Category Archives: Headlines

Russia Today: Living Under the Soviet Union’s Shadow?

For more years than I can remember since 1992, I have wondered if the West squandered an opportunity to help bring democracy to Russia. Much like during the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, when people accused others of “losing” Eastern Europe after WW2. It was a UVA Professor who was very influential to my thinking who said that Eastern Europe wasn’t ours to “lose” – the Soviets already occupied it. Although surely one could argue that a geopolitically naïve Franklin Roosevelt erred greatly in agreeing to let Stalin take Berlin – and have his spheres of influence. But then, the frail and dying Roosevelt believed Stalin when he promised to allow free elections.

But could Russia have evolved differently today had Boris Yeltsin had some more help and encouragement?

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Spies Will Doom Putin

I have long felt that the effects of the clandestine services have been under-appreciated in world conflict. But then, they are clandestine. Certainly the efforts to deceive the Nazis during D-Day – convincing Hitler that the landing would be at Calais – probably meant the difference between success and catastrophic failure. If Stalin had paid attention to his master spy – telling him about Operation Barbarossa – perhaps the Nazi invasion wouldn’t have been so catastrophic. In today’s WSJ, a veteran CIA operative is explaining what will happen as a result of Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine.

I thought it was worth repeating.


By Douglas London

March 23, 2022 1:12 pm ET

After invading Ukraine, he’s tightening the screws the way the Soviets did—and that will help the CIA recruit Russians.

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Firm Fixed Price

Posted By lex, on December 13th, 2011

Congress attempts to clap a stopper over the ballooning acquisition costs of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter:

Future Pentagon purchases of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter from Lockheed Martin will have to be based on fixed-price contracts under a defense authorization measure approved on Monday by a joint congressional panel.

The provision, part of the National Defense Authorization Act, would require fixed-price contracts beginning with the sixth low-rate production batch of fighters from Lockheed Martin Corp .

The Pentagon is currently trying to finalize a contract for 30 fighters – its fifth lot of aircraft being produced even as final testing of the radar-evading jet fighter continues.

The Pentagon entered into an initial contract with Lockheed on Friday for production of Lot 5 aircraft. The agreement established an initial price ceiling of $4 billion for the planes, but a final contract will not be concluded until sometime in 2012.

Lawmakers inserted the fixed-price language into the bill after learning about Lot 5 contract, angered that the decision had been taken even as the Senate was debating whether or not to require the deal to be a fixed-cost contract.

The advantage to the taxpayer of a firm fixed price contract vehicle is that all of the risk is shouldered by the vendor. It’s generally suitable for commercial off-the-shelf equipment with casual value added, but for bleeding edge technologies, that risk can become unbearable. Should the vendor find a way to reduce per unit cost of manufacture, whether through efficiencies in time or by cycles of learning, the “extra” cash goes straight to the corporate vault and thence to stockholders.

On the other hand, a “cost plus fixed fee” contract places the risk on the government, as the vendor may – within the constraints of the total contract value – charge for whatever additional labor, manufacturing and non-recurring engineering work is required, while being guaranteed a profit.

If the F-35 is as mature as its proponents profess, this could be a good deal for Lockheed Martin. If it’s not, well: It’ll be a dog’s breakfast.

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War, and War’s Alarms

Posted by lex, on October 27th, 2011

It’s been a little while since a German chancellor spoke this way:

Peace should not be taken for granted if the euro fails, German chancellor Merkel told MPs Wednesday (26 October) ahead of the eurozone summit where an increase of the bail-out fund firepower may lead to Germany’s own state assets being taken as collateral.

In a dark blue jacket reflecting the mood in and about the eurozone, Merkel abandoned her usual cautious rhetoric warned outright of a war.

“Nobody should take for granted another 50 years of peace and prosperity in Europe. They are not for granted. That’s why I say: If the euro fails, Europe fails,” Merkel said, followed by a long applause from all political groups.

Having cannibalized their national military forces to subsidize growingly unaffordable social programs, they’d have to go at with plowshares and pitchforks, prolly.

Which, “Peace in our time,” and so on.

Europe just chose a unique way of getting there.

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Holder Responds

Posted By lex, on October 8th, 2011

In re: Gunwalker.

Didn’t get the memo. People with questions about how hundreds of assault weapons ended up crossing the border to foment mayhem are impugning the motives of brave public servants for cheap partisan points. No one is responsible, it just sort of happened.

Best bit for last: Bush.

And so on.

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The Syrian Navy

By lex, on August 14th, 2011

Bashar al Assad’s naval forces are getting into the ruthless suppression of protesters gig:

Syrian warships have joined a military assault on protesters in the northern port city of Latakia, activists say.

At least 19 people have been killed in the operation, according to activists and human rights groups.

Explosions and gunfire have been reported in several districts of the city which have seen large protests against the Syrian government.

More than 1,700 people have reportedly died in the six-month uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

The operation began on Saturday with armoured vehicles and troops moving in.

Some 20 tanks and personnel carriers were said to be taking part in the Latakia assault along with at least two gunboats.

One witness told Reuters news agency by telephone: “I can see the silhouettes of two grey [naval] vessels. They are firing their guns and the impact is landing on al-Ramleh, al-Filistini and al-Shaab neighbourhoods.”

Assad has kept up his brutal attacks on the civilian populace despite protests from just about everyone but Iran. And nothing much can be done by the West about tanks and troops engaged in slaughtering their countrymen.

But gunboats at sea in the Med: That’s our lake, and there’s a plausibly deniable solution for that.

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Posted by lex, on October 8, 2010

Retired Marine four-star and Obama NSC director James L. Jones announced that he is but the latest member of the White House cabinet to step down, no doubt to work on his memoirs and “spend more time with family”:

A retired Marine general, Jones brought decades of national security experience to the post and military credibility to an administration whose senior civilian members have never served in uniform. He expanded the National Security Council to include agencies responsible for American energy, economic and environmental policy, believing that those issues would play a far larger role in shaping U.S. defense and diplomatic strategy in the decades to come.

But Jones, a towering if aloof figure, often had trouble fitting into a National Security Council culture dominated by several hard-charging veterans of Obama’s campaign who have known the president for years. His condition for initially taking the job – that he would be the last one to see Obama on the most pressing national security issues of the day – was often unmet.

Ever the faithful soldier, Jones carried the president’s water by questioning the need for additional forces in Afghanistan. He is to be replaced by Thomas E. Donilon, a lawyer, career member of the Democratic foreign policy establishment and close confident of Vice President Joe Biden.

Among Donilon’s many achievements while in public service was his work as Executive Vice President for Law and Policy matters at Fannie Mae: The incoming NSC director made millions while in that role, and was noted for successfully lobbying against increased federal oversight and regulation. All this, of course, before the federal government was forced to seize control of the government sponsored enterprise in the wake of the sub-prime mortgage meltdown that wrecked the national economy.

We are in the very best of hands.

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Losing Turkey

Posted by lex, on June 26, 2010

Commentary‘s Micheal Rubin charts the regression of Kemal Attaturk’s secularist vision back to an older cultural imperative:

While Turkish liberals, businessmen, and Western diplomats took solace in Erdogan’s outreach to Europe, his motivation was cynical. His ideological constituents had no interest in Europe, and Erdogan himself is intolerant of European liberalism and secularism. He criticized the European Court of Human Rights for failing to consult Islamic scholars when it upheld a ban on headscarves in public schools—a ban that dates back to Ataturk’s original reforms.

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Things fall apart

Posted by lex, on June 14th, 2007

Bad just got worse:

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