Friday, September 25, 2009

Aas usual Israel gets no credit...

As seen in

COUNTER-TERRORISM: No Credit Where Credit Is Due

September 25, 2009: For political, diplomatic and anti-Semitic reasons, it's not likely that the Israelis will get the credit they deserve for the defeat of Islamic terrorist groups throughout the world. But it was Israeli concepts and tactics that helped bring Iraq IED (roadside bomb) casualties down from a high of 84 a month in May of 2007, to a low of 9 in May of 2008. While the new armored vehicles (MRAPs) and other technology (jammers and UAVs) played a role, it was the Israeli concept of going for the brains behind the bombs, that tore the heart out of the Islamic terrorist organizations in Iraq. The same approach is being used successfully elsewhere, from Somalia, to Saudi Arabia, to Afghanistan and on to the Philippines and Indonesia. Islamic nations tend to credit the United States (if they credit any foreigners at all) for these successful tactics. But it was Israel that pioneered this approach, and made it clear that it worked, and how.
The armed forces of the U.S. and Israel have long worked together, to exchange tactics, techniques and technology. One of the items the Israelis shared was the tactics they developed to defeat a Palestinian suicide bombing campaign that began in 2000 (after Palestinian radicals refused to accept a recently negotiated peace deal).
The Palestinian terrorist groups still say they are going to destroy Israel. But as a practical matter, the current round of Palestinian terrorist violence is over. You can see this by the sharp decline in successful terrorist attacks, and the frequent pronouncements from the terrorists groups that they are going to behave, for a while anyway. What the terrorists really want is to avoid any more of the Israeli tactics that shut down their terrorist operations. This included going after terrorist leaders and technical specialists, and either capturing or (failing that) killing them. Raids and air attacks were made against buildings used by the terrorists, and tight security on Israelis borders were instituted. This last measure crushed the Palestinian economy, which put popular pressure on the terrorists to stop their attacks, and promise to keep it that way.
The Israelis also set up an increasingly effective intelligence system inside Palestinian territories. What the Israelis basically did was "take the war to the enemy." This is an application of the old maxim, "the best defense is a good offense." This particular war is still going on, but the Israelis only adopted their winning tactics in 2003 and two years later the terrorists were rendered largely ineffective.
Egypt and Algeria defeated Islamic terrorists during the 1990s using traditional methods (attacking everything in sight), and it took longer and was bloodier. The Egyptians defeated the Moslem Brotherhood (and the survivors fled to help found al Qaeda). Algeria finally defeated a similar movement only in the past year, the Egyptian campaign took most of the decade. Syria crushed the Moslem Brotherhood in the early 1980s, after five years of violence. These three Arab nations are all police states, and were able to deploy large numbers of police and soldiers that spoke the same language as the terrorists. Israel also had a large number of terrorists who spoke Arabic. Many had grown up in Arab countries, or had parents who had done so. What all these successful campaigns had in common was aggressive tactics that took the battle to the enemy.
For the rest of the world, treating terrorism as if it were just a police matter, allowed the terrorists to continue building support, and the ability to launch more attacks. But by going into the terrorist neighborhoods, you disrupt their planning and recruiting efforts, and eventually destroy the network of support. The United States clung to the police approach throughout the 1990s, and the attacks continued. Only after September 11, 2001, was the war carried to the terrorist heartland, and the attacks in the U.S., and against American targets elsewhere, ceased. The terrorists were forced to defend their base, and in doing so they killed many Moslems, and turned Moslem public opinion against them.
But going into Iraq worked a lot more effectively when the Israeli tactics were applied. This not only killed or captured key terrorist leaders and technicians, but demoralized many potential Islamic terrorists. Al Qaeda was exposed as a bunch of remorseless murderers who enthusiastically killed Moslems as well as infidels (non-Moslems). That cost al Qaeda their public support in the Moslem world, while the Israeli tactics cost al Qaeda its key people.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New rules make it harder to finance condos

From the Sun Sentinel:

Associations should check whether their properties are approved

It may be a buyer's market for those looking to purchase a South Florida condominium, but a new FHA rule putting an end to "spot approvals" for home loans may burst the shopping bubble and make it much more difficult to qualify for a loan.

By extension, the same rule may also mean more bad news for condo sellers, already suffering through a bad economy which has sent property values into the Dumpster, since it impedes buyers' ability to purchase. And the financial pain could eventually spread to all Florida homeowners by way of higher property taxes, say experts.

What is happening: Beginning Nov. 1, a new Federal Housing Administration rule goes into effect that disallows a loan process called "spot approvals," which gave loan underwriters the authority to approve individual units rather than an entire building.

The reason such authority was so helpful to buyers is the cost and paperwork for a condo association to get an entire building approved by the FHA is onerous at best, costing tens of thousands of dollars for appraisals, structural engineering reports and other reports.

Spot approvals, in comparison, only require an association representative to spend 15 minutes filling out a single-page form. Those loans are prized by buyers because they generally have lower interest rates and require much lower down payments, about 3.5 percent of the purchase price compared with conventional bank loans, which may require up to 30 percent down.

Now, without spot approvals, condo buyers and owners will not be able to get an FHA loan for units in a non-approved building and will have to rely on conventional bank loans or pay cash, said Theresa M. Schmitz, a senior underwriter for Amerifirst in Fort Lauderdale.

"This poses a potential downward trend in condo values because many people can't afford to put such a large down payment down on a condo," Schmitz said. "And if there is a smaller pool of buyers, the market value of condos will decline even further and a condo unit will only be worth what a cash buyer is willing to pay for it."

Ripple effect: It also stands to compound the current real estate market problems that have caused cities to raise tax rates, Schmitz said. "Single family homeowners may think this doesn't affect them, but indirectly it will. When the condo assessed valuations plummet, our collective tax base will decline. Single family homeowners will pick up the slack with a hike in the millage rates and property taxes."

What you can do: Board members should check the federal Housing and Urban Development (the department that oversees the FHA) website to determine whether their condominium complex is on HUD's approved list.

Daniel Vasquez can be reached at or 954-356-4219 (Broward County) or 561-243-6686 (Palm Beach County). His condo column runs every Wednesday in the Local section and Check out Daniel's Condos & HOAs blog for news, information and tips related to life in community associations at You can also read his consumer column every Monday in Your Money and at The Sun Sentinel is hosting a Condos & HOAs Town Hall meeting on Oct. 29 at Nova Southeastern University. Submit a question for our panel of experts online at

Green shoots in real estate? How about record delinquencies!

If you watch the news or read the paper, both of whom depend on developers and real estate agents for advertising, you hear about the real estate market "bottoming out." While that may be true in Nashville, Fargo, or Charlotte, it is not the case here in Florida where the mortgage foreclosures keep coming in, up to 30 a day. Here is a tidbit from Reuters on mortgage delinquencies hitting a record high...

NEW YORK (Reuters) - High U.S. unemployment keeps pushing up the rate of mortgage delinquencies, which could in turn drive personal bankruptcies and home foreclosures, monthly data from the Equifax Inc credit bureau showed on Monday.

Among U.S. homeowners with mortgages, a record 7.58 percent were at least 30 days late on payments in August, up from 7.32 percent in July, according to the data obtained exclusively by Reuters.

August marked the fourth consecutive monthly increase in delinquencies, and the report showed an accelerating pace. By comparison, 4.89 percent of mortgages were 30 days past due in August 2008, while in August 2007, the rate was 3.44 percent, Equifax data showed.

The rate of subprime mortgage delinquencies now tops 41 percent, up from about 39 percent in each of the prior five months.

The results, which correlate with consumer bankruptcy filings, suggest U.S. homeowners remain under financial stress despite signs of improving sentiment and fundamentals in the U.S. housing market.

August bankruptcy filings were up 32 percent from a year earlier, compared with a 35 percent year-over-year increase in July.

Still, while more Americans were late with mortgage payments, they are keeping up with other bills. The proportion of credit card accounts at least 60 days past due was down in August for the third straight month, while subprime card delinquencies also fell.

That improvement in delinquency rates partly reflects risk-aversion among issuers, which have cut the number of cards by 82 million, or 19 percent, over the past year, while slashing credit limits by $721 billion, to about $3.6 trillion.

The number of new cards being issued is down even more dramatically. In June, 2.6 million new cards were issued, compared with 4.7 million a year earlier.

Lenders are increasingly targeting consumers with high credit scores, Equifax found. While in 2007, about one in five new cards went to people with a credit score above 760, such consumers account for two in five new cards in 2009. Equifax found similar trends in auto loans.

"The data from August further confirms that we're witnessing a dramatic change in consumer habits," said Dann Adams, president of Equifax's Consumer Information Solutions group.

Total consumer debt is down more than $300 billion, or almost 3 percent, from its peak in September 2008, Adams said, while the savings rate is nearing 5 percent, "a level we haven't seen in years."