Thursday, December 26, 2013

Seventy Years Ago: Christmas Greetings From The White House, 1943

On Christmas Eve, 1943, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had only been back in Washington for a week after a grueling transatlantic voyage to conferences with Allies in Cairo and Teheran. That evening, he gave one of his famous "fireside chats" with the American people, reporting on the conferences, the prospects for victory and our vision for the future.

"We here in the United States had better be sure," he emphasized, "that when our soldiers and sailors do come home they will find an America in which they are given full opportunities for education, and rehabilitation, social security, and employment and business enterprise under the free American system -- and that they will find a Government which, by their votes as American citizens, they have had a full share in electing." Fireside Chat 27, December 24, 1943.

That was a vision that would take decades to perfect. It took the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It took the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. It took the Help America Vote Act.

It continues to take the efforts of countless election officials and volunteers to protect and defend the idea of a Government in which every citizen has a full share in electing.

It takes continued dedication and vigilance.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - Complete With Chesnuts

Here's a link to a nice little Christmas story.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Bradley Flinn, August 4, 1969- December 20, 2013

Last night Bradley Flinn, owner of S/V the Shire, died at Pitt Memorial Hospital.

Those who knew him knew a very nice man. He was a Navy veteran of the Gulf War, who lived on his pink-hulled boat. He was a libertarian, but not as doctrinaire as some. I enjoyed talking to him. He had a wide range of interests. In an earlier age, he might have been called an autodidact. But that could apply to anyone with an inquiring mind.

We knew he had health problems, but didn't know how serious.

Over the years, he had anchored his boat past the bridge over Smith Creek and rowed into Oriental every day. When he developed a rotator cuff injury, he had to move the boat closer to the dinghy dock. He planned to move back up the creek, but for a long time the water level was too high. By the time the level went down, he was unable to make the move for other reasons.

Brad was a bit eccentric. Completely within the normal range for the Town of Oriental.

Rest in Peace.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Today's News and Observer prints an editorial concerning the income gap between ordinary working Americans and the super wealthy, explaining why the gap is holding back our economy.

It isn't about fairness - it is about what works best:

"To boost economy, reduce the income gap
December 17, 2013 Updated 6 hours ago
"The rich are enjoying a surge in wealth from robust stock market gains, but it’s only when low- and middle-income people have more to spend that the economy rises, the economists said.
“What you want is a broader spending base,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James, a financial advisory firm. “You want more people spending money.”
What’s wanted – broad gains in income – is not what the great majority of Americans will be getting this Christmas. Pay for low- and middle-income earners is barely rising, and the gap between the rich and the rest shows no sign of slowing its expansion. The result of flat incomes for most is flat consumption overall.
The most recent census figures reveal, the AP reported, “that the average income for the wealthiest 5 percent of U.S. households, adjusted for inflation, has surged 17 percent in the past 20 years. By contrast, average income for the middle 20 percent of households has risen less than 5 percent.”
What may be changing is that growing income inequality is moving from a moral debate about fairness to a practical discussion about its economic effect. That’s a good change. President Obama has moved the discussion that way. With luck, the mid-term election will take it further."

To find out more, read the AP story here:

The truth is that New Deal programs and the so-called safety net have always been about making the economy work better for everyone. Businessmen in our poorest states are the biggest beneficiaries from putting more money in the pockets of workers, whether currently employed or not.

From Prisoner To Head Of State

The funeral of Nelson Mandela extolled the virtues of a man who spent years in prison and later became his county's head of state.

Not only that, Mandela presided over a peaceful transition.

There have been few such great men in recent history, but there have been others. Last Sunday I posted a link to an article about the president of Uruguay, a former Tupamaro guerrilla, who spent years in prison.

Yesterday's New York Times published an article about Vaclav Havel, dissident writer and playright during the communist period of Czech history, who spent years in prison and became four-term president of the Czech Republic. Havel was a powerful voice for democracy. He should be remembered as another powerful advocate for his people.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Meanwhile, Just Outside Montevideo, A Frugal President

Jose Mujica, president of Uruguay, leads with no frills.

"If anyone could claim to be leading by example in an age of austerity, it is José Mujica, Uruguay's president, who has forsworn a state palace in favour of a farmhouse, donates the vast bulk of his salary to social projects, flies economy class and drives an old Volkswagen Beetle." The Guardian.

This is a man and a country we know little about. Maybe we should change that. Here is a beginning.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Beautiful Writing From Abroad - Almudena Grandes Hernandez

Here is a link to a beautiful and moving piece of writing in today's New York Times.

Here is the person who wrote it:

Almudena Grandes

{Madrid, 1960}
Retrato de Almudena Grandes © Pep Avila
Almudena Grandes Hernández nació en Madrid en 1960 y estudió Geografía e Historia en la Universidad Complutense de esta ciudad.
Vinculada al mundo editorial como escritora de encargo, adquirió el reconocimiento del gran público con Las edades de Lulú, que recibió el XI premio de narrativa erótica La Sonrisa Vertical en 1989.
Su segunda novela es Te llamaré Viernes y su tercera fue Malena es un nombre de tango. La cuarta, Modelos de mujer, es una recopilación de siete cuentos publicados anteriormente en varias revista y periódicos.
En 1998 publicó Atlas de geografía humana.

I would like to read Almudena Grandes' article in the original language.

It is about dignity.

The Spanish used to know what poor people always understood - no one can steal your dignity; only you can abandon it yourself.

Observations By Tony Tharp

I thought I would post without comment a link to Tony Tharp's most recent comments about Oriental here.

Bear in mind he is writing from the wilds of Lake Okeechobee, not far south of the Okeefenokee Swamp, from the decks of S/V Yoknapatawpha II.

Seventy Years Ago: FDR Aboard USS Iowa Enroute Teheran

We last left the president sailing aboard USS Iowa on November 14th, 1943, on his way to Teheran. To bring readers up to date, here are the daily logs of the president's activities:

November 20th, 1943;
November 21st;
November 22nd;
November 23rd;
November 24th;
November 25th;
November 26th;
November 27th;
November 28th;
November 29th;
November 30th;
December 1st;
December 2d;
December 3rd;
December 4th;
December 5th;
December 6th;
December 7th;
December 8th;
December 9th;
December 10th;
December 11th;
December 12th;
December 13th;
December 14th;
December 15th;
December 16th;
December 17th.

My comments:
FDR's travel to Teheran and participation in tense conferences in Cairo and Teheran was far from a pleasure cruise. This was hard work, and would have challenged even much younger men in better physical condition. A little more than a year after completing the Teheran conference, once again FDR would make another transatlantic voyage through the war zone, this time to Malta and to the war-ravaged Crimea for another conference with Churchill and Stalin. FDR left Washington January 23rd, 1945 and returned February 28th. The following day, March 1st, the president addressed a joint session of Congress, reporting on the Yalta conference. He died six weeks later during a visit to Warm Springs, GA.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Does History Repeat Itself Or Just Rhyme?

Mark Twain is said to have observed that history doesn't repeat itself - but it does rhyme.

Many of us read history not only for entertainment, but also in hopes of learning useful lessons about our own time and place. We seek to uncover history's lessons.

Those purported lessons are brought to our attention by journalists, political figures and academics on major anniversaries of important events.

One such event is the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on June 28, 1914 by Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist in the town of Sarajevo. That was a shot not only heard round the world, but one that has reverberated now for an entire century.

Margaret MacMillan, professor of history at Oxford, University, has contributed an essay for the Brookings Institution examining the lessons of that event and the ensuing war.

I have read many of the diplomatic papers leading up to the war, tramped across the battlefields and pondered the issue of "war guilt" as it was called. After the 1918 armistice and collapse of the German government, the Western Allies insisted on assigning all of the guilt for the war on Germany.

I have concluded that no European power was without guilt. Nor was any power imbued with great resources of wisdom.

But the guilt at the outset plainly belongs to Serbia.

Professor MacMillan makes the case in her essay that the times in 1914 were much like our own.

We should read it as a cautionary tale.

But read it!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Saturday, December 7, 2013


“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

-- George Orwell

Seventy-Two Years Ago: Pearl Harbor And Japanese Politics

Today's New York Times prints an op-ed article by historian Eri Hotta addressing similarities and differences between today's Japan and that of seventy-two years ago. Her article is very much worth reading. I also look forward to reading her book: Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy.

Japan in 1941 was not a military dictatorship or a totalitarian regime, and it never became one. Neither was it a democracy. It was, instead, a society built on strong networks of obligation, with decision making by consensus rather than by majority vote. The persistent belief that Japan in 1941 was a military dictatorship grows out of a deep misunderstanding of the way Japanese society worked. Ruth Benedict's wartime study of Japanese society, The Crysanthemum And The Sword, might have deepened our understanding, but it came out too late and has never informed our retrospective understanding of events leading to war. I look forward to reading Ms. Hotta's two books on the period.