Combined Arctic Ops

Combined Arctic Ops

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Okay, Army People, It's True, Those Great Big Ships Are Just Giant Fishing Boats

A shocking truth!

Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Zachary Brown fishes off the fantail of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2). Essex is underway in the eastern Pacific Ocean conducting routine maritime operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William Phillips/Released)

Essex loads Marine Corps tourists back from a jaunt on the beach.

Today's Pandemic Song: "People Get Ready" The Impressions & Curtis Mayfield

Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day

"Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces."

“Liberty is never unalienable; it must be redeemed regularly with the blood of patriots or it always vanishes. Of all the so-called natural human rights that have ever been invented, liberty is least likely to be cheap and is never free of cost.”
― Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Grooks to Learn By

Piet Hein
“Problems worthy of attack
prove their worth by fighting back.”

“After all, what is art? Art is the creative process and it goes through all fields. Einstein’s theory of relativity – now that is a work of art! Einstein was more of an artist in physics than on his violin.
Art is this: art is the solution of a problem which cannot be expressed explicitly until it is solved.”

“Put up in a place
where it is easy to see
the cryptic admonishment

When you feel how depressingly
slowly you climb
it's well to remember that
Things Take Time.”

“Love while you've got love to give.
Live while you've got life to live.”


The road to wisdom?
-- Well, it's plain
and simple to express:
and err
and err again
but less
and less
and less.”

Today's Pandemic Song: "In the Mood" Glenn Miller Band

Monday, May 18, 2020

China's War with the Modern Free World

Interesting read at Tablet-  China’s Plans to Win Control of the Global Order
“The very purpose of the [Chinese Communist] Party in leading the people in revolution and development,” Xi Jinping explained to an audience of party cadres in 2012, “is to make the people prosperous, the country strong, and rejuvenate the Chinese nation.” This “rejuvenation” of the Chinese people, which might also be translated as their “revival” or “restoration,” reflects a specific understanding of Chinese history and China’s proper place in world affairs. Chinese of all political persuasions are acutely aware that China was once the standard setter in advanced civilization, the center point around which the economies and cultures of much of the Earth revolved. For many Chinese nationalists, the last two centuries have been a painful aberration from this natural order. The party labels the years that China was exploited by imperialists and divided by warlords “the century of humiliation,” a century that ended only when they took control. The century that followed—which comes to its end 29 years from now, in 2049—is different. This will be the century that makes China great again.

“The rejuvenation of the Chinese people” has been officially endorsed as the “historical mission” of the Communist Party since 1987 but it is an old dream whose origins predate the party’s founding. In the early 20th century Chinese intellectuals searched for a way to “save China,” modernize it, and restore it to the preeminence that the world’s largest civilization deserved. What made the later communists different from other Chinese modernizers was the solution they endorsed. As their sloganeering went: “Only socialism can save China.” The slogan is still in use, though Xi and other 21st-century Communists add a second clause: “Only socialism can save China, and only socialism can develop China.”
Westerners asked to think about competition with China—a minority until fairly recently, as many envisioned a China liberalized by economic integration—tend to see it through a geopolitical or military lens. But Chinese communists believe that the greatest threat to the security of their party, the stability of their country, and China’s return to its rightful place at the center of human civilization, is ideological. They are not fond of the military machines United States Pacific Command has arrayed against them, but what spooks them more than American weapons and soldiers are ideas—hostile ideas they believe America has embedded in the discourse and institutions of the existing global order. “International hostile forces [seek to] westernize and divide China” warned former CPC General Secretary Jiang Zemin more than a decade ago, and that means that, as Jiang argued in a second speech, the “old international political and economic order” created by these forces “has to be changed fundamentally” to safeguard China’s rejuvenation. Xi Jinping has endorsed this view, arguing that “since the end of the Cold War countries affected by Western values have been torn apart by war or afflicted with chaos. If we tailor our practices to Western values ... The consequences will be devastating.”
Dean Cheng of Heritage discussed this with us on Midrats:
Listen to "Episode 541: Post COVID-19 China, with Dean Cheng" on Spreaker.

China, as discussed during the show, by hook or crook, has embedded puppets in positions to attack the existing global order. Not by forces of arms, but by stealth. Dean made reference at one point in the show to John Kennedy's thesis While England Slept and Sal made a reference to the "boiling frog" fable. By slowly making changes, all minor in themselves, the Chinese insert their "way" into the world order.

The Chinese are big on winning without fighting and presenting the world with their form of fait accompli. See Sun Tzu:

Dean's For the Chinese, Political Warfare Is War by Other Mean is an excellent primer on China's approach. Dean also has noted that China has an advantage in that it's minions do not sent "mixed messages" when bullying pushing their agenda. They may lie, cheat, and steal to get what they want, but it allis driven by the top of their political food chain.

The West, being free, has, thank goodness, many voices and many opinions. The Chinese hate that and offer their "way" as an alternative. But remember China's government greatly fears the disorder of free ideas and seeks to stifle them in the name of "safety" for its subjects. Our founders saw the risk in such thinking:

He who gives his freedom for safety gets none of them.

Thomas Jefferson

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) for 16 April - 13 May 2020 and HORN OF AFRICA/GULF OF GUINEA/SOUTHEAST ASIA Weekly Piracy Update for 7 - 13 May 2020

Interesting threat - attacks on oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico since 2018 see the WTS for more info.

Today's Pandemic Song: "Take Five" Dave Brubeck

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Today's Pandemic Song: "Superstition" Stevie Wonder

On Midrats 17 May 2020 - Episode 541: Post COVID-19 China, with Dean Cheng

Please join us on 17 May 2020 at 5pm EDT for Midrats Episode 541: Post COVID-19 China, with Dean Cheng:
From international relations to trade to almost every aspect of modern society, the outbreak of COVID-19 has altered the global landscape in ways we are only now getting a grasp on.

As the world's largest nation and the source of the pandemic, how China responds and how it impacts her growth will be the top-line story of this change.

This Sunday we are going to look at China's response and reaction to COVID-19, in conjunction with cyber, human right abuses, Hong Kong unrest, military power, economic connections and more.

To join us for a wide ranging conversation centered on China in the post-COVID-19 world will be returning guest, Dean Cheng.

Dean is a Senior Research Fellow at the Asian Studies Center, Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy at The Heritage Foundation
If you can't catch the show live and you use Apple Podcasts, you can pick up the episode and others and add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the button at the main show page - or you can just click here. Or on Spreaker. The show also is reportedly on Spotify.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

New Ambitions? Chinese claiming Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan part of China

From an Indian news source Now, Chinese websites claim Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan part of China; draws ire of Central Asia
After claiming large portions of the South China Sea and Mt Everest, two Chinese
websites have been claiming that central Asian countries like Kyrgystan and Kazakhstan have been part of China and with Kazakhstan even "eager to return back to China". headquartered in Beijing in a recently published article titled "Why didn't Kyrgyzstan return to China after gaining Independence?". It elaborated that under the Khan dynasty, 510,000 square kilometre of Kyrgystan, which means the entire country was part of Chinese lands but the Russian empire took over the territory.

The article explained that like Mongolia, Kyrgystan has been part of the Chinese territory. has a readership of 750 million and is China's largest mobile platform of content creation.

Meanwhile,, another major Chinese internet company headquartered in Beijing published an article which said: "Kazakhstan is located on territories that historically belong to China". This prompted an immediate summoning of the Chinese envoy to the country Zhang Xiao April 14 over the article.

Of course, China would like to have the territory through which its energy needs could be met and doesn't involve vulnerable sea routes. Kazakhstan does sit on an estimated 30 billion barrels of oil.

China is not into playing well with others.

Today's Pandemic Song: "The Way You Look Tonight"

Monday, May 11, 2020

Iranian Naval Accident Kills 19 Sailors, Wounds 15, Sinks "Frigate"

Islamic Republic News Agency report 19 Navy personnel killed, 15 others injured in accident to Navy frigate (UPDATED)
Some 19 Navy personnel have been martyred with some 15 others injured in an accident happened to an Iranian vessel in the course of drills in southern Iran, the Navy said in a statement on Monday.

The statement said that those injured are in satisfactory conditions.

Rescue and relief operations began soon after the incident and the injured persons were evacuated and sent to medical centers, the statement said.

The accident happened to the "Konarak" vessel during a military drill in the waters of Jask Port in southern Iran.

Expert investigations are underway about the cause of the incident, the statement said, asking everyone to avoid raising speculations.
Some units of the "Hendijan-class" vessels like Konarak have been up-armed to carry Iranian "Noor" missiles, a homemade version of the Chinese C-802 anti-ship missile.

Accidents happen, and the loss of life of these Iranian sailors is regrettable.

Screen shot of video from Iran's Mehr News shows damaged hull:

Today's Pandemic Song: "I've Got You Under My Skin" Virginia Bruce (1936)

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Crimes Against Merchant Shipping and Sailors including Gulf of Guinea Kidnappings and More

Reported as 16 sailors abducted by pirates in Gulf of Guinea
At least 16 sailors have been abducted by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea. According to reports from international maritime websites, three ships were attacked by pirates May 1-4 off the coasts of Nigeria and Gabon within the borders of the gulf. At the beginning of May, pirates took control of one of the Panama-flagged oil-laden ships off the coast of Nigeria with a speedboat and kidnapped 10 crew members. Other attacks were made on fishing boats.
More reports from the ICC IMB Piracy Reporting Centre Live Piracy Reports here:
Attack Number: Narrations:
069-20 02.05.2020: 0315-0400 UTC: Posn: 02:46.2S - 080:14.7W, Around 4nm South of Posorja, Ecuador.
Seven armed persons in a skiff chased and fired upon a container vessel underway. Alarm raised, crew mustered, and the search light directed towards the skiff. Coast Guard onboard the vessel fired four warning shots resulting in the skiff moving away. Crew and vessel safe.
068-20 03.05.2020: 1950 UTC: Posn: 01:36.7N – 104:52.8E, Around 29nm NE of Pulau Bintan, Indonesia.
Four robbers in a wooden boat, armed with knives, came alongside an anchored product tanker. Two of the robbers boarded the tanker using a hook attached with a rope. Duty AB on routine rounds encountered the robbers and immediately informed the bridge. Alarm raised, PA announcement made and crew mustered. The robbers took the AB’s UHF radio by force and escaped. A search was made throughout the tanker. Padlocks to four storerooms were found broken but nothing reported stolen.
067-20 30.04.2020: Around 1845 UTC: Posn: 03:29.99N – 003:50.17E, Around 127nm SW of Bayelsa, Nigeria.
Armed pirates in a skiff attacked and boarded a product tanker underway. They kidnapped 10 crew and escaped. The Owners of the tanker informed the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre who then liaised with relevant regional and international authorities in the region and requested assistance to be sent to the vessel, which now had only four crew who were unable to navigate the vessel to a safe port. A Nigerian Navy Security Vessel was dispatched and provided the necessary assistance to the tanker. The tanker was then assistance to a safe anchorage by a vessel from the same company in the vicinity.
066-20 29.04.2020: 2115 UTC: Posn: 01:16.7N – 104:16.9E, Singapore Strait
Duty crew in the engine room noticed three unauthorised persons entering the engine room. The duty crew shouted at the persons who escaped. Alarm raised, crew mustered, and Singapore VTIS notified. The Singapore Police boarded the vessel for inspection. On searching the vessel, nothing was reported stolen.
065-20 20.03.2020: 0130 - 0530 UTC: Posn: Pointe Noire Anchorage, Congo.
Unnoticed, a robber boarded an anchored container vessel via the anchor chain, stole ship’s properties and escaped. Incident reported to the local port control.
064-20 26.03.2020: 0820 UTC: Posn: 05:59.8N – 002:21.2E: Around 21nm SSW of Cotonou, Benin.
Around five persons in a speed boat approached a product tanker underway. PA announcement was made, accommodation locked down and all non-essential crew mustered in the citadel. Master increased speed and commenced evasive manoeuvres, resulting in the pirates aborting the approach and moving away. Vessel and crew safe.
And piracy maps from the ICC IMB Piracy Reporting Centre here:
2020 to date
Gulf of Guinea to date

Strait of Malacca and Singapore Strait to date

Most of the reported incidents are simple boardings to steal loose items - but the Gulf of Guinea kidnapping schemes are much more serious and dangerous.

Today's Pandemic Song: Vivaldi Mandolin Concertos

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

AEI Webinar — Disinformation pandemic: Russian & Chinese info ops in the COVID-19 era

Watched this live this morning, raises some really interesting issues about the attempted (and actual) efforts by the Chinese Communist Party and the Putin government to control the narrative concerning COVID-19 through disinformation campaigns and offers up some thoughts on how the U.S. media companies could do a service by revealing the links of this "info" by identifying sources, instead of just republishing the outright falsehoods. And more.

Today's Pandemic Song "James Bond Theme" - Harvard Boomwhackers

Having fun with music. People are amazing!

Finding the Delta - Given an expectation that there are always going to be a certain number of deaths in any given month, how much has COVID-19 increased that number?

If I ask "Given an expectation that there are always going to be a certain number of deaths in any given month, how much has COVID-19 increased that number?, I am looking for the difference (the"delta") between the predicted number of deaths in a given month and any any increase over that prediction that can be attributed to COVID-19. The National Vital Statistics System, a part of the CDC, actually prepares such a report that displays that information, the Provisional Death Counts for Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). In the the notes concerning this report this one explains the term "expected deaths" as used in the table:
Percent of expected deaths is the number of deaths for all causes for this week in 2020 compared to the average number across the same week in 2017–2019.
Click on the images to enlarge them.

This is represented graphically:

In either the chart or the graph, you'll note that April 2020 was the month in which "excess deaths" above expected levels took off.

If you take a look at the numbers for some key states, you will see where that spike came from: New York City had a death rate 215% higher than the expected. As a state, New York was 118% higher. New Jersey was 129%, a couple of other states were over a percentage or 2 above "expected" - some were much lower.
New York City

New York State

New Jersey

Some the lower numbers are undoubtedly due to the lag in reporting. Or as set out on the linked page:
NOTE: Number of deaths reported in this table are the total number of deaths received and coded as of the date of analysis and do not represent all deaths that occurred in that period. The United States population, based on 2018 postcensal estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, is 327,167,434.

*Data during this period are incomplete because of the lag in time between when the death occurred and when the death certificate is completed, submitted to NCHS and processed for reporting purposes. This delay can range from 1 week to 8 weeks or more, depending on the jurisdiction, age, and cause of death.
What's the lesson? We are capturing the increases in deaths above those that would be normally expected. Overall, the increases in most states would not appear to be that great except for New York City and, thus, New York State, and, perhaps, New Jersey.

Of course, these numbers are "provisional" and will be adjusted up and down as more data is received. For example, the state chart shows North Carolina with no COVID-19 deaths, the NC government is reporting 420 deaths from COVID-19 as of 4 May 2020. Be aware of GIGO.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

Today's Pandemic Song: "See What Tomorrow Brings" Peter, Paul, and Mary

Update: The reason for putting this song up is that portion of the chorus
Lie down Betty, see what tomorrow brings
Lie down Betty, see what tomorrow brings
May bring you sunshine, may bring you diamond rings

The song is titled "Betty and Dupree," a version of which Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee performed in classic blues style:
At any rate, it was that chorus fragment that popped into my head this morning and made me decide to put this song up.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Today's Pandemic Song: Chariots of Fire Theme

There was a time, back when I was doing lots of 5k, 10K and longer runs, this was the most common song played at the finish of those fun runs.

Saturday Is Old Radio Day - "Island of Death" Inner Sanctum (1941)

Stunning news flash at the beginning set the time frame.

On Midrats 3 March 20 - Episode 539: COVID-19 and the defense budget with Todd Harrison

Please join us at 5pm EST on 3 March 2020 for Midrats Episode 539: COVID-19 and the defense budget with Todd Harrison
If it hasn't hit you yet, it will soon. Everyone's assumptions about what the defense budget will look like - what it will buy and who gets what part of the pie - are gone.

The larger impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is unknown, but we do know this; at no time has so much debt been piled so high on top of an incredible spike in unemployment and economic collapse - in so little time - in the lifetime of any living American.

What can we expect?

Our guest for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss this and more will be Todd Harrison, the director of Defense Budget Analysis and the director of the Aerospace Security Project at CSIS.

As a senior fellow in the International Security Program, he leads the Center’s efforts to provide in-depth, nonpartisan research and analysis of defense funding, space security, and air power issues. He has authored publications on trends in the overall defense budget, military space systems, civil space exploration, defense acquisitions, military compensation, military readiness, nuclear forces, and the cost of overseas military operations.

Mr. Harrison joined CSIS from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, where he was a senior fellow for defense budget studies. He previously worked at Booz Allen Hamilton where he consulted for the U.S. Air Force on satellite communications systems and supported a variety of other clients evaluating the performance of acquisition programs. Prior to Booz Allen, he worked for a small startup (AeroAstro Inc.) developing advanced space technologies and as a management consultant at Diamond Cluster International. Mr. Harrison served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force Reserves. He is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with both a B.S. and an M.S. in aeronautics and astronautics.

If you can't catch the show live and you use Apple Podcasts, you can pick up the episode and others and add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the button at the main show page - or you can just click here. Or on Spreaker. The show also is reportedly on Spotify.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Unknown Iranian Humorist Has Fun with Words

Any illegal, provocative move to receive Iran's rigid, resolute response reads the headline from the Islamic Republic News Agency ot the Iranian General Staff (either way, propaganda units of the dictatorship by Mullah):
Cannon Fodder at Sea
Describing presence of the US Army in Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and Sea of Oman as disrupting regional security, the statement said that Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz as main international waterways and lifeline of global economy have always been safe zones for oil and trade ships and Iran has tried to maintain the stability and peace at an acceptable level in cooperation with regional states.

Dangerous and disruptive measures against shipping security began when the adventurous and terrorist country of the United States and some of its allies appeared in this sensitive region, it said.

General Staff of the Armed Forces pointed out that the US has virtually become a source of lawlessness, wickedness and insecurity with its harmful commutation and setting up military bases, and Iran has repeatedly warned the world and international community of the destabilizing and disruptive regional security measures as well as US violation of international law.

The year 2019 can be considered the peak of evil and insecure US movements in the region, the statement said, noting that under the false pretext of shipping security in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of ​​Oman, it has formed multiple coalitions in the region and posed numerous threats by sending warships and increasing the buildup of the military forces in the region.
Well! how does it feel to have that kind of smack talked about the USA put out into the world media stream?

For me, I'm beginning to think somewhere in one of those propaganda units there's some guy with a wicked sense of humor who is managing to poke fun at the irrationality of the Iranian regime while ticking off boxes on some "list of charges to make against those Yankees" that is posted on a wall chart in a room where this stuff is prepared. 

Imagine you were the lackey charged with writing this gibberish and knowing certain keywords would be required to get it approved by the super-lackey you work for and on up the food chain. Thus, choose one word from column A and one from column B and one from column C and you end up with "lawlessness," "wickedness," and "insecurity" coupled with words from the "use these in case of emergency" pile. You then have:
lawlessness, wickedness and insecurity with its harmful commutation and setting up military bases
Oh my gosh, those horrible Americans and their nasty "commutation."

I mean, I haven't commutated today, but there's always tomorrow when I may just go around commutating everywhere. I don't know, it may all be part of being both "adventurous" and "terrorist" while disrupting that glorious form of "regional security" that would exist under the Mullahs, just as it does in Iran.

I found the highlighted words particularly awesome.

Nice job, unknown IRNA/Iranian General Staff of the Armed Forces writer, one of the better humor pieces I've read today. Well done!

Not quite as humorous, except for the last paragraph, from Mehr News:
Therefore, the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran considers the presence of the United States and its allies illegitimate and the source of evil and insecurity in the region. The Iranian Armed forces also urge them to comply with the regulations of the Islamic Republic as well as the International laws and refrain from any adventure and dangerous behavior in the region.

The Islamic Republic of Iran strongly believes that regional countries have the necessary capabilities to maintain the security of the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Sea of ​​Oman. Fake coalitions led by the United States not only do not help maintain stability and security in the region but also disrupt regional order and peace. On the other hand, the only safe alternative to stabilize peace is the withdrawal of US troops and their allies from the region.

The Iranian Armed forces urge the US and their allies to stop the spread of tension and insecurity in this strategic region of the world and strongly warns them to comply with the International regulations while crossing the exclusive economic waters of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman as well as the airspace of these regions including FIR and ADIZ.

As has been repeatedly stated, the Islamic Republic of Iran has not and will not initiate any tensions and conflicts in the region, but it will always defend its territorial integrity with readiness, strength, and power, and it is obvious that any adventure and provocative actions will be responded strongly by the Iranian Armed Forces.

Today's Pandemic Song: "Child of Mine" Bill Staines

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) for 26 March -22 April 2020 and HORN OF AFRICA/GULF OF GUINEA/SOUTHEAST ASIA Weekly Piracy Update for 16 - 22 April 2020

Sea robbers have remained active. Attacks in the lower Gulf of Mexico involving armed men and hostage taking while robbery goes on. Gulf of Guinea kidnapping and violence.

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

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

Sunday, April 26, 2020

On Midrats 26 April 2020 - Episode 538: End of April Free For All

Please join us at 5pm EDT on 26 April 2020 for Midrats Episode 538: End of April Free For All

Last week, we could have gone another hour, so we thought the easy thing would be to bring it forward to this Sunday.

We will cover the waterfront as the Navy continues to struggle to get past COVID-19's dominating Navy news, not just with the TR, but now the USS Kidd and everything from boot camp to the Naval Academy.

Throw in a pick up game presence missions in the South China Sea, and the Russians ditching their future surface fleet ... and there is more than enough to make a fast hour.

Open topic and open mic.
If you can't catch the show live and you use Apple Podcasts, you can pick up the episode and others and add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the button at the main show page - or you can just click here. Or on Spreaker. The show also is reportedly on Spotify.

Today's Pandemic Song: The Fightin' Texas Aggie Band

In memory of my friend Virgil, who did love those Aggies:

Friday, April 24, 2020

Friday Films: Shipping Containers

Sure, these films present the same concept - shipping containers make modern logistics work better, faster, cheaper. From the perspective of a military planner, it also puts lots of important eggs in fewer baskets, as it were. Having so much valuable cargo on fewer ships will continue to pose challenges for protecting this shipping should major sea routes come under some sort of interdiction effort. It also requires thinking about what ships are the real "high value units" that need protection and what assets are available to do that escort work.

Today's Pandemic Song: "Wildflowers" Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Bad Ideas: "In Seeking to Perfect Humans, We Must First Control Them"

I am reading a book, A King's Trade" by Dewey Lambdin. It's #13 in the Alan Lewrie series. In my reading,  I come across this:
... by Jeremy Bentham, himself, with his Vice Society and his damnable concept of Utilitarianism. If things didn't meet his strict and narrow key-holes of the most benefit for the most people, then damn it to Hell and do away with it ... whatever it was. Lt. Langlie had gotten a copy of Bentham's Panopticon, his view of an ideal England, and had been aghast, as had Lewrie, that it called for total surveillance of everyone's waking actions by a "morality police" as an infernal machine to "grind rogues honest"!

"Wait, what," I said to myself.

I vaguely remembered reading something about Bentham and "Utilitarianism" back in high school or college - but I certainly did not recall his concept that mirrored that which seems a precursor to Orwell's 1984 or of a Chinese style surveillance state, or even the 'hall monitor" society of the "politically correct police" with which we have become far too familiar. It even casts a sinister light on Star Trek's
“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”

So I dug a little, and, of course, found a nice little guide in Ethics Explainer: The Panopticon , which confirmed Lambdin/Lewrie's rant:
The panopticon is a disciplinary concept brought to life in the form of a central
observation tower placed within a circle of prison cells.
From the tower, a guard can see every cell and inmate but the inmates can’t see into the tower. Prisoners will never know whether or not they are being watched.

This was introduced by English philosopher Jeremy Bentham. It was a manifestation of his belief that power should be visible and unverifiable. Through this seemingly constant surveillance, Bentham believed all groups of society could be altered. Morals would be reformed, health preserved, industry invigorated, and so on – they were all subject to observation.

Think of the last time you were at work and your boss walked in the room. Did you straighten up and work harder in their presence? Now imagine they were always in the room. They wouldn’t be watching you all the time, but you’d know they were there. This is the power of constant surveillance – and the power of the panopticon.
Nor did I know that the modern philosopher Michel Foucault was in on this line of thinking, too:
Michel Foucault, a French intellectual and critic, expanded the idea of the panopticon into a symbol of social control that extends into everyday life for all citizens, not just those in the prison system (Foucault 1970). He argues that social citizens always internalize authority, which is one source of power for prevailing norms and institutions. A driver, for example, might stop at a red light even when there are no other cars or police present. Even though there are not necessarily any repercussions, the police are an internalized authority- people tend to obey laws because those rules become self-imposed.

This is a profound and complicated idea, namely because the process entails a high degree of social intuition; the subject must be able to situate him or her self amidst a network of collective expectations. The crucial point is that the subject's specific role within the network is incorporated as a part of the body and mind, which then manifests as self-discipline.

Yeah, well, this heightens the level of intrusion into our daily lives, as noted in the UK Guardian piece on digital surveillance:
The looming interconnectivity between objects in our homes, cars and cities, generally referred to as the internet of things, will change digital surveillance substantially. With the advent of wider networked systems, heralded by the likes of Google’s Brillo and Apple’s HomeKit, everything from washing machines to sex toys will soon be able to communicate, creating a vast amount of data about our lives. And this deluge of data won’t only be passed back and forth between objects but will most likely wind its way towards corporate and government reservoirs.

With everything from heart-rate monitors in smartwatches to GPS footwear, a bright light is once again being thrown on our bodies. Will we feel exposed under the gaze of a central tower? Perhaps not, but with habits and physical stats charted against the norm, we will feel scrutinised nevertheless. Much of the justification of this is the alleged benefits to health and wellbeing. “Morals reformed – health preserved – industry invigorated” – not Apple marketing material but Bentham’s words on the panopticon.

There may not be a central tower, but there will be communicating sensors in our most intimate objects.
Well, it was a simple reading of a book about a fictional rakish Royal Navy Captain, but it did lead me off on a look at the human condition and those who would seek to perfect us all, if only we would give up to them control of our lives.

Like Lewrie and his Lieutenant, I am appalled. "It's for your own good" sucks as an excuse to restrict freedoms, whether by force of law or by the "all-seeing eye." That China adds to this system by "grading" its citizens and rewarding the most compliant really, really sucks.

For them it was a partially realized theory. For us it seem to have become a reality.

If you are interested in reading more about Bentham, you can head here. All emphasis above was added by me.

Today's Pandemic Song "It's Gonna Be Alright" Gerry and the Pacemakers

Monday, April 20, 2020

Today's Pandemic Song "Mansions of the Lord" from We Were Soldiers - performed by West Point Band and Glee Club

To fallen soldiers let us sing,
Where no rockets fly nor bullets wing,
Our broken brothers let us bring
To the Mansions of the Lord

No more weeping,
No more fight,
No friends bleeding through the night,
Just Divine embrace,
Eternal light,
In the Mansions of the Lord

Where no mothers cry
And no children weep,
We shall stand and guard
Though the angels sleep,
Oh, through the ages let us keep
The Mansions of the Lord

"Trump Opens Outer Space for Business "

WSJ headline Trump Opens Outer Space for Business
As a follow up to the executive order, the administration has been quietly preparing the Artemis Accords, which it plans to present first to America’s partners on the International Space Station—Canada, Europe, Japan and Russia—and later to other nations. Parties would “affirm that the extraction and utilization of space resources does not constitute national appropriation under Article 2 of the Outer Space Treaty.” That would enable NASA’s planned moon base to proceed and protect private companies that hope to build and operate facilities there or elsewhere. It would ensure that the U.S. and other nations, as well as firms under their jurisdiction, can build settlements and commercial operations throughout the solar system.

There’s a lot of wealth in space. A 79-foot-wide asteroid could hold 33.000 tons of extractable material, including $50 million worth of platinum. The 2-mile-wide asteroid 1986 DA could be worth $7 trillion. But that will require massive investment in new technology, and investors need assurance that they won’t pour billions into capturing an asteroid or mining the moon only to be told the resulting product isn’t theirs.

In some ways the administration’s policy is a logical continuation of the Obama-era drive for space commercialization. In 2015 President Obama signed the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, which provides that “a U.S. citizen engaged in the commercial recovery of an asteroid or space resource . . . shall be entitled to . . . possess, own, transport, use, and sell the asteroid resource or space resource obtained in accordance with applicable law, including the international obligations of the United States.” Mr. Trump’s order ensures that international obligations will be supportive and not destructive of such efforts.
Discussed space mining before here. You might note that there is room for a lot of innovation - including using aircraft to tote "spacecraft" up to a launch height or the reusable booster rockets now being used. Making the ventures profitable will make things happen a whole lot faster.

From that earlier post of mine:

Credit: Bigelow Aerospace
"Inflatable Habitat Ready for Space Station Trip:
According to Bigelow Aerospace, the demonstration of expandable space habitat technology supports NASA's plans in the realm of human spaceflight, which ultimately lead to putting boots on Mars. Developing a deep-space habitat is an important step along the path to the Red Planet, agency officials say.

Founded in 1999 by entrepreneur Robert Bigelow, Bigelow Aerospace has as a goal the creation of a new paradigm in space commerce and exploration via the development and use of expandable habitat technology. Expandable habitats are viewed as offering dramatically larger volumes than rigid, metallic structures as well as enhanced protection against both radiation and physical debris.
Hmmm. Inflatable spacecraft.

Seems I read something about this concept in The Planet Strappers by Raymond Z. Gallun:
Nelsen didn't listen anymore. His and Paul's attention had wandered to the largest color photo thumbtacked to the wall, above the TV set, and the shelf of dog-eared technical books. It showed a fragile, pearly ring, almost diaphanous, hanging tilted against spatial blackness and pinpoint stars. Its hub was a cylindrical spindle, with radial guys of fine, stainless steel wire. It was like the earliest ideas about a space station, yet it was also different. To many—Frank Nelsen and Paul Hendricks certainly included—such devices had as much beauty as a yacht under full sail had ever had for anybody.

Old Paul smirked with pleasure. "It's a shame, ain't it, Frank—calling a pretty thing like that a 'bubb'—it's an ugly word. Or even a 'space bubble.' Technical talk gets kind of cheap."

"I don't mind," Frank Nelsen answered. "Our first one, here, could look just as nice—inflated, and riding free against the stars."

He touched the crinkly material, draped across its wooden support.

"It will," the old man promised. "Funny—not so long ago people thought that space ships would have to be really rigid—all metal. So how did they turn out? Made of stellene, mostly—an improved form of polyethylene—almost the same stuff as a weather balloon."

"A few millimeters thick, light, perfectly flexible when deflated," Nelsen added. "Cut out and cement your bubb together in any shape you choose. Fold it up firmly, like a parachute—it makes a small package that can be carried up into orbit in a blastoff rocket with the best efficiency. There, attached flasks of breathable atmosphere fill it out in a minute. Eight pounds pressure makes it fairly solid in a vacuum. So, behold—you've got breathing and living room, inside. There's nylon cording for increased strength—as in an automobile tire—though not nearly as much. There's a silicone gum between the thin double layers, to seal possible meteor punctures. A darkening lead-salt impregnation in the otherwise transparent stellene cuts radiation entry below the danger level, and filters the glare and the hard ultra-violet out of the sunshine. So there you are, all set up."

"Rig your hub and guy wires," old Paul carried on, cheerfully. "Attach your sun-powered ionic drive, set up your air-restorer, spin your vehicle for centrifuge-gravity, and you're ready to move—out of orbit."

They laughed, because getting into space wasn't as easy as they made it sound. The bubbs, one of the basic inventions that made interplanetary travel possible, were, for all their almost vagabondish simplicity, still a concession in lightness and compactness for atmospheric transit, to that first and greatest problem—breaking the terrific initial grip of Earth's gravity from the ground upward, and gaining stable orbital speed. Only a tremendously costly rocket, with a thrust greater than its own weight when fully loaded, could do that. Buying a blastoff passage had to be expensive.
Of course, Gallun wrote in 1961, so we all know that his idea of a space craft made of cheap materials and dependent on recycled air (or air produced by plants grown on board) was . . . ahead of its time?

Credit: Bigelow Aerospace
Bigelow Aerospace seems to believe in the concept. Here's info about its B330:
B330 will have 330 cubic meters (12,000 cu ft) of internal space, hence its numeric designation. The craft will support zero-gravity research including scientific missions and manufacturing processes. Beyond its industrial and scientific purposes, however, it has potential as a destination for space tourism and a craft for missions destined for the Moon and Mars.
Flexible, expandable? Check. Self-sealing? Check. Solar power? Check. Ion Thruster power? Possible. Affordable? Umm. Still face that cost of getting the package to space. Perhaps a space elevator could help.

But, you might ask, why? Asteroid mining? It seems, in addition to mining rare earth elements from the ocean floor (see here), there is a movement afoot to explore asteroid mining for rare earth elements(and gold and other valuable metals). There are start ups looking into making this work, e.g. Planetary Resources. Most of these efforts seem to be directed at robot mining, but why not allow individuals driven by profit motive to get out there and try their hand at space mining?

Asteroid Mining:
Early evidence suggests that there are trillions of dollars' worth of minerals and metals buried in asteroids that come close to the Earth. Asteroids are so close that many scientists think an asteroid mining mission is easily feasible.
Plus, you know, freedom."

Of course, if there's that much wealth involved, we need a "Space Navy" to protect these "space lines of commerce" from those dreaded "space pirates." Sen. Ted Cruz is way ahead on this idea:
Cruz, a Republican from Texas, alluded to space pirates in opening remarks on Tuesday for a hearing on "The Emerging Space Environment: Operational, Technical, and Policy Challenges" before the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation and Space.

Cruz referenced how the ancient Greeks and subsequent nations have called on naval forces to "protect water-borne travel and commerce from bad actors."

"Pirates threaten the open seas, and the same is possible in space," Cruz said. "In this same way, I believe we, too, must now recognize the necessity of a Space Force to defend the nation and to protect space commerce and civil space exploration."
So the new "Space Force" may have real jobs out there.