Category Archives: FDR pwns everyone infinity no backsies

April 16, 2014, 5:11 pm

First Emoticon: 1648?

Everything is older than you think it is:

We interrupt our blogging of Daniel Deronda to share breaking news: In reading some of Robert Herrick’s poetry last night, I discovered what looks to be the first emoticon! It appears at the end of the second line of “To Fortune,” which was published in Hesperides in 1648

Here’s a scan of the original printing:

Tofortune png CROP promovar mediumlarge

Only, no, probably not. As Ben Zimmer at Slate points out, punctuation inside parentheses was fairly common in the 17th century, and there are numerous examples of colons appearing just before a parenthetical close.

So, entertaining as it might be, it seems that Herrick didn’t use the first emoticon.

May 23, 2013, 7:59 pm

Sheldon Whitehouse Stands Up For History

Well, okay, so he schools Chuck Grassley on the meaning of “pack the court:”

Go to the one minute mark.

(Yes, I know it wasn’t FDR’s best moment, but I’m still using the category “FDR pwns everyone” because, well, he does.)

April 22, 2013, 5:35 pm

A Quick Note On One Reason Why FDR Was Effective In Ways Obama Is Not

73rd Congress:

Senate: 59 Ds, 36 Rs
House: 311 Ds, 117 Rs

74th Congress:

Senate: 70 Ds, 23 Rs.
House: 322 Ds, 103 Rs.

75th Congress:

Senate: 75 Ds, 16 Rs.
House: 334 Ds, 88 Rs.

76th Congress:

Senate: 70 Ds, 22 Rs
House: 256 Ds, 173 Rs.

These all come at the beginning of each term and carry us through January, 1941. So, for his first two terms, FDR’s smallest majority in the Senate was 21 23 and his average majority was 44.

In case you missed that: his average majority was 44 (bolded just f@#$#$$ because).

Number of votes needed to invoke cloture in the Senate during FDR’s first two terms: 64. So, for three out of four Congresses during FDR’s first two terms, he had a filibuster-proof majority.

In the House, FDR’s smallest majority was 83 and his average majority was 186.

Yes, he had to deal with a lot of conservative Southern Democrats during this period who…

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August 30, 2012, 8:57 pm

The gold standard for falsehoods.

In arguing for the gold standard and against Matt O’Brien, James Rickards claims “The reason we didn’t [have a swift recovery] in 1929 is policy uncertainty and Roosevelt changing his mind,” to which O’Brien rightly points out that Roosevelt was not President in 1929, and that as soon as he took office, recovery began. Rickards’s reply is, “Roosevelt did nothing to get us out of the Great Depression.”

Now, it is obviously false that Roosevelt-inspired uncertainty had anything to do with the decline from 1929 onward, though perhaps that’s just Rickards making a mistake. The further claim betrays an underlying animus toward Roosevelt, informed by false beliefs about the Great Depression, and supports my off-the-cuff thought about gold-standard advocacy here.

Asking why there was a slow recovery after Roosevelt took office is like Newton asking why apples, once detached from the tree,…

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August 30, 2012, 12:29 pm

On Reading Roosevelt

From his speech to the Commonwealth Club in 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt:

We did not think because national government had become a threat in the 18th century that therefore we should abandon the principle of national government. Nor today should we abandon the principle of strong economic units called corporations, merely because their power is susceptible of easy abuse. In other times we dealt with the problem of an unduly ambitious central government by modifying it gradually into a constitutional democratic government. So today we are modifying and controlling our economic units.

As I see it, the task of government in its relation to business is to assist the development of an economic declaration of rights, an economic constitutional order. This is the common task of statesman and business man. It is the minimum requirement of a more permanently safe order of things.

In two…

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August 27, 2012, 9:11 pm

More on gold and deflation.

Paul Krugman lays out the case that a gold standard would cause deflation. He bothers with this because apparently the GOP is seriously considering a return to the gold standard. Deflation, as you’ve read on this blog, is a bad idea; much worse than inflation. So why on earth is deflation so hot with the GOP set, whose core constituencies are the same as the Bryanites of the 1890s who opposed the gold standard as the instrument of those who crucified Our Lord?

The only answer I can come to is that the argument must be, FDR took us off the gold standard; everything FDR did (except fighting Nazis) is evil; therefore we should go back on the gold standard.

This is of course a lousy basis for making policy.

Anyway it’s either that or the GOP are in thrall to the rentier class.

August 23, 2012, 11:39 am

The Indianapolis and its two historic bombshells (late entry for Shark Week).

Below is the cruiser Indianapolis, as she appeared on June 19, 1933, just before President Franklin Roosevelt boarded her and fired a shot heard ’round the world.
After Roosevelt took the dollar off the gold standard on March 6 – apparently temporarily but, as he intended, permanently – the dollar price of gold rose. With this inflation came a rise in commodity prices and for three months the happy image of a recovery from the Great Depression. During this time, Roosevelt talked easily with world leaders about restoring stable exchange rates and with them international trade; in the six weeks from late April through early June he wined, dined, or otherwise conferred with – by one scholarly count – ten prime ministers and other foreign representatives, and with them issued statements regarding the desirability of a world conference for currency stabilization.

The conference met in…

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August 13, 2012, 4:05 pm

A stimulus is not a New Deal: on Mike Grunwald and the Obama record

Mike Grunwald has a post at FP summarizing his new book, The New New Deal. The basic argument (of both the post and the book) seems to me clear and unassailable: the President’s “stimulus package,” or the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is an under appreciated success for two reasons.

First, as to recovery, the jobs stimulus averted much worse unemployment than we would otherwise have had; this is widely understood.

Second, as to reinvestment, it will bring real and lasting “change” — Grunwald uses this word deliberately, arguing that (unlike FDR) Obama has scrupulously kept his campaign promises. ARRA has transformed the energy sector, giving renewable energy a new lease on life; it modernized medical records, it put money into high-speed rail, and pushed high-speed internet out to poorer areas. This is the more original part of Grunwald’s book and the most valuable; it’s…

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July 10, 2012, 9:28 pm

Margin Call’s tacit tribute to the New Deal.

I loved Jeremy Irons’s performance in Margin Call, and not only because of John Tuld’s final monologue – which is in turn brilliant not only because it contains a tacit arithmetic tribute to the New Deal that undermines the thrust of what he’s saying.

In the list of dates, following 1797, the longest stretch without one of these crises is from 1937 to 1974 – the period of the New Deal’s sway over banking, finance, monetary and fiscal policy.1 Which undermines Tuld’s subsequent suggestion that there’s nothing we can do about it.

1He also misses 1873 and 1893, I think.

July 9, 2012, 8:25 pm

“Interracial unity. Pro-Roosevelt unity.” On boogie-woogie Democrats.

The Milwaukee Journal of 10/25/44 reported,

Nonpartisan [sic] stars of the revue were Miss Mary Lou Williams, a Negro jazz pianist, and her hot jive quartet. Jamming on such noncontroversial themes as “Lady Be Good,” the quartet turned the show into a convention of rug cutters. Later in the show Mary Lou played her own number, “Ballot Box Boogie in the Key of Franklin D.,” which was musically satisfying but, politically, no Gettysburg address.

One might be tempted to award this round to Lincoln, but: Roosevelt did have people composing boogie-woogie and setting up barnstorming variety show tours.

Ms. Williams’s performance was, apparently, part of the “FDR Victory Bandwagon,” a program paid for by promoter Edward Royce.

Mr. Royce, who is a local art dealer, has had this idea for a long time. Last spring he experimented with it by putting on a show up in Harlem to help…

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June 22, 2012, 5:06 pm

Some notes on Woodrow Wilson and the underappreciated harms Presidents can do.

Regular readers will know we frequently give time and attention to the best of presidents, with special regard to the underrated Franklin Roosevelt. But perhaps we should give equal time to the bad presidents whose badness goes insufficiently remarked – not just the mediocre presidents, but those whose harms go underappreciated.

Entirely coincidentally, I have an essay in the current Reviews in American History on Woodrow Wilson, apropos Cooper’s biography. Here’s the beginning of the essay, for the record:

In the 1912 election, the Democrats gained sixty-one seats to increase their majority in the House of Representatives and seven seats to get a majority in the Senate. Yet their presidential candidate, Woodrow Wilson, won fewer votes than William Jennings Bryan had in 1908, 1900, or 1896. Wilson also underperformed Democrats in Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, and elsewhere,…

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June 18, 2012, 5:18 pm

FDR: not the antichrist.

(Another in an irregularly produced series)

Matthew Avery Sutton, “Was FDR the Antichrist? The Birth
of Fundamentalist Antiliberalism in a Global Age,” Journal of American History 98, no. 4 (March 2012): 1052-1074.

When and why did white evangelical Christians, or fundamentalists, become categorically opposed to American liberalism?

There is a journalistic rule that all headlines that ask questions are properly answered “no,” and this article is no exception; even to white evangelical Christians, it turns out, FDR was not the antichrist. According to Sutton, they thought he was moving in that direction, though.

This article fits in with the discovery that modern conservatism predates not only the alleged overreach of liberalism in the 1960s or early 1970s, but also World War II. As Sutton says, “As the actions of…

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June 12, 2012, 1:18 am

On liberalism and history, and Kazin and Alterman & Mattson.

Not to pile on, but there’s also this, in the new Democracy. Unlike the aforementioned TLS essay, the whole thing is online; here’s a short excerpt:

The single moment that made postwar liberalism feel most like a cause worth fighting for came in the darkness of April 4, 1968, when an Indianapolis crowd, assembled to hear Robert F. Kennedy campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, instead met a man obliged to tell them that Martin Luther King Jr. had been murdered. When Kennedy broke the news, a desperate wail burst from the throats of those gathered, a sound unlike any other, bespeaking the tide of anguish and anger about to rush over the republic, sweeping reason before it—but not yet, or not here, not if Kennedy had his way.

Speaking off the cuff, he claimed a shared sorrow—his own brother had been killed in the line of political duty, at a time when he had begun…

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May 9, 2012, 12:00 pm

Steve Jobs as FDR.

That is all, really. Obviously this is in-jokey, and inappropriate, and too long. But it features Steve Jobs as FDR.

Embedding is disabled, so you’ll have to click through: Here.

May 2, 2012, 6:58 pm

Serious: it is a thing you cannot be.

Do we need any other political/historical commenter than John McEnroe? Greg Sargent points to this plaintive request to the President from a wealthy donor:

They felt unfairly demonized for being wealthy. They felt scapegoated for the recession … and they blamed the president and his party for the public’s nasty mood. The administration, some suggested, had created a hostile environment for job creators.…

One of the guests raised his hand; he knew how to solve the problem. The president had won plaudits for his speech on race during the last campaign, the guest noted. It was a soaring address that acknowledged white resentment and urged national unity. What if Obama gave a similarly healing speech about class and inequality? What if he urged an end to attacks on the rich? Around the table, some people shook their heads in disbelief.

“Most people in the financial world,”…

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