Sunday, August 21, 2011

Molybdenum, Tungsten, and Big Bertha

Some very interesting Insight into the world of war profiteering, and the world of limited natural resources

In today's excerpt - molybdenum and tungsten. A key German advantage in World War I was Big Bertha, a forty-three ton gun which could fire a 16-inch, 2,200 pound shell nine miles. However, after a few days of firing, the twenty-two foot steel barrel would be useless since the iron in steel has a low melting point. The solution? Molybdenum from America in World War I and tungsten from supposedly neutral Portugal in World War II:


 


"The famous Krupp armament company found a recipe for strengthening steel: spiking it with molybdenum. Molybdenum ... could withstand the excessive heat because it melts at 4,750°F, thousands of degrees hotter than iron, the main metal in steel.


 


"Back in the trenches, the Germans were soon blazing away at the French and British with a second generation of 'moly steel' guns. But Germany soon faced another huge Bertha setback - it had no supply of molybdenum and risked running out. In fact, the only known supplier was a bankrupt, nearly abandoned mine on Bartlett Mountain in Colorado.

"[One world war later], Nazi Germany coveted tungsten for making machinery and armor-piercing missiles, and its lust for [it] surpassed even its lust for looted gold, which Nazi officials happily bartered for tungsten. And who were the Nazis' trading partners? ... It was supposedly neutral Portugal whose tungsten fed the wolfish appetite of the German kriegwerks. ...


 


"Proving his worth as a former professor of economics, [Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio] Salazar leveraged his country's near monopoly on the metal (90 percent of Europe's supply) into profits 1,000 percent greater than peacetime levels. ...

" Salazar ...  played the Axis and Allies brilliantly with vague promises, secret pacts, and stalling tactics that kept the tungsten trains chugging. He had increased the price of his country's one commodity from $1,100 per ton in 1940 to $20,000 in 1941, and he'd banked $170 million in three frenzied years of speculation. Only after running out of excuses did Salazar institute a full tungsten embargo against the Nazis on June 7, 1944, the day after D-Day, by which point the Allied commanders were too preoccupied (and disgusted) to punish him. I believe it was Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind who said that fortunes can be made only during the building up or tearing down of an empire, and Salazar certainly subscribed to that theory. In the so-called wolfram war, the Portuguese dictator had the last lycanthropic laugh."
Author: Sam Kean   
Title: The Disappearing Spoon
Publisher: Back Bay
Date: Copyright 2010 by Sam Kean
Pages: 91-94


The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements
by Sam Kean by Little, Brown and Company

Hardcover

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Delanceyplace is a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context.  There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, are occasionally controversial, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came. 

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

A question of class

A question of class

Colonizing, De-Colonizing, and Greed!

So this is how it works.....it's all about money, and power. Aw shucks! I thought it was about what was good for people and their countries :(

In today's  excerpt - in the 17th through the 19th centuries, an astonishing thing happened: the countries from the tiny continent of Europe took over almost the entire rest of the world and ran those lands as colonies. All of Africa save Ethiopia became colonies; all of the Americas, almost all of Asia (save China, which became a de facto colony after the opium wars). And while this was portrayed as an effort to lift up these savage countries ("the white man's burden"), it retarded the natural development of leadership within these countries and instead became an opportunity for daring entrepreneurs like Cecil Rhodes to build fortunes.

The benefits to the European governments that did the colonizing was far less evident though, and the colonies became a financial burden, which led to the unraveling of the British, French and other empires in the aftermath of two world wars. However, the great mineral wealth of these countries was too much for the businesses and entrepreneurs to leave behind, so as these countries were being "de-colonized", the sponsoring countries attempted to leave behind "friendly" leadership, even if the result was to continued to retard the development of organic leadership and democracy within those countries. Such was the case with the African nation of Gabon and the "Elf affair" which splashed across European headlines in the mid-1990s. One of the most fascinating aspects of this - which is relevant in understanding the selection of post-colonial dictators in numerous other countries - is that the French chose a dictator from a minority tribe to increase that dictator's dependency on French support:

"The so-called Elf affair scandal began in 1994 when U.S.-based Fairchild Corp. opened a commer­cial dispute with a French industrialist, triggering a stock exchange inquiry.
Treasure Islands: Uncovering the Damage of Offshore Banking and Tax Havens
by Nicholas Shaxson by Palgrave Macmillan

Hardcover ~ Release Date: 2011-04-12

If you wish to read further: Buy Now

Should you use the above link to purchase a book, delanceyplace proceeds from your purchase will benefit a children's literacy project. Delanceyplace is a not-for-profit organization.


About Us

Delanceyplace is a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context.  There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, are occasionally controversial, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came. 

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

China's "Great Leap Forward"....1958 to 1962

Holly crap batman! .....this is a totally sad story.... oh the humanity! For all those Conservative Republicans, who constantly tell us how great the 1950's were, and how we all need to return to the values of that time!, .....I think you need to look at the "bigger" picture! :) It was not a great time for ALL PEOPLES on this big blue planet!

In today's excerpt - during Chairman Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward, which was an effort to use centralized Communist planning to vault China's economy past those of the Western European powers, China endured one of the greatest tragedies in human history - the death of over 45 million people:

"Between 1958 and 1962, China descended into hell. Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, threw his country into a frenzy with the Great Leap Forward, an attempt to catch up with and overtake Britain in less than fifteen years. By unleashing China's greatest asset, a labour force that was counted in the hundreds of millions, Mao thought that he could catapult his country past its competitors. Instead of following the Soviet model of development, which leaned heavily towards industry alone, China would 'walk on two legs': the peasant masses were mobilized to transform both agriculture and industry at the same time, converting a backward economy into a modern communist society of plenty for all.

"In the pursuit of a utopian paradise, everything was collectivized, as villagers were herded together in giant communes which heralded the advent of communism. People in the countryside were robbed of their work, their homes, their land, their belongings and their livelihood. Food, distributed by the spoonful in collective canteens according to merit, became a weapon to force people to follow the party's every dictate. Irrigation campaigns forced up to half the villagers to work for weeks on end on giant water-conservancy projects, often far from home, without adequate food and rest. The experiment ended in the greatest catastrophe the country had ever known, destroying tens of millions of lives. ...

"At least 45 million people died unnecessarily between 1958 and 1962. The term 'famine', or even 'Great Famine', is often used to describe these four to five years of the Maoist era, but the term fails to capture the many ways in which people died under radical collectivization.
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Native of the Philadelphia "Kensington and Alleganey" northeast area. I spent 4 years in the Air Force (Titan-II missles in Tuscon Arizona). I Am currently retired, and among other adventures I spent 28 years working for AT&T in Telecommunications. I've lived in Florida for 33 years....20 years in Hollywood Fla., and 13 years North Florida. I've been married 42 years, and am a proud father of three adult offspring. All of them contributing to society in a very useful and creative manner.