Saturday, January 31, 2015

Saturday Is Heinlein Quote Day #44

From the postscript to Revolt in 2100:
The capacity of the human mind for swallowing nonsense and spewing it forth in violent and repressive action has never yet been plumbed.- Robert A. Heinlein

Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Fun Film: "Modern Peiping" (1930ish)

Things change.

On Midrats 1 Feb 2015 - Episode 265: Bryan McGrath on carriers, distributed lethality, and 2015 overview

Please join us on 1 Feb 15 at 5pm EST for Episode 265: Bryan McGrath on carriers, distributed lethality, and 2015 overview:
For those who have seen the Great Carrier Debate between Jerry Hendrix and Bryan McGrath, one thing was clear - both gentlemen had only scratched the surface of their thoughts on the topic.

At about the same time, the concept of "distributed lethality" had seeped its way in to the conversation. To examine both topics and to review the national security issues you should expect to see in 2015 will be returning guest, Bryan McGrath.

Bryan McGrath is the founding Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC (FBG), a niche consultancy specializing in naval and national security issues, including national and military strategy, strategic planning, executive communications, strategic communications and emerging technologies.

Prior to starting FBG, Bryan founded a national security consulting line of business for Delex Systems, where he directly supported a number of senior clients in the Navy and the Army. Additionally, he provided critical insight on Navy policy and acquisition preferences to commercial clients, including major defense contractors and small technology firms negotiating the "post-earmarks" era.

A retired Naval Officer, Bryan spent 21 years on active duty including a tour in command of USS BULKELEY (DDG 84), a guided-missile destroyer homeported in Norfolk, Virginia.

In his spare time, Bryan is a well-published commentator in the fields of national and maritime strategy, with policy papers published at major think tanks, and articles placed in nationally marketed periodicals. He is a frequent panelist at symposia that deal with naval issues and is frequently quoted by major press organizations.

Bryan earned a BA in History from the University of Virginia in 1987, and an MA in Political Science (Congressional Studies) from The Catholic University of America. He is a graduate of the Naval War College.
You can watch the carrier debate here. But you can only listen to Midrats by clicking here for the live show or the archive. You can also pick the show up later from our iTunes page here.

South China Sea Pirates: Off Malaysia Tanker Hijacked, Recaptured, Pirates Arrested

Reported at SeaShip News here
The Sun Birdie ... went missing on Wednesday. The owner lost communication with the vessel on Wednesday. The last known position was at Lat 01°19.39'N , Long 104°12.35'E, a nautical mile south of Tanjung Ayam in Malaysia. Relevant authorities were deployed to track down the ship which was carrying 700 tons of marine fuel oil and had a crew of 11.
Late last night Malaysian authorities successfully recovered the Sun Birdie 17.63 nm northeast of Tanjung Penawar in Malaysia.
Authorities detained the ship’s crew and seven perpetrators found onboard Sun Birdie. The vessel was brought back to Penggerang for further investigation. Another two perpetrators jumped overboard and fled. They were picked up by a passing ship, Challenger Premier at approximately 12.73 nm east of Tanjung Penawar.
Portions of the Incident Update report from the RECAAP Information Sharing Center:
On 29 Jan 15 at or about 2253 hrs, the MMEA successfully recovered Sun Birdie at approximately 17.63 nm northeast of Tanjung Penawar, Malaysia (01° 42.03’N, 104° 30.46’ E). The MMEA detained the ship’s crew and seven perpetrators found onboard Sun Birdie. The MMEA brought the vessel to Penggerang for further
investigation. Another two perpetrators jumped overboard and fled. They were picked up by a passing ship, Challenger Premier at approximately 12.73 nm east of Tanjung Penawar (01° 30.2’ N, 104° 29.5’ E), and would be handed over to the MMEA. The
CSO of the shipping company of Challenger Premier reported the rescue of the two persons to the IFC.
You might find this ReCAAP report on Special Report on Incidents of Siphoning of Fuel/Oil at Sea in Asia (Part II) interesting. Part I can be found here, with this note:
Pirates/robbers appeared to have knowledge of the amount and types of fuel/oil carried onboard the tankers and the route taken by the tankers
Well, yeah.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Sen McCain Speaks Truth to Code Pink Morons

Gee, he tempered his language. Self-righteous prats.

Gulf of Guinea Piracy: Product Tanker Hijacked and Cargo Stolen, but Ghana Arrests 8 Pirates

Report from Live Piracy and Armed Robbery Report 2015
Location detail: Around 63nm SW off Bayelsa, Nigeria
Type of Attack: Hijacked
11.01.2015: 0500 LT: Posn: 03:44N – 004:59E, Around 63nm SW of Bayelsa, Nigeria.
Ten pirates armed with AK47 rifles boarded and hijacked a product tanker and took hostage all nine crew. They transferred the fuel oil cargo to another vessel and two pirates departed with that vessel. The Ghanaian navy dispatched a naval vessel to investigate as the vessel moved into its waters. The naval boarding team arrested the remaining eight pirates. During the incident the crew were mistreated by the pirates.
Emphasis added.

GNS Blika
More from Graphic Online Ghana Navy arrest 8 Nigerian pirates, frees seized ship:
The Ghana Navy on Saturday foiled a pirate attack on a Nigerian cargo vessel, MT Mariam and captured all eight bandits.

The pirates were armed but no one, including a nine-member crew aboard MT Mariam, was injured when the Ghana Navy crew aboard GNS BLIKA effected the arrest.

According to the Public Relations Officer of the 1 Garrison of the Ghana Armed Forces, Lt Maxwell Asola, all eight pirates are Nigerians.
***Lt. Maxwell Asola told the Daily Graphic that the arrest took place at about 10:30am and that the owner of the vessel in lodging the complaint, said the pirates told him via telephone that they wanted to use the vessel to carry out an attack and banged the phone.

This prompted the owner of MV Mariam to approach the Ghana Navy for assistance.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Weather Forecasting is an Art Mixed with Science

Been fun to see the usual griping about "how the weather forecasters blew it" in their predictions of the putative "great blizzard of 2015." Over the years I've had plenty of meeting with professional meteorologists and to a person they take their jobs very seriously. They are wounded by "missing" a forecast. In their defense, there are so many variables in weather that a forecast covering all the possible contingencies is virtually impossible.

What you need to know is that all forecasts are based on probabilities - founded in science but still probabilities. If the one of the inputs changes slightly, a forecast can shift maybe 30 or 40 miles or more.

The mistake the forecasters make is in not revealing the manner in which they have to compare models and how they use the data they have to attempt to refine their predictions.

That's the "art" part.

Its akin to being an experienced sailor who can "feel" a shift in the the wind before it actually happens.

The other mistake is made by the public that fails to grasp that there is a certain probability of error built into a forecast. See here:
What does this "40 percent" mean? ...will it rain 40 percent of of the time? ...will it rain over 40 percent of the area?

The "Probability of Precipitation" (PoP) describes the chance of precipitation occurring at any point you select in the area.

How do forecasters arrive at this value?

Mathematically, PoP is defined as follows:
PoP = C x A where "C" = the confidence that precipitation will occur somewhere in the forecast area, and where "A" = the percent of the area that will receive measureable precipitation, if it occurs at all.

So... in the case of the forecast above, if the forecaster knows precipitation is sure to occur ( confidence is 100% ), he/she is expressing how much of the area will receive measurable rain. ( PoP = "C" x "A" or "1" times ".4" which equals .4 or 40%.)

But, most of the time, the forecaster is expressing a combination of degree of confidence and areal coverage. If the forecaster is only 50% sure that precipitation will occur, and expects that, if it does occur, it will produce measurable rain over about 80 percent of the area, the PoP (chance of rain) is 40%. ( PoP = .5 x .8 which equals .4 or 40%. )

In either event, the correct way to interpret the forecast is: there is a 40 percent chance that rain will occur at any given point in the area.
Get it?

The other thing to be aware of is that TV has spawned a "panic industry" that may misrepresent the probabilities of an event in order to generate rating. See Snow Job: Why the media hyped the big bad blizzard of 2015:
But we all know the drill. Television loves storms! Everyone shifts into team coverage mode. Reporters in parkas stand out in the snow and wind. Anchors stand in front of green-screen maps. It happens every winter, but it’s breaking news. Other news is whited out. “Hardball” turned into “Snowball.”
The real question is whether it's better to spool up in advance of an event with a low probability but a potentially high impact (e.g. 4 feet of snow in NYC) or discount the reaction because of a low probability. As Mr. Kurtz notes in the piece cited above:
I’ll cut the politicians some slack, since overpreparing for an overhyped storm brings a day of criticism, but being unprepared for a killer storm can paralyze a region for 10 days. Botching a snow cleanup has put several mayors’ jobs in jeopardy. “Hindsight is 20/20,” Cuomo said. “You act on the information you have at the time … I’d rather be a little safe than sorry.”

We need to learn that "mostly right" is pretty darn good. The meteorologists I know are working hard to move their percentages of "right" up. 

The media wins either way, you might note.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Saturday Is Heinlein Quote Day (even on a Sunday) #43

From The Past Through Tomorrow
I think perhaps of all the things a police state can do to its citizens, distorting history is possibly the most pernicious.
“If This Goes On—” Chapter 6

Friday, January 23, 2015

On Midrats 25 January 15 - Episode 264: "The American Military in WWI"

World War I - "the war to end all wars" - was roaring along 100 years ago. As part of noting that, please join us on 25 January 15 at 5pm (EST) for Midrats Episode 264: The American Military in WWI
Well inside an officer's career arch, we saw the American Navy move from the Great White Fleet, The Spanish American War to the age of the Dreadnought. Our Army, from ad-hoc volunteer units to a professional army going head-to-head with the finest professional army on the planet.

How did our military and our Navy build up to WWI, and how did that experience inform the evolution of our national defense infrastructure?

Our guest for the full hour will be Dr. John T. Kuehn , the General William Stofft Chair for Historical Research at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College CGSC). He retired from the U.S. Navy 2004 at the rank of commander after 23 years of service as a naval flight officer flying both land-based and carrier-based aircraft. He has taught a variety of subjects, including military history, at CGSC since 2000. He authored Agents of Innovation (2008), A Military History of Japan: From the Age of the Samurai to the 21st Century (2014), and co-authored Eyewitness Pacific Theater (2008) with D.M. Giangreco as well as numerous articles and editorials and was awarded a Moncado Prize from the Society for Military History in 2011. His latest book, due out from Praeger just in time for the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo is Napoleonic Warfare: The Operational Art of the Great Campaigns.
Join us live or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or for later listening you can find us at iTunes here

Friday Fun Film: Naval History of "The Civil War" (1958)

Kicking off the 150th anniversary year of the end of the Civil War:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Things to Ponder: "What do jihadists want?"

Interesting paragraph from Dr. Walid Phares in his book The War of Ideas: Jihadism against Democracy;
Salafists, Wahabis, Takfiris, Tblighis and other Sunni Islamists reject the concept of pluralism and radically oppose the rule of the people. Only Allah and his teachings, they postulate, are the basis for governance. The Shia-born Khumeinists condemn Western-style liberalism but co-opt concepts and words from international democratic institutions such as the idea of a republic. They installed an Islamic republic in Iran, but its mandate is believed to be divinely inspired and not subject to the approval of civil society. Islamists from all schools of thought, and violent jihadists in particular, have an ideology of their own, based on ideas diametrically opposed to classical liberal democracies. The jihadists aim at the re-creation of what they perceive as a caliphate, merging dozens of Muslim countries into one world power. They want to impose strict religious laws on the people of the caliphate and claim furthermore that this form of government is ordained by God. Hence they have no tolerance for man-made legislation, and politics is tightly scripted by the militant interpreters of faith. The followers of Jihadism, openly or discreetly, as well as those who share the Islamists' enemies, have moved worldwide to obstruct the rise of secular democracies, especially within the realm of the Muslim world. They plan to resume what they believe is a millennial project: world domination.
Makes negotiating toward some peaceful resolution tough when your opponent believes that his position is "God-approved" and that your position is the work of the devil. Not much in the way of middle ground there.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Yemen: Iran v. Saudi Arabia? Shia v. Sunni? Oh, By the way, It's a mess . . .

Nice article on The Economist website that you should read in its entirety (may require free registration), Instability in Yemen: The Houthis aim the sword:
Yemen's Houthi rebels appear to be moving in for the kill against the staggering government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Can't tell the players without a scorecard?
The Houthis (who prefer to call themselves Ansar Allah, or the Partisans of God) were operating alongside allies of the former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was toppled in 2011; together they form the so-called “Popular Committees”, militias that control a growing chunk of northern Yemen.

The rolling coup has been a long time gathering. A once-marginalised movement emerging from the Zaydi branch of Shia Islam, whose devotees make up about 40% of Yemen's population, the Houthis fought against the army in the northern province of Saada between 2004 and 2010.
The turmoil in Yemen is borne of long-standing internal rivalries and the country’s endemic instability. But America and especially Saudi Arabia will see in the Houthis a dangerous extension of Iran’s power. Iran already provides military help to the governments of Iraq and Syria against Sunni insurgents, among them the jihadists of Islamic State, and is the power behind Lebanon’s Hizbullah militia. Iranian officials, for their part, seem more than happy to feed Saudi fears.***
Nice closing sentence:
The consequences of instability in Yemen extend far beyond its borders.
So, the answer is? See the nearby cartoon.

One more thing on poverty in America

If The US Spends $550 Billion On Poverty How Can There Still Be Poverty In The US? by Tim Worstall from a couple of years back. Mr. Worstall notes that if we simply gave each poor person in the U.S. $11,000 annually we could eliminate poverty by boosting each such person above the poverty threshold. Total cost? About $550 billion.
Here’s what Census says is the number of people in poverty in the most recent, just released, figures.

The nation’s official poverty rate in 2011 was 15.0 percent, with 46.2 million people in poverty. After three consecutive years of increases, neither the poverty rate nor the number of people in poverty were statistically different from the 2010 estimates.

We could certainly argue that that’s way too high a figure for a rich country like the United States. In fact, many people do so argue. But we do have something of a problem with this figure. We could lift all of these people up out of what is defined as poverty at a cost of around $550 billion. That’s in the 3 or 4% of GDP range*.
But wait, there's more:
What I want to point out is that to an acceptable level of accuracy this is already done. $550 billion is indeed spent on the poor so therefore there shouldn’t be any poverty. The reason there still is, by the way we measure it, because we don’t count that $550 billion as reducing poverty. Which is a very strange way of doing things when you come to think about it.

Medicaid is largely health care for the poor. This costs, in 2010 at least it did, some $400 billion. SNAP, the renamed food stamps, cost some $70 billion in the same year. The EITC handed out $55 billion. Add those sums up and we’ve got $525 billion being spent on the alleviation of poverty. Which is close enough, given the level of accuracy being used here, to have entirely abolished poverty in the United States. If we’d simply given the cash to poor people then there would no longer be any poor people.

So, how come there are still these near 50 million poor even after we’ve spent enough money to have no poor people? Simple, we just don’t count the money we’ve spent on the poor as reducing poverty. I know, I know, it’s unbelievable, isn’t it, but here’s Census saying exactly that:

The poverty estimates released today compare the official poverty thresholds to money income before taxes, not including the value of noncash benefits.
Umm. So, poverty in the U.S. is misrepresented? Oh, hell yes.

You know, the Fair Tax has a component that deals with this, the "prebate":
The FairTax provides a progressive program called a prebate. This gives every legal resident household an “advance refund” at the beginning of each month so that purchases made up to the poverty level are tax-free. The prebate prevents an unfair burden on low-income families.
See also here.

Of course, if you make it simple, a large number of bureaucrats will lose their jobs . . .

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lying with Statistics: Education Division

When journalists grab information from biased parties, we get bad reporting. Case in point, a Washington Post article, "Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty" which apparently unquestioningly took "allegations" as true without looking further. WAPO reported
The Southern Education Foundation reports that 51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the 2012-2013 school year were eligible for the federal program that provides free and reduced-price lunches. The lunch program is a rough proxy for poverty, but the explosion in the number of needy children in the nation’s public classrooms is a recent phenomenon that has been gaining attention among educators, public officials and researchers.
If you go visit The Southern Education Foundation's website ("Advancing Creative Solutions to Assure Fairness and Excellence in Education") you can find a link to the cited report, or a least a report on the report, "A New Majority Research Bulletin: Low Income Students Now a Majority in the Nation's Public Schools":
In 40 of the 50 states, low income students comprised no less than 40 percent of all public schoolchildren. In 21 states, children eligible for free or reduced-price lunches were a majority of the students in 2013.

Most of the states with a majority of low income students are found in the South and the West. Thirteen of the 21 states with a majority of low income students in 2013 were located in the South, and six of the other 21 states were in the West.
At this point, you are invited to download the "research bulletin" itself. You really need not bother, the "bulletin" merely states what the WAPO reported,
For the first time in recent history, a majority of the schoolchildren attending the nation’s public schools come from low income families. The latest data collected from the states by the National Center for
Education Statistics (NCES), evidence that 51 percent of the students across the nation’s public schools were low income in 2013.

The pattern was spread across the nation. Half or more of the public schoolchildren in 21 states were eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunches, a benefit available only to families living in poverty or near-poverty in 2013.1

In 19 other states, low income students constituted between 40 percent and 49 percent of the states’ public school enrollment. In other words, very high proportions of low income students were evident in four-fifths of the 50 states in 2013 ....

Monday, January 19, 2015

Monday Reading

It's one thing to ask men and women who serve our country to place themselves in harm's way because of a threat to the people of the United States or our allies. It's quite another to put them in harm's way because of . . . apparent indifference to the harms they face just trying to do their jobs. The Navy blogger at "Ask a Skipper" points to just such a story at "Not Every Fairy Tale has a Happy Ending". Reporter Mike Hixenbaugh of the Virginian Pilot deserves a salute for his reporting. There's a reason we replace old tools.

It's hard enough to figure out what weapons owned by a potential opponent are truly worrisome without ascribing capabilities to them that appear to make the opponent 10 feet tall. So it is interesting to read this article from The National Interest, "No, China Can NOT Shoot Down 90% of Hypersonic Missiles" in which Zachary Keck examines the hype present in the the headlines:
Far more importantly, however, by these reports own admission, the Type 1130 CIWS can’t shoot down hypersonic missiles. As noted above, these reports claim that the Type 1130 CIWS can target missiles traveling at up to four times the speed of sound, or Mach 4. As impressive as these reports make Mach 4 out to be, it doesn’t reach hypersonic levels. To constitute hypersonic, the missile must travel at five times the speed of sound (Mach 5) or greater. ***

There are other smaller issues with the claims as well. For example, no country currently deploys hypersonic missiles, raising the question of how the Type 1130 achieved its 90 percent success rate in shooting them down.
Well, except for the facts, the original reports were accurate. It should be noted that hypersonic missiles are being developed, such as the joint Russian-Indian BrahMos II, the Indian Shaurya, and the Chinese "hypersonic glider". About the last, Bill Sweetman at Aviation Week writes:
In the view of the U.S. Navy, the Mach 10 test of a hypersonic glide vehicle that China conducted on Jan. 9 reflects its predictions of future warfare. If and when China can put the technology into service, Beijing will have a weapon that challenges defenses and extends the range of its ballistic missiles against land and sea targets, but its offensive application is still some years away and depends on solving tough challenges in targeting and guidance.
As you might have guessed, the U.S. is also playing with the hypersonic missile world.

Will cities become the most trouble areas of our future? Robert Muggah has an article on the Foreign Affairs website discussing that issue,
Fixing Fragile Cities: Solutions for Urban Violence and Poverty
The direction of urban population growth is shifting dramatically, as Africans and Asians, not Americans or Europeans, flock to cities in unprecedented numbers. According to the latest UN estimates, more than 90 percent of all future population growth will occur in the cities and sprawling shantytowns of the developing world.
As large cities thrive—just 600 of them now account for two-thirds of global GDP—countless smaller and medium-sized cities fall behind. Widening this gap are so-called fragile cities: places where the social contract binding municipal governments to their citizens has crumbled and anarchy rules.

With some exceptions, these centers of fragility are located in North, Central, and South America, which are home to a staggering 45 of the 50 most dangerous metropolises....
Rapid growth and a younger population appear to be key factors in city instability, which have also been noted as issues in national instability. Karachi, Pakistan is cited as a prime case. You may not agree with some of the proffered solutions (e.g. "City planners and private investors must avoid the temptation to reproduce segregation and social exclusion, and they must insist that the public good prevails over private interests.") but they are worth contemplating.

Finally, a revisiting of the "war on drugs" - this time the impact the illicit drug trade is having in Africa, from The Economist, The Smack Track
East African states are being undermined by heroin smuggling
pointing out that the clamp down on drug smuggling from Afghanistan by a land route into Europe has caused the smugglers to turn to other routes:
Instead smugglers have taken to the seas. Shipments of heroin are unloaded from dhows and cargo ships off the shores of Kenya and Tanzania, and taken ashore on small speedboats. They are then broken up into still smaller packages before being “muled” to Europe from international airports in Kenya and Ethiopia. Sometimes they are consolidated and sent by lorry to South Africa for onward shipping. Some of the heroin enters the African market to feed nascent demand, particularly in Zanzibar, Mombasa and Dar es Salaam, where heroin use is slowly rising. Heroin is also smuggled to consumers in South Africa and Nigeria.

In Kenya and Tanzania criminal gangs with close ties to political and security elites control the trans-shipment. The risk is that state institutions will be hollowed out or, worse still, that states could be captured by transnational criminal networks. A 2011 research paper by the International Peace Institute, a think-tank in New York, said the foundations of the Kenyan state were “under attack” from such gangs.
Can drug cartels cause states to fail? That's a good question, isn't it?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Saturday Is Heinlein Quote Day #42

From Time Enough for Love on learning to be forehanded:
Anyone can see a forest fire. Skill lies in sniffing the first smoke.

- Robert A. Heinlein
Ever know enough about your job, car, plane or boat that you get that "vibe" that tells you something "bad" is about to erupt? That's why we have strategic planners peering off into the future and making all those contingency plans.

If everything happens "unexpectedly" you are not very good at your job.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Hahahahaha - "LCS" is "transformationaled" into a Frigate!

LCS Frigates!
It's just like magic! Our soon to be frigate-less Navy now has frigates and all it took was a stroke of the pen:
"If it's like a frigate, why don't we call it a frigate?" he said Thursday morning to a roomful of surface warfare sailors at the Surface Navy Association's annual symposium just outside Washington.

"We are going to change the hull designation of the LCS class ships to FF," Mabus said, citing the traditional hull designation for frigates. "It will still be the same ship, the same program of record, just with an appropriate and traditional name."
The fleet's last guided-missile frigates (FFGs) will be decommissioned in September, and the next number in that sequence is FFG 62. But unlike the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates being phased out, the LCS doesn't carry an area air-defense missile such as the Standard missile — the basis for the "G" — so the FFG series isn't entirely appropriate.
Well, okay. If it walks like a duck, etc.

What's frigate, then? Back in the old days:
... [T]he term was soon applied less exclusively to any relatively fast and elegant sail-only war ship.

In its present configuration, given its best currently working weapons systems, I would call what we have "FFHs" or "Helicopter Frigates." As the promised miracle modules appear for them you can have FFM (mine warfare), FFA (ASW) and FFS (Surface Warfare). Given their current limited anti-air capabilities, you might also call them "needs an AAW escort."

Of course, up-gunned versions are on the planning board:

Gotta love it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Ice Hazard on the Roads and Walkways

As we get into the winter season, nothing seems to draw local weather reporters concern like the potential for ice on the highways and by-ways. This is commonly referred to as "black ice."

In fact, there is no such thing as "black ice" - what we do get is clear ice that so transparent that the surface underlying it remains visible. As set out here:
This type of ice gets its name from its ability to blend in with its surroundings.

"It's called black ice because it tends to look like the rest of the pavement on the road, but it's actually clear," Lee said.

Driving on such a surface can be a challenge, requiring special care:
AAA offers the following tips for motorists who encounter black ice while driving:

- Be aware of and on the lookout for black ice. Pavement with black ice will be slightly darker and duller than the rest of the road surface; it commonly forms on highly shaded areas, infrequently traveled roads, bridges and overpasses.
- Use extreme caution on bridges and overpasses, which typically freeze first and melt last. Even if the roadway leading up to a bridge appears to be fine, use caution as the bridge itself could be covered in a sheet of ice.
- Never use cruise control.
- Avoid unnecessarily changing lanes, which increases your chances of hitting a patch of ice between lanes that could cause you to lose control of the vehicle.
- Drive, turn and brake slowly, adjusting speed to road conditions and leaving ample stopping room (three times more than usual) and watching for brake lights, fishtailing or sideways cars and emergency flashers.
- Avoid braking on ice. If you approach a patch of ice, try to brake in advance and control the skid by easing off the accelerator and steering in the direction you want the front of the car to go.
- If you have antilock brakes, do not pump the pedal; the vibrations and pulsating against your foot when you press down are the system working. For drivers without antilock brakes, use "threshold braking," keeping your heel on the floor and using the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the pedal to the "threshold" of locking your brakes; removing your heel from the floor could cause your brakes to lock.
- Use your low-beam headlights.
- Remember, four-wheel drive doesn’t help you stop any faster.
- Keep a winter-weather kit in your car, containing an ice scraper, blanket, flashlight with extra batteries, bag of kitty litter, shovel and charged cell phone, as well as reflective triangles or flares, cloth or paper towels and jumper cables.

Walking on this ice can be difficult. Take it slow.  If you really need to go out, you might want to spend a few bucks on something like these ice walkers (about $20 from REI):

And, of course, in our world there is always room for some humor:

Whatever you chose to call it, be careful out there when there is ice on the roads and walkways.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

"Soft Power" in Action: Saving generations in the fight against malaria

If there were a disease that affected over 200 million people annually and its most vulnerable populations were pregnant women and children under five years of age - of over 600,000 deaths, 80% (480,000) are children under 5 - wouldn't the fight against it be big news?

On last weekend's Midrats, I spoke with Tim Ziemer, coordinator of the President's Malaria Initiative about the important "soft power" effort of the U.S. to reduce the impact of malaria in Africa.

Check Out Military Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Midrats on BlogTalkRadio

We struggle with so many other "wars" around the world - cyber war, jihad, drug cartels, human traffickers, local actual or wanna-be hegemons, international looney tunes (PDRK, anyone), etc - that it is easy to forget the great battles against diseases that have been fought in the past and those which are on-going. Measles, small pox and yellow fever are mostly gone (yellow fever now strikes about 200,000 a year, mostly in Africa). Tuberculosis still kills about 1.5 million a year, "Tuberculosis (TB) is second only to HIV/AIDS as the greatest killer worldwide due to a single infectious agent." But we are fighting them.

As RADM Ziemer says during our conversation, reducing the incidence of malaria frees up local medical services to deal with other issues and also frees up populations to engage in productive work to improve their lot in life. I think he said something like, "Malaria is a disease of poverty."

A recurrent question in the show chat room during the live broadcast was whether the U.S. was getting "credit" for pouring $4 billion into this fight against malaria? Without asking some of the people whose lives have changed (or been saved) as a result of theses efforts, how do we measure "credit"?

I am reminded of the Aesop's fable of the lion and the mouse:
A Lion lay asleep in the forest, his great head resting on his paws. A timid little Mouse came upon him unexpectedly, and in her fright and haste to get away, ran across the Lion's nose. Roused from his nap, the Lion laid his huge paw angrily on the tiny creature to kill her.

"Spare me!" begged the poor Mouse. "Please let me go and some day I will surely repay you."

The Lion was much amused to think that a Mouse could ever help him. But he was generous and finally let the Mouse go.

Some days later, while stalking his prey in the forest, the Lion was caught in the toils of a hunter's net. Unable to free himself, he filled the forest with his angry roaring. The Mouse knew the voice and quickly found the Lion struggling in the net. Running to one of the great ropes that bound him, she gnawed it until it parted, and soon the Lion was free.

"You laughed when I said I would repay you," said the Mouse. "Now you see that even a Mouse can help a Lion."

A kindness is never wasted.
 How much is sparing several generations from malaria worth down the road?

The U.S. taxpayers are not alone in this fight. The World Health Orgaization (WHO) (U.S. taxpayers also contribute heavily to WHO (about 20% of WHO funding) and private foundations (again, mostly American like Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation). The United Kingdom is a large contributor. China is a player - see here:
To combat malaria, drugs are of vital importance. When a delegation of senior African government officials visited a Shanghai-based pharmaceutical company in 2005, they called on Chinese companies to set up branches in Africa for medicine production. DihydroArtemisinin, or “Cotecxin,” was first developed by Beijing Holley-Cotec in 1993. It was approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an effective anti-malaria drug. In 1996, China’s Ministry of Health designated Cotecxin as the required medicine for CMTs. It is also chosen many times as aid materials to Africa, either by governments or pharmaceutical companies. Another important measure is the set-up of anti-malaria centers in Africa, a direct result of 2006 Summit.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Saturday is Heinlein Quote Day #41

From Friday
What are the marks of a sick culture?

It is a bad sign when the people of a country stop identifying themselves with the country and start identifying with a group. A racial group. Or a religion. Or a language. Anything, as long as it isn't the whole population.

A very bad sign. Particularism. It was once considered a Spanish vice but any country can fall sick with it. Dominance of males over females seems to be one of the symptoms.
Robert A. Heinlein

Interesting read on "The Muslim Balkanization of the West"American Thinker:
*** By giving incentive to Muslim immigrants to not only resist all assimilation, but to establish a separate country within a country, the French have effectively allowed the Balkanization of their homeland, which will alter it forever – and not for the better.

It is fine to allow diverse cultures to exist within a free society as long as they can exist peacefully side by side, recognizing a common legal and political system that represents everyone. But it is suicidal to encourage a multi-tiered society where one has no reason to recognize the legitimacy of the laws of the host country. This is also reflected in the United States, where there is move to assure immigrants who are here illegally that there are few or no repercussions for violating the law or disrespecting our borders.***

Friday, January 09, 2015

Friday Fun Film: US Army PVT Snafu and Anopheles Annie WW2 Malaria Prevention

In tune with our Midrats guest on Sunday concerning the fight against malaria, a WWII short featuring Private Snafu:

On Midrats 11 Jan 15- Episode 262: The fight against malaria with RADM Tim Ziemer, USN (Ret.)

 Please join us at 5pm EST, U.S., on Sunday, 11 January 2015, for Midrats Episode 262: The fight against malaria with RADM Tim Ziemer, USN (Ret.)
Recently, when one hears of disease and Africa, if you only listened to the media, then what would come to mind would be Ebola.

That is not the real challenge in Africa. There is a disease that not only kills, it impedes economic growth, interferes with good governance, and as a result is just another catalyst to conflict there and in South Asia.

To give a better understanding of the ongoing impact of malaria and the fight against it, our guest will be Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer, USN (Ret.)

Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer was appointed in June 2006 to lead the President's Malaria Initiative (PMI). The PMI strategy is targeted to achieve Africa-wide impact by halving the burden of malaria in 70 percent of at-risk populations in sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 450 million people, thereby removing malaria as a major public health problem and promoting economic growth and development throughout the region.

PMI is a collaborative U.S. Government effort, led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), the Department of State, the White House, and others. As coordinator, Rear Admiral Ziemer reports to the USAID administrator and has direct authority over both PMI and USAID malaria programs.
Join us live at 5pm on the 11th (or pick the show up later) by clicking here. You can also get the show later from our iTunes page here. The iTunes page may require you to open the show inventory in iTunes itself.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

China Building Islands in the South China Sea: Unsinkable Aircraft Carriers

Interesting video from James Hardy of IHC Jane's Defence Weekly discussing "Castles made of sand: Chinese land reclamation in the South China Sea":

When a land power wants to set up locations for bases to control the air and sea in areas of interest to them ...

Hat tip to James Kraska, Professor of Oceans Law and Policy, Stockton Center for the Study of International Law, U.S. Naval War College, who also notes the under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Section 121, such "land reclamation" does not create new "islands" under the terms of UNCLOS because Section 121 provides:

Regime of islands

1. An island is a naturally formed area of land, surrounded by water, which is above water at high tide.

2. Except as provided for in paragraph 3, the territorial sea, the contiguous zone, the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf of an island are determined in accordance with the provisions of this Convention applicable to other land territory.

3. Rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf. (emphasis added)
Under UNCLOS, this would seem to defeat any claims China might assert to increasing their territorial waters or exclusive economic zone on the basis of 'land" totally reclaimed from the sea. However, where China asserts sovereignty over existing islands or rocks which were "naturally formed" (albeit now enhanced through reclamation) the issue seems to be one of their legal right to assert such sovereignty.

Nonetheless, just as Japan sought to create a "ring of steel" around its conquests in WWII by developing island air bases to dominate the sea lanes that might threaten its gains, so it appears China is building "unsinkable aircraft carriers" to dominate the South China Sea.

Very nice backgrounder on the South China Sea from the CFR authored by Beina Xu South China Sea Tensions which has a nice interactive map which for some reason will not allow me to embed it. I suggest you just visit the backgrounder.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

On the Deaths of the Members of the French Humor Magazine

History teaches us things - not the least of which is that attempts by people who fear ideas to squelch differing opinions and especially to squash those who would poke fun at their ideas are founded in the weakness of those ideas.

As previously set out here, whether the tyranny is in one man - like Hitler, Stalin or Mao - or in a mob, these thugs are terrified of ideas. Ideas that threaten their comfort zones.

Evidence? The killings at Charlie Hebdo:
In the latest attack, terrorists armed with guns and shouting "Allahu akbar" murdered several of the publication's staff and two police officers at its Paris office. At the time of publication, the terrorists are still on the run.
Pertinent thoughts from a previous fight against fascism:
They are afraid of words and thoughts; words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home — all the more powerful because forbidden — terrify them. A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic. They make frantic efforts to bar our thoughts and words; they are afraid of the workings of the human mind.
Winston Churchill, in "The Defence of Freedom and Peace (The Lights are Going Out)", radio broadcast to the United States and to London (16 October 1938)
When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know, the end result is tyranny and oppression no matter how holy the motives.

Robert A. Heinlein
And when a radical element of a religion undertakes to control those who are not its members?

Welcome to the 15th Century.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Tools for Looking for the Downed AirAsia flight 8501

Navy Times reports here:
USS Fort Worth (LCS3) hosting Navy divers and involved in recovery ops
The search has been hampered at times by bad weather, but divers with Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1 have launched their Tow Fish sonar system from an 11-meter rigid hull inflatable boat.

"That is a fairly sophisticated piece of technology that allows us to map the ocean floor, at least to be able to find wreckage and debris," said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman.
"What," you might ask, is a "Tow Fish Sonar?"

First, let's look at what "side scan sonar" is. According to NOAA:
Side scan sonar is a specialized system for detecting objects on the seafloor. Most side scan systems cannot provide depth information.

Like other sonars, a side scan transmits sound energy and analyzes the return signal (echo) that has bounced off the seafloor or other objects. Side scan sonar typically consists of three basic components: towfish, transmission cable, and topside processing unit.

In a side scan, the transmitted energy is formed into the shape of a fan that sweeps the seafloor from directly under the towfish to either side, typically to a distance of 100 meters. The strength of the return echo is continuously recorded, creating a "picture" of the ocean bottom. For example, objects that protrude from the bottom create a light area (strong return) and shadows from these objects are dark areas (little or no return) as in the image at left above, or vice versa, depending on operator preference.

As noted above, the container that holds the active components of the side scan sonar being used is referred to as a "towfish" since it deployed by letting it sink to a predetermined depth and then towing it ("swimming" or "flying" it) along a path than allows the sonar to send its signals and return them to a receiver from which its electronic data is processed and converted into images of what the device was towed over.

For example, see the information at Tritech about its "SeaKing Towfish Sidescan Sonar":
SeaKing towfish from Tritech
The SeaKing towfish side scan sonar system is an extremely compact and low cost high definition side scan sonar system. The SeaKing towfish is designed for a wide range of seabed survey and inspection duties.

The fish combines the very latest Tritech DST (Digital Sonar Technology) electronics with industry leading transducer design and digital CHIRP signal processing techniques to dramatically improve range resolution and generate sonar images of unprecedented clarity.

The sonar 'fish' is designed to be easily deployed by hand with excellent stability under all towing conditions. Fitted with durable polycarbonate stabiliser fins, in the event of ground contact the fins will break away and are retained for recovery by a shock cord line.
As part of Tritech’s SeaKing range of sonars, sensors it is possible to run the SeaKing towfish with other SeaKing sensors over one communication link. All products in the SeaKing family (or third-party products within the ARCNET communications link), can be run simultaneously, using the same processor and display; such as Tritech’s Surface Control Unit (SCU) or a customer supplied PC or laptop. In addition to the display of side scan sonar data, the system will take position input from DGPS. This information is recorded with the side scan sonar data to allow a 'fix' of a target. The customer's own bit map chart may be displayed on the same screen as the sonar data.

All data produced by the subsea towfish is processed within the fish and transmitted to the surface in digital format. All data may be stored on the built-in hard disk drive, in the surface control unit. The post processing export facility will convert the logged data to XTF and CSV formats for third party software packages.
Processing the data is the job of software, such as SonarWiz from Chesapeake Technologies:
You work hard to get the data – make sure you see all that it has to show. SonarWiz sidescan and sub-bottom sonar mapping software helps with sonar mission planning, data acquisition and post processing to ensure you use your time on the water effectively and capture all of the data you need before heading back to port.
The new High Resolution capability for SonarWiz doubles the resolution of the earlier version, for sidescan waterfall, mosaic, and digitizer views of the data. Surveyors in all types of industries can use High Resolution mode to resolve smaller features and see finer detail to improve productivity, security, and safety.
An example of the combination of side scan sonar and SonarWiz borrowed from the Chesapeake site:

Useful tools.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Monday Reading

Here's a good list to get you started for the week:

Arming New Platforms Will Push Up Value Of Missiles Market:
More capable platforms are creating requirements for more advanced weapons
With several new and upgraded aircraft and helicopters being fielded, the missile industry has entered an active phase.

From 2002? See here
The U.S. Navy's Next Super Weapon? Here Come Unmanned Underwater Vehicles:
In Northeast Asia, for instance, passages piercing the Ryukyus island chain funnel east-west passage between the East China Sea and Western Pacific into narrow pathways. Such pathways are easily monitored—and perhaps interdicted—relative to seeking out adversaries on the open ocean. The Malay Peninsula and Indonesian archipelago, similarly, corral shipping transiting between the South China Sea and the vast Indian Ocean into cramped shipping lanes.

Stationing UUVs at such geographic nodes would amplify the American presence, improving watchfulness for a fleet too small to be everywhere all the time. Such sentinels—especially if technology permits arming them for distant operations—will bolster the prospects for success in such missions as fleet actions, sea denial, blockades, and otherwise controlling major sea routes.

Hammer and Anvil: How to Defeat ISIS.

Underplayed Conflicts of 2014:
. . . [T]hree types of conflicts that were not on many lists but should be. Each, for different reasons, represents a trend worth paying attention to.

The Real Reason For The Poor State Of Military Morale:
The key factor is senior leadership that has not kept faith with its troops. The rest of the force that doesn’t live within the Washington, D.C., beltway feels that it is being ridden hard and put back wet so that the generals and admirals can claim success before civilian leaders in Congress and the White House. They have come to believe that they are expendable.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Saturday is Heinlein Quote Day (Sunday Edition) #40

From Time Enough for Love
“What are the facts? Again and again and again – what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history” – what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!”
One of the tricks of the military planning cycle is to sort out difference between guessing an enemies "intentions" and assessing the facts of his capabilities.

Interesting notes on that topic here:

Especially that last sentence.

UPDATE: Hmmm. What about economic forecasts?

Saturday, January 03, 2015

On Midrats 4 Jan 2014 - Episode 261: Midrats 5th Anniversary Show Free For All

It's a Episode 261: Midrats 5th Anniversary Show Free For All :
This Sunday join us for our 5th Anniversary Show. No guests, no agendas - just us talking about what 2014 had to teach us, and looking towards what 2015 may have in store for everyone in the national security arena. This is a great time if you ever wanted to call in to ask either one of us a question on a topic you wish we would address ... or just to say "hi." Just be warned, we might ask you a question back. It's what we do.
Join us live or pick the show up later by clicking here or find us later on iTunes.

5pm EST. 4 Jan 14.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Quick! Name 15 Hotspots for 2015

Okay, kids, here's America's newest fun game: "Name that 2015 Hotspot!"

The challenge is to pick 15 places which have the potential to become hell holes for their residents and which will involve the presence of U.S. military forces before the dust clears. Name a place and give a quick reason. The fact that a place is already a disaster does not exclude putting it on this list, but you do have to state why you think it will continue to be a troubled area. You can add places in the comments or send me an email and I'll tack them on the list. It is perfectly okay to challenge things on the list. In fact, it is encouraged. Got more than 15? That's okay, I had to use 15 to make it work with the year.

Contest ends whenever I say it does but no later than 6 January 2015. No prizes are to be awarded. Credit will be given to the most brilliant suggestions unless I steal them.

Here are 5 I came up with to get you started:

1) Nigeria: Potentially one of the richer countries in the world due to its mineral wealth, it suffers from incredible corruption and a nearly complete inability to get its house in order. Criminal gangs, tribal rifts, Boko Haram, pollution, grinding poverty, kidnap for ransom schemes are some of the issues. Just might turn into an even more failed state if it can't get its eastern area under control.

2) Cuba: As the former Soviet empire proved, there ain't no such thing as a "little freedom" for the oppressed masses. The Castro brothers have to die sometime, why not in 2015? With the right support from ex-patriot Cubans the place appears ready to - um- explode? Cuba seems to have lost all its old Commie sponsors. What will the U.S. do if China decides to help out 90 miles off the Florida coast?

3) Venezuela: Can you say failing state? A dysfunctional economy and an oppressive regime riddled with factionalism even in the army. There are opposition groups. Could get really messy, especially if oil prices stay down.

4) Russia: Putin needs a war to keep his power. Oil prices and the embargo (weak as it is) are killing the Russian economy. Somewhere in the Rodina there must be a crowd  of reformers who really want to toss off the corrupt oligarchs and their man in Moscow. I guess the questions are whether Putin's internal police are good enough to stifle freedom and whether the Russians who want to fix things can get any support among Russia's youth.

5) South China Sea: The nasty Dragon covets all that water and the power it would bring. Bullying, lawfare and playing good China/Bad China games are in the Dragon's bag of tools. The little Hobbit lands surrounding the South China Sea look to their east for support. Will/Can the U.S. and its allies help the Hobbits or do more dancing to push this problem off on the administration elected in 2016?

I am also going to put this up at the USNI Blog.

Friday Fun Film: Launching the Regulus Missile at Sea


Thursday, January 01, 2015

Poetry of a Sort to Ring in the New Year

Tradition has it that the first entry of the new year on a U.S. naval vessel's log contains a brief "poem" (read "doggeral") as set out in a 1959 USNI Proceeding article "The First Watch":
Generations of junior officers have known that there is only one fate worse than being in the duty section on New Year's Eve, and that is drawing the mid watch—the first watch of the New Year. Bad enough, when the ship is in port to forego a big time ashore; worse still to stand chilled to the bone on a deserted quarterdeck and glumly greet the still celebrating shipmates who manage to make it back before dawn.

And so grew up the custom of logging the first watch of the New Year in verse, providing some diversion for the wretched watch officer, and amusement for his shipmates the next day. The unwritten rules for this game have always required that even though in verse, the log be complete, containing all of the information normally found in every 0000-0400 watch. The poetic license invoked in rhyming the berth and anchor bearings or course and speed, boilers in use, ships present, wind, weather, and tide has often been fearful and wondrous to behold. Yet, as always in folk songs and stories, there is a message expressing the mood of the times and the personality of the author.
Among the examples cited by Captain McNitt:
This was well expressed by Ensign M. Hall, Je, in the USS Oklahoma, who after listing the ships present, wrote:

"All face the fresh southeaster gale

That drives the wave tops up the shale

While rainsqualls sweep the weatherdecks,

Urging water down the watches' necks."
More examples at the Destroyer Escorts Sailor Association. You might also find this National Archives entry interesting.

And there is this from USS Whitehurst's web page:
United States Ship Whitehurst (DE634)
Date Monday 1 January 1951

00 to 04
The watch is set on this rusty old barge.
It's the first of January and the rats are at large.
Moored starboard side to the number 5 pier,
While the crew all dream of girls, liberty, and beer.
At berth fourteen, well secured to the dock,
With six inch manila run through the chock.
Located in an area not known to be new
At Pearl Harbor Naval Base on Island Oahu.
SOPA the boss, who should not be in bed
Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, it is said.
Thought the ship it is condition Baker,
And boiler number one is the old steam maker.
We are receiving fresh water from the shore.
Our evaps are not working for us anymore.
Mighty warships of the Pacific Fleet are here,
Yard and district craft, so we have nothing to fear.
The ship has welcomed the glad new year
Without much noise and even less cheer.
The Captain and Exec are in bed snoozing
But McClintock and Alsover are still out boozing.
The whole crew is aboard, they are silent and glum.
Their pockets are empty, payday hasn't come.
The Chief Engineer returned before two.
Without his boilers, he didn't know what to do.
He said he was sober as he grinned into space,
Then took a step forward and fell on his face.
Zero-two-twelve, flying saucers in the west,
The Damage Control Officer will know what is best.
Chemical alarm or repair number two,
The men he has trained won't know what to do.
Send a man up the mast armed with an OBA
To watch for the little men who are here to stay.
The paymaster came aboard at zero-two--thirty.
His eyes were bloodshot and clothes were all dirty.
Asked where he'd been and what he had done,
He replied, "I don't know, but I must have had fun."
C.J. Gillman....................................D. Harlan
LTJG USNR.........................................Ens. USNR
Happy New Year!