FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day December 22nd through 27th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

He knows nothing; he thinks he knows everything – that clearly points to a political career. — George Bernard Shaw


FOD Trivia Question of the Day

What was the first secret message Ralphie from A Christmas Story decoded using his newly acquired Little Orphan Annie secret decoder ring?


Previous FOD Trivia Answer

Which two planets, depending upon their orbit of the sun are known interchangeably as the “evening star” and the “morning star?”  Answer – Mercury and Venus


“You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out”

I trust every Friend of FOD had a great Christmas and enjoyed unrelenting or at least 24 hours of dog dares; watching of the classic Christmas movie, A Christmas Story.  It’s a 1983 movie set in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s in which the adult story teller is reminiscing on one particular Christmas when he was nine years old. Ralphie Parker wanted only one thing for that Christmas: a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. Ralphie’s desire is rejected by his mother, his teacher Miss Shields, and even a Santa Claus at Higbee’s department store, all giving him the same warning: “You’ll shoot your eye out.”  Ralphi’s Dad, the Old Man, wins a “major award” in a contest.  The major award turns out to be a lamp in the shape of a woman’s leg wearing a fishnet stocking.  It was derived from the logo for Nehi (pronounced “knee-high”) pop, a popular soft drink of the period.  The Old Man is overjoyed by the lamp, but Ralphie’s Mom rejects the major award as being the ugliest lamp she has ever seen and a feud begins  — referred to by adult Ralphie as “The Battle of the Lamp”.  It develops and results in the lamp’s “accidental” destruction.  I have the working replica of that major award lamp and the Red Ryder Carbine 200 shot Range Model air rifle because you never know when Black Bart may show up in your backyard.  Early in the movie, Ralphie, tells us, “Some men are Baptist, others Catholic; my father was an Oldsmobile man.” Although the Olds, a 1937 four-door sedan, is seen throughout the movie, usually covered in snow, its biggest role was during the family outing to pick up a Christmas tree. After the Old Man skillfully negotiated the price of the tree, and it was tied to the top of the car, the family began their trek back home, singing Christmas Carols along the way. However, the merriment is interrupted when the Oldsmobile blows a right front tire. The Old Man’s prediction, that he would change the tire in record time (four minutes), unfortunately this wasn’t realized, when the lug nuts, held by Ralphie, were knocked into the air. Without thinking, Ralphie says, “Ooooooh fuuudge!” He, of course, didn’t really say the word fudge.  He says the big one; the queen mother of dirty words, the f _ _ _ word.  Eventually Raphie receives the Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle; the greatest Christmas present ever.  OK, here’s some car trivia:  What engine was in that ’37 Olds?  Answer:  Why the straight six of course as distinguished by the front horizontal bar grill.  The eight cylinder model had a mesh grill design.  The film earned two Canadian Genie Awards in 1984 and in 2012 was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.  In November 2012, A Christmas Story: The Musical, based on the film, opened on Broadway. The musical was then adapted for television as the three hour A Christmas Story Live!, which aired on the Fox network on December 17, 2017 and again this year.  Sorry it’s not very good.  I don’t like the story as a musical and the television version added some extra scenes and changed others to make it more politically correct than it needed to be in 1983.


Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day December 22nd through 27th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day October 22nd through 24th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

Ye who write, choose a subject suited to your abilities. – Horace


FOD Trivia Question

On September 16, 1630, the town of Shawmut, Massachusetts changed its name to what?


Previous FOD Trivia Answer

In 1851, what did Elias Howe, Walter Hunt and Isaac Merritt Singer all invent simultaneously, each in a different part to the US?  Answer: The sewing machine.


There’s A Lot Of Stuff Going On Out There – Let’s Get To It


Fireball Editorial on Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press

I had not commented, till now, on the Saudi’s amateurish assassination the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.  Evidence is coming out his murder was brutal and premeditated; and his body was dismembered inside the Saudi consulate building.  Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Saudi Arabia and Turkey to discuss Khashoggi’s disappearance.  CIA Director Gina Haspel has now traveled to Turkey as part of the investigation.  It is well documented that nothing happens in Saudi Arabia without the knowledge and consent of the powerful Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).  MBS’s degree of authoritarianism and bold aggression against any criticism adversely distinguishes his regime from those of his processors, despite his marketing campaign in the West as a progressive reformer.  With US help he has continued a brutal war in Yemen, bullied Qatar, detained members of his own family and punished an unknown number of Saudi citizens.  In his comments of 23 October President Trump doesn’t criticize MBS or Saudi Arabia, but instead said “They had a very bad original concept, it was carried out poorly, and the cover-up was the worst in history of cover-ups.”  Overall our President has once again espoused a fundamental reorganization of American values: Money first and morality, or at the least the protections enshrined in the US Constitution for journalists and citizens to voice their dissent, a distant second.  He recently praised a congressman for his cowardly attack on an American journalist (for which the Congressman pleaded guilty to assault) and he’s mocked the American press while abroad.  His ongoing contempt of the press has heartened the world’s dictators to mimic his actions.  During the 2016 election, Trump refused to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin and his regime for jailing and killing dissidents, including journalists. And, though no one knows what the two men discussed in their private Helsinki summit, no one in the administration has even so much as hinted they discussed press freedom.  Trump also laughed in front of the American press when Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte called journalists “spies.” Those reporters were asking if Trump brought up human rights abuses while with the strongman who has allegedly killed countless thousands of drug users and who has defended the killing of journalists.  American leaders have traditionally been able to claim the moral high ground when calling for freedom of the press and freedom of speech around the world.  That best of American freedoms is not just for journalists, but for people of all occupations to be able to speak their minds without fear of jail or death.  For regimes like Putin’s, MBS’ and Deterte’s, censorship and control of its citizens is why the fundamental value of free speech was given a prominent, foundational place by our founding fathers.  Speaking of journalists in particular, US presidents and other US officials have championed those ideals on the global stage by letting all countries know they face tangible repercussions to their seats of power; for example sanctions, or cancellation of arms sales, or discontinuation of foreign aid if they were to harm or imprison foreign reporters, let alone kill them.  American correspondents have over past generations exposed corruption, human rights abuses as well as general ineptitude that would have gotten local journalists censored, jailed or possibly killed for covering.  We need to foster dialogue rather than see it suppressed by a growing number of strongmen around the world.  We need free speech and freedom of the press.  We need our own president to support these American values.  Comments solicited and appreciated.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day October 22nd through 24th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day July 31st through August 3rd 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

Every good act is charity.  A man’s true wealth hereafter is the good he does in this world to his fellows.    – Mohammed


FOD Trivia Question

What Spanish painter, who died in 1973, is the only artist to have his work displayed in the Louvre while he was still alive?


Previous FOD Trivia Answer:

Aristotle taught that all things were made up from four great elements.  Name the four Aristotelian elements.  Answer:  Earth, Air, Fire and Water.


Apple News

On 02 Aug, Apple Inc. became the first company to be worth one trillion dollars.  Wow! 


China Continuing to Coerce South China Sea Neighbors With Maritime Force

China announced on 31 July that it would buy all the Iranian oil that might come on the market at a discount regardless of sanctions imposed by other nations.  That caused the price of oil to stay below $70.00/barrel.  It’s a move to strengthen its Belt and Road Initiative or more specifically the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB).  Additionally China persists in employing a variety of tactics to coerce Taiwan, its maritime neighbors and put more pressure on Japan, a panel of experts agreed last week.  Nowhere is that more visible than Beijing’s “persistent and flexible presence” from its maritime militia, Coast Guard and People’s Liberation Army Navy. It is a maritime force that also keeps open the Malacca Straits, a vital passageway for its energy imports, as well as backing up its territorial claims far from its shores and extending its reach into the Indian Ocean and Africa, Bonnie Glaser, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies China Power Project, said on Thursday.  In addition to its maritime forces, China has expanded the capability of its artificial island network in the South China Sea. The installations are now capable of handling patrol aircraft, fighters and strategic bombers as well as anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles. The expansion allows the PLA “to develop operating concepts… they could use further north” to intimidate Tokyo and raise new threats to U.S. bases on Guam, she said.  Collin Koh Swee Lean, a research fellow at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, said some South East Asian nations, already operating at a quality and numbers disadvantage with China on law enforcement and naval vessels.  They “could not match what China has” when Beijing was only employing its coast guard or maritime militia in these disputes. In a confrontation with the Chinese under those conditions, a South East Asian navy and coast guard would likely “turn tail and run.”  “Modernization is moving at a snail’s pace” in these nations’ coast guards and navies, he said. Because the security needs vary widely, there is little or no coordination among neighbors on buying together, setting common needs, developing interoperable capability and a general reluctance to spend money in this area. They also don’t want to risk provoking China — militarily or economically.  Maritime domain awareness must be the building block in responding to China’s assertiveness, Hideshi Tokuchi, of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA, said. Tokyo does not distinguish between Beijing’s behavior in the South China Sea or what it is doing in North Asia — from intimidation of civilian fishermen to insisting on specious claims to islands in the East China Sea.

China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning takes part in a military drill of Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in the western Pacific Ocean, April 18, 2018. Picture taken April 18, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

From that point of view and geography, “Taiwan is more important than before” because it is in the connecting position between the two bodies of water. Its security concerns “should not be ignored” with strike aircraft from the mainland constantly circling the island and causing scrambles of fighters and periodic threats of invasion.  Glaser said despite its military moves and sometimes heated rhetoric China was not looking for a war with anyone in the Indo-Pacific.  “There has been some pushback” against China, surprisingly enough it came from Europe, Richard Heydarian, a fellow at ADR-Stratbase Institute, said Acknowledging France and Great Britain joining the United States in freedom of navigation operations around the artificial islands was new, he warned that those missions “alone could be counterproductive.” In Beijing, they could be dismissed as “empty tactics” because they “are not robust enough to deter” the Chinese from beefing up their military presence on the reclaimed lands or extending their reach to reefs and rocks further out or to the north.  Complicating matters is the behavior of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s “meek” and “humble” approach to China in its territorial dispute, despite an international arbitration panel’s supporting Manila’s claims, he said.  This has caused a split between the country’s military, “with its constitutional responsibility to protect Philippine sovereignty” and the president’s “leaning to China.” Signs of this include his allowing PLAN naval vessels to make port calls and military aircraft to fly into bases without treaty or much formal notice.  Further complicating matters in the Philippines is Duterte’s periodic bashing of the United States, that throws into question American use of naval and air bases. At the same time, the Philippine military has more closely embraced Washington to counter China and is seeking to expand exercises and training assistance.  While a way ahead would include a “negotiated Code of Conduct” for the South China Sea, Heydarian said for the countries in the region to accept such a deal it would have to include a freeze on militarization, reclamation and naval exercises.


Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day July 31st through August 3rd 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 28th through May 1st 2018

Fired Seventh Fleet Admiral Speaks Out On Fitzgerald and John S. McCain

Navy Times is reporting the former head of the Japan-based 7th Fleet who was fired in the wake of two fatal destroyer collisions in the west Pacific last summer is for the first time offering his take on what led to the disasters, while at times questioning Big Navy’s account of what transpired.  Retired Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin was fired as 7th Fleet commander on Aug. 23, just a few days after the destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a tanker near Singapore, an incident that killed 10 crew members.  A few months before that, seven other sailors died aboard the USS Fitzgerald when it was struck by a merchant vessel off Japan in June.  Since then, Navy leadership has decried a lack of readiness, maintenance and training among ships based out of Japan, and across the surface fleet in general.  Writing in the Naval Institute’s “Proceedings” magazine this month, Aucoin takes issue with how Navy leadership characterized the shortcomings in a comprehensive review and strategic readiness review done in the wake of the disasters.  “The Comprehensive Review (CR), Strategic Review (SR), and some media reporting could lead one to the impression my staff and I were oblivious to or unconcerned about the manning, training, and maintenance deficiencies affecting my ships and their ability to carry out their assigned missions,” Aucoin writes. “That was not the case.”  Instead, Aucoin alleges that his bosses at U.S. Pacific Fleet knew about the negative impacts that increased 7th Fleet operational tempo was having on training and maintenance “well prior” to the collisions.  “Despite these explicitly stated concerns, the direction we received was to execute the mission,” he writes.  Aucoin also questioned the narrative that the surface fleet’s shortcomings were limited to Japan.  A San Diego-based cruiser, Lake Champlain, was involved in a daytime collision with a Korean vessel last spring, he writes, suggesting a problem that was not limited to 7th Fleet.  Japan-based ships began getting the short end of the stick in 2014, when manning levels for those warships fell because of Navy policies that prioritized stateside ships, according to Aucoin.  He writes that his staff convened a Forward-Deployed Naval Force manning summit in June, and he takes issue with this effort not being mentioned in the comprehensive review, which was overseen by Fleet Forces Command head Adm. Phil Davidson.  “While it is said that the (comprehensive review) focused primarily on training and readiness, it did not address manpower issues nearly enough,” Aucoin writes. “I do not know how one can exclude manpower in a discussion on readiness in a high-operational tempo (OpTempo) environment.” Aucoin also writes that the realities of west Pacific command and control were neglected in the reviews.  Afloat Training Group West Pacific, responsible for training and certification of Japan-based ships, reported to Naval Surface Force Pacific and not 7th Fleet, he writes.  The “Third Fleet Forward” initiative, which sends stateside ships to 7th Fleet waters to relieve the pressure on 7th Fleet ships, came to entail those stateside ships operating outside 7th Fleet’s command and taking on missions that didn’t ease the workload of 7th Fleet cruisers or destroyers, according to Aucoin.  Aucoin also wonders why he was not interviewed for the comprehensive review.  “How comprehensive is the CR when neither Commander, Naval Surface Forces (CNSF), nor I, as the numbered fleet commander, was interviewed or asked for inputs?” he writes. “For the sake of our Navy, a transparent examination of the problem should include a full understanding of the challenges with which we were faced.” Naval operations “expanded dramatically” in the Indo-Asia Pacific since 2015, Aucoin writes, and demands from Pacific Fleet and U.S. Pacific Command increased, and readiness declined as a result.  “This was known both to commanders in FDNF and across the Navy,” Aucoin writes. “Through 2016 and early 2017, my staff produced detailed data quantifying the increase in (cruiser and destroyer) operational tasking and demonstrating the consequent decline in executed maintenance and training, which I sent directly to (Pacific Fleet).”  Pacific Fleet agreed that 7th Fleet’s maintenance and training were in trouble, he writes, “yet (7th Fleet) received no substantive relief from tasking or additional resources.”  Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Charles Brown said several investigations into what led up the collisions had been undertaken inside and outside the Navy.  “We do not have anything to add to these numerous reviews and investigations,” he said in an email.  Aucoin writes that his command worked to stay focused on executing operations safely and pushing back when they could not fulfill a request from higher up.  “In a few cases, we were able to argue for changes that allowed ships to complete training or maintenance,” he writes. “In many other cases, our arguments and recommendations were either overruled or ignored.”  Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson has said repeatedly since the collisions that commanders need to be able to say no to requests from higher up when their ships are not mission-ready.  The Navy needs to push back when combatant commands ask too much, Aucoin writes.  “It would have been reassuring if the (comprehensive review) had addressed the Navy’s organizational responsibility to act as a check against such increasing demand when divorced from the reality of readiness impacts,” he writes. “While the situation was well known by more senior leaders, this demand went unfiltered and fell to me.”  “I do not understand why our leaders do not push back on the excessive demand on our ships or exhibit more transparency on the true extent of the issues the Navy faces beyond Seventh Fleet,” Aucoin writes.  As 49 sailors had to be cross-decked in Japan to fill gaps on the ships, and five of 11 quartermaster billets were gapped, Aucoin writes that it was “frustrating” to hear of San Diego ships that were so over-manned they had to leave 30 sailors on the pier.  “In addition to a soaring OpTempo, the cumulative effect over time of not having enough people and resorting to cross-decking had a debilitating effect on readiness,” he writes. “We not only lacked overall numbers of people, we also lacked mentors, the men and women with the skills and experience that are vital to raising our next generation of experienced sailors.”  While taking Big Navy to task, Aucoin also points out his own faults near the article’s end.  “While we were able to turn off some taskings, in hindsight, I should have reiterated a ‘no’ when issued ‘force to source orders’ for operational tasking,” he writes. “I accept this mistake. At the same time, in the future I hope our Navy will listen more carefully to our commanders on the scene.”  Seventh Fleet is a hard assignment to fill, due to the rigors of overseas screening and the affects on families, he writes.  “My foremost hope is that my Navy can better support the men and women of the FDNF,” he writes. “Most sailors in FDNF find the mission exhilarating. At the same time, these wonderful people do need reasonable and consistent support for their ships, their families, and their careers.”  Comments?


Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 28th through May 1st 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 22nd through 27th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on – Winston Churchill


Sea Hunter Transferred to US Navy

The Sea Hunter is an autonomous unmanned surface vehicle (USV) launched in 2016 as part of the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program.  It was christened 7 April 2016 in Portland, Oregon. It was built by Vigor Industrial.  (Vigor also builds all the ferries for the Washington State Ferry System).  The vessel continues the line of experimental “Sea” ships, including the Sea ShadowSea Fighter, and Sea SliceThe Sea Hunter is classified as a Class III USV and designated the Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV).  It is an unmanned self-piloting craft with twin screws, powered by two diesel engines with a top speed of 27 knots.  Its weight is 135 tons, including 40 tons of fuel, adequate for a 70-day cruise. Cruising range is “transoceanic,” 10,000 nautical miles at 12 knots fully fueled with 14,000 gallons of diesel, enough to “go from San Diego to Guam and back to Pearl Harbor on a tank of gas.”   Sea Hunter has a full load displacement of 145 tons and is intended to be operational through Sea State 5, waves up to 6.5 ft high and winds up to 21 knots and survivable through Sea State 7, seas up to 20 ft high. The trimaran hull provides increased stability without requiring a weighted keel, giving it a higher capacity for linear trajectories and better operations in shallow waters, though the greater width decreases maneuverability.   It is expected to undergo two years of testing before being placed in service with the U.S. Navy. If tests are successful, future such craft may be armed and used for anti-submarine and counter-mine duties, operating at a small fraction of the cost of operating a destroyer, $15,000-$20,000 per day compared to $700,000 per day; it could operate with Littoral Combat Ships, becoming an extension of the LCS ASW module.  Deputy US Defense Secretary Robert Work said that if weapons are added to the ship, a human would always remotely make the decision to use lethal force.  Following successful initial development, it was reported on 1 February 2018 that DARPA had handed development of Sea Hunter to the Office of Naval Research.  On 22 June 2016, Sea Hunter completed initial performance trials, meeting or surpassing all performance objectives for speed, maneuverability, stability, seakeeping, acceleration/deceleration, fuel consumption, and mechanical systems reliability in the open-ocean. Upcoming trials will include testing of sensors, the vessel’s autonomy suite, compliance with maritime collision regulations, and proof-of-concept demonstrations for a variety of U.S. Navy missions.  The Sea Hunter MDUSV was adopted by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) in summer 2017 for operational testing and evaluation for mine-countermeasure, EO/IR, and submarine detection capabilities. Plans for FY 2018 include adding intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and offensive anti-submarine payloads.


Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 22nd through 27th 2018”