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Inaugural Protest Circulates Via Internet

As supporters of President Bush gather to celebrate Thursday’s $40 million presidential inauguration, an Internet campaign is trying to organize a boycott on any spending that day to protest the war in Iraq.

No one knows who wrote the e-mail that has been circulating for weeks calling for a national boycott Jan. 20 called “Not One Damn Dime Day.” One version attributes it to journalist Bill Moyers, but he told USA Today that he doesn’t sign petitions.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
“Since our leaders don’t have the moral courage to speak out against the war in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Iraq, Inauguration Day, Thursday, January 20th, 2005 is ‘Not One Damn Dime Day’ in America,” it reads on a Web site started by two self-described Democratic activists in Massachusetts.
 
Laura Carmen Arena and Jesse Gordon of Cambridge, Mass., say they don’t have a clue who wrote the message. They received it in their inbox like everyone else.
 
They say on an FAQ page their site is drawing about 18,000 viewers per day. They hope as many as 5 million Americans will heed the call to refrain from spending money or using credit cards for anything for 24 hours during Inauguration Day.
 
“On ‘Not One Damn Dime Day,’ please boycott Walmart, KMart and Target. Please don’t go to the mall or the local convenience store. Please don’t buy any fast food (or any groceries at all for that matter).”
 
The main goal is to protest the war in Iraq, which the message describes as “immoral and illegal.”
 
But other critics also question lavish spending on an inauguration during a time of war and amid needs from South Asia’s tsunami disaster. Another concern is that corporations are putting up much of the money, raising questions about whether the inauguration is becoming a back door to get around campaign-finance laws.
 
“If the private funding for inaugurations is becoming just another loophole to get around federal law that limits political giving, then it deserves a new round of congressional scrutiny,” observed a NashvilleTennessean editorial.
 
“Not One Damn Dime Day” is reminiscent of earlier e-mail driven protests—such as one-day gasoline boycotts of past years—says the urban legends Web site About.com.
 
While economists say grassroots consumer boycotts can be an effective form of protest, they need to be focused and sustained. Skeptics say even if it succeeds, a one-day boycott isn’t effective, because many consumers will spend the same amount but on another day.
 
The campaign seems to be gaining momentum, however, at least in terms of media coverage. The Associated Press, USA Today and the Houston Chronicle have all carried stories about the effort.
 
The “Not One Damn Dime Day” Web site says the protest is about supporting troops in harm’s way.
 
“Now 1,200 brave young Americans and (some estimate) 100,000 Iraqis have died. The politicians owe our troops a plan–a way to come home,” it says. “For 24 hours, nothing gets spent, not one damn dime, to remind our religious leaders and our politicians of their moral responsibility to end the war in Iraq and give America back to the people.”
 
The e-mail encourages recipients to forward it to as many people as possible and to express their opinion online at www.NotOneDamnDime.com.
 
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.