France’s Strategic Vision — Planned Inadequacy

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

Last week, the French government released its outline for future defense strategy and spending. The presentation made it clear that the Macron government wishes to cut its defense budget, concentrate on high-technology advancements, and reduce manpower. When questioned about the feasibility of the force reductions at a time when the French military seems to be busier than it has been in recent decades, a French military spokesman, on behalf of the French Ministry of Defense, stuck to a tightly-scripted play book.

Notably, he did not deny that the restructuring would be inadequate for France’s national security needs. Instead, in a rare instance of political honesty, he said that in the future, the French would rely on “more privileged countries like the UK and USA to provide the necessary manpower.”

French military parade on Bastille Day — soon to be outsourced?
Image US DOD, public domain

That statement was brief and seemed to slip right past the “privileged countries” that France says would have the privilege of sending their flesh and blood to defend France.

However, in spite of the lack of coverage by the US and UK media, it did not quite go completely unnoticed, as in, Piper and I noticed it. We get it. Everyone gets tired of adulting sometimes. These days, politicians commonly woo voters with promises of cradle-to-grave dependence on the “more privileged,” but it’s unusual that a country would actually admit that it expects cradle-to-grave dependence on other countries to provide its defense, so we believe it is worth examining France’s strategic vision more closely.

In a world controlled primarily by despotic nations that offer little freedom and little hope for the future, Western Europe matters. If France were surrounded by allies with more military power, then it would perhaps be less important that France is actively planning on a strategy of military inadequacy, as their neighbors could rush across the border to assist whenever needed. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. 

A country’s Gross Domestic Product (“GDP”) is a standard measure for arguing military spending by NATO member nations, and while this article does not pertain directly to the ongoing NATO debate, percent of GDP spent on defense gives us a legitimate measure. We can optimistically claim that France’s commitment to its national security is backed up by defense spending in the neighborhood of 2.3% of its GDP. However, their allegedly powerful neighbors in Germany only have a defense budget on the order of 1.4% GDP. To France’s southwest, the Spanish have risen from a laughable 0.8% GDP to a still-pathetic 1.2% GDP spending on defense. While a nation’s defense spending as a percent of GDP cannot tell us everything about the quality of its military, it does tell us what that particular nation’s commitment is to national and, in the case of Western European nations, international security.

That said, the numbers change depending on who you ask and who is doing the asking. I am using the numbers that seem to me to be most reliable, based on a combination of what each country most frequently admits and what third-party analysis by groups such as the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute provide. In any case, everyone’s estimates indicate that France’s closest neighbors are in no position to substantially reinforce them.

In the case of Germany, the government and defense industries are partnering closely in hopes of completing more lucrative foreign sales while ignoring the Germany military’s own desperate need for parts, new equipment, and maintenance.

For example, the German Navy has accepted responsibility for submarine patrols in the Baltic Sea—a critical commitment to NATO and Western security in this age of Putin Imperialism. Germany designed and built six submarines optimized for operations in the relatively shallow waters of the Baltic and it allocated suitable manpower. That in itself was no small expense, as skilled submarine crews are so difficult to recruit and train. Unfortunately, Germany did not maintain those submarines due to lack of dry dock time and insufficient parts production. As a result, if the German submarine forces had to put to sea tomorrow, they likely could not keep a single submarine at sea for more than ten days.

You heard correctly—the Germans famous for the U-boats now are not capable of keeping even one submarine operational at sea for more than a handful of days.

Stranded German U-boat 1921 — Who knew this would be the standard in 98 years?

So why didn’t Germany allocate adequate dry dock time and produce parts for the critical maintenance of its submarines?

Because German shipyards were occupied with rushing through construction of new submarines for Israel. That was good news for the Israeli Navy and for German industrial giants. It was bad news for the German submarine force, for NATO, and for Germany’s self-defense.

The German Luftwaffe is in better condition, but it is still not in adequate condition. Due to a shortage in maintenance budget and parts, an undisclosed number of Germany’s planes are not operational at this time. All air forces have planes down for maintenance on any given day, but in the case of the German Luftwaffe, the numbers are so dismal to German taxpayers and NATO partners that Merkel’s government prefers not to announce them.

As for Spain, its current government is claiming that it intends to increase defense spending substantially over the next six years to address its many shortfalls in equipment and operational abilities. Also, in the last two years, Spain has been more willing to provide Spanish personnel to counterterror operations around the world. Like France, Spain, too, maintains garrisons of elite forces in North Africa in locations such as Ceuta and Melilla. However, the Spanish military currently lacks both sufficient financial and popular support to fulfill its strategic vision. The lack of popular support leaves us wondering if its current and next governments will actually complete Spain’s defense rebuilding goals. What we do know, though, is that in its current state, Spain can only minimally contribute to the defense of Europe.  

So then, how about those “more privileged” countries? As far as I know, neither the United Kingdom nor the United States were consulted about France’s new strategy of planned inadequacy. In fact, I am quite certain that they were not consulted. For that matter, the Macron government did not even do much consulting with its own military leaders.  

The Macron government operates on the assumption that everything that the French military needs to know about military matters is what Macron tells it. French military leaders can either support the government’s positions and fantasies, or they can find new careers. Macron and his ministers do not wish to waste their time by listening to the military opinions of generals and admirals.   

It’s not difficult to guess how the current US administration will respond to France’s cute little plan to let Americans provide the French with manpower for their defense. I do not represent the opinions of the US government. I assume that the US administration will respond quietly.

How the UK government responds, though, is of no great consequence. The United Kingdom currently spends only 1.8% of GDP on defense—an even worse defense spending record than France. Also, the United Kingdom, similar to Germany, has currently failed to provide its Navy with the ships that it will need to complete its missions.

I respect the sailors of the UK Royal Navy. They are excellent, but they can’t perform miracles. They need the ships and manpower to complete the missions that the UK government claims that it wishes its navy to complete. Also, while the UK Royal Air Force is in a much better condition than the German Luftwaffe, it has suffered funding cuts to programs that the UK government considered essential. As a result, the Royal Air Force has fewer planes and drones than the UK government agreed that it needs. 

However, a closer look at France’s military systems does offer a somewhat brighter picture.

France has been successful in small antiterror operations in Africa, even with a low budget and poorly-performing helicopters. Lacking helicopters when operating far from any major bases in rugged and remote areas is no easy task. War is easier with adequate airborne resupply and close air support. Enemy strongholds are not particularly bothersome once an air force has been kind enough to drop the proper ordnance on their locations. Without those advantages of adequate helicopters and air support, a country like Chad is a much more daunting theater of operations. The French Army deserves credit for succeeding there, and the French government deserves credit for sending its army there.

France has made good use of two critical advantages in their operations in Africa. First, France has enough personnel overall to enable a system that includes large numbers of forces that specialize in geographic areas. That allows the French to better prepare and shape operations in hostile environments. Second, having forces specialized in geographic areas allows France to pursue a tactic of what we might call “vertical intelligence delivery.” That is to say that the private on patrol is almost as well-informed of all useful available intelligence in his area of operations as is the regimental commander. This greatly minimizes the chance of small patrols unwittingly drifting into ambushes. It also helps the soldiers to establish better relationships with the locals. Both of these advantages will be impacted with force reductions, which will make it more difficult for France to maintain this regional expertise.

The one exception might be the French Foreign Legion. The Legion is excellent, and it will remain viable in the foreseeable future, though it is limited in size, equipment, and logistic support and can only do so much with what it has.  

So how do we form a reasonable view of what the future of Western European defense spending and strategy will look like? Understanding the money and politics might clarify things a bit. Let us glance at a few European cases.

France claims that it is emphasizing high-tech equipment upgrades because that will allow it to operate a smaller, but equally effective, military force. There is perhaps some truth to this, but the more obvious reason is that France wants to focus on foreign military sales rather than its own defense. In particular, the French government intends to quietly keep French defense industries successful and profitable by supplying Mideast and African nations with military equipment. Those French companies would be happy to sell their wares to just about anyone, but they have been most successful in recent years with sales to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Helping to build other nations’ defense forces is more profitable than building their own. 

Italy is more direct about its intentions to market its ships and other military equipment to any buyers with cash.

The Italian defense corporations make no secret that they intend to complete as many foreign sales as possible, and that their product designs are emphasizing foreign sales as opposed to the needs of the Italian military. As for the Italian government’s defense strategy and planning, those are easy to understand on any given day, but one might not wish to put in even that minimal effort to do so, as tomorrow they will change again.

The German government currently feels that it is important to give the appearance of being highly restrained in foreign military sales.

German corporations attempt to be less public about their foreign marketing efforts than the Italians or the French. The reality is that German ships, tanks, guns, and the occasional Eurofighter are all for sale to those who have the cash. The buyers just need to reassure the Germans that the armaments will not be used to kill anyone, because the German government likes to maintain the illusion that munitions are to be used for peace, not for war.

The underlying assumption in Western Europe is that it is not currently under threat by any peer or near-peer forces.

In the case of France, it will continue to rely on the bedrock of Gaullist military thinking, which is to maintain a viable nuclear force to deter Putin, Kim, or anyone else from conducting all-out military operations against them. Young readers might find that approach strange and a bit simpleminded, but France, along with the United Kingdom, sees its nuclear weapons as a viable national security insurance. This Gaullist approach is as ingrained in French military planning as it is in UK, US, and Russian military planning. Western European countries overall, however, assume that terrorist attacks will continue, and they intend to maintain adequate military forces to deal with that threat.  

From the US and UK points of view, there would be no benefit in reacting too strongly to France’s “let the United States and United Kingdom defend us” strategy. The Macron government is speaking to its voters rather than addressing strategic realities.

The Yellow Vests are on the verge of storming the Bastille in their opposition to Macron, and Macron and his handlers have to invent something that sounds like good news to the French working class voters while pretending to give a damn about them. France and NATO have weathered worse storms than the Macron wind storm. They will survive Macron, as well.

In reality, the only thing new in France’s strategy statement is that it is actually admitting to what we already knew—that France is unwilling to carry the burden of its own defense and instead is willfully dependent on its allies. Prepare for the status quo to continue, but maybe don’t stand between Macron and the Yellow Vests.

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What do the main intelligence agencies do and where do they operate? How do they recruit personnel? What are real life honey pots and sleeper agents? What about truth serums and enhanced interrogations? And what are the most common foibles of popular spy fiction?

With the voice of over forty years experience in the Intelligence Community, Bayard & Holmes answer these questions and share information on espionage history, firearms of spycraft, tradecraft, and the personal challenges of the people behind the myths.

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Real News: March 5 Mashup

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard

Real News Mashup is a compilation of articles that I consider to be interesting, informative, or both. Please share articles of your own in the comments. Perhaps if we work together, we can remember that the world is bigger than the propaganda storm.

 

 

Things That Might Make You Want to Slap Someone

Why the US Supreme Court’s New Ruling on Excessive Fines is a Big Deal — German Lopez, Vox

Today’s Supreme Court rarely hands down a unanimous ruling. This is one of them.

 

“Dear Attorney General Barr”: Advice from Insiders — Sheryl Attkisson, The Hill

I found this list compiled by several lifelong veterans of the military and intelligence communities. They were asked the question, “What should be Attorney General Barr’s top priorities?” These are their answers. 

 

 

Saudis Prepare Trials of Detainees Identified as Women’s Rights Activists   Hesham Hajali, Reuters

In other words, Saudi women can now drive under limited conditions in Saudi Arabia, but those who fought for the right are now being prosecuted. And just to make sure none of the Saudi women forget they are still chattel in the Sharia Law kingdom . . .

 

Google, Siding with Saudi Arabia, Refuses to Remove Widely-Criticized Government App That Lets Men Track Women and Control Their Travels — Bill Bostock, Business Insider

 

US-Backed Forces Launch What Could Be the Last Major Battle Against ISIS in Syria Small Wars Journal, Articles by Liz Sly of The Washington Post and Gordon Lubold of The Wall Street Journal

 

Venezuela’s Suicide: Lessons from a Failed State — Moisés Naím and Francisco Toro, Foreign Affairs

Forty years ago, Venezuela had a thriving economy. Now, millions rush to escape the failed state. It took decades to get from Point A to Point B, and the journey has many lessons for the rest of us.

 

DIA Mole Ana Montes
FBI mug shot, public domain

 

Ana Montes Did Much Harm Spying for Cuba. Chances Are, You Haven’t Heard of Her. — Jim Popkin, The Washington Post  

 

China Is Building Soft Power In US Schools — Rachel Oswald, Roll Call

 

Smart Home Assistants, Like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod, Might Soon Report Their Owners to the Police for Breaking the Law — Charlie Nash, Breitbart

 

Now Facebook is Allowing Anyone to Look You Up Using Your Security Phone Number — Michael Grothaus, Fast Company   

Facebook does not allow anyone to opt out, but the article has instructions in the last paragraph to limit access to your phone number to “friends.”

 

Seeding Control to Big Agriculture — Gracy Olmstead, The American Conservative

In the Canada Has Lost Its Flaming Mind Department . . .

 

Defending Yourself Against a Home Invader Is Now a Criminal Offense in Canada — Lance D. Johnson, News Target

 

Police In Canada Are Tracking People’s “Negative” Behavior In a “Risk” Database — Nathan Munn, ViceI

“Information in the database includes whether a person uses drugs, has been the victim of an assault, or lives in a ‘negative neighborhood.'” . . . What’s next? A Citizenship Score? IMHO, a road to hell soundly paved with the good intentions of decent Canadians.

 

Stepping Back from the Edge . . .

From Bombers to Big Macs: Vietnam A Lesson In Reconciliation — Denis D. Gray and Hau Dinh, Associated Press

 

The Disease of More — Mark Manson, Mark Manson  

 

Meet the Skier Who Made the “Impossible” First Solo Descent of K2 — Aaron Teasdale, National Geographic

 

8 Etiquette Tips for Social Receptions at Conferences — Lenny Zeltser, Lenny Zeltser

 

 

A Message in a Bottle Washed Up on Padre island–57 Years Later  — Dan Soloman, Texas Monthly

 

And These are Just Fun . . .

 

Couple Who Served in WWII Together, Married Seven Decades, Pass Away on Same Day  Healthy Food House

 

Game of Thrones First Look: Inside the Brutal Battle to Make Season 8 — James Hibberd, Entertainment

 

Hadrian’s Wall Archeologists Discover Rude Grafitti and Pictures of Roman Quarrymen Who Built It — Patrick Sawer, The Telegraph

 

The funniest thing that happened this week, unless you are Russian. Watch as the Russian freighter Seaguard plows into this bridge in Busan, South Korea. . . . No injuries or deaths reported, so laugh away!

 

All the best to all of you for a week of avoiding the obvious obstacles.

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Rules of Engagement:

We want comments.

Thoughtful disagreement fosters intellectual growth for all of us. Civil Discourse is strictly enforced. That means you can say anything as long as you focus on the concepts and say it with respect, free of personal insults.

Bayard & Holmes reserve the right to remove comments for any reason.

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What do the main intelligence agencies do and where do they operate? How do they recruit personnel? What are real life honey pots and sleeper agents? What about truth serums and enhanced interrogations? And what are the most common foibles of popular spy fiction?

With the voice of over forty years experience in the Intelligence Community, Bayard & Holmes answer these questions and share information on espionage history, firearms of spycraft, tradecraft, and the personal challenges of the people behind the myths. Order now at Amazon and Kobo

 

 

Real News Mashup–January 24, 2019

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard

News Finds is a compilation of articles that I consider to be interesting, informative, or both. Please feel free to share non-political articles of your own in the comments. Perhaps if we work together, we can combat the overwhelming propaganda we are bombarded with by mainstream media.

This post is a bit long, as I’ve been stacking up articles for a while.

 

General Interest

 

Tony Mendez, “Argo” CIA Officer Who Smuggled US Hostages Out of Iran During Crisis, Dies at 78

A master of forgery and disguise, Tony Mendez was an outstanding professional and an outstanding human being. Rest in peace. #Respect

How the Media Convinces Us All the We’re Outraged — Even When No One Cares

Someone posted a video online of youngest senator Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez dancing. Social media exploded with outrage at the “conservative outrage” over her video. I noticed, though, that I didn’t actually see any of the conservative outrage that was the supposed source of all of this leftist outrage. Apparently, I’m not the only one who noticed.

Police Have No Duty to Protect You, Federal Court Confirms Yet Again

Something to keep in mind when considering personal security issues.

Davos Billionaires Keep Getting Richer

The world’s billionaires and their political minions are meeting in Davos, Switzerland this month.

My own observation:

In the past, the richest people were visible and had the responsibility of ruling nations. We called them kings and queens. Since democratic forms of government came along, the richest people have been able to outsource public appearances and the daily headaches of governing the masses to minions known as “world leaders.” We like to believe that media is above it all and holds these world leaders and their largely invisible billionaire backers accountable for their actions, but mainstream media is owned by those billionaire backers, so mainstream “news” reduced to agenda-driven propaganda.

And the rest of us? The handful* who own the world see us as the barnyard animals to be herded and juggled for their money-farming needs, i.e. “We need more cheap labor in Europe. Let’s get our minions there to push open immigration.” Sort of like, “We need more plow horses. We’ll introduce another twenty to the herd. It will take some time for the herd to adjust, but it will.”

Where in the past the owners of the world used religion to inspire the outrage necessary to get the mob going the right direction, now they use social buzzwords and politics.

Conspiracy? Not at all. Simply the organic alignment of personal interests.

*When I say handful, I mean handful. According to a recent report by Oxfam, only 26 people now own as much as 50% of the entire world’s poorest.

 

 

Military/Intelligence Articles

 

Defense Intelligence Agency (“DIA”) Chinese Military Power Report

An excellent report on Chinese Military Power published by the US Naval Institute.

Does the US Face an AI Ethics Gap? 

This article explores the Artificial Intelligence Ethics Gap in the Western world that impacts military defense. In other words, Communist China and other countries develop AI technologies in ways that are ethically prohibited in Western societies. Does this put Western societies at a disadvantage? It poses an interesting dilemma.

On Nobility and the CIA’s War in Afghanistan

Setting the record straight.

The US Intelligence Community Wants Disruptive Change as Long as It’s Not Disruptive

An excellent piece on how collecting facts without thought is like doing steps without dancing.

OSS Training in the National Parks and Service Abroad in WWII

A fairly intense downloadable book on the history of the OSS and its relationship with the National Parks.

 

Now let’s lighten up!

 

Man “Marries” Laptop, Sues for State Recognition and a Wedding Cake

Yes. Really. Can’t make this up.

Bring It On! New Taliban Video Shows Intense Training for New Cheer Squad Competition

Likely hilarious to anyone who has served in the US Armed Forces.

Photos from the Moon’s Far Side: China’s Chang’e 4 Lunar Landing in Pictures

First pictures from the dark side of the moon. *queues up Pink Floyd*

Florida Couple Run Over by Patrol Car While Lying in Road to Watch Lunar Eclipse

A Darwin Award near miss, for sure.

Natural Beauty of Wildlife Beneath the Waves Revealed in Stunning Pics

The word “stunning” is generally overused these days, but it applies in this instance.

 

The Tank Chair

 

 

 

All the best to all of you for a week of stunning beauty.

Piper

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Rules of Engagement:

  1. We love comments.
  2. Feel free to disagree with me and with each other in comments as long as arguments are rational and not things like “It scares me so it should be banned.” Thoughtful disagreement fosters intellectual growth for all of us.
  3. Civil Discourse is strictly enforced. That means you can say anything as long as you focus on the concepts and say it with respect, free of personal insults.
  4. No arguing or advocating for or against Trump or any other politician, no matter what your position. We are all inundated with too much of that already.
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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

*

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

 

 

A Grain of Salt–Spy Ships, Officials, and Russian Missiles

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard

Big Media, Big Politics, and Big Business all profit financially and politically when they keep the public worked up in fear and/or outrage. They are not our friends. Let’s take some of their power back with a few facts.

Outrage

Throughout media, “US officials” report that a Russian spy ship has “appeared” off the East Coast – the first such sighting during the Trump administration.

Facts

  • Russian spy ships have been “appearing” off the US East Coast since the invention of the radio – literally over ninety years.
  • If we want to get technical, Russian spy ships have been “appearing” off of US coasts ever since Russia could sail to the US coast.
  • It is entirely possible that this is the first time journalists have bothered to notice Russian spy ship patrols.
  • According to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles (22.2 km; 13.8 mi) from the mean low water mark of a coastal state.
  • The Russians, Chinese, North Koreans, Iranians, and Emperor Palpatine can legally park their entire navies 14 miles off the US coastline and have a bacchanalia if they want to, and they are breaking no international laws.
  • The Russian spy ship Viktor Leonov was 30 miles off the US coast as of February 15, 2017.
  • There are no allegations that any Russian ships have violated US territorial waters.
  • US ships regularly cruise coastal waters of Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and every other country on the planet that has a coastline.
  • Merriam-Webster defines “official” as “one who holds or is invested with an office.”
  • Merriam-Webster defines “office” as “a position of responsibility or some degree of executive authority.”
  • Well over 800,000 people in the Intelligence Community hold top secret clearances, which would indicate “position[s] of responsibility or some degree of executive authority.”
  • If I had cited to “officials” in my freshman journalism class, I would have flunked and become the department poster child for shoddy journalism. 

 

Bayard & Holmes Opinion

Where the hell have “journalists” been for the past ninety years? This is like watching seven-year-olds discover Knock-Knock Jokes. These same “journalists” couldn’t even find Russia on a map before it hacked the DNC last August.

Actual photo of journalists finally noticing Russian spy ships off of US coast.

 

Outrage

“Russia Deploys Missile, Violating Treaty and Challenging Trump” ~ The New York Times

 

Facts

  • Versions of this headline are being paired throughout media with “news” of the Russian spy ship.
  • Russia did indeed deploy a new intermediate-range missile, which can be considered a violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
  • Russia deployed this missile in December, 2016, before Trump took office.
  • The Obama administration was aware of the Russian missile program in 2014.
  • The Obama administration warned Russia in 2014 that it was violating the treaty.
  • The Obama administration warned Russia again in 2015 that it was violating the treaty.
  • Russia now has two batteries of the new cruise missiles.

 

Bayard & Holmes Opinion

While the arms treaty issues will certainly pose a challenge to the Trump administration, Putin threw down the Arms Gauntlet during the Obama administration. Obama responded with a frown. This recent missile deployment is not about Putin “challenging” Trump like some sort of international cock fight, as the headline implies. It was just time for Putin to test his new toys. He’d have done it no matter who won the election.

Unfortunately for all of us, Trump threw down the Screw-You Gauntlet when he started his administration by publicly telling off all of the top media muckity-mucks. The media has picked up that gauntlet, and the public is nothing but a pawn in the Media War.

 

Bottom Line

Spy ships are old news, and Putin has had his missile agenda for a very long time. Media and politicians also have their agendas. None of these agendas include an informed, educated public.

Take it all with a grain of salt!

Outrage with a Grain of Salt–NSC, Bannon, & the Washington Post

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard

The Unholy Threesome of Big Media, Big Politics, and Big Business is never happier than when the public is outraged. Outrage means profits. Outrage means political steam. Outrage means the propaganda of foreign billionaires that would mold us and countries that would dismember our nation is getting through. Public outrage means the media has served its foreign and domestic masters well.

 

Canstock, Journal des Voyage (1879-80)

 

Such realities as political leaders selling out to foreign billionaires, Taliban and drug lords growing fat on American taxpayer dollars, and the entire city of Flint, Michigan facing a third year without clean drinking water are swept aside in the torrent of outrage over Harambe, bathrooms, and now hysteria-inducing headlines about President Trump. With media outlets great and small churning out “fake news” and “alternative facts” attributed to “unnamed officials,” “an official who spoke on condition of anonymity,” or even “a source close to officials familiar with the case,” Americans are starved for reliable information.

Social media exacerbates this truth famine by offering a public eager to feed its hysteria addiction with shares and retweets.

Even the most popular media outlets, such as the Washington Post,* publish outright lies with clickbait headlines, only to retract the entire stories two days later. But at that point, their aims are fulfilled. The stories are already viral slop in the social media Trough of Outrage, and a society addicted to its own anxieties has sucked it up without pausing to breathe. And the retractions? Crickets. The damage is done.

Enough.

To counteract this unprecedented tsunami of deceit, we invite people to look beyond the outrage to evaluate a few facts. We label Outrage, Facts, and Opinion accordingly so that there are no misunderstandings. We also include links to articles that we believe might help our readers understand today’s evolving world dynamic.

If we stick together and take the outrageous bombardment with a grain of salt, we eventually might slog our way out of this Information Cesspool.

 

Outrage

President Trump appointed Steve Bannon to the National Security Council and “ousted” the country’s most senior military and intelligence officials as regular members of the Principals Committee.

Facts

  • The National Security Council (“NSC”) is a combination of White House staff, military staff, intelligence staff, and anyone else the president wants on it. Its purpose is to advise and assist the president on national security and foreign policy and to help the president coordinate those policies among the various branches of government. Its members include a wide variety of experts and officials in areas from drug control policy to economic policy to Justice Department issues.
  • The Principals Committee is a subset of the NSC. Members of the Principals Committee are required to attend all meetings of the NSC regardless of the meeting agenda.
  • President Trump removed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence from the Principals Committee of the NSC.
  • President Trump added White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon to the Principals Committee of the NSC.
  • Steve Bannon is the former editor of Breitbart. He is also a former US Navy officer and was a special assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon. He holds a master’s degree in National Security Studies from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He has worked as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs.
  • At this point in time, Trump can legally appoint Mickey Mouse to the NSC if he so desires. Just because no one ever has appointed Mickey Mouse to the NSC doesn’t mean it’s illegal or unconstitutional. It’s Trump’s council.

What this means for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Director of National Intelligence:

Oh, happy day!

We all know how in every bureaucracy, corporate or governmental, people at all levels clamor for the opportunity to leave their work piling up on their desks to attend meetings, particularly when those meetings have nothing to do with their specialties? . . . Yes. Exactly. . . . The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Director of National Intelligence are no different. They have full plates without being required to attend meetings that have nothing to do with the military or intelligence communities. Trump’s order relieves them from such an inefficient waste of their time.

 

Actual photo of DNI emerging from three-hour meeting on economic policy.

 

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Director of National Intelligence still have permanent invitations to every meeting they would like to attend, and they are still full members of the NSC. In other words, if they want to participate in any and all NSC meetings, they are welcome to do so, but if they are busy fighting jihadis, Russians, or over-reaching Chinese, they don’t have to put everything on hold to attend meetings on economics, the UN, or drug control policy.

Bayard & Holmes Opinion

We are delighted on behalf of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Director of National Intelligence. Also, we have no idea why Trump would appoint Bannon to the National Security Council. We do know that foreign individuals and hostile countries are inundating Americans with propaganda these days, even in the most “prestigious” journalistic rags. Propaganda is, indeed, a national security issue . . . Let’s face it. If anyone knows about propaganda, it’s the former editor of Breitbart. Only the editors of the New York Times or Washington Post would be as qualified. Perhaps Bannon has been persuaded to use his superpowers on our behalf?

  *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Outrage

Steve Bannon ordered the Department of Homeland Security to ignore the Federal Court injunctions and continue enforcing Trump’s temporary ban on immigration from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Facts

  • The office of Director of Homeland Security is a Cabinet position. Cabinet positions answer directly to the president.
  • Retired Marine General Kelly is the Director of Homeland Security. His boss is President Trump.
  • Steve Bannon is nowhere in the chain of command and has no authority to “order” anyone in the government or outside the government to do anything.

Bayard & Holmes Opinion

Aside from those pesky chain-of-command issues, does anyone seriously believe a doughy rich boy like Bannon can order this guy to do anything? Just saying.

 

General John Kelly, USMC

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Outrage

Trump exempted countries where he holds business interests from the “Muslim ban.”

Facts

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Outrage

White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon circumvented presidential chain of command and paid a personal and unscheduled visit to DHS Director Kelly’s office to confront him over green card waivers to Trump’s presidential memorandum on immigration.

Facts

  • This was published by the Washington Post on January 28.
  • The columnist who wrote about this outrageous behavior, Josh Rogin, attributed the information to “two administration officials familiar with the confrontation.” No word yet on who those “two administration officials” might be. They could literally be the “official file clerks to the secretary of the new guy in Human Resources.”
  • White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stated there had been no confrontation in person or otherwise between Bannon and Kelly.
  • On February 4, the Washington Post amended the article and issued a statement admitting that neither Rogin nor anyone else at the publication checked their facts, and that the White House denied the confrontation took place.

Bayard & Holmes Opinion

We are amazed that Josh Rogin ever passed a freshman journalism class. Sadly, we are not amazed that Washington Post hired him. WaPo has recently upgraded its normal procedures for “not checking facts” in the interests of maintaining its standards and traditional dedication to journalistic integrity.

Bottom Line

Washington Post isn’t the only media outlet hiring creative writers these days. We all need to take everything we read and everything we hear with a grain of salt.

Piper’s Favorites of the Week:

The World as Seen by Donald Trump – Le Monde Diplomatique

The Intellectual Yet Idiot – Incerto

Read Draft Text of Trump’s Executive Order – Huffington Post

Everything I Need to Know About Russian Interference I Learned from College Pranks – Defense One

An Invasion by Any Other Name: The Kremlin’s Dirty War in Ukraine – The Interpreter, Institute of Modern Russia

What outrageous rumors have you heard this week? Do you have any you would like us to look into?

* ‘Fake News’ And How The Washington Post Rewrote Its Story On Russian Hacking Of The Power Grid

 

Analyzing News: How to Consider the Source

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

After the election, many people realized they had been lied to by a biased political media that slanted polls, rigged debates, and buried important facts. Some of those people asked us how they can judge articles and find real information about the issues that affect their lives. We’ve come up with a two-part series of guidelines to help people out.

canstock-2016-nov-news-media

Golden Rule: Of the first ten rules of evaluating media, one through nine are “consider the source.”

Who owns the source?

The government used to have restrictions that prevented any one media outlet from monopolizing the broadcasting industry.

The fear was that a small number of companies owning all of the media would lead to media restricting and/or manipulating the news. During the 1980s, the US government relaxed those restrictions on media consolidation, and in 1996, the Telecommunications Act allowed corporations to suck up even more media outlets. Now, media is substantially consolidated, and a handful of corporations own and control pretty much all of the radio and television stations and major networks.

Also at play was the Fairness Doctrine. As a part of FCC broadcasting rules, it required that any broadcaster that aired controversial topics must provide time to present the opposing views. The Fairness Doctrine has not been enforced since 1985.

Many would say that between the relaxed regulations and the non-enforcement of the Fairness Doctrine, the original fears behind those now largely historical restrictions have been realized.

Every media source has an owner, a controlling shareholder, and/or influential donors.

While they all want to make money, some also want to create the world in their own image. Those who only want to make money will choose whatever message sells to their audience, and they will deliver it with gusto. Those who want to imprint posterity with their personal views will cultivate a like-minded audience and herd them toward certain long-term goals.

We’ll pick on two prominent examples, CNN and FOX.

CNN was founded by Ted Turner. Ted Turner is an avowed leftist and an open Fidel Castro admirer, not to mention “Hanoi Jane” Fonda’s ex. He also founded the Moscow Independent Broadcasting Network and Russian channel TV-6. In addition, Turner contributed $1 billion to the UN. He is consistent in fusing his progressive, global first personal stance with his penchant for sucking in the billions.

Evidence of this leftist foundational bias showed in the recent election with CNN’s treatment of Clinton, the Global First candidate. CNN ran daily “Trump a Dystopian Nightmare; Clinton a Mildly Disturbing Daydream” headlines, consistently characterized Clinton’s breaches of the Espionage Act as “the email controversy,” and assisted Clinton by feeding her debate questions. How much the management of CNN participated in that last skanky move is left to the reasonable imagination, but it’s all in step with Ted’s leftist history and ideology that he should be a rich capitalist, and globalized socialism should be good enough for the rest of us.

Ted Turner is the staunch rival of Australian-American Rupert Murdoch, who, with his family, owns both 21st Century Fox and News Corp through the Murdoch Family Trust. Altogether, Murdoch’s family trust owns over eight hundred companies in over fifty countries.

Rupert Murdoch’s political gate swings both ways, so to speak, in that his holding companies own conservative political media in America, such as Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, and he supports the conservative party in Australia. However, in the UK, Rupert has switched back and forth, using his influence on behalf of Conservative Party leader Margaret Thatcher, then Labour Party leader Tony Blair, then back to Conservative Party leader David Cameron. Such willingness to play both sides of the aisle indicate someone who is not operating with any conviction or motive except to discover what $13 billion can buy that $12 billion can’t. Murdoch’s agenda appears to be making money more than molding politics.

Fox News is renowned for its right wing spin, and it is expert at playing to its audience. It couches what are frequently legitimate facts in so much pandering, drama, and hysteria mongering that it’s difficult to sort through it all to get to the kernels of truth. Whatever that truth may be, Fox is going to make sure its audience gets excited about it and comes back for more, all to the benefit of the Murdoch Family Trust.

Another highly influential player in the “social engineering through media” effort is foreign billionaire felon George Soros. Soros has his hands in over 30 media outlets, and he is deeply involved in purchasing American politicians. We encourage you to research him on your own.

Bottom Line:  The power behind the media throne determines the message. Whether that message is born from vanity or greed, everything funnels through that message.

What political ties does the source have?

People have always been worried about the government controlling the media. The government doesn’t have to control the media in the US, or in the West, for that matter, because the media is run by people who are kindred spirits and like minds to the politicians.

Presidents have long recognized that fact and made the most of it by appointing journalists, their spouses, their siblings, and their children to positions in government. One president appointed over two dozen journalists to his White House staff, and more as ambassadors. Media plays its part in the wedding of power, as well, taking on family members of politicians and their political spawn. For example, one president’s offspring obtained a position as a rookie correspondent at major network for a mere four times the normal rookie correspondent salary. It’s a modern day way of marrying kingdoms to each other to ensure power management.

Bottom Line: Look at which journalists are financially and politically married with which politicians to determine which message they will favor.

Who advertises in the source?

Media is big business. So is advertising. This affects news stories in two ways.

  1. Media won’t publish anything that they think will anger their audience. Audiences link their feelings and attitudes about products advertised to the stories they find in media and retaliate if they disapprove. A simple google search turns up multiple groups promoting the boycott of almost every network. Media will sidestep stories that might lead to a boycott. When pushed to publish something chancy because every other outlet is publishing it, media will spin the facts to please their audience.
  2. If a company is a big advertiser, the media outlet will not publish negative information about that advertiser’s products. For example, if Ford Motor Company advertises heavily with XYZ media outlet, and their vehicles start exploding when hit from behind, XYZ media outlet will either avoid the story or spin it in a way that helps Ford look blameless. Advertising money is a crucial source of company income, and no outlet will risk losing it.

Bottom Line: Media doesn’t want to anger either its audience or its advertisers. Both result in losing money.

Who is their audience?

In this world of echo chambers reinforced by social media cliques, politicians have been able to carve up society into black and white factions, sometimes literally. A significant percentage of people are not interested in information that does not confirm their pre-conceived notions, as evidenced by the fact that almost all of us know people who have declared during this election that they want nothing to do with “those” voters. That makes it easy for media to define and divide audiences and to appeal to their preferences.

To continue with our CNN vs. FOX thread, CNN viewers are concerned with political correctness and pro-global progressive agendas, while FOX viewers prefer more conservative, pro-American stories. Stories and headlines are structured to please those audiences. For example, during the election, CNN earned its pseudonym, the Clinton News Network, while FOX served as the anti-Clinton bullhorn. In other words, if Trump walked on water, the CNN headlines would read “Trump Can’t Swim!” Likewise, if Hillary ran into a burning building to save a child, FOX headlines would read “Hillary Snatches Baby!”

Bottom Line: What message does the majority of the audience want to hear?

And now the hardest questions to face when considering a source . . . What do I want to hear and why?

We all have personal biases that make us want to believe some things more than others. Many of us have suffered abuses by religious or government institutions that left behind a filter on all incoming information, propelling us to the right or the left. Many of us have personal traumas that define our perceptions of those of other races, religions, political factions, etc. Add to that the fact that it is difficult to conceive of qualities in others that we do not possess ourselves, and most of us have difficulty imagining the depth of depravity some politicians and media moguls possess. All of these elements and countless others contribute to our collection and interpretation of information.

Bottom Line: The best we can do is recognize our own biases and seek out diverse sources, open our minds, and keep the answers to the questions above at front and center in our analysis.

In summary, when evaluating the media source, ask the following questions:

  1. Who owns the source?
  2. What is that person’s message?
  3. Is the source pandering to its audience or trying to mold it?
  4. Which politicians are in the journalists’ beds?
  5. Who advertises in the source?
  6. Who is the source’s audience?
  7. What is my own bias?

Several of our readers have asked where we get our information.

  • Holmes reads government releases and can see right away what is public. Sometimes, he notifies Piper of public information, such as a proposed F-16 offer to India, and Piper posts the information on Twitter and FB. We might blog about it, as we did with the F-16 and Lockheed Martin.
  • Piper scans Twitter for open source news of the world. She then asks Holmes about what she finds to see if he can add anything or to discuss potential postings for readers.
  • Holmes responds with, “I can’t comment on that,” “Yep. That’s accurate, and here’s the rest of the story,” or “Joder! Puta madre! That’s public? Someone is talking too much.” *murder-death face*

We can’t share Holmes’s sources, but these are Piper’s go-to Tweeps for open source information:

The Gray Man @IntelOperator. The Gray Man is a knowledgable and highly respected member of the intelligence community who tweets information on national security, world events, and animal adoption.

Jamestown @CifJamestown. Jamestown is an educated, friendly tweep with information on foreign and domestic policy and terrorism. I often find things on this timeline that I do not find elsewhere.

Dani Homados @homados. Dani is a fine veteran and a lovely gentleman with solid tweets on military, national security, and world events.

El Cid Barett @ElCidBarett. Barett, a.k.a. Lisa, is one of the most colorful and graphic tweeps on Twitter for information on military, national security, science, and women’s fashions.

Chris Magill @cmagill. Chris is in information security, or InfoSec. As his bio reads, he can “…find the hacker, shoot, stop the bleeding, explain HIPAA, send the press release on time and on budget.” He tweets excellent information about cybersecurity and has a sense of humor that will keep you rolling.

Sniper Barbie @LadyRed_6. Sniper is a sharp and pleasant lady with a thorough scoop on cybersecurity. Piper wants the Barbie and accessories in her profile pic.

And, of course, Piper Bayard @PiperBayard. Piper tweets part of the great info she finds, along with original posts from Holmes and whatever quirky or interesting things she digs up.

Some tweeps are members of the military and/or intelligence communities, and some are not. Regardless, we would emphasize that all information they tweet is open source. You will notice that relatively few of the tweets reference mainstream media sources. If we really want to know what’s happening, we have to be open to a variety of sources and remember that even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Next week, we will focus on questions to ask when evaluating the content of articles. Do you have any questions regarding evaluating a source? Do you have any favorite methods or suggestions?