FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 16th through 21st 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

Give a man a beer and he drinks for a day.  Teach a man to hang out with guys who brew beer and he has beer for a lifetime.  Thanks Friend of FOD Roger for a great FOD Saying of the Day suggestion.   This evolved from the famous fish saying:  Give a man a fish and he eats for a day.  Teach a man to fish and he’ll buy a boat, poles, reels, waders, tackle, bad boat beer, and numerous ‘fish whisperer’ guides; all far surpassing the cost of buying fish from your local fish monger.  But – when you catch that fish – it’s all worth it.  This parable goes along with sell a man a streetrod and he has a car to show and be proud of.  Teach a man to build a streetrod and he’ll spend years and thousands of dollars trying to build a better one, or two or more of them.  What’s up with that?

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 16th through 21st 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 12 through 15 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

I would like to apologize to anyone whom I haven’t offended yet. Please be patient, I will get to you shortly.

Air Strike on Syria – Comment

First let me say I applaud President Trump’s decision to launch what appeared to be a successful surgical strike on Syrian chemical weapons infrastructure and capabilities.  In aligning our efforts with those of Britain and France we establish a unified position against the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian supporters.  The Pentagon   boasted Saturday that its coordinated show of military force obliterated key chemical weapons facilities in Syria and set back the country’s chemical weapons capabilities “for years.”  I have severe doubts in that regard.  Russia has already publically stated it will replace weapons lost during this US led strike with more viable weapons.  See my thoughts on Operation El Dorado below.  But military and Middle East experts say the predawn onslaught — touted by the Defense Department as “precise, overwhelming and effective” — appears to have been little more than an empty gesture and likely did not do much to alter Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military calculus.  Gen. Douglas Lute, the former U.S. ambassador to NATO, said that Assad’s threshold for pain is very high because “he’s in a fight for his life” to maintain control of his country, which has been mired in a seven-year civil war.  He doesn’t fear a mid-term election.  The airstrikes, which targeted three facilities involved in research or storage of chemical weapons in western Syria, won’t disable him from taking further action — whether chemical or conventional, Lute said.  “I think he’s feeling reasonably good right now,” Lute said of Assad. “Some of his facilities were struck, but it doesn’t really challenge his hold on the country.”  President Donald Trump on Friday ordered the military to strike targets in Syria in conjunction with France and the United Kingdom after a suspected chemical weapons attack reportedly killed dozens of Syrians. According to the Pentagon, those targets included a scientific research center in the capital of Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility near the city of Homs, and a chemical weapons equipment and military outpost also near Homs.  Syria and all the issues surrounding the conflict in the area is a complicated issue.  We have allowed it to become much more complicated because US administrations, past and present have been unwilling or unable to take a leading role. Into that vacuum have stepped Russia and Iran.  If we want regime change, then we need to be strong in our efforts to effect that change.  That means stronger sanctions, a possible no-fly zone, a possible shipping blockade and border embargos. It would be most inappropriate to call it “mission accomplished.”  Oh, it’s too late for that!

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FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day March 20th through 23rd 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

Always remember you are unique, just like everyone else.

 

Buy Your Epic Pass

I don’t endorse many products on FOD, but this one is too good to pass up!  If you’re a skier or a rider than you owe it to yourself to look into the Epic Pass.  For $99 it gives Active/Retired/Dependent service members unlimited, unrestricted access to Vail, Beaver Creek, Whistler Blackcomb, Breckenridge, Park City, Keystone, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Stowe, Wilmot, Afton Alps, and Mt. Brighton for the 2018-19 season, as well as Perisher in Australia for the 2019 ski season.  And they’re looking to add more resorts for next year as well.  There is also a good deal for Veterans and their Dependents at $499 for the same benefits.  You also get discounts on food on and off the mountain, lodging and ski rentals as well.  There are also free lift access during the summer at most resorts for hiking or biking adventures.  Also included are six ski with a friend/buddy tickets which give some pretty good deals for friends as well.

 

Congress Races to Pass $1.3T Defense-Friendly Omnibus Bill And Avoid Shutdown

Defense News is reporting the sweeping $1.3 trillion spending bill that congressional leaders unveiled Wednesday includes $654.6 billion for the Pentagon. But it’s unclear whether Congress can pass the proposal without shutting down the government.  Lawmakers touted the bill as providing the biggest year-over-year increase in defense funding in 15 years. Pentagon appropriations include $589.5 billion in the base budget and $65.2 billion in the overseas contingency operations (OCO) budget — an increase of $61.1 billion over the 2017 enacted level, when combined with other previously enacted funding.  The bill surpasses President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 request for the Pentagon by $15.5 billion.  Leadership and the heads of the appropriations committees struck a deal on a spending bill to fund the Pentagon and 11 other departments through the end of the fiscal year. The hard-won deal also involved funding to address the opioid crisis and strengthen’s the country’s gun background check system, but it does not include a fix for expiring protections for young immigrants.  Hardline House GOP conservatives, however, have signaled they will vote against the bill because negotiations have been too friendly to Democrats. Their non-support forces the GOP to rely on Democrats for the votes to pass it.  The agreement increases a cap on spending in the last two months of the fiscal year from 20 percent to 25 percent. It also changes the reprogramming threshold from $15 million to $20 million, and modifies the guidelines for realignments between readiness budget line items from requiring prior approval to written notification.  “These flexibility changes will allow for smarter execution of the $230 billion in base and OCO funding provided for the operation and maintenance accounts by avoiding the ‘use it or lose it’ dilemma and allowing more timely execution of readiness line items that have been affected by fact-of-life changes or emergent requirements,” a bill summary reads.  The defense bill includes $705.8 million for Israeli cooperative programs. A separate State and Foreign Operations bill includes $9 billion in base and OCO funding for international security assistance, with $3.1 billion for Israel, $1.3 billion for Egypt and $1.5 billion for Jordan.  For Navy shipbuilding programs, there is $23.8 billion to procure 14 Navy ships, including funding for one carrier replacement, two DDG-51 guided missile destroyers, two Virginia-class submarines, three littoral combat ships; one expeditionary sea base; one expeditionary fast transport; one amphibious ship replacement; one fleet oiler; one towing, salvage, and rescue ship, and one oceanographic survey ship.  For aviation, there is $10.2 billion for 90 F-35 aircraft; $1.8 billion for 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft; $1.6 billion for 30 new build and 50 remanufactured Apache helicopters; $1.1 billion for 56 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters; $225 million for 20 MQ-1 Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles; $1.7 billion for 10 P-8A Poseidon aircraft; $1.3 billion for 14 V-22 aircraft; $2.9 billion for 18 KC-46 tanker aircraft; $2.4 billion for 25 C/HC/KC/MC-130J aircraft, and $103 million for A-10 wing replacements.  For space, there is $1.4 billion for three evolved expendable launch vehicles and $675 million for two wideband gap-filler satellites. Air Force space programs net $800 million, with $100 million above the budget request for space launch vehicle and engine development activities.  There’s also $9.5 billion for the Missile Defense Agency, bringing the FY18 total for MDA to more than $11.3 billion when combined with the previously passed supplemental, according to the summary.

 

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FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day March 5th through 12th 2018

Friends of FOD

I’m hearing the periodic message sent you subscribers out there is not reaching you in a timely manner.  You might check your junk mail and see if it’s there or another folder.  Sometimes recurring messages get sent there.  I’m getting my best FOD IT guy working on it to see if I can make some changes from this end.  Thanks.  And I know I’m a bit late getting this edition out.  I’ve been writing, just not publishing.

 

FOD Saying of the Day

Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves. Albert Einstein

 

 

Xi Secures Power In Perpetuity

The path was cleared on Sunday for China’s Xi Jinping to rule the country indefinitely as its rubber-stamp parliament passed a constitutional amendment removing presidential term limits.  The amendment was passed almost – but not quite – unanimously, with two “no” votes and three abstentions, against 2,957 in favor. I don’t think those “no voters” are around anymore.  Party members’ loyalty belied a wave of criticism of the move among internet users, a wave which censors have taken care to extinguish. The amendment was revealed by the Communist Party just last month.  Delegates to the National People’s Congress, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, applauded after each vote in what comes as China’s first constitutional amendment in 14 years. Had members rejected it, it would have been the first time a party diktat had ever failed to pass.  Xi, 64, has consolidated power since 2012, when he was appointed party general secretary, the country’s top office. The position has no term limits, but his two predecessors both gave it up after two terms as part of the “orderly process” established by Deng.  The presidency is a largely ceremonial office, but the now-abolished constitutional limits meant Xi would have had to give it up in 2023. Before Sunday’s vote, US President Donald Trump had joked that Xi was “now president for life.”  As the holder of the top offices of party, state and military, Xi is also referred to as China’s “paramount” leader; and, in 2016, he was officially designated “core” leader by the party. His accumulation of titles has also earned him the nickname “Chairman of Everything.”  Under Xi’s leadership, China has experienced tighter restrictions on civil society, including detentions of activists and lawyers, and ever-stricter internet controls. Simultaneously, he has purged many officials, and sidelined potential rivals, by means of a relentless ‘crackdown on corruption’ that seems yet to have run its course.  “I think that during the past five years, he has been carrying out a soft coup, including making the Politburo a mere figurehead,” Chinese political commentator Wu Qiang told AFP, referring to the 25-member Communist Party body one notch under the ruling council.  “He wants to prevent power from falling into the hands of technocrats like Jiang (Zemin) and Hu (Jintao),” Wu added, referring to Xi’s two predecessors.  So what does it all mean for the Chinese people?  Dissenting is becoming even more risky.  The room for debate becomes narrower.  The risk of a policy mistake becomes higher.  Correcting a flawed policy will take longer.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day March 5th through 12th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day June 20 through 25, 2017

Friends of FOD

A bit delayed on this edition.  I’ve been moving the last few days.  It’s a pain in the butt.  And it doesn’t get easier with age or with the number of moves made in my lifetime.  Suffice it to say I’ve traded a great lake view for a great mountain view.   So things have gotten a bit behind.  Plus I had to wait until today to get my internet installed.  I know – excuses will be listened to, but not tolerated!

 

US Companies Providing Russians with Security Source Code

We have known for quite some time the Russians are employing every possible cyber tactic to undermine US computer systems, establish hacker networks and steal millions of dollars on a recurring basis.  So where are they getting some of the most critical product security secrets you might ask?  From the very companies developing the software.  Cisco, IBM and SAP have all acknowledged and acceded to the demands by Russia to review source code for security products such as firewalls, anti-virus applications and software containing encryption before permitting these products to be imported to and sold in Russia.  This, according to Reuters, has been going on for quite some time and those requests have increased since 2014.  Supposedly these requests are done to ensure foreign spy agencies have not hidden and “backdoors” that would allow them to borrow into Russian computer systems.  But in doing so Russian inspectors have the opportunity to find vulnerabilities in products’ source code and instructions that control both basic and advanced operations of computer equipment.  While a number of U.S. firms say they are playing ball to preserve their entree to Russia’s huge tech market, at least one U.S. firm, Symantec, told Reuters it has stopped cooperating with the source code reviews over security concerns. That halt has not been previously reported.  Symantec said one of the labs inspecting its products was not independent enough from the Russian government.  U.S. officials say they have warned firms about the risks of allowing the Russians to review their products’ source code, because of fears it could be used in cyber attacks. But they say they have no legal authority to stop the practice unless the technology has restricted military applications or violates U.S. sanctions.  (photo above left is the Russian Security Service Building).  From their side, companies say they are under pressure to acquiesce to the demands from Russian regulators or risk being shut out of a lucrative market. The companies say they only allow Russia to review their source code in secure facilities that prevent code from being copied or altered.  I wish I were making this up.  My recommendation – don’t sell them anything – let ’em rot.

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