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Thomas Nast on Wall Street

This week, in honor of the Dow Jones Average hitting its lowest point in twelve years, I though it fitting to pull out Thomas Nast's famous 1869 cartoon tribute to Wall Street following that year's front-page financial debacle. It was in September 1869 that young Jay Gould and James Fisk Jr. perpetrated perhaps the single most audatious financial play in American history, their attempt to corner the national gold supply.

Gould and Fisk almost pulled it off after bribing dozens of (continued)

From Ken Ackerman's blog

March 1, 2009 04:37 PM   Link    Comments (0)

Thomas Jefferson

Biographies of Jefferson are published almost constantly, each new addition boasting to cover uncharted territory on the man. The Library of Congress holds tens of thousands of letters and papers that have been consulted and consulted anew. Yet the man’s inner life remains a paradoxical sketch; the vast paper trail is the frustrating work of a genius self-editing his life and political career. The last truly successful biography may be Jack McLaughlin’s 1988 volume Jefferson and Monticello: The Biography of a Builder. McLaughlin wisely surmised that to understand Jefferson he should stick to the architect and his prime obsession, his hilltop plantation outside Charlottesville, Virginia. Jefferson unwittingly left, in extensive farm and family records, ample evidence of the man behind the President--his failures as an engineer, his spendthrift nature, his brutal handling of slaves, and his indifference to the comforts of his own family, who lived in a house that was repeatedly rebuilt and never completed during his lifetime. Because of his obsession, Jefferson saddled his family with staggering debts, a burden borne by a grandson into old age.
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Trying to understand him through the women in his life is like viewing Monticello’s architectural details through Virginia’s early morning fog. But it’s worth the effort.

As a young man, attending the College of William and Mary, in booming Williamsburg, Jefferson struck out with women. He developed the kind of scorn and condescension toward the “weaker sex” that can come after rejection, especially in a humorless man. In Mr. Jefferson’s Women Kukla describes, in unadorned prose that plays well off Jefferson’s ornate English, a young man we might today call a geek--insecure, self-absorbed, and obsessed with the teenaged sister of a college friend.

"Was Thomas Jefferson a Misogynist?" by Jillian Sim,, October 15, 2007


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October 22, 2007 08:17 AM   Link    Comments (0)

"Communist crimes are less known than fascist ones."

Communist crimes are less known than fascist ones. While newly released archives from the former Soviet bloc will unquestionably deepen our understanding of the Holocaust, we already have a plethora of photographic documentation, surviving physical evidence, magnificent museums and survivor testimony. By contrast, Soviet atrocities are practically ignored.

The reason is certainly not a paucity of information, as this massive work amply demonstrates. But what sets Hollander’s anthology apart from other books is less its size than its astonishing breadth. Alongside victims from the Soviet Union are East Europeans--from Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia--as well as their counterparts from China, Cambodia, Vietnam and North Korea in Asia, Cuba and Nicaragua in Latin America, and Ethiopia. The geographic spread does not merely overwhelm the reader: Its principal purpose is analytical. As Anne Applebaum observes in her appreciative preface, at last now “it is truly possible to understand the cross-cultural, multinational history of communism as a single phenomenon.” Readers can draw the lines of influence--ideological, financial and strategic--with greater precision than ever, “from Lenin to Stalin to Mao to Ho Chi Minh to Pol Pot, from Castro to the MPLA in Angola.”
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The serious reader will want a deeper understanding of how otherwise intelligent human beings become mesmerized by utopian thinking. The hope is for a global effort to gain such understanding, especially given the treasure of archival documents Russia and its former satellites recently released. Objective, devoted scholarship in this area is critical, if for no other reason than to learn how to approach the threats of our own generation. We must achieve more sophisticated insights into the catastrophic effects of self-righteous fanaticism and the dystopias that invariably follow.

"Utopia and its Discontents," by Juliana Geron Pilon, National Interest online, March 1, 2007, a review of "From the Gulag to the Killing Fields: Personal Accounts of Political Violence and Repression in Communist States," Paul Hollander, editor, and "The End of Commitment: Intellectuals, Revolutionaries, and Political Morality," by Paul Hollander.

Hat tip ALD

Also see "Museum of Communism" - by Bryan Caplan

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April 30, 2007 01:17 PM   Link    Comments (0)