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January 24, 2020

Associated Press Sees "Hundreds" Where Pictures Show Millions

At 10:01 UTC today the Associated Press tweeted that "hundreds" gather in central Baghdad to demand that American troops leave the country.


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Thirty eight minutes earlier CNN had already reported that "hundreds of thousands" are protesting in Baghdad against the U.S. troop presence in Iraq.

Cont. reading: Associated Press Sees "Hundreds" Where Pictures Show Millions

Posted by b at 11:32 UTC | Comments (114)

New Boeing CEO Insists On Moving The Company Towards Irrelevance

Shortly after we published our latest Boeing piece, asking if the company can survive, the new Boeing CEO and former board member David Calhoun held a call with the media. It confirmed our pessimistic take.

Calhoun said that nothing was wrong at Boeing. It is just that foreign pilots are incompetent, that Boeing workers lack practice and that its customers have no idea what they are talking about. Safety, he says, is just a prerequisite for shareholder value, not an inherent value in itself. Dividends must continue to flow, even when that requires the company to take on more debt. Boeing should not develop new airplanes as its derivatives of very ones can beat the competition. Calhoun also wants to stay in his new positions as long as possible even though he lacks the competence to fill it.

In short - Calhoun said all the wrong things he possibly could have said:

Speaking from Boeing Commercial Airplanes headquarters at Longacres in Renton on a two-day visit to the area ahead of Friday’s expected first flight of the 777X, Calhoun acknowledged the design of the MAX’s new flight control system was flawed, but insisted that was not a product of any deliberate decision to put cost factors ahead of safety.

Instead, he said, the flaws came from long-standing assumptions about how pilots would react to a failure —assumptions that proved fatally wrong.

We do have documentation from several Boeing employees who say the exact opposite:

“We put ourselves in this position by picking the lowest cost supplier [...] and signing up to impossible schedules,” wrote a Boeing employee. “We have a senior leadership team that understand very little about the business and yet are driving us to certain objectives.”

“Time and time again, we are inundated with Boeing material specifying quality is key — this clearly is not the case in any of the decisions that are made,” wrote another. “Until an open and frank discussion takes place, the same errors, wasted opportunities, and financial losses will continually be absorbed.”

The above exchange of Boeing engineers was not just part of a "micro-culture not representative for Boeing", as Calhoun claimed. It was and is a widespread sentiment throughout the company:

Cont. reading: New Boeing CEO Insists On Moving The Company Towards Irrelevance

Posted by b at 6:39 UTC | Comments (64)

January 23, 2020

Open Thread 2020-06

News & views ...

Posted by b at 14:52 UTC | Comments (248)

January 22, 2020

Can Boeing Survive Its MAX Problems?

The Boeing 737 MAX saga continues and it now threatens to bring the company to the brink of insolvency:

Boeing now projects the 737 MAX won’t get Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) clearance to fly until midyear, about three months further out than previously expected, in a delay that could stretch the plane’s grounding to more than 15 months.

The MAX was grounded in March 2019 after two crashes of the plane type cost the lives of 346 people and revealed significant problems with the ill constructed Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) and other parts of the plane.

The cause of the new delays are additional problems with the planes' Flight Control Computers:

The issue is in the plane’s flight-control computer software. It was confined to how it performs validation checks during startup and doesn’t involve its function during flight, the people said.

The problem came to light when the latest version of the software was loaded onto an actual aircraft, according to one of the people. While it has been tested on planes in flight, most of the software reviews have occurred in a special simulator used by engineers on the ground.
...
Boeing has been working for more than a year on fixing software to ensure that MCAS is safe. The process has been bumpy at times as new glitches arose and tension flared with regulators.

This will come as no surprise for Moon of Alabama readers. Last June we discussed in detail how the necessary changes to the software of the old FCCs were likely to lead to new trouble:

Boeing says that it can again fix the software to avoid the problem the FAA just found. It is doubtful that this will be possible. The software load is already right at the border, if not above the physical capabilities of the current flight control computers. The optimization potential of the software is likely minimal.

MCAS was a band aid. Due to the new engine position the 737 MAX version had changed its behavior compared to the older 737 types even though it still used the older types' certification. MCAS was supposed to correct that. The software fix for MCAS is another band aid on top of it. The fix for the software fix that Boeing now promises to solve the problem the FAA pilot found, is the third band aid over the same wound. It is doubtful that it will stop the bleeding.
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Boeing's latest announced time frame for bringing the grounded 737 MAX planes back into the air is "mid December". In view of this new problem one is inclined to ask "which year?"

It is estimated that each month the 737 MAX stays grounded will cost the company at least $1.5 billion. This month Boeing halted its 737 production line but it has not laid off any of its workers. This will further increase its costs. The cost per month will increase if the grounding continues for long. A slow delivery of the 400 mothballed 737 MAX Boeing built last year will have to be followed by an equally slow ramp up of the production of new planes. It will take until 2023 for Boeing to come back into some normal state. 

After the previous CEO Dennis Muilenberg was fired, the new CEO, former Boeing board member David Calhoun, will try to blame everything on his predecessor. On January 29 Boeing is expected to announce its fourth quarter results. It will likely take a very large charge on top of what it had already announced:

Analysts expect further large charges on top of the $9.2 billion in costs that was projected through September, the first six months of the grounding.

That consisted of a $5.6 billion write-off to cover compensation to airline customers and suppliers, plus $3.6 billion in increased future 737 manufacturing costs due to the extended period at lower production rates.

Next Wednesday, Boeing must now update those cost projections for a further nine months from September through June.

The total loss due to the 737 MAX failure is now estimated to reach $25-30 billion.

Under its previous policies Boeing increased its share price by buying back huge numbers of its own shares. That money should have been invested in new airplane types or be kept as reserve. Boeing is now bleeding cash and needs to take up more debt to stay solvent:

Cont. reading: Can Boeing Survive Its MAX Problems?

Posted by b at 16:46 UTC | Comments (111)

January 21, 2020

UN Security Council Hears OPCW Inspector Testimony About The Manipulation Of 'Chemical Attack' Reports

We have long maintained that the alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria, on April 7 2018 was faked by Jihadists shortly before they were evicted from that Damascus suburb.

By the end of last year leaked documents and a whistle blower from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had proven that the OPCW managers had manipulated the report their staff had written about the incident. The OPCW inspectors who had investigated the case on the ground in Douma found that there was evidence that a chemical attack had happened. The murdered people seem in videos from the alleged attack must have died of other causes. The yellow canisters found at the locations of the alleged attack were not dropped from helicopters but clearly manually placed.


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Using the Arria-formula, a procedure to have witnesses testify to the UN Security Council, Russia and China invited other UN members to listen to the testimony of OPCW inspector Ian Henderson. He denounced the false final report the OPCW management had published. Henderson, a South African engineer, was a team leader at the OPCW where he had worked for more than twelve years.

Henderson's testimony can be watched here. Philip Watson transcribed Henderson's speech:

Cont. reading: UN Security Council Hears OPCW Inspector Testimony About The Manipulation Of 'Chemical Attack' Reports

Posted by b at 13:34 UTC | Comments (127)

January 20, 2020

Iran Counters EU Threat Of Snapback Sanctions

U.S. President Donald Trump wants to destroy the nuclear agreement with Iran. He has threatened the EU-3 poodles in Germany, Britain and France with a 25% tariff on their car exports to the U.S. unless they end their role in the JCPOA deal.

In their usual gutlessness the Europeans gave in to the blackmail. They triggered the Dispute Resolution Mechanism of the deal. The mechanism foresees two 15 day periods of negotiations and a five day decision period after which any of the involved countries can escalate the issues to the UN Security Council. The reference to the UNSC would then lead to an automatic reactivation or "snapback" of those UN sanction against Iran that existed before the nuclear deal was signed.

Iran is now countering the European move. Its Foreign Minister Javad Zarif announced that Iran may leave the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) if any of the European countries escalates the issue to the UNSC:

Zarif said that Iran is following up the late decision by European states to trigger the Dispute Resolution Mechanism in the context of the JCPOA, adding that Tehran officially started the discussion on the mechanism on May 8, 2018 when the US withdrew from the deal.

He underlined that Iran sent three letters dated May 10, August 26 and November 2018 to the then EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, announcing in the latter that Iran had officially triggered and ended the dispute resolution mechanism and thus would begin reducing its commitments to the JCPOA.

However, Iran gave a seven-month opportunity to the European Union before it began reducing its commitments in May 8, 2019 which had operational effects two months later, according to Zarif.

Iran’s top diplomat said that the country’s five steps in compliance reduction would have no similar follow-ups, but Europeans’ measure to refer the case to the United Nations Security Council may be followed by Tehran’s decision to leave NPT as stated in President Hassan Rouhani’s May 2018 letter to other parties to the deal.

He stressed that all the steps are reversible if the European parties to the JCPOA restore their obligations under the deal.

The Europeans certainly do not want Iran to leave the NPT. But as they are cowards and likely to continue to submit themselves to Trump's blackmail that is what they will end up with. Britain is the most likely country to move the issue to the UNSC as it is in urgent need of a trade deal with the U.S. after leaving the EU.

Cont. reading: Iran Counters EU Threat Of Snapback Sanctions

Posted by b at 18:46 UTC | Comments (140)

January 19, 2020

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2020-05

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

Related:
Iran has a 'shockingly strong' war-crimes case against Trump over Soleimani's killing — and it could win - Business Insider
Trump recounts minute-by-minute details of Soleimani strike to donors at Mar-a-Lago - CNN

>In his speech — held inside the gilded ballroom on his Mar-a-Lago property — he claimed that Soleimani was "saying bad things about our country" before the strike, which led to his decision to authorize his killing.

"How much of this shit do we have to listen to?" Trump asked. "How much are we going to listen to?"<

Other issues:

Self driving cars ain't a thing:

Key Volkswagen Exec Admits Full Self-Driving Cars 'May Never Happen' - The Drive
Reality Check: Tesla, Inc. - Plainsite

>Our fourth Reality Check report: Tesla, Inc. $TSLA. The company's financial disclosures are largely fraudulent and litigation is piling up because CEO Elon Musk is a habitual liar unfit to serve as an officer or director of any publicly traded company.<

737 MAX:

Boeing is working on a new software issue on the 737 Max- ABC News

>Boeing is working to fix a newly discovered problem with software powering up on the 737 Max, adding to the list of tasks the aircraft maker faces to get the grounded plane back in the air.<

Boeing claims that it found the problem itself but the issue comes up in the very same week in which regulators arrived to audit the software.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 14:43 UTC | Comments (205)

January 18, 2020

The Murder Of Qassem Soleimani Will Deter No One

The Trump administration sees the U.S. assassination of Qassem Soleimani as a form of deterrence not only with regards to Iran but also towards Russia, China and others. That view is wrong.

The claim that the murder of Soleimani was necessary because of an 'imminent threat' has been debunked by Trump himself when he tweeted that 'it doesn't really matter' if there was such a threat or not.

In a speech at the Hoover Institute Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the assassination was part of a new deterrence strategy. As Reuters reported:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday said Qassem Soleimani was killed as part of a broader strategy of deterring challenges by U.S. foes that also applies to China and Russia, further diluting the assertion that the top Iranian general was struck because he was plotting imminent attacks on U.S. targets.

In his speech at Stanford University's Hoover Institute, Pompeo made no mention of the threat of imminent attacks planned by Soleimani.

The speech itself, headlined The Restoration of Deterrence: The Iranian Example, makes that less explicit as Reuters lets it appear:

On the 3rd of this month, we took one of the world’s deadliest terrorists off the battlefield for good.
...
But I want to lay this out in context of what we’ve been trying to do. There is a bigger strategy to this.

President Trump and those of us in his national security team are re-establishing deterrence – real deterrence ‒ against the Islamic Republic. In strategic terms, deterrence simply means persuading the other party that the costs of a specific behavior exceed its benefits. It requires credibility; indeed, it depends on it. Your adversary must understand not only do you have the capacity to impose costs but that you are, in fact, willing to do so.
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And let’s be honest. For decades, U.S. administrations of both political parties never did enough against Iran to get the deterrence that is necessary to keep us all safe.
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So what did we do? We put together a campaign of diplomatic isolation, economic pressure, and military deterrence.
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Qasem Soleimani discovered our resolve to defend American lives.
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We have re-established deterrence, but we know it’s not everlasting, that risk remains. We are determined not to lose that deterrence. In all cases, we have to do this.
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We saw, not just in Iran, but in other places, too, where American deterrence was weak. We watched Russia’s 2014 occupation of the Crimea and support for aggression against Ukraine because deterrence had been undermined. We have resumed lethal support to the Ukrainian military.

China’s island building, too, in the South China Sea, and its brazen attempts to coerce American allies undermined deterrence. The Trump administration has ramped up naval exercises in the South China Sea, alongside our allies and friends and partners throughout the region.

You saw, too, Russia ignored a treaty. We withdrew from the INF with the unanimous support of our NATO allies because there was only one party complying with a two-party agreement. We think this, again, restores credibility and deterrence to protect America.

This understanding of 'deterrence' seems to be vague and incomplete. A longer piece I am working on will further delve deeper into that issue. But an important point is that deterrence works in both directions.

Cont. reading: The Murder Of Qassem Soleimani Will Deter No One

Posted by b at 19:28 UTC | Comments (175)

January 17, 2020

How Trump Rebelled Against The Generals

In early 2017, just as Trump was inaugurated, we wrote how an old power center theory that seemed to explain how Trump won the elections:

Seen from the perspective of power centers Clinton once had all the support she needed. But she then lost a decisive group due to her uncompromising neo-conned foreign policy. Here is an interesting take based on a theory from the 1950s:

[T]he power elite can be best described as a “triangle of power,” linking the corporate, executive government, and military factions: “There is a political economy numerously linked with military order and decision. This triangle of power is now a structural fact, and it is the key to any understanding of the higher circles in America today.”

The 2016 US election, like all other US elections, featured a gallery of pre-selected candidates that represented the three factions and their interests within the power elite. The 2016 US election, however, was vastly different from previous elections. As the election dragged on the power elite became bitterly divided, with the majority supporting Hilary Clinton, the candidate pre-selected by the political and corporate factions, while the military faction rallied around their choice of Donald Trump.

...

The decisive political point in this election round was the fight between neo-conservatives/liberal-interventionists and foreign policy realists. One side is represented as exemplary by the CIA with the U.S. military on the other:

A schism developed between the Defense Department and the highly politicized CIA. This schism, which can be attributed to the corporate-deep-state’s covert foreign policy, traces back to the CIA orchestrated “color revolutions” that had swept the Middle East and North Africa.

The CIA created bloodthirsty future enemies the military will later have to defeat. ...

That explanation has held up well. At the beginning of his regime Trump stuffed the White House with the military faction while the executive government -the deep state- waged a war against him. The corporate side of triangle of power was quite happy with his tax policies.

But Trump soon discovered that the military faction did not concur with his 'America first' isolationist tendencies. The 'grown ups' and generals wanted to explain to Trump why they believe that the U.S. needs many allies and bases and why the many long wars the U.S. fights are sensible policy.

According to a new book, partly adapted in a Washington Post piece, that effort did not end well:

Trump organized his unorthodox worldview under the simplistic banner of “America First,” but [Secretary of Defense Jim] Mattis, [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson, and [Director of the National Economic Council Gary] Cohn feared his proposals were rash, barely considered, and a danger to America’s superpower standing. They also felt that many of Trump’s impulsive ideas stemmed from his lack of familiarity with U.S. history and, even, where countries were located. To have a useful discussion with him, the trio agreed, they had to create a basic knowledge, a shared language.

So on July 20, 2017, Mattis invited Trump to the Tank for what he, Tillerson, and Cohn had carefully organized as a tailored tutorial.

The meeting in the Tank, a secure conference room in the Pentagon, were part of an effort to subdue Trump's insurgency against the top military's world view. and the presentation by top generals came off as a lecture which Trump immediately disliked:

Cont. reading: How Trump Rebelled Against The Generals

Posted by b at 18:47 UTC | Comments (216)

January 16, 2020

Open Thread 2020-04

News & views ...

Posted by b at 17:08 UTC | Comments (214)