07/04/2013 archive

TSGH: Happy Third Anniversary

It was three years ago that we at The Stars Hollow Gazette welcomed readers to our park, very liberal place, welcoming all views and discussion, a comfortable place for give and take, discussion, agreement and disagreement. Nothing has changed except that we are older. We are still not shy about expressing our liberal views.

We are still a place for creativity and a place to put your “stuff.” TSHG is a place for music, art, history and sports. We want our readers to be informed and amused, a place to converse. we want to hear what you have to say, to understand and consider other perspectives. We won’t always agree but we want to do so with respect. Very little of what we see and hear is black and white, it is mostly shades of grey, effected by many outside factors that make choices unclear and uncertain. Life is a learning experience and we never stop learning from the world around us and each other.

A lot has happened since July 4th 2010. There have been elections were we witnessed congress change, the White House remain the same and state governments swinging from left to right and back.

We’ve witnessed protests, revolutions and natural disasters, the end of one war, the continuation of another and the start of more on yet another continent.

We watched, not silently, the injustice of our own government in its treatment of its citizens and those of foreign nations, the failure to contain Wall Street and the financial industry or prosecute them for breaking the law.

We have seen the income gap grow, poverty increase, good jobs disappear, public schools under attack, public servants maligned and laid off while the wealthy and mega corporations pay less in taxes.

We saw the Bush tax cuts, now the Obama tax cuts made permanent without any concomitant change in the tax code to offset the decreased revenue in a time when the government should be spending not cutting.

We have seen how our representatives have shirked their duty to oversee the excesses of the executive branch while passing laws that are unconstitutional.

We have witnessed the as the Supreme Court overturned key parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and weaken our protections under the Constitution.

We have watched with joy the overturning of DOMA, clearing the way for our LGBT brothers and sisters to marry in states where it is allowed and have the same protections and benefits as heterosexual couples.

No we are not going away and we will continue to document the atrocities as our friend Atrios has asked us.

As you see from our blog roll, we have new friends and we encourage you to read their blogs.

Last year on this day, our good friends launched Voices on the Square. We wish them a happy anniversary and many more.

We also lost a dear friend and editor, Translator, aka Dr. David W. Smith. You are missed, David.

So, welcome to our “park” and enjoy. We plan on being here for a long time.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

E. J. Dionne: Freedom and ‘Our Sacred Honor’

Here is the sentence in the Declaration of Independence we always remember: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

And here is the sentence we often forget: “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

This, the very last sentence of the document, is what makes the better-remembered sentence possible. One speaks of our rights. The other addresses our obligations. The freedoms we cherish are self-evident but not self-executing. The Founders pledge something “to each other,” the commonly overlooked clause in the Declaration’s final pronouncement.

Amy Goodman: This Independence Day, Thank a Protester

More than 160 years ago, the greatest abolitionist in U.S. history, the escaped slave Frederick Douglass, addressed the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society. Douglass asked those gathered, “What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?” His words bear repeating this Independence Day, as the United States asserts unprecedented authority to wage war globally, to spy on everyone, everywhere. Independence Day should serve not as a blind celebration of the government, but as a moment to reflect on the central place in our history of grass-roots democracy movements, which have preserved and expanded the rights proclaimed in the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Douglass answered his question about the Fourth of July, to those gathered abolitionists: “To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.”

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Declaring Independence Again

It’s easy to fall into despair, to have the dark thoughts come unbidden and unwelcome. You probably know the thoughts I mean: The battle’s over. Democracy lost. The big-money interests always win. There’s no point in even trying anymore.

Why shouldn’t we feel that way? On issue after issue the public’s will is being thwarted, sometimes by leaders of both parties acting in the name of “bipartisanship.”  The message has gone out to the young, to minorities, the poor, to all the troubled and idealistic citizens of the United States: Don’t hope for too much. You’ll get what the Corporate State wants you to get and nothing more.

Americans across the political spectrum, from left to right, want a new relationship with government. They want to rebuild democracy, unimpeded by big-money influence. But how?

It starts with a manifesto, a call to action that can rally a people. Fortunately, we have a very good template to work from.

John Nichols: Tom Paine, Nelson Mandela and ‘the Birth of a New World’

During the decades of his imprisonment by South Africa’s apartheid regime, Nelson Mandela read widely and deeply from the historical and philosophical texts of the ages.

Mandela sampled from the global canon. Yet he took a special interest in the record of American revolt against empire

The events of July 4, 1776, have across the long arc of history captured the imaginations of men and women who would build nations far beyond the borders of the United States. And that was certainly the case with Mandela. When I covered him on his 1990 tour of the United States and during his 1994 campaign for the presidency of South Africa, it quickly became clear that Mandela had developed a rich understanding of the revolutionary history of the United States — and of the individuals and ideas that shaped it.

Michael Cohen: Just how low can the Republican party go?

The GOP has become the heartless party of cutting food aid to the poor, abortion bans and denying people health coverage

What is the single most consequential political development of the past five years? Some might say the election (and re-election) of Barack Obama; others might point to the passage of the most important piece of social policy (Obamacare) since the 1960s; some might even say the drawing down of US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in reality, it is the rapid descent of the Republican party into madness.

Never before in American history have we seen a political party so completely dominated and controlled by its extremist wing; and never before have we seen a political party that brings together the attributes of nihilism, heartlessness, radicalism and naked partisanship quite like the modern GOP. In a two-party system like America’s, the result is unprecedented dysfunction.

Ira Chernus: Who Says Conservatives Are More Patriotic?

As we got busy preparing for 4th of July festivities, this question popped into my head: Are conservatives more patriotic than other Americans? If you were a foreigner spending some time in the USA, getting news from the mass media and just talking to people, you might easily get that impression-especially around the 4th, when conservatives seem to be the ones most likely to display those big American flags.

In fact you might easily get that impression on any day of the year, when conservatives seem to be the ones most likely to put their love of country on display in all sorts of ways, aiming to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind about their patriotism.

But what’s the truth behind the display? Are conservatives really more patriotic than others? Well, it depends on what you mean by patriotism.

On This Day In History July 4

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge.

July 4 is the 185th day of the year (186th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 180 days remaining until the end of the year. The Aphelion, the point in the year when the Earth is farthest from the Sun, occurs around this date.

On this day in 1826, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the second and third presidents of the United States, respectively, die on this day, the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

After the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, Adams was elected vice president to George Washington, and Jefferson was appointed secretary of state. During Washington’s administration, Jefferson, with his democratic ideals and concept of states’ rights, often came into conflict with Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, who supported a strong federal government and conservative property rights. Adams often arbitrated between Hamilton and his old friend Jefferson, though in politics he was generally allied with Hamilton.

In 1796, Adams defeated Jefferson in the presidential election, but the latter became vice president, because at that time the office was still filled by the candidate who finished second. As president, Adams’ main concern was America’s deteriorating relationship with France, and war was only averted because of his considerable diplomatic talents. In 1800, Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans (the forerunner of the Democratic Party) defeated the Federalist party of Adams and Hamilton, and Adams retired to his estate in Quincy, Massachusetts.

As president, Jefferson reduced the power and expenditures of the central government but advocated the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France, which more than doubled the size of the United States. During his second administration, Jefferson faced renewed conflict with Great Britain, but he left office before the War of 1812 began. Jefferson retired to his estate in Monticello, Virginia, but he often advised his presidential successors and helped establish the University of Virginia. Jefferson also corresponded with John Adams to discuss politics, and these famous letters are regarded as masterpieces of the American enlightenment.

John Adams’ Death

Less than a month before his death, John Adams issued a statement about the destiny of the United States, which historians such as Joy Hakim have characterized as a “warning” for his fellow citizens. Adams said:

   My best wishes, in the joys, and festivities, and the solemn services of that day on which will be completed the fiftieth year from its birth, of the independence of the United States: a memorable epoch in the annals of the human race, destined in future history to form the brightest or the blackest page, according to the use or the abuse of those political institutions by which they shall, in time to come, be shaped by the human mind.

On July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Adams died at his home in Quincy. Told that it was the Fourth, he answered clearly, “It is a great day. It is a good day.” His last words have been reported as “Thomas Jefferson survives”. His death left Charles Carroll of Carrollton as the last surviving signatory of the Declaration of Independence. John Adams died while his son John Quincy Adams was president.

His crypt lies at United First Parish Church (also known as the Church of the Presidents) in Quincy. Originally, he was buried in Hancock Cemetery, across the road from the Church. Until his record was broken by Ronald Reagan in 2001, he was the nation’s longest-living President (90 years, 247 days) maintaining that record for 175 years.

Thomas Jefferson’s Death

Jefferson’ health began to deteriorate by July 1825, and by June 1826 he was confined to bed. He likely died from uremia, severe diarrhea, and pneumonia (?). Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, and a few hours before John Adams.

Though born into a wealthy slave-owning family, Jefferson had many financial problems, and died deeply in debt. After his death, his possessions, including his slaves, were sold, as was Monticello in 1831. Thomas Jefferson is buried in the family cemetery at Monticello. The cemetery only is now owned and operated by the Monticello Association, a separate lineage society that is not affiliated with the Thomas Jefferson Foundation that runs the estate.

Jefferson wrote his own epitaph, which reads:





John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States (1825-1829), was at his father’s bed side when he died. He was 7 days short of his 59th birthday

Today in Government Spying on YOU!

U.S. Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement

By RON NIXON, The New York Times

Published: July 3, 2013

Leslie James Pickering noticed something odd in his mail last September: A handwritten card, apparently delivered by mistake, with instructions for postal workers to pay special attention to the letters and packages sent to his home.

“Show all mail to supv” – supervisor – “for copying prior to going out on the street,” read the card. It included Mr. Pickering’s name, address and the type of mail that needed to be monitored. The word “confidential” was highlighted in green.

Mr. Pickering was targeted by a longtime surveillance system called mail covers, but that is only a forerunner of a vastly more expansive effort, the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, in which Postal Service computers photograph the exterior of every piece of paper mail that is processed in the United States – about 160 billion pieces last year. It is not known how long the government saves the images.

Together, the two programs show that snail mail is subject to the same kind of scrutiny that the National Security Agency has given to telephone calls and e-mail.

The mail covers program, used to monitor Mr. Pickering, is more than a century old but is still considered a powerful tool. At the request of law enforcement officials, postal workers record information from the outside of letters and parcels before they are delivered. (Actually opening the mail requires a warrant.) The information is sent to whatever law enforcement agency asked for it. Tens of thousands of pieces of mail each year undergo this scrutiny.

The Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program was created after the anthrax attacks in late 2001 that killed five people, including two postal workers. Highly secret, it seeped into public view last month when the F.B.I. cited it in its investigation of ricin-laced letters sent to President Obama and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. It enables the Postal Service to retroactively track mail correspondence at the request of law enforcement. No one disputes that it is sweeping.

“In the past, mail covers were used when you had a reason to suspect someone of a crime,” said Mark D. Rasch, who started a computer crimes unit in the criminal division’s fraud section of the Justice Department and worked on several fraud cases using mail covers. “Now it seems to be ‘Let’s record everyone’s mail so in the future we might go back and see who you were communicating with.’ Essentially you’ve added mail covers on millions of Americans.”

Completa en Español

Shorter report in English

Diversion of Bolivian Plane Angers Latin American Leaders


Published: July 3, 2013

Latin American leaders immediately called for an emergency meeting of the Union of South American Nations, which was expected to take place on Thursday. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the president of Argentina, said the episode had “vestiges of a colonialism that we thought was completely overcome,” adding that it was a humiliating act that affected all of South America. President Rafael Correa of Ecuador said in a post on Twitter that the situation was “EXTREMELY serious” and called it an “affront to all America,” referring to Latin America.

“Yesterday was one of the most shameful pages in the political history of some countries in Europe,” Mr. García Linera said in La Paz on Wednesday.

For many in the region, the episode was a throwback to the colonial era, when European countries held sway over a weak Latin America. Many also blamed the United States, insisting that the Obama administration had instructed its European allies to stop Mr. Morales’s plane on the suspicion that it carried Mr. Snowden, who is wanted on charges of violating espionage laws for divulging secrets about American surveillance programs.

“At the moment there is nothing we can do but wait for permission for a flyover,” said Mr. Morales, speaking through a translator. “Spain is now consulting with the U.S.A. whether the plane can fly over Spanish airspace.” The president, his staff and four pilots were forced to spend the night in the airport’s V.I.P. area. Mr. Morales referred to his unscheduled stop in Vienna as “being held hostage.”