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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: "Lights Out" - "The Cat Wife" with Boris Karloff

Lights Out:
Lights Out is an American old-time radio program devoted mostly to horror and the supernatural.

Created by Wyllis Cooper and then taken over by Arch Oboler, versions of Lights Out aired on different networks, at various times, from January 1934 to the summer of 1947 and the series eventually made the transition to television. Lights Out was one of the earliest radio horror programs, predating Suspense and Inner Sanctum.
Here's an episode from the Oboler period, featuring Boris Karloff as the voice of man with an interesting domestic problem:

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday Fun Film: Navigation by Lighthouses: "Night Piloting" 1943

Visual navigation can be very interesting, despite the rather muted tone of this training film.

Yes, the Coast Guard still publishes light lists. See here.

UPDATE: You can download a copy of HO Pub 9, "The American Practical Navigator" here:
The American Practical Navigator, first published in 1802, was billed as the "epitome of navigation" by its original author, Nathaniel Bowditch. The text has evolved with the advances in navigation practices since that first issue and continues to serve as a valuable reference for marine navigation in the modern day.

The publication describes in detail the principles and factors of navigation, including piloting, electronic navigation, celestial navigation, mathematics, safety, oceanography and meterology. It also contains various tables used in typical navigational calculations and solutions, including the formulas used to derive the tabular data. Many of these solutions can also be found using the on-line calculators located in the Nautical Calculators section of this Web site.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Asteroids and Tsunamis

Yes, there are real world disasters aplenty, but sometimes it is good to take a step back and look at the more remote events. One of these, popular in movies from the late 1990's was the threat from asteroids smacking us and causing the "end of the world as we know it" (see here).

Behind these movies there is some truth. Things from outer space have collided with the earth. Under current theories, the fact that dinosaurs no long roam the earth is perhaps the result of one such collision or perhaps not.

WHat about the question "If an asteroid hits the earth could man survive?"

According to this article, from the NYTimes,"Did an Asteroid Impact Cause an Ancient Tsunami?", the answer might be - "Yes, under the right circumstances. In fact our ancestors may have already survived at least one such incident."
A large asteroid or comet, the kind that could kill a quarter of the world’s population, smashed into the Indian Ocean 4,800 years ago, producing a tsunami at least 600 feet high, about 13 times as big as the one that inundated Indonesia nearly two years ago. The wave carried the huge deposits of sediment to land.

Most astronomers doubt that any large comets or asteroids have crashed into the Earth in the last 10,000 years. But the self-described “band of misfits” that make up the two-year-old Holocene Impact Working Group say that astronomers simply have not known how or where to look for evidence of such impacts along the world’s shorelines and in the deep ocean.

Scientists in the working group say the evidence for such impacts during the last 10,000 years, known as the Holocene epoch, is strong enough to overturn current estimates of how often the Earth suffers a violent impact on the order of a 10-megaton explosion. Instead of once in 500,000 to one million years, as astronomers now calculate, catastrophic impacts could happen every 1,000 years.
So, 4800 years ago? Humankind certainly around (see here) and is still around, so it should be clear that humans can survive asteroid strikes and the tsunamis they can cause, if in fact the theory of the event described in the NYTimes piece proves to be correct.

On the other hand, big tsunamis ("megatsunamis") - whatever their cause- suggests that one good form of disaster prep is to move away from that lovely beach front property.

Now you have been warned. Or, as the U.K. Express put it Scientists predict MEGA-TSUNAMI twice the size of Big Ben to wipe out entire CITIES: A MEGA-TSUNAMI of biblical proportions presents a real threat to humanity today, scientists have warned.

UPDATE: On the other hand, a mega tsunami might just solve the issues involving the artificial islands in the South China Sea.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Illegal Immigration Quote of the Day

Victor Davis Hanson in "Progressive Elites vs. Western Civilization" at National Review Online
Only in the West does a migrant fault his host for insufficient hospitality while exempting his homeland, which drove him out.
However, it's not just the migrant - here's a sad tale from The Daily Tar Heel of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Noncitizen students face federal, local financial aid shortage:
Even though Islas has lived in North Carolina since she was 6 years old, she has had to pay $50,000 a year to attend UNC as an out-of-state student without the help of federal money. Eric Johnson, spokesperson for the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid, said his office can only help pay for undocumented students when they find nonrestricted private money. “As you know, we are very limited on what we are doing because of the politics around this and because (undocumented students) are treated as out-of-state students who are not eligible for state or federal aid,” Johnson said.
Politics? How about a violation of the law? If I were to start occupying the office of Mr. Johnson because I like it better than mine, I'm sure that I would find police officers ready to help me depart that location and find myself relocated in . . . jail. Yes, her parents brought her to the U.S. - illegally. So, as far as I can tell, she has been treated just like any other foreign student who chose to attend UNC. Which seems fair enough. But:
“I was just concerned about being treated differently,” she said. “Even now, I’m a senior, and I’m applying for jobs. I hate bringing that up because I want them to see me for who I am, not my documentation status.”
Really? Does she know it is illegal to hire "undocumented workers?" I sure she is a nice person, but . . . documentation means something.

In any event, some of this discussion of accepting the rules of the place you move to reminds of a bumper sticker I use to see in Texas as a response to the migration from the Rust Belt:
"We don't care how you did it up North."
Perhaps those suffering from an invasion of Californians have similar slogan.

Read the VDH piece here. Newspeak is also alluded to. I mean "non-citizen students?" Really?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Good read "The Real Power of ISIS"

From Scott Atran at The Daily Beast, a good read, on "The Real Power of ISIS"
This is, fundamentally, a war of ideas that the West has virtually no idea how to wage, and that is a major reason anti-ISIS policies have been such abysmal failures.
Inspiring young men to causes bigger than themselves is an old, old story. With lots of unhappy endings.

And, to quote T.R. Fehrenbach again, from his writing about the Korean War in This Kind of War:
“In July, 1950, one news commentator rather plaintively remarked that warfare had not changed so much, after all. For some reason, ground troops still seemed to be necessary, in spite of the atom bomb. And oddly and unfortunately, to this gentleman, man still seemed to be an important ingredient in battle. Troops were still getting killed, in pain and fury and dust and filth. What happened to the widely-heralded pushbutton warfare where skilled, immaculate technicians who never suffered the misery and ignominy of basic training blew each other to kingdom come like gentlemen?
In this unconsciously plaintive cry lies the buried a great deal of the truth why the United States was almost defeated.
Nothing had happened to pushbutton warfare; its emergence was at hand. Horrible weapons that could destroy every city on Earth were at hand—at too many hands. But, pushbutton warfare meant Armageddon, and Armageddon, hopefully, will never be an end of national policy.
Americans in 1950 rediscovered something that since Hiroshima they had forgotten: you may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life—but if you desire to defend it, protect it and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men in the mud. ”
Yep, our young men with their ideals against their young men with theirs.

For most, if not all, the marbles.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: "Sherlock Holmes" with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce

A great pair of actors in a classic show from the pen of Sir Arthur Canon Doyle. Sherlock Holmes in "The Speckled Band"

On Midrats 25 Oct 2015 - Episode 303: China, the Pivot, and the WESTPAC Challenge - With James Kraska

Please join us at 5pm Eastern on 25 Oct 2105 for Midrats Episode 303: China, the Pivot, and the WESTPAC Challenge - With James Kraska
As 2015 starts its final act, where is China heading?

From her Great Wall of Sand in the South China Sea, to economic stress, and her increasingly nervous neighbors, where does the USA and her allies need to adjust to China’s expanding footprint globally, and where do they need to stand firm?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss this and more will be James Kraska.

Dr. James Kraska is Professor in the Stockton Center for the Study of International Law, where he previously served as Howard S. Levie Chair in International Law from 2008-13. During 2013-14, he was a Mary Derrickson McCurdy Visiting Scholar at Duke University, where he taught international law of the sea. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for Oceans Law and Policy at the University of Virginia School of Law, Guest Investigator at the Marine Policy Center, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and a Senior Associate at the Naval War College's Center on Irregular Warfare and Armed Groups.

He developed the first course on maritime security law at the Naval War College, which he also taught at The Hague Academy of International Law and University of Maine School of Law. Commander Kraska served as legal adviser to joint and naval task force commanders in the Asia-Pacific, two tours in Japan and in four Pentagon major staff assignments, including as oceans law and policy adviser as well as chief of international treaty negotiations, both on the Joint Staff.

Kraska earned a J.D. from Indiana University, Bloomington, Maurer School of Law and J.S.D. and LL.M. from University of Virginia School of Law; he also completed a master’s degree at the School of Politics and Economics, Claremont Graduate School. In 2010, Kraska was selected for the Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Literary Achievement by the Navy League of the United States.
Join us live if you can, or pick the show up later by clicking here. You can also find the show later on our iTunes page here

Friday, October 23, 2015

Friday Fun Film: "Ready on Arrival" (1966)

The U.S. Navy's floating airbases and their aircraft provide a force projection that is "Ready on Arrival" -

The carriers were - and are - there.

What happens after that?

That depends on the the political leadership.

UPDATE: Of course, you have to have enough carriers. See As USS Theodore Roosevelt exits, US has no carriers in Persian Gulf from the Stars and Stripes.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Getting Ready for El Nino 2015

El Niño Strengthening
The latest analyses from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and from NASA confirm that El Niño is strengthening and it looks a lot like the strong event that occurred in 1997–98. Observations of sea surface heights and temperatures, as well as wind patterns, show surface waters cooling off in the Western Pacific and warming significantly in the tropical Eastern Pacific.

“Whether El Niño gets slightly stronger or a little weaker is not statistically significant now. This baby is too big to fail,” said Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. October sea level height anomalies show that 2015 is as big or bigger in heat content than 1997. “Over North America, this winter will definitely not be normal. However, the climatic events of the past decade make ‘normal’ difficult to define.”
Both Patzert and NOAA forecasters believe the southern tier of North America, particularly southern California, is likely to see a cooler and wetter than normal winter, while the northern tier could be warmer and drier. But the sample of El Niños in the meteorological record are still too few and other elements of our changing climate are too new to say with certainty what the winter will bring.
Well, so? The potential impacts for North America are set out here:
The impacts of El Niño upon climate in temperate latitudes show up most clearly during wintertime. For example, most El Niño winters are mild over western Canada and parts of the northern United States, and wet over the southern United States from Texas to Florida. El Niño affects temperate climates in other seasons as well. But even during wintertime, El Niño is only one of a number of factors that influence temperate climates. El Niño years, therefore, are not always marked by "typical" El Niño conditions the way they are in parts of the tropics.
More here:
Yes, this is not yet an exact science, but forewarned is forearmed.

Get ready. Have a kit.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: CBS Radio Mystery Theater - "The Meteorite"

One of the
pleasures of my youth was late night listening to the CBS Radio Mystery Theater with host E. G. Marshall.

Here's an episode about a meteorite that crashes into a farm field getting the interest of a farm family and a local college professor. It soon becomes apparent that this is not an ordinary meteorite.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday Film: "The Rise of the Soviet Navy" (1969) and other stuff

In the current national security environment, where there are so many players who seem to be taking advantage of perceived weakness or indifference on the U.S. part, there is value in looking back - because "everything old is new again:"

Oh, yes, there is the military rise of China, covered by Stratfor here:
When evaluating a force, you have to measure it against what mission it is trying to accomplish and against what adversarial force it may face, as well as its ability to effectively coordinate and support its assets. The Chinese military is now expanding from a very low capacity, from a military designed largely for internal security, and one characterized by the predominance of the ground forces over the air and naval forces. Further, the Chinese military should not be looked at as trying to match the U.S. military in global capabilities. For China, its primary interest is its own region, where there are numerous security issues at play, even excluding the United States.

Distance provides the Chinese with some strength over the United States in the West Pacific, but that same geography also places China's resources in a very active region with diffuse potential threats. This leaves the Chinese having to focus on three levels of potential security concerns: small weaker states; Japan and Russia (its two potential peer competitors); and the distant but regionally present United States, which remains the only global power. In designing its grand strategy, doctrine and force structure, China has to balance how it would ideally handle any combination of the three.
But, hey, the Admiral Harris, head of the U.S. Pacific Command also has his eye on the North Koreans:
North Korea and its unpredictable leader are U.S. Pacific Command’s biggest worries, Navy Adm. Harry Harris Jr. told the Military Reporters and Editors Association here yesterday.

Harris, who has commanded U.S. Pacific Command since May, gave reporters and editors an update on the progress of the military rebalance to the Pacific.

Harris stopped in Washington on his way to the Australia-United States Ministerial in Boston.

“The greatest threat that I face on a day-to-day basis is the threat from North Korea, because you have an unpredictable leaders who is in complete command of his country and his military,” Harris said.

KimJong Un is “on a quest for nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them intercontinentally,” he said, adding that Un “poses a very real threat to the 28,000 Americans in South Korea, the nation of South Korea, Japan and on and on.”

“At some point in the future, as he develops his capability, North Korea will present a very real threat to Hawaii and the rest of the United States,” Harris continued. “Now, I have to be ready from a position of strength to deal with North Korea and we are ready to deal … any time that Kim Jong Un decides to act.”
Of course, there was stuff on China (oddly enough, Russia never seems to come up as a Pacific power):
Harris reiterated that U.S. involvement in the region is not aimed at containing China. The rebalance is about U.S. recognition of the increased importance of the region to Main Street U.S.A. Simply put, security in the region has means prosperity, he said.

“It’s in the best interests of the United States that we continue to embrace and enhance our relationships with everyone in the region including China,” Harris said. “While I’ve been known to be critical of China’s provocative military activities these past two years … I will also acknowledge when China has been helpful, such as China’s counterpiracy efforts off the Horn of Africa and the search for the Malaysian airliner off the coast of Australia.”

The admiral will meet with Chinese military leaders next month and he will “maximize” these areas of cooperation and agreement, while trying to work through areas where the United States and China disagree, he said.

Harris is prepared to continue the conversation with Chinese leaders. “Obviously one of the topics of on-going discussions is my continuing concern with what I call China’s ‘sand castles in the sea’ in disputed waters of the South China Sea,” he said. “Militarization by any claimant in the area makes it harder to resolve disagreements diplomatically.”

Harris will not discuss future operations in his area of responsibility, but he referred reporters to his testimony before the Senate earlier this year. “To reaffirm our ironclad commitment to international law, I think we must exercise freedom of navigation operations throughout the region and throughout the globe,” he said.

He also said he told a regional chiefs of defense meeting -- which included China -- at his headquarters in Hawaii two weeks ago that the United States “will continue to fly and sail and operate anywhere -- anywhere that international law allows.”
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Freedom of Navigation in the South China Sea

Nice discussion of the Freedom of Navigation (FON) issues arising in the South China Sea at Foreign Affairs "Freedom of Navigation in the South China Sea Is Business as Usual":
..[W}hether the Pentagon decides to operate within 12 nautical miles of only those Chinese features that were previously reefs, or opts to transit near other Chinese artificial islands too, it should conduct FONOPS around other claimants’ features as well, including low-lying reefs that are controlled by the Philippines or rocks held by Malaysia or Vietnam. Given that these countries are themselves gravely concerned about freedom of navigation and have expressed a willingness to sign on to recent U.S. diplomatic proposals to halt destabilizing activities in the South China Sea, it is unlikely that they would object to inclusion in this demonstration of legal principle.
An important issue is presented in the piece in that FON is not the only issue in play. The underlying issue is sovereignty over the areas in question and the impact that has on carrying out operations in addition FON. As the article notes,
. . .[U]nder UNCLOS’ principle of innocent passage, foreign navies are entitled to transit within a state’s 12-nautical-mile territorial sea, as long as that vessel does nothing that is prejudicial to peace. (emphasis added)
If China is actually claiming that these artificial islands are the basis for some claim of "territorial sea" (which would not be consistent with international law) it could also assert that some actions of a transiting ship or fleet are "prejudicial to peace" and take steps to stop such actions.

This is interesting stuff. As in "may you live in interesting times."

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Disaster Prep Wednesday: "Home Preparedness in Earthquake Country" by UCSF

A good reminder for all kinds of disasters, including those that involve the earth trembles that affect much more than California:

And if you don't think you are in a danger area, you might want to look here and these maps provided there:
Damaging earthquakes in the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii 1750 to 1996 (USGS says they are going to update this map one of these days).

And here's one day's worth (14 Oct 15) of earthquakes magnitude 2.5 or more:

So, be ready. Have a kit.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

U.S. Navy's 240th Birthday

First, thank you to all those men and women who have served or are serving in the U.S. Navy. It is the celebration of your service in the Navy that we really honor today. Happy Birthday!

Second, birthdays are a good time to take stock of how we stand so, as set out here, the status of the Fleet:
Navy Personnel
Active Duty: 328,186
Officers: 54,713
Enlisted: 268,987
Midshipmen (Naval Academy only): 4,486 (does not include the Naval ROTC students at 61 NROTC units/consortiums hosted at 75 schools throughout the United States who are not on active duty)

Ready Reserve: 110,882 [As of Aug 2015 ]
Selected Reserves: 57,529
Ready Reserve: 53,353
Reserves currently mobilized: 2,609 [As of Aug 2015]

Navy Department Civilian Employees: 196,514

Ships and Submarines
Deployable Battle Force Ships: 271
Total Ships Deployed/Underway Ships Deployed: 92 (34%)
Ships Underway for Local Ops / Training (USFF / 3rd Fleet) Ships Underway for Local Ops / Training (USFF / 3rd Fleet): 37 (13%)
Ships Underway
Aircraft Carriers:
USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) - Atlantic
USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) - 7th Fleet
USS George Washington (CVN 73) - Pacific
Underway Amphibious Assault Ships:
USS Essex (LHD 2) - 5th Fleet

Aircraft (operational): 3700+
Stats as of 31 Mar 15.  So, currently serving their country in the Navy - over 440,000 Americans in uniform and another 196,000+ in civilian clothes.

That's a lot of cake.

Fighting Poverty - Cash Preferred?

Interesting read at Foreign Affairs, Worth Every Cent: To Help the Poor, Give Them Cash where authors Michael Faye, Paul Niehaus, and Christopher Blattman write:
In a Foreign Affairs article last year, we wrote what we hoped would be a provocative argument: “Cash grants to the poor are as good as or better than many traditional forms of aid when it comes to reducing poverty.” Cash grants are cheaper to administer and effective at giving recipients what they want, rather than what experts think they need.

That argument seems less radical by the day. Experimental impact evaluations continue to show strong results for cash grants large or small. In August, David McKenzie of the World Bank reported results from a study of grants of $50,000 on average to entrepreneurs in Nigeria that showed large positive impacts on business creation, survival, profits, sales, and employment, including an increase of more than 20 percent in the likelihood of a firm having more than ten employees. Also this year, Chris Blattman and Stefan Dercon, the chief economist at the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, found that $300 grants to young men and women in Ethiopia led them to start small enterprises, raised their incomes by one-third, and lowered by half the likelihood of them taking sweatshop jobs harmful to their health. With more research the scale of these impacts will become clearer. But for now the bottom line is clear: more cash is needed.
But the deeper challenge involves the way the development sector funds aid to begin with. Cash fits everywhere and nowhere within the current system. For example, USAID receives funds from Congress that are earmarked for use toward specific outcomes, such as health or education. To justify delivering as cash a dollar earmarked for health, for example, USAID has to argue that it would have meaningful health benefits even though the recipients will almost certainly spend a large share of it on other, equally valuable things. The humanitarian system is similarly organized around “clusters” for nutrition, health, shelter, and so on. When donors use cash as a tool within these individual silos, chaos can result—as, for example, in the case of Syrian refugees, who have been targeted with as many as 30 distinct programs offering cash for children’s winter clothes, for legal assistance, for hygiene kits, and so on. To achieve more sensible outcomes, we need budgeting that puts the recipients at the center and holds implementing organizations responsible not for specific needs, but for helping specific people. That will take time.
At the UN General Assembly last week, Pope Francis called on the assembled nations to do more to help the millions of impoverished people worldwide: “To enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny.” Cash transfers provide an opportunity to do this more effectively than ever. Enough talk, more action.
Yes, there are issues, but there is also a great deal of logic in just letting the poor decide how best to help themselves out of the poverty trap.

Related -Why Can’t They Just Leave Us Alone?:
It’s time to recognize that individuals acting in their own self interest do better for themselves than a government bureaucrat creating a one size fits all solution. Today, they gave the Economic Nobel Prize to Angus Deaton for his research on consumption, poverty and welfare. Guess what? He doesn’t agree with Thomas Piketty who got so much play in the chattering class.

Deaton developed the Almost Ideal Demand System – a flexible, yet simple, way of estimating how the demand for each good depends on the prices of all goods and on individual incomes. Again and again, what we find in economics is that it depends on the individual. This means that the more power and choice policy gives to the individual, the better off everyone will be.

That means that instead of some broad based education spending, giving vouchers to individuals would work better. It means instead of a bloated Obamacare program, setting up individual health savings accounts would be better.

Here is what he says about global poverty,

Mr Deaton’s most recent book, “The Great Escape” was published in 2013. In it he argues that foreign aid from western government’s has done more harm than good to developing nations, saying that it has helped prop up corrupt governments and rarely reaches the poor.

“The idea that global poverty could be eliminated if only rich people or rich countries were to give more money to poor people or to poor countries, however appealing, is wrong.”

Should the U.S. being getting out of the "poverty bureaucracy" business and giving cash to the poor? I think so. See One more thing on poverty in America and National Security and Poverty: Part 1.

In fact, the "prebate" part of the Fair Tax Plan is one of the many reasons I like it (in addition to taking all that power away from the IRS, which as we have sen recently can be misused for political purposes). See here:
4. The prebate is not a “handout”. It is the refund of taxes paid (albeit, in advance). The FairTax has no exemptions so the prebate funds the tax on spending up to the poverty up front.

5. According to the GAO, the current tax system doles out $800 billion in what are called tax expenditures (tax exemptions, deductions, preferences, loopholes, etc.). In stark contrast to the current system, and in concert with the constitutional concept of uniformity of taxation across all citizens, the FairTax treats all taxpayers equally compared to the way the current system rewards ‘friends’ with its $800 billion.

6. The FairTax prebate is estimated to be about $450 billion which would be distributed to all legal residents in an equal manner; so much per adult and child in each household. Unlike the current system, it has no marriage penalty so a couple gets double of what a single person gets, and they both get the same amount for each child.
In other words, those who now have no homeowner deduction or other tax preferences will get a monthly cash prebate that they can choose to spend as they see fit, not as some welfare monitor dictates.

Eliminating deductions and other tax preferences takes the power out of the hands of Congress to reward friends and punish enemies by adding or eliminating tax benefits from the Tax Code. But it also means the poor among us are on an equal footing with the wealthy as far as government taxation goes. In fact the Fair Tax is progressive as is discussed in the above links, so that the poor are not punished for being poor.

Under the current system it seems as if we believe that the poor a too stupid to know their own best interests.

I refuse to believe that.

Cash is freedom.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Seems Like a Good Idea for Those on the Pointy End - "A New Defense for Navy Ships: Protection from Cyber Attacks"

The good folks at the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Research seek to counter a threat to our modern warships As set out in RHIMES to Protect Ships from Cyber Attacks":
For most people, the term “cyber security” calls to mind stories of data theft like the recent hacks of the OPM database, or network spying like the 2012 breach of the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet.

But in this networked world, hackers might also try to disable or take control of machines in our physical world—from large systems like electric power grids and industrial plants, to transportations assets like cars, trains, planes or even ships at sea.

In response, the U.S. Navy is developing the Resilient Hull, Mechanical, and Electrical Security (RHIMES) system, a cyber protection system designed to make its shipboard mechanical and electrical control systems resilient to cyber attacks.

“The purpose of RHIMES is to enable us to fight through a cyber attack,” said Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Mat Winter. “This technology will help the Navy protect its shipboard physical systems, but it may also have important applications to protecting our nation’s physical infrastructure.”

Dr. Ryan Craven, a program officer of the Cyber Security and Complex Software Systems Program in the Mathematics Computer and Information Sciences Division of the Office of Naval Research, explained that RHIMES is designed to prevent an attacker from disabling or taking control of programmable logic controllers—the hardware components that interface with physical systems on the ship.

“Some examples of the types of shipboard systems that RHIMES is looking to protect include damage control and firefighting, anchoring, climate control, electric power, hydraulics, steering and engine control,” explained Craven. “It essentially touches all parts of the ship.”
Traditionally, computer security systems protect against previously identified malicious code. When new threats appear, security firms have to update their databases and issue new signatures. Because security companies react to the appearance of new threats, they are always one step behind. Plus, a hacker can make small changes to their virus to avoid being detected by a signature.

“Instead, RHIMES relies on advanced cyber resiliency techniques to introduce diversity and stop entire classes of attacks at once,” Craven said. Most physical controllers have redundant backups in place that have the same core programming, he explained. These backups allow the system to remain operational in the event of a controller failure. But without diversity in their programming, if one gets hacked, they all get hacked.

“Functionally, all of the controllers do the same thing, but RHIMES introduces diversity via a slightly different implementation for each controller’s program,” Craven explained. “In the event of a cyber attack, RHIMES makes it so that a different hack is required to exploit each controller. The same exact exploit can’t be used against more than one controller.”
*** (emphasis added)
Go, ONR, go! This can save lives of U.S. sailors.

U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence - Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 7 September - 7 October 2015

U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence - Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 7 September - 7 October 2015

Saturday, October 10, 2015

On Midrats 11 October 15 -Episode 301: "Confessions of a Major Program Manager, w/ CAPT Mark Vandroff, USN"

Please join us at 5pm (Eastern) on 11 Oct 15 for Midrats Episode 301: Confessions of a Major Program Manager, w/ CAPT Mark Vandroff, USN:
One man's chore is another man's hobby. Another man's dread, is the other's fantasy. Such, in a fashion, is Program Management in the Navy.

To be a good one, step one is to be self-aware. From his latest article in USNI's Proceedings, Confessions of a Major Program Manager, Captain Mark Vandroff, USN just lays it out; "Face it: Everyone hates MPMs. For the budget-conscious officials in the Pentagon, our products are never cheap enough. For technologists both inside and outside the Department of Defense who want military progress to be state of the art, our products are never fielded fast enough. For the fleet users and their advocates, products could always be more capable, usable, or maintainable. Industry gets upset when we treat the taxpayers’ money like it is worth saving rather than help Wall Street with its next earnings report. Our uniformed brothers and sisters, support scientists, contractors, and comptrollers all loathe us—and if

you aren’t in one of those groups, you probably quit reading already."

Coming back to Midrats, we will have the author on for the full hour to discuss the dark art of the program manager, what it takes to be one, and why at the end of the day someone would - really - come to love it all.
Join us live if you can (or pick the show up later) by clicking here. Or you can find the show later on out iTunes page here.

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Suspense "Sorry, Wrong Number"

One of the premier drama programs of the Golden Age of Radio, was subtitled "radio's
outstanding theater of thrills" and focused on suspense thriller-type scripts, usually featuring leading Hollywood actors of the era. Approximately 945 episodes were broadcast during its long run, and more than 900 still exist.

Suspense went through several major phases, characterized by different hosts, sponsors, and director/producers. Formula plot devices were followed for all but a handful of episodes: the protagonist was usually a normal person suddenly dropped into a threatening or bizarre situation; solutions were "withheld until the last possible second"; and evildoers were usually punished in the end.
Here's "Sorry, Wrong Number" featuring Agnes Morehead. Yes, this radio show that preceded the movies of the same name.

Of course, to some of you who have grown up with more modern telephone and caller id and all that, this may seems a little odd. But think of it as time travel . . .

Friday, October 09, 2015

Friday Fun Film: "Operation Inland Seas" (1960)

Nice little film concerning the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 and the U.S. Navy's use of that valuable asset. As noted here:
The St. Lawrence Seaway is the system of locks, canals, and channels that permits ocean-going vessels to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, including the St. Lawrence River which follows from Lake Ontario to the Atlantic Ocean. Beginning in the 1890s, the first proposals for a binational U.S. and Canadian comprehensive deep waterway along the St. Lawrence River were developed. Since its inception and continuing today, the Seaway has remained invaluable for American and Canadian trade.
Narrated by Glenn Ford, then a LCDR, USNR-R, a reserve public affairs officer. Added bonus, sailors marching.

See also St. Lawrence Seaway System.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Disaster Prep Wednesday (Late Version): Have an Emergency Kit!

This a short post - but there is a need to repeat the advice often given here - "Have a plan and an Emergency Kit." That kit should include at least 3 days food and water for every family member (yes, and for your pets, too). Really, what you are planning for doesn't make all that much difference, so long as you focus on the essentials like food and water. Especially adequate amounts of clean drinking water.


We have just seen the enormous damage wrought by incredible rain fall in parts of North Carolina and especially in South Carolina and there are Health concerns abound in aftermath of flooding:
People served by the City of Columbia's water system - 375,000 in all - have been advised for several days to boil all water before drinking or cooking with it due to pipeline ruptures throughout the system. This process can kill most disease-causing microorganisms that may be present in the water. Using regular, unscented bleach can also decontaminate the water if boiling isn't an option.

Drinking infected water can cause illness similar to food poisoning, with symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, cramps and mild fever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As with any illness, health officials advise that staying hydrated - by drinking clean, disinfected water - is the best remedy.
Your earliest, very best source for that clean water is from the supply you've kept on hand for just such an emergency. But there is more -see Disaster Prep Wednesday: Water, Water, Water which contains these ideas:
3. Make sure you have some chlorine bleach in your disaster kit for water purification. It only takes a few drops per gallon, so you can keep several small containers around.
4. You might want to invest in a simple (but not cheap) camping water treatment kit. REI has a good guide on How to Choose a Water Filter.
Now, the point is that many of the affected people in South Carolina had no expectation that things might go totally FUBAR as the result of a rain storm. They might have expected something from the hurricane that drifted by, but most of that would have whacked the coast. Whereas much of the flooding bad news is in the center of the state - on rivers and places where dams have failed. All of which makes the point - one the Boys Scout have long made - "Be Prepared"

You never know what might happen exactly, but you can be assured something will happen. AND real help won't be there for a few days. You can count on that.

Have a plan, have a kit.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Back to the Mostly Cold War? "Russian 'Arc Of Steel' From Arctic To Med" to Replace Rusted Out "Iron Curtain?"

Interesting read in the Navy Times US: Russia Building 'Arc Of Steel' From Arctic To Med
Ferguson described Russian activity on multiple fronts — reactivating Cold War military bases in the Arctic, reviving capabilities in the Baltic, and the recent deployment of ground, air and sea forces to Syria.

"This remilitarization of Russian security policy is evident by the construction of an arc of steel from the Arctic to the Mediterranean," Ferguson said. "Starting in their new Arctic bases, to Leningrad in the Baltic and Crimea in the Black Sea, Russia has introduced advanced air defense, cruise missile systems and new platforms.

"It is also building the capability to project power in the maritime domain. Their base in Syria now gives them the opportunity to do so in the Eastern Mediterranean.

"This is a sea denial strategy focused on NATO maritime forces. Their intent is to have the ability to hold at risk the maritime forces operating in these areas and thus deter NATO operations."

On land Russia could confront Black Sea countries, Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The sea frontiers form flanking areas that would support operations on the ground.
I think, when former Secretary of State Clinton had that idiotic "reset" button, the Russians took a different meaning (and perhaps the one set out in the mis-translated item) out of it.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Whether Putin Is Playing Chess or Checkers, He Seems to be One Jump Ahead of Obama

Well, there was this:
Dershowitz: Obama Playing Checkers, Putin Playing Chess
Then White House Spokesman: Putin is Playing Checkers, Not Chess:
White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin was playing checkers, not chess, the latest in a series of attempts to paint Putin as weak.
“One could look at that and say the Russians could be playing for time and tilting the chess board toward their guy. Does the White House walk away thinking that right now, or is the jury still out on whether Putin is following through on this agreement?” she asked.

Earnest was quick to debunk the claim that Putin was a chess player.

“There is one premise of your question that I would disagree with. I don’t think President Putin is playing chess—he is playing checkers,” he said.
What does Russia want out of the Syria mess? I 've said it before that it is the warm water port on the Mediterranean but others have said it, too - see What’s at stake for Russia in Syria:
Connelly said that although Tartus may not be significant militarily, it represents a last vestige of Russian influence in the region.

"It is... of symbolic importance. It marks Syria as one of the few countries in the region with which Russia continues to enjoy warm relations," he said.

The U.S. meanwhile has effectively withdrawn from Syria,leaving the bilateral relationship in shambles. In a research note late on Monday, the International Crisis Group suggested diplomatic efforts might prove more successful. It advised developing a "realistic compromise political offer" and reaching out to both Russia and Iran, "rather than investing in a prolonged conflicted that has a seemingly bottomless capacity to escalate."
and  The Link Between Putin’s Military Campaigns in Syria and Ukraine:
Ports, and especially warm-water ports, have long played an important role in Russian foreign policy.
Tartus lies on Syria’s western coast and has had a Russian naval presence since 1971. At the time, the Soviet Union was Syria’s primary arms supplier and used the deep-water port as a destination for shipments of Soviet weapons. Russia managed to maintain access to Tartus after the fall of the U.S.S.R. due in part to a deal that wrote off Syrian debts to the Soviet Union. The Russian naval base itself is reportedly less than impressive—it lacks large-scale repair facilities and a command-and-control capability, which would allow Russia to oversee operations from Tartus—but it is able to accommodate all Russian naval vessels except for the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, and offers a means of offloading arms and personnel.
The base in Tartus may be less valuable than its counterpart in Sevastopol, but the location of the former matters. As the sole Russian naval base beyond the Bosporus—which is controlled by Turkey, a NATO member—Tartus helps establish Russia’s presence in the Mediterranean. “A big part of their continued interest in Syria and in [Syrian President Bashar] Assad has to do with” the Tartus base, Mankoff said. “I think Russia does have a bigger geopolitical view of the world, regards the eastern Mediterranean as an area of importance, and wants to be sure that it can secure its interests there.” According to General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s top commander, Tartus may also be part of a Russian effort to establish an anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) bubble over Syria, designed to prevent NATO forces from taking offensive action against Russia and its allies in the region. As Vice Admiral Viktor Chirkov, the commander in chief of the Russian Navy, succinctly put it, “This base is essential to us.”
Of course, Putin has the advantage of knowing what he wants out of the debacle in Syria. Obama? Not so much . . .

U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence World Wide Threat to Shipping Report for 30 Sept 15

U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence World Wide Threat to Shipping Report for 30 Sept 15

Saturday, October 03, 2015

On Midrats 4 Oct 2015 - Episode 300: USS Neosho (AO-23),USS Sims (DD-409) and the Battle of the Coral Sea

Please join us at 5pm (EDT) on 4 October 2015 for Midrats Episode 300: USS Neosho (AO-23),USS Sims (DD-409) and the Battle of the Coral Sea
Wars are full of accidental battles, unexpected horror, and the valor of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

Often lost in the sweeping stories of the Pacific in WWII, there is a story that - if not for one man's inability to properly recognize one ship from another - should have never have happened. Because of that one man's mistake, and a leader's stubborn enthusiasm to double down on that mistake, the lived of hundreds of men were lost - and possibly the course of a pivotal early battle changed.

Our guest for the full hour will be author Don Keith to discuss the tale of the USS Neosho (AO-23) and USS Sims (DD-409) at the Battle of the Coral Sea in his latest book, The Ship That Wouldn't Die: The Saga of the USS Neosho- A World War II Story of Courage and Survival at Sea.

Don is an award-winning and best-selling author of books on a wide range of topics. In addition to being a prolific writer, he also has a background in broadcast journalism from on-the-air personality to ownership.

Don’s web site is
Join us live if you can (or pick the show up later) by clicking here. Or you can also retrieve the show later (along with any of our other shows) from our iTunes page.

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Have Gun Will Travel - "The Statue of San Sabastian"

Have Gun Will Travel:
"Have Gun Will Travel," the 106 episode radio Western created by Sam Rolfe and Herb Meadow (starring John Dehner as Paladin) was broadcast on ABC radio, November 23, 1958 to November 22, 1960. Paladin 'Gun For Hire' lived in & worked out of the Carleton Hotel, in 1875 San Francisco. During many episodes, we heard Paladin in conversation with the Carleton Hotel's Chinese bell hop, 'Hey-Boy' (starring Ben Wright).

Have Gun Will Travel was one of those very rare programs which got its START as a top rated television show (CBS TV 1957 thru 1963, starring Richard Boone), successfully moving to radio broadcast, there-after.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Friday Fun Film: Airship Action featuring USS Macon (ZRS-5)

A bit from the film "Here Comes the Navy (1934) with James Cagney, Pat O'Brien. Can't find the whole movie, but I like this clip: