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May 25, 2019

Boeing 737 MAX Crash Reveals A Severe Problem With Older Boeing 737 NGs

The fleet of Boeing 737 MAX planes will stay out on the ground longer than anticipated. Boeing promised a new software package to correct the severe problems with its Maneuver Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). The delivery was supposed to be ready in April. A month later it has still not arrived at the Federal Aviation Agency where it will take at least a month to certify it. The FAA will not be the only one to decide when the plane can come back into the flight line. Other country's agencies will do their own independent review and will likely take their time.

The 737 MAX incident also revealed a problem with older generations of the 737 type of plane that is only now coming into light. Simulator experiments (video) showed that the recovery procedures Boeing provided for the case of a severe mistrim of the plane is not sufficient to bring the plane back under control. The root cause of that inconvenient fact does not lie with the 737 MAX but with its predecessor, the Boeing 737 Next Generation or NG.

This was known in pilot circles for some time but will only now receive wider public attention:

The Boeing 737 Max's return to commercial airline service is reportedly being further delayed by the Federal Aviation Administration.

US government officials told The Wall Street Journal's Andy Pasztor that the FAA is evaluating the emergency procedures for not only the Max but also the older generations of the 737 including the [once] hot-selling Boeing 737 NG.

According to the officials, the broadened evaluation will take a look at how pilots of all 737 variant are instructed to respond to emergency situations.

Here is a detailed explanation why the FAA is now looking into the pilot training for older 737 types.

The 737 NG (-600/-700/-800/-900) was the third generation derivative of the 737 and followed the 737 Original (-100/-200) and Classic (−300/-400/-500) series. The first NG flew in 1997. Some 7,000 were build and most of them are still flying.

Two technical modifications that turned out to be a problem during the recent incidents occurred during the redesign of the 737 Classic into the New Generation series.

In the NG series a new Flight Management Computer (FMC) was added to the plane. (The FMC helps the pilots to plan and manage the flight. It includes data about airports and navigation points. It differs from the two Flight Control Computers in that it has no control over physical elements of the plane.)

The FMC on the NG version has two input/output units each with a small screen and a larger keyboard below it. They are next to the knees of the pilot and the copilot  They are located on the central pedestal between the pilots right below the vertical instrument panel (see pic below). The lengthy FMCs did not fit on the original central pedestal. The trim wheels on each side, used to manually trim the airplane in its longitudinal axis or pitch, were in the way. Boeing's 'solution' to the problem was to make the manual trim wheels smaller.

737 NG cockpit with FMC panels and with smaller trim wheels (black with a white stripe)

737 Original-200 cockpit with larger trim wheels (black with a white stripe)

The smaller trim wheels require more manual force to trim with the same moment of force or torque than the larger ones did.

Cont. reading: Boeing 737 MAX Crash Reveals A Severe Problem With Older Boeing 737 NGs

Posted by b at 05:20 PM | Comments (54)

May 24, 2019

'Troops To Iran' Scare - The Mountain Brings Forth A Mouse

On May 13 a leak to the New York Times launched an 'troops to Iran' scare:

The US military is exploring a plan to deploy 120,000 troops to the Middle East as tensions with Iran intensify - NYT/Business Insider, May 13

On May 14 we wrote:

The 120,000 troop deployment is the third option. The number is too high for an attack by air and on sea and too low for an attack on land, i.e. an invasion of Iran. Releasing the third option number is likely designed to rally against such a move.

From there on varying numbers were all over the news:

Trump denies U.S. plan to send 120,000 troops to counter Iran threat - Reuters, May 14
Trump says he'd send 'a hell of a lot more' than 120,000 troops to fight Iran if it came to that - Business Insider, May 14
Pentagon mulling military request to send 5,000 troops to Middle East: officials - Reuters, May 23
Trump: No plan now for more troops to confront Iran - Washington Times, May 23
The Pentagon’s plan to send up to 10,000 troops to the Middle East is about Iran - Vox, May 23
US officials: Plan may send up to 10,000 troops to Mideast - AP, May 24

Finally Trump put out a real number:

Trump says US to send 1,500 more troops to Middle East - AP, May 25

Unfortunately it was still wrong. Here is the real one:

Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan notified Congress on Friday that he had authorized a request from U.S. Central Command to send the additional forces – an Air Force fighter jet squadron, an engineering element and combination of manned and unmanned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets – into the Middle East, he said in a statement. The Pentagon will also extend the deployment of some 600 soldiers from a Patriot missile battalion already serving in the region.

There seems to have been a minor war between John Bolton, Trumps National Security Advisor, and the State Department or Pentagon. Bolton is longing for his war on Iran and sending lots of troops would eventually provide for that. The State Department and the Pentagon want to prevent that catastrophe from happening and preferred to send none. Trump eventually agreed to minimal number.

There are in total some 20,000+ U.S. troops in the various countries of the Middle East. The additional 900 send now will not make any difference.

The idiocy of the whole discussion was well captured by the German satire site Der Postillon. On May 16 it headlined (translated):

US sounds alarm: "Iran is moving its country ever closer to our troops!"

Tensions between Washington and Tehran continue to increase. Now the United States accuses Iran of moving its borders ever closer to US troops. In part, American soldiers were almost in firing range.

"Iran is using its territory to harass our peacefully deployed troops," said US National Security Advisor John Bolton. "Some of the country's borders come dangerously close to our soldiers - almost in range, Iran must stop doing that right away!"
The US threatened to mobilize its troops. Bolton: "We are a peaceful nation, but if Iran dares to let its borders cross below the feet of our soldiers, that inevitably means war!"

Five days after later Reuters converted the satire into news:

Iran's reach puts U.S. forces, allies in striking range

Sure, Iran's reach did that ...

Posted by b at 02:15 PM | Comments (93)

The Leaden Lady Steps Down

It was high time for this to happen:

Theresa May has announced she is to stand down as Prime Minister on 7 June following months of mounting pressure over her failure to deliver Brexit.
Mrs May will remain in post until a successor is chosen

The final straw of her doomed premiership came when a last-gasp effort to win support for her Withdrawal Agreement Bill backfired spectacularly and it became obvious her Brexit deal was dead in the water.

Brexiteers within her own party were enraged by the concession of the offer of a potential second referendum and customs union arrangement announced on Tuesday.

Boris Johnson is the leading candidate for May's job of not delivering Brexit.


Trump, who will visit Great Britain on June 10 while May is still in Downing Street, will likely weigh in for him.

Posted by b at 05:22 AM | Comments (77)

May 23, 2019

Why Trump's Huawei Ban Is Unlikely To Persist

The Washington Post World page summarizes a piece about consequences of Trump's ban on the Chinese telecom equipment manufacturer Huawei:

A key chip designer and British telecom companies suspended some dealings with the Chinese tech giant over security concerns.

However, nothing in the actual piece talks about security concerns. (I point this out because I perceive a trend towards such misleading summaries and headlines which contradict what the actual reporting says.)

The British processor company ARM, which licenses its design to Huawei, cites U.S. export controls as the reason to stop cooperation with Huawei:

The conflict is putting companies and governments around the world in a tough spot, forcing them to choose between alienating the United States or China.

Arm Holdings issued its statement after the BBC reported the firm had told staff to suspend dealings with Huawei.

An Arm spokesman said some of the company’s intellectual property is designed in the United States and is therefore “subject to U.S. export controls.”

Additionally two British telecom providers quote U.S. restrictions as reason for no longer buying Huawei smartphones:

BT Group’s EE division, which is preparing to launch 5G service in six British cities later this month, said Wednesday it would no longer offer a new Huawei smartphone as part of that service. Vodafone also said it would drop a Huawei smartphone from its lineup. Both companies appeared to tie that decision to Google‘s move to withhold licenses for its Android operating software from future Huawei phones.

These companies do not have security concerns over Huawei. But the casual reader, who does not dive down into the actual piece, is left with a false impression that such concerns are valid and shared.

That the Trump administration says it has security reasons for its Huawei ban does not mean that the claim is true. Huawei equipment is as good or bad as any other telecommunication equipment, be it from Cisco or Apple. The National Security Agency and other secret services will try to infiltrate all types of such equipment.

After the sudden ban on U.S. entities to export to Huawei, chipmakers like Qualcomm temporarily stopped their relations with Huawei. Google said that it would no longer allow access to the Google Play store for new Huawei smartphones. That will diminish their utility for many users.

The public reaction in China to this move was quite negative. There were many calls for counter boycotts of Apple's i-phones on social media and a general anti-American sentiment.

The founder and CEO of Huawei, Ren Zhengfei, tried to counter that. He gave a two hour interview (vid, 3 min excerpt with subtitles) directed at the Chinese public. Ren sounds very conciliatory and relaxed. The Global Times and the South China Morning Post only have short excerpts of what he said. They empathize that Huawei is well prepared and can master the challenge:

Cont. reading: Why Trump's Huawei Ban Is Unlikely To Persist

Posted by b at 09:46 AM | Comments (141)

May 22, 2019

Venezuela - After Opposition Support 'Deflated' - U.S. Targets Food Aid Supply

The hot-air figures the U.S. used for its regime change efforts in Venezuela failed to do their job. The New York Times declares their movement "deflated".

Eleven hours after the story went live (and the White House had called?) the headline changed.

While it still repeats propaganda claims, the report makes clear that Guaidó is lacking public support:

CARACAS, Venezuela — It was a daring gambit: Juan Guaidó, Venezuela’s opposition leader, stood by a military base alongside dozens of uniformed officers and political allies, calling for a military uprising against President Nicolás Maduro.
Three weeks later, Mr. Guaidó is shuttling among a half-dozen safe houses to escape capture. ... And the protests that filled the streets with Mr. Guaidó’s supporters are dwindling ..
Weakened and unable to bring the political crisis gripping Venezuela to a quick resolution, Mr. Guaidó has been forced to consider negotiations with Mr. Maduro. Both sides have sent representatives to Norway for talks, a concession Mr. Guaidó previously rejected.

This change is a turning point for the opposition, which in January had gathered momentum, attracting broad international backing and huge crowds of supporters. Now, that momentum has nearly dissipated — a testament to Mr. Maduro’s firm hold on power even as the country crumbles around him.

The government of Venezuela is talking with some of the opposition parties, there is no confirmation yet that Guaidó's party, which is the most radical opposition element, is actually involved. It is doubtful that the government would want to 'negotiate' with it.

Interestingly the NYT now leaves out the false "interim president" attribute that it previously used to describe Guaidó.

That Guaidó failed with his clownish coup attempt does not mean that the U.S. will give up on its regime change efforts.

Venezuela's economy is in a deep economic crisis. The cause are not the minor socialist attempts its government made, but the economic war the U.S. is waging against it:

Cont. reading: Venezuela - After Opposition Support 'Deflated' - U.S. Targets Food Aid Supply

Posted by b at 02:41 PM | Comments (73)

May 21, 2019

Uber Drivers Learn To Game Its Antisocial System

Uber and other ride-hailing companies use surge pricing, also known as “dynamic pricing” or “demand-based pricing.” They increase the ride fare if the demand for rides is greater than the available capacity. In moments of heavy demand, they increase their fare up to three times the normal price.

A 2015 Uber and University of Chicago, Booth School of Business, study claims that such surge pricing is beneficial for both sides, the drivers and for those that use the service:

Uber operates in a market with large fluctuations in demand and a variable supply of driver-partners. Driver-partners are free to work whenever they want and must be incentivized to provide services. Under these conditions, economic theory tells us that using prices to signal to riders that rides are scarce and inducing driver-partners to forgo other activities will close the gap between supply and demand and lead to improved outcomes for both riders (as a whole) and driver-partners.

Reality disagrees with what the economic theory tells us. In the U.S. Uber drivers are seen as independent contractors. The drivers say that the standard fare is too low, or Uber's 35-40% share of it too high, to make a living. They therefore looked for and found ways to game the system:

Every night, several times a night, Uber and Lyft drivers at Reagan National Airport simultaneously turn off their ride share apps for a minute or two to trick the app into thinking there are no drivers available---creating a price surge. When the fare goes high enough, the drivers turn their apps back on and lock into the higher fare.
“All the airplanes we know when they land. So five minutes before, we turn all our apps off all of us at the same time. All of us we turn our apps off. They surge, $10, $12, sometimes $19. Then we turn our app on. Everyone will get the surge,” one driver says.

It is wonderful to see such worker solidarity:

"And does everyone oblige? Does everyone do it?, Sweeney asks.

“Yes 100 percent. Everyone do it. Everyone knows it’s not worth it. They know if they take a ride from here without surge, without pumping the surge up, it’s not worth it.”

In less than a minute, about 50 drivers are locked into the surge.

“It’s like we work as a family, like a team together. Like as a team. We do it. Every night. We do it again. We drop off, come back again, it’s a routine. We do it to 12 o' clock."

The business idea on which Uber is based is not profitable. From its beginning it grew by breaking the law:

Cont. reading: Uber Drivers Learn To Game Its Antisocial System

Posted by b at 01:51 PM | Comments (109)

May 19, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-28

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

See also: Rob Slane at The Blogmire - The Sinking Credibility of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

John Bolton created the crisis by claiming that Iran put some imaginary missiles on a boat. When Trump told him to stop the campaign, at least for now, the imaginary missile had to be removed. The NYT willingly stenographed the "news": U.S. Officials Say Iran Has Removed Missile Threat From Some Boats

I don't expect that Bolton will let the issue go. He will find or create an incident sufficient to convince Trump to go to war with Iran.

My hunch is that China will -in the end- win through the trade war. Others disagree.
Christopher Whalen at the American Conservative: China Has Already Lost the Trade War

Other issues:

The movies Hollywood produced are often telling psychological conflicts as the central story. Each character has a certain fixed attitude and the interacting of the characters create the story. It does not matter if the setting is in antic times or in the far future. In the end there are always the bad and the good guy slamming it out in a fistfight.

The historic Chinese drama which I currently favor are based on sociological storytelling. As they develop the stories form their characters. Their attitudes change over time because the developing exterior circumstances push them into certain directions. Good becomes bad and again good. The persons change because they must, not because the are genetically defined. I find these kind of movies more interesting.

This Scientific American piece about Game of Thrones (of which I have seen only half an episode) touches on the differences.

The Real Reason Fans Hate the Last Season of Game of Thrones
It's not just bad storytelling—it’s because the storytelling style changed from sociological to psychological

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 02:30 PM | Comments (270)

Why The Takedown Of Heinz-Christian Strache Will Strengthen The Right

During the last days a right wing politician in Austria was taken down by using an elaborate sting. Until Friday Heinz-Christian Strache was leader of the far right (but not fascist) Freedom Party of Austria (FPOe) and the Vice Chancellor of the country. On Friday morning two German papers, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Der Spiegel published (German) reports (English) about an old video that was made to take Strache down.

The FPOe has good connections with United Russia, the party of the Russian President Putin, and to other right-wing parties in east Europe. It's pro-Russian position has led to verbal attacks on and defamation of the party from NATO supporting and neoliberal circles.

In July 2017 Strache and his right hand man Johann Gudenus, who is also the big number in the FPOe, get invited for dinner to a rented villa on Ibiza, the Spanish tourist island in the Mediterranean. They are told that the daughter of a Russian billionaire plans large investments in Austria. It was said that she would like to help his party. The alleged daughter of the Russian billionaire, who is actually also Austrian, and her "friend" serve an expensive dinner. Alcohol flows freely. The pair offers a large party donation but asks for returns in form of mark ups on public contracts.

Unknown to Strache the villa is professionally bugged with many hidden cameras and microphones.

A scene from the video. Source: Der Falter (vid, German)

During the six hour long party several schemes get proposed by the "Russian" and are discussed. Strache rejects most of them. He insists several times that everything they plan or do must be legal and conform to the law. He says that a large donation could probably be funneled through an endowment that would then support his party. It is a gray area under Austrian party financing laws. They also discuss if the "Russian" could buy the Kronen Zeitung, Austria's powerful tabloid, and use it to prop up his party.

Cont. reading: Why The Takedown Of Heinz-Christian Strache Will Strengthen The Right

Posted by b at 01:10 PM | Comments (81)

May 18, 2019

Open Thread 2019-27

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:03 PM | Comments (155)

May 17, 2019

Propaganda Intensifies Trade War With China

The dwindling empires' main propaganda outlet, the New York Times, continues its anti-China campaign. It is now by blaming China's president for the failure of trade negotiations with the United States.

    How Xi’s Last-Minute Switch on U.S.-China Trade Deal Upended It:

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, seemed confident three weeks ago that a yearlong trade war with the United States could soon subside, handing him a potent political victory.

He even made a speech saying China would protect intellectual property, encourage foreign investment, and buy more goods and services from abroad — all changes the United States had been demanding as the countries tried to negotiate a deal.

But just a week after that speech, Chinese negotiators sent the Americans a substantially rewritten draft agreement, prompting President Trump to accuse Beijing of reneging on terms that had been settled.

As typical for U.S. propaganda the piece goes on to personifying the decision China made when confronted with overreaching U.S. demands. It is Xi personally, says the Times, who is to blame:

In China’s top-down political system, where President Xi has amassed formidable power, ...

... it is clear that Mr. Xi misjudged ...

Now Mr. Xi risks being backed into a corner, ...

For Mr. Xi, such a move could be seen ...

Mr. Xi’s frenetic schedule and highly centralized style of policymaking ...

“No doubt Xi has tightened the overall policy atmosphere ...

U.S. propaganda is always pointing to one person that solely cases everything and therefore deserves all the hate. It once was Saddam, Saddam , Saddam. Then Ghadaffi, Ghadaffi, Ghadaffi, Assad, Assad, Assad, Putin, Putin, Putin. Now it is Xi, Xi, Xi.

In the real word hardly any person leading a state has as much power as such villainizing propaganda tries to make one believe. Countries have interests that define their policies through processes that are often incomprehensible to the cursory observer. Whatever face is at the top is only representing the layers below. It should be the task of the press to untangle and explain the processes instead of demonizing their representing face. 

So what really happened?

Cont. reading: Propaganda Intensifies Trade War With China

Posted by b at 02:30 PM | Comments (172)

May 16, 2019

Trump Administration Withholds Information That Could Debunk Russian Interference Claims

On Tuesday Russia's President Putin again rejected U.S. claims that his country interfered in the 2016 elections in the United States. Additional statements by Foreign Minister Lavrov provide that there is more information available about alleged Russian cyber issue during the election. He pointed to exchanges between the Russian and U.S. governments that Russia wants published but which the U.S. is withholding.

On Tuesday May 14 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Sochi to meet with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov and with the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. It was Pompeo's first official visit to Russia. Pompeo's meeting with Lavrov was followed by a joined news conference. The statements from both sides touched on the election issue.

The State Department published a full transcript and video of the press conference in English language. The Russian Foreign Ministry provided an official English translation of only Lavrov's part.  Both translations differ only slightly.

Here are the relevant excerpts from the opening statements with regard to cyber issues.


We agreed on the importance of restoring communications channels that have been suspended lately, which was due in no small part to the groundless accusations against Russia of trying to meddle in the US election. These allegations went as far as to suggest that we colluded in some way with high-ranking officials from the current US administration. It is clear that allegations of this kind are completely false. [...] I think that there is a fundamental understanding on this matter as discussed by our presidents during their meeting last year in Helsinki, as well as during a number of telephone conversations. So far these understandings have not been fully implemented.


[W]e spoke, too, about the question of interference in our domestic affairs. I conveyed that there are things that Russia can do to demonstrate that these types of activities are a thing of the past and I hope that Russia will take advantage of those opportunities.

During the Q & A Shaun Tanron of AFP asked Pompeo about the election issue:

[I]f I could follow up on your statement about the election, you said that there are things that Russia could do to show that election interference is a thing of the past. What are those things? What do – what would you like Russia to do? Thank you very much.

Lavrov responded first to the question. He said that there is no evidence that shows any Russian interference in the U.S. elections. He continued:

Speaking about the most recent US presidential campaign in particular, we have had in place an information exchange channel about potential unintended risks arising in cyberspace since 2013. From October 2016 (when the US Democratic Administration first raised this issue) until January 2017 (before Donald Trump's inauguration), this channel was used to handle requests and responses. Not so long ago, when the attacks on Russia in connection with the alleged interference in the elections reached their high point, we proposed publishing this exchange of messages between these two entities, which engage in staving off cyberspace incidents. I reminded Mr Pompeo about this today. The administration, now led by President Trump, refused to do so. I’m not sure who was behind this decision, but the idea to publish this data was blocked by the United States. However, we believe that publishing it would remove many currently circulating fabrications. Of course, we will not unilaterally make these exchanges public, but I would still like to make this fact known.

The communication channel about cyber issues did indeed exist. In June 2013 the Presidents of the United States and Russia issued a Joint Statement about "Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs)". The parties agreed to establishing communication channels between each other computer emergency response teams, to use the direct communication link of the Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers for cyber issue exchanges, and to have direct communication links between high-level officials in the White House and Kremlin for such matter. A Fact Sheet published by the Obama White House detailed the implementation of these three channels.

One inference from Lavrov's statement is that the "fundamental understanding on this matter"  between the two presidents that has "not been fully implemented" is the release of the communications about cyberspace incidents. The Russians clearly think that a release of the communications with the Obama administration would exculpate them. That would also exculpate Trump from any further collusion allegations. Why then does the Trump administration reject the release? Who is blocking it?

Cont. reading: Trump Administration Withholds Information That Could Debunk Russian Interference Claims

Posted by b at 02:11 PM | Comments (135)

May 15, 2019

The Lunacy Of Waging A War On Iran From Which China And Russia Will Win

The scare mongering about an attack on Iran continues. Bolton must be laughing his ass off how easy he can play the issue based on nothing. He simply counters any debunking of the alleged 'thread from Iran' by upping the ante. Yesterday a British general in Iraq denied that any such threat exists in the area of his responsibility:

“No – there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika, deputy commander of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the coalition responsible for counter-terrorist operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, said in a video briefing, according to the Guardian.

Today Bolton countered that by again raising the noise level around the imaginary threat:

The U.S. Embassy in Iraq says the State Department has ordered all non-essential, non-emergency government staff to leave the country right away amid escalating tensions with Iran.

The alert, published on the embassy's website on Wednesday, comes after Washington last week said it had detected new and urgent threats from Iran and its proxy forces in the region targeting Americans and American interests.

Bolton is for now achieving the results he wants. He systematically fills the public space with talk about the non-existing 'threat from Iran'. If that threat is established in the public mind by its constant repetition, it will be used for the usual false flag incident to justify to launch a war on Iran.

Bolton's power might change though. The knifes are out against him and there are rumors that he might get fired:

Two sources familiar with the matter tell me President Donald Trump’s rumbustious National Security Council chief is headed for the exits, having flown too close to the sun on his regime change efforts for Iran, Venezuela and North Korea. “Hearing that Trump wants him out,” a former senior administration official told me.

Bolton (and maybe Trump too) want a war on Iran because Bibi Netanyahoo asked for one, because the anti-Iranian MEK cult and Zionists paid him to wage one, and because he thinks he can do so without damaging the United States.

by Ted Rall (used with permission) - bigger

It is the last point where he is completely wrong. The war on Iraq destroyed the position of the U.S. as the 'sole superpower'. Russia used the aftermath to come back into the Middle East while China gained time to fortify its position in Asia. The once sole superpower is now only a primus inter pares with China and Russia. A U.S. war on Iran would further diminish its position. China and Russia would both end up with an increased standing in the world while the U.S. would lose out.

Here is why.

Yesterday the New York Times promoted the options the Pentagon gave to the White House for a war on Iran. It led with the 120,000 troops option which made no sense:

The number is too high for an attack by air and on sea and too low for an attack on land, i.e. an invasion of Iran.

Newsweek now says that the 120,000 troop option is only the prelude for an invasion of Iran:

Pentagon officials told Newsweek that if deployed, the role of the 120,000 U.S. forces would center on logistical support and developing infrastructure to preposition U.S. forces for the option of a ground invasion. The original 120,000 would integrate into an additional surge of U.S. forces sent into the region.

These "Pentagon officials" are not "military officials", i.e. not soldiers. They seem to have no idea what they are speaking about. An invasion and occupation of the mountainous Iran would require over half a million soldiers just for the start. Even an invasion of only the oil rich areas on Iran's west coast and on its border with Iraq would require a force of some 300,000 men. Without a draft the U.S. military is unable to sustain such a large operation for more than two or three months.

And invade from where please? Iraq would certainly not allow U.S. forces to attack its neighbor from its grounds. An invasion by sea is prohibited by the confined water of the Persian Gulf, the lack of minesweepers, and of other maritime assets.

The people who talk up such a war have a serious case of delusion:

Cont. reading: The Lunacy Of Waging A War On Iran From Which China And Russia Will Win

Posted by b at 12:33 PM | Comments (177)

May 14, 2019

U.S. Increases Risk Of War On Iran Without A Path To De-escalation

Is the U.S. military, which lost its powerful positions in the White House, trying to get National Security Advisor John 'Stache' Bolton fired? 

A 'leak' to the New York Times accuses Bolton of preparing for war on Iran:

At a meeting of President Trump’s top national security aides last Thursday, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented an updated military plan that envisions sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons, administration officials said.

The revisions were ordered by hard-liners led by John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser. It does not call for a land invasion of Iran, which would require vastly more troops, officials said.

The development reflects the influence of Mr. Bolton, one of the administration’s most virulent Iran hawks, whose push for confrontation with Tehran was ignored more than a decade ago by President George W. Bush.

If asked for 'options' the military typically lays out three scenarios. The first is very minor action unlikely to have any effect. The second is what the military sees as reasonable or wants. The third option is fantastically exaggerated. The 120,000 troop deployment is the third option. The number is too high for an attack by air and on sea and too low for an attack on land, i.e. an invasion of Iran. Releasing the third option number is likely designed to rally against such a move.

More than a half-dozen American national security officials who have been briefed on details of the updated plans agreed to discuss them with The New York Times on the condition of anonymity.
Among those attending Thursday’s meeting were Mr. Shanahan; Mr. Bolton; General Dunford; Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director; and Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence.

In a possible quit pro quo the delivery of 'options' by the Defense Department happened on the same day that acting Secretary of Defense Shanahan was finally nominated for the permanent position. The previous Secretary of Defense James Mattis had ignored similar options requests from the White House. Trump fired Mattis at the end of last year.

An alternative view is that Bolton himself leaked the briefing to shore up the Trump administration's propagandistic threat against Iran.

Still, it is obvious that that some of those present at the meeting disagree with whatever Bolton's plans are.

In another sign of disagreement within the Trump administration the State Department just fired a Bolton ally:

Cont. reading: U.S. Increases Risk Of War On Iran Without A Path To De-escalation

Posted by b at 04:39 AM | Comments (175)

May 13, 2019

Syria - OPCW Engineering Assessment: The Douma 'Chemical Weapon Attack' Was Staged

On April 7 2018 Syrian 'rebels' claimed that the Syrian government used chlorine gas and Sarin in an attack on the besieged Douma suburb near the Syrian capital Damascus. They published a series of videos which showed dead bodies of mainly women and children.

The claim of the 'chemical attack' was made shortly after U.S. President Trump had announced that he wanted U.S. troops to leave Syria. It was designed to "pull him back in" which it indeed did. In an illegal 'retaliation' the U.S., Britain and France launched a number of cruise missiles against Syria. Most of them failed to reach their targets.

Moon of Alabama published a number of pieces on the issue which are listed below.

It seemed obvious from the very first claims of the 'gas attack' that it did not happen at all. The Syrian government had no motive to use any chemical weapon or an irritant like chlorine in Douma. It had already won the battle. The incident was obviously staged, like others before it, to drag the U.S. into a new attack on Syria.

Of special interest on the incident scene were two gas cylinders which were photo- and video-graphed near to where the dead bodies were found. It was claimed that the cylinders were dropped from Syrian army helicopters and crashed through concrete roofs. One cylinder allegedly 'bumped' after completely penetrating the roof and came to rest on a bed. The other cylinder allegedly broke a roof open and came to rest on a balcony.

To anyone with a bit of 'feel' for material behavior of concrete and metal on impact, it was obvious that the damages caused on the concrete and on the cylinders were incompatible with each other. The concrete, reinforced with steel, was thoroughly penetrated while the cylinders showed only minimal damage. The roofs were most likely penetrated by artillery impact while the cylinders were most likely put there by hand.



Cont. reading: Syria - OPCW Engineering Assessment: The Douma 'Chemical Weapon Attack' Was Staged

Posted by b at 07:55 AM | Comments (93)

May 12, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-26

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

Turkey called on Russia to end the Syrian operation but to no avail. The Syrian Army continues to make some progress. This will be slow and long fight with many interruptions.

See also Whitney Webb: Another Whistleblower Bites the Dust as The Intercept Adds a Third Notch to Its Burn Belt

See also Gareth Porter: Bolton Is Spinning Israeli ‘Intelligence’ to Push for War Against Iran

Other issues:

On Friday the Marco Rubio clownish puppet in Venezuela called for more demonstrations:

Guaido called for a national demonstration on Saturday to reject measures taken by the Supreme Court against opposition lawmakers.
"We're not going to stop, we're going to stay in the streets. This is a process that will end with Venezuela's liberty."

On Saturday the Random Guyaidó spoke to demonstrators in Caracas. This was in the richer part of the city, the oppositions stronghold.

The AP's report first version:

A modest crowd of Venezuelans has taken to the streets to show support for the opposition-led congress which has come under increasing pressure from the government of President Nicolás Maduro.
Guaidó on Saturday addressed roughly 1,000 supporters gathered in Caracas, reflecting both fear and demoralization among supporters after the attempted military rebellion.

AP later published a revised version:

Meanwhile, noticeably diminished crowds at opposition protests reflected a growing fear and demoralization that has permeated Guaidó's ranks of supporters after he led a failed military uprising on April 30. In previous months, thousands of demonstrators heeded his calls to protest.

On Saturday, a modest crowd of several hundred Venezuelans gathered in the capital of Caracas.

Guaidó wants foreign military support:

He announced Saturday a forthcoming meeting with U.S. military officials and said that new actions taken by the opposition will seek to "achieve the necessary pressure" to put an end to the Bolivarian revolution launched 20 years ago by the late socialist President Hugo Chávez.

Guaidó has said that as Venezuela's rightful leader he reserves the right to invite foreign military actions in the same way independence hero Simon Bolivar hired 5,000 British mercenaries to liberate South America from Spain. He says any such help should be considered "cooperation," instead of intervention, something he has accused Maduro of allowing in the form of military and intelligence support from allies Cuba and Russia.


Pompous snowflakes:

Macron driven along the Champs Elysee in a large convoy, smiling and waving to the crowd lining the street. The crowd? (vid)

BBC - Andrew Neil and Ben Shapiro on abortion, Obama and Middle East (vid, start at ~10min); When diligently questioned, Shapiro gives up and ends the interview.

New Yorker - Michael Oren Cuts Short a Conversation About Israel;

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 08:53 AM | Comments (259)

May 11, 2019

Media Amplify Iran War Propaganda - Play Up Intelligence Lies

The Trump campaign launched a propaganda campaign to prepare the public for a war on Iran. The campaign is similar to the one the Bush administration ran in 2002 and 2003 preparation for the war on Iraq.

Anonymous officials make claims about alleged 'intelligence' that is said to show 'Iranian threats' against U.S. 'interests'. Iran, it is claimed, has this or that malign motive to do such. Routine military rotations to the Middle East are then declared to be 'in response' to the claimed 'threats'.

The media, either played like a fiddle by the administration or willing accomplices, repeat each and any such nugget thrown at them without any second thought. Anti-Iranian lobbyist are presented as 'experts' to reinforce the messaging.

Here are some examples of the above methods.

NBC News headlines:

Trump's top intelligence and military advisers held unusual meeting at CIA on Iran, officials say
Current and former officials said it is extremely rare for senior White House officials or Cabinet members to attend a meeting at CIA headquarters.

In a highly unusual move, national security adviser John Bolton convened a meeting at CIA headquarters last week with the Trump administration's top intelligence, diplomatic and military advisers to discuss Iran, according to six current U.S. officials.

The meeting was held at 7 a.m. on Monday, April 29, and included CIA Director Gina Haspel, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, five of the officials said.

National security meetings are typically held in the White House Situation Room. The six current officials, as well as multiple former officials, said it is extremely rare for senior White House officials or Cabinet members to attend a meeting at CIA headquarters.
The U.S. has a very specific intelligence gathering capability on Iran that is only able to be reviewed at CIA headquarters, two former officials said.

It is highly likely that the "very specific intelligence gathering capability on Iran", that can only be reviewed at the CIA headquarter is the same "very specific intelligence gathering capability on Iraq" that officials used in the run up to war on that country. In 2002 then Vice-President Dick Cheney visited the CIA several times to press its analysts to come up with intelligence that 'proved' that Iraq was doing something nefarious and had ill intentions.

Moon of Alabama consulted its own sources about the 'specific intelligence capabilities'. We are told that a very rare book, of which one copy is held in the CIA directors personal safe, constitutes those capabilities. Six officials confirmed the book's existence. Multiple former officials and a  military official said that the extremely rare book contains one thousand and one 'narratives' that constitute the raw intelligence from which the CIA analysts derive their conclusions. The specific capability can only be used at nighttime. No more than one narrative can be extracted per night. That raw data is then immediately processed as sunlight is said to delude its veracity. This might explain the early morning gathering mentioned in the NBC News report.

A former CIA analyst involved in the creation of intelligence on Iraq in 2002 revealed that one of the narratives in the book mentioned special metallic tubes, while another narrative told of a biological process carried out on the back of a carriage. The former CIA analyst said that many of the conclusion drawn from the book turned out to be correct, but that - unfortunately -  the conclusion drawn from those two narratives were later proven to be wrong.

The CIA's Iran operations are run by Mike D'Andrea, also known as the CIA's undertaker for his prominent role in so called 'signature strikes' and the CIA's torture program. He played a role in enabling the 9/11 incident:

Cont. reading: Media Amplify Iran War Propaganda - Play Up Intelligence Lies

Posted by b at 09:02 AM | Comments (123)

May 10, 2019

Botched Post Days

Those days one spends hours on a post only to find that it is dull and lacks logic.

(No, I won't let you read it.)

Posted by b at 02:21 PM | Comments (81)

May 09, 2019

Whom Not To Trust - U.S. Government Indicts Another Intercept Source

Another source that provided government secrets to The Intercept has been uncovered and indicted by the U.S. government.

The Intercept was created to privatize the National Security Agency documents leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The online magazine is financed by Pierre Omidyar, the founder of Ebay, who's is known for many shady connection to Obama administration and for promoting various regime change efforts.

In June 2017 we wrote about the first case in which an Intercept source got burned:

Yesterday The Intercept published a leaked five page NSA analysis about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. Its reporting outed the leaker of the NSA documents. That person, R.L. Winner, has now been arrested and is likely to be jailed for years if not for the rest of her life.
FBI search (pdf) and arrest warrant (pdf) applications unveil irresponsible behavior by the Intercept's reporters and editors which neglected all operational security trade-craft that might have prevented the revealing of the source. It leaves one scratching one's head if this was intentional or just sheer incompetence. Either way - the incident confirms what skeptics had long determined: The Intercept is not a trustworthy outlet for leaking state secrets of public interests.

Our mistrust towards The Intercept get reinforced by the arrest of another of The Intercept's sources.

Today the Justice Department arrested and charged a former U.S. Airforce soldier, Daniel Everette Hale, 31, of Nashville, Tennessee, who had worked at the National Security Agency (NSA), as an intelligence analyst in Afghanistan, and at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGIA). The Justice Department alleges that Hale leaked several secret and top secret powerpoint presentations and papers to an online outlet:

According to allegations in the indictment, beginning in April 2013, while enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and assigned to the NSA, Hale began communicating with a reporter. Hale met with the reporter in person on multiple occasions, and, at times, communicated with the reporter via an encrypted messaging platform. Then, in February 2014, while working as a cleared defense contractor at NGA, Hale printed six classified documents unrelated to his work at NGA and soon after exchanged a series of messages with the reporter. Each of the six documents printed were later published by the reporter’s news outlet.

According to allegations in the indictment, while employed as a cleared defense contractor for NGA, Hale printed from his Top Secret computer 36 documents, including 23 documents unrelated to his work at NGA. Of the 23 documents unrelated to his work at NGA, Hale provided at least 17 to the reporter and/or the reporter’s online news outlet, which published the documents in whole or in part. Eleven of the published documents were classified as Top Secret or Secret and marked as such.

The indictment (pdf), filed on March 7 under seal, includes a list of the meetings and communications that Hale had with the reporter. The first one took place during the reporter's book tour in April 2013 in Washington DC. During that time frame Jeremy Scahill, one of the Intercept's founding editors, was on a national book tour promoting his book about Blackwater. Several stories written by Scalhill based on secret documents were published in the time frames given in the indictment.

The Associated Press notes of the case:

Cont. reading: Whom Not To Trust - U.S. Government Indicts Another Intercept Source

Posted by b at 02:42 PM | Comments (95)