Open Thread – 27 April, 2014


A photograph of a Catholic school in Aleppo, Syria in Ottoman times.   This was the College of the Holy Land in Aleppo. That is St. Anthony's statue in the center. The Ottoman sultan/caliph was a financial supporter of the school. The sultan's "tughra" (stylized signature) can be seen in the foreground of the picture. The school was run by the ever present Franciscans. In the background on an escutcheon you can see the insignia of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher, another supporter of the school. pl

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66 Responses to Open Thread – 27 April, 2014

  1. Valissa says:

    I imagine the various Russian intelligence agencies are happy to hear this.
    MI5’s hiring: British Secret Service is looking for intel experts on Russia
    When even many US based CEO’s aren’t supporting sanctions, this is no surprise.
    US failing to push economic sanctions against Russia through EU allies
    Found this interesting piece on Putin the other day…

  2. Thomas says:

    To Our German Friends,
    Why does Merkel willingly follow the Primrose Path on the Ukrainian Issue set by the Foreign Policy Fools here in the US?

  3. walrus says:

    The simplest explanation for the behaviour of people is that they are financially rewarded for it.
    The question then becomes who is paying the likes of Slaughter, Merkel, Blair, Cameron, Nuland, et al.

  4. Valissa says:

    Thomas, although I am not German, my theory is that Merkel is being blackmailed by the US. Recall that there was a brouhaha about the NSA spying on Merkel a while back. I remember thinking at the time, that of course all these governments spy on each other so what’s the fuss really about.

  5. Bandolero says:

    I don’t think she does. While many people don’t like it and the German industry has strong ties with Russia and China, the Neocon/US/Israeli lobby in Germany is quite strong, so Merkel has to balance this somehow and find a compromise.
    My understanding: Merkel’s way is usually to give the Neocon/US/Israeli lobby in Germany a lot of lip service, while she does hard policy decisions ususally in the opposite direction.

  6. nick b says:

    Yesterday (4/26), I had the pleasure of fishing in a bass tournament on Mattawoman creek, a tributary of the Potomac river on the Maryland side. As part of my due diligence for the tournament, I spent some time researching areas around the creek and the Potomac that might hold fish. One area I read about was Mallows bay, MD. It lies across the Potomac and a touch south of Quantico, VA. It is about 30 miles south of Washington, DC:,+Nanjemoy,+MD&hl=en&sll=41.117935,-77.604698&sspn=6.015816,11.634521&oq=mallows&t=h&hnear=Mallows+Bay&z=16&iwloc=A
    I thought particularly of TTG and his enjoyment of sailing, and everyone heres’ enjoyment of history. According to the Maryland Dept of Natural Resources, Mallows bay is home to the largest shipwreck fleet in the Western hemisphere. The story begins in 1917. It’s a neat little bit of history about the Potomac and the USA. The Maryland DNR website tells the story much better than I can. For your reading pleasure:
    For anyone interested, I wasn’t competitive in the tournament, but the gentleman I fished with placed 2nd.

  7. Bandolero says:

    @The military folks here
    I’ld like to ask for your opinion about the Iranian efforts to increase their air defense capabilities. As I read the news I see that the Iranians make immense efforts to increase their air defense capabilities, eg here:
    Do you think these Irianian efforts are somehow successful, and if so, in which way or to what extent?

  8. MartinJ says:

    It is sickening to realise that this war marks the end of a near 2000 year presence of Christians in Syria. The forces of economic depravation and America’s embrace led to substantial emigration in the last 20 years. But this is eclipsed by the forces of darkness that have been stirred up by the Gulfies and encouraged by Israel and the NeoCons. The Syrian Christians know that the writing is on the wall for them. I am appalled.

  9. The Twisted Genius says:

    nick b,
    I read about Mallows Bay last year. I guess it’s also a remarkable wildlife habitat. My younger son and I plan on kayaking over there from Quantico later this Spring. We’re just a little leery of the likkered up speed boaters that sometimes fly up and down the river.
    Hey Nick b, catch any snakeheads?
    I’d also like to share something I found on the Small Craft Advisor forum. It’s a tribute to a violin maker who wanted to build and sail a boat before he died from terminal cancer. He built his boat as his health deteriorated. He left hospice to finally sail his SCAMP sailboat in Port Townsend, Washington. He died on the water in his boat. To my mind, that’s not a bad way to go.

  10. nick b says:

    That’s a very poignant story about the passing of Mr. Halpin. As a cancer survivor, I always feel badly to hear of those who were not so fortunate as I.
    No, I have never caught a snakehead, but I have caught it’s cousin the bowfin. A true fossil, the bowfin dates back some 150mm years. Unlike the snakehead, it is native to north America.
    I didn’t have a particularly good outing Saturday. I only caught one bass, which was below the MD state keeper limit (15″ in the beginning of the season). This is called a ‘dink’ in the parlance. I had always considered myself a good fisherman until I joined the local tournament circuit. It has been an enjoyable but very humbling experience. I will be back to the Potomac later in the season. Hopefully I will spend less time admiring the scenery and more time catching bass.

  11. nick b says:

    FWIW, everyone I encountered on the Mattawoman seemed very well behaved. No drinking I could see. But folks do move quickly. For a more pastoral and quiet kayak trip have you considered the Nanticoke in DE/MD? It’s very beautiful, and there’s not so much room for knuckleheads to run so fast in their boats.

  12. ISL says:

    Just my two cents, There is nothing that Iran can do that would substantially change an onslaught from the US. Sure, raise the cost a bit, but that changes what? if you want to win against the US it takes sacrifice on the ground…. If we had bombed and then left a few special forces around Afghanistan (funny – I recall that being proposed on SST), this secret would not have been demonstrated. Walk talk, carry a big stick and talk softly…
    However, as they are at the limit of Israeli capabilities (Distance-wise), such improvements could make a big difference.

  13. Norbert M Salamon says:

    very interesting Crosstalk on
    Stephen Cohen [Historian] and John Mearsheimer

  14. Tyler says:

    I grew up on the Nanticoke.

  15. mac says:

    Anyone notice that the controversy over Donald Sterling’s remarks had an Israeli element to them?
    No doubt this complicates the media management of the issue for his team and could bring some unwanted attention to the legion of Israel’s U.S based apologists….

  16. The beaver says:

    It is OK to give business visas to spies working in Hollywood.
    Now some want visa-waivers for Israeli citizens;
    Open the gates for spooks, false flag purveyors, Mossad goons and covert agents.
    Once they will manage to finish building their web in the defense, intel and inside the beltway, it will be time to say :
    “who is your daddy now” !!!

  17. According to Margaret McMillan in her 2003 book PARIS 1919 all the allies opposed an independent Ukraine!

  18. Charles I says:

    If you need a new way to make your head explode with the same old news, CBC Radio is serving up a wee chance on Friday May 2.
    On Friday May 2nd, I’m attending a Munk Debate in Toronto featuring the ever shameless Alan Dershowitz and compulsive liar Michael Hayden, for vs. great humanitarian/subversive miscreant Glenn Greenwald and reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, against the following proposition:
    Be it resolved state surveillance is a legitimate defence of our freedoms…
    CBC Radio One’s morning show “Q” 10a.m-12-a.m Eastern that day will offer a preview with host Jian Ghomeshi talking to Hayden and Greenwald.

  19. turcopolier says:

    All I lived in Izmir, Turkey once. The 19th Century Catholic cathedral had been paid for by the French government, citizens of Lyon and the Ottoman sultan. It was quite grand. When I lived there the cathedral had been leased to the USAF as a chapel.

  20. nick b says:

    Slower lower? I’d never seen the river until this year. It’s beautiful there and still very undeveloped. I’m looking forward to returning.

  21. robt willmann says:

    Here are the new so-called sanctions against Russia announced today, 28 April, by the U.S. Treasury Department, “since Russia has refused to follow through with its Geneva commitments” —
    And the press release by U.S. treasury secretary Jacob Lew–
    What are these people smoking? Has president Obama organized a new Choom Gang and they are sitting around using drugs and making decisions?
    General Evgeny Murov is now on the list. He is head of the Russian FSO, the federal protective service, which has Russia’s “black box” of nuclear launch codes, a communications system for officials, and other things. It is quite a large organization and includes the Russian president’s security detail, like the U.S. Secret Service, headed by Viktor Zolotov, who is not a shrinking violet.
    Also on the list now is Igor Sechin, CEO of Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil producer and refiner. Rosneft itself is not yet on the list.
    A funny part is that Alexey Miller, the CEO of Gazprom, the natural gas producer and distributor which furnishes the gas to Ukraine and Europe, is not on the list. Neither is Gazprom itself, of course.
    I wonder which alleged “psychologists” at the CIA recommended that the U.S. government try to mess with the minds of Putin’s buddies? Do they not remember that the intercepted phone call of Victoria Nuland and the U.S. Amb. Pyatt in Ukraine was leaked to the world?

  22. Robert Kenneth Chatel says:

    Thank you for the link to the piece on Putin. I found it very insightful both in regard to Putin and to the thinking of those who knew him.

  23. The Twisted Genius says:

    nick b,
    It’s surprising that there are still undeveloped and beautiful rivers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. The Rappahannock is a marvelous river that is well managed. The Embrey Dam was removed a few years back making it the longest free flowing river in the East. Fredericksburg bought a buffer zone along a large stretch of the river to keep it pristine. Here’s a video of a short stretch of the river from the I-95 bridges to just above Fredericksburg. Below the city, the river is tidal and still beautiful.

  24. Valissa,
    Some years ago I remarked to my brother-in-law’s stepdaughter, who comes from the West Ukraine, and spent her childhood years there in the period of complete chaos following the collapse of the Soviet Union, that there had been a basic problem with Western journalistic coverage of the post-Soviet space.
    It was as though people had stumbled onto the set of ‘The Godfather’, but were determined to believe that they were on the set of ‘The Lord of the Rings.’
    Being a bright girl, she found enjoyed the joke.
    Perhaps ‘The Godfather’ was not the best analogy – the thrillers of Dashiell Hammett, and the ‘film noir’ based upon them, or stories like them, might be more helpful. I think of what has long seemed to me one of the greatest of ‘film noir’, which in your country was released under the title ‘Out of the Past’, and over here under the more graphic title ‘Build My Gallows High.’
    I am not a great fan of Westerns – probably being too European – but many of the best of these also deal with worlds which actually have elements in common with those of the former Soviet space following the collapse of communism.
    Why is it that Americans – and following them Europeans – have retreated into a kind of desiccated moralism, rather than attempting to come to some kind of reckoning with the extraordinary bizarreness – at once horrific and interesting – of what has been going on in these parts of the world?

  25. Medicine Man says:

    His journey continues.

  26. Bandolero says:

    Thank you for your helpful opinion. It helps me to put these things in the right context.

  27. Thomas says:

    I suspect blackmail also, though more from Number Two at the Fed than a personal kind.

  28. Thomas says:

    I originally thought the same about her as a practical politician, but I currently do not see it in her actions. Maybe she has something going on behind close doors or the NATO wing of her government is too strong to overcome?

  29. Thomas says:

    Since you have read the book, what were the concerns and issues about Ukraine and the proposed solutions to address them?

  30. Thomas says:

    Caught this little tidbit by Juan Cole,”…cities such as Sderot, where Israelis have settled Ethiopians and Thai guest workers.”
    So ethical to put your unwanted in the line of rocket fire.

  31. Charels Dekle says:

    Col Lang,
    We seem to be led by a true Confederacy of Dunces. Frankly, I am worried.

  32. FB Ali says:

    These are token sanctions, imposed largely for domestic political and PR reasons. They do not change anything, the Russians will brush them off (as Rosneft’s CEO just did).
    The real game-changer would be sectoral sanctions. About them the European editor of The Guardian, Ian Traynor, wrote today:
    “The formula is evasive. The threats are empty. There is no stomach for such moves in Europe because the result would be a devastating trade war that would damage a weak European economy that is only in the early stages of recovery from recession and years of currency and debt crisis”.
    Until that happens, I think my thesis holds: the West has folded on Ukraine. That is why those in the West who want another Cold War with Russia (some don’t even mind a shooting one!)are trying hard to provoke Russia into sending troops into Ukraine.

  33. Ken Roberts says:

    It seems improbable to be this inept accidentally.
    On a related concept, “mess with minds”, what do you make of the suspension of regular phone chats? Who has come to expect what sorts of reassurances?
    Finally, how long has this confrontation been in prep? Last Jan-Feb 2014 there was a movie, directed by Kenneth Branagh, about some young guy who was in Moscow outwitting Russians (KG played the heavy) who were going to crash the financial system. So the meme-ducks being gotten into row.
    It seems more like theatre than reality. In which case one wonders what outcomes are scripted (of course, vs what outcomes may result by not all the actors being rehearsed on the script).

  34. Tyler says:

    Yes. Spent my first decade in Sharptown. Haven’t been back in years. Glad to hear its stayed more or less the same.

  35. Trillium says:

    Bob Carr, a former Australian foreign minister, suggests that intelligence reporting is sometimes no more illuminating than Economist articles. Maybe Carr’s view would be different if he was a military commander instead of a foreign minister, but is he somewhat right?
    Given all the money spent on intelligence organizations and bureaucracies, could a state be better served by shifting resources to increased diplomatic reporting or open source capabilities?

  36. turcopolier says:

    As someone who has worked in all aspects of the intelligence trade, I would say that for the most part it is true that open source material suffices. The exception would be the need to discern the secret intentions of an adversary or specific information needed to conduct military operations. p l

  37. different clue says:

    The question could apply to Merkel, Blair, Cameron, etc. (One would wish otherwise).
    But it feels to me as if Slaughter, Nuland, etc. are in it for love, not money. Would I be wrong?

  38. different clue says:

    If the Assad government can win a crushing victory over all the rebel groups, then the Syrian Christian presence may well continue and even regain former size. Especially if a victorious Assad government is very selective about which refugees it re-admits and under what terms and conditions.

  39. Trillium says:

    did you travel at all by bus at the time? During a short trip to Turkey several years ago, I was quite impressed by the inter-city bus system. Buses were always sparkling as they were washed at nearly every rest stop, and steward-boys would bring around complementry coffee and cookies. Way better than Greyhound.

  40. Fred says:

    FB Ali,
    I think that is correct. For example the French are trying to impose their own domestic austerity program. It’s already creating problems within their own government. I don’t see them ponying up a few billion to bail out Ukraine at the expense of French nationals. Equally I don’t see anyone in the EU wanting a few million more residents with EU passports and no job prospects back in Ukraine. Apparently Obama and company believe our own underreported unemployment numbers. I doubt the Greeks or Spanish have any doubt about theirs.

  41. The Twisted Genius says:

    I agree with what Colonel Lang said. A caveat about open source capabilities is the need for analysts that can reliably see through all the lies, disinformation, distortions, and deceptions to find the useful nuggets of information. Open source information is also the battlefield of the information operations practitioners. All source is the best way to go.

  42. turcopolier says:

    “All source is best.” Yes but at what price and for what purpose? Much of what is collected is encyclopedic or just trash busywork. We do a pretty good job here with open source material. pl

  43. turcopolier says:

    The “Dev Genc” insurgency was in full bloom at the time. That would not have been a good idea. pl

  44. The Twisted Genius says:

    “We do a pretty good job here with open source material.”
    Yep. You got me there. My hesitation came from seeing some astoundingly wrong conclusions reached by analysts using open source info they did not really understand, especially in the technical arena. The internet is no place for gullible newbs. Happily, we have a great abundance of talented, yet cynical, old farts here to see through the bullshit.

  45. nick b says:

    Cool video. Do you kayak in those smaller crafts? I have long considered one, but a much larger Sea Eagle type (suitable for fishing). Agreed, on the undeveloped rivers. Having lived lived on the banks of the Hudson in NY and NJ, and between the Navesink and Shrewsbury in NJ, I’m far more used to well developed areas by the water. There are a few lucky homeowners on the Nanticoke, but the largest homes we saw seemed be owned by beavers.

  46. turcopolier says:

    Everything in the intelligence business depends on the quality of the brains involved. pl

  47. The Twisted Genius says:

    nick b,
    I have a 12 foot kayak that tracks very well. My son’s is very similar. The ones in that video are a slalom kayak and that weird looking bathtub toy is a freestyle kayak. I had to look that one up. I’ve never seen anything like that before. My kayak has a large cockpit making it easier for me to get my broke down old ass in and out of it. I use a sprayskirt to keep from swamping. This year I want to make a sail for it this year. nothing big, just a square meter or so.
    That Sea Eagle of yours looks pretty nice. Back in my ROTC days, we took a lot of trips in inflatables in the Adirondacks including the upper Hudson and the Saint Regis area. Great fun.

  48. Fred says:

    Under President Obama 20% of women attending college are victims of sexual assault. Good thing we are spending time talking about the billionaire bigot and his comments to his fellow adulterer rather than asking why all the Congress is pushing for everyone to go to college:
    I wonder just what definition they used in that report?

  49. D says:

    This is fotage from an overrun SAA position near the Golan Heights. What was used – FAE or mustard gas?
    Fk Dahl

  50. zanzibar says:

    The following comment in the NYT review of Elizabeth Warren’s book says it all:
    A telling anecdote involves a dinner that Ms. Warren had with Lawrence H. Summers, then the director of the National Economic Council and a top economic adviser to President Obama. The dinner took place in the spring of 2009, after the oversight panel had produced its third report, concluding that American taxpayers were at far greater risk to losses in TARP than the Treasury had let on.
    After dinner, “Larry leaned back in his chair and offered me some advice,” Ms. Warren writes. “I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don’t listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People — powerful people — listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: They don’t criticize other insiders.
    “I had been warned,” Ms. Warren concluded.

  51. SAC Brat says:

    Sweet!. Other than a pony for Christmas and whirled peas, I’d like to see a Chas Freeman – Bill Black presidential run. “Americans for Americans”
    From the archives:

  52. Thomas says:

    Why weep? It is what we have been talking here all along. It is ironic that speech was for a public sector pension conference seeing that the elites want to do away with all pensions.
    Great take on sanctions:
    “Many such responses involve sanctions, always the first refuge of political poseurs. Sanctions are useless except as part of an active bargaining process, but they are now commonly imposed as a politically more correct substitute for diplomatic dialogue and negotiation. Such punitive measures are no substitute at all for diplomacy. They usually have little or no effect on the government they are ostensibly intended to influence, except to get its back up.
    Sanctions do, of course, provide a convenient way for politicians to show outrage, seem to be doing something, and avoid a debate about their own responsibility for whatever happened.. They make sure they have no stake in the private trade and investment ties they are disrupting. Sanctions shove the costs of foreign policy failures onto businesses, workforces, and consumers in the country imposing them as well as those in the society on which they are imposed. They are typically then evaluated in terms of the pain they inflict, not the behavior they induce.”

  53. FB Ali says:

    Thank you for posting this link. Freeman’s talk is a brilliant analysis of the world we find ourselves living in. As a bonus one gets some beautiful phrasing sprinkled throughout.
    I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand where we are today, how we got here, and also get a sense of where we are being taken.
    I don’t know if you meant it in that way, but it really is cause for us all, and not just Americans, to weep at his not being allowed to serve his country in that critical position (and thereby inject some sanity into its assessments and policies).
    (Incidentally, Matlock got the speech from Chas Freeman’s website –

  54. Ryan says:

    Found this graphic of Russia/Ukraine, courtesy of the WaPo. The map and the unit information are from the Royal United Services Institute.
    The Risk! players in DC and NYC might want to consider it before engaging in more stupidity.

  55. turcopolier says:

    Someone explain to this traveler from another time what it is that Sterling has done that is illegal. I have not heard any mention of ACTIONS of his that were detrimental to Blacks in connection with the team. What he did was talk to this airhead in private and for that he is being forced to sell his equity in the team? There are strong precedents in US law for the right to hateful speech both private and public. This is not Europe with its ban on all things Nazi. I watched Gwen Ifill and Donna Brazile discuss this on Candy Crowley’s morning show. (She is gaining weight again)The sub-text of the discussion was the need for “dialogue” on race. The problem is that what Blacks generally mean by this is a one sided (their side) chance to harangue Whites who meekly submit to this thrashing. Another sub-text for this chat was the idea that people are not allowed to have such thoughts even within the confines of their skulls. pl

  56. Ryan says:

    He hasn’t done anything that is illegal. Sterling is a jerk in more ways than simply this. For years a number of people have known his views and I include his players. Hurt feelings notwithstanding didn’t prevent them from crying all the way to the bank.
    This should be noted, too. Sterling doesn’t just say ugly things about blacks. He doesn’t care for whites either and won’t hire them for his team. No one has brought this up in the media. What all this is about is cultural Marxism
    America will truly be a free country when a person can say whatever the hell he wants and the worst that can happen to him is to be guilty of bad manners. His livelihood or his overall reputation cannot be destroyed as has happened to better men than Sterling by groups like the ADL or the $PLC that specialized in character assassination.
    Having written this I have no sympathy for Sterling because he has through his donations to the NAACP and other leftwing organizations helped enable the very people who are raising the most hell about this. Talk about being hoisted by one’s own petard!

  57. turcopolier says:

    This country is about personal freedom and liberty in the context of limited collectivist control. I don’t care what an ugly man Sterling may be. What I care about is his right as a US citizen to say whatever he bloody pleases to say. pl

  58. Fred says:

    Why the press, Hollywood, civil rights leaders and politicians are behind this witch hunt is a good question. If it’s okay for TMZ to release this edited recording of a private conversation (that hasn’t been confirmed by either party) of a billionaire and his mistress then why stop there? Why aren’t these modern day mccarthyites as outraged and concerned about teachers, principles, college professors and yes students. All they need to do is demand Facebook and others get to work crunching the data so they can use the same social pressures against those people.
    Surely the politicians so up in arms about this will continue this principled stand and let private companies record any conversation anywhere at any time. I wonder if Sterling has any friends at the ACLU. I can only imagine the group of people who are going to get sued in a civil suit over Sterling’s financial losses, not to mention mental anguish over his rights being violated. If they get away with this imagine what they’ll do to someone with no power, money or connections.

  59. optimax says:

    Last night there was a show about minorities on television. A number of famous Black comedians talked about the popularity of Amos and Andy and the brilliance of the comedians who played them. The sad part is the NAACP had the network pull the show because they say it perpetuated negative stereotypes. Think Archie Bunker. Ethnic nationalist powers are always willing to limit the voices they don’t approve of by destroying their careers.
    If people want to boycott Sterling’s games, fine, but institutionalizing thought crimes undermines the foundation of our country.

  60. optimax says:

    Mark Dice shows the absurdity of today’s thinking on racism.

  61. Ryan says:

    I happen to agree with you, sir. I noted above that what he did isn’t illegal. It is protected under the 1st amendment.
    What was that Voltaire said about defending one’s right to free speech while disagreeing with the content?
    What I was doing was to point out what I consider to be hypocrisy from those doing the most complaining. If they are going to get onto him for this they need to do exactly the same for the other stuff. Of course they won’t, either because they are ignorant or they are cultural Marxists.

  62. crf says:

    A short article on how Polio in Pakistan is making a comeback, because of threats against health-care workers.
    Many Pakistani leaders are suspicious of vaccination drives because the US perverted this medically essential process in order to steal blood samples from Abbottabad’s citizens in an effort to determine whether BinLaden or his relatives were living there.
    Other countries are undoubtedly and (unfortunately) justifiably suspicious of all Western health care initiatives in their countries now.
    Many facets of foreign policy of the US have been subsumed by military considerations. This has its origins in a weak president and congress in all areas of foreign policy save military engagements. You can argue that the military is undermining foreign policy, and is actually making America and the world weaker.
    If “getting” Bin Laden means polio becomes prevalent in poor, unstable countries suspicious of US interests, then there’s a strong case to be made that it wasn’t worth getting him. In particular, ask yourself the question 20 years from now, when Bin Laden will surely be dead of old age, but with Polio alive and infectious in Pakistan, and still a cause of strife between the two countries.

  63. Vaclav Linek says:

    Col. Lang,
    You may have seen this already but thought of
    you when I did:
    Vaclav Linek

  64. turcopolier says:

    vaclav linek
    Thanks. Rothko’s madness seems a mystic gift to the world. pl

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