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It is worth noting that in mid-1990, it was not generally recognized that the economy was flirting with recession. For example, Federal Reserve Board transcripts showed that in July of 1990, Alan Greenspan said that he thought the economy should remain healthy for the rest of the year. (The recession is now dated as having begun in June of 1990.)

The article goes on to note that in 1990, "inflation was a problem, interest rates were fairly high, federal budget deficits were spiraling out of control and numerous financial institutions were near broke," implying that the current situation is better by comparison. This narrow set of measures does not give a good view of the state of the economy. The fact that the U.S. economy is recovering from the collapse of an enormous bubble in the stock market and is likely to experience a collapse of the bubble in the housing market in the near future has far more impact on the economy than the measures noted in the article. Record levels of consumer debt and current account deficits approaching $500 billion a year also pose enormous problems for the economy.

The claim that the federal budget deficit was out of control in 1990 is wrong. The budget deficit had been 2.8 percent of GDP in 1989, before rising to 3.9 percent of GDP in 1990, primarily as a result of the recession. The deficit that was in place prior to the onset of the recession could have been sustained indefinitely - therefore it was not "out of control" in the normal meaning of the term.

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Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs - 4/7/2005

On 5-29-03 "Gotcha" identified the editors of the New Republic as the latest to fall for the old myth that the Dutch bought Manhattan from Indians for 24 dollars. Countering this, James Loewen is cited as having set the record straight by pointing out that the Dutch bought Manhattan from the wrong Indians (not the proper owners but another tribe). Loewen knows this from some exceptional source, considering his statement that not one book mentions it. Still, that remains rather irrelevant to the question of the 24 dollars, which is evidently merely a ridiculous myth. Except it isn't. The documents in The Hague recording the sale give the price as 60 guilders. Although the exchange rate fluctuated, for a brief time in the 17th century, including when the sale date occurred, two and a half guilders was equivalent to one rijksdaalder, so 60 guilders did indeed equal 24 dollars. (By chance, the same exchange rate became the basis for the name "rijksdaalder" of the coin worth 2 and a half guilders in the 20th century, although it no longer represented exchange rates between separate currencies.) In terms of monetary value, expressed in wages or purchasing power, the 17th-century 60 guilders/ 24 daalders was a fairly high amount. The land had potential but needed clearing before it could be useful agriculturally - rather like buying Florida swampland. More investment of labor, etc., was needed before any return could be expected. 24 dollars cannot be interpreted unequivocally as a price that implies an attempt to defraud. If the Dutch were sold the land by Indians who did not own it, fraud might be a possible interpretation in the other direction. The price is only ridiculous in name, through confusion with later American dollars. (On Dutch money in the time, see H. Enno van Gelder, De Nederlandse Munten (Het Spectrum, 2002).)

Jim Crutchfield - 7/7/2003

While I am sure Lincoln saw no contradiction between his position on Polk's pre-emptive-war argument and his own war on the South, I must point out that by any reasonable interpretation of the Constitution, Lincoln in 1861 was making war on a foreign state, and pre-emptive war at that, for South Carolina's firing on Ft. Sumter was not the first act of war in that conflict.

Until nationalist capitalism took control of Northern politics in the 1840s or so, the commonly-accepted view was that the United States were a voluntary union, which members could leave at will. Rufus King of Massachusetts assured the Constitutional Convention of 1787 that if the Three-Fifths Compromise wound up giving the North a permanent majority in the federal legislature, the South could always protect its interests by leaving the Union. When that eventuality came to pass, the South took Mr. King's advice, but his grandchildren had forgotten his promise.

South Carolina, having left the Union in 1860, was a sovereign state. Maintenance of military installations in a foreign country, against that country's will, is an act of war. The U.S. not only continued to maintain military installations in Charleston Harbor after the Ordinance of Secession: it garrisoned Fort Sumter (previously occupied only by construction workers), spiked the big guns at Fort Moultrie and took the small ones to Sumter, where it trained them on the City of Charleston.

Lincoln then sent an invading fleet to reinforce Ft. Sumter, a second act of war. He knew and expected that this would inevitably provoke fire from S.C. (His Secretary of State, Seward, had already written him a memorandum advising him not to start the war at South Carolina but to do it instead at Texas.) South Carolina could not permit the presence and reinforcement of hostile U.S. forces in its territory without conceding the whole issue of secession and sovereignty. Lincoln deliberately and calculatedly started his war, just as Polk had his two decades before.

Jenise DePinto - 6/30/2003

It is also important to point out that Hitler was handed power by the Conservatives, who feared a resurgence of the left. The Nazi party never won a majority in any election, even after Hitler was appointed Chancellor by von Hindenburg.

Though the Nazis won 230 seats and garnered 37.2 percent of the vote in July 1932, in a second election in November of that same year they lost 34 seats and their percentage of the popular vote fell to 33.1 percent. It was at this point that right-wing conservatives around the feeble von Hindenburg convinced him to appoint Hitler as Chancellor.

Even in the 1933 election under Hitler, the Nazis failed to win a majority, landing 288 seats out of 647. They relied on the support of the Nationalist party to provide them with enough votes to pass the Enabling Act, while Communist deputies were arrested and kept from proceedings of the Reichstag.

The fundamental lesson for democracies here is to beware of conservatives who exploit popular fears and collude with, or even actually seem like, fascists.The warning signs are: suspect appointments to chancellorships, or presidencies; large-scale arrests of Communists, socialists, or, perhaps, antiwar protestors. Thuggery of all sorts, directed at "racial," religious, or political "others," stoked by popular fears and ignorance encouraged by anti-democratic detention policies and official doublespeak that extols a narrow and simplistic patriotism, glorifies "the family," and promises to protect "our way of life." These are the things that undermine liberties and suggest that conservatism leads to fascism.

Armin Mruck - 6/30/2003

In regards to FDR and Churchil Unconditional Surrender it needs to be pointed out that the formula did help Dr.Goebbels and his porpaganda machine, telling the German people that they had no other choice but to fight to the end. Oppsitional forces who strove to abolish the Nazi regime were weakened because they could not give wavering people a positive answer to their quetion what they would have to offer if they succeeded in killing Hitler and overthrowing the Nazi regime.

Barry Bergen - 6/29/2003

Fareed Zakaria's basic point about the Nazis' electoral popularity is not negated by his emphasis on the 1933 elections. True, the 44% support for the Nazis in 1933 was based on intimidation and physical attacks on opponents. Nevertheless, to focus on this fact ignores the gradual increase in electoral support for the Nazi party from 1928. In the September, 1930 elections, the Nazis went from 12 to 107 seats. Their popularity was growing across a large cross-section of German society. In July of 1932 no constituency gave the Nazis less than 20% of the vote, even the cities. Thus 2.8% of the German electorate supported the Nazis in 1928, 18.3% in September, 1930, and 37.3% in July of 1932. To ignore the Nazis' use of violence and intimidation, and legal tricks like the Enabling Law of 1933 in securing power, and then of course the state-directed violence used to consolidate control thereafter, would be to distort the bases of Nazi power. But to ignore the origins of their rule in the legitimate electoral system, and the broad base of support for the Nazi party among the German electorate before they attempted to impose one-party rule is equally distorting. The fundamental question for democracies of how to treat a popularly supported party which does not itself subscribe to the tenets of democracy is no easier to answer in 2003 than it was in 1933.

Barry H. Bergen
Associate Professor of History
Gallaudet University
Washington, DC

Agustin Goba - 6/23/2003

In the ongoing argument over who was the first to achieve powered flight, participants might want to research the following site: I am not endorsing this as fact, as I don't feel I'm qualified to make that decision, but it is an interesting and seemingly well-researched and documented addition to the history of powered flight. Plus, of course, it is charming to think that a crackpot inventor in New Zealand was the first to fly.

Richard Leiby - 6/23/2003

I was all prepared to take you to task for conflating internal insurrection with the notion of preemptive war against a sovereign nation, but I see that Bruce Levine has already done so effectively. Still, I value HNN's efforts to bring history to a broad audience, and so I am therefore prepared to accept a "slip" every now and then. Keep up the good work.

marte hall - 5/30/2003

I can't find this, referred to in today's [May 30] newsletter. Can you direct me?

Bruce Levine - 5/30/2003

Tom Wicker is right -- and you are wrong -- about Lincoln's views on preventive war. Wicker is 100% right about Lincoln's denunciation of Polk's successful attempt to trick the nation into war with Mexico. You are 100% wrong to imply that Lincoln's conduct after the firing on Ft. Sumter negated Lincoln's earlier position -- and to imply that Wicker therefore "misled" his readers. First, you are mixing apples and oranges -- confusing international war with the suppression of an internal insurrection. Second... you apparently need reminding that it was South Carolina that fired the first shot and that Lincoln's response was to ask Congress to call up troops to suppress the armed revolt.
This seems like the right place to say that HNN has been becoming steadily sloppier and steadily more senastionalist over the past year.

Naaman Brown - 4/22/2003

By sinking two and heavily damaging three of the eight battleships at Pearl Harbor, none of which had a top speed over 21 knots, the Japanese freed our aircraft carriers to act as a main striking force at the Battle of Midway. Also ironically, the Japanese force attacking Midway was using the old tactic of sending the aircraft carriers ahead to scout and harass, while the battleship fleet followed up behind intending to deal the final blow. We were forced to learn new lessons while the Japanese navy forgot the very lesson they taught us: the aircraft carrier had become the main strike weapon.

mtalbert - 11/20/2002

I truly enjoyed this. One of the sad parts of analysis in print and just as much on television is that there is no accountabily, of cited and varifiable facts. And I don't think a single one of these examples was an outright lie, every one of them was a rehashing of a particular accepted point of view, I noticed an overwhelming selections of this debunking came from a Democratic slant. I think the peak of the misrepresentations, not necessarily in these articles, but overall is the tendancy of commentators, especially Al Gore of late, to blame the burst bubble on George W. Bush, though the stock market was higher at the trough of the deflatus, that at anytime in the history of the nation prior to the rise of the bubble, a bubble that had started its decline well ahead of the 200 election, but only became precipitate when people who should have noticed the price to earnings ratio proved there were a lot of naked emperors running around, enough to replace all the Napoleons at Bellevue

v steffel - 11/20/2002

The following correction is very interesting and important.

But the issue that is not addressed is why exempt from civil service rules? It would have been interesting and less self serving if the author of this topic had addressed why the civil service had been created. That is, it seems, is the real issue.


In a column critical of the Bush administration's "demand that the Homeland
Security Department be exempt from civil service rules," NYT columnist Paul
Krugman noted in passing that "that those rules were introduced out of
revulsion over the 'spoils system,' under which federal appointments were
reserved for political loyalists — a practice begun under Jackson." Mr. Krugman
has been beguiled by a hoary myth invented by Jackson's enemies. As Robert
Remini and other historians have pointed out, the spoils system goes back to
the earliest days of the Republic. When Thomas Jefferson came into power in
the first election to unseat a president of the opposite party, he ordered the
wholesale replacement of Federalist officeholders. In his first eighteen months in
office Jefferson replaced about 10 percent of the Federalist incumbents--the
same as Jackson over the corresponding period. Over the course of his term in
office (eight years), Jackson replaced a fifth of the federal workforce.

Source: Thomas A. Bailey, Presidential Saints and Sinners (1981), p. 47.