Wednesday, January 30, 2008

It rained 40 Qassams in one day

On January 18th, 2008, before the Gazans were busy buying cigarettes, televisions, and motorcycles in Egypt with counterfeit money, they were firing qassams indiscriminately on the civilian population of Sderot and other towns in the area. Talk about humanitarian crisis. Sheesh. Click the image to watch.

Only in Israel: Automobile insurance edition

From The Muqata comes a picture and translation of a unique clause in his auto insurance: A Shabbat observant price break. That's awesome, and only in Israel.
...we have this clause in our insurance that keeps our premiums a bit lower. (After all, if we drive 1/7th less than the average driver, why shouldn't the insurance premium be lower?)

It is hereby negotiated, that regardless of what is previously stated in this policy, the [insurance] company will not be liable to pay compensation for any accident, loss, damage or debts that occur or result during the time when this insured vehicle is driven on Shabbat or Jewish Holidays, when it is forbidden [by halacha] to drive from the start [of Shabbat/Chag] until the time when [Shabbat/Chag] is complete, according to the times stated by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, unless the driving is for "pikuach nefesh" (risk of life). In exchange for the above, this policy will be reduced according to the "Not Driving on Shabbat and Jewish Holiday" clause.

VDH - putting it all in perspective

Here is a great article by Victor Davis Hanson putting the complaints against Israel in global context.
Why not simply hold an international conference on all of these issues — albeit in a far more global context, outside the Middle East?

The ensuing general accords and principles could be applied to Israel and the West Bank, where the number of people involved, the casualties incurred, and the number of refugees affected are far smaller and far more manageable.

Perhaps there could be five U.N. sessions: disputed capitals; the right of return for refugees; land under occupation; the creation of artificial post-World War II states; and the use of inordinate force against suspected Islamic terrorists.

In the first session, we should try to solve the status of Nicosia, which is currently divided into Greek and Turkish sectors by a U.N. Greek Line. Perhaps European Union investigators could adjudicate Turkish claims that the division originated from unwarranted threats to the Turkish Muslim population on Cyprus. Some sort of big power or U.N. roadmap then might be imposed on the two parties, in hopes that the Nicosia solution would work for Jerusalem as well.

In the second discussion, diplomats might find common ground about displaced populations, many from the post-war, late 1940s. Perhaps it would be best to start with the millions of Germans who were expelled from East Prussia in 1945, or Indians who were uprooted from ancestral homes in what is now Pakistan, or over half-a-million Jews that were ethnically cleansed from Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria following the 1967 war. Where are these refugees now? Were they ever adequately compensated for lost property and damages? Can they be given promises of the right to return to their ancestral homes under protection of their host countries? The ensuring solutions might shed light on the Palestinian aspirations to return to land lost sixty years ago to Israel.

A third panel would take up the delicate issue of returning territory lost by defeat in war. Ten percent of historic Germany is now part of Poland. The Russians still occupy many of the Kurile Islands, and Greek Cyprus lost sizable territory in 1974 after the invasion by Turkey. The Western Sahara is still annexed by Morocco, while over 15 percent of disputed Azerbaijan has been controlled by Armenia since 1994. Additionally, all of independent Tibet has been under Chinese occupation since 1950-1. Surely if some general framework concerning these occupations could first be worked out comprehensively, the results might then be applied to the much smaller West Bank and Golan Heights.

In a fourth panel, the international conference should take up the thorny issue of recently artificially created states. Given the tension over Kashmir, was Pakistan a mistake — particularly the notion of a homeland for Indian Muslims? North Korea was only created after the stalemate of 1950-3; so should we debate whether this rogue nation still needs to exist, given its violent history and threats to world peace?

Fifth, and finally, is there a global propensity to use inordinate force against Muslim terrorists that results in indiscriminate collateral damage? The Russians during the second Chechnyan War of 1999-2000 reportedly sent tactical missiles into the very core of Grozny, and may have killed tens of thousands of civilians in their hunt for Chechnyan terrorists — explaining why the United Nations later called that city the most destroyed city on earth. Syria has never admitted to the complete destruction of Hama, once home to Muslim Brotherhood terrorists. The city suffered the fate of Carthage and was completely obliterated in 1982 by the al-Assad government, with over 30,000 missing or killed. Did the Indian government look the other way in 2002 when hundreds of Muslim civilians in Gujarat were killed in reprisal for Islamic violence against Hindus? The lessons learned in this final session might reassure a world still furious over the 52 Palestinians lost in Jenin.

In other words, after a half-century of failed attempts to solve the Middle East crisis in isolation, isn’t it time we look for guidance in a far more global fashion, and in contexts where more lives have been lost, more territory annexed, and more people made refugees in places as diverse as China, Russia, and the broader Middle East?

The solutions that these countries have worked out to deal with similar problems apparently have proven successful — at least if the inattention of the world, the apparent inaction of the United Nations, and the relative silence of European governments are any indication.

So let the international community begin its humanitarian work!

Greek Cypriots can advise Israel about concessions necessary to Muslims involving a divided Jerusalem. Russians and Syrians can advise the IDF on how to deal properly and humanely with Islamic terrorists. Poland, Russia, China, and Armenia might offer the proper blueprint for giving back land to the defeated that they once gained by force. A North Korea or Pakistan can offer Israel humanitarian lessons that might blunt criticisms that such a recently created country has no right to exist. Iraq and Egypt would lend insight about proper reparation and the rights of return, given its own successful solutions to the problems of their own fleeing Jewish communities.

But why limit the agenda to such a small array of issues? The world has much to teach Israel about humility and concessions, on issues ranging from how other countries in the past have dealt with missiles sent into their homeland, to cross-border incursions by bellicose neighbors.

Video: The Iraq situation

Here is video proof of how bad things are going in Iraq. This video is not for the faint-hearted or for Democrats. (Hat tip: Snapped Shot)

The next battlefront - space

Call Buck Rogers.

Yet this is not farfetched at all, it is a serious threat - especially considering how much we rely on satellites in our daily lives. China blew up one of their own satellites with a missile (for fun?) and satellites are constantly being probed and possibly dazed by ground-based lasers.
Air Force Chief Warns of Attacks on Israeli Satellites

( Air Force Chief Brigadier General Eliezer Shkedi warned Wednesday that the possibility exists that terrorists might take aim at Israeli satellites. "It could be done by a state or a terrorist organization, and I suggest that we don't close our eyes because we're talking about a real battlefield and this could potentially occur," he told the Ilan Ramon International Space Conference.

His comments came less than two weeks after Israel successfully launched a satellite that is circling the globe and is intended to gather intelligence. Brig.-Gen. Shkedi added that he knows of no specific threats of an attack on satellites but that the possibility should be taken seriously.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The economy is fine - really!

You heard it here first. The economy is fine. The only things wrong with it are the news media scaring panicky homeowners, and the reactionary Fed chairman who is under considerable pressure, not to keep the economy strong, but to keep the stock market up. The WSJ has an opinion article today saying just what I've been preaching consistently to both of my faithful readers - the economy is fine (really). I disagree on one point - the dollar still has the potential to collapse (thanks, Ben). If the dollar collapses, it doesn't matter how fundamentally sound the US economy is, the rug can be pulled out from under the 800 lb. gorilla, and he'll still fall on his butt.
The Economy Is Fine (Really)
January 28, 2008; Page A15

It is hard to imagine any time in history when such rampant pessimism about the economy has existed with so little evidence of serious trouble.

True, retail sales fell 0.4% in December and fourth-quarter real GDP probably grew at only a 1.5% annual rate. It is also true that in the past six months manufacturing production has been flat, new orders for durable goods have fallen at a 0.8% annual rate, and unemployment blipped up to 5%. Soft data for sure, but nowhere near the end of the world.


It is most likely that this recent weakness is a payback for previous strength. Real GDP surged at a 4.9% annual rate in the third quarter, while retail sales jumped 1.1% in November. A one-month drop in retail sales is not unusual. In each of the past five years, retail sales have reported at least three negative months. These declines are part of the normal volatility of the data, caused by wild swings in oil prices, seasonal adjustments, or weather. Over-reacting is a mistake.

A year ago, most economic data looked much worse than they do today. Industrial production fell 1.1% during the six months ending February 2007, while new orders for durable goods fell 3.9% at an annual rate during the six months ending in November 2006. Real GDP grew just 0.6% in the first quarter of 2007 and retail sales fell in January and again in April. But the economy came back and roared in the middle of the year -- real GDP expanded 4.4% at an annual rate between April and September.

With housing so weak, the recent softness in production and durable goods orders is understandable. But housing is now a small share of GDP (4.5%). And it has fallen so much already that it is highly unlikely to drive the economy into recession all by itself. Exports are 12% of the economy, and are growing at a 13.6% rate. The boom in exports is overwhelming the loss from housing.

Personal income is up 6.1% during the year ending in November, while small-business income accelerated in October and November, during the height of the credit crisis. In fact, after subtracting income taxes, rent, mortgages, car leases and loans, debt service on credit cards and property taxes, incomes rose 3.9% faster than inflation in the year through September. Commercial paper issuance is rising again, as are mortgage applications.

Some large companies outside of finance and home building are reporting lower profits, but the over-reaction to very spotty negative news is astounding. For example, Intel's earnings disappointed, creating a great deal of fear about technology. Lost in the pessimism is the fact that 20 out of 24 S&P 500 technology companies that have reported earnings so far have beaten Wall Street estimates.

Models based on recent monetary and tax policy suggest real GDP will grow at a 3% to 3.5% rate in 2008, while the probability of recession this year is 10%. This was true before recent rate cuts and stimulus packages. Now that the Fed has cut interest rates by 175 basis points, the odds of a huge surge in growth later in 2008 have grown. The biggest threat to the economy is still inflation, not recession.

Yet many believe that a recession has already begun because credit markets have seized up. This pessimistic view argues that losses from the subprime arena are the tip of the iceberg. An economic downturn, combined with a weakened financial system, will result in a perfect storm for the multi-trillion dollar derivatives market. It is feared that cascading problems with inter-connected counterparty risk, swaps and excessive leverage will cause the entire "house of cards," otherwise known as the U.S. financial system, to collapse. At a minimum, they fear credit will contract, causing a major economic slowdown.

For many, this catastrophic outlook brings back memories of the Great Depression, when bank failures begot more bank failures, money was scarce, credit was impossible to obtain, and economic problems spread like wildfire.

This outlook is both perplexing and worrisome. Perplexing, because it is hard to see how a campfire of a problem can spread to burn down the entire forest. What Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently estimated as a $100 billion loss on subprime loans would represent only 0.1% of the $100 trillion in combined assets of all U.S. households and U.S. non-farm, non-financial corporations. Even if losses ballooned to $300 billion, it would represent less than 0.3% of total U.S. assets.

Beneath every dollar of counterparty risk, and every swap, derivative, or leveraged loan, is a real economic asset. The only way credit troubles could spread to take down the entire system is if the economy completely fell apart. And that only happens when government policy goes wildly off track.

In the Great Depression, the Federal Reserve allowed the money supply to collapse by 25%, which caused a dangerous deflation. In turn, this deflation caused massive bank failures. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, Herbert Hoover's tax hike passed in 1932, and then FDR's alphabet soup of new agencies, regulations and anticapitalist government activity provided the coup de grace. No wonder thousands of banks failed and unemployment ballooned to 20%.

But in the U.S. today, the Federal Reserve is extremely accommodative. Not only is the federal funds rate well below the trend in nominal GDP growth, but real interest rates are low and getting lower. In addition, gold prices have almost quadrupled during the past six years, while the consumer price index rose more than 4% last year.

These monetary conditions are not conducive to a collapse of credit markets and financial institutions. Any financial institution that goes under does so because of its own mistakes, not because money was too tight. Trade protectionism has not become a reality, and while tax hikes have been proposed, Congress has been unable to push one through.

Which brings up an interesting thought: If the U.S. financial system is really as fragile as many people say, why should we go to such lengths to save it? If a $100 billion, or even $300 billion, loss in the subprime loan world can cause the entire system to collapse, maybe we should be working hard to build a better system that is stronger and more reliable.

Pumping massive amounts of liquidity into the economy and pumping up government spending by giving money away through rebates may create more problems than it helps to solve. Kicking the can down the road is not a positive policy.

The irony is almost too much to take. Yesterday everyone was worried about excessive consumer spending, a lack of saving, exploding debt levels, and federal budget deficits. Today, our government is doing just about everything in its power to help consumers borrow more at low rates, while it is running up the budget deficit to get people to spend more. This is the tyranny of the urgent in an election year and it's the development that investors should really worry about. It reads just like the 1970s.

The good news is that the U.S. financial system is not as fragile as many pundits suggest. Nor is the economy showing anything other than normal signs of stress. Assuming a 1.5% annualized growth rate in the fourth quarter, real GDP will have grown by 2.8% in the year ending in December 2007 and 3.2% in the second half during the height of the so-called credit crunch. Initial unemployment claims, a very consistent canary in the coal mine for recessions, are nowhere near a level of concern.

Because all debt rests on a foundation of real economic activity, and the real economy is still resilient, the current red alert about a crashing house of cards looks like another false alarm. Warren Buffett, Wilbur Ross and Bank of America are buying, and there is still $1.1 trillion in corporate cash on the books. The bench of potential buyers on the sidelines is deep and strong. Dow 15,000 looks much more likely than Dow 10,000. Keep the faith and stay invested. It's a wonderful buying opportunity.

Mr. Wesbury is chief economist for First Trust Portfolios, L.P.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Quote du Jour

“Lenin was surely right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.”

- John Maynard Keynes

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

You know things are bad...


Stimulus Stupidity

Via Michelle Malkin comes this well-put article on the silliness of giving people money in order to stimulate the economy. I thought Bush had an MBA from Harvard. He should know better. Oh well, hopefully the next president will have an MBA from U of M (heehee).

Bush says the stimulus package will “create jobs” - half a million of them, claims Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. Yet if it were so easy to create jobs by government fiat, why wouldn’t they do it every year?

Bush and Paulson are in a sense saying that they have solved all the problems of the business cycle, which is ludicrous. Just borrow money and mail checks whenever the economy slows - we’ll never have a recession again!

The first problem with this theory: People aren’t that stupid. The idea is that, if Washington gives people money to increase their consumption, it will prompt businesses to expand their production and hire more workers. Thing is, while producers might notice an upward blip in sales after the rebate checks go out, they’ll know it’s temporary - with sales destined to fall back once the checks are spent.

Businesses just don’t hire more employees or build new factories in response to temporary blips in demand.

So the effect would be like that of the government dropping $150 billion in newly minted dollar bills from helicopters all over the country: Producers wouldn’t increase production, so we’d just have more dollars chasing the same amount of goods. That’s the recipe for higher inflation.

Another problem: Just what might American families spend their rebates on? Probably a lot of children’s toys from China, clothes from Latin America and oil from the Middle East. How much will that help the US economy?

Then there’s the question of where Washington will get the $150 billion for the stimulus. It has to borrow it - ironically, much of it probably from countries like China. So, to a significant extent, foreign creditors will lend us the money to send rebates to families, who’ll go out and buy more foreign goods.

Huh? Gazans are now refusing the gas they wanted?

The diesel fuel that those chronic humanitarian crisis victims were whining for for their generators (even though 75% of their electricity gets delivered by Israel and was never stopped) was delivered. Well, Israel is trying to give them the fuel, but it's being refused.

Complain to the UN! The diesel fuel smells bad, so I don't want it! Waaaa! The jooos are only giving me grains and beans to eat, what about my healthy vegetables? The Zionist Entity wants my children to die from malnutrition!!

The world is flipped on its head, and the palestinians would rather their children be unhappy and sick than accept help from the jooos.

Gaza Gas Stations Refuse Israeli Diesel Deliveries

( Gas station owners in Gaza refused to accept deliveries of diesel fuel from Israel on Tuesday despite cries of a "humanitarian crisis" due to the lack of fuel. The owners said they were refusing the diesel because it was not accompanied by gasoline for cars.

Most delivery and other trucks in Gaza, Israel and other countries run on diesel fuel. Moreover, the majority of electricity generators used by Arabs in unrecognized villages in the Negev and elsewhere in the Arab world are fueled by diesel as well.

Butane cooking gas was also pumped into Gaza through the Nahal Oz crossing Tuesday morning as well.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! NO CUT!!! Fed makes an 'emergency' rate cut!

NO!!! Remember my dire prediction? See below. If the Fed (Bernanke) makes a rate cut, we will be headed for a recession. Well, he did, and we are. [insert curse word here] We should just all make aliyah.
Fed Makes Emergency Cut [subs. req'd]

The Federal Reserve, confronted with a global stock sell-off fanned by increased fears of a recession, cut the federal-funds rate by three-quarters of a percentage point to 3.5%.
The Fed should have just wait it out. Yes, the stock market will go down. But it would have come right back once people realize there is no reason to panic and the US economy.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Quote du jour

The Quote du jour, thanks to Israellycool, was delivered by National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer:

“We are the only country in the world where every morning the consumer points rockets towards the power station providing him with electricity.”

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Update on Sderot - a medley

Here are a few posts on the daily deluge of steel rain on Sderot. 23% of students are attending school.

Always start with Aussie Dave's liveblogging at Israellycool:
shock-sderot.jpgUpdated throughout the day. Scroll down for updates and new posts.

(Saturday Jan 19): It seems like it has been a relatively quiet day today, with only a handful of rockets being fired into Israel so far. Yeah, I know, that sounded ridiculous, but I’m talking after around 150+ rockets hit Israel the past 4 days.

Menawhile, an IAF strike turned at least 2 Hamas terrorists into worm food, while our troops killed a Tanzim terrorist and captured 4 more after a long gunfight.

On the palestinian side, talks of a Fatah-Hamas lovefest following the expressions of condolences heaped on Mahmoud “the Wart” al-Zahar may have been about as premature as a “work accident.” Hamas accused Fatah of plotting to assassinate Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, while Fatah/palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Hamas of “destroying the dreams and trying to destroy the future and our national aspirations.”

In other news, Ban Ki and Coy implored Israel to reverse its decision to protect itself, there were more stone-throwing antics, and Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah claimed his group had the “heads” and “body parts” of Israeli soldiers, as well as “a nearly intact cadaver”.
11:00PM: IDF response to Nasrallah’s speech: he’s “trampling the basic ethical code of human respect”, “Hizbullah’s actions are against basic codes held dearly by various religions, including Islam,” and speech was an indication of the pressure he was under to complete a prisoner swap with Israel.

Sunday Jan 20th

8:45AM: Since my last update, IDF soldiers have come under fire in the Kabatiya refugee camp, south of Jenin, and senior military officials have confirmed that Hezbollah does have the remains of IDF soldiers who died in last year’s Second Lebanon War.

9:30AM: And let the Qassam’s begin. That’s another 2 for the tally.

12:50PM: A number of cabinet ministers have called for the assassination of Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah. I vote in favor.

1:45PM: A Qassam rocket fired at Israel landed on the palestinian side of the Erez Crossing. No doubt if it killed one of their own, the palestinians would claim Israel was responsible for their death.

From Yael at Aliyah!:

3 days in Sderot –210 qassams and mortars

If you checked out the news in non-Israeli newspapers last week, you will be quite aware that the EU called “For Israel to dismantle all checkpoints in the West Bank” and that the EU called for “Israel to lift the closure of Gaza.” If you read the BBC, at the end of an article about the (poor things) 23 militants that were killed in Gaza last week you also learned that “an agricultural worker was killed in Israel by sniper fire from Gaza.” At least get it right, people, he was a tourist from Ecuador who was spending a couple of weeks volunteering on a kibbutz to learn about kibbutz life. The U.N. with a bare mention of the rockets and mortars falling as thick as rain forcefully condemned Israel for attacks on militants in Gaza and urged Israel in strong language to “avoid creating a humanitarian crisis” in Gaza. A lot of newspapers carried as headlines, Abbas’ claim that Israel was conducting a “massacre.”

Nowhere did you read during the three days that such headlines listed above were appearing that, during those same three days more than 130 Qassam rockets hit the Israeli city of Sderot. Also during those same three days, more than 80 mortars were fired from Gaza into Israeli civilian communities along the Gaza border. Nowhere did you read that, in addition to the 19 year old Ecuadoran tourist who was killed by sniper-fire, snipers fired repeatedly at civilian targets or that Hamas issued a statement calling for constant sniper attacks against Israeli farmers and farm workers. Nowhere did you read that, in just the past year alone, Palestinian militants have launched considerably more than 1,000 rockets targeting the civilian population of Sderot.

Nor, if you tot up the number of all those injured from flying shrapnel and debris in Sderot over those three days, do you read that 60 civilians were injured and required medical treatment, including several children hospitalized with serious injuries.

Yes and lacking this context, if you read the newspapers in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, France, Australia or anywhere else, you might agree with the U.N. assessment that Israel is imposing an “arbitrary” closure on Gaza and doing it for pure mean pleasure. You might well agree with both the U.N. and Abbas that Israel should stop this “massacre” of the armed Palestinian terrorists who were among the very ones shooting these 210 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilian targets and who murdered an innocent tourist.

From Carl at Israel Matzav:

The night the lights went out in Gaza?

Will tonight be the night the lights went out in Gaza? That's what the 'Palestinians' are telling everyone today. Of course, the world is in an uproar despite the fact that all the savages have to do to keep the lights on is to stop shooting rockets at Israeli civilians in the Negev. But they refuse to stop, Israel has stopped fuel deliveries and now it's just a matter of hours - claim the 'Palestinians' - before the lights go out in Gaza.
One of two turbines producing electricity has already stopped working, and another will stop later Sunday, due to a lack of diesel fuel.

The fuel shortage was a result of Defense Minister Ehud Barak's decision on Thursday to halt all shipments to the Strip.

Barak's decision came after Hamas renewed Kassam rocket fire last week, resulting in unusually heavy barrages on Sderot. The defense minister decided then to tighten the blockade on the Strip, saying that only humanitarian cases of an extreme nature would be considered.


The UN organization in charge of Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, warned the move would drastically affect hospitals, sewage treatment plants and water facilities.

"The logic of this defies basic humanitarian standards," said Christopher Gunness, spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency.
But there's something strange here. The 'Palestinians' get two thirds of their electricity from Israel, and that supply is unaffected. So why would the lights go out in Gaza?
In addition to the fuel it receives from Israel to power its electrical plant, Gaza gets about two-thirds of its electricity directly from Israel. Israeli officials said that supply would not be affected.
Unless, the 'Palestinians' are lying and are going to shut the lights purposely so as to arouse the sympathy of the UN and it's various agencies.... Ya' think?

If Israel is condemned for this, it will truly be "the night they hung an innocent man."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

First Temple seal found in Jerusalem

Photo: Edwin Trebels courtesy of Dr. Eilat Mazar

Ripped unabashedly from JPost:
A stone seal bearing the name of one of the families who acted as servants in the First Temple and then returned to Jerusalem after being exiled to Babylonia has been uncovered in an archeological excavation in Jerusalem's City of David, a prominent Israeli archeologist said Wednesday.

The 2,500-year-old black stone seal, which has the name "Temech" engraved on it, was found earlier this week amid stratified debris in the excavation under way just outside the Old City walls near the Dung Gate, said archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, who is leading the dig.

According to the Book of Nehemiah, the Temech family were servants of the First Temple and were sent into exile to Babylon following its destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BCE.

The family was among those who later returned to Jerusalem, the Bible recounts.

The seal, which was bought in Babylon and dates to 538-445 BCE, portrays a common and popular cultic scene, Mazar said.

The 2.1 x 1.8-cm. elliptical seal is engraved with two bearded priests standing on either side of an incense altar with their hands raised forward in a position of worship.

A crescent moon, the symbol of the chief Babylonian god Sin, appears on the top of the altar.

Under this scene are three Hebrew letters spelling Temech, Mazar said.

The Bible refers to the Temech family: "These are the children of the province, that went up out of the captivity, of those that had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and came again to Jerusalem and to Judah, every one unto his city." [Nehemiah 7:6]... "The Nethinim [7:46]"... The children of Temech." [7:55].

The fact that this cultic scene relates to the Babylonian chief god seemed not to have disturbed the Jews who used it on their own seal, she added.

The seal of one of the members of the Temech family was discovered just dozens of meters away from the Opel area, where the servants of the Temple, or "Nethinim," lived in the time of Nehemiah, Mazar said.

"The seal of the Temech family gives us a direct connection between archeology and the biblical sources and serves as actual evidence of a family mentioned in the Bible," she said. "One cannot help being astonished by the credibility of the biblical source as seen by the archaeological find."

The find will be announced by Mazar at the 8th annual Herzliya Conference on Sunday.

The archeologist, who rose to international prominence for her recent excavation that may have uncovered King David's palace, most recently uncovered the remnants of a wall from Nehemiah.

My prediction on the economy

Many of you have been hearing about the collapse of the housing market and the coming recession, and the horrible oil prices, and oh my God, we're all going to lose all of our money to the coming depression. My opinion is that we are in the middle of a strong economic climate - unemployment is low, housing is fundamentally strong (HUH?!). Yes. We are still building new homes, and people are still buying. But the prices are decreasing, and foreclosures are a problem, but that is due to the irrational exuberance of the past few years' housing spree. People bought houses they shouldn't have. Banks gave them loans they shouldn't have. So those irresponsible moves are what is causing this current "crisis" and the fall in house prices. But fundamentally, the economy is strong. The US GDP is larger than the next six countries combined (I think). New housing starts are down - but they are down when comparing it to the insane buying spree. but we still made over a million new houses this year. And people still need homes to live in (and they can pay for their home with their jobs - remember the low unemployment.)

So what can cause the recession if we are in a strong economic climate? The US dollar can. The US dollar has the power to pull the rug out from under us all and out from all of our industries. We sell cars in dollars. We get paid in dollars. We buy oil in dollars. And the dollar will bottom out at is current low state and stop declining and turn around, if only Bernanke would stop lowering interest rates! If he reduces the interest rates further (which is essentially the appeal or the demand of the US dollar), the dollar will collapse, and throw our country into a real recession. The bad news is that he already has said he is willing to substantially reduce the interest rates. But there is still hope. There is still hope he will look to the longer term health of the country and not the short term level of the stock market or the short term health of the irresponsible financial entities.

Here's to hoping. But unfortunately, I predict that he will reduce rates. If he does, and you heard it first here at Digital Irony, we will go into a recession. If he doesn't touch the rates (please God), our fundamentally sound economy will inexorably turn around the sinking juggernaut and return our economy and dollar to normal and healthy values.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Israel sure shook up Iran and Russia

With that still completely secret raid on a Syrian (nuke?) facility, Israel sure hit a nerve in Iran and by proxy, Russia, being that Israel completely bypassed what was supposed to be an infallible air defense system which was protecting that Syrian site. Iran is scrambling for new air protection, and Russia is desperate to maintain their reputation and revenue stream from the Mad Mullahs.

The line from the Hagada once again strikes a chord with me:
בְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר עוֹמְדִים עָלֵינוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנוּ; וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, מַצִּילֵנוּ מִיָּדָם
"In every generation they stand against us to destroy us, and God saves us from their hands."
It is my fervent prayer that God continues to work the most amazing miracles in continuing Israel's survival.
Russia to Deliver S-300 Missile Defense Systems to Iran

Iran will receive the first shipments of the Russian S-300 PMU-1 air/missile defense systems next year (2008), an unidentified defense industry source told the Russian news agency Interfax. The Russian agency confirmed the Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Najjar quoted saying that Iran will soon receive the missiles, under a previously signed contract. Officially, the Russian federal service of military technical cooperation (FSMTS) denied the issue has been disclosed in Iran, or that such a contract has been signed, defining the the recent news as 'irrelevant'. However, the Russian newspaper Kommersant claimed the value of the S-300 sale is estimated at US$800 million. (More...)

What would you do?

Most of the time, reactions to terrorism and violent crimes are delayed by the victim's disbelief that it is actually happening to them. I like this guy because of how he reacted to a sudden threat. The DigitalWife sometimes makes fun of my jump to a karate stance when surprised. To tell the truth, I'm kinda pleased when I get ready to fight as a gut reaction. At least I didn't scream like a little girl.

Click the image to watch (loads slowly)

The Death of the Bush Doctrine

It says in the Talmud (I think) that God sometimes limits the free will of world leaders. I think that may be what is going on with Bush and Abu Mazen (Abbas' terrorist stage name). I had high hopes for Bush's "you're either with us or against us" policy of terrorist sponsoring states. The palestinians are definitely against us all. And when Abbas whines about the elimination of his supposed enemies (Hamas terrorists), you know his lip service to Bush and Rice is nothing more than lies and wolves in sheep's clothing.

Thanks to Israel Matzav for this clip on the death of the Bush Doctrine:
Thus the president who once insisted that a "Palestinian state will never be created by terror" now insists that a Palestinian state be created regardless of terror. Once the Bush administration championed a "road map" whose first and foremost requirement was that the Palestinians "declare an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism" and shut down "all official . . . incitement against Israel." Now the administration says that Palestinian terrorism and incitement are nothing "to get hung up on."

Whatever happened to the moral clarity that informed the president's worldview in the wake of 9/11? Whatever happened to the conviction that was at the core of the Bush Doctrine: that terrorists must be anathematized and defeated, and the fever-swamps that breed them drained and detoxified?

Bush's support for the creation of a Palestinian state was always misguided - rarely has a society shown itself less suited for sovereignty - but at least he made it clear that American support came at a stiff price: "The United States will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state," Bush said in his landmark June 2002 speech on the Israeli-Arab conflict, "until its leaders engage in a sustained fight against the terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure." He reinforced that condition two years later, confirming in a letter to Ariel Sharon that "the Palestinian leadership must act decisively against terror, including sustained, targeted, and effective operations to stop terrorism and dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure."

Now that policy has gone by the boards, replaced by one less focused on achieving peace than on maintaining a "peace process." No doubt it is difficult, as Rice says, to "move forward on the peace process" when the Palestinian Authority glorifies suicide bombers and encourages a murderous goal of eliminating the Jewish state. If the Bush Doctrine - "with us or with the terrorists" - were still in force, the peace process would be shelved. The administration would be treating the Palestinians as pariahs, allowing them no assistance of any kind, much less movement toward statehood, so long as their encouragement of terrorism persisted.

But it is the Bush Doctrine that has been shelved. In its hunger for Arab support against Iran - and perhaps in a quest for a historic "legacy" - the administration has dropped "with us or with the terrorists." It is hellbent instead on bestowing statehood upon a regime that stands unequivocally with the terrorists. "Frankly, it's time for the establishment of a Palestinian state," Rice says.

When George W. Bush succeeded Bill Clinton, he was determined not to replicate his predecessor's blunders in the Middle East, a determination that intensified after 9/11. Yet now he too has succumbed to the messianism that leads US presidents to imagine they can resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. Clinton's legacy in this arena was the second intifada, which drenched the region in blood. To what fresh hell will Bush's diplomacy lead?

Suck it up!

Nice. Michelle Malkin took the words right out of my mouth, but said them better. A great post on housing issues and the presidency:

Wanted: A Suck It Up candidate

I need a man. A man who can say “No.” A man who rejects Big Nanny government. A man who thinks being president doesn’t mean playing Santa Claus. A man who won’t panic in the face of economic pain. A man who won’t succumb to media-driven sob stories.

A man who can look voters, the media, and the Chicken Littles in Congress in the eye and say the three words no one wants to hear in Washington: Suck. It. Up.

The Michigan primary put economics at the top of the political radar screen, and the Democrat presidential candidates have been doling out spending proposals, stimulus packages, housing market rescues, and other election-year-goodie pledges like Pez candy dispensers gone haywire. Which leading GOP candidate represents fiscal accountability and limited government? Who will take the side of responsible homeowners and responsible borrowers livid at bipartisan bailout plans for a minority of Americans who bought more house than they should have and took out unwise mortgages they knew they couldn’t repay?

I don’t want to hear Republicans recycling the Blame Predatory Lenders rhetoric of Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Jesse Jackson. Enough with the victim card. Borrowers are not all saints. There’s nothing compassionate about taking money from prudent, frugal families and using it to aid their reckless neighbors and co-workers who moved into McMansions they couldn’t afford or went crazy tapping their home equity and now find themselves underwater.

There's much more here.