The Spirit of '76

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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Locally-Owned Businesses Prepare for "Independents Week"

Locally-owned businesses in association with the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA), have announced plans for Independents Week 2011, a celebration which has already begun in at least one locale.

A series of events around the country are designed to highlight the advantages of doing business with locally-owned and operated companies as opposed to "big box" outlets often owned in locations thousands of miles away, and occasionally even in other countries.

Everything from special promotions to parades are being planned from Tampa to Minneapolis-St. Paul. Special buttons and even game cards have been designed and distributed. Tampa, Florida, in fact, announced an Independents Month which began on June 24.

Research has shown a greater financial benefit to a community from locally-owned businesses as opposed to chain stores, whose profits are typically sent out of state or at least out of the community. AMIBA seeks to reverse this latter trend by supporting mom-and-pop stores in true American fashion.

Now, this is the kind of independence we can live with.

For more information click on this blog's title above or cut and paste the link below.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Bit of Good News from the Middle East

Palestinians feel their organized protests have now led to a dismantling of a section of the infamous wall around and through the West Bank territory. In the article originating with the New York Times News Service and linked below, residents of Bilin celebrate a partial victory in the effort to reclaim their territory. While surely there are two sides to the Middle-East conflict, any semblance of a return to the rule of law as set forth by international tribunals is a welcome development.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Media's (and Our) Culture of Violence and Insensitivity

The real deficit here is one of truth and morality. The politics of austerity has now become a discourse for eviscerating the social state...

So writes Henry Giroux in an important new article. At the link shown below you will find an important critique of American culture by Giroux, explaining the rise in violence in entertainment and some of its effects. This is not a shallow piece but a well-reasoned analysis. It is most worthwhile.

At the same time, what is hardly mentioned here are the large numbers of people who are turned off to violence, whether through personal taste or moral and religious reasons or all of these. We must not lose sight of the cooperative institutions which are still functioning: churches, schools, libraries, police and fire departments, and local and state governments. Even the federal government has many programs and services.

What is important here, is the fact that there is a serious threat to these institutions and that the threat is growing. It doesn't have to be this way. In follow-up posts I plan to present whatever antidotes to such a culture of violence which I may be able to find. There is no other more important issue facing America and even the world now.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Evidence the Country Has Not Moved Right

The media are proclaiming the Republican victory on November 2 as a triumph for the Tea Party. But the public's views don't reflect the Tea Party's right-wing positions.

The thrust of America's right-leaning media coverage has lost steam recently. But the narrative that America turned to the right last fall is still operative and dominant. As the article referenced here shows, America did not so much turn right as reject the lack of action on the economic front by the Democrats. The Democratic Party, though certainly better than the Republican Party, is essentially tied to the profit system. This is true in both theory and practicalities. Big donors have still been financing the party conventions and contributing in other ways to various political entities. The weight of money has tragically tipped the scales in America resulting in large-scale poverty. Real income has been declining. And, shockingly, a study of recent health data shows that in large swaths of the American geography, life expectancy is actually declining. (See The Washington Post for the week of June 12.)

Conditions in which the so-called compassionate Party (Democratic) cannot or will not act to significantly improve the lives of people -- as FDR did -- can often give rise to far-right movements. That is what happened in 2010 just as the most thoughtful and acute observers had predicted.

We are left, then, with a decision about what kind of country we should have and specifically, who should own America. Events are sorting this out for us, but in such a painful fashion. Tough logic could be put into service to make the process much shorter and much less painful. While this blog may not be the height of logical process, it does seek to provide solid information to contribute to such a process. May the article linked here be part of such an effort.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Internet UsageTrends

The Pew Research Center last year published the results of a study on Internet usage by all ages. The report here gives data for all ages, including some interest data about young people. While the data itself is about two years old, the trends seem to have continued according to reports I have read more recently. The research has no overt or covert agenda. I think you will find it interesting. (Follow the link below or click on the blog title above.)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lawmakers File Suit to Block "Obombing" of Libya

From Truthout on the web. Based on a report by The Associated Press

A group of ten members of Congress filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration yesterday over US military activities in Libya. The lawmakers want the court to declare the bombing operation illegal under the Constitution and the War Powers Act. Such a declaration would result in an injunction to stop the bombing if the lawsuit is successful.

The Obama administration is providing air support to NATO operations in Libya. Plaintiffs include Rep. Dennis Kucinich, of Ohio, and Texas Republican Ron Paul.

Quoting Truthout:

Kucinich slammed Obama's taking action in Libya without asking Congress, saying even President George Bush approached lawmakers before starting the war in Iraq, according to The Hill. Kucinich was also opposed to the Iraq war. Another Ohio politician, House Speaker John Boehner (R), also criticized the Obama administration's approach to Libya, saying today that the administration violated the War Powers Resolution by acting without Congressional authorization....

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Obama, Boehner Disagree Energetically, Then Decide to Play Golf

The U.S. House leader has responded to Obama administration attempts to defend the President's actions in Libya. The Administration claims U.S. bombing there does not really represent a circumstance of "hostilities." In response Speaker Boehner called the apologetics "creative" and said the White House's comments raise further questions.

The C.N.N. story on the verbal fracas ended by reporting that the two leaders plan to play golf on the day after Boehner's announced deadline for information required from the Administration.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

One Year Ago: Senate Failed to Pass Jobs Bill

One year ago this week, twelve Senate Democrats joined Republicans in defeating a jobs bill which would have gone a long way toward preserving the jobs of public sector employees such as teachers and fire-fighters. The bill would also have provided aid to the long-term unemployed. Ignoring warnings of Pres. Obama that failure to pass the bill would have a large negative impact on state budgets, the Senate fell for the line that the budget deficit must be fought (at the expense of jobs).

Now in 2011 we hear the same cry: cut, cut, cut the budget. One wonders how long this deficit-fighting rhetoric will keep up in light of all the recent dismal job numbers.

America needs a government support or stimulus plan equal to the size of the problem. The first stimulus plan of 2009 helped stave off complete disaster, but being too small -- as many warned -- it failed to bring about anything like a robust recovery, one people could feel.

So now we have stagnation. Amidst all the suffering, recalcitrant ideologues in the House and Senate insist on pursuing a policy which never works in a capitalist system in a depressed economy -- cutting aid programs for the poor and needy. (And the needy now definitely include many who had been in the middle class.) In order for an economy to be healthy, the citizens must have money in the pocket.

It is time for a Rooseveltian economic plan -- one large enough to be meaningful.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

FDR Exercised Real Presidential Leadership in a Time of National Crisis

FDR, surely the greatest President of the Twentieth Century, and one of the very best of all American history, adopted a take-charge attitude during, first the Great Depression, and second, during World War II. For those who say we live in very different times, let us remember that the fundamental style of economics was the same then as now -- capitalism. And let us be reminded that we are once again in war, now two active conflicts and a third still-simmering battle for democracy in Iraq.

America needs distinguished leadership again. Sadly, voices of a rigid, ideological orthodoxy of the past have been allowed to gain control of the public debate. Thus, actions which could truly help the country such as government spending to add jobs -- yes, government jobs, if necessary as in the New Deal -- are said to be off the table. But who has put such a solution off the table? Powerful financial and industrial owners and the media which is now also a powerful money-making and wealth-protecting institution of its own. Without a democratically-controlled media, we can hardly expect to have a democratic country. This is the sad state of affairs in the United States now. Yet, it doesn't have to be this way. Contrast the inept calcification of the current federal government with the robust leadership of Franklin Roosevelt. Then, you be the judge. Must we, after all, settle for less?


President Franklin Roosevelt's Declaration on Price Controls -- January 30, 1942

The Emergency Price Control Act of 1942 is an important Weapon in our armory against the onslaught of the Axis powers.

Nothing could better serve the purposes of our enemies than that we should become the victims of inflation. The total effort needed for victory means, of course, increasing sacrifices from each of us, as an ever larger portion of our goods and our labor is devoted to the production of ships, tanks, planes, and guns. Effective price control will insure that these sacrifices are equitably distributed.

The Act, taken all in all, is a workable one. It accomplishes the fundamental objectives of setting up a single Administrator, and empowering him to establish maximum prices and rents over a broad field, to prohibit related speculative and manipulative practices, and to buy and sell commodities in order to obtain the maximum production. To make price and rent control effective, the Administrator is given adequate powers to license persons subject to the Act, to investigate and enjoin attempted violations, and to bring about the commencement of criminal proceedings against violators. Civil suits for treble damages by private persons provide an additional enforcement tool.

But a price control measure must fall far short of being a democratic instrument if it fails to surround the individual with safeguards against ill-considered or arbitrary action. This Act, while granting the Administrator broad powers, imposes upon him a responsibility of equal breadth for fair play. He must, so far as is practicable, consult with industry members before issuing price regulations, and must accompany each such regulation by a statement of the considerations upon which it is based. The provisions for adjustment assure flexibility in administration. Persons adversely affected by an order have a speedy and effective remedy in the Emergency Court of Appeals. The Administrator may proceed for the revocation of a license only through the courts. Finally, the Administrator is required to transmit quarterly progress reports to the Congress.

The farm program which has been developed since 1933 has set parity prices and income as a goal. There is nothing in this Act to prevent farmers receiving parity or a fair return. But I feel that most farmers realize that when farm prices go much above parity, danger is ahead. One of the best ways of avoiding excessive price rises, of course, is abundant production. And I hope agricultural prices can be maintained at such level as to give farmers a fair return for increasing production.

In giving my approval to this legislation, I am acting with the understanding, confirmed by Congressional leaders, that there is nothing contained therein which can be construed as a limitation upon the existing powers of governmental agencies, such as the Commodity Credit Corporation, to make sales of agricultural commodities in the normal conduct of their operations. In my Message to the Congress on August 25, 1941, disapproving the bill H. R. 5300, I pointed out the extreme disadvantages of any action designed to peg prices through the arbitrary withholding of Government-owned stocks from the normal channels of trade and commerce. I further pointed out that the Commodity Credit Corporation should be free to dispose of commodities acquired under its programs in an orderly manner, for otherwise it will be impossible to maintain an ever-normal granary, to protect farmers against surpluses and consumers against scarcity; and that to restrict the authority of this corporation would greatly increase its losses, nullify the effectiveness of existing programs, and by breaking faith with consumers be inconsistent with our present price control efforts....

The enactment of price control legislation does not mean that the battle against inflation has been won. I have doubts as to the wisdom and adequacy of certain sections of the Act, and amendments to it may become necessary as we move ahead. Moreover, price control legislation alone cannot successfully combat inflation. To do that, an adequate tax and fiscal program, a broad savings program, a sound production program, and an effective priorities and rationing program, are all needed.

Finally, all bulwarks against inflation must fail, unless all of us—the businessman, the worker, the farmer, and the consumer are determined to make those bulwarks hold fast. In the last analysis, as Woodrow Wilson said, "The best form of efficiency is the spontaneous cooperation of a free people."

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Time Out for Humor

A recent e-mail chain letter about the supposed year of Feng Shui inspired the following parody.


I love these warning messages --

CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This e-mail message, including any attachments, is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information or otherwise [be] protected by law. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply e-mail and destroy all copies of the original message.

The Year of the Bat

Did you know that this year, 2011, is the Year of the Bat in the Garuda religion of Southeast Asia? This little-known religion has been growing exponentially in recent years from mountain to plain, ocean to sea, and hamlet to metropolis. Since January 1, 2011, the number of adherents has mushroomed as this is a year of good luck occurring only once every 1,011 years. Thus, the last Year of the Bat was in A.D. 1000, a year in which the Apocalypse did not occur, but a huge explosion in the population of the Southeast Asian migratory auburn bat did occur. The Southeast Asians honored the bat by giving said bat its own year, even though the non-migratory blonde bat already had its own year and complained vociferously. The dispute was eventually worked out at the Council of Phnom Penh in A.D. 1016 and ratified at the Council of Trent many centuries later.

Anyway, you are in luck as you have been fortunate to have received this e-mail from a friend. Your friend has esteemed you with this honor because he (she?) feels lucky to have you, and knows your spouse would never refer to you as "You Old Bat." Indeed, if you forward this message on to eleven (11) other friends who are not Old Bats (or Old Biddies), you are sure to receive mucho dinero in the next five days. Of course, the money will be in pesos, so don't get your hopes up.

In the meantime, why not frequent your near-by Thai restaurant and check out the cute place mat and confirm that this is indeed the year of the Bat in Southeast Asia? If you don't believe me, just check out the Wikipedia article here:
< >.

And by the way, did you know that if you take the last two digits of the year of your birth plus the age you will have or have this year, and add them, the sum for everyone is 111?! Ex: 63 + 48 = 111 What a co-inky-dink!

Blessings upon you and your mother, and father, first cousins, great aunt, and long-deceased great-great grand-pappy. May they all enjoy excellent Southeast Asian food forever -- but not roast bat.

Your friend,

Norm da Plume

(c) 2011 The Musical Patriot
All rights reserved.

Apologies to Garuda, Southeast Asia, Mexico, Spanish-speakers, and the peso!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

New Florida Governor Sued -- Again

Republican Governor Rick Scott has been sued by the ACLU over a new voting scheme which seeks to limit voters' options. The article at Truthout referenced here tells more.

This is one in a series of recent law suits brought against the radical-right-wing chief executive of Florida. Scott is successor to the mantle of the great progressive governor Leroy Collins, who was an early champion of civil rights in the state. Following Collins later, "New South" Governors Reuben Askew and Bob Graham continued the progress. The Scott agenda, on the other hand, is a fairly retrograde attempt to turn the clock back to a time when wealthy, entrenched white men ruled the Deep South.

Let us wish the ACLU well.

Friday, June 03, 2011

House Moves Toward Reclaiming Prerogatives Regarding Libyan Air Operation

In a vote today, the U.S. House of Representatives moved closer to asserting its Constitutional right to declare war. While still giving the President fourteen more days whereas he is already in violation of the generous provisions of the War Powers Act, the vote today puts the Chief Executive on notice that violations of the law will not be tolerated forever.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Congressmen Rebel Against Open-ended Libyan Campaign

In a surprising development, House members from both parties rallied around a resolution introduced by Rep. Kucinich which sought to end American involvement in the Libyan bombing campaign in two weeks. Speaker Boehner was struggling to contain the rebellion Thursday, as the White House claimed fealty to the War Powers Act -- without being convincing.

It is bracing to see members of Congress reacting this way. President Obama has indeed flouted the War Powers Act, which was a compromise effort in the early '70s to rein in the Imperial Presidency.

Reference web page:

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Bill Clinton Warns on Rising Nationalism

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