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Saturday, May 30, 2020

On Midrats 31 May 20202 - Episode 543: AI, Autonomous Systems, Emerging Tech & the Future of War

Please join us at 5pm EDT on May 31, 2020, for Midrats Episode 543: AI, Autonomous Systems, Emerging Tech & the Future of War
The relentless advance of knowledge and technology has always been with us. The speed and impact of the advance can vary, but the key - especially when it comes to those advances related to warfare - is to at least pace the advance, and if possible, be at the front.

There can be box canyons, false trails, mirages and other dead ends you may follow, but mixed in with the wrong is "what's next."

Are the USA and its allies ready for the changes in artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, and other emerging technologies that are already here or right over the horizon?

To discuss this and related issues in his book, The Kill Chain: Defending America in the Future of High-Tech Warfare will be Christian Brose.

Brose is currently Chief Strategy Officer of Anduril Industries, a technology start-up that develops national defense capabilities, and Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He served as Staff Director of the Senate Armed Services Committee (2015-2018), where he was the youngest person to hold the position in the committee’s history. Before that, he served as Senator John McCain’s senior policy advisor (2009-2015). Brose was previously a speechwriter to two secretaries of state, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, and a member of the State Department Policy Planning Staff.
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.

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: "What Makes a Hero" Now Hear This (1951)

Today's Pandemic Song: "Those Were the Days" Mary Hopkins

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.

Friday, May 01, 2020