Syria – III September 11, 2013September 11, 2013 CBRX James Valente: “What ever happened with CBRX?” It had a 1-for-8 reverse split, so if you had 800 shares before (suggested here a couple of years ago at $2.50) you now have 100 (with a basis of $20). With the stock now at $8 and change — aren’t you glad you bought it with money you could truly afford to lose? Even so, Guru reports: “They are profitable! Consensus is they’ll do 0.56/share in EPS (royalty revenue growth from partners coupled with almost no operating expense). Could grow to a $1 in four years. You can hang on. I don’t see any product excitement, but this could chug along. ” BOREF A nice overview here in the current Flight International. Also: a presentation by Wheeltug‘s CEO scheduled for Tuesday in Toulouse to the Royal Aeronautical Society has had to be moved to a larger venue — the symposium room (which fits 100 people) proved too small for demand. Which is noteworthy, because Toulouse is home to Airbus. Both these data points (and the CNBC interview linked to a few weeks ago, not to mention its letters of intent with 11 airlines) suggest that WheelTug may be well past the “kooky” stage. Indeed, its two competitors — to this layman’s eye — are at the “clunky” stage. Their solutions to the eTaxi challenge range from needlessly large and complex (Safran/Honeywell, which has signed no customers yet) to the gi-normous (what appears to be a street-sweeper size robot thing that may be an even less elegant approach). None of this guarantees success. But at a $60 million market cap — less than a fourth what this gorgeous Cezanne fetched — WheelTug’s sparsely-but-publicly-traded grandparent, Borealis, continues to strike me as an extraordinary lottery ticket. By now, I’d guess any of you with money you can truly afford to lose already have your 50 or 500 shares. Newcomers to this page should use “limit orders” if they decide to hop on, as even small orders can move the price significantly when no limit is specified. SYRIA I have a friend who, with best of intentions and purest of hearts, when faced with a difficult decision, says, “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know!” That’s not necessarily helpful, but it sure resonates with a lot of us these days as we think about Syria. Or did, at least, before the potentially wonderful development where, just maybe, Russia will join the world in requiring Assad — and Assad has seemingly assented — to cede control of his chemical weapons (which the day before he didn’t even acknowledge having). Yes, it’s a huge challenge to secure and destroy them all, made more so in the midst of a civil war. But if Russia is pressuring its ally Assad to cooperate and the US is pressuring the rebels to cooperate (and why would they not want to see chemical weapons taken off the table?), then the “only” folks who might actively work to screw this up are Al-Qaeda and related groups . . . but presumably, they’d like to mess with or acquire those weapons no matter what action we take or fail to take. So to me, this is extremely good news . . . and conceivably the beginning of further cooperation that could help broker peace talks — but at least a way for us not to have to lob hundreds of missiles into Syria: a red line was crossed and now, although we didn’t kill anyone (least of all innocent civilians), there were consequences: we confiscated Assad’s chemical arsenal. Lots could still go wrong, and the Syrian civil war rages on, and boy is there room in the world for miscalculation and catastrophe. What else is new? But maybe this wrenching decision — should we strike Syria or not — has been sidestepped. It sure feels that way. And that would be great. An added benefit has been the quality of debate the situation has produced. Even in Congress. It wasn’t just Frank Luntz writing focus-tested talking points for the Republicans to recite, many of them misleading, and Democrats doing our typically less-than-perfect best at refuting them with talking points of our own. (If only Frank would write ours! Which at dinner one night years ago he told me that for $5 million a year he’d be happy to do. He has no particular party allegiance. He’s just good at this stuff.) So if you have the time and are not already sick of this, you might want to listen to Chris Hayes, and then read Kevin Kinsella. Both of these were written before “the Russian deal” was put on the table. Presumably, their thoughts (especially Kevin’s) may now be different. But when a lot of us were at the “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know!” stage just a few days ago, here’s how two very bright people of good will expressed their opposing views. First . . . A must-watch case against military action is made by Chris Hayes here — even as he acknowledges that his own father, “an ex-Jesuit community organizer and a true moral beacon in my life,” disagrees. Six minutes. And now . . . What a left-leaning California venture capitalist friend sent his Senators and Representative before things took their unexpectedly hopeful turn: Dear [ . . . . ]: I have not been vocal on much of the Congressional agenda over the years – since most of it involves domestic politics where it is usually cathartic to thrash out the various partisan points of view. But in foreign policy America must speak with one voice and that voice is the President of the United States. You are probably inundated – like most of Congress – with heavy constituent sentiment against the strike on Syria. However, I need to express my strong contrary view to you about the Syria situation. To cut to the chase, if you do not vote to support President Obama on this issue, I would most likely never support you again and I would most likely work to have you defeated. I feel that strongly about this. Why do I feel this way? Only pedantic fools (like Vladmir Putin) question the overwhelming evidence about the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. There is no question that the Syrian regime used sarin gas against its own people. That is not the issue. The issue the neo-isolationists seize upon is, “It’s not our fight. Why should we get involved?” American isolationism is a strong part of our country’s psyche, from the earliest days of the Republic when we were admonished by George Washington of the evils of foreign entanglements. But our protection by the two great oceans ended when we were attacked on December 7, 1941. But what if the isolationists in the Senate had not defeated US membership in President Wilson’s hand-crafted League of Nations after World War I and that body had prevented Hitler from occupying the Rhineland in 1936. What if the League had stood for the integrity of nation states so that irredentist ideologues like the Sudeten Germans could not dismember Czechoslovakia – and involve that hapless British Prime Minister Chamberlain in the scheme? 9/11 above all showed us again that the great oceans offer no protection. Yet, the knee-jerk isolationist impulse rises to the fore as it has so many times before in our history with disastrous consequences. But the isolationists just want to hand pick their analogies – however misplaced – that serve their purpose: Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, etc. but they don’t mention Grenada, Panama, Kosovo. In fact, brief boots on the ground or no boots on the ground, seem to have served the US and the world’s interests very well. The isolationists prevented the US from helping even Britain in the early days of World War II. The fact is that the Lend-Lease act was a legal contortion by the Roosevelt Administration to get around severe isolationist-led congressional strictures on helping belligerents. We didn’t get full on board against the monstrous ideology of National Socialism until Pearl Harbor. Europe had been completely overrun by May 1940. And just how did letting Hitler overrun all of Europe work out for us? Read the just published third volume of Rick Atkinson’s magnificent World War II trilogy, The Guns at Last Light, to see the blood and treasure expended to take back the continent of Europe after the US had stood by from September 1939 until December 1941 – more than two years before only an attack by Japan brought us into the war. Go to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam where I just visited last week. She and her sister were gassed at Bergen-Belsen in March 1945, one month before the British liberated the camp. How did the Isolationist-caused delay work out for them or the other 6 million Jews, gypsies, communists, homosexuals and political opponents of Nazism? Sadly, history so often shows us that the fight gets brought to us anyway and the flames are a lot higher than if we had put it out earlier. Isolationists are always right, of course….until they are wrong – and then they couldn’t be more disastrously wrong. Can we or should we get into every fight to right the world’s wrongs? Of course not. We indeed are not the world’s policemen. But we are the world’s 911 Marine force when there is something that can easily erupt out of hand and threaten our vital national interests. Here we are talking about not only the horror of chemical weapons but also Iran possessing nuclear weapons. And perhaps that is where the sheep and goats need to be divvied up. If as an American, you are just fine and dandy with Iran having nuclear weapons, then oppose the Syria strike – because we will surely show Iran that they can crank up those thousands of centrifuges and move full speed ahead enriching uranium to make bombs. And they will gladly start up their heavy water reactor to make plutonium weapons. The isolationists carp, “What happens next? What if Assad uses chemical weapons again? What if this, what if that?” It is impossible to decipher all the permutations of outcomes of doing practically anything, even crossing the street. But one thing is very predictable, viz., tyranny runs downhill and it needs to be blocked at every path and its direction reversed at every opportunity. Should we have a tougher agenda in Syria…including regime change? Probably. But if we take out enough of his military assets, regime change will happen of its own accord. In the end – whenever that is – Assad has to go. So we probably shouldn’t be overly concerned about when. So we’re stuck with unpredictability. But it cannot paralyze us to inaction in the face of this outrage. No one can answer all these “what if” questions, let alone the president. The better question is: What if we don’t act? Syria’s regime under the Assads has been horrific from the get-go. In 1982 when the Muslim Brotherhood began an uprising in the town of Hama, Assad Senior surrounded the town with Syrian artillery for 27 days and shelled it into oblivion. From 20,000 to 40,000 civilians were estimated to have been killed. Now we are confronted by the son’s ruthless regime which launched a poison gas attack on his own people killing 1400, among them 400 children. Do we let him get away with it? Do we send a signal to every brutal dictator in the world that anything goes … chemical, biological, nuclear weapons? Much has been made by the neo-isolationists about the legality of striking Syria. 189 countries have signed the treaty banning the use of chemical and biological weapons. Do we just sign treaties and ignore them? What is the point of having a treaty at all? The UN is just a polite debating society. And It was deliberately constructed so that the Five Permanent Members of the Security Council can veto anything that they perceive to threaten their respective vital (or not so vital) national interests. Russia certainly and probably China would use their veto to squash the Syria attack. So the mantra of getting UN approval is just nonsense. Russia who sells arms to Syria, has use of a Mediterranean port of Syria’s (the only one outside the former USSR) and who provided nuclear technology to Syria and sells them massive amounts of weapons has “unclean hands” and, in every legal system I know of, it would have to recuse itself. Not Putin – each of whose domestic political opponents ends up in jail charged with some crime. So now, what exactly is the point of seeing if the UN will act? It won’t. Remember If Russia had not been boycotting the UN Security Council in 1950 (because the US would not agree to unseat the Nationalist Chinese in favor of the Chinese Communists at the UN), the UN Resolution to turn back the overrunning of the Korean peninsula by Kim Il-sung would have been vetoed. How would that have worked out for us? It is the US role to lead because we are the Indispensable Nation. Because we are the Last Best Hope on Earth. That’s why we act. Of course we are war weary, but when a nation needs to stand up to tyranny, we live in a world of midgets. The United States of America stills needs to stand up. At the end of the day, Americans have to ask themselves, Is there nothing so outrageous – gassing children to death in their cribs – that we will not go to war for? If not us, who? If not now, when? So, I hope you will stand with common sense, decency and responsibility and show some leadership to your constituents, not just be a weather vane in the wind, tacking with every shift of public opinion. Sincerely, Kevin J. Kinsella At the time — had I been in Congress and had it come to that — I would have voted with the President. And the Secretary of State. And the former Secretary of State. And Chris Hayes’ father. And Kevin Kinsella — albeit, with misgivings. With luck, we may never get to see how that would have turned out.