Archive for August, 2010

Honor & Offer

August 25, 2010

When Lunghu recently remarked –in his customary offhand, casual style– that he expected the next few months to bring interesting news of Viktor Bout, he really didn’t have a 72-hour turnaround time in mind.   Still, there’s nothing quite like almost-instant gratification!  Wednesday e-ditions of the Bangkok Post report that:

1]  [Bout’s] sudden [attempted] extradition Wednesday  morning caught many Thai authorities by surprise as it was expected to be some time before he could be removed to US custody.  It is not known who orchestrated the rapid extradition of Mr Bout.
The Office of the [Thai] Attorney-General, upon hearing of his rapid extradition, yesterday tried to block the handover to the US authorities, who have sent a special jet and security personnel to Thailand.

2]   OAG said that Bout was required to appear before the Criminal Court on October 4th on the first hearing of new money laundering and fraud charges requested by US authorities. {Bout] cannot leave the country until the charges are heard and completed or are dropped.

3]  The [Thai] Corrections Department said it could not hand Bout over to the police until the new charges are dropped.

4]  The Foreign Affairs Ministry was also surprised at the swift extradition of Mr Bout [Wednesday] as it had not been made aware of it … normally, extradition proceedings need to go through the ministry first.

5]  Sirichoke Sopha, a close aide to the prime minister, admitted having visited Bout at Bangkok Remand Prison, but denied he tried to persuade Bout to implicate former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in arms dealing.  Sirichoke said that he [visited Bout]  to find out if the Russian arms dealer was involved in the transport of a large quantity of weapons found on a plane that made a stopover at Don Mueang airport in December last year.  The plane was heading for Sri Lanka at the same time Thaksin was in that country.

Apparently, none of this is considered newsworthy by US media, but Lunghu ain’t too surprised.  Although alternative explanations may abound, here are a few to consider:

1]  Perhaps US authorities leveraged their long-standing relationships with Thai military, intelligence and police notables to initiate a whirlwind expedited extradition process.   But rice bowls in OAG, Corrections, and the Foreign Ministry went unfilled, and objections were raised by those officials whose delicate sensibilities were offended.

2]  Thailand is renowned throughout the ASEAN region  –and perhaps the world–  for the scrupulous manner in which the rule of law is implemented.   Rules and processes are designed for sound reasons, and those processes must be honored in fact as well as in principle.

3]  When the United States Attorney General’s office says in an e-mail that “the prosecution of Viktor Bout is of utmost priority to the United States,” it sounds to Lunghu as though the inexorable economic law of supply and demand just sent the price of a scarce commodity way, way up.

4]  Aristotle’s Poetics calls for the explication of human drama through mythos, ethos, melos, and opsis (among other things).  Lunghu is supplying the dianoia and lexis.   Although there’s no absolute requirement for a third act in this Thai tragi-comedy, who knows what the playwright has in mind!

A Wink & A Nod

August 24, 2010

Why is this man winking?

Lunghu has his own ideas about that. . .

Out & A Bout

August 21, 2010

Caution:  this post contains bold assertions that are unlikely to be corroborated –or refuted– by anyone involved.  Would you expect anything less from Lunghu?

The news that Viktor Bout has been scheduled for extradition from Thailand to the US didn’t really come as a tremendous surprise to Lunghu, and neither does the timing of the announcement in the dog days of summer.  Since roughly this time last year, Lunghu has been convinced that Viktor Bout is a cooperating source/witness for an inter-agency US task force engaged in anti-competitive practices counter-proliferation efforts in the global arms trade.  Two high-profile events of 2009 point in this direction:

1]  the MV Arctic Sea adventure, and

2]  the Kazakh IL-76 air cargo shipment of ‘oil drilling equipment‘ from Pyongyang that had trouble clearing customs at its Bangkok refueling stop.

In both cases, an extensive network of Russian arms brokers and logistics specialists pooled their resources and deployed their operatives in order to effectuate the step-by-step transfer of large armament stocks from one side of the globe to another.  In both cases, things didn’t work out as planned.  Viktor Bout was the common denominator –-and so was US involvement as the covert orchestrator of these operations from start to finish.

Lunghu deems it highly likely that Viktor Bout acted in an undercover role (at US behest) to set up both arms shipments, using ‘smuggled’ cellphones from his Bangkok jail cell to convince his colleagues (and masters) back in Moscow that the proceeds of these deals would generate the cash to buy his freedom from corrupt Thai officials.   For plenty of people in Russia, this was a repatriation mission well worth the apparently minimal risk:  the Russian arms export business involves apparatchiki and nomenklatura at every level of government and industry –up to and including Putin and Sechin.   In American hands, Bout’s secrets would be secrets no more –much safer to have him back in the motherland.

‘Twas not to be.  Bout was already working off his US charges, with the full (but unacknowledged) cooperation of the Thai government.   In negotiating the arms deals and coordinating shipment, Bout’s phone calls triggered a cascade of SigInt intercepts that have undoubtedly snared thousands of hours of very interesting Russian-language conversations.   Comrade Bear is now in deeper dung than ever, but he doesn’t even know how long a snorkel he’s gonna need.   The next few months should be interesting … because there’s always the possibility that Comrade Wolf will try to milk yet another sting operation out of the three-month period in which Thai officials ‘review’ extradition procedures before sending Bout on his way wherever.

So what’s next?  Lunghu believes that two scenarios are possible/likely:

1]  Bout is brought to the US, prepares his ‘defense’ and undergoes a full debriefing by interested parties.   After a show trial at which certain matters are written into the public record (and others not),  Bout will be found guilty and receive an exemplary prison sentence … to be served at FPC Pensacola or a similar facility.   Following a suitable lapse of time, he will be released, perhaps in a prisoner exchange of the type we witnessed earlier this summer.   That is, if he actually wants to go back to Russia.

2]  Bout is brought to the US and pleads guilty to (somewhat) lesser charges (dropping the counts of conspiracy to kill US nationals, etc.), with DOJ declining a trial in order to avoid exposing intelligence sources and methods in open court.   Matters then proceed as outlined in Option 1 above.

Lunghu wishes Comrade Bout the very best of health in the coming weeks, months and years.  Будем здоровы !

Laminar Flow

August 17, 2010

Today, news from the East that combines two of Lunghu’s favorite topics:  rowing and Korea.  As usual, however, things may not be entirely what they seem.  First, the bare-bones OsInt itself, then Lunghu’s trademarked brand of inference, speculation and prediction.

Agence France-Presse today reported a recent archeological discovery in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, (Republic of) Korea –a 7,000-year-old wooden oar (that’s a yuloh, to Pinyin users) preserved in one of Korea’s classic riverine mud flats.

Credit: AFP

A South Korean archaeologist opined (based on prior discoveries of dugout boats from an even earlier period), “... we can picture trade between the Korean peninsula and Japan, sailing techniques and a lifestyle back then.”   The Korean subtext here, of course, is that people, technology and culture flowed (literally) from Korea to Japan way back when.  (And who owns Dok-do?  Don’t get me started!)

Never mind that Changnyeong isn’t exactly saltwater fishin’ territory, let alone a convenient port-of-call for that weekend cruise to Kyushu:  it’s too far up the Nakdong River for an oarsman to be left without a paddle.   Let’s not allow such facts as we may possess to impede the progress of a good story.  … Which is where we must diverge from the literal (OsInt) text to examine more deeply the various subtexts and contexts.

Item 1:  the AFP article appears to be first and only coverage of this topic in the English-language internet media (although other outlets picked it up and ran it later).   This is a bit unusual, because the English-language versions of major Korean dailies (Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo, Yonhap, etc.) are almost never averse to promoting the antiquity and superiority of Korean culture, and often take the lead in publicizing archeological discoveries.  As of late Aug 17th, there has been NO coverage of the Changnyeong oar by those Korean sources.   Maybe they’re waiting for a slow news day.

Item 2:  South Gyeongsang Province is the political heartland of Korea’s newly-designated (but-as-yet-unconfirmed) Prime Minister, Kim Tae-ho.  He is former governor of the province, and originally came from a humble background in nearby Geochang county, South Gyeongsang.   South Gyeongsang Province has long been a stronghold of the ruling Grand National Party (and its conservative predecessors).

Credit: Yonhap

Item 3:  According to Yonhap, Korea’s National Pension Service is poised to spend approximately $300 million on a 51% stake in the O’Parisnor shopping mall north of Paris (that’s France, for you Texa-philes).  The deal is expected to close on or about Thursday August 19th.

So, what do Lunghu’s cloud-piercing eyes see?  He sees signals hinting at a quid-pro-quo.   Lunghu expects to shortly hear that Korea will be purchasing French military hardware, possibly naval armaments (such as MM40 block 3 Exocet cruise missiles, which the ROK Navy already uses).   Lunghu also considers the possibility that arms deal commissions for French and Korean officials will be embedded in the purchase price of O’Parisnor (via attorney fees, finance agreements or other closing costs).   These things have been known to happen:  remember the Taiwan frigate deal?

Of course, there’s also the very real possibility that these matters are entirely unrelated:  correlation != causation.   Time will tell.  Keep me updated!

Lunghu’s Midterm Report Card

August 14, 2010

Lunghu started the Year of the Tiger (YoT) by trash-talking Hong Kong feng-shui soothsayers and making a few predictions of his own.  Now that it’s almost Ferragosto, we’re halfway through YoT, so let’s take a look at Lunghu’s midterm grades.

Earthquake in Andean region:

[A]   This one’s easy.   Grade would have been an A+ if Lunghu had specified a date & time.

Hot Dry Summer:

[A-]  The summer isn’t quite over (half of August awaits us), but thus far June & July & two weeks of August were indeed just as hot & dry as predicted in Lunghu’s region of the Eastern United States (see tables below).

















12Z MAX


Date MAX MIN +/- Avg Precip SPD SPD DIR

2010-06-01 84 69 11 0.13 6.7 20 290

2010-06-02 87 66 11 0.00 4.6 13 190

2010-06-03 88 69 12 0.03 5.7 15 270

2010-06-04 88 67 11 0.00 4.1 9 220

2010-06-05 89 74 15 0.00 7.3 16 290

2010-06-06 90 61 8 0.00 11.1 23 360

2010-06-07 75 53 -4 0.00 6.3 14 290

2010-06-08 76 54 -3 0.00 6.8 20 10

2010-06-09 68 51 -9 0.52 5.5 16 190

2010-06-10 83 59 1 0.00 5.4 12 50

2010-06-11 78 56 -3 0.00 4.0 13 200

2010-06-12 86 61 4 0.00 7.5 16 240

2010-06-13 87 67 6 0.18 3.3 13 110

2010-06-14 83 66 4 T 3.2 10 360

2010-06-15 80 62 0 0.00 6.8 16 80

2010-06-16 80 61 -1 0.04 5.8 15 260

2010-06-17 79 62 -1 0.01 9.7 23 10

2010-06-18 85 58 0 0.00 3.8 13 170

2010-06-19 89 60 2 0.00 5.0 15 200

2010-06-20 93 70 9 T 5.5 16 310

2010-06-21 90 70 7 0.00 5.9 14 10

2010-06-22 90 69 7 0.04 4.6 16 240

2010-06-23 93 68 7 0.00 5.8 16 320

2010-06-24 97 76 13 T 7.3 23 280

2010-06-25 89 68 5 0.00 4.0 13 10

2010-06-26 92 65 5 T 4.0 16 320

2010-06-27 95 70 8 0.00 4.9 15 290

2010-06-28 96 77 12 0.03 7.8 17 250

2010-06-29 91 69 5 0.00 7.2 17 330

2010-06-30 82 61 -3 0.00 6.6 15 330














































12Z MAX


Date MAX MIN +/- Avg Precip SPD SPD DIR

2010-07-01 80 58 -6 0.00 7.9 17 10

2010-07-02 83 56 -5 0.00 5.4 16 360

2010-07-03 92 56 -1 0.00 4.4 12 360

2010-07-04 99 64 7 0.00 6.2 16 280

2010-07-05 100 68 9 0.00 4.8 14 340

2010-07-06 104 74 14 0.00 3.7 10 200

2010-07-07 103 79 15 0.00 7.3 16 130

2010-07-08 90 74 6 0.00 5.9 13 160

2010-07-09 91 72 6 0.08 6.8 18 170

2010-07-10 83 73 2 0.28 4.2 10 10

2010-07-11 92 71 6 0.00 4.0 12 320

2010-07-12 93 64 3 0.18 4.9 20 310

2010-07-13 88 71 4 2.59 5.2 18 170

2010-07-14 85 74 4 0.36 5.4 15 60

2010-07-15 91 72 6 0.00 5.5 14 180

2010-07-16 96 74 9 0.00 6.2 18 240

2010-07-17 93 74 8 0.00 5.5 13 300

2010-07-18 94 76 9 0.00 5.7 15 290

2010-07-19 93 74 8 0.06 5.9 22 280

2010-07-20 88 72 4 T 3.2 12 280

2010-07-21 93 73 6 0.15 7.2 23 340

2010-07-22 91 71 4 0.00 7.1 17 310

2010-07-23 95 71 6 0.00 5.0 14 250

2010-07-24 96 82 13 0.00 6.9 15 320

2010-07-25 94 69 6 0.37 6.8 36 360

2010-07-26 87 64 0 0.00 5.8 15 320

2010-07-27 89 65 1 0.00 4.1 12 280

2010-07-28 90 70 4 0.00 5.6 15 260

2010-07-29 91 72 6 0.05 6.7 16 40

2010-07-30 84 63 -2 0.00 6.0 13 320

2010-07-31 84 62 -3 0.00 4.4 14 200
























































12Z MAX


Date MAX MIN +/- Avg Precip SPD SPD DIR

2010-08-01 79 67 -3 0.04 3.1 10 280

2010-08-02 85 64 -1 T 5.2 15 210

2010-08-03 87 70 3 0.00 8.1 15 230

2010-08-04 91 76 8 0.00 6.7 14 220

2010-08-05 93 78 10 0.00 7.5 21 280

2010-08-06 89 66 3 0.00 6.8 18 320

2010-08-07 88 60 -1 0.00 2.3 12 290

2010-08-08 92 69 6 0.00 6.4 15 210

2010-08-09 94 70 7 0.00 5.3 15 220

2010-08-10 96 76 11 T 2.8 10 350

2010-08-11 96 77 12 0.00 5.5 16 160

2010-08-12 79 71 0 0.10 7.5 15 110

2010-08-13 84 67 1 T 8.3 16 130










In fact, it has been even hotter and drier than Lunghu expected.   Sorry about that.   Lunghu’s not happy about the Russian wheat harvest, either.   However, his brother has been rakin’ it in with KCBT & CME call options on hard & soft winter wheat, so somebody’s smiling.

Putin’s Reconquista:

[C+]   Russian-style “democracy” has definitely been in evidence in the FSU thus far in YoT –in Kyrgyzstan, for example.   Yes, armed rebellion counts as a democratic expression of the People’s Will:  see Venezuela in 2002 or Honduras in 2009 for examples of American-style “democracy” in action.   Lunghu’s grade is only a C+ because he appears to have gotten the big picture right but slacked off on the details by casually mentioning Estonia as a possible candidate for “Change You’d Better Believe In.”   Lunghu didn’t put enough research effort into evaluating the overall operating environment in the FSU.  Too bad that’s not his area of specialty.   Expect further developments in the second semester.

Pinocchio’s puppeteers:

[Inc.]  Lunghu gets an Incomplete grade in this course despite a promising start.   Still, we’ve got another semester to go.   Lunghu is expecting to make up ground on the final exam.

Just Wonderin’

August 4, 2010

Has anyone among my innumerable throngs of readers ever had a dream in which s/he cracked a joke, flipped a quip, or flung a pun?

‘Cause I have, quite recently.   It was unusual enough to wake me up AND remember.   So I posted this to remind me that it actually happened.