Russia, Syria, Tartus, and Sebastapol

‘Putin’s adventure stokes fears over his real intentions’ This is the language used by Bloomberg News today to describe Russia’s decision to bomb ISIS, and thereby to support the Assad regime in Syria.

There’s been similar language in the media over the past week or so with a fluid mix of adjectives describing Putin as somehow wily and irresponsible.

And what is said of Putin’s ambitions may be true. I wouldn’t know. What I do know from what I have read over the past several years is that there is behind-the-scenes involvement between Syria, Iran, and Russia.

But there is also something far more obvious, clear and undeniable. That is that Russia has a naval base at Tartus on the Mediterranean coast of Syria.

And if the Asad regime goes, so might Russia’s base.

The base is Russia’s only refuelling depot in the Mediterranean. Without it, Russia’s naval vessels would have to refuel and refit on the Black Sea and exit via Turkey, which is of course a member of NATO.

There is of course, Sebastopol – a Russian naval base on the Black Sea. In 2010, Russia and Ukraine ratified a treaty that gave Ukraine access to Russian gas in exchange for an extension of Russia’s lease of the base at Sebastopol through to 2042, with options to extend for further five-year periods beyond that.

Then came the 2014 Ukrainian revolution.

There are contrary views of what the Ukrainian revolution was and is about. Is it a country that wants to express its democratic wish to join the West? Is it a country run by gangsters and opportunists banked by Western companies that see opportunities for a new market if Ukraine joins the Western club?

What you think depends on who you read.

Was Russia’s action in annexing Crimea a a long-term plan crafted to look like a democratic response to the Ukrainian revolution? Or was it was a reasonable response to a desire by the Russian-population of the Crimea not be dragged away from mother Russia?

Again, what you think depends on who you read.

One thing is clear though and that is that the 2014 Ukrainian revolution put the Russian gas-for-bases treaty at risk.

And without Sebastopol, Russia would have to rely on its Black Sea port at Odessa. And the two ports are not the same. Sebastapol has a much more equable climate.

So putting all this together, we get Russia protecting Sebastapol and Tartus. And against that backdrop, its plan to bomb ISIS is easy to understand.

From Lloyds To TSB To Sabadell

TSB Bank came into being on September 9, 2013 as a result of Lloyds Banking Group splitting off 631 of its branches.

Lloyds had to split off the branches to fulfil the promise it made during the financial crisis that qualified it under EU law for Government aid.

And now this June, 2015, the Spanish bank, Banco Sabadell has been given approval by the City regulator to take over TSB.

How crazy and pathetic that Lloyds had to go through all the cost of dismembering itself so that another bank could buy up the newly-created TSB.

Social Justice – Social Injustice

In the 1980s, the then Prime Minister famously declared that there is no such thing as society. She encouraged a free-for-all so that people would claw themselves higher. Of course, it came at the expense of ordinary working people who were not very good at ‘clawing’ – people who did not have many educational advantages or personal skills.

And it was obvious that they had been simply consigned to the rubbish heap.

How can anyone expect people to care when the society is run by self-seeking mobsters? People aren’t stupid – they know when they are being robbed blind.

And the dominance of big business doesn’t help to make anyone feel they are a meaningful member of society.

It is for each person to bear responsibility for their personal actions and to behave ethically no matter what they see around them – or at least to do so as much as possible.

But responsibility and allegiance are not the same – and disaffected youths who are born of disaffected parents are only doing what is right in the circumstances, which is to try to survive in the cracks left in the framework of a system that doesn’t care about them.

Men will put up with a lot when they know that they share the burden with everyone. But when social and economic justice are missing – any man will question why he should put up with anything.

Ten Useful WordPress Plugins

#1 Limit Logins

By default, WordPress allows unlimited login attempts either through the login page or by sending special cookies. This allows passwords (or hashes) to be brute-force cracked.

The stronger your password, the more brute force is needed to crack it, but with unlimited attempts and a computer program set to just keep trying, even a strong password will be cracked eventually.

The Limit Logins plugin limits the number of malicious login attempts that can be made before lockout.

#2 Optimise Database After Deleting Revisions

When you write a post in WordPress, it is saved to the database. If you save a draft first, it is saved to the database along with the published version.

If you make a change to the draft – even changing just a single letter or punctuation mark – another draft is saved to the database.

If you publish an article and then add to it later, another version is saved to the database.

And so it goes on. Optimise database after deleting revisions deletes those redundant versions and then cleans up and optimises the database.

#3 Redirect Visitors

Page Links To is a very useful plugin made by Mark Jacquith, one of the WordPress developers.

It allows you to make any WordPress page or post link to a URL that you choose.

Suppose for example, you have a blog and you also have an Etsy shop. Create an empty page named My Etsy Shop and put your Etsy shop’s URL in the field that the Page Links To plugin creates in your admin panel. Then add that page to your main navigation menu on your site.

#4 Subscribe To Comments

Subscribe to comments enables commenters to check off a box to receive e-mail notification of subsequent comments.

#5 Disable Comments

If you don’t want people commenting on your site at all, the Disable Comments plugin will disable comments on posts. Since WordPress 4.3, comments are disabled by default on pages.

#6 Sitemaps

Unless you tell them not to, search engines will scan or crawl your site. That is normally a good thing because you want your site to be found.

Site maps help the search engines by presenting them with a file that sets out the structure of your site and tells the search engines what posts and pages you have published.

The search engines can then crawl the site more completely than if they were working blind, and once they have the results they can show the appropriate posts and pages in their search results in response to search queries for the appropriate search terms.

The plugin I use makes site maps that also automatically update every time you publish a new post or page. It is called Google XML sitemaps, and it is available from the WordPress repository.

From the name of the plugin you would think that it only works with Google’s search engine, but it also does the same job with Bing and Yahoo.

#7 Changing Internal Links When You Change Domains

If you move your WordPress website to a new domain, all your internal links to pages and references to images will still point to your old domain name. The quaintly-named Velvet Blues plugin helps you change old urls and links in your website.

#8 Private Only

Do you want to keep your blog private so that only people with a password can access the content and read it?

Private Only does this and allows you to change the logo on the login page from the standard WordPress login logo to tell people who have the password access that they are in the right place.

#9 Garbage Collector

Maybe you have used some plugins in the past and no longer use them. You deleted them, but did that remove all the bits of code? Garbage Collector scans your WordPress database and shows you any tables besides the core WordPress database tables so you can delete them.

#10 WordPress Database Reset

Database Reset is a simple way to reset the database to the state of WordPress right after you install it for the first time. It keeps your user credentials so you can continue to access the back end, and it gives you the option to keep or junk plugins and themes.

Checking Plugins For Malware

If you download a plugin from the WordPress repository, you have every reason to think it will be free of malware. It may not be free of vulnerabilities – after all, WordPress itself is regularly updated to plug vulnerability holes. But what if you see a plugin that is not in the WP repository, but looks good? Or maybe the free version is in the WP repository but the premium version is not? What to do?

Download the plugin locally and run it through Virus Total, which describes itself as follows:

VirusTotal is a free service that analyzes suspicious files and URLs and facilitates the quick detection of viruses, worms, trojans, and all kinds of malware.