Friday, October 31, 2014

John Kerry, "My job is really, really hard" - Not like those folks in the past, when "The Cold War was Easy"

Remarkable. “The Cold War was easy compared to where we are today,” the secretary of State said Thursday . . .
Q: How does Afghanistan fit the strategic plan . . . ISIS . . . where does it fit . . .?
A. Well, it's very straightforward . . . and let me say to everybody that we're living . . . the Cold War was easy compared to where we are today . . . and the immediate post war . . .

Q. Is Putin trying to make it easy for you again, bringing it back?
A. I hope not.
So, the modern world - the world we live in today - is "very straightforward" but not "easy" like the olden time "Cold War" era. Clear enough for you?

No wonder we are wallowing in international affairs.

Another quote from Mr. Kerry:
So now, you have more countries with more economic power in a globalized world. … They're going to automatically react and say, Well, wait a minute, now. Do we really want the behemoth United States, superpower of the world, telling us all the time what we have to do?" Kerry said. "So you have to approach these things a little differently. It requires more diplomacy. It requires more dialogue. It requires more respect for people, more mutual interests."
Imagine the nerve of other countries thinking they have the right to manage their own matters, thus complicating U.S. foreign policy. Having to exercise more "diplomacy," don't you know. So much work dealing with India, Japan, South Korea and all those Europeans. But isn't that why we have a Secretary of State and all the minions in the State Department? Isn't this "complicated" world of free and economically stronger countries what we fought wars, both hot and cold for?

Isn't the main complicating factor now the combination of rogue states, including Russia, Iran and North Korea, and non-state forces like ISIS and al Queda? The former don't respond to diplomacy because . . . they know the threat force causes the dis-unified western nations to cave in and toss, say, Crimea and other chunks of Ukraine or Georgia off the sled to fend off the Russian wolves. And ISIS/AQ, being stateless but funded (in part) by states, know they have top cover so that diplomacy is a waste of time.

But where did our "nuance" in dealing with such bullies come from? Who pushed the "reset" button with Russia. Who drew quickly erased "red lines" in the sand? Who looks to cut a deal with Iran? Who decided to get out of Iraq without finishing the fight? Who announced "set in stone" withdrawal dates for troops in Afghanistan?

And, Mr. Interviewer - - - "Strategic plan?" What strategic plan would that be?


Video here.

Friday Movie From the Why We Fight Series: "The Battle of China" (1944)

Longish movie and tough for modern audiences, but good to watch if you want some historical background on tensions in East Asia.

A horror film of sorts suitable for the date.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Nature Pollutes

Gas-Spewing Icelandic Volcano Stuns Scientists 
For eight weeks, lava has been spurting out of a fissure in the ground radiating from the Bárðarbunga volcano, about 250 kilometers from Reykjavik. Sulphur dioxide has been spurting too — 35,000 tons of it a day, more than twice the amount spewing from all of Europe’s smokestacks.
Time to shut nature down!

Gas warning information from the Icelandic Meteorological Office here.  Gas dispersion model from here:

The images show a calculation of atmospheric concentration of SO2 at ground level. The plume is re-initialized at the beginning of each calculation (see date top right) and hence some SO2 from previous days is likely to be in the atmosphere.

The strength of SO2 emissions at the volcano is estimated using ground based remote sensing and the dispersion of SO2 is based on a wind forecast. Both factors lead to an uncertainty in the modeled plume.

The colorscale used on the map is based on a table from the Environmental Agency of Iceland (scroll down) indicating the health effects of SO2.

Update: Not limited to Iceland. USGS on Long-lasting Eruption of Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i Leads to Volcanic-Air Pollution:
In 1986 when the eruption of Kilauea Volcano changed from the episodic fountaining of lava and gas at Pu`u O`o cone every few weeks to the continuous outpouring of lava from a new vent only 3 km away, the volcano began releasing a large, steady supply of sulfur dioxide gas into the atmosphere. During the episodic activity, enough time elapsed between fountaining episodes for the prevailing trade winds (brisk winds from the northeast of Hawai`i) to blow volcanic gas away from the island. When the eruption style changed, however, the daily release of as much as 2,000 tons of sulfur dioxide gas led to a persistent air pollution problem downwind.
Effects of the release of SO2 includes acid rain.

USGS on Volcanic Gases and Climate Change:
The most significant climate impacts from volcanic injections into the stratosphere come from the conversion of sulfur dioxide to sulfuric acid, which condenses rapidly in the stratosphere to form fine sulfate aerosols. The aerosols increase the reflection of radiation from the Sun back into space, cooling the Earth's lower atmosphere or troposphere. Several eruptions during the past century have caused a decline in the average temperature at the Earth's surface of up to half a degree (Fahrenheit scale) for periods of one to three years.
So, I guess that is, to some minds, a good thing, then.  Perhaps not the acid rain part, but the counter to global warming part.

Which reminds me - it's a probably a bad idea to build your house down hill from an active volcano. See Pompeii, for example.

Energy Policy: What "Green Jobs" Revolution in the U.S. Economy?

Too bad this editorial Green jobs fading from the 27 Oct 14, Oil And Gas Journal is hidden behind a subscription wall because more Americans need to be aware of the expensive sham of alleged "green energy" jobs that has cost them billions:
While campaigning for election to his first term, President Barack Obama promised to create 5 million green jobs in 10 years. Once in office, he maneuvered Congress into passing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, a $840-billion spending spree that included about $90 billion for energy and, of course, green jobs. Results have not been spectacular. In fact, they testify to core problems of governmental profligacy.
So how many green jobs did the munificent government create with AARA energy money? An administration proudly dedicated to transparency must find that question disturbing.

In March 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the Department of Labor, reported employment associated with production of green goods and services in 2011 amounted to 3.4 million jobs. That was an increase of 158,000 jobs from the prior year, corrected in both cases to account for adjustments in estimation methods. But what jobs were being counted? The BLS explained its definitions and methods elaborately. By the time it issued its report for 2011, however, the validity of those methods had been shredded.

In a June 6, 2012, hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Chairman Darrell E. Issa (R-Calif.) elicited an illuminating sequence of confessions from acting BLS Commissioner John Galvin, now deputy commissioner. A person could be counted by BLS as holding a green job, Galvin had to admit, if he or she swept floors in a solar-paneled facility, drove a hybrid bus in public transportation or even a school bus, pumped fuel into a school bus, worked in a bicycle shop, sold recycled goods in an antique store or Salvation Army outlet, or collected garbage. These revelations discredited official numbers, formerly flaunted, about green jobs. Responding to spending cuts mandated under sequestration provisions of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act, BLS made its green-job report for 2011 the last.

Program troubles didn't end there. In June last year, the Government Accountability Office raised questions about the $501 million of targeted ARRA funds Labor spent on training for green employment. Required by the statute to act quickly, GAO said, Labor implemented several programs simultaneously. "As a result," it said, "in some cases Recovery Act training programs were initiated prior to a full assessment of the demand for green jobs." And in this program, too, definitions were flexible. According to GAO, "Labor created its green jobs definitional framework to provide local flexibility, and grantees we interviewed broadly interpreted Labor's framework to include any job that could be linked, directly or indirectly, to a beneficial environmental outcome."

At the time of the GAO report, incomplete data made results of the training effort uncertain. Information from grant recipients reporting final outcomes indicated slightly more individuals than projected had received training, GAO said. But job placements were only 55% of the target level.
Let me direct you to this series of articles (full disclosure they written by my brother, a long-time reporter for the L.A. Times) on one example of "stimulus money" gone awry:
. . . the federal Department of Energy in 2009 and 2010 pitched in with $9.9 million in stimulus grants — part of the Obama administration effort to create jobs and revive the American economy.

To date, however, not one of the proposed North American Power Group plants has been built. The stimulus grants — ostensibly to study carbon sequestration potential on the Two Elk site — were suspended by the DOE in January 2012 because of numerous accounting irregularities.

But that was not until $7.3 million of the stimulus money had already been spent, much of it on inflated salaries . . .
A couple of million here, a couple of million there. Pretty soon it adds up. Not necessarily in job creation, though.

In the meantime, job growth largely fueled by the private energy industry due to fracking and the development of shale gas sites has been significant:
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that U.S. annual natural gas production will increase from 23.0 trillion cubic feet in 2011 to 33.1 trillion cubic feet in 2040, a gain of 10.1 trillion cubic feet (44.0 percent).2 More than 87 percent of this increase is due to growth in shale gas production, whose share of total natural gas production is projected to reach 50.4 percent by 2040.3 Because of this rapid growth, the oil and natural gas industry has experienced large employment and wage increases over the past few years. Many of these increases have occurred in areas outside the “oil patch” region, which produces a substantial amount of U.S. oil and natural gas and comprises the states of Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics kindly produced the following chart on such job growth:

You might note those are just jobs in the "oil and natural gas industry" and does not, apparently count jobs of people in industries who provide services to those oil and gas workers. Heck, if you count floor sweepers, motel clerks, school bus drivers, etc, those numbers might even be higher.

And, before you go off on the hazards of "non-green" energy (which I would assert you need to be careful in doing when natural gas is involved), you might be interested in the huge pollution bomb that is China:
China's emissions already exceed the US and EU combined, it emits more per capita than Europe and could overtake America by 2017.
Well, of course, there is a big capita difference involved.

Can you say "misguided" and ""unsupervised?" That seems to be the theory behind throwing "green job" stimulus money around. If you need to review it, there's a pretty good look at the $535 million Solyndra Scandal from the Washington Post:
Meant to create jobs and cut reliance on foreign oil, Obama’s green-technology program was infused with politics at every level, The Washington Post found in an analysis of thousands of memos, company records and internal ­e-mails. Political considerations were raised repeatedly by company investors, Energy Department bureaucrats and White House officials.
Sure, old news. But we are still paying for it - especially, I would argue, in the reduced funding for national security matters, including readiness.

UPDATE: Changed link to Rone Tempest Wyofile articles to give you the best possible access.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Be Ready to Be on Your Own Because Logistics

Here's a disturbing report on a certain -uh- lack of preparation on the part of one of the primary responders to disasters:  "The Red Cross’ Secret Disaster".

Some of the "issues" reported are over-blown, some not - but you should read it all.

As you read it, remember that the Red Cross does not have a hard core of professional responders it calls on for a disaster - instead, it relies on people volunteering to go to a disaster location and offer their services. Some of these volunteers are quite good and are experienced and well-trained. Many others may not be experienced, well-trained or, even if well-trained, not placed in jobs for which they are trained. So if you read about an "shelter leader" who was trained - but in his first lead role, don't be shocked. The Red Cross must use the volunteers it has who volunteer for a particular disaster. You go to a disaster with the volunteers you have.

Many of these volunteers are retirees who now have the time and willingness to go to a disaster area for a few days or even weeks. They may get meals and a place to sleep, but they aren't getting paid to lend a hand. Don't misunderstand me, when you work with these volunteers, you will be impressed by how sharp and committed most of them are.

But it should shock no one that a large entity - highly dependent on volunteers - and yet operated under a bureaucracy of paid workers may have certain command, control, training, logistics and prioritization issues. Like any other big enterprise it also has its full share of idiots and incompetents.

Yes, the Red Cross is run by human beings and is subject to the same pressures as any other big organization. If you want perfection in execution, you need to look elsewhere, but for the most part,  Red Cross volunteers get the job done - within their limitations of time and money.

Given those limitations, let's just say you should read the article and then make plans for your disaster preparation based on being on your own for several days, a topic which I have addressed here before several times.

Why can't there be an instant response to serving every afflicted person in a major disaster? As often stated here: logistics, logistics and then logistics.

Disaster response takes time to organize - to assess the extent of the damage, to assess the available access routes to the scene, to assess the level of response needed for each afflicted area. Only once the damage assessment is made can demands be placed on the logistics system to attempt to meet the needs of those impacted by the disaster. In a perfect world, the damage assessment (DA) is done within a couple of days - but it may take longer because the DA volunteer teams may have their access to affect areas limited by damage to the areas impacted. There may also be political pressure brought to deliver aid to areas that have some constituency that "demands" attention - even if a DA survey would indicate many other areas far worse off. You might blame local politicos for grandstanding in some such case. Photo ops do nothing for the victims.

In other words, conflicting demands can derail logistic efforts.

The other side of disaster relief is the failure of people living in areas predicted to be impacted to leave the area before the storm (for example) hits. Having people trapped in areas without water, food or electricity challenges the Red Cross feeding programs - since there have to be assessments of the numbers so trapped to order up the right mix of food, water and other necessities to load onto trucks to get to the afflicted areas. Easier in a town of 4000 hit by a tornado than dealing with tens of thousands in the coastal New York/New Jersey area following a hurricane.

The larger the number of people who have failed to take themselves out of the problem area, the bigger the logistic nightmare trying to get them help. If they had taken some steps to mitigate their risk by laying in some water and food, as the Red Cross and everyone else in the disaster response world suggest, then their circumstances might be less dire.

However, if you rely on someone else to take care of you - you are at the mercy of the "helper's" schedule and availability.

The Red Cross is not in the "rescue you from your own failure to help yourself" business - it is in the business of helping to shelter and feed those who avail themselves of that service and offering some assistance in recovery. It is not an insurance company and is not designed to put you back as you were before the disaster.

When governments fail to evacuate elderly residents of public housing high rises before a storm hits and then is surprised that they are trapped on upper floors, that is not a Red Cross issue. Nor is it really a Red Cross issue if wheel chair needy elderly are delivered to shelters without their wheel chairs. Red Cross shelter kits do not generally come with such equipment - which means there will be delays (as noted in the article) in finding wheel chairs and getting them to the appropriate shelter. If you don't like the way shelters are operated - come on and join the Red Cross volunteers who work in Mass Sheltering - I'm sure they will appreciate your help and ideas.

So what's the point of this? To remind you that disasters are an everyday part of our lives on this planet and that your preparation for disasters is your own responsibility - not that of the government,  the Red Cross, or FEMA or any other agency or person.

Even the best run disaster relief process takes days, not hours, to put in place and get going. You need to be ready to be on your own -
  1. Have a disaster plan!
    Having a personal and family preparedness plan increases your chances of staying safe and helps you to be resilient during and after a disaster. To ‘live with resilience’ means that no matter what obstacles you will face, you will survive and get back to normal. A well thought out plan also enables you and your family to be as comfortable as possible during and after a disaster.
      2. Take care of your own disaster logistics - have a disaster kit: 

Okay, those are the basics.

Which will take some of the burden off organizations like the Red Cross.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Lines Drawn 50 Years Ago: Reagan's "Time for Choosing" Speech of 27 Oct 1964

Worth looking back at a speech given in the losing fight to elect Barry Goldwater in place of Lyndon Johnson in the 1964 presidential campaign:

Whether you agree with some or all of it or not so much, it helped shape generations of conservatives - and led, ultimately, to the election of Mr. Reagan to the presidency in 1980.

Monday, October 27, 2014

College Sports: One UNC Alum's Thoughts

What follows may seem unrelated to either maritime or national Security but it is of some importance to our culture and to our national character.

As an alumnus of the University of North Carolina (and the father of two other UNC grads), it seems to me that one result of the recent  academic scandal ought to be a serious re-thinking of the place of athletics in the academic world.

I have enjoyed Tar Heel basketball and football over the years and rooted for the soccer teams, cheered on baseball, lacrosse and field hockey. But . . . I long have been dismayed by the incredible emphasis placed on the major sports.  This emphasis has turned these teams into minor leagues for professional sports while increasing the opportunity for corruption and misguided efforts of boosters to "help" the university field better teams.

In fact, according to the Wainstein Report on the scandal,  much of the most recent UNC academic fraud seems to rest at the feet of a relatively low level employee - who was also a major Tar Heel fan- to "assist" various sports teams by aiding and abetting puny/phony academic effort:
Despite her love for the University, she often told people that she had a difficult experience during her student years at Chapel Hill, feeling that she was left adrift by a faculty and staff that focused on “the best and the brightest” and failed to pay attention to students like herself who needed direction and support. Because of that experience, Crowder felt a strong affinity for students with academic or other challenges in their lives. She believed it was her duty to lend a helping hand to struggling students, and in particular to that subset of student-athletes who came to campus without adequate academic preparation for Chapel Hill’s demanding curriculum.
From such a tiny acorn of "good intentions" the road to hell so often is paved.

That there were other aiders and abettors who allowed academically poorly prepared athletes (a) into the university in the first instance, (b) fostered an environment in which minimal "athletic eligibility" became more important that raising these athletes to the level where they were capable of doing the work expected of other students at the university and (c) those who looked the other way in order to maintain some level of "plausible deniability" as to their own knowledge of this scheme is a major issue.

Somewhere there ought to be a special roasting pit for those who have allowed the concept of "1 and done" to flourish. If the NBA/WNBA want to take 17, 18 or 19 year old kids and let them mature before allowing them to play with the big people - well, let the NBA and WNBA fully open its "minor leagues" to those young men and women and stop this travesty of pretending that this current plan is in the best interest of anyone except certain college coaches. I don't think it hurt Madison Bamgarner much that he was able to be draft by Major League Baseball without having to pretend to be a college student.

In fact, it's that "pretending" that makes me most angry. We end up "pretending" that some of our college athletes are "students" because we "pretend" they are qualified or even interested in being in college and then allegedly create an elaborate support network to "pretend" they are getting the help they need to balance their athletic lives with the demands of their sports.

Face it, college is not for everyone. And among those who are fit for college, athletes are not the only ones with time issues. What's the level of support for the kid working his/her way through college by working part or full time and squeezing school in when time and money permit? You know, the one who didn't get a full scholarship (that includes room and board and tutors) to a great university and doesn't want to drown in debt to get a degree? My neighbor, a Korean war vet, took something like 8 years to graduate from Virginia Tech because he worked to get the money for school and to support his family along the way. Not a hero in battle, perhaps, but if I was one of his kids who had better lives because of his efforts to improve himself, I would be very humbled. Heck, I'm just his neighbor and I'm humbled.

In order to truly work through this issue, you have to look to the "big money" that has brought this corruption into the house of academia. A great deal of that money flows from the television networks which pay billions to provide coverage of college football and basketball. More comes from the purveyors of athletic attire and shoes. The late William C. Friday, once President of the UNC system was prescient when he said (William Friday: Power, Purpose, and American Higher Education:)
"No one who has an interest in college sports can fail to see the power of money."
One response to corruption in college sports was the 1990's establishment of the Knight Commission whose purpose is
"to ensure that intercollegiate athletics programs operate within the educational mission of their colleges and universities."
As Chairman James Knight said at the time, “We have a lot of sports fans on our board, and we recognize that intercollegiate athletics have a legitimate and proper role to play in college and university life. Our interest is not to abolish that role but to preserve it by putting it back in perspective. We hope this Commission can strengthen the hands of those who want to curb the abuses which are shaking public confidence in the integrity of not just big-time collegiate athletics but the whole institution of higher education.”

We saw this as a goal worthy of a foundation which identified higher education as one of its primary interests, for the abuses in athletics programs had implications reaching far beyond football stadiums and basketball arenas.

In a cover story shortly before the Commission was created, Time magazine described the problem as “an obsession with winning and moneymaking that is pervading the noblest ideals of both sports and education in America.” Its victims, Time went on to say, were not just athletes who found the promise of an education a sham but “the colleges and universities that participate in an educational travesty -- a farce that devalues every degree and denigrates the mission of higher education.”

Only now it is 24 or 25 years later and we are still in the same boat. Academic integrity has been sold - not in a big money way, not in point shaving, not in a "big bang" of corruption, but instead eroded away in little chunks, piece by piece, bit by bit by both misguided "fans" and those who may have profited from either encouraging the erosion by action or inaction. Big money for coaches, big profits for networks.


Quite frankly, I would rather watch college teams full of students who plan to go on to become doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants or whatever who play for the love of the sport and a degree. I'll even accept good athletes who seek majors in sports management or Exercise and Sport Science - but I would prefer they earn those degrees.

What to do? Go Ivy League and not offer purely athletic scholarships? Raise minimum GPAs to participate in varsity sports? Put players on athletic probation for not performing in the classroom?

Did the University of Chicago do the right thing when it killed its successful  intercollegiate football program in 1939? Interesting thoughts here:
“In many colleges, it is possible for a boy to win 12 letters without learning how to write one,” Robert Maynard Hutchins, the university’s president, had written acidly of sports in The Saturday Evening Post. He particularly disparaged football, deriding as myth the idea that the game produced men of good character or instilled a sense of fair play. Indeed, for a college to be a success on the field, he said, it must be something of a scoundrel beyond it.

Seventy-two years later, what Hutchins called the “infernal nuisance” of college football is troubling more university administrators than ever. Ohio State, Miami, Southern California, North Carolina and on and on: it is as if global warming were affecting the number of big-name colleges in hot water.
But, now, football is back at Chicago - at a lower level:
In 1969, football returned as a varsity sport, oddly enough during the Vietnam War era when many rebellious students were comparing blocking and tackling to bombing and strafing.

Since then, the game has been thriving on its own measured terms in N.C.A.A. Division III, free of the highest level of competition. Winning is a preference and not an obsession. Players, though zealously recruited, are not given athletic scholarships. Championships are won but little noticed.
So, can a major public state university do what private Chicago did and move down levels to something like Div III, or is the money way too big?

Somewhere between the Ivy League and Division III the answer lies.

In the meantime, I may cut the cable TV (as my personal protest against big money to college sports) and focus on the smaller, less tainted sports and those "club" sports like UNC Rugby where professionalism seems not to have taken over.

But is there a connection to national security and maritime security? CDR Salamander has thoughts on some athletic recruiting issues at the military academies at The Moral Warping of D1 Sports Shows its Head Again. Along those lines, think about these words from here:
If the institution and their supporters are prepared to wink at -- if not also to participate in -- cheating against the rules by athletes, can the schools stand against cheating anywhere else?

Is it OK for students to cheat in class? Does anybody want to be represented by a lawyer who cheated to get through law school -- or to be operated on by a surgeon who had to cheat to pass the medical school exams?

Can colleges and universities continue their traditional posture of upholding the highest values of personal character and integrity when they themselves display so little of either?
Well, what level of cheating are you willing to accept as our national standard?

Are such things related to the false representations so prevalent in the political ads for people seeking high offices in our government?

What is the standard we accept as "okay" for our military leaders as they discuss our security needs?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Join Us for Midrats 26 Oct 14 at a Special Time for Episode 251, "DEF2014 wrapup, and the budding question of veteran entitlement", starting at 6:30pm EST

Yes, we are time shifting for this coming episode of Midrats to 6:30pm on Sunday, 26 October for a 90 minute adventure in national security and spin-off topics as we offer up Episode 251: DEF2014 wrapup and the budding question of veteran entitlement:

A special time and format this week with two different topics and guests.

Moving for just this week to a 6:30pm Eastern start time, our guest for the first 30-minutes will be Lieutenant Ben Kohlmann, USN – Founder of Disruptive Thinkers, F/A-18 pilot, member of the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell, and Co-Founder Defense Entrepreneurs Forum. He will be on to give us an overview of DEF2014 that ends this weekend.

For the following hour our, guest will be Major Carl "Skin" Forsling, USMC. He will be on to discuss some of the broader issues he raises in his article earlier this month, Unpacking The Veteran Entitlement Spectrum, and perhaps some more as well.

Skin is a Marine MV-22B pilot and former CH-46E pilot. He has deployed with and been an instructor in both platforms. He has also served as a military advisor to an Afghan Border Police battalion. He is currently Executive Officer at Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron 204, training Osprey pilots and aircrew for the Marine Corps and Air Force. He earned his batchelor's degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and his master's from Boston University. His writing has appeared in the Marine Corps Gazette, USNI Proceedings, Small Wars Journal, and Approach, among others (available at carlforsling.tumblr.com). Follow him on Twitter @carlforsling.
Join us live at 6:30pm or pick the show up later by clicking here. You can also pick the show up later from iTunes here.

Saturday Is Heinlein Quote Day #31

What drives you or anyone else? What you choose to value?

"Value" has no meaning other than in relationship to living beings. The value of a thing is always relative to a particular person, is completely personal and different in quantity for each living human—"market value" is a fiction, merely a rough guess at the average of personal values, all of which must be quantitatively different or trade would be impossible.

Starship Troopers, p.93-94

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Fun Film: "Cleanliness and Health"

In the media frenzy over Ebola, nice to have some guidance from 46 years ago on cleanliness and health.

But -wait- where are the gloves for the health care workers? And ... beware the germ laden pencil .... and that "doctor" who washes up and then shuts off the water using handles he must have touched before he washed his hands! Horrors!

These people will be lucky if they survive!

By the way, the selected film will auto roll into another film on the first 25 years of Los Alamos Labs.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Battle for Leyte Gulf 23 Oct -26 Oct 1944

Midway was big. But the Battle for Leyte Gulf was perhaps the Navy's finest hour.

The Battle Off Samar was courage on top of courage.

70 years ago . . .

If you haven't done so already, please read The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors by James D. Hornfischer, a brilliant book:
"“This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can.” Lieutenant Commander Robert W. Copeland.
They did more than the minimum.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Disaster Prep Wednesday: In the Globalized World, One Would Think the CDC and U.S. Hospitals Should Be More Ready for Bioterrorism and Pandemics

So, during our 250th Midrats show, I ranted about the lack of a proactive response in the U.S. to the Ebola eruption in West Africa (you can listen here or on iTunes here - starting at about the 1:20 point).

The CDC, at its website, offers up advice on pandemic flu - another viral infection that ought to also offer up guidance for things like Ebola.
An influenza pandemic can occur when a non-human (novel) influenza virus gains the ability for efficient and sustained human-to-human transmission and then spreads globally. Influenza viruses that have the potential to cause a pandemic are referred to as ‘influenza viruses with pandemic potential.’***
So, the CDC is well aware that viruses can become global issues quickly. So, what is it that prevented a proactive response from the CDC that would call for real screenings (as opposed to a questionnaire asking about symptoms) of people arriving in the U.S. from areas already impacted by Ebola or other viruses?

Well, the answer is, now, apparently nothing - because the CDC has now announced that a 21-Day Monitoring for All Coming From Ebola Nations:
U.S. health officials are significantly expanding the breath of vigilance for Ebola, saying that all travelers who come into America from Ebola-stricken West African nations will now be monitored for symptoms of illness for 21 days.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the program will begin Monday and cover visitors as well as aid workers, journalists and other Americans returning from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea.

The program will start in six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Georgia.

CDC Director Tom Frieden says state and local health officials will check daily for fever or other Ebola symptoms.

Passengers will get kits to help them track their temperature and will be told to inform health officials daily of their status.
However, this is still dumb - why not let those traveler be monitored before they enter U.S. territory? Why let them in and allow them to possibly spread the virus around the U.S.?

Just think of the cost of the flailing about that the single deceased Ebola victim has caused through his misrepresentation of his status. No, the thing to do is to set up overseas quarantine facilities and allow those who seek from stricken areas to travel to the U.S. sit and wait until cleared. Or even set up blood testing facilities for such would be travelers. See here for info on blood testing for Ebola

I suspect most reasonable epidemiologists would suggest "isolating" persons with known or likely exposure to disease in situ instead of suggesting they be allowed to board airplanes and ships and wander the world. It's not like the CDC isn't aware of the point of quarantine:
Isolation and quarantine help protect the public by preventing exposure to people who have or may have a contagious disease.

- Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.
- Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.

Twenty U.S. Quarantine Stations, located at ports of entry and land border crossings, use these public health practices as part of a comprehensive Quarantine System that serves to limit the introduction of infectious diseases into the United States and to prevent their spread.
Interesting summary of the issues of isolation and quarantine in this study, the summary of which is:
The isolation and treatment of symptomatic individuals, coupled with the quarantining of individuals that have a high risk of having been infected, constitute two commonly used epidemic control measures. Although isolation is probably always a desirable public health measure, quarantine is more controversial. Mass quarantine can inflict significant social, psychological, and economic costs without resulting in the detection of many infected individuals. The authors use probabilistic models to determine the conditions under which quarantine is expected to be useful. Results demonstrate that the number of infections averted (per initially infected individual) through the use of quarantine is expected to be very low provided that isolation is effective, but it increases abruptly and at an accelerating rate as the effectiveness of isolation diminishes. When isolation is ineffective, the use of quarantine will be most beneficial when there is significant asymptomatic transmission and if the asymptomatic period is neither very long nor very short.
We know some groups have been quarantined, why not more?

Don't set aside too quickly the "significant social, psychological, and economic costs" imposed on a society with potentially infected people being allowed to enter so that they can do "self monitoring" - and then ask who is paying the freight for any special care "possible" cases involve?

Why are we being asked to carry the cost of this when there are certainly cheaper alternatives to "let them in and hope for the best?"

And, yes, I am well aware that the odds of an Ebola epidemic in the U.S. is pretty slim. The disease is not that readily transferable if safety precautions are followed. However, we need to use Ebola as a warning for serious diseases that may crop up. We can't afford to be be in a purely reactive mode.

All of this concerning a non-intentional introduction of a disease on our shores really ought to make you wonder how well we would handle an intentional act of bio-terrorism?

There is this CDC website on Preparation and Planning for Bioterrorism Emergencies which includes a link to a 1999 document "Bioterrorism Readiness Plan: A Template for Healthcare Facilities":

I wonder if anything has changed since 1999?

We need a more proactive system.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sweden Versus Suspected But Unknown Submarine

It's a story too good for a retired Surface Warfare/Inshore Undersea Warfare guy to resist - the Swedes once again looking for a suspected submarine in their waters as Russia denies involvement with what may be the classic "who us?" quote of this undersea adventure:
“On Sunday the Russian Defense Ministry provided whatever aid it could to the Swedes in their futile search,” a Russian Ministry of Defense source told the state controlled Russia Today on Monday. (Hat tip to Sam LaGrone at USNI News)
And the Russians know this is a"futile search" how?

Well, if it was their boat and it has escaped from Swedish waters then they know where it isn't - meaning that it's not there for the Swedes to find.

Because if it is -say- a Bolivian submarine operating for some odd reason in the Baltic and in Swedish waters, then the search being conducted by the Swedes might not be so . . . futile, right?

Salamander has thoughts on, among other things, anti-submarine warfare readiness here.

What is the ASW package on those cool looking Visby corvettes?

Small Russian subs? How about Project 1910, Kashalot (picture above)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Long-Endurance Electric Unmanned Aircraft and the Potential for Other Things

USNRL photo
The engineers and scientists at the Navy Research Laboratory have successfully tested a long-endurance unmanned aircraft using a special tank of liquid hydrogen to feed fuel cells. Read more at "NRL Shatters Endurance Record for Small Electric UAV::
Researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) flew their fuel cell powered Ion Tiger UAV for 48 hours and 1 minute on April 16-18 by using liquid hydrogen fuel in a new, NRL-developed, cryogenic fuel storage tank and delivery system.
Liquid hydrogen is three times denser than 5000-psi compressed hydrogen. The cryogenic liquid is stored in a lightweight tank, allowing more hydrogen to be carried onboard to increase flight endurance. Success in flight requires developing a high quality, lightweight insulated flight dewar for the cryogenic fuel, plus matching the boil off of the cryogenic hydrogen to the vehicle fuel consumption.
To address the logistics of in-theater supply of liquid or gaseous hydrogen, NRL proposes in-situ manufacture of LH2 for use as fuel. An electrolyzer-based system would require only water for feedstock, and electricity, possibly from solar or wind, to electrolyze, compress, and refrigerate the fuel.
Much quieter and long-endurance, too. I wonder what its thermal signature looks like?

So, fuel from water to a special tank to power fuel cells to drive electric motors.

Potentially a game changer in the world of powering land vehicles, too,  I would think.

Makes me wonder a little about the future of fossil fuels.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Join Us for the Midrats' 250th! 19 October 14 at 5pm (EDT)

Please join us Sunday, 19 October 2014 at 5pm (EDT) as we once again explore the U.S. Navy and national security on live "radio" on Midrats Hits 250:
Believe it or not, this week is our 250th Episode of Midrats.

In celebration, we're clearing the intellectual table, going to open the mic and see where it takes us.

From Kobane, to Coastal Defense, to Ebola and everything in between and sideways that's been in the national security news as of late, plus whatever else breaks above the ambient noise - we'll be covering it.

As with all Midrats Free For Alls, we are also opening the phone lines for our regular listeners who want to throw a topic our way.

Come join us Sunday as we try to figure out how we got to 250.
Join us live (and join in) or pick the show up later to by clicking here. Don't forget that Midrats is back on iTunes, too, for later listening - which you can reach here.

Saturday Is Heinlein Quote Day #30

From The Door Into Summer
My old man claimed that the more complicated the law the more opportunity for scoundrels.

A little too true, isn't it?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fighting Ebola: The National Guard Call Up Makes Sense

Photo Credit: Sgt. Joshua Ford, U.S. Army North PAO
It has been widely reported that President Obama has authorized the federal activation of National Guard units to respond to the Ebola problem - see here:
President Barack Obama on Thursday authorized the Pentagon to call up reserve and National Guard troops if they are needed to assist in the U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Obama signed an executive order that allows the government to call up more forces and for longer periods of time than currently authorized. There is no actual call-up at this point.
This makes sense because some Army National Guard units have special training in such matters.

Friday Fun Film: "U.S. Defense Against Foreign Plague"

Quarantine stations? Keeping disease out? Such strange concepts . . .

UPDATE: Yes, we still have Quarantine Stations, operated by the CDC:
U.S. Quarantine Stations are located at 20 ports of entry and land-border crossings where international travelers arrive. They are staffed with quarantine medical and public health officers from CDC. These health officers decide whether ill persons can enter the United States and what measures should be taken to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

Quarantine officers are responsible for activities as various as responding to reports of illnesses, to screening cargo and inspecting animals and animal products, to monitoring the health of and collecting any medical information of new immigrants, refugees, asylees, and parolees.
You might be interested in this advice to airlines:
Updated October 15, 2014

CDC requests airline crews to ask sick travelers if they were in Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone in the last 21 days.

If YES, AND they have any of these Ebola symptoms—fever, severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bruising or bleeding—report immediately to CDC.
If NO, follow routine procedures.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fighting Sea Mines: Long Range AUV Endurance Run

NRL photo
A prototype Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) sets an endurance records that may help the U.S. Navy counter-sea mine operations and, maybe, other operations. Navy 'Mine-Hunter' AUV Sets Mission Endurance Record:
The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory's (NRL) Acoustics Division, with Bluefin Robotics, executed a record setting 507 kilometer (315 mile), long-endurance autonomy research mission using its heavyweight-class mine countermeasures autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), Reliant.
Navigating from the waters of Boston Harbor, the 20 foot long, 1,350 pound, 'heavyweight' AUV traveled south past Cape Cod, headed west through Nantucket Sound between Martha's Vineyard and the mainland, and then continued south of Long Island to the approaches to New York City. The fully autonomous endurance mission was designed to push the boundaries of traditional AUVs with the objective to uncover the challenges and requirements for significantly extending AUV endurance for new applications.
"This record multi-day research mission demonstrates the state-of-the-art autonomy methods and capabilities of the Reliant AUV," said Dr. Brian Houston, head, NRL Physical Acoustics Branch. "It is our first step in developing a robust autonomy paradigm for AUVs in long endurance scenarios."
Houston and his team are developing AUV based technologies that include extension of the Knifefish technology (as part of the Office of Naval Research Future Naval Capabilities program), increasing ranges for mine countermeasure (MCM) operations, and advancing autonomy for AUVs. Houston's team is also applying this new technology to shallow water Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW). This more recent development provides the Navy with the technical foundation for high performance detection and classification of difficult ASW targets using active sonar on AUVs in challenging environments.

The purpose of the system is to address the Navy's need to reliably detect and identify undersea volume and bottom mines in high-clutter environments with low false alarm rates. The Knifefish system is a part of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) mine countermeasure (MCM) mission package targeted to reduce risks to personnel by operating in potential minefield regions as an off-board sensor, allowing host ships to remain at safe distances outside minefield boundaries.
NRL Image
Mine neutralization operations are by their nature generally slow. Tools like this might speed things up in the right circumstances.

And you gotta love that teaser about "ASW . . . in challenging environments."

I'm Tired of the News

Stock market falling, Ebola spreading, ISIS on the march, Afghanistan to follow, China, Yemen, refugees, campaign ads about to drive me crazy.

I need a diversion.

Time for Bugs Bunny!

Oops! Racist. Shame on Bugs.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Energy Wars: Fusion Power

Aviation Week got an exclusive look at Lockheed's fusion reactor:
Lockheed estimates that less than 25 kg (55 lb.) of fuel would be required to run an entire year of operations. The fuel itself is also plentiful. Deuterium is produced from sea water and is therefore considered unlimited, while tritium is “bred” from lithium. “We already mine enough lithium to supply a worldwide fleet of reactors, so with tritium you never have too much built up, and that’s what keeps it safe. Tritium would be a health risk if there were enough released, but it is safe enough in small quantities. You don’t need very much to run a reactor because it is a million times more powerful than a chemical reaction,” McGuire notes.
Faster. But be safe.

Five or so years to another breakthrough that eases the stress on fossil fuels and the land and maritime routes needed to get them to market?


Disaster Prep Wednesday: Beware of Trees!

Okay, there any number of things to worry about in life and disasters and trees seem like remote issue. But are they really a non-threat in a disaster situation? The answer should clear - trees can be a problem - because under the right conditions they or pieces of them can fall on things or people and cause serious harm to life and property.

First and perhaps most obviously, forest fires involve . . . trees. As noted in Disaster Prep Wednesday: Surviving Wildfires,
Ready.gov has some advice for homeowners on Wildfires - advice that requires you to be a bit proactive. Things like clearing an area around your property, moving flammable like gasoline away from the house and arranging for water to be on hand.
Carolyn Costello/KTLA
Also in that post were suggestions for people caught up in a wild fire while out enjoying more peaceful aspects of nature.

We've also all seen those news images of the damage wrought by wind during thunderstorms or other severe weather - trees on houses, cars and in the roadways.

Andy Jacobsohn/DMN
And on power lines where trees can cause both power outages and create the danger of live wires on or near the ground - and rip power boxes off houses (see here).

So, in addition to clearing some space around your house, how should you deal with trees to mitigate possible damage?

It might be useful to look at the concept of "hazard trees":
Worrying about hazards has resulted in the unnecessary removal of many trees. Although the problem of hazard trees needs to be addressed by every landowner and land manager, removal should be an act of last resort. Instead, some technical knowledge and a lot of common sense are the keys to preventing injuries, property damage and lawsuits due to unsafe trees.
Some ideas from a power company here:
Trees are the number one cause of power outages. Selecting, planting, and maintaining trees properly helps reduce power interruptions and even prevents power outages.
Power companies seem to be big on tree planting considerations - see here:
No trees should be planted near high-voltage transmission lines. However, many trees are attractive additions to your yard and, under normal conditions, will not grow tall enough to interfere with distribution power lines. Some of these are:

* Trident, Amur, Paperback and Tartarian Maple
* Flowering Dogwood
* Crabapple
* Hawthorne
* Bristlecone Pine
* Honeysuckle
* Staghorn and Smooth Sumac
* Common Juniper
* Rose Acacia

On the other hand, avoid planting tall-growing trees like these near or under power lines:

* Silver Maple
* Norway Maple
* Oak
* Colorado Blue Spruce
* White Spruce
* Most Pines
But what if a tree, planted by some previous owner of your property or by nature, lands on you house during a storm? Reader's Digest offers up some ideas here, the first of which is:
Get Out Use whatever route is safest to leave the property. This may or may not be the same as your fire-escape route.
Some warnings on chain saw safety here:
Each year, approximately 36,000 people are treated in hospital emergency departments for injuries from using chain saws. The potential risk of injury increases after hurricanes and other natural disasters, when chain saws are widely used to remove fallen or partially fallen trees and tree branches.

So, be careful when planting, inspect your trees regularly and have any limbs most likely to cause harm removed.

And don't mess with power lines dropped by falling trees or tree limbs.

Not sure that you have to "beware of trees" as much as you need to be aware of trees and their potential to cause harm.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

North Korea: Kim Jong-un Limps Back into the Light

Apparently a rock got kicked over in the "Democratic" Peoples "Republic" of Korea (aka DPRK Thugocracy) and the current Kim in Power KJU reappeared, a reported here:
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has resurfaced after a month-and-a-half out of the public eye that gave rise to wild speculation about his health.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency on Tuesday reported that Kim inspected a newly-built housing complex for scientists. He was leaning on a stick.
Never a healthy looking specimen, he now looks worse.

Speculation runs to gout, diabetes, heart disease and massive corruption designed to keep the DPRK ruling class in power. But in the land of big hats and awful haircuts, who knows?

Also unknown is whether his appearance means the possibility of an early winter or mass starvation for the residents of the DPRK. Well, the latter is a pretty sure thing - though it looks like KJU won't be affected much.

Monday, October 13, 2014


U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jackie Hart/Released)

U.S. Navy celebrates its 239th birthday. As usual, most of its sailors are at sea fighting the nation's battles or getting ready to do so. As the saying goes, ships don't make the Navy, its sailors do . . .

Disputes over who "discovered America" aside, it's pretty clear that the exploration and development of the Americas was driven by the historic voyages of Christopher Columbus, who hit the shores of the Caribbean in 1492.

There are some that seem to believe it is fair to judge Columbus and those who followed by the standards of today in terms of his impact on those present in these lands when he arrived. Was he simply a "brutal colonizer whose arrival brought misery and death to millions through war, slavery, and disease"
or the man, regardless of his personal motives, who paved the way for the establishment of new countries which, in time brought to fruition the ideas of individual rights, governments "of the people" instead of monarchies and places where the "huddled masses" could come to get out from under the yoke of oppression? How many millions of lives were saved by his actions and how do they balance the things which followed in his wake - and which were considered "normal" in his day? As stated in this defense of Columbus:
'Columbus didn't start slavery,'' said Mr. Connell. ''He brought the entrepreneurial form of slavery to the New World. It was a phenomenon of the times. With all great figures of the past, we need more understanding, critical understanding that sees the person's flaws and the inaccuracies and myths that have arisen around him, but we shouldn't forget the tremendous changes that they created.''

The New World - it only took a few hundred years for it to throw off the traditions of the Old World. Celebrate that!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Saturday Is Heinlein Quote Day #29

From the Man Who Sold the Moon (1950):
How anybody expects a man to stay in business with every two-bit wowser in the country claiming a veto over what we can say and can't say and what we can show and what we can't show — it's enough to make you throw up. The whole principle is wrong; it's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't eat steak.

Robert A. Heinlein

Friday, October 10, 2014

Thursday, October 09, 2014

South China Sea Piracy: Vietnamese Tanker Released by Pirates - Part of Cargo Stolen, 2 Crew Injured

The Vietnamese tanker that was reported missing here has been now released by pirates:
The Vietnam-flagged oil tanker that vanished from radar last week is heading to the southern port of Vung Tau after being freed by pirates.

Deputy Captain Pham Van Hoang told VOA’s Vietnamese Service Thursday that he believed Indonesian pirates carried out the attack on the ship called Sunrise 689 shortly after its departure from a port in Singapore.

“Masked pirates speaking the Indonesian language stormed the vessel," said Pham. "They were armed with knives and guns. They hit us and pointed their guns at the captain, then restrained and pushed us all into a room."

He said pirates took about 2,000 tons of oil products, nearly a third of what the ship was carrying, before releasing the ship. Two of the vessel's 18 crew were injured.

Nguyen Vu Diep, official from the company which owns the vessel, told VOA’s Vietnamese Service that he was told of the hijacking.

“Two crew members were injured but are not in serious conditions," said Nguyen. "The pirates destroyed all the communications and navigation machines, so the sailors did not know where they were when they were released."
Sounds like the ship's Automatic Identification System might have been turned off, thus concealing its identity on radar, but I'm pretty sure it still returned an radar echo until it was over the radar horizon or shielded by an island. However, in the crowded waters off Singapore, it would be easy to lose a ship of that size without AIS operating. More on AIS here. That Coast Guard image is of the lower reaches of Galveston Bay.

The ICC Live Piracy Report on the incident (not the variation on crew injury):

Something like the 12th hijacking in that region this year.

Energy Wars: Fracking Our Way Ahead

America's not so secret new weapon, discussed again at The American Interest "Shale Boom Has America Sitting Pretty"
By lessening our dependence on foreign sources of oil and gas, the shale boom has given us more options abroad, and in some cases . . . has given America more clout in diplomatic standoffs.
Almost all of this "shale boom" has occurred, by the way, by private companies working their "magic" on private property - in many cases with local or regional opposition to this development.

Interesting look at the U.S. development of its resources from Aljazeera "American power and the fracking boom: What impact will America's oil and gas boom from fracking have on US power and global geopolitics?":
Fracking is giving rise to a new energy abundance in the United States that has major implications for American policy in the Middle East and the debate over climate change. Over the past five years, daily oil production in the US increased 3.7 million barrels, while US net imports of oil dropped 44 percent. A revolutionary technique to tap into oil and gas reserves by drilling horizontally into underground shale formations and using liquids pumped at high pressure to open cracks in the rock, fracking is reshaping the contours of American power.
For the past 35 years, securing access to Persian Gulf oil and protecting the shipping lanes to keep it flowing has been a central tenet of American military policy. It is known as the Carter doctrine because President Jimmy Carter first enunciated the commitment in his 1980 State of the Union address.

Historian and author Andrew Bacevich hopes that the shale oil and gas boom from fracking will cause a strategic rethinking of the Carter Doctrine in the United States. "What the new energy regime could do would be to make it clear that the United States does have choices and one of those choices will be to lower our profile in the Middle East more broadly and in the Persian Gulf specifically," he says.
According to Jeppe Kofod, a member of the European Parliament and representative from Denmark to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, about one-third of US military spending, or about $200bn a year, can be linked to efforts to keep oil flowing.
. . . President Barack Obama and administration officials emphasise that the US commitment to safeguarding access to Middle Eastern oil will remain strong despite America’s shrinking reliance on imports from the region. In a speech at the United Nations last year, Obama said that the US is prepared to use military force, “to ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world. Although America is steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil, the world still depends on the region's energy supply."
Anti-fracking activists are trying to prevent the construction of terminals and pipelines needed to transport and export natural gas and oil. Robbie Cross, a member of a local group trying to stop fracking in Pennsylvania, is clear about the rationale. "After you frack it has got to go somewhere," he says. "If we don’t have ways of moving it, selling it, distributing it, it’s not going to work."
Richardson and other proponents of shale exports argue that they can be used as effective instruments of American power to counter the Russians in Europe. The Continent relies on Russia for 30 percent of its gas supplies, and half transits via the Ukraine. Some countries like Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic get 70 to 100 percent of their gas from Russia. Hungary’s ambassador–at-large for energy security, Anita Orbán, argues that American exports of natural gas to Europe can help diversify supplies and undermine Russia’s energy leverage there even if the flow does not begin for a few years. (emphasis added)
The impact of fracking on China is discussed in the country that uses the greatest percentage of coal in the world, China, in this Atlantic article, America's Fracking Boom Comes to China: Deep inside Beijing's campaign to wean the country off coal .

What the EIA says:
Most of China's proven shale gas resources reside in the Sichuan and Tarim basins in the southern and western regions and in the northern and northeastern basins. EIA estimates from its most recent report on shale oil and gas resources that China's technically recoverable shale gas reserves are 1,115 Tcf, the largest shale gas reserves in the world.
China's NOCs are in discussion with several IOCs for partnering on potential shale gas projects in order to gain necessary technical skills and investment for developing these geologically challenging resources. CNPC and Shell signed the first PSC for the Fushun-Yonghchuan block of shale gas in the Sichuan Basin in March 2012. Shell also has partnered with Sinopec and CNOOC on two other shale gas plays. After investing $950 million between 2011 and 2013 on shale gas exploration in China, Shell plans to spend another $1 billion each year for the next five years to develop these resources. Sinopec is working with Chevron and ConocoPhillips to explore shale gas resources in the Qiannan and Sichuan basins, respectively. On the reverse side, Chinese NOCs have been actively investing in shale oil and gas plays in North America to gain technical expertise in this arena. (NOC=National Oil Company, IOC= International Oil Company)

It's interesting that people who have previously argued that we should not fight "wars for oil" in our own national interest are willing (1) to commit our national forces and dollars to possibly fighting "wars for oil" for the interests of other countries and (2) that people who who are opposed to U.S. fracking on environmental grounds seem to be totally okay with the status quo of pushing environmental damage off to those second and third world countries who are resource rich but not in the protesters back yards - and condemning others in the world to be dependent on the whims of leaders in Russia and other undemocratic countries.

Given the huge amount of pollution created by the use of coal by China (about 50% of the world's use) - see China's coal emissions responsible for 'quarter of a million premature deaths', it is to the benefit of the entire world that China be given all the assistance it needs to wean itself from coal and to develop its access to those much cleaner burning natural gas reservoirs.

It also behooves Europe and Japan that the U.S., Canada and Mexico develop LNG export facilities to allow the export of natural gas to offset the Russian and Iranian power in using the "oil and gas weapon" against Europe.

The U.S. government should be encouraging U.S. companies to help Poland to explore its shale gas reserves as an offset to the Russians. While the estimated levels of Polish shale gas are fluctuating, there is gas there and it is both Polish and European interests to develop it.

It's not just the U.S. that has the potential to be "sitting pretty" as a result of the the shale boom.