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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Thanksgiving Edition

Okay, try not to burn your house down while cooking your turkey.

Especially true if you decide to deep fat fry the thing.

Some words of advice from Joseph Lindberg at the Twin Cities Pioneer Press
Exploding turkeys: How to avoid them
:
On average, five Americans die each year from fires caused by deep fryers, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

The most common mistake is overfilling the deep-frying vat, which causes oil to spill over the edge and ignite, engulfing the entire unit in flames that are difficult to extinguish.

And placing a frozen -- or even partially frozen -- turkey into the vat can cause an explosion of hot oil, according to the fire marshal.

In fact, UL, an independent and global safety science company, considers turkey fryers so hazardous that it will not certify them for safe use.

U.S. fire departments respond to about 1,000 home fires each year that are started by deep fryers. In addition to deaths, those fires cause some 60 injuries and $15 million in direct property damage on average per year.

To avoid explosions and fire, follow these tips from the fire marshal:

-- Place the fryer outdoors on a flat surface, and never on a wooden deck or in a garage.

-- Fill a cold fryer with water and place your turkey into the vat to determine the amount of oil needed. Mark the water level well below the rim of the vat, and make sure the fryer dries thoroughly before filling with oil.


-- Oil and water do not mix. Avoid injury, and explosions, by thoroughly thawing and drying the bird before frying it.



Be smarter than the turkey. Don't be in the running for a Darwin Award.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Asking the Right Questions: "A U.S.-China War in Asia: Could America Win by Blockade?"

China's Oil Sea Lines of Communication Chokepoint Problem Areas
From The National Interest A U.S.-China War in Asia: Could America Win by Blockade? by Xunchao Zhang:
Is it viable for the United States to impose a naval blockade against China in a potential conflict? That’s a critical question in the study of China’s maritime and energy strategies.
***
But China’s reliance on seaborne oil imports isn’t matched by its naval capability. It doesn’t have overseas bases to support regular operations in distant regions. By contrast, the US Navy not only possesses formidable ocean-going capabilities, but also quantitative and technological advantages. That asymmetry between China’s high level of reliance on seaborne oil imports and its low level of naval capability to protect those imports means the US Navy could successfully interdict China’s seaborne oil trade.
The ability to sustain a long blockade and the issue of reliability of prospective allies in such an endeavor are critical.


An earlier post on Cbina's Sea Lanes. It's all about Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs), isn't it? Mahan speaks to the Chinese and the U.S. navies.

Interesting analysis by Dr. Stephen E. Flynn here (pdf):
Mahan argued that hardened coastal defenses had the effect of shifting the battleground offshore. Since harbor forts equipped with land-based armaments could fire weapons at longer distances and with greater accuracy than vessel-based cannons, a foreign naval force would find it difficult to directly attack or conduct an effective blockade of a U.S. seaport. However, a nation that invested in a large deepwater navy could overcome coastal defenses by disrupting what Mahan called the “sea-lines of communication” (SLOC) that facilitate "the sea commerce upon (which) the wealth and strength of countries" ultimately lies.
Related issues connected to Anti-Access/Area Denial and the "third offset" here.

Note the nearby map of China's claims to most of the South China Sea as it attempts to secure its nearby SLOCs, especially those near the Spratly Islands. Oh look, Vietnam is important. As are the Philippines.


More worrisome is the author's proposed Chinese solution:
The US can conceptualize a conventional war with China because China, with a much smaller nuclear force can’t initiate nuclear exchange in a war with the US. China needs to transform its strategic nuclear force from one of minimal sole-purpose deterrence to a more robust multi-purpose deterrence. A robust Chinese nuclear deterrence could contribute to war prevention by replacing the option of “winnable conventional war” with “unwinnable nuclear war.” But, in order to construct a nuclear deterrence sufficiently robust to deter the US from engaging in a conflict with China, Beijing must make two major changes: it must renounce its No-First-Use declaration, and build up a strategic nuclear force more comparable to that of the US.
Goodie, can we have another Cold War?

While you think about that delightful idea, remember what the Japanese were up to in 1941 as they tried to secure their supply areas and the SLOCs  they needed to get oil and other things to their island homeland. China, of course, does not have Malaya, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Korea and Japan under their control as did the Japanese after December 1941.


But they sure wish they did.

Monday, November 24, 2014

On that "Third Offset Strategy"

Secretary of Defense Hagel recently laid out a new "third offset"strategy:
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Saturday outlined a series of reforms designed to tackle what he views as the military’s declining prowess as China, Russia and others field new weapons technologies.

Mr. Hagel said the Pentagon needed to look outside the traditional defense industry to target emerging technologies that could be developed within budget constraints, a move that some leaders believe could reshape the weapons business over the next decade.
***
Defense officials have said the priorities include longer-range and hypersonic weapons, enhanced cybersecurity platforms and unmanned systems.
CSBA's Robert Martinage laid "third offset strategy" in out in, Toward a New Offset Strategy: Exploiting U.S. Long-Term Advantages to Restore U.S. Global Power Projection Capability
As a matter of urgency, the U.S. military needs to “offset” the investments that adversaries are making in anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities—particularly their expanding missile inventories—by leveraging U.S. advantages in unmanned systems and automation, extended-range and low-observable air operations, undersea warfare, and complex system engineering and integration. Doing so would allow the United States to maintain its ability to project power, albeit in novel forms, despite the possession of A2/AD capabilities by hostile forces.
Related to this, of course, is the recognition that U.S. naval surface force are being out-ranged and out-gunned by overwhelming numbers of ship threatening cruise and other missiles, which we discussed on Midrats with Bryan Clark here.
Check Out Military Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Midrats on BlogTalkRadio

The "Third Offset Strategy" has critics, one of whom is James Jay Carafano of the Heritage Institute, who penned The Third Offset: The "Fairy Dust" Strategy for The National Interest, which describes the option picked Mr. Hagel to get the US Defense back into the game as:
... another “easy button” solution: the promise that we’ll fix declining capabilities by deploying new technology.

The Secretary offered no details that would suggest he considers technology to be a serious strategy for overcoming our deteriorating defenses. Basically all he said in his speech was that his Pentagon would spend the next two years planning to have a plan. That is not a plan.

Second, basing a strategy on technological innovation that is not in hand is nothing more than wishful thinking. It would be like Taft’s Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, planning to fight World War I with nuclear weapons. Game-changing technology happens when it happens—not on-demand, like cable. Indeed, betting on technology that’s not mature often leads to deploying technology before it’s ready, which in turn leads to the kinds of massive cost overruns and delays a cash-strapped Defense Department can ill afford. Of course, the United States should always be seeking out technologies that offer decisive competitive advantages, but that is not the basis for a sound strategy.

Third, it’s a mistake to build a strategy around a single point of strength, because that often becomes a single point of failure.
It is worth reading these arguments and pondering where we should be headed.

Dr. Carafano links to a report by the congressionally chartered, bipartisan National Defense Panel "Ensuring a Strong U.S. Defense for the Future" which he characterizes as showing, " . . . how wide the gap has grown between what the Pentagon has and what it needs . . ." or, as the panel put it:
The effectiveness of America’s other tools for global influence, such as diplomacy and economic engagement, are critically intertwined with and dependent upon the perceived strength, presence and commitment of U.S. armed forces. Yet the capabilities and capacities rightly called for in the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, hereafter referred to as the QDR, clearly exceed the budget resources made available to the Department. This gap is disturbing if not dangerous in light of the fact that global threats and challenges are rising, including a troubling pattern of territorial assertiveness and regional intimidation on China’s part, the recent aggression of Russia in Ukraine, nuclear proliferation on the part of North Korea and Iran, a serious insurgency in Iraq that both reflects and fuels the broader sectarian conflicts in the region, the civil war in Syria, and civil strife in the larger Middle East and throughout Africa.
At least everyone at this level of the argument acknowledges there are a growing threats that "sweet talk" will not abate.

Sleeping bullies have awakened and are beginning to show their simmering resentment of Pax Americana.

Those who might oppose the U.S. and its allies are equipping themselves with the tools to counter our current military strengths in their respective areas of interest.

It our turn to make moves to counter their counters.

If that means developing new technologies, that seems to me to be a good thing. Surging new technology only works,though, if we can maintain an edge by not letting those who would oppose us steal such tech out from under us.

We really need more ships and aircraft. If we manage it correctly, they don't need to be the most expensive tools. Further, if we can't afford more ships, then as Bryan Clark argues, we need to fix our current ships to deal with the real world threats we face.

We also need to be more "offensive minded" in our approach.

Now.

That's a strategy of sorts.



Future War Thoughts from Japan: Longer Range Fighters Rule?

Aviation Week reports Japan is looking at a big, long-range fighter to defeat superior numbers:
TRDI
Flying far is more important than flying fast, Japanese fighter technologists have found in studies aimed at defining their country’s next combat aircraft. Looking for ways for their air force to fight outnumbered, researchers are also emphasizing that Japan’s next fighter should share targeting data, carry a big internal load of large, high-performance missiles and be able to guide them while retreating.
***
Whether Japan will build the aircraft at all is another question. On the one hand, the country feels its security is increasingly imperiled by rising and bellicose China. On the other hand, developing a heavy stealth fighter would have to cost tens of billions of dollars.
***
They moved the engines inboard and left a broad space for side-by-side stowage of six medium-range missiles under the ducts, which twisted upward and inward. The additional missiles, even at the expense of greater size and cost, make good sense for a country that must contemplate fighting against far more numerous enemy forces, Barrie says.
While the aircraft design is interesting, the analysis of that concludes that "flying far is more important than flying fast" is worth thinking about.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

On Midrats 23 November 14: "Episode 255: Commanding the Seas -the Surface Force with Bryan Clark from CSBA"

Please join us on Sunday, 23 November 2014 at 5pm (US EST) for Episode 255: Commanding the Seas - the Surface Force with Bryan Clark from CSBA
How do we build the future surface fleet to ensure our forces maintain the ability to access to all regions of the world's oceans that our vital to our national interests?

Our guest to discuss this and the broader issues related to our surface forces will be Bryan Clark, Senior Fellow at Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).

A basis for our conversation will be his recent study for CSBA, Commanding the Seas: A Plan to reinvigorate U.S. Navy Surface Warfare, where he articulates the operational concept of “offensive sea control” as the new central idea to guide evolution of the U.S. surface force. This idea would refocus large and small surface combatant configuration, payloads and employment on sustaining the surface force’s ability to take and hold areas of ocean by destroying threats to access such as aircraft, ships and submarines rather than simply defending against their missiles and torpedoes.

Prior to joining CSBA in 2013, Bryan Clark was Special Assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations and Director of his Commander’s Action Group.

He served in the Navy headquarters staff from 2004 to 2011, leading studies in the Assessment Division and participating in the 2006 and 2010 Quadrennial Defense Reviews. His areas of emphasis were modeling and simulation, strategic planning and institutional reform and governance. Prior to retiring from the Navy in 2007, he was an enlisted and officer submariner, serving in afloat and ashore including tours as Chief Engineer and Operations Officer at the Navy’s nuclear power training unit.

Mr. Clark holds a Master of Science in National Security Studies from the National War College and a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Philosophy from the University of Idaho.
Join us live on Sunday or pick the show up later by clicking here. You can also find this show after the live feed on iTunes here, along with its 254 predecessors.

Friday Fun Film: Navy Day (1946)

How many modern weapons have been developed from what you see in this short clip honoring Navy Day!
Officers of tomorrow's navy trained, new radar-controlled glider bomb shown for first time, air-dropped sonar buoy with sub animation, transmitted to destroyer for depth charges (partial newsreel).



As bonus, a 1952 recruiting ad:


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Small Wars: Max Boot on the Future Wars of Insurgencies

Foreign Affairs has Max Boot on More Small Wars: Counterinsurgency Is Here to Stay
:
If only a nation as powerful and vulnerable as the United States had the option of defining exactly which types of wars it wages. Reality, alas, seldom cooperates. Over the centuries, U.S. presidents of all political persuasions have found it necessary to send troops to fight adversaries ranging from the Barbary pirates to Filipino insurrectos to Haitian cacos to Vietnamese communists to Somali warlords to Serbian death squads to Taliban guerrillas to al Qaeda terrorists. Unlike traditional armies, these enemies seldom met U.S. forces in the open, which meant that they could not be defeated quickly. To beat such shadowy foes, American troops had to undertake the time-intensive, difficult work of what’s now known as counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, and nation building.

Video discussion:



We did touch on this during our discussion with John Nagl on Midrats:


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Or download the show from iTunes. It's all free. Except for that value of time thing.

UPDATE: No spell check for post headlines or why do I catch them only after the post is up?

If you are interested in the situation in Yemen

If you are interested in the situation in Yemen, there's no better web resource than Jane Novak's Armies of Liberation.

Go see for yourself.

Oh, wait, why would people with an interest in maritime matters be interested in Yemen? Look where it sits. Red Sea, Bab el Mandeb chokepoint and the Gulf of Aden/Arabian Sea.

Not to mention its ownership of the islands of Socatra off Somalia.

See here:
Yemen’s control over one of the most important naval straits in the world, the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, which is located between Yemen and the Horn of Africa, underscores this geostrategic importance. Commercial liners and oil tankers pass through the strait on their way to and from the Suez Canal. International stakeholders are concerned that al-Qaeda will take advantage of the current transitional conditions in Yemen to threaten shipping and international trade, contributing to the maritime piracy that is already blighting the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

Just saying.

By the way, two of the successful maritime attacks for which al Qaeda claims credit were in Yemeni waters. See here for info on USS Cole attack in 2000. And here for info on the attack on the tanker MV Limburg.

You might note that Saudi elements were involved in the attack on MV Limburg. And, at the time of the Cole attack, Saudi Osama bin Laden was still a warm body.

Connected reading: See this U.S. House Armed Services Committee Staff report on USS Cole:
The engagement with Yemen was initiated with a clear understanding that Yemen was a sanctuary for terrorists.
Note that cuts in naval logistics forces placed the Cole in Aden:
Reductions in force structure have left the Navy with signifcantly dimished assets. The reduction in the number of oilers, combatants, and weapons available may have led to operational decisions that contributed to the U.S.S. Cole’s vulnerability.

UN Wants Action - Authorizes Use of Naval Force to Stop the Charcoal Trade that Funds The Terrorist Group Al Shabab

Looks like the naval vessels operating off the Somali coast on piracy patrols under UN auspices will be tacking on a new mission: attempting to cut off a revenue stream of the Al Shabab terror thugs by interdicting charcoal shipments from Somalia.

You know, starting a naval embargo on Somali charcoal.

From Foreign Affairs and Tom Keatinge, "Black Market: How the Charcoal Trade Fuels Al Shabab":
To take out al Shabab, one need look no further than charcoal. The United Nations has repeatedly called for countries in the region to disrupt the group’s trade in this environmentally destructive product, but, as the most recent Somalia UN Monitoring Group report revealed, such efforts have been lackluster. And so, with its patience wearing thin, the UN has now taken matters into its own hands by approving a naval intervention.
***
Roopa Gogineni/Al Jazeera
According to the latest UN Monitoring Group report on Somalia, published in mid-October, the charcoal trade continues at a rate consistent with prior years. Until Barawe was lost in October, al Shabab still loaded and exported charcoal from the port. And even today, traders and brokers continue to facilitate “systemic violations” of the UN-mandated ban, and Somali charcoal continues to show up in Gulf Cooperation Council markets. All in all, the report noted, al Shabab’s continued survival is secured by its trade operations, the cornerstone of which remains the charcoal trade.

Days after the report was issued, the Security Council passed Resolution 2182, authorizing the use of naval force to disrupt the trade. If trade hubs in the Gulf region will not stop the trade, it seems, the warships of the Combined Maritime Forces, a 30-nation naval partnership that patrols the region to deter piracy will have to do the work for them. It is too soon to tell if the new mission is tightening the screws on al Shabab. If it works, though, it will signal a new era in the war against the terrorist group.
The "legislative history" of UN Resolution 2182 here:
As regards the charcoal ban, in place since 2012, the Council authorized States, for a 12-month period, to inspect vessels in territorial waters and on the high seas which they had “reasonable grounds” to believe were carrying charcoal from Somalia, in violation of that ban, or weapons or military equipment, in violation of the arms embargo. States were authorized to seize and dispose of any prohibited items. Such authorizations applied only with respect to the situation in Somalia, the Council said, deciding to review those measures after six months.
I figure that each ship involved should be able to paint a "bag" of charcoal on the bridge wing for every successful interdiction. Just slap a Kingsford bag image up there. 5 bags makes the ship a "charcoal" ace.

Here's the language of 2182's pertinent part:
Maritime interdiction of charcoal and arms

“11. Reaffirms the ban on the import and export of Somali charcoal, as set out in paragraph 22 of resolution 2036 (2012) (“the charcoal ban”), and reiterates that the Somali authorities shall take the necessary measures to prevent the export of charcoal from Somalia and reiterates its requests in paragraph 18 of resolution 2111 (2013),that AMISOM support and assist the Somali authorities in doing so, as part of AMISOM’s implementation of its mandate set out in paragraph 1 of resolution 2093,

“12. Condemns the ongoing export of charcoal from Somalia, in violation of the total ban on the export of charcoal from Somalia reaffirmed above;
Potential charcoal interdiction force

“13. Urges all Member States, including those contributing AMISOM police and troop contingents, to respect and implement their obligations to prevent the direct or indirect import of charcoal from Somalia, whether or not such charcoal originated in Somalia, as set out in paragraph 22 of resolution 2036 (2002), and affirms this includes taking the necessary measures to prevent the use of their flag vessels for such importing;

“14. Condemns the flow of weapons and military equipment to Al Shabaab and other armed groups which are not part of the security forces of the Federal Government of Somalia, and expresses serious concern at the destabilizing impact of such weapons;

“15. Authorizes for a period of 12 months from the date of this resolution Member States, acting nationally or through voluntary multinational naval partnerships, such as ‘Combined Maritime Forces’, in cooperation with the FGS and which the FGS has notified to the Secretary-General and which the Secretary-General has subsequently notified to all Member States, in order to ensure strict implementation of the arms embargo on Somalia and the charcoal ban, to inspect, without undue delay, in Somali territorial waters and on the high seas off the coast of Somalia extending to and including the Arabian sea and Persian Gulf, vessels bound to or from Somalia which they have reasonable grounds to believe are:
(i) Carrying charcoal from Somalia in violation of the charcoal ban;

(ii) carrying weapons or military equipment to Somalia, directly or indirectly, in violation of the arms embargo on Somalia;

(iii) carrying weapons or military equipment to individuals or entities designated by the Committee established pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009);

“16. Calls upon all Flag States of such vessels to cooperate with such inspections, requests Member States to make good-faith efforts to first seek the consent of the vessel’s Flag State prior to any inspections pursuant to paragraph 15, authorizes Member States conducting inspections pursuant to paragraph 15 to use all necessary measures commensurate with the circumstances to carry out such inspections and in full compliance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law, as may be applicable, and urges Member States conducting such inspections to do so without causing undue delay to or undue interference with the exercise of the right of innocent passage or freedom of navigation;

“17. Authorizes Member States to seize and dispose of (such as through destruction, rendering inoperable or unusable, storage, or transferring to a State other than the originating or destination States for disposal) any items identified in inspections pursuant to paragraph 15, the delivery, import or export of which is prohibited by the arms embargo on Somalia or the charcoal ban, authorizes Member States to collect evidence directly related to the carriage of such items in the course of such inspections, and decides that charcoal seized in accordance with this paragraph may be disposed of through resale which shall be monitored by the SEMG;

“18. Emphasizes the importance of all Member States, including Somalia, taking the necessary measures to ensure that no claim shall lie at the instance of Somalia, or of any person or entity in Somalia, or of persons or entities designated for measures set out in resolutions 1844 (2008), 2002 (2011), or 2093 (2013), or any person claiming through or for the benefit of any such person or entity, in connection with any contract or other transaction where its performance was prevented by reason of the measures imposed by this resolution or previous resolutions;

“19. Requests Member States to dispose of any charcoal, weapons or military equipment seized pursuant to paragraph 17, in an environmentally responsible manner, taking into account the United Nations Environment Programme’s 4 September 2013 letter to the Chair of the Committee, and the Committee’s 7 May 2014 “Implementation Assistance Notice”, calls upon all Member States in the region to cooperate in the disposal of such charcoal, weapons or military equipment, affirms that the authorization provided for in paragraph 15 includes the authority to divert vessels and their crews, to a suitable port to facilitate such disposal, with the consent of the port State, affirms that the authorization in paragraph 15 includes the authority to use all necessary measures to seize items pursuant to paragraph 17 in the course of inspections and decides that any Member State cooperating in the disposal of items identified in inspections pursuant to paragraph 15, the delivery, import or export of which is prohibited by the arms embargo on Somalia or the charcoal ban, shall provide a written report to the Committee no later than 30 days after such items enter its territory on the steps taken to dispose or destroy them;

“20. Decides that any Member State that undertakes an inspection pursuant to paragraph 15, shall promptly notify the Committee and submit a report on the inspection containing all relevant details, including an explanation of the grounds for and the results of the inspection and where possible including the flag of the vessel, the name of the vessel, the name and identifying information of the master of the vessel, the owner of the vessel, and the original seller of the cargo, and efforts made to seek the consent of the vessel’s Flag State, requests the Committee to notify the Flag State of the inspected vessel that an inspection has been undertaken, notes the prerogative of any Member State to write to the Committee concerning the implementation of any aspect of this resolution, and further encourages the SEMG to share relevant information with Member States operating under the authorization set out in this resolution;

“21. Affirms that the authorizations provided in this resolution apply only with respect to the situation in Somalia and shall not affect the rights or obligations or responsibilities of Member States under international law, including any rights or obligations under UNCLOS, including the general principle of exclusive jurisdiction of a Flag State over its vessels on the high seas, with respect to any other situation, underscores in particular that this resolution shall not be considered as establishing customary international law, and notes further that such authorizations have been provided only following the receipt of the 8 October 2014 letter conveying the request of the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia;

“22. Decides to review after six months from the date of this resolution, the provisions set out in paragraphs 11 to 21 above;
I have no idea what an "environmentally responsible manner" method of getting rid of charcoal is. Unless using it to grill hamburgers is okay.

All the highlights are my doing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Trapped in Car Due to Blizzard?

What if you are on the road and there's a big, honkin' "Monster Winter Storm"? And you are stuck in your car and are so far out in the boondocks so far that sunlight has to be piped in even on the best of days? Like these folks?:
Rescuers on Wednesday pulled a family from a sport utility vehicle that had been buried in a snowdrift on a rural highway in the southwestern state of New Mexico for nearly two days.

State police said rescuers had to dig through 4 feet of ice and snow to free the Higgins family, whose red GMC Yukon got stuck on the highway when a blizzard moved through the area Monday.

Rescuers found David and Yvonne Higgins and their 5-year-old daughter Hannah clinging to each other and lethargic early Wednesday morning. The family is recovering at Miners Colfax Medical Center in Raton.
First: Before you travel, check out your car "winter emergency kit" and make sure you are covered for the dreaded "worst case scenario." Here are some suggestions from New Jersey:
Keep these items in your car:
Flashlights with extra batteries
First aid kit with pocket knife
Necessary medications
Several blankets
Sleeping bags
Extra newspapers for insulation
Plastic bags (for sanitation)
Matches
Extra set of mittens, socks, and a wool cap
Rain gear and extra clothes
Small sack of sand for generating traction under
wheels
Small shovel
Small tools (pliers, wrench, screwdriver)
Booster cables
Set of tire chains or traction mats
Cards, games, and puzzles
Brightly colored cloth to use as a flag
Canned fruit and nuts
Nonelectric can opener
Bottled water
Another list from Ready.gov includes some other things:
First Aid Kit: remember any necessary medications, baby formula and diapers if you have a small child
Food: non-perishable food such as canned food, and protein rich foods like nuts and energy bars
Radio: battery or hand cranked
Ice scraper
Charged Cell Phone: and car charger
Then, if you have space, don't forget the kids, the luggage and the presents for Granny. Really, NJ? "Several blankets" and "sleeping bags?" Oh, yeah, worst case ... which means I'd cut down on the real blankets and go with space blankets and/or sleeping bags.

Probably ought to have some more emergency food. And if you have pet with you? Don't forget food for Fido or Fluffy. We don't want them looking at the baby and drooling, do we?

Some more suggestions for a car kit on a Weather Channel video here, but while the the stuff shown is nice, it is also pricey. Not saying your life isn't worth a $400 set of Thule quick chains, but ...

At any rate, Popular Mechanics has a 2013 (so last year) list of "7 Things You Must Carry in Your Car This Winter":
If you already have an emergency kit, well done. Essentials such as first-aid supplies, jumper cables, gloves, a flashlight, duct tape, a tow strap, and some simple tools should already be in your trunk—if not for daily driving, then at least when you set out on a road trip. Here are some winter-specific items to include for times when the roads are covered in slush.
Put them on the drive tires!

Snow Socks: When you unexpectedly need extra traction, snow socks are a space-saving, temporary alternative to snow chains. These fabric doughnuts fit easily over the drive tires and can increase grip enough to extricate a stuck car or get it up a slippery hill.

Spare Phone Charger: The cellphone is your primary means of rescue in today's interconnected world. But to reach help you need juice: A charging cord is a good idea, but a hand-crank charger that works away from the car or when the car battery is dead is an even better one.

Hand Warmers and Wool Blanket: Your car provides shelter, but you don't want to run the engine—you have a limited amount of fuel and deadly exhaust may find its way into the cabin. To keep warm, use a blanket, supplemented by hand warmers when it gets really cold.

LED Flashers/Flares: Battery-powered lights work for hours and are great for alerting other drivers if your car is on the side of the road. Flares may seem antiquated, but the heat they put out prevents them from being obscured and buried by driving snow. Plus, in an extreme emergency they can be used to start a warming or signaling fire. Flares are usually sold in packs; make sure you have at least three sticks.

Food and Drink: It's exceptionally rare for anyone to be stranded during a winter blizzard for more than a day. Long-term rations aren't really necessary, but keeping a few energy bars and a plastic bottle or two of sugary energy drink wouldn't hurt. Why the latter? The electrolytes and sugars significantly lower the concoction's freezing point, ensuring you'll still have liquid when you need it.

Shovel: While it might not look like much, a compact folding shovel is plenty big enough to use when digging your car out of the snow.

Windshield De-Icer: An extra bottle of this could mean the difference between seeing the road and seeing yourself parked in a snow bank. Plus, in emergencies you can use the stuff to melt ice on the road or any frozen car parts.
For me, compact gear is better than filling up your car with a whole bunch of equipment, so I'm good with the Weather Channel video and the Popular Mechanics list. A set of "snow socks" or even emergency tire chains can be had for under $100 if you check Amazon for "snow socks." Hand warmer thingies? You might get a box of these or their equivalent at Wal-Mart. There are body warmers, too. Just put a few in the kit, they don't take up a lot of space. My wife, who seems to get colder faster than I do, loves those things. Small folding shovel? Always a good idea, year round. I like the Gerber because it's not a one trick pony and is a good camping shovel, too.

Why the shovel? Not only to keep your tailpipe clear if the car is running, but also to keep the snow from blocking your exit door. Back to the Higgins family:
He was able to keep the car running for a couple of hours, but when he went to get out to clear the exhaust pipe, his door was blocked.
See, if he only had a shovel in the car. Costs a lot less than skis or a DVD player, too.

Second: If you are planning to travel to areas that are subject to heavy snow blizzard conditions, you really ought to have checked the weather forecasts immediately before you get on the road. Look at the forecasts for the areas through which you'll be traveling. And think a little. If you are headed for the Upper Peninsula in Michigan and there are blizzard warnings, well, is this trip really necessary? Headed to the mysterious interior of Nebraska on local roads in a heavy snow storm? Why? But if you do have to travel to such places- there is no excuse for being unprepared to spend up to a few days trapped in the interior of your car out in the middle of nowhere because of "bad luck." By the way, "bad luck" has a way of turning into "dead" if you haven't taken a few precautions for your safety. Yes, it is unlikely that you will be stuck for days, but it can happen.

Good idea to send a travel route plan to your hosts at the destination and to a neighbor or friend. Email is cheap, maps are online and you can let them know when you leave and where you should be when along the route. Cuts down on the time the cops have to look for you.

Third: What happens if you do get stuck in the snow? If the car is still running, good. Perhaps, following the suggestions here you can get the car free. FEMA has some more thoughts:
Some parts of the country experience extreme winter weather including blizzards. If a blizzard traps you in your car, do you know how to survive?

Taking the following steps can help you stay safe until you are found:

- Don’t walk around in the snow to look for help. You might lose your way or become exhausted;
- Remember to occasionally check your tailpipe to make sure it’s free of snow. Clean the pipe to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning when the engine is running.
- Keep yourself moving! A car offers very little room, but exercise is essential; and
- Make the car visible for a rescue! Hang bright colored cloth or plastic from the windows. If the snow has stopped falling, open the hood of the car as a signal of distress.

If you have a cell phone call 911 to ask for help. Do not hang up until you know whom you have spoken with and what will happen next. You can also sign up for wireless emergency alerts before you travel to receive life-saving alerts wherever you are.
Gotta love the New Jersey advice:
If you are stranded in a remote area you may need to leave the car on foot after the blizzard passes.

Stay in the car.
Huh? Well, one or the other. Perhaps they mean: "Stay in the car during the blizzard so you won't get confused and lost in the storm and when the storm is over and you can see more than a short distance, you might have to trek out to find some help."

If the car is not running - still stick with it. It's shelter from the storm and body heat and a those hand/body warmers will probably help keep it warmer than the outside. Plus, it's generally easier to spot a car that it is a person. Put up a flag of bright material that sticks up above the snow. If you have sheets of plastic, you can use them to cover at least the passenger compartment to help add a layer of insulation (and an air gap?) Remember those newspapers from the NJ list? Use them as insulation to the windows and floor. A little duct tape might help you stick them in place. Bundle up and cuddle with your friends and family to share warmth. But keep shoveling out an escape path. The exercise will do you good.

Now, if you are one of those "adventurers" who decided that a backwoods lumber road in the mountains was a great place to try out your new FWD/AWD adventure mobile and you failed to take along stuff to keep you alive - welcome to the Darwin Awards.

If you have the other gear mentioned above, I would still suggest, however, that even if your new toy has a power winch, it's a good idea to have a manual "come along winch" in the vehicle. Make sure you get one that will handle the weight of your vehicle. Or those tree limbs knocked down by the snow that are blocking your road.

Good luck!