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“Some Forecasters See A Fast Economic Recovery”

Saturday, January 3, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

That’s the headline in the New York Times, and many voices in the article echo what Brian Wesbury, chief economist of First Trust Portfolios has been saying on my program since November: It is a nasty recession, but this is the end of the standard business cycle and recovery will begin in 2009, perhaps even in the first half of 2009.

The world, in short, isn’t ending, and markets and home prices will recover. Key graphs:

But the economy will no longer be contracting, and the recession that started in December 2007 will end at 18 or 21 months of age. The previous record holders, severe recessions in the mid-1970s and early 1980s, each lasted 16 months.

“I think that consumers are certainly in a state of shock right now, but their behavior is fundamentally rational,” said Martin Regalia, chief economist at the United States Chamber of Commerce. “They want to work, they want to make money and they want to spend that money. Above all they are resilient. They lick their wounds and with some help from government, they start back again and we come out of this quickly.”

A key to the revival, in every forecast, is home construction and home prices. The latter are still falling, at an even faster pace, adjusted for inflation, than in the Great Depression, according to the S.& P./Case-Shiller Home Price Indices.

That has the knock-on effect of multiplying foreclosures and trapping millions of people in homes that are worth less than their outstanding mortgages. Such circumstances inevitably depress spending and business investment.

But housing will probably bottom out by spring, many forecasters now argue. The Federal Reserve will play a role in making this happen by buying mortgage-backed securities and, in doing so, lowering the rate on 30-year mortgages to less than 5 percent, which is roughly the present level. That will encourage not only home buying, but also refinancing.

The Washington Post reports on the downside of the upside, which is the huge increase in the national debt that will follow the massive stimulus package that will pass in short order. The job of the GOP in these times is to assure as much as possible that the spending goes to genuionely productive undertakings that will promote long-term growth and to carve out the giveaways to special interests. As much tax relief as can be had should be gotten.

Next week’s meeting between the president-elect and GOP Senate and House Leaders McConnell and Boehner will signal whether the new president intends to govern domestically from the center or from the left. If the former, the stimulus package will include some crucial tax cuts to encourage business investment and home building.

Fingers crossed….

What Is In The Hamas Arsenal?

Friday, January 2, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Threats Watch’s Steve Schippert sent along the following info, while noting that the Iranian weapons could also have been purchased on the black market as well as via direct sale from Iran::

Here goes on my compiled list of Hamas weapons.

Qassam rockets
Gaza-manufactured from smuggled & made explosives, materials.
Hundreds, replenished on demand.
Range: ~17 km

Katyusha rockets (Iran and indigenous copies)
Hundreds, fewer than Qassams
Range: ~24 km

Fajr-3 variant Katyushas (Iranian)
Unknown numbers
Range: ~45km
Being reported tonight as if it’s new development. Actually, about a year or so. Like other weapons and Hizballah-like tactics, this development coincides with being well inside the Iranian orbit – which is to say, largely since Hamas took Gaza by force in ’07.

SA-7 (Russian design, Iranian manufacture, training) Sapper
Anti-aircraft, shoulder-fired (MANPAD)
Impact: Can’t take out IAF jets, but are assault helo killers.
This is a big, big deal.
Note: We had a rash of SA-7 shots being taken and downing our choppers in one corridor in Iraq (Sea Stallions, CH-46′s [both carrying troops], Appache/cobras) – and Britain lost a Lynx helo to one in Basra. We started whacking Iranians shortly after and the SA-7 supply stopped. As an old anti-aircraft Marine, I noted to Pentagon sophisticated tactics being employed by terrorist crews (Thanks to their penchant for publishing propaganda videos of their snuffs), suggesting advanced training in/by Iran. Not a simple weapon. Got a quiet nod in response. FYI.
Note II: In all the news video of the Israeli raids, you don’t see Israeli attack helicopters hovering over Gaza City this time, do you? Well…

AT-14 Kornet anti-tank missiles
Dozens, and that public estamation was about a year & a half ago, so…
Range: ~5.5 km
Impact: Kornet penetrates both Merkava (IDF) and M-1 Abrams armor and, like the anti-aircraft missiles, is a big deal, even bigger actually.
Note: This is what was killing most IDF soldiers in ’06 summer war w/Hizballah in Lebanon. It is what primarily gives Israel hesitation to go into Gaza with ground incursion. Period. One israeli general said in ’06 or ’07 that this weapon in Hamas’ hands constitutes a “shift in the strategic balance.” The Merkava has always been the IDF’s invincible beast, and getting them whacked damages the israeli public psyche (IMHO) even more than the forces wading into battle.
Note II: Like the SA-7, we experienced several Kornet hits which killed our M-1 Abrams tanks in Iraq. Unclear whether a Russian supply (via Iran) for Russian military’s live-fire proving ground or whether just another Iranian feed into Iraq. Either way, note with distinction here the Iranian parallel, as elsewhere on this list.

RPG’s
The standard issue Russian model seen in conflicts in the region.
Numbers: Undetermined estimates, but looking.
Note: Some reports included reference to “double-impact RPG’s” mentioned separately while later referencing Kornets (above) as well. technically, the Kornet is a double-impact missile. One explosive hits, heats & weakens/softens armor, while second part pierces through, getting inside the vehicle & explodes. RPG is very short range & unguided. Kornet is guided and, again, 5.5 KM range (missile v. RPG difference).

DsHK .50 caliber machine guns (Russian design, called the dashka [or 'kiss'])
Numbers: Few, but that’s as of a couple years ago.
Note: If you saw Blackhawk Down, then you know what a “technical” is: a small pickup with a .50 caliber mounted on the back. Our (US) Browning M2 .50 caliber machine gun is the baddest bulk lead thrower we have, with an accurate (relative) effective range of over a KM. I’ve personally blasted vehicles on a range at greater distance by ‘walking the dog’ in to the target. This is a scary sunofabiscuiteater in an urban environment.

Additional Standard Lot Weapons:

  • Thousands of AK’s smuggled in since ’06
  • Millions, perhaps tens of millions, of rounds for them
  • Sniper rifles & scopes
  • Night-vision goggles and scopes (not standard lot, but not many suspected)
  • Various small arms (pistols)
  • Tons of explosives (military grade) & raw materials for making explosives

Additional notes:

Tunnels: Hamas is adopting Hizballah’s (Iranian) tactics. Of course, they ahve always been quite gifted at employing human shields, but their use of tunnels is important to understand. They had long been using them under the Philidephi line and into Egypt’s side for smuggling. But they learned from Hizballah in the ’06 summer war that tunnels are invaluable in an urban defense. They are not quite up to Hizballah’s level of labyrinth yet, but they have been digging like rabbits for two years under Gaza. You don’t see this, obviously. But it is keenly known by the IDF. In the past, hamas’ prize operation was a sucide bomber in a cafe or bus. Now, it is to lure the IDF in on an incursion and kill them from a defensive position (far better position) instead, and let the rockets do the terrorizing of the civ population. Parts of iran, it should be noted, are labyrinthed with tunnels, especially after being spooked about a US invasion circa 05/06.

Iranian Training:
Iran has been bringing in Hamas terrorists for training (in Iran, Syria and Lebanon) since it became the prime benefactor for Hamas after the West cut the group off when they launched in effect a civil war against Fatah in Gaza and took the strip by force. This is important for several reasons:

  1. Training on the implementation, layout etc of an effective tunnel system of urban defense.
  2. Training on advanced weapons Hamas has never had (SA-7 anti-aircraft, AT-14 Kornet anti-tank missile, Fajr-3 long(er) range Katyusha missiles, etc.
  3. Advanced explosives manufacture (think EFP’s [Explosively Formed Penetrators, the Iranian molten copper raodside bomb] here too, the top killer of our boys in Iraq). Did you know that over 10% of our total combat fatailities in Iraq were from the Iranian EFP?

I’ll mercifully cut this long note off here. Sorry for length – but then, the list you asked for is long, longl, long. Whats more impartant than any list is using it to define a context.

Overall point, therefor, is that much of the above should make it clear why Israel is so hesitant to go in on the ground. They will not lose there, but the cost will be higher than the Israeli population has ever considered for a Gaza operation before. And with their small population and small – though potent – armed force, each casualty is a deeper tragedy than for other forces/societies.

This high-cost defense is the benefit for Hamas of doing business with Iran, and Hamas is acting at the pleasure of the Iranian regime. It is an unprecidented deterent for the Palestinian terrorists. Iran holds the pur$e $tring$ and they and Hamas share a common hated enemy, which makes following Iranian strategic direction palatable for Hamas leadership. Said in discussion this week that Hamas, in embracing Iran, has exchanged strategic ‘sovreignty’ for tactical lethality. Iran, quite simply, can’t be extracted from the Hamas equation or the current escalation.

Toppling Hamas

Friday, January 2, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The Israeli air offensive in Gaza is not diminishing, and international pressure for a “truce” is being brushed aside by the Israeli government.

Haaretz columnist Bradley Burston has penned a must-read analysis of how the Gaza war demonstrates the deep change in the Middle East conflict into one that also involves the future of Islam, not just of Israel.

“The world however, is no longer accepting Hamas’ hydra-headed PR role as, at one and the same time, a humanitarian NGO, a sovereign government, and a resistance [read, terrorist] organization,” writes Burston. “And many Palestinians, grieved and furious as they are over the civilian deaths in Israeli air raids, are coming to the same conclusion.”

The PLA, Egypt and many other Arab countries know Hamas to be the Sunni arm of the radical, Shia mullahs running Iran. They are not unhappy that Israel is taking the battle to Iran via Hamas.Thus the routine condemnation of Israel is being shrugged off. What holds back the Israeli ground operation is not fear of international opinion, but the fact that Hamas is armed to the teeth with Iranian-provided weaponry, and the cost in IDF lives will be huge.

Charles Krauthammer has a summary piece on the moral Grand Canyon that separates Hamas and Israel, but even the obvious depravity of the Hamas tactics and the refusal to accept the peace offered the Gaza three years ago will not impact haters of Israel who will use ever much-regretted civilian casualty to blame Israel for the war.

There is new and spreading clarity that Hamas will never accept any deal with Israel. Hamas wants the war that it has, and counts on winning it via the Israeli restraint that crippled he Hezbollah War in 2006. Hamas’ big bet is that Israel cannot sustain an offensive that results in civilians deaths and IDF casualties. I will be back in studio next week when we will see if Hamas bet correctly and wins another respite with which to further arm itself, or bet everything and lost because of a change in Israel’s and the world’s understanding of what Hamas intends not next month, or next year, but for as long as it exists –the destruction of Israel.

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