FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day February 1st through 7th 2018

Saying of the Day

I thought growing old would take longer

Friends of FOD

Running a bit late with this edition.  Actually I tried to publish last night, but the internet connection in my hotel was too slow to make it work, so I went to bed. Working on the ’31 Chevy is …. It’s almost like a job, but costs me instead of pays me.

 

How China Could Takeover Taiwan Without A Shot Fired

I’ve mentioned here in FOD how freedom of the seas and in particular the South China Sea is important not only to the Asian nations in the region, but for all nations who depend upon the free exchange of goods and services through those contested waters.  China’s ability to restrict trade to selective nations of their choice is a weapon as old as the sea.  Taiwan has long been a thorn in the side of China since the communist government has been in place.  And while Taiwan has military ties with Japan and the US there are likely limits established as to what we might do if China were to act militarily.  A few days ago Asian Times reported rumors have swirled on both sides of the Taiwan Strait since the beginning of last year that Chinese President Xi Jinping was mulling taking back the wayward, self-ruling island of Taiwan in one fell swoop amid growing militancy among the Chinese masses.  Some have gone so far as to suggest that by the early 2020s the two sides would be in a state of belligerence as Xi, unlike his predecessors, has no scruples against waging a full-blown war to recapture what Beijing considers a renegade province.  They say that the year 2022, the end of Xi’s second tenure as the general secretary of the Communist Party of China, would be the deadline for him to exert his unrestrained powers to redeem the glory of the Middle Kingdom, after Xi has made “China dream” and “great revitalization” the tag lines of his rule.  “Xi’s grand visions will become empty platitudes if he fails to take back Taiwan before his second term ends, and in that case his ‘China dream’ will become a pipe dream, and he is fully aware of that,” said one analyst.  No one will doubt that China’s Central Military Commission and the People’s Liberation Army have in place a host of all-encompassing combat plans of tactics and deployment to suit all war scenarios, as well as stratagems to deter or fend off intervention by the US or Japan.  The Chinese military must have been updating these plans from time to time to reflect changes in geopolitics and Taiwan’s own defenses, for Xi to choose from should he feel that the time is ripe for a once-and-for-all, momentous action to tame and reclaim the island.  Meanwhile, Beijing has also been on a spree of building or inaugurating aircraft carriers, missiles, corvettes, destroyers, amphibious battleships and stealth fighters, fueling further speculation over whether Taiwan stands a chance when Xi, armed with the will of the rank and file, is girding for a new Chinese civil war.  While many observers believe Xi is readying the military and the nation for a showdown, a bid that will decide how he will go down in history, veteran military commentator Andrei Chang noted in the Kanwa Defense Review that the PLA’s big guns and ships may be for show to make Washington and Tokyo think twice before stepping in, and a trigger doesn’t have to be pulled now that Xi has a slew of non-military options at his disposal.  The Hong Kong-based current-affairs monthly SuperMedia also reported that among the many diplomatic and economic means to subjugate the island is issuing Taiwan Special Administrative Region passports and granting hukou (Chinese household registration) and permanent residency to the 2 million Taiwanese already residing in mainland China.  Previous reports also suggest that the PLA’s first overseas base, which sits right on the Horn of Africa in Djibouti (and discussed here in FOD previously), is aimed at Taiwan, since the resource-scarce island relies substantially on the narrow waterway linking the Suez Canal and the Arabian Sea for oil imports from the Middle East as well as trade with Europe. From the Djibouti base PLA troops could intercept tankers ferrying oil to Taiwan and seal off the island’s trade artery in no time.  Beijing’s frenzied investment and acquisitions targeting stakes in mines, oilfields and energy firms in the Belt and Road countries could also jeopardize Taiwan’s economic security should Beijing decree an embargo of crude oil and other natural resources, according to Chang.  Something they have been unwilling to do when it comes to dealing with North Korea.  The raft of economic, trade, financial and logistical measures short of a shooting war to contain Taiwan won’t provide an opening for Washington to weight in, yet given time, they could work to coerce Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen into coming to terms with Xi and accepting whatever he has in store for a treaty to create a future Taiwan Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day February 1st through 7th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day January 14th through 18th 2018

Saying of the Day

Id est quod id est.   It is what it is, but it sounds a lot smarter in Latin.

 

Five Officers Referred To An Article 32 Hearing

In an extremely rare event, the Navy has decided to charge five officers with negligent homicide for their roles in the two fatal ship collisions, the USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) (being moved aboard MV Treasure below left) and the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62).  In the early morning hours of 17 June 2017, the USS Fitzgerald (also being moved below right) was involved in a collision with the container ship MV ACX Crystal, seriously damaging the destroyer. Seven of Fitzgerald‘s crew were killed. Several others were injured, including her commanding officer, Commander Bryce Benson. The John S. McCain was involved in a collision with the merchant ship Alnic MC on 21 August 2017 off the coast of Singapore, which resulted in the deaths of ten of her crew, and left another five injured. I don’t recall a case in recent Navy history where accident at sea has triggered such criminal charges.  Navy Times is reporting The Navy on Tuesday laid out the charges that would be presented at what is called an Article 32 hearing, which will determine whether the accused will go to trial in a court-martial. No doubt paving the way for the severe charges was the significant loss of life in the two collisions.  “What’s different here is the loss of life,” said Eugene Fidell, an expert in military law who teaches at Yale Law School. “The victims’ families are obviously devastated by this, the Navy obviously feels it has an obligation to them as well to its own standards.”  The Fireball guess would be the cases will end with plea bargains and the officers are more likely to be dismissed from the service, lose their retirement or receive other administrative punishments.  Again according to Navy Times, in one of the few relatively recent similar cases, two Marine officers were tried on charges of negligent homicide and manslaughter for piloting a small twin-engine military plane into a cable holding a gondola in Italy in 1998. The wing of the twin-engine Prowler was flying too low when it sliced through the cable, sending 20 civilians in the cable car plummeting to their deaths. The two officers were found not guilty of those charges, but were later found guilty of obstruction of justice for destroying a video taken during the flight.  (There were a number of issues in this case which certainly warranted dismissal of the charges).  Commanders involved in other ship collisions have largely avoided any type of homicide or manslaughter charges.  In the case of the Ehime Maru and USS Greeneville collision on 9 February 2001, Greenville (SSN-772) conducting an emergency main ballast tank blow off the coast of Oahu while hosting several civilian “distinguished visitors”, mainly donors to the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the Greeneville struck the 191-foot (58 m) Japanese fishery high school training ship Ehime Maru (えひめ丸), causing the fishing boat to sink in less than ten minutes with the death of nine crew members, including four high school students.  The commander of the Greeneville, Commander Scott Waddle, accepted full responsibility for the incident. However, after he faced a court of inquiry, it was decided a full court-martial would be unnecessary and Commander Waddle’s request to retire was approved for 1 October 2001 with an honorable discharge.  The Navy said Wednesday that preliminary hearings for the five officers charged in the Fitzgerald and McCain collisions will likely be held in the coming weeks in the Washington, D.C., region, but exact locations and dates are not set yet. The hearing officer will decide whether there is enough evidence for the cases will go to a trial by court-martial and what specific charges will be brought against the officers, based on that evidence.  The maximum punishment for negligent homicide is three years in prison and dismissal from the Navy. For a conviction on that charge, Fidell said, prosecutors must prove the officer was guilty of “simple negligence” that resulted in the deaths.  In addition to the negligent homicide charge, several officers are also facing charges of dereliction of duty and endangering a ship. The maximum punishment for the dereliction of duty charge is three months in jail, and the maximum punishment for endangering a vessel is two years in jail.  The Navy conducted a series of investigations and reviews into the two collisions, concluding that the accidents were the result of poor judgment, bad decision-making and widespread training and leadership failures by the commanders and crew who didn’t quickly recognize and respond to unfolding emergencies.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day January 14th through 18th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day January 9th through 13th 2018

Saying Of The Day

Hyphenated.  Non-hyphenated.  Now that’s irony.

 

SpaceX Mission Fails

SpaceX has for months been preparing for the launch of a highly classified payload launch, presumed to be a spy satellite code named Zuma.  This past Sunday the launch did take place using a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.  There are multiple reports out there.  SpaceX announced January 9th their portion of the launch event was totally successful.  But a story in the Wall Street Journal reported the satellite is presumed a total loss after it failed to reach low-earth orbit.  Lawmakers and Congressional staffers from the Senate and the House were briefed regarding the mission’s failure.  In a follow up article Matt Desch, chief executive officer of satellite operator Iridium Communications Inc., said that as the launch contractor, Northrop Grumman deserves the blame for the loss last weekend of the satellite, which is presumed to have crashed into the ocean.  And I’m sure there will be additional Congressional inquiries this next week.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day January 9th through 13th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day December 28th through 31st 2017

New Year’s Resolutions

Resolutions don’t work because they imply that you’re not ALREADY trying to accomplish them. A healthy, well-balanced, successful life should be the standard every day of every year of your entire life. It should never appear out of the blue as a random resolution on some special day. It has to be a lifestyle.  They also don’t work because they’re focused on outer superficial things that you have no control over. Losing weight is superficial. Being a healthy person is foundational. Values are much more powerful than goals. Goals are superficial. Values are fundamental. Goals are directional. Values are the drivers. If you have a goal to lose weight but don’t value health and vanity, I promise you failure. Did I say vanity? I meant just health. People dieting and “trying to lose weight” aren’t skinny—at least they don’t stay that way for long. Healthy people dedicated to respecting their bodies are skinny.  What does all the mean?  I’ll have a beer and think about it!

Good resolutions are:

Lose weight, exercise more, eat better

Make more money, save more money, spend less money

Find meaningful work, work less, take more vacations.  Don’t use the same excuses for not working you used this past year

Stay the course or change course

Read more books, listen to your favorite music, and attend live performances

Volunteer, get involved, contact your elected officials and express your views

Take up a new hobby.  Consider procrastination. OK maybe later.

Realize that God loves me, and that beer is the proof of that love.

Start buying lottery tickets at a luckier store.

Pick up FOD whenever it comes out, send you comments in. Forward it to two friends and ask them if they like it to subscribe – it’s free!

Stay close to your friends and to those you love.  Always kiss goodnight.

Happy New Year!

 

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day December 28th through 31st 2017”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day December 18 through 21, 2017

The House Tears Up Plan For Full-Year DoD Budget Within Short Term Continuing Resolution

All Friends of FOD realize operating the Government and particularly the DoD under the continuing resolution process speaks to the acrimony within Congress.  As I mentioned in a previous edition of FOD, there had been an attempt to at least stabilize DoD’s much needed FY-18 budget by including a full-year defense spending bill as part of the short-term continuing resolution (CR) for the rest of Government.  Defense News is reporting House Republicans are tearing up plans to wed a full-year defense spending bill to a short-term continuing resolution for the rest of government.  House Republicans were working to hammer out a new agreement before midnight Friday so they can leave town for the Christmas recess. To avoid a government shutdown, they must successfully factor in what the slim GOP majority in the Senate can pass.  Debate over the CR had to be tabled so as to be able to modify and then re-vote for the tax overhaul bill.  Even as Republicans took a victory lap Wednesday to celebrate passage of a tax overhaul, a government shutdown loomed as plans for the defense-CR hybrid bill collapsed under the weight of unrelated provisions.  Conservative Republicans are said to have withdrawn support for the hybrid CR, in part over its inclusion of an $81 billion disaster relief package.  It remains to be seen whether the next CR will deal with other contentious issues like the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Veterans Choice Program or an extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.  A large enough bloc of assertive House Republican defense hawks and fiscally conservative Freedom Caucus members backed the hybrid defense-CR that House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., allowed it to advance. But if those groups oppose a CR without higher defense spending, Ryan would need Democratic votes to pass the CR.  Several House Republicans said they hope to see a “clean” CR, with $5.9 billion in added defense funding requested by the White House — for missile defense, a troop surge in Afghanistan, and repairs for the collision-damaged U.S. Navy destroyers Fitzgerald and John S. McCain.  “Leadership’s going back to the drawing board on this one to figure out what they think can pass,” said Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Charlie Dent, chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies and co-chair of the moderate Tuesday Group.  “I can’t think of a bigger act of political malpractice after a successful tax reform vote than to shut the government down,” Dent said. “Talk about stepping on your own message. Really, how dumb would that be? Hey, but anything is possible around here. This is Congress.”

 

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day December 18 through 21, 2017”