Friday, April 4, 2014

Rising Sun, Falling Skies Q and A

My first book, Rising Sun, Falling Skies: The Disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II, is now out in stores and places like Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Earlier this week, I did a Q and A with my publisher, Osprey, about the book:

1. What got you interested in the Battle of the Java Sea?
Somewhat of an odd story. I took a class on World War II when I was in 4th grade, and wrote a report on World War II in the Pacific when I was in 5th grade. My little 5th grade report had nothing on the Battle of the Java Sea because there was very little information available to me on it – remember, this was a time before the Internet, before Amazon, before Alibris, so we were very limited into what books and other information we could access from our local bookstores and library. When I was in 7th grade, my mom got me a compendium of the Pacific War called Combat Command, by Admiral Frederick Sherman, who among other things commanded the carrier Lexington at the Battle of the Coral Sea and a carrier task group at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. His was the first book in which I read a description of the Battle of the Java Sea. I found the story of the battle and the campaign completely enthralling, with this small group of servicemen from four different countries so far from home, so outnumbered, so outgunned, mostly cut off – and the only line against the darkness that was about to overtake East Asia and most of the Pacific. But the description in Sherman’s book was incomplete, somewhat generalized, and missing a lot of information, largely because the information on which the admiral based that description was incomplete. The problem for me was that I could find almost nothing else on the battle. For years, all I could find were general descriptions of the battle or snippets from it. I found it incredibly frustrating to find a wealth of information on so many other battles and campaigns and almost nothing on this. So for years I just grabbed any book, any report, and scrap of paper I came across that had any information about the battle. It became somewhat of an obsession. I was determined to someday figure out precisely what happened in this battle and this campaign.

2. What do you see as the difference between Rising Sun, Falling Skies and other books about the Java Sea Campaign?
The big thing I noticed over the years is that while there are quite a few very good books that deal with parts of the campaign – like the US cruiser Houston, the US Asiatic Fleet, Patrol Wing 10, the Far East Air Force, etc. – there is very little out there that deals with the Java Sea naval campaign as a whole. Each of these sources gives some good information and different takes on their individual pieces of the story of the Java Sea Campaign, but they are only pieces. Which is fine, because that’s what they’re intended to do. But a Dutch account won’t usually include the Battle of Balikpapan. A British account won’t often include the Battle of Badoeng Strait. American accounts don’t always get into the loss of the Prince of Wales and Repulse, let alone the controversy behind it. The naval accounts often mention the lack of air power in passing without a description of how exactly that lack of air power came about. The efforts of the submarines are often ignored. Yet these are all pieces of the same Java Sea Campaign. I’ve wanted for years to assemble these pieces into sort of a global account of the entire Java Sea Campaign, with analysis of my own that I had developed over time, in order to give each of these pieces big and small some context.

3. Rear Admiral Karel Doorman, the Allied commander, is usually seen as valiant but incompetent, at least in English speaking countries. You have a different view of him. Why?
There is this idea, especially in the US, that people should be judged solely by outcomes. For instance, in baseball, if a pitcher loses a game, it must be his fault. Doesn’t matter if he only gave up a solo home run and lost when his offense was shut out, it must be his fault. That thinking extends to history as well. But you can make every correct decision, every correct judgment, and still lose. Karel Doorman lost every battle in which his Combined Striking Force fought, it is true. But if you examine his decisions in the context of what he was facing, the information he had, and the orders he had, those decisions, which were mostly close calls with no obvious answers, were, for the most part, sound. At worst, they were defensible. Doorman was caught in a web of contradictions. His own take on the campaign – that it was hopeless without adequate air power – was contradictory to that of his Dutch superiors, but completely in agreement with his American and British colleagues – who were actually his biggest critics. He has been criticized for being both too aggressive and too cautious – often at the same time. He has been criticized for not training his ships – when, as his American superiors admitted, he had no chance to do so. In short, it seems like no matter what Doorman did or could have done, he was going to be ripped by a lot of people. And he seems to have known this. If one examines his conduct throughout the Java Sea Campaign, the single unifying theme is the protection of the men under his command so that they would not be sacrificed needlessly without a chance to cause significant loss to the enemy. When there was no chance to cause loss to the enemy, he would have his ships withdraw – at the cost of his own life in the Battle of the Java Sea. In the midst of an almost impossible situation, Doorman ignored the cost to himself and put his men first. That by itself is highly admirable, and he has not gotten nearly enough credit for it. Doorman seems to have been a very private person, with few people to defend him after he was no longer able to defend himself. It is time someone stepped up to defend him and call attention to the positives of this brave, intelligent, and humane officer.

4. Could the ABDA force have done anything to win?
Superficially, one would think so. At the Battle of the Java Sea, the forces were evenly matched on paper. But the ABDA Combined Striking Force was really a hollow shell. If you imagine the battle as two knights fighting each other, the Japanese were a samurai in polished armor with a sharpened katana and the Combined Striking Force was a knight in completely rusted armor with a dull sword and a cracked shield. Yes, they might have been able to do something to increase the likelihood of some sort of battlefield victory – Use their lone spotter plane? Drive straight toward the Japanese cruisers come hell or high water instead of turning away? – but they would have had to fight an absolutely perfect battle to do so. And no battle is ever fought absolutely perfectly. One shot from the Japanese and they would shatter. Which is precisely what happened.

5. Why is the Battle of the Java Sea significant?
Quite a few reasons, actually, so I’ll try to be limited. From the standpoint of the Pacific War overall, the Battle of the Java Sea was the first instance of the arrogance, overconfidence, and sloppiness that was slowly but surely infecting the Imperial Japanese Navy directly affecting its battlefield performance, although they won the battle in spite of it. Perhaps most enduringly, there was the Combined Striking Force itself, and, for that matter, all of ABDACOM – a multinational force that was not modular, as such forces had been throughout history, but was fully if imperfectly integrated. Over the years those imperfections would be sufficiently worked out to become the model for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. From a philosophical standpoint, the Java Sea Campaign is more evidence that in terms of defense and foreign policy, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You can’t neglect defense for 20 years as the Allies did with shoestring budgets and wishful thinking and then adequately rearm when war is on your doorstep. The fighting men of ABDACOM paid the price, in some cases the ultimate price, for that neglect. Finally, there are some simple but often forgotten principles in today’s nuanced world: that when your friends are in trouble, you stand beside them and fight alongside them, and that, even if there is little or no chance of winning, there is inherent value in fighting evil – and make no mistake; in the Pacific War the behavior and objectives of the Japanese were nothing short of evil.

6. What do you hope to achieve with Rising Sun, Falling Skies?
Two goals, really. The first and far more important of the two is to get the story of these American, British, Dutch, and Australian fighting men out there. It should be emphasized that this is their story, not mine; I am merely the vehicle for telling it, for trying to put it into context. Instead of marching triumphantly to liberate the Pacific from Japanese tyranny, many of these men lost their lives or were forced to endure the horrors of Japanese POW camps. More than a few histories of the Pacific War almost – almost – skip over the Java Sea Campaign, going from the disaster at Pearl Harbor to stopping the Japanese advance at the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942 while blurring most of the unpleasantness in between, stopping briefly to mention the Bataan Death March and Corregidor. In my opinion, the men who fought the Java Sea Campaign have never gotten the credit they deserve. Rising Sun, Falling Skies is my own effort to help rectify that oversight in some small way. A secondary goal is to attract more people to the history genre. In writing Rising Sun, Falling Skies, I have tried to strike a balance between scholarship and readability. Despite the length and all the end notes to give authors proper credit and give readers a chance to check my work and decide for themselves as to the proper conclusions, I have also tried to keep the language somewhat informal, to keep the military terminology to a minimum, and to explain military or nautical terms to unfamiliar readers. I wanted the Rising Sun, Falling Skies to be approachable, especially to a new generation of readers. To attract them to history. The fastest and perhaps most accurate way to study history is to study its wars. History is not boring words about dead people. History is alive, exciting, even changing, and still affecting us today. Why are the Chinese and Japanese sparring over the Senkaku Islands? Because of the Pacific War. They never came to real terms with each other after the Pacific War or over the two wars they fought previously. And they are perhaps closer than many think to fighting their next war. We cannot have an idea of where we are going if we do not know where we have been.

Has the Santorini Bronze Age eruption finally been dated?

One of the biggest unknowns of the ancient world has been the catastrophic eruption of the volcano on the Greek island of Thera, now called Santorini, in the 2nd millennium BC. The eruption is now thought to have possibly been the largest in history, even bigger than Krakatoa in 1883 (or 535) and Tambora in 1815. It has been blamed for everything from massive climate changes across the globe to the destruction of the Minoan Civilization on Crete to the legend of Atlantis to the Plagues of Egypt described in the Book of Exodus. But because of the ambiguity of radiocarbon dating, no one has been able to precisely date the Santorini eruption, and thus no one has been able to confirm any of these hypotheses.

Now, they might be able to do so, because we may have documented evidence of the Santorini eruption, from the so called "Tempest Stela" of the Egyptian Pharaoh Ahmose:
An inscription on a 3,500-year-old stone block from Egypt may be one of the world’s oldest weather reports—and could provide new evidence about the chronology of events in the ancient Middle East.
A new translation of a 40-line inscription on the 6-foot-tall calcite block called the Tempest Stela describes rain, darkness and “the sky being in storm without cessation, louder than the cries of the masses.”
Two scholars at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute believe the unusual weather patterns described on the slab were the result of a massive volcano explosion at Thera—the present-day island of Santorini in the Mediterranean Sea. Because volcano eruptions can have a widespread impact on weather, the Thera explosion likely would have caused significant disruptions in Egypt.
The new translation suggests the Egyptian pharaoh Ahmose ruled at a time closer to the Thera eruption than previously thought—a finding that could change scholars’ understanding of a critical juncture in human history as Bronze Age empires realigned. The research from the Oriental Institute’s Nadine Moeller and Robert Ritner appears in the spring issue of the Journal of Near Eastern Studies.
The Tempest Stela dates back to the reign of the pharaoh Ahmose, the first pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty. His rule marked the beginning of the New Kingdom, a time when Egypt’s power reached its height. The block was found in pieces in Thebes, modern Luxor, where Ahmose ruled.
If the stela does describe the aftermath of the Thera catastrophe, the correct dating of the stela itself and Ahmose’s reign, currently thought to be about 1550 B.C., could actually be 30 to 50 years earlier.
“This is important to scholars of the ancient Near East and eastern Mediterranean, generally because the chronology that archaeologists use is based on the lists of Egyptian pharaohs, and this new information could adjust those dates,” said Moeller, assistant professor of Egyptian archaeology at the Oriental Institute, who specializes in research on ancient urbanism and chronology.
In 2006, radiocarbon testing of an olive tree buried under volcanic residue placed the date of the Thera eruption at 1621-1605 B.C. Until now, the archeological evidence for the date of the Thera eruption seemed at odds with the radiocarbon dating, explained Oriental Institute postdoctoral scholar Felix Hoeflmayer, who has studied the chronological implications related to the eruption. However, if the date of Ahmose’s reign is earlier than previously believed, the resulting shift in chronology “might solve the whole problem,” Hoeflmayer said.
The revised dating of Ahmose’s reign could mean the dates of other events in the ancient Near East fit together more logically, scholars said. For example, it realigns the dates of important events such as the fall of the power of the Canaanites and the collapse of the Babylonian Empire, said David Schloen, associate professor in the Oriental Institute and Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations on ancient cultures in the Middle East.
“This new information would provide a better understanding of the role of the environment in the development and destruction of empires in the ancient Middle East,” he said.
For example, the new chronology helps to explain how Ahmose rose to power and supplanted the Canaanite rulers of Egypt—the Hyksos—according to Schloen. The Thera eruption and resulting tsunami would have destroyed the Hyksos’ ports and significantly weakened their sea power.
In addition, the disruption to trade and agriculture caused by the eruption would have undermined the power of the Babylonian Empire and could explain why the Babylonians were unable to fend off an invasion of the Hittites, another ancient culture that flourished in what is now Turkey.
Some researchers consider the text on the Tempest Stela to be a metaphorical document that described the impact of the Hyksos invasion. However, Ritner’s translation shows that the text was more likely a description of weather events consistent with the disruption caused by the massive Thera explosion. Ritner said the text reports that Ahmose witnessed the disaster—the description of events in the stela text is frightening.
The stela’s text describes the “sky being in storm” with “a tempest of rain” for a period of days. The passages also describe bodies floating down the Nile like “skiffs of papyrus.”
Importantly, the text refers to events affecting both the delta region and the area of Egypt further south along the Nile. “This was clearly a major storm, and different from the kinds of heavy rains that Egypt periodically receives,” Ritner said.
Other work is underway to get a clearer idea of accurate dating around the time of Ahmose, who ruled after the Second Intermediate period when the Hyksos people seized power in Egypt. That work also has pushed back the dates of his reign closer to the explosion on Thera, Moeller explained.

The full article is available at JSTOR.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Rising Sun, Falling Skies out on March 25

My first book, Rising Sun, Falling Skies: The Disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II, comes out on March 25, 2014 -- just 5 days from today.

Here is what people are saying about Rising Sun, Falling Skies:
"In the Pacific War’s first months, elements of four navies, Dutch, British, American, and Australian, fought a delaying action against superior Japanese forces as heroic as it was hopeless. Cox brings an attorney’s incisiveness, a historian’s comprehension, and a storyteller’s passion to this compelling account of the Java Sea campaign. Rising Sun, Falling Skies commemorates not a defense but a defiance: a forgotten epic of character and honor." -- Dennis Showalter, author of Armor and Blood: The Battle of Kursk: The Turning Point of World War II, Patton And Rommel: Men of War in the Twentieth Century; Hitler's Panzers: The Lightning Attacks that Revolutionized Warfare, and many, many more.

“A seminal work about a long neglected part of World War II in the Pacific… richly detailed with accounts from the men on both sides of the conflict who fought desperate struggles in 1942 either as conquerors or defenders." – Mike Walling, author of Forgotten Sacrifice: The Arctic Convoys of World War II and Bloodstained Sea:The U.S.Coast Guard in the Battle of the Atlantic, 1941-1944.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Latest columns for IVN on The Missing Jet™ and Ukraine are up.

My latest post for Independent Voter Network, titled The Jumbo Jet of Damocles, is up. Take a wild guess as to the topic.

My laptop issues had prevented me from posting an earlier column I had on IVN about the ethnic issues now broiling in Ukraine. It's slightly dated now, but if you want to check out the background on Ukraine, you can check out my column The Tangled Remnants of Empire.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Worth a thousand words

I periodically have people ask me why I, a straight guy, love ballet so much and why I insist on dancing it on a regular basis. To me, at a basic level, it is because ballet is the perfect combination of intellectual challenge, physical workout, and artistic expression, all in one package. But, really, ballet is so much more than that, and dancers male and female are in reality very talented and tough individuals who deserve much more respect than they are generally given.

Take this picture, for example.

This picture was posted on the Facebook page of Lovin' Ballet & Dance. There was  no identifying information about the dancer or the production, so I cannot tell who she is or of what this is a performance. What I can tell you is that this is a picture of an absolutely amazing performance, and is basically a thousand-word essay as to why ballet is such an incredible endeavor.

For starters, look at the dancer's face. Look at her eyes. Remember, ballet allows no vocalizations, so only the dances, outfits, gestures, facial expressions, and eyes can be used to convey the plot of the ballet and what is going on on stage. So, she has this tempting gaze, this alluring smile, but with a hint of mischief or even deception involved. Her right arm -- which as a girl friend of  mine pointed out is heavily muscled, moreso than most men, in fact - is beckoning, probably to a male performer on stage. The image she gives is one of a siren --  the Odyssey's Sirens? The German Lorelei? -- in the process of luring someone to at best a fate that will not be what he expects or hopes.

Now, look at the dancer's feet. She is doing all of this facial expression and gesturing sous sous en pointe. Right on the boxes of her pointe shoes.

This one pose is just a masterpiece of art when you look behind it all. Whoever this ballerina is, she is one hell of a performer. I wish her well.

Friday, March 14, 2014

I will be on Civil Discourse Now tomorrow

Talking about the book. Here is the information from co-host Matt Stone:
TOMORROW on the BIG SHOW: You've heard about it for ages, you've anticipated it, you've pre-ordered it on Amazon. Jeffrey Robert Cox's book Rising Sun, Falling Skies: The Disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II is finally out later this month. We'll be talking about it for most of the show.

We'll also cram some political candidates into the show as well.

Join us at Foundry Provisions, Saturday, at 11am-1pm or tune in via or the Indiana Talks app from on your Apple or Android device!"

Flight 370, where are you?

In addition to the unfolding crisis in Ukraine ... and Venezuela ... and Syria ... the world has been transfixed by the bizarre and increasingly ominous case of Malaysia Air Flight 370. CNN gives a pretty decent account of the known activities of the missing Boeing 777-200ER. The plane left Kuala Lumpur at 12:41 am local time on Saturday, March 8, headed for its intended destination of Beijing, and then:
Around 1:30 a.m., air traffic controllers in Subang, outside Kuala Lumpur, lost contact with the plane over the sea between Malaysia and Vietnam. The plane's transponder, which identifies the aircraft and relays details like altitude and speed to controllers, stops transmitting.
A senior Malaysian air force official said Tuesday the flight was hundreds of miles off course and traveling in the opposite direction from its original destination. It was last tracked over over Pulau Perak, a tiny island in the Strait of Malacca at about 2:40 a.m., over an hour after air traffic controllers in Subang lost contact with the aircraft.
At the news briefing Wednesday, however, Gen. Rodzali Daud, head of the Malaysian Air Force, and other officials said it wasn't yet clear whether the object that showed up on military radar flying over the sea northwest of the Malaysian coast early Saturday was the missing plane.
Adding to the puzzle, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the plane may have continued flying for four hours after its last reported contact. The newspaper attributed the information to two unidentified sources who were citing data automatically transmitted to the ground from the aircraft's Rolls-Royce-manufactured engines. A senior aviation source with detailed knowledge of the matter told CNN's Richard Quest on Thursday the Wall Street Journal account was incorrect. The paper later corrected its story, saying it was satellite data, not engine data, that drove the belief the plane continued to fly.

Scheduled flight path and points of lost contact and last contact with Flight 370. (CNN)
When the initial reports came in that Flight 370 had gone off course, I had thought -- hoped? -- this was a situation like Oceanic Flight 815. At worst -- and this would indeed be bad, because of the 239 poor souls onboard -- a Flight 19 situation. But when the information came in that the plane's transponders had been intentionally turned off and the plane had flown off course, but between known, pre-set navigational waypoints, far darker scenarios started emerging.

Flight 370 has not been seen since. On its face that's bizarre, but perhaps not unexpected. Most of Malaysia consists of dense jungle (albeit not impenetrable jungle, as the British found out to their dismay in World War II). Judging by the radar contact off Pulau Perak at 2:40 am, the redirected 777 would have flown closest to Kota Bharu and Alor Star (both with World War II British airfields), before heading out over the Strait of Malacca. Considering the time of night and the area over which it flew, there would have been few visual witnesses to the plane's flight.

Once over the Strait of Malacca, the missing 777 might have been free to go anywhere. Its suggested course would have taken it over the Indonesian island of Sumatra, specifically northern Sumatra, a region called Aceh, While Indonesia has a central government based on Java and many well developed areas on Java, south Sumatra, and Bali, many of the outlying islands and dense jungle areas of Borneo and Celebes are only loosely governed. Aceh is one of these areas. Historically, dating back to the times when the Dutch ruled the islands, Aceh has been a fairly lawless area, remote, with a strong separatist bent. It is one reason why the Strait of Malacca is constantly plagued with pirates. I can't say whether the Indonesian central government even has radar coverage over Aceh. Banda Aceh, the major city, is not that big. There are likely hidden airfields in the jungle, either built by the Japanese in World War II or by the Dutch beforehand -- the Dutch were foresighted enough to seed Indonesia with airfields before World War II, and then shortsighted enough to neither defend them adequately nor base appropriate aircraft on them, so that the Japanese got far more use of the airfields than the Dutch did. See the now-infamous "Kendari II" airfield -- still in operation -- on Sulawesi for an example.

Another theory making the rounds is that the plane somehow landed on a remote field in the Indian Ocean, perhaps in the Andaman Islands north of Sumatra. The international airport in Port Blair is big enough to handle a 777, but the island officials insist such a large plane could not have landed there without anyone noticing. The Andamans were home to Japanese bases in World War II; the Imperial Japanese Navy's heavy cruiser Haguro was ambushed and sunk by British destroyers in the final weeks of the war during an operation to resupply the islands.

None of which does anything to answer the question of what happened to the plane. As CNN describes it, "The flight has turned into one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history, befuddling industry experts and government officials. Authorities still don't know where the plane is or what caused it to vanish." Based on the fuel on board Flight 370, this is the range of the 777:

Range of Flight 370 based on its fuel load. (CNN)
That is a lot of territory to cover. And you see it right -- it could conceivably have reached Pakistan. And that's assuming it did not stop in, say, Aceh, and somehow refuel. Ominous.

And the ominosity -- is that a word? -- gets worse:
An Indonesian terrorist organization that a senior defense official said this week posed a “serious transnational threat” has previously been caught planning hijackings in the region where Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared.
U.S. military assets participating in the search and recovery efforts confirmed they were asked to relocate to the west side of Indonesia in the Indian Ocean as pings indicated the plane turned away from its route to China and turned back over the Malaysian peninsula. ABC News also reported Thursday that the data-reporting system on the flight shut down before the transponder, from 1:07 1:21 a.m., raising suspicions that the plane was at the hands of someone nefarious.
Gee, ya think?
Jemaah Islamiyah has long had designs on roping Malaysia and the Philippines into an Islamist state along with Indonesia, and was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. government after the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing. The group has traditionally used Malaysia for fundraising and as a home base for trainees fresh from the Af-Pak region.
JI plotter Mas Selamat Kastari, who escaped from custody in Singapore in 2008 and was recaptured in Malaysia the following year, was accused of orchestrating a plot earlier in the decade to hijack a plane out of Bangkok’s airport and crash it into Singapore’s airport.
Jemaah Islamiyah had been considered a shadow of its former self in recent years, but the terror group’s name has been occasionally dropped on Capitol Hill as a jihadi movement getting a new lease on life in a post-Osama world.
“Indonesians are the first — are for the first time going overseas to fight, not just to train, which has given rise to concerns that this conflict may breathe new life into the group Jemaah Islamiyah, which analysts previously considered to be moribund,” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a Syria hearing last week.
The scenarios, as explained by John Hinderaker at Power Line, are not hopeful:
1) The plane may have crashed into the sea, due to pilot error or running out of gas (the Payne Stewart theory?). Initially there were thoughts that this could be an instance of pilot suicide along the lines of the Egypt Air crash, but it seems unlikely that a pilot who intended to crash his airplane into the sea would fly it for four hours first. If the plane did crash into the Indian Ocean, most likely accidentally–or possibly as a result of a Flight-93 type passenger revolt?–debris will eventually be found. 
2) The hijackers may have prepared a place, perhaps on an island in the Indian Ocean, possibly in eastern Pakistan, to land the airplane, and they may have landed it successfully. This would not be easy: a Boeing 777 needs a runway around two miles long. But it may be possible. If that is the case, then why haven’t we heard from the hijackers? If they are terrorists (e.g., radical Muslims) they may intend to use the airplane in a terrorist attack and will not reveal themselves until they have an opportunity to do so. It has been speculated that the hijackers might have been criminals rather than political terrorists, and their objective may have been to land the airplane safely, and then ransom the plane and the more than 200 passengers. On this scenario, however, they would want to get the ransom underway as soon as possible, and we presumably would have heard from them by now. 
3) The hijackers may have prepared a place to land the airplane, but failed to land it. If the airplane crashed while attempting to land, the debris will eventually be found, and its location along with other evidence (i.e., a nearby landing strip) should make it apparent that this is what was going on.
Unfortunately, my bet is on Number 2. I have this nightmare that the passengers have all been murdered and the plane is now being prepared for use in a dirty bomb or EMP attack.

A simple truth

Thursday, March 13, 2014

New laptop, new blogging

One of the reasons posting has been so slow over the past several months has been my laptop computer from which I've always done the vast majority of my blogging. It was a 10-year old Dell with Windows XP. But for the last year or so it has had a miserable time getting on the web. When I wrote my latest column for Independent Voter Network, it took me literally two days to write it simply because my old laptop kept locking up on  me when I tried to get a news article to reference. I could still use it for court, but barely. Even Microsoft Office was starting to have issues with it.

So, this week I was finally able to get a new laptop. It's an ASUS Transformer T300LA. Not a perfect design, but it is a very good design, and it can switch between laptop an  tablet when I need it. Quite happy with the computer itself so far.

What I am not happy with is Microsoft. Because I do so much word processing and share so many files with clients and publishers, I had to get Windows and Office. I was thus forced to get Windows 8. After using it for about a half hour, I decided that if there are computers in Hell, they use Windows 8. This operating system is nothing short of an abomination, an insult to Microsoft customers. It's almost as if Microsoft took all the comments made by Windows users and decided to do the exact opposite. It is not user-friendly. It is not intuitive. Most of the time you can't even tell what you're doing on it or what processes are working in the background, because the user interface won't tell you. I "upgraded" to Windows 8.1, but it is only marginally better.

Then there is Microsoft Office 2013. It's not bad per se. The format is different, but I'm normally able to adjust to it and I've had little trouble doing so now. In fairness, though, I've had Office 2013 for a year now on my main computer, so I'm kinda used to it.

However, there are some major, major annoyances with Office 2013. For one thing, when you try to save a document, it defaults to the "SkyDrive," which Microsoft recently renamed the "OneDrive." It's Microsoft's Cloud-based application, for which they plan to charge at a later date, I'm sure. Except, most people want to save their documents to their computer or its LAN and not to the Cloud. At the Solo and Small Firm Conference last summer, we had a CLE session that said lawyers had to be very careful about saving anything to the Cloud, because it could compromise client confidentiality. But Microsoft wants to push the damn SkyDrive. And so your save location defaults to the SkyDrive. Now, you can change the default location, but Word will still try to ram the SkyDrive down your throat with its big icon compared to your small default save location icon.

A far, far worse problem is the color. In older versions of Windows you could change the color scheme. I've never liked having a white screen, as my eyes are very sensitive and a white  screen all day tends to be very hard on them. So, I'd change the screen to light blue, light green, pink, gray, light purple, or something like that. In Office, you used to be able to change the color, at the very least use the colors to which you set Windows to run. In Office 2013, you cannot. You are allowed to change the color of the borders from white to light gray or dark gray. Crayola won't be running in fear of that kind of palette. It's not an issue on my main computer because it has Windows 7, on which you can change the colors. You can use the Windows 7 colors to override the Office 2013 colors. Not Windows 8. Windows 8 has nothing in the way of color options for applications, so the only color choice you have for Office 2013 is blazing white. I have checked out the tech forums and message boards, where, it is safe to say, the users have been outraged by this change in Office. But, well, Office 2013 has been out for more than a year, as has Windows 8, and so far Microsoft has made no effort to allow color changes in Office.

This is what I was talking about earlier when I said the free market had failed with Microsoft. Microsoft is almost at the point where it hears what its customers want -- and proceeds to do the exact opposite. Because, hey, it's Microsoft! Who are these mere mortal customers to tell it what it should do?

At least, that was Steve Ballmer's attitude when he decided to create Windows 8 to leverage Microsoft's dominance in computer operating systems to dominance in tablets and smart phones. Consumers have revolted against Windows 8 and driven Ballmer from the top spot at Microsoft. Hopefully, the new management will be more responsive to the needs of consumers.

But when they refuse to do something as simple as allow the customer to change the color of the program, when they had allowed the customer to do so before, it is not encouraging as to the future of this once-great company.

In any event, with a new, more capable laptop, I should be able to blog much more often now.

"[V]oter fraud is just a GOP myth."

So says Glenn Reynolds, dripping with sarcasm. And he has every reason to be sarcastic.

First, from Florida, there is the case of one TV station finding 100 people who voted who were legally ineligible to do so:
The investigative piece was aired this week by an NBC affiliate in southwest Florida that actually tracked down and interviewed non U.S. citizens who are registered to vote and have cast ballots in numerous elections. The segment focused on Lee County, which has a population of about 620,000 and Collier County with a population of around 322,000. The reporter spent about two months digging around the voter rolls in the two counties and the discoveries are dumbfounding.
In that short time, more than 100 people registered to vote in those two areas were proven to be ineligible by the reporter. A Cape Coral woman, eligible to vote in elections, was tracked down through jury excusal forms that verify she’s not a U.S. citizen. A Naples woman, who is not a U.S. citizen either, voted six times in 11 years without being detected by authorities. A Jamaican man is also registered to vote though he’s not eligible. The reporter obtained his 2007 voter registration form, which shows the Jamaican man claims to be a U.S. citizen. Problem is, no one bothers checking to see if applicants are being truthful.
Incredibly, election supervisors confirmed on camera that there’s no way for them to verify the citizenship of people who register to vote. The only way to detect fraud is if the county offices that oversee elections receive a tip, they say, and only then can they follow up.  As inconceivable as this may seem, it appears to be true. Election supervisors in counties across the United States have their hands tied when it comes to this sort of voter registration fraud. They neither have the resources nor the authority to take action without knowledge of specific wrongdoing.
In an effort to remedy the situation, Florida Governor Rick Scott launched a program a few years ago to purge ineligible voters from registration rolls. The Department of Justice (DOJ) was quick to sue the state to stop the purging because the agency claims it discriminates against minorities. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has colluded with the DOJ in Florida and the head of the group’s local chapter says purging voter rolls disproportionately affects the state’s most vulnerable groups, namely minorities.
That's right. Documented evidence of ineligible voters having voted. And Rick Scott's efforts to fix it are being blocked by Eric Holder's Justice Department. Charming.

Then, there is the mummy in Michigan who voted:
How could a dead woman vote?
The mummified remains of a Michigan woman whose death went unnoticed for six years appear to have turned up last week — along with a vote she supposedly cast from beyond the grave.
A contractor found the body in question in a garage last Wednesday after the $54,000 in Pia Farrenkopf's bank account dried up and her house in Pontiac, outside Detroit, went into foreclosure, according to local media.
Authorities say they think the remains belong to Farrenkopf, whom they believe died in 2008. But the mystery turned even murkier Monday.
Voting records show that Farrenkopf voted in Michigan's November 2010 gubernatorial election, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Farrenkopf, who would be 49, registered to vote in 2006 but did not vote until 2010, and that the vote may have been an administrative error, they revealed. Otherwise, the ghastly discovery may have uncovered something politically nefarious.
Gee, ya think?

Yeah, we don' need no stinkin' voter ID.  No way it could have prevented this.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Angola or Amity Island?

On January 18, a tanker called the Kerala, Greek-owned but Liberian-flagged, was a few miles off the port of Luanda, Angola when radio contact with its owners was broken. This is not entirely unsusal, but:
[M]aritime experts think the Kerala's disappearance marks a dangerous new escalation of the oil-driven piracy that has increasingly tormented mariners across the infamous Bight of Benin.

Maritime hijackings off of Somalia and the rest of Africa's eastern coast are in sharp decline. But pirate attacks in West Africa have crept upward, turning the waters around the Gulf of Guinea into one of the centers of global piracy. About one out of every five reported pirate attacks last year took place in the Gulf of Guinea, the International Maritime Bureau reported, but it estimates that only about one-third of West African attacks are actually reported.

The piracy on the western coast of African bears little similarity to piracy off the east coast, however. In short, it's even more aggressive. And oil companies operating in the area, West African countries dependent on energy revenues for their fiscal well-being, and regions that rely on sub-Saharan crude such as Europe and China worry that this new breed of pirates may turn the region into a no-go zone for shippers and operators.
The pattern being established is bad, and the case of the Kerala seemed like just one more:
On January 18th, a Greek shipping firm lost radio contact with one of its vessels, a Liberian-flagged, 75,000-ton oil tanker named Kerala, when it was just a few miles off the port of Luanda, Angola. [...]

The Kerala's sudden disappearance came just after maritime security firms began warning of a suspicious, 200-ton tugboat prowling the waters off the Angolan coast. The Kerala's owner, Dynacom Tankers Management Ltd., began to suspect it was again a victim of piracy. A Dynacom ship was the last ship successfully taken by Somali pirates; the ship and crew were released after 10 months of captivity in March 2013.

But never before had the criminal gangs that trawl the Gulf of Guinea struck so far south, raising questions about just what had happened to the Kerala. Angolan navy officials said last week they were searching for the vessel, and warned about the threat of piracy to Angola's energy-dependent economy.

Finally, on Sunday, Jan. 26, Dynacom re-established contact with its vessel: It had indeed been hijacked, the company said. One crewmember was hurt, and "a large amount of cargo had been stolen" from the vessel, Dynacom added. International investigators were set to examine the ship, which headed for port in Ghana, to gather forensic evidence to try to use against the suspected pirates.
So that's the end of the story? Not so fast:
"If substantiated, this latest incident demonstrates a significant extension of the reach of criminal groups and represents a threat to shipping in areas that were thought to be safe," [Dryad Maritime intelligence director Ian] Millen told the press on January 22. It should have been a relief, then, when the Angolan navy announced on Sunday that the tanker had been found and that it had not been hijacked by pirates. Except, on its face, the navy's story makes very little sense: According to Reuters, the crew "turned off communications" on January 18 "to fake an attack, seeking to calm energy sector fears that the vessel had been hijacked by pirates." So ... they faked a pirate attack in order to assuage fears about pirate attacks?

"It was all faked, there have been no acts of piracy in Angolan waters," an Angolan navy spokesman said. "What happened on January 18, when we lost contact with the ship, was that the crew disabled the communications on purpose. There was no hijacking." The spokesman, Augusto Alfredo, told reporters that the Kerala had been in Luanda when it was approached by a tugboat, and that the Kerala's crew then turned off all communications and followed the tugboat to Nigeria. “Our concern that it was an act of piracy proved unfounded. It’s no more than a simulation by the crew of the tanker and the tug’s agent,” Alfredo said.

When the Kerala was found, it was in Nigeria—and missing its cargo. Dynacom is disputing the claims of Angola's navy, insisting that the vessel was hijacked and its cargo stolen. This afternoon the AFP confirmed earlier reports that one crew member suffered an injury in connection with the tanker's mysterious activity. "All crew members are alive and accounted for, but one is wounded and all have clearly been affected by their ordeal," said Dynacom. The AFP also quoted a company source who said that the Angolan navy was trying to evade responsibility for the incident by denying that it was an act of piracy. "Angola is trying to cover up how a loaded vessel was taken in an area under its protection," said the source, and "there will now have to be an investigation by US authorities and Interpol."
So, rather than admit that a pirate attack took place, Angola is claiming the Kerala's crew faked a pirate attack in order to assuage fears about pirate attacks. It sounds like the mayor of Amity Island insisting there is no shark problem as body parts wash ashore.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

It's 1937 all over again

I was by no means the first person to compare the current dispute between Japan and China to 1937, but it's still nice to see others echoing the theme. China analyst Gordon G. Chang picks up on it as well, and also starts with the Marco Polo Bridge incident:
In first days of July 1937, Chinese and Japanese soldiers skirmished in Wanping, a few miles southwest of what is now the Chinese capital. China’s Chiang Kai-shek then knew his army was no match for Japan’s, and he had many opportunities to avoid battle with a vastly superior foe. Yet he ultimately chose war.

So why did Chiang decide to fight? And how did a minor—and probably accidental—clash turn into years of disastrous conflict? Now, analysts think today’s Asia feels like 1914 Europe, and last month in Davos Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe likened today’s situation involving his country and China to that of England and Germany a hundred years ago. The better comparison, however, is 1937. The parallels between then and now, unfortunately, are striking.

The “China Incident,” as the Japanese then called the war, began on the banks of the Yongding River in Wanping during the night of July 7, 1937. Imperial troops, shooting blanks in an evening exercise, found themselves under fire, presumably from elements of the Chinese 29th Army. After the minor exchange near Lugouqiao, commonly known as the Marco Polo Bridge, Japanese officers were alarmed when one of their soldiers failed to turn up for a roll call. They then demanded that Chinese guards let them search nearby Wanping, where the Japanese had no general permission to enter.

A refusal triggered days of skirmishes. Once the fighting started, it did not matter that the stray Japanese private, who is thought to have wandered off to urinate, eventually turned up unhurt. Soon, Chiang Kai-shek’s Republic of China was at war. The Japanese in short order would take the Marco Polo Bridge, cut off Beijing from the rest of the country, and seize that city. They would then drive Chiang’s forces from the metropolis of Shanghai, the capital of Nanjing, and most of the rest of eastern China.
Chang highlights China's latest transgressions:
Why is 1937 relevant to us? Today, China, no longer the victim, is aggressive, continually pressing its weaker neighbors to its south and east. For decades, the People’s Republic has been seizing specks in the South China Sea from Vietnam and the Philippines.

Most recently, Chinese vessels took Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines in the middle of 2012. Washington, not wanting to antagonize Beijing and hoping to avoid a confrontation, did nothing to stop Beijing gobbling up the shoal despite America’s mutual defense treaty with Manila. The Chinese were not satisfied with their seizure, however. Now they are pressuring Second Thomas Shoal and other Philippine territory, also in the South China Sea. Beijing claims about 80 percent of that critical body of international water as an internal Chinese lake.

And as soon as the Chinese took Scarborough, they began to increase pressure on the Senkakus in the East China Sea, regularly sending their ships into territorial waters surrounding the islands and sometimes flying planes into airspace there. The barren outcroppings are claimed and in fact administered by Japan, but Beijing, which calls them the Diaoyus, wants them.

Why should the Japanese care about rocks in the East China Sea? The reason is that the Chinese are acting like classic aggressors. They were not satisfied with Scarborough, so they pressured the Senkakus. Chinese analysts, egged on by state media, are now arguing that Beijing should claim Japan’s Okinawa and the rest of the Ryukyu chain.
Then he goes into specific comparisons, some of which mirror my own:
First, the Japanese military then, like the Chinese one today, was emboldened by success and was ultra-nationalist. The views now expressed by China’s senior officers are deeply troubling. For instance, General Liu Yazhou, the political commissar at the People’s Liberation Army National Defense University, recently urged armed conflict to seize territory. “Those borders where our army has won victories are more peaceful and stable, but those where we were too timid have more disputes,” he said in a recent magazine interview. “An army that fails to achieve victory is nothing.”

Second, the media in the 1930s publicized the idea that Japan was being surrounded by hostile powers that wished to prevent its rise. That’s exactly what the Communist Party says today about China.

Third, then, like now, civilians controlled Asia’s biggest army only loosely. Although many believe that new Chinese ruler Xi Jinping is firmly in command, he appears to be allowing the military to engage in provocative behavior to obtain its support. In the complex bargaining process inside Beijing, Xi may be letting flag officers, head of the most powerful faction in the Party, tell him what policies he will adopt. If the PLA is now Xi Jinping’s faction—as many now believe—it is unlikely that he is in a position to tell the top brass what to do.

Yet whether Xi is an aggressor in his own right—a logical conclusion of the majority view that he is in control of the military—or is being led by the nose by flag officers, China is lashing out, taking on many nations at once. That is the same thing Japan did beginning in the 1930s.
Read the whole thing.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Another Sino-Japanese War in the offing?

For some time now I have been trying to call attention to the increasingly dangerous situation in the East China Sea, where Japan and China are snapping and growling at each other over a tiny set of islands.

The disputed islands, called Senkaku by the Japanese, Diaoyu by Communist China, and Tiaoyutai by Nationalist China (Taiwan). Source: Wikipedia.
These islands, called Senkaku by the Japanese, Daioyu by the Chinese Communists, and Tiaoyutai by the Nationalist Chinese on Taiwan, appear to have little or no strategic value. There has been speculation that the islands may sit atop significant mineral resources, but that has not been substantiated. Yet the islands have sparked naval incursions, fighter scrambles, and increasingly belligerent language, especially from China.

What is going on?

In an article titled "Someone Just Said Something About The Japan-China Conflict That Scared The Crap Out Of Everyone" Henry Blodget of Business Insider gives a chilling explanation in the form of a comment made at a reception at the 2014 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland:
One of the guests, an influential Chinese professional, talked about the simmering conflict between China and Japan over a group of tiny islands in the Pacific.
China and Japan, you may recall, each claim ownership of these islands, which are little more than a handful of uninhabited rocks between Japan and Taiwan. Recently, the Japan-China tension around the islands has increased, and has led many analysts, including Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group, to worry aloud about the potential for a military conflict.
The Chinese professional at dinner last night did not seem so much worried about a military conflict as convinced that one was inevitable. And not because of any strategic value of the islands themselves (they're basically worthless), but because China and Japan increasingly hate each other.
The Chinese professional mentioned the islands in the context of the recent visit by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. The Yasukuni Shrine is a Shinto shrine where Japanese killed in Japan's many military conflicts over the centuries are memorialized — including the Japanese leaders responsible for the attacks and atrocities Japan perpetrated in World War 2. A modern-day Japanese leader visiting the Yasukuni Shrine is highly controversial, because it is viewed by Japan's former (and current) enemies as an act of honoring war criminals.
That's certainly the way the Chinese professional at the dinner viewed it.
He used the words "honoring war criminals," to describe Abe's visit to the shrine. And, with contained but obvious anger, he declared this decision "crazy."
He then explained that the general sense in China is that China and Japan have never really settled their World War 2 conflict. Japan and America settled their conflict, he explained, and as a result, the fighting stopped. But China and Japan have never really put the war behind them.
The Chinese professional acknowledged that if China asserted control over the disputed islands by attacking Japan, America would have to stand with Japan. And he acknowledged that China did not want to provoke America.
But then he said that many in China believe that China can accomplish its goals — smacking down Japan, demonstrating its military superiority in the region, and establishing full control over the symbolic islands — with a surgical invasion.
In other words, by sending troops onto the islands and planting the flag.
The Chinese professional suggested that this limited strike could be effected without provoking a broader conflict. The strike would have great symbolic value, demonstrating to China, Japan, and the rest of the world who was boss. But it would not be so egregious a move that it would force America and Japan to respond militarily and thus lead to a major war.
Well, when the Chinese professional finished speaking, there was stunned silence around the table.
The technical term for this Chinese professional is "idiot." And he was called out on it:
The assembled CEOs, investors, executives, and journalists stared quietly at the Chinese professional. Then one of them, a businessman, reached for the microphone.
"Do you realize that this is absolutely crazy?" the businessman asked.
"Do you realize that this is how wars start?"
"Do you realize that those islands are worthless pieces of rock... and you're seriously suggesting that they're worth provoking a global military conflict over?"
The Chinese professional said that, yes, he realized that. But then, with conviction that further startled everyone, he said that the islands' value was symbolic and that their symbolism was extremely important.
Challenged again, the Chinese professional distanced himself from his earlier remarks, saying that he might be "sensationalizing" the issue and that he, personally, was not in favor of a war with Japan. But he still seemed certain that one was deserved.
Interesting word choice, "deserved." Not sure if it was Blodget's or the Chinese professional's. Even less sure what it means.

But his thinking is idiotic, to put it mildly. Let's assume that China does pull off this "surgical invasion," that they land troops on the islands, plant their flag, and then leave.

What happens after that?

I'll tell you what happens: Japan lands their own troops on the islands, removes the Chinese flag, and plants their own.

And we're back at Square One -- except the precedent of use of military force to assert sovereignty over the islands will have been set. And you will have the stupidly named People's Liberation Army Navy (though some reports have said the Chinese have finally realized the stupidity of the name and changed it to the "People's Liberation Navy") and the awkwardly named Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force ("Imperial Japanese Navy" or Nihon Teikoku Kaigun, regardless of the bad history, is actually far cooler) will be hanging around the islands.

And when was the last time Chinese and Japanese forces hung around each other peacefully? May I suggest 1937?

Which brings me to an interview Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times had with Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. Rachman tweeted that Abe told him "China and Japan now are in a 'similar situation' to UK and Germany before 1914."

That's not actually true. A far better analogy would be US and Japan before 1937, but obviously Abe can't say that, as it would be admitting the Japanese were the bad guys in World War II.

But a 1937 analogy very much is true. In 1937 Imperial Japanese Army troops of the Kwantung Army stationed in Japanese-occupied Manchuria were across the Marco Polo Bridge from Nationalist Chinese troops on the other side. As usual, Imperial Japan was doing some katana-rattling in the form of maneuvers. On the night of July 7, 1937, during these nighttime maneuvers, someone opened fire. To this day no one is sure who -- arrogant Japanese, panicked Chinese nationalists, or devious Chinese communists hoping to provoke their two foes into fighting each other. Whatever the party, it was the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War, a war that exposed the sheer barbarism and brutality of the Imperial Japanese Army soldier in such incidents as the Rape of Nanking. It was during this time that Japanese navy bombers attacked and sank the US gunboat Panay in the Yangtze upriver from Nanking. The attack was unintentional inasmuch as the navy pilots and their commanding officers did not know they were attacking an American target -- they had apparently been deceived by the army into making the attack. Only a quick apology and some dollar-and-yen diplomacy averted a US-Japan war in 1937.

Now, like 1937, we have an aggressive fascist power in the Chinese Communists (who are communist in name only these days). We have an arrogant leadership, this time in the Chinese Communists, with a sense of entitlement and a basket full of grievances, both real and imagined. We have in the Chinese a country that has taken to bullying its neighbors. Remember that these islands are by no means the only ones China is trying to gain by intimidation. The Spratlys come to mind.

And, now, we have an admission that the Chinese, like the Japanese before World War II, are not basing their actions on a rational assessment of self-interest but on emotion and ego. This idea of a "surgical invasion" that supposedly would not provoke a response is a classic self-delusion.

And wars based on national emotion and national ego are often the most intractable, the most devastating of wars. See World War II in Europe and the Second Punic War for examples.

Hang on. This is going to be a bumpy ride.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Mohenjo BOOM-o?

I'm a big fan of the mysterious Indus River Valley ancient civilization of Pakistan. The Indus Valley has given us the two creepy cities known as Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, very cities that look like ancient versions of the suburbs of Communist Bucharest. Boring, generic buildings: no art; defensive citadels dominating the residential centers; even a statutette of a sneering "king." Very little is known about them, as their writing as yet tobe deciphered and there are few accounts of their contemporaries that deal with them. No one knows how they started or ended, in part becaue very few bodies have been found among the ruins of Mohenjo-daro:
[I]n contrast to the well-appointed houses and clean streets, the uppermost levels at Mohenjo Daro contained squalid makeshift dwellings, a careless intermingling of residential and industrial activity and, most significantly, a series of more than 40 sprawled skeletons lying scattered in streets and houses. Paul Bahn (2002) describes the scene: In a room with a public well in one area of the city were found the skeletons of two individuals who appeared desperately to have been using their last scraps of energy to crawl up the stair leading from the room to the street; the tumbled remains of two others lay nearby. Elsewhere in the area the ‘strangely contorted’ and incomplete remains of nine individuals were found, possibly thrown into a rough pit. In a lane between two houses in another area, another six skeletons were loosely covered with earth. Numerous other skeletons were found within layers of rubble, ash and debris, or lying in streets in contorted positions that suggested the agonies of violent death.
For that reason, many archaeologists have concluded that these people violently in a futile effort to defend the city. Except ...
There was no evidence that the skeletons belonged to ‘defenders of the city’ as no weapons were found and the skeletons contained no evidence of violent injuries.
So ...
An alternative theory was put forward that the city suffered extensive flooding and that people died off as a result of water-borne diseases such as cholera. Recent investigations revealed considerable evidence of flooding at Mohenjo Daro in the form of many layers of silty clay. The Indus River was prone to change its course and through the centuries moved gradually eastward, leading periodically to flooding within the bounds of the city. [...] The conclusion that many mainstream archaeologists now make is that the ‘massacre’ victims from Mohenjo Daro were simply the victims of the natural tragedy of fatal disease rather than that of human aggression. But this conclusion also has many holes – why did the remains of individuals appear in contorted positions, almost frozen at the very moment of death? Why did they appear to have been struck down suddenly? Surely if they died of disease their bodies would have been buried and not found scattered around the city?
So, now what?
There exist a growing number of ‘alternative archaeologists’ and researchers who have not settled for theories that do not satisfactorily explain the conditions of the skeletal remains and who have sought other explanations. One such individual is David Davenport, British Indian researcher, who spent 12 years studying ancient Hindu scripts and evidence at the site where the great city once stood. In his book Atomic Destruction in 2000 B.C. he reveals some startling findings: the objects found at the site appeared to be fused, glassified by a heat as high as 1500°C, followed by a sudden cooling. Within the city itself there appeared to be an ‘epicentre’ about 50 yards wide within which everything was crystallized, fused or melted, and sixty yards from the center the bricks are melted on one side indicating a blast. A. Gorbovsky in his book Riddles of Ancient History, reported the discovery of at least one human skeleton in the area with a level of radioactivity approximately 50 times greater than it should have been due to natural radiation. Davenport claimed that what was found at Mohenjo Daro corresponded exactly to what was seen at Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Davenport's theory was met with intense interest from the scientific community. Nationally known expert William Sturm said: “the melting of bricks at Mohenjo Daro could not have been caused by a normal fire”, while Professor Antonio Castellani, a space engineer in Rome said: “it's possible that what happened at Mohenjo Daro was not a natural phenomenon”. Since there is no indication of a volcanic eruption at Mohenjo-Daro, one answer that has been put forward is that the ancient city might have been irradiated by an atomic blast. If true, it would be impossible to ignore the conclusion that ancient civilization possessed high technology.
Yikes! The folks at Ancient Origins think the theory bears some examination:
If Mohanjo Daro was destroyed by a nuclear catastrophe, who created the weapons and how? If not, then what was it that produced enough heat to vitrify rock and bricks? What could explain the high degree of radioactive traces in the skeletons? How did all of them die, in one instant? We believe it is time to stop accepting the sanitized view of the world provided to us by mainstream science and to begin digging a little deeper.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Pearl Harbor and the Fiddler Crab Flu

In case you have been wondering where I have been for the past month, it has been crazy. In mid-November, Rising Sun, Falling Skies was due to the printer, so we had to make the final edits to the text and finish up the maps. We got it turned in on time, and the book is on schedule for its March 2014 release. Just as I turned that in, I got what I think was the flu. Since nowadays every strain of influenza has to be named after an animal, I'm calling it the Fiddler Crab Flu. Because why not? It rendered me literally unable to get out of bed for an entire weekend, then left me with among other things, a shattering cough that destroyed my voice and my ability to sleep. I am still not quite recovered from that. On top of all this, my laptop, from which I do most of my blogging, is dying. It's only ten years old. So I've been struggling to get anything posted. So if some of this post seems a bit dated, you know why.

In the interim we have had, inter alia the anniversary of both the disappearance of Flight 19 in the Atlantic off the Florida coast in 1945 and, obviously, the Pearl Harbor anniversary. The December 7 edition of "Civil Discourse Now" discussed Pearl Harbor, with me as a guest. You can listen to the podcast -- and my shattered voice -- here. In my Veterans Day Post, I shared a picture of the attack by the Japanese Kido Butai on Pearl Harbor. I want to show that picture again, because I want to point out an often overlooked detail.

Look at the far right at the very edge of the picture. Maybe about 40% of the way up. You should see what looks like something poking its nose into the picture. Entering it at maybe a 45-60-degree angle from the horizontal.

We talk about the USS Arizona and her horrific destruction when her forward magazines exploded. And she gets most of the attention. What is often lost in the equation is the sinking of the battleship USS Oklahoma. Disemboweled by Japanese aerial torpedo hits, she capsized and sank into the mud at Pearl Harbor. For her crew trapped below decks almost upside down, it must have been horrific. Most died of suffocation before rescue crews could cut their way through the hull to them.

That angled thing at the right edge of the picture is the mainmast of the Oklahoma in the midst of her capsize. It's one of the few images of any kind of her sinking.

Please do not forget her or her crew.