Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Effects of EMP ATTACKS!

I have been reading  One Second After by William R. Forstchen.

It discusses the result of an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) attack on the United States. Without going into the merits of the actual story, it does portray a frightening scenario of an attack on the United States using nuclear weapons burst 200 miles above the United States.

The effect of one of these bombs would be to release a very quick electromagnetic pulse over a very broad area. As noted in the book, just three bombs would cover the area of the United States. The effect as portrayed by the Author would be to knock out all electrical and electronic systems (not using old style vacuum tubes) immediately. What is immediately obvious in the story is that all of the modern cars are and trucks (built after 1980 with their on board electronics) are fried.

But the  Official Report goes into details as to the immediate effect on vehicles. Automobiles that were turned off showed no damage, automobiles that were running cut off 10% of the time, but were immediately able to restart after coasting to a stop. In the case of trucks, one of the thirteen tested did have to be towed. While obviously disruptive, this is a far cry from the thousands immediately stranded on the highways. Further, it notes that the effects on most electronic medical devices would be limited.

As noted in the report, the primary damage from an EMP attack would be to knock out the electrical system. This would be devastating of course, but requires a different set of protective measures than trying to build a Faraday cage around your car.  The books website does reference the report on a separate tab.  Possibly it was not available to the Author at the time the story was written.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mississippi Mounds

The Mississippian Mound Culture is one that I would like to learn more about.  It is one of the many disappeared cultural groups that can be found throughout  pre-history.  They suffer from a lack of respect and a lot of pseudo factual speculation.

In looking around the web, I see a lot of discussion of them as a "Chieftain Culture".  But when you look at the geographic spread of the culture this seems hard to justify.

Having a corn based culture, and this same corn would have come recently from Central America, it seems rather obvious that there was a least some derivative connection with the Temple Builders of that area.  But since they used the building materials most available to the area, there is enough dissimilarity to question the extent (and possibly even the fact of) the influence.  I have seen some glancing mention of human sacrifices associated with the remains.

Another common assumption is that the Mississippi culture is the forerunner to many of the latter groups that the Europeans were more familiar with.  However, it is not clear why a collapsing agricultural society is a good candidate for forerunner of anything.  When the Hittites collapsed in back in the biblical times, they remained completely unknown until their architectural remains were found.  There is one remote successor group mentioned in the bible, and that is about it.

Maintaining a complex cultural identity takes a lot of time and energy.   When "things get simple" most of that appears to go out the window. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Loans for Consumption

In the 1920s and into the 1930s one response to the increased production capacity of the modern industrial assembly techniques was the beginning of consumer finance.  At that time it generally took the form of installment payments.  China, with the a bubble driven production capacity faces similar difficulties today.

Relevant to this issue, Michael Pettis does another fine piece on the Chinese economy.  This is actually only a small portion of it.

Have We Underestimated Chinese Consumption? Aug 27th, 2010 by Michael Pettis

How do we know that China has an under-consumption problem? To answer that question it is unnecessary even to look at the consumption statistics. All you need to know is that China has a very high investment rate (perhaps the highest in the world) and a huge trade surplus.
Every country produces goods and either consumes or invests those goods. This is not quite an accounting identity, but it becomes one if you take into account the trade balance. Why? Because if it produces more than it consumes or invests, it must run a trade surplus. If it produces less, it must run a trade deficit. In other words by definition what ever you produce is equal to what you invest plus what you consume plus or minus the trade balance.

China has an extremely high investment rate, perhaps the highest ever recorded for a medium or large economy. Countries with high investment rates should normally run trade deficits, since there is so little left over of their production for them to consume that they must import the balance. This is what happened, for example, to the US during most of the 19th Century.

But China has probably the highest trade surplus ever recorded. This means that an extraordinarily large portion of its production is invested, and another extraordinarily large portion is exported. So what about consumption? The only way a country can run an extraordinarily high investment rate and an extraordinarily high trade surplus is if consumption is extraordinarily low.

So almosot by definition we know that consumption in China is extraordinarily low as a share of its total production. It is unnecessary to check consumption statistics to prove this.

In fact official statistics do prove it. They show that Chinese households consumed a little less than 36% of total GDP last year. This is an unprecedented number, much lower than the 65-70% typical of the US and Europe and even far below the 50-55% typical of other low-consuming Asian countries.

Fairly commen sensical but people cannot seem to get there without the help of Michael Pettis.
 The USA was the high surplus and net lending country going into the Great Depression.  It did not work out very well for us. Germany was the previouslly expansionary populist nationalistic country.  Didn't work out real well for them (or anyone else) either. The Chinese bubble just really cannot turn out well.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Defense Critical Infrastructure Program (DCIP)

Defense Critical Infrastructure Program (DCIP) is a Department of Defense (DoD) risk management program that seeks to assess, and prevent the potential and actual loss of Defense Critical Assets (DCA) and Task Critical Assets (TCA).

In practical terms the people assigned to this task go out and find the weak points within both the immediate military environment (for instance the utility switching station that supplies X base with power), to the more esoteric (the one factory within USA that builds the logic circuit needed to construct air-to-air missile type X). In theory it than tells the key decision makers of these issues and they use this information to guide their actions.

A non-classified presentation on this program can be found here: link1

The initiating directive is found here: link2

It is hard to get a handle on the verbiage at times, but essentially this is one of the primary proactive programs that the DoD uses to avoid problems before they occur. So when thinking up hypothetical disaster scenarios in one’s mind, it is important to understand that even if nothing has obviously been done with regards to some future disaster scenario, it is not necessarily because no thought was given to it.

NORCOM Scenario 11 Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD)

NORCOM Scenario 11 Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD)

Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD):

Any method used to deliberately disperse radioactive material to create terror or harm. A dirty bomb is an example of and RDD. It is made by packaging explosives (like dynamite) with radioactive material to be dispersed when the bomb goes off. Source http://www.evs.anl.gov/pub/doc/rdd.pdf

Note that it is generally thought that a does of 400 rem (external) over a short period of time will cause
death in approximately 50% of cases. So the above example would not be an instant death scenario.

A few of these weapons of terror have been built. But none to date have been successfully used.

Various events associated specifically with the attempted use of dirty bombs:

  • November 1995: Moscow Russia – A cache of radioactive cesium is discovered in Ismailovsky park after public boosts by the rebels as to its location.
  • December 1998: Argun, Chechnya- A container of radioactive materials attached to an explosive mine are found near a railroad line.
  • June 2002: Chicago, Illinois; Jose Padia a former gang member with known ties to Al Qaeda is arrested on suspicion of planning to build and detonate a dirty bomb within an American city. These charges are later dropped.
  • January 2003 Heart, Afghanistan: Plans and documents found on a captured computer indicate that Al Qaeda has succeeded in constructing a small dirty bomb though the device is never found.
  • November 2006, London, UK Dhiren Barot pleads guilty of conspiring to murder within the United Kingdom and United States using a radioactive dirty bomb.
  • January 2009, Belfast Maine: FBI search of the home of James G. Cummings, a white supremacist who had been shot and killed by his wife found four one-gallon containers of 35 percent hydrogen peroxide, uranium, thorium, lithium metal, thermite, aluminum powder, beryllium, boron, black iron oxide and magnesium as well as literature on how to build dirty bombs and information about cesium-137, strontium-90 and cobalt-60, radioactive materials.
  • April 2009, Ternopil Oblast, Ukraine: Arrest of a legislator and two businessmen for attempting to sell what was stated to be 3.7 kilograms of plutonium-239 but thought to actually be americium, a radioactive material commonly used in smoke detectors, which can also be used in a dirty bomb.

The likely attack:

  • Cesium -137 is the likely weapon of choice. It is readily available at medical facilities and food processing plants. It is easily dispersed in powder form and attaches to soil, concrete and building materials.

The likely effect:

  • Immediate casualties: Primarily will be factor of how large (if any) the explosion is. In general, to get the concentration needed to cause immediate illness or death, you would already be within the blast radius. The long term casualties are also not clear. Even for doses well above the “safe” limit: the added risk is essentially equivalent to that for smoking or a high fat diet.

  • Physiological Effect: There is fairly strong evidence from similar events (Sarin in Japan, Anthrax in the US, Bombings in London) that the public will not go completely crazy with panic. However, the long term impact will be very large. Seventy-five percent of the population exposed to nuclear detonation will suffer from psychological distress such as loss of sleep, inability to concentrate, or social withdrawal.

  • The cost (the big one): An estimated cleanup cost for a .7 kiloton detonation in New York City is $2.5 Trillion dollars if cleaned to the 5 rem/year limit, and $500 Billion if only to the 15 rem/year limit.* These are the current accepted “clean” standards.

Of course with the current potential cost to bailout Wall Street estimated at a potential $4.6 trillion dollars. If they had put an RDD there in 2006, some people would cal that: A Bargain.

* the source is a little unclear as to rem limit, but the cost levels are none-the-less fairly self-obvious.

Primary Sources:  Hanson, Lt. Col USAF Joel T., Raiological Sipersal Device Primer From A Terrorist's Perspective; Air War college Air University, 2008.  List of events is from the online resource for a PBS Nova special, Wikopedia, et al.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

NORCOM Scenerio 6

Looking at the Scenario Number 6 from our NORCOM list a couple of days ago link : Toxic Industrials Chemicals.

One of the difficulties with getting a grasp of what the situation is that there is no single group that tracks chemical accidents. You would think that the relatively new U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board  link would: but according to them: no.  As their site notes: “At the present time, no such comprehensive databases or statistics exist within the federal government. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), National Response Center (NRC), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), and other agencies do maintain certain accidental databases that vary in scope, completeness, and level of detail.”

So in other words they investigate on an as-needed basis, and don’t track their main focus of investigation. Sounds good!

Your first responders are usually going to be your local fire fighters. But the states will generally set up some sort of emergency response team. In North Carolina the first response is going to be the Regional Response Teams (RRT)  link. Each team has one special truck, and will raise to the site to contain the situation until a contractor can come in. That’s right the actual emergency is done by contractors. Hopefully, they already have some sort of time and material schedule set up: but the site does not mention this.

NC Regional Hazmat Regional Response Team

Of course when the situation gets really out of hand, like the 2006 Apex Waste Disposal Warehouse fire they punt link http://www.csb.gov/newsroom/detail.aspx?nid=22 . Apex is on the southern border of the State Capital (Raleigh). Good think large amounts of neuro-toxin were not released.

Add caption
Apex Fire: from probably a mile or so away.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Disaster Scenerios (continued)

One thing to look at with these scenarios is not to take them as the militaries idea of the last word on the event. The military doesn’t apparently require advanced degrees from their officers, but they appear to strongly emphasis it. Based on their love of jargon and power point slides, MBAs appear to be one of the popular choices. A quick perusal of business books will indicate that scenario planning methods are a popular alternative to “business planning.”

One strong advantage of scenario creation and work out over business planning is that you do not need to rely on an extended sequence of events to arrive at the useful point in the exercise. As Taleb  in his book the Black Swan noted at one firm he worked at, the managers always made a huge point of the companies 5 year plan. But before even 2 years were up the plan was already way off track, and the managers were gone. They are aware that Katrina was more disruptive than 1,000 killed and 5,000 hospitalized. Their scenario is looking at a plausible uncommon, but not extreme, event that they would be called out for: call it the twenty year hurricane versus the 50 year event.

When they run their exercises, they also like to add multiple perils simultaneously in an effort to stress the command structure, and get the officers used to multi-tasking their threats.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

NORCOM Scenerios

Went to a short conference the other day and heard a (non-secret) briefing put on by an officer with NORCOM. In his presentation he had a list of "Theater Castastrophe Scenerios". Since NORCOM's theater is North America I looked at them with great interest. I hope it posts somewhat legibly as I had to cut an paste from the original pdf.