Saturday, December 8, 2012

Band of Brothers, or Band of Siblings?

Below are a couple of views on women in combat - the first from a retired male Army general whose daughters were both Army officers and attached to combat divisions in Bosnia and Kosovo, and the second from a reserve female Marine Major who served in Iraq. The general acknowledges that there may be women qualified to serve in combat without physical or mental limitations, however he identifies a "band of brothers" effect that is necessary for success in close combat situations. The major doesn't address this idea, but instead debunks myths of physical and mental ability of women to serve in combat situations. Essentially, there are few disagreements between the two opinions because they do not address the same issues, and in fact the general would probably agree with most of what the major says. But the major fails to address the key to survival - what Marines would call esprit de corps

The band of brothers effect is something to be considered because it is the intangibles that always make the difference in any competitive situation. For example, two soccer teams may have equal advantages in size, speed, skill, and training - but what will make the difference for the winner and the loser? Usually it is something that cannot be taught - it is something that develops between players over time and through exposure to challenging situations. This relationship enables players to dig deep in the face of adversity and to continue to press on even when the game looks lost. Commentators call it "having heart" and frequently cite players' trust in one another. This type of relationship may be capable of developing between men and women, but there is much anecdotal evidence to say that, on the whole, it does not. Even though this is an intangible quality, its importance can not be diminished. To ignore it is to intentionally weaken our national security.

From retired Army Major General Robert Scales
To be sure, women soldiers may be fit, they may be skilled and they may be able to “hang.” Many have proved with their lives that they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. But our senior ground-force leaders, as well as generations of former close combat veterans from all of our previous wars, are virtually united on one point: The precious and indefinable band of brothers effect so essential to winning in close combat would be irreparably compromised within mixed-gender infantry squads.
The major doesn't address the band of brothers effect, and instead focuses on concrete abilties, which are no so much at issue. Unfortunately she undermines even these arguments:

While it is indisputable that the average man has more upper-body strength than the average woman, women have different physical abilities that enable them to offer unique capabilities in combat. 
Different physical capabilities that aren't suited to the required task are not a positive. There is a reason upper body strength is necessary in these situations.
Distance running is one such arena, and it’s relevant because combat can be as much about physical endurance (sustaining activity over time) as physical strength.
While women may excel at distance running in some instances, which may relate to endurance, this ability to out run the enemy will only be called into use if all else fails.
Women also tolerate hot and humid racing conditions better than men because of their smaller body size, according to a 1999 article in the European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology.
So, even if we can rationally accept that smaller body size is an advantage, what if women have to be deployed to cold, arid, mountain areas?
If anything, the presence of women might improve rather than detract from the service of men. My unit sergeant major, an infantryman, told me once that the presence of women made the men complain less — they didn’t want to appear weaker in front of female counterparts who weren’t complaining.
So, now we need to notice that women are present? Isn't the whole purpose of purging these barriers to allow women to be treated as equals in every way? But she saved the best for last: 
If men — or women — have the gallantry to save a fellow soldier’s life in battle, it’s because that is what we are trained to do. It’s no drawback; it is part of our greatest strength as a fighting force. And if a woman, or a man for that matter, can’t carry the wounded, the corpsman or another soldier will be close behind to help.
This statement alone is so undermining of the argument, it is just laughable and embarrassing to anyone trying to seriously address the situation. Soldiers and Marines don't train to count on anyone else being there to help. If that's the fallback, we are in more trouble than ever.

Friday, December 7, 2012

"Perhaps the greatest lesson of Pearl Harbor is that nothing is impossible for the American people."

Do we have anymore can-do people left in America?
The most amazing transformation in American history may be the 1,366 days between December 7, 1941, and September 2, 1945—and the speed with which the Axis powers were reduced to ruin once the United States entered the Second World War. During this time, the tremendous outpouring of America’s industrial strength in ships, planes, tanks, and other armaments was exceeded only by the bravery and determination of the nation’s men and women. 
They were a “can-do” generation who did not take “no” for an answer. They did not put off until tomorrow what needed to be done today. We should remember their resolve, honor their commitment, and seek to emulate their example. They truly were the greatest generation.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Know your economics: Higher tax rates DO NOT raise tax revenues.

Most people probably do not have a great understanding of economics or economic history. However, this does not relieve voting Americans from gaining a basic education on these issues. For an easy entry into the discipline, Thomas Sowell's writings are incomparable in their simplicity and logic. Here, he explains the historical truth of why tax revenues rise even when tax rates decline. It is a simple matter of incentives and the natural reactions of human behavior. If people are faced with higher tax rates, they do not meekly comply. They actively seek other ways to reduce their tax obligation. It should be obvious that this results in lower tax revenues. 

The Democratic solution to fiscal shortfalls is to raise revenues. For some reason, Democrats fail to take into account natural human tendencies and they make the assumption that the "rich" will simply fork over more money without question. 

That revenues rise when rates decline is not just a theory. It has been demonstrated throughout history. So why don't Democrats acknowledge history, if their stated objective is to raise revenues? The answer is because raising revenues is not the true objective, it is a cover to do two things: growing government and playing the judge of morality. Democrats don't think rich people should be that rich, even though rich Democrats outnumber rich Republicans in Congress, and have higher networths overall (interestingly, more Democrats inherit wealth, whereas Republicans tend to earn theirs - this could explain why Dems do not seem to understand the value of a hard earned dollar!).

Thomas Sowell:
What both the statistical tables in the “Economic Report of the President” and the graphs in Investor’s Business Daily show is that: (1) Tax revenues went up — not down — after tax rates were cut during the Bush administration, and (2) the budget deficit declined, year after year, after the cuts in tax rates that have been blamed by Obama for increasing the deficit.
Indeed, the New York Times reported in 2006: “An unexpectedly steep rise in tax revenues from corporations and the wealthy is driving down the projected budget deficit this year.”
While the New York Times may not have expected this, there is nothing unprecedented about lower tax rates’ leading to higher tax revenues, despite assumptions by many in the media and elsewhere that tax rates and tax revenues automatically move in the same direction. They do not. . . .
The bottom line is that Barack Obama’s blaming increased budget deficits on the Bush tax cuts is demonstrably false. What caused the decreasing budget deficits after the Bush tax cuts to suddenly reverse and start increasing was the mortgage crisis. The deficit increased in 2008, followed by a huge increase in 2009.
The other thing Americans need to educate themselves on is the mortgage crisis. It was not caused by Bush tax cuts! Thomas Sowell explains in his book The Housing Boom and Bust"Sowell's book shows how government policies led to a huge increase in highly risky housing loans. . . . Sowell argues that while foolish decisions to indulge in complicated investment vehicles affected the specifics of how the financial contagion spread, at its root the housing problem is one of badmortgages. And those came from bad decisions by government and by borrowers themselves."

Back to Sowell's own words:
So it is sheer hogwash that “tax cuts for the rich” caused the government to lose tax revenues. The government gained tax revenues; it did not lose them. Moreover, “the rich” paid a larger amount of taxes, and a larger share of all taxes, after the tax rates were cut.
That is because people change their economic behavior when tax rates are changed, contrary to what the Congressional Budget Office and others seem to assume, and this can stimulate the economy more than a government “stimulus” has done under either Bush or Obama.
Yet there is no need to assume that Barack Obama is mistaken about the way to get the economy out of the doldrums. His top priority has always been increasing the size and scope of government. If that means sacrificing the economy or the truth, it’s no deterrent to Obama. That is why he is willing to play chicken with Republicans along the fiscal cliff. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The owner of the Khyber Pass Pub

"Ms. Headley, a red-haired, green-eyed woman, told friends she married an “Afghan prince” but then had to flee Kabul after he was murdered. She arrived back in Philadelphia, friends said, in the early 1970s, taking different office jobs and dating wealthy suitors until one of them lent her money to buy an old bar. She turned it into the Khyber Pass, decorated with billowing Afghan wedding tents and stocked with exotic beers. In 1977, Pakistan’s government was overthrown in a military coup, and Ms. Headley, friends said, feared for her children. She traveled to Pakistan, withdrew her son from the Hasan Abdal Cadet College and brought him to live with her, a move recorded by The Philadelphia Inquirer." Here it is today:

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What do Vanuatu, Brunei, Cayman Islands, Maldives, Qatar, and Monaco have in common?

Interesting: countries with no income taxes.

I want a soccer team too!

"Madam Soula, a former prostitute and now, at the age of 67, the owner of two luxury brothels here in Larissa, stepped in this fall to sponsor Voukefalas, a small amateur soccer team that like many others in Greece was having trouble coming up with the cash for uniforms, equipment and playing field fees." Madam Soula sounds like an interesting character. She purchased bubble gum pink training uniforms for the team, and although prostitution is legal in Greece she won't be allowed to have the names of her businesses shown on the uniforms (one of the brothels is named House of Erotica). Here she is below:

Monday, December 3, 2012

Barra @Old City, Philadelphia

Super yum yum: White pizza with crab, spinach, and artichoke, and Peroni - Italy's Stella.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Nikki Haley blames IRS rules

South Carolina's governor faulted an outdated IRS standard as a contributing factor to a massive data breach that exposed Social Security numbers of 3.8 million taxpayers plus credit card and bank account data. Gov. Nikki Haley's remarks on Tuesday came after a report into the breach revealed that 74.7 GB was stolen from computers belonging to South Carolina's Department of Revenue after an employee fell victim to a phishing email. People who filed tax returns electronically from 1998 on were affected, although most of the data appears to be after 2002, Haley said during a news conference.South Carolina is compliant with IRS rules, but the IRS does not require SSNs to be encrypted, she said. The state will now encrypt SSNs and is in the process of revamping its tax systems with stronger security controls. She said she has sent a letter to IRS to encourage the agency to update its standards to mandate encryption of SSNs.

Now the next question is how many other states were in the same boat as South Carolina? Were they proactive or were they lucky not to be hacked?