This page includes, in addition to news about historians, news about political scientists, economists, law professors, and others who write about history. For a comprehensive list of historians' obituaries, go here.
SOURCE: Chosun Ilbo (6-18-10)
The Global Times quoted Shen Zhihua, the director of the Shanghai-based Center for Cold War International History Studies and professor of history at East China Normal University as making the remarks based on confidential documents released after the demise of the Soviet Union....
It is rare for China's state-run media to be so frank about such delicate historical matters. In China, the prevalent view is that the Korean War was started by South Korea in reliance on the U.S.
SOURCE: CHE (6-18-10)
The state's history during the period covered by the project includes the forced relocation of American Indians, known as the Trail of Tears, which began in Tennessee; the Battle of Shiloh, during the Civil War; and the state's ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women's suffrage the two-thirds majority it needed to pass. Tennessee is "a very important state during this time period," Ms. Deeken says....
The newspapers' increased accessibility will add richness and color to historical scholarship, says Stephen D. Engle, a professor of history at Florida Atlantic University who specializes in the Civil War and Reconstruction....
SOURCE: Bloomberg News (6-18-10)
The government of President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose political party is descended from the World War II general’s followers, has included De Gaulle’s wartime memoirs in the curriculum for next year’s high-school literary classes. Sarkozy is in London today to commemorate De Gaulle’s June 18, 1940, radio broadcast urging a defeated France not to give up.
De Gaulle’s inclusion in the curriculum has sparked opposition from literature teachers and their unions, who say that his writings are historical, not literary, and that he’s too identified with conservative political parties. De Gaulle, who died in 1970, is revered by almost all French for leading the resistance to the Nazis and their French collaborators. His role as president from 1959 to 1969, and as the founder of France’s main conservative party, remains more divisive....
Robert Paxton, a history professor at Columbia University in New York who has written several books on wartime France, said De Gaulle is a good choice for the curriculum.
“He’s a great classical stylist with a vigorous point of view, which is exactly what young people should be reading,” Paxton said in a telephone interview from Cluny, in the Burgundy region of France. “You can use the same critical powers on the writings of a politician as on a literary figure.”...
De Gaulle’s writing wasn’t edited, Paxton said.
“His writings have a pungency you wouldn’t get from something that has been copy edited or ghost written,” Paxton said. “He used a huge vocabulary, with wonderful turns of phrase.”
Luc Chatel, the education minister, said in an interview that De Gaulle’s standing as a literary figure is confirmed by his inclusion in the Bibliotheque de la Pleiade series of great French works published by Editions Gallimard SA.
“I don’t understand the polemic,” he said....
SOURCE: InsideVandy.com (6-18-10)
“Paul Hardacre served Vanderbilt long and ably as a teacher, scholar and participant in numerous councils of the university,” V. Jacque Voegeli, dean of the College of Arts and Science, emeritus, and professor of history, emeritus, said. “He chaired the Department of History from 1967-1970, a period of rapid growth. In all that he did, Paul displayed sound sense of purpose, conscientiousness, good judgment and fairness.”...
Hardacre taught and wrote extensively about 17th century British history. His published works included The Royalists during the Puritan Revolution and “Writings on Oliver Cromwell since 1929” in Changing Views on British History (Harvard University Press). He also focused on the life of Edward Hyde, the first Earl of Clarendon. Hardacre researched the large collection of Clarendon Papers in the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library to explain various aspects of his policies from 1640 to his fall from power in 1667.
Hardacre was a Fulbright Scholar (United Kingdom) and a Guggenheim Fellow in British history. Among the many university committees on which he served, he chaired the Committee for the Installation of Chancellor Heard. Hardacre received the Thomas Jefferson Award for distinguished service to the university and the Ernest A. Jones Award for dedication to advising undergraduates.
His professional memberships included the American Historical Association, the Southern Historical Association and the Conference on British Studies. Hardacre had a longtime interest in the Huntington Library, a private educational, cultural and research center with rare books and manuscripts in the fields of British and American history and literature, located in San Marino, Calif. He first registered as a reader at the Huntington (where he met his future bride) in 1939 and served on the advisory board (now editorial board) of the Huntington Library Quarterly from 1960 to 1986....
SOURCE: DigitalBurg.com (6-17-10)
“Do you really think in 20 years somebody’s going to put on their backpack, drive a half hour to the University of Minnesota from the suburbs, haul their keister across campus, and sit and listen to some boring person drone on about econ 101 or Spanish 101?” Pawlenty asked Stewart, host of "The Daily Show."
“Can’t I just pull that down on my iPhone or iPad whenever the heck I feel like it, from wherever I feel like it?” he said. “And instead of paying thousands of dollars, can I pay $199 for iCollege instead of 99 cents for iTunes?”
This was not a new tune for Pawlenty; in 2008, he challenged the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) to more than double the percentage of credits it awards for online courses, setting a goal of 25 percent by 2015....
The University of Minnesota, as the state flagship, tends to have more independence than MnSCU. But when Pawlenty promulgated his plan for MnSCU in 2008, he did encourage a similar push on the University of Minnesota campuses. And with the governor now on the national stage, J.B. Shank, an associate professor of history at the University of Minnesota at Twin Cities, is concerned. And he says a lot of his colleagues are, too.
Specifically, Shank says he is troubled by Pawlenty’s framing of the issue as a battle between pro-efficiency, pro-technology students of the “iPod generation” and stodgy, ivory-tower luddites who care more about self-preservation than lowering barriers to higher education.
“Technophilic talk is a pernicious distraction,” he says, “because it allows for a certain kind of justification for not giving the university the money it needs to provide the kind of education it wants to provide.”...
There is a conversation to be had about the role of online education in lowering the costs of certain segments of higher education, Shank says. But the broad-strokes manner in which Pawlenty seems to be painting the issue on the national stage is not a good starting point, he says. Dubious math aside, the subtext of the governor’s narrative is that a liberal arts education is either obsolete or undeserving of state support, Shank says. This should strike educators as alarming, he says, since online learning platforms are inadequate venues for the sort of extemporaneous Socratic exercises in critical thinking that lie at the core of the liberal arts. (Shank cited a recent column by New York Times columnist David Brooks exalting the societal value of the liberal arts, and pointed out that Pawlenty himself is the product of such an education.)...
SOURCE: WPUR (Boston) (6-15-10)
But Goodwin still found plenty of surprises in the FBI’s file on the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, released Monday by the FBI.
Goodwin told WBUR’s Bob Oakes that the files deepen and complicate known stories about Kennedy’s life. She was stunned, she says, to see how many death threats the FBI had collected. “Knowing that his brothers had been killed, they weren’t simply vague threats,” Goodwin said....
SOURCE: NPR,org (6-15-10)
"The first thing I hope he accomplishes Tuesday night is to make very clear to the American public the dimensions of this catastrophe — the feel, the smell, the touch of it," says Joseph Persico, a presidential historian and former speechwriter for Vice President Nelson Rockefeller.
"What I also hope is that he sends the message that we're fed up and we're not going to take it anymore," says Persico, who wants to see "less of the law professor and more of the outraged leader."
It's a criticism that has been repeatedly leveled at the characteristically contained president as the disaster has continued, and as reports emerged about BP's past safety problems, its low estimates of the leak's dimensions, and a perception that the company — not the administration — was driving the leak response.
"It was pretty obvious by Week 4 that delegating to BP was not working," says presidential historian Lara Brown, "and the administration was getting blamed." It's still difficult to believe, she adds, that president hasn't yet met with BP's CEO (Obama's face-to-face with Hayward is scheduled for Wednesday)....
"When something like this happens, Americans say to themselves, 'if I were president, this is what I would do,'" says Brown, a Villanova University professor. "Most of it is about rolling up your sleeves and digging into the problem while marshaling as much command and control of the government as a president can."...
SOURCE: Hartford Courant (6-16-10)
Mr. Fraser, 63, executive director of the Connecticut Humanities Council since 1982, died Sunday after battling cancer for nearly a year. A compact, athletic, intense man with a Swiftian wit and Yankee work ethic, Mr. Fraser was a gifted historian as well as a skilled advocate, organizer and fundraiser. He built the humanities council into one of the largest and most effective such agencies in the country, and then used it, in the words of Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation Executive Director Helen Higgins, "to transform Connecticut's once sleepy heritage community into a vibrant industry."
His accomplishments are myriad. He wrote a history of Connecticut. He developed "The Connecticut Experience" — an award-winning 19-part TV series on the history of the state. He developed reading programs for children and adults and established the council's Cultural Heritage Development Fund, which has granted more than $13 million to help sustain Connecticut's heritage and cultural institutions. He helped create mutually beneficial partnerships among arts and heritage groups, and was most recently immersed in one of his most ambitious projects, an online encyclopedia of Connecticut history. It should be ready in 2012.
SOURCE: The Straits Times (Singapore) (6-16-10)
Jean-Pierre Azema, author of more than a dozen works, said he was worried that some truths about France's wartime past were being played down amid the surge of patriotism around De Gaulle's June 18 appeal from London.
'History is being used as a political tool in a kind of national story-telling,' Mr Azema told AFP in an interview. The French did not then regard De Gaulle as the national hero he subsequently became, he pointed out. Dozens of conferences, exhibitions and film screenings are being held in schools, memorial sites and town halls across France this week to remember De Gaulle's appeal broadcast on BBC radio. 'Whatever happens, the flame of the French resistance must not and will not be extinguished,' De Gaulle said, a day after Marechal Philippe Petain had announced plans for an armistice with the German invaders....
'De Gaulle then was seen as an emigrant, a divisive figure who had left France,' said M Azema. 'The man of the hour was Petain,' a World War I hero whom history would remember as a collaborationist....
SOURCE: AP (6-16-10)
"They (the White House) need to attack the wetlands issue head on right now," Brinkley said.
Rebuilding coastal Louisiana with river water and sediment has been studied for years and there are detailed plans on the shelf to ramp up conservation efforts....
SOURCE: South Bend Tribune (6-15-10)
History and philosophy of science professor William Newman says Newton had a secret life as a scholar of alchemy, the 17th century pursuit of an elixir of life and turning metals into gold....
SOURCE: Hendrik Hertzberg at the New Yorker (6-7-10)
[Hendrik Hertzberg is a senior editor and staff writer at The New Yorker, where he frequently writes the Comment, in The Talk of the Town.]
An e-mail from Barbara Weinstein, professor of history at New York University:
Since history operates on many levels, we always have to remind ourselves where the person is situated when we discuss them historically (as you did Elena Kagan in your post on her undergraduate thesis). She did write her thesis under the supervision of Sean Wilentz, and he may have been kindly, but he certainly wasn’t avuncular. In 1981 he was one year out of graduate school, didn’t have tenure, and was probably the most junior person in the department, with no prestige whatsoever by the usual standards. Kagan’s decision to work with him—a very bright and up-and-coming but very young and virtually unknown scholar—may tell us as much about her as the thesis itself.
I was kind of kidding about Sean, who in my experience is more fraternal than avuncular (and more kind than kindly)—more Dr. Who than Mr. Chips—but I take Professor Weinstein’s point: Kagan chose the then obscure and unknown Wilentz rather than opting for someone already famous and well-connected. This goes against the dominant “narrative” (God, I hate that word) of Kagan as a remorseless apple-polisher and power-seeker.
SOURCE: PR Newswire (6-11-10)
"Dr. Remini has been a tremendous asset to the House of Representatives," Speaker Pelosi said. "It has been an honor to have so distinguished an historian serving the House for the past five years. He has worked diligently to initiate the House Fellows Program and an oral history program for current and former Members. On behalf of my colleagues, I want to thank Dr. Remini for his service and wish him the best in his future endeavors."
Speaker Pelosi also announced the formation of a search committee charged to advise in the selection of the next House Historian. In consultation with House Republican Leader John Boehner, Speaker Pelosi has named the following distinguished scholars to this panel:
* Dr. Richard D. Brown, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of History, Emeritus, University of Connecticut
* Dr. Allen C. Guelzo, Director, Civil War Era Studies, Gettysburg College
* Dr. Trudy Peterson, Former Acting Archivist of the United States
* Dr. Donald Spivey, Professor of History and Cooper Fellow, University of Miami
* Dr. Julian E. Zelizer, Professor of History and Public Affairs, Princeton University
Speaker Pelosi has named Dr. Brown as chairman of the search committee.
"I thank Dr. Brown and this distinguished group of historians for their willingness to help facilitate the selection of the next House Historian," Speaker Pelosi said. "I look forward to receiving the recommendations of this panel, which will ensure that the Historian's position will be filled by a respected and dedicated scholar."
SOURCE: Chicago Journals (6-13-10)
Professor Samuels’s award-winning essay, “Examining Millie and Christine McKoy: Where Enslavement and Enfreakment Meet,” is impressively interdisciplinary, combining historical analysis, visual culture studies, feminist theory, and critical race theory to explore representations of Millie and Christine McKoy, African American conjoined twins born into slavery in North Carolina in 1851. Physically joined at the pelvis, the twins were objects of curiosity, inspection, and invasion from the moment of their birth. The article situates medical and lay interest in their unique pelvic anatomy within the larger contexts of the nineteenth-century freak show, the pathologization of black female sexuality, and the complex dynamics of American enslavement and emancipation. Advancing a re-visionary understanding of the McKoys, the author illuminates dimensions of agency and subjectivity largely overlooked or misunderstood by historians to date. By examining two key representations of the McKoy sisters in light of newly discovered historical evidence, Samuels’s study enriches our understanding of the sisters’ remarkable lives while also expanding current conversations within disability, feminist, and African American studies regarding individuals who possess what Rosemarie Garland Thomson has termed "extraordinary bodies." Developing a “critical feminist disability praxis,” Samuels advocates a more rigorous ethics of representation with regard to narratives and images of the McKoys, particularly in relation to certain distorted or exploitive images that continue to circulate up to the present day.
SOURCE: Radio Netherlands (6-15-10)
The chair is financed by NiNsee, the study centre for slavery and the Netherlands. Dr Small is Associate Professor in African American Studies at Berkeley University in California....
SOURCE: Minn Post (6-14-10)
"Where Savitri Devi really hit the money was after World War II, when neo-Nazism morphed into a globalized form," said British historian Nicholas Goodricke-Clarke. "It was talking about the white races against the colored people of the world, so therefore her globalized view of Aryans uber alles, transcending the limits of German nationalism, gave the post-War neo-Nazi movement an enormous fillip."...
In a curious twist of fate — and ideologies — the weird love affair between a mostly brown nation and the world's most diabolical racist has turned out to be mutual. This week, for instance, Rakesh Ranjan Kumar, the director of a soon-to-be-released Bollywood biopic on Hitler, promised to reveal the Fuhrer's "love for India" (with singing and dancing?).
By all accounts, the film, which is titled "My Friend Hitler" and stars Bollywood stalwart Anupam Kher, is not hagiography, and Kumar, who said that an international release is planned for the film, is obviously courting controversy....
So how did brown people come to love Hitler, and white supremacists come to love a brown country?Devi found a ready audience for her deification of Hitler in wartime Calcutta, Goodricke-Clarke, author of a biography titled "Hitler's Priestess," said in a phone interview. The local population, perhaps ironically, saw the Axis Powers as their future liberators. As Devi was preaching Hitler as Vishnu, Bengali freedom fighter Subhash Chandra Bose was arranging a meet with the Fuhrer in Berlin and forming his rebellious Indian National Army to fight with the Japanese against India's British colonizers. And Devi herself helped reconcile Hinduism's all-embracing ideology with the Hindu Mission's message of ethnic nationalism. A neo-paganist, she saw in Hindu India the living antecedent for the destroyed Egyptian and Greco-Roman cultures she admired and idealized, according to Goodricke-Clarke. "She related to this idea that the Indo-European people were the ones who came closest to perfection, and she saw Hindu India as the last place in the world that still celebrated the ancient pagan pantheon," the historian said....
SOURCE: Boston Globe (6-15-10)
“Many people thought the FBI may have been digging into Ted Kennedy’s personal life. We’re so used to the FBI stories of the ’60s and ’70s being about Hoover bugging famous people’s bedrooms,’’ said historian Douglas Brinkley. “But what emerges is the FBI as the great protector of a US senator....
While Kennedy politicians have always attracted a core of vocal dissenters, “I had no idea’’ of all the threats against the senator, said historian Robert Dallek. “I’m kind of surprised there would be so much rage at him."...
SOURCE: John Q. Barrett at the Jackson List (6-14-10)
[John Q. Barrett is professor of law at St. John's University School of Law.]
On behalf of Chautauqua Institution and the Robert H. Jackson Center, I am pleased to announce that historian, presidential speechwriter and author Jeff Shesol will deliver Chautauqua Institution's sixth annual Robert H. Jackson Lecture on the Supreme Court of the United States. Jeff Shesol will give the Jackson Lecture on Wednesday, August 18, 2010, at 4:00 p.m. in Chautauqua’s Hall of Philosophy.
Jeff Shesol is author of this year’s widely acclaimed book Supreme Conflict: Franklin Roosevelt vs. The Supreme Court (W.W. Norton). Supreme Power tells, in gripping prose based on deep, new and likely definitive research, the story of the Supreme Court aggressively interpreting the Constitution during the mid-1930s to invalidate many New Deal laws, President Roosevelt responding in 1937 with his call for “Court-packing” legislation, the battles over that proposal, its ultimate defeat and, in the process, FDR’s success in bringing the Court back to the Constitution and constitutional interpretation into the modern era. Supreme Power is both vital history and a deeply contemporary book—for anyone who seeks to be engaged with public life in the United States, it is a must-read. For more information about Jeff Shesol, click here. To buy a copy of Supreme Conflict, click here.
Chautauqua Institution, a special venue of arts, education and recreation in western New York State, was a very significant part of Robert Jackson’s life, his broad and self-directed education, his public speaking training and experiences, and his thinking....
SOURCE: CHE (6-14-10)
The hecklers shouted down the ambassador, Michael Oren, at times calling him a "killer" and scuttling parts of the speech. Video of the event drew international attention and sparked a debate about the tactics of the protesters, who said they were angry about Israel's treatment of Palestinians.
A university review found that the group had planned the disruption in advance, and that it had violated a number of campus policies, including disruption of university activities and disorderly conduct. The group will be banned from the campus until at least September 2011, and its members will be required to complete 50 hours of community service, according to the letter, supplied by the university in response to a public-records request.
SOURCE: Newsweek (6-11-10)
George W. Bush: The Crowd Reader
Timothy Naftali, director of the Richard Nixon Library, says one of Bush’s biggest mistakes from a symbolism standpoint was his chosen method of assessing the damage after the storm. “He got into trouble because he flew over Hurricane Katrina,” he says. “That’s the worst way of doing it. If you fly over, it looks like you don’t want to interact with the people. You either don’t go and make the argument that it would be too disruptive for the president to visit the site, or you just have the disruption and fly down.”...
Bill Clinton: The Compassionate Hugger
President Clinton most likely would have let his “I feel your pain” compassion guide his public response to the oil spill. Affectionately nicknamed “Bubba” for his Southern roots, and genuinely convincing in the role of a concerned statesman, Clinton practically oozed empathy. “He would have been on the scene instantly, hugging those persons affected by the spill and sharing their pain,” says presidential historian H. W. Brands....
Ronald Reagan: The Fighter
Reagan publicly thrived when he had an enemy to defeat, says Douglas Brinkley, who edited The Reagan Diaries. So his first order of business following the spill likely would have been to choose an antagonist, like BP, and give it a nickname (see also: “the Evil Empire”). “If you’re looking at Reagan’s style, it’s right out of the gate, you go after the polluter,” says Brinkley. “Even if behind the scenes you have to negotiate with them because they have to cap the spill.”...
SOURCE: Inside Higher Ed (6-11-10)
A series of posts on Andrew Breitbart's Big Journalism Web site have called the program "Academia-Gate" and suggested that the effort is inappropriately political. The creators of Cry Wolf, meanwhile, say that what they are doing is awfully similar to the ways that right-leaning scholars have used academic work to advance their causes over the years.
The goal of Cry Wolf is to build an online database of short essays showing examples of crying wolf by the right. If people today are reminded that conservatives in the past predicted devastating impacts from minimum wage laws, or requiring cars to have seat belts, or Social Security, the theory goes, they may be more skeptical if they hear, say, that the Obama health care plan will result in the creation of death panels. A letter seeking these 2,000 word essays -- and offering to pay $1,000 for them -- has been circulating among liberal academics (and at least one who sent it off to conservative bloggers)....
KC Johnson, a historian at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, who also blogged critically about the effort, said via e-mail that it was true that conservative efforts -- such as research backed by the Heritage Foundation -- could be criticized in the same way, but that Heritage and similar organizations "are not majority 'academic' organizations." He added that in contrast, Cry Wolf "is an organization largely run by academics to pay academics to produce work that supposedly reflects academic standards -- and not just the standards of any academics, but 'establishment' figures teaching and writing about 20th century U.S. history.... [T]hat approach undermines the argument that contemporary scholarship about U.S. history and public policy isn't inherently partisan."
The liberal blogosphere is now starting to defend Cry Wolf. Media Matters described as a "yawner" the idea that "some college professors dabble in politics" and asked what the controversy was all about. The blog post cites the many conservative policy organizations that have close links to conservative scholars. Some of these centers go beyond the Cry Wolf model, the blog notes.
Citing the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the blog notes: "These are effectively right-wing think tanks that are actually affiliated with and housed on major universities, and are largely staffed by those universities' professors. Yup, that's dozens of university professors explicitly conducting research on how right-wing 'market-oriented' and 'free enterprise' ideas are correct, and progressive ideas are wrong."...
SOURCE: Andrew Breitbart Presents Big Hollywood (6-9-10)
But if you haven’t thought of the labor movement as a cerebral bunch, think again. Meet Peter Dreier, Donald Cohen, Nelson Lichtenstein, and their syndicate of progressive university professors – the “intellectual infrastructure” of the progressive labor movement.
It is no secret that progressives have created a self-cloning machine by hijacking our educational system. Their indoctrination efforts are well documented. But we rarely think of research institutions as propaganda factories. A Request for Proposal (RFP) — see document above — recently obtained by Big Journalism gives us a rare look at how progressives and labor unions attempt to manipulate the national media narrative.
And their process? you may ask. Use the credibility and resources of the American higher education system to create researchprop – biased collegial research papers that serve as propaganda to support political policies.
Entitled Cry Wolf, the RFP proclaims a desire to look “for faculty and graduate students… interested in writing short (2,000 word) policy briefs” that “construct a counter narrative that demonstrates the falsity or exaggeration” of conservative claims. Writers of briefs selected by the project coordinators will receive 100,000 pennies for their thoughts.
Their hopes with this researchprop is for these papers to “become the basis for opinion pieces designed to run in the mainstream media, on line, on the air, or in the press,” with the end outcome of building the following narrative in the public consciousness: that conservative objections to their policies are just the old dirty tricks of the right-wing.
If executed successfully, the “first reaction of millions of people, as well as opinion leaders, will be, ‘there they go again’,” reads the RFP – a clear attempt to label any right-leaning objection to progressive policy as another case of crying wolf....
SOURCE: Atlanta Journal-Constitution (6-11-10)
Since Obama’s candidacy began, a barrage of writers and pundits have been trying to answer those questions. Now author William Jelani Cobb, an associate professor and chair of the history department at Spelman College, tries to tackle them in his new book, “The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress.”
Surprisingly, the book does not dwell on the president’s first year in office to provide clues. Instead it looks at candidate Obama’s peculiar relationship with the old guard of the civil rights movement and, among other things, the carefully scripted language he used about race during the campaign. In an edited conversation, Cobb, who just returned from a Fulbright teaching fellowship in Russia, talked about politics, paradoxes and possibilities.
Q: What did the students in Moscow think of your take on the 2008 election?
A: I was teaching African-American history at Moscow State University. At the beginning of the semester I took a picture of a group of slaves on a plantation and a picture of Barack Obama being sworn in as president and I said over the course of the semester we will explain how we went from the picture [of slaves] on the left to the picture on the right. They were skeptically curious. They were not the biggest fans of his like in some other places I’ve gone....
SOURCE: NYT (6-9-10)
“Angle can beat Reid if she can avoid being defined as too right-wing even for conservatives, which, given her history, will be hard for her to avoid,” said Michael Green, a professor of history at the College of Southern Nevada. “If even worse economic news came out, it presumably could help her.”...
SOURCE: Joanna Weiss at the Boston Globe (6-9-10)
...Even as a thought experiment, refuted by some scientists and futurists and optimists, “peak oil’’ is an opportunity to think past the relative placebo of renewable grocery bags and remember that our oil dependence wasn’t preordained. Early plastics were made from coal resin, says Brian Black, professor of history and environmental studies at Penn State Altoona. Petroleum just made them more malleable and cost-effective. Early car production was electric; Henry Ford even fiddled with an electric version of the Model T. But during World War I, we got hooked on the internal combustion engine, which fueled the suburbs and the road trip and the frequent flier and the culture of expansion we’re accustomed to now....
[Black] imagines a slow weaning process that begins with reducing our dependence on foreign oil; he supported the president’s call for more offshore drilling before the BP disaster struck. He calls for policies such as cap and trade that put a price on oil’s long-term implications. And because transportation takes up the bulk of oil consumption, he believes that if we all convert quickly to fuel-efficient vehicles, we’ll still have enough petroleum available for the little things we rely on, the pharmacutical ingredients, diapers, and toothpaste tubes.
There have been moments when we’ve entertained these sorts of ideas. The Exxon Valdez spill, 21 years ago, reminded us how much oil can hurt the environment. The gas price spike, two summers ago, made us pity anybody with an SUV. Neither of them stuck. Will pictures of birds and anger at Tony Hayward do the trick now? Or will we wait until — sooner or much, much later — the wells really do run dry?
SOURCE: NYT (6-9-10)
The fliers advertised his walking tours around his native Queens, including one scheduled that evening, from Long Island City to Old Astoria.
Mr. Eichenbaum, 67, a retired city assessor with a Ph.D. in urban geography, beat out six other candidates to join the ranks of official New York historians. He follows Stanley Cogan, the borough’s historian since 1999, who recently stepped down because of health problems.
In 1919, the state of New York passed a law requiring counties, cities, towns and boroughs to appoint historians to office. The positions are unpaid, or, as the Brooklyn historian, Ron Schweiger, said, “Our salary is one dollar less than Mayor Bloomberg’s.” (Not that Mr. Schweiger minds. He is, as one might expect, a bit of a Brooklyn wonk. He has 3,000 slides of historic Brooklyn images, and one-third of his basement has been taken over by Brooklyn Dodgers paraphernalia.)...