Friday, April 23, 2010

Quick Hits - Aftermath of Climate Gate

Missing Heat Update
Some of you may recall that I commented on NCAR looking for "missing heat" almost two years ago.  Here is a link to that post. Kevin Trenberth and his buddies are still worried about this fictitious heat.  Roger Pielke, Sr., a leading climate expert (to me that means he doesn't rely on computer models), dissects the real issues with Trenberth et al at Watts Up With That.  Here was my original explanation and my views haven't changed in the last two years (this was one of Kristy's favorite):

  • "Here is my final explanation for the location of the missing heat. It is in the same place where you guys keep the $20+ billion dollars of hard earned taxes spent on the AGW modeling boondoggle. Vanished, like the proverbial fart in the wind."
Global Warming Now Causes Volcanoes
Well, that is essentially the conclusion in this news article.  Is there anything that doesn't cause or result from global warming?  Well, apparently not.
  • "Now that's funny.  I don't care who you are." -- Larry the Cable Guy
Really Quick Hits
How much has your state "warmed" in the 104 year climate record?  You can find out at Watts Up With That.
  • Arkansas has COOLED by 0.2 degrees (you couldn't detect this in a room in which you were sitting) during all this global warming. 
Once again, Watts Up With That tells you about the final nails in the coffin on the famous hockey stick graph.
  • This is the graph that Al Gore uses to scare school children, and once again, we find it to be a total fiction.
Well, that clears out my feed reader of climate stories.  The bad science is still out there, but "Junk Science" has even moved the global warming stuff to the back burner.  The editor there believes that Climategate was the final bell tolling for the flawed science of AGW.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Nuclear Posture Review Report - Post #2

As I mentioned a week or so ago, I reviewed the NPR report issued by the Obama administration. You can download the report here.  I finally finished the entire 72-page document.  This post will deal with the second half of the executive summary. Again, before I continue commenting on the NPR, I need to add a disclaimer.  I am employed by Sandia National Laboratories. The views written here are not the official position of SNL and should not be viewed that way. They are my views as a private citizen.

I stopped the previous post at the section entitled "Strengthening Regional Deterrence and Reassuring U.S. Allies and Partners" in the Executive Summary.  Believe it or not, I went almost a page and a half before finding a major issue that I don't really agree with or understand.  On page xiii, we have this item in the list of things that are concluded that the U.S. will do:

  • "Retire the nuclear-equipped sea-launched cruise missile (TLAM-N)."
Although the air-launch cruise missile is not removed from the current stockpile by the NPR, this particular item causes me some heartburn.  It removes an element of our capability to project force.  Here is what I mean.  Imagine that Iran knows that we are no longer be able to station nuclear equipped surface ships or submarines just off their coast or in the Strait of Hormuz. This means our stealthy attack submarines or very visible surface ships do not present as big a deterrent to their nuclear (or other) ambitions. To attack them tactically (I don't think strategic systems make sense in this discussion), we would be forced to fly bombers halfway across the world (risking the crew and aircraft) rather than having the force ready and able on their doorstep.

Now, it could very well be that I don't understand the complete context in which this decision is being made.  However, I don't see how this particular decision does what the title of the section implies. It does not strengthen regional deterrence and it doesn't reassure our allies and partners.  In my view, it weakens both of these things. The very next bullet in the section declares that "no changes ... will be made without close consultations with our allies and partners."  I am not sure that our allies and partners will believe that based on the decision in the previous bullet.  I know that I wouldn't.

As I continued on to the "Sustaining a Safe, Secure, and Effective Nuclear Arsenal" section, I question the decision not to develop new designs (page xiv, bullet 2). I will address this in a future post. To be completely fair, the final two bullets on page xiv seem reasonable.  These items do move the ball forward in assuring that we have a safe and reliable stockpile.  On a personal note, those items provide some job security for me.

The first full sentence of page xv restates something that my colleagues and I have said many times:
  • "As the United States reduces the numbers of nuclear weapons, the reliability of the remaining weapons in the stockpile -- and the quality of the facilities needed to sustain it -- become more important.
Basically, each one becomes more valuable and it is more important that we and our adversaries know that they will function if that nightmare need arises. This section of the Executive Summary seems to be more in line with the traditional outlook for our stockpile stewardship program. I found little to quibble with in the section overall excepting (of course) the no new design policy.

My only note on the concluding section of the Executive Summary ("Looking Ahead:  Toward a World Without Nuclear Weapons") is that the outlook presented is incredibly naive.  I will spend some time defining my view of this in the post relating to that chapter of the NPR. The second half of the Executive Summary did not reek havoc with my emotional state (and blood pressure) like the first half did.  However, I still believe that the worldview that produced the document leads to dangerous unintended consequences.

Monday, April 19, 2010

"Dune Messiah" Review

  • Title:  "Dune Messiah"
  • Author:  Frank Herbert
  • Finished:  January 31, 2009 
  • Synopsis:  This book is the 2nd book in the original "Dune Chronicles" by Frank Herbert.  A pretty good synopsis is found here.
  • Impression of the book: Of the six Dune books written by Frank Herbert, this one is the shortest and maybe the most disturbing.  It deals with the elevation of a ruler to Messiah or god-like status.  Paul struggles with what his followers (both political and religious) are doing in his name and his inability to stop them even with his tremendous powers.  The book deals with the dangers of religion and politics riding in the same boat.  It also demonstrates that sometimes these political-religious movements depend more on a figurehead than a true leader.
  • Read Again Scale:  10
    • Like "Dune" this book is also on my five year re-read list.
  • Read Another Book by the Same Author:  10
    • Frank Herbert is one of greats of science fiction.  Eventually, I plan to read every novel that he wrote.
Even though this is the second novel in the series, it is the last book that I read.  That is a long story.  This is an excellent bridge between Dune and Children of Dune, but does not stand out as a singular encapsulated story. It does however introduce new concepts such as the pitfalls of absolute prediction (perfect prescience) and the intrigue that surrounds an emperor with no heir. If you are a science fiction fan (or thinking of giving the genre a try), the Dune universe created by Frank Herbert is a good place to dive into.  If you enjoy the world that he creates, you might try the other books written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.  Again, I will warn you that if you don't enjoy sci-fi, take a pass on this book and series.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Nuclear Posture Review Report - Post #1

A couple of days ago the Obama administration released the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) Report.  In the past (the last two were 1994 and 2001), this sort of report had an unclassified portion released to the public with a classified appendix for those who had a need to know.  All indications with this NPR point to the fact that the entire NPR is likely contained in this unclassified 72-page document that you can download here.  At this time, I have read through the Table of Contents and the first 11 pages of the "Executive Summary."

Before I start commenting on what I believe is thoroughly misguided and naive NPR, I need to add a disclaimer.  I am employed by Sandia National Laboratories. The views written here are not the official position of SNL and should not be viewed that way. They are my views as a private citizen. Now, on with the show...

It is not often that I get choked up while reading the Table of Contents, but this NPR is a real page-turner.  The last chapter of the report is entitled, "Looking Ahead:  Toward a World Without Nuclear Weapons." This stopped me for a bit because, while this is a noble goal, it is an incredibly naive.  It is also dangerous to think the that the United States will be able to bring this about through the nuclear posture that is outlined and detailed later in the document. By the way, I was fine with the rest of the Table of Contents, so you can't say that I disagree with Obama on EVERYTHING in this document.

I don't start having real problems with the document until page viii (page 14 in the pdf).  Here are some excerpts that I would like to discuss further:

  • "... the role of U.S.nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks – conventional, biological, or chemical – has declined significantly. The United States will continue to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks."
  • "To that end, the United States is now prepared to strengthen its long-standing “negative security assurance” by declaring that the United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations."
  • "This revised assurance is intended to underscore the security benefits of adhering to and fully complying with the NPT and persuade non-nuclear weapon states party to the Treaty to work with the United States and other interested parties to adopt effective measures to strengthen the non-proliferation regime."
In case you don't understand the context, the U.S. gave up its chemical and biological weapons by treaty a long time ago, so we can't retaliate "tit for tat" with this type of weapon. The research that we do in this area is limited to the development of protective suits for our soldiers and the development of agents to deactivate or decontaminate the chem-bio agents.  In the past, we have used the unknown and ambiguous nature of our response to these types of attacks against us as a deterrent. We are now proclaiming that, as long as you are in compliance with the non-proliferation treaty, we will not retaliate with nuclear weapons even if you choose to attack us with biological or chemical weapons of mass destruction. I can't believe that I am the only one that thinks this is completely asinine and stupid.

Our soldiers went into Kuwait to expel Iraqi forces during the Gulf War wearing chem-bio protection because every one in the world KNEW that Saddam Hussein had those weapons.  Was he hesitant to use them because he was a great humanitarian?  We know that the answer to that is "NO!" because he attacked the Kurds in northern Iraq (his own people) with them in 1988. I think that he did not want his Presidential palace illuminated with a W80 warhead mounted on the front end of a Tomahawk cruise missile.  If had chosen to use these WMDs, he knew that was one of our possible responses. With this new NPR, he would not have had those fears.

My next piece of heartburn with the NPR shows up on page ix (page 15 of the pdf).  If you search for the second bullet on the page, we will find:
  • "The United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners." (emphasis added)
I know there are those of you who wonder why I would have trouble with this statement. Well, it is not the statement. It is that I simply don't trust that Obama and his administration have the same vital interests as the rest of the American people (e.g., the Health Care legislation) or our allies (e.g., snubs of the Brits and the Israelis over the last 15 months).

Now, my final bone of contention in the first 11 pages of the Executive Summary is found on page xi (page 17 in pdf):
  • "First, any future nuclear reductions must continue to strengthen deterrence of potential regional adversaries, strategic stability vis-à-vis Russia and China, and assurance of our allies and partners. This will require an updated assessment of deterrence requirements; further improvements in U.S., allied, and partner non-nuclear capabilities; focused reductions in strategic and nonstrategic weapons; and close consultations with allies and partners."
This is the classic mathematical mistake of addition by subtraction.  While it is quite clear that less regulation (subtraction in the number of rules and laws) can add to the quality of life of citizens, I don't think the principal of disarmament (subtraction in war fighting capability) in the face of growing and unknown threats in any way adds to the security of this country. I am willing to listen to counter-arguments, but it is going to be had to convince me that carrying a big stick wasn't the most important part of Teddy Roosevelt's philosophy. Instead, we are going to shout loudly that we want to be nice, and we will show you this by laying down our stick. I wonder how often that works in someplace other than La La Land.

At this point during my reading, I had reached a section heading and my blood pressure was spiking.  So, I put down the document and tried to relax a bit.  As I slog my way through this document, I think that I will post opinions on a chapter by chapter basis.  The next post will handle the rest of the Executive Summary. I have hopes that the document is better than the summary, but that is probably just more of that same "Hope and Change" that really isn't working all that well right now.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...