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If I said… “Hey, dude, what happened 100 years ago today?”…. about 4 out of every 25,000 of  you, would know and answer back with a question…. “Are you sure you are not talking about 100 years yesterday?”    You would be officially right of course…  June 28th…. But I would be “politically” right, I guess, (struggling for an adjective to describe the rightness I would be..).

To fill in the rest of the 24,996 of you…. yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the shooting of the Archduke of Ferdnand,,,,

“Who the fvck is that?”  say 24,996 people all at once….  (People in Oklahoma hear that rumble as another frack quake..)

Since reality is 100% of reality, I’ll take that on….

In 1914… there were 5 nations that mattered.  One of the nations that didn’t matter back then would have been the United States; others: China,  and Japan… The 5 nations that were relevant back then actually included Russia, believe it or not…. with Germany, France, Britain, and Austria-Hungary rounding out the full 5… This last nation, I always think of as a joke, and say so sometimes… (“What?  Austria’s Hungry?  What a joke!”)   That is because I tend to ignorant of anything southeast of Germany… I’m an American, you know…

Austria Hungary was called the Dual Kingdom…  Can you guess why?  One was Austria, the other was Hungary.   Austria ran Austria/ Hungary ran Hungary, and a couple of times a year they got together to coordinate…  Those episodes resembled today’s divided Congress.  Neither side would accept the provisions of the other….  and stalemate meant each could go their own way with little interference from the other…   However on security matters they were conjoined…  Austria had the military; a standing army of 900,000..  and Hungary bordered Russia from where any major attack would come…

To the south the ancient empire of the Ottoman Turks was decaying from its inside.  Recognizing that most of the Empire’s attention had to be focused inside of Turkey proper, all 5 relevant  nations begin eyeing the Balkans and Dardanelles and sizing each other up…  Significantly, Russia was very nervous over the Dardanelles because the wrong person owning that property, could bottle her navy inside the Black Sea…

Austria had, in just a very few years before, annexed Bosnia, roughly the same size as it is today, by marching in and calling it their own… Serbia, had wanted the same, but was too small to do anything about it and no one came to their aid…. But people inside of Bosnia who had wanted Serbia to control it, had financial resources made available to help make that happen…

The archduke was the next in line to the Austrian emperor, who himself was getting quite old.  Both the archduke and emperor were primarily pacifists who didn’t believe that war was profitable.  But like any nation, within their cabinet as well as in charge of their military, they had well-spoken ministers who argued that a “shock and awe” first strike was always the best option…

Unfortunately for the world, it was one of those two pacifists who was assassinated 100 years ago today….  along with his wife… killed by what today would be considered a terrorist cell of about 5 people total… working independently…  meeting in secret. etc. etc.  They botched their previous attempts and by today’s standards were almost comical, until they finally got lucky on number 3…

Some people got the word 100 years yesterday… June 28th.  Who these were, were mostly heads of state, many of whom were on summer vacation so telegrams had to jump all over the country, and in some places be put on skiffs and rushed out to meet the heads of states floating in the Baltic….   No one at first predicted what this assassination would preclude… Those who firmly believed in war,  thought it precluded war.  However most thought that was too unreasonable and assumed everyone would of course get mad first, then settle down and make certain arrangements and life would eventually go on as normal…..  After all, worse crises had been settled such….

There were two small problems… One involved the signing of treaties, some secret and some not, that tied promises of reaction to any military invasions of one of the signatories… The other, was the Victorian mode of character which dictated that one dutifully filled out one’s signed obligations, regardless if they had been originally made in error…  One filled out ones obligations and damned the torpedoes.

In efforts to preserve a peaceful Europe, (which had been effective for 40+ years, and probably a world record at that time)…. alliances had been made loosely between Britain, France, and Russia…  With the two extremes  of East and West appearing united, this left vulnerable those who could get crunched in the middle, so they formed an alliance too:  Germany and Austria-Hungary….

But no one ever thought they’d be used.  Ever! Europe was one chummy place.  The heads of England, Germany, Russia were all related, and met for state weddings and funerals regularly.  Vienna was one of the playful destinations in Europe, and socialites from all 5 nations frequented there every summer…  It and Paris vied for the Art & Music capitols of Europe…  Tension was not like during our Cold War at all. Europe was very open and much like international relations today, where one could travel freely, where all the big powers meet occasionally and decided how to deal with each of little tweaks and interruptions….

So 100 years ago today,  people woke up to this assassination story ….  Today (yesterday) is the real beginning of the count-down-clock because for the first time in European history,  the populations inside the nations were to have a profound impact on the upcoming events to come… (even though the structures of the governments were very closed to all but the upper crust of society…) Public opinion primarily through the growth of large metropolitan newspapers, had become an influence that had to be “reckoned with”.

For Austria Hungary was hot!  You can imagine if Joe Biden was killed.  Though some here love him, and some here make fun of him, … were he assassinated, this entire nation would demand retribution….   So Serbia got blamed….   In Austria-Hungary, with one pacifist dead, and the other now solo against a cabinet calling for an invasion, the call to go to war with Serbia came quickly…

Serbia appealed to their soul mate Russia.  There had always been a deep Slavic bond between the two nations… and the head of Russia, when confronted with the fact that his people would rebel against him if he ignored his brother nation’s plea, said Russia would attack Serbia’s attacker if Serbia were attacked by Austria Hungary…   Military philosophy at this time dwelt solely on the benefit of a quick attack.  All armies were trained to attack, not defend.  Simply put, the philosophy was that if you attacked quick enough, you always won…  And all nations suffered from this delusion, though reality had showed it certainly hadn’t worked in all the proxy wars (Boer, Sudan, Balkans)….   As Austria began to mobilize her troops towards Belgrade, Serbia’s capital, Russia began mobilization to send it’s troops to the  Austria-Hungarian border….

Austria Hungary had the second largest standing army in Europe (Russia had the largest due to its gigantic size relative to European nations)  but even still, Austria-Hungary could not both defend its border, and attack/occupy Serbia simultaneously… Therefore they appealed to Kaiser Wilhelm to promise an attack on Russia if Russia attacked The Dual Kingdom…  Previous handshakes had sealed the deal long before, and the Kaiser promised he would….

Now this caused a dilemma within Germany’s army.  Their plan had long called for first attacking France … France was the more dangerous of the two, so it made great sense to defeat France first and then attack Russia, instead of attacking Russia and have a fit France barge in through the back door…   No one had ever considered the option that perhaps a minor limited war with Russia could happen first without French involvement.  But plans were plans and the detail in them was so meticulous that there was really no option to opt-out and siphon off troops to the Russian Border…. (all the trains would be tied up and busy carrying soldiers to the West) until after France and fallen and signed their surrender…  The surprise Russian build-up now meant it was more imperitive than ever that France surrender before Russia could mobilize to march into Prussia proper….

France was insistent that it would not make the first move.  They tried to dissuade Russia to stand down, but Russia’s people felt a personal insult  (and a rational fear of internal overthrow) if Serbia fell, so that didn’t happen.  The French who were the villains of the last European War( the Franco-Prussian War that ended in 1870… a quick war, which France had lost, and been paying repatriation upon for a long time), were very squeamish about being  considered the aggressor again, and so they mobilized defensive forces and  fortified their common border with Germany, just in case.

Britain’s Prime Ministe firmly believed in making alliances but also keeping them secret so both his allies and enemies would be left guessing…  He was so good at it, that the Kaiser was convinced upon invasion, that Britain would definitely not interfere and that Paris would fall quickly as had long been planned (across twenty years)….

The accidental player in this scenario, turned out to be the tiny little neutral nation of Belgium……   With no real army and a reputation for being a peaceful take-what-comes population, its future role had been dismissed by Germany, France and Britain…   Germany simply assumed that it being a neutral nation, it would take the gentlemanly course and let the German’s pass through unopposed to attack France where it lacked defenses.  Britain and France had assumed due to its neutrality, Belgium would be off limits for any German advance….

As troop deployments began to show the German’s hand,  four nations raced to shore up that area….  Belgium said it would not allow German passage and began to mobilize  its defense….  (This infuriated the Kaiser who apoplectically raged how dare that tiny nation not fall in line with Germany’s plans; who did they think they were?)… which shows how reality and clear thinking often had little voice in governments at that time…. Assumptions made by whomever was annointed head of state, tended to always carry the heavier weight.

With everything ready and the impetus on the Axis (Germany/Austria)  to strike quickly and the Entente (Britain, France, Russia) to wait and only fight defensively, all pieces were in place for what everyone thought, would be a short little war… Most analysts assumed everyone lacked resources or the will to fight in order for it to carry over 2 months…  “By Christmas all the troops would be home” each nation’s people were promised….

What impressed me most upon looking back from a 100 years’ perspective and I guess it is true with any war, was how life went on normally for 99.999% of the world’s population while this crises brewed… Future weddings were planned, meetings between future adversaries were scheduled,  treaties and statements of purpose continued to be signed between the future enemies… At any point, if anyone powerful enough had said, “STOP!  let’s talk about it”, (as is done so often today it now seems like an extra step), this war would have been prevented… If Russia had not mobilized, this would have remained a local conflict, taking place only on Serbian hillside  whose outcome have been very quickly settled.  Or if Britain had been forthright, stating that it would come to France’s aid and attack German interests, then the cost of war would have risen to where the Kaiser would have backed down from attacking France first and would have made a deal with Russia…  If Germany had not been locked so deep into its own plans, so that once the order was given to mobilize it started everything which precipitated the next step automatically like a line of dominoes. …. if any of these occurred prior to the  First World War , history would be far different today;  The First World War would not have happened…..

The suddenness is simply mind boggling.  How could Europe go from congeniality and peace and prosperity and hope, to an all-out brawl.  Like a bar fight that erupts instantly leaving lifelong scars?

It would be like today… if we opened our paper and read the news that one of Putin’s emissaries was assassinated in Sevastopol, Crimea….   And…  by this upcoming Saturday (July 5th), Russia had asked China  if it will help fight and China agrees. .. and exactly two and a half weeks later on July 23, Putin’s Russia surprises the world with an ultimatum to Ukraine designed to be so harsh that the Ukraines cannot possibly accept it.  The world holds its breath, and the 5 day deadline passes, and Russia declares war on the Ukraine….  July 28th, exactly on month from today!

NATO mobilizes, beginning with their declaration… .   All NATO units are then put on full reserve and active units are then moved into Turkey, Uzbekistan, Poland, and Finland, positioned along their borders with Russia….

On the last day of this month, July, China calls upon the NATO to stop its mobilization…. NATO says no; it is mobilizing solely against Russia  and for only the protection of the Ukraine people….  Then on August 1st, China declares war on NATO, including the US….

The very next day, August 2nd, China bloodlessly rushes in to occupy North Korea  … China then demands of  South Korea to let them use its seaports to facilitate their landing craft invasion against Japan.  They promise that after hostilities are over, all Korea will be free and promise it can under them become one nation again…

The very next day, on August 3rd, China declares that the state of war now exists between it and Japan, Taiwan, North Vietnam, and the Philippines, and moves their navy into blockade those ports…  All those nations plea for help from the US and the US promises it…..  South Korea to the Chinese surprise, announces despite overwhelming odds,  it will NOT grant permission for China to enter peacefully, NOR allow Chinese military hardware into its country….  A brief testing skirmish occurs on the 53 parallel between US and Chinese troops becoming the first engagement of the war….  On this same day unknown to almost everyone, China and most Latin America nations sign a secret treaty…. relating strictly with the US and stating that if China is attacked, Latin America will side with China in order to protect their massive investments there….

The very next day, August 4th.  China swiftly invades South Korea and quickly over runs Seoul and commandeers all the ports on the peninsula.   China’s massive merchant marine of commercial cargo ships out of nowhere suddenly gather outside all of  Korea’s ports.   The US protests. calling for China to leave Korea. China flatly says it won’t.   The US declares war on China…. The Chinese merchant marine begins loading up the 2 million troops and lands them on the remote undefended section of north-western Japan…  Within 7 days,  2 million Chinese are moving towards Tokyo….

The very next day, August 5th… Latin America surprises all and closes shuts down all commerce with the US, closing it’s borders… All US firms have their property confiscated to be nationalized and the Panama Canal is closed  to all but Latin American and Chinese traffic…

The very next day, August 6th… Putin’s Russia declares war on the US and NATO….. and for what it is worth, the Ukraine declares war on China….

The very next day, August 7th…  The first US troops from Okinawa, land in Japan and rush north to engage the advancing Chinese… Battles ensue and the Chinese throughout the next week, till the 13th, win all of them…

The very next day: August 8th…  NATO and the US finally declare war on Russia…

For the next week, all eyes focus on China’s advance to Tokyo.  Then one week later, August 15th… Ukraine counter attacks a Russian outpost on its border, and regains control of the entire border area… The Russians run back across the border.  It will be the first allied victory of the war…

Two days later… August 17th… The US and NATO forces invade Russia proper upward from Uzbeckistan, and upwards from Turkey through Sochi, and eastward into Belarus from Poland, and towards Leningrad from Finland….

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4 years later, 2018, the armistice will be signed, leaving  37 million souls dead…. 93 million wounded for life…. and 34 million people simply missing… never heard from again….  And the borders between most of the big players will primarily remain just as they are… ( Hopefully all parties refrained from nuclear weapons….. or citizen causalities would be uncountable.)   Unsettled emotional antagonisms will continue to fester, and won’t be settled until after the next great war beginning in 2039…..

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This is how life changing that event was 100 years ago…. Literally it came out of nowhere…..  Just take a moment to consider the breathtaking speed with how fast this occurred and stretch your imagination wide enough to take in us being in a full fledged real world war equivalent to WWI in less than one month and 5 days from today, as you read this and the News Journal and fret over Greg Lavelle… ….. Maybe this could happen today, maybe not.   You and I need to make sure the “not” wins out…. were such a crises to occur.

The lessons of yesteryear are so lost on us today, as I’m afraid they are on every new generation.  I only share interest because of a personal bond with a relative, who was called to France in 1918.  So unlike most today, this history to me is something very real.   Upon my passing, there will then be no one to remind us of how stupidity can sometimes take over an ruin a world of good…  But for the rest of you, 100 years ago today you would be just reading about this life-changing first step in the paper…. (yawn) another assassination in Crimea… possibly thinking  “awwww… how sad”…  but never dreaming it would within four years time, cause you to lose your entire family in the same amount of time that briefly passes between two World Cups….

Life should never be taken for granted. Lesson.  Always be vigilant against war. Always.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Saw this report from Arne Duncun, Federal Secretary of Education, from July 15th.  In it he was warning that scores would drop precipitously, and that we should not give up on common core because of it. it is still a step in the right direction.

“Duncan says when the academic bar is set higher, what often happens is test scores go down. And achievement gaps between groups, which are already often large, often become larger.”

Whoa.

Stop right there.  You just said that like it was true.  You have nothing supporting that statement, and that statement is upon what the entire common core philosophy hinges upon.

So Arne, before we go further, let us look at that statement in more detail, shall we?

The first piece we take is this one:  “when the academic bar is set higher, what often happens is test scores go down.”  Well that would make sense right off the bat, I believe.  I mean as adults, when your boss gives you one performance appraisal rubric at the beginning of the analysis period and says this is how I’m going to evaluate you, and he uses a completely different harder rubric at evaluation time,…  every adult would fail.  That’s just how we adults are.   If we think we have something under control, we don’t put extra effort into it; we put that effort elsewhere.

But how do those adults feel?  Most say screw this job and screw you.  So why is it we think kids will be different , and say, “oh, gosh, darn, ha, ha, ha. You tricked me this time.  But don’t think you’ll trick me next time.  Nope, nope, nope.  I’m too smart for that.  I will study, and study harder, and make you proud on the next test, just you wait and see.”  If an adult would never do that, how can we assume kids will react differently?

Probably the only place one can find an adult like that, is in the employee handbook, at that paragraph where management takes a stab and  describes the “perfect employee”.  Take your bosses’ abuse and smile.  Since most of these kids have parents, it is safe to assume that when they go home devastated they did so poorly after so much work, their parents will tell them not to worry about it; it’s just a test score.

For every action there is a reaction.  And raising the bar by making school even harder, is going to turn many off of school altogether.  With common core it just takes one year.  Because everything builds on the year before.  If something is missed, it is like having a misfire on the years thereafter.

So by raising the test difficulty, and suffering lower scores we are doing what is bad for the child.  Making him hate school. Making him hate being tested.  Making him find something better to occupy his time other than school.  In fact, raising the test difficulty so more people fail, turns off people; it does not excite people to try harder to meet a higher bar. That is just silly to think anyone would act that way.   Especially children, who haven’t learned all the sophisticated dodges adults pick up in the real world.

Then Arne does something strange:  He gives the example of Tennessee: “They saw test scores in math go from about 90 percent proficient to about 30 percent proficient.”

Here is Tennessee’s scores.  They are the only state with Common Core in place to actually show increases,  across  3 consecutive years in all subjects.. (math increased by 3.5%.)

So not Tennessee… Maybe he (or the reporter) mixed it up with Kentucky?   Kentucky and Tennessee, what’s the difference. They’re all the same anyway.

So how does Duncun defend the use of more rigorous standards? “we’re telling the truth for the first time.”
“That’s the brutal truth, that’s the reality,” he says. “We have to stop lying to students and families, we have to be very, very honest and move from there.”

Wait!  What are we telling the truth of?  What were we lying about? What were we dishonest about?

The new standards are more in line with what other countries such as Finland, Hong Kong and Korea are teaching their students.  Oh we are now testing US children in Finnish, Hong Kong Dialect English, and Korean?  I’ve heard of Delaware’s Chinese immersion, but did not know  nationally that we were branching out to three more languages.

So how do those countries teach their students?

Here is Finland.   First of all, education is compulsory, and it is free, including post secondary, irrespective of  financial standing. special attention is paid to internationalization. Basic education is completely free of charge (including instruction, school materials, school meals, health care, dental care, commuting, special needs education and remedial teaching).  Oh, look here!   Teachers work independently and enjoy full autonomy in the classroom.

The student assessment and evaluation of education and learning outcomes are encouraging and supportive by nature. What! They don’t brow beat, punish, and subject their students to repetitive test taking? No, actually! “National testing, school ranking lists and inspection systems do not exist”.

Looks like they empower their teachers too. ” “Centralised steering – local implementation”. Steering is conducted through legislation and norms, core curricula, government planning and information steering. Municipalities are responsible for the provision of education and the implementation. Schools and teachers enjoy large autonomy. Furthermore Education authorities co-operate with teachers’ organizations, pedagogical subject associations and school leadership organizations. This provides strong support for the development.

So if we are trying to emulate the scores of Finland, what are we doing so many things that are directly opposite fo what they do?

So How about Hong Kong? Hong Kong uses the holistic approach: Focus on developing
students’healthy lifestyles, positive attitudes and values, life skills and refusal skills to resist temptation.
Here is what Hong Kong believes is most important: Actively participate / encourage
students to actively participate in student health services to ensure the physical and mental well-being of
students. Adopt a Whole School Approach to guidance and discipline and foster a caring, supportive school ethos… So far neither of those we are trying to reach do the same thing we are, cutthroat testing to toughen our children up.

In fact; both nations would be appalled at some of the reactions American children had under the stress imposed upon them by these tests. Instead they operate under” a well-conceived plan including the other 3 elements of HSP i.e. Fostering a Healthy School Environment, Developing Students’Healthy Life Styles and Identification of Students Who May Need Help and Putting in Place a Referral System…

Both educations systems which Arne call great, don’t force knowledge. They take care of kids. It leads one to wonder, it he low scores have nothing to do with the subject matter. Instead they are cause by students so afraid, they are not performing at their best.

In fact, the evidence Arne brings up, suggests the opposite of his policy might garner the results we need, and doing the opposite of his plan, might just get those scores up more than holding students by the hand while you whip them wildly to get their scores up.


Humans are amazing creatures.  We focus so much on time that we fail to realize how fast it goes by.  Almost a paradox isn’t it?  We focus so much that we can’t see it?

60 years ago the Korean War was officially over.  Today we still have troops protecting the South from invasion by the North.  It is a cost we willingly take on, to give us our Hundai’s and Samsung products.  How could we live without them.

The notice of this milestone takes one’s breath away for just a second; like hearing the news that an acquaintance as passed, or that a marriage has actually lasted “that” long.  or the sudden realization that we too, are suddenly upon inspection, not as young as we really thought we were.

The Korean War was pivotal in making the US a world player.  We were weary of the second world war.  Friends were dead and buried.  Some came back broken and never got well.  We focused on life here, getting our GI bill’s worth of opportunity, immersing ourselves to forget the horrors we collectively experienced for our nation overseas.  Then, just as we were about to get our degrees,  Korea was all communist.

There were a few beachheads at the southern tip still in our control, but most of the island had been quickly overrun.  No one could stop them but us, and we all lined up to sign on again for our country.  MacArthur was in charge of Japan and of course, felt it was his destiny to seize command.  All that WWII knowledge came into play again, and we made an amphibious landing in the middle of the peninsula, coming in from the Chinese side and driving across to cut off the armies in the South.  We quickly mopped them out of existence and marched north to unite the country again.  As we got close to the Chinese border, suddenly we were fighting the Chinese for which we were not prepared.  We got pushed back again, back over our hard fought ground in what looked like a complete rout.  Our Marines retreated 100 miles  often finding themselves behind enemy lines, as the Chinese so rapidly advanced with superior numbers.

The Armistice was a big deal.  It got us out, while leaving  the territory was  pretty much where they were at the beginning.

America learned it was costly to remain neutral against communist societies..  Intervene early. Intervene often, keep it small,  a policy which ultimately gave us the Vietnam War.   A war in which the Korean Vets were shocked that whereas they had jumped at the call to duty a second time, their children chose to protest instead.  Two different wars; two different generations, two different approaches.

Bottom line, is that the Korean War teaches us that history is not static.  Weeds do grow in the garden and must be plucked out if the garden is to be anything other than weeds.  And It takes effort to weed.

So with the Korean anniversary comes a mixed memory.  One, we were not the only superpower who was invincible. We could be beaten.  Two, stability with a crazy adversary is better than a full out war. Three, with stability, one can do great things with an economy…  The United States apparently makes all the difference.

Today, there are rumblings in the South China Sea.  If you only listen to American media you know nothing about it.  It is all but ignored.  The United States is there, as is 60% of our naval forces to enforce the peace.  It is a tough job.  It is a necessary job.

60 years of success shows how it can be.

Unless you read one of the big newspapers you will never hear of this… From yesterday’s sequestration hearings on Capitol Hill:

United States Army Chief of Staff Raymond T. Odierno elaborated on the impact that these indiscriminate, across the board cuts would have on military readiness in the Pacific and the United States Pacific Command.

“First, as I talked about 80% of our force having to stop training this year that includes our forces in Hawai’i, that includes our forces in at Fort Lewis that are in PACOM so they will be significantly degraded capabilities that they would have to respond to anything that goes on within Pacific Command. Additionally, the Army is responsible for providing a significant amount of communication support, intelligence support, logistical support to the PACOM Theater. Their ability to do that will also be affected by sequestrations specifically in the Fiscal Year 13 but beyond. We have tried to fence our capability in Korea to make sure they are at the highest readiness level. We will continue to do that. But the cuts in family programs, cuts in soldier programs, cuts in our civilians will also impact Korea as well. So for us it has a significant impact on our ability in the Pacific for the next several years,” said Odierno.

  • 80% of our forces will have to stop training this year.
  • Communication support, intelligence support, logistical support to the PACOM Theater; their ability to do that will also be affected by sequestrations specifically in the Fiscal Year 13 and beyond.
  • Our capability in Korea to make sure they are at the highest readiness level. We will continue to do that to the best that our finances will allow us. But cuts in family programs, cuts in soldier programs, cuts in our civilians will also impact Korea as well…
  • Just as we trim the forces in South Korea, North Korea puts us on a Defcom 4.

It is obvious with yesterday’s nuclear explosion on the northern half of the Korean Peninsula, we can’t cut the Pacific. If we try we are going to run cost overruns. This is just as silly as your boss setting financial goals that have never been proposed before and you simply know you will go over them. You accept that because it is impossible to meet them.

So how can we fix it?

We need just $86 billion extra per year. That is a lot for you and me, but for the wealthy, that is nothing. In fact Kinder Morgan just bought out Caldone for 8% of that: $5 billion. Prior to that, it just spent $21 billion on El Paso Gas. One company buying another company it didn’t need.  Comcast just  bought  NBC for $13 billion.  That’s almost half the total amount needed, thrown away on another company that would have been fine if left alone.  See how easy it is?

Just a few more companies  like that, and we could pay enough to keep our military in top shape. We don’t need sequestration.

Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, $86 billion is nothing to them. Each alone could cover the cost of our military.

Point is, we have the money just sitting there. Sitting out there all alone, saying “take me, take me.”  All we have to do is go get it, and we can cut our deficit at the same time as we keep ourselves protected by having a first rate defense.

It is no different than a family of four on a tight budget, stopping beside a field of wild strawberries and picking their next few meals.

We can do this… $86 billion on just the top richest 400 people is only $215 million each… That is nothing, nothing to them. What farmer will miss having wild strawberries getting picked out of his hay crop? As a nation, let’s just take it;  it is there, it is begging for it, and we’d be doing an awful lot of good for everyone involved….

Having recently seen the Harry Potter movie, it is scary. Ever since watching…. I now see giants everywhere. Before when I looked, I never knew they were there…

Two giants will be doing battle here in Delaware… (The recession is finally paying off for our little state.)

Papers were filed with the ITC (International Trade Commission) by the South Korean giant Samsung LED against a division of another giant this time from Germany, Siemens….. over 8 patient infringements.

Samsung LED also said it filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Delaware to seek damages and a permanent injunction to bar Siemen’s subsidary, Osram’s alleged patent infringement from entering this country.

At stake is the financial future of these two companies. One will win, and the other for lack of a better word, will be vanquished.

Since Siemens actually has a plant in Delaware, next to the Glasgow Park off Route 40 and 896, I’m putting my bets on that giant…. if they get hurt, it will cost jobs.

Hotels, restaurants, transportation companies all stand to be a little busier as this gigantic fight, gets under way…. It would be helpful to practice on the Korean and German dialects now, before the event gets under way…

Sprechen sie deutsch?

니미럴 개자식 ….

It should be an interesting fight.

First Algeria, then Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, and Albania. And I just heard Kyrgyzstan had riots too?

And no one is blaming Israel or the Great Satan? These are truly incredulous times…

So then, who is blame? A better question,…. once facts are on the table, is WHAT… is to blame?

The heart of the problem is in the dysfunctional nature of conservative, traditionalist Arab society. They fail to function economically, because of their values prohibit them from doing so.

Here is a case in point. Nine out of ten Egyptian women suffer genitalia mutilation. This act is not sanctioned by the government of Egypt, but is actually, officially opposed. Mubarak’s wife, actively campaigns against it. Yet nine out of ten women continue to have this done:

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi – the president of the International Association of Muslim Scholars – explains:

The most moderate opinion and the most likely one to be correct is in favor of practicing circumcision in the moderate Islamic way indicated in some of the Prophet’s hadiths – even though such hadiths are not confirmed to be authentic. It is reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to a midwife: “Reduce the size of the clitoris but do not exceed the limit, for that is better for her health and is preferred by husbands.”

That is not a Muslim view (the practice is rare in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan), but an Egyptian Muslim view. In the most fundamental of matters, President and Mrs Mubarak are incomparably more enlightened than the Egyptian public. Three-quarters of acts of genital mutilation in Egypt are executed by physicians, meaning they are not being performed at religious ceremonies, but are instead being quietly paid by the very parents of the girls themselves.

Fact is, Egypt is wallowing in backwardness, not because the Mubarak regime has suppressed the creative energies of the people, but because the people themselves cling to the most oppressive practices of traditional society. And countries can only languish in backwardness so long before some event makes their position untenable.

So what broke the back of those toiling in Egypt? The price of wheat?

Wheat prices have almost doubled in the past year.

Egypt is the world’s largest wheat importer, beholden to foreign providers for nearly half its total food consumption. Half of Egyptians live on less than $2 a day. Food comprises almost half the country’s consumer price index, and much more than half of spending for the poorer half of the country.

Egyptians love their bread. The nation is the world’s biggest consumer of bread with around 400 grams of bread consumption a day, easily eclipsing France at just 130 grams daily.

So, why can’t the Egyptians buy wheat?

The prosperous Asians are buying it up first. The wheat flows to the area having the most money.

Earlier this year, after drought prompted Russia to ban wheat exports, Egypt’s agriculture minister pledged to raise food production over the next ten years to 75% of consumption, against only 56% in 2009. Local yields are only 18 bushels per acre, compared to 30 to 60 for non-irrigated wheat in the United States, and up 100 bushels for irrigated land.

Prosperous Asians want their protein. And we all know it takes seven times as much wheat to make an equal amount of protein. The Asians have priced wheat out of the Arabs budget.

The trouble isn’t long-term food price inflation: wheat has long been one of the world’s bargains. The International Monetary Fund’s global consumer price index quadrupled in between 1980 and 2010, while the price of wheat, even after the price spike of 2010, only doubled in price. What hurts the poorest countries, though, isn’t the long-term price trend, though, but the volatility.

It turns out that China, not the United States or Israel, presents an existential threat to the Arab world, and through no fault of its own: rising incomes have gentrified the Asian diet, and – more importantly – insulated Asian budgets from food price fluctuations. Economists call this “price elasticity.” Americans, for example, will buy the same amount of milk even if the price doubles, although they will stop buying fast food if hamburger prices double. Asians now are wealthy enough to buy all the grain they want.

If wheat output falls, for example, due to drought in Russia and Argentina, prices rise until demand falls. The difference today is that Asian demand for grain will not fall, because Asians are richer than they used to be. Someone has to consume less, and it will be the people at the bottom of the economic ladder, in this case the poorer Arabs.

Wheat supply dropped by only 2.4% between 2009 and 2010 – and the wheat price doubled. That’s because affluent Asians don’t care what they pay for grain. Prices depend on what the last (or “marginal”) purchaser is willing to pay for an item….

It wasn’t the financial crisis that undermined dysfunctional Arab states, but Asian prosperity. The Arab poor have been priced out of world markets. There is no solution to Egypt’s problems within the horizon of popular expectations. Whether this regime survives or a new one replaces it, the outcome will continue to be a disaster.

So in each of these conservative Muslim states, no matter who remains or takes over, the conditions will not become better until they understand that… it is their conservatism, that is literally the thing killing them.

Duffy is God’s answer to a prayer.. I miss the old days of blogging when we were debating principals instead of people… Duffy has stuck to the old line of debating principals with facts, and that is what makes him special in the eyes of bloggers everywhere…

Since the passing of Steve Newton, he has been the only one to challenge me in any argument, and usually some pretty good stuff comes out of both sides during the exchange… I have respected that.. Cause once again, opinions mean dick. Facts are what we steer by.. It is my hope that in responding to his challenge that an answer may make itself apparent.. Who knows? It may not come from me… But if I’m the catalyst for bringing it out in the open, then… none of this was in vain..

Why I like to debate Duffy is simple.. Neither side, he or I, is concretely set in their opinions… We accept it when the other side makes sense… I usually go into such debates having no idea where they’ll end up… I hope the rest of you enjoy the ride as welI….

That said..

Duffy leads: Wall Street’s problems were caused by Fannie and Freddie loaning money to people they knew couldn’t pay and moreover, forcing banks to lend money to people who couldn’t pay. That was not deregulation but misregulation

kavips rebutt’s:Uh… Mr. President. That’s not entirely accurate.

First off, the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 was developed for, and locked in on, urban developmental areas and had no part of the subprime boom, which primarily occurred out in western desert regions where owning 4 to 5 investment homes was normal… Those homes were overwhelmingly funded by loan originators NOT SUBJECT to the act… We all know the crises was not because people couldn’t afford a payment on their house. It came about, because with no occupants, people could not afford the payments of 4 to 5 houses….. Instead of one loan per borrower turning up in default; four to five were.
Investment Homes lead forclosures not inner city Residences

Second off, The housing bubble reached its point of maximum inflation in 2005.
The Housing Bubble Starts to Dive in 2005
Courtesy of NYT

Third off, During those exact same years, Fannie and Freddie were sidelined by Congressional pressure, and saw a sharp drop in their share of loans secured by the Feds… Follow the dotted line on the very bottom of the graph…
Freddie and Fannie on the lowest line
Courtesy of NYT

Fourth off; During those exact same years, private secures, like Delaware’s own AIG, grabbed the lions share of the market.
Private, not Public Insurers Caused the Crash
Courtesy of NYT

Remember these graphs for later on when I discuss the results of deregulation, versus regulation… But like it or not, these graphs conclusively show that private insurers, who thanks to Marie Evans, we now know were deregulated by Phil Gramm in the 2000 Omnibus Bill, were the primary cause of the worlds financial collapse.. Probably put best by these words of AIG’s spokesperson, who when asked why they didn’t have sufficient funds to cover losses, said point blank, “We were deregulated. We were no laws requiring us to keep any funds, ..so we spent it…”

Duffy leads: The loosely regulated hedge funds escaped this mess largely unscathed. Why? They can’t count on a bailout like the big banks. The Too Big To Fail banks were counting on a bailout (not unlike the S&L bailouts which started on the Republican’s watch) and they got them.

kavips rebutt’s:Uh… Mr. President. That’s not entirely accurate. I agree that the hedge funds did survive better than the banks. Not because of bailouts, but because they sold short during the crises and made billions while firms closed and people got thrown out of work. There is nothing wrong with that; I did the same. In fact close readers may remember my warnings that the crises was impending almost a year earlier. Very close readers may remember my telling them exactly when to sell, and at what point the stock market would rebound… I must say: I called it rather well. 🙂

“Hedge funds were not in my understanding, at fault in the credit crisis,” said David Ruder, former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. “At the most what they did was to sell securities when some of their investments were declining and they needed to have liquid funds. They were not the architects of these problems.”

De regulated hedge funds are not the issue… De-regulated, excessively leveraged, mortgage securities, are a different story however… They, not the banks that held them, are the cause of the crises…Years from now, when academics search for causes of the stock market crash of 2008, they will focus on the pivotal role of mortgage-backed securities. These exotic financial instruments allowed a downturn in U.S. home prices to morph into a contagion that brought down Bear Stearns a year ago this month – and more recently have brought the global banking system to its knees.

Where you err is when you state that banks too big to fail, assumed they would be bailed out… By implication, you say imply they failed from squandering money, and wanted the bailouts.. But your tax dollars didn’t flow directly to the bottom line.

The roughly $200 billion the Treasury Department has handed out to battered banks was swapped for a special class of stock that pays a 5 percent dividend (rising to 9 percent after five years.) As of April 15, the Treasury had collected about $2.5 billion in dividend payments on its investment.

So in that sense, the bailout money represents an expense for banks. That’s one reason a number of banks have said they want to give the money back as soon as possible.

You say big banks were counting on a bailout, and they got them? That didn’t happen to these banks. New Mexico, Georgia, and Florida each lost a bank just last Friday. That brings to 8, the number of banks failed in June. Unfortunately if a bank is failing, it can’t bet on itself to fail, as can a hedge fund.

Duffy leads: Banks have successfully lobbied to get their losses absorbed by taxpayers and gains are kept private. How nice for them. They felt comfortable making insane gambles because they knew they’d be bailed out. Most of them were right. Also remember that it was Bill Clinton who tore down the wall between retail and investment banking. The idea was to give banks more stability as they typically perform as exact opposites in bull and bear markets. (FWIW, I think that was a good idea and I can tell you first hand that two of the Fortune 100 banks I worked for were carried by retail banking in bear years. They may not have had bonuses those years but they didn’t have layoffs either)

kavips rebutt’s:Uh… Mr. President. That’s not entirely accurate. The idea is that the banks made bad decisions knowing taxpayers would bail them out is the issue that is inaccurate. For the record, I have no qualms that it was the Clinton legacy who tore down the wall between banks and investment banking. Like you, I feel it was a good idea to do so… Again the problem was not primarily with banks making loans to people who could not pay.. Although, it was as late as October 2009, when I was made aware of one private Bank in Denver still exaggerating income to make loans look good enough on paper to get approval of securitization. What caused the collapse was the leveraging of those loans as securities, so that as the housing market became overextended, and the ARM jumped past the low cost opening years, the damage was 100 times worse because of leveraging. What made the collapse criminal, was that the insurance most financial institutions had bought from AIG, to cover such an improbable event, had already spent by that companies executives, out on bonuses to themselves. What made it doubly criminal, was that when they received government dollars through a taxpayer bailout, those same executives assumed it was to first go towards paying their bonuses again. However, very recent events may give some cover to the argument that some collusion was implicit in the bailing out of Goldman Sacs and AIG… Basically, once bailed out, AIG paid Goldman Sacs for shares twice as much as they were worth. The documents also indicate that regulators ignored recommendations from their own advisers to force the banks to accept losses on their A.I.G. deals and instead paid the banks in full for the contracts.

‘Going into their downturn, Korea looks like Detroit in the 1970s but without the good music,’ Scott Bache, Hong Kong-based partner for Clifford Chance LLP, said in the report.