Abraham Lincoln on the Iraq, err, Mexican-American War

More great anecdotes from Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln:

The following week, on January 12, 1848, Lincoln defended his spot resolutions and his vote on the Ashmun resolution in a major speech. He claimed that he would happily reverse his vote if the president could prove that first blood was shed on American soil; but since he “can not, or will not do this,” he suspected that the entire matter was, “from beginning to end, the sheerest deception.” Having provoked both countries into war, Lincoln charged, the president had hoped “to escape scrutiny, by fixing the public gaze upon the exceeding brightness of military glory … that serpent’s eye, that charms to destroy.”


The Democratic Illinois State Register charged that Lincoln had disgraced his district with his “treasonable assault upon President Polk,” claimed that “henceforth” he would be known as “Benedict Arnold,” and predicted that he would enjoy only a single term. Lincoln sought to clarify his position, arguing that although he had challenged the instigation of the war, he had never voted against supplies for the soldiers. To accept Polk’s position without question, he claimed, was to “allow the President to invade a neighboring nation … whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary.”

Sounds an awful lot like Paul Krugman and others who spoke out against President Bush during the first few year of the Iraq War. History really does repeat itself.

Could two people populate the Earth?

From an AskScience Reddit thread:

But keeping to the hypothetical, a fertility rate of six with 4 surviving to reproduce themselves on a similar basis would lead to exponential population growth; the survival of the species would be pretty much assured if they could keep this up for only a few generations simply due to force of numbers. A couple having four children survive to adulthood is a doubling of population each generation.

As a purely mathematical fiction, presuming an average generation gap of 16 years and that this average of four children per couple surviving to reproduce held solidly (it wouldn’t, of course) it would only take a little over 500 years for this original couple to have repopulated the earth to the present level of 7bn (that’s exponential growth for you.) Of course plenty would happen in between to slow the exponential growth.

Assuming no wars, famine, disease – yes, and in only 500 years. Of course, human history shows that many things do get in the way of humans rapidly multiplying like we theoretically could.

On Instagram

Matt Alexander:

If you’re genuinely saddened that you might not make money from some photographs you took on your iPhone 4 two years ago on a free photography social network you still freely enjoy now, then yes, please close your account. But, for the rest of us, welcome to the very nature of modern business.

A company needs to make money. You took your pictures so that you could share them with the world, and you weren’t expecting to make any money from it. Seriously, chillax.

While I’m on the topic of Instagram: making fun of people who take pictures of their meals isn’t clever. That joke got old pretty much the first time anyone heard it. Posting that joke on a social network just makes you sound like a hypocritical ass.

Joseph Goebbels’s propaganda about Pearl Harbor

From the German Propaganda Archive:

It is astonishing, hardly believable, how the state of the world can change entirely within a short time. Modern war speaks its own language, and ideas and principles that twenty years ago were standard military theory and practice are now entirely outdated and antiquated. If one compares the world situation of Sunday, 7 December, the day when Japan gave President Roosevelt the appropriate answer to his impudent provocations and shameless affronts, with today, one will without doubt conclude that the position of the Axis powers has improved in a way that even a few days before military and political experts would have thought highly improbable.

All the confident predictions of the U.S.A. and England have collapsed. Those in Washington apparently thought the patience and untiring persistence of Japanese negotiators were signs of weakness. They were so surprised by the sudden attacking spirit of the Japanese army that they as yet have found no plausible explanation for what happened. The national enthusiasm, patriotic passion, and devotion of a military people have once again won a great triumph, while the liberal-democratic jugglers find themselves amidst the ruins of many of their vague hopes and dreams.

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and so on. Of course, we know how that turned out for the USSR. I’m betting that in the alternate universe where Germany conquered Europe and the Soviets, Japan would have been pretty high up on the list of places to invade next.

Historical figure you should know: Salmon Chase

From the Lincoln biography Team of Rivals:

Though Chase had yet to take a public stand on the issue of abolition, he was appalled by the violence. Hearing of the mob’s intention to raid the Franklin House where Birney was thought to reside, he raced to the hotel to warn the publisher. As the mob surged forward, Chase braced his arms against the door frame, blocking the hotel’s entrance with his body. Six feet two, with broad shoulders, a massive chest, and a determined set to his jaw, Chase gave the rioters pause. The crowd demanded to know who he was. “Salmon P. Chase,” the young lawyer replied. “You will pay for your actions,” a frustrated member of the mob told him. “I [can] be found at any time,” Chase said. “His voice and commanding presence caught the mood of the mob at just the right time,” his biographer observes. The hour was late and the mob backed off.

I love reading about historical figures who weren’t afraid to do the right thing. Salmon Chase was one of them.

An issue of framing

Maybe, if instead of bitching about unions and government workers and how it’s so unfair that they bargain for their pensions, it would be more productive to question why *you* don’t have one. Your company is profitable, why should all of that be going to shareholders? I say this as a man who has most of his money in the stock market, so I’m not proposing communism here, I like my healthy returns just as much as the next guy.

A lot of problems in America would go away if our society demanded that our successes be shared. Not redistributed – I’m not saying we should have a wealth tax, so don’t come at me with that attack either. I’m saying that if management at companies decided to reinvest their profits in the livelihoods of their employees, there would be many, many benefits – better quality of life for the workers, lower crime rates (you don’t steal a television when you can afford a nice one yourself), and higher growth thanks to increased consumption.

This isn’t a new idea – Ford did it decades ago. A shame we tend to forget the lessons of the past.

A different view of the American Revolutionary War

From an excellent Reddit thread:

Major factors that tend to get swept under the rug include the fact that the British had concrete binding legal agreements with a lot of the native peoples on land claims. The American settlers, however, were increasingly growing in numbers and wanted to expand the east coast colonies westward, and this was infringing on the agreed boundaries. After a while, the British couldn’t prevent the colonist from illegally expanding, because there were so many doing it.

This led to a lot of hostilities: both between natives and the expanding colonists as well as competing colonists making claims on contested land. This eventually led to violence, to which the colonist claimed the British were not effectively enforcing the new territory (which the Brits had said they shouldn’t be taking in the first place, mind you). After enough pressure, the British decided they needed to put more garrisons in the colonies to prevent the violence, but insisted the colonies pay for it seeing, you know, they bought it upon themselves. This is now popularized as “British ruling with an iron fist” and “unfairly taxing the colonies”. After a while, the colonies were refusing to pay the increasing taxes for the garrison, but knowing it wouldn’t fly if they just said “we aren’t paying up anymore” they used the classic “no taxation without representation” argument, which is essentially a straw man argument. However, the British initially responded with an offer to have constituents in British parliament representing the colonies, basically accepting the offer the colonies had made. Well, the colonial leaderships didn’t expect this outcome and didn’t know what to do (they just wanted the taxes lifted), so they declined the offer and pushed the whole tyranny line instead, which eventually led to the outbreak of the revolution.

TL;DR – History is decided by the winners and everything is a matter of perspective.