the rule. Rashid Khalidi and Joseph Massad, two Palestinian professors at Columbia University, neglected to warn of the coming Palestinian storm. If they sensed an internecine Palestinian conflict approaching, they neglected to warn U.S. policy makers. Instead, they produced a stream of tired anti-Israel diatribes. Their colleagues at other institutions, who produced almost no critical work regarding the internal Palestinian dynamic, provide additional examples of analytical failure and anti-Israel bias in this failing field.
What the professors did not grasp then, and refuse to grasp now, is that the radical Islamic ideology of Hamas, and the Palestinian nationalist ideology of the PLO, are both expansionist, violent, and based more upon the destruction of Israel than the creation of a viable Palestinian state. As such, it was only a matter of time before they clashed.
The Palestinian civil war and the subsequent Hamas coup has resulted in the launching of more than 800 rockets against Israel, a border crisis in Egypt, the death of more than 330 Palestinians in internecine fighting, and regional tensions that may soon lead to a new Middle East war. The professors in this field have yet to explain how they almost unanimously missed this critical development in the region, despite the mountains of work produced on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. A proper reckoning of this grievous oversight will be one of the necessary steps required if Middle Eastern studies professors are ever to regain the trust of policymakers inside the Beltway and beyond.
3) Lebanese Writer May Menasa Calls on Lebanese Women to Unite and Prevent Civil War: Women Do Not Give Birth to Children to Send Them to Die… We Need Women to Raise Their Voices
The following are excerpts from an interview with Lebanese writer May Menasa, which aired on OTV on March 5, 2008:
To view this MEMRI TV clip, visit: http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1706.htm
May Menasa: "Let me start with Lebanon, because I am a Lebanese woman, and I have always been proud of being Lebanese – so far. I don't know how long I will continue to be proud of this, because things are really dismal.
"I look around, and all I see are threats and curses. In my view, a politician in my country should serve as a pillar in our daily lives. Instead, the politician has become a fountain of curses, hatred, and threats. Morning, noon, and night, and at every moment in our lives, all he talks about is the 'civil war'. We no longer hear anything but this talk about a civil war.
"I would like to ask the politicians: Why do you want a civil war? Does this woman talking to you want a civil war? Do the women, from whose wombs men are born, want a civil war? What do men want? Do they want war? If so, they should enter the fray by themselves, and let our children be. We are not wombs that give birth for the sake of death. We give birth for the sake of life. My country does not understand this logic anymore. We, the women and our children, want life, not death.
"Look at what happened in France in World War II. Who brought about stability and peace in France? It was the women, who joined the Resistance. All women joined the Resistance. A woman would say: My son and my husband went to war. It was imperative during the war. When the German armies went in, you couldn't stay at home, and say: I'm against war.
"Back then, there was no choice but to wage war. Instead of hiding and keeping silent, they conducted that great resistance. Today, our role is to conduct resistance."
Interviewer: "How do you view the role of women in politics?"
"Women Should Say, First and Foremost, That We Need a Secular Country"
May Menasa: "We do not need women in the political world, as long as politics are not useful in any way. Many women work in clinics, many work for charities, but they constitute the silent element in society. We want to hear [their] voices louder than [those of] all those loudmouths on TV talk shows, who draw the people around them, so they can say that it is all about them.
"We need women to raise their voices, not just to work in clinics, in the Red Cross, and so on. The Red Cross is very important, this quiet resistance is very important, but today the time has come for women to speak their mind.
"Women should say, first and foremost, that we need a secular country. We don't need a sectarian country. We are fed up with sectarianism. We've seen where sectarianism has got us. Other countries perceived us as weak, when they saw that each of us clings to his religion and fights for it."
Mothers Do Not Give Birth So That Their Children Will Be Sent to Die, But So That They Will Live
"It is time for all to women unite – Shi'ite, Sunnis, Maronites, and Druze. They should leave their sects behind, leave them for the politicians, and become educated and secular women, who work towards shaping this unique country – a country that does not send its children to war, because, as I've said, mothers do not give birth so that their children will be sent to die, but so that they will live."
4)Report: IDF kills mastermind of Jerusalem terror attack
Bethlehem sources say IDF forces operating in town kill Muhammad Shahade, Islamic Jihad operative believed to be responsible for attack on Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem; three other militants killed in raid
Muhammad Shahade, an Islamic Jihad operative who Palestinian sources say was behind the terror attack in Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem last week, has been killed by IDF forces in Bethlehem Wednesday afternoon, local witnesses reported.
Dichter instructs police to work towards demolishing terrorist's home / Amnon Meranda
Internal security minister says Israel has no legal authority to take down mourners' tent in honor of Jerusalem terrorist, but orders police to work toward tearing down family home.
According to reports, another three militants have been killed in the raid, one of them an al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades member.
Military sources said that the four men were responsible for a series of terror attacks against Israel in the years 2000-2001, but did not attribute the Jerusalem attack to Shahade.
Shahade, a former Fatah member and an Islamic Jihad operative, has been known to have extensive ties with Hizbullah.
Palestinian sources reported that IDF forces have operated in the city, close to the Mukataa compound, and that several Palestinians have been injured. He said that Shahade was the target of the raid.
A senior wanted terror suspect, Muhammad Balbul, has reportedly been injured in the clashes.
Two days after the Jerusalem attack, which was carried out by Alaa Abu Dheim and left eight students killed, the police reported they have arrested eight people suspected of involvement in the attack.
5) Umm al-Fahm braces for possible retribution for Jerusalem attack
By Sharon Roffe-Ofir
Northern Israeli city contracts private security firm to guard against possible vendetta radical elements may seek for terror attack on Jewish seminary
The Umm al-Fahm Municipality has decided to contract a private security firm, fearing acts of retribution by Jewish radicals might plague the northern Israeli city following the deadly attack on Mercaz Harav yeshiva, last Thursday.
Umm al-Fahm Mayor Sheikh Hashem Abd al-Rahman announced his intention in a joint press conference held Wednesday by the mayors of Jewish and Arab communities in the Wadi Ara area, in protest of the several stoning incidents in the area.
'Vengeance is Mine'
Al-Rahman's reasoning was Tuesday Channel 1's report, according to which a group of Jewish men were given rabbinical sanction to carry out a vendetta for the attack.
"I think each and everyone of us should take extra care these days," he said. "We have to remain vigilant… one madman can set off the entire world."
Commenting on the Channel 1 report, al-Rahman said that "hearing people like (Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor) Lieberman and (National Union Chair Effie) Eitam say things like 'we're going to take care of you' makes us feel endangered."
Legitimizing murder unacceptance
"Talking about harming Arabs is a very risky thing. It's a nightmare I don't want anyone to have. Legitimizing murder is unacceptance to me as a Muslim, as an Arab, as a Palestinian and as a citizen of the State of Israel.
"Whoever said those things must be found and arrested immediately. We already had one Eden Natan Zada in Shfaram. There are other crazy people out there," he added.
The Wadi Ara Jewish-Arab Municipal Forum has held several meeting to discuss the coming crisis: "If we learned anything form (the October riots of) 2000 is that we have to pay attention to these things when they first emerge," said Hanan Erez, Head of the Megiddo Regional Council.
"We call on the government to do everything it can to promote coexistence… it's a mutual goal," he said, adding that "murder and any attempt to legitimize murders is a heinous thing that must be condemned in every way possible."
6) The Triumph of OPEC
By Robert Samuelson
WASHINGTON -- For much of its 47-year existence, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has been a cartel in name only. It could not control oil prices because many of its members regularly breached the production quotas that were intended to regulate the market. So OPEC followed oil prices up and down, as supply and demand shifted. But now OPEC may be the real deal: a cartel that works. If so, that's bad news for the rest of the world.
Look no further than last week's OPEC meeting in Vienna. Oil ministers declined to increase production despite a strong case for doing so. Not only were oil prices fluttering above $100 a barrel, but the United States is either in or near a recession and much of the rest of the world faces an economic slowdown.
What's wrong is that a fall of oil prices is one of the mechanisms by which a recession or economic slowdown corrects itself. Lower prices for gasoline, home heating oil and diesel fuel improve consumer purchasing power. They muffle inflation and increase confidence. In this sense, they're an important "automatic stabilizer" for a faltering economy.
Oil producers don't much care. High prices have been good to them. Since 1999, annual oil revenues for OPEC countries have more than quadrupled, to an estimated $670 billion in 2007, says energy economist Philip Verleger Jr. What's less clear is whether OPEC has merely benefited from tight oil markets or has acted as a true cartel, restricting output and raising prices. The right answer is: both.
Of tight markets, there's little doubt. Two massive oil miscalculations both aided OPEC. First was a widespread underestimate of world demand, especially from China. Since 1999, China's oil use has almost doubled, to 7.5 million barrels a day (mbd) in 2007. (In 2007, world oil use was 86 mbd, up 13 percent from 1999. American oil use was 20.8 mbd, up 7 percent.) Second was an overestimate of supply. War, civil strife and nationalization have depressed production in Iraq, Nigeria, Iran, Venezuela and elsewhere. Total global capacity might be 4.5 mbd higher without these setbacks, says the Energy Policy Research Foundation (EPRINC).
But that's only the half of it. Go back to late 2006. Crude prices were slipping from about $70 a barrel in August toward $50 a barrel. A true cartel would cut production to prop up prices. That's what OPEC did. In two steps, it reduced oil output by about 800,000 barrels a day, notes economist Larry Goldstein of EPRINC. "By July, 125 million barrels of oil inventory had been wiped out," he says. At the end of 2007, inventories (measured by days of supply) were at their lowest point in three years. Prices rose.
OPEC's present market power dates to early 1999, says economist Verleger. Oil prices then were about $10 a barrel. The 1997-98 Asian financial crisis had cut demand; supply was essentially unregulated. Saudi Arabia undertook frantic negotiations with other major producers, including Iran, Kuwait, Venezuela and non-OPEC members Russia, Norway and Mexico. The result was an agreement to cut production sharply. Compliance with output quotas was surprisingly good; countries were terrified by the collapse of their oil revenues.
We are paying for past shortsightedness. Dependence on oil imports, now almost 60 percent of U.S. supply, is inevitable. But we could limit OPEC's market power by curbing our demand and increasing our supply. As the worldwide gap between supply and demand rises, it's harder for producers to control the market. More have spare capacity; more are tempted to increase production to raise revenues. Today's surplus is concentrated in a few countries, especially Saudi Arabia, which can adjust production to influence prices.
Americans rant at foreign producers on the silly presumption that they should subordinate their interests to ours. But we refuse to do much that would actually limit their freedom of action. It was only last year that Congress raised fuel-efficiency standards for new cars and light trucks. We have steadfastly rejected higher gasoline taxes to curb unnecessary driving and strengthen demand for fuel-efficient vehicles (better to tax ourselves than let foreigners tax us through higher prices). And we have consistently restricted oil drilling in Alaska and elsewhere.
By doing so little to check its own thirst for imports, the United States has contributed to OPEC's present triumph. The extent of that triumph will be tested this year and next. Non-OPEC oil supplies -- from Brazil, Canada and Kazakhstan, among other places -- will increase. Meanwhile, a weaker global economy may dampen demand. Even OPEC may be unable to hold prices at today's high levels. Whatever happens, the long-term threat of a global oil cartel will remain. We should be taking the hard steps to limit its power. Considering our past complacency, we probably won't.