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Sunday, May 31, 2015

On Midrats 31 May 15 "Episode 282: Summer Kick-off Free For All"

Midrats on 31 May 2015 at 5pm EDT U..S. is Episode 282: Summer Kick-off Free For All in which we discuss the sea services and other matters in 2015 so far and do a little prognostication about the future. Listeners who may actually know about such things are invited to call in or join us in the chat room. Come on along, it's just for fun and to educate the hosts.

At the time of this post, the actual show page was not up, but if you click on the link here before show time, it should be there. UPDATE: Link to actual show page here.

As always, if you can't listen live, all our shows are available in the Midrats archives here or on iTunes here.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Duffy's Tavern with Billie Burke (1944)

Neighborhood bar with an interesting gaggle of visitors . . . here's a sample with actress Billie Burke (good witch in the Wizard of Oz (1939 version)). Archie is the manager of the place - enjoy a visit to Duffy's Tavern:


Friday, May 29, 2015

Friday Film: Bombing of USS Panay (1937)

Sinking of USS Panay (excerpted from
"History of United States Naval Operations in World War II" Volume 3: "The Rising Sun in the Pacific" (pages 16-18) by Samuel Eliot Morison) (footnotes can be found at link)
The Sinking of PANAY, 12 December 1937

U.S.S. Panay was one of five small, shoal-draft river gunboats that had been built about ten years earlier, primarily for patrolling the Yangtze in order to protect American commerce and American nationals during the Chinese civil war.[12] They were used to being fired upon (and seldom hit) by irresponsible guerrilla bands of Chinese,[13] but what happened to Panay was deliberately planned by responsible Japanese officers.
On 21 November 1937, when Japanese forces were approaching Nanking, Chiang Kai-shek's foreign office notified the American Embassy that it must prepare to evacuate. The Ambassador and most of the personnel left next day in U.S.S. Luzon; the rest stuck it out for another week, when they decided to depart in Panay. Ambassador Grew so notified the Japanese government on 1 December. On the 11th the gunboat embarked the American officials together with a number of civilians, and started upriver, escorting three Standard Oil barges that also wished to escape. Two British gunboats and a few other British craft followed the same course. For two miles this little flotilla was fired upon repeatedly by a shore battery commanded by Colonel Hashimoto, one of the ringleaders in the assassinations and a prominent Kodo man. His object was to provoke the United States into a declaration of war, which would eliminate civilian influence from the Japanese government and complete the "Showa Restoration." The shooting was so wild that Panay and her convoy, making slow speed against the current, pulled out of range without suffering a hit. An advanced Army unit notified naval authorities that Chinese troops were fleeing the capital in ten ships.

At 1100 next morning (12 December 1937) Panay and the three tankers anchored near Hoshien, upstream from Nanking. American flags were hoisted on their masts and painted on the awnings and topsides. The day was clear, sunny and still. Panay's ate their Sunday dinner and secured. No guns were manned or even uncovered. Shortly after 1330, three Japanese Navy bombing planes flew overhead and released eighteen bombs, one of which disabled Panay's forward 3-inch gun, wrecked the pilothouse, sick bay and fire room, wounded the captain (Lieutenant Commander J.J. Hughes) and several others. Immediately after, twelve more planes dive-bombed and nine fighters strafed, making several runs over a space of twenty minutes. She fought back with her .30-cal. machine guns. By 1406 all power and propulsion were lost, the main deck was awash and, as Captain Hughes saw that his ship was going down, he ordered her to be abandoned. Japanese planes strafed the boats on their way to shore, and even combed the reeds along the riverbank for survivors. Two of the three oil barges were also bombed and destroyed. The Panay survivors, kindly treated by the Chinese, managed to get word through to Admiral Yarnell and were taken on board U.S.S. Oahu and H.M.S. Ladybird two days later. Two bluejackets and one civilian passenger died of their wounds; eleven officers and men were seriously wounded.[14]

Mr. Grew, who remembered the Maine, at first expected his country to declare war. But the promptness and apparent sincerity with which the Japanese government and people apologized and expressed their readiness to make what reparation they could, turned away wrath. The Japanese official inquiry resulted in the face-saving explanation that the attack was all a mistake; ships emblazoned with American flags had been mistaken for Chinese at 600 yards' range; it was just to bad. A United States naval Court of Inquiry at Shanghai brought out unmistakable evidence that the sinking was deliberate. But the United States government was so anxious to avoid war that it accepted the "mistake" theory, together with an indemnity. When it did so, a sigh of relief passed over the length and breadth of America.[15] In a Gallup poll conducted during the second week of January 1937, 70 per cent of the American voters who were interviewed and had an opinion on the subject favored a policy of complete withdrawal from China -- Asiatic Fleet, Marines, missionaries, medical missions, and all.[16]

Apparently no American except Mr. Grew remembered the Maine.

Sometimes it is hard to remember the extent of the U.S. involvement internally in China until Mao consolidated his government.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

China Weaponizes Built Up Islands in South China Sea

Yes, I know, shocking. Australia's The Age reports, China moves weapons on to artificial islands in South China Sea:
China has moved weaponry onto artificial islands that it is building in contested areas of the South China Sea, adding to the risks of a confrontation with the United States and its regional security partners including Australia.

Australian officials are concerned that China could also introduce long-range radar, anti-aircraft guns and regular surveillance flights that will enable it to project military power across a maritime expanse which include some of Australia's busiest trading lanes.
Well, it's not like we didn't know this was coming.

I suspect the reaction will be more hand-wringing, strong memos and some increase in overflights while China consolidates its positions. Why? As stated here:
When a land power wants to set up locations for bases to control the air and sea in areas of interest to them ...
China is thinking like a land power, setting up fixed bases for expansion of its alleged rights in the South China Sea.

It will keep doing this until it has a reason to stop. The threat of "international law" is a joke to China, which knows that international law means little unless there is some means - and the will to use that means - to enforce it.

Are the U.S and/or any of its allies willing to go to war to stop China's island campaign? Will we send in the Marines to dig the Chinese off these sand spits?

China, acting in its own interest as it sees it, understands the "paper tiger" nature of threats rendered impotent by politics, thus they will keep going at this until they have their own South China lake.

Can you imagine the protests about "our kids" going off to war over man-made islands in the middle of nowhere?"

In their defense against U.S. protests they will point to the Monroe Doctrine, the events that lead to the Panama Canal and centuries of European imperialism. Given their history, they probably won't use "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" as the title of their empire building effort - but whatever they call it, it follows a similar thought process.

Here's an interesting WWII OSS (CIA predecessor) analysis of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere:


You might note the mention of the Monroe Doctrine:
In 1962, the Monroe Doctrine was invoked symbolically when the Soviet Union began to build missile-launching sites in Cuba. With the support of the Organization of American States, President John F. Kennedy threw a naval and air quarantine around the island.
I don't know what the Chinese equivalent of "goose/gander" is, but I suspect we'll hear it at some point.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Disaster Prep Wednesday: A Useful Medical Handook for Really Bad Major Disasters

We all know there are relatively small disasters - your house burns down, a part of a city floods, a tornado takes out a neighborhood. Then there are those potentially "really bad major disasters" where everything we know sort of -uh- stops - an electromagnetic pulse shuts down the grid, a meteor fills the air with debris around the world, or Yellowstone blows up.

In the former case, the resources of medical centers, hospitals and their associated facilities will mostly remain intact - if not in your town, then someplace fairly close.

In one of the latter worst cases, you might be on your own for medical treatment, at least for some period of time.

A useful tool to have available on a thumb drive or an "SD card" and kept in your EMP safe container (see here) is the Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook available in pdf format.
Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook, 2001, is the first edition of a comprehensive medical reference resource designed for Special Operations Forces (SOF) medics. This “single-source” reference provides many revolutionary approaches to accessing medical information, such as a treatment hierarchy based on available medical resources and mission circumstances commonly facing the SOF Medic. The Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook is an innovative achievement in military medical knowledge, with contributions by over 80 medical specialists organized into a problem-oriented template for reference to diagnoses and treatments
You could even print it out if you are a "belt and suspenders" type though it does run 723 pages. The pdf has a nice index and the pictures are, in some cases, colorful. The issue above is from 2001. Amazon offers a paperback version updated through 2008 here  for about $16 new. Used versions are cheaper.

Probably won't ever need it, but . . . it would be really nice to have after one of those worst case things.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Confirmation the Middle East is, and will remain, a mess: "The Trio of the Serious"

If you need confirmation, that is, here's a piece from American Diplomacy: "The Trio of the Serious" that puts Israel, Turkey and Iran as that "trio" -
So what do these three have in common? “Not much” is a comment immediately springing to a reader’s mind. All three countries to various degrees officially loathe, fear and/or rival each other. The polities of all three could not be less similar. Iran is a theocracy where elections can and do matter. Israel is a boisterous if fragmented democracy. Turkey is an increasingly flawed and authoritarian democracy. All three face internal strains which could jeopardize their futures.
If those are the big three, oh my.

Nice bit on corruption and governance:
. . . while trying to grope one’s way through the tangle of loyalties afflicting this region, must one forget the pervasive evil which exasperates ordinary people more, perhaps, than anything else—lack of government competence. The governments in the region by and large just do not produce the range and quality of services people increasingly have come to expect: security first of all, then jobs and income, and education and health services.

Instead they are faced in daily life by ugly and demeaning corruption. There is no point in dwelling too much on the competitions of relative ugliness produced by Transparency International or others. In whatever form corruption comes it saps at societies. Arguably it was as important as any other factor in provoking the Arab Spring. Important is the degree to which corruption, in any given state, impairs that state’s capacity to deliver security and other services to its people. And right now Middle Eastern governments, with budgets stricken by collapsing oil prices, now have less money to grease the hands of popular discontent. This phenomenon too is largely due to the lack of basic government or administrative competence.
You know, if your daily life sucks, it just might be easier to become a nihilistic radical. Perhaps that is why so many losers from western countries are flocking to defend their version of Islam from other versions of Islam and other ideas.

Of course, when everyone involved avoids responsibility by blaming all problems on someone else ("It's America's or the Crusader's or the West's or your favorite enemy's fault") it just adds another level of intolerance to the mix.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

"Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces."



Sunday, May 24, 2015

Prelude to Memorial Day: The Civil War

The American Civil War was as bloody as they come:
Roughly 2% of the population, an estimated 620,000 men, lost their lives in the line of duty. Taken as a percentage of today's population, the toll would have risen as high as 6 million souls.
It is fitting that as we ponder the meaning of this long weekend that we begin with a look back to the war that first prompted honoring those who fell in the service of their country.



Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Friday, May 22, 2015

China's Interest is China's Interest

Kick off the Memorial Day Weekend - mindful that many Americans died fighting helping to free China during WWII - by suggesting a couple of reads on China.

First is Jeff Smith's Foreign Affairs piece, Beware China's Grand Strategy
Ask ten China scholars to define Chinese grand strategy and you will get ten answers. In a formal sense, it does not exist. Yet observers can discern coherent strategic priorities that, in aggregate, resemble the elements of a grand strategy. Today, the first priority is arguably driven by the Communist Party’s preoccupation with mitigating key vulnerabilities in pursuit of stability and growth.
***
Ah, those "key vulnerabilities" - which support China's need for economic growth:
Externally, Beijing is keenly sensitive regarding the vulnerability of the energy imports that sustain China’s economy, the bulk of which must traverse thousands of miles of open sea patrolled by the U.S. Navy and through the narrow naval chokepoint at the Strait of Malacca. The naked vulnerability of these imports (particularly in war time) is intolerable to Chinese strategists.
China's Port and Canal Developments

The goals of Chinese grand strategy can therefore be assumed to be attaining diverse and defensible sources of energy and rapid economic growth bolstered by a healthy supply of export markets in an increasingly connected Asia.

The AIIB [Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank] has the virtue of advancing both agendas, but it represents just one finger in a Chinese hand grasping Asia in an ever-tighter embrace. China’s “String of Pearls” investments in port facilities along the Indian Ocean rim represent another. Just this past February, a Chinese state-owned enterprise assumed control of the “crown pearl,” Pakistan’s Gwadar Port. Another finger is the web of new oil and gas pipelines from Myanmar (also called Burma) to Kazakhstan, and new industrial and commercial rail links spanning from Western China to Europe. Last year a Chinese cargo train made the longest continuous train ride in history, a 21-day, 8,000-mile round trip from China’s Zheijang province to Spain and back. Meanwhile, Russia and China are currently negotiating the details of a largest-ever gas pipeline and supply contract worth up to $40 billion. Finally, Beijing is still unveiling the details of a “One Belt, One Road” New Silk Road Initiative, an ambitious vision for an interconnected Asia with each spoke linking back to the hub of the Chinese economy.
As the article notes, China has a nationalist movement that is unhappy with things that happened during China's weak years and that anger leads directly to efforts to "get back" that which this movement feels was "stolen." One symbol of this effort is the infamous 9- or 10-dashed line which China uses to justify its actions in the South China Sea.

As far as strategy goes, China is not straying too far from a Mahanian approach (see Mahan’s Naval Strategy: China Learned It. Will America Forget It?).

The other big read is from the Council on Foreign Relations, Robert Blackwill and Ashley Tellis authors, Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China , which is downloadable as a pdf:
"Because the American effort to 'integrate' China into the liberal international order has now generated new threats to U.S. primacy in Asia—and could result in a consequential challenge to American power globally—Washington needs a new grand strategy toward China that centers on balancing the rise of Chinese power rather than continuing to assist its ascendancy."
Is China a boogie man or just a major country asserting its will in a world where other major powers have risen and fallen? Does China's ascendance require confrontation? What is "international law" but the will of the strongest glossed over as "proper behavior?" Will the behavior of past "western" empires come back to haunt their descendants?

It also might be a good idea to read Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations (book available here) as well as critics of that work (see e.g. here). Another approach to ponder, John Mearsheimer's The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. There's also, perhaps more directly on point, Henry Kissinger's On China.

Friday Fun Film: "Deep Sea Diving: The Technique of Diving" (1943)



Profiles the role of the U.S. Navy's hardhat divers, and shows the various systems used to support their operations. This film includes footage of re-compression chambers and diver support equipment. The special men of honor who served as the Navy's hardhat divers during WWII salvaged lost equipment, repaired ships at sea and in the harbor, and served in many other important capacities.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Fun in the South China Sea: Islands in the Stream

In the South China Sea (SCS) China is rushing to present the world with a fait accompli by hurrying to place runways and port facilities on what were, a couple of years ago, mere high spots in the water constituting hazards to ship navigation.

This has been behind my re-tweeting a number of James Kraska's tweets on the legal aspects of China's aggressive activity in the South China Sea in "developing" islands in contested waters.

How do we know their intent? As have many others, I have watched the CNN footage here. China is being very assertive. None of the local countries affected by this aggression are strong enough to muster any sort of response to this bully-boy tactics.

Now comes this Reuters piece, written by William Johnson, "Why a forceful U.S. response to China’s artificial island-building won’t float" which questions whether the downsized U.S. Navy (and by extension, the U.S. government) has the "wherewithal" to do anything except rely on "diplomacy" to deal with this Chinese strategy.
China's dotted line claim in the SCS
The question then becomes how best to deal with this possibility. Today the United States doesn’t have the resources in place for a major effort in the area unless it is willing to take some very great risks.
Well, you can bet the Chinese have counted on that as they have moved forward.

More irksome (at least to me) is this analysis:
In order to justify an aggressive approach, the United States must determine that the creation of these islands is threatening some vital U.S. interest. The claim that the new islands are disrupting the United States’ freedom of navigation is a red herring. To date, China has done nothing in the South China Sea to disrupt shipping. It has countered activities by other countries who assert their ownership and control in the region, notably Vietnam and the Philippines, and has asserted its own ownership and control by intercepting fishing vessels and placing oil rigs in the area. Yet none of these actions have disrupted shipping in the region. It is disingenuous for the United States to claim that by using military force to counter the island-building, it is asserting the freedom of international shipping to sail close to rocks and submerged reefs — an action no merchant vessel is likely to take.


Another flawed justification for U.S. military involvement is to defend peace and stability in the region. There have so far been no major military confrontations in the disputes between the five other countries that lay claims to the South China Sea. Journalists as well as President Obama argue that this is simply because the smaller countries are afraid to confront China due to an imbalance in military might. While this imbalance exists, it isn’t a reason for the United States to step in. The United States has taken no position on any of the territorial claims, and has urged the parties to settle their disagreements peacefully. As long as the disputing countries are not coming to blows, the United States would be rash to risk a fight with a nuclear-armed China over China’s pursuit of its claims.

A final hollow justification for military action is that the United States needs to reassure its partners and allies in the region.***
So, If I understand Mr. Johnson correctly then, there is no threat until China finishes its new "island wall" with bases that it will assert extend its national waters and then begins to exercise its new "right" to keep those waters free and clear of unwelcome guests - like the U.S. Navy.

Well, then, wow. Just wow.

I've been involved in some "freedom of navigation" actions like that shown in the CNN video. In this case, I would consider them to be the absolute minimum activity that the U.S. needs to undertake to keep the air/sea/subsea areas that these new islands might threaten from becoming something more than just a verbal threat.

Some nice analysis by Dr. Kraska in his "How China Exploits a Loophole In International Law in Pursuit of Hegemony in East Asia".

China's playing the long game for all it is worth. The U.S. needs to step up its response.

UPDATE: Another ally in the area has concerns in the SCS as set out by Bonnie Glaser in "High stakes for Australia in limiting China's South China Sea incursions":
China is seeking to exercise greater control over the waters and airspace in ways that pose threats to all nations that have interests in preserving freedom of navigation, international law and norms, unimpeded lawful commerce, and peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Disaster Prep Wednesday: What about money?

Normally in these Disaster Prep posts, I talk about the need to have water, food and other necessities of life on hand or nearby. Today we need to take a different tack and discuss having cash (or as is often said "cash money") on hand "just in case."

First, we are not talking about those "end of world" scenarios in which all the power goes off forever or space aliens and/or zombies take to the streets. Somehow I don't think a few $20s will solve a zombie problem. On the other hand, most hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes will only impact small regions or locations - and areas outside those impact zones that are not affected may take your debit or credit cards in the best case. Worst case, you might need cold hard cash.

What kind of cash? There are a lot of folks who seem to think gold of almost any type will work and are stocking up on it. Well, let me ask you this, then - how comfortable would you be if someone came to your garage sale or to buy a used car from you if they took out a couple of ounces of golden flakes to pay? Could you recognize real gold if someone tossed you a poke full of it like you see in those old Westerns?


Based on your reaction, do think some grocer in a non-impacted area is going to be thrilled to try and guess whether those golden coins you are pushing across the counter are real? Also, doesn't it defeat the purpose of using a gold coin weighing an ounce (worth $1200 or so) if you have to get change in something other than gold? Or are you planning to cut that coin into smaller pieces?

So, if you want some gold, that might be okay but it may not solve all your problems. You might be better off with your usual debit/credit cards and some cash money. Folding money. Dollars.

How much? Enough for some food, a tank of gas and a motel room? For a week?
Whatever you are comfortable with and can afford to set aside.

Interesting thoughts over at this post on Modern Survival Blog Survival Cash For After The Disaster, including in the comments.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Youth Must Be Served

Blogging has been a little slow as I have been the duty grandparent for the new son of my older son.

Cute little fella.

Dad ought to home from deployment soon.

New mom is doing well.

This grandparent thing is sorta fun, too.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Lenigan vs the Ants

Stars William Conrad who was Matt Dillion in radio's Gunsmoke and the lead in TV's Cannon. He also narrated the Rocky and Bullwinkle TV series.

Here he is fighting the ants:



Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday Fun Film: "The Angled Deck Carrier" (1955)



The USS Antietam (CV/CVA/CVS-36) was one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers built during World War II, and the first carrier to be fitted with an angled deck. This innovative feature, made possible by the addition of a port sponson, effectively allowed aircraft to take off while others were simultaneously landing. This film was made to acquaint naval aviators and deck crew with this new feature. Also shown in the film is USS Coral Sea (CV/CVB/CVA-43), a Midway-class aircraft carrier which was converted in 1957.
The "angled deck" was not a U.S. innovation, but was developed by the Royal Navy. Excellent background in this U.S. Naval War College pdf The Development of the Angled-Deck Aircraft Carrier. Nice discussion of innovation.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Your "Grab & Go" Emergency File

Your house is on fire and you are getting out. A tornado is coming and you are headed for the shelter. You are running outside because of an earthquake. A Category 5 hurricane is headed your way. Zombies are attacking. There's an EMP event.

The event ends. You are safe. Now how do you prove who you are? Where are your insurance records? How do you prove that Picasso print in the living room was worth $10,000?

Or, suppose you are severely injured and your kids need to have access to things to pay your bills, deal with your insurance and the like.

What should you do to prepare for such things? Now is the time to consider what records are really important to you and your life. Now, while you have time to prepare.

One good place to start thinking about what records to have available is
Erik A. Dewey's The Big Book of Everything
(BBE), which he describes nicely:
What is the Big Book of Everything?

In a nutshell, it is a notebook filled with all of the information anyone could possibly need to know about you. The idea is that in our lives we have countless things that we are involved in. On rare occasions, other people need this information and no one knows how to get it. That's where the Big Book comes in. By filling this out and keeping it current, you can simplify the effort others have to take on your behalf.

Uses for the Big Book are:

- After you pass away. People will know what accounts to cancel, have access to your email, know where important papers are kept, and otherwise streamline what is already a painful process.
- Filling out applications. The information in the book is often found on various applications, by having the book you can look that stuff up at a moments notice.
- Making sure you know what your assets are. By going through and inventorying all of your assets, you have a better idea of where you are financially.
- Forcing you to prepare for emergencies. By filling out the forms, it will force you to be better prepared when an emergency strikes.
Mr. Dewey's BBE is free, though he does ask for a donation if you are so inclined. You might also like Your Own Home Store's Creating an Important Documents Folder or Grab and go Binder (which contains the useful suggestion that having a current family photo in the binder could be helpful in proving a the family connection if you were to separated from your children as a result of the disaster).  The binder need not be fancy - a simple ring binder with plastic sleeves inside to hold papers will do. Making the binder red and having "Go Binder" written all over it will help. I might add bits of luminous and reflective tape to its exterior to make it easier to spot in the dark or with a flashlight beam. Amazon has the stuff here and here.

The Extension Service of the University of Minnesota has some good guidance at Red File – Your Grab and Go Case for Emergency Situations:
National agencies that work with disasters recommend that important items be gathered and kept in a file case in a place where all family members can quickly “grab it and go.” Make sure that your file case is small enough to easily fit in a backpack or other small travel bag. The following information should be in your file case:
List of vital information

- Contact information (family members, financial advisors, attorneys, accountants, bankers, employers, doctors, etc.)
- Insurance policy information (homeowners, renters, vehicle, health, etc.)
- Bank, credit union, and credit card account information and phone numbers
And there are many more good ideas there, too. The UM site also refers to Roadmap for Important Papers which is a pdf that you can use to fill in the blanks.

Also very useful is the UM List It or Lose It — The Case for Household and Property Inventory:
A disaster can happen at any time. Whether you are a homeowner or a renter, it's important to be prepared before and after the disaster occurs. An up-to-date household and property inventory is a valuable resource that will help document losses.

Before a disaster, the inventory will help you determine if you have enough or the right type of insurance to cover the contents of your home and property. After the disaster, the inventory will help prove for insurance, assistance, or tax deduction purposes the value of the possessions that are damaged or destroyed.

Include the following information in your inventory:

- Detailed description of each item (include model and serial numbers where appropriate)
- Date purchased
- Original cost
- Alterations or repairs done on an item, especially if the alteration or repair made the item appreciate in value

To jump start the inventory process, photograph or videotape all walls in your home and garage that have furnishings, tools, etc. If using a video with an audio recorder, verbally describe the contents as you go room by room. Photograph open closets, cabinets, cupboards, and drawers. Take close–ups of unique or expensive items to document their existence and condition. Date photographs and use them to show all furniture, furnishings, accessories, office equipment, small and large appliances, jewelry, clothing, linens, silverware, tools, recreation equipment, items normally stored in the garage, basement or out-buildings, etc. This Household Inventory Form on eXtension's website will help you begin a written inventory for the home and garage.
Everyone suggests making a couple of copies of these records and keeping one copy away from your How To - Emergency Records On USB Thumb Drive and Portable Personal Records for Emergency Situations . You can get Micro SD cards many places, including Amazon
home. I suggest that with all the little thumb drives with large capacity that such copies don't need to take up lots of space. See

Yes, gathering and scanning records may take some time, but nothing like trying to recreate your life after a disaster.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Malacca Straits and South China Sea Piracy: Combined Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore patrols?

Reported as by IHS Maritime 360 Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore discuss joint patrols:
The navies of littoral states Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore are in talks to extend joint patrols to the lower reaches of South China Sea in a bid to curb piracy.

Rear Admiral Lai Chung Han, chief of the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), highlighted some of the challenges in conducting these joint patrols such as competing territorial claims in these waters.

"There is concern with the proximity to the contested claims of South China Sea, and we certainly don't want those issues to be conflated. We are very focused on dealing with the piracy situation and none of us really benefit from letting this situation fester," said Rear Adm Lai.

He also does not rule out the possibility of collaboration between certain militant groups and pirates in attacking Western economic interests at strategic sea lanes such as the Strait of Malacca.

"Of course when there is any doubt, we never rule out the possibility that the pirates on board, or the ship that has been commandeered, could also be used for terrorist purposes, and we have the means to deal with that," added Rear Adm Lai.
There is already in place an agreement covering the Strait of Malacca. This new agreement would allow expansion of the area covered apparently into areas impacted by small tanker hijackings.

As you can see from the nearby image from the ICC's International Maritime Bureau's Live Piracy Map pirate attacks in the area are common.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Fighting ISIS: Bubbling Up in the Homeland

Northcom takes proactive stance as the background noise increases Force Protection Level Boosted at DoD Facilities Nationwide
The commander of U.S. Northern Command has elevated the force protection level for all Defense Department facilities in the continental United States, but not because of a specific threat, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said here today.

Force protection condition levels, or FPCON levels, range from Alpha, which applies when an increased general and unpredictable terrorist threat exists against personnel or facilities, to Delta, which applies in an immediate area where a terrorist attack has occurred or is imminent.

Today, Northcom raised the force protection level at all DoD facilities nationwide from Alpha to Bravo. Bravo applies when an increased or more predictable threat of terrorist activity exists.

“I won't go into the specifics of what that means because it is information that a potential adversary could use against us,” Warren said.
***
This is an acknowledgement, Warren added, that “right now we believe the threat level nationwide has increased.”

According to Northcom, the potential for another attack is always possible and implementing random force protection measures is one way to minimize the likelihood of an attack on an installation or service members.

“Some of you can see for yourselves -- you can look at Twitter or at other social media sites and see threats,” Warren said.

“We have a little bit more capability than you do so we see a little bit more than you do. Some of [the threats] are international, some are domestic … but it’s an overall increase in the environment,” he said.

Warren added, “It's as if the temperature of the water has gone up a degree or two.”
How much heat? Secretary of Homeland Security says:
The effective use of social media by the terror group ISIS has thrust the United States into a “new environment” when it comes to the threat against the homeland, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said today on "This Week."

“We’re definitely in a new phase in the global terrorist threat where the so-called lone wolf could strike at any moment," Johnson told ABC's Martha Raddatz. "It is a new environment, but we are not discouraging Americans from doing the things they do on a daily basis.”
And then there is Purported ISIS warning claims terror cells in place in 15 states:
A grim online warning from a self-described American jihadist said Sunday's terror attack in Texas was the work of ISIS and that the terrorist group has scores of "trained soldiers" positioned in 15 states, awaiting orders to carry out more operations.

The warning, which was posted on a file-sharing site, could not be verified, but was signed by Abu Ibrahim Al Ameriki. That name matches the moniker of a shadowy American known to have joined a terrorist group in Pakistan several years ago and who has appeared in propaganda videos before. The chilling threat named five of the states where it is claimed that ISIS has terror cells in place.
Well, some of that may be pure baloney, but the same Fox News report notes
In February, FBI Director James Comey said the FBI is investigating suspects with ties to ISIS in 49 states, but that number is believed to include self-radicalized Americans who have followed jihadist websites but don't have direct links to the group.
Of course, any terror group wants to make people nervous. As noted here:
Terrorism . . . involves the weaponization of fear itself. Through the targeting of civilian noncombatants, terrorists hope to use fear to achieve their objective.
How to fight terrorism? Freakonomics asked that question
Select excerpts:
***
BLOOM: I asked, for example, a close friend of mine, Mubin Shaikh, about his experiences because he ended up in an Al-Qaeda training camp and in fact, came back to North America with the intent to perpetrate a terrorist attack. And he eventually changed his mind and he began to work as an undercover agent for the Canadian security services. But I asked him what appealed to him. You know, this was a middle-class kid who had grown up, you know, he didn’t personally experience Islamophobia or hatred. He was well-integrated. And I asked Mubin how he was able to be convinced of the value of Jihad, and he said, “Well one of the things that they did was they distorted the Koran.” So perhaps we need to make sure that people have a good Islamic education. It’s not a secular education that is the solution, but it’s to make sure that people have an education that is grounded in the Koran and doesn’t skip chapters or verses, doesn’t look at Surat At-Tawbah and go from verse five and chapter nine to verse seven, skipping six, which you know talks about the Prophet provided free access or free exit for people who wanted to leave the battlefield, and he protected them. So it’s really important that you know, perhaps when young people are studying the great books, one of the great books should be the Koran. Perhaps children in middle America, in the middle of Nebraska, should know what the Koran is about, and demystify it, not just for Muslim communities so that they integrate and they don’t feel isolated, but also just to educate, you know, the country in general.
***
DUBNER: *** As Mia Bloom and Robert Pape told us, the root causes of terrorism are often not what we assume—and this, obviously, affects how you think about prevention. Jack Jacobs and Nathan Myhrvold warned us not to spend so many resources preventing old-fashioned, physical terrorism when the threats of bioterrorism and cyberterrorism may be much greater. Steve Levitt, meanwhile, my economist friend—he too thinks that Americans worry more than they should about the threat of physical terrorism:

LEVITT: I think you just want to start with the basic idea that it is almost at zero. That whether it’s a little bit bigger now or a little less now, terrorism for essentially forever has been just a drop in the bucket of the ways that people can die. And, if you compare it to any sort of health risk, like diabetes or heart attacks or cancer, or any sort of socially constructed risk, like dying in a car crash or even accidents like falling down stairs, in general terrorism in America is not something to worry about. Very different if you live in Syria or Iraq or someplace like that, terrorism matters there because terrorism is like a way of life. It’s really terrorism and, you know, the fight for control of government or whatnot that are all kind of mixed together. But, you know, if you’re American and you don’t want to be a victim of terror, if you basically stay in the United States or anywhere other than places that are actively fighting for control of government, you’re incredibly safe.
***
LEVITT: To be honest, I think if someone wanted to use my services more effectively, I think I would be much less effective in an Obama Administration get together trying to fight terrorism than actually working on the other side. I think it’s much easier for economists to come up with good ideas about how to be terrorists rather than how to fight terrorists, because how to be a good terrorist is about thinking what are the things you can do to a society, which is most disruptive and most affects either the psychology or the commerce of a country. And it’s almost the economic question in reverse. And economists spend a lot of time thinking about how most efficiently to make economies run, so I think we’re actually pretty good at thinking about how to destroy economies, too. And so, not that I think any of us are actively engaged in that endeavor, but I do think that we would be more useful on that side of the table.
If you know that a "good terrorist" is looking for those acts which would be "most disruptive and most affects either the psychology or the commerce of a country," you do have a leg up on countering those moves.

In the case of ISIS, if the Garland, Texas, attack on the cartoon show was really one its ideas(update - see here), it show they are not interested in the "big ideas" but are more inclined to pursue low level attacks using relatively unsophisticated tactics. Even the attack on the Charley Hebdo attack was not very sophisticated - and might only have worked because of a largely unarmed civilian population.

What's the lesson? Don't panic. Maintain situational awareness. Be prepared. And, as the saying goes, "An armed society is a polite society."

Why is it hard to fight the "lone wolf" terrorists? Another excerpt from the Freakonomics interview:
LEVITT: If you turn to economics and what economics has to say about fighting terrorism, it’s a hard problem because economics really centers around incentives. And the kind of incentives we tend to use are things like prices or punishment in prison or whatnot. But when people are willing to pay the ultimate price in the form of suicide to reach a goal, they’re not the kind of folks that we’re used to incentivizing and motivating.
Nope, you just can give them that "ultimate price" before they have the chance to take others with them.

Interesting article from Foreign Affairs from 2014, Audrey Kurth Cronin's ISIS Is Not a Terrorist Group:
As ISIS has grown, its goals and intentions have become clearer. Al Qaeda conceived of itself as the vanguard of a global insurgency mobilizing Muslim communities against secular rule. ISIS, in contrast, seeks to control territory and create a “pure” Sunni Islamist state governed by a brutal interpretation of sharia; to immediately obliterate the political borders of the Middle East that were created by Western powers in the twentieth century; and to position itself as the sole political, religious, and military authority over all of the world’s Muslims.
***
ISIS *** offers a very different message for young men, and sometimes women. The group attracts followers yearning for not only religious righteousness but also adventure, personal power, and a sense of self and community. And, of course, some people just want to kill—and ISIS welcomes them, too. The group’s brutal violence attracts attention, demonstrates dominance, and draws people to the action.
The first part is mostly correct, which is why we really need to fight a semi-conventional war in the ISIS territorial claims. The second part is also correct and allows ISIS to attract "foreign fighters" to it fight. More than that, it explains the attraction to the disaffected in Western societies - and how they may have a group of such young men and women lying in wait in the West - not as a main front in the ISIS battle, but as a diversionary, asymmetric threat.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Friday Fun Film: V-E Day 70 Years Ago


Silent film:
U.S. soldiers in England read newspapers headlining Germany's surrender. Loudspeakers broadcast the news of the surrender to Londoners. Shows crowds in Trafalgar Square.
Members of Parliament, including Winston Churchill, walk in a ceremonial procession as Parliament is opened. Servicemen and servicewomen enter churches and pray. Soldiers and girls wave from buses and drink toasts to victory. The King and Queen appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. Citizens dance in the streets."

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Disaster Prep Wednesday: National Hurricane Center

The "official" start date of hurricane season is June 1, but most of us who live along the Southeast U.S. seaboard know that that is an "iffy" date.


In May 2015, for example, we now have some sort of "A subtropical or tropical depression or storm" kicking off northwest of the Bahamas as shown in the adjacent image.

It's a good idea to visit the National Hurricane Center and keep an eye on such storms - you might get the NHC early "estimates" of storm activity:
SPECIAL TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
200 PM EDT WED MAY 6 2015

For the North Atlantic...Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico:

Disorganized showers and thunderstorms extending from the east coast
of Florida across the Bahamas and the adjacent Atlantic waters are
associated with an upper-level trough and a weak surface low located
north of the northwestern Bahamas. Conditions are expected to
become gradually more favorable for development over the next day or
so while this system moves slowly northward and then northwestward.
A subtropical or tropical cyclone could form by tomorrow or Friday,
and interests along the southeast coast of the United States should
monitor the progress of this system through the weekend. Regardless
of development, heavy rain is possible over portions of the coastal
southeastern United States beginning tomorrow. The next Special
Tropical Weather Outlook will be issued on this system by 8 PM EDT
today. ...
* Formation chance through 48 hours...medium...60 percent
* Formation chance through 5 days...medium...60 percent
While the NHC is pretty good, long range weather predicting is a combination of science and art, so they have to provide probabilities instead of certainties. But they do produce a "Five-Day Outlook" that might be useful to you for planning purposes.

Based on the nearby graphic,  if you were planning a beach outing in South Carolina or on the Outer Banks for the weekend, you might want to pay close attention.

More to purpose of this series, the National Hurricane Center is a valuable resource with which you ought to become familiar if you live in a potentially affected area.

Some new things for 2015 from the NHC:


Be aware!


Monday, May 04, 2015

Iran Strikes Back II: Lawfare and the Iranian "Ship-napping"

A couple of good legal analyses of the Iranian grab of the chartered vessel Maersk Tigris (as initially discussed at Iran Strikes Back: "Iranian Navy fires at, boards commercial container ship").

Both are worth reading to get a flavor of how Iran is attempting to mask the issue of its illegal "ship-nap" in a flurry of legalistic mumbo jumbo.

First is James Kraska's piece at Defense One, "Iran’s Disingenuous Approach To Maritime Law":
Even assuming that the regime of innocent passage applied to the Maersk Tigris, however, Iran’s seizure was still unlawful. Tehran is trying to replace the package deal of the law of the sea with a cafeteria-style selection of favored provisions and rejection of others that benefit and protect the international community. This conduct is of a familiar style and pattern for the regime in Iran, and an indictment on its ability to implement international law in good faith.
Second is Eugene Kontorovich's discussion in the Washington Post/The Volokh Conspiracy, Iran’s legal claims for seizing the Maersk Tigris:
. . . . Iran’s seizure clearly violates international law, and one might add, a branch of international law that is ordinarily well-respected, and quite fundamental for global commerce. Moreover, no maritime lien gives Iran any authority to detain the crew.

Given the flagrant breach of international law, there seems to be a surprising silence from the “international community” and proponents of global governance. . . .
Well, illegal it may be, but Iran holds the trump card - it has the ship and its crew.

It also has its own courts to rule on its actions in grabbing the ship. And it knows, as I pointed out in my first post on this matter, that that no one, including the U.S.
is ready to go to shooting war over this sort of action.
In its asymmetric battle against the "west", Iran is compelled to lie about almost everything, almost all the time. Clearly, Iran has its internal reasons for some of the embellishments it puts on the matters it is involved in. If they manage to fool a few Westerners along the way - well, so much the better. Grabbing ships at sea - that requires a new level in lying. Sort of a "step up" in bald-faced prevarication. Much like Putin in Russia . . .

But just like the "lawfare" being waged by the Chinese in the South China Sea or, on occasion, by the North Koreans, this new asymmetric approach is like the "big lie" practices of past thugs and dictators - meant to fool most of the people, most of the time, while concealing the mean spirit that animates it. If you like, it's nibbling around the edges of real war.
USN photo by MC2 Oki

In the case of the Strait of Hormuz, it now mandates an active escort system for U.S. flagged ships. And that means more work for an already too small fleet.  Those U.S. Navy patrol ships in the photo above are being used as escorts. They are about 20 years old and will need replacing soon.
 
By its actions, Iran has set up a very dangerous environment in which a shooting war is more likely.

All couched in nice legalistic nonsense.

The question is, of course, who will do anything about this "illegal act?"

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: "Three Skeleton Key"

Back in the day ... when you had to visualize the scene in you own mind as it was presented on radio. I think I first heard the following on Armed Forces Radio Guam about 1960. So, with Vincent Price in the starring role, here's "Three Skeleton Key," turn off the lights and listen.



Updated to a different feed.

Friday, May 01, 2015

On Midrats 3 May 2015 - Episode 278: Betrayal, leadership, loyalty, and redemption: Task Force VIOLENT

Please join us on Sunday, 3 May 2015 at 5pm (US EDT) for Midrats Episode 278: Betrayal, leadership, loyalty, and redemption: Task Force VIOLENT:
Loyalty goes both ways, the old saying goes. One shows loyalty up the chain, because one expects the same in the other direction. They system, however, is built upon the timbers of the imperfect human condition.

What happens when you have conflicting narratives, but the system that you thought was there to serve you as you served it decides to take the counter-narrative without question?

Is there a point where a leader accepts that there is no loyalty above, and as a result, has to redouble his loyalty to those under him?

The story of Task Force VIOLENT is one of inspired unit level leadership, and nightmarishly twisted priorities up the chain; of brave men caught in a modern day, real time, Kafkaesque circle.

Following up on his 5-part series, Task Force Violent: The Unforgiven - the Tragic Betrayal of and Elite Marine Corps Commando Unit, our guest for the full hour will be MilitaryTimes journalist Andrew deGrandpre.
Join us live or listen later by clicking here. You will also find the show later on our iTunes site here.

Friday Fun Film: "Project Thunderstorm" or "Nature Baiting" (1947)

How the military worked at learning about thunderstorms and flying in and around them . . . P-61 Black Widows!




You might note the "uniforms" of the pilots. Not sure if any one of them is wearing the same thing.

Nature baiting? About 10;14 .. .