Turkey

If we’re so keen to stick to Paris should we feel guilty about nuclear power?

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Australia seems keen to stick to the Paris Accord. Despite knowing whatever we do on saving the planet through following the politics of Paris will result in no palpable change in world temperatures at considerable economic cost to overstretched taxpayers. If we seem so keen to do our bit for tokenism, why not copy so many signatories and build nuclear plants? After all if we don’t want to be censured for abandoning the accord should we feel any sense of guilt if we adopt the very same CO2 limiting measures of others? Safety in numbers – literally.

CM was privy to a meeting with a former US Navy officer who was speaking about how negative PR can create false narratives. Nuclear power was one of them. He argued that the US & Japan were losing the PR war hence technological leadership on civilian nuclear power. The likes of Toshiba-Westinghouse are now shrinking minnows whose dwindling order book looks like the victim of a sunset industry when in reality it has been terrible program management. However why should it?

Nuclear power is set to be 14% of global electricity generation by 2040 from 11% today. Emerging Asia get the practicalities of nuclear power. Affordable and sustainable baseload with virtually no emissions.

Of course the horrible outcomes of poorly managed nuclear plants has come at great financial cost as experienced most recently  with Fukushima but the safety record of nuclear power is astonishingly good. Quantum levels more people die in coal mine accidents every year than the combined deaths from radiation from Chernobyl or Fukushima meltdowns since either occurred.

The misplaced fear of Fukushima was so high at the time that Americans across the Pacific were stocking up on radiation masks and Geiger counters in preparation of impending irradiation. It seemed the further one got away from the reactor the more hysteric people became. Deaths in the US as a result of the Fukushima meltdown? Zero!

As it stands, the US has two nuclear plants under construction at present which are saddled with delays and costly overruns based on incompetent execution. The Chinese have twenty in the build phase. India 7. Korea and the UAE 4 each. Russia 3. Even Bangladesh & Pakistan have two in the pipeline using technologies outside of the US/Japan.

There are about 150 power reactors with a total gross capacity of about 160GWe on order with about 300 more proposed. Where are the former world leaders in power technology? Next to nowhere. Cowering in a corner and allowing themselves to be beaten up senseless over false statistics. Where is the PR reporting reality? It’s as if they’ve given up. Where is the media lambasting China, India and other nations for putting our lives at risk? That’s right – nowhere.

What probably escapes many people is that for all the negative news cycle around nuclear power and the thirst for renewable alternatives, many Americans are already surrounded by active nuclear plants. While they visit a zoo or the beach they are blissfully unaware that at all the naval ports dotted around the mainland (e.g. California, Connecticut, NY, Florida, DC, Texas, South Carolina etc) and islands (e.g. Hawaii, Japan) there are 100s of nuclear reactors sitting safely in close proximity to millions of civilians. Yet where is the outrage? Not a peep.

Shout from the hilltops at the efficiency of renewables all you want. Then explain why those with higher levels of renewables as baseload power end up with the highest incidents of blackouts and steepest prices.

South Australia is the case in point. Australia is home to the cheapest materials (gas, coal and uranium) to make affordable electricity but we have caved to the green madness and saddled ourselves with punitive power prices to meet goals based on unproven and often whistle blown manipulated science. If climate scientists were subject to the same punitive damages that players in the financial industry are then it is likely the “targets” leading to our ecological disaster would be pared back to such a degree we’d just keep calm and carry on. Yet because there is no risk of jail sentences the tax dollars get misappropriated, funding an industry whose survival and growth depends on fear. Talk about a lack of ethics.

Even worse we want to double down on this inefficient renewable technology (where claims are often made on 100% capacity rather than the 20% they truly operate on) despite having empirical evidence of its all too obvious shortcomings. Virtue signaling actions such as blowing up old coal fired power stations has ironically proven the stupidest of moves in that all the while demand hasn’t changed reductions in reliable baseload supply makes us vulnerable.

Throw on the desire to electrify the automobile  and we already know that existing base load won’t cope with the increased demands. Take a look at Britain as an example. Apart from the risks of losing massive fuel tax levies (around 5% of total government revenue) the power industry’s current projections of new electricity generation additions can’t meet the expected demand if we all plug our EV in overnight.

So Australia should quit worrying about what others think and act in its own best interests. Maybe Canberra needs a PR agency more than the nuclear industry does. High time to look at real data and sustainability.

 

Honorable lies to defend the freedom we’re prepared to give up

In a world increasingly pushing for safe spaces, trigger warnings and legal remediation for hurt feelings, the ANZAC Memorial at Be’er Sheva makes a mockery of today’s society. Two gentlemen from the First World War make this point clearly. Both lied about their age to defend freedom. They weren’t alone.

The first soldier, H.T. Bell,  lied about his age so he could enlist, despite being only 14. He also lied about his name. He died as a light horseman in the Battle of Be’er Sheva where the ANZACs defeated the Turks by charging their cannons and machine guns. The authorities contacted the Wickhams (his alias) to inform their son he died only to discover they didn’t have one. They eventually tracked down the Bells who thought he’d run away to be a jackaroo. He was only 16.

Lt.Col L.C. Maygar VC was 48 at the time of the battle. Having won a Victoria Cross, the Empire’s highest order of valor, during the Boer War he was too old to serve in WW1. So he chopped his age by 6 years to make the cut. Sadly he died in battle but willingly volunteered to be put in harms way.

The actions of a youth and someone old enough to be his father fought for what they believed in. This battle was instrumental in booting the Ottoman Empire from what is now Israel. These soldiers tricked the Turks by charging them. Light horseman traditionally dismounted and then attacked on foot. Knowing their situation was bleak, 800 soldiers ran under the heavy guns effective line of fire and slaughtered the enemy.

When one absorbs the power of The Be’er Sheva memorial, it strongly reflects the values of the time. The sacrifices of the 1000s buried there reveal how seriously they were prepared to defend the very freedoms we seem so willingly prepared to give up today for the sake of political correctness.

Lest we forget their bravery.

What happens when you poke a Russian bear?

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As written earlier in the week, regardless of one’s views on the righteousness of any attack on Syria, Putin is being faced for the first time in a long time, a leader of a foreign nation (nations as it turns out) prepared to stand up to him. Obama fled the Syria battlefield after being given a two hour window when Russia first went to the aid of Assad. If that wasn’t the ultimate sign of a bully in the Kremlin it is hard to think of what is. While sanctions may have bitten to a degree post Ukraine and the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines flight, Syria is essentially a testing ground for Putin to weigh up Western (specifically Trump’s) resolve. If we look at Russia’s response post the Syrian strike,

The worst apprehensions have come true. Our warnings have been left unheard…A pre-designed scenario is being implemented. Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences…All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris…Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible.

Kind of says it all really – Russia hasn’t been insulted. Putin has. He must have a glass jaw  like Trump! Two bullies flexing muscle. In a show down Should Putin wish to pick a direct conventional fight against 3 nuclear powers (explicitly mentioned), he knows that ‘mutually assured destruction’ is the very last option in the drawer and next to no chance of being selected despite all of the media beat up. On a conventional basis, Putin wins more battles by stirring up the hornet’s nests in other regions. Lending more support to Iran, Lebanon and Yemen. Destabilize Saudi Arabia and antagonize Israel.

CM wrote,

It is worth nothing that Syria is Rosoboronexport’s (Russia’s military export wing) 2nd largest customer after Iran. Putin is sick of having the West try to remove his clients. Assad is key to Russia’s foothold in the Middle East. With an essentially pro-Iran Iraqi government and Syria as well as Hezbollah Putin has a geopolitical doormat from the troubled separatist states to Russia’s south to Lebanon.

Some arguments have been made about the risks of the American, French or UK strikes killing Russian troops or civilians on the ground in Syria handing Russia free will to attack its enemies. Scroll back to November 2015 when the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian Su-24 fighter it claimed entered its airspace. Two Russian pilots were killed in the shooting and subsequent rescue. The Russians were incensed but President Erdogan is still in power and Ankara isn’t flailing after seeing its capitol turned into smoldering rubble.

This argument that the Russians weren’t given advance warnings of the attack is ridiculous. Had the Russian defence forces been on proper alert (they most definitely weren’t passed out behind their radar screens after a vodka binge) they would have detected the missile launches. Wind back to the 59 missile launch earlier last year against Syrian chemical facilities. We didn’t hear a peep from Putin. Why now? Of course he is incensed over the booting of diplomats on the nerve agent scandal but this is a showdown of ego.

Think of the long geopolitical chess board here. Should Trump have backed down on Putin’s threats, wouldn’t China’s Xi feel equally empowered to annex Taiwan by telling POTUS that he risks ‘grave reprisals if he meddles with Chinese sovereign territory’?

For all the initial snubbing of Trump by Macron on his historic election win in France, there is no way he would have gone in alone to attack a chemical facility without the guarantee of the military might of America. It is unlikely Theresa May would have done it either. So for all of the ‘unhinged’ lunatic rhetoric bandied about by the media, foreign nations don’t gamble their own sovereignty lightly, especially over something like Syria.

General Mattis has said they plan no further strikes at this stage. Does Putin order his forces to sink a US destroyer in the Mediterranean which launched those missiles? Highly unlikely. He does have the best weapon available to do that (the ‘Sunburn’) but sending US naval vessels to the bottom of the sea on a strategic strike would seem a big response to a targeted hit.

Let there be no mistake. There is a new sheriff in town. Russia has a bloody nose it didn’t think it would find itself. Putin miscalculated that Trump isn’t all Twitter-fueled bluster. Uncertainty in foreign leaders is always a risk for enemies. Trump has shown Putin he won’t be bullied like his predecessor.

Putin doesn’t want a hot war with America. The best way to strike at the US is like the last 6 decades. Undermine her at every opportunity. Supply her enemies. As mentioned before, if the Russians didn’t think it worth hitting back at Turkey for deliberately targeting its fighters, it is unlikely that Putin, no matter how ‘insulted’ he might feel will take a strike not aimed at Russians as a pretext to pick a fight with Trump. Putin has worked out the US president’s measure. He miscalculated. He won’t make that mistake twice.

For the media, running all the scare campaign stories is not only highly irresponsible (as it did over Yemen’s attacks on Saudi Arabia) but proving the lack of depth of analysis. They can beat Trump over the head all they wish but should note the actions of Macron and May following him into the region as a tacit approval of the US leader. Was he the madman they portrayed him as in the first place they would have stayed well out of it.

Watch for Putin’s response (unlikely but will threaten it will come when the evil Americans least expect) and think deeply about why it is important that the real despots (Putin, Xi, KJ-U, Erdogan) around the world no longer have the ability to exercise free will in knowledge that the worst they face is a slap on the wrist from the UN.

Sounds more like grounds for congratulation than censure. 

A vote for Palestine or a vote against America? Double standards hidden in other votes

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Why is anyone surprised by the UNGA vote on the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel?  At the UN General Assembly emergency meeting on Thursday to “null & void” the move – 128 votes in favour and nine against, while 35 countries abstained. While it can’t be vetoed it is not legally binding in any way. If one was to break down the vote of the permanent members then without question most of those issued from Russia or China are to stick it to the Americans more than support/reject the cause itself and vice versa . When Turkey’s foreign minister starts talking of not selling out democratic rights of others perhaps he should look to his own boss and question the dictatorship, the lack of freedom of press or an independent judiciary that exists in his own country?

People can stick it to Trump all they want, but a decision was made in mid 1990’s by US Congress, with a clause that had to be signed every 6 months by whomever was President to delay invocation of this act. Between 1998 and 2017, there have been 37 presidential waivers, with the last one expiring a week ago. Trump has just put the ball into motion. After all Presidents Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama have all explicitly said on record that “Jerusalem has and always will be the capital of Israel” The irony of chastising the current president for doing what others said speaks of the hypocrisy of bashing a politician for fulfilling a promise. If only the global political class could catch this disease?!?

While it is hardly a surprise to see Trump’s reaction ‘to take names’ the flip side is that he should allow each UN member state to vote how they wish – period. He would be better off not pointing out the obvious. Indeed if “he doesn’t care” he should just act silently. The message will ring louder. All this posturing only seeks to make him look like a spoilt kid taking his toys home (then again one wonders if that is half the reason he does it. UN votes are meaningless to begin with and seldom have they ever achieved anything worthy.

The UN needs to be defunded in order to reform. It has promised many times to streamline yet it continues to expand into irrelevant quangos. The bloated tax free salaries, retirement packages and living allowances are obscene. Is there any wonder that the UN needs more funding, given 80% of the budget is swallowed up on remuneration alone? No wonder they don’t want progress.

While the truth may be that the US ‘pays’ a lot which ends up in the pockets of many countries, the US will likely go ahead and build the embassy in Jerusalem regardless. Political capital is often ‘bought’. It doesn’t make it right although one who gives to charity hopes that the money ends up supporting favorable causes. Indeed Nikki Haley when criticized for “bullying tactics” responded, “So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American people, about where to locate OUR embassy, we don’t expect those we’ve helped to target us…The free money train doesn’t go on forever.

Virtue has and never will be rewarded in politics. To make the point made by the UN’s very own website, some nations lose their right to vote because “according to Charter Article 19, cannot vote because the amount of their arrears equals or exceeds the amount of contributions due from them for the preceding two full years.” So in short if you don’t pay your dues, you lose voting rights. So the UN is basically a ‘club’. Don’t pay your dues, don’t get a vote. Simple. By the same token, some clubs give special treatment for members that pay more. Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze etc.

Here is a telling part of the hypocrisy. Look at the efforts made by these unelected UN representatives when exploring the number of abstentions on certain issues such as “Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories : resolution / adopted by the General Assembly“ So claiming victory and gloating about the embarrassment caused to the US, why  were there 77 abstentions in 2017, 73 abstentions in 2016, 75 in 2015, 79 in 2014, 75 in 203 and 72 in 2012? Notice a pattern? Surely if the evil Israelis don’t rightly deserve to call Jerusalem the capitol and are constantly attacked by the UNHRC for human rights abuses against the Palestinians, why are so many nations abstaining when it comes to investigating these crimes? Surely such evidence would justify the actions of rejecting Israel.

Claiming yesterday as a triumph for the world, the UN is still exposed for what it is. Few bother to look at how nations truly feel when exploring one derivative deeper. The lack of international will is telling. Then again when we only need look at the track record – WHO appointing Robert Mugabe as an ambassador, the proposal to  send in the blue helmets to quell crime in Chicago and the multiple scandals, the complete lack of governance and accountability with respect to the IPCC.

So until all those that vote to punish Israel don’t stick to the script on every vote then the truth is indeed told. Virtue signal on the surface and hide behind abstentions where it matters to ‘keep the funds coming’. Sorry, what was this about principles?

Yemen – Saleh’s death is the dangerous slice in the Iran & Saudi sandwich

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Even before the Arab Spring, CM (in a previous life) wrote that Yemen was a trouble spot. It’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh (Sunni) has died of natural causes – he was assassinated in a spate of tribal violence in the capital Sana’a yesterday. No stranger to being an oppressive tyrant during his rule, after being ousted in the Arab Spring he was in recent years working with the Houthi tribe (Shi’ite) to regain power before switching back to a US backed Saudi-friendly deal maker. He proved that power is more important than religious sect. However the Houthi weren’t prepared to suffer a turncoat who betrayed them so Saleh was duly dealt with.

Why is Saleh’s death important? What it now does is give Saudi Arabia more will to take more decisive action against the Iran backed Houthi. It is no surprise that Saudi Arabia has cleaned house with the arrests of  royal family members to tighten the inner circle. It smells like the early stages of broader tit-for-tat skirmishes before all out conflict ensues. Yemen is often argued as a proxy war between the two.

While many are distracted by the US Embassy to Jerusalem as an unnecessary ‘in-the-face” action, it is a very firm line in the sand to where the US cards already lie. No big surprises. For now most Gulf States want Israel on their side to help them defend against and ultimately defeat Iran.

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At the narrow Bab al-Mandeb Strait separating Yemen and Djibouti/Eritrea, cargo ships make their way up the Red Sea to the Suez Canal, could become a major choke point. This year multiple US, Saudi and Emirati warships have been attacked by Houthi rebel forces. In January 2017 a  Saudi al-Madinah frigate was almost sunk in the strait. An Emirati HSV-2 swift naval craft was also put out of action in late 2015.

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Safe access to the strait is crucial at present because of Egypt’s reliance on imported LNG to maintain stable electricity supply. One LNG tanker heads to Egypt each weeknight through the canal. Just under 10% of global trade goes through it as well. Any blockage or restricted access would force ships to sail the long way around the Horn of Africa adding another 40% to the journey. This would have significant impacts on shipping and trade. Markets aren’t factoring anything at this stage.

The problem with naval conflict is that Yemen is backed by Iran which in turn is one of Russia’s best clients. Iran possesses the SS-N-22 Sunburn missile which is a supersonic anti-ship missile which even the US has no answer for. In recent years this has been upgraded to the Super Sunburn (P-270) which is even more lethal. It is a ramjet which travels at Mach-3 meaning if fired inside a 100km range then the target is likely to be toast (video here). It can be launched from a ship, submarine or land.

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Iran could blame a whole host of tribes (Sunni or Shia) sick of being under the jackboot of effective Saudi control/influence for an attack.

On December 2, Israeli jets bombed an Iranian military weapons base in Syria. Israel has warned Iran it won’t tolerate any military presence on Syrian soil. We shouldn’t forget that China has also deployed its special forces to Syria to help Assad. Clearly the Chinese see a good opportunity to clean up some of the spoils in the region. China is always happy to help out nations that are under sanction. It adds more mess into the geopolitical sphere.

While the GCC has stepped up its air attacks on Yemen post the death of Saleh, he was the only one that has been able to unite the country. Indeed it is possible that the secession of the south becomes an issue. At the time of reunification of North and South Yemen in 1990 many in the south felt their northern neighbors were pillaging too much of their oil reserve wealth. Even their private land was appropriated and spread among the Sana’a elite. Now that Saleh has gone, and Yemen fragmented again, we may see old scores settled. The Southern Movement (loyal to exiled President Hadi) in Yemen wants to take back what was stolen from them. So Saleh’s death may open a vacuum of more instability.

Iran would relish the opportunity of a fractured Yemen to further build its influence. Bab al-Mandeb may become a flashpoint to fight the proxy war. It is extremely messy, creates proper disruption and pushes Saudi Arabia and Iran closer to conflict.

Which ever way you cut it, diplomacy in the Middle East (what little there is) looks set to worsen. In a sense we are dealing with two large clients of Russia (Iran) and America (SA). Now China is siding with Russian interests by using it as a test run of its military muscle. China isn’t committing anything major but it wants to be at the negotiating table when it all goes pear shaped.

It smells very similar to the lead up to the Arab Spring. More turmoil and complacent markets which are not quite absorbing the realities of “local problems” spreading to another neighborhood. Sure we’ve seen many leaders overthrown in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and so on in the last uprising but the pressure on Saudi is mounting hence the recent crackdown internally.

The other dark horse is Erdogan in Turkey. He is facing a corruption probe over money laundering to help Iran evade sanctions and he seems keen to externalise his problems so he can shut down the local threat. He is threatening to cut off ties with Israel if the US relocates the embassy but for a man with clear ambitions to revive the Ottoman Empire that fell less than 100 years ago that is a mere formality in the future.

The flashpoint remains Yemen. It has the perfect storm of a pawn in a global game of chess. While it whiffs of local tribes seeking revenge there are too many willing to help them achieve their aims which only plays to the broader ructions throughout the rest of the Middle East. Last week Houthi rebels launched a missile attack against the UAE nuclear power plant under construction. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely

Over 10.6 million Frogs want to jump out of the EU’s boiling pot

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While the media and the EU will no doubt be jumping for joy they’ll overlook the fact that over 1/3rd of the French who voted, or over 10.6 million, want to jump out of the EU’s boiling pot. Think about that number – over TEN POINT SIX MILLION.  Le Pen’s father only managed slightly better than 5mn or 17.8%. Macron won convincingly (Twitter follower growth ratio accurate again) although one can hardly call 1/3rd of a population backing a far-right nationalist something to celebrate.  It is a damning figure. Period.

The extent of the Le Pen gains should be viewed by the EU as a terrible omen. However many of the Brussels brigadiers have ignored it already as their tweets make painfully clear.

After losing 15 out of 15 referendums against it  the EU desperately needs reform. The Dutch election was still a strong win for Wilders and Rutte only saved seats by adopting a more anti-EU stance. The pro-EU Dutch leftists were slayed. The Swiss recently handed back their long standing invite to join the EU. The Austrians almost voted in the far right FPO and after Greens President van der Bellen recently said all women may be obliged to wear the hijab to show cultural sensitivity they may well think to do that next time. The right wing Sweden Democrats are well ahead in the polls looking to win the 2018 election. The Italians are on the way to vote in the eurosceptic M5S party as their referendum last year on parliamentary reform became a free kick to boot out the establishment. Hungary’s Orban has had enough of the EU’s directives on migrants. Greece is being forced to sell its assets in order to secure another bailout and submit to being a Brussels’ (Berlin?) protectorate despite the EU bending over backwards with the help of Goldman’s creative accountants to get the Greeks into the club. This will not end well as Greece has 37% poverty, 58% youth unemployment and a soaring suicide rate. Now almost 10.5mn French now think the EU is not working. Brexit anyone?

The problem with elections is that even though Macron will serve 5 years, over 1/3rd of his citizens are not happy with the state of terrorism, unemployment and the EU. If Macron doesn’t solve for these problems, Le Pen’s 2022 chances grow and she’s already calling for a radical overhaul of Front National.

The press was making Macron to be a tough negotiator on Brexit. Let’s not forget that the ranting Jean-Claude Juncker has had to be brought into line by Angela Merkel and Donald Tusk over his Brexit negotiations skills (or lack there of). EU lawyers have said the other day that the  €100bn Brexit bill has no legitimacy. The U.K. Local council elections should speak volumes of May’s mandate to pursue full strength hard Brexit.

Macron’s win buys the EU time. Nothing else. In fact the truest test of how petrified the EU truly is can be summed up like this. If they were supremely confident in their own legitimacy there would be no need for the constant self-reaffirmation and shouting from the roof tops about what a great place it is. If indeed it was so, democracy would endorse them every time. As it stands the self-praise would even make Barack Obama blush.

From bare arsed to half arsed

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Shenanigans in political life in Turkey have been commonplace for a long time. I recall Erdogan’s party wanting to force a majority in the 2011 elections to clean house with the judiciary and change the military-era constitution. The Nationalist Action Party (MHP) had seized 14% of the 2007 vote and we’re looking strong in 2011. Spies working for Erdogan’s Justice & Development Party (AKP) set a “honey trap” for a dozen or so MHP members who were forced to resign when the video went viral on the Internet. Erdogan got what he needed. Dirty politics? Yes on both sides  in this “bare-arsed” scandal.

The 2011 election win saw strict controls of the media. Jail sentences and fines were meted out to anything not friendly to the AKP. Recall Erdogan even tried to force Merkel to jail one of Germany’s satirists for ridiculing him this year.

So to yesterday’s events. It doesn’t smell right  that the coup lasted no time at all. Normally a coup involves capturing the snake head. This coup looked so “half-arsed” that you wonder how it was ever concocted.  Block a bridge,seize a TV station and kill a few people to make it look real. Seizing power has to look real. The oddest part for me was the FaceTime interview with Erdogan and one of his media outlets telling people to rise up against the army to them have soldiers say they thought they were doing a drill. Seriously? How is a coup supposed to work if the guy you’re trying to oust can just call up the media? The Turkish military elite may not be the sharpest on the block but I doubt they could be this short on strategy. Even central bankers wouldn’t make such rookie errors. 2,745 judges arrested? 100s of army generals and soldiers? Coincidence? All these people already presumed as plotters? I applaud Turkish efficiency to be able to screen so quickly (!) as I said it doesn’t pass sniff tests.

To get a military coup to work the first step is seizing Erdogan and all the media outlets. It involves making sure you control the Air Force and the ground troops to a degree that ensures it won’t flake at a bridge crossing with two tanks and a few troops.

So now Erdogan locks down his country toward making it a dictatorship.Then you have to ask yourself is this the Turkey the EU wishes to extend an invitation to?