Archive | April, 2012

Operation Broken Reed; Book Review

28 Apr

Operation Broken Reed is the story of a go for broke top-secret mission during the Korean War.

The Korean War was a seesaw conflict swinging back and forth between the UN forces and Communist that led to a stalemate early in the conflict that would largely remain for the remainder of the conflict.

President Truman, under pressure to solve the problem and unable to cope with the bureaucratic headache of the government, went over the heads of everyone and authorized an intelligence gathering mission behind enemy lines.

10-men were sent behind enemy lines as part of an elaborate scheme involving nationalist-Chinese soldiers escorting the crew of a downed American bomber across the Korean peninsula to be taken to China. The 10-men, each with their own specialty and purpose, were to be given no recognition, no credit, and no rewards for the mission which was to be classified until 1998, 46 years after the mission.

Broken Reed details this story from the background of Lt. Col. Arthur Boyd, the only member of the team to survive the mission. The interesting and unknown story is well told and reads almost like a work of fiction with its surprisingly level of character development, despite the men on the mission being forbidden to share personal details, and the unexpected plot twists that lead the mission to its fateful end. Broken Reed is a good book to learn something from as well as be entertained.

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If I wanted America to fail

23 Apr

Saw this posted at Bookworm Room. It’s worth a watch.

The tuition is too damn high!

22 Apr

President Obama addressed the nation on Friday. He spoke about the need for a college educated population for the United States to recover and that the cost of that education was now to high and more money must be spent in order to make it more affordable.

Where to start?

Do more Americans need college degrees? 30% of Americans over 25 have a Bachelors degree and a further 10% have an Associates or similar degree. 40% of the population has a degree and that’s the highest it’s ever been, but apparently in order for the United States to grow that number must be higher.

And for what? As of the first Quarter we had a 14.8 percent total-unemployment rate. 88 million Americans are unemployed, while only 64 percent of Americans have a job. Do they really need an education or would they be better off in a climate that gave them a job instead?

Fact is we need more qualified people in certain fields, but those fields aren’t likely to see more students just because more people are going to school to for free. Just because we need more engineers and IT professionals doesn’t mean we can get them with a snap of the fingers. Kids that weren’t taught math in primary school aren’t just going to turn into engineers. Rather than more graduates what the United States needs is more apprenticeship style education and certification programs. Make it easier for more people to prepare directly for specific work and then make it easier for them to get jobs by getting the government out of the hair of businesses.

Then theirs the simple economic question the President fails to understand. To be fair, it’s one of those really tough Econ-101 principles. Supply and Demand. The President seems to think we need to place more importance on education and fails to realize it’s already the biggest consideration and as such college enrollments have increased accordingly. The more people who want to go to college, the more demand there is and when there is more demand, the price goes up. Therefore it’s safe to assume that by giving more money away by the billions to help even more people go to college isn’t in fact going to help the situation.

It’s really quite simple, which is probably why it’s completely misunderstood by politicians.

That old thing? Forget I even had it

20 Apr

Senate Bill 1813 – Pay Your Taxes or Lose Your Passport  is the story of over at independentsentinel.com from last week.

The proposal requires that anyone who owes over $50,000 in unpaid taxes be denied use of their passport. An idea so brilliant can only come from one of nations greatest minds, Senator Harry Reid.

What makes his idea so mind-numbing exactly? Well for one is that it’s probably not all that hard to owe $50,000 in taxes to the IRS. What with the raising taxes on everything that moves and the way in which the tax code makes an M.C. Escher painting look direct and simple.

Then there’s the simple fact that only about a third of Americans even have a passport.

Congratulations! You’ve picked an arbitrary number, attached a penalty to it, and isolated a portion of the population, for a law that likely won’t even be enforced with any regularity and will be nothing but a massive headache for anyone who would be on the wrong end of it.

As complicated and confusing as the tax code is, there’s no reason for people to not pay their taxes, though I’ll give them that it might not always turn out in their favor. But that’s why you get a year to prepare for the next one and make the necessary preparations to avoid those problems again.

Not that this is anything to worry about, since nothing passes in the Senate and what does gets voted down in the House.

Brazil attempts a squeeze play

19 Apr

There’s an informative story over at BrazilianBubble.com.

Margins Squeeze: Like China’s JAC Motors, BMW sales also drop 30% in Brazil after IPI tax measures

As Brazil added a tax on imported cars, sales fell on some imported brands by 30%. That’s good news for domestic auto production in Brazil you say? Yeah probably, but that’s not the point to take away from the story.

“Car sales fell 30% due to the IPI raise,” Dornbusch said to Bloomberg. “We’ve partly compensated it by raising prices 15.9% in average, with BMW and dealerships absorbing the rest.”

BMW raised the price of it’s vehicles nearly 16% in order to offset the tax increase. Tell me again how raising taxes doesn’t affect the common person? Oh that’s right, they always have.

Lawyer dog gets it, why can't your Senator?

It’s so simple it’s not even a rule, it’s just plain common sense, don’t pay for something if you don’t have to. Government tells business to pay more, business tells customer to pay more.

Any tax increase is a sign of contempt and stupidity and any politician associated with them should be tossed out of office at the earliest convenience. Only two things come from tax increases. You lose more money and the government has more money to waste on useless junk.

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The original story can be found at Bloomberg.

Tax Day; How much did you give up?

17 Apr

CNN reported two weeks ago on “Tax Freedom day”, which is today, which is coincidentally the final day for filing 2011 tax returns.

According to the story;

More than three months of your hard-earned wages are going straight to your tax bill this year.Americans will spend an average of 29% of their income on federal, state and local taxes in 2012.

And it means that most Americans are going to need to work 107 days just to be able to earn enough money to pay their taxes.

Impressive isn’t it? We’ve gone from Winter to Spring. Baseball season has started. We’ve celebrated Valentines, St. Patricks, and Easter holidays. And as of today, the average American has paid off their taxes for the year. Of course you wouldn’t know it since you’re paying your taxes every time you get a paycheck.

And is it worth it? As of today the United States government has $15.6 Trillion in debt.

Argentina applies band-aid to cancer

17 Apr

Having had the audacity to rhetorically nationalize the Falkland Islands, a stable state that is proud to consider itself attached to the British Crown. Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner has decided instead to try for something smaller by nationalizing YPF, a subisdiary oil production company of Spain’s Reposl YPF.

What’s so wrong with that? Argentina’s energy production has stagnated in recent years while consumption has increased. Besides the obvious cost and market economic factors of the nationalization of YPF, is simply the fact that this move won’t produce the desired effects, but rather will do just the opposite.

It’s almost a certainty that costs at YPF will increase while actual production decreases, if there is oil to be found in Argentina it’s already been found, but YPF will remain profitable as they’ll likely secure a big contract to sell their nationalized oil to China.

While most of the worlds oil production is now done at a nationalized level, there is a certain matter of quality in this issue. Nationalization rarely achieves the promises that are made with it. This is because nationalization of resources is generally done because it is politically expedient, as it is in this case, it looks good and provides a guaranteed boost to the state’s revenue sources that are otherwise bogged down due to heavy and obstructive laws.

Argentina will surely see the governments budget be massaged by it’s increased revenues, however the opportunity will be wasted when the engineers are fired or quite out of frustration because politically appointed board members and managers will be to selfish to care about anything other than themselves. This is all rather ironic considering leftists regularly claim cronyism in the oil industry by the right, but when they get the chance you’ll see it goes both ways and this is a perfect case to watch it in action.

I don’t claim to be informed about Argentina other than a basic history, but I know games and political hacks when I see them. However the fact that Argentina defaulted in 2001 and now are on a similar path again just 11 years later is sadly impressive from a country with one of the highest levels of inflation around.

Short-term gain, long-term loss.

Click here for the BBC article.

Secret Service Gets Full Service

16 Apr

From CBS news Secret Service revokes security clearances of 11 accused of misconduct.

What misconduct are we talking about here? The oldest profession of course.

If you’re in a country that has legalized prostitution and you find that an acceptable practice to partake in, knock yourself out.

When you’re a Secret Service agent responsible for protecting the President of the United States however, you have to be a little more critical in your personal choices.

It’s not that these agents engaged in illicit behavior, it’s that after all the background-checks, training, and responsibilities that come with the job, they didn’t have the sense to think that a $47 hooker might be compromising to their situation.

To make matters worse, this all took place in Columbia, one of the most dangerous countries on Earth in terms of crime. Probably not much to worry about when hiring a prostitute in Switzerland or Finland, but in the Cocaine capital of the world where kidnappings and murder are as common as the sunrise it’s probably a good idea to wait til you get home before getting your jollies.

My favorite part from the CBS article;

a top law enforcement official said. “We hold employees to a high standard. This incident was an anomaly.

The incident was an anomaly because they got caught this time. As the saying goes “It’s  only cheating if you get caught”.

Secret Service is a profession that shouldn’t allow second chances. This is  not only embarrassing but dangerous.

 

Down Under, Going Down

16 Apr

The American Spectator covers one of the most perplexing stories ever, If It Can Happen Down Under. Ever!

While England is often regarded as the closest cousin to the United States, Australia with its love of big cars, big landscapes, proud independence, and of course history of crushing natives should be held closer to the heart of Americans.

That’s why Americans should be saddened to see the wimpy state that Australia has become.

The Australian liberal party is proposing creating a council to license and censor the news.

It is recommended that the council — presumably to be called the Ministry of Truth — should have a judge or lawyer as its chairman, appointed by the government, and 20 members, a large portion of whom would be nominated by the Labor-affiliated journalists’ union.

The council would have power to alter or permanently ban articles. Disobedience would result in a fine or imprisonment for contempt of court, and there would be no appeal. As well as having the power to ban articles, the council would have the power to compel media to publish responses to stories.

As if it’s not bad enough to be told what to do and not having the ability to appeal, the very people in charge are politically employed. The only analogy I can think of is letting a sports team provide it’s own referees, but that comparison doesn’t come close to carrying the weight of this.

It’s not just about truth and fairness however, but you wouldn’t know that because you’re not smart enough too;

In paragraph 4.10 of the Finkelstein report it is stated that the council should control speech in Australia because the people are too stupid to be allowed free access to news.

When the representative of Murdoch’s News Ltd. claimed readers were “capable of making up their own minds,” Finkelstein stated: “Often, however, readers are not in a position to make a properly informed judgement.” John Roskam, of the think tank the Institute for Public Affairs, has commented of this that:

This is intellectual arrogance at its most breath-taking. And it’s a great argument against democracy. If, as Finkelstein claims, people aren’t smart enough to decide for themselves the merits of what they see in the media, then they’re certainly not smart enough to decide who to vote for.… Finkelstein and the Greens believe access to the media should be restricted to those who are “balanced and responsible.”

This is all because Green party can’t stand the criticism they’ve received on their ideas of a carbon tax. Another instance of liberal “I’m taking my ball and going home-osis”. When you’re ideas are so flaky and full of it that you have to censor the debate, you’ve already lost.

If the Aussie Greens manage to get this idea through, I’m suggesting the build a grand structure to house this new Ministry and name the building The Joesph Goebbels Truth and Justice Center.

Is it just me or has Australia gone down hill since the death of Steve Irwin?

Tiger Force Book Review

15 Apr

Tiger Force; A true story of Men and War

By Michael Sallah and Mitch Weiss

Tiger Force is a book that exposes the atrocities of the Army unit of the same name, which operated for a period in the Vietnam War.

While the spotlight is on the Tiger Forces actions, the book connect a web for the reader to see the greater scale implicated as the cause of these actions.

First, that Tiger Force was itself a part of an imprudent and reckless overall strategy for the Vietnam War. That the higher levels of political and military command in both Vietnam and the United States imagined that they simply had to produce a high body count and pay no care or concern to the effects of their strategy on the friendly and neutral segments of the local population shows a complete lack of regard for human reality.

The use of such strategy was not only ineffective, but rather counter-productive. These methods were allowed to continue solely due to stubbornness. Without accountability or the willingness to question the overall strategy and goals, problems were allowed to continue until they simply ran into the wall they were lined up against in the first place.

As for Tiger Force itself, its atrocities are horrifying, worse than any acts by U.S. forces in the war. As it’s said in the book, My Lai was just one day, this was 7 months.

What made these soldiers shoot unarmed civilians and prisoners, collect ears and scalps, and in one case sever the head of an infant child?

Was it PTSD, did the suffering experiences of combat push them over the edge? The authors tell the story as it happened and there are instances of traumatic stress and retribution taking place.

Again we see the theme of lack of accountability. When soldiers reported the atrocities up the chain of command they were told to let it go. While leadership ignored the reports, even more shocking is the lack of concern by those committing these crimes in the field.

As Sam Ybarra and William Doyle receive attention for being the most vicious and enthusiastic killers in Tiger Force, it is worth noting that both had criminal arrest records and/or problems with authority/runs in with the law, long before enlisting in the Army. The same could be said for Ybarra’s friend Ken Green, while for other such as Terrence Kerrigan, who once had dreams of attending law school at UCLA, got into the act and befriended the likes of Ybarra and Green. Still for others such as Lt. James Hawkins and Sgt. Harold Trout, potential problems weren’t as obviously displayed.

Still for all of Tiger Force’s bad apples, there were many who attempted to have the situation handled only to be frustrated.

To go on a slight tangent, it’s interesting the way the PTSD story of Vietnam and Tiger Force is being replayed with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The story is as misdirected now as it was disregarded then.

Contemporary instances of veteran’s causing trouble at home leads to the immediate mentioning of PTSD as the cause, by those in the media both locally and nationally.

What’s left out of the news report is that the soldiers who’ve lost it in these occasions aren’t exactly hardened combat veterans, but more likely just run of the mill screw-ups who have the same arrest record, and drug and alcohol abuse problems as the screw-ups who didn’t enlist.

That’s not to say that PTSD doesn’t exist or isn’t a problem, but that it makes for more attractive headlines than “Chronic Screw-Up, Picks Fight with Police Again”.

For a clearer picture of the truth on events involving veterans and PTSD “cases” in the media, visit http://thisainthell.us for an accurate biography/history of the person in question. Their use of reliable sources and familiarity (read: competency) with military issues is conspicuously absent in the mainstream media.

Back to the book, Tiger Force is an interesting read for a look at some of the worst acts of the Vietnam War and the follow-up criminal investigation, all set against the general background of that period of time. While an easy book to read, Tiger Force may challenge readers who lack knowledge of the Vietnam War beyond the typical pop-culture, classroom repetition.

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