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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Preparing for Floods

As this is being written, a hurricane is approaching the Southeast U.S. and there is also the possibility of heavy rains preceding the hurricane impact. In short, lots of water is in the forecast. So, no better time to look at flood and hurricane preparation. Here a couple of videos with some good ideas:

Get a plan, get a kit.

Remember that heavy rains over a long period of will cause the ground to become soft and may allow strong winds to knock over trees onto your home or onto power lines feeding your neighborhood. It may take some time before power can be restored - plan accordingly.

Oh, and if you have a portable generator for emergencies:

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Return to EagleSpeak of the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threats to Shipping Report

Of particular interest
  1.  An amnesty in Nigeria that may not have worked;
  2. A Chinese oil smuggling scheme;
  3. A nice joint effort near Singapore that caught some bad guys;
  4. A general reminder that there are dangerous waters out there

This was released 24 September 2015:

I used to put up excerpts from these reports, but will now put them up whole.

If you are wondering about an earlier version, I had to change it out when I notice highlighting obstructed the text.

Too bad, I had some witty comments on it.

ONI does some good work in gathering this info.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: X Minus One - "First Contact" (1955)

A Science Fiction thriller with a conundrum and a solution to a problem of inter-galactic trust , "First Contact" written by Murray Leinster (adapted by Howard Rodman).

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Fun Film: "Destroyer" (1943)

A full length (90 minutes or so) movie starring Edward G. Robinson as a Navy Chief (hey, congratulations to all the new Chiefs!) who just won't give up. You know, like all real Navy Chief Petty Officers. Features Glenn Ford, too.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

World Maritime Day

Yes, it's also National Punctuation Day, but more importantly is should be the day we appreciate the work of honest mariners who bring the goods:

It's World Maritime Day!:
Today, we live in a society supported by a global economy, which simply could not function if it were not for shipping. Shipping serves global trade by carrying huge quantities of cargo, all over the world, cost-effectively, cleanly and safely.

Establishing a sustainable maritime transportation sector is essential to the development and growth of the world's economy.
How important is the shipping industry and the open seas that allow goods to flow? Not many answers to that better than this U.S. Navy piece:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Humor

We all know that it's no fun in being with people who take everything way too seriously. So, if you are tired of being preached to without any wit behind the "lessons" here a couple of things to lighten things up"

First, the short FEMA ad:

Then a series of comments on some illustrations from from, samples of which appear below:

Oh, and I know nothing of this book or its author (which means this is not an endorsement), except this is a pretty humorous video:

As the Good Book tells us:
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

- King James Bible

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Great Navy Talent Hunt

There's a really interesting guest blog post over at Ask the Skipper concerning the Navy's never-ending talent hunt. This one, written by LCDR Jindrich, "Talent Flight: Real, or Just a Myth?" hits on a topic addressed on Midrats a couple of time (Episode 221: Officer Retention with VADM Bill Moran & CDR Guy Snodgrass and )Episode 277: Manpower, Modernization, and Motivation – an Hour with VADM Moran) - that topic being "how the Navy retain the best officers to meet its needs in the future?"

For those of you unfamiliar with the Navy promotion process, it is driven heavily by the "fitness report" or "fitrep" process by which officers are ranked against their peers. With going into great detail the theory is that the #1 Lieutenant assigned to a unit will be so ranked against all Lieutenants assigned to that unit. Being #1 is vital to future success as it drives subsequent assignments, including to command. Such decisions are made by various selection boards who screen the records of all officers coming before them for promotion or department head selection or command - and it's easier screening #1's into jobs that trying to decide if a solid #2 performer is good enough.

Obviously, even with the various games commanding officers can play with rankings (and there are games that can be played), someone will end up #1 when it counts.

But - does past performance really mean that they are the officers we need for the future? Are we really get the best?

LCDR Jindrich asks a really vital question in his post
. . . I believe talent goes deeper than a FITREP ranking. The Navy needs to take a hard look at what it says it values, what it truly values, and how that is reflected through promotions. A robust public discourse on this topic would be a good start.

Then what is needed is an analysis of all officers, from the CNO on down, and see which part of the talent sandwich we’re truly promoting from. There are many ways to go about this. Idea’s range from focusing on a specific cohort of officers, such as an already established promotion zone, and look back to see who promoted, who left voluntarily, and what their performance was. If possible, this should include an analysis of their performance in civilian jobs for those that left the service.

Other options include focusing on historical board results, both statutory and administrative, to see if we are promoting and keeping our talent. But again the main focus must be emphasized not just on those who stayed, but on those who opted out of service – a group often left out of this conversation. Much of this should be easy if given the requisite time and access. There is an entire library of records in Millington, TN.

I urge the Chief of Naval Personnel to seriously consider a study of this nature (read: not a survey). In order to create solutions to problems, we need to first get a grip on what exactly we mean by talent and then challenge the initial question– which is: Is the Navy in fact truly losing it’s best and brightest? . . .
The Chief of Naval Personnel has opened the door, I believe, to really looking into that question.

Why does it matter? Well, if you are a tax payer, you should want the Navy to keep the officers it needs to fulfill its mission in the most efficient and cost effective manner. Which usually means having the right person in the right job at the right time.

That may mean that we will need to stop promoting people out of jobs that they do really well into jobs that ill suit them.

Food for thought and discussion.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Blowing the Middle East Scenario

Small Wars Journal has it in a headline: Obama Claims His Critics Forced Him to Make a Mess of Syria, quoting Jennifer Rubin at the WaPo:
In what surely is the most cringe-worthy excuse offered by a commander-in-chief, President Obama last week complained that his critics — whom he routinely ignored and scorned — forced him to make a mess of Syria. To say it is unbecoming of a president to whine that he was only following what critics told him to do, understates just how dishonest the president is and how morally repugnant is his approach to a war that has claimed more than 200,000 lives, created millions of refugees and provided the Islamic State with a base of operations.

Well, Surprise, Surprise, Surprise.

Air war alone? Not so much, as noted here a year ago:
"Pretty adaptive" ain't going to cut it - the OODA loop is getting away from us because of self-imposed limitations on engagement. Being a "one trick pony" makes it easier on the enemy who gets a vote on how to respond to your threat.

If we are going to "beat" these guys, we need to hear the sound of boots on the ground and see the ISIS logistics flow of people, money and weapons disrupted big time.
Oh, yes, and "cooked intel" designed to give the "boss" what he wants to hear rather than what he needs to hear:
The situation is serious. The term “mass uprising” has been heard in espionage circles and we now know that more than fifty analysts in Tampa, a high percentage of those assessing the Islamic State, have blown the whistle on politically skewed analysis.

Recent reports paint a disturbing picture of a badly distorted intelligence process at CENTCOM headquarters, with senior officers directly pressuring analysts to change their assessments to fit the administration’s optimistic take on the war against the Islamic State. Senior military officers like to toe the official line—you get promoted for “speaking truth to power” in the movies, not in the U.S. military—and clashes with intelligence analysts, especially when they are civilians, are commonplace.
Hmm. I wonder if anyone warned the Boss that the Russians might make a move into Syria? Or was it another "Surprise?"

Take a look at that map above. How many reasons can you see that Russia/Putin might see the advantage of a Russian "friend" in Syria? Warm water port on the Mediterranean? Another border with old rival Turkey?

UPDATE: See Government Report Is Compelling Indictment of Obama’s ISIS Strategy.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: "Adventures of Philip Marlowe"

Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler's creation, is a private detective in the "tough" tradition, except he has a mind that has to it more than many others of the genre.

Here's the "Heart of Gold"-

Friday, September 18, 2015

On Midrats 20 Sept 15 - Episode 298: "Warrior Writers Exhibit at the Naval Academy Museum"

Please join us at 5pm (EDT) on 20 September 2015 for Midrats Episode 298: "Warrior Writers Exhibit at the Naval Academy Museum":
Last week, the Naval Academy Museum opened a new exhibit “Warrior Writers: The U.S. Naval Institute" that will run through Jan. 31, 2016.

The exhibit features literary work primarily from junior officers during their active duty service since the 1870’s. The majority of the literature focuses on controversies, issues, and trends of the time and is accompanied by over 100 artifacts including writings, weapons and tools from the authors. The artifacts are from the combined collections of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum and the U.S. Naval Institute as well as some on loan from recent authors.

Our guest to discuss the exhibit and what it has to offer will be the LCDR Claude Berube, USNR – author, regular Midrats guest, and more importantly in this context, the director of the museum.
Join us live if you can (or pick up the show later) by clicking here. Or you can also pick the show up (along with all our previous shows) from our iTunes page.

"Surprise, Surprise, Surprise" - What Happens When You Lack Strategic Vision

Ah, the not so strategic corporal know what happens when you lack strategic vision:

The Obama administration, which seems to have the idea that the U.S. should walk softly and carry a tiny stick, keeps getting those "unexpected" surprises from around the world.

Russia makes a move on Crimea? Surprise!

Russia makes a move on Ukraine? Surprise!

Russia threatens the Baltic states? Surprise!

China makes moves to claim the South China Sea as its "home waters?" Surprise!

North Korea acts crazy? Surprise!

People leave the completely FUBAR'd Middle East in droves? Surprise!

Waving potential immigration amnesty in front of people living in poverty in Central and South America causes a rise in "undocumented" migrants? Surprise!

Russia makes moves in the Arctic? Surprise!

Leaders of nations around the world, stunned by the weakness of the U.S. begin to panic a little? Surprise!

There's chaos in Libya after "liberation" without a follow-on plan? Surprise!

The Junior Varsity ISIS team fails to fall to air power alone? Surprise!

ISIS is spreading into more of Africa? Surprise!

There are ISIS converts in the U.S.? Surprise!

I could go on, but why bother?

Many of us have seen corporations go through a time of "surprise, surprise, surprise" when they have lost their "strategic vision." Yeah, yeah, business buzzword but, as I learned as a ship's navigator many years ago, when mapping a course, is good to know where you are headed.

In Navy navigation, you get orders from above - "Chart a course to Fiji." Somewhere up the food chain there is someone with a plan - a vision - of why my ship is to sail to Fiji and above them is someone who has a vision of how that trip to Fiji will help fulfill the national strategic vision.

In business, you develop a business plan based on the leadership's vision of what your company is all about. It is future oriented. It is what the business team - employees and management - rally around.

What is the U.S. "strategic vision?"

A couple of years ago, Zbigniew Brzezinski questioned whether we have one in his book, Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power. As set on in a NYTimes book review:
Mr. Brzezinski notes that President Obama has “failed to speak directly to the American people about America’s changing role in the world, its implications, and its demands,” ...

Also missing from this book are any substantive discussions of how the United States might overcome “its staggering domestic challenges and reorient its drifting foreign policy” and how the current European debt crisis might affect the United States and the future fortunes of the West.

What Mr. Brzezinski does do here — lucidly, and for the most part with great persuasiveness — is explore the consequences that a steady slide by America into impotence and irrelevance might have on the rest of the world. Such a development, he argues, would probably not result in the “ ‘coronation’ of an effective global successor” like China, but would likely lead to a “protracted phase of rather inconclusive and somewhat chaotic realignments of both global and regional power, with no grand winners and many more losers.”

An America “in serious decline for domestic and/or external reasons,” he says, would lead to a breakdown in the ability of the international system to prevent conflict once it became evident that “America is unwilling or unable to protect states it once considered, for national interest and/ or doctrinal reasons, worthy of its engagement.” As he sees it, a more Darwinian world of tumbling dominoes would most likely result: there would be little to prohibit regional powers (like Russia) from exerting claims on neighbors falling within traditional or claimed spheres of influence (like Georgia, Belarus and Ukraine). Taiwan would become increasingly vulnerable, and so too would Israel.
Surprise, surprise, surprise.

In 2013, the President said the following in his second inaugural address:
We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully –- not because we are na├»ve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.

America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe. And we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice –- not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity, human dignity and justice.
Compare that to President Kennedy's first inaugural address where he laid out this vision:
We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom--symbolizing an end as well as a beginning--signifying renewal as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forbears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago.

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe--the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans--born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage--and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
One is a vision and a promise.

The other? A way to slide into "impotence and irrelevance?"


Friday Fun Film: "Bomb Squad USN" (1970)

Catch a torpedo in your fishing net? Who do you call? Navy EOD!

We always had an EOD Det with us on the ammo ship. Comforting.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Navy Using Technology to Make Landing on a Carrier a Little Less Challenging?

Navy Times reports "New carrier landing software will smooth out the ride":
Landing an aircraft on a carrier now is a delicate dance of shifting left, right, up and down while adjusting the plane's throttle to make up for the tiny losses in speed and altitude for every movement of the nose.

When you do it right, you keep a little ball on the heads-up display just above the flight deck to glide down and catch your tailhook on the wires.

It takes an immense amount of focus and skill, but Naval Air Systems Command's MAGIC CARPET software aims to make it much easier.

"It's this admin task, where they should be focusing on the projection of power that should be our primary mission," Lt. William Dann said at a NAVAIR presentation Friday.

The difference with MAGIC CARPET is that a pilot can change direction without losing speed or altitude. The software simply self-adjusts to maintain a flight path.
Pilots joining the fleet after this system rolls out will probably be grateful, except for having to listen to endless stories about the "old days."

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: "The Halls of Ivy"

A gentle comedy featuring excellent actors dealing with the by-gone world of small colleges and the on-going world human behavior "The Halls of Ivy":
The Halls of Ivy featured Colman as William Todhunter Hall, the president of small, Midwestern Ivy College, and his wife, Victoria, a former British musical comedy star who sometimes felt the tug of her former profession, and followed their interactions with students, friends and college trustees.

On Midrats 13 Sept 15 - Episode 297: "The Outlaw Ocean with Ian Urbina"

Please join us on Sunday, 13 September 2015 at 5pm (EDT) for Midrats Episode 297: The Outlaw Ocean with Ian Urbina
Stowaways, poaching, piracy, smuggling, and murder - the global commons of the open ocean is as wild of a place as it is vast.

Using as a baseline his series on lawlessness on the high seas in the New York Times, The Outlaw Ocean, our guest for the full hour to discuss the anarchy of crime and violence on the high seas in the 21st Century will be Ian Ubina.

Ian is a reporter for The New York Times, based in the paper’s Washington bureau. He has degrees in history from Georgetown University and the University of Chicago, and his writings, which range from domestic and foreign policy to commentary on everyday life, have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Harper’s, and elsewhere.
Join us live if you can or pick the show up for later listening by clicking here or (also for later listening) by visiting our iTunes page

Monday, September 07, 2015

Feeling that Empathy Fatigue

There are a couple of interesting posts out there on the "weaponization of empathy" see Genocide, Islam and Weaponized Empathy, More on Weaponized Empathy, which deal with the issue of attempted manipulation of emotion to spur some action or reaction or even inaction desired by some group. As the author of those posts notes,
Leftists would have you believe that us on the Right have no empathy. We wish to deny the endless migrations away from crisis areas in the Islamic world and that, they would tell us, is incompatible with human rights, dignity, empathy and so on.
Yes. well, it's not just the plight of people running from the horrors of the Middle East that we get this "empathy invocation" by the left.

Every plea that something is "for the children" or image of a "sad-eyed dog" or "seriously wounded warrior" in a television or print ad is an attempt to make you reach or your wallet and pledge something to alleviate the suffering.

If you work with your hands for a long period of time, you will note that after the blisters come calluses, a tough thickening of the skin that comes from over exposure to the pick or shovel. Over exposure to "empathy drivers" leads to a certain "empathy fatigue" - the "weeping puppy" ads change from being shocking to being - well, perhaps "annoying" is not quite  the right word, but certainly I begin to find ways to avoid the message.

My empathy cup is near empty. Not because, as some would have it, I lack empathy, but because I can only care about so much and I've reached my limit. It's "empathy fatigue" - a variation on "compassion fatigue":
Compassion fatigue, also known as secondary traumatic stress (STS), is a condition characterized by a gradual lessening of compassion over time. It is common among individuals that work directly with trauma victims such as nurses, psychologists, first responders, and health unit coordinators. . . .

Journalism analysts argue that the media has caused widespread compassion fatigue in society by saturating newspapers and news shows with often decontextualized images and stories of tragedy and suffering. This has caused the public to become cynical, or become resistant to helping people who are suffering.
Yep. That, coupled with the inveterate media and agitprop tendency to turn every single thing that goes wrong into a "crisis." As wiser people than me have noted:
If everything is a crisis, then nothing is.
So, if a zillion people are on the run from the Middle East to Europe, where the living is easy and the welfare great, my empathy meter now barely moves. If the Europeans put the migrants into camps and don't given them free housing beyond tents, well, it's okay with me. If some "leader" of the migrants complains about how unfair this is, I just could not care less, even if the New York Times and its columnists become appalled.

If the U.S. poverty rate never seems to get better because we keep re-defining "poverty" after paying out trillions in benefits and while some residents seem to make poverty a life-style to which every third world citizen would consider "extreme wealth," well, perhaps we need to take a hard look at the benefits we dole out from our tax dollars. "Poverty statistics fatigue" has me in its grip.

Cynical? Me?

Do you get my drift?

If workers employed by government contractors lack "paid sick days" coverage,
I suggest that they work on their contract negotiation skills instead of having the President impose a new "benefit" that will be passed on to the taxpayers in the name of "empathy."

Just saying.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Labor Day Films: "How to Keep a Job" (1949), PA AFL's "A Brief History of Unions" and A Debate About Labor Unions

The U.S. Department of Labor offers up a "History of Labor Day":
Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.
Labor leaders have had U.S. Navy ships named after them, USS Samuel Gompers and USNS Cesar Chavez.

Have a nice Labor Day Weekend, whether you are a worker or management or even a business owner.

By the way the AFL CIO has a large amount of money invested in stocks of corporations, making it a "business owner" of sorts. See here:
Sponsored by the AFL-CIO, the AFL-CIO Equity Index Fund is a collective investment fund available to qualified pension plans.

The objective of the fund is to track the returns of the broad U.S. large cap equity market, as represented by the S&P 500 Index. Stocks in the Fund’s portfolio are not actively traded, resulting in low fees and expenses.

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: The Whistler - "Death Comes at Midnight"

One of the most famous radio shows of its era, The Whistler:
A character known only as the Whistler was the host and narrator of the tales, which focused on crime and fate. He often commented directly upon the action in the manner of a Greek chorus, taunting the characters, guilty or innocent, from an omniscient perspective. The stories followed a formula in which a person's criminal acts were typically undone either by an overlooked but important detail or by the criminal's own stupidity. An ironic ending, often grim, was a key feature of each episode. But on rare occasions, the plot's twist of fate caused the story to end happily for the protagonist.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Thursday, September 03, 2015

About Time - President Wants More U.S. Ice Breakers for Arctic

Source - Note the Arctic Ocean in the upper right
Silly headline in the NYTimes, "Obama to Call for More Icebreakers in Arctic as U.S. Seeks Foothold. "

Golly, I always though the Great State of Alaska (that's a map of it above) was our foothold in the Arctic since it has 1000 miles of coastline on the Arctic Ocean, but perhaps the fact that Alaska has been a state bordering the Arctic since 3 January 1959 (that's 56 years!) somehow eluded the NYT headline writer. In any event, from the article:
President Obama on Tuesday proposed speeding the acquisition and building of new Coast Guard icebreakers that can operate year round in the nation’s polar regions, part of an effort to close the gap between the United States and other nations, especially Russia, in a global competition to gain a foothold in the rapidly changing Arctic.
"Proposed?" Given his penchant for executive orders and as the Commander-in-Chief, one would think he would just order them built or bought as soon as possible.

You might note that I've been discussing the need for new U.S. ice breakers since 2008. See also last year's Arctic Waters: U.S. Policy and the Sea Services in which I embedded:

Other Arctic Strategies are also set out at the link.

At least the President is proposing to do something. That's a step forward.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Red Cross Courses that Help in Disasters

The Red Cross come under a good deal of criticism, but it's hard to beat their courses that may help in disasters such as First Aid, CPR, and AED:
...[T]he American Red Cross has world-class instructors and award-winning online courses to ensure you get training that sticks. With over 550 locations across the United States and the option to take some of the learning online through our best-in-class Simulation Learning, we offer you the flexibility and convenience to provide you training when and where you need it. Certification classes include a free digital certificate, valid for 2 years, plus free access to digital learning materials and online refresher courses.
Yes, you might have to pay to take a course, but think of the cost of not have the basic training needed in an emergency.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Fun with Russia - Putin Pushes, Gets Pushed Back by Baltic States

On Midrats last Sunday, our guest, Jorge Benitez, lead us in an interesting discussion of NATO and Russia. One of the topics was the triad of new NATO members Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia and the risks they face from - well - Putin's fantasy of putting back together the old Soviet Union. You can listen to the show here.

In light of this, this article from IEEE Spectrum is exactly on point, Fear of Russia Drives High-Voltage Power Projects in the Baltics:
Former Soviet Union satellites such as Ukraine, Georgia, and the three Baltic states—Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia—rely heavily on Russian energy, a dependence that colors the ongoing geopolitical tussle among the Russian Federation, the European Union, and NATO. But new energy infrastructure is beginning to free the Baltics from this drama, including two high-voltage direct current links to Lithuania nearing completion: the 500-megawatt LitPol Link with Poland and the 700-MW NordBalt cable to Sweden, which is among the world’s longest subsea power links.

The links will give the Baltics the ability to get 100 percent of their imported power from non-Russian sources. Laying the 453-kilometer NordBalt cable was hindered by a series of nerve-wracking interventions by Russian naval ships, prompting Lithuania to lodge an official complaint with Moscow. Despite this hurdle, both NordBalt and LitPol Link are expected to begin testing by December and should be in operation from January 2016, says Daivis Virbickas, CEO of the Lithuanian power grid operator Litgrid.
Putin has done a remarkable job of causing the rest of Europe to work hard to free themselves of ties that Russia could use to "punish" them for standing up for freedom from Putin's bullying.

Read the whole thing.