Saturday, January 30, 2021

Sunday, January 24, 2021

On Midrats 24 January 2021 - Episode 577: Facing the 3rd Decade of the 21st Century, with James Holmes

Please join us at 5pm EST on 24 January 2021 for Midrats Episode 577: Facing the 3rd Decade of the 21st Century, with James Holmes

New year, new decade, and a new President.

Where should be be looking to have the right view on changes to strategy and maritime power? What existing trends are getting stronger, weakening - and what new things are starting to show up on the scope?

Our guest for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to cover the full natsec waterfront as we find it will be returning guest James R. Holmes, PhD.

James holds the J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College and served on the faculty of the University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs. A former U.S. Navy surface-warfare officer, he was the last gunnery officer in history to fire a battleship’s big guns in anger, during the first Gulf War in 1991. He earned the Naval War College Foundation Award in 1994, signifying the top graduate in his class. His books include Red Star over the Pacific, an Atlantic Monthly Best Book of 2010 and a fixture on the Navy Professional Reading List. General James Mattis deems him “troublesome.”

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

Friday, January 22, 2021

Friday Film: "The Powers of Congress"

Posted this before, but an reminder that Congress also has limited powers in our system.

The Report of the President's 1776 Advisory Commission

Final update: It's back, as Scribd has agreed with me. Update: Scribd and I are having a discussion about whether a government document is covered by copyright. I say it is not under "17 U.S. Code Section 105 (a)In General.— Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government, but the United States Government is not precluded from receiving and holding copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise." We'll see how this goes. In the meantime, the report is available from the National Archives here

Removed from the White House site after the inaugartion of Preident Biden. Posted here without comment.

The Presidents Advisory 177... by lawofsea

Tuesday, January 19, 2021


Cited this before, but it's worth repeating. Passive resistance requires courage but can be extremely effective.

For some fun thinking on how passive resistance works, see Eric Frank Russell's "And Then There Were None"

“What does this F. — I.W. mean?”
“Initial-slang,” informed Baines. “Made correct by common usage. It has become a worldwide motto. You’ll see it all over the place if you haven’t noticed it already.”
“I have seen it here and there but attached no importance to it and thought nothing more about it. I remember now that it was inscribed in several places including Seth’s and the fire depot.”
“It was on the sides of that bus we couldn’t empty,” put in Gleed. “It didn’t mean anything to me.”
“It means plenty,” said Jeff. “Freedom — I Won’t!”
“That kills me,” Gleed responded. “I’m stone dead already. I’ve dropped in my tracks.” He watched Harrison thoughtfully pocketing the plaque.
“A piece of abracadabra. What a weapon!”
“Ignorance is bliss,” asserted Baines, strangely sure of himself. “Especially when you don’t know that what you’re playing with is the safety catch of something that goes bang.”
“All right,” challenged Gleed, taking him up on that. “Tell us how it works.”
“I won’t.” Baines’ grin reappeared. He seemed to be highly satisfied about something.
“That’s a fat lot of help.” Gleed felt let down, especially over that momentary hoped-for reward. “You brag and boast about a one-way weapon, toss across a slip of stuff with three letters on it and then go dumb. Any folly will do for braggarts and any braggart can talk through the seat of his pants. How about backing up your talk?”
“I won’t,” repeated Baines, his grin broader than ever. He gave the onlooking Harrison a fat, significant wink.
It made something spark vividly within Harrison’s mind. His jaw dropped, he dragged the plaque from his pocket and stared at it as if seeing it for the first time.
“Give it back to me,” requested Baines, watching him.
Replacing it in his pocket, Harrison said very firmly, “I won’t.”
Baines chuckled. “Some people catch on quicker than others.”
Resenting that, Gleed held his hand out to Harrison. ‘Let me have another look at that thing.’
‘I won’t,’ said Harrison, meeting him eye to eye.
‘Hey, don’t start being awkard with me. That’s not the way—’ Gleed’s protesting voice petered out. He stood there a moment, his optics slightly glassy, while his brain performed several loops. Then in hushed tones he said, ‘Good grief!’
‘Precisely,’ approved Baines. ‘Grief and plenty of it. You were a bit slow on the uptake.’
Overcome by the flood of insubordinate ideas now pouring upon him, Gleed said hoarsely to Harrison, ‘Come on, let’s get out of here. I’ve got to think. I want to sit somewhere nice and quiet while I think.’
There was a tiny park with seats and lawns and flowers and a little fountain around which a small group of children were playing. Choosing a place facing a colourful carpet of exotic un-Terran blooms, they sat and brooded for quite a time.
Eventually, Gleed commented, ‘For one solitary, mulish character it would be martyrdom, but for a whole world—’ His voice drifted off, came back. ‘I’ve been taking this as far as I can make it go and the results give me the leaping fantods.’
Harrison said nothing.
‘For instance,’ Gleed continued.‘Suppose that when I go back to the ship that snorting rhinoceros Bidworthy gives me an order. And I give him the frozen eye and say, ‘I won’t.’ What happens? It follows as an inviolable law of Nature that he either drops dead or throws me in the clink.’
‘That would do you a lot of good.’
‘Wait a bit—I haven’t finished yet. I’m in the pokey, demoted and a disgrace to the service, but the job still needs doing. So Bidworthy picks on somebody else. The victim, being a soul-mate of mine, also donates the icy optic and says, ‘I won’t.’ Into the jug he goes and I’ve got company. Bidworthy tries again. And again and again and again. There are more of us crammed in the brig. It will hold only twenty. So they take over the engineers’ mess.’
‘Leave our mess out of this,’ requested Harrison.
‘They take over the mess,’ insisted Gleed, thoroughly determined to penalize the engineers. ‘Pretty soon it’s filled to the roof with I-won’ters. Bidworthy is still raking them in as fast as he can go—if by then he hasn’t burst a dozen blood vessels. So they take over the Blieder dormitories.’
‘Why keep picking on my crowd?’
‘And pile them ceiling-high with bodies,’ Gleed said, deriving sadistic pleasure from the picture. ‘Until in the end Bidworthy has to get buckets and brushes and go down on his knees and do his own deck-scrubbing while Grayder, Shelton and the rest take turn for guard-duty. By that time His Loftiness the Ambassador is in the galley busily cooking for the prisoners and is being assisted by a disconcerted bunch of yessing pen-pushers.’ He had another look at this mental scene. ‘Holy smoke!’

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) for 16 December 2020 to 13 January 2021

U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) for 16 December 2020 to 13 Januar... by lawofsea on Scribd

Monday, January 18, 2021

Eric Hoffer on "Mass Movements" as Explained by P.J. O'Rourke

From Why Mass Movements Make a Mess:

Mass movements seem to be massing up these days, with protesters pulling down statues here and rally-goers pulling off face masks there… and demagogues pulling a fast one everywhere, calling for nationalism or socialism or nativism or iconoclasticism or isolationism (for at least 14 days). It’s this “–ism” versus that “–is-not-ism” with everyone becoming some kind of zealot, extremist, radical, or fanatic.

We’re all in danger of turning into what Eric Hoffer called “true believers.”

Below is a selection of quotes from The True Believer (and note how many of them can be applied to any or all mass movements and each and every of their most ardent supporters):


  • They who clamor loudest for freedom are often the ones least likely to be happy in a free society… They want to eliminate free competition and the ruthless testing to which the individual is continually subjected in a free society.
  • Freedom aggravates at least as much as it alleviates frustration. Freedom of choice places the whole blame of failure on the shoulders of the individual… Unless a man has the talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden.
  • The reason that the inferior elements of a nation can exert a marked influence on its course is that… [they] crave to dissolve their spoiled, meaningless selves in some soul-stirring spectacular communal undertaking.
  • The permanent misfits can find salvation only in a complete separation from the self; and they usually find it by losing themselves in the compact collectivity of a mass movement.

Let me encourage you to read Hoffer's book The True Believer, it's short, pithy and spot on. If, however, you aren't up to that, there's an interesting summary here

King and the Legacy of Non-Violent Protest

What is the best path to protest unjust laws and practices? Knowing that violence results in more violence, Dr. King encouraged a non-violent resistance as set out here.

The essence of his approach:

1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
• It is active nonviolent resistance to evil.
• It is assertive spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.
• It is always persuading the opponent of the justice of your cause.

2. Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.
• The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation.
• The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.

3. Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people.
• Nonviolence holds that evildoers are also victims.

4. Nonviolence holds that voluntary suffering can educate and transform.
• Nonviolence willingly accepts the consequences of its acts.
• Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation.
• Nonviolence accepts violence if necessary, but will never inflict it.
• Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.
• Suffering can have the power to convert the enemy when reason fails.

5. Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
• Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as of the body.
• Nonviolent love gives willingly, knowing that the return might be hostility.
• Nonviolent love is active, not passive.
• Nonviolent love does not sink to the level of the hater.
• Love for the enemy is how we demonstrate love for ourselves.
• Love restores community and resists injustice.
• Nonviolence recognizes the fact that all life is interrelated.

6. Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.
• The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win.

Quoted from here

Friday, January 15, 2021

Rogue Country Troubles: Faking Ship Identities to Avoid Sanctions and More

Bloomberg reports here

The island nation of Palau says a tanker that recently loaded Venezuelan crude was using a false signal to disguise its identity, potentially putting the Pacific country in the crosshairs of U.S. sanctions.


“It appears that this vessel is claiming to be registered with the Palau International Ship Registry. This claim is false,” Palau’s ministry of state said in the note to Venezuela’s foreign affairs ministry. “It therefore appears that the vessel is using a falsified AIS signal in order to mask its true identity.” The letter was delivered to several Venezuelan embassies, including the one in Tokyo, says Steven Kanai, a special assistant to Palau’s president on international maritime matters and foreign relations.

The tanker that loaded in Venezuela was using a practice known as “spoofing,” where vessels send a signal with another ship’s registration number under the maritime industry’s Automatic Identification System, according to London-based ship tracker Windward Ltd. If so, it would represent a new tactic in the cat-and-mouse maneuvers deployed by companies trading oil with Venezuela in defiance of U.S. sanctions.

Over the past six months, the names of 13 vessels that are registered as broken-up appeared in Venezuelan crude-loading programs seen by Bloomberg. The Ndros, though, was the only one among those names to appear off the coast of Venezuela by satellite signal.

More on AIS "spoofing" at Windward here:

When originally developed, the sole purpose of Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) was to enable vessels to see one another at sea, thereby avoiding collisions. With time, AIS use has evolved, and with it, the reliance vessels have on it. Today, governments and security agencies use AIS to detect and prevent illicit activities at sea, and private organizations use AIS data as a crucial element of their due-diligence process.


Following the 2012 sanctions placed on Iran, AIS manipulations rose drastically, creating a new wave of problems for enforcement agencies. Iranian tankers, no longer able to enter international ports, simply changed their flags and entered international ports under false pretense. This brought to light the ease with which bad actors could manipulate AIS data as well as the growing need for alternative monitoring and security tools.


AIS spoofing progressed as Iranian and North Korean vessels continued exploiting AIS vulnerabilities, taking their methods to new levels and showcasing the sophisticated capabilities of criminals and sanction-evaders.


As bad-actors continually seek new ways to engage in AIS spoofing and exploit vulnerabilities, any business looking to protect its assets must stay one step ahead of the game; that means having the best technology do what it was designed to do, and having the right tools at hand to keep any unwanted players out of their waters.

Gee, who would have guessed that Iran, the NORKS, and Venezuela would be involved in such antics?

Friday Film: The March of the Bonus Army

Thursday, January 14, 2021


This Navigation Plan nests under the recently-released Tri-Service Maritime Strategy and outlines how the U.S. Navy will grow its naval power to control the seas and project power across all domains, both now and in the future.

U.S. Navy Chief of Naval Op... by lawofsea

You can find the Tri-Service Maritime Strategy here

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

"Crisis du jour" should not be a way of life.

Just a reminder that just because someone loses their head every time something doesn't make them happy, it's not a "crisis" it's just an immature person having a temper tantrum.

Or, as we used to say, "If every thing is a crisis, nothing is a crisis."

Or perhaps: “When everything is a crisis and a scandal, the end result is that nothing is.”

Interesting article from Foreign Policy by Eliah Bures:

The law of crisis is that crisis-talk fuels itself: Every time a choice is pitched as life-or-death, or an institution is pronounced “in crisis,” panic and partisanship and zero-sum thinking gain ground. Use of crisis mirrors your ideological commitments. If you want to raise the temperature, then breathlessly framing your cause as a crisis will do the trick. Crisis-talk is the gas pedal, not the brakes.

Eric Hoffer in his book, The Temper of Our Time described it as a "time of juveniles."

The significant point is that juvenilization inevitably results in some degree of primitivization. We are up against the great paradox of the twentieth century: namely, that breakneck technological advance has gone hand in hand with a return to tribalism, charismatic leader, medicine men, credulity, and tribal wars. p22.

I leave it you to judge whether Mr. Hoffer was describing our times.

As for me, I'm working on my stoicism.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Today's Eric Hoffer Quote

From The True Believer:

“A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business.”

This minding of other people's business expresses itself in gossip, snooping and meddling, and in feverish interest in communal, national, and racial affairs. In running away from ourselves we eithr fall on our neighbor's shoulder or fly at his throat.


The is no doubt that in exchanging a self-centered for a selfless life we gain enormously in self-esteem. The vanity of the selfless, even those who practice utmost humility, is boundless.

"It's for the children."

Saturday, January 09, 2021

On Midrats 10 January 2021 - Episode 575: The Navy's Problems and a Plan to Fix Them, with Bryan McGrath

Please join at 5pm EST on 10 January 2021 for Midrats Episode 575: The Navy's Problems and a Plan to Fix Them, with Bryan McGrath

There is one area of agreement among navalists, the US Navy is beset with a whole series of hard, long building problems, ignored for too long. Many, including our highest ranking uniformed leadership, seem incapable of not only acknowledging them, but coming up with a plan to address them.

As we enter 2021 and the third decade of the 21st Century, what are our greatest challenges, and what are some steps we can take to start the process of meeting them?

Returning to Midrats to discuss this and related issues he raised in this recent article, The Navy Has Problems and Must Be Bold to Fix Them, will be Bryan McGrath, CDR USN (Ret.), Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC defense consultancy.

Bryan grew up in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, and graduated from the University of Virginia in 1987. He was commissioned upon graduation in the United States Navy, and served as a Surface Warfare Officer until his retirement in 2008. At sea, he served primarily in cruisers and destroyers, rising to command of the Destroyer USS BULKELEY (DDG 84). During his command tour, he won the Surface Navy Association’s Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Award for Inspirational Leadership, and the BULKELEY was awarded the USS ARIZONA Memorial Trophy signifying the fleet’s most combat ready unit. Ashore, Bryan enjoyed four tours in Washington DC, including his final tour in which he acted as Team Leader and primary author of our nation’s 2007 maritime strategy entitled “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower.”

Since retirement, Bryan has become active in presidential politics, serving first as the Navy Policy Team lead for the Romney Campaign in 2012, and then as the Navy and Marine Corps Policy lead for the Rubio Campaign in 2016.

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

Friday, January 08, 2021

Friday Film: Surface Navy Night Piloting into Port

This film is a little dry, however, speaking as a navigator on a ship, the reality is not boring at all.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

U.S. Navy Arctic Blueprint

From the forward:
"This forward looking regional blueprint describes how the Department will apply naval power as we continue to prepare for a more navigable Arctic Region over the next two decades."

U.S. Navy Arctic Blueprint ... by lawofsea