Biography of Millard Fillmore — not up to the bathtub test?

September 4, 2011

A new biography of Millard Fillmore popped out last spring, and the publisher didn’t send me a copy to review!

Not that my review could boost sales much — nor harm them — but don’t publishers use Google to figure out how they might get some publicity for their books?  Most internet searches for “Millard Fillmore” end up here.

No, I’m not really offended.  But I did find it interesting that none of my “Millard Fillmore” keyword  compilers picked up on the book.

Details:  Millard Fillmore, Paul Finkelman, Times Books, $23.

Cover of Millard Fillmore, by Paul Finkelman

Cover of Millard Fillmore, by Paul Finkelman

In a review for the Wall Street Journal, Fergus M. Bordewich wrote:

In this short, fierce book—part of the “American Presidents” series—Mr. Finkelman has delivered an unvarnished but compelling portrait of one of our least remembered but far from insignificant presidents. Against his grain, he gives Fillmore credit for promoting a number of “visionary” ideas that would come to fruition only after he left the presidency in 1853: the transcontinental railroad, the assertion of American power in Hawaii, the building of a Central American canal. “But on the central issues of the age,” Mr. Finkelman writes at the end of “Millard Fillmore,” “his vision was myopic and his legacy is worse.”

Has anyone read the book?  Is it any good?


Kilroy — a sign of sanity — and WikiWorld

September 4, 2011

Greg Williams produces more cartoons than newspapers can print (or do print) — he’s got a blog called WikiWorld as an outlet for some of them.  At WikiWorld, he does a one-panel cartoon to accompany some article he found at Wikipedia.  It’s much cooler than it sounds.

Do our history students appreciate the significance of Kilroy?  Williams offers a quick cartoon to explain.

Greg Williams cartoon on the Wikipedia entry for Kilroy

Would this make a good poster for a classroom? Greg Williams cartoon, Wikipedia information

In my studies of rhetoric at the University of Arizona, one class turned to a long discussion on Kilroy.  Without the internet, we had to make do with memory, logic, argument, and a quick trip to the library to see what we could find quickly.

My thesis, which I still hold, is that the presence of Kilroy marks the existence of sanity in otherwise crazy world, and that the rise of Kilroy, or Kilroyism, in war, demonstrates the spirit necessary to win.  Kilroy didn’t win the war singlehandedly, of course — but it was that spirit of Kilroy that turned the tide to victory for the Americans and allies so many times, in so many places.

Why isn’t Kilroy in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) list?

More, resources:

Kilroy, at the World War II Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Kilroy, in granite, at the World War II Memorial, Washington, D.C. - Wikimedia image, photo by Luis Rubio

Yosemite Nature Notes extra: Time lapse of people visiting

September 4, 2011

Among other things one might observe from this film, one might note that Yosemite National Park’s beauty is so great that it looks good from almost any angle, even with tourists plastered all over it.

This was released between Yosemite Nature Notes #14 and #15, and I find no other description.  This remains a wonderful series showing off the geography and natural phenomena of Yosemite.  I wish there were similar programs for Yellowstone, Glacier, Denali, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Big Bend, Great Smoky Mountains, and for the Adirondack State Park in New York, among many others.

U.S. exporting energy? Then conservation is a boost to economy, too

September 4, 2011


Do Americans have great business sense?

Then it is unlikely that we’ll pass up the opportunity to export energy for profit — and consequently, we’ll boost our wind generating capacities, geothermal power generation, and step in to retake the lead in solar cell development and production, won’t we?

Here is a story I’ll bet you missed last spring — I missed it, too; from the Daily Ticker:

Just as the average price for gas is set to hit $4 a gallon this week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports February was the third month out of four that the U.S. — the world’s most energy-hungry nation — actually exported more oil that it imported.

Despite the notion that the U.S. is currently hugely reliant on foreign oil, the country sold 34,000 more barrels of petroleum products a day than it imported in November 2010. And, in both December and February, the U.S. sold 54,000 more barrels a day. Net imports have not been negative for nearly two decades.

Part of this has to do with weak U.S. demand in recent years due to the recession. The other part rests on the growing demand in our own backyard for not only crude oil, but refined oil as well.

Mexico, Latin America and even OPEC member Ecuador are some of the U.S.’s top customers for fuel products, namely refined oil. Rising demand in these countries far outpaces their capacity to refine crude oil into petroleum products like gasoline or diesel fuel.

But, as Dan points out in the accompanying clip, this is not the only news item that hints at this country’s ability to export energy to the rest of the world.

Yesterday, Arch Coal announced a $3.4 billion all-cash deal to buy its competitor International Coal Group. The transaction would make the newly formed company the second-largest U.S. supplier of metallurgical coal, which is the coal used to make steel.

And because of growing demand in places like India and China, where coal is used for electricity, the U.S. has started to export more at higher prices than in previous years.

Then there’s natural gas. U.S. reserves of natural gas have also grown considerably in the last decade to record levels. A new report by the Potential Gas Committee suggests that in the last two years, potential U.S. natural gas supplies have increased by 3 percent. Two years ago, however, the group reported that supplies jumped 36 percent.

The U.S. does not currently export liquefied natural gas, but that time may soon be on the horizon.

Watch a video discussion of the news:
Vodpod videos no longer available.
What Energy Problem? U.S. Oil Exports Are on th…, posted with vodpod

Of course the U.S. is not about to join OPEC.  But this news, quietly sneaking up on us as it did, should change the nature of the discussions about our energy future, and the direction, too.

In the first place, energy substitution — wind and geothermal for coal and oil, for example — becomes an issue of generating revenue, rather than just saving imports.  If we can get power from the wind for free and sell coal to others for profit as a result, we get wins for U.S. citizenry and big wins for U.S. industry.

I haven’t seen much discussion of the topic.  Stephen Leahy wrote an opinion piece for Common Dreams suggesting that oil companies have a political stake in keeping this news quiet, in order to get greater advantage for themselves, especially in electoral politics.

The only reason U.S. citizens may be forced to endure a risky, Canadian-owned oil pipeline called Keystone XL is so oil companies with billion-dollar profits can get the dirty oil from Canada’s tar sands down to the Gulf of Mexico to export to Europe, Latin America or Asia, according to a new report by Oil Change International released Wednesday.

“Keystone XL will not lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil, but rather transport Canadian oil to American refineries for export to overseas markets,” concludes the report, titled “Exporting Energy Security”.

Little of the 700,000 to 800,000 barrels of tar sands oil pumped through the 2,400-kilometre, seven-billion-dollar Keystone XL will end up in U.S. gas tanks because the refineries on the Gulf Coast are all about expanding export markets. One huge refinery operator called Valero has been touting the potential export revenues of tar sands oil to investors, the report found.

In 1941, the U.S. was the largest oil-producing and oil-exporting nation in the world.  When we cut off oil to Japan, Japan determined to attack the U.S. to try to get energy superiority in the Pacific, and our nation was pulled into World War II.

Is it possible we can avoid future energy wars, and change the game with our energy exporting capabilities over the next decade?  What do you think?  Does this change any game, and how does it change things?

Watch those exports.


ACLU and “Uncensored” exhibit

September 4, 2011

Special invitation just for you:

You’re invited: “Uncensored” Celebration at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin

On Friday, September 9, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas announces “Uncensored,” the opening celebration for the fall exhibitions, “Banned, Burned, Seized, and Censored” and “The Greenwich Village Bookshop Door: A Portal to Bohemia, 1920-1925.”

Materials from the archive of ACLU attorney Morris Ernst, who defended James Joyce’s novel Ulysses against obscenity charges, are featured in the exhibition.

Order your tickets from the Harry Ransom Center’s website.


From the flyer on the event:

Banned, Burned, Seized, and Censored

How did hundreds of thousands of books, pictures, plays, and magazines come to be banned, burned, seized, and censored in the span of less than 30 years? This exhibition, drawn from the Ransom Center’s holdings, reveals the rarely-seen “machinery” of American censorship from 1918 to 1941. Writers, reformers, agents, attorneys, and publishers battled publicly over obscenity and freedom of expression. Ulysses, All Quiet on the Western Front, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and The Grapes of Wrath came under fire from would-be censors alongside classics like The Decameron and The Canterbury Tales.   This exhibition tells how the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, the New England Watch and Ward Society, the Post Office Department, and the Customs Bureau irrevocably altered the American literary landscape.

The exhibit runs through January 22. The Harry Ransom Center is located at the corner of 21st and Guadalupe Streets on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. For more information, including a map of parking options, visit or 512-471-8944.

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