Military Nomenclature

From the Johnson blog at The Economist.

it once bugged me that in British and American officer ranks, a lieutenant general outranked a major general, while by contrast a major outranks a lieutenant. (Plain “general” outranks both.)  Only later did I learn: major general is shortened from sergeant-major-general. So just as ranks proceed upwards as sergeant-major, lieutenant, captain, so do (sergeant-)major-general, lieutenant-general and (captain-)general.

Never thought about it, but it is interesting.


Financial genocide in Greece

I never realized that the situation on the ground was quite so dire.  The international media covers only the money.  The social cost remains buried.

  • One third of the country’s 165,000 commercial firms shut down; a third can no longer pay wages
  • The billions of euros in tranches from the EU actually flow back immediately into the EU – reportedly, 97 percent of it – as annual loan repayment instalments to the banks and as new interest charges
  • There have been no textbooks in the public education system for months, since the state owes huge sums of money to the publishers and the publishers have stopped the deliveries

More here.

The question that arises is:  where did all that money go?  Did the powerful and politically well-connected manage to siphon off everything?  Or were all Greeks living beyond their means, as goes the primary narrative?


Japanese Desolation

An elegy to Kiyosato, which was a resort town that came into prominence in the heydays of the 1980s.  Today, the crowds have gone, the stores have shuttered and everything gently and oh so slowly rusts or rots or crumbles away.

Today, Kiyosato stands as a cautionary tale of the consumerist excess that often accompanies a bubble.  Will some consumerist havens in the US and Europe look like this in two decades?


Pink

I always knew of David Byrne as the singer in The Talking Heads.  I never knew he also wrote so well.

Here, he writes an interesting piece on the color pink.  I never knew that

pink was actually considered a color best suited to boys until as late as the 1950s. Blue was the girlie color.

But I do disagree with Diana Vreeland’s assertion that pink is the navy blue of India.  By which she means that

just as navy blue in our culture tends to signify conservative respectability, pink exemplifies tradition and balance in India.

It is only in religious contexts in which I remember seeing significant quantities of pink in India and there too, the colour primarily appears on flowers.


Saleem Shahzad’s Murder, Pakistan, and the ISI

I used to look forward to reading Syed Saleem Shahzad’s articles at Asia Times Online.  He had impeccable connections with the jihadis and the Pakistani establishment and used them to deliver nuggets of information weeks and months before other journalists and organizations.

He was always in trouble for his integrity and his refusal to shy away from reporting the truth.  Eventually, it all caught up with him and he was tortured and killed and left by the roadside a few months ago.  It was a tragedy and a setback for journalism, as once again one telling truth to power is destroyed by that power.  The New Yorker has a great piece about him and the circumstances surrounding his death.  Essential reading.


Tuscany Trembling

A panther terrorizing the Tuscan countryside.  The panther must be more surprised than anyone else about what it’s doing 4000 kilometers away from its natural habitat.  Details here.


Has Neal Stephenson become too accessible?

A review of Neal Stephenson’s latest, Reamde.  I’ve never read him, but have only heard good things about him.  Now, after reading this review, I really do want to read him, but preferably his earlier stuff.


Huawei in the US

The Chinese equipment manufacturer is doing its best to crack global markets.  They now have operations in the US, Europe, India, Vietnam, Mexico and a bunch of other countries.  As with any Chinese company, they carry a lot of baggage.  They face regular accusations of undermining national security and of being a Trojan horse for the Chinese government.

Economically, however, they have been successful, having built a brand with a reputation for cheap, but quality products.  Business Week has an interesting piece on how the company has grown its operations in the US, its missteps and its attempts to woo the US political machine.  One key element of their strategy is transparency: they allow regulators to study their products with a fine-toothed comb.  Another element is to hire an international workforce: to smoother fears about Chinese domination as well as to navigate tricky cultural straits.


Greece’s Future Is With Euro Zone, Say Merkel and Sarkozy

After much noise over the past week in the German press about German preparations for a Eurozone sans Greece, Fr. Merkel comes along and stresses that the possibility kicking the Greeks out does not arise.

What we have here is a high-stakes game with a multitude of players positioning themselves to benefit most or lose least no matter what the final outcome.  (I was tempted to draw an analogy to a poker game, but the analogy fails because the rules are rather murkier here.)

Yet, I would say that slowly but inexorably the Greeks are being pushed out of the Eurozone.

The WSJ piece that inspired this rumination is here.


Maggie Thatcher, Hard ECUs, and the Eurozone shambles

Margaret Thatcher and her party members expressed reservations about joining a common currency way back in 1990.  Some arguments used to buttress those reservations seem remarkably prescient today.

… the imposition of a single currency, as opposed to a common currency, would rule out for all time the most effective means of adjusting for national differences in costs and prices … that in turn would cause widespread unemployment, which would probably exist on a perpetual basis, and very serious financial imbalances …

and

there would have to be enormous transfers of money from one country to another … poorer countries … would get those big transfers of money …

and

this was not really about monetary policy at all but about a back door to a federal Europe, taking many democratic powers away from democratically elected bodies and giving them to non-elected bodies …

The full piece is here.