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 November 7th through 9th 2017

Fireball Rant of Day – The End of the Driving Your Automobile Is In Sight

In the beginning there were no automobiles and there was darkness along the roads.  And man said let us have cars that will move us along the road more efficiently than the horse.  At first man created basic transportation vehicles.  Once two cars were created, they raced them to see which was better.  Man then designed cars to reflect specific needs; functionality combined with beauty and style.  The brothers August and Frederick Duesenberg, Henry Ford , Louis Chevrolet, Ferdinand Porsche,  Enzo Ferrari all designed and built cars to go beyond transportation befitting our dreams of how to drive and what to drive.  I’ve been a car guy all my life.  My first car at age 3 was a pedal car very similar to this photo (below right).  David Dikowski lived two houses down from us.  He had a fire engine pedal car (below left).  We raced each other routinely ‘cause that’s what guys do.   I worn out three sets of tires on that pedal car.  The first car I bought was a tangerine orange ’69 Porsche 911 E Targa.  I purchased it from my high school French teacher, another car guy.  I’ve had Porsche 911’s ever since.  That’s mine below right.  Why?  Because they’re fun to drive; they were built to drive; to drive fast; to take corners with ease; to make a statement; to be the statement.  I’ve also had a couple street rods over the years and as most of you know I’m building a ’31 Chevy 5 Window Coupe.  (photo of a 3 window coupe – not mine) Your imagination and your wallet establish the design parameters for these most personalized vehicles.  Today’s cars are already being homogenized so as to look nearly identical.  They’re either black, white, one of the 50 shades of grey with one red and one blue car per 100 thrown into the mix.  I noted that on 07 November, Waymo, a subsidiary of Google has partnered with several other big name corporations to introduce driverless ride-sharing within the next few months, beginning in Phoenix.  Those partners include: Fiat-Chrysler for minivans, AutoNation for vehicle service, Avis for fleet management and Lyft for their ride-share technology.  Every big name automobile manufacturer is employing all available technology to create driverless ride-share.   It will only be a few years until driverless vehicles are accepted as the norm.  Children born today will never need to obtain that rite of passage – a driver’s license.

When these blob vehicles reach a critical mass of say 75%; governments will say, driverless cars all obey the speed limits all the time, they reduce the number of accidents, cars driven by individuals are responsible for 90% of vehicle accidents; therefore you have five years to cease driving your vehicles on public roads – you may keep them in your own personal museum – under certain qualifying rules of course.  What I see developing is a culture where we can’t and don’t drive.  Vehicles will be owned, operated, maintained by conglomerates.  People will just pay for a service provided ride from point A to B.  The building of great automobiles and the experience of driving those automobiles will be gone forever.  I will be both mad and sad. Comments please!

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day November 7th through 9th 2017”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day October 14 through 22, 2017

Friends of FOD

Sorry for the delay in getting this edition out.  I had a lot of stuff goin’ on!

 

How About Those Yankees!

I wrote and then rewrote Yankee win stories three times this week, because I didn’t get around to publishing the next edition of FOD.  Home field has diffidently had its place in this year’s American League Championship Series, as every game was won by the home team.

NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 17: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees celebrates after scoring on a Gary Sanchez #24 double with Todd Frazier #29 and Jacoby Ellsbury #22 during the eighth inning against the Houston Astros in Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 17, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The Yanks certainly had opportunities along the way to win another game, but that’s baseball.  At the beginning of spring training no one imagined Aaron Judge would have the success he and the Yankees enjoyed.  In fact he didn’t make the team until the last few days.  Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird contributed mightily down the stretch and we had good pitching.  The team has excellent prospects in their minor league system and likely we’ll see new names and new faces next spring.  Until then there’s a good World Series to watch and comment on.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day October 14 through 22, 2017”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 27 through 30, 2017

Friends of FOD

Some additions to previous stories and some new FOD to pick up. Comments appreciated.

 

USNS Comfort (T-AH20) Proceeding To Puerto Rico and Other Puerto Rico Events/Opinions

USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) is proceeding toward Puerto Rico to aid in relief efforts on the storm damaged island.  The USNS prefix identifies the Comfort as a non-commissioned ship owned by the U.S. Navy and operationally crewed by civilians from the Military Sealift Command (MSC). A uniformed naval hospital staff and naval support staff is embarked when Comfort is deployed, said staffs consisting primarily of naval officers from the Navy’s Medical Corps, Dental Corps, Medical Service Corps, Nurse Corps and Chaplain Corps, and naval enlisted personnel from the Hospital Corpsman rating and various administrative and technical support ratings (e.g., Yeoman, Personnel Specialist, Information Systems Technician, Religious Program Specialist, etc.).  Criticism has surfaced in the last few days implying Comfort should have already been positioned there.  Former Senator Hilary Clinton sought headlines and attempted to crush some additional sour grapes into whine on the issue.  The facts are the Federal Emergency Management Agency was responsible for coordinating efforts of all participating agencies as part of that agency’s charter and the agency provides state and local government support for disaster relief, until September 28, when the US  Army has appointed BGen Richard Kim to oversee every facet of the massive mission and coordinate the National Guard, FEMA and Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s office.  Generally it is FEMS’s responsibility to request DoD and other assets as necessitated by the events.  Since then, the US military is conducting round-the-clock missions to send aircraft, troops, food, water, medical supplies and communications equipment and power generation equipment to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.  The humanitarian and rescue efforts must necessarily precede the rebuilding efforts and emphasis is being given to search and rescue efforts, distribution of supplies and bringing power back to hospitals, airports, ports and other such facilities.  The totality of the destruction on Puerto Rico is so vast as to have limited any analysis of what’s needed and where.  The power grid and hence everything run by electrical power generators; cell phone sites, gas station pumps, water pumps, etc. are all out.  Puerto Rico has traditionally been hampered by inefficient and corrupt local and territorial government officials and organizational apparatus that now finds itself incapable of handling the immense efforts required to both evaluate and distribute aid on a large scale.  It’s like New Orleans post Katrina times 1000.  On September 28, Congress and the President, at the request of Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rosselló have temporarily waived the Jones Merchant Marine Act allowing foreign ships to deliver items to the island.  The Fireball opinion is this is a finger pointing exercise regarding relief supplies and is a familiar argument used by Puerto Rico officials to draw attention away from the island’s debt crisis.  I see the news coverage shows thousands of containers of relief supplies and other commodities already off loaded on San Juan docks.  Power at the docks is being supplied by diesel generators.  But drivers aren’t available because they don’t have the fuel for their personal vehicles and/or the communication chain to get them to work coupled with the lack of fuel for the truck needs to move and/or refrigerate their contents.  Drivers and security personnel are now being flown in.  If you’re a store, it’s hard to take delivery of goods when your store has no roof, no power for cash registers and your employees can’t get to work.  Without electricity the banking system is paralyzed as well.  According to the latest from Washington on 29 September, President Trump is making no specific promise to rebuild what was already a much antiquated infrastructure (including the electrical grid).  Later Friday, during a speech on tax policy, Trump said, “Ultimately, the government of Puerto Rico will have to work with us to determine how this massive rebuilding effort…will be funded.” Trump said the effort “will end up being one of the biggest ever” and noted that Puerto Rico already had “a tremendous amount of debt.”  Fine, but let’s help our American citizens who are critical need of water, food and medical support.  Currently only 5% of the islands electrical service has been restored a full 10 days after Hurricane Maria.  We should be doing better.  Alec Baldwin did a great Trump on the kickoff of ‘SNL.’  As an aside, the Jones Act regulates maritime commerce in U.S. waters and between U.S. ports. Section 27 of the Jones Act deals with cabotage and requires that all goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried on U.S.-flagships, constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed by U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents.  It has been instrumental in maintaining a merchant marine capable of supporting our national defense and our national security despite what Arizona Sen. John McCain says with regard to the law.  It has sustained a ship building critical to our nation and decreases the adverse consequences of exposing ports and waterways to foreign seafarers.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 27 through 30, 2017”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day August 4th thorough 7th 2017

Additional Sanctions Imposed on North Korea

The UN Security Council is credited with imposing ‘tough new’ economic sanctions on North Korea.  Good.  It’s also important to note the Security Council was unanimous in approving these sanctions including support from both China and Russia.  United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson currently at the ASEAN summit in the Philippines indicated, “The best signal that North Korea could give us that they’re prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches. Those sanctions; they will take time to have an impact. Secretary Tillerson said the US will be monitoring implementation of the sanctions to ensure they are enforced by all countries.  Will they at last bring Pyongyang to the realization that a nuclear ICBM capable will not be tolerated?  I doubt it.  In the 25 through 27 July edition of FOD, I noted I don’t believe Kim Jong Un will be persuaded, as he is still able to control all aspects of his government’s supply and demand systems.

He allowed his people to suffer widespread famine and all previous attempts to isolate he and his “family business” government have neither deterred nor abated the progress of his nuclear development program.  For him, this is just more of the same and he can point to outside nations as responsible for his people’s further hardships.  The only way he will discuss any change of direction of his nuclear program is if he is assured regime change and the reunification of the Korean peninsula is somehow not a long term goal.  Then of course we would be supporting another dictator with an abysmal record on human rights.  What you think Friends of FOD?

 

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day August 4th thorough 7th 2017”