Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Syria in October

      Results of an air strike near Damascus October 30, 2012 REUTERS/Maawia Al-Naser/Shaam News Network/Handout

After a very tense summer, the outside parties to Syria's civil war have stepped back from the brink.  The war goes on, but the rebels at least are being starved of weapons by their sponsors.  The Americans are worried about weapons falling into the hands of jihadis.  The Turks, Qataris and Saudis seem to be heeding American doubts.  I have no information on how the Government is doing for supplies, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear the Russians are quietly starving them as well.

In any case, the Syrian military has been notably ineffective in suppressing the rebels despite huge advantages in equipment and manpower.  I'd give a win on points to the rebels so-far for simply surviving. 

So it seems like there will be a cold, miserable winter in Syria with no resolution.  Nevertheless, Syria remains a powder keg.  By far the most important issue in the Middle East today.  That's because (as I've said before) all the regional fault lines run through it.  Syria may end up like Afghanistan where all the regional players would rather have instability than a solid government favouring a different player.  In Syria, its the Iranians against the Saudis.  Neither will accept a government beholden to the other.  So continued war is the safest bet.  As long as nobody wins it.  The Syrian people don't enter into the calculation, unfortunately. 

Squid News

Bad news in Squidville. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012


I like silent pictures and I always have. They are often so much more beautiful than sound pictures are. Perhaps they had to be.
Akira Korosawa


Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune, Venice 1967

Friday, October 26, 2012

Finally, The Last Iran War Post

      A B-52  Photo:US Air Force

This article in the Guardian is the last nail in the Iran War coffin.  The UK's Attorney General has a legal opinion that use of UK bases for a pre-emptive attack on Iran could be illegal.

The war that I've always said wouldn't happen is now dead.  The US Air Force cannot carry out an extended campaign against Iran without UK bases.  They need UK bases for B52s and Diego Garcia for B2s.  Of course the US could still use their bases in the US and Guam, but that radically reduces the tonnage they can drop.  And use of those bases makes for some difficult overflight problems. The US Navy can still attack from aircraft carriers and the Air Force can use regional bases, but they can't stop the Iranians with conventional weapons.  Without strategic bombing, the only way for the US to destroy the Iranian program is with nuclear weapons.  And that's not on.

You can stick a fork in it now.  We will still hear lots about it, because the general public does not grasp the operational constraints.  But it will be just talk.  This game is over.


I should have said that this kind of finding means, in my opinion, that Britain will not go to war over the idea of Iranian nuclear weapons.   This is a policy document pretending to be a legal document.  It moves Britain closer to the overall European position. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they're going to have some pretty annoying virtues. 
Elizabeth Taylor

The Stretch

      Photo: Jason Reed Reuters

I haven't been posting about the US Election because there seemed to be too much going on for a good overview.  Now that the debates are done, things are clearer.  Just as everyone expected at the outset, it will be close.  Turnout is the game now.  Despite Republican claims, Obama should have the superior ground game.  He's put a lot of effort and money into local campaign offices, far more than Romney.  And he started with what many people think was the best organization ever in 2008.  In addition, he still has the Electoral math in his favour.  While the national polls are tied, Obama still has a lead in the swing state polls.  He's ahead by around 2 points in Iowa,  2 points in Ohio, 3 points in Wisconsin and 2 points in Nevada.  Virginia and New Hampshire are tied.  Florida and Colorado are leaning Romney.  Right now, Obama has 237 Electoral votes in the bag and needs only 33 more to win.  Romney on the other hand, needs 64 to win.  He really needs Florida and Ohio to do it. 

So I'm still expecting an Obama victory.  But it will be close.  How close depends on turnout, as I said.  It also depends on Republican election day voter suppression.  What kind of plans they have and how successful they will be is unknowable at this point.  But they've done it before, especially in Ohio.  However, this time they've lost multiple times in court, and vigilance is high.  Unlike Kerry, the Obama campaign have a lot of weapons.  So while shenanigans may occur, I doubt they can be as effective as 2004.  Karl Rove is still around, but he doesn't command the same army.

Lastly, I thought Obama wiped the floor with Romney at the third debate.  Mitt was red and sweating by the end.  He was lucky to get the China question at the end, for which he had a good answer.  Otherwise, it would have been a complete embarrasment.  But there was something else in the China answer that got me thinking.  What's the most effective way to reduce your debt level?  Inflate it away.  I'm wondering if Romney's math starts to make more sense if you put in a 4% inflation rate.  However, the economic conditions favouring inflation seem a long way away from the current situation. 


This improbable creature is a jewel caterpillar.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Any trend that can’t go on forever, won’t.
Howard Stein

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fun Facts To Know and Share

     Photo: Kennan Ward

In Churchill Manitoba, people leave their cars unlocked in case someone needs to get away from a Polar Bear. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Practically the only way to dry the swamp of radical Islam is through economic development and an improved standard of living. 
Yitzhak Rabin

Sunday, October 7, 2012


A week is a long time in politics. 
Harold Wilson

European Population Density

Thursday, October 4, 2012

My Pix

Clouds, Toronto, September 2012

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


     Photo By Jason Miller/Getty Images

My hero this baseball season is Ichiro.  The most graceful man in baseball.  He is so famous in Japan that his agent claims he will receive any package addressed simply "Ichiro".

This season, the 38 year old's career was fading.  There was no way he would make the playoffs with Seattle and his time was running out.  In a delightful turn of events, he was traded to the Yankees.  There he had to start at the bottom, playing left field and at the bottom of the batting order.  But since joining the Yankees, he as been a man on fire.  In his last 10 games (as of Oct. 1), he's batting .356.  Girardi has put him back in right field, and he was hitting 1st or 2nd in the lineup this weekend. 

Ichiro is having a career year.  I only hope he gets to show his stuff in his 1st World Series.