A century ago this year, the conflict that would become World War I broke out in Europe. Today is Veterans Day, marking the Nov. 11 end of that war.
Sadly, it wasn’t the end of all wars. Many more men and women earned their veteran stripes. If you are one of them, thank you for your sacrifice. The rest of us are in your debt.
We rightly thank veterans for their service, even if we disagree with the wars they fought. For many the sacrifice continues long after they hang up the uniform and take off the dog tags.
My dad is a good example.
Dad served in Vietnam as a U.S. Army intelligence officer. He questioned enemy prisoners to learn information about their plans and positions.
Unlike some of his peers, Dad came home alive, but he wasn’t unharmed. Somehow, the “Agent Orange“ chemical herbicide found its way into his blood.
The U.S. used Agent Orange to deprive the enemy of cover in Vietnam’s thick jungles. They deployed it on a staggering scale, too.
Between 1962 and 1971, 12% of South Vietnam’s total area was sprayed with Agent Orange, at an average concentration 13 times higher than the Agriculture Department allowed for domestic use.
Whether Agent Orange shortened the war is debatable, but the impact on Vietnam’s environment and people was disastrous. The chemical destroyed croplands, gave villagers cancer and other illnesses, and caused birth defects in thousands of children.
My dad had no idea all this was happening, or that it would give him diabetes years later. He suffered for a long time before finally seeking help at a veterans’ hospital. By then they could do little beyond giving him a small monthly benefit.
You might think our government would have learned a lesson from that episode, but apparently not. Now soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan are coming back sick from exposure to depleted uranium ammunition. Others involved in cleaning up Saddam Hussein’s 1980s-era chemical weapon stockpile are suffering too.
War is never healthy, but we owe our soldiers — and innocent civilian victims — some kind of relief and we should stop creating yet more casualties. Too many veterans still suffer, as my dad has. There is no doubt that many veterans die years before they should because of Agent Orange and other exposures.
If we must go to war, we must take care of our own people who come back injured. A holiday like today is a good start, but that’s all it is: a start.
In China, Nov. 11 is a different kind of holiday, “Singles Day.“ It is very commercial, invented by e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA) in 2009 to generate retail sales.
It’s working, too. Alibaba’s sales on this date grew a whopping 5,740% from 2009 to 2013. The company said it rang up $9.3 billion in online sales today.
Single’s Day is the opposite of Valentine’s Day. Young, unattached Chinese give each other gifts. It was a genius move by Alibaba because so many people in the country are single.
For various reasons, finding a mate is particularly difficult for this generation of Chinese. Alibaba turned their shame into a giant nationwide party. Now other retailers are joining in to make Singles Day a major festival.
As an investment point, notice that Singles Day is primarily an online shopping event. Young Chinese don’t go to stores to buy gifts for their single friends. They pull out their smartphones and open the Alibaba app.
This is an important clue. Chinese e-commerce firms have made shopping on mobile devices perfectly normal to the younger generation. That’s a good sign for stocks like BABA and its many smaller rivals.
Here is a reply to my Monday article, Russia & China Chip Away at Petrodollar.
Reader Guy N. says: “I have no doubt that the Chinese leaders are well aware of our debt situation, and our history of living beyond our means. They also will not forget how the cavalier behavior of our finance establishment in the derivatives markets almost brought down the entire world‘s financial system in 2008. I feel this was what shook their trust.
“As a group they are ultra-conservative, and they see a high probability that the U.S. dollar will not have a long-term future. They believe future financial stability requires that world commerce be weaned off the dollar.“
Brad: Thanks for writing, Guy. I think you are right that Chinese leaders notice our mistakes. Whether that made them change their own long-term strategy is a different question.
U.S. bond markets and many European stock exchanges took a day off to honor veterans. That led to relatively quiet trading in U.S. equities. Here are a few headlines.
- Cloud provider Rackspace Hosting (RAX) floated 13.2% higher after a consensus-beating quarterly report. The company said it may spend as much as $500 million to buy back its own shares over the next two years.
- President Obama’s new “net neutrality“ stance hit cable providers for a second day. Time Warner Cable (TWC) dropped 1.3% and Comcast (CMCSA) struggled to break even.
- A TWC spokesperson said they would arrive at the White House to complain between 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM next Thursday, and asked the president to give 24 hours notice if he wished to cancel the appointment.
- Mobile game developer Zynga (ZNGA), maker of addictive apps like Farmville and Words with Friends, rose 10.9% after Jefferies & Co. gave the stock a “Buy“ rating.
- Gold mining leader Newmont (NEM) climbed 3.5% as bullion prices recovered some lost ground.
- In Beijing, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to drop tariffs on a broad list of technology products. This preliminary step still needs approval from the World Trade Organization, so tech companies aren’t celebrating yet.
Good Luck and Happy Investing,
Uncommon Wisdom Daily
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