Archive for June, 2008

28
Jun
08

On This Day, 6-28-08: John Maynard Keynes

Keynes predicts economic chaos

At the Palace of Versailles outside Paris, Germany signs the Treaty of Versailles with the Allies, officially ending World War I. The English economist John Maynard Keynes, who had attended the peace conference but then left in protest of the treaty, was one of the most outspoken critics of the punitive agreement. In his The Economic Consequences of the Peace, published in December 1919, Keynes predicted that the stiff war reparations and other harsh terms imposed on Germany by the treaty would lead to the financial collapse of the country, which in turn would have serious economic and political repercussions on Europe and the world.

By the fall of 1918, it was apparent to the leaders of Germany that defeat was inevitable in World War I. After four years of terrible attrition, Germany no longer had the men or resources to resist the Allies, who had been given a tremendous boost by the infusion of American manpower and supplies. In order to avert an Allied invasion of Germany, the German government contacted U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in October 1918 and asked him to arrange a general armistice. Earlier that year, Wilson had proclaimed his “Fourteen Points,” which proposed terms for a “just and stable peace” between Germany and its enemies. The Germans asked that the armistice be established along these terms, and the Allies more or less complied, assuring Germany of a fair and unselfish final peace treaty. On November 11, 1918, the armistice was signed and went into effect, and fighting in World War I came to an end.

In January 1919, John Maynard Keynes traveled to the Paris Peace Conference as the chief representative of the British Treasury. The brilliant 35-year-old economist had previously won acclaim for his work with the Indian currency and his management of British finances during the war. In Paris, he sat on an economic council and advised British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, but the important peacemaking decisions were out of his hands, and President Wilson, Prime Minister Lloyd George, and French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau wielded the real authority. Germany had no role in the negotiations deciding its fate, and lesser Allied powers had little responsibility in the drafting of the final treaty.

It soon became apparent that the treaty would bear only a faint resemblance to the Fourteen Points that had been proposed by Wilson and embraced by the Germans. Wilson, a great idealist, had few negotiating skills, and he soon buckled under the pressure of Clemenceau, who hoped to punish Germany as severely as it had punished France in the Treaty of Frankfurt that ended the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. Lloyd George took the middle ground between the two men, but he backed the French plan to force Germany to pay reparations for damages inflicted on Allied civilians and their property. Since the treaty officially held Germany responsible for the outbreak of World War I (in reality it was only partially responsible), the Allies would not have to pay reparations for damages they inflicted on German civilians.

The treaty that began to emerge was a thinly veiled Carthaginian Peace, an agreement that accomplished Clemenceau’s hope to crush France’s old rival. According to its terms, Germany was to relinquish 10 percent of its territory. It was to be disarmed, and its overseas empire taken over by the Allies. Most detrimental to Germany’s immediate future, however, was the confiscation of its foreign financial holdings and its merchant carrier fleet. The German economy, already devastated by the war, was thus further crippled, and the stiff war reparations demanded ensured that it would not soon return to its feet. A final reparations figure was not agreed upon in the treaty, but estimates placed the amount in excess of $30 billion, far beyond Germany’s capacity to pay. Germany would be subject to invasion if it fell behind on payments.

Keynes, horrified by the terms of the emerging treaty, presented a plan to the Allied leaders in which the German government be given a substantial loan, thus allowing it to buy food and materials while beginning reparations payments immediately. Lloyd George approved the “Keynes Plan,” but President Wilson turned it down because he feared it would not receive congressional approval. In a private letter to a friend, Keynes called the idealistic American president “the greatest fraud on earth.” On June 5, 1919, Keynes wrote a note to Lloyd George informing the prime minister that he was resigning his post in protest of the impending “devastation of Europe.”

The Germans initially refused to sign the Treaty of Versailles, and it took an ultimatum from the Allies to bring the German delegation to Paris on June 28. It was five years to the day since the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, which began the chain of events that led to the outbreak of World War I. Clemenceau chose the location for the signing of the treaty: the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles Palace, site of the signing of the Treaty of Frankfurt that ended the Franco-Prussian War. At the ceremony, General Jan Christiaan Smuts, soon to be president of South Africa, was the only Allied leader to protest formally the Treaty of Versailles, saying it would do grave injury to the industrial revival of Europe.

At Smuts’ urging, Keynes began work on The Economic Consequences of the Peace. It was published in December 1919 and was widely read. In the book, Keynes made a grim prophecy that would have particular relevance to the next generation of Europeans: “If we aim at the impoverishment of Central Europe, vengeance, I dare say, will not limp. Nothing can then delay for very long the forces of Reaction and the despairing convulsions of Revolution, before which the horrors of the later German war will fade into nothing, and which will destroy, whoever is victor, the civilization and the progress of our generation.”

Germany soon fell hopelessly behind in its reparations payments, and in 1923 France and Belgium occupied the industrial Ruhr region as a means of forcing payment. In protest, workers and employers closed down the factories in the region. Catastrophic inflation ensued, and Germany’s fragile economy began quickly to collapse. By the time the crash came in November 1923, a lifetime of savings could not buy a loaf of bread. That month, the Nazi Party led by Adolf Hitler launched an abortive coup against Germany’s government. The Nazis were crushed and Hitler was imprisoned, but many resentful Germans sympathized with the Nazis and their hatred of the Treaty of Versailles.

A decade later, Hitler would exploit this continuing bitterness among Germans to seize control of the German state. In the 1930s, the Treaty of Versailles was significantly revised and altered in Germany’s favor, but this belated amendment could not stop the rise of German militarism and the subsequent outbreak of World War II.

In the late 1930s, John Maynard Keynes gained a reputation as the world’s foremost economist by advocating large-scale government economic planning to keep unemployment low and markets healthy. Today, all major capitalist nations adhere to the key principles of Keynesian economics. He died in 1946.

“Keynes predicts economic chaos.” 2008. The History Channel website. 28 Jun 2008, 03:40 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6942.

27
Jun
08

Gone Hiking!

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27
Jun
08

On This Day, 6-27-08: The Korean War

Truman orders U.S. forces to Korea

On June 27, 1950, President Harry S. Truman announces that he is ordering U.S. air and naval forces to South Korea to aid the democratic nation in repulsing an invasion by communist North Korea. The United States was undertaking the major military operation, he explained, to enforce a United Nations resolution calling for an end to hostilities, and to stem the spread of communism in Asia. In addition to ordering U.S. forces to Korea, Truman also deployed the U.S. 7th Fleet to Formosa (Taiwan) to guard against invasion by communist China and ordered an acceleration of military aid to French forces fighting communist guerrillas in Vietnam.

By May 1951, the communists were pushed back to the 38th parallel, and the battle line remained in that vicinity for the remainder of the war. On July 27, 1953, after two years of negotiation, an armistice was signed, ending the war and reestablishing the 1945 division of Korea that still exists today. Approximately 150,000 troops from South Korea, the United States, and participating U.N. nations were killed in the Korean War, and as many as one million South Korean civilians perished. An estimated 800,000 communist soldiers were killed, and more than 200,000 North Korean civilians died.

The original figure of American troops lost–54,246 killed–became controversial when the Pentagon acknowledged in 2000 that all U.S. troops killed around the world during the period of the Korean War were incorporated into that number. For example, any American soldier killed in a car accident anywhere in the world from June 1950 to July 1953 was considered a casualty of the Korean War. If these deaths are subtracted from the 54,000 total, leaving just the Americans who died (from whatever cause) in the Korean theater of operations, the total U.S. dead in the Korean War numbers 36,516.

“Truman orders U.S. forces to Korea.” 2008. The History Channel website. 27 Jun 2008, 02:37 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6941.

0363 – The death of Roman Emperor Julian brought an end to the Pagan Revival.

1787 – Edward Gibbon completed “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” It was published the following May.

1893 – The New York stock market crashed. By the end of the year 600 banks and 74 railroads had gone out of business.

1905 – The battleship Potemkin succumbed to a mutiny on the Black Sea.

1918 – Two German pilots were saved by parachutes for the first time.

1924 – Democrats offered Mrs. Leroy Springs for vice presidential nomination. She was the first woman considered for the job.

1929 – Scientists at Bell Laboratories in New York revealed a system for transmitting television pictures.

1931 – Igor Sikorsky filed U.S. Patent 1,994,488, which marked the breakthrough in helicopter technology.

1944 – During World War II, American forces completed their capture of the French port of Cherbourg from the German army.

1954 – The world’s first atomic power station opened at Obninsk, near Moscow.

1973 – Nixon vetoed a Senate ban on bombing Cambodia.

1980 – U.S. President Carter signed legislation reviving draft registration.

1985 – The U.S. House of Representatives voted to limit the use of combat troops in Nicaragua.

1986 – The World Court ruled that the U.S. had broken international law by aiding Nicaraguan rebels.

1998 – An English woman was impregnated with her dead husband’s sperm after two-year legal battle over her right to the sperm.

2005 – In Alaska’s Denali National Park, a roughly 70-million year old dinosaur track was discovered. The track was form a three-toed Cretaceous period dinosaur.

Mormon leader killed by mob

Joseph Smith, the founder and leader of the Mormon religion, is murdered along with his brother Hyrum when an anti-Mormon mob breaks into a jail where they are being held in Carthage, Illinois.

“Mormon leader killed by mob.” 2008. The History Channel website. 27 Jun 2008, 02:38 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5129.

Buffalo hunters and Indians clash at Adobe Walls

Using new high-powered rifles to devastating effect, 28 buffalo hunters repulse a much larger force of attacking Indians at an old trading post in the Texas panhandle called Adobe Walls.

The Commanche, Kiowa, and Cheyenne Indians living in western Texas had long resented the advancement of white settlement in their territories. In 1867, some of the Indians accepted the terms of the Treaty of Medicine Lodge, which required them to move to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) but also reserved much of the Texas Panhandle as their exclusive hunting grounds. Many white Texans, however, maintained that the treaty had ignored their legitimate claims to the area. These white buffalo hunters, who had already greatly reduced the once massive herds, continued to hunt in the territory.

By the early 1870s, Commanche, Kiowa, and Cheyenne hunters were finding it harder to locate buffalo, and they blamed the illegal white buffalo hunters. When the federal government failed to take adequate measures to stop the white buffalo hunters, the great chief Quanah Parker and others began to argue for war

“Buffalo hunters and Indians clash at Adobe Walls.” 2008. The History Channel website. 27 Jun 2008, 02:44 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4564.

Wobblies unite

The dawn of the twentieth century witnessed a sustained burst of progressive activities as various disenfranchised elements of American society pushed to assert their rights. This was especially true in the world of organized labor, as workers marshaled their forces in the battle against Big Business. Along with heading to the picket line, workers formed new and increasingly more strident unions, such as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which was formally consecrated in Chicago on this day in 1905. Organized by industrial labor’s more militant members, including Eugene Debs, William D. Haywood (also known as “Big Bill” Haywood) and the long-stymied Socialist segment of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), the IWW tilted at the formidable windmills of industrial capitalism and its caste-like wage system. As Haywood told the union’s first convention, the IWW’s “purpose” was the “emancipation of the working class from the slave bondage of capitalism.” Towards that end, the IWW’s leaders sought to build a massive union that, rather than give in to labor’s nativist tendencies, built its numbers by pooling members from all races and ethnicities. Once the IWW became large enough, its leaders planned to call an apocalyptic strike that would effectively fell the capitalist system. Though the IWW did score some key victories, including leading a successful strike by textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts (1912), it also drew heavy fire from business leaders, government officials and conservative sectors of the union movement alike.

“Wobblies unite.” 2008. The History Channel website. 27 Jun 2008, 02:47 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5909.

26
Jun
08

Natural Bridge

Allow my lesson to be your lesson, if you don’t mind me lecturing you about photography.  I recently bought a new camera.  I enjoy taking pictures and under no circumstances do I consider myself a photographer.  I am a guy with a camera.  I take pictures because I see some pretty cool things from time to time.  Today, for instance, while hiking in a local state park I saw a buck.  How do I know it was a buck?  Because the male deer are in velvet now.  That however isn’t the lesson I intend on lecturing about.

I have a friend who is very dear to me, and whose privacy I intend on respecting so I shan’t say her name.  She is a professional photographer and when I was chatting with her about the kind of camera I wanted to buy she stressed to me the importance of having the right lens.  You mean you can put different lenses on those things?  Anyway, I decided to hook myself up for the summer hiking season and bought the camera along with a couple of lenses and a nice pack so I can carry them with me into the forest.

Great plan, I thought.

The next two pictures are an illustration of the difference in each lens’ capabilities.

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This is my telephoto zoom lens pulled back as far as it will go.

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This is my 18-55 lens pulled back as far as it will go.

What is the lesson here?  Glad you asked, because I went to an obscure Wisconsin park called Natural Bridge.  You all know what a natural bridge is.  You’ve been to them or seen pictures of them.  They are rock formations where erosion has hollowed out the rock beneath creating a natural bridge.  They are kind of cool to find and beautiful to see under the right conditions.  Of course the right conditions mean nothing if you don’t have the proper gear to capture that moment.

My dad and I went to the park last Saturday.  I try to spend a couple Saturdays a month with my folks and this one had my dad and I traveling around the countryside looking to take pictures of stuff.  We decided to go to Natural Bridge because my dad wanted to try out his new camera and I wanted to work some more with mine.

My dad is old school — from film day when each one of those exposures counted.  So he points his camera, takes one picture and hopes it turns out.  He doesn’t understand that the digital camera he has can hold about a thousand pictures and they don’t cost anything to view on his television.  He’s a fairly intelligent man so I’m certain that after he misses a few he’ll get it and take more shots.

The lesson I learned however is because of my own laziness.  When we got to the park I decided that I would leave my backpack in the car because, after all, I only have one extra lens.  In this case the 18-55 was left behind and I sauntered into the forest with my big telephoto lens proudly protruding for all to see.  When we got to the Natural Bridge I began taking pictures and immediately realized the mistake I had made.  I couldn’t pullback far enough from the bridge to get a full shot.  Every shot is close.  Too close.  So from now on the pack goes on my back where it belongs and I hope not to miss a shot because of my own laziness.

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Oh well…Natural Bridge is a very pretty park with some pretty vistas.

26
Jun
08

Deer

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26
Jun
08

On This Day, 6-26-08: Berlin Airlift

Berlin Airlift begins

On this day in 1948, U.S. and British pilots begin delivering food and supplies by airplane to Berlin after the city is isolated by a Soviet Union blockade.

When World War II ended in 1945, defeated Germany was divided into Soviet, American, British and French zones of occupation. The city of Berlin, though located within the Soviet zone of occupation, was also split into four sectors, with the Allies taking the western part of the city and the Soviets the eastern. In June 1948, Josef Stalin’s government attempted to consolidate control of the city by cutting off all land and sea routes to West Berlin in order to pressure the Allies to evacuate. As a result, beginning on June 24 the western section of Berlin and its 2 million people were deprived of food, heating fuel and other crucial supplies.

Though some in U.S. President Harry S. Truman’s administration called for a direct military response to this aggressive Soviet move, Truman worried such a response would trigger another world war. Instead, he authorized a massive airlift operation under the control of General Lucius D. Clay, the American-appointed military governor of Germany. The first planes took off from England and western Germany on June 26, loaded with food, clothing, water, medicine and fuel.

By July 15, an average of 2,500 tons of supplies was being flown into the city every day. The massive scale of the airlift made it a huge logistical challenge and at times a great risk. With planes landing at Tempelhof Airport every four minutes, round the clock, pilots were being asked to fly two or more round-trip flights every day, in World War II planes that were sometimes in need of repair.

The Soviets lifted the blockade in May 1949, having earned the scorn of the international community for subjecting innocent men, women and children to hardship and starvation. The airlift–called die Luftbrucke or “the air bridge” in German–continued until September 1949, for a total delivery of more than 1.5 million tons of supplies and a total cost of over $224 million. When it ended, the eastern section of Berlin was absorbed into Soviet East Germany, while West Berlin remained a separate territory with its own government and close ties to West Germany. The Berlin Wall, built in 1961, formed a dividing line between East and West Berlin. Its destruction in 1989 presaged the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and marked the end of an era and the reemergence of Berlin as the capital of a new, unified German nation.

“Berlin Airlift begins.” 2008. The History Channel website. 25 Jun 2008, 12:31 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=52635.

1096 – Peter the Hermit’s crusaders forced their way across Sava, Hungary.

1483 – Richard III usurped himself to the English throne.

1794 – The French defeated an Austrian army at the Battle of Fleurus.

1819 – The bicycle was patented by W.K. Clarkson, Jr.

1844 – John Tyler took Julia Gardiner as his bride, thus becoming the first U.S. President to marry while in office.

1900 – The United States announced that it would send troops to fight against the Boxer rebellion in China.

1917 – General John “Black Jack” Pershing arrived in France with the American Expeditionary Force.

1924 – After eight years of occupation, American troops left the Dominican Republic.

1945 – The U.N. Charter was signed by 50 nations in San Francisco, CA.

1959 – U.S. President Eisenhower joined Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in ceremonies officially opening the St. Lawrence Seaway.

1961 – A Kuwaiti vote opposed Iraq’s annexation plans.

1963 – U.S. President John Kennedy announced “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner) at the Berlin Wall.

1996 – The U.S. Supreme Court ordered the Virginia Military Institute to admit women or forgo state support.

1997 – The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that made it illegal to distribute indecent material on the Internet.

1997 – The U.S. Supreme Court upheld state laws that allow for a ban on doctor-assisted suicides.

1998 – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that employers are always potentially liable for supervisor’s sexual misconduct toward an employee.

Westmoreland given authority to commit U.S. forces

Gen. William Westmoreland, senior U.S. military commander in Vietnam, is given formal authority to commit American troops to battle when he decides they are necessary “to strengthen the relative position of the GVN [Government of Vietnam] forces.” This authorization permitted Westmoreland to put his forces on the offensive. Heretofore, U.S. combat forces had been restricted to protecting U.S. airbases and other facilities.

The first major offensive by U.S. forces under this new directive was launched two days later by 3,000 troops of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, in conjunction with 800 Australian soldiers and a Vietnamese airborne unit. These forces assaulted a jungle area known as Viet Cong Zone D, 20 miles northeast of Saigon. The operation was called off after three days when it failed to make any major contact with the enemy. One American was killed, and nine Americans and four Australians were wounded.

“Westmoreland given authority to commit U.S. forces.” 2008. The History Channel website. 25 Jun 2008, 01:09 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=1931.

25
Jun
08

Mirror Lake

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Some recent storm damage.  This dock had been torn away and set adrift.

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Which meant the owners of this boat couldn’t tie to the dock while they imbibed in a few mugs of their favorite summertime beverage and so the wind caused their boat to drift away.

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In spite of the rain, the flooding, and Lake Delton draining Mirror Lake is still in excellent shape.  Mirror Lake is a flowage — a lake created by damming a river.  In this case it is one dam above Lake Delton.  Part of what happened at Lake Delton was because the dams above Lake Delton had to be opened to prevent them from failing, which caused Lake Delton to overflow its banks and cut a new channel through to the Wisconsin River.

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