Steve Wants to Know


Talking about what they know is what most HNN writers do. Writer Steve Howard's specialty is asking questions about things he does not know. If you have an answer or a conjecture please join in the discussion below.


Decrying the lack of voter interest is a cottage industry. However, I have a question, or actually, a series of them.

Do not the principles of advertising also underlie political campaigns? Are not two of these principles:

1. People buy the package, not the product
2. People respond to cues, not to information.

Let's just say that in fact these principles, and others equally insightful, do organize billions of dollars worth of consumer transactions. Let's also say that they do underlie political campaigns and therefore lead to what is politely called the voter decision process.

Let's just say they do. Then wouldn't it be far better if there were fewer voters, that is, fewer misled, mal-informed people pulling levers in voting booths? We should have campaigns: Stay home you dope! What the hell do you know? Climb back under that rock!!

Why do I buy Tide? Well, because the plastic jug it comes in is attention interuptus orange and the label has a very hypnotic, vaguely mammarian appeal. I believe it's target shaped. It catches my eye. Why do I vote for my US Representative? Well, he has a certain party affiliation, he's tweedy rather than coiffed and he cares about the environment. I do too. That's why I vote for him.

Let me shop, but really, shouldn't I be banned from the voting booth?


Were these irresponsible acts by presidents (and are there others equally so?):

LBJ not raising taxes during the Vietnam war, leading to ruinous inflation and the eventual election of Ronald Reagen.

FDR keeping Truman utterly in the dark about momentous issues even as he must have known he wouldn't survive his last term.

JFK getting elected despite serious medical problems and taking mood-altering drugs.


Was combining the function of Head of State with the leader of the executive branch a fatal flaw in the design of our government? Was it not inevitable that that arrangement would lead to the Imperial Presidency?


How many slaves were carried out of Africa to North America? How many to South America and the Caribbean? Was the number brought to North America once thought to be much higher than the number that scholars now agree on? Were not the Spanish and Portugese more rapacious slave holders than the English?


Everybody knows that the US saved the world from fascism in WW II. But don't professional historians concur that the defeat of Nazi Germany was at the hands of the Red Army, with the US, Britain and the western allies contributing a relatively small amount to the defeat of Germany? I mean the battles on the Eastern front were death struggles with titanic losses... how can the efforts of the western allies be considered in the same breath?


Are there any reasonable suspicions that the landing in Europe by the western allies was postponed until 1944 so that the Soviet Union might suffer the maximum amount of losses?

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Basil Duke - 4/15/2003

Russia had only itself to blame for the mammoth losses she absorbed in the first two years of the war. Had Stalin not murdered most of his experienced army group, army, corps and division commanders in the Great Purge of the late '30s, it is likely that the Red Army would have shown itself much more adept at the art of war in the early going. One might also ask how it was possible that Stalin - ever the man to detect threats real and imagined - missed the fact that three million German soldiers and several thousand tanks and half tracks had assembled on his border in the summer of '41. Combine the evisceration of the Red Army's command structure prior to the war, and Stalin's gross failure to grasp the obvious implications of Hitler's legions at his doorstep prior to Barbarossa and you have a pretty fair recipe for military disaster.

You might also wish to remember that the Soviet Union was able to focus exclusively on its war with Germany. The United States, meanwhile, was waging a full-scale conflict with Imperial Japan while simultaneously bombing Germany into splinters and invading North Africa, Italy, France and, finally, Germany itself. (By the way, we landed on the Italian 'Boot' - the so-called "Second Front" - in '43 specifically to relieve pressure from the Russians.)

The fact that the Russians lost 20 million of her soldiers and civilians in defeating Hitler is a sorry monument not only to poor military insight and murderous domestic policies, but to the shallow value Stalin and his commissar thugs placed on the lives of their fellow citizens. All too often, Red Army "tactics" consisted of Civil War-era infantry attacks against modern automatic weapons. (A different twist on this subject was the use of Punishment Battalion troops as human mine detectors; soldiers perceived to be disciplinary problems were simply marched as a group across suspected mine fields, whose lethal seeds they would detonate with their feet and legs.) America, on the other hand, was willing to accept heavy infantry losses - witness Iwo Jima - but only after it was believed that her technological superiority was unable to perform the bulk of the heavy tactical lifting on a given field of battle. Russia's huge losses were by and large her own fault.

dan - 4/2/2003

Perhaps a sign that BRITAIN was not ready...

James Thornton - 3/5/2003

Great source for info on Trans-Atlantic slave trade

Nathan Williams - 3/3/2003

"Are there any reasonable suspicions that the landing in Europe by the western allies was postponed until 1944 so that the Soviet Union might suffer the maximum amount of losses?" The U.S. was constantly pushing Britain to invade earlier. There were plans for "Sledge-hammer" (1942) and "Round-up" (1943) that were canceled because the British did not find them feasible and didn't want the casualties. The disastrous raid at Dieppe in August of '42 was a clear indication that the western allies were not at all ready for a cross-channel invasion.