Archive for the 'General' Category

Les hommes sérieux

Monday, March 30th, 2015

Foreign Policy:

A central concern is “breakout time” (the minimum time needed to make weapons-grade uranium). According to current reports, a deal would ensure Iranian breakout time would be moved back to one year. French negotiators want to ensure that Iran’s agreed upon breakout time will last the entire duration of the deal — and after. They also want a deal that lasts as long as possible. “Ten years is short when you talk about nuclear issues,” one diplomat said.“Ten years is short when you talk about nuclear issues,” one diplomat said.

Another diplomat summed it up: “We spent more than 10 years talking, slowly setting an architecture of sanctions, of pressure, defining principles of negotiations. Once we dismantle this, it won’t come back up. So we better get the best possible deal.”

French diplomats insist a political agreement, if reached by March 31, will only be a first step. Tough negotiations will continue. Bruno Tertrais, an expert in nuclear issues who is influential in the French diplomatic community, even suggested recently a series of temporary deals could be a better alternative to a bad definitive deal.

None of this goes against longstanding French policy, though. France has consistently been the toughest member of the European Union when it comes to Iran, going back to the administration of President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007. Paris has consistently advocated for firmer sanctions and E.U. sanctions, beyond the scope of United Nations resolutions. In 2012, France was notably responsible for convincing Europeans to ban the import on oil products, despite the objections of many countries.

Nuclear deterrence has been central to France’s foreign policy ever since Charles de Gaulle’s presidency, a pillar that has been largely bipartisan. And just as nuclear doctrine has stayed remarkably stable through the years, so have the officials in charge of conducting French nuclear strategy and proliferation policy, regardless of who is in the Élysée.

In fact, some of the most preeminent positions in the French diplomatic and defense establishments are occupied by career civil servants trained as nuclear strategists who have worked on Iran for over a decade. This close-knit group of diplomats includes, among others, Araud, as well as Jacques Audibert, Hollande’s diplomatic advisor, who both previously served as France’s chief nuclear negotiator with Iran.

These diplomats generally share the conviction Tehran’s enrichment program is aimed at obtaining a nuclear weapon and that a bad deal that allows the Iranians to keep enriching uranium at dangerous levels will lead to a disastrous game of regional proliferation. Araud, Audibert, and their colleagues know the situation well: They have been engaged in 12 years of talks on these issues and at this point they feel they have little reason to trust the Iranians, or believe regional arrangements with Iran would decrease its desire to acquire nuclear capabilities. But policymakers in Paris might not trust the Americans much, either — and not just when it comes to the nuclear negotiations. French officials no longer hide their dismay at many of Washington’s policies in the Middle East.

Good piece, but they forgot the Chirac Doctrine.

The media’s terminal illness

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

One day truth will have a value again. Right now it has precious little. How do we know that a change will come? Because reality has a nasty way of intruding from time to time.

SPOFs

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

Aircraft are designed and built to minimize instances where a Single Point of Failure in a system can produce catastrophic results. So such things are rare, but they occur sometimes. For example, back in 2000, Alaska 261 went down because of inadequate maintenance practices on a jackscrew in the MD-83’s horizontal stabilizer. This week, as with 1999’s EgyptAir 990, we’re reminded that SPOFs can include pilots as well. Wretchard muses on various elements of this, and Roger Simon takes it in a completely different direction.

Bonus fun: Noam Chomsky goes all nutty on the Magna Carta.

Microaggressions in a macro world

Friday, March 27th, 2015

To the pathetic millennials and those who cheer them on, if you ever think about microaggressions, you’re the problem. You have no sense of humor. You might qualify as a future college professor, however, which shows how low we’ve fallen.

All this while WWIII is beginning.

As bad as it can get

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

NYT:

the audio indicated that one of the pilots left the cockpit and could not re-enter. “The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door and there is no answer,” the investigator said. “And then he hits the door stronger and no answer. There is never an answer.” He said, “You can hear he is trying to smash the door down.”

As we suspected, it looks like after getting to flight level, one of the pilots decided to use the head and the other one executed an evil game plan; it’s similar to what happened on EgyptAir 990.

IAEA report

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

Excepted from a WaPo story:

Iran isn’t providing needed access or information, nuclear watchdog says…Yukiya Amano, director general of the IAEA, said in an interview that Iran has replied to just one of a dozen queries about “possible military dimensions” of past nuclear activities. Amano said that Iran has provided only “very limited” information about two other issues, while the rest have not been addressed at all.

Amano said that the six global powers negotiating with Iran should insist that the country implement the additional protocol that would allow IAEA inspectors to go anywhere at any time to examine sites suspected of harboring secret nuclear weapons development. That additional protocol, Amano said, will be “very much needed. It will give us more powerful tools to look at activities not declared to us.” Iran signed the protocol in December 2003 and initially implemented it, Amano said, but the country ended its compliance in 2006.

Amano said that near the top of his list of unanswered questions about possible military dimensions of Iranian nuclear activities was the Parchin military complex. He said that the IAEA has information that Iran conducted experiments in a high-explosive chamber there…the agency said in its report that it “is not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”

Even the UN is tougher than the US. What times we live in! Eli Lake has an interesting report too.

Bad day

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

The older we get, the more affecting things like the German airline crash become, because well, the kids could be on such a flight. We’ve logged close to 10 million miles with nary a problem (number 2 engine shutdown on a TWA L1011 and an Air Cal flight that had a hydraulic problem, that’s it). Too soon to know anything, but we were definitely reminded of this. (Spidey sense update: I learned tonight that the Dinoson had taken that flight in the other direction from Dusseldorf to Barcelona recently. Whoa.)

Everything new is old again

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

Totten:

the Houthis have virtually no chance of ruling the entire country. Their “territory,” so to speak, is restricted to the northwestern region surrounding the capital. Previous governments had a rough go of it too. South Yemen was a communist state—the so-called People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen—until the Soviet Union finally ruptured, and four years after unification with North Yemen, the armed forces of each former half declared war on each other.

Far more likely than a comprehensive Houthi takeover is a new and more dangerous phase of Yemen’s endless self-cannibalization—more dangerous because this otherwise parochial and irrelevant conflict has been internationalized, with ISIS, the Saudis, and Iran squaring off against each other in yet another regional proxy war.

The Houthi movement is named after Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, an insurrection leader killed by the former government in 2004. They are Shias, but unlike the “Twelver” Shia Muslims of Iran—who revere eleven imams and await the birth of the occluded twelfth—most of Yemen’s Shias are “Fivers.” Iran doesn’t mind. From its point of view, better the odd “Fiver” Shias than Sunnis, but all that really matters is that the Houthis are willing to say yes to Tehran, its weapon shipments, and its top-notch military advisors and trainers.

The next-door Saudis, of course, are backing what’s left of Hadi’s former government down in Aden. They’ve been Yemen’s primary patron since the 1930s and won’t sit back and idly watch as Iran’s Islamic Revolution is exported to their back yard any more than the United States would have allowed the Moscow to conquer Canada during the Cold War.

Yemen’s conflict is tribal, sectarian, and political at the same time, and it’s becoming increasingly internationalized even as the US is leaving. It’s also a little bizarre. Last month, President Hadi declared Aden the new capital, though no one in the world, not even his allies, recognize it as such. A few days ago a Houthi-commanded military jet flew over the city from Sanaa and fired missiles at his residence…

Osama bin Laden’s family is of Yemeni origin, as was Anwar Al-Awlaki, one of Al Qaeda’s chief propagandists before the Pentagon vaporized him with a Hellfire missile in 2011. The deadliest bomb-maker in the world plies his trade with Yemen’s branch of Al Qaeda and has planned at least three attacks against commercial airliners. And now that Iran is involved in the Saudi family’s sphere of influence and the Sunni majority is backsliding, ISIS and Al Qaeda are gaining even more traction.

Talk about the need for a two state solution. The factions above have been going at it since a little after 632. No end in sight however.

360 out of 435 isn’t bad

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

WRM reports that 360 out of 435 House members signed this letter. That’s a pretty big majority. (You’ll have to excuse our looking for good news in this bleak time.) 70% of Iranians under 30 despise the regime, and we’re playing footsie with them, and have been since 2009? What’s up with that? Seriously. It seems crazy. Even if you’re ill-disposed towards Israel, why alienate all the Sunni regimes? At least their leaders usually avoid joining in on the Death to America chants at rallies. That should count for something, one would think. It’s at least a little encouraging that the House letter was as bi-partisan as it is. We expect more clarifying times ahead.

Some French policies, now and then

Saturday, March 21st, 2015

Now, via WSJ:

“Making the end of March an absolute deadline is counterproductive and dangerous,” France’s ambassador to the U.S., Gérard Araud, said via Twitter after the latest round of negotiations in Switzerland concluded Friday. “No agreement without concrete decisions on issues beyond the enrichment capability question,” he said a day earlier, specifically mentioning the need for extensive monitoring and clarity on Iran’s past research work. Western officials believe they included the pursuit of nuclear-weapon capabilities. In a sign of France’s determination, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called his negotiating team in Lausanne on Thursday to insist no deal could be forged that allowed for the rapid easing of U.N. Security Council measures, according to European officials. France worries the quick repeal of the U.N. penalties could lead to a broader collapse of the West’s financial leverage over Tehran

Sounds like they’re hanging tough, but that’s nothing compared to their policy a decade ago.

Res ipsa loquitur

Friday, March 20th, 2015

Read this TV address transcript:

To everyone celebrating Nowruz — across the United States and in countries around the world — Nowruz Mubarak. For thousands of years, this has been a time to gather with family and friends and welcome a new spring and a new year. Last week, my wife helped mark Nowruz here. It was a celebration of the vibrant cultures, food, music and friendship of our many diaspora communities who make extraordinary contributions every day here in the United States.

We even created our own Haft Seen, representing our hopes for the new year. This year, that includes our hopes for progress between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the international community, including the United States. So I want to take this opportunity once again to speak directly to the people and leaders of Iran. As you gather around the Nowruz table — from Tehran to Shiraz to Tabriz, from the coasts of the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf — you’re giving thanks for your blessings and looking ahead to the future…

As the poet Hafez wrote, “It is early spring. Try to be joyful in your heart. For many a flower will bloom while you will be in clay.” For decades, our nations have been separated by mistrust and fear. Now it is early spring. We have a chance — a chance — to make progress that will benefit our countries, and the world, for many years to come. Now it is up to all of us, Iranians and Americans, to seize this moment and the possibilities that can bloom in this new season. Thank you, and Nowruzetan Pirooz.

The poet Hafez? Nowruzetan Pirooz? Nowruz Mubarak? Haft Seen? (These from the guys who don’t know basic things about US history like D-Day, the Berlin Airlift, and so much more.) Scott Johnson deconstructs the flapdoodle above. If the three paragraphs above had been broadcast on US TV, would there have been any reaction to the weirdness of such an address?

Imagine there’s no coffee

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

In an amusing exchange, Dennis Miller and Bill O’Reilly discussed Starbucks, and it was suggested that there be a Yoko Ono coffee order at Starbucks, a company being the object of some ridicule lately. Gwen Ifill was pretty funny. O’Reilly suggested that Starbucks could perform a community service by lowering prices for majority and minority patrons alike. Ha Ha. As for Yoko: “Imagine there’s no coffee, and you still have to pay eight bucks.”

Super fun bonus: Spengler does coffee.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin…

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

But not necessarily of little minds. A dangerous consistency is perhaps the hobgoblin of certain ideologues. Cases in point: (a) Paul Mirengoff discusses this fellow Malley; and (b) what’s going on in Egypt. Never in recent memory has the world been so inverted, when common sense is denounced as extremism, and a certain kind of extremism has become conventional wisdom among the chattering classes. Help!

Bonus fun if you can find it: Tim Blair goes all un-PC.

Golden oldie

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

Don’t know much about history. You can say that again. And again. Don’t know much about a science book. Who knew that Sam Cooke was a fortune teller?

And now for something completely different

Monday, March 16th, 2015

Leeham:

LNC’s economic guru, aerodynamic engineer Bjorn Fehrm, took a very close analysis of the A321LR vs the Boeing 757 and the Boeing 737-9. He analyzed the prospect of a long-range Boeing 737-8. He also looked at the prospect of re-starting the 757 in the form of a re-engined 757 Max.

— The A321LR comes close to being a 757-200W replacement but it’s not an exact match.
— The 737-9 simply doesn’t work as a 757 international replacement, due to operational performance issues in an international configuration.
— The 737-8 could be a long, thin, albeit much smaller capacity choice. (Lo and behold, Boeing subsequently began showing a concept called the 737-8ERX to airlines.)
— A larger 737 MAX 10, while technically feasible, is a three-quarters new airplane, so why bother?
— The 757 MAX is not competitive to the A321LR.
— The idea of a “787 Light” is a simplistic solution that doesn’t work, either: it’s entirely too much airplane.
— That a “757 replacement” is best an entirely new twin-aisle, 2x3x2 airplane of 200-250 seats and a range of 4,500nm-5,000nm…

Boeing will launch a new airplane program in what was then the 757 replacement arena around 2018 with a 2025 entry-into-service. This remains the timing we believe will be true for the 225/5000 or MOM airplane. At ISTAT, Steven Udvar-Hazy, CEO of Air Lease Corp., said he expects a new Boeing airplane in 8, 10, 12 years. That’s 2023-2027. LNC is sticking with its 2025 forecast.

Life is short. However, industrial lifespans can be very long. The T-56 was introduced in 1954, for example, and still powers many C-130 aircraft.

A-I say goodbye?

Sunday, March 15th, 2015

USA Today:

“I say robot, you say no-bot!” The chant reverberated through the air near the entrance to the SXSW tech and entertainment festival here. About two dozen protesters, led by a computer engineer, echoed that sentiment in their movement against artificial intelligence…Phil Libin, CEO of software firm Evernote, frames the protest and movement as the latest iteration of the man vs. machine debate. “People worry about robots taking over the world, but I assure you there are much more dangerous things (income inequality and global warming) in front of the line,” he said.

Once again, ban argon!!! BTW, Mr. Libin might be a little prejudiced, since he owns robots that run around and do work for him.

What’s up with a $17,000 Apple watch?

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

BI thinks they have an answer — smart marketing. We question that. Even if the watch’s guts are replaceable every 12-18 months to keep it technologically competitive, what’s the point? How annoying! OTOH, we have a classmate from business school whose flagship store in a large Asian city sold a $30,000 handbag once a week, no doubt a gift from a fine gentleman to someone special. (That business has dried up due to certain recent developments.) Well, it will be interesting to see just what sort of people go in for such foolishness.

Extra bonus fun: arithmetic am difficult.

Sectoral slowing

Friday, March 13th, 2015

Fortune:

Chinese industrial production grew only 6.8% in January and February, the slowest since 2008. Real estate sales plunged 15.8% in value. Fixed-asset investment, the principal driver of Chinese growth, recorded anemic growth at 1.05% and 1.03% in January and February, respectively (compared with 1.49% and 1.42% in the same period last year).

This fellow has his work cut out for him.

Curious

Monday, March 9th, 2015

We’re in a large hotel with a US name, in a large city in a large Asian country. Twitter is blocked, as is Google, and on our phone, we can’t get Powerline, even though we can access much more controversial folks. Curious.

Today’s downer

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

Max Boot on Iran. And a question: is it uncommon for senior officials to exchange emails; if not, explain this.