Archive for June 2015

Graphic T-Shirts: Remembering the Cost of Wars as the Survivors Perish

June 30, 2015

In the current fashion cycle colorful t-shirts claim space in casual wardrobes across many demographics. Sometimes they have nature-oriented artwork while other times they hail a sporting team’s victory. Some advertise a brand name preference, a favored musical group, or an institutional alliance. The writing could be good-natured, quirky or simply intended to bring attention to the wearers themselves. Occasionally rhinestone-encrusted, cultish or confusing , the clothing is always making a statement, intended or not.

Yet traveling between gates at a U.S. airport, I observed a teenager wearing a t-shirt with a large faded American flag and the phrase “Back-to-Back World War Champs” surrounding the graphic. The patriotic boast viscerally stunned me and my emotions moved from astonishment to shock and then disbelief.   Over the next hour it transformed into dismay as it seemed disharmonious with the upcoming anniversaries marking the end of wars.

July 4th gives birth to the United States of America (Independence Day) and celebrates the freedoms won after the eight years of bitter, guerilla-style civil war within Great Britain’s claimed territory.  (April 19, 1775 – September 3, 1783.)  This is followed on November 7th with Armistice Day, also called Remembrance Day or Poppy Day, which marks the end of World War I and more than four years of trench warfare.

The disharmony stemmed from unstated teachings in my youth that a war’s end is not a prideful bragging contest. Celebrations on Independence Day tend to focus on American values articulated within the Declaration of Independence. I do not recall ceremonies invoking inflammatory language— “Dear Mum, We sure stuck it to you! Love, Uncle Sam” —as one might witness in drunken brawls between rivals after a game.

The Instruments of Surrender in both the European and Pacific theater—and the resulting treaties and agreements—followed suit and pointedly avoided the inflammatory, draconian concessions and punitive terms the winning Allies forced after World War I with the Treaty of Versailles (June 28, 1919). These prizes extracted by the war’s victors were among the contributing factors to the unrest which bred World War II.

Maybe that was why the t-shirt bothered me—it cavalierly dismissed the cost of war. Perhaps further on the heels of another recent post graphically reviewing the causalities of World War II it struck a raw nerve.

Now in fairness, graphic t-shirts are not always philosophical, eloquent or fair; it could just be a t-shirt. True to form though, it made a statement and provoked a reaction as I looked deeper:

Those of the Lost Generation fought in World War I and those of Tom Brokaw’s coined Greatest Generation fought in World War II. As the last survivors of World War II perish from old-age, are we slowly losing this perspective, context?

Then we will lose those from the Korean War (the Silent Generation) and those who fought in Vietnam—also called the War of Southeast Asia. (This included both the Silent Generation and the Baby Boomer Generation.) These servicemembers have different memories of war for they serviced but lacked the popular support and focus found in previous American military conflicts. The clarity of the lessons learned is more muddied.

In a world of rapid communication, instant gratification and seemingly short-attention spans marked more by sensationalism than fact, how do we remember and lessen the chance of repeating these lessons when we lose the physical human link to the past?

Napkin Notes: American Voter Non-Binding Resolution on Congressional Compensation

June 15, 2015

The annual blizzard of annual shareholder voting and meeting announcements have been arriving.  Tucked within the annual Board of Director recommendations for electing or re-electing people I do not know to act on my behalf, is an increasing popular referendum: a non-binding shareholder vote on executive compensation.  The actual influence the vote will have I believe is as yet indeterminate.  What intrigues me is Congress approves its own pay each year.  Maybe the American people should formally have a non-binding opinion on congressional compensation each general election.

Today Congressional approval by the American public stands at 19% and above the all-time low of 9% in late 2013.

While pay may not be the primary motivating factor for politicians, a non-binding resolution in general elections in conjunction with individual and congressional approval ratings by an independent third-party may help with informed management our representatives.

Napkin Notes: Hacking the Rumor Mill

June 10, 2015

It appears that Target inadvertently published a potential notice to the corporate website announcing a $5 billion dollar share buyback and a dividend increase of more than 7%.  Within hours this was pulled from the website without explanation.  My first thought after the media reports and the subsequent deletion by Target without a spokesperson comment was: “they were hacked again.”  It brings back the thoughts of Anonymous and the hackivism defacing of websites.  My next thought was this was a rather sophisticated attack vector.

There is an interesting degree of market manipulation that could be had here.  For those that think it is a stretch, look at the “bid” by PTG Capital Partners, a non-existant US publically traded company, that filed an SEC letter to purchase Avon for three times its market value.   This increased the stock price of Avon almost 20% on this errant news before the market unwound itself.

Time will tell if the latter were a case of fraud through stock price manipulation or a probing attack by a third party. What is certain is that the fusing of a target’s common business practices with cyber attacks exploits new opportunities.

A Graphical Look at World War II Losses on The 71st Anniversay of D-Day

June 6, 2015

For some time I have been drafting a post that took a macro, numeric view of war losses during the 20th and 21st centuries.  After reading several good histories on the Pacific Theater in World War II–including With the Old Breed by Eugene B. Sledge–and learning more about the Eastern Front in Russian, I was brutally shocked by the number of Russian soldiers and civilians killed.  I sought context within that war and across others.

I offer a nod to Neil Halloran who eloquently developed the video on the link below with World War II.  The visual depiction is stunning.

Today is the 71st Anniversary of D-Day.  More American lives were lost on Omaha Beach in Normandy France than the entire 13 year conflict in Afghanistan.  This is not to minimize any loss, but rather to put into sharp relief the sacrifice, brutality and lost than many today have no conception of.

– A humbly grateful American