AL-BA YOU DINNER IF THIS WORKS

Rob: ‘Is it game over on the ALBAW warrants? Time to dump them and buy more Borealis?’

☞ No. I would hold both – but only as speculations, because both are just that. The ALBA warrants give you the right to purchase a share of ALBA at $5 until February 16, 2009. As I type this, the stock is $5.35 and the warrants are 36 cents (I just bought more). All I know about this – and I mean all I know about this – is that the guys running ALBA are smart guys, and at 36 cents, I just paid a one penny premium for an option that has two and a half years to run.

(It’s a penny premium because the right to pay $5 for $5.35 shares right now is worth 35 cents; the extra penny gives you the right to do it any time in the next two and a half years.)

I may definitely lose 100% of my bet – the world financial markets may descend into a chasm or the smart guys may not be as smart as I think. But I like the odds. Tails, I lose 36 cents; heads, if they manage to get the stock to $8, say, sometime in the next two and a half years – let alone higher – I win $3 (which would be a lightly-taxed long-term capital gain of $2.64 on my 36-cent cost).

I don’t even feel too bad about the warrants I initially bought at 70 cents. Yes, they’ve declined by half if I were to sell them today. But other things being equal, if you figured stocks might go up 5% a year (just to pull a not-crazy number out of a hat, though I think the next two and a half years could be tough), then a $5.35 stock like ALBA, if it did nothing smarter or dumber than average, would be worth $6.04 when these warrants expire – at which time their intrinsic value would be $1.04.

The thing to focus on here (because I see you beginning to squint as you contemplate the opportunity) is not whether you wind up paying a penny or a dime or even a twenty-cent premium over this warrant’s intrinsic value – but whether you can afford this toss of the dice at all. If the stock is not above $5 by 2009, you will have lost everything, regardless of what you paid. And if it does rise some from here, then having paid a nickel or a dime premium instead of a penny should not leave you too badly bruised.

(But if you do decide to do this, don’t purposely throw money away. Buying 50,000 warrants at Ameritrade nicked me for an $8 commission. There will be another $8 when I sell. The same two trades at my full service broker, instead of $16 in commissions, would have cost $2,000.)

LEBANON – TWO MORE VIEWS

From Tuesday’s Christian Science Monitor:

Hizbullah’s attacks stem from Israeli incursions into Lebanon
August 1, 2006
By Anders Strindberg

NEW YORK – As pundits and policymakers scramble to explain events in Lebanon, their conclusions are virtually unanimous: Hizbullah created this crisis. Israel is defending itself. The underlying problem is Arab extremism.

Sadly, this is pure analytical nonsense. Hizbullah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers on July 12 was a direct result of Israel’s silent but unrelenting aggression against Lebanon, which in turn is part of a six-decades long Arab-Israeli conflict.

Since its withdrawal of occupation forces from southern Lebanon in May 2000, Israel has violated the United Nations-monitored “blue line” on an almost daily basis, according to UN reports. Hizbullah’s military doctrine, articulated in the early 1990s, states that it will fire Katyusha rockets into Israel only in response to Israeli attacks on Lebanese civilians or Hizbullah’s leadership; this indeed has been the pattern.

In the process of its violations, Israel has terrorized the general population, destroyed private property, and killed numerous civilians. This past February, for instance, 15-year-old shepherd Yusuf Rahil was killed by unprovoked Israeli cross-border fire as he tended his flock in southern Lebanon. Israel has assassinated its enemies in the streets of Lebanese cities and continues to occupy Lebanon’s Shebaa Farms area, while refusing to hand over the maps of mine fields that continue to kill and cripple civilians in southern Lebanon more than six years after the war supposedly ended. What peace did Hizbullah shatter?

Hizbullah’s capture of the soldiers took place in the context of this ongoing conflict . . .

. . . [I]t is the manner in which Israel was created, and the ideological premises that have sustained it for almost 60 years, that are the core of the entire Arab-Israeli conflict.

Once the Arabs had rejected the UN’s right to give away their land and to force them to pay the price for European pogroms and the Holocaust, the creation of Israel in 1948 was made possible only by ethnic cleansing and annexation. This is historical fact and has been documented by Israeli historians, such as Benny Morris. Yet Israel continues to contend that it had nothing to do with the Palestinian exodus, and consequently has no moral duty to offer redress.

. . . The Palestinians are the Indians who refuse to live on the reservation; the Negroes who refuse to sit in the back of the bus.

By what moral right does anyone tell them to be realistic and get over themselves? . . .

The fundamental obstacle to understanding the Arab-Israeli conflict is that we have given up on asking what is right and wrong, instead asking what is “practical” and “realistic.” Yet reality is that Israel is a profoundly racist state, the existence of which is buttressed by a seemingly endless succession of punitive measures, assassinations, and wars against its victims and their allies.

A realistic understanding of the conflict, therefore, is one that recognizes that the crux is not in this or that incident or policy, but in Israel’s foundational and persistent refusal to recognize the humanity of its Palestinian victims. Neither Hizbullah nor Hamas are driven by a desire to “wipe out Jews,” as is so often claimed, but by a fundamental sense of injustice that they will not allow to be forgotten.

. . . If Israel, like its former political ally South Africa, has the capacity to come to terms with principles of democracy and human rights and accept egalitarian multiracial coexistence within a single state for Jews and Arabs, then the foundation for resentment and resistance will have been removed. If Israel cannot bring itself to do so, then it will continue to be the vortex of regional violence.

Anders Strindberg, formerly a visiting professor at Damascus University, Syria, is a consultant on Middle East politics working with European government and law-enforcement agencies.

☞ But what a gamble that would be: turning over majority rule of Israel to non-Jews. After thousands of years of enslavement, persecution, and genocide, you will forgive me if I think it may be asking too much.

From yesterday’s San Diego Union Tribune:

Losing freedom bit by bit
By Gary Fields
August 3, 2006

HUSAN, West Bank – Although the war in Lebanon and Gaza now dominates the attention of people here in the West Bank, recently while in the Palestinian village of Husan near Bethlehem, I was witness to another type of territorial conflict that in many ways lies at the foundation of the war gripping the region. I spent the day with Mohammed Abdel Aziz Sabatin, a farmer from one of the largest and oldest families in this small village. The Sabatins have lived in Husan for at least 400 years farming this land, he tells me.

Recent history, however, has altered the conditions of farming for the Sabatin family – and for innumerable Palestinian farmers who share a similar fate.

In order to access his land, Sabatin not only has to get a permit from the Israeli military authorities who administer the occupied territory of Palestine. He also has to go though the security gate of an Israeli settlement, Betar Illit, to get to his land, which his family has owned and cultivated for 200 years. He is not allowed to drive his car to his land. He must park it in the village, walk across a road for Israeli vehicles only, and then walk into the settlement where he then confronts a security checkpoint that decides whether he can pass.

Like virtually all Israeli settlements in the occupied territory of Palestine, Betar Illit is built on land belonging to Palestinian farmers, in this case, farmers from Husan.

To build the settlement in 1989, the authorities of Betar Illit confiscated 5,000 dunums of land belonging to Husan village. A dunum equals a quarter of an acre. The process for such confiscations is very simple. The settlement authority petitions the Israeli government to create a settlement in a certain location. Upon favorable review, the government declares the area in question to be Israeli “state land” to be used for the public purpose of housing Israeli citizens, and then cedes the land for development to the settlement. The land is then rezoned by the occupation authorities as residential and thus the former agricultural use by Palestinian farmers is declared “nonconforming.”

The political architect of this settlement program was none other than Ariel Sharon. In a celebrated quotation, Sharon described the objective of Israeli settlement policy to be the taking of land in occupied Palestine “dunum by dunum.”

What enables Israel to take land for settlements in this fashion? The answer is transparent: force. It is Israel’s military occupation of Palestine – and the backing it receives from the U.S. government – that provides it with the power to engage in this activity.

Of the 5,000 dunums taken from Husan by the settlement, 30 dunums belonged to Sabatin. On these 30 dunums now stand apartment blocks housing Israelis. In a way, Sabatin might be considered “lucky.” After all, the settlement did not take all of his land. He still has 50 dunums remaining that now lie in the shadow of the settlement, meters away from the buildings that occupy the land confiscated from him. As we walked through his fields, we could see people from the settlement watching us the entire time.

Sabatin is a soft-spoken and gentle man. He told me how the settlers burn and vandalize his remaining olive and fruit trees on a daily basis. Just as he was describing this to me, we came upon upon several olive trees apparently burned just that morning. The ashes were still smoldering from this detestable act when we came into his fields. He just stares at the blackened limbs and burnt ground in silence.

As we go through his groves, other trees, almond and fig, revealed branches torn off and scattered on the ground, the trees bending and disfigured. “I love these trees,” he tells me. “They are part of my family.”

Sabatin then told me a story of his father, apparently a very proud and feisty personality, when they were building the settlement. His father tried to prevent the bulldozers from uprooting the trees on his land confiscated for settlement construction. He stood in the path of the bulldozer, refusing to move, and then the army came to arrest him. They demanded his ID. The father of Sabatin picked up a handful of dirt and screamed at the soldier, “This is my ID!”

After wandering for some time through the olive, fig and almond groves, the security man from the main gate at the settlement entrance intercepted us in the field. He had a call from one of the settlers about us. Sabatin told the security person about the fires and vandalism and asked him why nothing was done to prevent settlers from destroying his livelihood. “The settlers are minding the fields,” the security person retorted. “You see, what can I do?” Sabatin asks me in his gentle voice.

If these difficulties weren’t enough, now Sabatin has something else to worry about. In another part of Husan, he owns a beautiful piece of land, roughly 20 dunums where he grows vegetables. This land is irrigated with natural aquifers typical of land near the border with Israel but inside Palestinian territory.

Israel has always coveted these natural water sources. Recently, the Israeli authorities informed Sabatin, along with others in the village, that this land is in the pathway planned for The Wall. When built, The Wall will confiscate an additional 400 dunums from Husan, including the 20 dunums from Sabatin. It is hardly a coincidence, say Palestinians, that the route of The Wall aims to seize the most valuable Palestinian water sources.

Dunum by dunum, more and more Palestinian land is changing hands. Little wonder that so many people here are so angry.

We spent close to three hours in Sabatin’s fields during which time he described how desperate he is to keep what he still has. I don’t know how he can go on. I felt such compassion for his resilience.

As an American, I was uneasy wondering what he might think of me and the policies of my government. Then, of course, at the end of the tour, he invited me to his home for dinner, a feast in fact, breads just baked from the ovens, the freshest vegetables, olives from his trees. He kept telling me how welcome I was.

Fields, author of “Territories of Profit,” is currently in the West Bank interviewing people for his upcoming book on The Wall. He teaches in the Department of Communication at the University of California San Diego.

☞ But then there’s this:

Zach: “Hezbollah have clearly stated that their aim is the destruction of Israel. Hezbollah, as its supporters Syria and Iran, characterize the Jewish people as pigs and monkeys. The last time Jews were driven out of a land and characterized as sub-human, millions were slaughtered. We wonder now how Jews and the world at the time waited so long to fight back. Israel is not waiting this time.”

☞ But then there’s this:

Tom Roth: “Arabs feel the State of Israel was forced on them. That the Arabs living there were shoved out of the way. I still don’t understand how the post WWII powers could give the land to the Zionists when people already owned it.”

☞ I’m not sure how much ownership there was . . . I think it was mostly nomads, not deeded homes in subdivisions the way we think of it in McLean, Virginia. But, yes: somehow, this land should have been purchased, and some permanent, inviolate, pansectarian international status assured for Jerusalem.

It’s clear you don’t have to be a bloodthirsty fanatic – on either side – to feel viscerally aggrieved. So the one thing I’m sure of is that we were unwise to break off our engagement in the Mideast peace process (not to mention our engagement with North Korea) when President Bush’s team took the reins. With enough talking and cajoling and creativity, there has to be a better way to resolve this than, say, lighting a slow fuse to Armageddon.

And so one grasps wistfully for the grand solution (think Rodney King, when he asked, with childlike naiveté, “Can’t we all just get along?”).

Jonathan Edwards: “It’s interesting that you dare to suggest the Israelis move elsewhere, when Ahmadinejad did so and was roundly criticized. What’s the difference, do you think?”

☞ That he would kill them if they don’t?

(And that I was not seriously suggesting we move Israel? But $500 billion to retroactively purchase that land, funded by a global oil tax, could be nice.)


Hey – It’s Friday!
If they made a movie about YOUR HOUSE, would you go see it?
Well, they have.
 

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