Good Company

Good Company
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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Bright Star with Fred MacMurray and Irene Dunn in "The Oil Swindle" (1952)

Bright Star (aka The Irene Dunne-Fred MacMurray Show) was a 30-minute syndicated radio comedy-drama broadcast in 1952-53.
The storyline followed the misadventures of Hillsdale Morning Star editor Susan Armstrong (Irene Dunne) and her idealistic ace reporter George Harvey (Fred MacMurray) as they attempted to keep the struggling newspaper in business despite continual financial problems.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Drawing Red Lines: North Korea Tells Us It's at War with Us

Gotta love people who draw red lines, as in North Korea: U.S. "crossed the red line," effectively declared war
North Korea's top diplomat for U.S. affairs told The Associated Press on Thursday that Washington "crossed the red line" and effectively declared war by putting leader Kim Jong Un on its list of sanctioned individuals, and said a vicious showdown could erupt if the U.S. and South Korea hold annual war games as planned next month.
Han said North Korea believes the nature of the maneuvers has become openly aggressive because they reportedly now include training designed to prepare troops for the invasion of the North's capital and "decapitation strikes" aimed at killing its top leadership.
If only.

I don't see any reference to a "sea of fire," though.

Surprising, given this.

Friday Fun Film: "Naval Air Transport Service" (1944)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Department of Old Ideas Revisited: Airship Aircraft - er- Drone Carriers?

Seems like every now and then the "airship" (read as "blimp" or "dirigible") idea gets dusted off and someone proposes a great new use for them - as reported in this Aviation Week article proposing their use as "drone carriers" - Airship Carriers Could Extend Smaller UAS Capabilities :
The capability of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) continues to increase, as payloads become even smaller yet more powerful. But these aircraft have one disadvantage—range. “With the ranges we are looking at in the Pacific Theater, how do we get our small UAS to the fight?” asked DARPA Deputy Director Steve Walker at a recent conference in Washington.

DARPA’s answer is its Gremlins program, which seeks to develop a means of using existing large aircraft, transports or bombers, to launch and recover swarms of small UAS that would then cooperate to perform missions in contested airspace.

Another concept, presented by Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) and ArcXeon at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Aviation 2016 conference in Washington in June, is the AirStation, an airship that acts as an airborne carrier for UAS. In addition to military missions, the developers say the concept could support commercial package delivery operations.
I've blogged about the "Gremlin" program before at Gremlins? Really? Retrievable and Reuseable UAVs to Add to Air Mission Packages

The comments to the article are very much worth reading.

The above-referenced conference presentation, "Lighter-Than-Air (LTA) “AirStation” - Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Carrier Concept," is here.

I think we've seen this movie before:

Some ideas just never seem to get old - planes carrying planes:

Touch and Go

I grew up on Air Force bases, so jet noise and seeing touch-and-go training was once old hat to me.

When the pilot is related, however, well ----

Gosh, I remember him learning to drive a car . . . wasn't that just yesterday?

Where does the time go?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Legitimacy of Elections and Voter ID Laws

As we approach the 2016 elections - after a Democratic Party primary season now thought to have :
been - um - manipulated. See here
On July 22, 2016 WikiLeaks released around 20,000 emails apparently from top DNC officials, illustrating that Democratic officials favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. The email release, only days away from the Democratic Primary, shed light into potential election fraud (the DNC hasn’t confirmed the accuracy of the email release) and questions regarding how Clinton won the presumptive Democratic nomination.
Or here.

Of course, these allegations are mostly from frustrated Sander supporters who now feel the burn that their votes did not count because of various types of putative fraud.

A timely topic, even from a national security point of view, because one of the potential effects such fraud in the voting process may have on how people view the legitimacy of their government - if they decide it was not really elected at all, but imposed on them by powers beyond their control, they may not support it.

And this doesn't even begin to touch the conspiracy theories that hold the recent Wikileaks revelations were some sort of Russian plot to favor Mr. Trump over Hilary - see Hillary Clinton campaign blames leaked DNC emails about Sanders on Russia, a theory which seems to suggest, as some would have it, that the real corruption was the revealing of the corruption and not the primary corruption itself, if you follow me.

Well, now, there comes before us the challenges to voter identification laws - as now represented by the 20 July 2016 Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals case Veasey v. Abbott specifically Texas Senate Bill 14:
In 2011, Texas (“the State”) passed Senate Bill 14 (“SB 14”), which requires individuals to present one of several forms of photo identification in order to vote.
Plaintiffs claim that SB 14’s photo identification requirements violate the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because SB 14 was enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose and has a racially discriminatory effect.
Plaintiffs also claim that SB 14’s photo ID requirement places a substantial burden on the fundamental right to vote under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and constitutes a poll tax under the Fourteenth and Twenty-Fourth Amendments. The State defends SB 14 as a constitutional requirement imposed to prevent in-person voter fraud and increase voter confidence and turnout.
The State’s stated purpose in passing SB 14 centered on protection of the sanctity of voting, avoiding voter fraud, and promoting public confidence in the voting process. No one questions the legitimacy of these concerns as motives. The disagreement centers on whether SB 14 was passed with impermissible motives as well.
Impermissible motives apparently including discrimination against protected classes by denying the right to vote to people for whom the burden of providing one of the various permitted forms of voter ID is too heavy and would exclude "disfavored" groups of people from participating in the election process.

There's much better analysis of the current state of voter ID laws in Richard A. Epstein's Are Voter ID Laws Racist?
There are few things as controversial in American political life as voting rights. The issue surged to the fore this past week in Veasey v. Abbott when the Fifth Circuit, by a 9-6 vote, delayed the enforcement of Texas Law SB 14. This law limited the forms of photo identification that could be used when registering to vote to state driver’s licenses, U.S. passports, military photo IDs, concealed weapon permits, and U.S citizenship certificates with photographs. Although the law provided for some exceptions for poor and disabled persons, it has been attacked as the most restrictive voting rights law in the United States.
The issue of the constitutionality of photo IDs arose in 2008 in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, where the Supreme Court, by a 6-3 vote, upheld an Indiana ID law that required voters to show either state or federal picture ID by denying that such a requirement unduly infringed on anyone’s right to vote. The Court only looked at the constitutional challenge and did not consider the 1982 Voting Rights Amendments, presumably because none of the parties thought it could support a claim. Instead, Justice Stevens wrote that the law was neutral on its face, and had a permissible justification of preventing voter fraud that could upset the results of individual elections and undermine public confidence in the electoral process.

One way to look at Crawford is that preventing voter fraud is important enough to justify the small burden on individual citizens of showing photo ID—a burden no greater than that faced for getting on an airplane. The record makes this view attractive. In Texas, the required IDs were held by over 95% of the population, but among the registered voters, “Hispanic and Black voters were respectively 195% and 305% more likely than their Anglo peers to lack SB 14 ID.” No one claimed this differential rate of registration was attributable to any form of state discrimination. Texas did not charge for the required ID, though there was evidence in the record that some individual plaintiffs had difficulty in navigating the system. It was also agreed that the Texas law passed in 2011 only after tremendous political struggle on a straight party-line vote, which reflected the dominance of Republicans in both houses of the Texas legislature.

There is little question that the Fifth Circuit could have easily dismissed the entire case by a respectful citation to Crawford. But instead, it took out the heavy artillery to upend the Texas statute. If Veasey survives, it will be exceedingly difficult for any photo ID law to pass muster in the United States, at least in the absence of heavily documented instances of fraud, and perhaps not even then.
The decision in Veasey is a careless condemnation of the current system on racist grounds. It may well be that the Texas system is far from ideal, and it would be foolish for any outsider to be overconfident that the ideal set of precautions has been adopted in this case. But based on the weak evidence presented here, it is surely a mistake for a majority of the Fifth Circuit to block the law within months of a presidential election. The Supreme Court should stay Veasey and review the outcome in light of its own now denigrated decision in Crawfold. The odds are 4-4 that this will not happen.
You should read the whole 203 page decision to understand how the Fifth Circuit balanced the risk of voter fraud against that of "voter suppression."

Apparently it decided that it may be necessary to destroy fair elections (no fraud) to insure fair elections (no suppression). Or something.

UPDATE: Part of one of the dissents is priceless: From page 102 -
No one doubts our unwavering duty to enforce antidiscrimination law. But in this media-driven and hyperbolic era, the discharge of that duty requires the courage to distinguish between invidious motivation and shadows. The ill-conceived, misguided, and unsupported majority opinion shuns discernment. Because of definitive Supreme Court authority, no comparable federal court precedent in over forty years has found a state legislative act motivated by purposeful racial discrimination. Even more telling, the multithousand page record yields not a trace, much less a legitimate inference, of racial bias by the Texas Legislature. Indeed, why would a racially biased legislature have provided for a cost-free election ID card to assist poor registered voters—of all races—who might not have drivers’ licenses? Yet the majority emulates the clever capacity of Area 51 alien enthusiasts who, lacking any real evidence, espied a vast but clandestine government conspiracy to conceal the “truth.”
UPDATE2: NC Voter ID law struck down, too.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Sea Piracy Drops to 21 Year Low

Sea piracy drops to 21-year low, IMB reports:
Piracy and armed robbery at sea has fallen to its lowest levels since 1995, despite a surge in kidnappings off West Africa, according to a new report from the International Chamber of Commerce's International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

IMB's global piracy report shows 98 incidents in the first half of 2016, compared with 134 for the same period in 2015. When piracy was at its highest, in 2010 and 2003, IMB recorded 445 attacks a year.

In the first half of 2016, IMB recorded 72 vessels boarded, five hijackings, and a further 12 attempted attacks. Nine ships were fired upon. Sixty-four crew were taken hostage onboard, down from 250 in the same period last year.

"This drop in world piracy is encouraging news. Two main factors are recent improvements around Indonesia, and the continued deterrence of Somali pirates off East Africa," said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB, whose global Piracy Reporting Centre has supported the shipping industry, authorities and navies for 25 years.
A great deal of the credit for the reduction in piracy should go to the IMB and its reports on the dangers to mariners of crimes at both at sea and in port which helped gather world-wide attention to the problem.

Especially useful have been the "Live Piracy Reports" and "Live Piracy Maps" which allow rapid assessment of trends in areas around the world. Here's the current 2016 Piracy Map showing piracy and armed robbery incidents occurring to date:

A change in tactics of sea criminals is noted:
Despite global improvements, kidnappings are on the rise, with 44 crew captured for ransom in 2016, 24 of them in Nigeria, up from 10 in the first half of 2015.

"In the Gulf of Guinea, rather than oil tankers being hijacked for their cargo, there is an increasing number of incidents of crew being kidnapped for ransom," said Captain Mukundan.

The Gulf of Guinea accounted for seven of the world's 10 kidnapping incidents, with armed gangs boarding vessels 30 to 120 NM from shore. Nigerian attacks are often violent, accounting for eight of the nine vessels fired upon worldwide. IMB says many further assaults go unreported by shipowners.

IMB reported two further kidnap incidents off Sabah, where tugs and barges were targeted. And in early June, a tug and barge was hijacked off Balingian, Sarawak in Malaysia and its palm oil cargo stolen.
Obviously, the kidnapping of crews is much easier to accomplish than the taking of the entire ship - and, unlike Somalia during its piracy heyday as a failed state, the keeping of hostages is less cumbersome than trying to park a ship somewhere.

Various terrorist groups in Nigeria and the Southeast Asia have turned to hostage taking from vessels to fund their operations. See here and here. From the latter Tanker Operator link referring to the Gulf of Guinea:
“In addition, it may be that for the time being, the drop in oil prices has made oil theft a less lucrative proposition than kidnapping for ransom.
“There are indications that some kidnappers have such belief in their business model that they are increasing their logistical capacity to take in and hold more hostages, possibly for longer than is now normally the case. There are also signs that their understanding of the ‘kidnap market’ is evolving – in other words, they may be able to target their attacks with greater precision and demand higher ransoms."

Of course, there's always the story of Caesar's revenge on the pirates who held him for ransom, as set out here.

An Update on Political Correctness Run Amok

Toward the end of my post Political Correctness Run Amok, I wrote:
... does not Gov. Cuomo open up his own state to similar acts by other states on the basis of NY laws with which they disagree? Suppose NY has laws which Texas feels violate the Second Amendment - will Texas now forbid government funding of travel to New York until NY changes its laws to meet Texas standards?
An answer of sorts to that question comes in a set of complaints, referred to in New York Gov. Cuomo accused of violating Hatch Act after state ads run in North Carolina:
A former North Carolina Supreme Court judge has filed complaints with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel and a New York state ethics panel alleging that taxpayer-funded ads Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration has run in North Carolina violated the Hatch Act by interfering with the gubernatorial and legislative races in that state.

The commercials, which reference the state’s so-called transgender bathroom law, among policies by other states, “mention North Carolina and its leadership in a transparent attempt to criticize, interfere and affect the impending North Carolina elections,” according to the federal complaint filed by the retired judge, Robert F. Orr.
The federal complaint criticizes the ads as going “beyond appropriate economic-development recruitment,” saying: “By using public funds to promote New York as supporting certain policies and implicitly criticizing contrary political decisions made in North Carolina, an ethical imitation has been breached.”

The complaint specifically identifies Mr. Cuomo as having violated the Hatch Act, along with several employees of Empire State Development, New York’s economic-development agency.
According to this:
The Hatch Act restricts the political activity of individuals principally employed by state, District of Columbia, or local executive agencies and who work in connection with programs financed in whole or in part by federal loans or grants

Political Activities and Examples of Prohibited Activities
Covered state, District of Columbia and local employees may not:
use official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the results of an election or nomination ...
Good luck, Justice Orr, in getting this matter heard in today's PC climate.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: "Dangerous Assignment"

U.S. Government Agent Steve Mitchell travels the globe investigating cases of espionage, sabotage and threats to National Security.

Stars Brian Donlevy.

Here's the first radio show from 1949:

Donlevy also took the show to television for 39 episodes.

On Midrats 24 July 2016 - Episode 342: Turkey, Erdoğan & its Miltary - with Ryan Evans

Please join us at 5pm EDT (US) for Midrats Episode 342: Turkey, Erdoğan & its Miltary - with Ryan Evans:
The events of the last week in Turkey brought that critically important nation in to focus, and we are going to do the same thing for this week's episode of Midrats.

Turkey has a history of military coups as a byproduct of an ongoing drive to be a modern secular nation against the current of a deeply Islamic people. This week we are going to look at how Turkey found itself at another coup attempt, the response, and the possible impact for Turkey and its relationship with NATO, Russia, Europe, and its neighbors.

Our guest to discuss this and more for the full hour will be Ryan Evans.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk- Father of Modern Turkey

Ryan Evans is a widely published commentator and recovering academic. He deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan from 2010 – 2011 as a Social Scientist on a U.S. Army Human Terrain Team that was OPCON/TACON to the British-led Task Force Helmand. He has worked as assistant director at the Center for the National Interest, a research fellow at the Center for National Policy, and for the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence in London. He is a Fellow of the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society and received his MA from the King's College London War Studies Department.
Join us live if you can or listen later by clicking here. Or pick the show up later from either our iTunes page here or our Stitcher page here.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Political Correctness Run Amok: Using the NBA All-Star Game to Punish North Carolina

This article in The Washington Examiner "George Orwell, call your office" with this great quote about Silicon Valley:
"People here pride themselves on a kind of militant open-mindedness," Manjoo writes. "It is the kind of place that will severely punish any deviations from accepted schools of thought."
spurred me to look again at the pressure being brought on North Carolina as a result of it now famed House Bill 2 (see here), now including the National Basketball Association's decision to move the 2017 NBA All-Star game from Charlotte:
“While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2,” the NBA’s statement read.

The league did however, acknowledge that the NBA and the Hornets have been “working diligently to foster constructive dialogue and try to effect positive change.”

The league issued a statement Thursday saying the alternate site for 2017 will be named in the next few weeks. The NBA is focused on New Orleans, league sources told online site The Vertical.

McCrory and state legislators who support HB2 have said important privacy concerns are at stake. Following the NBA’s decision Thursday, McCrory continued to defend the law.

“American families should be on notice that the selective corporate elite are imposing their political will on communities in which they do business, thus bypassing the democratic and legal process,” the Republican governor said in an emailed statement.

A spokesman for Attorney General Roy Cooper, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, called the All-Star Game news “incredibly disappointing.”

“How many damaging blows does North Carolina have to take before Governor McCrory realizes that HB2 must be repealed?” the spokesman said.
The "climate created by HB2? What the heck is that? No private enterprise is affected by HB2 - at least as far as bathroom usage. The climate is seems mostly to be an effort to attack the Republican governor and state legislature. Any resident of NC is now well familiar with the "Moral Monday" movement which has been complaining ever since the Legislature passed into Republican hands during the last election - complaints covering everything from redistricting to voter ID to HB2.

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

Hard hat Navy divers have a proud tradition -

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Back to the Future: Harpoon Missiles on a High Speed, Minimally Manned Combatant?

Sometimes you just have to laugh instead of crying - here's the caption of the nearby photo:
USS Coronado (LCS 4), an Independence-variant littoral combat ship, launches the first over-the-horizon missile engagement using a Harpoon Block 1C missile. *** U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Bryce Hadley (Released)
Roughly a zillion years ago we had high speed, minimally manned warships firing Harpoon missiles:

As set out here, the Pegasus-class PHMs carried 2 quad Harpoon launchers - 39 years ago.

So, good move, LCS masters, on bringing the LCS up to 1977 weapons standards- sorta.
Above are 6 PHMs zipping along - presumably with 48 Harpoon missiles available. Something tells me all 6 cost less that a single LCs. Probably much less.

According to Defense News, Coronado's deployment configuration will be one quad box launcher.

I guess it's a start.

Update: fixed a math error and Harpoons entered the fleet in 1977.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

On Midrats 17 July 2016 Episode 341: Russia in 2016 with Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg

Please join us at 5pm (EDT) on 17 July 2016 for Midrats Episode 341 "Russia in 2016 with Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg
From the sacking of the Baltic Fleet leadership, fighting in Syria, to developments from Central Asia to the Pacific - Russia in 2016 is on the move.

To discuss the who, what, where, and why of Russia in 2016, our guest for the full hour will be Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg, Senior Analyst, CNA Strategic Studies, an Associate at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, an author, and host of the Russian Military Reform blog.

Dr. Gorenburg focuses his research on security issues in the former Soviet Union, Russian military reform, Russian foreign policy, ethnic politics and identity, and Russian regional politics. He is also the editor of the journals Problems of Post-Communism and Russian Politics and Law and a Fellow of the Truman National Security Project. From 2005 through 2010, he was the Executive Director of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies.
Join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here or later by visiting our iTunes or Stitcher pages.

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Secrets of Scotland Yard "Bone from a Voice Box"

A post-WWII true crime series, based on actual cases from Scotland Yard, a/k/a The Metropolitan Police Service.

This one takes a few seconds to get going.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

South China Sea: Face Time

The headline says it all: South China Sea: China’s desperate bid to save face:
But China occupies a unique position in the world, and its rapid expansion in trade and construction comes alongside a hierarchical view of the world in which it wants to control the supply chain and assert itself against the West, according to Euan Graham, east Asian security expert and International Security Director at the Lowy Institute.

Most importantly, the nation will not want to lose face.

Its chest-beating has only escalated as the United States proceeds with intimidatory Freedom of Navigation exercises in the South China Sea.

“We’ve got to come to terms with the fact China is a bigger country we’ve got to work with,” Asialink’s International Director Tony Milner told “We have to accommodate it in a way that doesn’t damage us too much. People in the region are realistic about this.”

If that sounds weak, Professor Milner notes that in the past, the US and the UK were the large uncontrollable nations selfishly pursuing their own interests. “China remembers,” he added.

The rest of the world may not want to be too hasty in attacking and shaming China, or aligning with the US.
Yes, that "100 years of humiliation" card and the blustery words of the Chinese government in seeking legitimacy have created a dilemma for both China and the rest of the world.

Especially since China sees that the modern rules of international relations were made while it was sleeping - or turning inward, as the case may be.

Nice shot there in that last quoted paragraph - the U.S. was involved in a great deal of things that it may now look back on with regret - but we helped the Chinese fight the Japanese in WWII and by opening extensive trade relations have helped propel them into the 21st Century. That their rickety government isn't prepared for the sort of freedom that is required to continue that prosperity is not the fault of either the U.S. or the U.K.

As has been seen recently, China's neighbors are not going to sit idly by while China runs roughshod throughout the region. If China wants to save "face" it needs to do some fast fence-mending.

UPDATE: Baby steps - see here.

UPDATE2: Good stuff here:
A former U.S. commander told lawmakers Wednesday that the tribunal's ruling has provided a clear legal foundation for Washington to take a position on the dispute. Dennis Blair, a former commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, said Washington should declare its willingness to use military force to oppose Chinese aggression at the disputed land features off the coast of the Philippines.
China is now caught between taking a hard line on safeguarding its territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea and finding a diplomatic way out of the international impasse, analysts say. Too hard of a line, such as the declaration of an air defense identification zone, will hurt China's already tarnished image around Asia, where it officially seeks to be a good neighbor.

"It is highly likely that China will undertake a show of military force to underline its sovereignty, but such measures will only aggravate China's battered image globally," Tang Siew Mun, a senior fellow at the regional strategic and political studies program under the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, wrote in an emailed reply to VOA.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

South China Sea: China Loses "9-Dash Line", "Island Claims" and "Historical Use" Claims in Court, Denies It

China denies that "Western" justice is just as Philippines wins South China Sea case against China
China has lost a key international legal case over strategic reefs and atolls that it claims would give it control over disputed waters of the South China Sea.

The judgment by an international tribunal in The Hague is overwhelmingly in favour of claims by the Philippines and will increase global diplomatic pressure on Beijing to scale back military expansion in the sensitive area. By depriving certain outcrops of territorial-generating status, the ruling effectively punches holes in China’s all-encompassing “nine-dash” line that stretches deep into the South China Sea.

China reacted angrily to the verdict, which declares large areas of the sea to be neutral international waters or the exclusive economic zones of other countries. Xinhua, the country’s official news agency, hit out at what it described as an “ill-founded” ruling that was “naturally null and void”.
More here:
On Tuesday morning, a tribunal of five judges at Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration issued a highly anticipated and unanimous award in Republic of Philippines v. People’s Republic of China, a case filed in 2013 by Manila concerning maritime entitlements and the status of features in the South China Sea, among other issues.

The Tribunal’s award is highly favorable to the Philippines, ruling that China’s nine-dash line claim and accompanying claims to historic rights have no validity under international law; that no feature in the Spratly Islands, including Taiwan-occupied Itu Aba (or Taiping Island), is an island under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); and that the behavior of Chinese ships physically obstructing Philippine vessels is unlawful.

Perhaps the most significant finding–and the one most likely to disturb China–is the Tribunal’s award that China’s nine-dash line and claim to historic rights in the South China Sea are both invalid under international law.
The Diplomat website posted the decision here in a 500-page pdf.

UPDATE: Of course, the Permanent Court of Arbitration has no navy to enforce its ruling. For that matter, neither has the Philippines to any real extent.

UPDATE2: Excellent analysis by CSIS here. Enforcement to be "moral suasion?"

UPDATE3: Last part of the decision. "COnvention" refers to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS):
In relation to the merits of the Parties’ disputes, the Tribunal:

(1) DECLARES that, as between the Philippines and China, the Convention defines
the scope of maritime entitlements in the South China Sea, which may not extend
beyond the limits imposed therein;
(2) DECLARES that, as between the Philippines and China, China’s claims to historic
rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction, with respect to the maritime areas
of the South China Sea encompassed by the relevant part of the ‘nine-dash line’ are
contrary to the Convention and without lawful effect to the extent that they exceed
the geographic and substantive limits of China’s maritime entitlements under the
Convention; and further DECLARES that the Convention superseded any historic
rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction, in excess of the limits imposed
(3) FINDS, with respect to the status of features in the South China Sea:
a. that it has sufficient information concerning tidal conditions in the South
China Sea such that the practical considerations concerning the selection of
the vertical datum and tidal model referenced in paragraphs 401 and 403 of
the Tribunal’s Award on Jurisdiction and Admissibility of 29 October 2015
do not pose an impediment to the identification of the status of features;
b. that Scarborough Shoal, Gaven Reef (North), McKennan Reef, Johnson
Reef, Cuarteron Reef, and Fiery Cross Reef include, or in their natural
condition did include, naturally formed areas of land, surrounded by water,
which are above water at high tide, within the meaning of Article 121(1) of
the Convention;
c. that Subi Reef, Gaven Reef (South), Hughes Reef, Mischief Reef, and
Second Thomas Shoal, are low-tide elevations, within the meaning of
Article 13 of the Convention;
d. that Subi Reef lies within 12 nautical miles of the high-tide feature of Sandy
Cay on the reefs to the west of Thitu;
e. that Gaven Reef (South) lies within 12 nautical miles of the high-tide
features of Gaven Reef (North) and Namyit Island; and
f. that Hughes Reef lies within 12 nautical miles of the high-tide features of
McKennan Reef and Sin Cowe Island;
(4) DECLARES that, as low-tide elevations, Mischief Reef and Second Thomas Shoal
do not generate entitlements to a territorial sea, exclusive economic zone, or
continental shelf and are not features that are capable of appropriation;
(5) DECLARES that, as low-tide elevations, Subi Reef, Gaven Reef (South), and
Hughes Reef do not generate entitlements to a territorial sea, exclusive economic
zone, or continental shelf and are not features that are capable of appropriation, but
may be used as the baseline for measuring the breadth of the territorial sea of
high-tide features situated at a distance not exceeding the breadth of the territorial
(6) DECLARES that Scarborough Shoal, Gaven Reef (North), McKennan Reef,
Johnson Reef, Cuarteron Reef, and Fiery Cross Reef, in their natural condition, are
rocks that cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own, within
the meaning of Article 121(3) of the Convention and accordingly that Scarborough
Shoal, Gaven Reef (North), McKennan Reef, Johnson Reef, Cuarteron Reef, and
Fiery Cross Reef generate no entitlement to an exclusive economic zone or
continental shelf;
(7) FINDS with respect to the status of other features in the South China Sea:
a. that none of the high-tide features in the Spratly Islands, in their natural
condition, are capable of sustaining human habitation or economic life of
their own within the meaning of Article 121(3) of the Convention;
b. that none of the high-tide features in the Spratly Islands generate
entitlements to an exclusive economic zone or continental shelf; and
c. that therefore there is no entitlement to an exclusive economic zone or
continental shelf generated by any feature claimed by China that would
overlap the entitlements of the Philippines in the area of Mischief Reef and
Second Thomas Shoal; and
DECLARES that Mischief Reef and Second Thomas Shoal are within the
exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Philippines;
(8) DECLARES that China has, through the operation of its marine surveillance
vessels in relation to M/V Veritas Voyager on 1 and 2 March 2011 breached its
obligations under Article 77 of the Convention with respect to the Philippines’
sovereign rights over the non-living resources of its continental shelf in the area of
Reed Bank;
(9) DECLARES that China has, by promulgating its 2012 moratorium on fishing in the
South China Sea, without exception for areas of the South China Sea falling within
the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines and without limiting the
moratorium to Chinese flagged vessels, breached its obligations under Article 56 of the Convention with respect to the Philippines’ sovereign rights over the living
resources of its exclusive economic zone;
(10) FINDS, with respect to fishing by Chinese vessels at Mischief Reef and Second
Thomas Shoal:
a. that, in May 2013, fishermen from Chinese flagged vessels engaged in
fishing within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone at Mischief Reef
and Second Thomas Shoal; and
b. that China, through the operation of its marine surveillance vessels, was
aware of, tolerated, and failed to exercise due diligence to prevent such
fishing by Chinese flagged vessels; and
c. that therefore China has failed to exhibit due regard for the Philippines’
sovereign rights with respect to fisheries in its exclusive economic zone; and
DECLARES that China has breached its obligations under Article 58(3) of the
(11) FINDS that Scarborough Shoal has been a traditional fishing ground for fishermen
of many nationalities and DECLARES that China has, through the operation of its
official vessels at Scarborough Shoal from May 2012 onwards, unlawfully
prevented fishermen from the Philippines from engaging in traditional fishing at
Scarborough Shoal;
(12) FINDS, with respect to the protection and preservation of the marine environment
in the South China Sea:
a. that fishermen from Chinese flagged vessels have engaged in the harvesting
of endangered species on a significant scale;
b. that fishermen from Chinese flagged vessels have engaged in the harvesting
of giant clams in a manner that is severely destructive of the coral reef
ecosystem; and
c. that China was aware of, tolerated, protected, and failed to prevent the aforementioned
harmful activities; and
DECLARES that China has breached its obligations under Articles 192 and 194(5)
of the Convention;
(13) FINDS further, with respect to the protection and preservation of the marine
environment in the South China Sea:
a. that China’s land reclamation and construction of artificial islands,
installations, and structures at Cuarteron Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, Gaven Reef
(North), Johnson Reef, Hughes Reef, Subi Reef, and Mischief Reef has
caused severe, irreparable harm to the coral reef ecosystem;
b. that China has not cooperated or coordinated with the other States bordering
the South China Sea concerning the protection and preservation of the
marine environment concerning such activities; and
c. that China has failed to communicate an assessment of the potential effects
of such activities on the marine environment, within the meaning of
Article 206 of the Convention; and
DECLARES that China has breached its obligations under Articles 123, 192,
194(1), 194(5), 197, and 206 of the Convention;
(14) With respect to China’s construction of artificial islands, installations, and
structures at Mischief Reef:
a. FINDS that China has engaged in the construction of artificial islands,
installations, and structures at Mischief Reef without the authorisation of the
b. RECALLS (i) its finding that Mischief Reef is a low-tide elevation, (ii) its
declaration that low-tide elevations are not capable of appropriation, and
(iii) its declaration that Mischief Reef is within the exclusive economic zone
and continental shelf of the Philippines; and
c. DECLARES that China has breached Articles 60 and 80 of the Convention
with respect to the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic
zone and continental shelf;
(15) FINDS, with respect to the operation of Chinese law enforcement vessels in the
vicinity of Scarborough Shoal:
a. that China’s operation of its law enforcement vessels on 28 April 2012 and
26 May 2012 created serious risk of collision and danger to Philippine ships
and personnel; and
b. that China’s operation of its law enforcement vessels on 28 April 2012 and
26 May 2012 violated Rules 2, 6, 7, 8, 15, and 16 of the Convention on the
International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972; and
DECLARES that China has breached its obligations under Article 94 of the
Convention; and
(16) FINDS that, during the time in which these dispute resolution proceedings were
ongoing, China:
a. has built a large artificial island on Mischief Reef, a low-tide elevation
located in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines;
b. has caused—through its land reclamation and construction of artificial
islands, installations, and structures—severe, irreparable harm to the coral
reef ecosystem at Mischief Reef, Cuarteron Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, Gaven
Reef (North), Johnson Reef, Hughes Reef, and Subi Reef; and
c. has permanently destroyed—through its land reclamation and construction
of artificial islands, installations, and structures—evidence of the natural
condition of Mischief Reef, Cuarteron Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, Gaven Reef
(North), Johnson Reef, Hughes Reef, and Subi Reef; and
FINDS further that China:
d. has aggravated the Parties’ dispute concerning their respective rights and
entitlements in the area of Mischief Reef;
e. has aggravated the Parties’ dispute concerning the protection and
preservation of the marine environment at Mischief Reef;
f. has extended the scope of the Parties’ dispute concerning the protection and
preservation of the marine environment to Cuarteron Reef, Fiery Cross Reef,
Gaven Reef (North), Johnson Reef, Hughes Reef, and Subi Reef; and
g. has aggravated the Parties’ dispute concerning the status of maritime
features in the Spratly Islands and their capacity to generate entitlements to
maritime zones; and
DECLARES that China has breached its obligations pursuant to Articles 279, 296,
and 300 of the Convention, as well as pursuant to general international law, to
abstain from any measure capable of exercising a prejudicial effect in regard to the
execution of the decisions to be given and in general, not to allow any step of any
kind to be taken which might aggravate or extend the dispute during such time as
dispute resolution proceedings were ongoing.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Spread the Word: China's Stealth Navy - Its "Maritime Militia"

China has two major blue water forces - its navy (PLAN) and its coast guard. It also has a huge merchant fleet. But there is another force it doesn't want you to notice - an asymmetric force trying to fly under the radar. A force as our guest on Midrats, Andrew Ericson, points out that has not been officially recognized by the U.S. government, though it has been engaged in all sorts of adventures - including the disruption of the operations of USNS Impeccable and much more. It is the Chinese "maritime militia" - designed to be a plausibly deniable force multiplier.

There are many issues that arise from the existence of such a militia, some of which Dr. Ericson discusses during our show:

Other issues are discussed in James Kraska's and Michael Monti's The Law of Naval Warfare and China's Maritime Militia (pdf):
The militia is positioned to conduct a “people’s war at sea” in any future conflict. This strategy exploits a seam in the law of naval warfare,
which protects coastal fishing vessels from capture or attack unless they are integrated into the enemy’s naval force. The maritime militia forms an irregular naval force that provides the PLAN with an inexpensive force multiplier,raising operational, legal and political challenges for any opponent.

The sheer size and scope of the vast network of China’s maritime militia complicates the battlespace, degrades any opponent’s decision-making process and exposes adversaries to political dilemmas that will make them more cautious to act against China during a maritime crisis or naval war. The legal implications are no less profound. This article concludes that the maritime
militia risks erasing the longstanding distinction between warships and civilian ships in the law of naval warfare. Although the law of naval warfare permits warships to engage civilian fishing vessels that assist enemy forces, it may be virtually impossible to distinguish between legitimate fishing vessels and those that are integrated into the PLAN as an auxiliary naval force. Regardless
of whether the maritime militia plays a decisive combat role, its presence in the theater of war confronts opponents with vexing legal and operational dilemmas.
Yes, it's legal brief of sorts, but with the Chinese engaging in some serious lawfare, it is a must read to understand the issues confronting our forces.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: This is Your FBI - "The Big Fix"

Sometimes the "fix" is in. Used to be it got punished. By the FBI.

Lately, it seems, not so much.

On Midrats 10 July 2016 Episode 340: "China's Maritime Militia" with Andrew Erickson

Please join us at 5pm EDT on 10 July 2016 for Midrats Episode 340: China's Maritime Militia with Andrew Erickson
As China continues to slowly use a variety of tools to claim portions of her maritime near-abroad in the South China Sea and elsewhere, part of their effort includes what can almost be considered naval irregular forces - a Maritime Militia.

What is China doing with these assets, why are they being used, and what could we expect going forward as she taps in to a variety of assets to attempt to establish her authority?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss this and more will be Dr. Andrew S. Erickson.

Dr. Erickson is Professor of Strategy at the U.S. Naval War College (NWC)’s China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI). Since 2008 he has been an Associate in Research at Harvard University’s John King Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, and is an expert contributor to the Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time Report, for which he has authored or coauthored thirty-seven articles.

He received his Ph.D. and M.A. in international relations and comparative politics from Princeton University and graduated magna cum laude from Amherst College with a B.A. in history and political science. He has studied Mandarin in the Princeton in Beijing program at Beijing Normal University’s College of Chinese Language and Culture; and Japanese language, politics, and economics in the year-long Associated Kyoto Program at Doshisha University. Erickson previously worked for Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) as a Chinese translator and technical analyst. He gained early experience working briefly at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, the U.S. Senate, and the White House. Proficient in Mandarin Chinese and conversant in Japanese, he has traveled extensively in Asia and has lived in China, Japan, and Korea.
Join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. You can also pick the show up later by visiting our iTunes page or at our Stitcher page.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Friday Fun Film: "Star Identification" (1942) and Cartoons on Celestial Navigation

Some people like to nap in front of golf tournaments on television . . . here are some other options:

Old school celestial navigation and choosing which stars to shoot in the short windows of time you have at sea is much more fast paced than this movie.

And, of course, cartoons are much better training tool:

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Good Lawyering By One Lawyer in the Room

Usually the argument to the jury goes along the line of "if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, the only reasonable conclusion is that it is a . . . duck"

Mr. Gowdy does a nice job setting the ducks up in a row.

Feel free to disagree, but this mess stinks to high heaven and it's not going to go down quietly.

UPDATE: Rep. Hurd from Texas hits hard with concerns that any one of us who knows anything about breaches of security have:

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

In Memoriam

My great and good friend Captain Virgil F. Gant was killed in an accident last week.

Today we buried him.

A man of great good humor who faced life with pluck and a stout heart.

His passing brings to mind the Robert Burns poem:
AN HONEST man here lies at rest
As e’er God with his image blest;
The friend of man, the friend of truth,
The friend of age, and guide of youth:
Few hearts like his, with virtue warm’d,
Few heads with knowledge so informed:
If there’s another world, he lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the best of this.
Peace, old friend.

Sunday, July 03, 2016