Who was Millard Fillmore? No, really?

July 28, 2007

George Pendle’s hoax biography of Millard Fillmore sells okay — but Amazon lists 365,000 books selling better (July 28, 2007). That’s small solace to people who worry, as H. L. Mencken came too late to worry, about how hoaxes may spread. Mark Twain is reputed to have said that a lie can travel around the world twice before the truth can get its boots on.

So I was interested to find that somebody actually has a biography on Fillmore that ventures beyond the usual encyclopedia article. Big Mo’s Presidents Review featured Fillmore on July 15. According to the site, Big Mo is a journalist now stuck (or happy) in the corporate world. The biography is not so long that junior high (8th grade) U.S. history students will find it incredibly onerous, nor is it so short that it merely repeats the same old material.  It’s a good report.


Appointment of ____ to be ambassador to France; Fillmore and Daniel Webster signatures

The Big Mo report on Fillmore is good enough that other people are copying it wholesale (with attribution).

One gap:  Big Mo leaves out discussion of Fillmore’s boyhood, which is one area that students search on frequently, according to the statistics from this blog.  I think Fillmore’s early life, his change in careers after he threatened to kill the man he was indentured to if the fellow did not allow him to learn the trade, make some interesting discussion points about Fillmore’s character.  Minor quibbles.

On the plus side, he includes just about every image available on the internet, and cartoons about Fillmore, which are deucedly difficult to find in high resolution images.

Fillmore need not be a mystery.  Check it out.

Power Line documents flag desecretion in Minnesota

July 28, 2007

What’s wrong with this picture?

Uncle Sam on stilts, carrying a flag improperly; citizens do not salute

They didn’t mean to, but there it is: Flag displays not in accordance with the U.S. Flag Code at every turn — flag desecration! Or, as Power Line titles it, “A Minnesota 4th of July.” You can see the slide show here. I point out some Flag Code violations in a slide-by-slide list, after the fold.

No, I’m not calling for the Sheriff of Buncombe County, North Carolina, to dispatch his deputies to arrest everyone in Apple Valley, Minnesota, who participated in the 2004 4th of July Parade — not even if they are Ron Paul supporters (in 2004, who knew?). Heck, we’d need to do the same for Duncanville, Texas (I was there; I probably still have some photographs somewhere), and probably for Provo, Utah (“the nation’s biggest Freedom Day celebration”) and Prescott, Arizona, and 15,000 other towns in America where citizens turn out on the celebration for our Declaration of Independence and have a parade. Of course, most of those towns are not fettered with North Carolina’s outdated and uconstitutional flag desecration law, either.

Fact is, most people are not too familiar with the U.S. Flag Code, and in their attempts to have a good time and celebrate the good stuff in and of this nation, they sometimes do not hew to the Flag Code’s call.

Which means simply that we need to do a better job of educating citizens on how to respect their flag and display it respectfully; and it also means we shouldn’t get all worked up whenever someone screams “FLAG DESECRATION!” to alarm us and make us rally around George Bush (who, as we saw in the last post, needs some Flag Code education for himself).

To his credit, Scott Johnson at Power Line is not a huge backer of flag desecration amendments to the Constitution. Nor are the other two contributors at PowerLine, except for their frequent complaint that the First Amendment “protects flag burning and nude dancing” but not whatever it is they want to rant about at that moment.

But if these über patriots think all this Flag Code bustin’ is good patriotism, where does a deputy in Asheville, North Carolina, get off telling people they can’t use the flag in their protest? Isn’t that THE core value the flag stands for, that citizens can protest?

Or, is it really true that the Bush defenders have politicized the nation so badly that only some political statements are protected by the First Amendment? We, our people, fought King George III to win the right to speak our minds. We shouldn’t yield to anyone that right won with the blood of patriots.

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Flag desecration arrest in North Carolina

July 28, 2007

The Volokh Conspiracy notes the arrest of an Asheville, North Carolina couple for improper flag display — they flew the U.S. flag upside down (a universal sign of distress), and with protest notes attached to it.

Details from the Asheville Citizen-Times.

The newspaper also notes that the flag desecration statute appears not to have been used since the Vietnam War era (anybody care to guess which political views got cited?) . A local fireworks sales stand in the area displayed U.S. flags in violation of the Flag Code near July 4, but while news abstracts appear to show the stand was cited for a violation of the sign code, there is no indication it was cited for the flag desecration code.

We need to amend the Flag Code, to authorize flag displays that have become popular recently, such as shirts that resemble the flag, flag decals in autos, flag bumper stickers, and other displays that technically violate the Flag Code — unless, of course, we want to try to criminalize innocent attempts to honor the flag. Flag desecration cases almost always have a political component, however, and such prosecutions should generally be suspect under the First Amendment — don’t you agree?

How much of the ire against the Kuhns in Asheville was prompted by their support of Ron Paul for president? (See the photo of their protest signs, and note the lawn sign in the background.) Mark and Deborah Kuhn show their flag protest signs, after arrest incident

If someone has the details of the fireworks stand case near Asheville, please send them along — was the stand in the same county as Mark and Deborah Kuhn?

UpdateThe Mountain Xpress story carries a slightly different tone, identifying the Kuhns as “activists,” and featuring interviews of eyewitnesses to the arrests.

Other improper flag displays, below the fold.

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