The USS Fitzgerald/ACX Crystal Collision – Questions & Conclusions

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

At approximately 2:20 a.m. local time on June 17, 2017 the US Navy Destroyer USS Fitzgerald suffered a collision with the Philippines-registered container ship ACX Crystal approximately 64 miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan.

 

USS Fitzgerald at Yokosuka Naval Base
Image by US Navy employee, public domain

 

The 29,000-ton container ship suffered minor damage and was not impeded from continuing its journey to Tokyo. The 9,000-ton Arleigh Burke class USS Fitzgerald, on the other hand, suffered significant damage on her starboard side. Based on early reports, the USS Fitzgerald was in danger of sinking, and seven of her crew members lost their lives.

First and foremost, we extend our sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of the seven sailors who lost their lives.

This collision reminds us that there is no such thing as a “safe” deployment. Because of what those seven sailors suffered and what their families are now paying, decency demands that we be cautious in drawing conclusions about the causes of the collision.

Our US Navy, along with the broader US defense community, exists to ensure the sovereignty of the United States of America and the freedom and safety of her citizens.

Modern, extravagantly expensive and highly complicated Burke class destroyers play a critical role in that mission. These ships are an important and finite asset, and we currently have sixty-one of them in active service with fourteen more in various stages of design and building.

From my perspective, the loss of any service member always matters. Now, and at a time when only a small minority of eligible young Americans are willing to serve in our military, it is even more important for our military to do what it can to minimize personnel casualties.

In modern corporate America, workers are generally disposable and easily replaceable, but in the modern US military, qualified soldiers and sailors are a precious resource. The US military is in the business of war, and human losses are a grim, but somewhat unavoidable, result of war and war preparations. However, we must endeavor to not waste the lives of our service members due to inadequate equipment, doctrine, training, or leadership.

In an attempt to avoid similar calamities in the future, the US Navy and the US Coast Guard will each conduct thorough independent investigations of the collision.

The Navy will, in fact, conduct two parallel investigations. The Japanese Coast Guard is also conducting an investigation, and the Philippine government has, not surprisingly, announced that it, too, will conduct its own investigation. In addition, beyond all the official investigations, any number of intelligence services from a variety of nations will be searching for any unusual evidence relative to the collision.

All investigations of maritime calamities rely on constructing an accurate and detailed timeline of the events leading up to and subsequent to the impact. The communications logs, navigations logs, bridge recordings, and all physical evidence from the USS Fitzgerald and the ACX Crystal must be examined in detail. Also, all members of both crews must be questioned. The investigators have not had time to gather and examine all of the statements and evidence, and they have yet to offer any conclusions concerning the causes of the accident.

The fact that the professional investigators have yet to draw conclusions has not stopped the legions of not-professional armchair naval experts from reaching ironclad conclusions. The fact that those ironclad conclusions of the not-professionals seem to change by the hour does nothing to dissuade these folks from fervently and passionately espousing what they consider to be irrefutable fact.

Many Americans care a great deal about our Navy, our entire military, and our nation’s defense. That perhaps explains their need to have immediate answers as to whom or what caused the disaster. I salute their patriotism. For a democracy to survive, it requires the diligence of enough of its citizens to overcome apathy. However, I suggest to them that they remain flexible in their views until more evidence is available.

Some of the opinions being passionately expressed are, to say the least, a bit colorful. Most collisions at sea do not involve complex conspiracies or exotic causes, and a collision in a shipping route at night in busy waters is not altogether rare. This collision has our attention because it involved one of our valuable “Burkes,” and because seven sailors lost their lives.

Many of the conspiracy theories popping up are influenced by several key factors.

First, the night was clear. Even on a clear night at sea, haze can impair and distort a helmsman’s or watch stander’s view, and judging the distance and speed of another ship at night is not as simple as it sounds. Even so, in this day and age, we all quite reasonably expect that any modern US Navy warship has adequate radar, sonar, transponder sensors, and adequate information processing systems to detect and note an approaching 29,000-ton freighter. It begs the question, how did the Fitzgerald and ACX Crystal not see each other in time to avoid a collision? In theory, only one of the ships’ crews would need to be aware of the other ship in time to avoid a disaster.

The second reason the public is suspicious is that the accident occurred near Japan, where China and/or North Korea might be able to easily influence events. I, too, am suspicious. In fact, I am justifiably suspicious of the North Koreans and the Chicoms every moment of every day. However, we must remember that suspicion is not, in itself, evidence.

Third, some early and not yet verified statements indicate that the ACX Crystal had her running lights and her navigation transponder off. At this point, my suspicion is that her transponder was on, but I may be wrong. I am not sure about her lights. If they were in fact off, then that may well have been a major contributing factor to the collision. We will have to wait for all the crewmen to be questioned and data logs from multiple sources to be examined before we know if those assertions are accurate.

A fourth factor that drives suspicions of foul play is the fact that as a container ship, sophisticated electronics warfare equipment capable of damaging or temporarily obstructing radar and radio systems could conceivably have been loaded on to the ACX Crystal without the knowledge of the captain or crew. Such equipment could have been activated remotely.

It’s important that for now we remember the critical difference between “could have been” and “was.”

At this point, I estimate that Communist China wants war with the United States even less than we want war with China. In spite of all the propaganda out of China, and in spite of her current efforts to expand her naval power, China remains at a strategic disadvantage in any potential war with the United States. North Korea has been, and remains, less rational in its decision making as compared to China, but the distances between “would do it” and “could do it” remain substantial for now.

One possible factor that many members of the public might not be aware of is the fact a US Navy warship might at times operate without its full suite of Aegis systems active.

Aegis is a powerful and brilliant radar tracking system, but the more powerful a radar system is, the more easily it can be detected by opponents. I have no information indicating that the USS Fitzgerald was on that night, or any night, operating in “quiet” mode. I am simply explaining that it is one possibility.

I understand the tremendous need for answers and explanations.

I feel the same way. I share your anger. I want to know why those sailors died, why our ship was damaged, and who or what is at fault. This sad event is important to me, because our national security is important to me, and because I consider all US military members to be my brothers and sisters. We share an oath that matters to me.

I know that this calamity is also important to many of you. We owe it to the lost sailors and to their families to find the real causes of the collision. I hope that as a country, we will not rely on emotion or conjecture, but rather wait for investigations to lead us to accurate conclusions, because as you read this, many other US Navy and allied ships and sailors are sailing in dangerous waters, and we need accurate information to prevent more loss of life and more damage to valuable ships.

 

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Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, of Palmyra, VA

Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, of San Diego, CA

Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, of Oakville, CN

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, of Weslaco, TX

Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, of Chula Vista, CA

Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, of Halethorpe, MD

Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, of Elyria, OH

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Our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of these fine sailors.

 

 

HACKSAW RIDGE–A True Tale, Truly Told

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard

HACKSAW RIDGE is the true story of WWII hero Pfc. Desmond Doss, the first Conscientious Objector to earn the Medal of Honor.

 

hacksaw-ridge-movie-poster-one-man-stayed-2016

 

When Doss was drafted into the US Army during WWII, he chose to serve as a combat medic rather than go to a CO work camp, and he fought for the right to do so without carrying a weapon. During the Battle of Okinawa, the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment. A bloody battle ensued, resulting in heavy casualties driving the Battalion back. Doss refused to seek cover. He carried seventy-five injured men off the fire-swept battlefield and lowered them down the ridge to friendly hands below. HACKSAW RIDGE tracks Doss’s life through his commitment as a Conscientious Objector, his fight to be allowed to serve in combat without bearing arms, and his heroic rescue of seventy-five fellow soldiers.

The production quality of HACKSAW RIDGE is excellent, with award-worthy acting and cinematography.

The talented Andrew Garfield is brilliant as Pfc. Desmond Doss, and Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, and Teresa Palmer are outstanding in their supporting roles. However, the movie is every bit as graphic, and then some, as you would expect from BRAVEHEART producer Mel Gibson. The “R” rating is well-deserved, and people under the age of 17 should not be admitted for good reason. I would also warn veterans about seeing this movie. It does not pull any punches in either the graphics or the audio, and it might be too intense for someone who has seen combat in real life.

 

Doss pulling a man from the battlefield. Image from HACKSAW RIDGE.

Doss pulling a man from the battlefield.
Image from HACKSAW RIDGE.

 

HACKSAW RIDGE does an exceptional job presenting the conflicting-but-legitimate points of view of Doss, his fellow soldiers, and his officers.

Pfc. Desmond Doss was a devout Seventh Day Adventist who refused to touch a firearm or work on Saturdays. The story ably traces how Doss’s religion and home atmosphere solidified his commitment to never touch a weapon while instilling in him a deep sense of duty to serve his country. His faith was inseparable from his character and is portrayed realistically as such in the movie. Equally realistic are the reactions of Doss’s fellow soldiers to his “red lines.” They were suspect of Doss’s religious devotion, wondering if he was actually simply a coward who would get them killed on the battlefield. Doss’s officers were concerned, as well, about sending a man into the field who refused to fight, and they wanted him out. HACKSAW RIDGE gives a balanced and respectful presentation of the competing interests and motivations at work in the situation without over-dramatizing or unrealistically vilifying any of the men involved.

Some reviews have characterized HACKSAW RIDGE as “religious pomp and pornographic violence,” or “war propaganda.”

On the contrary, Doss was a deeply religious man, and religious beliefs were the foundation of his heroism in real life. The movie simply portrays him as such. As for the accusations of “pornographic violence,” I would invite those reviewers to do a tour or two in combat and then get back to us. Regarding the label “war propaganda,” a true tale truly told is not propaganda. HACKSAW RIDGE is true to Desmond Doss’s amazing life story with little dramatic embellishment. Interviews with Doss, his captain, and with soldiers who knew him at the end of the movie confirm the events and the characters as factual.

 

Image from HACKSAW RIDGE. Waiting for Doss to finish his prayers. This was true.

Image from HACKSAW RIDGE.
Waiting for Doss to finish his prayers.
This was true.

 

In fact, the movie HACKSAW RIDGE is not big enough to portray all of Doss’s heroic deeds.

For example, the film shows cargo nets hung from the top of the ridge. What it doesn’t show is that Doss was one of the three men to carry the massive cargo nets up the ridge and mount them there under the nose of the Japanese. (See article below, History vs. Hollywood, for historical picture of Doss with the nets at the top of the ridge.) After the battle wherein Doss brought down all seventy-five casualties on his own, he continued to assist wounded soldiers and to inspire the men in the 1st Battalion to go on to win a foothold on the ridge, even after being wounded by shrapnel and sniper fire. It’s worth reading the full text of his Medal of Honor citation below.

 

Andrew Garfield as Pfc. Desmond Doss Check out those cargo nets on that 400 ft. ridge. Image from HACKSAW RIDGE.

Andrew Garfield as Pfc. Desmond Doss
Check out those cargo nets on that 400 ft. ridge.
Image from HACKSAW RIDGE.

 

In summary, this is a true story well told about a man of faith, whose faith gave him strength to rescue over seventy-five men from the battlefield during one of the bloodiest conflicts of WWII.

Those offended by displays of Christian faith or the horrors of war might find this movie is not for them. I would encourage those people to be open-minded and accepting of diversity and go anyway to learn about genuine historical events and a very real man who deserves an excellent movie. Those who are comfortable with religious conviction and who understand that war is hell will be amazed at the story of war hero Desmond Doss.

I give HACKSAW RIDGE our highest Bayard & Holmes rating, a .44 magnum, with one caveat.

Though the violence is realistic, it is extreme, just as one might expect the Battle of Okinawa to be. With excellent production and outstanding acting, it’s worth paying the prime time price for if you can stand the crowd.

 

 

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President Harry Truman awarding Medal of Honor to Conscientious Objector Desmond Doss public domain, wikimedia commons

President Harry Truman awarding Medal of Honor to
Conscientious Objector Desmond Doss
public domain, wikimedia commons

 

The text of Pfc. Desmond Doss’s Medal of Honor citation speaks for itself, telling the story of his remarkable courage under fire:

“He was a company aid man when the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet [120 m] high. As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machinegun fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Pfc. Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying all 75 casualties one-by-one to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands. On May 2, he exposed himself to heavy rifle and mortar fire in rescuing a wounded man 200 yards [180 m] forward of the lines on the same escarpment; and 2 days later he treated 4 men who had been cut down while assaulting a strongly defended cave, advancing through a shower of grenades to within 8 yards [7.3 m] of enemy forces in a cave’s mouth, where he dressed his comrades’ wounds before making 4 separate trips under fire to evacuate them to safety. On May 5, he unhesitatingly braved enemy shelling and small arms fire to assist an artillery officer. He applied bandages, moved his patient to a spot that offered protection from small arms fire and, while artillery and mortar shells fell close by, painstakingly administered plasma. Later that day, when an American was severely wounded by fire from a cave, Pfc. Doss crawled to him where he had fallen 25 feet [7.6 m] from the enemy position, rendered aid, and carried him 100 yards [91 m] to safety while continually exposed to enemy fire. On May 21, in a night attack on high ground near Shuri, he remained in exposed territory while the rest of his company took cover, fearlessly risking the chance that he would be mistaken for an infiltrating Japanese and giving aid to the injured until he was himself seriously wounded in the legs by the explosion of a grenade. Rather than call another aid man from cover, he cared for his own injuries and waited 5 hours before litter bearers reached him and started carrying him to cover. The trio was caught in an enemy tank attack and Pfc. Doss, seeing a more critically wounded man nearby, crawled off the litter; and directed the bearers to give their first attention to the other man. Awaiting the litter bearers’ return, he was again struck, by a sniper bullet while being carried off the field by a comrade, this time suffering a compound fracture of 1 arm. With magnificent fortitude he bound a rifle stock to his shattered arm as a splint and then crawled 300 yards [270 m] over rough terrain to the aid station. Through his outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions Pfc. Doss saved the lives of many soldiers. His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty.”

 

For more about Pfc. Desmond Doss and how HACKSAW RIDGE compares to Doss’s real life, see HistoryvsHollywood.com Hacksaw Ridge and Bayard & Holmes article, The Medal of Honor Recipient Who Wouldn’t Fight.

 

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Bayard & Holmes Official Photo

Piper Bayard is an author and a recovering attorney. Her writing partner, Jay Holmes, is an anonymous senior member of the intelligence community and a field veteran from the Cold War through the current Global War on Terror. Together, they are the bestselling authors of the international spy thriller, THE SPY BRIDE.

Watch for their upcoming non-fiction release, CHINA — THE PIRATE OF THE SOUTH CHINA SEA.

 

cover-3-china-the-pirate-of-the-south-china-sea

Keep in touch through updates at Bayard & Holmes Covert Briefing.

You can contact Bayard & Holmes in comments below, at their site, Bayard & Holmes, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or at their email, BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

 

Chinese Aggression Spurs New Alliances for Japan

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

Chinese aggression in the South China Sea is causing Japan to strengthen its alliance with the US and build new and unlikely partnerships with some traditional enemies.

 

US Pres. Obama and Japanese Emperor Akihito Image by State Dept., public domain

US Pres. Obama and Japanese Emperor Akihito
Image by State Dept., public domain

 

Building a stronger defensive alliance with Japan is the least challenging foreign policy task faced by the Obama administration. It is also the easiest foreign relationship from the point of view of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration.

Modern Japan and the US share similar political and social values, and both countries are strongly independent and democratic in structure and outlook. At times in the past, trade imbalances and the vast US presence in Okinawa have stressed the US-Japan relationship, but those issues never prevented strong military and diplomatic cooperation. The two countries have shared a consistently solid relationship since the founding of modern Japan in 1947.

To understand the US-Japan relationship, we should consider Japan’s geographic and political dilemmas.

Japan imports most of its fossil fuels and about sixty percent of its food. Free navigation of the seas is critical to Japan’s prosperity, and even to its very existence. To varying degrees Russia, China, and North Korea all pose serious threats to Japan’s national security. In a sense, Japan is the “Israel” of the Pacific. They have no allies in their region. Fortunately, this may be changing.

China remains bitter for the brutal invasion and occupation carried out by Imperial Japan during the first half of the twentieth century.

 

Japanese Soldiers with Broken Statue of Chinese Leader Dr. Sun Yat Sen. Image public domain.

Japanese Soldiers with Broken Statue of Chinese Leader Dr. Sun Yat Sen.
Image public domain.

 

China’s communist government has found it convenient for its political mythology to foment hatred toward Japan rather than seek reconciliation. Fifty years ago, Japan could afford to be less concerned with China’s hatred.

As the People’s Republic of China has begun to overcome its long history of inept and self-destructive government, it has been able to develop its massive population and considerable natural resources.

Having established a stronger economy and a stronger military, China has made itself more “relevant” in the Pacific. Unfortunately for them and for everyone else, they have chosen to seek “relevancy” and legitimacy through increased aggression toward their neighbors. As China’s military strength and aggressive attitude grows, so grows Japan’s concern for self-defense.

The one challenge that remains in US-Japan relations is Japan’s poor relationships with other US allies in the Pacific.

The US has had a close, though rather one-sided, relationship with South Korea since WWII. That relationship has been based on the US’s willingness to defend South Korea against its communist neighbors. While North Korea remains a menace and a constant nuisance to both South Korea and Japan, until recently that has not been enough motive to bring the two nations closer. Both South Koreans and North Koreans remain angry over the Japanese occupation prior to and during WWII.

However, there are now signs of a thaw in relations between South Korea and Japan.

To a degree, North Korea’s nuclear threats and China’s increasing aggression are motivating Japan and South Korea to cooperate more on issues of trade and defense. It may take several more decades for South Koreans to form a more favorable view of Japan, but if the Japanese exercise some diplomatic skill, they may eventually be able to change their image in South Korea. This would enable more effective military cooperation against the growing threats from the North Koreans and China.

A similar three-way dilemma exists between Japan, the Philippines, and the US.

For the same historic reasons, Japan remains unpopular in the Philippines while the US maintains close relations with both countries. As with South Korea and Japan, the US has long hoped for and attempted to promote closer relations between the Philippines and Japan.

In the case of the Philippines, there have been strong signs of growing cooperation with Japan.

Recently, a Japanese warship took part in naval exercises with the US and the Philippine navies. Even as recently as two years ago, the presence of a Japanese warship in Philippine coastal waters would have been completely unwelcome in the Philippines. In another clear sign that China’s aggression is forcing Japan and the Philippines together, Japan is selling jet trainer aircraft to the Philippines. This sale is a major event in Philippine-Japan relations.

By quietly acting as a go-between, the US has been able to help Japan begin to build better relations with its Western Pacific neighbors.

In military terms, relations between Japan and the US are very good and getting better. Japan continues to allow the US to maintain considerable air and naval forces in Japanese territory, and the working relationship between US and Japanese forces is excellent. Senior military officers from both nations have a high degree of trust in each other’s ability and integrity. When the US and Japanese militaries make an agreement, both sides are confident that the agreement will be carried out.

Perhaps the single greatest impact thus far from China’s growing aggression in the South China Sea can be seen in Japan.

The Japanese constitution limits Japan to a relatively small self-defense force. While the Japanese self-defense force is small, it is high in quality. Whenever the Japanese government has committed to building ships for its maritime self-defense force, the ships have been well designed, well built, and delivered on time. Japanese politicians and voters are starting to consider expanding their military both in budgetary and doctrinal terms. In budgetary terms, Japan has made small increases in expenditures, and they are now developing their own stealth fighter. This new stealth fighter is in addition to Japan’s participation in the expensive US led F-35 program.

 

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at Edwards Air Force Base Image public domain.

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at Edwards Air Force Base
Image public domain.

 

In doctrinal terms, Japan was willing to participate in naval exercises in the Philippines.

Until recently, the Japanese government and Japanese voters would have considered such a deployment unacceptable. The Japanese voters still have a deep aversion for involving themselves in another war of aggression, but they are beginning to accept that the security of the Philippines directly impacts their own national security.

Over eighty percent of Japan’s oil comes from the Mideast. Since the Fukushima nuclear power plant leak disaster in 2011, Japan’s oil import requirements have increased. Free navigation of the international waters of the South China/West Philippine Sea is even more critical to Japan than it is to the Philippines.

The US has announced that the linchpin for US strategy in the Pacific will be the Philippines.

In reality, that only appears to be the case because of how little Japan needs to improve its self-defense as compared to how desperately the Philippines needs to build a credible military. For diplomatic reasons, both the US and Japan prefer to publicly keep the focus on the Philippines.

The relationship between Japan and the US has evolved in to one of equality, shared values, and genuine mutual respect. Whatever problems might arise between the US and Japan, the relationship will remain strong.

The Japanese people have no desire to create a Japanese hegemony in the Pacific, but China’s expansionist agenda has forced them to accept a greater role in international affairs in the region.

In our next episode, we will consider the changing US-Malaysian relationship.

The Race for US/Asia-Pacific Alliances

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

On November 23, 2013, the People’s Republic of China declared its East China Sea Air Defense and Identification Zone, which asserted expanded territorial boundaries. The new zone includes international waters as well as areas claimed by both Japan and Taiwan as sovereign territories.

 

East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone Image by Voice of America, public domain

East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone
Image by Voice of America, public domain

 

The Senkaku Islands southwest of Okinawa are a part of this new territorial grab. The Senkakus are uninhabited, but they are astride international navigation routes used daily by Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the US, and other nations. Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea refused to recognize China’s claim to them.

As part of the new Defense Zone, the People’s Republic of China wants all aircraft to report to Chinese controllers and obtain their permission to fly through. Since China declared this, the USA and Japan have responded by increasing military flights through the zone without complying with China’s request. This is their way of asserting their continued right to access international waters and airspace without having to submit to illegitimate Chinese authority.

It might seem counterproductive for China to encourage resistance and distrust from its important trading partners in and across the Pacific.

None of China’s Pacific neighbors, except its “allies” in North Korea, pose China with a national security threat. However, by declaring the new Defense Zone, other Pacific nations have been energized to increase their defense spending and to seek closer alliances with each other and with the US.

So why set up an annoying “Defense Zone” only to have it ignored by other Pacific nations? Did China miscalculate?

In my opinion, the People’s Republic of China anticipated the international reactions and accepted those costs in order to begin enacting a broader long-term strategy. China is not playing at politics for this week or this year, but rather it is focused on slowly achieving important goals during the next few decades. In that context, their feeble Defense Zone takes on a different meaning.

The Defense Zone does not keep the US and Japanese military planes away, and, in fact, it attracts more of them. But in the minds of communist government rulers, it has a value in the realm of psychological warfare.

For one thing, those rulers can ignore the outcome of their declaration and proclaim it a victory to their imprisoned citizens. In Japan or the US, that sort of thing would not play well, and it would most likely inspire criticism from citizens. However, we should never forget that for despotic regimes like China, the greatest psychological warfare battles must be fought at home.

Since extending its imaginary sovereignty over the Senkakus, China has increased its ongoing imperial claims by occupying some of the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

The Spratly Islands range in size from “too small for people to comfortably inhabit” to “small wet tidal sand bars.” Both China and Taiwan claim sovereignty and exclusive rights over the entire South China Sea, including the Spratlys. These claims are absurd in the extreme, but communist China never shies away from absurdity in politics. (See US-Philippine Relations Hit Critical Threshold.)

The Spratlys are all closer to Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines than they are to China. In fact, in the Philippines, the sea area around the eastern Spratlys is referred to as the West Philippine Sea. When viewing a map of the Spratlys and their neighboring countries, it is easy enough to see how territorial claims for the Spratlys might be in dispute, but China is not in that neighborhood, so their claims are by far the least legitimate.

Because it expanded and militarized a few of the Spratly Islands, China claims that it now has exclusive territorial rights over the Spratlys. The United Nations rules – rules that China agreed to as a UN member nation – make it clear that occupation of artificially expanded reefs gives no right of territorial claims in the surrounding waters. However, the People’s Republic of China only recognizes rules and agreements when it suits its purpose. The Chinese rule has always has been, “We do whatever we can get away with.”

The impacts of the Chinese imperial ambitions in the Spratly Islands have been fairly predictable.

Important trade routes that include oil shipments to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and the US run through the waters around the Spratly Islands. Before reaching the Spratly Islands, a tanker journeying from the Indian Ocean to Japan, China, Philippines, etc., would have to navigate the narrow Straits of Malacca between Sumatra and the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula.

Freedom of passage through the Straits of Malacca is important to all Pacific nations, but they are China’s most critical vulnerability. If oil tankers did not traverse the Straits to China on a regular schedule, the Chinese economy would soon be paralyzed.

Since the impacts of the China’s South China Sea campaign were obvious to me, then I have to assume that they were also obvious to the Chinese, but again, they are playing for the long game. The short-term diplomatic and political repercussions are acceptable costs to the communist Chinese regime.

The most obvious impacts of the newly declared Defense Zone have been the shift toward cooperation with the US by nations such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Brunei, and a refocus on US relations in the Philippines and Taiwan.

From a US perspective, China’s expansionist strategy seems to require a clear and manageable response. The US government believes that the nations bordering the South China Sea should take reasonable steps to improve their military capabilities and their regional cooperation.

It’s all clear and simple when viewed from the Washington, D.C. universe. The situation is more complex when viewed from the shores of the SW Pacific nations.

Each of the Pacific nations has responded in its own unique way with its own unique goals and obstacles. Each of them wants to reshape its relationship with the US, and it is best that each be considered as a separate case. In our next installment, we will examine the evolving US-Philippine relationship.

The End is Near (and we deserve it) . . . Yakuza Launches Recruiting Site

By Piper Bayard

Pic like the ones you find at Yakuza site. Not Yakuza pic.  Image by Norbert Weber.

Pic like the ones you find at Yakuza site.
Image by Norbert Weber.

 

Membership in Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest family of Yakuza, or Japanese mafia, has been falling. Due to economic difficulties, the gangsta life is apparently not enough of a recruiting magnet on its own. So the Yamaguchi-gumi now has a recruiting website with its own corporate song, a poetry page, fishing diaries, and a message from the boss. Read about it here . . .

 

Japanese mobsters launch their own website

And this is the site. It’s in Japanese, but don’t worry. It has an English translation option.

Yakuza Recruiting Site

And here’s their video of happy little Yakuza at play to the tune of their theme song.

Blogs and Articles in No Particular Order

Speaking of Yakuza, Japan, and such, a big welcome to historical fiction author Susan Spann, the newest featured author at the Social In network. Look for Susan’s posts about ninjas, a.k.a. shinobi, on Saturdays at SocialInDC. Also, you can pre-order her latest Shinobi Mystery, BLADE OF THE SAMURAI, at Amazon now.

Blade of the Samurai

Kokkie H Reviews The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

In case you missed it, Holmes wrote an excellent piece about Boko Haram, the kidnapping that caught world attention, and the Western response. Boko Haram — Nigeria’s Jihadi Biker Gang

Image of kidnapped girls released by Boko Haram.  From Voice of America

Image of kidnapped girls released by Boko Haram.
From Voice of America

Emotional Triggers–A Direct Path to Human Connectivity. Great advice about social media marketing strategies from Lonny Dunn of Pronetworkbuild.

UNHCR Says Internal Displacement Affects Some 10,000 People in Ukraine

Via Screenwriter and Best Selling Author Ryne Douglas PearsonPhotos: Ray Bradbury’s House for Sale. Cozy enough for the best of writers. Can be yours for only $1.49 million.

Ray Bradbury's house

Ray Bradbury’s house

 

Photos: Welcome Home–The Story of Scott Ostrom via Christine Moore. There is more than one way to sacrifice a life. This Memorial Day, I won’t only be thinking about those who have died. I’ll be thinking about those who are called to go on.

Great article from New York Times bestseller and former Green Beret Bob Mayer. Survival Friday: Burglaries. I recommend checking out all of his Survival Fridays and picking up his book, The Green Beret Survival Guide. Part of the proceeds will go to Special Operations Warrior Foundations. SOWF provides scholorships grants, education and family counseling to the surviving children of special operations personnel who have died.

 

The Green Beret Survival Guide

Morning A.D.D. (Awkward Daily Dose): Gallery. Get ready for a laugh.

Porn addiction is a very real and very serious issue. Your Brain on Porn: 10 Common Signs of Addiction by August McLaughlin, who is the person you’d get if Dr. Ruth and a supermodel had a baby.

And our video for the day . . . Think of the tub as the Yamaguchi-gumi Recruiting Site, the dog as the Yamaguchi-gumi, and the cat as the poor sucker who takes their web site seriously.

 

 

All the best to all of you for a week of knowing who your friends are.

The End is Near (and we deserve it) . . . Michelangelo’s David Must Wear Underwear

A town in Japan received a replica of Michelangelo’s David as a gift. Many found the statue to be immodest and demanded underwear.

Michelangelo's David David Gaya wikimedia

image by David Gaya, wikimedia commons

Read the story here. Japan Town Demands Underwear for Michelangelo’s David

I had no idea John Ashcroft had moved to Japan.

Blogs and Articles in No Particular Order

I’m excited to tell you about WANA International’s first online writing conference – WANACon! With best selling author Kristen Lamb at the helm, this is sure to be an outstanding learning experience for authors. New York Times Best Selling Author Allison Brennan and Aaron Patterson, #1 Amazon Best Seller and General Manager of Stonehouse Ink Publishing are only two of the teachers presenting classes during the event, which will be February 22 – 23. Kristen gives us the details at her blog. And Now for Something Completely Different! Redefining the Writing Conference

WANACon Logo

I always enjoy seeing two of my favorite bloggers in the same place. This time, it’s Jess Witkins and Julie Glover. Guilty Pleasures Friday – Embarrassing My Kids

Lena Corazon directed me to The Association for Renaissance Martial Arts and an interesting article, What Did Historical Swords Weigh?

Ellie Ann pointed me toward some amazing horses. Picturing Horses

A Knight at the Crossroads Viktor M. Vasnetsov

A Knight at the Crossroads by Viktor M. Vasnetsov, US public domain

Blurb Etiquette Some excellent advice from author Mike Duran.

Beyonce created quite a stir with her costume that was almost there at the Superbowl halftime show. Elizabeth Duffy wrote and excellent commentary on the kerfuffle. Sex, Shame, and the Superbowl

Sometimes those old relatives wander off to the strangest places. Via Judith Houlding of Space Editing, LLC. Bones Under Parking Lot Belonged to Richard III

Second Graders Spell-Check NFL Players’ Tweets

A precious moment captured. Via Xandra James we have Baby Wolf Learns to Howl.

All the best to all of you for a week of knowing your art.

Piper Bayard–The Pale Writer of the Apocalypse

The End is Near (and we deserve it) . . . $55k Backpack Covered in Pills

Olsen's Pill Backpack

$55k Designer Backpack from Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.

Apparently they found a use for their leftovers. Who needs Alice?

Blogs and Articles in No Particular Order

Sometimes it takes a ferret to lead us. Another Year, Another Wiggle by Samuel Clemons.

In case you had too much New Year’s cheer, this will definitely bring you back to earth. Via Patricia Vicens Lucchetti. The Four Companies that Control the 147 Companies that Own Everything

And for something a bit more hopeful. From Bestselling Author and Social Media Jedi Kristen Lamb we learn What’s Ahead in 2013–Predictions for the Future of Publishing and Authors of the Digital Age.

And your health tip of the day. I knew grapefruit could make a transplant patient go into rejection, but I had no idea its effects could be so widespread. No wonder my dog never begs for this stuff. Grapefruit is a Culprit in More Drug Reactions

Grapefruit John Steven Fernandez wikimedia

image by John Steven Fernandez, wikimedia commons

 Via author Pati Nagle, New Comet Might Blaze Brighter than the Full Moon. Keep your eye on the skies for ISON in November.

Susan Spann shares a tense tale of love and passion. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – On the Reef

Emily Cannell of Hey from Japan asks the question that has no doubt baffled visitors to the East for eons. How Could Something So Pretty Smell So Bad?

You may have seen a few of these or even fallen prey to them at recent Holiday parties. Be on guard! Via the 1491s.

Now it’s your turn to express yourselves.

All the best to all of you for wise expenditures.

Piper Bayard–The Pale Writer of the Apocalypse

Save the Whales. . . . Eat More Imperial Dwarf Deer

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

With Congress gearing up to shut down the US government altogether, Holmes and I have once again stepped up to Save the Planet and Strengthen the Economy while they are busy doing their Power Dance. . . . Hey. Somebody’s got to do the real work, right?

Today we introduce to you the Imperial Dwarf Deer.

Imperial Dwarf Deer, image from Alan D. Wilson, wikimedia commons

With the proper regulation of this soon-to-be-endangered species, we will not only save whales and other protected animals, we will strengthen the American economy by providing gangsters and lackadaisical teens with respectable, profitable employment that improves the environment and reduces the spread of disease. Allow us to explain. . . .

Currently, the International Whaling Commission has a moratorium on commercial whaling. This applies to all nations, except for the nations who choose to ignore it. Japan chooses to ignore it by issuing its whalers Scientific Research Permits which allow them to kill 1,035 whales each year. Of course, as soon as they are finished scientifically inspecting the animal they have landed and confirming that it is, indeed, a whale, they are free to sell it on the market as food. (“They” in this instance are the big fish in the Japanese fishing industry.) As a result, the Japanese slaughtered over 12,000 whales—minke, fin, humpback, and even sperm whales—between 1988 and 2009 alone.

So you must be wondering by now, what does all this have to do with the Imperial Dwarf Deer? We’re so glad you asked.

The Imperial Dwarf Deer, commonly referred to as the “muskrat,” is about the size of a cottontail rabbit and carries the Bubonic Plague. It has also infested vast sections of America and Europe, destroying irrigation channels and waterways with their burrowing, as well as the dikes and levees of coastal Europe. But let’s not be too hard on this rodent, because it is the answer for saving endangered species and strengthening the economy.

Holmes and I have already sent a proposition to the UN that it should rename the muskrat the Imperial Dwarf Deer and see it placed on Endangered Species lists across the globe. In addition, this proposition includes the establishment of the International Imperial Dwarf Deer Commission, which would immediately whip up a moratorium treaty outlawing hunting of the little varmint.

As soon is the Imperial Dwarf Deer is officially listed as an Endangered Species, making it chic and extremely expensive, certain benefits are sure to follow that stretch far beyond the saving of whales. . . .

  • Imperial Dwarf Deer will replace the whale as the most coveted illegal food source in Asia, and every posh restaurant in Japan will want to serve it as its Imperial Special. Whale sushi would be as yesterday as Y2K.
  • Everyone in Las Vegas will want one for a pet.
  • Rebellious teenagers, delighted at the opportunity to engage in a fun, safe, illegal activity, will clean up the waterways and learn a little work ethic while earning black market profit.
  • Gangsters will find Imperial Dwarf Deer hocking more profitable than illegal drugs, transforming them from Drug Lords to Imperial Dwarf Deer Lords.
  • America and Europe will wrestle the “faux fur” market from China, pushing Imperial Dwarf Deer hides as superior to the raccoon dog skins currently being used in the clothing industry. (Dogs technically do not have fur, they have hair. Their hair is designated as “faux fur” and used in clothing. Yes. This could well mean your coat. Click here.)

As an added benefit, listing the Imperial Dwarf Deer as an endangered species will save Siberian tigers and rhinoceros, too. Holmes and I have already sent representatives to the likely heads of the International Imperial Dwarf Deer Commission, appealing to them to issue 20 million Scientific Research Permits to the nations of Japan and China specifically for the development of holistic herbal remedies.

The Asian herbal medication moguls would work closely with the University of East Anglia in the UK, famous for its cutting-edge global warming research, to produce ridiculous but convenient proof that the genitalia of the Imperial Dwarf Deer not only acts as an aphrodisiac, but is more effective than both tiger penis and rhino horn at stimulating penis growth in human males. It also has the added benefit of not stimulating penis growth in human females.

In conclusion, renaming the muskrat the Imperial Dwarf Deer and listing it as an Endangered Species would save the whales, protect tigers and rhinos, eliminate a plague rat from our waterways, clean up our irrigation canals, and end the destruction of the critically important dikes and levees in coastal Europe while providing responsible, yet illegal, employment for American teenagers and Imperial Dwarf Deer Lords. So remember tonight. . . .

Imperial Dwarf Deer. . . . It’s what’s for dinner!

Special Edition Libya: Will the Libyan Rebels Hold On?

By Jay Holmes

Western governments have, thus far, declined to use any portion of their massive military superiority to intervene on behalf of the anti-Gadhafi rebels in Libya. It appears that, after their initial, timid response to the rebels, Gadhafi’s loyalists have used their limited military ability effectively against the rebels. As for the rebels, they have chosen a static defense against weapons that they cannot match. Their instincts were understandable, but, given their lack of firepower and training, that tactical decision has allowed Gadhafi to concentrate his attacking forces at the point and time of his choosing. The rebels’ failure to utilize mobility and flexibility has cost them dearly.

It appears (from my distant desk) that the West will not act with anything more than “condemnations” and embargoes. What did the President of the United States mean when he said that the noose was tightening? I can understand our apparent reluctance to act due to our inability to predict what might replace Gadhafi, but, if the US was not going to act, such statements would have been better off left unspoken.

Also, if France was not prepared to crush the Libyan Air Force, then why did Sarkozy choose to recognize as legitimate the leaders of a Libya rebel group that he was not ready to trust? I suspect the answer to this question is in Egypt and Tunisia rather than Libya. It is too easy for politicians and voters to assume that “Case A = Case B = Case C.” This natural and strong human instinct to generalize cases can lead to erroneous conclusions in formulating policy.

It appears that Obama overestimated the impact of his words on Gadhafi. I believe it is best to refrain from announcing hangings until we are sure that the intended victim will, indeed, be brought to the gallows. If the West continues to refrain from military support, and Gadhafi triumphs after being declared “on his way out,” it will constitute an “Arab victory” in the eyes of the Islamic propaganda machinery and those that listen to that machine’s output.

One of the more laughable responses to this dark comedy has come from NATO Command. NATO announced that it not only needs “support from the region” (they got that when the Arab League endorsed a no-fly zone) and an indication that a no-fly zone would help, but it also needs permission from the UN.

The time has come for me to unchain a monstrous question that I have kept locked up for years in my often incautious mouth. Since NATO cannot act without the UN, why is there a NATO, and how soon can we cut that massive expense from the US budget? I can accept NATO’s decision to act or not act. I cannot accept NATO’s declaration that it now takes orders from the UN.

When the Arab League decided to support the no-fly zone concept, their “support” apparently did not include actually lifting a finger for the people of Libya. The prevention of the slaughter of innocent Islamic women and children is apparently the responsibility of the non-Islamic West. So much for that much vaunted illusion of “Arab unity.” The Arab states appear to be united only in their intent on letting someone else take care of the problems faced by the people of Libya.

Given the level of brutality that Gadhafi has inflicted on Libyans in the past, the tribes that have taken part in the rebellion might see horrible reprisals. Gadhafi has much to lose by throwing off his “reformist” costume again and putting on his jackal costume. The West’s reluctance to act against him during the last seven years has been, in part, because he was willing to present to the world an almost believable facade of reform. If the rebels collapse, and Gadhafi opts for the “joy of vengeance,” the people of Benghazi might pay dearly for their military failure. This time, there may well be more than twenty dead at the soccer stadium. And, if a genocidal operation is conducted in Benghazi, Gadhafi will surely claim that the imaginary “outsiders” were the ones responsible.

The rebellion in Libya is not dead yet, but they are fast running out of options. Unless they quickly organize and change tactics, or the west decides to intervene, they will likely be doomed.

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Our Salute

On another topic, Piper and I salute the courageous power company workers and emergency responders in Japan. I lack the information and the expertise to quantify the actual risk, but the workers that are marching into the reactor to try to cool down the fuel reactor cores must be taking tremendous risks. Obviously, they are doing it in hopes of saving other people’s lives. I hope that I am mistaken, but I am very fearful about their prospects for survival.

If a massive evacuation of Tokyo becomes a reality, I wonder if it would be possible for some Japanese to relocate to the United States? If we look at the history of immigrants by nationality, it appears that, as a group, Japanese immigrants in the United States have a great record of becoming good neighbors and responsible citizens.

The reporting from Japan and the editorializing outside of Japan are both being pursued vigorously, so given my lack of expertise in civil defense matters in general and nuclear disasters in particular, I will restrain myself from further comment, other than to say that we offer our sympathy and our best hopes for the people of Japan.