The Spirit of '76

Brand-new book from author interviewed on "Fresh Air"

Friday, January 30, 2009

Waking Up

It is 6:00 a.m. You have to go to work and as the alarm rings you are just waking up from a particularly bad nightmare. This nightmare was the kind which had you jumping out of your bed in fright.

Suddenly you realize it was all a dream. You did not fall off the cliff, the murderous robbers are not about to kill you, and you are not about to be run over by that massive semi which was only moments ago bearing down upon you. But you must still go to work, shaken as you are by the very bad dream.

This is roughly the state of America today shortly after the airlift which allowed G. W. Bush and Vice-Minion Cheney to escape the "socialist" Obama take-over of The White House. (Remember the charges of the McCain campaign last fall? Remember the evacuation of Saigon in 1975?)

While being light-hearted, the gravity of the moment is quite real. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs and tens of thousands more are about to. While Barack Obama is no George Bush, there is a realization setting in that, nevertheless, things may not get significantly better economically anytime soon. This is not to say they couldn't, just that they likely will not. (And here, a cold realism is called for.) Even though appropriately scolded, the Wall Street crowd is still in control of -- at least -- Wall Street. And that in and of itself is cause for concern. For this means the profit system is still in place.

Happily this post does not need to end there. For the captains of finance are facing a mutiny on this bounty-less Bounty. It seems at a minimum there will be no $1400 trash can without reimbursement, if not to the government at least to the corporation.

And where are we in our morning revery which began this post? We are now on our way to work on this Monday morning, say. We just got a cell-phone call that there is to be a union organizing meeting tonight of all the workers at the company. Maybe this is it. Just maybe this is the break we have been waiting for.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

We Can Do Better and Must

We are now more than forty-eight hours after the inauguration of Barack Obama. Putting aside the pending lawsuits questioning the legitimacy of this Presidency, we can already begin to assess the direction of this new Administration.

Certainly good things have been done. It is all to the good that ethics processes are being strengthened and clarified. It is great that the unconstitutional trials of certain individuals held at Guantanamo are being delayed.

What is troubling some people at this point is there seems to be no clear plan as to how to deal with the national financial and economic crisis. I will say swiftly that what is being proposed will not work. We don't need more money going to already bankrupt financial institutions. As others have said and I have written many times, these institutions must be put under bankruptcy protection. This is what happens to ordinary citizens and all institutions which cannot pay their bills.

Likewise, the Federal Reserve is unable to carry out its function. The Federal Reserve System must be replaced by something like a national bank. This national bank will not replace the local private banks but will assist them in stabilizing their assets and protecting account-holders.

Next, home-owners must be protected from eviction through appropriate and effective programs.

Then, immediate efforts to create jobs must be undertaken along the lines of the Works Progress Administration of the FDR Administration. Along with this, it must become established national policy to protect American jobs through appropriate tariffs as enunciated and explained by Henry Clay in his famous Senate speech of the nineteenth century.

In energy, safe nuclear power should be re-examined and new plants built as soon as feasible.

In transportation, the automobile industry should be in large measure converted to other useful manufacturing purposes according to the activities outlined above. Then, modes of mass transit must be modernized, built, and properly maintained.

This is the program we need. Let us be about the business of adopting it.

(Note: These are not my original ideas, needless to say. Many experts have proposed these kinds of measures.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barack Obama Sworn In, Gives Speech

Barack Obama recited a mangled version of the Presidential Oath of Office around noon in Washington, D.C. today. Momentarily confused by an incorrect version of the wording as given by Chief Justice John Roberts, Mr. Obama "muddled through" then shook hands with the Chief Justice. The crowds cheered loudly for many moments.

In his relatively brief speech, President Obama urged his fellow citizens to pick themselves up and dust themselves off and get to work in re-building America. It was not perhaps a momentous speech but it had its moments of eloquence and certainly was delivered with compassion and conviction.

Part of the work to be done in this country is the need for thorough reform of our election process. Readers of this blog know there remain questions and even lawsuits about Obama's eligibility to serve. At least he clearly got the majority of the popular and Electoral College votes, unlike his predecessor. But if we have learned anything it is that the country suffers greatly with persons who enter the White House without majority public support.

Vice-President Biden Is Sworn In

Joseph Biden has been sworn in as Vice-President. Now Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma are playing a very wistful version of "Simple Gifts" written by John Williams for this occasion.

I must leave for now as my paying job beckons.

Aretha Franklin -- Yeah!

Aretha Franklin, having a few vocal problems but with style par excellence, sings "My Country 'Tis of Thee" with a wonderful instrumental arrangement and terrific back-up group. This is a wonderful event in and of itself.


Barack Obama has entered and been seated.

The Rev. Rick Warren is giving the invocation. He has asked for the safety of Mr. Obama and his family. Amen to that!

President-Elect's Delegation Enters

Those escorting Barack Obama have entered.

Vice--President-Elect Enters

Joseph Biden, beaming in the sunlight, enters waving to enthusiastic cheers.

G. W. Bush Comes On Camera

Looking no more Presidential than he ever did, slightly smirking, G. W. Bush, the installed President walks the hall toward the Capitol Steps.

Fanfares Announce Ex-Presidents

It is good to see the Ex-Presidents, Carter and Clinton. The Clintons get a much warmer welcome than the others.

I don't believe the Founding Fathers would particularly approve of these fanfares. The trumpeteer has a banner under his horn which looks like a royal banner. Is this pomp or pomposity?

The grandeur of the buildings is wonderful and the good cheer of the people is heart-warming.

Various Officials Enter

Senators, members of the Supreme Court have entered.

The former Vice-Presidents are now entering. It is good to see Walter and Joan Mondale and Al and Tipper Gore.

Arriving at the Capitol

The Presidential Motorcade has arrived at the Capitol. Laura Bush and Michelle Obama have walked into the Capitol. Joseph Biden has exited his vehicle. Richard Cheney's wheel-chair has been seen.

Historically Low Approval Ratings

G.W. Bush, installed in the Oval Office by the Supreme Court, leaves office with an historically low approval rating of twenty-two percent, reports the media this morning.

Crowds Scream Their Delight

Crowds along the motorcade route are not only cheering but screaming, much the same as they do for Jay Leno or Ellen.

Blogging the Inaugural

No matter the outcome of any lawsuits today's events in Washington are historic. I am glad to be able to write about the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. --

The principles of the day are leaving the White House. The First Lady and up-coming First Lady have already left. Vice-President Cheney has been wheeled out in his wheel-chair. And moments ago G.W. Bush and Barack Obama have now left and are arriving at the Capitol.

It is a momentous event, yet one senses these are real people living out what is ordinary for them.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Evolution of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, 'This way of settling differences is not just.' This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love."

So said the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1967, at the Riverside Church in New York City, exactly one year before his assassination in Memphis. This speech condemning the Viet Nam War is at least as amazing as the "I Have a Dream" speech of August 1963. In one sense it is more amazing because of the wrenching debate then raging in the nation regarding that horrible and unjust war, a war for which the United States has never apologized.

And in this speech Dr. King speaks about economics as the great oppressor in America.

Neither of these topics is preferred by today's commentators on the life of Dr. King. Yet, the 1967 speech is part of his legacy just as much as the earlier speech.

I am very happy to commend the speech referenced here to you. Simply click on the title above or cut and paste the link below.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Needed: a New "New Deal"

As the country readies for the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States (whether he is truly qualified or not), the nation faces certain choices regarding its future. If I may be brief on this particular occasion, what is needed is an effort along the lines of the New Deal as put forward by Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 and later. Another way of putting it is We need a mixed economy, not an unfettered capitalist "globalized" economy. We must fight with all our might against the globalized financial system as it has come to be.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

An Interesting Exchange of E-Mails

I have received an important e-mail inquiry regarding the lawsuit filed by Philip Berg, Esq., the former Attorney General of Pennsylvania. What follows is my response to my correspondent's letter. Because I am in a hurry and have not gotten the person's permission I am omitting the writer's questions. But essentially I am being asked to explain why I care about this issue, whether I am a closet conservative, and whether the ends justify the means. These are legitimate questions and deserve a response. I thought my wider blog audience also deserved and would enjoy reading my response.

(There are other reasons for my position which go beyond the answers to the questions asked. There are questions of legitimacy and national sovereignty, as well.)

Here then is the letter I wrote to my dear friend.


Thanks for your e-mail. I understand your questions and I welcome them. It is only natural to have questions about this subject. Also, it is easy to misunderstand my position, so since you have asked I am glad to try to answer your questions somewhat.

I voted for Dennis Kucinich and championed him even after he dropped out of the running in 2004 and again last year. When it became clear Kucinich was not going to win the nomination in 2008, I did in fact root for Hillary Clinton for several reasons: 1) She won the popular vote in the primaries; 2) She began giving a very effective populist message in the late primaries as opposed to her earlier approach; 3) I felt having a woman as President could do the country good; and 4) I felt she was more experienced than Barack Obama.

I reject the labels of liberal and conservative as used by the mainstream media. They are virtually meaningless. For instance, to care about the environment is actually a conservative position. We even speak of "conserving" natural resources. I oppose casino gambling; some would call that a conservative position. But I am for unions and against the power of large corporations and the profit motive. Many would call these "liberal" positions, but to me they are just common sense. So, I don't consider myself "conservative" or "liberal", but I don't mind being called a leftist.

As for Mr. Obama, I am very happy an African-American was able to win both the popular vote and the Electoral College vote....

The suits being filed against Mr. Obama (and there are several by different people) have nothing to do with him as a person or even his policies or his accomplishments. They have to do with his qualifications to be President under the Constitution. Unfortunately, it has become fashionable to denigrate the Constitution, either through words or actions or both. I didn't write the Constitution. But it does say that a person, in order to be President, must be a "natural-born citizen" of the United States (not "naturalized"). There is a difference. Thus, if Hillary Clinton were not natural-born or Kucinich or whoever, it wouldn't matter. Any person must meet this requirement (along with a couple of others) in order to serve as President.

I have spent considerable time investigating this matter, and while I cannot claim to be an expert, there is serious enough doubt in my mind about Mr. Obama's citizenship status to believe, at the least, those bringing suit deserve their day in court. So far, this has been denied them, with the active help of those representing Mr. Obama. This raises red flags for me. If he can prove his case why is he not able to produce a simple vault birth certificate [something ordinary Americans are asked to do every day]?

There may be some validity to the point that because the country is in a crisis such fine points don't matter. Yet, I strongly believe we cannot simply pick and choose which parts of the Constitution to uphold. And, as I say, upholding the Constitution has suddenly become this very challenging thing to do. Yet, I really feel I have no other option.

Certainly there is much more which can be said about this. But I believe the points I have made above explain my position rather well without the need to continue the explanation.

You are free to disagree, of course. But if you plan to argue that the Constitution is not important, I confess I am at a loss to know what else to say.

Thanks again for your questions.



Monday, January 12, 2009

Reclaiming History

One of these days perhaps I will subtitle this web log the Book Blog, for many posts have something to do with books. And so it is the case tonight.

I have written earlier of the book I continue to read -- Reclaiming History by Vincent Bugliosi. I am now in the chapter on Oswald killer, Jack Ruby.

The great value of this book is the tremendous amount of honest research behind it. But just as important is the mind behind the book, that of perhaps the premiere prosecutor in America. The interesting thing to see is how this famed prosecutor, author of Helter Skelter goes about exonerating people right and left even as he bears in on Lee Harvey Oswald as the sole killer of John F. Kennedy, thirty-fifth President of the United States.

And what a terrific national service this book is in laying to rest the various and sundry claims of other assassins and co-conspirators. If we can have one less pernicious mystery surrounding this country so much the better.

I still have about three hundred pages to go, having already perused 1100 pages! One day soon I plan to be able to say I have completed Bugliosi's 1400-page masterwork. Just don't plan to quiz me on all its details!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Limits of Power

Last year Henry Holt and Company published The Limits of Power by Andrew Bacevich, professor at Boston University and former member of the U.S. Army (achieving the rank of colonel). The library has given me three weeks to read the book; obviously someone else wants to read it as well.

The premise of the book seems to be that the United States cannot afford the de facto Empire created by American financial control backed by a world-wide military. While this is not a new thesis, the book appeared at a time when U.S. citizens had become inured to news from Iraq and had come to seemingly accept American occupation of that country.

I am still early in the book and will doubtless have more to say about it later. For now I can say with confidence that this is an important book with rational, fact-based arguments which any thoughtful American would do well to carefully consider.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

World to Celebrate 200th Birthday of Charles Darwin

According to The World Almanac, February 12, 2009, marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. (Darwin thus shares an exact birth date with Abraham Lincoln.) The 150th anniversary of Darwin's On the Origin of Species will occur on November 24, 2009. Here is a quote from this monumental work:

It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.

-- Charles Darwin,
On the Origin of Species , 1859

Monday, January 05, 2009

Two Authors Nail the Financial Situation

In yesterday's New York Times, authors Michael Lewis and David Einhorn described with unusual clarity and detail what went wrong in the financial world over the last several years. The article, starting on page nine of the Week in Review section, is really extremely good -- a rarity in The Times. Their writing would be prescient if it had come in 2005. Instead, what we have is a post mortem of a financial system gone berserk. One has to ask the question the authors do not ask: Where was The Times when we needed it? As the authors make clear, common sense indicated there were troubles afoot.

Of course, this is the same New York Times which, along with the rest of the media, refused to honestly report on what happened in Florida in 2000 and at the Supreme Court on December 12, 2000, installing G.W. Bush as President against the will of the people. This was the same Times and the same media who buried the truth about what happened with the vote in Ohio and New Mexico and other places in 2004, denying the Presidency to John Kerry, and again thwarting the will of the people.

No one knows what would have happened with the economy had Al Gore gone into the White House in 2000. But almost definitely there would not have been an invasion of Iraq and very likely no attack of 9/11/01. But with a John Kerry in the White House it seems very unlikely there would have been such lax oversight of the financial industry as happened with Bush the Lesser. So we have a situation in which the major media must accept part of the blame for this fiasco.

Still, better late than never, as they say. And one is grateful for such a clear and fulsome accounting of the warnings of one Harry Markopolos about Bernard Madoff to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Lewis' and Einhorn's lucid article helps set the record straight.

If, at any point, Bush and Cheney had been impeached, as Congress was repeatedly urged to do by figures as respected as Bruce Fein, John Dean, and John Nichols, we likewise would probably not be in this position. But taking into account the long-term it seems quite possible that Bush has made it clear what has truly been going on in this country. So we are likely farther ahead in the long run. By having an economy which is so obviously and truly awful, we can deal with things more easily as compared to an economy which is merely "recessed" or "slowed." At least this is what the optimist in me sees. And today I am in a mood to encourage that inner optimist. It is the only way to live.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Which Way, America?

A couple of days ago I picked up once again the book Nemesis by Chalmers Johnson. I read about events which occured in Japan in 2004. You may recall the U.S. soldiers who were accused of assaults on Japanese citizens.

I won't give the details here, but the stories in Johnson's book are set in the context of the U.S. military dominance of the world. Chalmers Johnson's great contribution is in giving such a clear picture of the depth and breadth of what is in effect a U.S. world Empire. Now I hesitate to equate this empire precisely with the Roman Empire of old. Clearly there are differences. Yet the mentality of the so-called neocons has been right in line with the attitude which fostered the empires of old, including the British.

As the new year dawns it is critical to ask what kind of country the United States is to be. Will we take our place as a true leader among other great nations? Or will we continue to insist on world military domination? Haven't the people of America been sold a bill of goods? Have certain powerful forces engineered a climate of fear in which we feel compelled to maintain a huge military presence in the world? What would our Founding Fathers think? Surely we know they would highly disapprove. And what of the peace dividend promised after the fall of the Iron Curtain and the break-up of the Soviet Union? Whatever happened to the millions or billions of dollars that were to be diverted into an unnecessary military and arrive back home to help and assist our country?

What we have instead is a failing infrastructure. Responsible people have been warning about this for years. But it has taken a major economic crisis to bring action. And still there is no serious talk of reducing our military commitments abroad. Why? Why must we wait? Must we wait for the 22nd century before we have a rational world? Or is an irrational world more in the interests of the oligarchs?

So we have a choice. Americans can attempt to persist in this insanity or we can begin to open up an intelligent discussion about how we can create and maintain a peaceful and prosperous world. If we do not have this discussion -- and it must come quickly -- we are doomed to horrors the likes of which we have never seen. I realize this is language I don't usually use on this blog. But it is important to set the choice in stark terms so the alternatives may be seen clearly. Where we go from there -- the "how" of the change is something that can be talked about. I plan to have more to say about this subject in a near time.

Featured Post

Bill Clinton Warns on Rising Nationalism

Rush Link -- Bill Clinton on Rise of Nationalism