Archive for November, 2013

World War 1914 to 1945

November 30, 2013

1. As a result of an online History Course on Global History Since 1300(Coursera: Professor Adelman, Princeton University), I feel I have a better understanding of the nature and consequences of WW2. One way to start is to compare the military and civilian casualties by some of the major participating countries: I consider these to be reasonably reliable facts.

World War II Casualties

Country                         Military                            Civilian
China                           7-16 million                    10-20 million
Germany                     5.5 million                      1.1-3.1 million
Japan                           2.1 million                       2.6-3.1 million
USSR                           8.8 – 10.7 million         12.7-14.6 million
Britain                           383.8 thousand           67.1 thousand
United States              416.8 thousand             17 thousand
All Countries          22.6-25.5 million         37.6-55.2 mil.

The figures show that China and Russia (later the USSR) had by far the largest military and civilian casualties. Both were allies of the west. Their main opponents, Germany and Japan, suffered considerably more than either their allies the US or Britain. Some of the Asian losses are due to Japan’s invasion of China, which began in the early 1930s, and to the civil war taking place in China between communists and nationalists.

2. WW1 and WW2 were one war with two active periods and in between a worldwide recession especially in the developed world. The recession ended due in large part to WW2. Unemployment fell when men and women were recuited for the war effort, either in the armed forces or in wartime production. This also provided a fiscal stimulus which was partly chanelled into savings and the purchase of government bonds as a way to finance the war effort and to prevent consumer spending from generating inflation.

3. Both WW1 and WW2 were global. In the east the Japanese had invaded China in the 1930s where a civil war was already in progress between the Communists and Nationalists. The Japanese were only forced to withdraw after surrendering when the second atomic bomb was dropped. The other aspect of war in the east was fighting between the West, mainly the US and the Japan, which also ended with bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

4. Another arena of WW2 saw the contest between the Germans and Russians where both sides suffered enormous military and civilians losses. At times, there were almost five times as many German troops on the eastern than on the western European front, and the devastation in the east was much greater.

5. Other parts of the world were also involved especially countries in Asia and Africa with ties to the main combatants. And while much of the reported fighting took place on land with ground troops supported by air power, there were major naval actions undertaken by the fleets of the US, Britain, Germany, Japan, and Russia.

6. At the start of the war the major combatants had to increase the number of those enrolled in their armies, navies and airforces. A combination of volunteers and conscripts made up the armed forces. This consisted of taking untrained members of the public, putting them into uniforms, giving them some basic training and sending them off to fight. Only members of the regular forces had more than basic training. When reading about how the Russians enrolled millions of fighters, this was achieved by rounding up members of the public, putting them into uniform and sending them off to fight.

7. As a result of being educated in the UK, my previous impression of WW2 is that it took place mainly on the western European front with a focus on events like the Battle of Britain, the Normandy landing and the allied advance eastwards to meet up with the Russians in Germany in 1945.

8. The casualty figures have revised my views. The period 1914 to 1945 was one of continuous war, at some times more intensive than others. The fighting and deaths were far higher in Asia and eastern Europe-Russia than in western Europe. Also to be considered in this period is the flu pandemic of 1918-20 which infected 500 million people and accounted for 50 to 100 million deaths around the world.


Expense Accounting

November 21, 2013

Expense accounting

Individuals make the news when they are caught fiddling their expense accounts. While the person becomes the focus of the story, it is as much about the process of claiming expenses. Many occupations reimburse employees for expenses such as travel, meals and accommodation as well as for other expenditures associated with their employers’ businesses. There are several problems with this practice such as knowing what is a legitimate expense, submitting a claim and ensuring the cost is accurate.

Three Canadian senators have recently been required to reimburse funds resulting from improper and excessive claims. What needs to be asked is why the Senate administration did not have in place a procedure for monitoring the claims made and reimbursed. The failure reflects not only the behavior of the Senators but of the institution which allowed this practice to prevail. Senators have been claiming expenses for years and it stretches credulity to think that all previous wrongful claims were detected and punished. In fact since the recent publicity the total expenses claimed by Senators has fallen, in some cases considerably.

It is surprising that journalists and other researchers have not detected problems sooner. In the Senate’s case a website has posted the monthly expenses of Senators at least since Sept.1, 2010 at

The website states:

“The Canadian Senate has rules and limits to govern what expenditures can be reimbursed, and a vigorous process that ensures that only legitimate and reasonable expenses are paid. All claims for goods and services must be supported by receipts and allowances that are consistent with the Senate Administrative Rules, policies and guidelines. Any expenses that are not covered by the Senate Administrative Rules or not authorized by policies and guidelines must be paid by the senators themselves.”

This “vigorous process” failed not just once but over a number of years. The Senate Administrative Rules were there in theory but not in practice, and those ultimately responsible for overseeing the rules, both the appointed Senators and the administrative staff, were delinquent in their enforcement.