In the current New Yorker, Louis Menand says there is a puzzle about how Franklin Roosevelt got reëlected:

When Roosevelt ran for reëlection in 1936, the unemployment rate was 16.9 per cent, almost twice what it had been in 1930. Yet he won five hundred and twenty-three electoral votes, and his opponent Alf Landon, eight. When Roosevelt ran for the unprecedented third term, unemployment was 14.6 per cent. He carried thirty-eight states; Wendell Willkie carried ten.

When Menand says unemployment was 16.9 and 14.6 percent when FDR ran for reëlection, he is counting federal relief workers as unemployed. According to the economist who constructed the series Menand is using, people working for the WPA were morally the same as concentration camp workers in Germany in the 1930s. If Menand realized that, the puzzle would go away: FDR and his New Deal were popular because they gave people jobs and sparked a rapid recovery.

For more, please see here.

I’m reading a book on Mannerism [amazon] and stumbled on a pair of amusing quotes. The first, from Alberti’s On Painting (1435) really ought to be some kind of epigraph for The Hawkeye Initiative. (What? You didn’t know about it. Go ahead and waste a few happy minutes there. It’s hilarious. Now you’re back. Good!)

As I was saying, here’s Alberti, warning us that, even though good istoria painting should exhibit variety and seem alive with motion, you shouldn’t go all Escher Girl boobs + butt Full-Monty-and-then-some:

There are those who express too animated movements, making the chest and the small of the back visible at once in the same figure, an impossible and inappropriate thing; they think themselves deserving of praise because they hear that those images seem alive that violently move each member; and for this reason they make figures that seem to be fencers and actors, with none of the dignity of painting, whence not only are they without grace and sweetness, but even more they show the ingegno of the artist to be too fervent and furious [troppo fervente et furioso].

On the other hand, here’s a quote from Pietro Aretino, praising Vasari’s cartoon of “The Fall of Manna In The Desert”:

The naked man who bends down to show both sides of his body by virtue of its qualities of graceful power and powerful ease draws the eyes like a magnet, and mine were held until so dazzled that they had to turn elsewhere.

There’s no accounting for taste. [click to continue…]