Monday, November 30, 2020

Christmastime Old Radio Shows: Jonathan Thomas and His Christmas on the Moon #3 "Jonathan Meets Gorgonzola The Horse"

Jonathan Thomas and His Christmas on the Moon is a daily children’s series that ran between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 1938.

Proxy Wars: Iran Sends a Message to the Saudis and Threatens World Oil Supplies Again

Nice coverage and assessment of an attack on an oil tanker at Ship Attacked in Saudi Arabian Red Sea:

An oil tanker came under attack while at a Saudi Arabian terminal in the Red Sea about 125 miles north of the country’s border with Yemen, according to the vessel’s owner.

The Agrari, a so-called Aframax-class vessel able to haul about 700,000 barrels of oil, was holed about 1 meter above the waterline in the incident, a statement distributed on behalf of the carrier’s owner said. The incident took place as the ship was preparing to leave a berth at the Shuqaiq facility, having finished unloading its cargo, it said.


“There’s definitely an uptick of attacks from the Yemen side of the border onto Saudi Arabia to try and attempt to send a signal that it’s not just in the Strait of Hormuz and in the Persian Gulf that Iran has the ability to undermine Saudi oil interests and naval activities,” said Ayham Kamel, head of Middle East and North Africa at Eurasia Group, which advises clients on political risk.

More information from the International Business Times here:

The blast on the Maltese-flagged Agrari tanker follows a string of attacks by the Iran-linked rebels on Saudi oil infrastructure, highlighting the growing perils of a five-year military campaign led by the kingdom in Yemen.

The tanker was "attacked by an unknown source" while it was preparing to depart from the Red Sea port of Shuqaiq, its Greece-based operator TMS Tankers said, adding that no injuries were reported.

"The Agrari was struck about one meter above the waterline and has suffered a breach," TMS Tankers said in a statement.

"It has been confirmed that the crew are safe and there have been no injuries. No pollution has been reported."


But Wednesday's incident comes as the Iran-backed rebels step up attacks on neighbouring Saudi Arabia in retaliation for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.

On Monday, the Huthi rebels said they struck a plant operated by energy giant Saudi Aramco in the western city of Jeddah with a Quds-2 missile.

The strike, which underscores the vulnerability of Saudi Arabia's infrastructure and the rebel's advancing arsenal, tore a hole in the roof of an oil tank, triggering an explosion and fire.

Earlier this month, a fire broke out at a Saudi oil terminal off the southern province of Jizan after two explosives-laden boats launched by the rebels were intercepted by the coalition, according to the kingdom's energy ministry.

On Tuesday, the coalition said it had destroyed five naval mines planted by the Huthis in the southern Red Sea, saying such tactics posed a "serious threat to maritime security".

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly accused Iran of supplying sophisticated weapons to the Huthis, a charge Tehran denies.

Saudi Arabia is stuck in a military quagmire in Yemen, which has been locked in conflict since Huthi rebels took control of the capital Sanaa in 2014 and went on to seize much of the north.

The Saudi-led coalition intervened the following year to support the internationally recognised government, but the conflict that has shown no signs of abating.

Plugging My Brother's Book, The Last Western

If you are looking for a short, interesting book, I recommend my brother Rone Tempest's The Last Western:
Award-winning journalist and investigative reporter Rone Tempest presents the gripping true crime story of a Puerto Rico-born undercover officer gunned down by a white Wyoming lawman in 1978 — and the notorious frontier trial that followed. Of all the possible explanations for why lawman Ed Cantrell shot and killed his deputy Michael Rosa in the parking lot of the Silver Dollar saloon, the least likely was the one that prevailed at trial—that a deranged Rosa went for his gun and Cantrell outdrew him in self-defense.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Christmastime Old Radio Shows: Jonathan Thomas and His Christmas on the Moon #2 "Jonathan Promises To Find Santa Claus"

Jonathan Thomas and His Christmas on the Moon is a daily children’s series that ran between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 1938.

Update: Had a bad link, now fixed.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Christmastime Old Radio Shows: Jonathan Thomas and His Christmas on the Moon #1 "Santa Claus Is Kidnapped By The Squeebublians"


Jonathan Thomas and His Christmas on the Moon is a daily children’s series that ran between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 1938.

I'll be running this show in order from now until the shows end - 26 shows.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Giving Thanks

My many blessings include my wife of almost 50 years. 4 great children and their loved ones, 3 grandchildren, and the family, mentors, and friends who have helped me along the way. And the people I have had the pleasure to work with over the years, from the sailors who taught me so much to the Red Cross volunteers of today.

Thanks to and for them all.

As Dennis Prager notes here, "If You're Not Grateful You're Not Happy"

So be grateful for what you have, for the chance to grow, improve, and love.

It's a much better way to live.

Be happy in your Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Burns and Allen - "Thanksgiving" (1940)

Somewhat oddly, it starts with an ad for Spam.

By the way, Spam has not gone out of style and is a favored treat for long distance hikers.

For Thanksgiving, though, turkey and pumpkin pie  . . .

On Midrats 22 November 2020- Episode 568: The Problem with Proconsuls; the Combatant Commanders

Please join us at 5pm EST for Midrats Episode 568: The Problem with Proconsuls; the Combatant Commanders

34 years after Goldwater-Nichols and the rise of the Combatant Commanders (COCOMS), is our national security structures more in line with what we need in the 21 Century, or the Roman Empire’s Proconsuls?

What are these mini-Pentagons supposed to bring to the national security of the United States, and what are they actually delivering?

What do they do right, and where are they off phase?

Our returning guest for the full hour to discuss this an more will be Mackenzie Eaglen. We will use her recent article, Putting Combatant Commanders on a Demand Signal Diet at War on the Rocks as a starting point for our conversation.

Mackenzie is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where she works on defense strategy, defense budgets, and military readiness. She has also served as a staff member on the 2018 National Defense Strategy Commission, the 2014 National Defense Panel, and the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel. Prior to joining the American Enterprise Institute, she worked on defense issues in the House of Representatives, in the Senate, and at the Pentagon in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and on the Joint Staff.

If you use Apple Podcasts, and miss the show live, you can pick up this episode and others and add Midrats to your podcast list simply by going to here. Or on Spreaker. Or on Spotify.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Navy Ship Manning: "{M}an the fleet to the requirements or reduce the requirements"

Excellent discussion of the U.S. Navy's shipboard manning issues by a former Fleet Master Chief of Fleet Forces Command at the USNI Blog Manning Still Matters: A Fleet Perspective:

To those leaders making these decisions, or who are unaware of them but could influence them, I would ask, “Would you feel safe boarding a civilian airline whose maintenance department was routinely and chronically undermanned this way?” and “Would you feel comfortable letting your family?” Even though leaders and budgeters save costs in the MPN account, there are personal costs that result from reductions in their sailor’s sleep, fitness, personal time, or cognitive performance. Manning shortfalls contribute to crew fatigue and reduced crew endurance, increasing the chance of mistakes and increasing their risk tolerance to a point of ethical dilemma and decisions to cut corners with maintenance and other administrative requirements to self-manage the workload.

This is a "read the whole thing piece." Master Chief Kingsbury points out the issues caused by the efforts to save personnel dollars -

  • Overwork on some ratings at sea
  • Impact on morale and retention
  • Impact of fatigue 
  • Poor effects of "fill vice fit" manning - i.e. there's a reason the manning document calls for a certain number of quartermasters, for example. 
  • Stress Dangers of cross decking as short term fills for shortages in certain rates

Giving the fleet billets is one thing, but in a highly technical environment requiring specialized people, giving them the right billets with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to meet the job requirement is another. And, the sailor working 80 hours suffers the same effects regardless of where their unit is in the OFRP. Once any ship falls to a certain level of fit, they could be displayed as yellow or red to more accurately reflect the level of risk, so force manning managers could decide where to accept risk. To this end, leverage the new type commander human factors engineers, fleet safety officers, and naval safety center to analyze and articulate the risk to mission and force. Then, communicate to OPNAV N1 in terms of operational risk and challenge them to take actions to mitigate it, such as increasing recruiting goals, retention incentives, or adjusting distribution policies.

From the Navy's Core Values Charter

“COMMITMENT” The day-to-day duty of every man and woman in the Department of the Navy is to join together as a team to improve the quality of our work, our people and ourselves. I will:

    • Foster respect up and down the chain of command. 
    • Care for the personal and spiritual well-being of my people. 
    • Show respect toward all people without regard to race, religion or gender. 
    • Always strive for positive change and personal improvement. 
    • Exhibit the highest degree of moral character, professional excellence, quality, and competence in all that I do. (emphasis added)

The "well-being" of our people ought to be the driving factor in ship manning. This has to include that the right people are put in the right positions with the right training and tools to do their jobs so that any ship - all ships- go to sea with the confidence that the men and women who serve therein are ready to take on the heavy burdens going to sea and, potentially, into harm's way involve.

Admiral Nimitz said, "Leadership consists of picking good men and helping them do their best." When we put our men and women into a fleet where they are hamstrung by manning shortfalls, we are not exercising good leadership.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Sarah Mead

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Our Miss Brooks "Thanksgiving Weekend" (1949)

On Midrats 15 November 2020- Episode 567: Carriers: Workhorse & Warhorse with Megan Eckstein & Sam LaGrone

Please join us on 15 November 2020 for Midrats Episode 567: Carriers: Workhorse & Warhorse with Megan Eckstein & Sam LaGrone

Fewer carriers are deploying more even as repeated warning lights have been going off that we are expending in peace what we will need in war when it comes to personnel and materiel in carrier aviation.

How did we get here, where are we, and where are we going?

Using her article, No Margin Left: Overworked Carrier Force Struggles to Maintain Deployments After Decades of Overuse, as a starting point and diving it to some of the additional insights she gained while writing it, Megan Eckstein from USNINews will be joining us along with Sam LaGrone.

Megan Eckstein is the deputy editor for USNI News. She previously covered Congress and the Pentagon for Defense Daily, and the surface navy and amphibious operations as an associate editor for Inside the Navy. She began her career covering the military at the Frederick (Md.) News-Post, where she wrote about personnel and family issues, military medical research, local reserve and National Guard units and more. Eckstein is a 2009 graduate of University of Maryland College Park.

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.

If you use Apple Podcasts, and miss the show live, you can pick up this episode and others and add Midrats to your podcast list simply by going to here. Or on Spreaker. Or on Spotify.

(U.S. Navy Photo by MC3 Anthony Collier)

Friday, November 13, 2020

Italian Navy Thwarts Potential Gulf of Guinea Pirate Attack

November 7, 2020 action in the GOG Report
Italian frigate Martinengo assistance to M/V Torm Alexandra was concluded yesterday at 2030. A #BrigataMarinaSanMarco team released by helicopter, cleared the vessel allowing crew to regain possession and keep navigating safely

Video here.

All happened in international waters.

Photos and video from the Italian Navy.

By the way, what nice looking frigate.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Veterans Day

Just a brief thanks to all the men and women with whom I served on active duty and in the reserves.

You are the veterans I honor on this day.

Thanks for all you taught me about service, sacrifice, and duty.

Photo by Chris Davies from here

Good Information: Law School is a Bad Investment - for Most People

From George Leef, The Worst Higher Education ‘Investment’ — Law School

At Texas Public Policy Foundation, Andrew Gillen has been doing some excellent work analyzing higher education. In a recent study, he used the Obama administration’s “Gainful Employment” methodology to see how law schools would fare if they were put to that test.

What he found was that the great majority of the schools would fail, which is to say that their graduates don’t earn enough to reasonably cover the debts they incur in getting their degrees.


There is a large need for lawyers in America, but much of the legal work doesn’t pay well enough to justify the huge expense in time and money it takes to get into the field. For that, the American Bar Association is the culprit, since it insists on a needlessly burdensome model of legal education.

My suggestion is that state governments stop mandating graduation from an ABA-accredited school before anyone can take the bar exam. Where one learns the material shouldn’t matter.

When I was in law school some states, like Georgia, still allowed people who "read the law" (didn't attend law school) to take the bar exam. Legal secretaries often took this route and became successful lawyers. The ABA model described has always seemed to me like a "restraint of trade" pretending to be a quality control mechanism.

The other big secret is that attending law school does not, at least in my experience, prepare you for the bar exams, or even, really,  much in the way of the practice of law. Instead, aspiring lawyers take various bar preparation courses that give you a rapid survey of the things that appear on bar exams, usually tied to the important legal aspects of the state whose bar you'll be taking. For example, I took bar exams in Georgia and Texas. To get up to speed for these bar exams, I took bar review courses. Not surprisingly, the Texas bar exam had questions on oil and gas law, the Georgia exam did not. The Texas bar review course covered it sufficiently for me to pass the Texas bar. See here for a listing of such courses, some of which may cost in the thousands of dollars above your law school costs. See here

Looking back, my view is that law school should take, at most, about 18 months not 3 years, and the the bulk of the important legal learning is in the first 6 months. The rest of the time could better be used to take practical topics in areas where a student thinks they might want to practice, like estate planning, maritime law, or real property law. For those who plan to become criminal defense attorneys or prosecutors, legal clinics are a great help. The idea of legal apprentices needs to be revived.

I have seen the results of the overproduction of attorneys.

Much legal "document review" work is contracted out to firms that hire recent law school grads or use offshore document reviewers. All use some sort of computerized key word document review scan to highlight certain key words or word groupings to make the hunt for privileged documents easier. But there's still a great deal of need for attorney reviewers to scan thousands of pages of documents.

Competition in this review business is high, and the result is that some review firms pay the bare minimum for human reviewers.

The reviewers, many of whom have significant debt from both undergrad and law school loans, taked these jobs because they have few other options. Too inexperienced to start their own firm, too low on the quality of their law school and/or class standing totem pole to get the fabled "high paying jobs," they become contract attorneys for review firms pitched as "cost savers." Being a contract attorney generally means few, if any, employment benefits.

See a pitch for review services. See reviewer benefits and disadvantages

There are even firms that specialize in recruiting and staffing document reviewers, see here:

We created DocReviewers.com to provide a better document review experience.

That means simplifying the recruitment process. One DocReviewers.com application makes you eligible for projects from multiple agencies and firms, including those you haven’t already worked with. It also means automating your conflicts and availability. You’ll receive invites to projects happening when you’re available and conflicts forms will become a thing of the past.

More at “Objection! Law schools can be hazardous to students’ financial health.” (pdf)

Saturday, November 07, 2020

On Midrats 8 November 2020- Episode 566: Post-Election Melee

Please join us at 5pm (EST) on 8 November 2020 for Midrats Episode 566: Post-Election Melee
The 2020 election is over … well, mostly over. Though there are a few threads to clean up, the fabric the next few years natsec policy will be sewn from is pretty well known – so where does that lead us?

We’ll get to that – but once again we need to invest some time to talk about Midrats’s contribution to NavyCon!

EagleOne presented a segment for NavyCon2020A, we we’re going to talk about that a bit … and then we’ll pick up where our pre-election left off.

Open topic ... and open phones!

If you use Apple Podcasts, and miss the show live, you can pick up this episode and others and add Midrats to your podcast list simply by going to here. Or on Spreaker. Or on Spotify.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

China's Government: The Bully Who Wants to Steal Your Lunch Money

China's government has Australia and other countries in it sights as it tries to bully them into stopping any criticism of China by cutting off their ability to export products to the Chinese market. In a remarkably brazen show of hypocrisy, as the Sydney Morning Herald reports, Xi says it's 'ill advised to hurt the interests of others' as Australia braces for $6 billion hit:
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has denied it is ratcheting up economic pressure to win diplomatic concessions. On Wednesday, a day after a verbal notice relayed by customs agents was delivered to traders telling them to stop importing Australian products, it said any restrictions on imports were a matter for individual companies.
Truth in China is a pretty flexible concept, but its bully boy actions speak louder than its lies.

Monday, November 02, 2020

NAVYCON 2020A: Someone Made the Mistake of Inviting Me to Talk

NAVYCON 2020A goes live November 5 at 7pm Eastern

Lots of great presenters, interesting topics combining science fiction and military thinking together.

I think I was invited because I watched Star Trek (original series) when it first came on the air back in the 1960's. By the time most of the other presenters were born those shows were over 20 years old. Designated old guy, that's me.

Speaker list

Abstracts and background documents here.

You can register here.

I get to rant talk about training and make the other presenters look good.

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) for 1 October to 28 October 2020

U.S. Navy Office of Naval I... by lawofsea